Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Armor & Damage Reduction

In my past game I used armor as a form of damage reduction rather than the traditional deflecting of blows Armor Class represents.  I liked it, as did my players did but there's always room for improvement.  Let's start with the basics.

Each armor set provided an armor die that you would roll to determine your damage reduction.  The heavier the armor the greater the die size ranging from the mild mannered d4 representing leather armor to the mighty d12 representing plate mail.  The rest of the armor's statistics were rooted in their 3.x counterparts with armor check penalties, maximum dexterity, spell failure with minor alterations.  My players enjoyed the extra layer of protection to their fragile characters, especially the characters who were restricted to light armor in a game where attacks and armor class did not scale well.  The combination of defense and damage reduction resulted in a few complications but I'll get to that in a later post.

Armor dice provided an elegant solution for damage reducing armor but I wanted a way to further differentiate different armors for a few reasons.  The biggest concern was that most character classes fell into two categories, those that were proficient in light armor and those that were proficient with all types of armor.  This distinction left medium armor ignored mostly as the former could not equip it and the latter would always choose heavy armor due to it's larger die size.  To solve this problem I implemented two modifications.  The first and simplest was that medium armor would give a smaller penalty to speed than heavier armor.  In the world 1 square inch grids and  6 squares of standard miniature movement this meant that heavy armor would reduce your speed by 2 and medium armor would reduce your speed by one.  {Although recently I've been considering losing the speed penalty entirely for medium armor provided you had a hefty physical attribute score.}

The second modification proved to be much grander in scale in attracting the player's hard earned cash.  Flipping through my old arms and equipment guide I remembered how fascinated I was with the different descriptions of armor when I was younger.  I decided that rather than have a simple spectrum where one armor would arguably be the best while the rest were degrees inferior (AC 8 through 2 I'm looking at you,) instead certain armors were be designed, nay optimized for certain types of combat.  Doing cursory research on how different armor sets evolved and were used historically I decided that chain mail would be optimized vs piercing weapons, scale mail would be optimized vs bludgeoning weapons and lastly lamellar (a heavier armor) would be optimized vs slashing weapons (the most common damage type in my games).  This was represented mechanically by the simple rule that the armor die would be maximized versus the type of attack the armor was optimized for.  This simple addition convinced at least one player to purchase a set of chainmail after feeling the sting of a hydra's many fangs.

To wrap things up I decided to drop a number of 3.x paradigms and streamline the armor process slightly.  Spell Failure was dropped entirely, since with only one spell casting class if they want to wear heavier armor and spend the resources to do so then there is no point in further penalizing them.  Armor check was simplified to a standard value per size category. Lastly the maximum bonus one could receive from dexterity (later agility) was 1/2 for medium armor and none for heavy armor.  These rules of thumb made it easier for myself and my players to remember the drawbacks of armor without upsetting the relative balance of the system.

Up Next:  Defense, Wounds and Hit Points