Farewell, inventory tracker?

edited July 2018 in Make Stuff!

OK, so I’ve been working on the inventory sheet for months now, this last couple of days especially.

Getting pretty familiar with the math (that I cooked up to pretty closely approx the pound counts), and…

I cooked up these rules that come very close to giving the same results, outcomewise. The question is: are they too complex to manage? The inventory sheet I made pretty much does all of this for you. Doing the following by hand could be a pain?

The area

You need any ruled area (like the dinky little equipment area on most character sheets) or just a hand made bullet list on scrap paper or w/e. I’m going to use the word “slot” for these rows/list-entries/bullets.

The number

Take your armor and divide it’s pound weight by five, round down. Subtract that number from your strength score.

That’s how many items you can carry.

Block that many slots out right away. (Draw a bold line on your ruled paper, or make that many bullets in your hand drawn list, or w/e.)

(Holy shit that’s too few?) Mark yourself as Encumbered (-10 speed) to add your strength score to that.

You can do this once more and go to Heavily encumbered (-20 speed and disadvantage on all physical rolls).

Having a backpack is presupposed, pay for one if you’re buying your own gear.

The catch

You can not have more big items than small items. Your big items and your small items need to cancel out.

Keep track of your small items with a “-” and your large with a “+” in front of them.

If you would ever add a big item and you don’t have enough small items to cover it, mark another empty small slot right away with a - on an empty line.

Size categories:

I use the same size categories with this rule that do for my inventory sheet.

Tiny items: You’d put it in your pocket. One coin, one gem, one candle, one piton, or such. Around 50 per lb.

Small items: You’d put it in your bag. Lanterns, flasks, tinderboxes, messkits, or such. Around 1 lb.

Rations: One ration counts as two small item. Is an annoying exception to the normal categories. Around 2 lb.

Medium items: Weapons, shields, bow+full quiver, or such. Around 5lb.

Big items: tents, bedrolls, blankets, 50ft rope, one-gallon-waterskins or such. Around 9lb.

Heavy items: One these five items: pike, maul, greatclub, heavy crossbow, two-gallon-waterskin. Another annoying exception. Around 15 lb.

So to put a big item you must also have a slot occupied by a ration, small item, or tiny item.

A heavy item occupies three slots all on its own. It works as if it were three medium item, it doesn’t look at either your small nor your large items.

One coin per line, are you serious?

Pouches and sacks work like they do on the inventory sheet.

A small pouch counts as a small item and can have 50 tiny things in it.

A medium pouch counts as a medium item and can have 250 tiny things in it. Small things can go in there, and each takes as much space as 50 tiny things. Rations can go in there, and eachs takes as much space as 100 tiny things.

A sack counts as two heavy items, i.e. it take up six slots all on its own. It can carry 1500 tiny things, 30 small things, 15 rations, 6 medium things, 3 big items or any mix of that.

So you can put a coin on one line or you can get a pouch.♥

Example

For this example, she has 11 strength and a 10lb leather armor.

So she can carry nine items. 11 - 10/5 = 11 - 2 = 9.

In the example, she could go to 20 items (9+11) by becoming encumbered and she could go to 31 by becoming heavily encumbered.

She chooses

  • - Messkit
  • - Tinderbox
  • Medium pouch
  • + Rope
  • + Bedroll
  • Bow&arrows
  • 2 daggers
  • Sword

And puts two rations and her thieves’ tools in the pouch.

(Leaving the last line already blocked out so that she doesn’t have to re-think about this until all of her lines are full up. If she wants more slots she can add her strength score.)

We carried you in our arms

So the number point of inventory tracking is to see how much the player characters weigh. Do they trigger pressure plates, can they carry each other etc? This is trickier with this rule than with the sheet but it’s possible:

Weight – pressure plate

Note (or force your players to note) each PCs body weight in pounds, divided by 5, add their own strength score. (This includes both gear and armor.) Add it again if they are encumbered, and again if they are heavily encumbered.

Drag you out of there

Dragging capacity = strength score times three for heavily encumbered, times four for lightly encumbered, times five for unencumbered. Times six if they are dropping everything including armor.

