I’ve been thinking about some of the classic systems in D&D that can be easily bought with a pile of gold. At low levels a fighter that can afford full plate armor, a horse, and masterwork steel weapons, is going to be an unstoppable beast of a fighter compared to his broke ass, leather wearing, club wielding brother in arms. But this is just one of those facts of life, being well endowed with riches will give you substantial benefits over those wallowing in the mud.
Click here for my compiled Armor Charts
This had me thinking about the potential different aspects that armor can grant you as both positive and negative. The most obvious being Armor Class. Back in the day you could separate AC by attack type, Slashing / Piercing / Blunt. That’s always been more that I’d want to keep track of, more so because often times the differences were minimal at one or two points of variance between them. I also don’t really do much with armor check penalties for casters and rogues, mostly because they are generally required to wear class appropriate gear. I think what I’d want to figure out is a way to introduce these higher AC’s typically reserved for fighters to the other classes by applying additional bonuses and penalties to particular types of armor that would make gameplay more interesting on a risk/reward scale.
I’ve been tweaking my system to the point that classic armors have base AC, Dex mod, damage reduction, and Str requirements. The lighter the armor that you wear, the less damage you can shrug off, but you might not be able to wear the heavier stuff based on a lower STR. Being under the STR req reduces your movement per round by 10′ per 1 STR. It also further penalizes your DEX mod by 1 per 1 STR. Not to mention, being under the STR req only allows you as many rounds as you have points of STR to stay in combat without becoming fatigued. In the end, the more gold you have, the better armor you’re going to acquire, but at the same time the gold cost is nullified if you’re just not able to wear the stuff effectively in the first place. Also, as an added bonus for single-classed fighters, they’re able to wear any armor without suffering Dex penalties, provided they meet the Str requirement. Other classes can do the same, but are required to take a single-slot proficiency in that specific armor.
Adding damage reduction to heavy armor really tips things in favor of the Fighter types that can actually equip it. However, it only takes a called shot to bypass armor and hit a specific location. I’m a big fan of called shots, adding a bit of flair and a personal touch to your combat really draws players in. It’s not just “I hit it with my axe” /roll /dmg. Rogues would be terribly disadvantaged by the DR that heavy armors allow if it weren’t for the ability to called shot. I consider their ability to backstab as a called shot, and all that extra damage would bypass DR giving them a chance to fight on their classically unfair terms. Really what that DR is intended for is charging onto the front lines with the loads of DM controlled creatures that are far less likely to intentionally bypass DR via called shot.
Initially when I got to this point, I liked it, and things felt good. I had an initial pang of guilt that I was adding in unnecessary complications to the system. Really though, there’s a lot of things that go into old school armor, I was just cleaning up the rules a bit. Despite of this guilt, I still didn’t feel like there was enough modularity to the different types of armor. I took another session of scouring various sources to create a list of materials and armor types that could modify the armor, usually at a cost of even more gold. Of these many are materials you would expect, and a couple cherry picked out of Pathfinder, 3e, 4e, and probably one or two of the D&D blogs out there. Things like Bone, Adamantite, Hardleaf, Double-Plate, and Bulette Scales, among many others, are all included on my charts for marginal to quite significant costs depending on the material.