Types of Armor in the Campaign World

DarrenGMiller

First Post
In trying to set a flavor and style for the campaign world I am working on, I am thinking that the predominant armor would be lighter and less restrictive of movement, but I am having a hard time justifying it. In tossing ideas back and forth with others (not my players) online, it has been pointed out that if there are no firearms, then heavy armor would still be the norm. I am assuming a late medeival technology level, with some advancements being made in the medical arts and sciences such as astronomy, etc. I just don't want firearms to be a viable PC option at this point. Flavor-wise, I see light armor being the norm, but why? There certainly would be some privileged knights and such who would still wear it, but other than that, I am thinking it is largely ceremonial. I could use Defense bonuses to mechanically encourage it, but I was told that it sounds like I am just trying to limit player choice (which was portrayed as a "bad thing (tm)").

Can somebody help me figure this out?

DM
 
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Arrgh! Mark!

First Post
Expense. Traditionally, I read somewhere that armour of any decent weight tends to get more expensive than most people can afford in their lifetimes. Only rich merchants/Nobles could even think of it.

Lighter armour is cheaper and easier to make; cured leather with metal bits isn't too hard or expensive.


The way most D+D games go, they tend to have earned more money than normal folks (And even nobles!) in a very short time. Don't let this happen.

Seriously? Deal in the Silver piece. When the sp is the normal currency of day-to-day transactions, the adventurers have to earn a lot more before they even think of noble levels. In fact, the only way to get big dollars is to get land and peasants farming for you and such, and the kings financial support.

Standard soldiers might be well experienced and hardened campaigners (7th level?) and still have nothing much in the way of armour.

Being paid to be a soldier doesn't earn you a lot of money. It earns you enough to live on. Adventuring should be the same - for evey dungeon filled with gold, you have several months to spend it uselessly on ale and prostitutes.

Dungeons and crypts shouldn't be filled with loot. Monsters don't use coinage. Temples, noble houses, etc have loot in them. If you want to avoid heavy armour, think in terms of more realistic economics.
 

Elder-Basilisk

First Post
wolf70 said:
In trying to set a flavor and style for the campaign world I am working on, I am thinking that the predominant armor would be lighter and less restrictive of movement, but I am having a hard time justifying it. In tossing ideas back and forth with others (not my players) online, it has been pointed out that if there are no firearms, then heavy armor would still be the norm. I am assuming a late medeival technology level, with some advancements being made in the medical arts and sciences such as astronomy, etc. I just don't want firearms to be a viable PC option at this point. Flavor-wise, I see light armor being the norm, but why? There certainly would be some privileged knights and such who would still wear it, but other than that, I am thinking it is largely ceremonial. I could use Defense bonuses to mechanically encourage it, but I was told that it sounds like I am just trying to limit player choice (which was portrayed as a "bad thing (tm)").

Can somebody help me figure this out?

DM

What do you mean by light armor? Chain shirts? Leather? Studded leather? Breastplates? A specific answer to that question will go a long way towards answering your question. A few possibilities:

1. Lack of resources. The area simply doesn't have enough iron to support an iron based armor technology. Weapons will also tend towards things like flails, morning stars, warhammers, and spears that require less metal to make than swords. In such an environment, any metal armor would be prohibitively expensive and thus it is quite possible that the technology wouldn't develop at all. (Sure, a few kings could afford to buy enough iron for fullplate, but they're not going to employ several generations of engineers to develop the technology necessary for fullplate). In this case, you'd have bronze breastplates and greaves and leather based armors.

2. Extreme temperature. In extreme heat or extreme cold, heavy steel armor becomes impractical. Of course, this means playing a desert or an arctic game, but in either case, the normal D&D temperature rules explain why the technology for heavy metal armor was never developed even if other technologies were developed.

3. A different method of magic. If it costs enhancement bonus ^2 to make magic heavy armor (or ^2 for medium armor and ^3 for heavy armor), it will be more effective to make light armor with a higher enhancement bonus than to make magic heavy armor. This would also explain why the technology never developed in civilized lands.
 

Elder-Basilisk

First Post
Actually, one other thought: giving the most common god a domain with heat metal as a 1st level domain spell would also provide enough of a disincentive to discourage the wide use of heavy armor.
 

Mishihari Lord

First Post
Make it illeagal in the kingdoms your players adventure in. Just like real life, the police/guards/soldier don't like having civilians on the same level as them with regards to armament. Knowledge of armor making is tightly controlled by the government and skilled armorers only sell to the government. If a character shows up armored in a town, the presumption is that he plans to attack someone and the first person to see him runs for the guard.

Alternately use/increase the fatigue penalty for wearing armor over an extended period.
 

Marchen

First Post
Less resources sounds good. Heavy armors are expensive to create as it is, but if the metals and ore required to produce them are a strained resource then such items will sky rocket in value.
 

