New on Desk #67 — Armor Class Review

The week’s been routine, so I guess I’ll take the opportunity to discuss armor class as the feature piece here. Chatting about it with the Coup players was probably the most exciting part of the week.

The joys of armor class in D&D

D&D’s game mechanics have a pretty complex history, but one of the most stable elements in it has always been the effectiveness threshold called armor class, AC to its friends: D&D combat is predicated on characters making attacks in turn against each other’s AC, comparing the random quality of their attack against the threshold. If you pass, your attack is effective and deducts from enemy HP; if you fail, your attack does nothing.

This is such a core element of the game that only “the game’s a first-person wargame”, “it’s about dungeon crawling”, “XP”, “class and level” and “hit points” are more central to the game’s nature. I guess it’s #6 on the core game elements list. Easily on the core side of the arbitrary “this may be D&D-like, but it’s not D&D” division line beyond which technically divergent dungeon crawling games like Tunnels & Trolls live. If you ask me, you got to have effectiveness threshold AC to call your game D&D.

I won’t even comment on whether armor class as an effectiveness threshold is a good thing; it’s too embedded into the nature of the game. For me it’s just part and parcel of the overall stylistic approach of D&D. Many joyful things in the game rely on the concept, and it’s really great in some ways, and really dumb in others.

Great: AC-affecting circumstance dials can bias the otherwise resource-based HP attrition combat to favour the side with the better position. Legit elegant, especially combined with the head-count based attack economy and level-based HP counts.

Not so great: People struggle with the psychology of “whiffing” inherent to the concept of gambling over the effectiveness threshold every round.)

However, that really only goes for the narrow operational effect of armor class, being the effectiveness threshold for attack rolls. I’m on board for that part, but that doesn’t make me really happy about the way the target number gets calculated. The original system isn’t maybe the best ever — I mean, check it out:

The orthodox D&D armor class system

Armor class is the abstract depiction of how difficult it is for an attacker to injure a combatant. Every combatant is always assumed to be equally competent in defending themselves, but equipment matters a hell of a lot: the difference between being unarmored and being equipped with the heaviest armors is a roughly ten-fold decrease in incoming Damage-per-turn; in other words, the character who can afford heavy armor suffers only 10% of the damage the unarmored combatant would. (Well, more like 20% in most basic D&D implementations, but the AC numbers do tend to inflate.)

Good: The economic-social idea of the rich having the upper hand via purchase of expensive armour is perfect, I’m all for that. It captures the grim, cynical world of old school D&D, and a fair amount of reality of how things actually work in this fallen world of ours as well. In many ways the “get rich, bitch” defense math is much more true to life and relevant to me than what later heroic fantasy games peddle, with guaranteed relevance for everybody no matter whether rich or poor, or in the pockets of the military-industrial complex or not. Old D&D is honest: armaments matter a hell of a lot, so get rich bitch. Let them eat plate.

Not so good: D&D struggles with not having real mechanics for skill-based defenses, which is highly counter-intuitive for the combat simulation. However, read on.

The original core conceit of the armor modeling in D&D is that for gameability reasons your character class determines which kinds of armors you can use. Basically, the major advantage of being a Fighter is that you, too, can get that sweet 90% damage mitigation. Meanwhile, the Thief has to get by with like 20% of the same goodness. That’s overwhelmingly the most important (arguably the only) advantage of the Fighter in older D&D, and it doesn’t scale with level. It could scale with wealth, but who can’t afford the plate mail after their first adventure…

(The modern game’s so broken — or different — in this regard that let’s just ignore it for the treatment here. The summary of what’s going on there is basically that everybody’s a fighter, and therefore everybody has to have basically similar defensive properties. The AC still exists, amusingly enough, even if the math rarely allows your effectiveness to go too low.)

Good: The class-based access to armor is basically Gygax’s way of bringing character combat skill into the combat math of the game. Saying that only fighters (and clerics, because why make any sense) get to wear heavy armor is basically saying that fighters are allowed to have what, at least +40% damage mitigation compared to everybody else. (The exact numbers vary a bit by implementation.) This is the skill factor in D&D combat, which can be easy to miss because it takes an, ahem, rare mind to start with “hmm, warriors should probably be harder to hit because they’re skilled” and end up with “only fighters can wear plate mail”. It has its advantages, such as being simple and effective.

