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Author Topic: Homebrew simple encumbrance system  (Read 628 times)

Vic99

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Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« on: November 19, 2021, 05:47:22 PM »
Designing a simple encumbrance system. 

Thinking of something like, can normally carry 10 items +/- strength modifier.  (Think 3lb hammer is probably 1 item). Some items are bulky or very bulky and count as two or three.  Others are tiny and don't count.  Don't want to get more granular than that.  Just don't want to be way off base, just close.

What games have this and/or could you concisely describe it?  Thanks.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2021, 06:04:38 PM by Vic99 »

Ghostmaker

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2021, 06:51:05 PM »
Starfinder and PF2 use a 'bulk' system, where items have a fairly abstract encumbrance rather than a specified weight. Sounds kind of like what you're looking at.

DM_Curt

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2021, 06:54:53 PM »
I know one like that. Head over to drivethrurpg , look up Total Party Skills and download the character sheets for (most of) his games for free.
His game has 3 Attributes (Body, Mind, Spirit), each with a rating of 1-3 for Weak to Exceptional. You get that many dice to use on tests that use those stats.

There are 15 skills any character can learn and 9 special. Strength (or feats of strength) is a skill you can put up to 2 points into at start.
To perform a skill, you use however many dice you have in the appropriately corresponding attribute, plus however many points you put into the skill.
Example: if you had a Mind attribute of 3 and put 2 points into the Technology skill, and wanted to do some computer hacking, you would use the Technology (Mind) skill and Roll 3d6+2 against whatever DC. The untrained and an untrained Average guy rolls 2d6+0.

Your encumbrance is (Body+Strength +1), so if you made a wimp with the minimum Body of 1 and no points of Strength,  your encumbrance is 2. If you maxed everything out at L1 you could (and didn't level), you could have 3+2+1, or 6.
You can carry that many normal objects without penalty. Tiny objects (like a nickel) don't matter unless you carry very many, like a big sack of nickles.

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2021, 06:56:41 PM »
There has been off and on again discussion of it  at Delta's Hot Spot.  Couldn't find an example with a quick look, but if you poke around or search can find some there.  He bases his OD&D replacement encumbrance off the "stone" unit, roughly 14 lbs.

I tried stone for some time for my own game, but its not quite fine enough for what I wanted, even out of a simple system.  I ended up with basic Encumbrance unit (ENC) of approximately 5 lbs, which has no real-world name other than "5 lbs."  Anything below 3 lbs doesn't count at all.  Everything else rounds, including stacks of lighter things.  In a D&D-ish range of abilities, the base is 10 adjusted by Str mod (or equivalent in my case), which is a light load.  Str +2, then you've got up to 12 ENC for a light load.  Medium load is x2 light.  Heavy load is x3 light.  Heavy is really bad, you don't want to do it unless you have no choice.  The advantages of light load are not something most people would chase in most situations.  Medium load has no pluses or minuses.

This means that, like Delta's system, it's pretty easy to eyeball a character that is anywhere near reasonable and say, "Yep, that's Medium load", which means we can ignore it for that character.  This fits my design goal of not wanting to care most of the time for reasonable characters, but having the system in place when it does matter.  (Carrying unconscious friends out of trouble.  Hauling a huge load of copper coins.  Trying to flee overland for several days.) The purpose for me is all related to meaningful decisions for the players.

That's using ENC values for equipment that are inflated similar to the D&D values.  That is, ENC represents actual weight but also bulk and how awkward it is to carry around (e.g. long bows, spears, etc. get a bit of a boost).  This makes up for the fact that a fairly long list of 1 and 2 lb items are free, and also means that the Light/Medium/Heavy loads are semi-plausible for a fantasy game.

For a 3 lb. base system, you could do something very similar if the weights of items didn't have the D&D-type weight inflation.

Eric Diaz

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2021, 07:04:06 PM »
Sounds good. One thing that should be considered is armor. But probably counts as 1 for +1 Ac, 4 for +4, etc., or even twice that much.

Here is my system, from Dark Fantasy Basic*,FWIW.

---
Most of the time, the weight a character is carrying can
be ignored unless it is metal armor, bulky or numerous
items, or any heavy burden. If this is the case, the GM
might assign consequences based on common sense, or
use the rules below.
A character can carry a number of items (or units of
weight) equal to his or her Strength score before being
slowed down. Additional items will cause speed to drop
and hinder various activities.
Disadvantage applies to several skills, including Spellcasting,
Athletics, most uses of Thievery and any time it would make
sense. Penalties apply to those and also to AC and Combat.
Some activities will be impossible when encumbered (GM’s
call).
Example: a PC with Strength 12 can carry 11 items with no
problems, 12 or more items with ¾ speed, etc. Carrying
24 items or more will cause him to get disadvantage and
a -2 penalty to his stealth checks, but only a -2 penalty to
his attacks and AC. Carrying 48 units will stop him from
walking.

