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). 

Specifically, the system looks like this:

  • 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.)


  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.

  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.


  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.

  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.

  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.

  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).

  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.

  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.

  11. As usual, I love this set up.

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


    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.


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

  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.

  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.

  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).

  15. Delta, you redirected me over here from another thread. Thanks!

    Hey, how many "pieces" per "stone," again?

    Over on that other thread you mentioned something like 1k. But in that case a fully armored and weaponed FM could still carry, on average (average strength = 10.5), something like 2.5K coinage. Is that right?

    1. Yes, that's how I do it, 1000 coins per stone. If you went by traditional "giant coin" D&D then you'd only get 140 coins per stone. But I think it's double-beneficial to (a) make coins more like historical examples (even 1000 coins per stone is actually a conservatively large coin size), and (b) increase value carrying capacity so it actually makes a dent in the XP requirements. Now you get to jump here: link. :-)

  16. In 5E (taken from the SRD-OGL that got out a few weeks ago), carrying capacity = Str * 15 lbs.
    So, there you have your stone unit again!

  17. I like it, but most of the weapons in the 1 Stone category are way too heavy.

    shield, polearm, halberd, pike, and morningstar are closer to 1/2 stone. Probably standard rations too, if it's a week's worth of food.

    battle axe, staff, and pole are much closer to 1/3 stone.

    1. In AD&D, standard rations are 20 pounds (and you'll also need cooking gear), while iron rations are just 7 pounds (and can be gnawed straight out of the pouch).

  18. Oh! I meant mention in my other comment:

    I can understand not wanting to add the 1/2 stone category, but I would strongly considering throwing those items into the 1/3 category as they are closer to 5 lbs in weight than they are 14 lbs.

    1. I see what you're saying there, but all I'm doing is directly converting the OD&D Vol-1 values as closely as possible (granted standard conversation that encumbrance includes bulk in addition to simple weight).

      OD&D Vol-1 (p. 15) lists polearm, halberd, pike, and 2-handed sword as 150 gold pieces equivalent (that is: 15 pounds, actually more than a stone). Morning star, flail, battle axe are listed at 100 gold pieces (that is: about 2/3 stone, but I didn't want a new category just for those 3 items).

      If one were to adjust those values to taste (counter to the "bulk" factor), then that's of course reasonable.

  19. After trying your system and finding it just a bit too coarse-grained for my taste, I decided to go with 1 unit = 50 coins = 5 lb. This jumped out at me one day as the greatest common factor of most of the coinweight values given for items on p. 15 of Men & Magic.

    So I have:
    Leather Armor or Saddle -- 5
    Chain-Type Armor -- 10
    Plate Mail or Horse Armor -- 15
    Helmet -- 1
    Shield -- 3
    Pole Arms, Halberd, Pike, Two-Handed Sword (each) -- 3
    Morning Star, Flail, Battle Axe (each) -- 2
    Sword, Mace, Hand Axe, Bow & Arrows (each) -- 1
    Dagger -- 1/2

    Not only does this preserve all the relations between items from the book system, but carrying capacity becomes simply
    1x STR at MV 12, 2x STR at MV 9 and 3x STR at MV 6. And the numbers are still small enough to be easy to count up mentally.

    1. It's pretty solid, thanks for that observation. I'll confess that multiple times I've gone digging through historical info wishing there was some classic unit around 5 lbs; I would indeed probably use that (although there is some twinge about chain & plate becoming two-digit values). I guess half-stones of 7 pounds were used, and at one point I considered using that as the basis (but, yuck).