Throwback Thursday: Choosing Armor by Cost and Weight

Highlighting some old posts, because I’ve been having quite the week at work. So highlighting something that goes along with my Violent Resolution column for this week.

Here’s a fun post about choosing the best possible armor you can get at the lowest cost.

And another, this time if cost is no object, but you’re trying to minimize the weight.

The cost one is more interesting.

Expect a few more “hey, this is an old post that might be interesting” type things this week. I’ll try and get back to new content when work isn’t quite so insane.

I’ll repost the original articles below the break.


GURPS Low Tech is a pretty darn good book. There’s a lot of value there, and even more so in the three companions.

There are a few books out, such as Instant Armor, and the forthcoming Low Tech Armor Loadouts, that help whittle down the very large job of choosing armor kit. It took me a very, very long time to assemble the armor for Cadmus, my Warrior Saint in +Nathan Joy‘s game.
Along the way, I put together a spreadsheet. It took permutations of the various armor types in Low Tech, with quality and heaviness modifiers. I then sorted it by DR, and calcualted Cost/DR as well as Weight/DR. 
Here, I present the (long) table that is the summary of that work. I’ve removed enough material that you can’t do without the book (and I’m not even remotely sorry). 
Warriors on a Budget

My premise here is simple. You’re starting off and your’e on a budget. If you purchased multiple levels of Wealth or you’re an experienced adventurer looking to upgrade, you will want this list sorted by Weight per unit DR. Yeah, I’ll be doing that later. 
Cheesy Protection: DR 1-2

This isn’t really enough armor to deal with much of anything, but I suppose it beats nothing at all, and can provide much-needed partial protection against certain low-level wounds. It can also be darn protective against things like smallshot or other things that are pi- and carry an armor divisor of (0.5). So, low utility but not entirely useless.
Cheap medium and heavy leather are your tickets here for anything you’d actually want to be seen in. Straw, wood, and cane are, well, embarrassing.
Low-end Serious

At DR 3, which is just enough to more or less protect against the average damage from a 1d attack, there are a few contenders. Good Heavy Leather and Good Layered Medium Leather are nice, Cheap Layered Heavy Leather is in there, and if you must have metal armor for some reason, Cheap Medium Scale makes the list.
Decent Serious Protection
Now at DR 4-5 you’re looking at being protected vs. the average damage from a 1d or 1d+1 attack. That’s starting to get credible, and DR 5 is well worth having.
If you can get it, Cheap Mail and Plates is (by about 10%) the superior ticket to DR 4. Cheap Heavy Scale ad Cheap Heavy Mail are in there, as is Cheap Heavy Segmented Plate. Those run $100-120 per point of DR. Mail and Plates isn’t on the “too shabby” list by DR per pound, either, being smack in the middle of the pack. Cheap Heavy Mail is even better by that basis.
At DR 5, Cheap Jousting Mail is your go-to, though it comes with significant drawbacks in flexibility (it’s not). Proofed paper is surprisingly effective (if flammable, perhaps? maybe not) at this level, and Cheap Medium Plate  and Good Mail and Plates are the real winners in the “overall, some darn nice protection for $1,000.” 
Note that that is starting wealth for TL3. So you’ve just blown your entire wad on armor that only covers the torso. Better invest in signature gear or a level or more of Wealth at this kind of entry point.
Starting to Tank Out

DR 6 and DR 7 are where you start to expect to find plate armor (that was the DR of a steel breastplate in Basic, more or less) and in fact, that’s what you find. The “very best” in terms of cost per unit protection at this level are Cheap DR 7 and Cheap DR 8 plate, which become DR 6 and 7 respectively, as Cheap metal armor loses a point of DR. 
Hardened Mail and Plates is also DR 6, but will cost you $5,000 for the privilege.  Cheap DR 7 plate (that gives DR 6) is probably the overall cost/weight winner here, as is Cheap DR 8 plate (that gives DR 7) at that entry. Hardened or Duplex DR 5 plate, on the other hand, are hugely expensive at DR 6, while not-insane-heavy but still spendy could be Fluted DR 6 plate and Hardened Heavy Mail, both at 3lbs per point of DR.
You Wanna Wear WHAT?

At the DR 8 and up level, it’s all plate, all the time. DR 9 is the last place where Cheap Plate gets you to a good price point, and you’re spending $1,800 to get it. If I did the math right. Spreadsheet is kinda old. 
You Can do Magic . . .


