The Fallacy of the Adventurer’s Backpack

Last week, I heroically went on an adventure in the wild borderlands that lie close to home on the borderlands…

Indi Martin (C) 2015
Indi Martin (C) 2015

Well, sort of. In fact, I went on a day trip to Dartmoor (one of the UK’s beautiful national parks). Dartmoor is a wonderful, wild place but the weather can be challenging (and can change rapidly).


Warning: excessive verisimilitude ahead. If you are not into realism in your games, this is not the post for you!

In any event, this (inevitably) got me thinking about gaming and adventuring. We only planned to be out for the day, but I have two boys aged 9 and 12. Each of the boys and my wife took a light backpack to carry their food, drink and extra layers incase the weather got crappy. As the leader of the party, I felt I should bring along some additional supplies and equipment.

Now, I don’t have the biggest backpack in the world (I own a Maxpedition Falcon II which is a 25 litre pack) but it’s a decent-sized bag. I was surprised at how quickly it got full. It certainly made me think about how much stuff the average adventurer carries around.

And to put me and the pack in context, I’m not a heroic adventurer, but I am a relatively fit 42-year-old. I can run six miles in 50 minutes, or 3 miles in 21 minutes and often walk and/or run 15-20 kilometres a day (because we have a young dog that is wildly irritating if not exercised to the point of exhaustion). And that reminds me, if you haven’t considered taking up running let me convince you to have a go). I’m not exactly a physical wreck.

But, to make things worse, I’m pretty sure the Maxpedition Falcon II counts as a masterwork backpack as it’s well organised and very well designed to spread the load.

In any event, the major items I carried in my pack included:

  • A decent first aid kit
  • A main meal (a MRE which gave me 1,300 calories; if I’d been out all day  being jolly active I would in theory need two or three of these) plus mess kit.
  • One litre of water.
  • Additional snacks.
  • A pouch containing a compass, map and other miscellaneous items (fog can come on very quickly on Dartmoor and it’s easy to get lost).
  • An emergency bivvy (shelter).
  • A small travel towel (boys + stream normally equals hilarious disaster).
  • A 50 ft. length of paracord (I was so not going to need this, but I was going on an adventure and I felt duty bound to put it in my pack; I think the wife thought I was mad).

Surprisingly, the pack wasn’t that heavy and the weight wasn’t particularly a problem; it was the bulk. I couldn’t realistically fit any more in and the pack was pretty cumbersome. I couldn’t imagine carrying 50 lbs. on my back for any extended period of time. I certainly couldn’t imagine fighting while carrying that much gear. (I did experiment running up a hill wearing the pack and while I got to the top the extra weight proved rather detrimental to my performance).

Shockingly, I wasn’t carrying any spare clothes, weapons, a spellbook, iron spikes or any other accoutrements of adventure. However, my pack was basically full. It makes me look at some of my character’s character sheets and laugh. I’d blithely write down, “Seven days of rations,” “20 iron spikes” or some-such. Hilarious. Imagine the size of the pack I’d need to carry it all!

Just consider how much food I need for a week of adventure. Even if I switched out the MREs (I’d need 21) for Liferaft Survival Biscuits (one pack a day gives 2,500 calories) I’d still need seven (and I suspect not having ever eaten them I’d be jolly sick of them somewhere around day two as having read their description they look pretty bland).

It’s incredible how much bulk I’d need to carry as an adventurer. I guess that’s why bags of holding, handy haversacks and the like are so sought after (that and pretty much everyone hates tracking encumbrance!) In Old School games, this certainly highlights why adventurers need henchmen, hirelings and donkeys—not to actually go on the adventure itself but instead to carry everything the brave heroes need to actually adventure! Personally, I quite like this level of detail and realism in the game, but it’s pretty evident you could take this too far.

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What Do You Think?

Is this too much for you? Does it get in the way or is this kind of thing vital to your exploration-style game? Have you had  a similar read-world experience that made you look at a facet of gaming differently? Let me know what you think in the comments below!


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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

59 thoughts on “The Fallacy of the Adventurer’s Backpack”

  1. I absolutely love this sort of thing. There’s a reason people didn’t explore the unknown in our own world: it’s fairly tough to do. Dozens of people, even for a relatively simple trip, and they need to be coordinated by good leaders.