Equipment weight
A standard “item” weights up to three pounds; examples
are one-handed weapons such as sword or mace (with belt,
scabbard, etc.), a winter blanket, climbing gear, a backpack,
a grappling hook, 40’ of rope, 20’ of chain, clothes, a toolkit
(for hiking, healing, disguising, fishing, or other specific
purpose), a bedroll, an iron pot, and so on.

Heavy items such as two-handed weapons, 10 foot poles, a
shovel, winter clothing, etc., count as two or three items (or
more, depending on the case – see the equipment section).

A thirty-pound sack will count as ten items, for example.
Armor weights 3 items per point of AC. Shields are lighter:
2 items per point of AC (if you’re using more than one type).

Small things may be bundled together and count as one
single item (for example, three knifes, 30 arrows, 1000
coins). Things that fit in the palm of your hand usually
count as small items.

Weight Carried / Speed / Penalty
Less than Strength 100% -
Strength or more 3/4 Disadvantage
Strength x2 1/2 Disadvantage, -2
Strength x3 1/4 Disadvantage, -3
Strength x4 0 Disadvantage, -4

A PC without equipment weights an average of 35 units plus
Strength score.

Movement
Most characters move 120’ for each 10 minutes while
exploring unknown, dangerous locations such as dark
dungeons. Triple that speed for outdoor environments.
During combat or chase, a PC can move up to 40’ per round
(240’ per minute). Hiking speed is 24 miles per day (walking
8 hours per day), but see the Wilderness section for difficult
terrain. Climbing, crawling, swimming, and sneaking around
halves speed (or worse) for the duration of the activity.
Consider an ordinary mule ($30) or horse ($40) to have
Strength 40 for encumbrance purposes. A warhorse ($200)
will ride into battle. Mules and horses with Strength 60 are
also available (triple the price). Base speed is the same as
human.
Horses can double their speed for up to eight hours.
Humanoids and mules can add 50% to daily speed by
marching for up to 12 hours in a day. In all cases, they suffer
exhaustion by the end of the day (see the Hazards section).
Likewise, a character can triple his combat speed for 5
minutes, but must immediately rest for half an hour after
that, or suffer exhaustion.

*https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/229046/Dark-Fantasy-Basic--Players-Guide
Chaos Factory Books  - Dark fantasy RPGs and more!

Methods & Madness - my  D&D 5e / Old School / Game design blog.

Kyle Aaron

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2021, 07:17:44 PM »
In AD&D1e, it's not really an issue, since you simply hire porters.

In games where your character has to carry everything they own, it's more sensible to think of it the way soldiers have, historically. In Conflict I've described it like this,

  • Weapon means the character is clothed and carrying a single personal firearm and a few reloads for it, and some basic personal effects.
  • Webbing means they are wearing an armoured vest, or a light harness which carries several reloads, perhaps some throwables, and a day's food and water. They can now carry one melee (aside from a knife) or sidearm, plus a longarm.
  • Rucksack means a backpack which can carry spare clothing, a sleeping bag, tent and so on – and many reloads. They can carry a melee weapon, sidearm and longarm.
  • Loaded is the former, plus other extra supplies such as a mortar plate, mortar bombs, explosives, a week's rations or the like.
  • Winter clothing, spare scuba gear and the like simply raise an encumbrance category, for example someone in scuba gear with just their weapon will count as webbing encumbrance. Someone beyond loaded cannot normally move.
In the recent TV show Barbarians, this is reasonably well-depicted for Roman legionaries (for all the cinematic and revisionist nonsense of much of it).



In camp, those off-duty are simply in their tunics, but carrying a personal weapon or tool such as a shovel - "weapon" encumbrance level. On duty they wear their armour, carry their personal weapon and a larger one weapon and a shield - "webbing" encumbrance. On the march they have their food, personal effects etc on a pole across their shoulder - "rucksack" encumbrance. On contact with the enemy, they instantly drop this rucksack and return to "webbing" encumbrance.

Modern militaries often have a similar approach, where on contact with the enemy, soldiers drop their packs and proceed on like that. Militia and insurgents will typically be local and so won't carry packs at all.

