How should bulk be used in the system?


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Hi everyone.

Recently I have made quite a few level 1-4 characters to get an idea of different sample parties and to better my understanding of various characters. One thing that took me a bit by surprise was how much of a limiting factor bulk turned out to be for a lot of different characters (str often being a low-stat for any non-melee martial class). That got me thinking about bulk as a resource more than just as a semi-optional set of rules (which is how encumbrance have often be used in various games I took part in).

Overall I actually really like the amount it can limit certain low-strength characters of wearing heavy armor (I do however feel that heavy armor might be a bit too weak compared to medium armor atm) or make a character use a backup weapon that is light instead of 1 bulk, even though it's "worse" because it helps with the bulk. Alchemist did seem a bit too limited, but changing the numbers is a thing that can always be done.
Some of the realism in which items is L, 1 or 2 bulk is a bit out the window (and don't even mention snare kits 8), and some improvements could be used.

My overall question though is: "Do you like that Bulk is a big limiting factor for what amount of gear and which armor your character can carry or would you rather have it be more loose (All characters being able to wear armor, carry 2-3 weapons + traveling gear without getting encumbered)?"

Personally I think it's good that a sorcerer/paladin will actually have a hard time walking around in a big heavy armor unless they invest in strength. Bags of holding do seem to be a bit of an issue though, because from level 5 or so onwards bulk seems to be pretty much a non-issue for all but the str 10 character with heavy armor and shield.

EDIT: I like that a feat like hefty hauler exist, but I'm not sure I like that it requires 12 strength. Thoughts?


The benefit of bulk is that it can more accurately model encumbrance. See, for example, it being harder to run holding 40 lbs in your arms than with a 40 lb backpack.

The drawback of bulk is that, since it no longer maps to any real-world units, it becomes more difficult to estimate. The notable example is if you have to drag an unconscious party member out of a dungeon, or similar.

Nettah wrote:
would you rather have it be more loose (All characters being able to wear armor, carry 2-3 weapons + traveling gear without getting encumbered)?

This one's interesting from a realism standpoint. WotC in 3e made weapons abnormally heavy, to prevent people from being able to carry too many at once, then made armor lighter to compensate. For example, historical greatswords were maybe 5 pounds, not 8. Or a bardiche was closer to 9 pounds, not 14.

All this is to say that if you want to be able to carry more weapons, the solution isn't to increase carrying capacity, but to decrease weapon weights back down to normal.


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Cheeky reply: You shouldn't use bulk at all.

Seriously, though... this is one of the reasons heavy armor is objectively bad. If you invest in DEX instead of STR, you can use Medium or Light armor for the same AC except you don't have all the extra bulk. It also applies to more skills (although Athletics is used a lot in my experience).

The problem largely goes away later, as once you start getting more ability boosts at level 5, it's easy to shore up, and bags of holding come online soon after to effectively eliminate the bulk of all the adventuring gear you're carrying that you don't need immediately on hand.

But yes, I found low level heavy armor is just totally nonviable unless you're a class that wants STR already, and even then medium armor with some DEX investment is arguably a better idea as it slows you down less.


So the reason I like Bulk is that "encumbrance" in previous editions was much too granular to be worth actually tracking (a lot of tables ignored it entirely in practice since it was too much bookkeeping), but nonetheless there is value in limiting the amount of stuff people can carry.

It does feel pretty punitive with some of the skill kits, but perhaps those are supposed to be things you don't carry with you into the dungeon, you leave it with the pack animals.

I do feel like the Alchemist could maybe get a more efficient alchemy kit as they progress much like how Starfinder's Mechanic has a custom rig that they improve as they level.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

So the reason I like Bulk is that "encumbrance" in previous editions was much too granular to be worth actually tracking (a lot of tables ignored it entirely in practice since it was too much bookkeeping), but nonetheless there is value in limiting the amount of stuff people can carry.

It does feel pretty punitive with some of the skill kits, but perhaps those are supposed to be things you don't carry with you into the dungeon, you leave it with the pack animals.

I do feel like the Alchemist could maybe get a more efficient alchemy kit as they progress much like how Starfinder's Mechanic has a custom rig that they improve as they level.

The fact that nobody bothered tracking it in 1E allowed STR dumps to go unpunished a lot of the time. Once you actually start doing the math, the power if this mechanic becomes apparent. Characters need SOME STR to carry even reasonable amounts of gear, making this stat not as "useless" as most claim.

So yeah, actually enforcing this rule changes up the balance of character creation for the better.


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Bulk is a lateral move IMO. Makes some aspects of encumbrance easier and others more immersion-breaking. Brings up questions about whether an item's bulk is lowered if it is stored differently (and when that change should happen, and why that change should happen. But it makes the math simpler and more tolerable. I can cover the gaps with GM calls. The other way around, I have to do GM calls to decide the rough volume and how much the party can reasonably move overland anyway, so it balances out.

Either method of carrying capacity is the wrong way to approach making strength useful though. It punishes people who don't have it more than it rewards people who do, especially since there is still a magic item that circumvents the system handily in most cases and would be cool enough to take even if carrying capacity was removed from the game.

Instead, if we want strength to be more useful, add rewards for the high-strength characters, not just punishments for the low-strength characters.


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Paradozen wrote:
Either method of carrying capacity is the wrong way to approach making strength useful though. It punishes people who don't have it more than it rewards people who do

Oh, noooo, it's totally rewarding when the STR 8 dervish DEX fighter says "Hey, you have a ton of STR, can you carry my stuff" and you get to say "Buzz off, min-maxxer, I built for plausibility. Carry your own stuff!". And then he begs "Pretty please? I can barely lift my rapier!" and you get to say "OK, I'll do it, but I get to keep half of what I carry." And then he has no choice but to agree.

Very rewarding.


DM_Blake wrote:
Paradozen wrote:
Either method of carrying capacity is the wrong way to approach making strength useful though. It punishes people who don't have it more than it rewards people who do

Oh, noooo, it's totally rewarding when the STR 8 dervish DEX fighter says "Hey, you have a ton of STR, can you carry my stuff" and you get to say "Buzz off, min-maxxer, I built for plausibility. Carry your own stuff!". And then he begs "Pretty please? I can barely lift my rapier!" and you get to say "OK, I'll do it, but I get to keep half of what I carry." And then he has no choice but to agree.

