Anti-Hammerspace Encumbrance

Jack McNamee presented Matt Rundle’s Anti-Hammerspace Item Tracker, and I have to say that I like it.  It’s quick, it’s workable, and it addresses something few workable encumbrance systems I’ve seen have: just where the stuff is.

The short form, modified for D&D 3.x:

  • Each character has up to six containers (define how you like), each of which can hold up to three items.
  • Armor takes up some number of contains (light is one container, medium is two containers, heavy is three containers).
  • Shields take up one slot per point of shield bonus (one slot for a light shield, two slots for a heavy shield; tower shields aren’t mentioned but I’d rule they take up a container).
  • Light weapons take up one slot, one-handed weapons take up two slots, two-handed weapons take up a container.   The original had daggers taking one slot, short swords taking two slots, longswords taking three; this seems too harsh, and doesn’t allow for things like spears or greatswords.
  • Other gear uses arbitrary numbers of slots (a week’s rations fill one slot, that seems awfully light to me).  I would be inclined to use a stone-based system something like Adventurer Conqueror King, where each slot holds one stone (historically a ‘stone’ was 8-14 pounds depending where are, Adventurer Conqueror King settled on 10 pound stones for simplicity).

Encumbrance is then simple, speed is reduced five feet per container used.

This neatly distributes a character’s gear, while making it easy to keep track of where each thing is, in the event of interesting events.  As Jack writes,

That’s a pulp encumbrance system. A few items that matter, constantly under threat.

If this is what you are looking for, this encumbrance mechanism looks like it’ll do it for you.

I like it because it’s simple, but you can complicate it to varying degree without too much trouble.

  • First, you could have containers of different sizes.  Perhaps a ‘pouch’ has only one slot (that you can put multiple small things in), a ‘sack’ has two, a ‘large sack’ has three.  A backpack might have three interior and three exterior (pockets or loops you can put things in or tie them to).  This can be almost balanced between amount carried and ease of access — a pouch, even though it contains only one slot, is easily accessible and ‘worth more load per slot’ than a backpack, which is more optimally designed for carrying and is harder to dig stuff out of, so both are worth ‘one encumbrance’.  Digging things out of  container might take an amount of time based on the size (number of slots) in the container.
  • Second, Strength modifiers can come into it, with each point of Strength bonus providing room for an additional container that does not count toward encumbrance, while each point of Strength penalty counts as a container that slows you down.  Strength 3 (modifier -3 in most OSR games) therefore halves your movement speed, but Strength 18 only allows you to carry more before you slow down, not make you faster overall.

I had a third idea, but I forget what it was.  Probably something to do with different-sized creatures having either different numbers or different sizes of containers and/or slots in the containers.  Or maybe to do with body slots (the usual implementation I’ve seen for slot-based encumbrance).  It’ll probably come to me later.

All in all, I like the possibilities here.  Straight-up weight-based encumbrance has always struck me as fiddly, so I like the stone-based encumbrance methods (I first saw the idea at Encumbrance by Stone at the Alexandrian), and I really like the idea of having a general idea of where stuff is actually being carried (and potentially damaged or lost — even as a player, not just as a GM), so this method has two things going for it in my view.

That it can be further tweaked to suit my preferences makes me even happier.

Nice work.

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  1. on November 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm