Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: encumbrance

Ditch the Stash!

It wasn’t always so, but these days, my players display a strong aversion to encumbrance. Orvynth, the party’s new Knight, is riding the breakpoint: with their backpack, they’re at Light, but without it, they’re unencumbered. The plan, I’m told, is to leave the backpack behind when it’s time for action. Last session, before they entered the nordalf warren, they left the extra gear behind. But I wonder, what would happen if the party gets ambushed on the trail? (Not that that would ever happen, of course… [innocent look] but one wonders.)

On the other side, Orvynth’s player has started a Dungeon Fantasy game, using the classic PDFs rather than the DFRPG rules. Coincidentally, I’m playing a Knight in a party of, shall we say, more cerebral sorts. Being the big guy, I got volunteered to carry the loot. At this moment, we’re between sessions, and Sarge is hauling a tent that we’ve repurposed into a big loot bag. He has it thrown over his left shoulder, gripping it with his left hand, with his dueling halberd in his right. We’ve already survived one ambush – that’s where we got the loot. What happens if there’s another one? How quickly can Sarge get up to fighting speed?

As is my usual way with GURPS, I find that there’s my immediate, knee-jerk answer, and then there’s the little details that make all the difference…

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Is that a mosey, or an amble?

One of the ways that people get thrown by terminology, I think, is sprinting. Natural enough, I suppose. They look at their character sheet, they see “Move”. (Well, actually, they more often see “Speed” and “Move” and then we have that discussion.) Clear enough. Then they hear that there’s a way to move a bit faster than that rate, and taking advantage of that way is called “sprinting”. So, they conclude that there’s two rates of movement in the GURPS system: sprinting at the higher rate, or walking at their listed Move.

Reasonable enough, but wrong. There’s lots more nuance than that.

When a character is sprinting, that character can still attack and defend (B395, “Attacking and Defending”), but can’t retreat or dive for cover. A standing character can do either while moving at full Move. The difference between sprinting and full Move isn’t the difference between walking and running; it’s the difference between running the 100m dash on a track at a full-tilt, head-down pace, versus running down the street as fast as you can while still being able to jump away if a dog pops out from behind a bush. Both still running, in other words.

Looking at the posture table on B551, we find that a crouching character can travel at 2/3 Move, or around Move 3 or 4, for your hypothetical recent graduate of Basic Training. Envision the western or war movie of your choice and you’ll almost certainly be able to envision this gait: “as fast as you can without standing up in front of a bullet”. Slower than a run, but still pretty vigorous.

Continuing down the chart, we find that our hypothetical character can work up an effective movement rate of 1 or 2 while kneeling or crawling. Again, this is “as fast as you can”, so when we talk about crawling, we’re not talking about the cute kind you find in baby pictures. We’re talking about the crawling that’s done underneath tables to get away from zombies. Motivated crawling, you might say.

A character who is lying down moves at a flat Move 1. That’s rolling around on the ground, and/or the “combat crawl”, commonly performed when one is flat on one’s stomach sliding under barbed wire while someone unfriendly and nearby operates a machine gun. It’s vigorous, but it isn’t the best way to cover ground. A standing person can easily keep up with someone crawling through a sand pit.

Costs AT LEAST 1 Fatigue per 15 seconds…


Finally, just for completeness sake, a seated character has no Move at all. They’ve gotta stand up, or roll into crawling, or do something to change posture.

According to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, the average human walking pace is a wee bit over 3 mph, or right at 1.5 yards per second, or halfway between Move 1 and 2. That’s consistent with expectations, I would say: walking is faster than a belly-crawl, but someone athletic and motivated can crawl fast enough that a pursuer on foot would have to crank it up to a trot. Imagine those zombies, chasing a victim who evades them by crawling under a table. Slow zombies don’t run, but they’ll shift to a sort of stiff-legged speed-walk.

Thus, if you want your character to creep, meander, or mosey, you’re talking about Move 1. Move 2 is a vigorous walk, the walk of someone with a purpose, someone checking their watch as they walk.

Usually, folks are more worried about their top speed, but still, it’s useful to gauge where the low end falls. We’ve had moments, here and there, in various campaigns, when somebody wanted to do a slow walk up to someone, during combat time, to avoid giving an aura of hurry. Usually it’s an attempt to intimidate. When those situations come up, it’s good to know the best pace.