Uh…

So I’m not sure 773 words of rules is a good replacement for a clear and graphic sheet :/

On the fence about this one. But it’s also because I’m attached to the work I’ve put into making those sheets.

Trying to sum it up a little simpler (and then there are nooks and crannies that I as DM can preside over):

You can carry your strength score in items – subtract your armor weight divided by five first.
You can add your strength score to that by becoming encumbered, and once more by becoming heavily encumbered.
You can’t carry more large items than you can carry small items. Note them with a - and + to keep track.

PS when I started working on the inventory sheet I was working from awareness of these: Delta, ACKS, LotFP, Torchbearer, Dungeon World.

For this particular thread, the Delta influence shows more strongly than on the tracker itself. You can read more about Delta’s ideas here. I always thought it was weird that he uses stone but then most of his items are 1/3 stone, causing him to have to count them in threes. (That sort of counting I want to get away from, I’d rather block out slots once and then know that I have free reign within those slots.) My inventory sheet has small, medium and large slots but for this version, I went with medium as the default – around 5 lb – precily the 1/3 stone I thought would’ve made more sense for delta.

It’s also the case that it matches up particularly well for 5e. With stone, the levels are ⅓ str, ⅔ str and str. With “medium slots” as the base, the levels are str, 2×str, and 3×str.

I was working on making a version of my inventory sheet with that base but I’d rather fill in six circles than try to count out eighteen circles. It might work for this, though, because you are just counting off lines/bullets. IDK.

I’m not sold on this:disappointed:

Comments

  • This is clever as well, but I have to ask: what is your thinking on just tracking equipment weight and dimensions by real weight? (That is, approximate simulated weight, determined in the same way you determine any measures in the game.)

    I ask because real weight tracking is what I do, and I have to say that it has all the features I want of a fiction-oriented, challengeful D&D. Most importantly, it meshes well with the other systems and procedures of the game. Every time I consider using one of these abstracted systems, I shy away because while I can appreciate the gamifying, ultimately these seem to add complication and distance from the action rather than lessening them.

    The one undeniable advantage that simpler systems have is that nobody at the table needs to know how much a tent weights - nobody even needs to guess - if you don't use real weights. However, that is a narrow advantage, easily lost: seems like a more complex encumbrance system, such as yours, is no easier, as now you need to be able to sort the equipment into these weight classes, which you can't do without knowing whether a tent is a "medium" or "large" or whatever. And if you do know that the tent weights e.g. 20 pounds, then you might as well just write that down instead of correlating it with a weight class that you track.
  • edited July 2018

    Probs with tracking at the lb granularity

    We played with tracking real (approx sim) weight for four years and moving away from it has been so nice.

    The number one issue is that most modules don’t have weights listed for items! And even in the PHB it’s a chore to look things up.

    The second issue is that the backpacks are supposed to only carry 30 pounds, but the pregen backpacks contain more than that? The universal solution seems to be to allow some things to be strapped to the bag. With the inventory sheet, esp current version, it’s easy to know where things are, not just how many they are.

    The third issue is that players were lax AF on it. They were overencumbered all the time. And doing an audit was a complaint-laden, miserable affair. And also I’m not the best at keeping numbers in my head so I would lose count and start over trying to audit.

    Corollarily to that third issue is that it’s so nice commit to carrying a certain amount of slots, and then having free reign with those slots, being able to pick things up without worry as long as the slots aren’t all full, and to erase things from there by dropping. It’s like “I can play without worry as long as I’m within the fence”. And that has really worked very well.

    The fourth and most important issue is that it leaves me clueless to the two big questions: do they trigger pressure plates (i.e. how much do they weigh) and can they drag each other out of there (i.e. how much more can they exert themself + how much does their friend weigh). I can’t hardly be like “ok so exactly how much are you carrying right now?” and trying to pokerface it that they just stepped on a trap.

    Solutions to those problems while still doing lb granularity

    Now… my experience alone by using my inventory sheet for months would solve the first issue regardless of system. Now I have really strong guidelines for 0.02, 1, 2, 5, 9 and 15 lb items. They find a book it’s 5lb. They find a candle it goes among the coins. I didn’t have that before, and the inventory sheet has… sort of given me that? Its spatial categorization makes it work. Like it helps me remember what heavy tomes weigh because I’d know where they would’ve gone on the inventory sheet.

