Putting On & Taking Off Armor

THERE ARE MANY REASONS why we must remove armor. If we don’t take it off, then we can’t heal normally. Armor is always going to rub against wounds, the parasites that live in our padding will make a feast of us. The question isn’t, why do we take our armor off, but more often then not, how long does this take?

Even more important, how long does this stuff take to put back on, and what happens if you are in a hurry? What happens to characters who refuse to take it off? Well, this article looks to answer these questions, but before we can do that, we have to reassign the armor into categories.


There are many different kinds of armor, but they all fit into 1 of three types. Material, Metal, or Suit.

Material One-Piece Armor includes: Leather armor, padded armor, studded leather armor, and hide armor. It is all one piece and usually protects only your vitals.

Metal One-Piece Armor includes: Ring mail, brigandine armor, scale mail, chain mail, and banded mail. Also in one piece and protects the vitals, and sometimes the arms as well.

Suit Armor includes: Bronze Plate mail, plate mail, field plate, and full plate armors. Typically come in many pieces and cover either most, or the entire body.


All one-piece armors can be taken off in 1 round if you have assistance, but if you are trying to take it off on your own, it requires 2 rounds.

Suit armors aren’t that simple, it takes 1d4 + 1 round to take off with help, double that if you are doing it by yourself.

If a character is unconscious from damage, and requires medical attention, the medic is forced to cut the armor off, this takes 1d4+1 rounds divided in half, and rounding the fraction up. This, of course, destroys the armor and it must be repaired or replaced before it can be used again.


Putting armor on is a much more difficult process.

Material One-Piece Armors are fairly fast to put on. With assistance you can put them on in 1 round, but you’ll need 2 rounds to put it on if you don’t have any help.

Metal One-Piece Armors require 2 rounds to put on, or, 4 rounds by yourself.

Suit armors are made of several pieces, and was very difficult to get into. It takes 1d6+4 rounds to get into your suit of armor with assistance, if you are by yourself, then this number will be tripled (multiply it by 3).

Now, of course you can rush this process. Straps can be left hanging, ties left loose, and settings unadjusted. If this is the case, then it will give you a different base AC. An armor put on in haste will not grant any bonuses for weapon types, but the negatives will still be there and your DM has the right to double them if he wants to.

Material Armors can be put on in 1 round by yourself, but at the loss of 1 AC value, thus a hide armor put on in haste would serve as AC 7.

Metal Armors can be hastedly put on in 1 round by one’s self, but would also sacrifice 1 point in AC value, thus a chain mail would have a AC 6.

Suit Armors gain a bonus AC of 1 for every round spent dressing. Thus, a fighter who spends 4 rounds putting his armor on could run into battle with AC 6.

Ramifications of Wearing Armor Too Long

Like I said, armor is not clothing, it is very uncomfortable to wear and it must be taken off. I believe that the easiest method of determining how long an armor can be worn before it starts to take a toll on you is 8 hours + 1 hour per point of AC that it provides without a shield, thus a leather armor could be worn for 16 hours, but field plate could only be worn for 10.

A characters Constitution also comes into play, for every 3 points of CON, you can wear the armor for an additional hour, thus a Fighter with a CON of 12 could wear his armor for an additional 4 hours before it will become harmful to him.

The effects of wearing armor to long is –1 to CON, as well as 1d3hp in additional damages. For every hour after that, the player will lose another point of CON and another 1d3hp of damage. Taking off the armor begins the healing process, CON is regained at the rate of 1 point for every 4 hours spent out of it, hp damage must be healed naturally or magically with the exception of bonus hp from high CON scores which will be replenished with the CON.

Art by: Benjamin G. Davey


Anonymous said...

A nice article about the oft-ignored limitations and discomfort of wearing armour.

I think you're about right when it comes to time periods for getting into and out of armour.

As far as length of wear goes, the longest period I've worn chainmail for is 18 hours and it did start to wear me down a bit (though I didn't do much fighting during that period). But then I'm not a full-time warrior. Not sure if I have a 15 constitution either. (Well, maybe I did then - I guess I was younger and fitter than I am now).

I might be inclined to slightly increase the 10-hour base limit or possibly alter the Con-based element - maybe half Con rather than 1/3rd. But I don't think you're far off the mark.

Let's also not forget all the usual paraphernalia a typical adventurer carries around with themselves as well......

Brooser Bear said...

Medieval peasants were sown into thei clothes and lived with them a season at a time, with openings for biological necessities (See historical study Bodo The Peasant). One piece armor is a simplification. Lets take padded armor, historically used in ancient India. Think about it: warriors in the Indian sun wearing essentially a winter coat, sometimes with metal pieces sown between layers of thick cotton cloth. You are talking about rious dehydration and risk of heat stroke. Mark tawin in the Yankee at King Arthur's Court mentions that knights remained in armor while on quests and suffered from vermin living under their plate.

