15 May 2010

Armor and Dodging: A couple of house rules.

One of the things that has had a wierd place in my mind has been movement and armor in D&D, especially when I was in my 3rd edition phase. This was about the same time that the Lord of the Rings came out, and the Ranger was Aragorn, clearly. He got bonus feats when he was in leather, which explains why he wore it, but then went for heavier armor classes when he was in mass combat, which is significantly more dangerous. 

Which sort of makes sense, if you buy the idea that somebody who makes a dedicated study to a fighting style can't use that style when they change armor for any reason. Armor-induced amnesia, perhaps? 

But regardless, the way that the Secret of Steel works is that armor grants you additional Toughness, which is what you roll when you get hit, but it reduces your Defense score. In other words, armor makes you easier to hit, but harder to hurt, which by all accounts is exactly what it does. Having high armor doesn't mean that arrows and crossbow bolts don't hurt you, it just means that it doesn't hurt as much as it should were you unarmored.

Since I'm currently playing Labyrinth Lord, I've been thinking about ways to put this same sort of system in LL, without totally changing the nature of the game. It's something that bothers me, to be sure, but where to go with it? There's no way that reversing the armor class tables and giving the heavier armor some sort of "damage reduction" would work out all that well- although it's certainly a thought.

Especially if one decided to do the same with monsters, although that can be a more difficult case to decide. In a lot of cases, monsters have "natural armor" in addition to being difficult to hit due to armor plates or incredible monstrous agility or what-have-you. For example, a griffin in this example would probably have the same armor class, since they're not especially tough, but a dragon would certainly have a much lower armor class, since they're not particularly large, but they're very tough.

But would this make tougher monsters even tougher? It works in The Secret of Steel because armor is abstracted to three classes; Light, Medium, and Heavy, with each one decreasing Defense by a little more and increasing Toughness a little more. Would there necessarily be any difference between banded and splint? And would it increase power-gaming and munchkin-ing? I suppose it depends on how it's handled, honestly, but it's something to think about.


  1. Well, I'm trying to change a basic assumption about old school D&D, which is that you should always wear as heavy of an armor as you possibly can, since not wearing armor doesn't bring you much in the way of benefits. Sure, it's heavy, so not wearing it makes you faster, but that's not particularly useful. After all, if you're dead, you're pretty slow again.

    But anyways, I'm hoping that I can encourage light armor wearing as opposed to everybody buying as much full plate as they can.

    Similar to how fighters have different weapons for different jobs, and change their style from sword and board to two hander to two weapon fighting, I think it'd be interesting to allow, from a game-mechanics sort of view, light-armored scouts to be as effective as plate-wearing fighters. Maybe not quite as effective, but still, there should be a point to not wearing much armor.

    I dunno, maybe the encumbrance rules already reflect that sort of thing and I'm over-analyzing it all.

  2. In my "d20 years", I played Conan, by MGP. That game took a completely different approach to defense: your Defense score goes up as you gain levels, and your armor gives Damage Reductions.

    If you what to do somthing like it, then I suggest having Defense as: 9 + Dex mod + shield + level bonus. PCs can gain a +2 level bonus every time their THAC0 goes up, and +1 for Fighters at level 1 (mind you, each bonus knocks down the 9, unless you have a progressive to hit system). Armor could be 9 - AC score, and cut that by half, plus 1 (2 for leather, 3 for chain, 4 for plate). The low DR for armor is so most attacks can still go through. No adjustments are needed for magic bonuses armor - just add to your score.