There is not really any reason for more than four encumbrance levels. Aside from that, you can be guided by common sense about what will physically fit in a satchel, etc. Your major obstacle is computer games, since these have taught sedentary geeks that they can carry 300lbs of useless gear they don't need, and they tend to carry it all "just in case".


Ratman_tf

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2021, 07:51:11 PM »
Starfinder and PF2 use a 'bulk' system, where items have a fairly abstract encumbrance rather than a specified weight. Sounds kind of like what you're looking at.

Yep. I riffed off of that for my homebrew encumbrance.

1h weapons count as 1 encumbrance. 2h weapons count as two encumbrance.
Encumbrance capacity = Str  in items.
Most things are weight in lbs /10 for how much encumbrance they are. Encumbrance isnt' necessarily weight, but this is a rule of thumb to cover all the crazy crap adventureres might carry.
Every full 10, 1 lb items count as 1 enc.
Every full 100, less than 1lb items count as 1 enc.
Light armor (leather, studded leather, etc.) = 1 encumbrance, Heavy armor (mail, plate) counts as 2 encumbrance.
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Bren

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2021, 08:06:04 PM »
What you describe sounds a lot like encumbrance (ENC) in Runequest. An item that can be held easily in one hand like a sword, rock, axe, rope etc. is treated as a "thing." Most one-handed items have an encumbrance of 1 or 2. ENC is a measure not just of weight, but also how much space the item takes up. Max ENC = the average of STR+CON or simply STR if STR < CON.

Example Encumbrances: a small axe or broadsword is 1 ENC, a battleaxe or spear is 2 ENC, a heavy scale hauberk or large shield is 3 ENC.
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Marchand

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2021, 08:15:52 PM »
Historical studies like this one:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258883795_The_History_of_the_Soldier's_Load

suggest infantrymen back to the Romans have pretty consistently carried about 30kg, and drifting up in more recent periods as individuals have become on average taller and stronger.

This study includes a suggestion from a Canadian army exercise in WW2 that 22kg was the max load without impairing combat effectiveness, which is maybe a better benchmark for an adventurer in a dungeon as opposed to an infantryman on route march.

This is probably veering too far back towards counting the pounds and ounces (or kilos), but might help set what a "normal load" looks like.

Coincidentally or not, that would also fit with STR+CON in ENCs like in RQ as Bren says. Average STR+CON would be 22.

If your benchmark "thing" is 2kg, then 10 or 11 things is your allowance.
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HappyDaze

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2021, 09:21:26 PM »
FFG Star Wars used a similar Encumbrance system except that certain  gear (like backpacks, utility belts, and combat webbing) increased your character's Encumbrance Threshold (what could be carried before penalties set in).

Shawn Driscoll

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2021, 09:11:53 AM »
Designing a simple encumbrance system. 

Thinking of something like, can normally carry 10 items +/- strength modifier.  (Think 3lb hammer is probably 1 item). Some items are bulky or very bulky and count as two or three.  Others are tiny and don't count.  Don't want to get more granular than that.  Just don't want to be way off base, just close.

What games have this and/or could you concisely describe it?  Thanks.
Total Party Skills RPGs use 1 + Body Score + Strength Points for their Encumbrance Limit. Body Score can range 1 - 3. Strength Points can range 0 - 4.

Zalman

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2021, 11:05:29 AM »
In games where your character has to carry everything they own, it's more sensible to think of it the way soldiers have, historically. In Conflict I've described it like this,

  • Weapon means the character is clothed and carrying a single personal firearm and a few reloads for it, and some basic personal effects.
  • Webbing means they are wearing an armoured vest, or a light harness which carries several reloads, perhaps some throwables, and a day's food and water. They can now carry one melee (aside from a knife) or sidearm, plus a longarm.
  • Rucksack means a backpack which can carry spare clothing, a sleeping bag, tent and so on – and many reloads. They can carry a melee weapon, sidearm and longarm.
  • Loaded is the former, plus other extra supplies such as a mortar plate, mortar bombs, explosives, a week's rations or the like.
  • Winter clothing, spare scuba gear and the like simply raise an encumbrance category, for example someone in scuba gear with just their weapon will count as webbing encumbrance. Someone beyond loaded cannot normally move.

Cool approach. In your system, what's the distinction between a "melee," "sidearm," and "longarm"?

