I really don't mind overburdened players, but somethings are beyond the pale. The people walking around with stakes and hammers and a small fry pan aren't the problem.
I have a very ad hoc encumbrance rule, one which secretly hides one of those never named zeroth laws. My ad hoc encumbrance rule is armor OR a backpack plus two items in your hands means you are totally encumbered. It may or may not slow you down, but you certainly can't carry more. You can also be encumbered by having stuff (or an opponent) wrapped around your legs.
Romans would pack a lot of stuff on their soldiers. Gaius Marius demanded that the soldiers carry most of the load themselves. That earned them the nickname Marius' Mules. The Romans didn't wear backpacks, but carried a sacrina.
|Not a link to Gander Outdoors|
The sacrina held a cloak bag, a pot, a satchel, a Patera or mess tin, food, a waterskin and a net for loose items, all on a big forked stick. Notice the rectangular satchel on the back and the net on the front. When they dropped these, they landed on that satchel with the stick projecting upwards for easy recovery and unpacking. The bonus of the sacrina was that it made armor a benefit to carrying one as the armor distributed the weight of the stick on their shoulder. This is probably a better tool for carrying stuff than a backpack over armor or a backpack full of armor.
Here is where my zeroth law comes in. You drop your stuff and I will almost never have someone mess with it. If you leave it behind, that is one thing, but I really don't want to annoy my players with cheap shots like stealing all of their gear. Stealing money, sure. But not a backpack.
In my most recent campaign, my players have made an art of being unencumbered at all times. They have 2 wagons, oxen and a bunch of NPCs in tow. When they say they have a pack, it's pretty much a purse: a snack, some useful items and some water. I'm vaguely annoyed because they should have purchased a boat, but instead got the wagons because I left that word, "ship" out by accident.
How do you handle encumbrance in your campaign? Let me know in the comments below.