Simplifying Encumbrance for Dungeon Weariness

The old standby
The old standby

In my last post, I struggled a bit to determine the DC for “encumbrance as encounter,” or a Weariness check as I dubbed it. I got a lot of positive feedback on the post, but Noah pretty fairly pointed out that there’s still a lot of work getting in the way of the fun in documenting encumbrance as suggested. I agree, and at the time I was thinking that a highly customized character sheet was really the only good way to make it simple. I essentially repeated the sentiment to Harley and expressed the additional difficulties I was having thinking how to incorporate it with DCC specifically, given the armor check penalty already incorporated in those rules. I had a few different thoughts on tweaks and revisions I could make to fit it into DCC, and how a sheet would look that would make it less difficult to track in any D&D-ish system.

Until tonight, when I realized that DCC’s armor check penalty not only didn’t need to be modified, but that it actually could be the key to really simplifying this for any D&D-like game, and not requiring a major character sheet overhaul. Here’s what I’ve got …

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Dungeon Weariness: Encumbrance & Exhaustion as Encounter

In my last post, I jumped off from Brendan’s thoughts on lighting as encounter with a couple of ways to simulate the passage of time, and as usual my personal favorite is the playing card method. Last night, while perusing the LotFP Rules & Magic book for no particular reason, I started thinking about it some more, and I think there’s more that can be handled by the “four suit” method. (To recap, base encounters on playing cards and torches go out every time all four suits have been drawn.)

First, one tweak I’d make to lighting in particular. I previously suggested that lanterns should run out of oil every other time the four suits are drawn. Even as I wrote this I didn’t love it, as one of the goals of the card method is to keep things very simple: Every time you draw X, then Y happens. I noticed in LotFP, lantern oil lasts a full 24 hours, and while this is a bit more generous than I’m inclined to be, it did lead me to my solution. Every time torches go out, there is a 1-in-3 chance that lanterns run out of oil as well. This makes lanterns theoretically infinite, but the odds are low.

IMG_2406 grenadier 2004 hirelings

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DCC RPG Character Sheet Added to Downloads

I made a DCC character sheet using Jeremy Deram’s as a starting point (which in turn is adapted from 3.x style D&D sheets), which has been added to the Downloads page. All of the most pertinent stuff is still on page one, but I did make a two-page sheet with equipment on the second page to allow room for a few house rules:

  • A slight tweak of Brendan’s encumbrance system — armor doesn’t add encumbrance since it already slows you in DCC, backpack holds up to 10 items counting as 1 item, and a -5′ speed penalty is applied in addition to the -1 penalty for every significant item above Strength.
  • My simple provisions system is in effect, and it’s still one level for the whole party even though the track is on each character sheet. The survival roll to preserve a level of provisions is a skill check against DC 10 + the number of party members made by the most eligible party member.
  • I’m not 100% sure how I’m going to work the simplified ammo system in DCC, but it will probably work like this.

EDIT: I corrected the spelling of “deity.” Thanks John Zo!

Encumbrance in Savage Worlds: Addendum

Correction: This post initially presented the rules for the Brawny edge incorrectly.

Having thought a bit more and having gotten some good feedback for discussion, I’ve decided that I am going to go forward with the system I presented with the following specifics that I was previously uncertain about:

  • The encumbrance penalty will apply to Agility- and Strength-related trait rolls, as well as to Pace and to Running, although running can not be reduced below 1″ of extra movement. I am still debating about allowing running to always max out or using another option I read about, which is to change the roll from 1d6 to 1d4+2 (1d8+2 for Fleet-footed).
  • The Brawny edge shifts everything up one step, i.e., up to two times Str is unencumbered, up to three times Str is -1, etc.
  • Backpacks allow every number of items equal to Str (or a fraction thereof) to count as a single item. So if a PC has d6 Str and has 5 items in their backpack, that only counts as 1 item. If the same PC had 8 items in the backpack, that would be 2 items — the first 6 items count as one, and the remaining two count as another one. The total number of items that can be contained in a backpack should be dictated by whatever seems reasonable.
  • Any item stowed in a backpack takes two actions to access during combat, one action to take off the backpack and another action to take out the item. In some cases removing the item and using it may count as one action, in other cases the character may still need to use another action to use the item.
  • Every level of provisions the party has counts a significant item for each party member. If there is at least one pack animal per 5 party members or one wagon per 10 party members, the characters do not need to carry their own provisions.

