Okay, so I’ve been having a lot of problems with high (we’re talking 4+, here) armour in my games – at that point, pretty much anything I throw at the party has to either be able to instagib the less armoured characters or needs to have a contrived reason to ignore armour entirely, in order for me to still be able to threaten the armoured characters with HP damage. The end result is that common enemies (i.e. a dude with a sword), which should still somewhat be a threat, end up being a complete non-issue, and I don’t like that.
I think I’ve finally come up with houserules that might level out the playing field a bit, but I’m not entirely sure which of these works best. Here are my three options:
Option #1: you can never have more than 3 armour. This is boring, but elegant. Any armour above 3 exists as a “buffer” – e.g. piercing subtracts from that first (so armour 4 never reduces damage by more than 3, but attacks with 1-piercing still treat it as armour 3, 2-piercing as armour 2, etc.).
Option #2: you can have as much armour as you like, but armour is a “damage threshold” – this means that you ignore any damage below your armour value, but take full damage for anything above. A character with 2 armour would ignore an enemy rolling 1 or 2 damage, but would take 3 damage if the enemy rolled a 3. Advantage: it makes high damage enemies stay scary, even for armoured characters. Disadvantage: it’s super swingy, and makes armour 1-2 pretty worthless.
Option #3: armour reduces the maximum damage that enemies can roll – in other words, if you have 4 armour and are hit with d8 damage, any roll of 5+ is treated as a 4, but anything below is treated as its face value (so on a 3, you still take 3 damage). Advantage: it’s nowhere near as swingy as #2, doesn’t obsolete armour 1-2, and my gut feeling is that it would really help normalise damage. Disadvantage: it’s a lot of extra bookkeeping, and low sort-of being good is counter-intuitive.
Out of the three, I think #3 is the one that best fits what I want, with #1 as an acceptable compromise that would solve the issue, if feel really contrived in play.
Does anyone have any thoughts?
edit: a couple of counter-points I’m adding to this OP:
1. rust monsters/oozes/etc. are a band-aid rather than a real fix – you can’t just throw one at the party every single time someone goes above 3 armour.
2. ditto threatening the PCs’ gear instead of dealing HP damage. It’s something you should be able to do when you want, not something you’re forced to do all the time against high armour PCs because HP damage isn’t a possibility!