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.