On a useful encumbrance system

My current campaign is wandering into the desert (they headed northeast from Ravenloft, what was I to do?), and specifically into a dungeon in the desert.

I want to track logistics for this dungeon: weight, and torches, and rations, such that what they bring up from the depths is limited by what they dare to carry, weighted against supplies (and such).

Nobody does this anymore, because it’s mind-numbing. There aren’t good worksheets for it.

Or are there?


A kind dork, posting on enworld and reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/DnDBehindTheScreen/comments/2z1rrt/5e_inventory_tracking_sheet_with_simplified/ and  http://www.enworld.org/forum/rpgdownloads.php?do=download&downloadid=1232 made an interesting “round-to-the-nearest-five-pounds” equipment-slot-style encumbrance tracker.

Okay. So that’s interesting, in that it gives you, y’know, a treasure sheet and a straightforward way to maintain it.

Now, let’s talk gaming. I don’t want to track encumbrance because I lurve spreadsheets. I want to track encumbrance because I want a character to doff their platemail so that they can carry a solid gold idol up a flight of stairs.

I want them to toss the idol, because they decided they’d rather carry ten pounds of hardtack.

I want them to pick up a chest of copper coins, because they’ve freed up space by eating the hardtack.


The adventuring rules might have something for me; they encourage setting a marching order (front-, mid-, and back- ranks, with only some ranks able to make certain checks); suggests some people might be “navigating, drawing maps, tracking and/or foraging”, in place of keeping watch.

Lightly obscured areas — such as those viewed with darkvision — give disadvantage to perception checks. So you want to carry a torch because even being able to see things doesn’t mean you can spot things. That’s a good thing to bear in mind.

You want to carry food and water because, as the good book says,


Characters who don’t eat or drink suffer the effects of exhaustion (see appendix A). Exhaustion caused by lack of food or water can’t be removed until the character eats and drinks the full required amount.



A character needs one gallon of water per day, or two gallons per day if the weather is hot. A character who drinks only half that much water must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or suffer one level of exhaustion at the end of the day. A character with access to even less water automatically suffers one level of exhaustion at the end of the day.

If the character already has one or more levels of exhaustion, the character takes two levels in either case.

(bolding mine — the count goes 1, 3, 5, dead!, and that’s _assuming_ you had no other sources of exhaustion!)

So that’s cool, but definitely not granular enough.

A gallon of water a day is a supremely useful number: it’s 8 pints, and as D&D players know, the game budgets 8 medium encounters per day! Of course, I tend to run that more like 4 hard, or even 2 deadlies per day, but the thought is there. And a pint of water weighs a pound. So let’s “round that up” and say that a half-gallon (2 doses) of water is 1 inventory slot, and a gallon of water (4 doses) is two inventory slots. As the inventory tracking sheet says, really.

To benefit from a short rest, you must drink a dose of water (2 in hot environs). If you can’t, make your DC 15 con save; the first time you fail it you get +2 exhaustion (unless you were at 0 exhaustion in which case you just go to 1).
Zoom back out to the normal rules if you’re in a day where you’re not adventuring.

Rations of food are too “lightweight”to track here; their weight stays important just for sleeping.


PS: I translated the equipment pdf to a really ugly spreadsheet, https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EhZQpjoVAmS6WW-dSrOMuf0RjZuCwhElmgbOVgQ2xok/edit?usp=sharing .  More edits to follow…?


About lackhand

I was born in 1984 and am still playing games, programming computers, and living in New York City. View all posts by lackhand

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s