First of all he forged a shield that was huge and heavy,elaborating it about, and threw around it a shiningtriple rim that glittered, and the shield strap was cast of silver.There were five folds composing the shield itself, and upon ithe elaborated many things in his skill and craftsmanship.He made the earth upon it, and the sky, and the sea’s water,and the tireless sun, and the moon waxing into her fullness,and on it all the constellations that festoon the heavens,the Pleiades and the Hyades and the strength of Orionand the Bear, whom men give also the name of the Wagon,who turns about in a fixed place and looks at Orionand she alone is never plunged in the wash of the Ocean.                                                -Homer, The Iliad 18 (478-489)

Weapons get their own special place, but fighting kit is not truly complete without some amount of armor. Or at least a studded loincloth. Armor is an important part of storytelling, and Homer lavishes upon the Shield of Achilles something like 1,500 words. and the taking and reclaiming of the armor of heroes featues prominently throughout the RPG campaign gone awry that is the Iliad. In modern cinema, girding Tom Cruise in his yoroi (The Last Samurai), or King Theoden in his magnificent armor (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers), or the sequence where Bruce Wayne assembles his fearsome batsuit piece by piece all are given fairly long screen presence.

Protecting yourself comes in many forms, from many games. Let’s look at a few, taking some classic examples as above: a padded gambeson, a mail hauberk, a japanese yoroi, full plate harness, and finally, we’ll throw down with Interceptor Body Armor with trauma plates while we’re at it.

The gambeson, also known as a padded jack, was essentially quilted cloth. Often wool or linen, somtimes stuffed, sometimes faced with leather. It could be may layers thick – a dozen or two – and was reputed to be able to defeat even heavy war arrows.

Mail reigned supreme as protection worthy enough to hand down as an heirloom for centuries. It seems to have been utilized by nearly every culture that could fabricate, ,purchase it, and true to the spirit of roleplayers everywhere, was a popular target for looting after a battle. It varied in quality from poor iron butted together to hardened and flattened steel, drifted and riveted (a drift differs from a punch because no material is removed; its a stronger join). It was effective, especially the riveted version, against most penetrating trauma, though bludgeoning weapons could still deliver non-penetrating injury. The hauberk reaches from shoulder to mid-thigh.

The japanese yoroi armor suit represents a type of lamellar armor where small plates of material – the most effective of course being metal – are laced together or attached to some other backing in order to provide an overlapping defense. The lamellar technique tended to be used where huge plates of material were not available due to technology, materials availability, or expense.

The full plate harness was the most impressive of the armor technology from a metalworking perspective, fully encasing the wearer in iron or steel plate. By the time true plate armor was in use, it was steel that might vary from 0.04″ to 0.16″ within a single particular piece of armor (later shot-proof breastplates might be 0.25″ thick at the toughest part, and still taper to 1/20″ at places). Actual full suits were usually lighter than one would think – perhaps 40-60 lbs.

Finally, we have the ballistic vest. Usually with highly localized protection, the best armors have ceramic plates and ballistic fibers that can defeat one or more armor-piercing 7.62mm projectiles. Lesser versions are proof against pistol and SMG fire – in fact many high-threat vests are plates (for rifle protection) layered on top of ballistic fibers (aramid and polyethylene being popular) that will defeat pistols, SMGs, and fragments on its own.

Dungeons and Dragons

Nearly all of the game systems (save for D&D) are generic and can be expected to run (or in the case of Night’s Black Agents, are explicitly set in) modern games, and even the d20 system has a version suitable for present-day games, appropriately enough called d20 Modern. But let’s start with the current version and D&D5.

The armors in question are picked from a list, and given a rating that adds a boost to the character’s Armor Class. This makes him a harder target to hit, with each +1 boost to AC decreasing hit probability by 5% on a straight-up die roll (with Advantage or Disadvantage that’s not quite as linear).

A gambeson is “padded” armor, for AC 11; a mail hauberk is called “chain mail,” more protective than the “chain shirt” and is AC 16. The japanese yoroi is probably best described as a type of scale armor (AC 14), while a full suit of plate armor is the ultimate in protection for mundane armor, giving AC 18 without a shield.