Not so good: The fictional optics, the story we tell, is dumb as fuck, and players rightfully question it. If you call it “armor class” (instead of “defense skill” or anything other, really) and tie calculating it into the physical equipment item of the armor the character wears, you’re going to have to field questions about the amazing magical properties of the plate mail that simply cause it to slide right off the Thief when he tries to put it on. I imagine this worked better in Gygax’s ’70s historical re-enactment scene, the field was still riddled by Victorian age medievalese mythology at the time; he probably told his players that plate mail is so amazingly heavy and cumbersome to wear that only the Fighter, having trained for it his entire life, could handle it.

Also pretty bad: The solution doesn’t scale with level at all. The 1st level Fighter is precisely as competent in this armor-wearing business as the 8th level Superhero. I do have some sympathy for non-scaling D&D elements (there’s fruitful design space in having some things be class-specific without being level-scaling), but the entire Fighting-Man class is very, very non-scaling as it is, so that’s a bold move. You might be familiar with the resulting feature under the heading linear warrior, quadratic wizard.

Relative ACArmor Type
+0Unarmored
+2Leather, Padded
+3Studded Leather
+4Scale
+5Chain
+6Banded mail
+7Plate

Getting into the nitty-gritty, what the orthodox AC math does is that it assigns each armor type (the literal “armor class”) a specific target number or armor bonus. These armor types are ostensibly-medieval types of armor, mainly differentiated by materials technology. Here’s the traditional list, cleaned up a bit for clarity. The bolded lines are the popular redacted list, in D&D versions with only the essential armor types.

Good: Not much, really. This is actually just pretty dumb when you stop to look at it today. Charming for the peculiar materials-technology totem pole perspective, but dumb.The one part I like is that the effectiveness of plate mail in default melee combat the game is trying to simulate is actually relatively close to my own views; I could see a game with less of a hard-on for plate mail wearing knights shying away from granting plate so much potency.

Not so good: D&D likes its armor tech, generally without really having in-depth (or any) understanding of the martial history involved in it, which basically means that the only way these lists of quality-ranked armor types stand any scrutiny is as pure game constructs. You can just barely maybe imagine what each of those armor-type words are intended to mean as fictional ideas, as long as you stop the thinking immediately after and just apply the numbers without questioning the simulation. This is maybe not a problem as long as arguing from basic reality is not something you do in the game.

Entirely awful: The way armor math works massively privileges heavier armors, largely ignoring the historical reasons for the existence of lighter armor types. The best I can say about that is that the entire combat engine is kinda calibrated to depict medieval fencing? Those numbers are maybe in the neighbourhood of reasonable if you assume combatants with swords, although light armor’s still depicted as too ineffective unless it’s a very specific kind of hacking sword.

Also, the shield gets you a +1 to AC. A sort of clunky mod that got in early on and never really went away.

Good: Well, it’s simple.

Not so ideal: While an essential combat tool in real world HEMA, the shield in D&D does jack shit. The only way its impact on AC could be smaller is if the d20-based dice roll was replaced with a percentage roll. Then you could have shields improve AC by 1 %-point for a truly accurate understanding of how swording at things works.

Also — and here we’re comfortably into advanced rules that are far from commonly applied — it’s not like GG didn’t struggle with the AC rules himself. D&D infamously includes a somewhat-optional weapon-vs-armor modifier table scheme, hailing back to the original Chainmail rules. While one could quibble about the actual implementation, the numbers one places in the table, the concept arguably has the potential to make the otherwise pretty dumb armor type totem pole more sensible.

Good: Armor-penetration gets effectively addressed, which helps justify lighter armors and generally just makes the armor profiles less dumb.

Not so good: Gygax wasn’t the most elegant game designer ever. The weapon-vs-armor thing never got off the ground as a commonly adopted basic practice for the game, and I think the reason is basically that a table is the wrong tool to use here. Players do not seem to want to use a complex look-up for something that’s both common in the game and arguably not very important in the big picture.

