Wednesday 10 June 2015

Equipment and Encumbrance for Lazy GMs

In theory, I love the emphasis that OD&D places on encumbrance, because it forces players to engage so much more concretely with the world their characters inhabit. They can't just run around being action heroes the whole time: they have to pay attention to logistics. In practise, though, I can't stand the idea of tracking the weight in pounds of all the gear each character is tracking; and while I appreciated the move made in Lamentations of the Flame Princess towards a simpler system, it didn't quite go far enough.

So here's the encumbrance system I'm using for ATWC:
  • Every object is either very heavy (counts as two items), heavy (counts as one item), light (doesn't count as an item unless you have a bunch of them), or very light (doesn't count as an item unless you've got hundreds of the damn things). Stupidly heavy objects may count as three items or even more, at the GM's discretion. 
  • If the number of items you're carrying is equal to or less than half your Strength score rounded down, then you are unburdened, and can run around turning cartwheels to your heart's content.
  • If the number of items you're carrying is greater than this, but still equal to or less than your Strength score, then you're burdened. (Most adventurers in dungeons will probably be burdened most of the time.) This imposes no penalties on regular adventuring activities like fighting, but the GM should feel perfectly within his rights to impose penalties on characters who attempt things like sprinting, climbing, or jumping while burdened.
  • If the number of items you're carrying is greater than this, but still equal to or less than twice your Strength score, then you're heavily burdened. At this point you're basically stumbling around under an enormous heap of junk. You move at half normal speed, always come last in the initiative order, and always fail Reflexes saving throws. Feats of agility are basically impossible for you.
  • You can't carry a number of items greater than twice your Strength score. I mean, come on
  • Very heavy items include any armour heavier than a breastplate, two-handed melee weapons like greatswords, heavy shields, and muskets.
  • Heavy items include one-handed weapons, bows and crossbows, breastplates, chain shirts, and heavy leathers, light shields, quivers of arrows, coils of rope, and most of the other stuff that PCs insist on dragging around with them.
  • Light items include daggers, pouches of powder and shot, buff jackets, potion vials, scrolls, and so on

So what makes this system so easy?

Simple. On each player's character sheet, they will have two boxes to write down their equipment: one for light items and items not personally carried on them, and the other for carried heavy items. Heavy items are numbered: write down each new item on a new numbered line, and skip a line for every very heavy item. Then you just have to rule a thick line across the box at the numbers which correspond to half your character's Strength, their full Strength, and double their Strength, and you can tell as a glance how encumbered they are just by seeing how far down their list of items goes. So if your character had Strength 7, your list might look like this:

  1. Chain shirt
  2. Sword
  3. Pistol_____________________[Unburdened line]
  4. 30' rope
  5. Bedroll
  6. Trail rations
  7. Lantern and supply of lamp oil___[Burdened line]
So you can see at a glance that your character is Burdened, and that if they start carrying one more heavy item around, they'll become Heavily Burdened, instead. Best leave the heavy lifting to your less-wimpy comrades!

Default Starting Equipment

ATWC assumes that all PCs start with the basic gear that they're going to need to survive as travelling adventurers. Thus, all PCs receive the following default equipment package for free, in which the items marked with a * are heavy enough to count for encumbrance if the PC takes them off his horse and carries them himself:

  • Light riding horse with saddle, saddlebags, and harness
  • Sturdy leather backpack
  • Enough well-preserved trail rations to last for a week*
  • Pewter water canteen
  • Bedroll*
  • Oil lantern with enough oil to burn for six hours*
  • Sharp knife (1d4 damage)
  • Tin cookpot
  • Small bag of coffee beans
  • Bottle of laudanum
  • Flint and steel
  • One change of clothes
  • Small idol, medallion, or holy symbol dedicated to the deity or deities of the player's choice. 
(Yes, ATWC characters swig laudanum when they get hurt and drink coffee to help them wake up in the morning. You would too, in their place!)

Each PC also receives additional gear based on their class. I'll get to that later.

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