Looking at the armor table, between the maximum Dexterity bonus allowed and the armor’s protective value, tells a slightly different story. A nimble character will have a DEX bonus of +3 to +5, and heavier armor limits that bonus (Medium armor limits it to +2; Heavy armor doesn’t allow a bonus at all). This means that the upper bound on AC for a +5 to DEX for each armor type is AC 16 for padded, AC 16 for scale, AC 16 for a mail hauberk, and AC 18 for plate harness. Basically, with the right stats (+5 DEX bonus), your armor table (cherry picking values):

  • Light Armor: Studded Leather – AC 17 and 13 lbs for 45 gp.
  • Medium Armor: Half-plate – AC 17 and 40 lbs. for 750 gp.
  • Heavy Armor: Splint – AC 17 and 60 lbs. for 200 gp, and Plate – AC 18 for 65 lbs. and 1,500 gp.

Obviously the conclusions change if you only have an AC bonus of +2 from DEX, but the key bit seems to be that lightweight armor does not inherently limit you, and with the right stats, Light, Medium, and most Heavy armors are functionally equivalent.

Ballistic-resistant body armor obviously doesn’t appear in D&D, but reaching back to d20 Modern, a D&D3.5 variant, we find the Concealable Vest (for standard duty), and the improved body armor worn by modern military units is probably closest to the Special Response Vest. The Concealable Vest is AC 14 and allows up to +4 from Dexterity, while the Special Response Vest is AC 17 and allows up to an additional +1 from DEX. Nearly all of the armor’s protective values combine with DEX bonuses to enable a maximum AC of 17 to 19. With the right DEX, the Concealable Vest and the Special Response Vest provide the same protection against attacks, the same trend as with D&D5.


A shield in D&D is a flat add to Armor Class. In D&D5, it adds +2, reducing the probability of a hit by about 10%. Other variants might give as little as +1, or as much as +3, depending on the rules and size of the shield. Given the importance of magic to the game, though, the shield can serve as another object to “hang” bonus protection from. Again, depending on the edition, magical AC boosts can top out at +3 to +5 – providing an increase to AC that can thus be from +1 (a small non-magical shield) to +8 (a hugely magical tower shield in Pathfinder). D&D5 tops out at about +5, a significant improvement to basic chances to hit.

Fate Core

As with weapons,  Fate does not inherently make room for armor. If’ it’s special to the character, you can define it as an Aspect. If it’s gear, it’s probably an Extra, reducing shifts of a successful attack the same way a weapon hit adds shifts to the value of the impact of a successful hit. Armor values range from 1-4, with padded armor being of armor value 1, a mail hauberk or samurai scale being armor value of 2, and a full set of late-era articulated plate has an armor value of 4. Prices and weight are not defined; armor (and gear generally) is chrome, not functional unless deemed so by an Aspect or given mechanical weight as an extra.

One of the more comprehensive lists of the options available for treating weapons and armor in Fate can be found at Roll for Critical. This fine list does a great job of offering up a summary of different ways of accounting for weapons and armor (the two are inextricably linked). A weapon tends to increase the potential for injury for a successful blow (but doesn’t guaranteed it), while armor decreases (including to zero) the injury received from a successful blow. Too-heavy or otherwise encumbering armor can make being struck more likely.

Working through possibilities is a bit out of scope for this column, but it’s too fun to ignore. Were I running a Fate game where weapons featured prominently (and of course, they would – have you seen the title of my blog?), my preference would be to do something that ensures a bit of separation between a hit and injury, but not as deterministic as “swords add +3, while plate armor subtracts 4.” One would need to keep it fast, though.

Works that have increased the availability of enumerated weapon and armor stats include Bulldogs, Day After Ragnarok, Jadepunk, Mindjammer, and Achtung, Cthulhu! – this isn’t a comprehensive list, of course.


Fate Core doesn’t provide for shields a priori, as with regular armor. It would make sense as a freely-invokable aspect on defense, since it will more have the impact of preventing hits in the first place than soaking damage.


As befitting its as-detailed-as-you-want-it nature, GURPS allows, perhaps even encourages, fine-grained representation of armor. While the armor kits that can be assembled can be arbitrarily detailed, by and large the effects of armor are very simple: a point of Damage Resistance (DR) provided by armor subtracts 1:1 from damage rolled, and one has to punch through DR before most wound modifiers are accounted for. If you have a sword (cutting) or an arrow or sword thrust (impaling), the x1.5 and x2 multipliers for injury for such wounds are applied after DR is subtracted.

The only complexity here is that some armor types – notably the flexible ones – are usually treated as being of lower DR vs. some types of attack. Mail, for example, provides only DR 2 vs. crushing blows, owing to its flexible nature, while it might be DR 3 to 5 (depending on the quality, thickness, etc. of the mail) vs. cutting blows.

