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D&D Inventory System discussed in Excessive Detail

So hopefully you saw & are using the inventory sheet I made.

It should hopefully be pretty self-evident, especially if you have this list of sizes for common items. But just in case you have questions… here are:

Some deets

“Mom’s Old Gear”

If you have one of the quick packs, mark it, whether it’s Explorer’s Pack (best one because you get bedroll), Dungeoneer’s Pack, or Burglar’s Pack. Then X things out as you use them up. This is a quick way to get started, and nice if you’re filling out a bunch of pregens.

Migrate it over to the normal slots when you find the time to do so. You’ll find that it sits at around Strength twelve or so; Wizards of the Coast really put a lot of stuff into these packs.

Dropping some things to get unencumbered

I’ve indicated graphically what’s strapped to your backpack vs what’s in your belt and shoulder slings. So if you quickly want to get unencumbered, you can drop one of those two groups.

You don’t even have to cross them out, if you’re only temporarily removing your backpack.

Backpack

The backpack has three areas meant for either ten small things, two medium things or a big thing. The “flap” area works better for many different small things. The bottom compartment work better for big or medium things, or things where you have ten of the same, like torches or rations.

You can also strap more things to the backpack.

250 Tiny things

Pouches can fit 250 tiny things, five small things, or one medium thing. You can also mix small and and tiny things. A small thing is about the same size as 50 tiny things.

Armor

Remember than in 5e RAW, it takes some time to remove armor.

Category Don Doff
Light Armor 1 minute 1 minute
Medium Armor 5 minutes 1 minute
Heavy Armor 10 minutes 5 minutes
Shield 1 action 1 action

Sacks

Sacks are heavy! They’ll probably make you encumbered right away or even be more than you can carry on your own.

There’s a sack.pdf as a way to keep your sacks organized.

Clothes, necklaces, masks, helmets etc

Listen, if leather armor is free, then so is a velvet bridal gown.

But let’s say you find earrings and start wearing them. Then also list them among your tiny things. You find a gross-looking mask and you decide to wear it. Also list it among your small things. That’s how it works.

Helmet bought along with armor counts as part of the armor, helmets gotten separately count as small things.

Items carried in hand

Similarly, if you are holding something in your hand, don’t erase it from its slot. That way, a sword keeps its weight even when you unsheathe it and hold it aloft and pray to the power of Greyskull.

Shields count as medium things.

Retrieving things from the backpack

DMs out there, feel free to introduce brutal houserules such as things in the backpack taking longer time to retrieve or whatever. This sheet helps you see where everything is, so that can enable such rules.

I’m not about to do that, I mean, I made these backpacks super organized for a reason! Players, please just put things in the flaps or on the straps or in the “food” compartment as you wish and as you think is cozy. There is a point to having things in the medium slot strapped on you instead of in the backpack, though, and that’s in case you to drop the backpack, then you get to keep the items worn directly on you.

However, sacks and pouches aren’t as organized. Retrieving things from them takes one action unless it’s components for a spell.

Figuring out weights

(For purposes of pressure plate traps, carrying each other’s bodies and similar.)

Stone: ((Highest circle used + Highest square used) / 3) + stone body weight
Pounds: ((Highest circle used + Highest square used) * 5) + pound body weight

They can push, pull or drag up to their strength score in stone even when heavily encumbered, and twice that if they strip off all of their gear.

Design

Do I need this to play D&D?

Hey, if you’re a new DM, and you don’t want to fiddle with this stuff, you don’t have to.

Just let your players grab the standard loadout that their characters and backgrounds give them, the explorer’s packs, dungeoneer’s packs or what have you. No need to count up gems or candles or coins just go wild.

But if you find yourself after a while wanting more of a limit on how much they can carry, come back here and let this sheet save the day. It’s gonna be much easier than counting out every single pound but it’s going to give results that are very close to the real rules.