Besides the specifics about provisions above, the question of what counts as a significant item is a simple one to answer. Anything that is bigger than a coin counts as a significant item. A single potion? Significant item. A scroll? Significant item. A torch? Significant item. A set of thieves’ tools? Significant item, because the picks may be tiny but the set must be kept together or protected somehow. Also, as previously mentioned, 100 insignificant items equals one significant item.

This may seem harsh, but keep in mind how forgiving this system is for really heavy things such as armor and weapons. All aspects of armor are counted as part of one significant item, even if you have a helm (although a shield is a separate item). Only plate armor and two-handed melee weapons are counted as more than one significant item, and from a poundage standpoint those things tend to be damn heavy. Even the provisions ruling is very generous, given how much food and water the PCs would be carrying. So in exchange for getting off easy on those items, the system is a bit more punishing on all the miscellaneous other stuff a PC might carry to balance it out.

And what of the wizard with d4 Str who doesn’t want to wear armor and only carries a staff? Well, if that staff can be used as a walking stick, that’s not encumbering, and he can carry up to 16 significant items in a backpack without being encumbered. Sounds more than reasonable to me.

Encumbrance in Savage Worlds

Brendan at Untimately got me thinking about encumbrance tonight. He presented a slightly modified version of a system from Papers & Pencils; essentially Brendan takes the slot-based system from LotFP and introduces variable carrying capacity based on Strength. If you aren’t familiar with LotFP, instead of worrying about what an item weighs, it puts the emphasis on how many different items your character is carrying, with some special considerations for bulky armor.

I’ve decided that his system as presented can be very easily adapted to Savage Worlds with minor variation. The rules presented in SWD note to only worry about encumbrance when it really matters, but I’m personally a fan of the idea of encumbrance rules for medieval fantasy games, just not of the fiddly bookkeeping of weight.

Image by Papers & Pencils

The first thing to consider in this alternate system is that items are divided into two categories: Insignificant and Significant. Insignificant items are tiny things that don’t have any real impact unless you carry a lot of them, such as coins. Significant items are all of the weapons and gear that your adventurer really needs to do the job. Characters can carry a number of significant items equal to their Strength score and count as Unencumbered.

Since Brendan is working with D&D scores, his system imposes a -1 penalty for each additional significant item carried. For Savage Worlds, I’m going to adapt it to match closer to the rules found in SWD, meaning that a characters can carry a number of significant items equal to their Strength at no penalty, equal to twice their Strength at -1, three times their Strength at -2, and maxed out at four times Strength at -3. Carrying 100 insignificant items counts as a significant item (hence, every 100 coins carried). Plate armor and two-handed melee weapons each count as two items. Backpacks count as one item and can carry a reasonable number of items inside (probably 10).

Now we come to the part where I’m still trying to make some decisions. Should characters with the Brawny edge double all of these amounts or should they just move everything up one step, i.e., they can carry twice their Strength at no penalty, three times at -1, and so on?

Also, the encumbrance rules in SWD apply the penalty to all Agility and Strength trait rolls, including the skills based on those attributes. It does not mention any penalty to Pace; my house rule thus far has been an inversion of this, penalizing Pace while leaving the trait roles unaffected. However, Brendan’s system includes applying the penalties to attack and skill rolls in D&D as well as to movement, and he makes a short but sound argument for why. I’m leaning toward bringing the penalties to trait roles in addition to keeping the penalty to Pace, since the movement penalty really captures the old school fantasy RPG vibe. I’m also thinking the penalty should apply to the running die, although this could have the odd side effect of allowing the character no extra movement (unless I introduce another house rule I’ve been considering, which allows characters to always run the maximum distance).