In GURPS, especially with the addition of GURPS Low-Tech, a padded gambeson is considered layered armor, varying from DR 2 through DR 4 (recall a ST 14 warrior swinging a sword is looking at 2d6+1 cut for damage). Basic “cloth” armor not really intended as armor is DR 1. A mail hauberk will vary from DR 3-5, while the lamellar yoroi is a type of scale, and can vary from DR 3-5, but this is rigid armor – the mail -2 to DR against crushing attacks. Finally, a full suit of plate can be as low as DR 3 and as high as DR 9 – or even higher if you’re willing to pay the price. In Dan Howards “GURPS Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor,” he details the full-plate loadout of a 16th-century Italian Condottierre, a suit of armor that weighs in at nearly 80 lbs., costs $40,000, and provides DR 9 or DR 10 on the torso and head, DR 7 on the bulk of the limbs. Only the hands and feet have “only” as much protection as standard mail – DR 4 – but of course they’re armored gauntlets and sabatons, so not flexible.

In cames such as Dungeon Fantasy, enchantments such as Lighten and Fortify can magnify cost, decrease weight, and push DR into the double-digit realm pretty easily.

Note that these armor values are still quite penetrable. Cutting at mail with a sword is 2d+1 vs. DR 4, which by and large can be expected to put 6 HP of injury through the armor on an average blow, and this is even true of arrows as well. Armor did tend to be a bit more protective than this, which leads to house rules (some of them given more nods than others) to make epxensive armor a tad more protective for the cost.

Finally, GURPS deals with a wide variety of modern body armor as well. While differences in authorial approach between Low-Tech and High-Tech led to different assumptions, the Interceptor body armor with trauma plates is represented by the “Assault Vest,” and gives DR 12 to the torso and groin, with an additional DR 23 if the full range of ceramic trauma plates are worn on the torso – basically DR 35, or the equivalent of 10d damage, enough to defeat, on the average, armor-piercing bullets from an M16 (which do 5d damage but halve DR due to being armor piercing).


In GURPS, Shield is a separate skill, and enables an entirely different type of Active Defense, the Block. Useful in situations such as countering arrow fire where Parry is disallowed without cinematic skills, a shield also can be used as a weapon to bash and slam. Finally, the cover provided by a shield provides a flat add to all active defense rolls: Parry, Block, and Dodge. Finally, if using the rules for parrying heavy weapons (if you try and parry a heavy weapon with a fragile one it can break), the high weight of the shield makes for an excellent counter to such threats.

Night’s Black Agents

As befitting it’s compressed scale for injury, NBA takes a likewise compressed viewpoint on armor. The rules as prevented only deal with modern armor, and divides it into three segments – light ballistic armor that’s fully concealable subtracts 1 from rolled damage, while the military ballistic armor we’ve been discussing gets an armor value of 3.

On that scale, full plate would be at best an armor value of 2, if not 1. It’s cool enough one might bump it up, and call it a 2. On this scale, mail and lamellar are probably a 1, and a gambeson either doesn’t rate as armor at all, or is also a 1.


As with armor, there’s no specific provision for a shield, especially given that Jason Bourne is unlikely to be wielding one when not talking about Bite Club. The most likely house rule would probably involve increasing the target number for a successful hit by 1. Anything more would likely be unbalanced.

Savage Worlds

The armor in Savage Worlds adds to Toughness rather than altering hit probability. As such, it’s an orthogonal system like GURPS and even NBA, where the armor is on an entirely different axis than hit rolls. The armor values are compressed, with leather (equivalent to our gambeson) given Armor +1, mail (and likely our scale/lamellar yoroi) given +2, and a steel corselet and other plate given +3. Added to a Toughness value ranging from 4 to 8, this can be expected to absorb a bit more damage – but has no effect on Raises. The offset in target number means that higher and higher (and thus lower probability of occcurance) exploding die rolls will be necessary: going from Toughness 6 to Toughness 9 vs. a d6+d6 attack roughly cuts in half the odds of being Shaken or Wounded.

On the modern side, modern ballistic protection counters a certain amount of Armor Piercing (which negates armor but not Toughness), and also protects as +4 for most attacks, but +8 (due to the inserts) against bullets.


In Savage Worlds, shields are pretty effective. A small shield improves Parry by +1, while larger shields provide not just Parry increases (+1 or 2) but Armor as well (+2 to ranged shots that hit). That’s a good bit of defensive boost.

Finish Him

As with injury, protection from harm dictates tactics. In D&D5, it is very difficult (but possible with AC over 20) to become truly untouchable, especially since nearly everyone attacks with a bonus. Still, AC provides a way of extending endurance during a fight, avoiding injury on any given attack. GURPS allows a situation where a character might be hittable 100% of the time, and still never suffer injury due to high DR. In fact, a series of All-Out Attacks (forgoing defenses entirely) is not an uncommon tactic when encased in a full suit of plate.

