Piecemeal armour for D&D Next

One of my personal bugbears (everyone should have a personal bugbear. Mine makes the tea in the morning) about Dungeons & Dragons is after all these years, armour is still treated like this vague amorphous and ill-defined “thing” which protects your hero from harm but is only defined in the broadest of sweeping terms. It is listed on your character sheet simply as “leather”, “chain” or “plate” without detailing exactly what and where it covers.

You’d think after 30 years D&D would finally get around to caring whether the PCs wore a helmet or not. Sadly though, apparently not. Countless supplements, third-party submissions, house rules and the like have attempted to fix this omission (with varying degrees of success), but the core rules themselves stay stubbornly silent on the matter.

I can’t fix the core (though if enough people gripe loudly enough, perhaps D&D Next will gain an official module. Who knows?) but I can humbly submit my own take on piecemeal armour for D&D Next, and open it up for comment, feedback and ridicule.

The goal is to add a little more detail and customization options without too much complexity. While they are not necessarily historically accurate, they should be historically accurate enough for use during play. I hope you like them!

Armour covers five locations – chest, hips, arms, legs and head. Armour which covers the arms may include the hands and leg armour may include the feet, depending on the style and how you visualize the character.

Each location might be covered by an individual piece of armour (a breastplate covering the chest, for example), several sections of armour (rerebrace, vambrace and gauntlet to cover the arms) or be one piece of armour that covers several locations (eg. leather trews covering the hips and legs, or a studded leather tunic that protects the chest, arms and hips).

Each different type of armour (leather, scale, plate, etc) has a fractional Armour Class value. Add up the values for all protected areas, and round down to find the total Armour Class bonus.

Light (DEX modifier applies)

  • Leather 0.25
  • Hide 0.5
  • Mithral chain 0.75

Medium (DEX modifier applies, maximum +2)

  • Studded leather 0.75
  • Scale 0.85
  • Dragon scale 1

Heavy (No DEX modifier, -5 Speed, Disadvantage to Stealth)

  • Ringmail 0.85
  • Chainmail 1.25
  • Banded 1.5
  • Splint 1.5
  • Plate 1.75

Where one type of armour can be worn over another (chainmail under a leather surcoat, for example) use the highest fractional AC for that location.

The weight of the heaviest piece of armour (Light, Medium or Heavy) dictates whether the character can apply their Dex modifier to their AC, Speed modifier and Stealth modifier. There is a reason why Rogues do not usually wear Plate Helmets!

Your hero’s final Armour Class is 10 + total Armour Class bonus + DEX modifier (if applicable).

The cost of the armour is the price of a full suit (as per the Equipment guide) divided by 5, multiplied by the number of locations it covers. For example, a pair of Leather pants that cover hips and legs will cost (10gp/5 x 2) 4gp while a Dragon Scale Helm costs (5,000gp/5 x 1) 1,000gp.

Examples
Arynn the Rogue is wearing a red leather shirt (chest and arms), grey leather trews (hips and legs) and a black leather hooded cloak (head). Her total AC bonus is 1.25, which rounds down to 1. As this is all Light armour, she can apply her full Dex modifier to her AC.

Flyn the Fighter has a Plate Breastplate (chest) over a leather tunic (arms) and Studded Leather pants (hips and legs). His total AC bonus is 3.5, rounded down to 3. Because of his Heavy breastplate he is at -5 speed and has Disadvantage to Stealth checks.

As a part of their adventures, Flyn slays a cave bear and fashions a Hide Helm (head) from its head. His AC bonus is now 4 (3+5 + 0.5).

Rowena the Stereotypical Female Barbarian is wearing a Chainmail Bikini (chest and hips). Her total AC bonus is 2.5, rounded down to 2.

Caerwyn the Ranger has a Scale hauberk (chest and hips), leather trews (legs) and studded leather vambraces (arms). His total AC bonus is 2.7, rounded down to 2.

Till next time!

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7 Responses

  1. vobeskhan says:

    great article once again Robin. Reminds me of the 2nd ed Fighters Handbook options, used mainly for the Gladiator kit armours :)

  2. Symatt says:

    This as always gets us all thinking. Armour should be a bigger issue. Its the stuff that protects our heroes for crumbs sake.
    Having fractions in your working looks nice but I think it add an extra look of complication. (even though there is non) remember you have to appeal to everyone. (not the point I know).

    Should armour have its own hit points.
    Should armour have wear and tear.
    Should armour have its own fumble rolls.
    Should armour have greater values for the material used.
    Should armour be awesome.

    All these are possible. And if it can be written then it should.

    Great post as usual Robin. Thanks.
    I’d hug you but my plate armour is so cumbersome.

  3. Oz says:

    I’ve always liked the idea of piecemeal armor and overall I like your approach. One thing I would change if I used it would be to have a way to determine if your armor counted as light, medium or heavy separate from just using the highest piece. Something like each piece of light armor has an encumbrance value of 1, medium 2 and heavy 4, with 5 or less total encumbrance constituting a light suit, 6-10 constituting medium and 11+ constituting heavy.

    Thus your chainmail bikini barbarian would be in medium armor (enc 8), as would Flyn (7). These numbers are off the top of my head, ymmv.