Very rewarding.

Best post I've read! But you forgot to mention that Dervish is a Magus with a Scimitar*

P.S. Bags of holding actually don't solve this issue the wya you think. You can't usually fit equipment in it and they have some decent weight. Plus just the equipped christmas tree is enough to push 7/8 STR into medium encumbrance, mostly from armor. Only dedicating a slot to Muleback Cords really helps.


ChibiNyan wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:
Paradozen wrote:
Either method of carrying capacity is the wrong way to approach making strength useful though. It punishes people who don't have it more than it rewards people who do

Oh, noooo, it's totally rewarding when the STR 8 dervish DEX fighter says "Hey, you have a ton of STR, can you carry my stuff" and you get to say "Buzz off, min-maxxer, I built for plausibility. Carry your own stuff!". And then he begs "Pretty please? I can barely lift my rapier!" and you get to say "OK, I'll do it, but I get to keep half of what I carry." And then he has no choice but to agree.

Very rewarding.

Best post I've read! But you forgot to mention that Dervish is a Magus with a Scimitar*

And you forgot to mention that his parents (like the parents of every magus) were skilled at casting shocking grasp and independently developed some of the same tricks for casting it as every other magus' parents.


ChibiNyan wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:
Paradozen wrote:
Either method of carrying capacity is the wrong way to approach making strength useful though. It punishes people who don't have it more than it rewards people who do

Oh, noooo, it's totally rewarding when the STR 8 dervish DEX fighter says "Hey, you have a ton of STR, can you carry my stuff" and you get to say "Buzz off, min-maxxer, I built for plausibility. Carry your own stuff!". And then he begs "Pretty please? I can barely lift my rapier!" and you get to say "OK, I'll do it, but I get to keep half of what I carry." And then he has no choice but to agree.

Very rewarding.

Best post I've read! But you forgot to mention that Dervish is a Magus with a Scimitar*

Could be a very uninspiring bard with a scimitar. Had one in my last 1e campaign. He had a STR of 7 and made the paladin carry everything, even his gold. Poor dumb honest paladin never charged him anything...


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

So the reason I like Bulk is that "encumbrance" in previous editions was much too granular to be worth actually tracking (a lot of tables ignored it entirely in practice since it was too much bookkeeping), but nonetheless there is value in limiting the amount of stuff people can carry.

It does feel pretty punitive with some of the skill kits, but perhaps those are supposed to be things you don't carry with you into the dungeon, you leave it with the pack animals.

I do feel like the Alchemist could maybe get a more efficient alchemy kit as they progress much like how Starfinder's Mechanic has a custom rig that they improve as they level.

Funny thing is that's exactly why I hate bulk. It's so imprecise that it doesn't measure anything in a sane way. If the players try to pick up something weird, I have no real idea how to measure it. Someone can carry 9 shortswords and it effectively doesn't exist, encumbrance wise.

Weight wasn't perfect, but it was easy to understand and relatively easy to add up. Bulk is neither of those things. And unlike a lot of other stuff I don't like, it's not that easy to houserule away.

(I'd also contend that many people who ignored encumbrance did it because encumbrance isn't fun, and not because adding up weight was overly difficult. Encumbrance still isn't fun for the same reasons, and those people will continue to ignore it now. Lots of people just can't be bothered to worry about going slower because they found loot.)

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Tridus wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:

So the reason I like Bulk is that "encumbrance" in previous editions was much too granular to be worth actually tracking (a lot of tables ignored it entirely in practice since it was too much bookkeeping), but nonetheless there is value in limiting the amount of stuff people can carry.

It does feel pretty punitive with some of the skill kits, but perhaps those are supposed to be things you don't carry with you into the dungeon, you leave it with the pack animals.

I do feel like the Alchemist could maybe get a more efficient alchemy kit as they progress much like how Starfinder's Mechanic has a custom rig that they improve as they level.

Funny thing is that's exactly why I hate bulk. It's so imprecise that it doesn't measure anything in a sane way. If the players try to pick up something weird, I have no real idea how to measure it. Someone can carry 9 shortswords and it effectively doesn't exist, encumbrance wise.

Weight wasn't perfect, but it was easy to understand and relatively easy to add up. Bulk is neither of those things. And unlike a lot of other stuff I don't like, it's not that easy to houserule away.

(I'd also contend that many people who ignored encumbrance did it because encumbrance isn't fun, and not because adding up weight was overly difficult. Encumbrance still isn't fun for the same reasons, and those people will continue to ignore it now. Lots of people just can't be bothered to worry about going slower because they found loot.)

As the GM of a group of players who never tracked encumbrance in 1E, I can tell you that we didn't track it because the granular mathematics of it was entirely too fiddly to track and that is the reason it's not fun.

Even if I don't dive directly into 2e, Bulk is definitely coming back in 1e, my players found Bulk far easier to track and was an interesting puzzle to solve of what they wanted to carry vs what they needed to carry.

Bulk is way less cognitive load, and as a GM I find it pretty easy to estimate since I just measure against a similar object that already exists or just say: "The large solid bronze statue is too damn heavy to carry out." (Which I did in 1e all the time without looking up the actual weight).

To be honest my ideal system would be a paper-doll with a grid of boxes that players could put little item tokens in, but by that point I'm playing torchbearer.


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
As the GM of a group of players who never tracked encumbrance in 1E, I can tell you that we didn't track it because the granular mathematics of it was entirely too fiddly to track and that is the reason it's not fun.

I dunno, I tend to think "you pick up the 400gp in the loot pile you just discovered and now you're encumbered" isn't fun no matter how you measure it. The last game I DMed, I gave the party a bag of holding in the very first session specifically so that wouldn't come up.

Quote:
interesting puzzle to solve of what they wanted to carry vs what they needed to carry.

That part is also true no matter how you measure it too, except you don't get weirdness like the first 9 shortswords effectively weighing nothing so you give the 10th one to another person, which somehow also weighs nothing unless you carry it in which case it weighs a lot.

