Item Management (or Streamlining Encumbrance FTW)

Last week we went over a bit of how we’re streamlining Thief skills in Mazes & Perils Basic. This week, we have another streamlining approach that Vince came up with and I find myself loving even more each time I think about it: Encumbrance.

The Old Way

The word Encumbrance to me brings up flashbacks of nightmare scenarios with characters all the way back in the 7th or 8th grade and trying to figure out how much a character was carrying. Could they carry it? Were they slowed down by it? What penalties did they suffer from having all their stuff? Bah. It was awful. And I think we ended up handwaving it most of the time because it was such a pain.

And I’m not afraid to admit that Mazes & Perils Deluxe had the same kind of issues.

Originally we used the concept of coins for encumbrance. We said 10 coins weighed about a pound and a typical adventuring backpack could handle about 300 coins in weight, so roughly 30 pounds. And a character with average strength (9-12) could carry around 500 coins in weight (roughly 50 pounds).

To determine how much an item weighed, you’d multiply the listed price by 10. Leather armor weighs about 15 pounds. Plate mail weighs about 50 pounds. And there was some guidance on the weight of very light things like scrolls and how to determine the weight of a weapon (light, multiply price by 5; heavy, multiply by 10).

Even in that book we flat out said players “shouldn’t worry about every little item a character is carrying,” but they should remember that “things add up quickly when carrying treasure.”

An Example

Let’s look at a “Fighting Man” with a Strength of 14 as an example. If he has the following items:

  • Leather Armor (20 gold) = 200 coins
  • Large sword (15 gold) = heavy, so 150 coins
  • Backpack (5 gold) = 50 coins
  • 50′ rope (1 gold) = 10 coins
  • Iron Rations (15 gold) = 150 coins? a bit much, let’s say 15 coins
  • Torches (5) (1 gold) = 10 coins
  • Flint & Steel (1 gold) = 10 coins
  • 10 gp = 10 coins
  • Total = 455 coins, or about 45.5 pounds

With Str 14, this character can carry an additional +100 coins, so we’re looking at a maximum of 600 coins or 60 pounds. He or she would be ok carrying all that around, but it involved some number crunching and guessing to figure out.

The New Way

The new way is a ton easier and takes a note from video games. Your character has a number of “slots” for items equal to their Strength stat number. So that character with Str 14 can carry 14 items. If you have more items than your Strength score allows, you’re at half movement and tire quickly, needing more frequent breaks. The maximum amount any character can hold, without additional means, is double their Strength score.

Some items can add more slots. Add a Backpack? That adds a little more (2 extra slots). Every inventory item counts as one slot, including worn armor, carried shield, and carried weapons.

So let’s look at that same character with the new approach.

  • Strength 14 = 14 items
  • Backpack adds 2 more, for 16 items
  • Small sack adds 1 more, for 17 items (used to carry up to 100 gold coins) — not listed in first list of items, but assumed
  • Leather Armor, Large Sword, Backpack, 50′ rope, Iron Rations, Torches, Flint & Steel, small sack of gold coins = 8 items

Blam. Done. 8 items, room for 9 more. Well under the weight barrier and very little math. And our warrior with Strength 14 can carry 28 items, but he or she would be moving very slowly to do it.

I dig it. I think we’ll do something similar for a horse or mule with saddlebags, just to keep things streamlined. And I’m guessing there may be some magic items that will change the balance a bit. Who doesn’t want a Bag of Holding in their item list, for example? Perhaps that could double the number of slots as a magic item!

Much simpler. Keeps the focus on the story and the characters and not the nitty gritty.

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