This overview doesn’t really make much sense to anybody who isn’t already familiar with the D&D rules mechanics, but I guess I’ll remind you of what the Armor Class number is used for after it’s been derived: when an enemy attacks the character, their attack roll with applicable modifiers is compared to the AC, and the attack is blocked if it’s weaker than the AC. The benchmark assumes an alert and active combatant, but traditionally does not assume anything particular about their threat profile, so your AC is the same whether you’re going at it bare handed or with a vorpal sword. Only the material quality of the armor matters for how difficult you are to injure.

So maybe that’s not exactly perfect…

I don’t have the scope here to go into true depth on the history of why D&D combat rules stabilized in this form, whether it’s more important for the game to be simple than realistic (a false dichotomy if there ever was one), or whether I have actually gone insane in my interest to fiddle with core math of the game. Let’s just say that I think that there’s room for improvement in the basics of how D&D approaches armor, and I think you can do things to it without necessarily rebuilding everything else while you’re at it.

A standard disclaimer here, because lord do I get this often when discussing these things: D&D being relatively lightweight is not the same thing as being arbitrarily unrealistic. Read the actual game texts and then tell me that the game isn’t actually trying to provide an incisive, bold medieval skirmish combat system usable for a higher-order wargame that needs to get those fights over and done with. When you take it in its own context, it’s even amazingly solid; the cracks only start to show when you start assuming a type of character-skill-profile simulation focus that ’80s trad games revelled in, that’s simply not something that D&D does. It’s the game that lets you factor X goblins and Y soldiers mano-a-mano in a 5 minute clash, with realistic outcome variability re: X and Y, and that’s what its combat rules should be primed for. Demanding consistent realism within the bounds of the simulation’s accuracy is absolutely a fair ask.

Anyway, to make my point about improvement being possible, here’s a “basic armor class” system that I would argue is roughly comparably complex to commonly preferred D&D AC math while being superior in both realism and gameability to the orthodox setup. As with the orthodox system, you use this by determining what kind of armor your character uses, and then looking up the corresponding AC value from the table, and hey presto that’s your AC. Not really substantially more difficult, I’m basically just emphasizing different questions than Gygax does in deciding what makes one effectively protected.

Armor ClassArmor Bonus
Unarmored: All weapons fully penetrate, but hey, no armor penalties!+8
Cloth: Effective against light weapons like fists, and slashing attacks like claws and light blades. Partially effective against swords and similar hacking blades.+8
Mail: Effective against swords and generally most weapons really. Partially effective against thrusting weapons, e.g. spears and daggers.+8
Plate: Effective against spears and nearly everything else. Partially effective against war maces and other anti-armor weapons. Possibly entirely penetrated by e.g. massively powerful monsters.+8                    
Shield: Chosen on top of the actual armor type. Halves effect of armor penetration.
Armor penetration is ruled by the GM as a circumstance modifier, case by case. Full penetration ignores armor, so -8 to armor bonus; half-penetration halves effectiveness, so -4. The shield halves these maluses to -4 and -2 respectively.
 

… OK, so that might have been presented in a bit of a jocular manner, but there’s a reason to the madness. Everybody’s base AC value is always 18 (or whatever, depends on your exact D&D combat math implementation) here, so that’s simple, right? To hit something, just roll 18 or over. Which is of course a bit difficult to do, but don’t forget armor penetration, because that’s the name of the game here! The reason to choose one type of armor over another is that the list of attacks that penetrate them is different.

And of course there’s no “list”, because Gygax already tried that, and apparently not even himself wanted to use the weapon-vs-armor modifier tables. It’s a clumsy application, made all the clumsier by all the exotic monsters out there having their own unique attack types. My hope is that a clean circumstance modifier that the GM rules on can work for this purpose just as well as they work for other circumstances. (You do use circumstance modifiers, right? They’re the heart of D&D tactical combat!)

What this amounts to in practice is that the target number of every attack is either 18 (the armor is appropriate), 14 (the armor is somewhat effective) or 10 (the armor is mainly ineffective). The presence of a shield turns that series into 18/16/14. These are pretty neat target numbers that seem like they’d slot well into how the combat system runs in general. I mean, check out some gear combinations and see for yourself. To me “naked with shield” is much more appropriately eyeballed at AC 14 than the 11 that traditional AC math has for it.