    The second I don’t know how to deal with

    The third issue could be solved by having carrying capacity be a value, like HP. Strength times five. You pick something on, or don something, and you subtract it from your CCV. You drop something, you add it to your CCV. You decide to go encumbered, you can add 5×str to your CCV, and once more to go heavily encumbered.

    The corollary to the third issue was just as important, though, and it’s also left unaddressed by the CCV idea.

    And by always always trying to stay on top of their CCV I can devise some convoluted formula to address issue four. But it’s annoying to do math with that fine granularity and it’s hard to stay on top of all the tiny little things they do every day. Scratch food, strike arrows, pick up some rando corpe’s pocket trash etc etc.

    This thread’s OP’s solutions to those problems

    Well, uses the same size categories as my sheet. It doesn’t have the “spatiality” as a learning aid though.

    The second issue, well with this thread you’ll have to forget the 30lb-backpack rule. However, the “one coin per line” rule still makes it meaningful to have sacks and pouches when you find that dragon’s hoard.

    The third issue, especially the corollary, you block out that many lines.

    The fourth issue… the formula is a little more convoluted but you could have the player’s bw/5, their strength scores, and their current “are you encumbered?” status and be good to go.

    That said, I’m not sold on this new method compared to the sheet

  • Thanks, that all makes sense to me - a nice outline of the reasons to look for into a more abstracted encumbrance system.

    My solution to the player tendency to be lax about inventory is to throw the responsibility to them and just ask them for the facts when I need them. So I'll just ask whether they're encumbered or not when necessary and assign penalties on the basis of what they tell me. (I will obviously tell the players what stuff weights and so on if they ask me for help.) This works for me creatively because it moves the issue of how precise to be in the counting, and how to count, and so on, to the players, where it belongs: they will only ever be encumbered when they themselves judge so, which suits me just fine.

    I'll note that this works for me symmetrically - I also prefer player-side encumbrance tracking when being said player. I can do the tracking with precise elegance, wasting exactly as much effort as it merits from adventure to adventure, and make sure that the GM doesn't get lax about factoring encumbrance, as they're wont to do. If the GM encourages us to ignore encumbrance except when the GM makes equipment-checks, that's clearly a weaker system than letting me carry responsibility for my own tracking.

    Just an idle thought on the matter, that. A more gamified system clearly helps with the issue of responsibility as well, but in a completely different way: by using slots and such you make it harder for the players to pay lip service to encumbrance. You're either over the slot limit or you're not, and it's cheating if you're over and don't tell the GM.
  • My solution to the player tendency to be lax about inventory is to throw the responsibility to them and just ask them for the facts when I need them. So I’ll just ask whether they’re encumbered or not when necessary and assign penalties on the basis of what they tell me. (I will obviously tell the players what stuff weights and so on if they ask me for help.) This works for me creatively because it moves the issue of how precise to be in the counting, and how to count, and so on, to the players, where it belongs: they will only ever be encumbered when they themselves judge so, which suits me just fine.

    This is an interesting philosophy and something you brought up in the original inventory sheet thread as well.

    It does address issue three and perhaps to some extent also issue two. (And my own experience now would allow me to handle issue one.)

    However, that leaves issue four. Pressure plates! Pushing strong stone doors! Etc. (Arguably “dragging each other” is addressed if and only if both the carrier and the carried are of the same mindset when it comes to inv tracking.)

    And a fifth issue, that I forgot upthread but did mention in the other thread:

    This is a part of the game that I want to teach to the casuals. I want them to enjoy the challenge of the tight constraintsn, of making choices what to carry, and the feel of like thinking in character as Vorthos the elven maid that “this is my sword”, “this is my toothbrush”, “here is where I put it”.

    I’ll note that this works for me symmetrically - I also prefer player-side encumbrance tracking when being said player. I can do the tracking with precise elegance, wasting exactly as much effort as it merits from adventure to adventure, and make sure that the GM doesn’t get lax about factoring encumbrance, as they’re wont to do. If the GM encourages us to ignore encumbrance except when the GM makes equipment-checks, that’s clearly a weaker system than letting me carry responsibility for my own tracking.

