Encumbrance – I hate it as much as you do. The constant addition and subtraction and totaling that would drive an accountant crazy. But it also makes sense. You have limits and carrying stuff is part of that. A lot of games just ignore it, but it’s always stuck in my craw a bit when someone’s toting around 10,000 gp and 15 two-handed swords. RPGs are all about choice, and part of that choice is what to keep and what to leave.

Furthermore, the PF rules don’t say anything about large or unwieldy things. Sure, you can hike through underbrush with 50’ of hemp rope, but as it comes uncoiled, slips off your shoulder or gets caught on branches you’ll wish you didn’t have it. Likewise, a 10’ stick might not weigh enough to matter, but try running through a dungeon with one, dodging arrows and slipping through narrow passageways. You’re not going to lug an extra suit of Full Plate weighing 50 lbs that’s as big as you are out of a dungeon along with all your other crap. See the issue?

To that end, we’re going to try a combination of keeping track and hand-wavy apathy that I cribbed from a DnD blog. If it gets to be too big a hassle we’ll do something else. This isn’t to penalize you, it’s to force you to make decisions about things. You’re still going to be hauling around more shit than is really feasible.

Another consequence of this is not everyone can carry everything, and you don’t get to have a pack mule character. That means the guy that needs the potion of cure light wounds might not be the one carrying it. Even distribution is important. Know what you’ve got, and make sure you’ve got what you need.

We’re going to assume that everybody has a ‘masterwork’ pack, that fits well for your size and is well balanced when full. We don’t want anyone getting chronic back pain.

Rules are as follows:
Your Strength score is your Encumbrance score.
Items are divided into two categories: Insignificant and Significant

  • Insignificant means you can carry a couple (or many) and ignore them. Things like pens, scrolls, potions, candles, torches, etc etc. Gold falls into this for the most part as well. However, if you want to carry 30 candles, we’ll probably assign an encumbrance to it. Same with 5,000 gold.
  • Significant means the item has weight or bulk or both. This is armor, weapons, tents, large tools, etc. Each has an Encumbrance score. Most significant items have a score of 1. Bigger and heavier things (Heavy Armor, Martial Weapons, etc) have a score of 2. Something like a barrel full of grain might have a score of 4.
  • Weapons are always considered significant and thus have an minimum Encumbrance of 1. They’re all either sharp, heavy or hard to tote around, and characters have to take extra care with them. Ammo is significant in stacks of 20.
  • Spellbooks are significant and are 1E. Think of it as carrying around a stack of records – it’s about as bulky and fragile.
  • Rations are significant in stacks of 5 and are 1E. Anything less and we ignore it.
  • Scrolls are significant in stacks of 5 and are 1E.

As a general rule of thumb, if the significant item could be easily carried in one hand, it has an encumbrance 1. If it is heavy enough that it requires two hands to adequately carry (such as a suit of plate mail), or is light, but awkward enough to require two hands, (such as a 10 foot long wooden pole) it has an encumbrance of 2.

0-Strength Score Light Load
Str Score-2x Str Medium Load
2x Str-3x Str Heavy Load
Over 3x Str Immobile

An encumbrance equal to a character’s strength score is considered a light load, a character with an encumbrance score between their strength score and twice that of their strength is at a medium load, between two and three times their strength leaves them at a heavy load, and above three times their strength renders them immobile. Quadrupeds, such as horses, have double the standard encumbrance capacity when distributed evenly across their back, such as in saddle bags or packs.

  • A lightly encumbered character faces no penalties.
  • A medium encumbered character faces a check penalty of -3 to all physical checks, his maximum dexterity bonus is reduced to +3, his speed is reduced to 20 feet, unless it was 20 feet to begin with, in which case it’s reduced to 15, and he may only run 4 times as fast as his max speed.
  • A heavily encumbered character is treated identically to a medium encumbrance, but the check penalty becomes -6, the maximum dexterity bonus is reduced to +1, and he may only run 3 times as fast as his top speed.

Items which are awkward or difficult to carry, either due to size or shape, increase the encumbrance value of the item by one class.
Multiples of any one insignificant item are counted as significant items at a threshold left to the DM’s discretion.

General rule:
1-5 lbs. insignificant
5.1-20 lbs. – Light (Encumbrance 1)
20.1-40 lbs. – Medium (Encumbrance 2)
40.1-70 lbs. – Heavy (Encumbrance 3)
70.1-100 lbs. – Very Heavy (Encumbrance 4)
100.1-180 lbs. – Extremely Heavy (Encumbrance 5)
180.1-230 lbs. – Massively Heavy (Encumbrance 6)
230-300 lbs. – Incredibly Heavy (Encumbrance 7)
300- 600 lbs. – Immovably Heavy (Encumbrance 8)

What this means in practice is, you just jot down the Encumbrance next to things on your sheet and make sure you’re under a medium load. Most things will be 0 or 1. I’ll give you the encumbrance score of things as you pick them up (if they’re not obvious). This only really comes into play when you’re picking up loot, or trying to do something (like move a huge iron kettle from one side of the room to the other). We’re not going to get too nitpicky with it, but it’ll be a quick, at-a-glance guide to what you’re carrying.

Jimmy Bob’s rogue has a strength of 10, meaning his Encumbrance score is 10. He’s carrying:
Leather Armor – 15 lbs – 1E
Shortsword – 2 lbs (weapon) – 1E
Dagger – 1 lbs (weapon) – 1E
Shortbow – 2 lbs (weapon) – 1E
40 Arrows – 6 lbs (ammo) – 2E
Traveler’s Outfit – 8 lbs – 1E
and a whole host of crap that we don’t care about because it’s small and light (like a bedroll, a couple torches and his thieves’ tools).

That leaves Jimmy Bob at 8 Encumbrance. He’s got some stuff, but he’s not weighed down. Now if he decides to grab 50’ of rope and go steal a 10 lb statue and a bulky painting, he might start having problems.


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