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A question about armor and vehicles

I have a game design preference question.

Personal Armor
Most every RPG has armor that either makes it harder to meaningfully hit you (e.g., increasing AC like Pathfinder) or absorbs damage (e.g., damage reduction like Rogue Trader/L5R) or occasionally a sort of hybrid (in World of Darkness, the more you hit by the more damage you deal).

But no tabletop RPG I know of has you track damage to your armor. Your armor can defend against dozens of attacks but always remains just as functional, unless someone actively uses some special attack to try to damage the armor.

Vehicles
By contrast, every game I've played with vehicles has treated them as objects that can be independently attacked and damaged, albeit sometimes with a mechanic for damaging the people inside the vehicle. The Millennium Falcon can take X damage before it's destroyed, and X is the same regardless whether it's empty, being piloted by experienced smuggler Han Solo, or being piloted by novice Rey. The different pilots might be better able at dodging attacks, but the person in the cockpit doesn't change how many HP the ship has.

This is the same for battlemechs in Battletech, for cars in World of Darkness, and for mile-long spaceships in Rogue Trader.

The Question
When do you switch between these two modes?

Iron Man wears armor. I figure it gives him AC or DR, but it's still Tony Stark's hit points that determine if he's able to keep fighting. You can knock him out without having to destroy the armor. And if Pepper Potts is in the armor, it still protects her, but she's probably got fewer HP.

If Tony gets into the Hulkbuster armor, that's much bigger. Is it still giving him AC or DR? Or does it now have its own HP total? Can you defeat Tony without destroying the armor?

Or to use a PF context, synthesist summoners can 'wear' their eidolons. Should armor work this way? Or would you prefer rules where the summoner just gets some defensive boost, and maybe some temp HP and new attacks?
 

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I ask because I'm tinkering with an airplane dogfighting game idea, and I feel like it plays better if the fighter jets use the pilot's hit points, and if running out of HP means you're defeated (battered from impacts, exhausted from high-G maneuvers, etc.) rather than that your plane explodes or something. Maybe once you're out of HP, you're not necessarily unconscious, but there is some narrative certainty that you cannot keep fighting, like your eyes are blurry and you'll automatically miss all attacks and fail all piloting checks. You'd be able to land your plane, or maybe run away if someone's covering for you, but you can't contribute anymore to the fight.

It would still be possible on, like, a critical hit to cause damage to the vehicle that could make piloting it harder, or damage a weapon system or something. (And if you're out of HP, any more hits on your vehicle are automatically crits.) So sometimes fights would end with your vehicle destroyed, but usually it'd just be damaged. This lets you get form a narrative attachment to your vehicle, and provides a bit of a game mechanic cushion to let the GM occasionally beat the party without killing the party.
 

But then I run into a small hiccup that, like, say you've got a low-level hero with 30 HP (Timmy), and a high level one with 100 HP (Vader). They're both piloting identical jets, which grant the pilot 20 temp HP. And say a missile does 20 damage; and a laser blast does 10 damage.

In this situation, okay, Timmy in his jet has 50 HP and can take a few hits before he's defeated. Vader in his jet has 120 HP, though, and is a better shot, and so in three rounds he deals enough damage to defeat Timmy, and only takes 30 damage in return. Vader's in good shape. Timmy manages to narrowly land his plane and gets taken prisoner.

But then later, someone heals Timmy and helps him escape from the empire's jail. He's running away. And someone fires a missile at him.

This is a missile meant to blow up a fighter jet, and we scaled the tempt HP of the fighter so it is useful, but that player HP is more important. We scaled the damage of the missile so a high-level PC in a ship can survive having a few missiles lobbed their way.

But if Timmy's not in a jet, him surviving a missile is a bit more far-fetched.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
So for clarity in the second example Timmy is running away on foot? And someone fires an anti-aircraft missile at him?

Youve got a missile designed for a huge objext trying to hit a medium sized one - so I’d say Timmy has a bonus to evasion so just might survive it because it hits the building and the man dodges the blast (he still gets knocked prone, but not damaged per se).

Extending that thought, I suppose you could implement for your game that HP is ‘Evasion’, thus as a Pilot manouveres their vehicle to avoid damage they use HP (there own and the vehicles), if the pilot has no HP then they can no longer evade and must drop out.
Armour is whats used to absorb damage to the vehicle, exactly how you would measure evasion across different vehicle types I havent worked out ...
 

