Thursday, July 14, 2011

Runeward armor

My general plan is the same as the last time I discussed armor, but the details have shifted a bit. The main reason for the change is that I reduced damage dealt to tighten up the levels. This made it harder (read: impossible) to distinguish armor within categories by DR provided.

Just to recap... I wanted to make sure that characters who wanted to avoid armor were viable without having to provide them with gimmicks to compensate for the decision. To do this, armor couldn't simply increase defense nor could it provide straight DR--both of those make it a dominant strategy. So I made armor *reduce* defense and provide DR. This way, it presents a tradeoff across the levels of play that make it better than no armor (you did invest resources in it, after all) but not so much better that characters are obliged to wear it. Here is the diagram of how this works out. The diagram is explained thoroughly in the links above.

Light armor reduces defense by 2 but provides 3 DR to begin. Medium and Heavy armor reduce defense by 3 but provide 5 DR to begin. Each type of armor can improve at each tier (5, 10) to provide an additional DR. Heavy and Medium can also improve at level 15 (possible pushing that back to 13). The following tables show how armor performs as if it were a +X bonus to defense. In other words, at 1st level, Light armor is like a feat that increases defense by +0.8. The first table shows armor against the basic monster. The second table shows armor against the biggest-baddest possible monster of that level. It is unlikely you'll have too many "biggest-baddest" models unless your GM is a jerk.

In other words, overall armor provides a fairly impressive benefit that is worth the resource commitment when you consider it is hard to get more defense. At very low levels, it allows tanks to invest in attack stocks and still be solid defenders. By the time they invest in defense stocks, the early boost has lost some of its oomph and is more in line with the average. Occasionally, when the GM pits you against a super tough monster, armor will actually be a detriment, albeit a tiny one. I personally think this is interesting because it leads to scenes of cutting off one's own armor and reminds people that it is a tradeoff. If you disagree, remember that armor also provides magic item powers. The strength of those powers will be meted by the armor type (light, medium, heavy). Finally, because armor reduces damage taken, it in essence improves your wound threshold, which is sort of a big deal. All in all, I think armor is highly attractive but can definitely see players deciding it isn't for them. That was the goal.

You may have noticed that Medium and Heavy armor are bunched. I decided to keep the DR the same and simply have Heavy provide more benefits. So far, in addition to better magical properties, Heavy's main advantage is that it lets you keep more of your wound threshold when you go to Bloodied. That, again, is sort of a big deal.

The problem is that now I need to distinguish armors within categories. So I turn to you for ideas. Here's what I got so far:
  • Make armors vulnerable to damage types (bludgeon, pierce, slash) so that DR is reduced against its type (i.e. Chainmail would be -1 to pierce).
  • The typical stuff (weight, price, how long it takes to don, not made of metal, etc)
  • Reduce movement class (MC)
  • Provide an actual power?
  • Restrict magic item properties to certain types (i.e. Power X applies only to Leather and Hide)


  1. I dig the cutting off armor to face like a giant, seems keeping with the idea of cinematic combat. I also think you will see more dropping the shield at times (if its primary benefit is to not provoke)- which could be equally cool.

    Do you have to distinguish the armor within types for a reason other than wanting to have multiple stated out armors within each type? I guess if all armor does is grant me DR/change defense why does it matter what it looks like in place of a category? I mean- if my ranger wants to wear a hardened bear hide, my knight wears a gleaming breastplate or my sellsword wears a mix matched set of chain/leather/plate but they all give the benefits of medium armor do they need other descriptors?

    As for the suggestions you offered if you go this way I think vulnerability is more complex that this. It works fine for fighting human like opponents, but I never liked the old 3.x having to figure out what kind of damage a bite versus like a gore did for every monster. Like is a giants club bludgeon, but if he puts spikes on it does it lose the bludgeon and become all piece- can things be multiple types and how does that work for vulnerability. Also have to think about magic. I assume the armor DR is going to work equally well against magic (otherwise isn't the defense always better fighting anything magical?) at which point it becomes odd that my chainmail blocks magic better than a rapier.

    I'd also be careful with reduced movement. I am not sure how it would be in play but reduced MC with zones feels like a bigger draw back than losing a square or 5 ft of speed. I'm sure it would play similarly, but in the counting move styles I just went a little slower, now the armor might actually stop me from doing something cool (or at least make it harder) if that makes sense.

    If you want to go powers I would attach them to armor types. Like maybe there is natural, chain, plate, layered (thinking like scale or banded but I can't come up with a better name) that each do something. They don't even have to exist in every category- so light might only allow natural and chain where medium has all four and heavy doesn't have natural or something. Then it is just a matter of creating four powers (or stacking costs/benefits with a base type) to cover some general types of armor. You could stack flavor on top of that and have like elves only enchant natural armor, or an order of knights that only wears plate and crafts it from special material that gives a property.

    As for the actual powers of the types- or in general, I would keep them passive. As a personal preference I think the defense should be passive and as close to a static bonus as possible. Weapons can be active- things I choose to use- but I think armor works better as a passive feature that I write down and don't have to come back to. I think this works to keep the trade offs visible as well- easier to understand the math difference with a static benefit than something you have to figure out the utility of using based on situation.

    Just some thoughts based on your question, despite the length of this I am overall in favor of the armor as DR with a defense penalty ideas.

  2. I figured I'd present three tiers of complexity.

    The first tier would be straight armor by category and you describe as you like.

    The second tier would provide a handful (probably three) armors per tier with modest tradeoffs. Things like weight, cost, don time, and maybe some other little gimmicks like "Damaged on crit, reduce DR by 1 until fixed" or something like that. Nothing crazy, but give each a feel.

    The third tier would introduce the vulnerabilities by damage type and be the most complex. The reason I think it'd be easier than in 3e is that the vast majority of monsters make one attack and therefore have one damage type. It might still be annoying for some groups, though, and so would be optional. It wouldn't be embedded into the game or used to balance armor.

    I also agree on the passivity of defensive powers. I think there is enough going on in the attack-side of the game that making defense more passive is a good call.

  3. Interesting. Still not sold on the third tier but if it is just the most complex of a series of options I can see it having its uses.

    For the second tier I think works out. I'd still suggest (and assume you planned on) making some similarities between armors of the same type- like chain shirt and chainmail have similar traits aside from being light and medium armor. Help make it feel a little bit more natural and predictable

  4. Definitely the plan to share traits across tiers. I'm also slowly becoming less sold on even pursuing the third tier. It would be easy enough to add in later, but I'm not sure it warrants the effort right now.