Methods to track and manage the weight and bulk of items carried by a character.

Encumbrance is a game mechanic that tracks the weight and bulk of items carried by a character. It measures how much gear a character can carry effectively without being overly burdened.

The core game system assigns a narrative value to gear, requiring characters to prepare and carry gear to support actions during game play. For simplicity, the game does not have any default rules for encumbrance. Encumbrance rules can add a layer of realism and strategy to the game by requiring players to make decisions about what to carry and what to leave behind.

Measuring Encumbrance

There are a variety of ways used to measure encumbrance alternatively prioritizing simplicity vs complexity, realism, and support for narrative or mechanical design goals.

  • Gear Slots: Assigning a fixed number of gear slots to a character is one of the easiest ways to apply encumbrance rules, favoring simplicity over attempting to simulate a deep level of realism.

  • Weight or Size: Assigning a weight and/or a size property to gear allows a character's encumbrance to be measured based on the combined properties of everything they are carrying. Using this approach adds additional complexity in that every piece of gear now needs additional properties that need to be added together, and re-calculated whenever a character's gear inventory changes.

  • Cost or Quality: Cost is another consideration for encumbrance. By limiting the amount of funds that a character can spend on gear, it imposes scarcity based on the quality or utility of gear rather than just the weight or size. Using cost can help support balance between characters by making them make careful choices related to both quantity and quality aspects of the gear they carry. One advantage of using cost or quality is that it can add narrative value to the story. The loss or damage of a high cost or quality item imposes both a narrative and mechanical consequence for a character that can make the game feel more dynamic. Using this approach can add considerable complexity requiring every piece of gear to include a cost and/or quality property that may change over time.

  • Type or Category: Limiting the number of items of a certain type is also a common approach. Using something like an *Attunement* constraint that a character can only carry a certain number of magically enhanced items, or a limited number of weapons also requires players to make careful choices and can help maintain a balance of power between characters.

Many game systems use one or a combination of the above elements. If using gear slots, simply determine the number of gear slots available to a character during character creation. To support type, weight, size, cost or quality, add tags to individual gear items in the character's gear list.

Strain and Fatigue

Encumbrance rules should also consider how to handle situations where a character may want to carry an additional burden beyond their normal capacity for a period of time, and how to apply consequences to the character to represent the added strain and fatigue.

A character's health indicators are the best option for dealing with strain and fatigue from being overburdened.

  • Grit and Stress: Grit and Stress are opposing indicators that represent a character's well-being and resilience to physical, mental and emotional stress. When a character needs to carry an additional burden, consider using Counters to measure the passage of narrative time. Each time the counter advances, impose a cost in either grit or stress points.

  • Conditions: Conditions measure lingering harm to a character that can impact the performance of future actions. Conditions can be imposed by the director in addition to stress, as a consequence of prolonged strain. Conditions impose both a potential narrative and mechanical consequence to characters.

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