It also helps when visualizing the characters’ actions within the game world. To pull one example totally at random for no reason at all from the DF campaign’s history: when TKotBO, the heavily-heavily-armored holy warrior from the original party, moved as fast as he possibly could with all that ironmongery hanging on him, he had Move 3. All the jokes aside, he wasn’t moving at a crawl. A crawl would be Move 2. TKotBO moved at a crouching run…


It’s not all about the XP. Sometimes, it’s about loot, too.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a close look at the character sheets. I mean, I’ve kept up with what folks are spending points on, and I’ve mostly heard about any big improvements in equipment, but it’s been some time since I’ve stood back and taken in the big picture. The last time was a few months back. Since then, all the players have decided to mostly abandon their scribbled equipment lists, and maintain their load-outs in GCA. I might not be able to report on how much treasure they’ve gathered overall, but I can see the price of everybody’s Saturn’s-Day-go-to-dungeon clothes.

Alric: spent 317; unspent 3; load is worth $3,270 and weighs 70.6 lbs, leaving him unencumbered.

The barbarian travels light. Nearly half of the value of his kit is wrapped up in his oversized, fine great axe. If you took the axe away, over half the remaining value would be in the form of his elaborate dragon’s-head helmet.

He’s got a big cache of iron rations, but he leaves them all in camp. I guess he figures he’ll live off the land. He’s probably right.

FuBar Bombad: spent 251; unspent 15; load is worth $960 and weighs 18.75 lbs, for no encumbrance.

Being the new kid, FuBar is still struggling with entry-level tools. His cloth armor is fine and camouflaged, but that’s because it’s just really well-tailored rags.

Gabby the Cabin Girl: spent 255; unspent 33; load is worth $7,912 and weighs just over 30 lbs, for Light encumbrance.

On the one hand, Gabby’s got a lot of money tied up in her horse and tack. On the other, I think there might be a snafu in her equipment list. There’s a lot of cash tied up in a fine, elven mail hauberk, which was set to be included in her DR totals, but also wasn’t included in her list of carried equipment, while there’s some leather armor that’s still on the list. If I remember the discussion correctly, the idea was to replace her original leather armor with upgraded mail, not stack it.

Mississippi Jed: spent 310; unspent 0; load is worth over $22,000 and weighs 21.9 lbs, for no encumbrance.

Jed has really come up in the world. TKotBO didn’t even want to cut him in for a full share, to start with, and now here he is, carrying around the biggest fortune among the whole party. The overwhelming majority of his net worth is in the form of the purple-flaming quarterstaff they recovered from the weird sleeping guy.

Needles: spent 315; unspent 7; load is worth $10,835 and weighs 48.6 lbs, putting him at Light encumbrance.

I suspect the pile o’ gear could be slimmed down some, in practice. According to GCA, he’s not only got a sword on either hip, he’s also still carrying the short bow that he swore off, plus two different quivers. There’s some other duplication, as well, which makes me think he’s still carrying around some entry-level gear that he’s since upgraded.

One piece of duplication that I’m certain is intended is in the area of armor. About 80% of the value of Needles’ gear is his armor. He wears camouflaged leather armor on the outside, giant spider silk on the inside, with both being enchanted with Fortify. (I allow characters to double-up on the Fortify, but in exchange, I restrict Deflect to shields only. I had a bad experience with Passive Defense once, y’see.)

Posy: spent 275; unspent 3; load is worth $1170 and weighs 27.5 lbs, for no encumbrance.

Unsurprisingly, Posy’s most prized possession is her bow. It accounts for about 60% of her kit’s value. I think her equipment list is a bit behind the times, though. As I recall, the party bought her a second quiver and a bunch of specialized arrows. (All part of the effort to turn her into the feline Hawkeye, I’m sure.) I’m not seeing those reflected on this list.

Speaking of Green Arrow knockoffs, I’ve come to realize that there’s an incredible assortment of special arrows that are available to the DF scout. On one side, there’s the list of different arrowheads, which gives the archer quite a bit of flexibility in choosing how to bring the hurt. On the other side, there’s a long list of enchantments one could get on a projectile… and most of them are pretty cheap. Relatively speaking, anyway. A $60 arrow is expensive, next to the $2 generic version, but if it explodes for a couple of dice of electrical damage, it’s worth the investment. So, I expect Posy’s equipment list will soon get a lot more involved.

* * *

Looks like we need to take some time to clean up everybody’s lists, next session.

Looking at the wide range of equipment values, I wonder where the money’s going. I know there’s a long list of potions and so forth that they hold in common, but I think that stuff is mostly being toted by hirelings. (It’s getting to be the fashion, among the party members, to have a stalwart flunky standing just behind one, carrying a bag of healing potions, under strict orders to pour one on when the going gets tough.) I can see that Jed and Needles are re-investing in themselves, but I’m really surprised at the low values of the others’ gear. Before going through the lists with a calculator, I would have guessed that everybody was over the $5k mark, at the very least.



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