5E House rule for Victorian era aesthetic - no armor

Tonguez

Adventurer
I like this a lot, the ‘wearing clothes to cover vitals’ part invoked images of victorian louts wrapping thick wadding around their bellys and arms to prepare for a fight, whereas the Light style immediate had me thinking of kung fu.

I also like how this rules let you turn a cane or any other random item intom a shield
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
Dex is already the uber-stat. Do you want every PC maximising Dex?
In a Victorian setting....sure (at least using D&D as a base). It makes a lot of genre sense, certainly worked in Boot Hill. Plus, I don't think it would warp things that much more than they already are. You'd still have folks maximizing their attack stat.

Additionally, I would think you would need to add some skills and whatnot that would push things a little toward the other stats.

Of course, some of this balancing act would depend on what exactly one plans on doing for a "Victorian Setting". Are we bouncing around Europe in fancy clothes hunting cultists or are we traipsing around central Asia as part of the "Great Game" (if you buy into that sort of thing). Then again, Victoria ruled for quite a while. It might be good to narrow it down a bit more.
 
Perhaps it should be a movement action? Like, if you're bolting across the field, you don't have time to parry, etc.
Well my point was that it doesn't have to be an action at all. After all, gaining the armor bonus to AC normally doesn't require any action (assuming you are already wearing the armor). These abilities are meant to replace armors, so they could just work like them and have a bonus equal to a specific armor per category.

I know it costs time to don armor in the first place. But the reality is that it rarely comes into play, because in that rare occasion when the DM denies you to already have armor on, the donning is so slow that you won't choose to, you'll fight without armor because there is no time, combat will be over before you've donned your armor.

Most DMs don't bother and assume you always have armor when you need. If you do want to deny armor now and then, figure out a reason why this new ability doesn’t work, exactly when you want it not to work :)
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I think for me, balancing the game to represent that armour is not common is fine — but wearing armour should still be better than not wearing armour. Otherwise, why did anybody ever wear armour?

So create a new armour table more suited to the setting. Quilted longcoats, and stuff. We’re talking adventurers, not common nobles. The lady (adventurer) has thin iron plates sewn into her exquisite ballgown.The gentleman’s longcoat has a mithral lining. You can buy cloth treated to be as strong as chainmail.

Just change the names. Everybody gets to be protected and fashionable.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Why not just reskin the armors? Which leaves in visual identification. Someone wearing an unseasonably heavy longcoat is clearly visually different than someone who is wearing the latest light and airy spring fashions. Proficiency comes with knowing how to use them to protect yourself. Coats and draped fashions hiding where vulnerable spots are and the like.

Really, if you want to make a drop-in replacement it's the easiest, even if it lacks some verisimilitude.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
I like the way you think. I don't think these rules have to be as faithful to the armor rules, though. What do we gain by retaining, say, the three-way light/medium/heavy distinction, or the same don/doff action economy? And as others have noted, how do guns play into this?

Here's a little brainstorm:

Against melee attacks, your parry AC is 10 + your Strength modifier. Against ranged attacks, your dodge AC is 10 + your Dexterity modifier. You can't parry gunfire, but neither can you effectively dodge around when somebody is waving a weapon in your face.
If a class would provide light armor proficiency, it grants +1 to both ACs instead. Medium proficiency becomes +2, heavy becomes +3. These values can possibly be higher; that would result in dodge or parry ACs getting higher than 18, but the other value would still probably be reasonable to hit. Which would encourage trying to attack enemies in their weak style.
"Shields" work exactly as you say, no change there.
Finally, cover gives you a flat AC as though it were D&D armor. Say between 15 and 20 depending on the quality of the cover. You're not really dodging around when you're taking cover, but it's still usually a good idea to do so.
 
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Laurefindel

Explorer
If you were playing in a steampunk game, what would you think of this house rule?
(...)
I have a tendency to overcomplicate things, from my history of writing for 3.5, 4E, and PF.

You don't think it's too complex? Or too obvious of a 'kludge' to make D&D mechanics fit the setting?
The "spend an Action" part is superfluous IMO. AC is based on your martial training - no need to complicated things further.

No training: AC = 10 + DEX
Light armor proficiency: AC = 12 + DEX
Medium armor proficiency: AC = 15 + DEX (max +2)
Heavy armor proficiency: AC = 16 + STR (max +2)
Tucked hand technique (shield proficiency): +2 AC, can't use that hand

I would even wave off the stealth penalty, donning/doffing time, sleeping in armor rule etc. If you really want to, you could create a "flat-footed" condition whereas a surprised character's AC is just 10 + DEX regardless of training.
 

SanjMerchant

Explorer
What if you go the other route? Make guns ignore armor. That way, people will gravitate towards light armor (fluffed as reinforced clothing) because an enemy with firearms makes heavy plate and chainmail irrelevant. Some might go for medium armor as a compromise, to be prepared for both gun users and the occasional traditionalist with a sword (or a jerk with bayonet when things get up close and personal).

It's a decent analog for why people stopped wearing clunky metal armor in real life and you don't have to alter the base game, just make it a property of firearms particularly.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
I fail to see how clothing and using it is going to make you harder to damage. What is the point of this?
 
The point is that if you want a game to evoke Sherlock Holmes, and you want character options to be balanced, you can either redesign the entire AC system of the whole game, or you can give people a way to have high AC without wearing plate armor.

If I were designing a game from scratch, it'd be balanced around armor providing damage resistance, not making it harder to hit you, and then yes, guns would bypass that DR. But in 5E, fighters and paladins need heavy armor.