All of this goes more or less right out the window when you can get Fortify and Lighten on your armor, and at Dungeon Fantasy prices, that’s exactly what you want to do. Very quickly, and recognizing that Nate uses some special rules to make magically-suitable armor more expensive, including requiring at least a +1 Cost Factor (+1 CF, or x2 cost multiplier) on the base armor in order to enchant it. TL4 armors in DF cost double, so they qualify.
The low-low end armors don’t seem to be worth the magic. Again, given Nate’s rules, think about:
DR 4: Heavy Leather and Medium Layered Leather play nicely with Fortify/Lighten
DR 5. Medium Scale and Layered Heavy Leather, but both aren’t as good as the mundane Mail and Plates for DR 5.
DR 6: As you might guess, take Mail and Plates and hit it with Fortify and Lighten for DR 6
DR 7: Jousting mail with Fortify/Lighten can be pretty sweet if you can deal with it being rigid. If not, Mail and Plates with Fortify +2 is still a pretty good ticket
DR 8: Again jousting mail (Fortify +2) for the win here, though DR 7 plate with Fortify 1 is runner up (though 15% more expensive).
DR 9+: Back in the all Plate, all-the-time, with magical DR extending easily to DR 12 (DR 10 plate and Fortify +2).
Remember, that if you’re in a TL4 game or you don’t get the x2 cost basis for enchantable armor, some of the Fortify 1/Lighten 3/4 will be very very attractive.

Parting Shot

What you’re looking at here, with no surprises, are variants of leather at DR 1-3, mail at DR 4-5, and plate at DR 6+. Mail and Plates, if available, is a spectacularly good balance of cost and weight per unit DR. 
Another, much more complicated, option is to optimize your kit with slightly weaker DR on the back than the front. Working within a budget, it can seem attractive for starting armor to have (say) DR 5 or 6 on your front, and maybe DR 3-4 on your back. 
That’s not wrong, per se, but you’ll want to upgrade to a more uniform level of protection, and if you expect to face swarms or magical foes that teleport (or are just very sneaky), you’ll want to protect the vitals, either through a separate pectoral piece (not mentioned in the above table) or just thickened armor over the Vitals (bought, naturally, as a pectoral anyway).

This is a follow-on post to my previous one about how to get a certain DR value for the lowest cost possible. Well, the lowest cost possible without dressing up a a wicker statue. Or a tree.
I’m biased that way.
Still, I promised to revisit this for the wealthy, and so for GURPS-Day today, here we go.
Introduction Repeated

GURPS Low Tech is a pretty darn good book. There’s a lot of value there, and even more so in the three companions.

There are a few books out, such as Instant Armor, and the forthcoming Low Tech Armor Loadouts, that help whittle down the very large job of choosing armor kit. It took me a very, very long time to assemble the armor for Cadmus, my Warrior Saint in +Nathan Joy‘s game.

Along the way, I put together a spreadsheet. It took permutations of the various armor types in Low Tech, with quality and heaviness modifiers. I then sorted it by DR, and calcualted Cost/DR as well as Weight/DR.

Here, I present a long summary table of the results of that work, this time sorted by DR per unit weight. I’ve removed enough material that you can’t do without the book (and I’m still not even remotely sorry).

Warriors Unburdened
My premise here is less simple than last time, where you were starting off on a budget.This time, you’ve either purchased enough Wealth or starting cash that you can skip the cheap stuff, or you have been around the block a few times and can afford to upgrade. That’s exactly what happened to Cadmus, as a by-the-way. I started with a complex and unbalanced set of armor, as follows:

1xMail, Plate, and Leather Armor Panoply

1× Boots, Leather ($80; 3 lb; DR 2)1× Cloth, Padded Undersuit (Shoulders, Upper Arms, Legs, Torso; Reduced Cost (-20%); $88; 13.2 lb; DR 1*)1× Gauntlets, Medium Segmented (Reduced Cost (-20%); $72; 2.4 lb; DR 4)1× Layered Leather, Medium (Front Forearms, Front Knees, Front Shins; Leather of Quality; $440; 10.4 lb; DR 4)1× Mail and Plates (Shoulders, Front Thighs, Front Torso; Reduced Cost (-20%); $924; 16.5 lb; DR 5)1× Mail, Heavy (Upper Arms, Back Thighs, Back Torso; Cheap; Reduced Cost (-20%); $316.8; 14.85 lb; DR 4*)1× Plate, Medium (Full Helm, Padding; Reduced Cost (-20%); $612; 7.8 lb; DR 7);
Wow. That’s a lot of bizarre stuff, but it was a balance of protection up front, weight, and most of all, cost. I bought as much extra Cash (5 points worth) as allowed, which I think gave me a $3500 starting point (less the Dwarven Axe and other weaponry). It also took me a long time and a lot of help by +Mark Langsdorf , +Emily Smirle , +Kevin Smyth , +Nathan Joy , and +Theodore Briggs . 

After we adventured for a bit, we came into a bit of money. Cadmus can’t keep more than he can carry by Holy Vow, but good armor is expensive. I upgraded!

