Azzy1974
- Dec 2011 -
4142 Posts

Encumbrance: Do You Even Lift? (Part 1)

Ah, Encumbrance… A word that’s sometimes whispered in hushed tones in polite conversation. It’s an issue that players tend to have strong opinions on: do we try to capture a sense of “realism” or do we waive the need for accounting and just try to employ common sense? Whatever your opinions on the matter, it’s something that’s been part of the game since the very beginning.

 

(Original) D&D (1974-1977)

It’s interesting to note that at this point that weights are listed in terms of “gold pieces” rather than using a standard measure such as pounds or kilograms. As far as I can tell, gold piece weights have no direct correspondence to real-world measures.

      It’s interesting to note that Strength had no impact on Encumbrance until Supplement I: Greyhawk was published.

 

Volume 1: Men & Magic

[Page 15]

(Weight which can be carried)

Weight of a man

1,750

Load in Gold Pieces Equal to Light Foot Movement (12”)

750

Load in Gold Pieces Equal to Heavy Foot Movement (9”)

1,000

Load in Gold Pieces Equal to Armd. Foot Movement (6”)

1,500

Leather Armor or Saddle

250

Chain-Type Armor

500

Plate Mail or Horse Armor

750

Helmet

50

Shield

150

Pole Arms, Halberd, Pike, Two-Handed Sword (each)

150

Morning Star, Flail, Battle Axe (each)

100

Sword, Mace, Hand Axe, Bow & Arrows (each)

50

Dagger

20

Miscellaneous Equipment (rope, spikes, bags, etc.)

80

Maximum Load/Person at half normal movement

3,000

 

Example Employing Encumberance: A character equips himself with the following:

 

Plate Armor

750

Helmet

50

Shield

150

Flail

100

Bow, Quiver & 20 Arrows

50

Dagger

20

Misc. Equipment

80

TOTAL

1,200

 

The character would move at the speed of an Armored Footman (6”/turn). He could pick up an additional 300 Gold Pieces weight of treasure and incur no movement penalty. Weight over 1,500 would incur the penalty of half-speed noted above, although equipment could be discarded in order to avoid this penalty.

 

WEIGHT AND EQUIVALENTS:

1 Coin (Copper, Silver, or Gold)

1

1 Small Sack Holds

50

1 Large Sack or Back Pack Holds

300

1 Scroll or Piece of Jewelry

20

1 Potion or Wine Skin

30

1 Flagon or Chalice

50

1 Wand with Case

100

1 Staff with Case

300

1 Gem

1

 

Supplement I: Greyhawk

[Page 7]

Strength also aids the fighting man in his ability to both score a hit upon an adversary and damage it. This strength must be raw. i.e. not altered by intelligence scores. On the other hand low strength will effect any character’s fighting ability.

 

Strength

Hit Probability

Damage

Weight Allowed*

Open Doors

3-4

−2

−1

−100

1

5-6

−1

NORMAL

−50

1

7-9

NORMAL

NORMAL

NORMAL

1-2

10-12

NORMAL

NORMAL

+50

1-2

13-15

+1

NORMAL

+100

1-2

16

+1

+1

+150

1-3

17

+2

+2

+300

1-4

18**

+2

+3

+500

1-5

 

*this is an addition or subtraction to/from the normal carried without emcumberance

**fighters with a strength score of 18 are entitled to make an additional roll with percentile dice in order to determine if their exceptional strength is highly extraordinary, consulting the table below:

 

Dice Score

Hit Probability

Damage

Weight Allowed

Open Door***

01-50

+2

+3

+500

1-5

51-75

+3

+3

+600

1-5

76-90

+3

+4

+700

1-6 (1)

91-99

+3

+5

+900

1-6 (1,2)

00

+4

+6

+1,200

1-6 (1-3)

 

***the numbers in parentheses represent the chance of a fighter with that particular score of opening wizard locked or magically held portals.

 

Dungeons & Dragons (1977)

The Holmes Basic Set (which is closer to the original D&D than to later the “Basic” D&D, which became its own product line), mostly ignore the accounting aspect of Encumbrance, unlike the original game or the “Advanced” game.

      Interestingly, gold piece weights are said to be 1/10 of a pound (this was unspecified in the original game).

 

[Page 9]

Encumbrance

A back pack or sack will hold weight which equals approximately 300 gold pieces. For game purposes all forms of coins weigh the same. A character carrying 300 gold pieces would not be considered to be heavily loaded — assuming that the other equipment he or she carried was not excessive — for 300 gold pieces are assumed to weigh about 30 pounds. A character with 600 gold pieces is likely to be considered as being heavily loaded, as the weight of the other equipment normally carried will make the character’s load in the neighborhood of 75 pounds minimum (a fighting man will be far more loaded down, but it is assumed that such individuals are trained to be stronger and so able to carry more weight).

      In order to give players a better idea of just how encumbered they are by equipment and subsequent additions of treasure to their load, it is suggested that they note on a sheet of paper just where or how each item they have with them is stored or carried.