Quote:
Bulk is way less cognitive load

I believe you, but I don't understand this in the slightest because my experience is the exact opposite. If I have 27 pounds free, I know exactly how much room I have left when I find a pile of stuff where the total is 52 pounds. The goal there is obvious: find the most valuable stuff by gp/weight and take it.

When I find a pile of stuff that has a total of 4 bulk and 3L but the individual things break down, then it gets weird because now my goal is to spread the Ls amongst as many people as possible so they don't weigh anything, then among whats left, optimize for weight. That's not simpler. It's gamist and suspension of disbelief shattering, but not simpler.

Fortunately on my last character we're now high enough to get a bag of holding which is even better now because it no longer cares about volume. 25 bulk goes a long way and it was the first item I picked (even before a magic weapon!) specifically so I could disengage with this system as quickly as possible. All I care about now is "does the stuff I need on hand in combat fit inside my limit?" Everything else is in the bag... and I know it fits because I did the work to add up the 27L items in there along with all the other stuff.

Liberty's Edge

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Bulk is conceptually fine. Smaller numbers make dealing with it a lot easier and simpler.

That said, the current version is completely messed up and unworkable, because the current Bulk numbers in no way correlate to anything remotely real.

For example, the following things are all 8 Bulk (and can thus be carried pretty readily by someone with Str 16, with more or less equal difficulty):

An unconscious 300 lb Half Orc Barbarian.

An unconscious 100 lb Elf Wizard.

Two unconscious Halflings of any size.

80 Short Swords.

80 Light Shields.

800 sling stones.

4 Longbows.

4 Breastplates.

8 Bo Staffs.

80 Bedrolls.

8 Four Person Tents.

80 Pup Tents.

8 Ten Foot Poles.

4000 feet of silk rope.

8 Spellbooks.
.
.
.
Now, speaking as a person who has carried things (including camping equipment or large numbers of large books at once)...this list bears no remote correlation to how difficult to carry a single thing on it actually is. Not even a little bit. Which make Bulk worse than useless in its current form.


While I agree with Deadmanwalking, it's my fault for not being a bit more clear on the purpose of my post. Because sure the exact numbers might need to make more sense for it to be a great system but the details can always be fiddled with. And the discussion of the realism of this aspect have been discussed a lot in previous threads.

My main point of discussion is whether the limitation system of bulk is good or not and whether it's a better or worse system than the previous weight from pathfinder 1 and several d&d games.

Personally, as stated, I really like the limiting factor (most of the time) but does think it has several opportunities for improvement.

What I like:
The limitation on "wearable" gear, often heavy armor, shield and weapons is too much of a burden for anyone with a low strength score. Even when bag of holdings becomes available.

The limitation of the "golf-bag". If you don't spend any resources (on attributes or magic) you won't be able to fit all tools to solve all the different damage types resistance, carry a tool for every single skill or carry tons of consumables.

Carrying loot will quickly cost you penalties (not in combat, you can just drop the backpack, tent, loot sacks etc) but will make solutions like mules important for overland travel and exploration mode.

Making strength carry some meaning besides melee combat, damage and athletics.

The "ease" of the system. Sure lb shouldn't be so hard to track, but the bulk system does seem more streamlined or appealing (not exactly sure why, but that is how I fell about it).

Dislikes:
Heavy armor is already quite penalized, I think bulk is an important limitation but overall heavy armor could be better, maybe giving a higher total ac combined with dex than 7 (especially because the TAC is punished so much), or maybe reduce penalties or give some bonuses based on the strength of the user.

The realism aspect (as stated perfectly by Deadmanswalking), but I see this more as details flaw than a system critic in itself. (A quick fix might be increasing the bulk capacity and make all weapons, except the smallest like a dagger, weight 1 bulk as a minimum and then 2 or 3 for the heavier weapons)

Certain kits or RP items being so "heavy" that they loose all sense of viability, snare kit, heavy music instruments and even cookware might be penalized a bit too much.

How it limits the alchemist too much (this does seem a bit improved by the essences thingie included in the resonance test, so I assume this will be better in 1.6 or at least in some update down the line already). But I remember my alchemist from part 2 having to get str 12 and hefty hauler to even carry a single weapon, light amor and the potions, kit and formula book.

EDIT: Another potential solution could simply be to change bulk capacity for light land to strength score and max to strength sore + 5 or 10. This would work well with an increase for all weapons to 1 bulk minium (except daggers, ammo, throwing stars etc) and increasing the weight of some armors.


I guess the assumption of the system is that characters will be carrying things they have a good reason to want to carry. So weirdness like "10 short swords is as much as 1 long sword" is kind of irrelevant since no one has a reason to want to carry 10 short swords- you can't wield more than two, and it's not like they make good currency.

People are going to want to carry a primary weapon, a backup weapon, some skill kits, and general utility items. Nobody is carrying 4000 feet of rope just in case. A simplified system is always going to break under unlikely corner cases, it just matters how it functions for "realistic loadouts."


*Just waits patiently for Greystone* (although actually I'm against Bulk as is myself.)


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Never minding all the screwiness of how it works (humans in Golarion are apparently 40 to 80 pounds, I can't really know what I can carry is because it might be converted down/fractionally dismissed/negated depending on how it's worn), my answer to your bolded question in the OP is that, assuming it did work and sanely, I want the limits of what I can carry to be very loose.

Based on previous/other games of the same genre (3.5, 4E, 5E, P1E, Anima, Oblivion, Skyrim), I can reasonably expect to carry multiple weapons (that is, a main weapon, another main weapon, a backup weapon, and multiple light weapons like daggers or hatchets). And variations for ranged combat (main ranged weapon and maybe another ranged weapon and enough ammo that the only way I run out is if I'm too stupid to live and don't police my fired arrows). And armor and shield. And the basic necessities of adventuring (rations, waterskin, bedroll, rope, more rope, even more rope, torches, mess kit, and maybe shovel or pick). And specific kits (plural) for climbing or picking locks or healing. And various odds and ends that have nothing to do with adventuring but serve to give the character a history and outside interests.