    Yes! So while I think that the proposal in this particular thread might go nowhere, that I’m gonna stick with my schmancy sheet, I think it’s a great little ruleset to have in mind, to use for myself when I play under lax GMs! I’ll be like “ok I pick up the candlestick. I drop my rope, anyone want a 50 feet hemp rope? I don’t want to go encumbered yet.”

    A more gamified system clearly helps with the issue of responsibility as well, but in a completely different way: by using slots and such you make it harder for the players to pay lip service to encumbrance. You’re either over the slot limit or you’re not, and it’s cheating if you’re over and don’t tell the GM.

    And, like, again, having a pre-drawn meadow to play in is nice. The slot limit makes it so binary(well, ternary with the three encumbrance levels). You can pick up stuff, drop stuff, use up potions, shoot arrows, find arrows, find gold, etc etc etc without counting! And you’ll see right away when you’re up against the fence.

    It’s not that players want their PCs to carry too much. It’s that it’s such a hassle to track weights at the lb granularity.

    In the past, I advocated for the lb granularity saying that “it’s no different from HP, everyone can keep track of HP so why not lb?”. But that’s wrong. With HP, you don’t have to remember that the sword bonk from gobbo nr three was 7 damage. But in the lb granularity, you have to note the weight with every item. So you can regain the carrying capacity when you drop it. It’s a degree of bookkeeping that’s orders of magnitude beyond simple HP subtraction/addition.

    The lb counting hasn’t worked and the inventory sheet, even the fucking chain version :bawling: has worked so well.

  • PS thank you for engaging me on this topic ♥
  • Speaking of gamified, you're right that it's inspired by video games such as Zelda but I chose to make the slots like lines (to be reminiscent of a real-world manifest) rather than square boxes (which would look more like video game icon slots).

    Except then I went gradually haywire with drawing a tiny li'l backpack etc bringing it back to the sorta kitchy gamified aesthetic…
  • Very interesting!

    I can see both sides of this argument, and I don't have the real-table experience to feel confident recommending one over the other.

    A quick aside for Sandra, just out of curiosity:

    You keep mentioning pressure plates and needing to know precise weights to see if they trigger.

    Is this really a common concern in these games? Why, are there a ton of modules out there which have lots of pressure plates and specify borderline weights for them (e.g. in the 100-200 lb range)?

    I feel that, if I were building a death trap, I'd probably weight my pressure plate trap for 50 lbs or so, not any more than that, meaning that pretty much any humanoid adventurer who steps on it would trigger the trap. (Then again, I'm not, so what do I know?)
  • I could see myself doing a whole A4 sheet per character for inventory if I did the slots thing. Just a big, fat backpack in there for the players to write or draw their stuff in. It's sort of a shame that our on-going Prydain 4th edition game doesn't really care about encumbrance; a video game equipment interface would be exactly the sort of stuff this campaign thrives on. As it is, I just ended up putting up a video game style paper doll with magic item slots indicated so the players can write in which items they're using in which slots.
    2097 said:

    However, that leaves issue four. Pressure plates! Pushing strong stone doors! Etc. (Arguably “dragging each other” is addressed if and only if both the carrier and the carried are of the same mindset when it comes to inv tracking.)

    Yeah. My free-wheeling does get a slight bit messy with those situations. What I have to do is that I ask the player for the character's total weight (which they will calculate/guesstimate in real time if necessary) and then use that in the process. It does reveal to the players that something weight-related is going on, but that part of it I handle the same way I do with perception checks and all that kind of thing: if I feel that the character doesn't know that something's going on, the player needs to pass a perception check or similar to justify it before their character can get smart about it. Sometimes the player knows that there's a pressure plate, but the character doesn't, so they'll go on their merry way. Most experienced players know and understand about the meta-gaming issues and simply police themselves.

    (I call this whole approach "messy" because it causes an explicit occurrence of meta knowledge that has to be managed, and because it's vulnerable to long-term causal events: it gets pretty annoying when a character doesn't know something important for a long time, and the player therefore has to account for that lack of knowledge for potentially several scenes.)