TheAuldGrump

First Post
Elder-Basilisk said:
2. Extreme temperature. In extreme heat or extreme cold, heavy steel armor becomes impractical. Of course, this means playing a desert or an arctic game, but in either case, the normal D&D temperature rules explain why the technology for heavy metal armor was never developed even if other technologies were developed.

Even not-so-extreme temperature, heat stroke was dead common in heavy armors, a gambeson is essentially a quilt, and armor was often blacked with linseed oil to prevent rust, sucking up the heat quite nicely.

The Auld Grump
 

Snapdragyn

Explorer
Additional options:

1) Preponderance of water-based travel. Heavy armor is a definite negative if there's a credible chance you're going to end up in the drink.

2) I may be off here, but I don't think most full plate wearers were footsoldiers. Limit access to mounts & the impetus for engineering full plate technology is lessened.

3) Didn't the advent of crossbows (or longbows?) play a role in the fall of heavy armors from primacy in RW usage? Play this up with shopkeepers only selling light stuff & warning the PCs against the dangers of how vulnerable the slower movement of heavy armors would leave them to archers.

Whichever way you go, I'd definitely consider the effects that lower AC availability will have on the party once they reach the levels where they'd normally be able to start getting into the heavier armors; whether increased avialability of relevant magical items or the use of a defensive bonus is needed will of course depend on your campaign & the adversaries they'll be facing.
 


HeapThaumaturgist

First Post
Same reason cops don't regularly wear full swat forced entry outfits.

It's bloody cumbersome.

I ran a Grim Tales based game not too long ago, with a greater focus on lighter armor. Really it just sort of flowed naturally out of the system. GT's encumbrance rules penalized Attack Bonus as well as skill checks. I suggested that the game would involve as much interpersonal RP as combat, if not more. I also set the whole thing on an airship ... and nobody was much interested in taking large penalties to Jump checks.

One really effective way of encouraging lighter armor is TIME. You can't really wear full plate to go grocery shopping ... make an issue of when they're in armor and not wearing the armor. How long it'll take to get into that heavy suit, as opposed to the guys who run out in chain shirts.

But the thing is, if you're playing with regular D&D, then limiting armor is limiting what people can play. The system is balanced around those heavier armors being in there.

--fje
 

Steverooo

First Post
Technology is another answer. Most of the forms of armor didn't all exist in the same places at the same times... Maille (D&D "Chainmail", which is a Victorian-era misnomer for what was called a Coat of Maille, back in the day) was used from the Bronze Age up through 19th century Asia. In Roman times, it was called Lorica Hamata. The Centurion's armor was Lorica Segmentata, and about the only other forms were leather and cloth outfits. During Rome's time, the change from Bronze to Iron occurred, so the materials that the armor was made from did, as well (Hadrian's Column shows that his troops had iron armor, for instance).

If you set up your campaign in a similar way, Breastplates and "Chainmail" may be the best armor available. Again, as already pointed out, these armors are hotter, heavier, and pretty hard to swim in. Set your campaign in a Tropical realm, and require heat checks (DC:20 Fortitude saves) every half-hour in Heavy Armor, and every hour in Medium. Two hours in Light. Failure gives Heat Exhaustion, with further rolls for Heat Stroke, thereafter, unless the armor is removed, the warrior cooled down, and rested until the exhaustion wears off.

This, combined with slower movement, should be enough. Later on, when the PCs start adventuring farther afield, you can introduce them to plate in Italia, or whatever. Since most long-distance travel in the ancient world was accomplished by ship, the "Paladin's PJs" (or Maille Hauberks - Chain Shirts, in D&D parlance) should remain quite common.

The Nehwon campaign sourcebook took the "armor is for trouble-makers" approach, and made leather the skullduggers' choice, as it was easy to conceal. If ypu choose to make armor illegal in your base country, then you really will be limiting PC choice (and watch out for that armor addition in the DMG that makes it appear as normal clothing)! You'll basically be limiting the PCs to Cloth, Disguised Leather & Studded Leather, Mithral Shirts (if worn under clothing), and perhaps Dastana and Brigandine (Medium armor which looks the same as studded leather, but the studs hold small metal plates between two layers of leather... found in WotC's Arms & Equipment Guide, IIRC).

IMHO, making armor illegal is a "sucky" way of doing it. Using a (Sub-)Tropical clime with water-based canal travel works much better. If you go with this, hand out a lot of +2 Circumstance Modifiers for doing "smart things", like stepping into a pool or stream to cool off, taking extra salt & water to prevent Heat Exhaustion, etc. That drops the DC from 20 to 18, and allows for a few more hours' adventuring.

If you go with the "Heat" explanation, be sure to show armored guards occassionally passing out, while on duty, guards coming off-shift and stripping off their hot & sweaty armor, Guards & Mercenaries taking off their helmets to dunk their sweat-dripping heads in the horse troughs, and other such stuff. Play up the high heat and humidity in your descriptions, and describe to the PCs how hot and uncomfortable being in their armor is. THEN make them roll the Fortitude Saves! :confused:

I did the "Sub-Tropical Clime" in one game I ran, and had one PC (Flint Farcaster) refuse to lose the Fullplate Armour... He always made his rolls vs. Heat Exhaustion, too... somehow! :p
 

Bront

The man with the probe
Generaly, I've never had a problem with many people being in heavy armor. Most people only wear light to no armor if anything because it's all the can afford, only only a few are actualy trained to wear it.
 

