One of my good fellow DMs informed me that Volo's Guide to Monsters gave the “Powerful Build” race feature to two new core classes, which just fucked my shit up encumbrance-wise. Since I now have to hot-fix my encumbrance rules, I figured I'd take the opportunity to lay out those rules in detail, touching on the source material that they came from and my intent behind creating him.
First, I should note that house rules under my Back to Basics moniker are meant to return Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition to its roots: clawing around in dark dungeons starving to death and screaming for mother as you solemnly peel a new character off the stack. I find that this is best done by adding mechanics that inject brutal resource management.
Historically, one of the hardest resources to manage was the room you had left in your pockets, which was especially crucial in a system where your level advancement was determined by how much loot you could drag out of a dungeon. 5th Edition's treasure philosophy is a happy medium between the old and new schools: relatively stingy with the loot itself, but a dearth of things to do with it (especially if you're using my downtime overhaul), creating an inventive nearly equivalent to that provided by gold-for-XP.
However, 5th Edition – and older editions of D&D for that matter – lack an encumbrance mechanic comprehensive yet streamlined enough to regulate that incentive. In comes Luke Crane's Torchbearer, a love letter to the D&D editions of old that modernizes and properly gamifies resource management. Being a huge fan of Luke's work, a lot of my Back to Basics rules owe themselves to Torchbearer, particularly its encumbrance subsystem, which utilizes set containers and the slots in those containers to constrain and elegantly manage character inventories.
As I said, I feel that Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition lacks an encumbrance system that can do heavy lifting for resource management. So here, have one! And just to cap off my tangent: including “Powerful Build” turned out to be an easy fix.
The amount of items you can carry is determined by the containers that you have.
- Hands: 2 items. You can only carry oversized items with both hands, or one hand if carrying it with a partner.
- Sack (1 cp): Number of items equal to your Strength score. Takes one hand to carry, or two hands if more than halfway full.
- Backpack (2 gp): Number of items equal to your Strength score.
- Belt (5 sp): 6 items. Only one of these items can be large.
- Quiver (1 gp): 1 item. The item must be ammunition. “Quiver” is a catch-all term for bolt cases and sling stones.
- Satchel (1 gp): This container cannot be worn with a backpack. It holds a number of items equal to half your Strength score (rounded up).
- Bandolier (1 gp): This container cannot be worn with a backpack. It holds 6 items. It cannot hold large items.
If you are carrying a full backpack, satchel, or sack, you are encumbered, meaning your speed drops by 10 feet.
If you are carrying a full backpack or satchel and a full sack, you are heavily encumbered. Your speed drops by 20 feet and you have disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.
Retrieving Items From Containers
Retrieving an item from a belt or a bandolier uses an interaction. Retrieving an item from any other container uses your movement or action.
Items that weigh 10 or more pounds are considered to be large (large items count as two items). Items that weigh 20 or more pounds are considered to be oversized.
Items do not “stack” except in the quantities they are purchased, as shown in the Player’s Handbook. 100 coins count as one item.
If you have the “Powerful Build” racial feature, you gain the following benefits:
- You can carry oversized items in one hand
- You can carry sacks that are more than half full with one hand
- You can carry two large items on a belt, and one large item on a bandolier