Critical Encumbrance Failure

You can't carry any more! One more item to lug around and you might just collapse in a heap of swag.

A video game trope, similar to The Last Straw, where you can carry hundreds of kilos of equipment until you pick up one thing that puts you over the limit, either slowing you down immensely or stopping you completely.

The reasoning behind this is that if a nearly-full bag slowed you down accordingly, the slower speed wouldn't change gameplay much, but would annoy the player to no end, especially where Space Filling Paths are involved.

The weight-related version of Critical Existence Failure.

Video game examples:

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     Adventure Games  

  • In the first Quest for Glory game, the game outright warns you when you're over-encumbered, which makes your character move at a snail's pace. However, one can increase the encumbrance limit by working on the hero's Strength.
    • In the other four games in the series, however, being overloaded will drain your stamina, which is an eventual death sentence.
  • Averted in Boktai2. Your character's movement speed was the difference between his speed stat and the weight of his armor. However, not wearing armor with a high speed stat made your character so unbelievably fast that it was actually better to go armor-less.

     First Person Shooter  

  • Halo follows now-standard FPS procedure and limits you to two weapons, so it isn't an example, but the first game's novelization The Flood lampshades it; the Chief is trying to choose between a sniper rifle or a rocket launcher in addition to his assault rifle, reasoning that “Carrying all three of them would be impractical, not to mention damned heavy.”
    • Although the game attempts to subvert this, a player could theoretically have three weapons available. However, to do this, they would have to constantly move towards their next objective, while at the same time constantly throwing away the second weapon to pick up the third weapon. Doing this repeatedly makes the player throw the current weapon forwards, while picking up the new one. So if you really want that rocket launcher to shoot at the Covenant tank in the next area, you'll have to keep throwing it forward. It's not very practical, however.
  • Averted (but notably straddling) with Payday 2: you're not crawling at a slow pace because you picked up that one piece of jewelry, you're crawling because you're carrying about seventy pounds of solid gold while holding a gun in your hands. If you're even slower than usual, it's probably because of all that heavy armor. However, the weight of the gun you are carrying (from a Chinamo compact pistol to a FREAKING TURRET-GUN LMG) is negligible to movement speed. All non-boxed jewelries/single-stacks of cash are treated like zero-weight pickups. They're also not worth that much.
  • Averted by Video Game/Borderlands: If you go over your inventory limit (only possible by getting equipment from completing quests) it doesn't affect you, but you won't be able to pick up new gear.

  • Ragnarok Online plays it completely straight; picking up one tiny item can completely shut down all health and mana regen if it bumps you over half your maximum weight, or prevent you from attacking at all if it bumps you over 90%.
  • In Shattered Galaxy, which doesn't have random drops (being a Real-Time Strategy game,) units are equipped at the Factory and sent into battle. You have to meet two Critical Encumbrance Failure limits, “Weight” and “Space,” and a “Complexity” limit that is determined by which onboard computer you give the unit (which, of course, adds to Weight).
  • Trickster Online has this, as well as an annoying 300 item limit on your inventory. Once you hit 90% weight capacity, you are reduced to walking. Reaching 300 items merely prevents picking up more items, unless they stack on a single slot, like Healing Potions. There is also a character stat made specificly to increase weight capacity.
  • EverQuest has an encumbrance mechanic that expresses itself as increasingly reduced running speed until you're finally rooted to the spot unless you drop some items and/or money from your inventory. Due to the way the game handles fall damage, it's possible to accidentally commit suicide by walking off a small drop (like, say, a threshold) while critically encumbered, and having the game add the excess weight in your inventory to the effects of your "fall".


  • NetHack has various levels of encumbrance, which increasingly limit your movement - burdened, strained, stressed, overtaxed (when you can't walk), and overloaded (when you can barely move your arms).
  • Same with ADOM, except when you're Overloaded! adding one more thing can crush you. Normally not a problem if you're in a safe area, but if you picked up the (self-replicating) si - *squish*.
  • Castle of the Winds averts this trope as well; your movement speed progresses from full with a light load, about a quarter of your hard maximum carry weight, to snailpace at said maximum. It does this linearly with weight, broken only by rounding errors.
  • Furyband and ToME averts the trope. If for example you attempt to lug four Ancient Dragon corpses back to town for artifact-making (a total of 73,000 pounds) you can move, but at a glacial pace.
  • Dungeon of Doom: "You collapse under your load".
  • In Cataclysm, while you have to track both item weight and how much volume your equipment can hold, neither have any effect until you go over the limit. Going over the volume limit will add encumbrance to various body parts, each having some stat penalty associated with it. Going over the weight limit causes intermittent damage and pain, with potential for Yet Another Stupid Death as high pain levels can reduce strength further.
  • Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup used to have encumbrance ratings, which were based off of your character's Strength stat. Melee-focused brutes wouldn't have as much trouble unless they were using a lot of really heavy equipment or carrying around large rocks, but noodly wizard types could potentially have trouble carrying all the potions and scrolls they wanted to. As of version 0.15, item weight and encumbrance have been removed from the game as part of the Anti-Frustration Features.

