Encumbrance Rules and Bookkeeping

I recently read a blog post about how D&D at it’s core was a bookkeeping game. I really never gave much thought to encumbrance or arrows or torches, but the idea stuck with me. I don’t think I ever considered what would happen if a human ran out of torches in a dark dungeon, what a divine idea.


SimpleDnD already lists the weights of equipment, armor and weapons, so adding a weight limit is easy.

Max weight carried is Strength +4 (so a -3 would become +1) x 25 lbs.

Example: A cavalier with a strength of +3 would be able to carry 175 lbs.

Example: A wizard with a strength of -3 would be able to carry 25 lbs.

Encumbrance on Moving

Movement is reduced to 1/2 when carrying more than half of the character’s max weight.

Movement and Timekeeping

The speed listed on each race type is the distance a character can move unencumbered per turn (10 minutes). So if the characters moves 3 squares in a dungeon with 10′ x 10′ grid squares, then for every 3 squares, tick off a turn.

Searching a room also takes time, 1 turn per 30′ x 30′ space.

Hands and Holding

Characters have two hands. Period. They may not carry a torch and a sword and a shield. This goes for large sacks, rope, treasures, etc. Torches carried into combat have a DC 10 vs DEX chance of going out in the event of a successful attack on the carrier.

Treasure Weight

A single coin of any type weighs one ounce. So there are 16 coins in 1 pound.

140 carats of gems = 1 pound. A typical gem of 100gp should weigh about 1/10 lb


Torches are another wrinkle in the bookkeeping, they only burn for 1 hour (6 turns). That is an insanely short time period. I can see a torch burning out just as combat begins. If a torch burns out, apply the Special Attack Condition Blindness to all characters who are not longer in torchlight.

Furthermore, torches (and light spells) only illuminate 60 feet around them, anyone outside of that range would also suffer from blindness. Especially true if someone splits the party. In addition, parties using torches are easy to spot and hidden things are harder to find. Stealth being impossible in the range of a torch for the party.

And what if, just what if, it is windy?!? It’s not uncommon for gusts of wind to flow down large corridors in caves, is it?


Lanterns are more flexible. They burn for 24 turns (4 hours) per oil flask used. The can also reduced to just a single stream of light to reduce the notice penalty.

Backpacks, Pouches, Sacks, Etc.

For a lose estimation of how much fits in where try this below. I’m thinking about moving to a grid system where items take up boxes in a grid – would help to account for odd shaped items, but until then use this.

Backpack – holds 40 lbs
Large Sack – holds 60 lbs
Small Sack – holds 30 lbs
Large Belt Pouch – holds 10 lbs
Small Belt Pouch – holds 1 lbs
Saddlebag – holds 30 lbs

What bookkeeping items add flavor to your games? How would you change these? Post a comment below!


2 thoughts on “Encumbrance Rules and Bookkeeping

  1. DnD can certainly become a very encumbering game in of itself with the amount of micro management and bookkeeping you can do if you really get into it. Some players are into that but I have found that most want to play. As a math nerd myself I find it interesting when you apply all the ins and outs of the rules like you did above. But I have found the more you do that the more holes you find in the game rules. Plus, even though it is interesting (to me at least), it isn’t to many people that play rpgs to… well play and not do math homework! hehe


  2. I have actually created an AC chart, where I divide the AC of my players based on their natural bonuses and equipment. Meaning that base+DEX is the lowest. If a monster hits lower than base+DEX, I describe it as a complete miss, that the player managed to avoid it. Over base+DEX I put Shield. If a monster hits over base+DEX, but lower than base+DEX+Shield, he is unable to avoid the attack completely, but he is agile enough to position his shield in front of him. The shield gets damaged based on hardness and HP, and over shield I have put armor. if the monster hits below the armor AC, the player is not agile enough to block with the shield, giving him a hit right in the armor, with same procedure as shield. This makes my games more entertaining as players can actually loose their armor mid dungeon or likewise.


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