D&D 5E Encumbrance by carrying capacity - an easier way

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Awhile back I went looking for an easier way to do encumbrance than simply "I'll ignore it except when I don't." Although encumbrance has been around since day 1 of D&D and everything has a weight value, it gets constantly ignored because it's a pain to track. Further, it doesn't make sense because how strong you are isn't the same as how much you can carry. Ask Conan the Barbarian to carry 12 5-pound trade bars, a lute, a wounded comrade, his sword, a waterskin, and a wizard's spellbook, and he can't do it. He might have the STR, but there's not enough room.

So, is there a way to merge the two: strength and carrying capacity? Sure! We simply need a graphic for where gear is (called "inventory slots" or "slots" for short) and the D&D rules for weight/encumbrance.

I took the D&D 3rd edition graphic for gear you're wearing. This gives us a visual that is a bit better than the Anti-Hammerspace model, which was a great idea but looked like crap and didn't account for weight. From there, we add a dash of D&D encumbrance rules. If you've ever searched for "slot-based encumbrance," this will look familiar. I don't pretend to have started this idea.

Attached is a sample 1st level ranger with default starting gear and a blank sheet.


Rules:
If it can't fit on this sheet, it's not on your person. You can use your normal character sheet inventory list for the stuff you own but is being carried by a mule, hireling, or left at home, etc.

If it takes up space, it probably takes up a slot, regardless of actual weight. Hence, in our sample, you'll see the tinderbox occupying its own slot in the backpack. The clothes and boots you're wearing are "free" because they don't take any extra special way to pack them around.

If it's bulky, we probably need to worry about its weight, not just its space. This is on the sheet already.

If you look at the sample sheet, you'll notice we're using 5 pound increments. That's the math of D&D encumbrance, which has you losing speed when exceeding STR x5 in weight and again at STR x10. We're ignoring exact weight amounts in favor of space, except when it comes to condensed, bulky items like armor, which can weigh you down pretty quickly.

We can use the Backpack as a prime example. By the rules, it holds 30 pounds and the Explorer's Pack, which our 1st level sample Ranger has, fits everything in it.
So, with 5 pound increments, we're giving the ole Backpack 6 slots. Now, we need a home for its contents:
  • 1 slot for the mess kit,
  • 1 slot for the tinderbox (yes, it weighs much less, but you still need a spot for it)
  • 1 slot for every 5 torches (we're bundling them at 1 pound apiece, doesn't have to be exact),
  • 1 slot for every 5 rations (because 2 pounds per ration is an absurd weight and wouldn't fit in the explorer's pack...I still have no idea where they came up with that idea, in my game it's 1).
The other items (bedroll, rope, and waterskin) are specifically stated in the Backpack description as being on the exterior of your backpack. They still take a slot because of weight, but because your backpack has a spot on top for the bedroll and on the sides for rope and a waterskin, you can fit them in. If you had a pouch, there's nowhere for them to go except your hands.

And that's it.

Sample Ranger
Our Ranger has a Strength score of 14. He can bear 14 slots of gear with no problem. After that, he's encumbered. Easy peasy math.

So, we put that at the top, then double and triple it so we know when we're exceeding our safety limits or hitting our max. We won't know our "slots used" until we insert the Ranger's starting gear.

  • Scale mail. We round up on everything, and armor is bulky. At 45 pounds, this takes up 9 slots.
  • Two short swords. He prefers two-weapon fighting. So, that's +2 more slots. We're up to 11. If you're asking: holy crap, he's wearing armor and 2 swords and he's almost encumbered, already? Yes, that's the rules. Seriously, scale mail is heavy.
  • Long Bow and Quiver. We need a place for those since our hands are full. The long bow gets strapped to our back, and despite its light weight, it's bulky, so per the weapon rules, it takes up 2 slots. The quiver (or any ammo case or bandolier) needs a home. All we have left is our waist slot. That's +1 more. We're up to 14 and our poor Ranger doesn't even have a bedroll yet.
  • Coin Purse. We need somewhere to keep our money, tied to our belt. Sure, we could put cash in our backpack, but it's full at the moment. If we look up historical coin purses and the weight of coins in D&D, we're looking at 250 coins per 1 slot. Even if our coin purse is empty, we have this money bag taking up space and getting in our way. We're up to 15. If you're asking: holy crap, I have 1,500 coins in my inventory, that doesn't work for me, then I encourage you to go to the bank and withdraw 1500 quarters. Then strap on something to approximate everything else, and see how that works for you running, jumping, swimming, etc.
  • Backpack. Finally, the interior is full of the basic starting gear (6 slots) and the exterior as well (3 more slots, I did err when creating this and gave our Ranger silk rope instead of the heavier hemp rope). That's +9, leaving us with 24 slots.

