D&D 5E How would you prefer Swashbuckling AC be handled

How would you handle Armor in a Swashbuckling D&D Setting?

  • No Change

    Votes: 7 33.3%
  • Class Defense

    Votes: 4 19.0%
  • Heavy Substitution Defense

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Fighting Styles

    Votes: 4 19.0%
  • Warrior Defense Charts

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Hevy Sailor

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Other

    Votes: 6 28.6%

  • This poll will close: .

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
What would be your preference for handling D&D Armor in a Swashbuckling Setting?

So we all know Swashbuckling Fantasy Setting (and some other types of fantasy like Wuxia, Stealth/Heist, and sometimes Intrigue) tend to favor light armor and no armor for the feel. But in D&D, the game is "balanced" around having archetypes that gain high AC or even the best AC in medium and heavy armor. So how would you prefer to alter 5e's Armor and AC system to match a Swashbuckling world?

No Change: Characters just take builds that work with light or no armor. Almost everyone is DEX based or has high DEX. STR is dead.

Class Defense: Every class gain Unarmored Defense with a calculation appropriated with their prime and secondary ability scores and their expectation of ow high their AC should be. For Example, a Fighter might have an unarmored AC of 10 + their Strength Modifier + the Dexterity Modifier

Heavy Substitution Defense: Classes with heavy armor proficiency can substitute their proficiency bonus for their Dexterity bonus when it applies to AC

Fighting Styles: New Fighting Styles are created. Each one has their own AC calculation with appropriate utility or offensive features. For example, Sea Dog might give you +2 to AC and damage rolls if you are wielding a two handed weapon and not wearing heavy armor nor encumbered.

Warrior Defense Charts: Armor is scrapped mechanically. AC is level based and class based. Each class or race is placed in a column on a C that determines their AC.

Heavy Sailor: Heavy armor is buffed somehow to compensate for setting inappropriateness. Perhaps with damage reduction or increased AC.
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
No changes. If someone wants a strenght build, let them - there is always one or two in those setting anyway. Heavy armor will be harder to find perhaps. The burly PC might have a hard time when the acrobatics challenges are there though - or they might just smash their way through!
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Personally, rather than increase AC of lightly armored characters, I'd increase their hit points. Going back to very early versions of the game,

hp.jpg

From this, you can see that hit points include all the various methods a skilled warrior might employ to minimize damage, such as rolling with punches and even outright dodging. Thus you can differentiate a lightly armored "swashbuckler" from a heavily armored knight quite easily by giving the swashbuckler increased hit points- he'll take damage more often, but it will take more damage to finish him off as he nimbly darts about.

Another thing you might employ is give the swashbuckler, by benefit of their superior mobility, the ability to give ground when attacked, a reaction that lets them move back when attacked in melee, which could prevent enemies with multiple attacks from easily getting more attacks in on the swashbuckler. Further, a swashbuckler likely needs some way to avoid being struck by opportunity attacks as they nimbly move about the battlefield, perhaps withdraw as a bonus action (or being able to take the Dodge action as a bonus action).

The most important detail of swashbuckling fiction, of course, is terrain. Always have interesting terrain around. Stairs, tables, chandeliers, railings, support beams- the canny swashbuckler is constantly finding ways to use their environment around them to grant them advantages. You need to lean into this, and be very open to creativity; in most games, players don't try fancy stunts because conservative DM's have a tendency to hem and haw, assign die rolls, and very fleeting advantages to such tactics; as a result, most players go "well I could splash wine in his face or attack him with this lit candelabra...but if it's more effective to stab him, I'll just do that, then."

Improvised weapon usage ala Jackie Chan is big in the genre as well, as well as very specialized fencing maneuvers- parries, stop thrusts, lunges, ripostes- things that 5e doesn't model well (just assuming that these things are going on for the most part during a combat round).
 


aco175

Legend
I voted no change. Dex would become more of a god stat, but it would also allow for heavy armor that floats of allows a swim speed. The magic of heavy armor to fit would make it more flavorful. You could even add some things like improved bracers for +4 AC rather than just +2.

