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D&D 5E Why AD&D Rocks and 3e - 5e Mocks all over AC...


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Fundamentally in a game which simplifies the complexity of combat into turn-taking rounds; movement; to-hits; and damage rolls is going to have some dissonance between it and the real world where everyone is moving at once; heat, vision limitations, and fatigue exist; and combat strategies vary from not being where an opponent is thrust, trying to bypass armor by hitting them where it doesn't cover, and powering through the armor with percussive or armor-piercing weapons. Each simplification is going to have pros and cons, and different people will like different implementations, in part because there are different goals such as realism*, playability, and genre-matching.
*And, if the frequency of use of the WvsAC modifiers in oD&D/1E are any indication, there is a limit to the amount of realism regularly expected of the game.

The OP has a point -- there is some level of belief (perpetuated from everything from later-era Europeans to Bugs Bunny cartoons) that medieval fighting was guys in clunky tin cans whaling on each other with vaguely sharpened metal bars. That's one extreme. At the same time, there seems to be (maybe just in gaming/fantasy-adjacent Youtube circles) of people wanting to pat themselves on the back for knowing otherwise, and these can often overreach. As pointed out, doing gymnastics or generally being agile in blue jeans is harder than in exercise gear*. A max-Dex for heavy armor isn't really unreasonable, it's just shouldn't only be for heavy armor -- doing so with a bunch of camping gear or 150 lbs of looted coins or the bard's instrument collection should also apply penalties, and these are often ignored (or at least obviated by the encumbrance rule, in that a high-strength character can have no penalty for total weight carried, but still has it for the armor they are wearing, etc.).
*discussion about 'light' armors to follow

I saw some others pointing out genre emulation and some pushback on it, and I think the former have the right of it. The game has always been (and has been moving more in this direction since 2e, if not earlier) one where some character wants to be unarmored (the monk, I'm assuming wizards would want armor if they could), some want to be wearing light armor* (thieves, sometimes rangers), and some want as heavy as they can carry/afford. That certainly doesn't have to be the case. In AD&D it was generally best to get as heavy armor as your class allowed*. However, if you make that decision, it becomes really hard to justify playing a swashbuckler, it is hard to make a thief class enjoyable, high-seas adventure or other places where the heavy armor comes off changes a lot of dynamics, and a bunch of other little issues. Maybe that's not a problem for some groups, but for others it is and I think that had something to do with the design choice.
*although, as pointed out, basic-classic and AD&D had speed maxes for certain armors

An overarching point here also comes to mind. D&D characters don't do what historical people who wore armor and wielded weapons tended to do. They wander the countryside, often in-armor most of the time, often with few if any attendants and minimal baggage trains or camp followers or the like, to climb into conveniently places caverns or abandoned structures in search of treasure, often fighting monsters against which real world arms and armor were not designed. Realistically (given the unrealistic premise), whole new types of arms and armor would have evolved to face these challenges, just like castles would have not evolved as they did* if deadly flying creatures were a real concern. We'd see armor that is lighter, probably easier to repair, and definitely easier to transport. Suddenly, being the opponent-at-their-base, especially with pre-knowledge of time of engagement, becomes a huge advantage. That they can have all the heaviest and least convenient armor while the (presumably) PCs are traipsing around in their transit-armor. This could be an interesting notion for a specific worldbuilding. However, I can see why WotC or anyone else wouldn't think that overly marketable. Anyways, my point is that 'but realism' in the end runs into the issue that D&D adventuring isn't realistic, so any given decision is going to be a tradeoff of which unrealism you personally can or can't accept.
*certainly more ballistae and maybe even whole-keep roofs

Regarding light armors -- yes, for the most part this is a misnomer. Regardless of material, people have tended to wear about the same amount of weight of armor whether it was plate, mail, gambeson, or (when really worn) leather. There were lighter armors, but mostly for specific reasons (simple mail shirt for accessibility, some kind of hidden armor for dueling perhaps, and of course any compromise made for naval or hot-environments). The question becomes -- if someone wants to play a dashing rogue with a light level of armor protection, regardless of historical accuracy, is that a bad thing? I don't find a single clear correct answer on that.

Regarding gamist/playability concerns. AD&D was really good at rewarding success with further success. Good starting rolls made you really good at advancing and continuing to get things better than characters with lower starting rolls. An AD&D fighter with 18+ Str, and fair-good Dex and Con (or, let's be honest, fair-good Dex and Con and gauntlets of ogre power, which were common enough) started out winning and it just keep cascading (compared to the PCwith more moderate rolls). I think 3e wanted to limit how much you needed to have a really good Str, Dex, and Con in order to be good at being a fightery type. Given how everyone needed Good Dex and Con (and Wis) for saves, how fighters were still hugely more MAD than casters, and how mithral plate meant you were still shooting for a 16 Dex, I'd say their implementation left a lot to be desired. Still I understand the motivation, if that is what it was.

