D&D General Armour class and essentialism


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Voadam

Legend
He's an NPC in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, though!
Is he described as wearing plate mail there? I believe the 3.5 description was magical half plate.
Point being, you can fluff it because it's not really super important whether it's plate mail or splint mail or some other kinda armor. It -looks- cool, and that's enough.
Reskinning NPCs involves different issues than refluffing PC stuff.

A PC usually sees no behind the screen stats of an NPC besides what they encounter directly. So a PC will know whether they hit the pirate NPC at a certain AC, not whether that AC comes from refluffed armor or really good dex. A reskinned knight turned into a blouse wearing parrying pirate is a matter of unilateral DM description for the most part. A DM can make spot decisions on adjusting stuff for the narrative like the parrying pirate's level of stealthiness compared to a full plate knight. It can matter for loot though whether there is armor the PCs can recover or not.

For a PC it is different. There is a different consideration of mutual buy in for refluffing PC aspects and going with the default mechanics versus the fluff ones.
 

pemerton

Legend
So the best way to fix this is (1) to break the link between class and specific cultures and (2) to break the link between classes and specific ability scores.
I've inserted bolded numbers to label the two suggestions.

Number (2) I'll leave alone. My OP talks about specific ability scores feeding into particular class abilities but doesn't make a more general claim. Whether it's better to have wizards be stat-neutral, or instead to have wizards, sorcerers and warlocks as we currently do to allow various magician builds around various stat combos, I don't know: there's a lot of D&D tradition in there and I don't know if it's all bad.

The first one I'll tackle. I personally don't think all associations between class and cultures are objectionable. Paladins evoke romantic notions of mediaeval knighthood - they don't have to be confined to that, but that's where they start. For me at least, Monks evoke Tai Chi Master and The Bride With White Hair and Hero - again, they don't have to confined to that, but it's where I start from.

But there is a difference between presenting a trope or an archetype, and buying into a stereotype. Maybe you're suggesting the line is so fine, or sufficiently subjective, that it's better to try and step right away from the issue?
 

I'll take that under advisement if I actually think about doing that sometime.

Actually, its not intended as a strawman at all. I was in a game this was allowed and everyone started wanting to take the best option and refluff as something else. One person wanted to use great sword stats, but say they were wielding a dagger... Which is why we dont allow it anymore.
Yeah. It does tend to be weird. I remember reaching that point in 4e with paragon paths. We were encouraged to refluff them if the fluff didn't match - but then what if the fluff of one does match but it's just mechanically weaker (or you just don't like the particular mechnical representation)?
 

James Gasik

Legend
At that point, I guess you present it to the DM and see what they think. Most Paragon Paths seemed pretty good to me, but I'm sure there had to be some that didn't make the grade.

I honestly had more problems with people taking Paragon Paths that didn't really suit their character, but granted a power boost they wanted. Like we had a Sorcerer who started dabbling with demonic powers because they really wanted Demon-Soul Bolts as an encounter power (and didn't seem to care much for the rest of their Path).
 

At that point, I guess you present it to the DM and see what they think. Most Paragon Paths seemed pretty good to me, but I'm sure there had to be some that didn't make the grade.

I honestly had more problems with people taking Paragon Paths that didn't really suit their character, but granted a power boost they wanted. Like we had a Sorcerer who started dabbling with demonic powers because they really wanted Demon-Soul Bolts as an encounter power (and didn't seem to care much for the rest of their Path).
Isn't this the same thing? If we're reskinning and refluffling why wouldn't you be choosing a Paragon Path purely for it's mechanics? The mechanics are the part you have to live with.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Yes but in this case, they only wanted one thing from the Paragon Path. And they didn't ask to refluff, they just chose it for that one power. What I would have preferred is have the DM find out why they wanted this one ability, and find a way to make it available to a Path that fit what they were trying to do.
 

Staffan

Legend
I think it’d be good if the light armours had the dex bonus uncapped representing a better chance to dodge, perhaps with the very light armours some classes (bard rogue ranger, maybe fighter too) getting inherent advantage to AC checks while wearing those lightest armours to represent their talent in dodging (other classes require a feat for advantage), whereas the heavy armours have two AC values, a lower one that functions regularly as it currently does and a second higher AC that alows you to take half damage, indicating a lesser capacity to dodge completely but a higher rate of the armour protecting from receiving serious injuries.
Medium armour functions as it currently does, with a capped dex bonus, it has a higher AC than the lower AC range of a comparable heavy armour but not reaching as high as the half damage AC threshold
That's close to how Pathfinder 2 does it.

