2019-04-26 Encumbrance

At first, I calculated the encumbrance of all the items my characters had. It took a long time and I didn’t really enjoy it. I enjoyed it even less once I discovered that practically nobody else at the table was doing it.

Then I discovered Delta’s system using stones and tried to convince myself and others to give it a try. But it didn’t work. It was the same useless exercise.

Then I tried to use Moldvay’s system: movement rate depends on armour class and when carrying a lot of treasure it is further reduced.

Armour MR
unarmoured 12
leather 9
metal 6
metal + treasure 3

Finally it was easy enough for me to enforce it as a referee. I no longer depended on players doing anything. And then I realized that it had practically no effect. No matter how slow people where, they would enter or leave one room per turn, resulting in a wandering monster check. In combat, I didn’t use a battle map so being slow didn’t limit who you could attack. So actually, being slow was no penalty. I also never penalized halflings and dwarves for having short legs.

So finally I settled on my rule of cool: “When in doubt, the referee can ask a player to start reading their character’s inventory out loud. As soon as people groan or laugh, that’s enough. Drop some stuff!”

And then I ended up not even using that.

Anyway, there is a much longer discussion by Anne on her blog, spread over many blog posts:

  1. Mechanics for Resource Management - part 1, The Easy Way: “So the first option for resource management in D&D is, don’t.”
  2. Mechanics for Resource Management - part 2, Defining our Terms
  3. Two Good Links on Resource Management, linking to State of the art and A Simple Resource Management System for Into the Odd
  4. Mechanics for Resource Management - part 3, Types of Resources
  5. Your Life is Forfeit, about running out of light



Sure, theatre of the mind negates movement rates (and usually anyone with a 6” move can cross a dungeon room anyway) but they’ll make a difference if your game involves chases, either way.

RogerGS 2019-04-26 23:37 UTC

I use slot based encumbrance, where you get a number of slots equal to your Constitution. Almost everything takes a slot, except for big armor and weapons, which can take up more. It’s so dead simple my 5th grade players use it without my saying a thing. The great thing about encumbrance rules is that it makes what you carry meaningful, and adds interesting choices when you want to pick things up you don’t have room for.

Ben Milton 2019-04-27 00:29 UTC

Roger, I’m not sure. Is this how you run chases? I never did. It would mean that people in plate armour can practically only flee from slimes and the like, wouldn’t it? Or do you use the rules from LL/BX?

Labyrinth Lord has a Wilderness Retreat Table on page 52 gives the probabilities for escaping.

Fleeing Group SizeBaseChasing Groups Size up to 25%26%-75%76%+
Up to 450%0+20%+40%

Thus, the fewer you are (or splitting up) increases your chances of escaping. Similarly for monsters: splitting up increases their chances of catching up.

It also says: “If the part giving chase has double the movement of the fleeing side, they might receive a bonus of 20–25% to catch the fleeing party.”

Basic D&D has rules for evasion on page B24 which take movement rate into account. Basically if the party is faster, they can always evade. If they are slower, an (unmodified) reaction roll is rolled for monsters to determine whether they pursue.

Expert D&D, on the other hand, has a similar table as Labyrinth Lord, which allows you to cross-reference party size (columns) and number of creatures encountered (rows):


It also says “The DM may adjust evasion chances for relative speed, terrain, and other factors as desired … If one group can move at least twice as fast as the other, the faster group may increase (or decrease) the chances of evasion by 25% in its favor.”

Movement rate differences don’t seem to be very important but relative group size is important has always been my takeaway.

When I wrote my own chase rule I was very enthusiastic about it. But I think in all these years I have used it maybe once or twice. It wasn’t worth it.

So in the end, I decided for myself that a car chase might be interesting in a movie, or Aragorn, Legloas and Gimli chasing orcs was at least somewhat interesting in the books and the movies (although I did wonder about the movement rates of dwarves), it doesn’t excite me at the table. It never happens.

And that’s why I concluded that movement rates also doesn’t matter.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-04-27 12:48 UTC

Ben, I want to like it. Perhaps it would work well at the table with a character sheet that comes with the right amount of slots right there for people to see and fill in.

I think the reason I fear proposing it is that I have hated carrying limits in Oblivion and Skyrim... 😀

But perhaps I simply have to try it one day. And I’ll have to see whether it results in a more interesting game than the “rule of cool”.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-04-27 12:51 UTC

An intriguing idea for encumbrance using slots: the empty slots are your initiative. I do group initiative so perhaps this is not for me, but it’s intriguing. Combat: initiative in your inventory, by Davide Pignedoli.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-04-28 05:25 UTC

Regarding Slots & Initiative. Black Hack has an interesting way of handling initiative. Everyone makes a DEX test, those that succeed go before the bad guys and those that fail go after.

It would seem easy to make the divide based on ENC slots instead of a test so that you have two group initiatives instead of one or instead of everyone for themselves.

– Ruprecht 2019-10-30 19:09 UTC

Yeah, makes sense. I like the test to see if you go before or after the bad guys but with a big table I find it more expedient to simply go around the table and ask people what they’re doing – without having to split players into two groups. And that means group initiative, I think.

What I really think, of course, is that initiative is overrated. 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2019-10-30 22:51 UTC

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