Some Thoughts on Encumbrance

Some Thoughts on Encumbrance

Oswald the Overladen by Reaper
Oswald the Overladen, Reaper Bones

Continuing my shameless rip-offs, I had some thoughts on Encumbrance.

Warren and Delta have laid some groundwork for this concept, but I’m trying to get it to fit, aesthetically, into the Low Fantasy Gaming Campaign. The Basic LFG rules don’t really have granular rules for encumbrance. I want to be able to track what PCs are carrying, keep them from carrying too much, and at the same time not count every coin and arrow. And maybe, just maybe, make it worthwhile to hire some porters and men-at-arms…

Sources: Delta’s Stone Encumbrance System

I Cast Light – The Character Sheet Framework

I have monkeyed around with both, then massaged what came out to fit into the Rules-style of LFG.

Please let me know what you think in the comments.

NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect the current rules for Onus, as of 18 April 2022.


A PC’s total carrying capacity is called their Onus. Onus is measured in units, called Burthen.


A PC may carry items depending on their Strength. Each point of Strength equals one “Burthen” of carrying capacity, or Onus. A backpack may be worn, taking two Burthen, but is able to be loaded with five Burthen worth of capacity.

Example: A PC with a STR of 12 may carry up to 11 item/Burthen on their person, or nine item/Burthen and a backpack with up to five item/Burthen packed inside. This PC would be able to act normally (though swimming may be tricky with a loaded backpack!). Adding one more item/Burthen, for a total of 12, would make the PC Encumbered. If the PC has a CON of 13 or more, they can carry a few more item/Burthen equal to their CON bonus. This PC will still be encumbered.

A PC carrying a full load is Encumbered:

  • -5’ movement penalty, 
  • Run at ½ speed, 
  • no DEX bonus in combat (for attacks or AC)

A PC may exceed their Strength score by a number of Burthen equal to their CON bonus, with the following penalties:

  • -10’ movement penalty,
  • Run at ⅓ speed,
  • -1 To Hit penalty
  • -1 AC penalty
  • All TR and Ability checks are Hard (-3 penalty)
  • Gain one level of Fatigue per hour moving with this load.

A PC without a CON bonus carrying more load than their STR allows may only move at ½ speed for up to one hour, before gaining two levels of Fatigue and being forced to rest for at least six turns/one hour. Any further movement will require passing a Hard WIL check to continue, they will also incur a further level of Fatigue every hour. After this kind of exertion, a full, overnight rest will restore the PC to 1 Level of fatigue, until their next Long Rest.

“Burthen” are described as follows:

    • “Free”: Regular clothing, rings, one Amulet/necklace, hat
    • One-fourth Burthen: Potion/Oil flask, Knife/dagger, Jewelry, Torch, Cloak/Coat, Wand
    • One-Half Burthen: One set of Clothing (stowed), Food for one day, Rod or Bowl (magical focus)
    • One Burthen: 5# coins, One Level of Fatigue, a Serious Wound, Staggered, Obligations, Curses, Tools/Kit, Spell Books, Water (1 day) 50’ Rope, Lantern, Shield, Helmet, Heavy Clothing for cold weather, Staff, Bow and Quiver, a prepared Spell
  • At 1st level a L1 spell takes 1 Burthen
  • At 2nd level a L1 spell takes 1/2 Burthen, L2 spell takes 1 Burthen
  • At 3rd level a L1 spell takes 1/3 Burthen, L2 & L3 spells take 1 Burthen
  • At 4th level a L1 spell takes 1/4 Burthen, a L2 spell takes 1/2 Burthen, L3 & L4 spells take 1 Burthen
  • Variable: Small or Medium Hand Weapons (1-2), Armor (Light 1, Medium 2, Heavy 3), Magic Items (1-3), Crossbow and quiver (1-2)
  • For any items not specifically listed, use your best judgement (about five to ten pounds per Burthen) or consult the GM

I am looking for a way to encourage a specific style of play, and I believe this will take us one step closer.

2 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Encumbrance

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