Ed_Laprade

Adventurer
Use both. And what about parachutes/ejection seats? The more realistic you get, the more rules you need. But you already know that. I've seen rules that have armor take damage (Runequest?), where the armor is protective (DR) but the PC has HP as well.
 

MarkB

Legend
I feel like pilot skill should affect the vehicle's AC rather than its hit points - i.e. they're using their skills to dodge projectiles more adeptly, or to keep the most vulnerable components better protected.
 

I feel like pilot skill should affect the vehicle's AC rather than its hit points - i.e. they're using their skills to dodge projectiles more adeptly, or to keep the most vulnerable components better protected.
Would you also want fighters in D&D to stay at, like, 10 hit points for their whole career but go up in AC so you have to be equivalently skilled to hit them? That might be more realistic, but it doesn't produce gameplay that's as satisfying, I think, because you'd have odd spikes in random outcomes where Darth Vader gets hit by a lucky shot and goes down without a fight.

One idea I've been working on is once-per-encounter "saves" that turn a hit into a miss (and give some other perk). They'd represent active defenses sort of the same way in the video game Dark Souls you can dodge roll a limited amount of times because it drains your stamina. I'm not sure if that works better with HP-scaling or AC-scaling, or something else.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I feel like pilot skill should affect the vehicle's AC rather than its hit points - i.e. they're using their skills to dodge projectiles more adeptly, or to keep the most vulnerable components better protected.

yeah on second thoughts for a Dogfighting game I’d be tempted to remove HP entirely. Instead using Evasive Manoeuvres (Dex+AC+skill).

So an Attack is rolled and then defended via Evasive Manoeuvres. If the Attack wins then the losing pilot is Shaken which imposes a penalty on their future subsequent manoeuvres. (Tony Stark loses the manoeuvre roll and narrates Jarvis losing its navigation systems).

Things like a missile kill shot would require the opponents Manouvres to be 0 or maybe a Critical Hit (fuel rupture!!)

just a thought, it keeps pilot and plane intact as long as they can manouvre out of the dogfight..
 
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MarkB

Legend
Would you also want fighters in D&D to stay at, like, 10 hit points for their whole career but go up in AC so you have to be equivalently skilled to hit them? That might be more realistic, but it doesn't produce gameplay that's as satisfying, I think, because you'd have odd spikes in random outcomes where Darth Vader gets hit by a lucky shot and goes down without a fight.
Which is where vehicle combat is different than personal combat. When Darth Vader got hit by an unlucky collision at the end of A New Hope and was taken out of the fight immediately despite not even having been attacked before, was that unsatisfying?

If I'm playing a dogfighting game and I'm in a fighter jet, up against someone else in a fighter jet, I don't want either craft to feel like a tank.
 

Wolfram stout

Adventurer
Villains and Vigilantes does an interesting thing with armor. If you have Armor, when you get hit, you roll % if you roll lower than the armor rating, the armor takes the damage....and the damage comes off of the armor. So, you start out with for example, 50 points for armor, you get hit for 20 damage, roll a 32, the 20 comes off of the armor (so now you are at 30 points. If it is tech armor (like Iron Man) you have to spend money to fix it.

I don't think that would work in a Fantasy setting, but something like it might work in a dogfight.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
To answer the OP, I think the natural thing to do is to look at the "scale" of the scene.

In a D&D combat, the map is full of squares that a character or monster occupies. The "thing" taking the turn is the character or monster and the armor on that character is just an attribute of that character.

If you keep that same scale but include a Millenium Falcon on the map, chances are the characters are still going to have AC and HP individuall and the MF is just going to be set dressing (possible damageable, but possibly not).

If you zoom the scale out and the MF takes off with the heros inside as TIE fighters are chasing them...the "figures" on the map become the starships and the characters contained inside are now attributes much like their armor is an attribute for them on figure scale.

I think the scale you are observing the action at determines how the item functions.

The best example of a system that used this scaling, but also has a consistent ruleset is the old West End Games Star Wars game. In that game you had multiple scales of

Personal
Speeder
Walker
Fighter
Capital Ship
Death Star

The beauty of the scaling system is that everything used the same type of attributes, so a human might have a 3D (roll 3d6) toughness, a speederbike can have a 3D, a scout walker a 3D, and a Mon Calamari Cruiser can have a 3D. The scaling came in with high and low caps to what the die can roll versus other scales....so for example if Luke Skywalker (personal scale) shot his laser rifle at a TIE Fighter (Starship scale) the worst he can get on any to-hit d6 might be a 5 (meaning its VERY EASY for Luke to hit a giant TIE with a laser rifle, but the damage die for the laser rifle (lets say 5D) has a max cap of 3, so even though he easily hits the fighter it becomes difficult or impossible to actually do any damage.

