System X over Y Part 2:Armor Penalties

Snow Suit Xmas story

Armor can make you harder to hit. It can stop you from taking damage. Verdict is still out if it should do both.  Regardless, since armor is fantastic, what drawbacks should it have?

Mechanics that I’ve seen are dice pool penalties, penalties to dexterity (Or REF, PP, or whatever), penalties to stealth and others. I’ve also played in games the use the encumbrance rules. I mean really use them. That definitely shows how heavy armor is. Also your arrows. And rations. And loot. Painfully. I have spent more time trying to slim down my fantasy possessions to keep the character below the encumbrance threshold than ever I did dealing damage or role-playing. This is sad, because dealing damage is super fun!

I know that I don’t want to spend hard earned enchanting dollars on 25% weight reduced camping supplies, but I do want walking juggernauts to sink when they fall off boats.  Happy Medium?

There’s a benchmark that I’m looking for is “Real enough”. This is should show some ties the real world and actual physics, without having to worry about dropping your backpack for combat (and never getting it back afterwards). Yes 1993, GURPS fantasy game, I’m looking at you.

Bean counting equipment weight seems like work. I get enough of work at work, so a tie in to encumbrance is out for me. Another extreme, of no penalty, seems to open the door for rogues and wizards walking around in full plate. Need the real enough. That leaves penalty to the dexterity-like stats and/or skill penalties.

Stealth or prowl penalty makes a degree of sense for someone covered in chainmail. Does it still hold true for futuristic armor made of super alien hemp plastics? Where does the penalty come from, is it the bulk or the noise? If your game’s skill is attached the dex-like stat, it would be a double whammy to affect them both the stat and the skill. Not all games do. We don’t know what our skill mechanics are going to look like, so this may be revised.

I put forth that underlying dex-like stat is not to be affected. The rationale is this, if I’m sitting at a table wearing piles of armor, I could still perform a coin roll in one of hands. (the hand not caressing the loaded crossbow under the table). The logic next step would have the same armor hinder skills that cold be affected by both bulk and noise. Examples would inlcude stealth, acrobatics, swimming and certain forms of fighting. This list is not 100% inclusive, but we’ll go with the spirit of it for now.


4 responses to “System X over Y Part 2:Armor Penalties

  1. Armor (and other encumbrance) from one (maybe) “Real Enough” perspective:

    Setting aside that it’s Monty Python for a moment, did you ever notice that each and every knight has an attending squire with their own *cough* horse, carrying all that extra gear? That’s probably a fairly realistic assessment, I’d guess, though probably (hopefully?) not to the level of load that they showed. Even more so, I’d wager, when you start looking at the stereotypical fully-plate-armored knight on his mighty charger. The happy medium you’re looking for may well be accomplished by nothing more esoteric than a pack-animal. 🙂

    The “bean counting” is work, to be sure. How much of it is necessary for “real enough” becomes a personal preference, though — what constitutes “real enough” for you is probably at least a bit different than it is for me. When pushed to the wall for that level of realism, I find that I tend to try for a standard battle-ready equipment-stack that is a known quantity shy of whatever the next encumbrance level is. That way, if I know I have another 6 pounds, or 10 kg, or whatever before I have to worry about encumbrance effects, all I need concern myself with is whether I’m acquiring that much extra load during battle. Afterwards, I can redistribute however I need. Obviously, that’s from a player perspective, and probably on the more realistic side of the range.

    As far as armor penalties are concerned… The ones that drive me nuts more often than not are the ones that, ultimately, affect a characteristic that’s too broad in it’s definition (IMO). Dexterity is usually the culprit, by whatever name. If DEX is supposed to represent *all* mind-body coordination, it make a fair amount of sense that full chain or plate armor is going to impede my ability to, say, walk a tightrope or slack-rope. Call that “agility,” maybe. It makes a lot less sense that it would affect my ability to perform fine hand manipulations unless I’m wearing gauntlets or some such. Dunno what to call that, but for the sake of argument, let’s say “Coordination.”

    Of course, the trade-off is that you have to worry about rabid proliferation of character attributes… How may DEX-related stats do you _really_ want to keep track of?

    I like the idea of armor (or, ultimately, specified *pieces* of armor) affecting specific skills, but that also strikes me as a lot of book-keeping work, and work that a GM might not be able to delegate to their players.


    Hopefully I’m not coming across as being too negative/critical of the ideas you’re throwing out there… 😀

  2. Ooh. Random thought: what if the *armor itself* has some sort of… negative traits/negative skills? Like plate armor having “clumsy” or “-3 DEX” or “-3 Stealth”?

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