Saturday, October 6, 2012

Encumbrance House Rule: Strength score = item slots

A character can carry a number of items equal to his strength score, and still move at his base movement rate (as defined by armor worn, or lack thereof, as usual). Every five additional items carried (or a fraction thereof), reduces the character's movement rate by 3".

In other words, a PC has a number of encumbrance "slots" equal to their strength score*. Exceeding that number of slots slows the character down. For example, a PC with 13 strength and banded mail armor (base move of 9") can carry up to 13 items and still move 9"; carrying 14 - 18 items reduces his speed to 6", and carrying 19 - 23 items reduces his speed to 3".

* Every exceptional strength category equals one more slot. e.g., a character with 18/76 strength has 21 slots. If you prefer to be more faithful to by-the-book exceptional strength weight capacities, you can arbitrarily assign a higher slot capacity to each category, e.g. 20 / 22 / 25 / 30 / 40.

In general, every carried item takes up one slot, but there are a few exceptions:

  • Normal clothes, backpacks, and pouches take no slots. (Don't bother listing these things unless they're being stored as items to use later.)
  • A weapon & scabbard count together as a 1 slot. Ditto for a quiver & 20 arrows, etc.
  • Small identical items are 3 items per slot. So 3 iron spikes take up 1 slot, as do 3 vials of holy water, 3 daggers, or 3 potions of healing. (The items must be identical. Three different potions would take up three slots.)
  • Every 100 coins / gems take up one slot.

In practice, you just draw a marker at the appropriate rows of the equipment list section of the character sheet, and it's easy to know at a glance how encumbered the character is. For small identical items, list the appropriate number together on the row of the PC's equipment list (e.g., "iron spikes x3"). Ditto for "longsword & scabbard" or "pouch with sling stones x20".

In rare cases, a character needs to carry an extremely large or heavy item, like a massive chest, a rolled-up tapestry, or an incapacitated ally. These take up one slot per 10 pounds of approximate weight. Carrying another character will take up around 15-20 slots, plus the number of slots worth of stuff the carried character had, of course. Typically, this reduces If dragged instead of carried, it's generally one slot per 50-100 pounds.

Bags of holding can be rated in terms of this encumbrance system by dividing their coinage capacity by 75 to determine the number of slots it can hold.


  1. Guy---

    How about a portable hole? Treat as the same as the bag of holding??


  2. Yeah, pretty much. So easily over 200 slots in a portable hole, just by using a rough comparison of volume to the "biggest" bag of holding.

    Logistically, one of those magic items is handled via a sheet of paper with the listed number of slots on it, numbered 1-35 or 1-200 or whatever makes sense. If there's an unfilled slot, there's room to put stuff in the bag/hole. If not, there's not.