Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stone Encumbrance: Detail & Example

I've talked about how I count encumbrance in units of "stone" -- 14 pounds -- before (search for "encumbrance" above and you'll see several entries). I included a full chart for the system in my OED Player's Tables but didn't present them directly as a post before. The first and primary advantage is one of simply dealing with much smaller numbers (single digits; easily memorizable; trivial to add mentally). In particular:
  • 4 stone -- Plate mail.
  • 2 stone -- Chain mail.
  • 1 stone -- Leather, shield, polearm, halberd, pike, two-handed sword, morning star, flail, battle axe, staff, pole, standard rations, 1000 coins
  • 1/3 stone -- Helmet, sword, spear, mace, handaxe, bow, arrows, water/wineskin, lantern, torches, rope, spikes, iron rations
Smaller stuff is discounted entirely unless the player starts ringing the DM's "cheese" bell (maybe 10 daggers, gems, or potions might add up to 1 stone). I've modified this list a little bit over time, with some materials research thrown in once in a while, but in broad strokes it's simply the OD&D list converted to smaller units.

Example calculation -- Typical dwarven fighter. What I do is note a stone value in pencil next to large items, or (*) for the 3-per-stone items, adding up from the bottom for the total. With a little practice, the whole thing can be done mentally at a glance.
  • Plate mail (4)
  • Battle axe (1)
  • Shield (1)
  • Helmet (*)
  • Mace (*)
  • 50' Rope (*)
  • 12 Iron spikes (*)
  • Iron Rations (*)
  • Backpack
  • Small sack
  • Dagger
Total: 2 (5 items @ 1/3, round up to multiple of 3) + 2 + 4 = 8 Stone.

A secondary convenience is that these units are auto-magically scaled the same as a character's Strength score, i.e., a character's maximum "very heavy/armored load" (6" move rate) in stone is equal to their Strength. Much like ranged weapons, divide Strength in thirds for the other categories: up to 1/3 Strength for 12" move, 2/3 Strength for 9", full Strength for 6" (optionally allow "encumbered" movement, 3" rate, at up to twice Strength score).

In the example above with an 8-stone load, a character with 9 Strength would only move at 6" (over 2/3 Strength limit = 6 stone), while a character with 12 Strength would move at 9" (2/3 Strength limit = 8 stone).

A third advantage is in how the term "stone" carries with it a very nice, archaic, Imperial ring to your milieu. Even if one were so crass as to disagree with me on that score, I think the reasons above are more than compelling. (And, more generally, speaks to the advantages of human-based units of measurement.)

14 comments:

  1. I am SO GLAD you posted again on this topic. I'm trying to work out a simple encumbrance system for our homebrew game and continue to look at the stone system as a leading option.

    I particularly like the scaling to STR bit of what you've got here. Thanks.

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  2. the term "stone" carries a very nice, archaic, Imperial ring to your milieu

    I couldn't agree more, and I've pretty much decided to adopt this elegant and evocative system with my next wave of house-rule infusions for my 'ODD over the 70s' campaign.

    Thanks!

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  3. Great post! This could come in handy for me, unrepentant stickler for encumbrance tracking that I am...

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  5. I have to admit while in general I love your systems (Target 20 is fantastic!), I'm not a fan of this one. I tried using it in play, and I found the math just as difficult with all the fractions and factors of 3.

    Your example is fantastic for a starting character, but characters that progress through a campaign have an amazing tendency to pick up a bizarre collection of things along the way. Much like money, I think encumbrance is probably best left in units of base 10.

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  6. I think you should reconsider the weight of coins per stone; as you have it now, there are 1,000 coins to the stone, or roughly 71 coins to the pound. This in itself isn't a problem, but for my own verisimilitude, I like to base how many coins you can mint from a pound of metal to 400 per pound (similar to the carolingian standard). Thus, at 400 coins per pound, one could carry 5,600 coins per stone.