I could see modifying some class abilities to grant a bonus AC like a shield spell or such. Maybe a feat that doubles AC from light armor or making weapons more in line with this type of campaign. (Although being more dex-based will make finesse weapons more used in this aspect).

Why does the poll close in 6 months?
 

Laurefindel

Legend
AC not dependant on ability scores (or armor type). Dex and Str mostly become used for attacks and saves.

Swashbucklers have high Dex for acrobatics and finesse weapons and good Dex saves, which could be more frequent in such a setting. Conditions in general might have more important role to play.

Armor would act as a saving throw against many such conditions, or a protection vs critical hits, or act as a death save cushion, or could even be the in-game mechanics equivalent to cure wounds and healing word if magic is tempered with.
 
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Unwise

Adventurer
Simply redefine what each type of armour is. Image search The Musketeers TV series. It has great examples of different levels of armour.
The light armour = a heavy tunic and maybe some ceremonial pauldrons.
Medium = Leather breastplate and maybe vambraces
Heavy = Plate breastplate and maybe a pauldron or vambrace.

In the pic below, you see light, heavy and medium armour. This is from an episode where they are actually in a full-blown war I think. That is not how they normally get around. If Porthos's armour is considered Full Plate. Then you maintain both the genre and mechanics.
 

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  • Musketeer Armour.jpg
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I had sort of similar problem with my stone age/early bronze age setting. Armour use would be less common, but I didn't want to eliminate the armour completely. So I redid the armour system. There only two categories of armour light and heavy. Classes normally proficient with light armour are not proficient in any armour and classes normally proficient in medium armour are proficient in light armour. Heavy armour users remain proficient in heavy armour. ACs are not exactly the same than normally, but close enough. It is a small buff for classes that normally use no armour, but I removed mage armour spell to compensate.

Armour​

NameCostArmour Class (AC)MobilityStealth & AcrobaticsWeight
No Armour
No armour10 + ½ proficiency bonus + dex modifier
Unarmoured Defence Feature10 + proficiency bonus + dex modifier
Light Armour
Leather armour50 sp12 + ½ proficiency bonus + dex modifier (max 2)10
Composite armour200 sp13 + ½ proficiency bonus + dex modifier (max 2)Disadvantage30
Heavy Armour
Scale armour350 sp15 + ½ proficiency bonusDisadvantage50
War panoply1500 sp16 + ½ proficiency bonus-5Disadvantage70
Shield
Shield20 sp+26
 


Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
No changes. If someone wants a strenght build, let them - there is always one or two in those setting anyway. Heavy armor will be harder to find perhaps. The burly PC might have a hard time when the acrobatics challenges are there though - or they might just smash their way through!

Itwould be okay if it were 1 PC. Butif your group has 4+ PC, you caneasilyhave 2-3 people with "inappropriate outside aesthetics
Simply redefine what each type of armour is. Image search The Musketeers TV series. It has great examples of different levels of armour.
The light armour = a heavy tunic and maybe some ceremonial pauldrons.
Medium = Leather breastplate and maybe vambraces
Heavy = Plate breastplate and maybe a pauldron or vambrace.

In the pic below, you see light, heavy and medium armour. This is from an episode where they are actually in a full-blown war I think. That is not how they normally get around. If Porthos's armour is considered Full Plate. Then you maintain both the genre and mechanics.

So you remane the heavy armors to half armors and mediumarmors become leather?

Leather Breastplate
Leather Half Plate
Half Ring
Half Chain
Half Splint
Metal Half plate
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
I think the choice between Dexterity-Based or Armor-Based defense should be the choice between high-risk/high-reward and predictable/reliability.

A dex-based fighter should have a high miss chance, but when they get hit, they get hit hard. Whereas an armor-based fighter would get hit rather frequently, but benefit from some damage-reduction mechanic so they are regularly shrugging off the damage.

The two should work against each other to some degree, but not so much that you have to choose.
 

ECMO3

Hero
What would be your preference for handling D&D Armor in a Swashbuckling Setting?

So we all know Swashbuckling Fantasy Setting (and some other types of fantasy like Wuxia, Stealth/Heist, and sometimes Intrigue) tend to favor light armor and no armor for the feel. But in D&D, the game is "balanced" around having archetypes that gain high AC or even the best AC in medium and heavy armor. So how would you prefer to alter 5e's Armor and AC system to match a Swashbuckling world?