    The difficulties can be managed, of course: query players early and often and vaguely, and they won't know what piece of data it is that you need, and whether it's important. Sort of like fake-out rolls to hide actual secret rolls when the timing of the roll is an imperative detail.

    Ultimately it's a known fault of the form, though; I am not aware of a true superior solution to how to simultaneously use character players for parallel processing while accessing their data slots without letting the players observe the GM's read head poring over the record surface. You either take the character sheets away and calculate everything yourself, or you accept that sometimes the players know what data you're using and when. Maybe when we move having everything digital it'll become realistic to spy on character sheets without having to actively ask the player to hand it over.
  • Spoiler for modules
    50 lb seems to be the most common but I see 200 often enough

    We've also had sub 50 lb pcs. Pixie fairies and such

    The dragging is also relevant, in lmop there's a watertrap where someone might be unconscious face down.
  • Paul_T said:

    Is this really a common concern in these games? Why, are there a ton of modules out there which have lots of pressure plates and specify borderline weights for them (e.g. in the 100-200 lb range)?

    I could see this becoming a major issue for a traditional D&D campaign with prominent little people PCs. Maybe a hobbit is light enough to not trip the pressure plate? Same might go for a goblin - maybe they intentionally build their traps to not trip at goblin weight...

    Around here PC demihumans are rather rare, though, but the opposite conceit is very much a going concern: one of the basic trap-resolution strategies in the local scene is using dummies (some sort of rolled weights) or canaries (living animals, etc.) to trip traps. Knowing how much weight a pit trap or creaky rope bridge takes becomes a rather useful thing in these circumstances, as the players' plan might fail if their trap-tripping solution is too heavy or too light for the situation.

    These are advanced concerns, of course; they come up if they do, and if they don't you can get by a long time without having to think about them.
  • Interesting, thanks!

    "Dragging" definitely seems like a more relevant concern. How does that factor into encumbrance? Is there a rule for that? (Dragging something is very different from carrying it, after all.)

    The smart "game" solution to this kind of thing has always been the Strength check or some similar procedure, but that has always bothered me from a simulation standpoint - it's not always obvious how to make that work in a way which doesn't create ludicrous outcomes on a regular basis. (I remember it being one of the major hurdles in creating properly "simulationist" mechanics in RPG design, back when that was a focus of mine 20 years ago! Modeling strength and fatigue is extremely challenging to do in a way which "feels" right and gives the right outputs.)
  • Yeah. My formula in the op follows the rule. The rule is that your strength score is considered double, when dragging five feet per round. Ofc if you can put someone on your shoulders and run, it's good to know that.


    The prob is than both of these situations, pressure plates and dragging, are intense moments where an inventory audit is the last thing you need.
  • I see! Thanks, I'd missed that. And, yes, most definitely.

    I suppose the "old-school" method would be to notate all those "derived scores" before playing, but... that can get challenging if your inventory changes all the time.
  • Right, but with my method (either this base five method, or the sheet's base 15 method), you only have to toggle between four different states. You know their gear weight from two questions: what's your str score, and what's your encumbrance level?

    And carrying capacity the other way around
  • In my mind, totaling weight carried seems really important only when going on a long expedition where managing food & water is part of the challenge, or when hauling a dragon's huge Scrooge McDuck-like gold coin trove out of a deep dungeon.

    OTOH, what I like most about @2097 's inventory sheet is the visual immediacy of knowing what's being carried where and how! When holding in my left hand and a sword in my right, how can I actually carry my shield? If I drop my backpack, what exactly do I leave behind and what's still on my person? That's the kind of questions I imagine becoming relevant in a tense situation and I would appreciate being able to answer quickly and conclusively.
  • Yes! Agreed.

    That's why I'm fond of encumbrance systems which can do that without having to worry about the math.
  • playing today where one PC had the current version and one had the chains version I was like sooo happy that we aren't going with the system in this thread! the current version of my full sheet for life♥♥♥

    as I said, I'm happy to have it as a scrappy emergency version if I am playing 5e under a lax DM and i feel like being strict on myself
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