Sunday, June 1, 2014

Alternate Encumbrance Rules

The following "Alternate Encumbrance Rules" are slightly revised from the encumbrance rules and related encumbrance values included in the electronic and print editions of Seven Voyages of Zylarthen, available from 12-23-13 to 5-25-14. They are listed as “alternate”, among other things because some might prefer the original versions. However they will be included as the “official” rules going forward.

The main changes and points are:

1. Reducing the permitted number of units carried from 40 to 25. This makes things more “symmetrical” in that each encumbrance step is now 5 (as opposed to 5, 5, 10, 10 and 10.)

2. The attack/defense penalties on Super-Heavy encumbrance (Base Move: 3) have been eliminated. Thus the maximum encumbrance that one can have without suffering a penalty on combat is really only being reduced by 5 (from 30 to 25). In addition, there is an option to carry up to 10 more units without being able to attack or defend (perhaps holding a sack over one’s shoulder with both hands).

3. The intention behind changing the shape of the encumbrance steps was NOT to further limit what people can “really” carry. Rather, in part the assumption is that each encumbrance unit now represents on average a bit more weight. Many items still have an encumbrance of 1, and thus the result will be to make them slightly “heavier”. However, some of the already heavy items have in turn had their encumbrance units reduced. “Big” weapons generally had their encumbrance reduced from 5 to 3 or from 4 to 2. This also applies to the shield. It follows that there are now only 3 weapon encumbrance categories instead of 4, thus making things a bit simpler. In addition, the encumbrance of Plate Armor goes from 10 to 8, Mail from 8 to 6 and that annoyingly heavy sledge hammer from 6 to 3, among other things. Groups of items “adding up” to 1 encumbrance unit now generally contain more items (and thus their prices have been modified in a few cases). It should be noted that the only item that gains encumbrance on the new list is the crossbow.

4. Rules limiting the number of “big” items or weapons one may carry have been changed in conformity with the new assignments. I think the results are a bit simpler, clearer and more intuitive. These rules now only apply to weapons, not to the more general category of items. You can now carry 12 shovels if you damn well want.

5. Partly in line with the above changes, but also for other reasons, I have revised the rules for Food and Water requirements in the wilderness.

6. Each set of text will include a reference as to what it “replaces.” Honestly, I put a great deal of thought into the original scheme and so I think it’s pretty good. (I wouldn’t have published Zylarthen otherwise.) It’s just that I think this “alternate” scheme is a bit better.

The full set of rules is available in a 7 page "pamphlet" available for download here. However the most important parts are also offered below:

As always, I welcome any and all feedback and criticism.


  1. A link to consider the rating of plate armor. Both my armor and my wife's plate are under your weight, but more importantly, as a measure of encumbrance, fitted armor is easy to move in, and does not feel anywhere near as heavy as carrying the duffle bag with it. Here's a link about plate:

    Now, for game reasons, you may want to penalize plate as a trade off between encumbrance and mechanical protection. But in reality, as a measure of how much it encumbers your movement, armor can never be *too* terribly bad in encumbering your movement or slowing you down, or it gets you killed.

    I am wholly ignorant as to barding, but I would imagine that it -- while worn -- is similarly fitted and distributes the weight to be less of an encumbrance than the raw weight would indicate.

    It is similar to how a 10' pole is light, but likely a pain to take through doorways or narrow/twisting areas.

  2. Very good points. I think the major problem is that plate armor was an historical improvement on mail. Once plate was invented, no one wore mail, unless they were penniless and all they had was a mail hand-me-down. So plate offered better protection but was as well "lighter" than mail, or at least hung lighter because it, so to speak, offered better support.

    I thought about representing that in my game but rejected it solely on the basis that the plate vs. mail distinction (as unrealistic as it was) was iconic for the game. So I made mail (unrealistically) lighter.

    At the same time I think I damped down the "plate is so incredibly heavy" assumption. In the revised encumbrance rules it only "weighs" about 50 pounds, which isn't really that much in the scheme of things.