 

 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition (1977-1989)

 

Unsurprisingly, AD&D follows in the footsteps of Supplement 1: Greyhawk. AD&D still uses “gold pieces” to measure weights, but also provides that 10 gp is equal to 1 lb. (Like the Holmes Basic Set).

 

Player’s Handbook (1978)

Oddly, Weight Allowance is listed in gp while the Encumbrance table is listed in pounds. Also, the Weight Allowance example contradicts the Encumbrance table a normal character with a Str of 8-11 has is entirely unencumbered at 35 lbs. (350 gp) or less, at 50 lbs. (or 500 gp) the character would be considered to have “heavy gear”. What’re you going to do?

 

[Page 9]

Strength: Strength is a measure of muscle, endurance, and stamina combined. For purposes of relating this ability to some reality, assume that a character with a strength of 3 is able to lift a maximum of 30 pounds weight above his or her head in a military press, while a character with 18 strength will be able to press 180 pounds in the same manner. Strength is the forte of fighters, for they must be physically powerful in order to wear armor and wield heavy weapons. Therefore, strength is the major characteristic (or prime requisite) of fighters, and those fighters with strength of 16 or more gain a bonus of 10% of earned experience (explained later). Furthermore, fighters with an 18 strength are entitled to roll percentile dice in order to generate a random number between 01 and 00 (100) to determine exceptional strength; exceptional strength increases hit probability and damage done when attacking, and it also increases the weight the character is able to carry without penalty for encumbrance, as well as increasing the character’s ability to force open doors and similar portals. The tables below give complete information regarding the effects of strength. Note that only fighters are permitted to roll on the exceptional strength section of STRENGTH TABLE II: ABILITY ADJUSTMENTS.

      Weight Allowance is given in number of gold pieces over and above the maximum normally stated for unencumbered movement. (See MOVEMENT.) The conversion ratio of gold pieces to pounds of weight is 10 to 1. If a character could normally carry 500 gold pieces without encumbrance, but the character had strength of 17 instead of the normal 8-11 range, 1,000 gold pieces could be carried without incurring movement penalty.

 

Strength Table II.: Ability Adjustments

Ability

Score

Hit

Probability

Damage

Adjustment

Weight

Allowance

Open Doors

On A

Bend Bars/

Lift Gates

3

−3

−1

−350

1

0%

4-5

−2

−1

−250

1

0%

6-7

−1

none

−150

1

0%

8-9

normal

none

normal

1-2

1%

10-11

normal

none

normal

1-2

2%

12-13

normal

none

+100

1-2

4%

14-15

normal

none

+200

1-2

7%

16

normal

+1

+350

1-3

10%

17

+1

+1

+500

1-3

13%

18

+1

+2

+750

1-3

16%

18/01-50

+1

+3

+1,000

1-3

20%

18/51-75

+2

+3

+1,250

1-4

25%

18/76-90

+2

+4

+1,500

1-4

30%

18/91-99

+2

+5

+2,000

1-4(1)*

35%

18/00

+3

+6

+3,000

1-5 (2)*

40%

 

*The number in parentheses is the number of chances out of six for the fighter to be able to force open a locked, barred, magically held, or wizard locked door, but only one attempt ever (per door) may be made, and if it fails no further attempts can succeed.

 

[Pages 101-102]

Encumbrance

Whatever you select to carry will have both weight and volume (or bulk). Equipment for adventuring is necessary, but too much is deadly. In order to be able to move with reasonable rapidity and freedom, the number of items carried and apparel worn must suit encumbrance restrictions. (Remember that the volume of something can be as critical as its weight, i.e. 20 pounds of feathers in a sack are cumbersome.) To be useful, items generally must be readily accessible, so this consideration must also be borne in mind. Lastly, as the main purpose of adventuring is to bring back treasure, provision for carrying out a considerable amount of material must also be made. The table below gives you a guideline respecting weight and bulk carried and how movement is affected:

 

Encumbrance

Movement

Reaction and Initiative

Normal Gear: About 35# and no great bulk

12”; subject can run quickly

Normal or better

Heavy Gear: Armor and/or equipment of about 70# or fairly bulky

9”;  subject can make a lumbering run

Normal, no bonuses

Very Heavy Gear: Armor and/or equipment of 105# and bulky (such as plate armor)

6”; subject can trot for short distances

Slowed

Encumbered: Armor and/or equipment over 105# weight and/or (very) bulky

3” to 4”; no trotting possible

Slowed greatly

 

Strength penalties or bonuses will modify these guidelines. Weight is usually stated in gold pieces, 10 gold pieces equalling 1# (pound). Volume can only be calculated from known comparisons, as the size and shape of objects varies from individual to individual, i.e. how big is a tapestry?

 

Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979)

The DMG, page 225, contains a list of the encumbrance values for items in the PHB (I suppose this was something overlooked in the creation of the PHB), along with some notes on figuring encumbrance and why the encumbrance values seem weird. I won’t quote the entire section because it’s irrelevant to this discussion, but I thought that the portion I do quote is interesting from a design perspective.

