Ah, Encumbrance. The bane of so many games. So often it is intended to be a strict limiting factor, but in reality, it ends up falling by the wayside due to excessive complication or a lack of ease in the math. Who wants to pull out a calculator at the table? Its just not fun! Here is my quick and dirty ENC system, based on the Stone, with inspiration for the idea owed to Delta's D&D blog (http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2007/04/encumbrance.html).
A character may easily carry a load in Stones equal to 4 +/- STR modifier.
They may carry up to double this amount but will be ENCUMBERED.
They may carry up to treble this amount but will be HEAVILY ENCUMBERED.
If a character is encumbered, they move down one category on all ability score tracks. This becomes their "new normal." If a character is heavily encumbered, they move down two additional steps on each track (for a total of three steps).
EDIT: Originally I had them move down two squares on the body track alone. However, this has the problem of allowing critters with Superior Body to basically ignore ENC. It also means that if you don't make Body checks often (say you're a Wizard) then you can basically ignore ENC too. It prevented ENC from affecting Initiative (which is based on Agility/Mind). I don't like having ENC effect Heart, but I don't want clerics to ignore it, so its an abstraction. This also softens the effects of regular encumbrance a bit, because a -1 penalty isn't so bad.
ENCUMBRANCE OF STANDARD ITEMS
1 stone. This is about 14 pounds, although no harm will be done by rounding to 15. It is the base unit of the system.
Hundredweight. 8 stone. About 100 lbs. Useful for measuring creatures, bulk goods, etc. This is as much as an average man can haul, and it will be encumbering to him.
Quarter. 2 stone. About 28-30 lbs. A backpack full of gear.
1/3 of a stone. Useful for relatively light items around 5 lbs.
1/6 of a stone. Useful for handheld items.
Negligible. Items which are so light as to be negligible except in large quantities.
Leather Armor - 1
Chain Mail - 2
Plate Mail - 3
Light Shield - 1/3 (usable 1x/encounter)
Heavy Shield - 1 (usable 1x/encounter; allows superior parry maneuver)
Two Handed Weapon - 1
One Handed Weapon - 1/3
Light Weapon - 1/6
In general, one should approximate using the weapon guidelines. A torch is as a one handed weapon (1/3 of a stone). A 10' pole is much like a polearm (thus 1 stone).
Coins are quite simple; for a stone is made up of about 14 POUNDS (gold pieces), and a POUND of 20 shillings (silvers). Thus a character could carry perhaps 280-300 silver coins with one stone of ENC.
TIPS AND TRICKS
It is reasonable to just allocate one stone or perhaps a quarter for numerous small items. For example, you could set aside a quarter for your character's pack: The pack could contain 6 one handed items, 12 light items, or some mixture thereof. I suggest drawing a grid with 6 squares on your character sheet to represent the backpack and just penciling in items as you acquire them.
It might also be useful to set aside a stone for weapons. Most non-fighters will carry perhaps one or two handheld weapons and one or two light weapons at most.
Justin the Mighty Warrior has a +2 STR modifier. Thus he can carry 6 stone easily. He opts for plate mail (3 stones) and a large shield (1 stone).
He decides to pick up a stone's worth of weapons: a longsword (1/3), a javelin (1/3), and a horseman's flail (1/3).
That leaves one stone remaining for odds and ends, or perhaps a polearm. As he will not always have a squire handy, he decides that its safer to expend the last stone on a lantern with oil (1/3), two potions of healing (1/6 each), and two days of rations (1/6 each).
Erin the Tricksy Thief is not particularly strong. She can only carry 3 stone. She opts for leather armor (1 stone), a short sword (1/3 stone), and 2 daggers (1/6 each). She also gets a torch (1/3 stone). She could bring along another stone of equipment but decides to leave her pack empty so that she can collect treasure.
Sarah the Priestess is an average character who can easily carry 4 stone. She selects a hauberk of chain mail (2 stone). To wield, she selects a light shield (1/3 stone), a one-handed mace to smite infidels (1/3 stone), and a hammer for throwing at heretics (1/3 stone). She also has one stone of capacity remaining for either odds and ends or a polearm.
IS IT REALISTIC?
First, who cares. Its a game. But realism is good, to a degree.
This system allows an "average" person to carry a hundredweight, maximum. That's 100 lbs. I think the average joe could stagger around with 100 pounds but he would definitely be at 1/2 speed and -2 to all physical checks. More than that and he's going to want a hand.
The strongest person can carry 7 stones easily -- almost a hundredweight. Additionally, their max load is 21 stones. That is 294 lbs. An olympian might be able to lift about 475 lbs. So perhaps I am shortchanging the very strongest, but its not by much, and those olympic records are just for weightlifting, not for actually moving, fighting, exploring, etc. According to my army field manual, a standard load for a soldier where you can expect him to keep moving is as follows:
Fighting Load: 1/3 body weight (48 lbs for a 160 lb man, so 3.5 stone)
Approach March Load: 72 lbs (5.1 stone)
Emergency Approach March Load: "120 lbs can be carried for several days over distances of 20 km or more" (8.5 stone)
Or even: "Loads of up to 150 lbs are feasible, although soldiers could become fatigued or even injured" (10.7 stone)
So by those standards, allowing someone to lug treble normal ENC is quite generous! Although of course, only the most superior or extraordinary specimens will even be able to move under such a burden. Most typical persons will top out from 8-12 stone (STR dependent). Which fits closely enough to our US Army Guidelines.
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