For Fate, armor and shields are accessories and flash mostly – only as important as the rules allow them to be. As befitting the high-action genres the rules are designed to emulate, armor only makes a difference when dramatically appropriate (Stormtroopers, anyone?). Savage Worlds gives a minor but important boost to Toughness for most armor. Exploding dice on the attack means that you’re never safe, however. That’s also true for Night’s Black Agents, where the narrative impact of body armor is often secondary to the high action implicit in the genre.

Emphasis on gear can come to dominate the game. For some, this is part of the fun, if not central to the fun. The ability to specify the Shield of Achilles, or drop many times the starting cash value on a spectacularly awesome suit of armor (not to mention having a particular set of weapons) is a part of what makes a character distinct.

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.


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.

If one is to discuss combat in RPGs, one might as well start with the medieval fantasy genre that still dominates the industry. For many games, hand-to-hand (or hand-to-tentacle, hand-to-claw, hand-to-mouth . . . ) combat is a central point of the game, hearkening back to the origin of fantasy RPGs in wargaming.

This Violent Resolution column will look at several classic weapons that might be brought to bear on foes. A relatively inexpensive set of weapons that are mostly for brawlers and massed militia: the club, axe (weaponized), and a spear. On the other side of the coin, we have more classic weapons of war and status: a one-handed sword, a mace, a warhammer (which is really an armor-piercing pick), and a pollaxe.

The Weapons

Just to establish a common ground, here are the weapons.

Club: a lightweight piece of wood, perhaps even found lying around. In its refined form, it might be the handle of a tool, or its evolution into the roughly two-foot baton. Just a few feet of wood used for bashing. Clubs often lack a good concentration of weight, and are lighter than equivalent swords (usually they’re just wood).

Axe: A single-bitted axe on a handle that will often range from about 27” to about 33”. This is a weapon, rather than a woodsman’s tool. It can be used one or two-handed, and often the axe blade is a bit hooked (a “bearded” axe) which allows it to hook shields or limbs. Terrible chopping blows with the weighted blade.

Spear: A shorter spear, perhaps six to eight feet long with a pointy end that goes into the other man. This is neither a long spear of eight to twelve feet in length, nor a pike, nor a javelin designed for throwing.  More of the length used in Viking reenactments. Strongly reinforced spears are good for delivering penetrating wounds and keeping a foe at bay.

Sword: Something like an Oakeshott Type XVII, which is a hand-and-a-half sword with a blade that might be 34-40” or so. These blades featured a strong hexagonal cross-section and a point engineered for a strong thrust – claimed to be for armor piercing. Most weigh in at the usual sword weight of about two pounds, but some extant samples can be as much as five, very heavy for a real sword. Against an unarmored foe, especially, swords can deliver huge, gaping wounds.

Mace: This would be a footman’s mace, which is basically a baton-length piece of wood or metal with a heavy, weighted end. They tend to weigh about as much as swords (two or three pounds), but with the mass strongly concentrated at the tip. The concussion would do a number through most flexible armor and could dent and buckle certain types of metal armor.

Warhammer: If you’re going to stand a chance against heavy metal armor, go with a weapon with the weight and balance of a mace, but put a giant freakin’ spike on the business end. In modern days it would be called a pick, and D&D calls it a “military pick.” One of the only handheld weapons that even stands a chance at punching through properly made plate armor.

Pollaxe: When you can’t settle on a spear, a mace, an axe, or a warhammer, you might as well put them all together. Usually man-high, they were designed to help face men in full plate. They usually bore two of a mace/hammer-head, an axe blade, or a warhammer pick, and then mounted a dagger-like spear point on the tip, and a short spike on the butt end. It was a footman’s weapon.

Dungeons and Dragons

In D&D, the damage that is done to a foe is given by the weapon in the main, but modified for both hitting your foe and doing damage by the user’s STR, which for fighter types will usually be a bonus from +0 to +5 (for STR 10 through STR 20). For hitting, not only does the STR bonus get added but you gain a proficiency bonus as well. The damage type is useful when attacking certain types of monsters.

The club and mace are cousins, doing 1d4 and 1d6 bludgeoning damage. A typical fighter will often have a very high STR bonus, so a club is very nearly an accessory to a fighter’s strength, while a mace does 1d6. Against a 6-10 HP low-level foe, one or two blows will suffice to drop an opponent. The axe described above is called a Battleaxe in D&D, while the warhammer is a “war pick.” Both do 1d8 damage, either slashing for the axe or piercing for the war pick; the battleaxe does a bit more damage at 1d10 when used with two hands. With proper strength, any of these is pretty much a one-blow fight-ender against a mook.