    My favorite books of late involve these sorts of things, like Sea of Glory, describing the US Ex Ex, exploring the Pacific and Antarctica in 1839. Or expeditions up Everest and Kilaminjaro. Heck, if you watch spelunkers, you know exploring underground is deadly without the right training.

    1. Hi

      I had the same view after walking in a forest and then up a hill. By half way up the only way to move forward was with my head down and watching my footsteps. Had I been attacked at that stage I would assume the attackers got advantage automatically, and further any action I undertook going uphill would be at a major move detriment as well as trying not to trip and move uphill whilst fatigued and then fight lol.

    2. I have to agree with So. Most of what is carried at lower levels are actually dropped pre/start of combat. If you want to enforce your character taking the time/actions to do so, awesome, but I also understand if you don’t either. Once me backpacks and above (aka magic stuff) then either it doesn’t matter or they are designed with a swift, immediate, or free action to drop, much like modern combat backpacks with the quick release clips. I have always envisioned this as part of initiative and have said as much for one of my super rich 1st lvl character (he had the rich parents trait).

  2. Creighton,
    Great article, you certainly raise some valid points, in particular the bulky yet light items or just the sheer # of items in general.
    My experience in the Army Ranger course was that we could store, strap, and tie 80-100lbs on a large combat pack and individual load-bearing equipment (suspenders+belt) and those were the old style. Newer modular systems which also allow for attaching several 1gal volume exterior pouches would make the it even easier to hit 100lbs.
    A typical packing list:
    Interior pack:
    Waterproofed bag containing:
    1spare uniform; 1pair boots; 5 tshirt/socks/underwear; poncho-liner (blanket); personal hygiene kit; towel; washcloth; 1 sleeping bag per squad in winter phases;
    Also in main pouch:
    -3 field striped MREs for 2days, or 5 for 5 days (different by phase)
    -Night-vision device (top-loaded in its protective case)
    -radio, flashlight, and NVG batteries
    -roll of duct-tape
    -50′ of paracord
    -100rounds of machine gun ammo (also top-loaded; every one carried 100 to spread the MG teams load)
    -2 or 3 flares/star-cluster pyrotechniques for signaling
    -some unique piece of mission special equipment:
    wire-cutters; bolt cutters; claymore anti-personnel mine; demolitions; door-ram; binoculars

    Exterior Pouches (3 each approx. 2qt capacity in size)
    1. Poncho and/or wet-weather coat
    2. 12′ rope with d-ring for rappelling; leather gloves; part of an MRE that you could quickly eat during a rest halt if an instructor wasn’t nearby
    3. ziplocked bag (duct-tape reinforced): containing 2pair socks, 1 tshirt for quick change after river crossings; 100′

    Strapped/Linked/Tied to exterior:
    2 x 2qt canteen
    Folding field shovel/ax

    Typically strapped across the very top:
    1 piece of heavy special equipment for the squad/platoon:
    M72 LAW or AT4 (light anti-tank weapon)
    Field skid-litter
    120′ rappel rope
    Tri-pod or spare-barrel bag for one of the machine guns

    Additionally wearing a suspender and combat-belt harness with 2 ammo pouches (6magazines), 2x 1qt canteens; lensatic compass; first-aid kit; flashlight; combat knife; multi-plier/tool

    Carrying individual weapon, or machine-gun, plus a combat helmet, and then 2 large pants pockets stuffed with water-proofed map, and a couple snack items from MRE to try to eat on a short halt if an instructor wasn’t nearby.

    In the 90’s we weren’t packing body-armor. But today you’d also have about 20lb of body armor.

    You could not hoist and don most rucksacks. Instead, you’d sit down put your arms through the straps, click the waist belt, and then roll over to your stomach and stand up. That was our “moving load”, and after you trained or body adapted to it you could cover about 3-4k/hr overland during daylight and 1km/hr in the dark. An 6-8 mile day was probably the norm, even in the mountain phase.

