Okay, so I’ve been having a lot of problems with high (we’re talking 4+, here) armour in my games – at that point,…

Okay, so I’ve been having a lot of problems with high (we’re talking 4+, here) armour in my games – at that point,…

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!

45 thoughts on “Okay, so I’ve been having a lot of problems with high (we’re talking 4+, here) armour in my games – at that point,…”

  1. Tom Tyson: rust monsters are a band-aid, not a real fix – you can’t pull one out every single time anyone in the party goes above 3 armour.

    Kaillan Reukers: as mentioned in my opening paragraph, the ignore armour tag doesn’t work for making common enemies (bandits, orcs, whatever) a threat.

    edit: also, more generally, I am well aware that HP damage is not the only thing you can threaten PCs with. I just like the ability for “basic” enemies to deal damage rather than threaten the PCs’ gear or whatever!

  2. I don’t have a solution here, however. 

    I don’t understand option 3. Doesn’t that make low armor better? If i have 1 armor then 1 is the highest they can do to me.

    If i have 3 i can take a maximum of 3 damage. 

    The whole system is counterproductive to what you actually want. Or am i missing something? 

  3. Tim Franzke: no – option 1 is “you can’t have more than 3 armour.” Armour works exactly the same as it does normally, you’re just not allowed to have any more than 3.

  4. Alex Norris sorry, i meant option 3 in that post.

    Getting to 4 armor requires some work right? checks book Okay it doesn’t. It is plate and a shield. Put in the move for extra armor and you are damn hard to damage. 

    However, that is 6 weight. A paladin might have 14-15 weight. That is 1/3ish of that

    However, this is what the player wants right? That is what makes their character cool. To be damn hard to damage and being safe in armor. Be a fan of that. 

    You can still show them the downside to their equipment. There might not be a clumsy tag anymore but that is a lot of armor you are wearing then. Heavy for sure. 

    The same thing comes up in Burning Wheel now and then where armor is even better. Luke tends to say: that is what crossbows are for. 

    And if it is established that you can’t deal with them with HP damage, do something else instead. The enemy isn’t stupid. They see that he has a shitton of armor and will behave accordingly. You can hit them with monster moves that break down to “bad effect+damage” much easier because they just have the bad effect. That is okay. 

    It is not really your job to properly threaten their HP, just to fill their lives with adventure and to be a fan. 

  5. Tim Franzke: “However, this is what the player wants right? That is what makes their character cool. To be damn hard to damage and being safe in armor. Be a fan of that.”

    This is why I prefer option #3 to option #1. #3 means that 4 armour, 5 armour, etc. continue to be worth investing in, while making it so the PC isn’t able to shrug off damage from 80% of all incoming attacks. They’ll take chip damage instead – they still get to feel nigh-invulnerable, but attrition from nicks and bruises still happens.

  6. But 5 armor means i can take 1,2,3,4,5 damage.

    1 armor means i can only take 1 damage. 

    If i understand option 3 correctly. Armor=maximum damage you can take from one attack. 


  7. I vote for option 1. #3 is too mathy… I had to read it three times before getting it. That said, nobody in any if our games ever had more than three armor.

  8. and if a Thug pushes you to the ground (maybe easier because you are in heavy plate mail) and then sticks his sword to the visor of your helmet that is ignore armor and not a tactic only a  genius would come up with. 

  9. Talking about rust monsters. One ate my heavy mace in a pathfinder society game yesterday. Which led me to the question… Has anybody ever weaponized their spit? Like put it in a bottle and throw it, or even a paintball gun?

  10. btw. A fighter can get impressive AC. 

    3 from plate +1 from a Shield

    +2 from Steel Hide 

    I think Barkskin would not stack with Steel Hide. But you could have better magical armor or spells cast on you. 

    Alternatively you could have an animal companion with at least 1 armor. (give it extra armor to wear to increase that bonus…)

  11. Tim Franzke: no. Here are examples for everything, to make it clear:

    Let’s take a character with 4 armour. They get hit with two d8 damage rolls: a 2 (attack A) and a 5 (attack B).