1× Boots, Leather ($80; 3 lb; DR 2)1× Cloth, Padded Undersuit (Full Suit, Ornate (x2 cost), Lighten 3/4); $375; 12.4 lb; DR 1*)1× Gauntlets, Medium Segmented (Reduced Cost (-20%); $72; 2.4 lb; DR 4)1× Heavy Mail Armss and Legs (Ornate x2 cost; Lighten 3/4; Fortify +1); $3668; 20.25 lb; DR 6/4*)1× DR 7 Plate Corselet (Torso; TL4 x2 cost; Lighten 3/4, Fortify +1); $6150; 18 lb; DR 8)1× DR7 Plate Full Helm (Padding;TL4 x2 cost; Fortify +1; Lighten 3/4); $1845; 6.75 lb; DR 8);

This cost me a favor from the party merchant prince, and about $12,000 in cash. While the low-level Fortify and Lighten spells are more expensive in Nate’s game because he wants all magically enchanted stuff to start from a base of at least +1 Cost Factor  (a good rule; no enchanting crap stuff), the big changes is that I’m now equally protected on front and back, and my encumbrance while armored dropped from Medium to Light – a big deal. 
So, where’s the awesome when you have money to burn?

Cheesy Protection: DR 1-2


Well, while this might not be enough protection to do much other than protect against incidental contact and angry kittens (maybe), you can at least do this in some semblance of style here.
The DR 1 go-to by far is fine light leather. This low-end protection can be yours at 3.3 lbs, which isn’t bad for covering your full torso (but not arms, legs, which add their usual +150% to the weight and cost of these figures).
For the next level of non-protection, you are, interestingly enough, looking at cheap versions of otherwise very expensive armors as well. Light brigandine is nice if you need to not be quite so obvious and comes in at ten pounds, while cheap plate that is usually DR 3 but downgraded due to being cheap   Both will ring your cash register for $350-400, so you’re paying nearly $200 per point of DR – but both combined cost less than fine light leather!
Low-end Serious

DR 3 is enough to provide just less than average proection against a 1d attack. So it’s just enough to pretend you’re wearing armor, and honestly, there are times, like getting hit to the vitals, where with that x3 wound multiplier, removing 9 points of injury really is the difference between life and death.

If you’ve got money to burn, fluted DR 3 plate is the way to go.Thing is, that fluting is a very large cost multiplier for a very small weight reduction, so just regular-old boring DR 3 plate is probably a slightly better bet, as it comes in at 8 lbs for front -and back protection to the torso. 

Decent Serious Protection
Now at DR 4-5 you’re looking at being protected vs. the average damage from a 1d or 1d+1 attack, or being completely protected vs. 1d-2 or 1d-1, which doesn’t look like much, but it effectively renders you proof against unarmed punches of up to ST 12 to 14, which ain’t all bad.

The king here will always wind up being plate armor. It’s nearly too good, but then again, you are paying thousands or even nearly ten of thousands of dollars for the privilege here.

So duplex and hardened plate are the tickets for the uber-rich. You’re still talking about 8 lbs, or slightly less, but you’re sporting DR 4.

Again for the sneaky and fashionable set, the 10-lb hardened light brigantine is pretty interesting too, and if you drop down to light hardened mail. it’s still expensive (and not rigid), but literally half the cost of the more-expensive plate or brigantine.

We don’t yet have a piece of torso armor that breaks the ten grand mark yet – but we’re getting darn close

Starting to Tank Out

DR 6 and DR 7 are the points where you would normally find plate armor, and so you do. In fact, without magic the only way you can achieve DR 7 using Low Tech and Instant Armor that doesn’t involve some form of plate is hardened jousting mail (for $7500).

But that’s not even the most expensive non-magical armor – though a sorting error has provided a nice example of where you can get with magical help, with Mail and Plates (usually starting at DR 5) being slapped with Ornate, Fortify +2, and Lighten for just shy of $10K.

For DR 6, you are still throwing down with hardened and duplex plate, with a very large price increase  being paid to save about a pound and a half going from hardened to duplex.

If you don’t mind mail and 18 lbs instead of 14.4 lbs, you can go with hardened heavy mail, which is TL2, DR 6, and not stupidly expensive.
You Wanna Wear WHAT?

Oh, you can now wear plate, plate, plate, plate, and look . . . more lembas bread.

Mmmmm.

But yeah, in the DR Crazyland realm you can basically count on hardened and duplex plate being the best combination of weight per DR you can get short of physics-busting stuff.

You Can do Magic . . .

Adding magic adds cost, and can add a lot of it. If money really is no object, you want Lighten 1/2 and Fortify +2 – more if you can get it, but I’ll assume you can’t. There’s really no trick here – take the best armor per unit weight, cut that weight in half (and pay through the nose for it), and you might as well add +2 DR through magic while you’re at it.

Parting Shot

Actually, when you really look at it, and I should have long ago, the answer to “best protection per unit weight is duplex plate all the way from DR 4 on up. Not terribly surprising, but also very, very expensive. I think even without Nate’s house rules, DR 10 duplex plate runs more than $20K (we double cost for TL4, and my sheet says it’s over $40K, so . . . )

So ultimately, this is less interesting in terms of choices than the “do it on a budget” post was, largely because there’s really only one answer – wear plate – unless other things intervene.

Such things can be concealability (brigantine, probably) or being not metal for noise, electrical conductivity, or if it interferes with tropes such as no metal armor for spellcasters.

There’s also the fact that even at 3-ish pounds per point of DR, DR 11 duplex plate is still 32 lbs for just your torso, and about 90 lbs for a full suit including a helm.

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