And all of that before treasure, potions, or loot even comes into play. And without the character having to do literally everything he can just to spec for carrying capacity (as in, he can't dump Str outright, but he doesn't have to put an 18 there, either).

And without requiring hirelings or packmules just to go from place to place. Those measures just shouldn't be required for the basic logistics to work. Look at the world being presented. Look at the novels. Yes, some main characters go around with such help (Count Varian Jeggare has a stagecoach), but most of them can go where they need to while being sufficiently Boy-Scout-prepared without a retinue of extra backs or beasts of burden.

Look at the comics. Seoni, Valeros, Ezren, Kyra, Merisiel, and sometimes Harsk are capable of carrying everything they need without help. Do they still use vehicles? Yes, they used a ship to get from Sandpoint to Magnimar (because of the distance, not because they couldn't move due to encumbrance). Do they still ride creatures? Yes, they rode hippogriffs towards the end of Runescars (to catch up with the villain who had teleported away, not because of weight).

But never mind all the rest of that. Let's only look at P2E in isolation.

We have a game that newly introduced the mechanic of using a shield to take a hit, get damaged in the process, and eventually have to be replaced or repaired. Clearly, this was something with which we are supposed to engage and with which we were supposed to want to engage. Meaning, not so much a shield as a shield kit (shield and repair kit, multiple shields, or both).

The game introduces Volley for longbows, such that as combat distances close in, combatants using longbows are supposed to switch to other ranged weapons or to melee. The game also introduces magical enhancements for weapons in the form of potency and property runes, things that can be transferred from item to item, depending on what you anticipate you'll need and only taking a day (so something that, adventure-depending, could be done in the field).

Except for Bulk itself, everything about P2E AND the setting it's meant for AND the genre of related games says that characters are supposed to be able to be specced out the wazoo.

Now, if I had no recourse but to use Bulk, how would I fix it to allow characters to be as equipped as necessary?

One, by changing the encumbrance limits to encumbered being 15 plus Str mod and max being 20 plus Str mod (or "5 plus Str score then 10 plus Str score" or more likely "15 plus Str score then 20 plus Str score").

Two, by re-jiggering everything's Bulk. Everything negligible remains negligible, everything light also becomes negligible, everything 1 Bulk becomes light, and everything over 1 Bulk becomes 1 Bulk.

Doing one of those might-maybe-could let characters go around Boy-Scout-prepared. Both would be better.

Or just use pounds. Easily addable pounds.

Liberty's Edge

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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I guess the assumption of the system is that characters will be carrying things they have a good reason to want to carry. So weirdness like "10 short swords is as much as 1 long sword" is kind of irrelevant since no one has a reason to want to carry 10 short swords- you can't wield more than two, and it's not like they make good currency.

The examples are absurd, sure, but my point isn't actually that people are gonna carry 80 short swords.

My point is that Bulk doesn't mean anything. You cannot, in any way, figure out how much an unlisted item is in Bulk because the existing list gives you no basis to do so from, and coming up with a character's gear list is deeply unintuitive and unrealistic in terms of what you can actually carry.

I mean...a Staff is 1 Bulk, but a Longbow is two?! And a bedroll is Light? I can assure you, having carried both a staff, a bedroll, and a bow, that those are pretty much exactly reversed in terms of actual difficulties carrying them (okay, I was carrying a smaller bow, so a longbow may well be on par with a staff...but twice as much is absurd, and both are easier to carry than a bedroll).

PossibleCabbage wrote:
People are going to want to carry a primary weapon, a backup weapon, some skill kits, and general utility items. Nobody is carrying 4000 feet of rope just in case. A simplified system is always going to break under unlikely corner cases, it just matters how it functions for "realistic loadouts."

It functions really terribly for those, too. I can carry 500 feet of rope for 1 Bulk, and at high levels have little reason not to do precisely that, since you can never have too much rope. There are many similar issues, actually.

A Str 10 Wizard can be casually walking around with a spellbook, 500 feet of rope, a backpack, a bedroll, a pup tent, a waterskin, 50 torches, a crossbow with 50 bolts, and a week's worth of food, all without being encumbered.

That's utterly absurd, and hardly super unlikely as far as item lists go. Indeed, rope aside (and the rope is only 10 gp, and probably grabbable by 2nd level) all that is a reasonable list for a 1st level character...in terms of utility, anyway.

As another example, the rules clearly encourage everyone to carry a one man tent rather than one person a four man tent, for example. Which, as someone who's gone camping, is just beyond absurd.

Really, the list of problems just goes on and on.


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I agree. Bulk isn't usable to me. I don't get its relativity between disparate items like dmw's list. The list is taken to the extreme to show the absurdity of bulk.

I use a google spreadsheet for character sheets. It works great and let's everyone share their characters with me the GM. Encumbrance was never an issue for us. I'm sure that's partly because we didn't pay too much attention to it so it didn't get in the way of fun. However, we didn't want it to get out of hand, so players recorded weight in the column next to gear, armor, weapons, and coins which were dynamically calculated by the sheet. This added everything up for us and told us if we were getting ridiculous or not.

I don't know how to rewrite the logic to work with L's and numbers in the same fields, and I'm not interested in trying. Bulk doesn't make enough sense to justify it. What do we do in play now? We still try to keep from carrying ridiculous amounts but without the advantage of a numerical weight. We eyeball loads now but aren't adding L's and #'s.

Pounds aren't better measurements for load capability than PF2's Bulk system, but they have the advantage of being pure math and a simpler system of tracking and management. We're not going to invest the time to houserule in weights for everything or bring in PF1 values, so essentially the change to Bulk has pushed us into the "we now care less about encumbrance" camp.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I've played enough Starfinder to see that bulk can work well. Just the bulk value of a lot of equipment needs to adjusted down yet IMO.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I guess the assumption of the system is that characters will be carrying things they have a good reason to want to carry. So weirdness like "10 short swords is as much as 1 long sword" is kind of irrelevant since no one has a reason to want to carry 10 short swords- you can't wield more than two, and it's not like they make good currency.

That works for any combination of L bulk items, many of which you would want to carry. 10 shortswords just happens to be a convenient illustration of how absurd this is.