     Mecha Game  

  • Armored Core is notorious of this. Being overweight either slows your mech down like heck or it is disallowed to sortie at all. The latter is common in the first series while the former is featured in games post 2 continuity.
  • The Naval Ops series does this with ships. While increasing weight will slow a ship down a bit, go just one unit over the hull's weight limit and the ship won't work. Probably because it can't float anymore.
  • Videogame/Mechwarrior prevents overweight mechs from being used, but a mech with a single Small Laser and one with a full permitted loadout both move at the same speed if the empty tonnage in the former isn't used for a more powerful engine.

     Role Playing Games  

  • Most games by Bethesda
    • The Elder Scrolls series. This is amusing, but potentially fatal when you're close to the limit, and the arrow you've just been struck with puts you over and you become rooted to the spot. note  Made particularly obvious with the Useless Useful Spell, Burden, which artificially increases a character's encumbrance. Sadly no enemy is ever close to the tipping point so this spell only harms players.
      • As some kind of twisted Anti Frustration Measure, key items (items that are associated with a quest and can never be dropped normally) actually weigh zero pounds despite their numerical value. Even that giant ceremonial orc warhammer. The Daedric artifacts are NOT key items and will be one hell of a straw.
    • The Fallout series plays this trope straight. Depending on just how much over your carry weight you are, you will either move very slowly or be completely immobile. Fallout 1 had an amusing bug where your companions would only check for weight when bartering — but not stealing or planting items. Thus, NPC followers became pack mules with an unlimited carrying capacity as the player kept planting miniguns and suits of metal armor on their person. It really sucked when they died — how are you going to move 500 pounds of stuff now?
      • Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas make this even more noticeable; there's only one level of over weight (really damn slow), and it only takes a single weight unit to put you over. Carrying 280 pounds of stuff plus one empty soda bottle is apparently too difficult. To patch the obvious workaround, you also become completely unable to fast travel, so no teleporting back to your safehouse to dump your stuff there.
      • New Vegas however has a perk that lets you fast travel while over-encumbered, as well as perks that reduce the weight of some of your items.
  • Geneforge plays it straight, mostly. Once you hit the encumbrance limit, you are slowly drained of AP for every weight unit over.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura averts the trope with an encumbrance system that imposed penalties based on the percentage of your carrying capacity that you are using. That spare suit of armor will slow you down pretty badly even if you could carry two.
  • In Mitadake High, your movement speed will take an extremely sudden fall if the total weight of your carried items goes over 20 - even if the last thing you picked up was a piece of note paper, and you could move just fine before that.
  • Nox plays this straight as well. Bonus points for animating the character who is encumbered while running, as if he were anchored to the ground or something.
  • Ships in Space Rangers will slow down slightly as the holds are loaded, but just one excess unit of cargo will keep them from moving at all.
  • Hydlide 3/Super Hydlide and Virtual Hydlide penalize your character for carrying more than a certain weight.
  • In S.T.A.L.K.E.R., in the basic un-modded Shadow of Chernobyl game, you can carry up to 50kg with no problems. However, if you carry 50.1 to 59.9kg, while you can still move around, your endurance drains faster, which lessens how long you can run for. The instant you hit 60kg or higher, you'll be unable to move until lightening your load, which can be bad if you're stuck in a firefight or a monster attacks you while you're busy looting that last corpse.
  • Dark Souls averts this with a vengeance. If your currently-equipped gear goes over your Equip Load stat, you can only walk slowly and can't roll. However, your character's mobility also changes depending on whether their equipment takes up less than 25%, 50%, or 100% of their Equip Load stat, from being able to sprint at full speed and make rapid consecutive rolls for as long as you have stamina, to clomping around and flopping ineffectually when you try to roll (also known as fat rolling.)
  • Evil Islands: There's a maximum of weight you can carry before you're unable to run, although you can increase the limit with a skill.

