Like most other DM’s I’ve played with, we’ve largely ignored weight and carrying capacity except in very extreme circumstance (a party could carry out 10,000 gold pieces between them, but trying to get out the 800 pound gold statue is a bit trickier). In a similar vein, especially once players start finding and acquiring more weapons / equipment, a DM needs to either start enforcing a carrying cap rule, which is quite clunky and time consuming, or allow them to have a wide variety of weapons available for every circumstance, especially in later editions of D&D that include monsters with damage reduction that can only be overcome by a weapon of the proper alignment.
I’m presenting a third option, which, for lack of a better term, I’m calling my Two and a Half Weapon Rule.
Essentially, weapons (not to mention armor and shields) are quite heavy, but we don’t need to look at their weights too closely to know how much an adventurer would be comfortable with carrying (in order to leave room to acquire treasure and other equipment).
To that end, character have two and a half weapon slots that can be equipped or available to use at any time. Any other weapons should be left back at base or, if new weapons are picked up while adventuring, secured safely (and so it doesn’t rattle) in one’s inventory.
- Normal single-handed weapons (including bastard swords) count as 1 slot.
- Very small weapons like a dagger count as a half slot.
- Two-handed weapons (excluding bastard swords) count as 2 slots.
- A bundle of 5x javelins count as 1 slot.
- A weapon-like wand (one that casts a spell that does hit point damage) counts as 1 slot.
- A rod counts as 1 slot unless its description explicitly states it’s also two-handed weapon by default.
- A magical staff counts as 2 slots.
The half slot is meant to be taken up by a ranged weapon of some sort, including ammunition. In general, adding another ranged weapon requires its own slot.
- A shortbow, a longbow, or a light crossbow take up that half slot, but a full slot otherwise.
- A bandolier across the chest takes up a half slot, no matter what; using two bandoliers would require a full slot. Bandoliers have a capacity of 10 lbs of items (Ex. 10x throwing knives, 10x flaming oil flasks, 5x javelins, 20x darts, and so on).
- Up to two slings take up that half slot.
- A heavy crossbow requires a full slot.
I included some thrown weapons in there, but they are something of a wild-card if they have magical abilities. In general, the player should designate a bundle of javelins (all of which must be of the same type) or a spear as being intended for melee or for throwing and stick to it. If it’s used as both, it’s classified as a melee weapon. Of course, exceptions can be made based on the circumstances.
Similarly, a DM might make an exception for a character to have a small utility dagger or hand-axe always available and not taking up a slot. Such a last-ditch or utility weapon should be non-magical (though using special materials is fine) and not to be used except in dire or special circumstances.
Should the DM require a character to swap out or correct what weapons he has available, the process takes 1 Turn (or at least, rounded up to 1 Turn). This is because one’s inventory, especially weapons need to be safely secured and prevented from rattling or breaking one’s more fragile equipment, so care must be taken to pack everything back up correctly.
Some examples of this rule in practice include:
- A +1 bastard sword (1 slot), a bandolier of flaming oil flasks (half slot), a composite longbow (ranged slot), and utility hand axe (no slots)
- Two +1 daggers (1 slot), two bandoliers of throwing knives (1 slot), a +1 longbow (ranged slot), and a utility dagger.
- A +2 longsword (1 slot), a heavy crossbow (1 slot), and a bandolier of javelins.
- A +2 warhammer (2 slots), a shortbow (ranged slot), and a utility hammer.
- A staff of fireballs (2 slots), a +2 sling and a +1 sling (+3 vs giants) (ranged slot), and a ceremonial silver dagger.
- A wand of magic missiles (1 slot), a rod of wonder (1 slot), and a +1 sling.
- A +1 trident (2 slot), two nets (ranged slot), and a boot-knife (free)