The Alexandrian

This is a simplified method for handling encumbrance in OD&D and is designed to completely replace the existing encumbrance system. It’s indebted to both Delta’s D&D Hotspot and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I’ll be posting full design notes in a few days.

Encumbrance, measured in stones carried, determines how much a character’s equipment slows them down, as shown on the table below:

EncumbranceMovement
up to 5 stones12"
up to 7 stones9"
up to 10 stones6"
up to 20 stones3"

This can be conveniently thought of as the 5-10-20 rule (which corresponds to the maximum movement rates of 12”, 6”, and 3”).

Mounts and Mules: Can carry three times as much, following a 15-30-60 rule. (The base movement for mounts and mules are given in Volume 2: 24″ for a light horse; 18″ for a medium horse; 12″ for heavy horses, draft horses, and mules.)

WEIGHT BY STONE

To determine the number of stones carried by a character, simply consult the table below.

ItemWeight in Stones
Heavy Armor (Plate-type)5 stones
Medium Armor (Chain-type)3 stones
Light Armor (Leather-type)1 stone
Shield1 stone
Weapon1 stone
Weapon, lightMisc. Equipment
AmmunitionMisc. Equipment
Miscellaneous Equipment1 stone per 5 bundles
Stowed Weapons1 bundle
Heavy Items1 or more stones
Light Clothing / Worn Items0 stones
150 coins or gems1 stone
Weight of a Man12 stones

Miscellaneous Equipment: Up to twenty items of the same type (scrolls, arrows, potions, rope) can be bundled together for the purposes of encumbrance. Items of different types aren’t bundled when determining encumbrance.

Stowed Weapons: Stowed weapons have been compactly stored in a way which makes them more difficult to draw (but easier to carry). Stowed weapons must be retrieved before they can be used, but they only count as 1 stone per 5 weapons.

Heavy Items: Anything weighing more than roughly 10 pounds can’t be effectively bundled. Estimate a weight in stones (about 10-20 pounds to the stone). When in doubt, call it a stone.

Clothing / Worn Items: Worn items don’t count for encumbrance, unless the individual items would qualify as heavy items.

Weight of a Man: A human can generally be assumed to weigh about a dozen stones. Halflings weigh only 2 stones. (Your own weight does not count towards your encumbrance.)

CONTAINERS

Weapons are assumed to be in sheaths, armor is worn, and you might have a wineskin or two strapped to your belt. But since there’s a limit to how much you can hold in your hands, everything else you’re carrying needs a place to live. As a rule of thumb, containers can carry:

ContainerCapacity
Belt, Pouch1/2 stone
Sack, Small1 stone
Sack, Large2 stones
Backpack3 stones
Backpack, Large5 stones

Empty containers count as miscellaneous equipment. Containers being used to carry items don’t count towards encumbrance.

Larger sacks (often referred to as “loot sacks”) are also possible, but these cannot generally be stored on the body. They must be carried in both hands.

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16 Responses to “Encumbrance by Stone – OD&D”

  1. Noumenon says:

    What’s with the obscure unit of measurement?

  2. Jack Colby says:

    Noumenon, maybe weight and encumbrance will actually get used in the game if it is simplified, and “stone” fit the bill nicely, in addition to reinforcing the medieval European flavor.

  3. Guy Incognito says:

    I would assume that using a term like stone allows for factoring in weight, bulk, and unwieldy-ness. That 10’pole may only weigh a few pounds, but it has to be a pain to carry and therefore may take up more “stone” than a more compact object of equal mass.
    That’s my guess anyway.

  4. Justin Alexander says:

    I’ll discuss this at more length in the full design notes at the end of this series, but basically I like the “obscure unit of measurement” because:

    (1) It is, in fact, obscure. Which means that people are less likely to feel that something is “wrong” about the abstract nature of the system.

    (2) Historically speaking, the value of “stone” is pretty vague. (Its definition varied not only by time and place, but also by what you were measuring with it.) This makes it practically perfect for an abstract / close-is-good-enough system.

    (3) The archaic nature of the term is nice in terms of historical flavor.

    In general, I’ve just found that it’s useful for completely sidestepping any ability to get lost in precision accounting that doesn’t actually serve any utility (which is where most encumbrance systems fall apart). Saying “I’m carrying about 6 stone” seems to be useful in all the ways that “we’re just going to ignore encumbrance” isn’t. Simultaneously, being able to say “I’m carrying exactly 102.5 pounds” or “I’m carrying exactly 1256 coins of weight” doesn’t seem to give any extra utility above and beyond “I’m carrying 6 stone”.

    So it feels like a sweet spot.

  5. James Smith says:

    I Like It!

  6. Leland J. Tankersley says:

    This is a lot like the Basic Roleplaying/RuneQuest ENCumbrance system.

  7. Gennaro Di Napoli says:

    [OT] Since I use your three clue rule, my party is delighted by the “living setting effect”, the preparation is easier and faster for me and the level of the roleplay (in his wider meaning) in my campaigns has grown up.

