Random Thoughts on Armor in RPGs

Lazy post today.

I’ve been ruminating about the approaches to armor use in RPGs.  It seems to me it breaks down into two main approaches:

1) The first, and most intuitive, approach to armor is to have it reduce damage taken if the character is hit.  Taken to its logical conclusion, if you wear armor that is heavy enough, it may slow you down and actually make you easier to hit, though any hits would do less damage thanks to the heavy armor.  This approach is used by probably 90+% of the non-d20/D&D clone systems out there.

2) The second, less intuitive, approach is to have armor make you harder to hit in the first place.  The reasoning behind this is that the armor deflected the blow and therefore an actual hit on flesh never landed.  This approach is used by the d20 system and the D&D clones and simulacra (which, ironically, makes it the more common system due to the sheer popularity of The Game).

While approach #1 is more intuitive and, I would argue, logical, it does have one inherent flaw in my estimation:  it adds one (or more) additional steps to the process of combat resolution.  I know many players don’t mind a little extra crunch in their systems (or even a lot of extra crunch), but I prefer relatively quick combat resolution.  And that is where approach #2 shines, in my opinion.  Combat is resolved in basically two steps:  make a roll to hit and, if you did hit, make a roll for damage.  No need to determine how much damage made it through, or make a damage resistance test, or anything like that.  Just BAM, roll dice, move on to the next player’s turn.

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One Response to “Random Thoughts on Armor in RPGs”

  1. David Jenks Says:

    I agree with your preference–keep it quick, keep it simple. It’s a simulation of reality; it’s not reality. If you want “realistic” armor, you’ll need to start including more “realistic” weapon features. And “realistic” magic? That way lies madness.

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