    For fighting, we always planned an organized rally point (like a small hasty perimeter defense) a few hundred meters from our objective. All rucks were staged in orderly fashion inside that perimeter, essential equipment for the objective strike were removed from the packs and we’d only take minimum load to the raid or ambush location. During a movement, if you had contact you had to drop your pack IOT fight (which is why individual ammo, 2qt of water, and first-aid kit are on your individual load belt). So while we carried 80-100lbs of gear, we only fought with minimums – maybe 30-40lbs, and even the heavy packs were load-planned so essential items were on outside or top-loaded and could be retrieved w/o spending too much time digging to the bottom.

    I don’t track encumbrance too close these days in my PF game, mostly because character sheets (manual or automated) don’t have columns for “moving load” and “fighting load” so the PCs sheet would normally reflect moving load and really start messing with speeds, penalties to skill checks for encumbrance, etc. I believe “within reason” a hardy adventurer with a MWK backpack and a couple belt pouches can reasonably move from point A to point B with a significant amount of gear (as demonstrated in my personal example above). Meanwhile, during a combat they’re not going to fight with backpack on. Of course, that means potion bandoleers, belt-pouches, and ‘what has it got in its pocketsessss’ becomes very important, since I assume PCs have “dropped rucks” upon contact and only move into the fray with weapon and what is strapped to their body.
    I will say, the art-work “Backpack” example in the PF CRB is -not- what I had ever envisioned adventurers used. That thing is like a small sack “with shoulder straps” IMO, I’ve always assumed more of a full-framed with multiple pouches – something from RIE.

    I have 5 children and we hike a lot – I too am the designated pack-mule for everything they can’t carry. 🙂

    1. Funny you mention moving load and fighting load. I have no experience with the military, other than being a military history buff, but when we play PF I’m GM by default (no one else bothers to learn the rules), and I have the think very hard on their gear and what they keep in pouches and pockets ON THEIR BODY, and what they keep in and attached to their backpacks. I have them do this so that in combat they can drop their backpacks to shed their over-encumberance. On the basic character sheets I designate a single column to body and another to backpack, for all intents and purposes separating their gear into a moving load and a fighting load.

    2. Don’t forget the duffle bag. When we were in Korea we had to keep three days change of clothing. Some of us would use our duffle bag to hold our sleeping bag in it instead of the ALICE pack. Since we were commo we had to carry a lot of WD-1 wire in our rucks. We had a tool bag that had about 40-50 pounds of tools and the like in it and we took turns carrying it because we had to carry it by hand:). Due to our mission, we also had .45’s or Glocks (sometimes) to carry along with a few days of ammo, in addition to our -16’s as well…and like you I’m the designated pack mule as well….when it comes to encumbrance in the game, I use common sense and I usually give an ass, donkey or small horse to the players for free..sometimes they take it sometimes they don’t…..

    3. Veteran here too. On my own character sheets, i always separate what’s in my character’s pack versus what’s on their person; and in games i run, i instruct my players to do the same. They don’t always listen, but the first time i point out that they agreed to leave their packs at camp before going scouting and therefore they don’t have any healing potions/spare ammunition/batteries/whatever on-hand, they figure it out real quick. For the same reason i actually do pay attention to ENC numbers, if not quite as strictly as the rules suggest, i at least tend to write down the “fully-loaded” and “pack-dropped for combat” values.

  3. Love the article! These are the sorts of things I enjoy in my games; because I’m very dull. The heart wants, what the heart wants, though.

    I’ve always enjoyed planning an expedition, even before I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. I was the guy that had the full backpack for a two-hour hike, and I enjoy trying to figure out just how much stuff I can put in a backpack or a belt-pouch. That’s one of the reasons that I’ve never really liked any of the available encumbrance systems. They are either completely arbitrary (1st edition AD&D, with it’s “adjusted” bulk/weight values) or based solely on weight (3rd edition springs to mind). For years I’ve been trying to come up with a better system, to no avail.

    Another thing that bothers me about adventurers: they rarely, if ever, bring a change of clothes (or soap) with them. Even when they’re planning on being abroad for weeks at a time.

    One thing that I encourage my players to do is establish a base camp about a mile or so from their selected adventuring location. This is where their hirelings and mounts hang out while they are in the dungeons, and where they stash their extraneous gear (extra rations, clothes, chests, block & tackle, etc) that would hamper them during a fight.

  4. I usually track encumbrance as a player, but I think I’m the only one I know who does.

    When I ran Twilight:2000, between sessions I’d check it for all the PCs and vehicles, as resource-management/survival was a key element in that game. It could really bite the group if the all the spare ammunition was in the same truck, and it got hit!

