Making Sense of Encumbrance in OD&D

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

The guidelines for Encumbrance in OD&D can be found primarily on page 15 of Men and Magic.  They are quite sparse.  We are given the weight that can be carried in GP for three movement rates per turn.  The slowest rate is 6" carrying a weight of 1500 coins or 150 lbs - equivalent to Armored foot rate.  Heavy foot rate (6")  allows 1000 coins/100 lbs, and light foot movement (12") can be achieved with up to 750 coins/75 lbs of weight.

These same values apparently apply to all characters, and while that's certainly simple, it seems a bit strange that someone with the strength of a child can carry just as much as a barbarian warrior. 

In order to add the sort of granularity that would distinguish wimp from warrior within the existing guidelines, we would have to know exactly who the M&M figures are supposed to be for.  Specifically, are they representative of the typical Strength 10 character or are they representative of the strongest possible Str 18 character?

In cases like this, I will sometimes look for clarification in Dave Arneson's  and Richard Snider's Adventures in Fantasy(TM) game from 1978.  AiF is d100 based, so a direct correlation shouldn't be expected, but there is often a principle that can be brought to bear.  In this case, Arneson says "...roughly 2 lbs of weight can be carried without difficulty (the maximum being 200 lbs. for a character with a strength of 100.)  Without physical training the character can only use 75% of his strength rating."  (AiF Bk1 p2,3)   The training referred to here is a special weightlifting training detailed in the book.   So, unless your character is a professional weightlifter, the most even the strongest of men can carry without suffering a steep fatigue penalty is 150 lbs.  That's just the same as the maximum weight in Men & Magic.  

So from the perspective of at least one of D&D's creators 1500 coins/150 lbs. should be the maximum a Strength 18 character can lug around without a fatigue penalty. 

Now, in D&D terms, the point spread between 3-18 is 16 pips of course, so if we accept that 150 lbs is the maximum weight a person with a strength of 18 can carry (without fatigue penalties) then we have a figure of 9.375 lbs (93.75 coins) per strength point for D&D.  

The table derived from this approach would look about like this:
Strength Score

Full Strength Load Foot Movement (6")
Up to 2/3 strength Load Heavy Foot Movement (9")
Up to 1/2 Strength Load  Light Foot Movement (12")

COINS/LBS.
COINS/LBS.
COINS/LBS.
3
94/9
62/6
47/5
4
188/19
125/13
94/9
5
281/28
185/19
141/14
6
375/38
248/25
188/19
7
469/47
310/31
235/24
8
563/56
372/37
282/28
9
656/66
433/43
328/33
10
750/75
495/50
375/38
11
844/84
557/56
422/42
12
938/94
619/62
469/47
13
1031/103
680/68
516/52
14
1125/113
743/74
563/56
15
1219/122
805/81
610/61
16
1313/132
867/87
657/66
17
1406/141
928/93
703/70
18
1500/150
990/99
750/75


It is important to stress that these encumbrance figures are not a measure of how much a character could lift or even carry for a short distance while staggering under the weight.  They are how much a character can carry without undue difficulty and becoming fatigued.  

There are no real guidelines for Fatigue in OD&D, but there are in CHAINMAIL.  For Champions of ZED, I combined these with fatigue rules Arneson gave in his Garbage Pits of Despair adventure (part 1, M3), as follows "Strength and Dexterity suffer a -1. Fatigued characters must also subtract 2 from all attack rolls and damage rolls, drop 1 Morale Condition automatically, before any throws are made, and drop to 1/3 normal movement rate."

No doubt, some player at some point will try to have their character limp, grunt and puff along at 4" per turn carrying as much as they possibly can.  If the referee is inclined to allow this - for comedy if nothing else, AiF does give some guidence regarding both the maximum load possible and how quickly fatigue sets in as follows "(at) 25% or more of his normal burden, the fatigue rate is doubled, and at 50% it is tripled.  A character cannot carry more than 150%..."(AiF Bk1 p2,3)

In D&D, a character can normally travel 5 turns without fatigue.  Thus applying the AiF rule, a character overloaded by 25% could travel 3 (2.5 rounded up) turns normally, and a 50% burden would allow only 1 turn of unfatigued movement.   
And even the strongest of the strong couldn't take a step if they were trying to carry 375 pounds or more. 

Now as a side note, I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of Gus L's encumbrance method, Details Here  so I've also worked up a table listing the 2/3 and 1/2 amounts of the Strength score itself .  This way players using Gus's method having a character with a strength of 10 will know they can carry 5 "significant things" and keep a movement rate of 12" or 7 significant things and move at 9" per turn.


Strength Score

Full Strength Load Foot Movement (6")
Up to 2/3 strength Load Heavy Foot Movement (9")
Up to 1/2 Strength Load  Light Foot Movement (12")

# Significant Things
# Significant Things
# Significant Things
3
3
2
1
4
4
3
2
5
5
4
3
6
6
4
3
7
7
5
4
8
8
5
4
9
9
6
5
10
10
7
5
11
11
8
6
12
12
8
6
13
13
9
7
14
14
9
7
15
15
10
8
16
16
11
8
17
17
11
9
18
18
12
9

2 comments:

Gus L said...

Movement is tricky but I like where you're going, I'm not a fan of 60' per round being the base movement for dungeon combat - I don't use grids really but I like 40' as a base (maybe I'm just fond of dense dungeons filled with tiny rooms?) and have starting thinking about movement as a single integer that one can roll against on a D6 for escape and pursuit as well as using as a foot per round base.

I do movement in non-combat as - one area per turn (and random encounter check), with turns having no specific time value - (do the PCs have watches - did early modern people really have a sense of time that went to the minute? Does the mythic underworld mess with one's sense of time?)

My current system goes Movement: Ossified (1) Slow (2) Sluggish (3) Normal (4) Fleet (5) fast (6)

DHBoggs said...

Thanks for dropping by Gus. Interesting thoughts for sure. I tend to keep time vague as far as the players are concerned. It is certainly true that pre-modern people did not concern themselves with time increments as obsessively as we do!

Regarding movement in melee, I stick with the 30' feet radius of CHAINMAIL for all concerned and don't make any attempt at exact positioning of anybody beyond the very general "who is in front" kind of thing. The only sort of movement allowed would be of the in, out, or through sort as governed pretty much by the rules in CM and the number of opponent a character can handle as indicated by the Fighting Capability stat.

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