Thursday, 27 July 2017

Using SWN Encumbrance

I created a mesh of an adventurer burdened with a full load of packs, bags and pouches. So it is a good excuse to post the image and talk about encumbrance.

Lone Adventurer with all of the tools of the trade


When I started playing in the 1980s we did not bother with encumbrance. Characters somehow carried everything they owned. I recall a fighter with 4 swords, plate mail armour, shield and a 10 foot pole. I did force him to lose his plate mail once when he fell in an underground river. How he got it off before drowning was unclear.


Eventually, I started using the coin system which I believe came from AD&D. Everything had a weight in coins and the characters had a limit. The problem was that the only time the bookkeeping could get done was between gaming sessions. And when the players encountered 3,000 silver pieces there was no way to load it up. The adventures started being full of easy to carry gems.


Online role-playing makes this a lot more possible to handle with automated spreadsheets calculating your encumbrance and penalties. It is still work to keep up. D&D 5th edition changed everything over to pounds. Characters can carry their STR score times 15 pounds. This is still a lot of work but is easier to quickly shorthand then coins as most people can guess the weight of items in pounds.


Stars without Number has an interestingly simple system in tune with the tone of the rules. Each character can have a number of readied items equal to half their STR score (normal clothing, jewelry do not count). They can also have a number of stowed items equal to their full STR score. These stowed items take 1 round to ready.


Obviously, the SWN method is not very realistic. A heavy dose of logic is required. Characters with 14 Strength should not have 7 heavy blaster rifles. But it is very simple, quick and does not get in the way of the play. Keeping things moving is at the core of the SWN rules so it makes sense.


I have been using the SWN method when playing Basic D&D was well. For treasure I assume that a small sack (which can hold 200 coins) would be one stowed item. A large sack would count as 3 stowed items. It works as long as players do not try to push the rules.

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