    1. Twilight 2000 is one of my favourite games outside D&D/Pathfinder. I spent many happy hours during my school years surviving the end of the world.

      (And you are right: an exploring truck really can ruin your day!)

  5. Do I track in the way you suggest, no. Why? because to be honest the system rewards the big strong individual. Whilst I accept your fitness Creighton, having met you, you aren’t an 18 strength barbarian.
    So what does that mean to me as a DM. Average strength and Con then ok with a suit of armour, a shield, a weapon, a pack with ‘some loadout’ which I assume you drop before a fight and bob’s your uncle.

    Where my pc’s hate me?? ‘So how are you exactly carrying those three 2 -handed weapons or the massive groan that goes through the party as I explain they just found 10,000 silver pieces. I use a 1 coin equals 1/4 ounce method. Go on, do the math! I guarantee most PC’s just max’d their encumberance unless they have high strength 16+.’

    I love making PC’s think about treasure. You should see the faces as another 5k of ‘treasure’ turns into a ‘how do we get that home’?

    And that’s before I spring the recent ‘treasure finding tax’ on them that the local mayor decides is imperative to rebuild/repair the city walls. They have even now sought out ‘money exchangers’ just to convert coin into either platinum or gems. And they so love the thief that nicked just the ‘one’ pouch.

    1. In old school play I used to love giving the PCs treasure they had to work out how to get home. You know, things like the huge tapestry, the ornate table or a virtual sea of low-level coins. I loved the creativity and cunning such treasures brought out of the players. I’m glad you reminded me of that; I think I’ll do a 20 Things article on just that topic!

      And, Simon, I’m crushed you don’t think I’m a big rough and tough barbarian 😉 (Also, nice to speak with you again–I hope gaming is treating you well!)

  6. I firmly agree with the idea here. Players have very little conception of what their characters are really doing, and how hard it would really be. And here is another one:

    Try getting on and riding a horse for an appreciable amount of time if you are not used to doing so. Your legs will be incredibly sore afterwards and for a couple of days afterwards.

  7. I was going to write some stuff about military load bearing gear and rucks but Sol covered it thoroughly. From a game standpoint, detailed encumbrance and equipment tracking works best in a low level survival/exploration type game such as the typical old school 1st edition D&D style. It becomes less interesting at higher levels and in games where plot, characterization, or swashbuckling combat take up most of the player/GM attention.

    1. Charlie, I agree. The style and system of encumbrance you use completely depends on the style of game you play. Heroic, cinematic adventure does not lend itself to encumbrance (or vice versa) very well at all. However, for an Old School, low-level exploration game it is vital. For Pathfinder, I’d suggest the open module or two of Kingmaker would be a great place to play with encumbrance.

  8. Valid points, and reasons why old school expeditions used hirelings and more importantly pack animals. A mule or two could carry all that stuff that isn’t heroic, but still necessary for survival. Food, drink, tents, bedrolls, blankets, fire starting kits, rope, hammers, stakes or spikes for tents, lanterns, oil for lanterns, torches, and so on.

    Iron spikes were the one that always got me, because I always pictured them about the size of railroad spikes used to secure track into ties. The standard spike in the U.S. weighs about half a pound, so “20 iron spikes” is about 10 lbs (4.5 kg) of iron sitting like a rock in your pack.

    I don’t think most people understand how quickly weight and volume build up when you start packing things.

    1. They are not railroad spikes. They are climbing pitons, which is why you get them in quantity. They are hammered into walls and used to secure your rope.

  9. I love encumbrance in the game but the GM that I play with normally chooses not to track it because it’s normally just a bunch of extra math that needs to be corrected all the time plus some of the players usually go “Oh and I’ll just buy 100 extra arrows”. Seeing how that’s a thing I usually have a form of makeshift tracking myself, I tend to look at my inventory page (I keep my characters in notebooks rather than sheets) and just remove things that I don’t think I’ll need in the future or sell them if the character is short on cash.
    I was upset with my current character who is a storm wizard, he carries an arrow catching staff, an iron staff which he uses to focus lightning when needed and a staff of fire … this bugged me to no end. I couldn’t help but imagine him just walking around with three antenna like thingamabobs jutting out from behind his back. So … of my own initiative I’ve started making it clear that I am NOT lugging around my other weapons and unneeded paraphernalia but rather his staff, dagger, hat and spell book. XD He he survived a desert island for 12 days alone with NOTHING he’ll survive a bit of traveling without lugging around rations. 😀