In PF2, armors are defined by a few numbers: item bonus (the bonus it gives to AC), Dex Cap (the highest bonus you can get to AC if you wear that armor), Check Penalty (a penalty to Strength and Dexterity-based checks other than attacks), Strength (how high your Strength must be to nullify the check penalty). For the most part, light and medium armor have an item bonus and Dex Cap that sum up to +5, and there's also "Explorer's Clothing" which has item bonus +0 and Dex Cap +5, so the whole point of that is to have a not-armor that you can still enchant and stuff. Heavy armor instead sums to +6. The tables are also set up so that the higher the item bonus and the lower the Dex Cap, the higher the Strength needed to nullify penalties – essentially, the point of medium armor is to let melee-focused characters get a decent AC without having to pump both Strength (for melee attacks) and Dexterity (for AC).

Monks start out with Expert proficiency in unarmored defense, meaning they get a +2 bonus to AC over those who start out Trained in whatever sort of armor they wear. This is slightly less of an edge than it initially appears, because you generally can't get to a Dexterity bonus of +5 until level 10, so the actual effect is that they get the same AC as characters wearing heavy armor (though it does help a bit at the really low levels before PCs can afford heavy armor). Pathfinder 2 also offers monks who want to eschew Dexterity a feat called Mountain Stance, which gives them a +4 item bonus to AC but a Dex cap of 0 (and taking an action to activate and imposing certain limitations). So for a low-level character maxing AC in PF2, the values would look something like this:

  • No armor (non-monk): Item +0, Dex +4, Proficiency 2+level, total 16+level. This might very well be lower because these characters might not max out Dexterity, but at higher levels they will likely catch up.
  • Light armor: Item +1 or +2, Dex +4 or +3, Proficiency 2+level, total 17+level.
  • Medium armor: Item +3 or +4, Dex +2 or +1, Proficiency 2+level, total 17+level.
  • Heavy armor: Item +5 or +6, Dex +1 or 0, Proficiendy 2+level, total 18+level.
  • No armor (Dex-monk): Item +0, Dex +4, Proficiency 4+level, total 18+level.
  • No armor (Mountain stance): Item +4, Dex 0, Proficiency 4+level, total 18+level.
So the effect is to create a baseline for light/medium armor wearers, and then put fighters, champions (paladins) and monks a little above that, and cloth casters (basically wizards, sorcerers, and cloistered clerics) a little below. Different classes might combine things differently to reach that baseline, but they will get there.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I've inserted bolded numbers to label the two suggestions.

Number (2) I'll leave alone. My OP talks about specific ability scores feeding into particular class abilities but doesn't make a more general claim. Whether it's better to have wizards be stat-neutral, or instead to have wizards, sorcerers and warlocks as we currently do to allow various magician builds around various stat combos, I don't know: there's a lot of D&D tradition in there and I don't know if it's all bad.

The first one I'll tackle. I personally don't think all associations between class and cultures are objectionable. Paladins evoke romantic notions of mediaeval knighthood - they don't have to be confined to that, but that's where they start. For me at least, Monks evoke Tai Chi Master and The Bride With White Hair and Hero - again, they don't have to confined to that, but it's where I start from.

But there is a difference between presenting a trope or an archetype, and buying into a stereotype. Maybe you're suggesting the line is so fine, or sufficiently subjective, that it's better to try and step right away from the issue?
My reasoning for bringing up (2) is that the Wis/Con to AC could be seen as an extension of a wider topic of ability scores and ableism, which when mixed with the cultural issues (1) could create that sense of essentialism. Suffice to say, there are some arguments to be made with how ability scores interact with classes, but that's a topic far larger than what is broached. I bring it up because a divorce of primary ability scores from class would, in theory, fix the issue. Your idea of redoing Unarmored Defense to fix the MAD element of it is a good example of removing the emphasis of on ability score modifier in class features, the switch from Ability Score Mod/Day to Proficiency Bonus/Day is another.

Onto (1). I think with issues of how both races and monsters have been viewed critically in the lens of perpetuating stereotypes (both positive and negative) I think class would be the natural next place to view. Monks and barbarians have for a while been the primary target such discussion, but I think we are going to see more scrutiny placed on the archetypes each class is made to invoke and ask if it is a.) inclusive enough and b.) perpetuating stereotypes. In particular, some classes that are generic to culture (fighter, wizard, rogue, sorcerer) or fairly generic (cleric, bard, ranger) will probably be unchanged, but I could see some major revision or reimagining of druid, monk, barbarian, paladin, and maybe warlock in order to make them less cultural and more generic. I don't know how that will shake out exactly, but I'd keep my eye on those 4-5 classes, along with many subclasses that are based on certain cultures (samurai or cavalier in particular.)

I don't think either of these things are specifically on the menu for 2024, but I wouldn't be surprised if D&D doesn't start moving towards those changes, assuming the current level of popularity and scrutiny remain.
 

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