Armor as Damage Reduction

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
This kind of outcome is a key design point for me. I want a DR system, but I don't want to bog things down at the table either. High hit points are an obvious thing to avoid IMO. I'm also in favor of minimum damage not being 0, but perhaps one, or even one per damage die, or something like that. I'll probably tie fatigue into combat as well and that will also help as I plan to have levels of fatigue reduce defense and armour effectiveness (among other things).

1. I want a DR system, but I don't want to bog things down at the table either.
2. High hit points are an obvious thing to avoid IMO.
3. I'm also in favor of minimum damage not being 0.
4. Minimum damage could be one.
5. Maybe set minimum damage to one per damage die.
6. Or set minimum damage to something else ... maybe a scaling table.
7. I'll probably tie fatigue into combat as well.
8. I plan to have levels of fatigue reduce defense.
9. I also plan to to have levels of fatigue reduce armour effectiveness
10 I think I'll add in some other things.

.....

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Redneckomancer

Explorer
Worlds Without Number is also worth looking at, it rolls 'armor as miss', 'armor as DR' and "damage on a miss" all into one; Shock Damage.
So Shock Damage is an abstract of the fatigue of being in combat. Every melee weapon is rated as having some amount of shock damage (usually 1 to 3), and paired with an AC. So you get like "spear, 1d6 Shock 1/15". If your target has that AC or higher, you don't do shock damage to it because its armor/hide is too thick or it just dodges that easily.
And then there's some fun things added in, like Warrior feats that say "all enemies are considered AC10 for your shock damage" and a 'gang up' maneuver where everyone gives up their normal attack in favor of assisting someone to have one big attack that allows shock damage even if it manages to miss, things like that.
I haven't had the chance to run too much WWN but it was kind of interesting the few times I have. It ended up making combat faster and a bit more scary once we wrapped our heads around it.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I played a session of Stonetop last night and armor was crucial to us making it through a brutal fight. It’s a hack of Dungeon World, and Armor works as DR, and the characters have Hit Points.

I think there are two things that make the system work so well (or at least two obvious ones I can think of). First, the characters don’t gain Hit Points as they advance. They’ll have the same HP at 8th level as they did at 1st. So HP are precious. Second, there are other means of harming PCs beyond straight HP damage. Attacks from monsters or enemies can have tags that can inflict specific wounds or conditions on characters.

These elements help keep combat as always potentially risky, and also help prevent it from becoming a slog because if hight HP totals combined with less damage being inflicted due to Armor.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Worlds Without Number is also worth looking at, it rolls 'armor as miss', 'armor as DR' and "damage on a miss" all into one; Shock Damage.
So Shock Damage is an abstract of the fatigue of being in combat. Every melee weapon is rated as having some amount of shock damage (usually 1 to 3), and paired with an AC. So you get like "spear, 1d6 Shock 1/15".

Yeah, so this would be one of those examples where I'd expect this to work OK at low levels, and then be basically pointless complexity at high levels. All the complexity of the "to hit vs. AC" tables of 1e D&D*, without any of the more interesting payoffs of those tables.

*That is this migrates the "to hit vs. AC" to "damage modifier vs. AC".
 

Celebrim

Legend
To address @Celebrim 's post from above, I wasn't planning to just bolt DR onto an existing system exactly, but rather use a somewhat fuzzy OSR d20 base and then redesign or add whatever parts need it to make the system work. Ideally, it's a core mechanic with all the specific design decisions that entails, not just a widget.

Someone mentioned it, but I feel like the Conan system was one of the few times I've read the rules of a game with armor as DR and felt that it was actually play tested. Basically, I'm warning you that as intuitive as this idea is, the fact that it has never really caught on despite many attempts by systems to implement it should be a warning that it's tougher to get good results in play out of it than you might think.

I think of a system like GURPS, that I do have a decent amount of experience in, and the guiding principle in GURPS design was always make a system that is intuitive process to reality. GURPS has armor as DR. And the problem with that is even if your guiding principles were intuitive to reality (armor intuitively reduces the damage from a blow) it doesn't necessarily mean that the resulting combat will look anything like real combat. A great example of this is "Dwarf Fortress" that pursued this intuitive approach to simulation far beyond what you can do in a PnP game, and still ended up with a result that was massively unrealistic and even comical in its ludicrous cartoonish outcomes. The transcript of a Dwarf Fortress fight is rarely either heroic or believable.

