Tuesday, February 9, 2016

5e Musings - Simplified Encumbrance

Making encumbrance work seems to be a strange goal of mine. Throughout the past few years, I've been tinkering with several alternatives for different systems. Since I'm not getting more into 5e, I figured I should try my hand at doing one for it as well.

Here's the result of my brainstorming. Characters have a specific limit to the number of significant items they can carry without being negatively effected. This amount is known as the character's Carrying Capacity.

Carrying Capacity is equal to 1/2 the character's Strength score (rounded down). A character can carry an amount of significant items equal to or below this amount without any problems.

A character carrying a number of significant items passed this amount, up to double her Carrying Capacity, is Encumbered. While Encumbered, she drops her speed by 10 feet. Carrying a number of significant items equal to or greater than triple her Carrying Capacity will make her Heavily Encumbered. Like before, her speed is reduced by 20 feet, but she also suffers disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.

Now, I'm sure you noticed throughout the above text that I used the term "significant items" several times. Instead of every item counting towards a character's Carrying Capacity, only a specific few do. The following items are considered significant enough, but Dungeon Masters may add or subtract to this list as they see fit:
  • Armor, Weapons, & Shields
  • Magic Items
  • Bundled Items (Ammunition, Coinage, Rations, etc.) 
  • Containers (Backpacks, Quivers, etc.) 
Let's take a look at what this might look like at the table. Lauren's character Althea has a Strength of 15, meaning she has a Carrying Capacity of 7 (1/2 of 15, rounded down). She can carry 7 items without a problem, becomes encumbered when carrying 8 to 14 items, and heavily encumbered at 15+ items. 

Like the Simplified Ammo rules I posted a few weeks ago, the main goal of these rules was to abstract the mechanics in order to make their application at the table much easier. I believe only focusing on specific items and basing the amount you can carry on 1/2 a character's Strength score achieves this pretty nicely.

With that being said, I acknowledge utilizing 1/2 Strength does seriously hamper those characters that happen to have lower Strength scores. Those wishing to relieve this can make the number of significant items that can be carried easily equal to the character's Strength score instead.This will inflate the later numbers a little, but that might just be a necessary evil.