    Thank you, Al.

  8. Xavin says:

    Unfortunately, for many of us British types, those first 2 reasons don’t work too well – the stone is still a pretty commonly used unit of measurement here (although almost exclusively when talking about a person’s weight) – so it doesn’t qualify as “obscure” – and we have a clearly defined idea of how much it is (14 pounds).

    I can only speak for myself on this point, but it does mean that I find some of the abstractions immediately jarring. Which is a shame, because otherwise it does actually look like a useful system.

  9. nobodez says:

    As I think most geeks would do when presented with this system, I immediately went to Google and typed in “stone”, and got a reply in kilograms (6.350… kg), so, I then searched “stone in pounds”, and got the 14 pound answer.

    So, how big are your coins in which 11 coins equals a pound? (wait, just wiki-ed it, and a 1oz silver coin is a nice big coin, inch a half in diameter, eighth of an inch thick)

    Hell, plate armor weighs only about 45 pounds (also from wikipedia), which is just over 3 stone (not the 5 stone you quoted). Me thinks there’s a bit of a disconnect with the stone idea. Mind you, I’ve always played with encumbrance, and always in d20 derived systems, so OD&D isn’t exactly my area of expertise.

  10. Xavin says:

    It was the weapon weight that jarred most with me.
    One stone is probably close enough if you’re talking about a polearm or greataxe, but I *know* a longsword only weighs 4lb – and this system tells me that 4 of them in my backpack encumbers me more than one in my hand, or in a scabbard by my side. That’s a abstraction too far for me.

    Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if we allow half-stones. And change the armour weights to 1/2/3 for light/medium/heavy.

    Quarter stones (i.e. 3.5 lb) might be even better for getting a close approximation to real weights, but may be so detailed that you lose the benefits of having an abstraction at all.

  11. Xavin says:

    *d’oh!* Proof-reading fail.

    I, of course, meant “…4 of them in my backpack encumbers me *less* than one in my hand…”

  12. Alexander says:

    It seems to me that the main (and very good) idea behind this system is to keep the values on which you’re performing arithmetic less than 10. So, you can do this by using abstract units like LotFP, obscure historical units like the stone in Delta’s system, or by using a smaller unit but restricting all values in the game from using the “ones” column, increasing the effective granularity of the unit by a factor of 10. E.g. encumbrance in lbs, where everything over 9 lbs is either 10 lbs, 20 lbs, 30 lbs…

    D&D already uses this idea with its length system in tens of feet, and treasure generation in 1000s of coins. The effective units here aren’t actually feet or coins; they’re ten-feets and thousand-coins. See what I’m saying?

    So that’s what I prefer to do. I do encumbrance in “ten-pounds”. (Stone is an odd choice here, imo. It’s very British, and not even particularly medieval. Basically every European culture from antiquity to the metric system has used a pound-like unit of weight).

    Here’s your equipment list in ten-pounds:

    Heavy Armor (Plate-type) 50 lbs
    Medium Armor (Chain-type) 30 lbs
    Light Armor (Leather-type) 10 lbs
    Shield 10 lbs
    Weapon, heavy 10 lbs
    Weapon, light 2 lbs
    Ammunition 2 lbs

    Stowed Weapons 2 lbs
    Heavy Items 10 or more lbs
    Light Clothing / Worn Items 0 lbs
    100 coins or gems 1 lb

    Weight of a Man 170 lbs

  13. Alexander says:

    sorry—*decreasing* the effective granularity of the unit by a factor of 10.

  14. Justin Alexander says:

    A few responses:

    (1) The values here replicate the encumbrance effects of armor in OD&D.

    (2) Similarly, in OD&D 10 coins = 1 pound.

    (3) Half-stones and quarter-stones miss the entire point. Feel free to go back to accounting for every pound and ounce, but there’s no sense using an abstract system and then trying to pound concrete nails into it.

    (4) Encumbrance is about more than just weight. (Which, ironically, is one of the things the archaic stone was useful for before it got standardized by Victorians.) 4 swords that have been bundled up for ease of transport ARE easier to carry than 4 swords strapped to your hip and ready for action.

    (5) If the medieval stone is still too concrete a measurement for you to accept the abstraction, I suggest slotting in something completely fictional. I recommend the dwarven dalik.

  15. Xavin says:

    I freely concede the point concerning half- and quarter-stones (and, in fact, pointed that way in my original comment).

    I’d would like to point out that the issue I mentioned was that the abstraction makes 4 swords bundled for transport a lesser encumbrance than ONE sword strapped to the hip (and having done some running around in armour with a sword at my hip I’ve got a reasonable idea of how realistic that is).

    However, I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t like the system, or that it hasn’t given my some ides of how I might incorporate something like it in my 3.5ed game. I may have to do some experimenting to find my own “sweet” spot – I’m thinking maybe a 5lb or 10lb base unit – and as noted I’ll have to call it something that I (and my players) don’t automatically interpret as a real world unit (unless it happens to be one at or close to my chosen base value).

    Anyway, thank you for the idea.

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