Friday, September 12, 2014

The Evil GM - Encumbrance, do you keep track?

In all editions of all games there is always a rule about encumbrance, defining how much a character can carry on himself before it slows him down or puts a strain on things they would normally be able to do with no issues.

Players will (if the DM allows it) turn their character into little hoarders, pocketing anything and everything they can get their hands on. Hey, you never know when you will need something, right?

Normally I am not a hard-ass when it comes to keeping track or enforcing it. I will within reason say things like.."Well, I will let you carry.. X and Y, but you will be a little bogged down."

I also am upfront to my players, telling them I am very laid back and will always make sure fun ensues over a rule, and will make judgement calls on the fly to keep the action going.

With that said, when it comes to encumbrance, I tell my players there is a reasonable amount and I will let them know if its too much, which they are fine with. I also tell them, if this is not acceptable then we need to find a new method or please jot down how much weight things are, keeping track of everything so it remains true to the rules. I haven't had one player want to do that.

Face it we are in the game to have a good time and if people don't enjoy sitting around being the accounts the game wants, its always fun to have a DM just kind of waive a hand.

Now with that said, there are some people that love to play with numbers, keeping track and playing it as real as possible, which is cool too. To each their own I say.

What method do you fall towards and how do you handle it in your games?


  1. We try. I tend to use the common sense approach. I roughly keep track.of what characters are wearing and carrying and in force movement restrictions when either I or the group deems it necessary. In my current table top game I use Matt Rundle's Anti-Hammerspace Item Tracker and have grown to really like it a lot.

  2. We use a weight-based system, because in our (very crunchy) system there is even an attribute for that. The thing about "space" things occupy is played by a rule of thumb, because in our sci-fi-setting even the weapons fold up. ;)

    @Dra8er That is a really neat thing you linked there. I will give that serious consideration. :)

  3. B/X, Castles & Crusades and Seven Voyages of Zylarthen have the best encumbrance rules I have ever read and/or used. Very simple and sensible.

  4. I use the charts from the DMG, PHB, and such from 1e.
    I track encumbrance closely, impose the penalties, and check randomly.
    The players are expected to also track encumbrance for henchmen, hirelings, mounts, and pack animals.
    I started this 25-odd years ago when a treasure list included a Bag of Holding and no one wanted it because 'well, encumbrance means nothing'

  5. My first PC sheet creation was an excel sheet. Now I use a PDF that calculates the weight based on what you put in. It isn't 100% accurate since things get added in-game, but it is "close enough". Since in HackMaster the weight of armor and shield isn't factored into encumbrance (it is factored into combat stats) my sheet shows encumbrance weight, "combat weight" (assuming you've dropped your pack to fight), and total weight.

  6. My pc creation sheet is thru the hero lab program and they add up your equipment and armor for you. I plugged in my character toward the end of a campaign and was shocked that my character was carting around over 250 lbs. of stuff. GM never enforced encumbrance rules, but personally i think if it is completely ignored it takes away from the sense of struggling thru and if you have everything under the sun in your 'possibles' bag there is no making do.

  7. I prefer the logistic nightmare being underground with limited food and torches and being unable to carry enough stuff. Almost everyone I've ever gamed with follows the movie logic of unlimited bullets, no one ever having to eat or go to the bathroom, being able to see just fine in total darkness, and having the kitchen sink full of stuff but never be seen even carrying anything. As DM, I try to enforce encumbrance, but eventually give up because players never even bother to keep track of their arrows.

  8. My group adheres to it rigorously, but it mostly the work of a couple ofplayers who don't mind doing paperwork that keep track of it all and make sure the party is compliant. We also try to keep track of volume and how things are packed. Things got easier when we designed a round, pull-out "filing cabinet" of some 95 huge chests custom fitted to the inside of our portable hole. In the past though we had to bury lesser treasures for future recovery, and got invested in the town that served as our home base by way of getting warehouse space. As we got more into the spirit of figuring out how to haul evermore ludicrous things out of dungeons, we came prepared with crowbars, ropes, pulleys, sledges, etc. and started taking any furniture or even bits of architecture that caught our attention.