Tuesday Tweak: Expanded Encumbrance

Today’s Pathfinder RPG design targets an often-mocked but rarely solved issue. One thing that’s always bothered me in Pathfinder, DnD, and many other RPGs is the way that carrying capacity and stuff is handled. Not stuff, I mean “STUFF,” an enormous supply of equipment that the players take everywhere they go and keep on a massive list. Most skilled players I know never go anywhere without 200 ft. of rope, a bell, a pole, a ladder (turned into two poles), a series of sacks, a crowbar, and an unknown number of trail rations. It all translates to a couple extra pounds, and is ignored until needed.

This drives me crazy, partly from a realism perspective–how dumb would they look, like armored hobos or backpackers, carrying a fortune in gold as well as a village’s worth of stuff?–but even more from a gameplay perspective. A clever player will immediately realize that if there’s no limitation but weight, then they might as well carry an huge supply of everything they could possibly ever need, plus armor and weaponry. This occasionally makes an encounter lame (the players have exactly the right tool) or tiresome (the players spend an hour looking for the perfect combination of items to beat a straightforward situation). To introduce a bit of forethought, clever packing and decision-making, try the following:

Tweak: All medium characters have a maximum encumbrance limit of 50 points. Small characters have 35. This is a measurement of how much gear and equipment they can physically fit on their person, using straps, belts, pouches, and a backpack. Assign each item an encumbrance value; this is normally equal to half their weight, but many objects have a much higher value due their shape. A ten-foot pole, for instance, is long and thin, difficult to carry without using one’s hands, and has an encumbrance value of 10.

Additionally, each character can only have up to three one-handed or two-handed weapons strapped on and available to be drawn; one on each hip and one on their back, although a character with a backpack loses this slot. Any number of light weapons may be ready to be drawn, strapped to limbs, hidden in boots, or the like.

Of course, you’d want to do away with bags of holding if you’re going to use this tweak. And why not? I hate those things. Constantly begging for players to come up with weird situations. Mine tend to use bags of holding as an ideal way to preserve corpses to be looted later, imprison unconscious enemies, or sneak into towns.

You should give out much more gold and much less item treasure using this tweak, and make your town shops readily available for the players to maximize their space. Encourage your players to make their characters look the way they should, which is cool and badass rather than a weird backpacker.

-Max Porter Zasada


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