We fill that in and note that our Ranger starts out encumbered (-10 speed) wearing all this.

Our Ranger might invest in more pouches and sacks, but he's got nowhere left on his body to fit this crap. So again, if it doesn't fit on the page, it's not on you.

So, there you go. Simple rules on encumbrance that take into account carrying capacity.

EDIT:
cleaned up the blank sheet, added a pouch.
 

Attachments

  • 5E Slot Encumbrance v1.0 sample 1st level ranger.pdf
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  • 5E Slot Encumbrance v1.1.pdf
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DND_Reborn

Legend
Interesting idea, but for myself just doing the math of gear is simpler and I don't need an extra page for it. Of course, the character sheets I design all total up the weight of weapons, armor, and gear, so... there is that.

But if you find it easier and it works for your table, it's awesome! :)
 

Easier?

But, why can't we go back to tracking encumbrance to the tenth-of-a-pound, and keep track of what container each thing was in, and where that container was on the character - left side, right, or center/back?
 


toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Easier?

But, why can't we go back to tracking encumbrance to the tenth-of-a-pound, and keep track of what container each thing was in, and where that container was on the character - left side, right, or center/back?

Oh, that candle was unused rather than melted halfway down? I'm sorry then. I'm going to have to reverse my ruling. Your rogue is too weighed down and drowns.
 

I've never found slots and other systems that further abstract encumbrance to be easier than just adding up weight. Encumbrance slots are way too limiting for anyone who likes to keep a bunch of small equipment like caltrops, oil flasks, etc. It really only works for certain types of characters.

This isn't to threadcrap--it's one of those situations where I honestly think, "How is this easier than the default assumptions?"
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
I've used this system in a PBP game with the Darker Dungeon variant systems. It works well and I liked it.

Made you have to make some tough decisions on what you're carrying where. Also made bags of holding even more of a priority than the are in normal games :)
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
….it's one of those situations where I honestly think, "How is this easier than the default assumptions?"

It's moreso going back to original design, as @Salthorae said, you have to make tough decisions on what you carry and don't carry. It's reminiscent in some ways of those school-day exercises (where you're stranded in the wilderness or the moon, and you only have space to take 4 things). Nowadays, in video games, we take it all, and in doing so, something gets lost along the way.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I've considered a similar system. Basically a character has X number of encumbrance points, lets say based on some combo of strength/constitution or equivilent in your system of choice. Items are assigned a number of encumbrance points they use. Particularly large items use more than one, particularly heavy items use more than one. Most "normal" items are one point, lets say our standard is a one weapon sword like the D&D longsword or a regular battle axe.

I'd suggest that small items can be carried as one point total if they can all fit into a bag of "miscellaneous junk". Or just use bags a takes up N emcumbrance points, but can hold small items totaling Y points.

I haven't really figured it out, but I thought by abstracting weight into encumbrance fit people can carry more, but there's still a practicle limit. The party barbarian isn't going to be able to carry around 200 pounds in copper coins particularly easily they could in theory dead lift that amount of weight.

I'm reminded of the episode of Mythbusters where Adam and Jamie recreate the DOOM level to see if they could actually carry 10 guns and a chainsaw.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Just a side note - one thing that's almost never taken into consideration is that most armour has two effective "weights" - one when it's being worn and another when it's being carried.

Yes the actual physical weight of the armour itself doesn't change, but when it's being worn its weight is much better distributed and balanced thus making is considerably easier to carry than if it's all stuffed in a bag.

A real-world analogy might be hockey gear and pads - heavy and bulky to carry around in a bag but nowehre near so encumbering when worn.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Just a side note - one thing that's almost never taken into consideration is that most armour has two effective "weights" - one when it's being worn and another when it's being carried....

That'd probably factor in to carrying capacity. While there's a spot on the body to wear armor, very few will pack nicely into a backpack/pouch, and probably would have to be carried in the hands otherwise if not worn. None of this video game stuff where you load up on 6 suits of enchanted plate mail and sell it at the vendor later.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
That'd probably factor in to carrying capacity. While there's a spot on the body to wear armor, very few will pack nicely into a backpack/pouch, and probably would have to be carried in the hands otherwise if not worn. None of this video game stuff where you load up on 6 suits of enchanted plate mail and sell it at the vendor later.
I think that's exactly what Lanefan meant; armour is easier worn then carried. No video game capacity logic applied here.

