Friday, September 13, 2013

How I do Encumbrance

Eric Tenkar asked, "How Encumbering is Encumbrance in Your Campaigns?

He goes on to ask:

"Do you strictly track encumbrance? Hand wave it? Ignore it? Give everyone in the party Bags of Holding and hope it all goes away?"

We track it strictly. Down to the fraction of a pound for some items (armor, say).

One nice thing about GURPS is that encumbrance is purely in pounds. It's not an amalgamated weight+size+whatever from, say, AD&D. It's weight. Size is a separate issue entirely. It's purely weight, and we track it tightly. Admittedly, we have to track it tightly, because GURPS movement in combat and your Dodge score are both tightly tied to encumbrance.

We cheat a bit - we use GURPS Character Assistant so it's pretty easy to track your starting adventuring load, and how much wiggle room you've got up or down to a lower encumbrance level.

So yeah, we track it strictly, at least for weight. I can get why people don't want to, but I've never had a problem with doing it strictly.


  1. I think strict tracking makes a lot of sense in GURPS, based on my limited experience with it, since it does affect your dodge, and because movement rates really make a difference in what you can do in a 1-second round of combat.

    Why I don't want to track it (or why I greatly simplify it), in other games (like OSR D&D style games) is that it doesn't really have that much effect in most situations, the way it does in GURPS.

    For example, a relatively heavy load in a lot of games rarely reduces a PC to less than a 60' movement rate. For exploration, that's often more than enough to get you to the next corner / intersection / door, where you're going to stop anyway. In combat, moving 60' is still enough to let you cross the full length of a typical dungeon room in a combat round. And there is no dodge equivalent in most games, so that's out.

    As a result, in most situations, encumbrance just doesn't have much effect, unless you get an excessively heavy load reducing movement to 30' (which in my experience doesn't happen too often). Without a significant game effect, tracking encumbrance ends up being more of a bother than it's worth.

    But as I say, I agree with you that it's an entirely different issue with GURPS, or any other game where encumbrance actually has a meaningful effect. There I think encumbrance really is worth tracking.

    1. Yeah, that's a really good point. This is probably one of those cases where system really does influence play. "Do I track encumbrance strictly or not?" is a very good question in D&D, in GURPS it's hard to make the case you shouldn't track it at least fairly strictly.

    2. I would agree. In the more abstracted D&D-style game, encumbrance only matters to me with logistical questions like "How are you carrying that 882 pounds of gold?" It does not impact tactical play, except where it impacts against the most basic common sense (such as a character with 15 long swords strapped to himself).

      Part of the fun of GURPS is that encumbrance actually does matter. The fun might be mitigated if we were not using Fantasy Grounds to handle the tracking.

    3. Well, sure, it would be harder for us if we didn't use GCA. But we're very unlikely to do that - if anything, we've gotten used to using more computer support for our games. So I can't see us not using something to help keep track.

      Although even in my old games were were strict - it just took adding by hand, and thus took a little bit longer if PCs wanted to swap loadouts around.

  2. I don't like tracking any items less than 1 lb. Actually I only track the weight of the characters' armor (always full sets, never piecemeal), weapons, and Ready-reachable potions or other tools on Delver's Webbing, Utility Belts, or the like (and the extra weights of those items themselves).


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