• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

Armor as Damage Reduction


Small God of the Dozens
A simpler version, one that does see use, is when X levels of additional success, or whatever the system calls them, allows increasing damage and/or armour bypass. Declared I win buttons are an immediate no thanks for me though, that's not why I RPG I guess.

log in or register to remove this ad


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Played around with a 5e variant using armor as DR. Changed around went went to AC, including adding proficiency. (Yes, this was almost always a wash with proficiency going to both attack and AC unless there was a very large level spread, but it gave a sufficient penalty when non-proficient.

Armor got switched from max DEX to DEX penalty, so donning armor heavier than light indirectly made you easier to hit, reduced your initiative, finesse/ranged attacks, and DEX skills.

One problem was that there's such a range of damage, from 20 kobold sling stones to a single giant boulder, that are all supposed to be threats to characters. Was still working with exactly how to do DR, was thinking of having it reduce every damage die, min 0.

Oh, and a shield was both some DR and +2 AC when proficient and not incapacitated. Make up for missing out on the various GWM & Polearm Master feats.

I've seen a variety of interesting ways to reduce die rolling in combat, for both DR systems and in general. Mostly, I'm all for the fewest rolls necessary to achieve play experience X.
Your post made me think of something I liked from Cypher. There are no damage rolls. Instead an attack has a flat damage amount and rolls of 17+ on the attack roll add damage and/or other effects. There are additional ways to increase damage built into the game but that's the basic rule.

I've also seen rules for 5e where an attack roll deals extra damage equal to (d20-10)/2, same as determining modifiers, with weapons having flat damage. I thought it was a fun way to reward higher attack rolls and simplify the attack process.


Small God of the Dozens
The specific system I had in mind was Vagabonds of Dyfed. It uses 2d6 pbta base mechanic when damage is either the high or low d6 from your attack roll dependong on level of success. Its slick. Thats not the only example though.


And like I said, the random DR roll is less complicated and easier to balance than a hit location and critical hit system. Of all the possible approaches, abstracting the armor's protection leads to the least complicated system. Otherwise, you end up with things like, "Well, I can't push this rondel through the breast plate so I'm going to grapple the knight and make a called shot on his armpit." That's vastly more complicated than using fortune in the middle to decide whether or not the attacker managed to stab a weak spot based on an armor roll and will slow the game down more.

Are hit locations more complex (and thus slower) than not using them? Sure. Impossible to play at the table? No. The above situation you describe is fine by me. I understand that it's not for everyone. Some players struggle with deciding between "I roll to hit" and "I roll to hit." I've seen it happen. Obviously these players do not want added complexity. But I've known more players who are keen to engage with things like "I aim for the eyes", especially when dealing with an enemy who is otherwise hard to hurt. Nor do I think it's wrong when the player/character seeks to do more damage when the character is in a fight for their life.

All I'm seeing is how impossible it is to balance a system which can bypass armor or hit points, which is what you are really describing.

Hero System and GURPS (and others) have managed to do just this for decades. Sooooooo... not impossible.

I've tried. Multiple times. The balance of the game changes so drastically and the complexity of the game increases so drastically that while you can do it, it becomes a very different game. Think of all the body types you have that you need to account for. Think what happens when high level characters can make called shots on eyes and necks.

What seems like added levers at first quickly turns into false choices, because there is almost always one best thing to do given a target's AC and your attack bonus. You almost are admitting yourself when you say things like "this usually means a head shot for more damage". That doesn't strike me as fun in the slightest.

Let's look at Hero, it's the one I know well. Plate armour has 8 DR. A big barbarian with an axe (a common enough occurrence in fantasy fiction) might be doing 2d6+1 damage. They'll do BODY damage about half the time. And STUN damage most of the time.

Let's say this is insufficient for the gaming group, they want more combat options. So we add in hit locations (an optional rule in Hero.) Head shots do x2 damage BODY and STUN. They're lethal. They only occur very rarely (3-5 on a 3d6 roll.) You can try a called shot to the head, but that comes with an enormous -8 penalty to attack, only a decent option if your target is already on the ropes.

Hero system also has other options for increasing damage (basically think Power Attack.)

So, to summarise:

It's possible to have DR without, what was your phrase "absurd absolute immunity" ?

One can add hit locations. One is not obliged to.

