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In our campaign, we try to stay somewhat realistic. Unfortunately, we always find ourselves in one of two situations:

  • Lacking equipment to survive in basic adventure circumstances.
  • Burdened by constantly managing pack animals.

How can you bring the adequate equipment to survive on an adventure (food, water, tent, weapons, armor, fire-starting tools, clothes, money) without being overburdened?

  • If you carry it all on your back, you exhaust yourself and can't run (or dodge in gurps).
  • If you stash it somewhere for the fight, you have to hope you can go get it again (or re-purchase everything).
  • If you bring pack animals, you have to tie them up somewhere and hope nobody finds, steals, or kills them (or hire a guard, I guess).

Have your groups found a way to travel light and survive?

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8 Answers

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Part of the problem is that the standard conception of an adventurer is somewhat unrealistic in and of itself. An independent group of characters who possesses a great deal of material wealth and specialized equipment yet travels so widely that they seldom cross the same patch of ground twice is extremely rare in realistic settings.

With that said, there are a few things you can do to make it more workable:

Be prepared

The biggest thing that can help you out here is to get information ahead of time about the adventure you're going on. Figure out what you need, and what you can leave behind.

Strip down to the essentials

Look at Strider in the Lord of the Rings movies as an example. His gear is extremely streamlined -- He carries no tent, no utensils, few rations, little in the way of personal effects. He uses his survival skills and a bare minimum of equipment (some means of starting fires, a cloak in place of a blanket, and so on).

Naturally, you'll need some form of survival skill to make this work. And the specific environment you're in will determine just how much you can throw away.

Quick release packs

For small loads, you can make it a practice to drop your packs when combat begins, and then pick them up again when the immediate danger has passed. This still leaves you somewhat vulnerable to surprise (and traps) but otherwise allow you to function "above load."

Caches

Bury your excess stuff at critical locations. If you're in the process of bringing a haul back to town, bury some of it at the dungeon and make several trips. If you're about to leave town for the adventure, bury any gear/food/etc. you won't need. Make a habit of creating survival packs and hiding them in areas you frequent.

This was a tactic employed by real-world people who had more stuff than they could carry (I most recently read it in relation to people taking loads of gear up into gold country during the northern gold rush).

Use magic

Bags of holding were invented for a reason.

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As always, late to the party.

First off, you have already answered the first question, which is that you wish to keep a somewhat realistic atmosphere. That also should answer the question if your group enjoys the logistics puzzles or not. (If you say no, than you have a completely different issue).

Secondly, There are reasons some game rules include Henchmen, hireling, linkboys and porters, etc. If you are going for some level of realism, this is part of it. Think of 'adventuring' as 'expeditioning', and it will help with the mindset. I bring it up first as this human portage is normally the first solution in the real world, but is not mentioned in your OP. Human portage can also help with other tasks, cooking, setting camp, guarding, etc. I was frankly stunned this had not really been mentioned. (Not to mention some of the best NPC/PC interactions....) Part of this also can be aided by the fact that these are fantasy campaigns, and some races and creatures are better at porting than others.

Thirdly, ask your GM what type of specialized equipment exists for such situations. We use pages of such gear in our games; alchemist robes with many compartments, spidersilk blankets, extra-tightwound spring-loaded scroll tubes, telescoping staffs that double as tent poles, etc. My parties generally travel with 'writs of worth' from the Institute of Stenron or the Teque Guild of Travelers instead of huge coinage, and with gemstones, instead of piles of cash.

Fourthly, I did not want to rely on magic, so I held it as the last resort. Without resorting to the incredibly overused and Lame "Bag of Holding", what other types of magical aid would logically have been created by magic-users in a situation where they travel? Lots. Alarms for caches, Feedbags of Plentiful Oats, packs that reduce mass slightly, create water and create Food and drink spells, as well as scrolls of same and items that do these low-power spells daily, are just scratching the surface for examples of what a GM would have to logically create for a world with adventurers.

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Great comment, thanks! 'Expeditioning' does seem like a better way to think about it. –  user1637 Apr 16 '11 at 14:49
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Based on a comment you made to another answer...

You asked what is overburdening us so much. In GURPS, carrying > your basic lift takes you into the first weight penalty (slightly lower movement and dodge). Basic lift is (ST*ST)/5. This is 20lbs for a normal character, so if you are wearing more than your equipment, you are at a move/dodge penalty. Thanks for the response!

I don't think anyone else has suggested this answer: just eat the penalty. Ask why your enemies don't also have it, if it's so hard to avoid. Also, as a group (or as a DM) consider changing the rules, if it appears that the system is not properly balanced for the kind of campaign you want to run.

The idea of quick release packs is also a good one, and provides some story possibilities, too. (maybe a gang of bandits has several fighter-types to get you into a fight, then a thief-type character rushes in to steal the packs?)

