Simplified Movement and Encumbrance for Swords & Wizardry

Movement speeds and Encumbrance is something I've always hand-waved in my game. It was just too much fuss to keep track of how many pounds of gear the characters were carrying and how that corresponded to how fast they moved each turn. I figured it was a lot of extra book-keeping for little added value.

At the same time I often have situations were the players choose to have their characters run from monsters… so I decided to take another look at these rules for Swords & Wizardry to see if I could make them a bit more manageable.

Why does this matter? Because you can run away from anything you're faster than, and you CAN'T run away from anything that's faster than you! You don't *have* to fight that Gelatinous Cube - unless you're too slow to escape it!

Like ability scores, I think the solution (for me) is to only record information that actually matters. If most people move at 12" then you only need to keep track of when people are moving faster or slower than that.

If you're not using miniatures and a grid you can safely change the numbers to something more descriptive eg. Very Fast, Fast, Slow and Very Slow.

And rather than all sorts of tables and calculations to figure out which characters are slow, here it is:

  • Chainmail, Shield, Sword and adventuring gear "Slow"
  • Plate, Shield, Sword and adventuring gear "Very Slow"

Characters who want to bring along an excessive amount of weaponry (Battle Axe, Sword, Mace, Bow) or who are laden down with treasure are also either Slow or Very Slow.

Anything that makes you slower than normal is "very bad" as we'll see in a moment. Players should really think about keeping their character moving at a normal speed, especially if they also want to return from the dungeon with treasure. Chainmail, Handaxe and Shield or Chainmail and Two-Handed Sword is just enough lighter to keep a character moving at a regular pace. Leather Armor and Ringmail start to look like a lot better options as well.

Using Boots of Speed or casting the 2nd level Magic-user spell 'Haste' allows a Slow or Average speed character to become Very Fast, but a Very Slow character still only moves at Average speed. Platemail is really a terrible idea for adventurers unless the dungeon is designed to give you easy 'balanced' encounters the entire time.

Let's take a look at the monsters in Swords and Wizardry and the different speed categories they're in.

Very Fast 
You can't outrun these without magic, and even then they still might be too fast. That makes them very scary. However a large number of these are flying creatures - something they can't necessarily do in the dungeon.
  • Bats (flying)
  • Giant Ant
  • Centaur
  • Giant Centipede (20')
  • Cockatrice (Flying)
  • Djinn (Flying)
  • Dragon (Flying)
  • Efreet (Flying)
  • Air Elemental
  • Griffon (Flying)
  • Harpy (Flying)
  • Hippogriff
  • Horse
  • Manticore (Flying)
  • Ogre Mage (Flying)
  • Pegasus
  • Roc (Flying)
  • Spectre (Flying)
  • Giant Spider (4')
  • Phase Spider
  • Stirge (Flying)
  • Titan
  • Unicorn
  • Vampire (Flying)
  • Will-o-the-wisp
  • Wolf
  • Worg
  • Wyvern (Flying)

More creatures you can't outrun unless you have magic - or a horse.
  • Wild Boar
  • Giant Centipede
  • Balrog (Flying)
  • Gargoyle (Flying)
  • Cloud Giant
  • Storm Giant
  • Spectre

These creatures all move at normal human speed. You might be able to outrun them… if you're lucky.
  • Basilisk
  • Giant Beetle
  • Blink Dog
  • Dryad
  • Fire Elemental
  • Elf
  • Giant
  • Griffon
  • Hell Hound
  • Humans - Bandits, Berserkers, Soldiers, etc
  • Invisible Stalker
  • Lion
  • Wereboar, Wererat, Weretiger, Werewolf
  • Manticore
  • Minotaur
  • Ogre Mage
  • Orc
  • Owlbear
  • Rats
  • Shadow
  • Skeleton
  • Treant
  • Troll
  • Vampire

This is where it gets interesting! Encounters with all of these creatures can be avoided if you can move at normal speed. There are some monsters in this category that I didn't realize were slow.
  • Bugbear
  • Chimera
  • Djinn
  • Doppleganger
  • Dragon
  • Efreet
  • Gargoyle
  • Ghoul
  • Gnoll
  • Goblin
  • Gorgon
  • Hobgoblin
  • Hydra
  • Werebear
  • Medusa
  • Ogre
  • Purple Worm
  • Salamander
  • Giant Spider (Small)
  • Wight
  • Wraith

Very Slow
Adventurers really should be able to outrun these monsters. If you're unable to get away from the Black Pudding oozing down the hall after you, you're in trouble. More monsters on this list that I hadn't thought of as very slow.
  • Giant Badger
  • Black Pudding
  • Cockatrice
  • Balrog
  • Lemure
  • Dwarf
  • Earth Elemental
  • Water Elemental
  • Gelatinous Cube
  • Golem
  • Grey Ooze
  • Harpy
  • Kobold
  • Lich
  • Lizardmen
  • Mummy
  • Nixie
  • Ochre Jelly
  • Roc
  • Giant Slug
  • Giant Spider (6')
  • Stirge
  • Giant Tick
  • Wyvern
  • Zombie
Wacky Monster Races

A few interesting things I noticed when looking over how fast the various monsters were…

Orcs are faster than Goblins, Hobgoblins and Bugbears (which are all slow). That makes Orcs a bit scarier, and the goblinoids less of the quick, shifty creatures I'd previously thought.

Skeletons are faster than Ghouls. Skeletons are fast like the ones in Jason and the Argonauts and not shuffling or "stiff". Ghouls are not the "running undead" from movies like Zombie Land - they're more "loping" than sprinting. Ghouls would still be a better choice for Zombie Land style antagonists than actual Zombies though. Those are more the classic Romero type.

Lizardmen, Kobolds and Zombies are very slow. This is worth remembering when DMing.