Friday, July 1, 2016
Plans for Encumbrance
Complaints about encumbrance: bookkeeping, looking up the weight of things, keeping track of arrows and other missiles thrown or fired, re-calculating every time money is collected or spent, figuring out adjustments due to strength and other elements, the total lack of benefits from having LESS stuff in order to get exactly the same effect as ignoring encumbrance has given.
It is this last that is the killing feature for anyone who has ever proposed actually using this rule. The immediate effect is NOT to increase the player character's power but to restrict it. Your character that used to move 5 hexes per round now moves 2. Why? Because we've decided not to ignore all that weight your character is carrying, the weight that has been carried since the beginning of the campaign. Sorry. Your move is crap now.
I have managed to wean my players onto the penalty of carrying too much weight by having movement linked to armor. More protection = less movement. Now that I want to change that by bringing in encumbrance as a thing, my players are likely to be less resistant to the policy. They already know that no one moves at full movement rate unless they're prepared to strip down to only their clothes and a weapon or two.
The bigger problem for my players is the tracking - and this is a problem for everyone. It is impossible with pencil and paper, especially if what's wanted is a proper account of where the encumbrance is - hips, shoulders, backpack, saddlebag, pack animal, etc. Otherwise, what is the point? Once players have been encouraged to believe that carrying something on their person is going to be a hassle, they'll get smart enough to realize that shuffling off their backpack before a fight will make them move faster . . . and that's the sort of thinking I want them to have. It shouldn't be a question of "now you are loaded, you're screwed," it should be, "now that I'm loaded, what can I ditch at an opportune time that will make me not-loaded?"
Many make the mistake of thinking that encumbrance is a yearning for realism. Realism, while nice for museum curators, means nothing to me. I am interested in game - which means that any rules about encumbrance must be a game unto themselves, thereby adding to the role-play experience. I want players who take a hand axe into combat because they know they can throw it right off and move faster. I want players who choose a club for a proficiency because they know that if they really need to, they can discard it and lose nothing valuable. I want players who choose what goes in their backpack not in terms of what fits, but in terms of what can be lost forever without it mattering much. I want players who realize that no everyone can take a grapple, because they weigh 7 lbs. a piece and that's a lot of excess weight just in case its needed. I want players who think.
Ah, but that paperwork. That is something else entirely. That is why I plan to take the price table and build an encumbrance table out of it. All through making the price table I very carefully assigned weights to everything. The next stage is to take those and build them into drop down lists that the players can pick from, then assign a number of things carried and have the weight of those things automatically calculated, along with all those other excessive details that no one wants to keep track of. Fire an arrow? Just change the number on your excel sheet. Add 375 coins? Just change the numbers. Want to take it out of your backpack and put it in your saddlebag? Change the location tab and instantly see the effect. Easy peasy.
Yes, it means using a computer. Horrible things, with buttons. Aw.
It will mean some work and some time, but I should have something workable along those lines soon - the hard part, the weights themselves, have all been assigned.