Under the hood math

A stone in real life is 14 pounds but in these rules, it’s 15 pounds. Why? Because in 5e, you can carry 15 times your strength (and you get encumbered after 5 times your strength).

The backpack could hold 30 lb but some the example pack lists in the PHB had more than 30 lb of gear. Confusing… but… that’s why I came up with the straps. So the main part is 30 lb.

By design, the math works out the same as RAW 5e except that you don’t have to calculate anything out.

Why we have an inventory sheet

The point of rule design is to give answers to questions that come up in the game.

Some awesome things have emerged from these limitations:

These weren’t predicted interactions, they just happened, and they were awesome.

Design philosophy

A straight-forward list of stuff

Let’s say you need a rope. You look at your inventory sheet. Do you have a rope? Then yes. I want the sheet to just straightforwardly list what you actually have.

There are plenty of inventory systems out there that abstract what you pack. Do you need a rope? Cross off one abstract use of “adventuring gear” and now you do, and “you had one all along”.

There are also many system where you have to decide what you pack, but it’s abstract how many torches or arrows or coins etc you have, through usage dice or a generic “supply” value.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with those systems. The needs of what makes a good experience as a game is more important than realism. Making “usage rolls” can be tense and fun and we love rolling dice, right? And seeing how good “our characters” are at packing as opposed to seeing how good we are at packing?

But there are some advantages to a specific list of stuff.

First of all… it’s simple. It’s just a list of stuff.

Second of all, there is something to be said for simulationism (to the extent that it’s feasable without being overwhelming and messing up good game design). Thoughts like “Should I use this torch? If I do, I only have five left…” are moments where you and your character are actually thinking the exact same thing, in the same way. Isn’t that what roleplayers have dreamt of since they first looked up at the stars?

Knowing what I have and where I stow it is away to see the world through my character’s eyes for a while. Did I pack a rope?

Third… One thing that really sold me on the “list of concrete items” was when I saw “ye fast pack” in B2 The Lost City. 5e has something similar with the explorer’s pack, dungeoneer’s pack, or burglar’s pack. (Those are just as usable for B/X players, by the way.) To me those list are definitely the “best of both worlds” for new players. You need a weird little item that you, personally, as a new player never would’ve thought of? Maybe it is on the list! And when you know what you doing you can forgo those lists and instead carefully select what you bring.

No “usage die”, no abstract “adventuring gear”, no “supply rolls”. A list of items. Period. Any questions? Of course not.

Armor counts. Coins count.

So I wanted the decision what armor to wear to have an impact on this.

And I wanted every single coin and gem to matter. Getting the treasure home from the dungeon is part of classic D&D experience. When the characters start tossing out coins in order to be able to carry more water or more light…

But inbetween I didn’t need to be so fussy and a simple item count is enough. You don’t need to look up the exact weight in grams of a magnifying glass or a flask of oil but you can’t just toss every dead goblin you see into your backpack.

Hew close to the PHB

The under-the-hood starting assumption is that a small item is around 1lb, a medium item is around 5lb, a big item is around 9lb. That’s where this started and if you convert a character sheet “back” to pounds you’ll hopefully get pretty close to the rules as written.

You can use this for B/X and 0e too, either as is or you can change how much a coin weigh.

Fixed slots

This is what I wanted most of all. Delta’s stone system was of course a big inspiration but even with a bigger unit, there was still counting. And recounting. All the time. That’s stressful.

Can I put something there? Yes, if I have enough strength. Am I encumbered? Not if I am only using one symbol group. I don’t have to count anything out. I just know.

I can erase one item to make room for a new item. That’s the best thing about this system. Erase, write, and move stuff around all you want. The math is already checked.

Anti-Hammerspace

It’s just cozy and nice to know if the character has the item in the backpack, or in the belt, or in the pouch… It just adds to the feeling of “packing like your character would pack”, “thinking like your character would think”. It’s also easier to quickly get unencumbered, by removing your backpack or the across-the-shoulder straps.

Sandra, your system is almost perfect, but…

Source code is here, improve it!