Quote:
People are going to want to carry a primary weapon, a backup weapon, some skill kits, and general utility items. Nobody is carrying 4000 feet of rope just in case. A simplified system is always going to break under unlikely corner cases, it just matters how it functions for "realistic loadouts."

You mean like the character illustrations in the 1e CRB? Several of them are going to have real problems with all the stuff they're carrying, and they're theoretically the iconic characters of the system.

Or, an alchemist who wants to use their alchemy at some point on the adventure? That's a totally crazy idea that nobody would ever do, right?

Fundamentally, this system breaks because it has so little precision that it can't measure smaller things in any kind of sane way. On a 14 STR character (above average at level 1 for anything that isn't STR based), 1 bulk is 14% of their capacity before encumbrance kicks in. The next two values in this system are either double that (28%), or effectively 1/10th of it (although in practice it's 0% of it until you have ten of them, at which point it's 14% of it).

That is where the absurd outcomes are coming from. There's no room in here to say "something is bulkier than a pup tent but less bulky than a 10 foot pole. Which leads to insanity like the list we have above. I mean, here in reality I can carry (with significant difficulty) a 100 pound person, but I can't even budge a 300 pound one. And yet, they are the same bulk? That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.


The DM of wrote:

I agree. Bulk isn't usable to me. I don't get its relativity between disparate items like dmw's list. The list is taken to the extreme to show the absurdity of bulk.

I use a google spreadsheet for character sheets. It works great and let's everyone share their characters with me the GM. Encumbrance was never an issue for us. I'm sure that's partly because we didn't pay too much attention to it so it didn't get in the way of fun. However, we didn't want it to get out of hand, so players recorded weight in the column next to gear, armor, weapons, and coins which were dynamically calculated by the sheet. This added everything up for us and told us if we were getting ridiculous or not.

I don't know how to rewrite the logic to work with L's and numbers in the same fields, and I'm not interested in trying. Bulk doesn't make enough sense to justify it. What do we do in play now? We still try to keep from carrying ridiculous amounts but without the advantage of a numerical weight. We eyeball loads now but aren't adding L's and #'s.

So the old system you largely ignored and had to use a computer to keep track of to make sure you weren't going crazy with it? Isn't that an indication of a bad system?

Is there some reason that you wouldn't just enter an L Bulk as a .1 on your sheet and leave it at that?

Personally I think the system itself is fine but the numbers they've assigned to particular objects need some adjusting.


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I've never seen the fun or incentive to limit what characters can carry by weight. The Things that break adventures/Change power Levels are limited by wealth already. We never had any fun calculating how much stuff exactly People can carry and where they place it.

At the higher Levels where absurd amount of loot happens, Bags of Holding and similar stuff make the carrying of stuff irrelevant anyway.

It IS interesting how much Characters can lift/push/drag, because these are things that can be an interesting challenge during an adventure (raise the portcullis, drag the unconscious character, move the Dragon carcass from blocking the way to ist treasure). Bulk does not help me in these questions at all, and I actually have lost any way to gauge this due to the abstract and inconsistent system.


Ninja in the Rye wrote:

So the old system you largely ignored and had to use a computer to keep track of to make sure you weren't going crazy with it? Isn't that an indication of a bad system?

Is there some reason that you wouldn't just enter an L Bulk as a .1 on your sheet and leave it at that?

Personally I think the system itself is fine but the numbers they've assigned to particular objects need some adjusting.

We could largely ignore it, because the spreadsheet told us encumbrance. Ignore meaning not put human effort into maintaining it.

Is that an indication of a bad system? I wouldn't say so. It is after all adding some realism to the game which is good to an extent.

Yes, last night I was thinking .1 = L is a possible solution. But that is slightly different from what PF2 means by an L. If we are reducing the new system back to numbers in order to use it on our automated character sheets, then aren't 2, 1, and .1 inferior ways to represent what we had before with pounds?


PossibleCabbage wrote:
So the reason I like Bulk is that "encumbrance" in previous editions was much too granular to be worth actually tracking (a lot of tables ignored it entirely in practice since it was too much bookkeeping)...

We're ignoring Bulk too.

Tracking encumbrance (bulk or weight) needs to be important to the story before its worth spending any DM/Player time to track.

That said, Hero Lab tracked weight, and Hero Lab Online tracks bulk. Both methods were easy. My own preference is weight, instead of bulk, because I can do real-world calculations with the real-world measurement. All I can do with bulk is convert it to weight.


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DerNils wrote:

I've never seen the fun or incentive to limit what characters can carry by weight. The Things that break adventures/Change power Levels are limited by wealth already. We never had any fun calculating how much stuff exactly People can carry and where they place it.

At the higher Levels where absurd amount of loot happens, Bags of Holding and similar stuff make the carrying of stuff irrelevant anyway.

It IS interesting how much Characters can lift/push/drag, because these are things that can be an interesting challenge during an adventure (raise the portcullis, drag the unconscious character, move the Dragon carcass from blocking the way to ist treasure). Bulk does not help me in these questions at all, and I actually have lost any way to gauge this due to the abstract and inconsistent system.

I like a bit of realism in aspects of the world to make it feel real. That's a more enjoyable fantasy to me. Letting a character carry an armory and treasury around on their shoulders is immersion breaking. It's admittedly not the most fun aspect of the game and shouldn't bring anyone down though. I can understand groups who ignore it completely.

Definitely agree about the loss of real world weight/effort challenges. Bulk is inconsistent. Floating disk is a good example. Previously, a 5th level wizard could push a 500lb. statue onto their floating disk and walk away with it. How does that statue translate into bulk today? I have no way to gauge it.

There's a reason the real world uses weight as a measurement instead of an abstract bulk system. It's superior. For the game's bulk system to be beneficial, it would have to make record keeping and interactions with the world easier and simpler. It does not do both better.


Uchuujin wrote:
I've played enough Starfinder to see that bulk can work well. Just the bulk value of a lot of equipment needs to adjusted down yet IMO.

I've not played Starfinder, so I am puzzled by this. Mass should matter to a Space Game. Thrust has to push mass. Volume becomes important only in that you may need a larger container for bulky cargo, which represents more mass.

