Modern Limb Armor – surprisingly controversial!

Yesterday’s mission wrap-up prompted some fairly strong (but limited – only one Anonymous poster and some comments by the players themselves) commentary about the “realism” and design of limb armor for our Alien Menace squad.

Their personal armor is basically DragonSkin – the Advanced Body Armor from High-Tech, which provides DR 35 (10d). Problem was, the bad guys were firing weapons that will be tested as something like 12d and 15d penetration equivalent at them, which is to say something like 6d(2) and 3d (5) depending on the weapon.

This made it such that a torso hit would do 1d injury, while a limb hit would do 3d or 6d, depending. Bad juju.

Shoulda worn more armor?


I’ll defend my statement about going out in full limb armor being the right proxy for what even Special Operations troops go out in. Being slightly unprepared for the nature of threats is very, very military. From time immemorial, I’d say.

In any case, the one thing I’d point out here is that had the bad guys been firing AP rifle bullets of (say) 7d (2) or 6d (2), the players would have been in the same situation. In fact, even a bog-standard SMG firing 3d pi or pi+ projectiles with no armor divisor would have the same issue with getting limb hits  and having them be crippling. Limbs are really easy to cripple in GURPS. There have been threads on that. Lots of ’em.

OK, get more armor, then!


And I have no objection to that! In fact, I’ve begun looking around for non-standard issue armor to compliment the standard issue that these guys were toting. The first one that came up on my search was this LegGuard stuff, which looks to provide DR 10 (3d) rigid protection to the front of the legs for 4 lbs each. Doubling the thickness for 8 lbs and 6d per limb doesn’t bother me either. Upping the cost by a bunch and improving the DR at constant weight? Maybe.

Another more interesting option here, given that the game is set some 20 years in the future, is something derived from this report.

Checking around the net, there are lots of pictures of nifty limb armor, and there will likely be more of them as more details of injury analysis come back from the last decade of conflict – one with unparalleled body armor designed to keep one alive, but not whole. Threats that would destroy life and limb are now destroying limbs, which brings a lot of troops home missing important pieces. This will likely be recognized and addressed, and there are some nice concepts out there.

Of course, the good guys will get a boost from some of the alien technology they just brought back when the R&D guys finish their thing – some sort of protection against energy weapons – but for plain old ballistic threats, they’re going to want something that’s protective but less bulky than what’s shown.

However, that, of course, is just a prototype, and with two decades of improvement, some sort of next-gen suit might be forthcoming. I have a few ideas there, too. If nothing else, the ABA concept should be able to be tailored into limb armor at a roughly equivalent weight per unit DR, and that seems reasonable to allow by request. Maybe available in 4d, 7d, and 10d versions at whatever weights those have. Arm armor at 10d should mass 2/3 of the torso armor, while leg armor will mass 75% of the torso armor, thanks to +Mark Langsdorf  and his Better Fantasy Armor calculations. Tone down the DR and tone down the weight. 6d leg protection would thus be about 45% of torso armor mass.

The strong guys will be wanting this pretty fast, I imagine. The less-strong guys will be pestering me for power armor and exoskeletons – which is legit, I think.

Ultimately, these guys are going to want to power up for some missions, which given their recent encounters with this particular alien threat show the team’s armor at the balanced edge of “protective enough.” The high armor divisors of the alien energy weapons drive towards pretty high effective DRs, but the real key is “don’t get crippled.”

The next game where the troops have to suit up should have better armor options available.

9 thoughts on “Modern Limb Armor – surprisingly controversial!

  1. Another possible explanation for the rise in limbless veterans is that on-the-spot trauma care has got good enough that people are surviving with missing limbs injuries that would previously have caused them to bleed out and die on the battlefield.

  2. Yeah, as Roger says, reduction in casualties is both good armor on vitals and improvement in medevacs.

    I still maintain that our problem is we're taking potshots at close range at baddies who can aim and fire in a single turn with high skill while standing out in the open. 2/3 of the people who got hit weren't in cover. That's what happens when you do that.

    In the real world, we don't do limb armor because it's miserable for the 99% of the time you aren't getting shot at, you're already carrying other stuff, and because retaining enough speed to get to cover is a high priority. That may change with aliens who can't be supressed, but I think it mostly means we need to start packing smoke grenades.

    1. Pretty much. The robots had automatic targeting running in parallel, which made them very dangerous. Even more so that the normal duck-and-cover response to being shot at was not engaged. The sectoids were pretty mindlessly attacking using pot-shots, and they died right quick. They were dangerous only by accident.

    2. I should also comment that this decision was, in retrospect, a bad one! Having the bad guys effectively feel no fear and have cinematic gunslinger is NOT the way to test out rules favoring precision fire and taking the proper time to aim.

  3. Limb armor for everyone who might be injured in a futuristic setting can be balanced against cybernetic prosthetics for those who are actually injured.

  4. Yeah their armour was perfectly reasonable for a first mission.

    Should be interesting to see what they end up looking like for their second mission.

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