Armor in Games

Wednesday, 4. August 2010

One of the things always amused me somewhat about old school D&D was that armor prevented damage rather than mitigating it. I assume that it worked this way simply because reducing damage by a % basis would be a nightmare to figure out in the long run, and open a whole new section of rules lawyering that nobody wants or needs.

There are typically 2 ways of handing incoming damage in games. You either avoid it completely (Armor prevents damage.) Or you can take hits just as easily, and use armor to mitigate damage (Armor reduces the amount of incoming damage by dispersing and absorbing it.)

Most MMO’s use a variety of the 2 methods above, commonly adding in block and parry dodges as well. Something of course that computers can handle well, but might be very irritating trying to track from on a pure pen and paper basis.

The reality of armor is that it works somewhat in both of the manners depending on how it’s designed. Armor is designed to prevent a blow from striking, skidding off or redirecting it into a more heavily armoured area. In the case that a blow does solidly connect, armor disperses the impact from the blow, slash or stab into a wider area. In some cases this is the majority of what it does (think chain mail.) On a solid hit, it might not do much at all as the weapon in question cleaves right through the protection.

In effect, we can add partial hits to hits as well for armor in addition to misses. How do you handle armor in a clean fashion? As written?

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7 Responses to “Armor in Games”

  1. faustusnotes Says:

    Have you seen the Rolemaster combat rules? They deal with this problem easily by having a different attack table for every weapon, with the attack table having 20 columns – one for each type of armour. Then, the consequences of the attack vary from armour to armour. Typically in heavy armour you get hit with low attack numbers, but only suffer critical damage at very high attack numbers; while with light armour you don’t get hit at all until the numbers are quite high, but the damage is almost immediately catastrophic.

    I think it’s a model system in that it contains the exact information needed for “realism”. It’s completely ridiculous to play, however. Warhammer 3 gets around this by having a “defense” value that affects how hard you are to hit and a “soak” value that affects how much damage you take. I think this is about the best you can do to get a system that doesn’t eat you alive with its complexity.

  2. Grey Says:

    That seems to support armors immobility, which is hardly the case at all. The only time you’re really much more likely to be hit is if you’re using it offensively. For as interesting as it sounds, it does seem to be a nightmare, heh. WH3 sounds like a good compromise all in all.

  3. faustusnotes Says:

    In RM it depends on the armour (Every table has 20 columns!). Typically the armour is divided into 5 classes with four types, numbered from 1 to 20. The early types are light but easily damaged, the latter types heavy but easily hit, and the middle types reflect the particular relationship between the armour type and the weapon type. I think for example types 2 and 3 (robes or cloth) are particularly effective against stabbing weapons, but useless against crushing weapons.

    I’ve read a few people claiming that heavy armour is actually quite mobile and I’m sorry, I just don’t believe it.

  4. Grey Says:

    If you had serious mobility issues in armor you’d get killed off quickly and there would be no real point in wearing it. The particularly heavy stuff is around 55-70 pounds and is well distributed. You can do nearly anything in it with the exception of perhaps swim. The extra weight is costly to long term endurance and is slightly costly in terms of say running speed and fighting mobility, but not enough so to seriously affect the outcomes of melee.

    The really immobile stuff everyone likes to think of is Tilting plate, and yes you are fairly immobile in it. But then again, thats really all it’s for it jousting.

  5. Greg Christopher Says:

    In Synapse, armor only triggers damage reduction. It grants no defense bonus against actually getting hit.

    Though I dont go to the Rolemaster extreme, I do have different types of armor and different types of damage (slashing, shrapnel, etc) and they intersect in a small table.

  6. faustusnotes Says:

    Grey I have a suspicion that the armour you’re talking about is not the kind of armour that has been used in most times and places – it’s modern machine shop steel armour, with a lot of properties that mediaeval craftsman couldn’t get. Since I don’t go near SCA activities I’ll probably never get the chance to find out but I’m highly dubious. I suppose I should check out accounts from the period … do you know of any that describe the armour’s mobility?

  7. Grey Says:

    The evolution of armor had to work that way, its a tool to help you kill the other guy, and protection is just one of those tools. While plate and various chain mails were tough, they weren’t so tough that you could ignore what the other guy was doing. Impact weapons still shattered bones on a good connection, and even the heavier swords could do the same. I can easily make the arguement that the SCA plate is actually heavier than what was required at the time, because SCA armor has higher protective standards and that the primary weapon that is has to defend against is heavy Rattan sticks… impact weapons.
    Here are 2 for European plate
    I looked briefly here on Japanese armor, but it’s going to take more time. There is so much rubbish out there for use of a simple source. Japanese armor is built even more for mobility not simply because of thats how they preferred to fight but because of limited materials. The plates were strategically located to give maximum protections while the gaps in the were “mostly” able to be closed through proper technique.

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