No Change: Characters just take builds that work with light or no armor. Almost everyone is DEX based or has high DEX. STR is dead.
I said no change, but that does not mean strength is dead. A high roll on strength is still going to mean a high strength and there are plenty of strong swashbuckling characters in books etc.
 

In a system for a setting where it was mostly armed humanoids fighting each other with weapons I would have different weapons add different bonuses to armor in melee based on their parrying or other defensive properties, and have a miss by 1 (or 2 or 3 with the right weapon or special ability) provide the opportunity to riposte.

Active defense and counterattacks are very central to real world melee combat. I don't think they justify the complexity in normal D&D because it is more often modeling armed warrior vs. fantastical creature than armed warrior vs. armed warrior.
 

Unwise

Adventurer
So you remane the heavy armors to half armors and mediumarmors become leather?

Pretty much, but I would not go into detail like you did below this. I would not even really name them 'in world' just use the names for mechanical rules related reasons.

You simply describe what your cool armour looks like using those very vague guidelines. Then assign a mechanical benefit to it. Two people could have the same design of armour, one pays the minimum for the cheapest heavy armour, one pays the 1000gp for full plate. The expensive one is awesome and protects a lot better than the budget version with tin mixed into the steel.

What benefit is there to having to catagorise every peice of armour with a name like studded/ringmail/scale/half-plate/plate? I don't think it adds value thematically, or mechanically.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
What benefit is there to having to catagorise every peice of armour with a name like studded/ringmail/scale/half-plate/plate? I don't think it adds value thematically, or mechanically.
Speaking.
I DMed an adventure in a land were they used different armors/weapons and constantly reminding the players what was equivalent with what without an official chart or list was so annoying that I made one when they went back.

That and I have shopper and fashionista players in ALL my groups.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In a system for a setting where it was mostly armed humanoids fighting each other with weapons I would have different weapons add different bonuses to armor in melee based on their parrying or other defensive properties, and have a miss by 1 (or 2 or 3 with the right weapon or special ability) provide the opportunity to riposte.

Active defense and counterattacks are very central to real world melee combat. I don't think they justify the complexity in normal D&D because it is more often modeling armed warrior vs. fantastical creature than armed warrior vs. armed warrior.
In a campaign that is more often warrior games warrior, I think it’s sensible to make a generic reaction or two that represent parrying, slipping away, etc, and a generic bonus action to feint, for a start. Basically I’d make the BM manuevers mostly things anyone can do on a more limited basis, whereas the BM does them op top of an attack, with bonus damage.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
In a campaign that is more often warrior games warrior, I think it’s sensible to make a generic reaction or two that represent parrying, slipping away, etc, and a generic bonus action to feint, for a start. Basically I’d make the BM manuevers mostly things anyone can do on a more limited basis, whereas the BM does them op top of an attack, with bonus damage.

I was planning to do a Greco-Norse-Egypt-Persia-3K-Japan Swashbuckling setting and my current thought process is to give barbarian, fighter, monk, paladin, and ranger a Sup Die and a manuever.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I was planning to do a Greco-Norse-Egypt-Persia-3K-Japan Swashbuckling setting and my current thought process is to give barbarian, fighter, monk, paladin, and ranger a Sup Die and a manuever.
That works. Could also expand on the recent Dragonlance UA and make custom feats that give one maneuver and PB/LR superiority dice, with the choice of maneuver keyed to either class concepts or in world schools or styles, orders, etc.
 

They only change I would make would be to give some sort of boost to high Str PCs (and it wouldn’t necessarily be a defensive boost), so characters would have some reason to invest in Strength.
 

delericho

Legend
I think I'd be inclined to go with the Class Defense approach. (And, since 5e already handles the case where characters can have multiple ways to calculate AC, that should be a fairly minor change - characters who choose to wear armour will "just work".)

That said, it kinda feels like a swashbuckling game should really have some sort of fancy parrying system to better reflect the derring-do - static AC doesn't quite feel right to me. But that's a much more involved approach, of course.
 

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