The other thing I tend to find is that this approach doesn't necessarily lead to more fun. That is the combat more fun to engage in if the process is more intuitive to reality? Picking on GURPS things seem to work OK at first, but the longer you play it the less engrossing GURPS combat gets. A fight between two expert duelists especially in older versions of GURPS comes down to waiting for one side or the other to get randomly lucky, after which it immediately death spirals. Most attempts to fix this involved adopting more and more intuitive to reality processes to add complexity, but eventually that complexity became to overwhelming to play test. My expectation though is that if you did play it, you'd end up with the "Drawf Fortress" problem where playing out a fight in the game obviously wouldn't be fun or dramatic.

My suspicion is that things can be made to work OK if you are dealing with gritty combat that engages say someone really into HEMA, but where your combat system is so realistic that it basically deters you from having a game around combat since on average no PC will survive more than about six combats before hit with a random lethal blow. Or else, on the other spectrum, the PC's game the system and the DM keeps his padded gloves on and the PC's run around like nigh invulnerable tanks safely protected behind armor as plot armor where nothing has a real chance of both hitting and penetrating the PC's armor before being turned into chopped meat.

To be honest, I'm starting to have that problem in my Star Wars D6 game with its "realistic" wound tracks rather than hit points, in as much as we have an action focused game but the math is serving mostly to hide from the players how rarely combat has any chance to alter the results. Star Wars doesn't have armor as DR per se, because it doesn't have hit points, but it does mitigate damage through a soak roll that works similar to having high DR but low hit points. We're doing the ritual of combat, but statistically often mooks have like a 1 in millions chance of doing anything meaningful to a PC. But if the chance that the mook does something meaningful isn't very close to 0, then the math makes the chance of instant death non-trivial. And you have death spirals. So combat is either in some sense pointless or extremely lethal and there isn't much in between.

I suppose this is realistic at some level in as much as in a war zone, it only takes one bullet with your name on it. But does it make for a good game? And as a GM, it makes it really hard to prep material that makes for good fights.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Mork Borg and Barbarians of Lemuria are both well designed lighter and OSR-adjacent games that use DR for armour. I'm not concerned about the difficulty of the task, only curious about the details.
 

Cypher uses armor as DR. The math of the game is pretty friendly to this concept. DR rarely gets above 4 (ime), there is a tradeoff between better armor and the expense of abilities, and "hp" doesn't climb nearly as much as it does in 5e. It's a fairly simple system and worth a look.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Mork Borg and Barbarians of Lemuria are both well designed lighter and OSR-adjacent games that use DR for armour. I'm not concerned about the difficulty of the task, only curious about the details.

DR as armor tends to reward being an outlier.

The details are that 6d6 damage is vastly more dangerous than 1d6 x 6. Against the first, the armor protects against like 15% of the damage, whereas against the second it probably protects against like 85% of the damage.

For example, the details of implementing minimum damage of 1 despite DR, is that 12 rats become more dangerous than 3 orcs which tends to be opposite of intuition and often the intention with DR as armor. Against the rats, it protects against like 33% of the damage, while protecting against like 85% of the damage from the orcs. Which is why I don't like minimum damage rules and prefer DR as a random dice roll. If you were really worried about the concerns that minimum damage is trying to address, I'd suggest having the minimum of the range be zero, so things like DR 0-5 (1d6-1) would address that problem without causing highly unexpected math where a rapid-fire BB gun is more dangerous than a .45 caliber revolver (as it were).

I guess before I can give specific advice beyond, "It works best if DR is random", I need to know what problem you are trying to fix. Were you in games where you were like, "I need a way to nerf hydras that doesn't nerf dragons." or "I need a way to nerf a fight with gnolls that doesn't nerf the classic fight with a dozen large rats in a basement?"

In my case, it might be like, "Back when I was a 10 year old DM all PCs wore plate armor and I happily said things like "plate mail" without feeling stupid, but now that my games are more realistic no one in my games ever wears heavy armor, because they've seen too many PC's drown, fall on their face fighting on a muddy jungle hillside, get stuck trying to crawl through a cave passage to get away from an oozing/creeping horror, or just simply been unable to run away fast enough from the cannibal horde. The small extra AC tends not be worth the small extra penalties to mobility, because they've learned the lesson of surviving my games is always addressing the question, "How is this character going to die?". It probably won't be by taking 5% more damage from physical attacks. How can I lure the fools into wearing heavy armor by offering heavy armor wearers some sort of carrot?" Or maybe, more seriously, "How do I make DEX less of a god stat?"
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
@Celebrim - Well, I wasn't trying to fix a problem really, more interested in seeing how the parts fit together. The notion was to experiment and see how a DR system would fit and mesh with the (usually) tight OSR resource management play loop. There are a bunch of aspects of different OSR games that I like in addition to DR, so there's a little more to the project than just DR, but that's where it started and the notion of a DR-indexed fatigue-rest-resource loop is pretty core to the idea.
 

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