Carry On, My Wayward Hireling

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

I was working on some resource rules, inspired by a preview from Dungeon Delvers: the Red Book, and by Blades in the Dark, attempting to simplify and abstract-ify consumable resources and available equipment. I like what I came up with, but realized it ended up much more fiddly than I really want for this particular design. Perhaps someone else will find it of value.

The idea is based around a Supply score, representing a character’s planning and foresight while equipping themselves for an adventure, but without using fine granularity to track certain consumable supplies such as food, clothing, arrows, torches, bandages, and so on. Supplies also affect a character’s Carrying Capacity — how much equipment and treasure they can wear and carry, and vice-versa.

The basic Supply rules rely on a series of ability score-limited checkboxes and rolling a die of decreasing value when supplies are used, potentially removing a checkmark from a box. The total amount of Supply available to a character is based on Intelligence, while a character’s total Carrying Capacity is based on Strength.

Carrying Capacity

Carrying Capacity is an abstract, simplified value of the amount of weight a character can comfortably carry. A character has 1 Capacity per point of Strength. Supply, Gear, and Treasure all reduce available Capacity.

  • Each checked box of Supply a character carries reduces the character’s available Capacity by 1.
  • Gear — such as swords, armor, and bedrolls — reduces available Capacity by varying amounts (see the Gear Weight table below), though some Gear does not affect Capacity.
  • For every 1000cn in coin-weights of coin-and-gem treasure, a character’s available Capacity is reduced by 1.
  • If a character tries to carry more than their Capacity, they make all their rolls at disadvantage. If they exceed their Capacity by 5 or more, they also must make Strength checks every round just to move 5′ — failing leaves them exhausted.

    Gear Capacity Weight**
    Leather 0
    Chain 1
    Plate 2
    Shield 1
    Small Weapons/Items (d4) 1 per 4
    Medium Weapon (d6) 0
    Large Weapon (d8) 1
    Heavy Weapon (d10) 2
    Short Bow 0
    Long Bow 1
    Lt. Crossbow 1
    Hvy. Crossbow 2
    Extra Clothing* 0
    Tent & Bedroll* 1
    Waterskin & Mess Kit* 0
    Spellbook 1
    Altar & Vestments 1
    Misc. Non-Consumable Kit 0
    Supply 1 per checked box
    1000 coins 1


    * Characters in the wilderness without these items will suffer consequences to their health and welfare.
    ** If a character picks up another of any of these, add its Weight again for each; if the Weight is 0, add 1 for each additional

    Note: The reason for making certain items (or single items of certain types) essentially “weightless” was due the first set of weightings I developed leaving even the most minimally outfitted characters with nearly no room for Supply. Making single copies of certain basic goods not count against Capacity fixed this issue. While I could have simply increased the available Capacity value, to me that created a certain amount of extra resource tracking and value lookups that would slow down the fun parts of the game (and, frankly, calculating weight values and so forth isn’t fun). Simple, quick calculations or simple resource marks, and easy values are more useful and keep the pace of play energetic and forward-moving.

    The balance between the need for Supply and the need for Gear can result in needing to choose between taking heavy arms and armor on their adventures, or taking along more Supply. However, this helpfully limits the number of weapons and so forth characters can haul about on their person: a character can’t simply arm themselves with three different bows, two swords, a poleaxe, a brace of daggers, and two shields! A character must also weigh carefully the impact of treasures found and kept.


    Supply represents the planning that has gone into the character outfitting themselves with various consumable resources that can (or must!) be brought along on an adventure. A character’s Supply score is equal to 1 per point of Intelligence, and a character may check a total number of Supply boxes up to this score. Remember, each checked box reduces available Capacity by 1.

    The following resources have five check boxes each on the character sheet:

  • Rations
  • Arrows/Bolts
  • 50′ Rope*
  • Oil Flasks
  • Holy Water
  • Torches
  • Consumable Kit(s)
  • Alchemicals*
  • Spell Components
  • Miscellany
  • * Because of their nature, supplies of Alchemicals and Rope cost 2 points of Supply per checked box instead of 1 (but use up only one Capacity).