The single greatest change my suggested basic AC math makes in practical use is that traditional light armor (cloth, leather, whatever) is improved considerably against typical low-level dungeon threats. Not all low-level enemies are pesky rodents and such, but if the GM rules that the giant rat bite half-penetrates light armor, and the ghoul claw attack actually doesn’t penetrate at all (I mean, what’s even going on there? It’s just some sharp nails, right?), then that goes a long way towards justifying light armor’s existence without really taking away from the advantage that heavy armor has in serious combat against dangerous martial weapons. And the math for town guards breaking up a drunken brawl finally works in a sensible way, which is not true in a world where a padded coat only gets you +2 against fists.

If you like the basic conceit, it’s not difficult to add in the typical modifiers and details as well; season to taste. Like, how about throwing a bone to skill-based AC with something like “If the character is a veteran combatant and their AC after mods is equal or lower to their DEX, add +2 AC”. Just a little something to differentiate between the civilian and the fighter-type. Or just use traditional DEX modifiers to AC, why not.

And, in case it’s not obvious: if “base AC is 18” causes you conniptions, you could just go with “the AC is always 10” and apply armor as a modifier of +4 (partially effective) or +8 (fully effective). Or turn them into attack penalties, if it’s nicer to apply on that side. The one nice thing about the linear dicing in D&D is that it doesn’t matter where you insert these numbers, put them wherever feels easiest.

Of course I have an advanced model as well

Coup is a relatively mechanically elaborate campaign. I’d characterize it as advanced, except I do perhaps generally strive for a higher degree of grace than AD&D ever did. Standing on shoulders of giants and all that. Here in the realm of AC calculations, for instance, the above-suggested AC system is actually fully in use, usable and generally what I recommend to players who don’t want the headache of going down the rabbit hole of the advanced system. But the advanced system exists as well, so players who actually like that sort of thing can do crazy devil math to arrive at an AC number that, horror of horrors, may sometimes accidentally deviate from the above by a couple of points. But at least you have a clear sense of why your AC is the way it is, in high detail. Whether over-weight or just having shin guards on their left leg, we’ve got it covered.

The advanced thing is too convoluted (and dumb) to explain fully here, I’ll probably just put it in a CWP once I get around to writing one on the combat rules. The basic conceit is that characters track two relatively independent defense bonuses, their armor bonus and their dodge bonus, and then their overall melee AC is calculated as 5 + [better of the two] + [half of the other one]. As one might expect, the two distinct types of defense (armor and dodge) can then be used in determining very 3e-like target numbers like “flat-footed AC” and “touch AC”, too. Fun times in crunchy rules land.

The basic paradigm shift presented above has been with Coup from the start, while the advanced format is something that I ended up developing due to persistent player queries over the martial arts rules. The Coup martial arts rules are relatively streamlined and usable for both Fighters and Monks, and they’re supposed to contribute to the character’s AC via skill-based means, so the question of how to apply the dodge bonus came up. The traditional D&D method of granting the Monk a special AC as long as they don’t wear armor isn’t really for me, whence the need to develop AC math that can actually allow characters to add dodge bonuses to AC without completely unbalancing the armor-based basic math.

Sunday: Coup in Sunndi #16

We had an extra Coup session last Sunday after the newsletter went to print! The players have been particularly motivated recently, actually wanting more games than I really have time for myself. They’re right about the campaign being at a convoluted stage where it’s good to get some play hours in and clear out the decks.

The initial plan was to just tidy up the Who Murdered Earen-Raven? adventure quickly before getting back to good old dungeon crawling, but as these things are wont to end up, we spent six hours in the wrap-up. The players did blood-hound pretty well, all in all; I would judge that them not making much progress was ultimately more about the scenario being difficult to resolve than about them doing anything particularly wrong.

Perhaps the one thing that the investigators could have done differently was being more aggressive about the investigation, but that was also the (quite intentional) counter-balance issue in the conduct of the investigation: the PCs had to judge their investigative methods against the inter-social impact the investigation itself was having among the influential elite of the local society. A more uncaring investigator would have been more ready to interrogate the Prince or order around large numbers of soldiers, and generally not care about the potential mental breakdown of the murder elf that was just brewing and waiting for the investigation to give them an excuse to start avenging the poor Earen-Raven on the filthy humans.