Also, one last thing - if money* is a significant part of weight problem, I would consider it a problem with a campaign setting where it's reasonable to have to carry around huge piles of coins but high-level adventurers don't have the ability (by unrealistic strength or by magic) to do so. *Not "treasure" as in bringing it back to town from a dungeon, I mean quantities of everyday currency that characters are normally expected to have on hand.

Some systems, like D&D [at least, up until 3.x], heavily lean on getting more and more treasure to fund power increases as characters reach higher levels, but in a more "realistic" setting your characters are going to be limited by how much they can carry, or the ability to make several trips and (maybe) rely on a banking system or lightweight trade goods.

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Money is a good point. In the real world, very well-to-do travellers would carry a certain amount of coin, but also carry a letter of credit, good at their destination, that they can draw on as necessary. –  SevenSidedDie Apr 15 '11 at 19:08
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Several things right off the top of my head:

  • If your system allows magical items then a magic storage location (bag of holding in D&D) can provide you with all of the storage you need at a minimal carry weight.

  • If the location you are traveling through is not desert then you should be able to forage for food and water. This will lessen the amount of equipment you need.

  • Abstraction. Perhaps you have a manager traveling with your party as part of the caravan who can take it to a safe place the instant danger appears. Perhaps your caravan has magical protection. Something to where you don't have to worry about them every time a fight breaks out.

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+1 for the manager idea. Maybe to make it work we need to hire NPCs. After all, we are making a lot of money. Thanks! –  user1637 Apr 15 '11 at 17:28
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@user1637 my main point in that bullet is to sacrifice a bit of something so you don't have to micromanage. I see 2 options, sacrifice some of your realism and just don't worry about it, or sacrifice some of your in game cash and hire an NPC to worry about it for you. He is your party porter, he is useless in battle unless your stuff is at stake, then he is ordered to run like hell. –  wax eagle Apr 15 '11 at 17:49
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Yeah, I understand :) . It is a good idea: NPCs could be used for more than just stuff-managing, also. As an example, a wilderness guide would mean we don't have to bring as much food, etc. –  user1637 Apr 15 '11 at 18:25
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Is it fun for the PCs to micromanage all their possessions? No? Then just don't deal with it, but say no if the players are being unreasonable with what they're bringing with them.

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Generally in our group we tend to have a "base of operations" where we can dump most extra stuff. It sounds like your group may be on the move constantly where this is not an option. Instead of just pack animals get a wagon which should be able to carry quite a bit. You'd still have the trouble of people stealing stuff but there's not much of a way around this besides taking this into a town and hoping your local inn or stable can keep the thieves out. If you're in a more magical setting, perhaps purchasing more bags of holding if at all possible.

I guess a good question is what are you all carrying that's making you overburden so much? Basic survival tools and items should not weigh enough to get you into an overburden scenario even on a character that is wearing heavy armor and shield and weapon. Are you picking up every bit of loot along the way from fights, raids, etc.? I'd consider not bothering to pick up every little thing, just the magical items and what not that are upgrades. Anything else is just extra weight. If you're picking it up for selling purposes I'd find out why the GM is not handing out more money for adventure completions.

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You asked what is overburdening us so much. In GURPS, carrying > your basic lift takes you into the first weight penalty (slightly lower movement and dodge). Basic lift is (ST*ST)/5. This is 20lbs for a normal character, so if you are wearing more than your equipment, you are at a move/dodge penalty. Thanks for the response! –  user1637 Apr 15 '11 at 17:23
    
"Basic survival items" in a non-modern setting totally would burden a character, and overburden one wearing heavy armour and carrying weapons. They don't have Gore-Tex and rip-stop nylon in 1642! –  SevenSidedDie Apr 15 '11 at 17:28
    
@SevenSidedDie While it is a non-modern setting, I'm also assuming it's a fantasy setting which while I don't expect "Gore-Tex and rip-stop nylon" I am expecting "Elven chainmail +3" and "sunrods" or something similar which would not be heavy =P @user1637 Ah okay, I am unfamiliar with GURPS weight and lifting. I usually assume D&D or it's style of weight management which tends to give a lot of weight lifting to a character –  The Jug Apr 15 '11 at 17:35
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@Jug Not everyone plays such that "fantasy" = "high fantasy". If they're wrestling with logistics, you can safely assume they're not playing superheroes in chain mail. –  SevenSidedDie Apr 15 '11 at 17:45
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I guess this depends on the setting, but make sure the characters have the skills to acquire their basic needs, rather than carrying them around. This would mean survival and foraging skills, as well as hunting. The ability to break in and steal what you need (if it's for a good cause, or not, depending on the tone). Supernatural has Sam & Dead hustling pool and poker and running credit card scams. Having the characters be good at gambling and giving them the opportunity to clean out some people each new town they get to means they can move much lighter, and they can also afford to leave stuff behind - they can always replenish their spending money.

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There is always room in the Bag of Holding!

If you don't have one, I've found that most people will not stop to think about exactly what you are carrying on your cart. The capacity of one cart is at least half a kingdom. :)

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