  4. Xephyer says:

    Great post. I completely agree – armor really needs to be considered. I also think that armor needs to take damage – and will need repair on occasion. While it may seem like an additional stat to keep track of, it adds a whole additional layer to game play. Characters should worry about their armor – and may have to scrounge pieces they come across, rather than I’ve just found this great “set” of one-size fits all chainmail.

  5. DelveLord says:

    I guess I’m in the minority here but I prefer the simple abstraction that’s held up these many years. My pkayers have never complained about armor not being realistic or detailed enough.

  6. 1d30 says:

    Piecemeal armor:

    Attacker has a 3 in 6 chance to hit. Fighters get two attacks per round at 5th level and 3/1 at 10th.

    Attacker rolls 1d8 for the target, and can alter the result by one or two places in the direction he chooses if he rolls a natural 20 on the attack (the chart wraps from bottom to top in this case). Results are:

    1 Head
    2 Torso
    3 Torso
    4 Right Arm
    5 Left Arm
    6 Pelvis
    7 Right Leg
    8 Left Leg

    This may be altered for non-humanoid creatures. A horse, for example, is virtually the same as a human because it has four limbs. An octopus should roll d10: head, body, eight limbs. The monster description can give the roll if it’s nonstandard.

    The defender has an armor value in the location. Armor gives damage reduction. Armor equipment is listed by body part with weight and cost. Leather armor always gives DR 2 for example regardless of whether it covers your head or your torso. Description of the armor is irrelevant: you could say you have separate mail shirt and sleeves attached by leather straps.

    If the target has a shield on his back, add its DR to any attacks from the rear that hit torso. If target has a shield in hand, assume it covers torso, left arm, pelvis vs attacks anywhere but rear, unless on frontal defense in which case it covers everything from a frontal attack direction but nothing from the sides. At no time does a shield in hand protect against rear attacks.

    DRs for armor types:

    Cloth / padded jack: 1
    Cuir Boili / Leather / lacquered lamellar: 2
    Brigandine / layered leather and bits of metal / quilted paper: 3
    Scale / mail / partial plate / lorica segmentata / banded: 4
    Full knight’s plate / cataphract / heavy version of a 4-point armor: 5

    Wooden shield: 1
    Metal Shield: 2

    Attacks all cause 1d6 damage, except powerful magic weapons or attacks from high-strength creatures (ogre is +2, high str human is +1) or huge creatures (giants are 2d6 to 3d6, a sea monster is 3d6).

    Everyone has 1d6 HP per HD. High CON gives +1 HP per die.

    Area effect attacks like Fireball affect each body part individually, but the damage must be scaled way back (For example, Fireball should cause only 1d6 damage to each body part of each person in the area). Count DR against these area attacks. Any attack with no attack roll (except magic missile) should offer a save for half damage. Roll the save once per victim, 3 in 6 chance success, applying the area effect damage to all body parts. Magicians get to memorize one spell per level, and require a day of study to memorize different ones.

    Magic Missile would be one hit, no attack roll, 1d6 damage, roll for body part.

    Other spells that are more powerful (more damage, selective, cause incapacitation) have drawbacks: long casting time, rare ingredients, drain caster, max HD affected.

    If a damage die comes up 6, your armor is damaged. Put an X next to it. If your piece accumulates 3 Xs it’s destroyed. Fireballs will tear up enemy equipment pretty quickly. For simplicity, destroying a mail chest doesn’t make the arms fall off, it just leaves a big hole in it (front and back, again for simplicity). Damage applied to an area goes to a shield first if it protects there.

    Repair of equipment costs 25% of the retail cost per X. Half that is materials cost, half labor, and it takes a day per X.

    Acid damage is more likely to damage equipment, doing so on 5 or 6 instead of just 6. Because of that, acid effect spells might need to be toned down by adding complications. Contrariwise, cold damage doesn’t hurt equipment. Exceptions exist: acid doesn’t have any greater effect against ceramic or glass for example. Ad hoc rulings.

    As for non-shield options, using two weapons gives an extra attack with the off-hand per round. Using a two-handed weapon (or a lance from a charging mount) allows two damage rolls taking the higher.

    Missile weapons have an equal chance to hit anyone within 10′ of the target, unless the target is very large (shooting a giant towering over your friends) in which case there’s no chance of an awry shot. If one target is bigger but not by a lot, such as a horseman and his horse, assign double probability to the larger (for example, your friend is afoot fighting a horseman. Assign 1=friend, 2=horseman, 3-4=horse).

    As you can see, a knight can be invulnerable for a time until he gets worn down by multiple 6-damage hits to where he can be hurt. A powerful spell that does more than 1d6 damage to a single target could hurt him, or a big monster. But he’s actually more in danger from a big mob of peasants because they get a lot of attacks and potentially more 6s to wear down his armor.

  7. Jake Zimm says:

    Personally, this is all unnecessary. It doesn’t really matter about the separate pieces. It’s simply meant to be easy. You buy a type of armor, and you simply say where your character is wearing it. Idk how many characters I’ve made that had chainmail armor, but my drawings of them had leather in some places instead. It simply doesn’t matter.

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