    Whenever a checked resource is used in game during a battle or scene, a Usage die is rolled afterwards, based on the current number of checked boxes for those supplies. In decreasing order, the die rolled for Usage is d12 for five check boxes, d10, d8, d6, and d4 for one checkbox. On a roll of a 1 or 2, the character removes a check from that specific supply’s boxes — use the new Usage die value for those supplies to roll from then on. When the last check from a given resource is removed, the character has no more of those supplies available.

    It is possible to retrieve arrows, bolts, and rope after use if they have been depleted — take one turn to attempt to retrieve the resource and then roll the current Usage die again; on a 1 or 2 the resource returns to its previous amount.


    There are special rules about Supply when it comes to rations: all characters automatically use up 1 Supply per day of normal rations. If a character has brought iron rations, make a daily Supply check instead; however, a constant diet of iron rations can cause morale problems or even (eventually) health issues.

    In fertile outdoor areas, Outlanders and similar characters do not have to automatically subtract normal rations from their Supply, as it is presumed they hunt and forage during rests. Less fertile areas such as deserts or badlands may require such characters to make skill checks with a DC based on the type of area in order to prevent this loss.

    By hunting and foraging during a long rest, Outlanders can also supply up to 4 ration Supplies to a group per day; to obtain more than 4 ration Supplies, a check is required and/or the DC is increased by one step, or more (add one more step for every 4 additional rations beyond 4). Rations gained this way beyond those required by the group are not added to the Supply, unless the character makes a Hunting check at a DC one step higher.

    Other characters with appropriate Backgrounds or Professions and appropriate available material (and time, if necessary) can similarly use a long rest to increase any character’s Supply of particular items. This prevents them from using the other benefits of a long rest and certainly results in exhaustion during any adventuring period.

    Supply vs. Capacity

    A character can have more Supply available to them than they can or wish to carry, but wish to bring nonetheless (or wish to bring supplies, but don’t want to carry them!). By bringing along common hirelings, or by using a cart or a pack-mule, a character gains additional Capacity that can be used for Supply, Gear, or Treasure.

    Regardless of how much Capacity a character, their hirelings, and etc. have available, the total Supply a character may have is still limited by their Supply score — a character can’t plan better than they can plan!

    Each hireling has a Capacity of 5 that can be used to carry Supply, Gear, or coin-weights. Each also carries rations and general equipment for themselves, but for ease of book-keeping, the DM does not need to track these supplies or make Supply rolls for them.

    Carts and pack-mules are self-explanatory. Hirelings are non-adventuring types looking for an income — or perhaps a quick way out-of-town — and serve as pack-bearers, cooks, camp-makers, medics, and so forth. But if not fed or well-treated, a hireling will leave, possibly taking their employer’s possessions with them!

    These rules make one of my most favorite yet neglected portions of old-school gaming extremely important. When the need to carry supplies is taken into account, hireling NPCs end up becoming indispensable to the adventurous individual as pack-mules for common equipment, and perhaps for treasure (and hopefully they are trustworthy enough to carry it!).

    Carrying Stuff

    Other than using hirelings and such, characters can’t carry all their supplies and gear around in their hands, they must have a way to carry it all. There are various containers available for this job. For simplicity, Containers do not use up Capacity themselves. Each container can hold a varying amount of Gear, Supply, or coin-weights, as noted in the table below — for example, a backpack, a large satchel, and a bandolier can hold up to 12 Supply together. Even if they have available space in their carried containers, a character’s total Capacity can not go over their maximum.

    Container Capacity Wear Restrictions
    Backpack 4 1
    Large Satchel 6 1 no quiver; only use a weapon or a shield
    Small Satchel 2 2 no quiver if wearing two
    Pouch 1 5 no arrows/bolts or larger items
    Small Sack 2 2 use one hand each
    Large Sack 6 1 uses both hands
    Quiver 2 2 only arrows or bolts; no satchel if wearing two
    Bandolier/Belt 2 2 only oil, holy water, small kits, etc.


    Getting Meta

    As a nod to Blades, I’m considering the idea that a character can choose to reduce their maximum Supply by 3 points for an adventure in order to carry a special, one-time-use object that, when a given situation looks hopeless, they can declare their character has brought with and might get them out of the situation. This is the least developed part of these rules and needs a bit more attention, and probably a short, pre-approved list of items, based on class, that a player can pick from when the time comes.

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