S'mon

Legend
HeapThaumaturgist said:
But the thing is, if you're playing with regular D&D, then limiting armor is limiting what people can play. The system is balanced around those heavier armors being in there.

I think this is true to some extent; the Fighter & Paladin classes seem somewhat balanced around having Heavy Armour Proficiency; if you don't use heavy armour there's a good case for giving them an extra feat or skill points. The game is certainly playable without heavy armour though.

One way to approach it is to discard the "everything is available for a price" market capitalist approach of default D&D. In swords & sorcery and fantasy novels it's pretty rare to see protagonists buying equipment, certainly a commoner's ability to buy full plate armour may be rare. Maybe no one makes it, maybe only the armoursmiths of Gondor make it (so maybe the Fighters of Rohan don't get heavy armour prof, they get skill focus: Ride). D&D 3e is based off PCs having a certain amount of equipment by level, but that can be gifts or loot,it doesn't have to be bought.
 


DarrenGMiller

First Post
By light armor, I mean cloth, padded, leather, studded leather, chain shirts and maybe breastplates. I do intend for there to be some less combat intensive goals, some political ramifications to what the PC's do, and am looking for heroes and villains with flair and panache instead of walking tanks. I intend to place an emphasis on stealth. This is the Gotham-esque setting I posted about a few weeks ago.

For weapons, I am thinking that the predominant ones are light, such as rapiers, daggers, etc. I am going to have them adventure in a wide variety of climates, but there predominant climate will be cool and extremely damp, with a pervasive fog or mist (not mist as in Ravenloft). I feel as if this would cause metal armors to rust more quickly. The land will also be quite marshy in places and there will be SOME water-borne travel.

DM
 

Hand of Evil

Adventurer
Epic
Weather conditions: could be too hot or cold to be effective.

Cost: material is hard to get

Law: state or church

Encounter: Monster or event - metal armor could be see as 'body/host' for demons/ghost that cross planes. World could also have lots of lightning...or elements...or rust monsters.

And the simplest reason: Style and Fastion! It is what is hot in the time and place and everyone one is wearing it and you can't find anything else. (those old enough to remember the 70's know what I am talking about).
 


haakon1

Adventurer
Lack of iron or lack of steel-making technology, lack of coal/charcoal to heat it up, lots of ship travel or inclement weather, or fashion . . .

In my campaign, I allow all the standard armors, plus ancient Greek hoplite armor (there's a small holdout, isolated culture with that in my version of Greyhawk, on the northern edge of the Sea of Dust). Most popular seem to be lorica segmenta (banded armor), chainmail, chain shirt, studded leather, and full plate. It helps if the magic treasure has the "cool" armor in it, instead of the stuff you don't like. :cool:
 

EdL

First Post
wolf70 said:
In trying to set a flavor and style for the campaign world I am working on, I am thinking that the predominant armor would be lighter and less restrictive of movement, but I am having a hard time justifying it. In tossing ideas back and forth with others (not my players) online, it has been pointed out that if there are no firearms, then heavy armor would still be the norm. I am assuming a late medeival technology level, with some advancements being made in the medical arts and sciences such as astronomy, etc. I just don't want firearms to be a viable PC option at this point. Flavor-wise, I see light armor being the norm, but why? There certainly would be some privileged knights and such who would still wear it, but other than that, I am thinking it is largely ceremonial. I could use Defense bonuses to mechanically encourage it, but I was told that it sounds like I am just trying to limit player choice (which was portrayed as a "bad thing (tm)").

Can somebody help me figure this out?

DM

You could make it known to the players that most enchanted armors, and weapons, are of the varity that you want. (Like the old 1e high percentage chance that a magic sword would be a longsword.) Add in the style suggestion made above and you're getting there.
 

CRGreathouse

Community Supporter
Steverooo said:
Technology is another answer. Most of the forms of armor didn't all exist in the same places at the same times... Maille (D&D "Chainmail", which is a Victorian-era misnomer for what was called a Coat of Maille, back in the day) was used from the Bronze Age up through 19th century Asia. In Roman times, it was called Lorica Hamata. The Centurion's armor was Lorica Segmentata, and about the only other forms were leather and cloth outfits. During Rome's time, the change from Bronze to Iron occurred, so the materials that the armor was made from did, as well (Hadrian's Column shows that his troops had iron armor, for instance).

This is a great explanation, but I wanted to point out for completeness' sake that Lorica Segmentata is a modern term, not a period Latin term. (I'm not sure if Lorica Hamata is modern or ancient; does anyone here know?)
 
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