  10. In my early days of adventuring I carefully calculated weight and distribution of all my gear. Sometimes I even sketched out which items were in my backpack, held on belt loops, clipped into my boot, etc. I was into scouting before gaming, and these things were relevant to me. Now I am a grown adult, with kids, and gaming time is fantasy escape time. I have an ‘inventory’ list. On that list is a handy haversack and backpack…but I am past caring what’s in either one or if my stuff could realistically fit into either or both. There’s 50′ of rope that I have been carrying for 20 years and used maybe 3 times. One character just passes that and the ‘small mirror’ and the torch off to the next. They are heirlooms by now.

  11. I use a PCGen program to make my Pathfinder characters and it has a very good inventory / encumbrance system. It does lead to two things:
    Firstly, I take three times as long sorting out my gear than my skills and feats.
    Secondly, I always have a pack animal to hold all if that heavy stuff I won’t be lugging about myself.

    I do like to keep track of such things and I think that it’s a missed opportunity if it’s just handwaved away.

    PS the PCGen program allows for different inventory profiles so it’s easy to swap between situational loads.

  12. Oh I totally agree on the backpack issue. It’s just not plausible to carry that much yourself, in terms of the bulk. That’s why I consider a ‘backpack’ to include things like small pouches, bandoliers, etc. to increase the volume of what you can carry.

  13. It’s interesting in a realism vs game kind of way. In reality adventurers would like be suffering PTSD, have scars and bad knees and aches and pains. All in all they’d continually be feeling like rugby league players at the end of the season physically and mentally a veteran on their fourth back to back tour of duty in a combat zone. And then there’s the backpack… 🙂

    1. The PC Game “Darkest Dungeon” works on exactly that idea, your poor, hapless Adventurers become grizzled veterans, but at a high cost, both mentally and physically.

      It is an interesting take on the idea of dungeoneering. It got a bit too repetitively ‘grim-dark’ for me, but it’s worth giving it a spin if you see it on sale.

  14. I went on a canoe trip in Canada with a group of other girls when we were all around 15 to 17 years old (plus an adult counselor). My recollection is that our packs started at 80 pounds–Duluth packs, not good modern backpacks. I think one of the canoes was more than that. We had a big shared tent and all the food we needed for 3 weeks. I think each of us had just two t-shirts, a pair of shorts, a wool sweater and wool pants, and socks and underthings for clothing. Raingear, one pair of boots, one pair of sneakers. Flashlights, cooking pot, bowls and utensils, something for water filtering. Jacknives, one fishing pole. Maps & compasses of course. Rope for hanging food up high. Each day was split between canoeing and hiking from lake to lake on portages. Not sure how long the portages were–some were pretty long. I remember going through the food helped lighten packs pretty quickly. Anyway, not sure if that’s helpful but I thought something comparable for young women (though sans weapons and armor) might be of interest.

  15. you are correct in your reasoning sir, Me and a Buddy once donned heavy armour, SCA Plate & med shield, and a 5o lb. backpack and timed each other running up and down the block and stairs to determine what exactly could and could not be done in 6 seconds, it was exhausting and we both were in decent shape.

  16. I love this kind of stuff. I have a hard time getting my play group(s) to be mindful of encumbrance, etc. (Heck. Sometimes they need to be reminded to level their characters. 😉 ). They dislike resource management just about as much as they do having to deal with environmental conditions…

    I agree that the PCGen generator is nice and does a good job of tracking inventory and encumbrance. If playing PF, I try and get more players on it, especially those who tend to “overlook” things, like encumbrance and armor penalties.

    P.S. Also another Twilight: 2000 fan (as well as 2300AD). Just was looking at my stack of books for that over this past weekend.

  17. This is why there are spells like create food and water and bags of holding or portable holes. Also a ranger barbarian could easily hunt/fish and supply a lot of the protein requirements of a party.