 

[Page 225]

Many people looking at the table will say, “But a scroll doesn’t weigh two pounds!” The encumbrance figure should not be taken as the weight of the object — it is the combined weight and relative bulkiness of the item. These factors together will determine how much a figure can carry.

 

Dungeons & Dragons (1981-1995)

For my sanity (what’s left of it, at least), I’m not going to go over anything released after the 1983 Mentzer edition Basic Set (there’s no difference between it and the Rules Cyclopedia, so I doubt there are any changes within any of the other sets).

      What’s common between the different editions of “Basic” D&D is that Encumbrance is one-size-fits-all — strength has NO effect on Encumbrance or how much you character can carry. Like previous editions, Basic measures weight in “gold pieces”, or “coin” (cn).

 

Dungeons & Dragons Set 1: Basic Rules, Basic Rulebook (1981)

[Page B20]

Encumbrance (Optional)

A person can only carry a limited amount of weight before being overloaded and unable to move. In D&D rules, weight is measured in coins (en), rather than pounds, since all coin types are equal in weight and coins are the most common of treasures. Ten coins weigh one pound. Encumbrance (a combination of weight and bulk) will affect movement rates for characters.

      Characters' movement rates are slowed by carrying excessive amounts of treasure and equipment and by the different types of armor they wear, as shown on the following Character Movement table. The encumbrances of the types of armor do not exactly match the coin weights, but when the encumbrance of the character's weapons, shield and gear are added, the encumbrances are about equal to these weights. The DM will need to determine the encumbrance of other items that characters might want to carry, such as a wounded character, and should compare this to the total coin weights given on the table to determine the characters' movement rates. Characters carrying more than 1,600 coins of weight are overloaded and unable to move.

 

Character Movement

Character Encumbrance:

Normal Move

(per turn)

Encounter or

Combat Movement

Running

Movement

400 coins or less OR unarmored

120'

40'/round

120'/round

401-600 coins OR leather armored

90'

30'/round

90'/round

601-800 coins OR metal armored

60'

20'/round

60'/round

801-1,600 coins OR metal armored and carrying treasure

30'

10'/round

30'/round

 

A player carrying treasure in addition to wearing armor must use the movement speed one line below the normal one. Movement per round will be explained in the section on Combat (page B24). EXAMPLE: A character wearing leather armor and carrying treasure will move at the rate of 60' per tum.

 

Dungeons & Dragons Set 1: Basic Rules, Player’s Manual (1983)

 

This version increases the number of encumbrance categories as well as the amount of cn that characters can carry above unencumbered.

 

[Player’s Manual, Page 61]

Encumbrance

There have been no rules in your games thus far dealing with the amount a character can carry. You have been allowed to pick up as much treasure as you can find, and take it home.

      This can become silly, if allowed to continue. Your characters may eventually find vast dragon hoards of thousands of coins, weighing hundreds of pounds, and the DM should not permit you to pick it all up and walk out!

      Encumbrance is the name for the amount of weight that your character is carrying. The more you carry, the slower you move, according to the following chart. One new abbreviation is used. One coin of treasure, whatever the type (gp, ep, and so forth) weighs about 1/10 pound. Since coins are the commonest of treasures, the coin (not the pound) becomes the simplest unit of weight. From now on, the weight of all treasures, equipment, and so forth will be measured in coins, abbreviated cn.

 

Encumbered Movement Rates

“Normal speed” is used when your characters are walking through a dungeon.

      “Encounter speed” is used whenever time is kept in rounds, such as during a battle.

      “Running speed” is used whenever the party is running away from an encounter. Time is still kept in rounds, rather than turns, and the party must rest afterward. (See Movement, page 56.)

 

Basic Encumbrance

If a character is wearing no armor, or merely leather armor, and carrying the normal equipment taken on an adventure, the basic encumbrance is 300 cn. That type of character can pick up 100 coins and still use the top line of the chart. If more treasure is carried, the rest of the table is used to find the movement rate.

      If a character is wearing metal armor, whether Chain Mail or Plate Mail, and carrying other normal equipment, the basic encumbrance is 700 cn. The character moves at 90’/turn, and may pick up 100 coins and still use that line of the chart.

      A character carrying more than 2,400 cn (240 pounds) cannot move. Something must be dropped or given to other characters.

 

Speed vs. Encumbrance Table

Encumbrance

Normal Speed

Encounter Speed

Running Speed

(Feet per turn)

(Feet per round)

up to 400 cn

120

40

120

401-800 cn

90

30

90

801-1,200 cn

60

20

60

1,201-1,600 cn

30

10

30

1,601-2,400 cn

15

5

15

2,401 and more

 

Using Encumbrance

Find the basic encumbrance for your character, as explained above, and write it on the back of your character sheet, under “Equipment.” Remember to add to it whenever you pick up any treasure; your DM will tell you how many coins are found. A gem is counted as 1 cn, and other treasures (potions, jewelry, and so forth) are counted as 10 cn each.

      A more detailed system of encumbrance, calculating the weight of each piece of equipment, will be given in the D&D EXPERT Set. But remember that the fun of the game comes from role playing, not bookkeeping, and your DM may merely wish to use a simple system for determining encumbrance.

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