    Core rules:

    attack A: 0 damage (2 – 4 = 0).

    attack B: 1 damage (5 – 4 = 1).

    Option #1: no matter how much armour you have, you can never ignore more than 3 points of damage. If you have more than 3 armour, piercing comes out of your extra armour.

    attack A: 0 damage (2 – 3 = 0).

    attack B: 2 damage (5 – 3 = 0).

    attack B with 1-piercing: 2 damage (5 – 3 = 0).

    Option #2: armour doesn’t reduce damage. Instead, you take no damage for any roll under your armour value, and you take full damage from any roll above your armour value. This is the option I’m not a fan of.

    attack A: 0 damage (2 < 4).

    attack B: 5 damage (5 > 4).

    Option #3: armour reduces the maximum damage you can take.

    attack A: 2 damage (d8 – 4 = 4; any damage above 4 is reduced to 4, any damage below is dealt in full).

    attack A: 4 damage (d8 – 4 = 4, so the 5 is reduced to 4).

    In this scenario, if our PC had 2 armour instead of 4 armour, they would take 2 and 5 damage respectively, because d8 – 2 = 6.

    Option #3 is kind of weird in that your armour essentially only applies to high damage rolls, but it means that it’s still worth it going for high armour values.

  12. Wait. So option 3 is. 

    1. Take their damage dice full number.

    2. Substract your armor from that. 

    3. This is the maximum damage you can take

    So on a d8 damage die a 1 armor character can take 

    1,2,3,4,5,6,7 but not 8 damage? 

  13. Tim Franzke: correct, and anything above your maximum is reduced to your maximum. If you have 1 armour and your enemy rolls an 8 on a d8, you take 7 damage instead.

    Like I said, it’s annoyingly maths-heavy, but it means that high armour is still worth going for if you want to make a dude who has lots of armour.

    edit: for d8+5, you still subtract armour from their maximum damage, so 13 – 1 = 12.

  14. Yeah, along the lines of what Tim is saying, here is how I would handle this situation:

    A common threat like Orcs attacks the party. They are quick to realize that Tank the Fighter (or Paladin, etc.) is heavily armored and difficult to take down. So, they turn their tactics to avoiding Tank while attacking Tank’s friends with gusto. What the Orcs intend here is to have Tank the last one standing, then they take him on en masse. 10 Orcs swarm in for the kill and deal + 9 damage per attack due to the horde.

    This does a couple of things. It shows the downside to their equipment because they are being avoided until the enemy can outnumber them easily. It also introduces realism where games like D&D assume most of the enemy will automatically fight the “Defender,” because that’s a stupid tactic that no group of enemies with a brain between them would pursue.

    While it may seem silly to use this tactic over and over, it really shouldn’t. In war, if you don’t have the artillery to handle the tank (crossbows and bows in this case or other piercing or armor ignoring attacks) then you avoid the tank as best you can while crippling the tank’s support infantry. Then, you can overwhelm the tank by pure numbers – it can’t kill everyone in all directions.

    In reality, you don’t want to kill the party as I’m describing here, but you do want them to know that this is the intent of these intelligent enemies who recognize a lost cause in attacking the party’s “tank” directly. The party will have to change and adapt as well, perhaps so far as the “tank” willfully reducing his or her armor to be a more effective warrior, since it’s hard to be an effective warrior if no one wants to fight you.

  15. Alex Norris now you confused me again. 

    If anything above my maximum gets reduced TO my maximum. Then a d6 attack that does 6 damage to someone with 2 armor – what does it do. Because 

    d6-2 is 4. that is your maximum. So you only take 4 damage instead of 6? 

    But if they roll a 1,2 or 3 you get hit full? 

  16. Tim Franzke: yes.

    6 on a d6 vs. 2 armour: they take 4 damage, because the maximum damage they can take is reduced by their armour value (6 – 2 is 4, so any roll of 4+ on damage is treated as a 4).