     Simulation Games  

  • Dwarf Fortress has encumbrance tiers that slow creatures down for each tier crossed. Dwarves can even carry stone boxes filled with heavy metal bars on their own, but take forever to do so. This is particularly aggravating when traders turn up with a large amount of heavy objects loaded onto one of their wagons; they won't allow trading until every wagon has been unloaded at the trade depot, and in some cases they've been known to pack up and leave again before the overloaded wagon gets anywhere near.
  • In Lost in Blue, each character has a twenty-slot inventory. This leads to bizarre occasions where the characters can somehow shove twenty logs down their ass, but only be able to carry twenty leaves.

     Turn Based Strategy  

  • Jagged Alliance 2 subverts this trope, by increasing the "fatigue" cost of actions proportionally to the character's total carried weight. Having 134% weight means losing 34% fatigue points more than normal. However, you don't get a bonus for carrying less than 100%... On the other hand, carrying more than 100% also trains the character's Strength. It is not uncommon for people to load up weak characters with over 200% carry weight and have them move back and forth through empty road sectors.
  • X-COM and UFO After Blank have something similar - soldiers who are overloaded suffer a Time Unit penalty. However, since encumbrance is a function of improvable physical strength, eventually that penalty will go away.
  • In Makai Kingdom, some equipment (such as heavy armor, large rocks and oversized weapons) reduce your movement. If it reaches 0, the unit can't move. Curiously, the reduction only takes place when you're carrying the item in an appropriate slot - carrying a boulder in your weapon slot doesn't weigh you down at all, while a merchant can carry five gatling guns with no hindrance as long as she keeps them in her equipment slots and not the weapon slot.
  • 7.62mm High Caliber averts this by providing a set limit that mercs can easily carry and gradually slowing their movement down the more they carry. However, the game's relatively realistic inventory system will generally prevent them from carrying so much that they're unable to move (trying to make them carry three rocket-propelled grenades and a backpack full of ammunition for their M60 will most certainly turn them into a slug, though). Wearing any backpack will also automatically restrict movement by preventing prone mercs from rolling side to side.

     Wide Open Sandbox  

  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. plays this trope kind of straight — your agility varies with weight, but the moment you're carrying a single gram over 50 kilograms, you can't run for more than a very short time. At exactly 60Kg you can't move at all without a powered exoskeleton. Some artifacts can increase your weight capacity, though they're not present in Shadow of Chernobyl.

     Tabletop Games  
  • Most games based from Dungeons & Dragons ruleset, such as Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment. But not the pen-and-paper game itself, where an increasingly large load slows you down more and more, and even a load of up to 5 times your encumbrance limit can still be dragged.
    • Not that it matters, seeing as encumbrance is one of the first rules that a DM is likely to ignore for the sake of a smooth game. No-one likes to have to micromanage the weight of every single coin the party picks up, especially with the prevalence of weightless extra-dimensional storage space.
    • Interestingly, detailed encumbrance management seems to have been a deliberate part of the D&D experience in the game's earliest days, when the focus was less on high-action fantasy adventure and more on, well, "dungeon heists" with the intent of coming out with the most valuable and portable treasure while avoiding fights, traps and other dangers as best possible. This is also at the root of the "experience points for gold" paradigm found in early editions.
  • In GURPS progressively heavier loads make you slower and easier to hit (none, light, medium, heavy, extra-heavy). There's even one step beyond that but it costs fatigue every second.
  • In the original Heavy Gear game, the customization feature included the "load" limit, where the "load" was how heavy all the stuff you were tacking on the Gear was. The "maximum load" was determined by the Gear's parts, i.e. an Assault Gear like a Kodiak or a King Cobra would have a higher maximum load than a Scout Gear like a Cheetah or a Gila. One could approach the maximum load limit as close as they can without any consequences, but as soon as that limit is breached, even by a small amount, the top speed of the gear drops exponentially. You could have a Gear that can reach 72KPH suddenly have its speed reduced to 16KPH after you bolt on that machine gun. The manual also states that if the load exceeds the maximum by a substantial amount, the Gear would also incur stress on its internal structure, which probably means more damage if the armor is penetrated.

Non-Video Game Examples

    Fan Works 
  • Subverted during Chapter 5 of Super Paper Mario X, when the teams are trying to press a red button to go onward. Their combined weight isn't enough to do the job, but this turns into success when all they needed was the weight of a Cragnon.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

     Real Life  
  • A purse or backpack only needs an additional 300g (10oz) to go from safe to carry to being heavy enough that it'll cause fairly severe back and shoulder pain after a short amount of time, not to mention being as good as a cinder brick on a chain in a bargain brawl.
  • The idiom "The straw that broke the camel's back" alludes to this, when referring to any sort of critical threshold failure.