Encumbrance By Armor

A character’s armor defines his or her maximum Dexterity bonus to AC, armor check penalty, speed, and running speed. Unless your character is weak or carrying a lot of gear, that’s all you need to know. The extra gear your character carries won’t slow him or her down any more than the armor already does.
If your character is weak or carrying a lot of gear, however, then you’ll need to calculate encumbrance by weight. Doing so is most important when your character is trying to carry some heavy object.

Weight: If you want to determine whether your character’s gear is heavy enough to slow him or her down more than the armor already does, total the weight of all the character’s items, including armor, weapons, and gear. Compare this total to the character’s Strength on Table 9–1: Carrying Capacity. Depending on how the weight compares to the character’s carrying capacity, he or she may be carrying a light, medium, or heavy load. Like armor, a character’s load affects his or her maximum Dexterity bonus to AC, carries a check penalty (which works like an armor check penalty), reduces the character’s speed, and affects how fast the character can run, as shown on Table 9–2: Carrying Loads. A medium or heavy load counts as medium or heavy armor for the purpose of abilities or skills that are restricted by armor. Carrying a light load does not encumber a character.
If your character is wearing armor, use the worse figure (from armor or from load) for each category. Do not stack the penalties.

Strength Score Light Load Medium Load Heavy Load
1 3 lb. or less 4–6 lb. 7–10 lb.
2 6 lb. or less 7–13 lb. 14–20 lb.
3 10 lb. or less 11–20 lb. 21–30 lb.
4 13 lb. or less 14–26 lb. 27–40 lb.
5 16 lb. or less 17–33 lb. 34–50 lb.
6 20 lb. or less 21–40 lb. 41–60 lb.
7 23 lb. or less 24–46 lb. 47–70 lb.
8 26 lb. or less 27–53 lb. 54–80 lb.
9 30 lb. or less 31–60 lb. 61–90 lb.
10 33 lb. or less 34–66 lb. 67–100 lb.
11 38 lb. or less 39–76 lb. 77–115 lb.
12 43 lb. or less 44–86 lb. 87–130 lb.
13 50 lb. or less 51–100 lb. 101–150 lb.
14 58 lb. or less 59–116 lb. 117–175 lb.
15 66 lb. or less 67–133 lb. 134–200 lb.
16 76 lb. or less 77–153 lb. 154–230 lb.
17 86 lb. or less 87–173 lb. 174–260 lb.
18 100 lb. or less 101–200 lb. 201–300 lb.
19 116 lb. or less 117–233 lb. 234–350 lb.
20 133 lb. or less 134–266 lb. 267–400 lb.
21 153 lb. or less 154–306 lb. 307–460 lb.
22 173 lb. or less 174–346 lb. 347–520 lb.
23 200 lb. or less 201–400 lb. 401–600 lb.
24 233 lb. or less 234–466 lb. 467–700 lb.
25 266 lb. or less 267–533 lb. 534–800 lb.
26 306 lb. or less 307–613 lb. 614–920 lb.
27 346 lb. or less 347–693 lb. 694–1,040 lb.
28 400 lb. or less 401–800 lb. 801–1,200 lb.
29 466 lb. or less 467–933 lb. 934–1,400 lb.
+10 ×4 ×4 ×4
Load Max Dex AC Penalty Spd (30 ft.) Spd (20 ft.) Run
Medium +3 –3 20 ft. 15 ft. x4
Heavy +1 –6 20 ft. 15 ft. x3

For example, Tordek is wearing scale mail. As shown on Table 7–6: Armor and Shields, this armor cuts his maximum Dex bonus to AC to +3, and gives him a –4 armor check penalty (and cuts his speed to 15 feet, were he not a dwarf and thus able to move normally even when encumbered by armor or a load). The total weight of his gear, including armor, is 71- 1/2 pounds. Since Tordek has a Strength of 15, his maximum carrying capacity, or maximum load, is 200 pounds. A medium load for him is 67 pounds or more, and a heavy load is 134 pounds or more, so he is carrying a medium load. Looking at the medium load line on Table 9–2: Carrying Loads, his player sees that these figures are all equal to or less than the penalties that Tordek is already incurring for wearing scale mail, so he incurs no extra penalties.
Mialee has a Strength of 10, and she’s carrying 28 pounds of gear. Her light load limit is 33 pounds, so she’s carrying a light load (no penalties). She finds 500 gold pieces (weighing 10 pounds) and adds them to her load, so now she’s carrying a medium load. Doing so reduces her speed from 30 feet to 20 feet, gives her a –3 check penalty, and sets her maximum Dexterity bonus to AC at +3 (which is okay with her, since that’s her Dexterity bonus anyway).
Then Mialee is knocked unconscious in a fight, and Tordek wants to carry her out of the dungeon. She weighs 104 pounds, and her gear weighs 28 pounds (or 38 pounds with the gold), so Tordek can’t quite manage to carry her and her gear, because doing so would put him over his 200-pound maximum load. Fortunately, their companion Jozan is able to carry her gear and the gold, so all Tordek has to worry about is Mialee herself. Tordek hoists Mialee onto his shoulders, and now the dwarf is carrying 175-1/2 pounds. He can manage it, but it’s a heavy load. His maximum Dexterity bonus to AC drops to +1, his check penalty worsens from –4 (the armor check penalty for scale mail) to –6 (the check penalty for a heavy load), and now he runs at ×3 speed instead of ×4.

Source: Player's Handbook

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