    If the enemy rolls 6 damage, you take 4 damage.

    If the enemy rolls 5 damage, you take 4 damage.

    If the enemy rolls 4 damage, you take 4 damage.

    If the enemy rolls 3 damage, you take 3 damage.

    If the enemy rolls 2 damage, you take 2 damage.

    If the enemy rolls 1 damage, you take 1 damage.

    The lower damage values represent bruises, nicks and general fatigue. The armour stops you from getting seriously hurt, but it can’t absorb literally all the impact from being hit, and it doesn’t stop you from tiring out when you twist around so a sword glances off your pauldron instead of hitting your neck.

    At 0 HP, you were too tired/battered to properly avoid/parry/etc. the enemy’s attack, and they landed a solid hit on you – someone just jammed their dagger into your armpit and you’re bleeding out (succeed on your Last Breath and you recover from the shock fast enough to put pressure on the wound; fail and you bleed out before you regain consciousness); or concussed you and you might or might not have a brain haemorrhage (success: you were just knocked unconscious; failure: your brain haemorrhages and you die); or they ran you through, and it’s a toss-up whether or not they actually hit a major organ or whether you’ll die of shock (success: miraculously, they didn’t hit anything vital and you don’t die of shock; failure: they stabbed you in the lung and you drown in your own blood, or you simply die of shock); etc.

    d6 vs. 4 armour, you would never take more than 2 damage, but you would always take 1-2 damage.

    d6 vs. 5 armour, you would never take more than 1 damage, but you would always take 1 damage.

    d6 vs. 6 armour, you would never take more than 0 damage (so you would never take damage).

    d6+5 vs. 2 armour: the maximum damage is reduced by your armour value. 11 – 2 = 9. If the enemy rolls 10 or 11 damage, that is reduced to 9 damage.

  17. In the real world, shields wear out, fast. They usually last through one or two fights before needing replacement.  They’re also heavy, and fatigue the user.  

    So, as a consequence on  7-9, “Moving your shield has fatigued you – for the rest of the fight, do -N forward, where N is the armor bonus from your shield.”

    On a 6-, “Your shield has been sundered, and provides you with no benefit.  As you look over the remnants of your shield boss, your friend is near to having a spear rammed through her kidneys!”

  18. I woukd think it should be anything above my maximum gets reduced BY my AC. So, if I have an AC of 4 and get hit with 6 damage I should still receive (6 damage – 4AC) 2 damage.

    I understand what Alex is trying to combat, though but I don’t see option #3 as the best. Armor doesn’t make you impervious, just harder to hit. Focused attacks (as mentioned by Chris McGee), or fractional damage to the armor could help. as the armor is attacked it bends, breaks, etc.. It would be more ‘mathy’, and more to record, but something like this. I have 4AC am dealt 2 damage, I don’t receive any damage but my armor has taken DAM÷(AC×2) damage or 2÷(4×2)=1/8 damage. When that counter hits a full point of damage, my armor is now only considered 3AC. Maybe my formula isn’t the one to use, maybe you want to have each hit do more or less damage to the armor (probably less) then high AC is desirable but not impervious. Your +3 shield is +3 now, but after several encounter it’s become beat up and a little wobbly and is now only a +2 shield.

  19. Another way to look at the problem is to buff your monsters. Lets say your monster does 1d8 damage.

    Option 1: make it 2d4. The monster now does a minimum of 2 damage negating 1 armor. The problem is, 7’s and 8’s come up less often, so the monster is nerfed. So make your d8 monster a 2d6 monster.

    Option 2: Add +1 or +2 to your damage. Every added point negates one armor.

    Option 3: both 1 and 2. Consider making a d8 monster a 2d4+1 monster. The +1 counters the nerfing effect of the 2d4 bell curve, and negates another armor.

