I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Don't like armor class? Here are some options...

A quick post today, inspired by this one. JB's classification is more straightforward than mine; I would like to detail it further, although many examples below would fit in his 4 categories.

So, do you need an alternate rule for armor in D&D? Here is what armor can do for you in different games, specially D&D and similar.

1 - Armor Class - Makes you less likely to be hit (example: traditional AC, as seem in  classic D&D).
2 - Damage Reduction - Reduces damage dealt to you (example: this and lots of other RPGs).
3 - Damage Division - Divides damage dealt to you (example: resistance in D&D 5e).
4 - Damage Conversion - changes damage from one type to another; slashing to bludgeoning, etc (example: GURPS does this IIRC).
5 - Ablative armor - Gives you extra HP (example: The Black Hack).
6 - Free pass - gives you immunity against one or more attacks, regardless of damage (example: shields shall be splintered, Fate).
7 - Life-saver - allows you a saving throw against damage (example: WHFRP, see JB's post).
8 - (Low) Damage Threshold - ignore damage up to a point; for example, armor 3 would completely protect you from 1, 2 or 3 points of damage, but if you take 4 points it isn't reduced (example: Dragon Warriors uses a reversed version of this, I think).
9 - (High) Damage Threshold - protects you against damage after a point (example: I have never seem this used, nor do I think it is a good idea, but I had a house rule in OD&D that used exploding d6s for damage, unless you were using a helmet).
9 - Critical protection - protects you against critical hits or make them less deadly (Rolemaster)
10 - Damage immunity - fully protects you from some types of weapons or special attacks (haven't seem it in a game, although it might be "realistic" in some cases, or might be caused by damage reduction - the fight of Sir Barristan against a Dothraki in ASOIF comes to mind).

... but if armor is so useful, why isn't everyone using it?

1 - Too expensive.
2 - Too heavy.
3 - Slows you down (not necessarily the same as #2).
4 - Too hot.
5 - Too conspicuous.
6 - Too wimpy.
7 - Too hard to find.
8 - Not allowed (because of social class, etiquette of other reasons).
9 - Gets in the way of your spells, skills, sight, hearing, swimming, or even fighting accuracy.
10 - Requires a special class, skill or feat.

There is still lots of possibilites around... Attacking hard armor bare-handed hurts your hand in GURPS, and rigid armor stops arm locks, among other things. More exotic ideas would include spiky or fiery armor that damages opponents, mirror armor to confuse foes and fight the medusa, mechanical or biological armor, etc.

What did I forget? Let me know in the comments!

BTW: Do you like any of these? Or some combination of them? Consider writing it down in one single page. The images in this post are on the public domain in the US, as far as I know, so you can use them if you want (the artist is Walter Crane).


  1. If you haven't seen it, Blood & Bronze handles armor in an interesting way. Shields provide a small amount of damage reduction. Armor works like shields shall be splintered but armor has an armor score which is essentially a roll equal to or under saving throw. If you roll equal to or under the armor score on a d20, then the armor absorbs the attack & is still functional. If the save fails, then the attack is blocked but the armor is destroyed. The better the armor, the higher the armor score so full bronze armor will tend to last longer than leather armor. The best suit of armor in the game only has an armor score of 10. I like this approach because it introduces the need & cost of having armor repaired or replaced without the bean counting that ablative armor systems tend to introduce.

    1. It sounds very interesting! I would like to see how it works in actual play - it seems like armor is pretty weak. Is damage rolled before you decide to test your armor?

  2. Yes, armor is pretty weak. I don't have the full rules ... just the Character Compendium and Quick-start Rules pdf that is up for free on dtrpg. It has everything you would need to create a character but not a full break down of the combat rules. It states armor "can" be used to negate the effect of an attack which implies it is a choice but that isn't clear. The Mercenary class (their version of the fighter) can take an armor proficiency ability that gives them a minus to the die roll for the armor save which is good since you need to roll low. They can take the ability up to 3 times for a max of -3 to the save roll so armor will tend to last longer for people experienced in its use. Weapon damage is comparable to older versions of D&D and its clones but you roll another damage die if you roll max on the first damage die so damage explodes. From what I can tell hit points (called endurance points) don't increase with level and range, depending on class, from 8 to 16 so it is a deadlier game where the decision to get into a fight isn't something to be taken lightly. It is more like Runequest or Stormbringer in that respect.

    1. Sounds interesting, I'll check it out. Thanks!

  3. In OD&D and other systems with descending AC, how about armor degradation upon scoring a natural 20 to hit? Degradation reduces (or increases, rather!) the AC score by one point, representing wear on the armor, bits knocked off, or fouled joints between articulated pieces. The armor's reduced effectiveness would last till the armor is repaired. That's a 5% chance each attack. I would think the referee should exercise common sense here; a dagger or fist is not like to degrade armor, at least where giants aren't in play. Heck, maybe allow a called shot (exceed target to-hit number by 5 or more) to deliberately degrade your opponent's armor, if an appropriate weapon is used. I'm going to give these ideas a whirl next weekend. Thanks for the ideas, Eric!

  4. I forgot to mention that the target armor makes a roll-over save against its current AC value to avoid degradation. Plate can take some punishment!

    1. That sounds great! Your idea of just using common sense is cool too. I image plate would only be reduced by maces, estocs, two-handed weapons etc, while chain would suffer from penetrating weapons and leather from all kinds of weapons. A similar system could be devised for shields... Cool stuff!

  5. (High) Damage Threshold shouldn't ignore any damage that's above the limit, like (Low) does. Instead, it should *cap* the damage to that number. It's inconsistent, but way more balanced.