I may have a system for encumbrance that I can live with.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve read a few articles that discussed using a “stones” system for determining how much a character can carry, based directly on the Strength score — STR 10 can carry 10 stone (about 140 pounds), et cetera.

It’s cute, it’s easy to remember. I love it.

But something still seems off to me, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. There are plenty of players I’ve known who would abuse a system that handwaves objects weighing less than 14 pounds, and so I need something else.

My primary concern is with consumables like wands, potions, and scrolls. One player I know boasted a bandoleer of low-level, single-use wands (4e “encounter-use” wands, mind you) that he’d use to augment his powers. He’d discard them as he used them, then round them up again after the fight.

While this is certainly a cool image, and possibly ‘token’ for an artificer, it raises concerns about the ‘dispensable’ nature of certain items. Magical ammunition carries the same problem — there’s too much “fire-and-forget” magic.

Beyond the ‘stone’ systems I’ve seen, there have been quite a few ‘significant objects-‘ carry systems. A character can carry X-number of objects of some significance (whether weapons, armor, treasure, and so forth).

I like this approach too, but it’s missing out on any quasi-important ‘minor’ object slots. Sometimes little things need to add up to a big thing, I think.

And so I figured I could combine the two systems.

The basic idea is this: for every point of Strength over 2 (the reason will make sense in a moment), a character can carry one “stack” or “stone.”

– Objects which are “stack-able” include potions, scrolls, and ammo.
– Objects that are “stones” include things like weapons and armor.

A character with a Strength 18 can carry a maximum of sixteen “stacks and stones.” A typical character with a Strength of 10-11 can carry 8-9 objects.

Now, this system is intended to model more than just max carry weight — it also represents bulkiness and accessibility. An object at the bottom of your pack is useless in a fight. This system is also intended to work with my “gear dice” mechanic for skill checks/dungeon recovery.

I wanted encumbrance to work as simply as possible because I have several different depletion mechanics in play — as relationship dice become reversed, the players must seek to repair them. As players burn through gear on ability checks and dungeon-recovery, they must eventually resupply.

Finally, if treasure is the primary means of experience-gain (in this case, the characters are adding to their arete, not level) and players receive this XP by hauling treasure back to town — we achieve a trifecta.

Relationships (worth dice) are built by completing quests, which require returning to town. Arete is built by hauling treasure back to town. Resupplying gear dice requires returning to town. That’s three concrete, rules-supported reasons.

Now… now all I have to do is test the system in play.