Dungeons & Delvers: Abstract Encumbrance System (Also Armored Wizards)

I remember 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons tried justifying wizards not being able to even wear armor at all, by claiming that armor would prevent them from performing various gestures, and they wouldn't know how to wear it properly or use it effectively.

That's pretty silly given that you can just not wear gauntlets if hand-and-finger gestures would be a problem, someone else can just suit you up, and even if you didn't know how to use it effectively surely being encased in plate would provide some benefit, right?

3rd Edition was a bit more reasonable about it, allowing you to wear armor but suffering a spell failure chance based on the armor worn, albeit only for spells with gestures, though again if that's an issue you could just not wear the gloves/gauntlets.

4th Edition imposed no arcane-magic specific penalty at all, and often it was a good idea to pick up proficiencies in the lighter armors because you could use your full Intelligence modifier for Armor Class. 5th Edition only prohibits you from casting spells when wearing armor you aren't proficient with, which I guess applies even to divine spells, but it's still odd given that some spells only have verbal components.

In Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book wizards can wear armor, it's just that the penalties can get so absurd that there's basically no reason to bother. But I want to move away from that, and make it so that if wizards want to, they can, and it can even be a good idea (especially if you don't pick up Abjurer talents). The main factors would be proficiency and Strength.

What we've decided on is that anyone can gain proficiency in light armor by spending a skill point, and each skill point grants proficiency in the next rank up: reinforced light, medium, reinforced medium, etc. This means a wizard would need to spend six skill points to hit reinforced heavy, which would include plate and similar types of armor.

The next thing you gotta keep in mind is weight.

We've been working on an abstracted weight system, something like Dungeon World except the weights make more sense. The current guideline is that roughly every 10 pounds equals a "stone". Typical characters can carry 5 + Strength stones, no problem. You can carry up to twice that amount, but your Speed gets reduced and you suffer a penalty to Armor Class, checks, saves that require movement, etc.

If you go over double, but not over triple, the Speed reduction and penalties are increased again, and you can't go over triple unless you're dragging things about (made easier by using a cart).

The good news is that the effective weight of armor is reduced by 1 stone when worn, because the weight is distributed across your body. The bad news is that even then plate weighs 5 stones, which for a low-Strength wizard could put them into being encumbered right then and there before we start factoring in the rest of your gear.

But if you got the stats and spend the skill points you can do it, and there aren't any other restrictions or penalties to your magic. Instead, fighters, paladins, and similar classes get a bonus to Armor Class when wearing armor. They can also choose a talent that reduces the overall skill check penalty and weight, so they can have an easier time of it.

Doing the math a typical 1st-level fighter will be lightly encumbered in full armor and gear: the presumption is that during combat they'll ditch their packs, or even leave their packs somewhere near the dungeon entrance. Or hire someone to carry their stuff, giving some extra reasons to have hirelings on call.

So to sum up: wizards will be able to wear armor without getting hammered by penalties (at least no more than anyone else), and it'll be very useful (so long as they aren't going down the Abjurer tree), but fighters and similar classes will get a bit more out of it, which will hopefully satisfy anyone concerned about "game balance" and the like.

What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Got a tweak that will make it better? An entirely better set of mechanics for abstract encumbrance we should be taking a look at? What sort of stuff do you dislike about abstract encumbrance systems?

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want (the PDF is also on sale on DriveThru)! We've also released the first big supplement for it, Appendix D, so pick that up if you want more of everything.

The first issue of The Delver, a magazine featuring fungal-themed content for both players and GMs (including an adventure in which myconids find religion), is available!

Our latest Dungeon World class, The Ranger, is now available.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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