Encumbrance


Advice


Hi,

I'm one session into a new Pathfinder campaign, and have decided that I had better use the encumbrance rules in order to avoid absurd situations. I sent out a group e-mail to the players to let them know. I'm getting some pushback from one player, who essentially thinks it's a bad idea because of the bookkeeping.

I'm looking for some input about this. Do you guys use encumbrance rules as written? Would it be ok to maybe compromise use load limits but not the extra check and DEX penalties?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Have never used encumbrance in my life. I feel that it might be a bit more bookkeeping in a game that has enough of it, but I can't say since we don't really use it. That said, if a PC at the table dumps strength then the DM takes note of it for situations in which the character is trying to move something heavy, like dragging an unconscious Warforged paladin in full plate to safety.


Many groups ignore encumbrance outright.
Many groups have a gentlemen's agreement not to track encumbrance so long as no one abuses immersion by doing something goofy like trying to carry a spare suit of plate mail.

Personally I like making strategic decisions, and what to bring adventuring is a great source of fun decisions to make.


Unless someone is obviously overdoing it, we generally ignore it. Generally not worth the tedium.

Also ceases to be an issue when the party gets their first Handy Haversack and Bag of Holding.


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Encumbrance is there for a reason. Without anyone who does not plan to get into melee has no reason not to completely dump STR. A cleric with a 10 STR wearing a breastplate and a light wooden shield is already at medium encumbrance. Add a heavy crossbow and 10 bolts that puts him up to 48 pounds. Add a cleric kit from ultimate equipment and he is at 80 lbs. which is heavy encumbrance.

It also balances out other types of characters especially archers. A properly built archer is deadly; one of the things keeping them in check is the need to carry ammunition. True they can get a magic item like an efficient quiver but that takes up some of their wealth by level.

There is some book keeping involved but that is part of the game. If you use a computer to generate the characters the book keeping is almost nonexistent. Hero Labs for example keeps track of encumbrance for you so you don’t really have to worry about it that much.


That was my main concern: that not using encumbrance would upset game balance.

I'm considering compromising with the player and just keeping load limits - so no character can carry more than his heavy limit allows. That does create a situation where your armor gives you Dex and check penalties, but an armorless character with strength 9 and 80 pounds of gear would incur no penalty at all. I'm not sure if that alternative is necessarily more appealing.


You could compromise and instead of applying movement, dex, and skill penalties, only apply movement penalties. You could agree not to check encumbrance mid-adventure unless the PC tries to carry waayy too much stuff, so that the player can total between sessions.


Also consider that a character with a 7 can only carry 23 lbs. before reaching medium encumbrance. A Wizard with a 7 STR without magic is not even going to be able to carry the basic equipment he needs. Below is a list of the equipment I consider necessary for a 12st level Wizard.

Dagger, Backpack (empty), Bedroll, Belt pouch (empty), Ink, black, Inkpen, Mess kit, Spell component pouch, Spellbook, Trail rations (5), Waterskin.

Change the race to a gnome and his STR drops down to 5, which means he can carry even less. If you really want to ignore the encumbrance rules you could disallow dumping of STR. Make 10 before racial adjustments the absolute minimum STR. For any class that will be wearing armor I would suggest you raise that to 12 to 13. If your players complain then more than likely they are just trying to get something for nothing.

Liberty's Edge

I have always used encumbrance rules as a player. Do you know what I found? I found that the amount of 'stuff' my characters carry almost always leads me to have to make decisions about what to take and what not to take...until I buy a handy haversack.

As a GM, I have found that some players that do not use encumbrance rules are a little creative with what their characters have. Others tend to overload without knowing it.

Tell your players that you want to use encumbrance rules for the next 4 to 5 sessions. At the beginning of each session, take a minute to scan each sheet to see what they look like.

Shadow Lodge

You need to use the encumbrance rules.

You'll be surprised how quickly that weight adds up. If you're playing without the encumbrance rules, assume you're on a heavy load 90% of the time.


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What sort of campaign are you gearing up for?

Are you doing a wilderness and exploration theme? Track encumbrance. Is it entirely or almost entirely urban? Don't worry about it. Is it low magic, where the party will be lucky if they ever get their hands on a Bag of Holding? Track it. Do you expect the party to have a base of operations, to which they constantly return to prepare for the next day's work? Forget it.

It can add an interesting factor to the game, or it can just drag you down. It's very rarely both. If it does one, use it. If not, don't.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The problems with encumbrance are several.

First is that it's one of these areas where D&D is turbo realistic, while in other areas it ventures into realm of pure abstraction (falling rules? drowning rules? hell, hit points!). So your Barbarian can fall from 200 ft. and walk away just fine, but if damn his sorry hide if he tries to carry too much stuff. He can survive a t-rex bite, but he's expected to track minutae weights of his gear.

As a result, your level 20 character can slay dragons in five sword swings or implode reality using world-shattering spells, but the moment he puts that one more clay jug in his backpack...