Did they make a science fiction game without science?


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Chance Wyvernspur wrote:
Did they make a science fiction game without science?

To be fair to Starfinder, they made a Space Opera game. Space Opera doesn't tend to care about mass except when it does.

But in Pathfinder, where you're wearing armor, carrying multiple sets of weapons, and yes, maybe needing to drag an ogre corpse, bulk is a very poor abstraction that completely removes both precision and any connection to reality.


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Chance Wyvernspur wrote:
Uchuujin wrote:
I've played enough Starfinder to see that bulk can work well. Just the bulk value of a lot of equipment needs to adjusted down yet IMO.

I've not played Starfinder, so I am puzzled by this. Mass should matter to a Space Game. Thrust has to push mass. Volume becomes important only in that you may need a larger container for bulky cargo, which represents more mass.

Did they make a science fiction game without science?

They previewed Starfinder and then released it; we never had the chance to playtest it before the final product. Had that chance been available, you can be almost certain that the Starship Operation DCs would never have included actions with "10 + 3xlevel" that characters would go from finding difficult to only being accomplishable by the most optimized you can be and on a nat 20. Something that got erratad almost immediately.

Similarly, I would have been all over trying to change Bulk to weight there, as well. It's a little more forgivable in Starfinder's case, though, since it doesn't really come from the same history of representing Boy-Scoit-prepared characters (so for all we know, characters in Starfinder being able to essentially go around with only one armor, one weapon, and maybe rations is representative of the fiction that game is meant to represent). Pathfinder does (P1E, 3.5), and the iconics are still drawn being well-equipped, so P2E (whether weight or Bulk) needs to let characters so-equipped still be able to logistically function.


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At least Starfinder makes a token approach to the Bulk logic with Backpacks reducing the bulk of stuff inside. But I can't say it works great in any meaningful way. They still have the same awkward questions like "Can I carry my drone?" and similar bizarre things, where the Bulk value is not given and you have no good way of gauging what it should be.
Then again, in SF you have a friggin' Starship from Level 1, which makes Bulk utterly pointless for large parts of the adventuring reality (except for when they force you to go on overland treks for days with no clear Explanation why... Looking at you, Dead Suns part 2)


Pathfinder PF Special Edition Subscriber

The reduced granularity of Bulk is a vast improvement over the system of pounds, half-pounds, 1 pound for 10 bolts, 3 pounds for 20 arrows, etc that we had in PF1. Sure, it stretches credibility, but it's not like the PF1 system was very realistic either (my Str 18 fighter can carry 10 lances and still run at full speed). Both the PF1 weight system and PF2's Bulk are compromises between a fully detailed, realistic solution that very few players will bother with, and the ultimate simplicity of ignoring carrying capacity altogether. I think Bulk is more of a midpoint between the two extremes, and so does the job much better than its predecessor.


The game needs more than a system that handles carrying capacity. It also needs a system for interacting with and manipulating items with mass. Bulk may have an ok way for carrying gear, but it does not handle anything else well.


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The DM of wrote:
The game needs more than a system that handles carrying capacity. It also needs a system for interacting with and manipulating items with mass. Bulk may have an ok way for carrying gear, but it does not handle anything else well.

Perhaps. While I'm a proponent of mass/weight, I could also make a case that the game doesn't need an encumbrance system beyond DM fiat.

Real life people are decent at estimating too much weight, too much volume, and carrying capacity. We literally do it daily. When the DM creates a situation where the DM feels the need to care, they can have the "perhaps you need a donkey" discussion. :)


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The DM of wrote:
The game needs more than a system that handles carrying capacity. It also needs a system for interacting with and manipulating items with mass. Bulk may have an ok way for carrying gear, but it does not handle anything else well.

Yep. Only measuring pounds may not be a perfect model, but it at least has a tangible quality to it. As an example of what I mean, I houserule cp and sp to be 200 to the pound and gp to be 100 to the pound. As a result, this means that all coins are about the size of a dime, and cp and sp are even the weight of one. (Yes, RAW sp are nearly the size of half-dollars, while gp are the size of quarters) One of the first things I did after this was go to the bank to get a $5 roll of dimes that I now have as a prop.

I can't do that with bulk. It only has meaning insofar as game mechanics are concerned. And while that isn't a problem with equipment tables, it becomes one when you start talking about other items. For example, how much bulk is a 500 lb marble statue? With things like BAB or TEML, it doesn't feel like a problem to have wholly gamist concepts. But when you start talking about quantities that can be measured in the real world, it becomes important to have some real-world definition. Even 4e, which defined everything in units of squares, had a reminder that 1 square is 5 ft (but could easily be changed to 2 m). We don't have that with bulk.


Pathfinder PF Special Edition Subscriber
RazarTuk wrote:

Yep. Only measuring pounds may not be a perfect model, but it at least has a tangible quality to it. As an example of what I mean, I houserule cp and sp to be 200 to the pound and gp to be 100 to the pound. As a result, this means that all coins are about the size of a dime, and cp and sp are even the weight of one. (Yes, RAW sp are nearly the size of half-dollars, while gp are the size of quarters) One of the first things I did after this was go to the bank to get a $5 roll of dimes that I now have as a prop.

I can't do that with bulk. It only has meaning insofar as game mechanics are concerned. And while that isn't a problem with equipment tables, it becomes one when you start talking about other items. For example, how much bulk is a 500 lb marble statue? With things like BAB or TEML, it doesn't feel like a problem to have wholly gamist concepts. But when you start talking about quantities that can be measured in the real world, it becomes important to have some real-world definition. Even 4e, which defined everything in units of squares, had a reminder that 1 square is 5 ft (but could easily be changed to 2 m). We don't have that with bulk.

I'm not sure I understand. Isn't it equally easy to houserule that any object not listed in the book has Bulk = 1 per 10 pounds, 1000gp = 1 Bulk, 100gp = L, and any coins less than 100 are negligible?


Personally, I haven't had any big problems with bulk, because the people carrying a lot usually have higher STR anyway, it's just reworking some of the Bulk numbers I think is needed. For example, Snare kit being 8 bulk means it "prices" it out of any usable range for most characters until they can afford to get a bag of holding, meaning it runs counter to the designers' goal of getting people to try out the snare system.