The main new outcome of the session’s investigation was that the investigators were now convinced that the murder was planned and instigated by a well-funded outside force that apparently brought professionals into the principality from the outside to do the job. The perps the party had captured were in some vague criminological sense “just there to take the fall”. Mere paid hirelings to what the players think of as the real murderers.

Lacking the means to trace the professional brigade, though, the investigators decided against getting radical and made a show of having the local commoner cat’s-paws condemned in court and executed by elephant trampling. The execution itself became a bit of a farce as the so-far unrepentant murderers broke down and started begging for mercy, claiming very offensively that the Prince himself had put them up to it, and that they’d been promised mercy. A bit of a scandal that, but surely an incidental side product and not the entire point of the affair.

Monday: Coup de Main #41

Meanwhile, the Monday online game was facing the climax of their most recent hexcrawl operation: after again spending several sessions traveling to the Mist Marsh, having adventures on the way, we’d reached the Wrenwald estates, a cursed undead hellhole originating in the times of Landgraff Zagyg.

I liked how one of the players decided to go for hex-crawl mapping as our method of choice for the last miles of the approach to the estate. We had already entered the 6-mile overland hex that was supposed to contain the estate, and usually we’d handle the close approach without mapping, but here the player just, well, started mapping my terrain description. I went with it, determining an appropriate scale (½ mile hexes), and we did the approach with hex-crawling procedures (random encounters, hex navigation, visibility, etc.)

A ~1 mile hex would probably be more in line with my general hexagology, or perhaps a ~1k foot (~300 yard) hex, but that’s just my general Coup systems for managing hex mapping data. Nothing wrong with a ½ mile hex either. For those who aren’t familiar with the field, the main reason to have consistent scales is that every distinct hexcrawling scale requires its own calculations for marching speed, inter-hex visibility and navigation rules. It’s simply easier if you default to specific gameable default scales instead of picking the scale arbitrarily. Not an insurmountable thing to do (we did just that this time), but establishing a consistent small-scale hex would probably be better.

The hex crawling didn’t bring up any major difficulties (got a first encounter with stirges, though), and once the party found the actual estate, their general tactical dominance continued unabated: Rob Banks the 5th level Thief, Elder Brother to Team Rocket, ravaged through the non-existent security arrangements of the compound in physical infiltration terms, climbing and sneaking and mapping. It wasn’t too long before he’d soloed the actual zombie milk quest without the undead denizens of the place being any wiser.

The party could have started on their journey home at this point, but perhaps they felt it a bit silly to leave the place entirely unlooted after spending 3 weeks campaign time getting there, so instead we looked into surprising the lord of the manor and bearding him in his own lair. The party’s investigations pinpointed Justin Wrenwald the Zombraire (a rare-ish kind of fairy undead, a sort of philosophical zombie) to be present in the prominent belltower of the house, so the party, spearheaded by Rob’s climbing proves, wasted little time breaking in there.

The plan was a simple tempo-skipping direct surprise assault upon lord Justin, something that I tend to be a big proponent of myself as well. (Not here while I’m refereeing, I mean, but when I’m playing.) Minimizes enemy maneuver space and may well get within their decision-making loop entirely, such that the surprise causes their defense to fall apart and you basically just win before the conflict has even properly started. It’s legit art of war, even if not very common in the more dramatically aesthetized idea space that gamers often operate in. (As in, you get your ideas of what good tactics look like from movies.)

For comparison’s sake, the 2nd-most considered plan was to simply send Artemur (the ridiculously talented 3rd level Fighter who might be a native of Eternia or Amber for all his stat line makes sense) climbing the tower alone, with the mission to grapple the Zombraire and throw him off the tower for the rest of the party to finish him if the falling damage wouldn’t. I don’t think that the players ever took this plan entirely seriously, even if I personally loved it.