Sorry about the random order here, these were just my thoughts as they came. Hope someone finds them helpful.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I can't accept that the answer to having a problem with a game's verisimilitude is, "don't worry about it".
Heh... well, probably the more appropriate response might be "You might as well try to not worry about it, cause it ain't gonna get fixed by WotC. So you're going to have to do the work yourself if you want it differently." ;)

With the thousands upon thousands of different things across the game that are not "realistic" or "break verisimilitude", WotC for the most part has washed their hands of all of it. They make what they make so the game works as a game, and anything that doesn't sit well with certain players (especially on a small number of players), they just treat it as a fait accompli. Because for every one thing that breaks a player's immersion, there are another dozen that could be pointed to that that person apparently is okay with, and thus there's not point in WotC trying to swat that one fly amongst the other twelve.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
With the thousands upon thousands of different things across the game that are not "realistic" or "break verisimilitude", WotC for the most part has washed their hands of all of it. They make what they make so the game works as a game, and anything that doesn't sit well with certain players (especially on a small number of players), they just treat it as a fait accompli. Because for every one thing that breaks a player's immersion, there are another dozen that could be pointed to that that person apparently is okay with, and thus there's not point in WotC trying to swat that one fly amongst the other twelve.
And, I would argue, this is a good thing for the hobby because let's face it - "I don't like this thing about D&D" has been driving a whole lot of RPG design since D&D first appeared. Without that impulse and the desire to try to do something about it many games probably wouldn't exist at all - including some quite beloved ones. (Trying to find the collection of players who have the same problem with D&D that you have seems to have become harder than it was back in the day I will admit tho.)
 

That last video is great. Really makes it clear how, though very mobile, plate armor does have a penalty (about 2x as long on the course)! Of course so does FF and Military gear! The oxygen / back pack on the FF/Soldier where a weight & balance issue the full plate guy didn't have to contend with.
Yeah it's interesting how closely the penalty correlates with weight in that course. I think you definitely justify weight-based penalties to speed, and I suspect a "bulk" system which brought together actual weight and the fact that some stuff gets in the way or messes up weight distribution more would be a useful way to do it.
 


Oofta

Legend
As was mentioned above, total weight should matter more than what armor you wear. To me, penalties should be based on a percentage of your total carry capacity. That 8 strength wizard that's at 90% carrying capacity should have a bigger penalty than the guy in plate at 50% carrying capacity.

I remember a game where one of the PCs mentioned they couldn't carry something that weighed 5 pounds because it would put them over capacity. We had to cross a river. Guess which PC had disadvantage? Or that time the DM used command to tell my PC to "jump" which could only be interpreted as jumping overboard to sink to the bottom of the harbor. :mad:

D&D is not particularly realistic, the fact that some DMs go out of their way to penalize people in heavy armor because they have the audacity to have an AC a point or two above that rogue always amazed me.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
As was mentioned above, total weight should matter more than what armor you wear. To me, penalties should be based on a percentage of your total carry capacity. That 8 strength wizard that's at 90% carrying capacity should have a bigger penalty than the guy in plate at 50% carrying capacity.

I remember a game where one of the PCs mentioned they couldn't carry something that weighed 5 pounds because it would put them over capacity. We had to cross a river. Guess which PC had disadvantage? Or that time the DM used command to tell my PC to "jump" which could only be interpreted as jumping overboard to sink to the bottom of the harbor. :mad:

D&D is not particularly realistic, the fact that some DMs go out of their way to penalize people in heavy armor because they have the audacity to have an AC a point or two above that rogue always amazed me.
See, in practice, the rogues AC is about the same (maybe higher, if the best heavy armor isn't available). Heavy armor needs a buff of some kind just to be a viable option mechanically.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I reached that point some years ago, and not even a little bit tongue in cheek: I think ability scores are a fundamentally bad mechanic, and D&D would be greatly improved by excising them. This is never going to happen, of course--they are the sacredest of cows--but I cheer every move WotC makes that reduces their impact on the game.

(I have tried excising them myself, but it's a much bigger project than it looks on the surface. The tentacles of stat modifiers snake through the rules into all kinds of places you don't expect.)
Curious - in your attempt to excise ability scores, what - if anything - were you going to replace them with?
 


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