The Spellbooks and formula books being as bulky as a FOUR-PERSON TENT or TEN DAYS OF RATIONS, I have issue with. (Ever carried 20 or 30 meals bfore? Even for our military folks, this isn't exactly a bunch of MREs, here.)

The armors and weapons I don't mind, as someone isn't carrying more than one set, usually. If nothing else, they should tweak it to, say, rebalance the problem items, and maybe raise the Bulk capacity to 6 + STR mod, perhaps? Otherwise, I like it, and hope they can make it work.

Liberty's Edge

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gwynfrid wrote:
I'm not sure I understand. Isn't it equally easy to houserule that any object not listed in the book has Bulk = 1 per 10 pounds, 1000gp = 1 Bulk, 100gp = L, and any coins less than 100 are negligible?

No. The coin stuff is doable if you like, but 1 Bulk = 10 lbs only works if you ignore or change basically every single item already in existence or don't care at all about consistency.

Which is really kinda the problem.


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gwynfrid wrote:
RazarTuk wrote:

Yep. Only measuring pounds may not be a perfect model, but it at least has a tangible quality to it. As an example of what I mean, I houserule cp and sp to be 200 to the pound and gp to be 100 to the pound. As a result, this means that all coins are about the size of a dime, and cp and sp are even the weight of one. (Yes, RAW sp are nearly the size of half-dollars, while gp are the size of quarters) One of the first things I did after this was go to the bank to get a $5 roll of dimes that I now have as a prop.

I can't do that with bulk. It only has meaning insofar as game mechanics are concerned. And while that isn't a problem with equipment tables, it becomes one when you start talking about other items. For example, how much bulk is a 500 lb marble statue? With things like BAB or TEML, it doesn't feel like a problem to have wholly gamist concepts. But when you start talking about quantities that can be measured in the real world, it becomes important to have some real-world definition. Even 4e, which defined everything in units of squares, had a reminder that 1 square is 5 ft (but could easily be changed to 2 m). We don't have that with bulk.

I'm not sure I understand. Isn't it equally easy to houserule that any object not listed in the book has Bulk = 1 per 10 pounds, 1000gp = 1 Bulk, 100gp = L, and any coins less than 100 are negligible?

It's more difficult in that it's highly circumstantial whether those units apply or not? 1000 gp may be 1 Bulk, but load it onto the horse and now it's L, which then gets ignored until you have 9 other 1 Bulk items that the horse treats as L, in which case it now counts as 1 Bulk.

But if we were talking about 2000 gp, then that would be 2 Bulk, which would remain 2 Bulk, even for the horse.

Folks, I just made the argument that a sack of 2000 gp encumbered a horse more than 10 sacks of 1000 gp each. Math is sitting in a corner weeping over this.


Tectorman wrote:
Folks, I just made the argument that a sack of 2000 gp encumbered a horse more than 10 sacks of 1000 gp each. Math is sitting in a corner weeping over this.

Ahhh, but just remember: Bulk isn't only weight. It's also a factor of how difficult it is to carry. Tie those two sacks of 1,000 gp together with a couple feet of strong twine and drape it over the horses withers and it's no problem for the horse at all, but try to tie ONE bag of 2,000 gp anywhere on the horse and it becomes a potentially fatiguing off-balance load.

Side note: I honestly don't know if I'm being sarcastic here or if I am making a salient point. I guess it's both...


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
gwynfrid wrote:
I'm not sure I understand. Isn't it equally easy to houserule that any object not listed in the book has Bulk = 1 per 10 pounds, 1000gp = 1 Bulk, 100gp = L, and any coins less than 100 are negligible?

No. The coin stuff is doable if you like, but 1 Bulk = 10 lbs only works if you ignore or change basically every single item already in existence or don't care at all about consistency.

Which is really kinda the problem.

For example, weapons are 1-2 bulk... which is the same weight as light and medium armor. A suit of chain mail has the same bulk as a greatsword. For contrast, chain mail was 40 lbs in 1e, and greatswords were 8. And while you could make an argument that it's more accurate, it comes back to the problem of what bulk is. So many factors go into bulk, including weight, how it's carried, and a bit of game balance, that it's difficult, if not impossible, to estimate how much bulk some random object should have.


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DM_Blake wrote:
Tectorman wrote:
Folks, I just made the argument that a sack of 2000 gp encumbered a horse more than 10 sacks of 1000 gp each. Math is sitting in a corner weeping over this.

Ahhh, but just remember: Bulk isn't only weight. It's also a factor of how difficult it is to carry. Tie those two sacks of 1,000 gp together with a couple feet of strong twine and drape it over the horses withers and it's no problem for the horse at all, but try to tie ONE bag of 2,000 gp anywhere on the horse and it becomes a potentially fatiguing off-balance load.

Side note: I honestly don't know if I'm being sarcastic here or if I am making a salient point. I guess it's both...

But what happens when I take two horses, tie 1 bag of 2000 gp (2 Bulk) to one, and tie 19 individual bags of 1000 gp each to the other (1 Bulk each, which the horse treats as L, which then goes from 19 L to 1 Bulk)? The one carrying significantly more poundage, taking almost ten times as much space (and no, I don't buy that evenly distributing almost ten times as much weight makes up for it being ten times as much weight), is less encumbered.

In the meantime with pounds, 4000 gp weighs as much as 4000 gp, and characters are allowed to just be assumed intelligent/creative enough to make it work.


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Explaining my point with the coins better:

By RAW, gp are 50 to the pound, which is about half as large as a quarter, but 1.5 times as heavy. (Volume of 1.5 dimes, weight of 4 dimes) Under my houserules, sp are 200 to the pound, which is the weight of a dime and technically a bit smaller, but it's an approximation. Or as a third measure, coins were 10 to the pound in AD&D, so a silver piece would have weighed as much as $2 in dimes/quarters/half dollars/silver dollars, and been the volume of a bit over $3.

