Waddling Donkeys

Waddling Donkeys

The expression "waddling donkeys" was compounded from an article about over-burdened infantrymen, the Taliban seem to have referred to such soldiers as "donkeys" who move in a tactical "waddle".

My work on my Aachen house rules goes on. At first, I didn't want to have formal rules for encumbrance. I just wanted to go round the table and let players describe the load of their character(s), and use common sense and consensus to determine if the characters are free or burdened. But since I've been reading the "rules light, procedure heavy" credo, I wanted to write down that table-round procedure.

On the right is the page dedicated to Encumbrance and found in the current Aachen. It's work in progress, as you can guess.

The procedure is found in the upper part, the load is checked before the party starts a march, a rebalance opportunity is given, but it costs at least 1 exploration turn (10 minutes). There are hints to sentries (security of the party while preparing the move), scouts (security of the party while on the move), and pack animals.

The next section, with the key drop, is about characters dropping some of their load right before fighting. A heavy counterweight on the back might make the sword swings of a fighter less controlled.

Dropping one's package before joining the melee isn't a new idea:

Unlike D&D the legionary didn't fight whilst carrying this load. The two advantages of the furca, or carrying pole, was that you could wear armour whilst using it to carry goods and that it could easily be dropped if you were ambushed en route so that you were unencumbered in a fight. And you could carry the three pilums along with it fairly easily.

That's it for avoiding excessive encumbrance, but what is beeing too encumbered? The procedure wants the referee to flag each character as free, burdened, or very burdened. What's the basis for the determination?

I suggest three ways to do it. Common sense (and consensus), computation from Strength ability score, or 42 lb / 63 lb thresholds, computed from an average Strength of 10.5. Those two static thresholds may be useful for determining encumbrance for NPCs.

My core idea was that the statement of a character's load can lead to an immediate appraisal. "My character has a sling bag with some dried fish in it and some small tools and a spare axe head, a quiver with 20 arrows, and my bow." "OK, you are free of burden. Next?"

The page ends with the three encumbrance states and their effects. Not sure about the effects for now. Work in progress.

Finally, I added in the margin a pounds vs kilograms scale. Since each player receives a copy of the Aachen booklet, I'll direct them to circle their two encumbrance thresholds on this scale.

I concede that my Encumbrance page might reek of "wargamism", and the closing quote I'll use will reinforce this impression. The "waddling donkeys" article is behind a paywall, but its accompanying picture is captioned:

The officer claims that by the end of a routine patrol soldiers struggle to make basic tactical judgements because they are physically and mentally exhausted


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