At some level, the fantasy RPG I want to play always has some level of resource management. I like resource management as a concept - making sure you have enough food and light to survive but not getting weighed down so you can't outrun the dragon that shouldn't be on level 2. I want my players to have to think about it as well.
Tracking encumbrance, though, is an endless and thankless pain in the ass. For my less mathematically inclined players it simply isn't going to happen and for the arithmetically clever they are going to min-max and outsmart the system.
Because I like encumbrance and want it to play a part, I started tracking everything for the players and updating the sheets after every session. For the longest time I didn't mind, but eventually I just got sick of it. If the game is getting bogged down in a choice over 1 pound of equipment, we aren't playing the game of epic awesomeness I want.
A Game of Tough Choices
HackMaster states, several times, that is a Game of Hard Choices. I'm down with that - it is exactly the mentality I want in my RPG rules because it fits the tone I like. However, spending more than a few minutes agonizing over equipment purchases to ensure the maximum amount of space is utilized to avoid the most penalties when only half (at best) of the players are into that is NOT FUN. It may be a hard choice, but it isn't fun.
Long ago I instituted a "slot" mechanic to replace encumbrance in the BECMI game. It worked, more or less. It felt a bit too much like a video game inventory, but it worked. That faded away as we moved on to HackMaster4e (and eventually the new HMB and HM5e). But now, as the campaign is coming to an end and I'm preparing the new game, I want that smoothness of play, but with the hard choices again.
Suddenly I run across and help fund Torchbearer ... which has (among other things) an encumbrance system I love. LOVE. I've adapted what I read from TB over to the HM5e game.
House Rule: Encumbrance
Character's have 4 locations to "store" gear:
- Torso: 4 slots
- Belt: 4 individual slots
- Hand (left and right): 1 slot each
Containers also have a number of slots. For example, a backpack requires 2 Torso slots to wear, but has 6 slots of space inside it (not to mention 1 slot on either side as well as 3 in the rear, all of which can be used for other things). A small sack can be attached to a belt, backpack side or rear, or carried in a hand and 3 carrying slots in it. A character can really load up on things if they like.
All items now take up a number of slots - probably just 1 slot, but some take up more. The belt slots are 1-item only slots, whereas something like a backpack can hold an item that is large and takes up 3 slots). Items are generally small (1 slot), medium (2 slots), or large (3 slots) with the occasional crazy huge thing and some stuff that comes multiples to a slot (3 torches or 100 coins/gems take up 1 slot).
Using the HM carrying capacities idea, I've modified the weight into a number of slots. The formula involves some square roots and such to help balance it all out. Encumbrance is partially weight but also includes size and bulk. After writing the system I translated a few characters ... and it came out pretty much to the same encumbrance levels. I think this will work. I'll try it out and see how it goes.
|Backpack||2 torso||6 pack + 1 side + 1 side + 2 rear|
|Backpack, Porter's||3 torso + 2 bel||8 pack + 2 side + 2 side + 2 rear|
|Satchel||1 torso, 1 pack side + rear, or 2 hands||4 slots|
|Sack, Small||1 belt or 1 hand||3 slots|
|Sack, Large||2 torso + 1 hand or 2 hands||5 slots|
|Belt Pouch, Small||1 belt or 1 hand||1 slot|
|Belt Pouch, Large||1 belt or 1 hand||2 slots|
|Quiver||1 torso, 1 belt, or 1 pack side||1 slot for 12 arrows|
With all that in mind, characters are going to have bits abd pieces and scraps of paper and whatnot. Everyone also gets a set of slots for "Ephemera and Miscellanea". These don't take up any space because they are things that can be tucked here and there without issue. Some things (like rings and other jewelry) will likely have a "coin equivalent" so they can be stored with coins in the same container. Why? Because that is how I imagine treasure looking - everything shiny intermingled.