...we arrive at the second problem, which is that encumbrance is binary. Carry 66lbs of stuff? You're fine. Carry 67lbs of stuff? You're hosed. Ironically, while trying to be turbo realistic and calculating how much junk can you carry around with STR 15, somebody forgot that encumbrance isn't binary IRL. Why on earth didn't they put gradial encumbrance that's calculated by taking small gradients? Oh wait, likely because somebody thought "this is silly, we can't expect people to play Dungeons & Encumbrance!". However, the solution applied is not much better.

Thirdly, as mentioned above, encumbrance is one another area that gets trivialized by magic, early on.

And finally, it's a chore (Hero Lab doesn't help much, because you have to use it every time you pick up some damn clay jug) and a double chore for anybody who doesn't use the Imperial measurement system. Which is, like, most of this planet including my turf. So, we excise the insane ways of Anglo-Saxons wherever we can.

All this together means I've ditched encumbrance early on. I expect my players not to abuse this and refrain from carrying around basilica domes and dragon carcasses (although I can totally see a high-level high-str carrying around a dead dragon because he can), and so far it works just great.


I'm a fighter with decent str, I like the encubrance rule. It gives me guideline of how much I can carry so I can keep it real(not really) when it comes to weight for what I carry.


Gorbacz wrote:

The problems with encumbrance are several:

...turbo realistic...
...encumbrance is binary...
...trivialized by magic...
...[tracking encumbrance] is a chore...

All this together means I've ditched encumbrance early on... and so far it works just great.

Gorbacz, any way you play the game that works for you is terrific. I do have a different experience of encumbrance.

Modest touches of "realism" like encumbrance, keeping track of purchases, and rations help my immersion. They also make it exciting or at least interesting when magic or wealth reduces those needs. Like at 1st level I can carry limited gear. Then I get a masterwork backpack and lighter rope, so I can carry more. Soon the cleric can feed everyone through create food & water, which frees up even more capacity. Eventually I (usually) get a handy haversack, which allows the party to take lots (but not unlimited!) of tools and equipment along with us. It's a small way that characters grow in power.

.. And I just don't find adding up the weights of my equipstuff to be a burdensome chore.


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My table enforce the encumbrance rules to the letter. However, it is far too much bookkeeping for a single person to do. I'm the kinda lucky GM, who has players who insist on making my job easy, and just have fun with the game, win or lose be damned. So I can leave alot of things to them, without having to worry. If I do start to worry that something is not adding up, I can just ask to see their character-sheet and double-check the math when necessary. So far, no issues.

At my table, the following rules stand:

Don't talk about fight club

You are responsible for tracking and enforcing your own character's encumbrance.

You are responsible for tracking your own containers, their weight carried, and their maximum weight allowed.

If you do not have a container or a way to transport your item, you are carrying it by hand.

The player looks up the weight of an item themselves, if possible.

If your container carries a volume of stuff, rather than up to a certain weight, ask your GM.

--- We USED to have the rule "When you pick up an item, say where you store it". This helped in the beginning, when the my players were still trying to remember to enforce container limits. By saying "I put the +1 Mace in my handy haversack", they automatically reminded themselves to adjust the present weight in that container, so they knew, when it could carry no more.

And so far, no issues, no complaints, and no need for me to tilt my head and go "you're carrying -what?!".

Hope it helps.

-Nearyn


In my experience trying to keep track of every last pound of gear/loot the party is packing around is simply not worth the effort. As a DM I do not want to have to worry about it as I have plenty on my plate already, and I don't particularly want my players to have to spend time worrying about it either. I want my players to think about how awesome it is when they slay the dragon and discover its treasure horde, not to find a massive pile of 50,000 gold coins and think, "well that's 1,000 pounds of gold right there, how in the name of Desna are we going to get all that back to Vigil?" Coin weight is probably the largest problem with trying to keep track of encumbrance. If a player in my game wants to save his gold so he can buy a cool weapon, I do not want to penalize him for doing so by making him encumbered by the 200 pounds that many coins weighs. As a player, I know how tedious it can become looking up the weight for every last item the DM tells you that you find as well. The game is balanced in such a way that you are supposed to be able to take all the treasure that the monsters you slay have, and if you are being thorough about encumbrance you will likely be forced to leave certain things behind. I have never had a problem with allowing my players to carry around all the coins, potions, wands, ammunition, etc that they wish, but at the same time if they try to claim that they are doing something absurd such as carrying an extra suit of armor on their back I would take issue. That may seem like a double standard, but in my opinion its the smoothest way of playing the game. I encourage my players to invest in haversacks and bags of holding early because then when they find large heavy loot we can all assume it goes in the bag and not worry about it, to the benefit of all.

Bottom line though, what works for your group is what you should do. If you and your players enjoy dealing with encumbrance that's totally cool. I find it be an unnecessary distraction that detracts from our heroic fantasy, but perhaps for your group it could add a rewarding sense of realism to the game. The player you mentioned who has taken issue with worrying about encumbrance sounds like he has a similar opinion on the issue as I do, but if he is the only one who doesn't want to keep track of encumbrance then perhaps he will have to deal with it. I would recommend talking it over with your players and deciding as a group how you want to play it. Although as the DM you are the final arbitrator/decision maker, remember that it's your players' game too. You don't want to start running your game in a fashion that is going to make it less fun. In a private game, whatever is going to be the most fun for your group is pretty much always what you want to do.