    Of course, that was silver coins, so it may be more feasible to have less coins per pound of gold, but that requires more information than I personally know.

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  7. ..base how many coins you can mint from a pound of metal to 400 per pound (similar to the carolingian standard).

    I've learned something today! Thanks :) I really had no idea the number was that high.

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  8. Thanks for the kind words, guys!

    @Paul: Well, I certainly can't argue against your experiences, but for me, this is lickety-split even when I'm creating high-level PCs (as for the G1 game, say).

    Sometimes I consider suggesting that the smaller category of items be 1/2 stone, maybe that makes the counting easier (although a little more removed from OD&D list/actual weight).

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  9. @Orion: You can see prior analysis of money values and weights here.

    In short: Presumably you're thinking of coins of 1 pence/denier value (~400 per pound), whereas I'm assuming that 1p = 1cp in D&D economy. Hence the "silver piece" is a larger 4/5p coin like the English Groat; divide your capacity by 5 and you get my figure.

    Groat-like coin has features of: (1) had the most consistent silver content historically over time, (2) was more emblematic of the High Middle Ages where D&D is broadly set (as opposed to Carolignian Dark Ages), and (3) weighed on the order of approximately 100 grains (i.e., about 70/lb or 1000/stone). Again, see link above for fuller analysis of coinage.

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  10. I think this is the first time I've ever seen stone used in a game. While I'm from the UK, where we're supposed to use the metric system everywhere, many people still use imperial to measure our weight and height.

    Unfortunately, people in the US tend to measure weight in pounds only, whereas UK people measure in stone and pounds, thus making many measurements in pounds only rather opaque to us.

    This simple change makes encumbrance feel rather more comfortable.

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  11. As usual, I love this set up.

    I've been thinking about a more complicated formula for max loads lately:

    2 +/- CONSTANT BASED ON SIZE +/- STR MOD

    STR MOD = -3 to +3 for most creatures. I would convert 3-18 scores to a -3 to +3 as follows:
    (9-12 = 0, 13-15=+1, 16-18=+2, 19-23=+3). Extrapolate with similar groups of three upward and downward.

    SIZE = 2 for humans, 1 for the smaller races, and more for beasts of burden or giants.

    Any load greater than this number is "encumbered." Create the next higher categories by adding STR & SIZE on once again.

    The advantage to this system is that it easily allows you to use the same system for determining capacities of horses, mules, etc. The downside is a little more complexity up front.

    Additionally, I suggest use of a 1/6 stone category which is used for light weapons (daggers, hand axes, and their ilk), potion vials, flasks of oil, two day's rations, and so on. On the character sheet I just draw a grid with six squares to represent each stone and just color them in as you pick up stuff.

    Cheers,
    Chris

    In general though I love the system and advocate its use.

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  12. I think creating a high level character from scratch is pretty different from leveling one over time. In campaign play my players seem to have a tendency to acquire a lot of strange things, pick up new things, drop old things, etc. Some of my PCs have literally covered the back of their sheets with crazy lists of the crap they're carrying.

    I think that while it's likely fairly easy to use your system when generating a guy from scratch, maintaining him over time as you make repeated small adjustments is where it becomes difficult. Of course, this is just my own experience, and as always YMMV.

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  13. A simple, yet elegant solution to the problems of record keeping. However: how do you adapt this system for quadrupeds or other creatures with increased carrying capacity relative to strength?
    We play almost-vanilla 3.5, with just a few house rules for more historical accuracy and flavour included, such as your suggested 10 second round. I hope there aren't any fundamental changes done in 3.5 that will disallow the advantages of this system.

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  14. Hey CM -- Good question, I honestly hadn't thought of that before you asked. As usual, designed with dungeoneering only in mind -- and only classic D&D humanoid PC-types with specified Strength.

    As a first approximation, I don't see any reason not to use the multipliers given directly in 3E (like x3 for Large quadrupeds in 3E MM p. 10).

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