For most purposes things more than 1 level of scaling away became almost impossible to interact with in a useful way, but the option was there with some super lucky rolling that you might be able to take out an AT-AT with a Thermal Detonator.
 

But no tabletop RPG I know of has you track damage to your armor. Your armor can defend against dozens of attacks but always remains just as functional, unless someone actively uses some special attack to try to damage the armor.
Talisman Adventures has it decrease in protection over a fight, with each fight in which it gets penetrated being a lasting -1, but the rest of the penetrations reduce it by 1 only for that fight (adjust after combat to restore all but the number of fights since last armorsmithing repair).

While not actually explicit in the rules, one can use complications in Marvel Heroic to step down armor. Or other powers, for that matter.

Palladium's armor has an "Armor Rating" - essentially a measure of body coverage; attacks higher hit the character and ignore the armor, but between 5 and the AR, hit the armor in it's SDC. When all the SDC is gone, hits to the armor go straight to the PC.

One of the T&T Editions has an option for "burning" one's armor - for each extra point stopped, the stable damage stopped per turn drops by 1. It's restricted to Warriors. It's also one of Ken St. Andre's house rules.
 

To answer the OP, I think the natural thing to do is to look at the "scale" of the scene.

In a D&D combat, the map is full of squares that a character or monster occupies. The "thing" taking the turn is the character or monster and the armor on that character is just an attribute of that character.

If you keep that same scale but include a Millenium Falcon on the map, chances are the characters are still going to have AC and HP individuall and the MF is just going to be set dressing (possible damageable, but possibly not).

If you zoom the scale out and the MF takes off with the heros inside as TIE fighters are chasing them...the "figures" on the map become the starships and the characters contained inside are now attributes much like their armor is an attribute for them on figure scale.

I think the scale you are observing the action at determines how the item functions.

The best example of a system that used this scaling, but also has a consistent ruleset is the old West End Games Star Wars game. In that game you had multiple scales of
[...]

For most purposes things more than 1 level of scaling away became almost impossible to interact with in a useful way, but the option was there with some super lucky rolling that you might be able to take out an AT-AT with a Thermal Detonator.
Aside from scaling, WEG d6 Star Wars was stock standard damage levels by opposed damage vs (hull + armor)
1E had two explicit scales... personal and starfighter.
Ship targets Character: Short range, difficulty 20, can dodge. Weapon damage doubled.
Character targets ship: Normal ranges, ship can evade normally. Weapons <6D become 1D, ≥6d become 2D, ship resists normally.

One can extrapolate a speeder scale;
speeder targets ship, normal to-hit pool, double the hull+shield.
Ship targets speeder, Difficulty 15 or evasion, double the damage

Also note: Die capping was introduced in late 1E, then modified slightly (1E, die> cap =0, 2E, die> cap = cap)
It disappeared in 2E R&E, replaced by a bonus to number of dice.
For To Hit rolls, smaller adds to the to-hit
For damage, larger adds to the hull and damage

I prefer the doubling, myself, but tis slower.
 

To answer the OP, I think the natural thing to do is to look at the "scale" of the scene.
---
The beauty of the scaling system is that everything used the same type of attributes, so a human might have a 3D (roll 3d6) toughness, a speederbike can have a 3D, a scout walker a 3D, and a Mon Calamari Cruiser can have a 3D. The scaling came in with high and low caps to what the die can roll versus other scales....so for example if Luke Skywalker (personal scale) shot his laser rifle at a TIE Fighter (Starship scale) the worst he can get on any to-hit d6 might be a 5 (meaning its VERY EASY for Luke to hit a giant TIE with a laser rifle, but the damage die for the laser rifle (lets say 5D) has a max cap of 3, so even though he easily hits the fighter it becomes difficult or impossible to actually do any damage.

For most purposes things more than 1 level of scaling away became almost impossible to interact with in a useful way, but the option was there with some super lucky rolling that you might be able to take out an AT-AT with a Thermal Detonator.
In my effort to make some ship combat rules, I use 1-minute rounds and 100-ft. squares. My idea is that the ship has stats like a 5e monster. The captain controls it, and a small number of 'officer actions' can enhance it.