I have always used encumbrance and I've never found it to be a problem. Even when my character has a bag of holding or handy haversack (which is easier to fill up then you might think!). Now we also track rations and ammunition and although my DM doesn't require it, I find it fun to track spell components. I like that (at my table) I can say my wizard pulls out a pinch of powered iron and begins casting and my friend's barbarian knows to position himself for enlarge person. (I also like the little interactions that were set up. I don't recall the exact spells but there was one that used a glass rod as a material component and another one that used a shard of glass. So I used the rod for one spell, then we "house-flavored" that the spell shattered the rod and left me components for the other spell. And that's just one small example.)

We also track the weight of coins (we use 40 coins = 1lb). It teaches you the true value of gems! We even had fun with getting the dragon hoard back to town (and protecting it on the way.)


Durngrun Stonebreaker wrote:

I have always used encumbrance and I've never found it to be a problem. Even when my character has a bag of holding or handy haversack (which is easier to fill up then you might think!). Now we also track rations and ammunition and although my DM doesn't require it, I find it fun to track spell components. I like that (at my table) I can say my wizard pulls out a pinch of powered iron and begins casting and my friend's barbarian knows to position himself for enlarge person. (I also like the little interactions that were set up. I don't recall the exact spells but there was one that used a glass rod as a material component and another one that used a shard of glass. So I used the rod for one spell, then we "house-flavored" that the spell shattered the rod and left me components for the other spell. And that's just one small example.)

We also track the weight of coins (we use 40 coins = 1lb). It teaches you the true value of gems! We even had fun with getting the dragon hoard back to town (and protecting it on the way.)

An excellent example of how keeping track of encumbrance could add a layer of enjoyment to the game for certain groups. If Durngrun's example of his party having fun taking the dragon hoard back to town sounds like something you would enjoy, then go for it. If it sounds like something you do not want to deal with, then perhaps you shouldn't. It's all about having fun.

You enjoy keeping track of spell components Durngrun? That might be the first time I've heard anyone say that. That's hardcore brother. I hope you keep that bat guano for your fireballs somewhere safe. I have often wondered where wizards get all that bat guano from. Do wizard academies keep some bat nests in the basement or something? A question for the philosophers.


A rule-of-thumb approach is to just focus on armor and weapons, and assume a lump value for all other possessions combined (like 10 pounds, or 15 counting food) until the list starts growing suspiciously long.


existence123 wrote:

Hi,

I'm one session into a new Pathfinder campaign, and have decided that I had better use the encumbrance rules in order to avoid absurd situations. I sent out a group e-mail to the players to let them know. I'm getting some pushback from one player, who essentially thinks it's a bad idea because of the bookkeeping.

I'm looking for some input about this. Do you guys use encumbrance rules as written? Would it be ok to maybe compromise use load limits but not the extra check and DEX penalties?

We use encumbrance as written in all of my campaigns. Aside from eliminating ludicrous situations like carrying full loads while sneaking/scouting, it has created interesting tactical choices for the players - "do I want better protection or mobility?", "what do I take on the mission?", "I need a mount", etc. My players like having to account for it.

I will note that we use Hero Lab, which calculates it for us, which is a big plus.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

when i started using Hero Lab i was surprised how much encumbrance mattered. even a high str character would be impacted by it. I even had low str characters who could not function at 100% even with a bag of holding.

having a home base of operations makes everything better, or a few pack animals (riding dogs or Animal Companions). of course they can be interacted with, which is a huge plus. (OMG they know where we live, they ate Fluffy!, should we leave item x out here on the goat? (the goat answer is always no lol))

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

If the players seem really resistant to the bookkeeping, then give a little something extra to ease the pain.

Maybe an extra trait at character creation?

It's a way to sweeten the deal, without breaking balance.

Grand Lodge

Ah, encumbrance...I always start out wanting to enforce it, but by the third session of a campaign I have to throw up my arms and sigh and say "whatever." Obviously I'd stop someone from being dumb and trying to carry around half a building on their back, but when our wizard was so weak that adding his spellbook to his standard gear would put him in medium load territory, I had to give up a bit.

Fun fact, SKR mentioned on the NPC Codex errata thread that they don't really track gear encumbrance beyond a creature's armor. He's said in other threads in the past that encumbrance and carrying capacity was a left over from 3.5 that they had to include to maintain compatibility with other 3.5 products. He'd like to do away with it, as he shares a similar opinion with others in this thread that that kind of bookkeeping is a task only OCD accountants could get flushed over.


Thanks guys, this thread has been very useful. I now see both sides of the issue. I'm going to talk it over with the players and get their feelings. I suspect I'll end up using a simplified system of some kind.

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