Let's got back to the (relatively) one piece Padded armor coat from India. It is reasonable to assume that as a minimum, the warror would have a belt, from which hangs the scabbard for the sword, and slung over his shoulder a quiver with arrows. It would not take a sixty second round to wiggle out of the three. I would give a tired and winded warrior three rounds to get out of that padded armor. The best parallel to D&D armor is dressing for the weather and layering your clothes. Consider you are dressing for a day's work in the outdoors on a rainy or a windy day. How long will it take you to put everyhting on? When I go backpacking, it takes me 8 - 20 minutes to get ready for the trail, making sure my boots are properly seated, etc. Now, consider themedieval period, when there wre no buttons, zippers or synthetic clothing sown the way it is today. Essentially everything was tied down with strings or leather strips.

I made plate mail armor and horses so expensive in my campaign as to make it out of reach of ghe players in the first couple of adventures. For the warrors I toyed with the idea of them scrounging armor in pieces, but then it took me away from the armor class mechanics and into hit locations, which complicate the combat unnecessarily. I have decided to make the steel helmets, shields and plate items play a role in averting critical hits.

With regards to damage, it is woth noting that HP damage and "healing" does not refer to physical injuries, but to the character's ability to stay in the fight. That is why when HP is reduced to zero, the charater does not die, but goes unconscious and will eventually bleed to death (hp reduced to -10 or -1/3rd HP, whichever is greater), unless the charcater is stabilized or it occurs naturally by rolling 15% or les per round. Character bleeds at the rate of 1 hp/round unless there is a critical failure (roll 90% plus), in which cas the rate goes up to 1d4 hp per round, then 1d6 upon next failure, etc.

Historically, people in that period commonly died from gangrene, infected insect bites, TETANUS, food posoning was so common that poisoners were often able to conceal their murder, and a variety of accidents. Of course, if the knight took an actual wound, the quest would be over, he would be taken out of armor, and if he survived the efforts of his healers, knight would live, but, D&D damage does not refer to physical injuries, and so it is possible to take damage and quest on without having to lay for days and heal.

RipperX said...

Lurkinggherkin: The times for removing the armor and putting it on come directly out of an often ignored section of the PHB. While the ramifications section is my own, and is most definitely up to the DM to fiddle with until it is right for his campaign. I do remember seeing something like this somewhere, in one of the books, but for the love of Pete, I couldn't remember where, so I just made it up.

Brooze The Bear: You are a great commenter! I do have to say, however, that damage is something which is debatable. To me, and in my games, HP damage is real damage, the more hp you have, the better you are at minimizing damage and injuries. That is how I interpret it anyway.

Brooser Bear said...

Ripper, that is one of the effects of low hp versus high, that Gygax mentioned. And I can no longer say ALWAYS, because out of our modern medicine and modern warfare, we have the following: there is a guy who survived a sniper rifle through his hear. Massive brain damage, almost blind in one eye, disabled person, but still works as an administrative lawyer. AND, 21st Century emergency medicine aside, there is a guy who survived a torn jugular vein (by shrapnel). It wasn't a US, but a third world medical student serving as a medic at a third world army. No healing spells and no high technology, improvised an IV out of a Sprite bottle. Kept the guy alive for a day and a hgalf until he reached an operating table at a modern hospital where they were able to repair the damage.

So, I am cautious to say that certain things will ALWAYS kill you. The icky tricky question is this - arrow through the eye, successful sword slash across the neck will kill outright, barring miracles. Certain cuts will hack off limbs and break bones inside plate armor. Hisptory is replete with examples of knights having their brains pounded out through their unbroken great helms.

So, my question is, what kind of a critical hit system, if any do you use. I strive toi represnt the reality of anyone risking death at any time. To this effect I have a simple sistem: 2 ways to score critical hits: If you roll 5 greater then the minimum to bit number (AD&D 1st edition rules), you do maximum amount of damage for the weapon. If you roll 18-20, depending on the weapon type used, the damage gets multiplied. After that you roll again, and if you roll the second type of critical hit, that opponent (or players) is out of the fight. Whether dead or severely injured or scared or running/surrendering, interpretation is up to the DM. This applies regardless of hit dice or armor class. If youi can not reach "Five greater", then a natural roll of 20 will suffice. In other words, any 1st levelk adventurer has a chance to defeat (not necessarily slay) a Dragon one out 400 chances. I figure they will make legends while the other 399 won't live to tell about it.