The ship might default to just a +2 attack bonus, but a PC acting as gunner can use their attack bonus (if it's a single-shot weapon like an ironclad ship's turret) or grant advantage (if it's a battery like firing a ship's broadsides).

A PC pilot could roll to navigate hazards. A PC spotter could locate hidden vessels or increase the ship's defenses by figuring out what another ship is planning to do. An engineer can repair damage (critical hits make ship components not work). A medic can heal HP (which represents the injuries/morale of the crew). A vanguard can make the crew more effective at launching boarding actions.

The hard part is making ship combat feel as interesting as PC-vs-monster combat, and that might require giving ships more novel abilities, rather than just cannons. If all D&D PCs ever did was hit things with swords, with no special maneuvers and no magic, the game might get a bit boring too, right?
 

I guess it would help to know how combat normally works in the system you're designing. Sounds like it might be some sort of d20 derived system (possibly 5E specifically, since you mention Advantage/Disadvantage a couple times)? Before you get to designing vehicular combat, what is the lethality of something like a PC (of varying experience) vs. a pistol? A rifle? Machine gun? How does armor factor in? Is the system skill based?

Responding to the initial Post, I like Savage Worlds way of handling it, where the approach is PCs, Creatures and Vehicles are all generally treated the same at the most basic level. They all have Toughness, which can include Armor, and when they exceed a certain number of Wounds, they're out of commission.

Examples:
Average PC in a leather coat has a base Toughness of 5 + 1 Armor, for a total of 6. They can take 3 Wounds.
A mid-size car has base Toughness 9 + 2 Armor, for a total of 11. Because it's Large, it can take 4 Wounds.
A Sherman tank has base Toughness of 16 + 8 Armor, for a total of 24. Because it's Huge, it can take 5 Wounds.

At the more detailed level, one critical difference between the car and tank is the tank is a Heavy Vehicle, meaning it can only be damaged by attacks with a Heavy Weapon. A pistol might take out a car, but not a tank. But a bazooka is a Heavy Weapon, and, while not necessarily taking a tank out completely, has a chance to cause a Wound.

Most Heavy Weapons will do enough damage to seriously injure, and possibly outright kill, a person. But SW also includes the ability to Evade certain slower moving or telegraphed attacks (from grenades to dragon's breath), and escape injury altogether. SW also includes "Bennies", which allow, among other things, PCs a chance to "soak" Wounds with a roll, meaning fate allowed them to avoid some or all of the damage from even a direct hit. Similar to the per-encounter "saves" you mention.

Damage to a vehicle has two effects:
  1. The pilot/driver has to make a check to avoid going Out of Control. Failure has numerous possible effects, determined by a random table, including damage to occupants.
  2. The vehicle takes a "critical hit", again determined randomly. It might be just structural damage, represented by Wounds, or something more important like an engine (reducing speed) or weapon. Or crew.
For your system, I'm not sure how much it might differ from your core mechanic, but rather than simply adding the pilot's HP to the vehicle's, what if his level or skill subtracts from the damage? This would allow a skilled PC take out "mook" TIE fighters rather quickly (assuming they have lower skill) but a equal level one would still present a challenge.

Regarding Vehicular Combat, unrelated to Damage:

Don't make it simply normal combat. Many systems use Chase rules. This then opens up options for the pilot/driver. Are they trying to catch up/get away from the enemy? Evade attacks? Use their own vehicle as a weapon to ram the opponent or force them to change course? Holding it steady so gunners can get a better shot (and risk becoming an easier target?)

Something else Chases often include: random challenges or obstacles each round. This can keep the conflict from feeling like just repeatedly "roll to hit" actions.

SW is also pretty liberal with allowing PCs to make Support roles, essentially the Help action from 5E. If the player can come up a reasonable use of a skill, they can roll and add a bonus to another character's action, especially for those who aren't the pilot/driver or gunner/shooter. A successful Notice roll will help the driver avoid the baby buggy crossing the street. The starship's Electronics expert can help the gunner get a better lock on the enemy ship. Etc.

Another thing SW includes for vehicle combat is that movement can consist of Changing Position (getting closer/farther away from the opponent) or Evasion. There's some other options, but these two in particular can be taken as either a free action, or the pilot/driver's full action for the round. Evasion, for example, gives a -2 to attacks on the vehicle, but also attacks by the vehicle (or it's occupants). Using a full action doubles this bonus/penalty. This way a single occupant craft could perform a maneuver while still getting to attack.
 