(Fun fact, by the way. Dimes, quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars all weigh 1 lb/$20)

But whichever value you want to use, that has a very tangible meaning. Like I even have a bag of dimes as a prop, so if the party receives 50 sp for doing something, I can hand them a bag of 50 sp.

I can't do that in 2e. It says 1000 coins equal some unit called a Bulk, but 1 Bulk can be anything from a suit of leather armor, to a bo staff, to a shortbow, to a four-person tent, to a flute. And 2 Bulks can be anything from a hauberk, to a longbow, to a keg of ale. Speaking as a flautist who was in Boy Scouts, I've carried most of those things (approximating a keg of ale as a 5 gallon jug of water). They don't all feel the same. I can easily carry around a pile of bows, while that 5 gallon jug is my mental image of at least being able to lift something off the ground.

A system like Bulk works in a video game, where you can produce a pre-computed table with the weight in Bulks of every item a character would ever need to carry. But in a tabletop RPG, where I might need to come up with values on the fly. And when everything from a longbow to that 5-gallon jug of water that I'd barely get off the ground is 2 Bulks, but a four-person tent (which feels heavier than a longbow) is only 1 Bulk, it's utterly useless as a measurement.

If I can't even picture what 2 Bulks of coins look like, how am I supposed to adjudicate things like the weight of that cool statue they want to drag back to the surface?

EDIT: My houserules for money also include increasing the purchasing power of money, so that 50 sp reward would be 25 gp by 1e RAW.


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gwynfrid wrote:
I'm not sure I understand. Isn't it equally easy to houserule that any object not listed in the book has Bulk = 1 per 10 pounds, 1000gp = 1 Bulk, 100gp = L, and any coins less than 100 are negligible?

Because carrying a 300 pound unconscious half orc is 8 bulk apparently, which is also the same bulk as a snare kit, but a 300 pound random object would be 30 bulk.

I can't reconcile these numbers to reality or each other in any way whatsoever, and as such I can't possibly estimate another item.


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Tectorman wrote:


It's more difficult in that it's highly circumstantial whether those units apply or not? 1000 gp may be 1 Bulk, but load it onto the horse and now it's L, which then gets ignored until you have 9 other 1 Bulk items that the horse treats as L, in which case it now counts as 1 Bulk.

But if we were talking about 2000 gp, then that would be 2 Bulk, which would remain 2 Bulk, even for the horse.

Folks, I just made the argument that a sack of 2000 gp encumbered a horse more than 10 sacks of 1000 gp each. Math is sitting in a corner weeping over this.

The sad thing about this is that your argument is explicitly supported by the rules. Carrying nine bags of 1000gp and one bag of 999gp on a horse is effectively 0 bulk. Adding exactly one more coin to that last bag makes it 1 bulk, while the same gold in 2000gp bags is 10 bulk. Taking this to its extreme, nineteen 1000gp bags and one 999gp bag is 1 bulk, while a single 2000gp bag is 2 bulk.

Good news though! While it's 12 bulk for a pavilion tent, the horse can carry we don't even know how many pup tents, since it treats them as negligible, meaning there's no limit until the DM is forced to come up with one on the fly in response to player shenanigans...

Which is obviously much clearer than an explicit weight limit because reasons.

Liberty's Edge

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Tridus wrote:
gwynfrid wrote:
I'm not sure I understand. Isn't it equally easy to houserule that any object not listed in the book has Bulk = 1 per 10 pounds, 1000gp = 1 Bulk, 100gp = L, and any coins less than 100 are negligible?

Because carrying a 300 pound unconscious half orc is 8 bulk apparently, which is also the same bulk as a snare kit, but a 300 pound random object would be 30 bulk.

I can't reconcile these numbers to reality or each other in any way whatsoever, and as such I can't possibly estimate another item.

Yep. This is the heart of the problem.


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The result of bulk so far has been my players not bothering to loot or search for loot since they can't carry anything. They have about 6 spare bulk between them and I've just populated it with whatever has the best weight to bulk ratio so I know what they would have gathered.

Yay I guess.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

In Pathfinder 1E, a 10-foot ladder weighs 20 pounds.

A character with 14 Strength in PF1E could carry 6 10-foot ladders as a medium load.

Yet somehow, intuitively I as a GM could just assume that was silly.

So in PF2E if a player picks up 25 short-swords and I as a GM say: How?

The player had best come up with some very creative shenanigans indeed to accommodate that. Because I as a GM will just say: "No, and take a few points of damage as you cut yourself trying to carry a bunch of swords you ninny."


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

In Pathfinder 1E, a 10-foot ladder weighs 20 pounds.

A character with 14 Strength in PF1E could carry 6 10-foot ladders as a medium load.

Yet somehow, intuitively I as a GM could just assume that was silly.

So in PF2E if a player picks up 25 short-swords and I as a GM say: How?

The player had best come up with some very creative shenanigans indeed to accommodate that. Because I as a GM will just say: "No, and take a few points of damage as you cut yourself trying to carry a bunch of swords you ninny."

Counting the barrel, a keg of ale is about 70 lbs in real life, or 40 by PF 1e numbers. (Which is reasonable for just the ale, actually) The real life number is the maximum carrying capacity of a character with 7 Str. The same character has a maximum carrying capacity of 8 Bulk in 2e, or 4 kegs.

Simultaneously, that's enough for 23 longbows in 1e or 4 longbows in 2e.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

In Pathfinder 1E, a 10-foot ladder weighs 20 pounds.

A character with 14 Strength in PF1E could carry 6 10-foot ladders as a medium load.

Yet somehow, intuitively I as a GM could just assume that was silly.

So in PF2E if a player picks up 25 short-swords and I as a GM say: How?

The player had best come up with some very creative shenanigans indeed to accommodate that. Because I as a GM will just say: "No, and take a few points of damage as you cut yourself trying to carry a bunch of swords you ninny."

That's only 2 bulk, or less than a single 10 foot ladder. The player could respond by pointing at the rulebook and going "because 5 of them don't even count and the other 20 combine into something that's the equivalent of a single longbow, somehow."

I mean, you're free to run your table however you like, but the rules flat out explicitly state that it's in fact pretty easy for a 6 STR character to carry 25 shortswords. It doesn't even put them into encumbered.

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