One can use other tools (than hit locations) to give more levers and dials to play with. One is not obliged to.

All of these options do add more complexity. Not everyone likes this. And that's fine because...

All of this is optional and no-one is obliging you, Celebrim, or anyone else to use these things.

But please don't go calling these "impossible" when they're clearly not. It's just very annoying, mate.

Dr Magister

Barbarians of Lemuria (and it's generic version, Everywhen) has armour as damage reduction.

Shields add to your defence (i.e. reduce your chance of being hit), and armour reduces the damage you take when you are hit.

Armour also has options for static damage reduction, or rolling to see how damage is reduced by. In both cases they vary by armour type, with heavier armour also reducing your Agility (and helmets reducing your initiative).


Small God of the Dozens
Barbarians of Lemuria (and it's generic version, Everywhen) has armour as damage reduction.

Shields add to your defence (i.e. reduce your chance of being hit), and armour reduces the damage you take when you are hit.

Armour also has options for static damage reduction, or rolling to see how damage is reduced by. In both cases they vary by armour type, with heavier armour also reducing your Agility (and helmets reducing your initiative).
BoL is one of the systems that will significantly inform my project. The system is slick.


Thing is for me, I'll do Cepheus Engine's DR armor fine, I'll never touch again anything like the armor piercing rounds stuff, that just loaded the calcs back on me as ref. I'll do one to hit roll, one damage roll, nothing else, automatic pass if there is other stuff. I did do hit locations in the past, and I won't anymore.

aramis erak

Alien has armor that is rolled to reduce successes to hit; extra to hit successes increase damage. Parries/dodges likewise can reduce successes.

Twilight 2000 2, & 4 both have reduction by armor on location.

FFG Star Wars uses brawn+ worn armor to reduce fixed+ to-hit successes damage. Some armors also add penalty dice on the to hit.

Talisman Adventures uses staging damage reduction. When you take a hit, the armor loses a point of effectiveness for the rest of combat; a short rest restores all but 1 of those. The lasting damage can be repaired as well, but takes material to do so.
Given most weapons are 1d6, with some being 1d3 or 2d6, and add Strength (which for PCs is 2-7 range), and armors run to mid-teens for heavy stuff... the Fighter's 15 points of worn armor are really potent... but he has to pick the baddest target in order to protect others from same... And his closest call to death was 8 bats, not a single nastybad foe.

Traveller has armor soak. Works great, but the game also has flat progression which likely makes it easier to design.
Only in certain editions.
  • CT: armor is a table of to hit mods by weapon.
  • MT: Armor reduces damage by a comparison of pen to AV, and is a multiplier (×0, ×0.1, ×0.5, or ×1, by specific comparison). Note that margin of success also multiplies (×0.5, ×1, ×2, ×4, or ×8), rounding is after cumulation of both factors to fixed base damage. (After combat, damage points taken convert to dice of attribute loss.
  • TTNE: Armor is by location damage reduction
  • T4: armor converts it's rating in dice to 1 pip each
  • T5: don't recall; too lazy to look it up.
  • T20: Armor reduces lifeblood damage, but not Stamina loss. And not by simple subtraction. Each AV either removes a die from the count for LB losses, or, if only one left, is a -1 on the die. Armor has no
  • MGT (both) armor reduces damage, but margin of success increases damage. Armor is a subtraction.
  • GT (and all GURPS, in fact) is dual factored: DR is direct reduction, but there's also Passive Defense (PD), which is rolled against to entirely cancel a hit.
I own Pendragon but despite admiring a lot of things in the system I've never actually played it and really doubt I ever will.

As far as the armor thing goes, it shares a lot of its system with Call of Cthulhu, and it deals with it by more or less building armor into its game expectations in the sense that it's a game of knights so pretty much everyone should be wearing armor and all the armor everyone wears (or is likely to be wearing) is very similar. It can therefore build what balance it actually cares about, and I'm not sure Pendragon cares much about balance at all. It would be very hard to adapt a game where average damage is like 5d6 and a small dragon does 16d6 x2 damage to OSR.
It is a variant of BRP, more specifically RuneQuest rather than CoC.
Damage scales differently in Pendragon, tho.
Noting that typical pendragon damage is 4d6, and typical armor is 10 to 15...

most BRP games, damage is 1-2, rarely 3, dice, number of sides by weapon, and armor values are single digit.

Remove ads