  18. I actually have a variant rules set I have been developing for this vary reason, based on the idea of ‘item slots’, a basic backpack could hold 10 Slots worth of items, and some items took up more than 1 Slot. This got calculated on top of encumbrance, so even if you were not encumbered, if your backpack was full, you would have to carry the item by hand or find other means of keeping it.

  19. I believe that the best D&D/Pathfinder gaming is informed – at least in certain of its aspects – by real life. Particularly with some younger players, it is helpful to use such an actual experience with them when explaining to them why, even though they ARE heroes, that they still simply cannot do certain things, at least not without the aid of magic.

    I haven’t been on such a hike or camping for some time, so reading your account of the expedition to Dartmoor was a good refresher for me, too, Creighton. Sounds as if you and your family enjoyed yourselves as well as learning (or refreshing your recollection) of some good to things to know.

  20. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling over the years ranging from hiking, backpacking and extended canoe trips to hitching, travel backpacking and more. I’ve also done a fair bit of reading and had several conversations with people who have gone into more extreme environments — up Everest and K2 and into combat.

    The thing I found which has been reflected in many accounts I have read over the years of people doing a great deal of traveling (or fighting), is that, given an opportunity, the first thing that happens is you start ditching the things which aren’t absolutely essential. The second thing is if the things you use to carry your gear can’t be removed easily and quickly you start looking for ways to modify them to do just that. And then you lighten again.

    When I was about to go up my first mountain, my Japanese friend made an apology, but firmly gestured to my backpack, and with my nod began going through it with a fine comb. About 90% of what I deemed essential and had routinely carried in the forests and hills of the Upper Midwest of the US was left in the van. I was utterly convinced by the middle of the morning that he was a very wise man. I began to think he hadn’t removed enough by the middle of the afternoon.

    I didn’t complain at his inspection of my gear because I have been a guide myself and performed the same ritual many times stripping out of packs the many things which we deem necessary if we have no experience.

    My real “get home bag” is about the size of both fists together and the bulk of it is first aid stuff and granola bars. A fire source in my pocket and a knife and multi-tool on my belt complete the ensemble. And if the going got rougher still, I’d ditch the bag and confidently make do with the last three items.

    I figure adventurers after the first level or three are gonna look more like a Confederate infantryman in the US Civil War than his Union counterpart.

    As for fighting with a pack on, I know it was done with muskets, but from the accounts I received directly, that scene in Saving Private Ryan is more the model. The one before the machine gun nest attack where they are arguing and assigning jobs and planning all at the same time while ditching packs, shifting essentials to more easily accessible pockets, and dumping about anything that might slow or hinder them.

    The first thing I’d do if I passed my Perception check? Ditch the backpack.

  21. I actually think these “annoying” observations make for… better gameplay. If so inclined, one could use this rigurosity to push the players into all sorts of survival situations, since they can’t realistically carry all those many supplies on a long trip.
    I often have low level characters sent on hunting trips in order to eat, which creates interesting combat encounters with say… a wild boar. Or begging on a small roadside chappel and meeting the local cleric.
    It never fails to create interesting moments.

  22. Ah, the modern mindset. Take a look at what mideval pilgrims took with them on a long overland voyage and you’ll get a sense of how much you’re over-packing… they brought a staff, a belt pouch, and maybe a day’s food and water, tops. Food was bought or caught along the road. Spare clothing? A linen shirt was a huge amount of money in a culture where every step of manufacture was hand-crafted. A modern kit is absolutely extravagant compared to what you needed, and the quasi-nobility that makes up most adventuring parties are carrying a small fortune on their backs as it is.

  23. As the pic suggests, that’s why you need a mule or a henchman you carry stuff so u need not be encumbered while you fight.

  24. Being An Army Veteran. I usually play a ranger or a fighter so that I may add my experience and tactics to the way the Adventuring party moves setup camps watching the perimeter. typically take mules or horses and load them up get real close to the dungeon hide the extra gear. So we can go in unimpeded back and forth out of the dungeon as we need supplies rest or overly encumbered. Sometimes staging rally points inside the dungeon safe room etc.. if you can hear the Monster, the Monster can hear you!

  25. Too many comments for me to check if this already mentioned but there were not really backpacks in the middle ages either. Maybe a frame with stuff tied to it but the normal way of carrying stuff was swathe of cloth made into a loop and thrown over one shoulder. Serious travellers might have a “wallet” which was like a big purse.