To be analogous with your system, perhaps a Scale Mail (45 lbs) "weighs" 9 slots when carried, but it may only use half when worn because that weight is better distributed.

And I get that armour is heavy, but that puts plate+shield+sword at 15 slots. Not even the strongest human is going to be able to carry a 6-slot pack on top without being encumbered. RaW might be too generous, but this might be pushing things a bit too far in the other way IMO.

Also, rations are still proportionally under-weighted. Carrying food for a week and water for a day should be heavy. Having worn both armour and hiking packs, I'll take the heavy armour over a pack any day. Heck, I'd prefer wearing the armour over carrying a shield all day.

I like the concept. My own approach is similar, but I think your implementation is a bit off.
 

Really there's no way to realistically square the idea of someone wearing full plate and adventuring gear while marching through the wilderness.

They'd have a mule at the very least to transport that much gear. (And likely a servant or squire to help look after the armour and get it on or off.)
 

Sadras

Legend
Just a side note - one thing that's almost never taken into consideration is that most armour has two effective "weights" - one when it's being worn and another when it's being carried.

Yes the actual physical weight of the armour itself doesn't change, but when it's being worn its weight is much better distributed and balanced thus making is considerably easier to carry than if it's all stuffed in a bag.

How do you account for this difference in your own games?

I like the concept. My own approach is similar, but I think your implementation is a bit off.

I agree with this. Like it, but needs some tweaking.
 


The biggest issue with carrying capacity isn't the actual weight, but the container capacity that DMs usually ignore. If you are strict with it, it keeps down the amount the party carries. A few things might be carried in hand (such as a suit of armor for sale), but it would take both hands, leaving nothing for weapons/torches/etc.

For example, here's my current character's equipment:
Standard Equipment (55/110/165 – 159 lbs.)
Worn/Carried (84 lbs): Traveler’s Clothes (4 lbs.), Plate Armor (65 lbs.), Shield w/Holy Symbol (6 lbs.), Backpack (5 lbs.), Quarterstaff (4 lbs.)
Belts (11 lbs.): 3x Pouch (3 lbs.), Glour (2 lbs.), Waterskin (5 lbs.), Stoutale Tankard (1 lbs.)
Backpack (30/30 +10 lbs): Bedroll (7 lbs.), Mess Kit (1 lb.), 10 days rations (20 lbs.), 50 ft Hemp Rope (10 lbs. outside), Poor Quality Maps (Farun from Great Rift to Sword Coast), 20x sandals, 2x torch (2 lb)
Pouch 1 (4/6 lbs): coins (0 lbs.), diamonds, Healer’s Kit (3 lb.), Runestones, Incense, Torch (1 lb.)
Pouch 2 (6/6 lbs): Tinderbox (1 lb.), 5x Torch (2 lbs.)
Pouch 3 (6/6 lbs): 4x Holy Water (4 lb.), 2x Potion of Healing (2 lb.)
 


Oofta

Legend
Really there's no way to realistically square the idea of someone wearing full plate and adventuring gear while marching through the wilderness.

They'd have a mule at the very least to transport that much gear. (And likely a servant or squire to help look after the armour and get it on or off.)

Modern soldiers carry 100 lbs or more, medieval armor weighed about 60 and was better "distributed" so as to allow free movement. Not saying I'd want to hike in any kind of armor, but then I don't have to worry about being randomly attacked multiple times per day.

On the other hand the pack mules would be handy for carrying supplies. As others have said, food, water, tents, cooking utensils, a spare set of clothes and blankets are always going to weigh a lot.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Really there's no way to realistically square the idea of someone wearing full plate and adventuring gear while marching through the wilderness....

Someone wore a real suit of plate armor all day and while sweaty was able to function, but he didn't pack any gear. SCA people might tell you it's the helmets (trapping all the heat in your head) rather than the armor that makes it intolerable.
 

prenzie

Explorer
I would be really interested to learn how realistic it would be to carry (not wear) any armor out of a dungeon as treasure. How feasible would it be for one person to carry a suit of plate? What about chain mail? What about leather?

has anyone ever done this IRL?
 

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