The party was forced to assault up stairs and without surprise advantage on account of the place’s security and such, but neither could the Zombraire put up any complex defenses, so the combat opened with a simple Magic Missile to Artemur’s face. Phun Eral the Cleric was specifically prepared to counter-spell and aced his thing, outright turning the missiles on lord Justin. After Artemur aced his attack roll, it was all over but the crying, really: he tackled the Zombraire against the wall, kicked his feet out, stood on top of the prone zombie magician, and after a bit of struggle just decapitated the tragic shadow of a man without him getting any significant bites in. In hindsight the “Artemur throws him off the tower” plan seemed pretty feasible, actually.

The party’s pretty strong nowadays, starting to actually be pretty mid-level, all in all. For instance, in this session we had one 5th level character, three 3rd levels and one 1st level. As the players also have a delightfully blood-thirsty smart-wargaming method, the Zombraire’s estate doesn’t seem to be much of a challenge. We stopped the game after the boss fight, but I understand that the plan is for the party to keep delving a bit, seeing if they can find some good treasure in the place now that they skipped most of it and killed the lord first thing. If there’s good stuff here, they might be able to just drop the zombie milk thing and instead focus on exploiting the opportunity.

Session #42 is scheduled for tomorrow, Monday 12.4., starting around 15:00 UTC. Feel free to stop by if you’re interested in trying the game out or simply seeing what it’s like.

Tuesday: Coup in Sunndi #17

The face-to-face Coup group got together on Tuesday as well, because apparently the group’s pretty excited about the game right now. It is of course more fun for me as well when the players enjoy the game, so all’s good.

Last time we’d closed the books on the murder mystery, and the plan had pretty consistently been to return to “Habavaara”, Dyson’s Delve, to do some good old-fashioned dungeon crawling afterwards. The main murder investigator and general social leadership fellow, the inquisitor paladin “Sparrow”, was again accompanying a party pulled together by the local Basic Sunndian populist-patriots. Same recipe as last excursion, basically.

Dungeon exploration tends to have a kind of cumulative impetus in that the first excursion or two may not bring up much, but when you keep clawing at a given dungeon, at some point the watershed happens and suddenly things start rolling. It’s partly about player strategy, partly about the dungeon denizens being agitated, and partly about the way the map starts to cohere. This was what happened at Habavaara today.

The goblins in Sunndi have a pretty high faerie factor for Flanaess. Shows in how their hobgoblins tend to bear marked resemblance to pop stars.

The players were very decisive about attacking and vanquishing the dungeon goblins wherever they were found. Early on they stumbled upon a Hobgoblin boss of sorts, Bowie, and while the descriptions of their first hobgoblin encounter were kinda cool, Bowie didn’t slow the party down much. His chest full of silver coin did, as the party retreated to camp to count loot before coming back the next day.

(Did you know that while fairy gold is pretty endemic among the goblins, they cannot actually counterfeit silver? The more you know…)

The next trip down became a bold thrust into the 2nd floor of the dungeon, and while the players did actually proceed in a fairly clever and careful manner, the goblins of the Prince of Pop (the local goblin chief) were savage and decisively tactical as well, so we had what can easily be characterized as the most intense tactical dungeon run of the campaign so far. Sipi had brought miniatures as a play aid, which coincidentally was more than useful for resolving the tense, complex combat space.

One of the amusing parts of the fight was how the adventurers were being very smart about using the fire beetles penned up by the goblins to control corridors, without accounting for the goblins having their animal tamers there, actually perfectly capable in calming and agitating the beetles. Clever play, but not as dangerous to the goblins as the players might have hoped.

The running positional conflict with the goblins climaxed in one of those casualty-heavy fights where the winning side’s also near death… a Pyrrhic victory, that’s the term. The adventurers took their time in besieging the goblins, but judging their advantage to be fleeting, they finally charged and would have gotten away with it relatively unscathed if the fire beetles didn’t manage to enter the fray immediately after the party had wiped out the Prince of Pop and his royal guard. After the fire beetles were dealt with, we had like 3/8 PCs up at the end, with most of the rest quickly bleeding to death. Surprisingly solid first-aid rolls prevented losing party members, which was perhaps even more unlikely than the slim victory the players eked out.

The goblins clearly had a lot of loot, the Prince of Pop was a rich bastard. Lots of bling, some of which was probably fairy glamour, but the rest perhaps real gold and jewelry. The party may well have boosted themselves to 2nd level by this, assuming they get out alive.