  26. You could carry standard rations for the first day.

    I had assumed Gary Gygax and his friends had been really into backpacking, and that’s why they put so much emphasis on it.

  27. As an old soldier I can tack on that wearing full body armor and adding on weapons and a 65 pound ruck (large ALICE or “Ranger Ruck”) can lead to considerable fatigue rather quickly.
    I was young and very much “in shape” at the time, ran 2 miles in 12 minutes, 5 miles in 30… but this crap would slow anyone down! One annual task we grunts had to do involved strapping all this crap on and humping 12 miles in 3 hours. The best of us was exhausted by the end, some collapsed and some few didn’t make it at all. They got to repeat it a week later after some increased training.

    Most players have no clue as to what the reality is like. In a fantasy game, that’s not all bad… though it can be occasionally frustrating when a player goes completely over the top.

  28. heh. my brother, who was in the army, infantry, started looking at all the crap my sister and her gaming buddy were picking up on the way to the dungeon site and going ‘you’ve got to be kidding. WE CANNOT CARRY THAT CRAP!”

    he didn’t survive long in the game. too many fantasy players vs one and a half realism players = unhappy realist.

  29. The pathfinder artwork does a good job of representing how each class might carry their unique gear, and I’ve always assumed combatants would drop their packs when a fight started.

  30. You were never in the military as a combat troop were you we tend to carry 40-80 pounds of gear and have to do it for days on end you just get accustomed to the weight ( an m16 weighs 7 lbs an m60 weighs 23)

  31. I’d say it depends on your desired level of realism. I’m fine with a game where the weight and bulk of every last copper piece is tracked necessitating pack animals and hirelings.

    I’m equally fine with games that take all that and chuck it right out the window, abstracting things like gear and wralth. Especially when I am playing “larger than life” heroes who aren’t going to stop and loot every enemy they take down.

  32. Interesting. I also live near Dartmoor but spent ten years in the military and more recently, an ACF and Scout instructor. A 25-litre bag is not what I would consider a “backpack”, a 25-litre bag is what I would use for a “daysack”. The one time I particularly remember weighing what I carried was when I did my Junior NCO’s course in the Scottish mountains in February! My fighting/survival gear (the kit I need to fight and “survive” rather than live) weighed about 35-40 pounds. This included a days rations, survival kit, personal first aid kit, water and ammunition for my personal weapon. The rest of my kit which would include extra rations, extra water, additional first aid equipment, 2-3 sets of clothing, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, basha kit (basha = makeshift tent), waterproofs, extra ammunition, radio and anything else that makes your life easier weighed about 90 pounds and went into a 120 litre backpack that would fit over the fighting kit. At the first sign of trouble this kit would get ditched and you would run around with just your fighting kit on. In the event that you are separated from your living kit, you are then in a survival situation rather than a combat situation. And that’s exactly how I see role-playing.
    Could I carry that kit around now? Not likely, but then I’m not in the military any longer and I don’t have the fitness levels I once did – although I’m not too bad so it wouldn’t take too much to get back up to that level again. An adventurer would, I expect, be able to maintain those levels of fitness required to be able to lug the kit around and then drop it as needed for combat in much the same way that a modern soldier would today – by training for it.

    1. Small world, Adam!

      You are right, I haven’t been in the military and so I’ve never walked long distances with large/heavy backpacks. I’m beginning to think I should get a bergan or something like that and have a go. (I’ve also been thinking about giving rucking a go).

      I think many adventurers would be able to carry the weight you mention, but also many wouldn’t–my fell gaze falls on wizards, sorcerers, many thieves and the like at this point! Infantry soldiers are jolly fit–like many adventurous fighters and the like, but not every adventure falls into that category.

      (And funnily enough, my eldest son is just thinking about joining the local ACF!)

  33. The game I’m currently in isn’t particularly old-school or strict about tracking encumbrance or supplies, but we do have measures supporting that relative looseness. The primary one is that one of my characters is a tauric creature, and even before the campaign began she took advantage of this by drawing a cart. Thus, things that are excessively heavy or bulky go in there, and can’t trivially be pulled out in the middle of a pitched battle.

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