Ugh. Encumbrance rules.
As a DM, I don’t want them. As a Player, I don’t want them. But for every gaming group I run a homebrewed world in, I always ask my players how they want to handle it. And at my tables, democracy usually rules the rules.
In fact, it goes something like this during Session Zero: “Okay, now how do we want to deal with tracking weight, encumbrance, and ammo. Personally, I do not want to assign weights to everything.” Most of the time, players don’t want to deal with any of it. I probably would not even bother asking proactively, but since it is printed in the 5th Ed Player’s Handbook, I feel I should address it.
The only time I get concerned about what players carry, are reserved for extraordinary circumstances. For example, the party kills a slew of well-armored gnolls. They take the time to strip the defeated, and now want to carry 10 suits of chainmail armor to sell in town or smelt them into ingots. I ask players to describe how they accomplish that the task. Instead of bookkeeping, turn it into descriptive story, with potential complications in the future.
Ask players how their characters are staying organized. How will they wield their weapons or cast spells if their hands are full? I love players willing to doff their shield (dropping their AC) to carry crap. When it is relevant, a DM has options: CON saves leading to Exhaustion, hands being occupied carrying crap versus weapons, possible Perception Disadvantage if items are blocking their vision.
My Current Group
That leads me to my current group of players. My group is split with players who either played a lot of 4th Edition and video games such as Skyrim, WoW, and Dragon Age, while the rest are older tabletop players, having skipped 3rd and 4th Editions of D&D. It was agreed that tracking encumbrance and ammo would be desired, but could be revisited if it became either bothersome due to bookkeeping or work on my part. I have a great group and want to accommodate the best I can.
We did talk a bit about how RPG video games have the paperdoll concept showing item “slots” where certain items were allocated. I proposed a single-sheet where players could potential item slot items that are equipped or normally equipped.
Pdf copy -> Character Item Slot & Backpack Inventory (pdf)
Character Item Slot Sheet
For all other items, they are stored in a series of packs, bags, and pouches. I asked my longtime group what they felt was an ideal amount of packs and such, and this is what we went with: a central backpack, 4 large bags, 3 belt pouches, and 3 items that can be strapped onto the whole pack arrangement. When characters are normally created they automatically receive this arrangement.
Players have been limiting themselves to a single item per line item. So far so good, and the players seem happy with the sheet.
Character Backpack Inventory Sheet
I print this sheet out and put copies in player binders.