What exactly is Armor Class? We know that it came from naval
war games, but I’m asking exactly what it means. In standard game play the
combat is broken down into rounds, each round equaling 1 minute, and in that
minute there is a lot going on which we are ignoring, the characters involved
are parrying, feinting, and engaging in sword play, but this may not really be
going on. For instance if a thief attacks an archer in single combat, the
archer isn’t going to be able to parry unless he has a sword available, which
he might not, but even if he don’t than the thief has to roll against his
opponents AC anyway, which would be the same as if he had his sword drawn. Clearly
these are game mechanics, and not meant to be taken seriously. We have
sacrificed accuracy for ease of play. The alternative to this system would
require a gigantic book of charts and require the thief to spend 1d10x10
minutes to figure out if he hit or not.
To those of us who play the game, the above makes perfect
sense! We’ve come to except this logic as fact; we just roll the dice and move
on without losing the images in our heads. This is the way that it has always
been, which works! But, there are those out there who want to simulate
different things, and there are rules hidden here and there in our handbooks
which help us do just that. Of course every time we add supplemental rules to
our combat, we are slowing it down just a little bit, and all of those little
bits add up.
Some armors have them included by default, but if the
character chooses not to wear one, then some DM’s heavily penalize them, but I
don’t believe that a helmet supplies even 1 point of AC.To me, this is just how you envision your PC,
which is up to you. If you are wearing a helmet, you can’t get sapped, but,
depending on your helmet type, your vision may be impaired, which the DM does
have to know. Of course, there is another rule-set that influences this decision;
called shots, but that is another topic entirely.
Shields have also got many strange house rules attached to
them, some offering a cheap way of getting 3 free AC points, which grants the
user the AC of studded leather if used by itself, though something like this
does seem impractical to carry with you, so is a 10’ pole; and that shield rule
kind of follows the Core Rules on Cover & Concealment, so why not?
How exactly does the shield protect the user? The rules
imply that the shield is always protecting you, it factors into your AC, but
some claim that they can do more with it, and block hits, which I don’t agree
with. A hit is a hit. Perhaps this would work in a duel situation, but if that
is the case, than the shield should be taken off of your AC score.
I’ve also heard that if your opponent misses you by 1, then
it means that he hit your shield and it is destroyed, which is just silly to
me, but different strokes for different folks, right.
Surprise is also a topic worthy of talking about here; since
your AC also depends upon the user actively participating in the melee; would
it be fair to adjust this when a character has been caught off guard? The
attacker does gain a bonus to hit, is this enough? Is a surprise round really
still 1 minute long? If not, how long is it?
Actively parrying is also an option which increases your AC,
you focus on Defense, giving up all attacks. I’ve heard of DMs making players
role to see if they block a hit, but I prefer to just increase the AC. I think
that people may like the Roll to block method because they feel like it gives
them more control, or at least allows them to participate, but I still prefer
the easy AC bonus because it speeds up play.
Leather armor must be tended to regularly, if it gets wet it
will rot, and since we are dealing with sweat and blood, rain and dew these
things probably get gross really quick. If one doesn’t properly tend to even
the cheapest of armors; this is magnified for the better stuff: Chainmail
rusts, buckles break, dents in plate from who knows what, dirt and sand gets trapped
in hinges, in other words, armor needs tended to, and tended often! For this reason
a DM may enforce a monthly living expense, if this tithe is not paid saving
throws must be made to see if your equipment holds up, failure indicates that a
weapon is shoddy, and AC will suffer because you didn’t maintain it. Many DMs have
applied personal modifiers; the higher the AC rating the more expensive that maintenance
Sleeping in Armor also isn’t good, this stuff needs to be
taken off; if it isn’t, than not only did you not get the full benefits from
rest, but your armor will suffer for it as well, and runs the risk of damage.
How long does it take to put back on? Look it up in the index, this is covered
in the Core Rules.
Critical Hits vs.
If you are using the optional rules in the Player’s Option
handbook, than this is already covered, but even if you aren’t you can add a
forced saving throw: if the save is successful, it could mean that the plate
was still bent, or the shield was still trashed. If the player is carrying a
shield, chances are the shield was sacrificed and damaged and he now has a new
AC because the shield is worthless, but if he doesn’t than we can just assume
that for whatever reason, the armor has lost 1 point of effectiveness that can
be hammered out during your next break if the player can do that (NWP:
Armorer), else the damage is permanent until the character can go back to town
and get it repaired or replaced by a professional.
Weapons vs. Armor
This is an optional mechanic that probably requires its own
space, but for now I’ll suggest that we can invent weapons that are designed
specifically to damage armor types. Many existing pole-arms have this function,
but, short of a guilty conscience, there is nothing stopping you from having a
goblin design a strange blade which is meant to slip between armor plates and
slice leather straps on a successful attack, while it wouldn’t be much good for
attacking the man himself, it would allow his buddies a better chance of
actually hitting him, and may make it so that the 15th level fighter
has to get out of his armor before attacking because it’s just in the way.
We have to decide exactly what we are dealing with; is the
armor truly enchanted, or is it made out of a harder metal? While the metal can
be enchanted, perhaps the bindings holding the thing on aren’t. Maybe, instead
of just giving them Armor+3 you give them the pieces they need to make it, but
the bindings had all rotted away? If the entire armor is enchanted, than it
will do strange things: it will mold itself to the owner, and it will not break
under most circumstances. This would be special armor indeed! But why not
counter this by giving it an alignment; no need to be sentient, however, it can
still disagree with the PC’s actions and betray them in subtle ways, such as a
cuff coming lose and interfering with an attack, or not offering full
protection until the character rights a wrong that he committed, have fun with
Players like to believe that Armor is constant, and it
really isn’t. I don’t think that the above really adds to much bookwork to the
game, but it will add some. I think that it can be over done, adding modifier
after modifier is just silly to me, in my games an AC of -10 is the absolute
best you can ever have, and that would be god-like armor.
Adjusting the armor system is actually quite brilliant when
you look at it, the ideas above are pretty crazy, but they all function without
breaking anything in the core rules. The Fighters Handbook has a few other
ideas to add to the game, such as piecing together your own armor out of stuff
that you find, and again, it all works!
If somebody has the wild idea of skinning a dragon that they
had killed, and turning it into armor, this can easily be done on the DM’s side
of the screen; probably not on the player’s side, but creating something like
that would definitely be fun!
I suppose that the only thing that we have to debate about
in regards to AC is Ye Olde Chainmail Bikinis!