Also, what are the consequences of encumbrance in this system, other than not moving if beyond "Loaded"? If the norm is to drop rucksacks for combat, I'm guessing there would be combat penalties involved?
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Kyle Aaron

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2021, 07:03:06 PM »
Cool approach. In your system, what's the distinction between a "melee," "sidearm," and "longarm"?
A "melee" weapon is anything other than a knife. It's your truncheon, machete, and so on. It's for modern warfare so things like polearms aren't really an issue. It'd be up to the referee at the game table, but if someone really wants to carry a greatsword around with them, I don't care, everyone will make fun of them but that's fine.

A "sidearm" is something which could essentially fit in a holster - also commonly called a handgun. It can generally can be carried and used in one hand.

A "longarm" is a weapon which is too large to fit into a holster, and is designed to be carried and used with both hands, braced against the shoulder. For purposes of to-hit rolls and encumbrance, SMGs and the like will fit in here, too.

I note that in the real world people have endless arguments over this stuff. That's fine, the referee and players can hash it out at the game table if it's important to them to distinguish between an AK-47 with a solid stock and a para version with a folded stock.

Quote
Also, what are the consequences of encumbrance in this system, other than not moving if beyond "Loaded"? If the norm is to drop rucksacks for combat, I'm guessing there would be combat penalties involved?
It slows you down. That's it. Normal movement speeds in a combat action are 4/3/2/1 metres. Most combatants will have 1 or 2 actions in a combat round.

So if you're having a firefight and trying to advance or retreat from it, if you are geared up in body armour with a pistol and grenades and rifle and 6 magazines and a rucksack on carrying a week's food and your tent and water and a mortar plate and mortar bombs and your opponent just has an AK-47 without even a spare mag, well you'll just be sitting there while he runs in, shoots at you and then fucks off.

Marching speeds are the same 4/3/2/1 in km/hr, and running speeds twice that. Skills can add to these quite a bit in each case, but it's a career path system like Classic Traveller so you may or may not have these.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2021, 07:18:11 AM »
Designing a simple encumbrance system. 

Thinking of something like, can normally carry 10 items +/- strength modifier.  (Think 3lb hammer is probably 1 item). Some items are bulky or very bulky and count as two or three.  Others are tiny and don't count.  Don't want to get more granular than that.  Just don't want to be way off base, just close.

What games have this and/or could you concisely describe it?  Thanks.

The Advanced Fighting Fantasy system from Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone used exactly this system.

The Riddle of Steel did something even simpler; it described five levels of Encumbrance (None, Light, Medium, Heavy and Overburdened) and drew pictures of what a typical PC carrying that load would look like. The Seneschal (GM) rated the PC's load based on which picture the description sounded most like.
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Vidgrip

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Re: Homebrew simple encumbrance system
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2021, 06:06:27 PM »
Designing a simple encumbrance system. 

Thinking of something like, can normally carry 10 items +/- strength modifier.  (Think 3lb hammer is probably 1 item). Some items are bulky or very bulky and count as two or three.  Others are tiny and don't count.  Don't want to get more granular than that.  Just don't want to be way off base, just close.

What games have this and/or could you concisely describe it?  Thanks.

I use exactly that system for a game that involves frequent raids on small dungeons. It works beautifully. Players have to make tough decisions about what to bring. Each torch takes a slot so player have serious discussions about whether to bring one or two. After weapons and armor, most people can only afford to bring one or two slots of dungeoneering gear so there is a lot planning about who carries what. Teamwork matters. They also have to think hard about how many weapons to bring. Weapons sometimes break on a fumble or get sent spinning when a monster gets a crit, so back-ups are often needed. They generally have one or two slots open for whatever loot they find. Often it isn't enough so they have to drop one treasure to pick up another that might be more valuable. More impactful decisions. Hirelings to hold torches, gear, and loot are very helpful although often my players choose to go without (I'm not sure why).

At first players were concerned, but after the first delve I've had no complaints. These guys appreciate that success or failure might depend on their decision making. They like that.

The specifics: For anything too big to fit in your pocket: 10 slots +/- Str modifier. For smaller stuff, assume you have four pockets, just like the jeans you're wearing. Armor is a slot, so is a shield. A bow is a slot, so is a quiver of arrows. Your food and water is one. Each torch or flask of oil is one. A two-handed sword is also just one slot. All the coins in your purse: one slot. Clothing and jewelry are free. It's that simple and it works better than anything else I've used. When not in a dungeon players have pack animals to carry anything they want. It's really only in a dungeon that we enforce these rules.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2021, 06:23:38 PM by Vidgrip »
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