    The monster is not much stronger than a 1d8 monster as far as maximum damage is concerned, but it is much more effective against armor because its minimum damage is 3, and it won’t roll that often because of the bell curve.

  20. What level are the characters? (Or optionally, what power/grit level are you going for?) perhaps a well geared, well trained fighter shouldn’t have a problem from a random bandit /orc. This would not include people like “Thornack the Despot” or other big bads. If you want grit, then have the plebeian orc slash some of the leather holding the armor together or something rather than stator damage.

  21. Ahhh, maybe Matt Boersma has the key to my divisor. DAM÷(AC×Level). A higher level character would be more skilled and less likely have their armor damaged in an encounter.

  22. In your case, I would take two options.

    In the fiction:

    -beasts attack adventurer’s friends when they break a teeth on heavy armor, i.e. when they deal a lot of damage without effect (superior half as in d8: 5+);

    -intelligent monsters act so as by Chris McGee idea.

    Thus the “tank option” partially works because it will take and deflect the first blows of a fight (i.e Actions). And in my experience, few but large fights, takes more thant a few Actions per adventurer.

    In the (new) rules:

    the idea of Ken Burnside  is worth extending into a special move for repairing/maintaining (heavy) armor after a fight.

    When your armor has deflected damage during a fight and you repair it while making camp, roll+DEX.

    10+: you get it in primal state

    7-9: choose 1 until repaired by a skilled armorer.

    + It gets -1armor.

    + It gets the clumsy tag.

    + It gets the ridiculous tag (you know when pieces look like they’re going to fall apart?, -1 CHA)

    6-: take all.

  23. Dude, the solution is easy. Have the enemies attack the armor! Notice with hack and slash that on a 7-9 it says the enemy makes an attack, not deal damage. So instead of rolling dice, rip off the shield. Boom, minus one armor that the tank can recover, but at the cost of spending time to go get it.

    Same thing goes for the armor, “the knife twists into your armor and you here a snap. The armor on your shoulder falls away, leaving it exposed, take minis one armor till you fix it.

    On the other side, whenever your high damage dealing guys hit a lower armored character, destroy their equipment. An example from my game, a wolf tears into the wizards back. Instead of dealing damage, I rolled a d4 and said, “you lose X amount of uses from your bag of books as the wolf digs savagely into your backpack, destroying everything trying to reach your spine.”

  24. Yeah bottom line for me is that you have options without turning DW into a clunkier system. There are many fictional options that can lead to mechanical effects as well, as has been suggested. I always try to find a way within the established ruleset to do what I hope to accomplish before moving into tinkering. Of course the rules support tinkering, and I’m not saying tinkering is bad – just my last resort.

  25. For every 3 points of armor you have, ignore the armor but the enemy rolls an additional damage die, using the worse result. 

    So 4 armor equals 1 armor with enemy rolling w2dX

  26. My thoughts:

     It sounds like you might be more a fan of dangerous “common joes” than you are of your characters.

    If your player wants to max out his AC so that he can wade through common joes and goblins, then give him a couple of mobs to crush. Then watch how excited/scared he gets when you throw a rust monster/shadow/slime, or Titan at him.

    The setting/story needs to adapt to challenge the characters, not dumb down the characters to fit the setting.

    Is massive armor unfair? Yes. That is why humanity created it, for an unfair advantage. It’s also why we came up with crossbows, longbows, machine guns, bombs, and one day: sharks with laser beams on their frickin heads. 

  27. Throw the high damage threats at them in such a way that the high armour characters can bear the brunt of the attack and protect the others. That’s one of the things that make high armour cool: being the wall between the damage and your friends.

  28. If threatening armored characters with HP damage is proving difficult, threaten them with other things. Moving them out of position. Knocking them off cliffs. Disabling one or more of their senses, possibly including ethical or moral senses. Alternately, a ‘reality thief’ monster that steals or copies characters’ attributes, including high armor values, could make for an interesting fight.