The other question is of armor. I was considering letting my warriors get armor piecemeal to further customize their fighting style and prowess - maximize protection while minimizing encumberance and getting faster, but then I got a simple idea - Helmets, shields, metal greaves can prevent critical hits to those locations. Simply put, the highest possible base armor class in AD&D is 2. Comsider that it is a metal plate secured over a properly padded area of the body. I had some fool try to cnvince me that he would wear chain under plate, but it's more like a light leather armor under chain and plate. o, a prperly helmeted or shielded area for a possible critical hit gets AC2. When a critical hit is rolled, you roll to see where it hits, and if the area is protected by metal -then it's a miss, unless the number greater than the minimum needed to hit AC2. If it can't reach "greater than 5", then it can not become a fatal blow, and it can not become that type of critical hit. The second type of a crtitical hit will bypass armor, but will only do lienar, albeit multiplied damage. Interpreting it, I am thinking along the lines - damage equals to 1/2 or more of hit points - the limb is useless. Mortal crtical damage to the limb, the limb is severed or broken (if in plate mail armor). I think this system will work. Critical Hit system worked wonders - I don't like the linearity of AD&D hit points and damage - consider a fighter with 80 hp running with no armor, getting sgot at by ten archers. According to the traditional AD&D rules, he will survive even if 10 arrows will do maximum damage. In the real world, no knight would dare run such a gauntlet and expect to survive as a matter of course. On the other side, I didn't want any hit location system and didn't like the critical hit system, proposed inPlayers' Option Combat and Tactics. So, I invented this, bith to reward the player's initiative (for bothering about helmets etc) and to make combat a dangerous undertaking no matter what level and level of the opponent.

RipperX said...

I detest crit hit systems. I find them to be unfair towards the PC's, Enemy NPC's don't have to deal with the long term effects of arrows to the eyes, or cut off arms, well, not like PC's do.

I only allow crits if it is specifically labeled as such, such as the Vorpal Sword, and I give double damage if the rules tell me that I must, such as a natural 20 while shooting an arrow.

In my game, if you roll a 20, you have knocked your opponent off balance and can attack that same creature/NPC a second time.

I don't do Crit failures, unless it is written in the rules to use them, such as missing with an old weapon which they picked up. Players lose an attack, which may be a bonus attack, if they can't pay for it with the bonus, then if they have an enemy directly on him, then he gets one free attack, if he doesn't, then he automatically loses initiative, but it really depends on the situation.

Crit tables are too gory, and worst of all, too time consuming! They aren't my thing, but of course I have play tested them. They work for some DM's, just not for me. I don't run ultra realistic games, and I really wouldn't ever want to.

Brooser Bear said...

Hey, it's D&D, it's not hyper realistic. Cut off limbs can be restored by the same folks, who bring dead back to life, aka the Priests, who can also remove the arrows and give back eye sight. So, the party gets sidetracked and may have to undergo a quest to pay for the operation, heh-heh.. but it's D&D and Death is not final like it's here on earth.

The problem with Gygaxian original AD&D system is that it is linear. Real combat never is. Players should feel a twinge of anxiety every time they draw a sword.

I agree that most critical hit tables are too gory and time consuming. Mine is easy - additional roll is made about 10% o the time every time you geta crit, and then less than 1% of the time a hit location roll is made. The rest is DM's discretion. generally, the severity is based upon how much damage is taken. If the HP is reduced to zero, then the limb or the head is severed. Hit to torso would mean a mortal injury (reversible by the healing spell that cures all hit points). hits of 75%HP or more mean the bone is broken, chest is open, face disfigured, eyes is lost, ambominal wall is open. DM can make it as gory or as tragic as s/he sees fit. Hits of 35%HP+ mean that the guy is seriously hurt, hand is bleeding badly, he needs to take care of it and he needs to do it now. 50% the guy is out of the fight and he needs help.

Gore depends on how the DM narrates it, and, any loss to the players party makes the combat a moere dramatic experience. Why be abstract with arguably the most intense moments in one's life? Consider the example of combat that GYgax gives in his DM, where an illusionist buys it. Do you really want to narrate a player's death like that - uhmm, five points of damage... three points... hold... make a saving throw.... good, you made it... four points...your charcater is dead... versus: Five goblins are charging you led by a larger figure, what appears to be a man, he wears white and he is swinging a mace... roll for initiative...you can't see his face because it is behind a metal helmet with slits for eyes. Steel plate gleams on his breast. Raising his meace he rushes at Gristaad, roll to hit...damn a 20, roll again... 19, wow... with both of his hands Gristaad swings his great sword just at the right moment and the huge blade hacks through metal between shoulder and helmet, there is crash of metal, a shriek and armored man collapses, red spot rapidly growing on his white cape as he collpases at Gristaad's feet...

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