I always hated encumbrance rules. They're cumbersome, hard work, and heavier on the players than the characters. But last holiday I noticed there might be a point to these rules.
Hauling one extra backpack with a bundle of books I bought made the difference. My first backpack, with camera and clothes was heavy enough, feeling a bit like a harness on my back. But this second one was a killer. I literally noticed how I slowed down. Maybe my real speed halved, maybe I made two thirds. But I slowed.
I would have another ten hours to kill in Munich before my train left. Then I figured I needed to find a locker. And so I did.
If I would have to carry my two kids, or perhaps my wife, that would really slow me down. To less than half speed. And I would not be able to continue for a longer period. If it was something heavier still, I would only be able to drag it forth slowly, or not at all.
So encumbrance makes sense, even in adventures where dungeon loot is not the first objective.
But I hate adding up numbers all the time! So I figured, maybe, maybe there is an easier way. Because encumbrance is both weight, and bulk, and the way you are able to carry the stuff.
So instead of counting in coins, or pounds, or grammes, or even stones, like Alexandrian or Lamentations, you might count in HEAVY THINGS. You might even classify as SOME STUFF, HEAVY THINGS, VERY HEAVY THINGS, and HARDLY MOVEABLE STUFF.
And instead of always counting, you only start counting once it becomes important. When you're in a chase running away from enemies. Or when you are chasing others yourself.
It might work out like this.
SOME STUFF - are small weapons, a small handbag, a tool, a jacket, etc. Anything that gets your hands full but doesn't really slow you too much. Some stuff you can always take with you, but it may get your hands full if you don't have a bag for them.
HEAVY THINGS - are just that, a full daypack, a winter coat, a bag of groceries, a sack of loot, a big shield, a big sword, a pole arm - you can carry one heavy thing as a normal person without being slowed down too much. Carrying more heavy things will slow you down.
VERY HEAVY THINGS - another hero, a cupboard, a stack of loot. Very heavy things make you move slowly. You're a sitting duck and you can forget about chasing. Unless you're very strong, or perhaps make a strength check.
Hardly moveable stuff? - Stone slabs, coffins, real big furniture, a tree... Forget about moving long distances at all. No chasing. Get an elephant or horse to help you out.
Now I only need to factor in STRength and SIZe... And figure out how many coins is VERY HEAVY.
What do you think? Worth a try?