Nytmare

David Jose
This really boils down entirely to the system, what the system is trying to do, and what kinds of stories you're trying to tell with it. I remember a flurry or "realistic" rpgs in the early 90s that had you track separate armor hit points (as well as separate body location hit point totals ala Battletech), but my current design philosophies recoil at the idea of tracking things like that.

Generally speaking, my sweet spot today would be a system where everything; vehicles, suits of armor, or people had three grey area descriptive states:

  • can be used just fine
  • something needs to be fixed
  • damaged beyond repair

But that probably wouldn't scratch the itch if I was looking to play Tony Stark and his 99 different Iron Man suits.

In a dogfight game, is the game about the planes, or about the people? Are the dogfights about miniatures and tactical movement, or are they backdrop for the relationships between the pilots? Is there a part of the game where the accounting of damage and repairs is interesting and adding something, or is it a layer of book keeping that no one's going to want to have to deal with?
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
In my effort to make some ship combat rules, I use 1-minute rounds and 100-ft. squares. My idea is that the ship has stats like a 5e monster. The captain controls it, and a small number of 'officer actions' can enhance it.

The ship might default to just a +2 attack bonus, but a PC acting as gunner can use their attack bonus (if it's a single-shot weapon like an ironclad ship's turret) or grant advantage (if it's a battery like firing a ship's broadsides).

A PC pilot could roll to navigate hazards. A PC spotter could locate hidden vessels or increase the ship's defenses by figuring out what another ship is planning to do. An engineer can repair damage (critical hits make ship components not work). A medic can heal HP (which represents the injuries/morale of the crew). A vanguard can make the crew more effective at launching boarding actions.

The hard part is making ship combat feel as interesting as PC-vs-monster combat, and that might require giving ships more novel abilities, rather than just cannons. If all D&D PCs ever did was hit things with swords, with no special maneuvers and no magic, the game might get a bit boring too, right?
That sounds fun to me. I have certainly done large scale 5e combats where each figure was a squad and the PCs acted as brains to allow the squads to do things other than their normal programming.

Maybe you can make your naval combat mini game mode feel different by incorporating some new mechanics not found in the personal combats.

I'm thinking some sort of programmed movement using cards (better captains have smaller tracks of cards and can adjust more quickly) to represent the slowness of naval maneuvering???
 

Oh, like Robo Rally? That'd be kinda cool, but not as easy to integrate with 5e.

Right now I'm just going with, "At the start of each round, each ship's captain makes a Wisdom (Water Vehicles) check to determine initiative. Ships traveling under power (such as with steam engines or oars) grant their captain advantage. Sailing ships that are more upwind than any other vessel roll normally. Each other sailing ship rolls with disadvantage."

I suppose if you used cards (or just stating your course), it could work, but you'd need to have a separate 'phase' each round for declaring movement . . . and then maybe you'd move, and then you'd take actions? But I want PCs to be able to use their actions to, like, increase the ship's speed, or help it navigate hazards. Hmm.
 

Nytmare

David Jose
Oh, like Robo Rally? That'd be kinda cool, but not as easy to integrate with 5e.

Right now I'm just going with, "At the start of each round, each ship's captain makes a Wisdom (Water Vehicles) check to determine initiative. Ships traveling under power (such as with steam engines or oars) grant their captain advantage. Sailing ships that are more upwind than any other vessel roll normally. Each other sailing ship rolls with disadvantage."

I suppose if you used cards (or just stating your course), it could work, but you'd need to have a separate 'phase' each round for declaring movement . . . and then maybe you'd move, and then you'd take actions? But I want PCs to be able to use their actions to, like, increase the ship's speed, or help it navigate hazards. Hmm.

"Program" moves > characters take their actions > movement happens, modified by character actions
 

And one of the possible officer actions could be changing the ship's course, which is actually pretty hard to do on the fly.

Any ideas for how to differentiate slow chonky vehicles like ships from fast ones like flying machines? Like, ships are novel because you have a bunch of people working together, and you have huge barrages of cannons. What kind of fun things do you get to do in a plane? Mechanically, I mean? What sort of rules elements make you feel like you're dogfighting, trying to avoid a stall, doing barrel rolls, and flying close to canyon walls to cause your pursuer to crash?
 

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