I guess I could make variants of those classes that trade away heavy armor proficiency and get something else, but I'm trying to find the least intrusive way to

a) have the right aesthetic
b) maintain access to all character options and let them be balanced
c) minimally damage verisimilitude
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Just a question: why change the rules? After all, in a Victorian setting, it isn’t like there’s going to be a lot of weapons floating around beyond small blades, coshes, brass knuckles, canes, concealed long blades and small guns.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
Guns are basically crossbows that deal a little more damage but require an action to reload, so usually you'll just fire once per combat.
Nitpick: by the late Victorian era of Sherlock Holmes, they had perfectly serviceable revolvers and repeating rifles. Those fire much faster than a bow, to say nothing of a crossbow.

But if you want to go the single-shot muzzle-loader route, here's a cheap trick I used in a 4E campaign: make the reloads longer. Like, a quasi-realistic 1 minute. Then characters are pretty definitely not going to shoot more than once per combat, and you can balance guns as "encounter powers" that deal as much damage as a good solid spell.

Just make sure to impose reasonable limits on how many guns one character can feasibly carry. It doesn't work so well if somebody decides to haul around a sack of forty pistols.
 
Just a question: why change the rules? After all, in a Victorian setting, it isn’t like there’s going to be a lot of weapons floating around beyond small blades, coshes, brass knuckles, canes, concealed long blades and small guns.
Depends where you are. "Victorian" in Britain is "Wild West" in the US.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Depends where you are. "Victorian" in Britain is "Wild West" in the US.
I’m well aware. But even so, people weren’t walking around armed and armored. The typical weapon you’d encounter would be a knife, a piece of farm gear, or something improvised, like a bag of rocks or coins, a whiskey bottle or a handy fire poker. Most towns had sheriffs confiscating weapons while within city limits.


So, on an average day- even for an adventurer or lawman (who might have caught a bullet to the knee)- fists, boots, knives, bottles and the like are going to be the norm.

Which means most combats are not going to be lethal. And most lethal combats- read gunfights- will be short and deadly.

Did some people have reinforced leather dusters and the like? Sure. Most of the protective clothing of the era was hardly armor, though. You might turn a blade strike or two, but you’re unlikely to slow down a .45.

Did some people flout the confiscation laws? We wouldn’t have had the shootout at the OK Corral if they didn’t.

It just seems that with the setting conventions, putting a lot of effort to rules revisions is something of a waste of time.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
But if you want to go the single-shot muzzle-loader route, here's a cheap trick I used in a 4E campaign: make the reloads longer. Like, a quasi-realistic 1 minute. Then characters are pretty definitely not going to shoot more than once per combat, and you can balance guns as "encounter powers" that deal as much damage as a good solid spell.
I agree with this. This is pretty much what I did in my Curse of Strahd campaign, where one of the PCs found the rifle in one of the tombs in the catacombs. I wanted it to be special and really damaging, so I basically made it mechanically the same as a wand of lightning bolts-- it did really good 8d6 damage on a hit, but also only had a certain number of "charges" per day.

Now granted, since I treated the rifle as a magic item I allowed it to be used multiple times per fight as you would any normal wand... but if you wanted guns to be a thing in the setting, do what Cosmic suggests. Make them one-shot items that do like 3d12 (with no ability modifiers added). And they can only be reloaded out of combat.

If you add in some roleplaying aspects as to why not everyone just overloads themselves with guns (exceedingly loud firing, only can holster one or two at a time, illegal to open carry, not thought of as a "gentleperson's weapon" etc... you don't have to worry about turning the game into a series of "shoot once, drop gun, draw another" repetitions for every PC.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
Easiest is to simply replace the armour table with weapon resistant fabric. Keep everything else the same and just reskin all the amours.
 

bedir than

Explorer
Except that shoot, drop, unholster, shoot again was quite popular in reality
I agree with this. This is pretty much what I did in my Curse of Strahd campaign, where one of the PCs found the rifle in one of the tombs in the catacombs. I wanted it to be special and really damaging, so I basically made it mechanically the same as a wand of lightning bolts-- it did really good 8d6 damage on a hit, but also only had a certain number of "charges" per day.

Now granted, since I treated the rifle as a magic item I allowed it to be used multiple times per fight as you would any normal wand... but if you wanted guns to be a thing in the setting, do what Cosmic suggests. Make them one-shot items that do like 3d12 (with no ability modifiers added). And they can only be reloaded out of combat.

If you add in some roleplaying aspects as to why not everyone just overloads themselves with guns (exceedingly loud firing, only can holster one or two at a time, illegal to open carry, not thought of as a "gentleperson's weapon" etc... you don't have to worry about turning the game into a series of "shoot once, drop gun, draw another" repetitions for every PC.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
It just seems that with the setting conventions, putting a lot of effort to rules revisions is something of a waste of time.
I'm with you on the history but I don't follow your logic here. You say nobody is wearing armor during this period, which is true. So doesn't that increase the demand for a rules revision allowing for practical unarmored combat?
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
Except that shoot, drop, unholster, shoot again was quite popular in reality
I mean, yes and no. The "brace of pistols" was a thing. But it was kind of... hardcore. Ideally the rules would allow for a PC to go that route and carry, say, four to six guns. But it shouldn't incentivize that as the normal best practice in combat, because it definitely wasn't.

I'm almost tempted to steal an idea from video games and introduce the concept of "weapon sets". The idea being you can only have so many weapons ready for immediate use at a time. Can't strap sixteen different swords to your belt, can't carry twelve holstered pistols. So maybe the brace of pistols guy can have two pistols in "set 1", two more in "set 2", and a final two in "set 3" that he got from a class feature or feat. But then that's it for him: no backup melee weapon feasible. In contrast, another PC might instead have one pistol in "set 1" and then a sword-cane and cape in "set 2".
 

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