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

Friday, April 02, 2021

D&D 5e armor: a very simple fix

(A quick note: Tiago Rolim, an OSR designer, is ill and needs our help. Please check this out. And you get a lot of cool-looking games for US$10. I don't know Tiago or anyone involved in this bundle, just want to help).

This drives me crazy:

I think we could come up with something better and simpler:

Armor types have no names anymore. Instead, you get to describe your own armor by choosing from the table above and fitting it into of the three categories below. As I've said  before, "Let the players choose how they present their armor, as long as it makes sense. Chain mail with breast plate and no helmet? Cool! Shoulder pads to protect you in your right arm, big scary helmet, and bare chest? Nice!"

Notice that now heavy armor is always heavier than medium armor, and both always heavier than light armor. What a crazy idea, right?

Here is what armor types mean:

Light Armor: Made from supple and thin materials (usually leather or cloth), and maybe a few pieces of metal (just a helmet and or maybe protection for the right arm, etc.), light armor favors agile adventurers since it offers some protection without sacrificing mobility. If you wear light armor, you add your Dexterity modifier to the base number from your armor type to determine your Armor Class.

Medium Armor: Medium armor offers more protection than light armor, but it also impairs movement more. It is made with metal rings, scales or even plates (like a breastplate), but doesn't cover the entire body, although you will often use leather and cloth as padding or to protect exposed joints, etc. If you wear medium armor, you add your Dexterity modifier, to a maximum of +2, to the base number from your armor type to determine your Armor Class.

Heavy Armor: Of all the armor categories, heavy armor offers the best protection. These suits of armor cover the entire body in metal (of varying quality) and are designed to stop a wide range of attacks. Includes a helmet, gorget, or both. Only proficient warriors can manage their weight and bulk. Heavy armor doesn’t let you add your Dexterity modifier to your Armor Class, unless the  modifier is negative.

What about stealth? Here is what I've got.

Some types of armor are noisy, usually due to heavy or low-quality material/craftsmanship. A creature has disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks while wearing noisy armor. You can find noisy, low quality light and medium armor for half the usual price. Alternatively, you can find good medium armor with additional pieces or layers that increases its AC by one, but also makes the armor noisy and doubles weight and price. Heavy armor is always noisy.

Notice that we have more options than the original system, and the whole thing makes sense. We could go even further and just say light armor weights 10 pounds, medium 20 (or 40 if noisy), and heavy, 50 or 60 regardless of AC. 

You could add a line about druids and how you can find nonmetal armor up to AC 12... but I'd go one step further and add bone, stone, etc., to give them even more options. But that's another subject.


  1. That's an exceptionally clean solution- nicely done!

  2. I like it!

    A quick thought: Instead of "max 2 Dex" for medium armour you have "half Dex"? Then you have a full -> half -> none progression.

    Alternatively: Have heavy armour get 1/4 Dex bonus so that really high Dex fighters with Heavy Armour get something from it. Plate armor doesn't bind that much.

    1. Thanks! Yes, that's a great idea! IIRC Dragon Heresy does something like that.

  3. I like it, except for negative Dex modifiers applying to plate armour. Dexterity is already the God Stat in 5e, and the last thing martials need is a nerf, however slight. SOMEONE in the world should be able to dump Dex.

    1. You are completely right, now that I think about it. I wrote an entire post on how Dex is too powerful in 5e (didn't publish yet), and now I've fallen on the same trap.
      I will definitely remove this bit.

    2. (In fact, I'll publish that post about Dex today or tomorrow. I think it is relevant to the subject of armor. I'll add your comment if you don't mind; if you do, I'll edit it).