A little bit ago, I read a post on The Alexandrian about how the current Pathfinder/D&D system for encumbrance doesn’t work and proposing an alternative method (influenced heavily by Delta’s D&D Hotspot and Lamentations of the Flame Princess). Shortly afterwards, a budding DM friend of mine suggested something similar (probably borrowing from the same sources). In both cases, though, I resisted; the Pathfinder system is accurate and granular, and the coarser measurements of the Stone system seemed to make things unnecessarily vague. With the Pathfinder System I know when something is heavy enough to put me in the next load category, and it wasn’t clear that the same would be true with Stones, or that Stones would represent various character’s abilities faithfully. So I cast Stones aside.
In the meantime, though, it’s become apparent that I was probably wrong, and that (as The Alexandrian noted), the current system might be accurate but it wasn’t useful. Encumbrance was calculated once, at best, and then generally ignored. computer could quickly and easily adjust a character’s load in real time, but it is kind of silly to have a system in a tabletop, ostensibly-paper-and-pencil role-playing game that requires a computer to use properly. So I’m thinking of adopting the Stone encumbrance system myself. The fact that saying things like “I’m carrying about 3 stone” is evocative for the setting helps.
Paper & Pencils had a post a short time ago about making encumbrance work. There’s a lot of good stuff in there and it’s a big part of what finally changed my mind. However, I didn’t like the Significant Item system they presented, or the fact that they tossed aside the notion of adjusting carry limits for Large or Small creatures. The problem I have with that is that (1) a Small creature should be able to carry less than a proportionately-build Medium creature, and not all Small races have a STR penalty. It seems weird to assume that all halflings are naturally stronger, proportionately, than their human counterparts. The corollary to this is that shrinking someone would have no effect on their ability to carry their gear. Granted, most extant “reduce person” spells have a STR penalty built in, but even if that weren’t the case, it’s only reasonable that a smaller frame wouldn’t be able to carry the same amount of stuff. So I argue that encumbrance systems should take Size in to consideration. I could be persuaded that this makes things unnecessarily complex, but I’m not sure it does.
I also liked The Alexandrian’s idea of bundles to replace Delta’s simple “misc equipment” category. I think there should be better guidance on what can/should be bundled together — does 1 torch, 1 wand, and 1 potion really hinder someone as much as 5 torches, 5 wands, and 5 potions? I did like his notion of containers and only being able to pack on so much gear, but I’m not sure I agree with his numbers for how much a character can life — particularly since they all seem to be less than the character’s “max load” numbers. it’s vague since Max load is listed in Stones and lift limit is listed in Pounds.
Most of the rules I would include can be found at the Alexandrian post. This includes the general weights of items and creatures, how bundling misc. equipment works, and the use of containers. The only change I would make is that light weapons are 5 to the bundle, ammunition is 20 to the bundle, and coinage is 250 to the bundle (750 to the stone).
Below are my own Encumbrance By Stone tables for Medium, Small, and Large creatures. These are essentially a direct transform from the Pathfinder table, which by the numbers is apparently what everyone else did as well. For my purposes, 1 Stone = 15lbs, more or less, which divides nicely into thirds. Bundles are 3 to the stone.