Thursday, 20 August 2015


I’ve had players who took it for granted that it was always better to wear armour than not, and assume they’ll always have it on, whether walking through town, making a voyage by ship (when falling overboard should obviously be fatal), or sleeping. Putting aside for a moment that falling asleep in armour is highly improbable and showing up in a crowded market decked out in military gear would have the local guard surrounding and interrogating the party in no time, let’s focus on the relative merits and demerits of various types of armour in the context for which they’re meant: Combat.

The following benefits and drawbacks of armour in combat are meant to be included in the upcoming revised version of House Rules for the Shropesyre Campaign. The list below describes the range of protection likely to be encountered throughout the British Isles; other items may be encountered if the party travels to other regions, and specific attributes of such can be included later. As AC is already tied to increases in level rather than types of armour, the latter are considered to reduce HP of damage taken by a percentage according to their basic type.

Here is the breakdown for shields, armour, and other protective items.

Shields: Use Hit Location die. HP damage reductions apply only to hits to torso or shield arm.
Small wooden shield (buckler): 25% reduction, rounded down.
Small metal shield: 25% reduction, rounded up.
Large metal shield: 50% reduction, rounded down.
Full body shield: Generally, the only body parts exposed during melee are the sword arm and part of the face necessary to see: Hits to the sword arm are treated as normal, while the face is considered to have an AC bonus of 4 for 50% concealment. Hits to any other location are automatically negated.

Armour: If used in conjunction with a shield, the following apply only to hits taken to areas other than torso or shield arm. For hits to either of these two areas, damage is first reduced by the shield and then again by the armour itself.
Leather or hide armour: 10% damage reduction to all covered areas, rounded up.
Studded leather armour: 20% damage reduction to all covered areas, rounded up.
Chain mail: 50% damage reduction, rounded down.
Plate mail: 60% damage reduction, rounded up.
Full plate (rare item, not normally available for purchase in England): 75% damage reduction, rounded up.

Shields and armour used together offer combined benefits. Full plate armour used in conjunction with a shield offer total protection against blows except in the case of critical hits. A critical hit to the shield arm is considered to break the shield or otherwise render it useless. Furthermore, any critical hits dealing 12 or more points of damage to any location are considered to knock the combatant over. Falling in plate mail armour from a standing position causes 1d3 HP of damage. Falling from horseback in plate armour causes this 1d3 HP of damage in addition to the 1d6 HP of damage ordinarily accorded to such a fall.

Additionally, because armour restricts agility in combat, the following penalties to THAC0 will be applied when any of these types of armour are worn (points by which THAC0 is raised):

Leather or hide: None
Studded leather: +1
Chain mail: +2
Plate mail: +3
Full plate: +4

Finally, wearing or carrying armour while traveling will considerably slow the character down due to additional encumbrance. However, carrying it would be the better choice unless combat seems imminent: Tentatively, I refer to a chart for HP of discomfort damage the heavier metal types of armour cause after a certain period. The reality is that after a few drinks and a number of variables to hold in my head during melee, I tend to forget all about it—but, be warned, I’m not likely to forget to roll for fungal infections and anal fistula if your character is covered in mud, has been sweating profusely, or got caught in the downpour.


  1. Hey this is really good stuff. I feel like we are almost there (to a fair and realistic armor system). I like the THAC0 penalties and the protections given from the armors. However, I still believe it can be improved for shields.
    I don't like the fact that shield protection relies on damage location rolls. This would be fine if the target is totally surprised by an attack (like an arrow for example). However in combat, the shield is used properly to parry the attacks (well actually not always properly). Look at this simple example:

    The shield is used to parry the thrown javelin. After that, even though Achilles is hitting the "shield arm", the shield is useless. So my conclusion is the hit location has nothing to do with the shield efficiency.

    My idea would be to treat shield just like armor, the damage reduction would be automatically applied, except if the combatant is doing a called shot.

    By the way I recommend watching battle scenes from Troy and Gladiator movies, there are pretty good and realistic 1vs1 moments.

    1. That’s a good point, but I’m operating under the assumption that the standard rules for parrying apply as described in the Player’s Handbook: If the defender foregoes all actions for the round, he receives a substantial AC bonus. He can’t move, attack, or cast spells, and in exchange, he gets an AC bonus equal to half his level (plus one if he’s a warrior). If you’ll notice, this is exactly what Achilles does in the first clip you linked: He stops charging and takes the javelin directly in the shield. Taking a wild guess and putting Achilles at 6th level, he gets a +4 AC bonus—enough to fully negate the effect of a direct projectile weapon attack.

      I’m assuming we also use the rules for charging. In game terms, the sword attack that slew Boagrius when Achilles charged him would be considered to have had a bonus (the Player’s Handbook specifies +2 to attack rolls, meaning both THAC0 and HP damage are improved by 2).

      As your second clip shows, the shield can be used to block an attack, or the melee weapon can be used to make one, but both aren’t happening in the same instant. I take it for granted that if an attack is successful, it got in in the interim between the opponent’s attack and defence.