    Lex Luthor doesn’t (always) find ways to be stronger or faster than Superman; he attacks where Superman is weak. In the comics, it’s the sense of moral obligation – hostages, not always Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen, but often. Or the classic ‘two deadly crises, you can only avert one, which city will you doom tod estruction’ situation.

    This question has come up before, and my answer then, as now, was the somewhat glib yet totally applicable ‘can you armor your heart’. A player who makes build decisions to optimize for armor is telling you ‘I want to be a badass in this specific direction’. Show that player the advantages — have them shrug off blows that would instagib the other party members — but also show the disadvantages. Make the best survival option a quick scramble up a hillside — a scramble made difficult or impossible with heavy armor. This sort of thing can work both ways: Impervio the Armorful can’t make it up the side of the trench before the lava gets there, but he’s so tough he can just walk out. Boom, you showed disadvantages and Impervio feels like a total badass. Be a fan of the characters.

    Find out what the character cares about — why is the armor important? — and threaten that, not the armor. The armor is just an external expression of another need; find that need and fulfill or deny it, as best suits the fiction.

  29. The armor is just an expression of his need for approval because of rejection issues with his dad…

    No srsly. It is an external expression of his need for survival. So I will deny him survival by giving all goblins electric can openers as standard army issue. 🙂

    The true answer to this question of “too much armor” is simple. You as GM have total control over your own moves. The goblins not doing it? Send in their pet cave troll.

    The art of GMing fights is to almost or even mostly kill your PC’s every time, but to only really kill them very, very seldomly.  And to do this in the most interesting ways, with the most epic, badass narration you can muster. So to do this you have to fly by the seat of your pants and change things on the fly. 

  30. When mooks realise they cannot simply whack you with their clapped-out arms to your untimely demise, they will most certainly dis-engage, saving their skins and return with a rather more fiendish way of harming your Plate-bound ‘mistake potential’ (and your ego).

  31. Option 3 is just standard damage reduction, but math heavy to balance for lower rolls and allowing Max Damage to be equated instead of some 0 damages.

    I personally find that you can do more with other options. Cleave their shield. Trip them. Have them pushed out of the way. Have enemies attack the weaker friends so they have to defend more. Let them shine in these moments. A high armour person wants to be the champion in combat. Let them.

    They will have their own sets of trouble when they need to ford the river, or attend the ball where armor is not allowed, or when the war chief wants then to negotiate instead of the bard because they respect great warriors

  32. I have no good solution, other than tough characters need to be facing tough opponents. Also, I look at other’s suggestions and think “how does that help?” given the character with the high AC in my group is the Wizard.

  33. Why is the Wizard’s armor any different than the Fighter’s? I’m assuming it’s coming from Arcane Ward/Armor, so consider this:

    Even though it’s magic, thinking of it as an invisible force-field that works against everything is a holdover from DnD that you’re not necessarily bound to–especially if you’re going to allow clever opponents to get around mundane armor by any of the above suggested methods, as making the Wizard a better tank than the Fighter is very much asking for trouble.

    So think of weaknesses that a magical force-field could have in your universe. The Wizard needs to breath, so maybe there’s a gap in it somewhere, or it has to vanish momentarily every now and then to let the Wizard catch a breath. Maybe it’s like Dune, and slowing your weapon down allows you to bypass it entirely. Maybe it’s like a windshield and attracts dust, so if you throw a handful in the Wizard’s face they’re completely blinded. Maybe an uncommon metal like cold iron or bronze interferes with magical energies, giving it piercing properties against magical armor. Maybe it’s just highly-visible and glowing purple, marking them as a high-value target (or someone not to be trifled with, depending on context).

    It’s magic, and it’s your world; anything goes, if it works with your group and makes good fiction.

  34. Also, attack with lot of monsters, using the rule “4 monsters = damage+3”.

    Of course, you could throw 4 enemies to the more armored target (he looks the most tough adversary, so they attack en masse), and just 1 or 2 to the weakest characters.

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