Alas, the players have something of a history of logistics problems, and that seems to be the situation here as well: the Basic Sunndians had, being concerned about wagon thievery, decided to leave their wagon back in the village some 6 miles away from the dungeon. So now they had an extremely casualty-heavy party, stuck at the dungeon with all this loot and no way to carry the wounded (or the loot). The immediate goblin threat had been broken, but who knows whether there might be more of them just around the corner…

The session was ended in a highly ironic manner as Hakkarainen, the leader and founder of the Basic Sunndians, went bravely alone to fetch the wagon from the village. This is, I should say, the same village that the party had greatly aggravated on their last expedition, what with desecrating the body of their local saint and following that up with a gruesome midnight battle that left like a third of the village’s manfolk dead in a ditch. Storing the wagon in the village in the first place had only been possible thanks to Prince Ali (long live he!) sending a squadron of soldiers to occupy the place. Rotten heretics, serves them right for trying to prevent adventurers from looting their holy places!

So of course the single d6 roll on the random encounters shows a ‘1’, and the precision rolls indicate that Hakkarainen, the lone messenger, encounters some hunters from the village. Young men who are well aware of the adventurers, and how what they did three weeks back. I found it highly amusing how this pretty important character, one of the adventurers who were still actually in mission shape, got killed on the road by some bitter villages relishing the turn-about. Hakkarainen tried to run, but it’s difficult to run from accomplished archers on open ground…

Next time will be pretty tense, as we have a near-dead party, without food or water, stuck at a dungeon while the local villagers know that they are there. There are lawful (and friendly) soldiers occupying the village, but it’s not like they’re controlling the people going in and out, so it’s more than possible that the entire party gets slaughtered before they can cross the 6 miles between the dungeon and the village to seek sanctuary with the soldiers.

State of the Productive Facilities

I been doing some Muster writing. Not lazing! Admittedly there’s been some distractions again (my sister’s birthday, more wood-choppery, wilderness hiking, whatnot), but I got a solid session in earlier. Also some general CWP development, and not just the armor class madness.

All told, though, it would be preferable if I managed to have more productive writing sittings per week. I’ll actually have to see if I might manage one tonight. The Coup campaign prep is pretty well in hand, so I could actually just write Muster instead of worrying about that.

6 thoughts on “New on Desk #67 — Armor Class Review”

  1. I quite like this approach to armour, makes a fair amount of sense and is flexible without being overly complicated like many attempts toward more granularity in the space.

    Nevertheless, I do think that it’s quite counterintuitive compared to most armour as damage reduction approaches. Sadly, with the way D&D and similar games are structures, that is not really viable.

    ps.: Where do we stop by to check out the coup game?

    1. The best place to start Coup-wise is our Discord chat, there’s links to essential information there. It’s not quite a public server, but getting an invite isn’t hard. The community basically just tries to avoid the need for formal moderation by keeping up a bit of threshold for getting in, so the lowest-threshold drive-by trolls don’t find their way in.

      Here’s an invitation good for the next 24 hours, for instance; anybody interested in Coup feel free to come by.

  2. Olle Skogren

    Another quirk of D&D AC is, the more you have the more effective the next point becomes. Against a 1HD opponent a shield cuts expected hits from 0.55 to 0.50 per round (10%) for the nude warrior but from 0.25 to 0.2 for the plate armored warrior (25%!). It gets worse with enchanted shields etc. while historically the more advanced plate armor allowed knights to forgoe the shield while the less armored warrior almost always carried one.

    My own house rule to invert this relationship is to give shields a block chance rolled only when you would otherwise have been hit. Regular shields block 35% of all blows, meaning vs. a 1HD opponent the nude warriors effective AC is improved by 3.85 while the plated warrior’s AC is improved by 0,0875. This also heightens the drama when you see a fearsome multiattack and already see deadly damage on the table, desperately rolling to avert that 12 damage (or venomous) bite. Interestingly this is fairly close to your own nude-AC-14 shield.

    1. Yeah, the “save against being hit” shield is a good arrangement. My last home system from before the current campaign worked with a similar premise.

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