The knightly weapons of sword and pollaxe are translated as a longsword (1d8 slashing) and either a halberd or glaive in D&D. A glaive is a poor fit (as is the pike, for that matter) which leaves the halberd, identical to the glaive for stats at 1d10 slashing. The longsword can do 1d10 in two hands, while the glaive and halberd are both two handed weapons that give an extra five feet of reach.

Weapon Modes and Skills

Of interest is that even weapons that historically could be used for multiple attack methods – especially weapons like the pollaxe, which traditionally will have a piercing stabbing mode, and possibly a swung hammer and axe. One weapon with three potential damage types. The longsword can only slash; it does not have a thrusting mode (piercing).

There are no true weapon skills, but there are categories of weapons with which certain classes may be proficient. This allows you to add your proficiency bonus (+2 to +6 depending on level) to your hit roll, but has no impact on damage (unless paired with a Feat like Great Weapon Master which allows trading -5 to hit for +10 damage; the proficiency bonus here allows that penalty to be more easily absorbed).

Savage Worlds

A fighter in Savage Worlds is likely going to have something like a d10 in both Strength and Fighting, or a d12 in Fighting and a d6 or d8 in Strength. The attack rolls are made versus Fighting, but damage is a combination of your Strength die and weapon damage adder. And given how Savage Worlds dice explode, rolling two dice is a very, very good thing.

For hand weapons, then, what does the game provide?

Well, in Savage Worlds Deluxe, the simple club and mace are not listed. We can make a guess, though. A quarterstaff does Str+d4, and an axe does Str+d6. We can guess a club is either Str+2 or Str+d4, and an axe and a mace really only vary in damage type, which doesn’t seem to be addressed, so Str+d6 for the mace is probably not far off. There is a battle axe, though, at Str+d8, and what seems to be a proper Warhammer at Str+d6, but getting benefits to penetrate rigid armor.

As expected, the spear and halberd (there’s no pollaxe entry, though this isn’t surprising – differentiating between a true halberd and the pollaxe is just darn rare) get extra reach for both, Str+d6 for a spear, Str+d8 for the 15-lb (!!) halberd.

The knightly sword does Str+d8 (the Japanese katana does Str+d6+2, for the same upper end of damage but a higher minimum) and weighs 8 lbs.

An aside: I think many games tend to get weapon weights drastically wrong. Savage Worlds is not unique in this regard. The world seems full of 5- or 10-pound swords and other oddness. My wife’s Korean-style sword is something like just under 2 pounds, a modern replica of a type XVII is about 3 lbs, while a true two-handed Landsknecht sword can be between 5-6 lbs (and I’ve seen lighter). Practical battlefield weapons tend to be in the 2-4 pound range, likely due to constraints of human physiology and the needs of defense.

Raising Damage

In addition to Str and the weapon’s damage die, if you successfully strike your foe with a Raise (four above your target number), you add a third potentially exploding damage die to the mix, but always a d6.

Down and Out

If you exceed your foe’s Toughness (2 plus half his Vigor), he’s Shaken, while each Raise (four over target number) causes a wound. A disposable Extra is removed from play as soon as they take a single Wound, but an important Wild Card (a PC or major NPC) is only removed after the fourth wound is taken. In either case, a Vigor roll is made, resulting in death, permanent injury, or temporary injury.

If d6 is an average trait, a typical foe will have Toughness 5. The probabilities of dropping a foe are such that an extra will be taken out (Shaken plus one Raise) in one blow 38% of the time with a d6+d4 blow (pretty feeble), and 65% of the time with a d10+d8. Toss in a Raise on the hit, for a third die (always d6), and our extra drops about 89% of the time. Against a Wild Card, two to four such blows will tend to fell the opponent, but you can actually one-shot the Wild Card (granted, three dice, and those being a high Str, a good weapon, and a Raise for damage) about one time in six.


In GURPS, your ability to hit is dictated by your skill, and damage given mostly by your strength, with the chosen weapon providing damage boosts. GURPS differentiates between thrust and swung weapons, with swung weapons doing more damage (more or less 2x). The damage type of crushing, cutting, and impaling modifies the rolled number (which is best understood as a penetration number, but delving into that concept is for another time) to get final injury levels.

Interestingly enough, the light club is related most closely to the knightly sword, in this case using the Broadsword skill – such is the case with all one-handed, balanced weapons including katana, cavalry sabers, and edged rapiers. In this case the club does either sw+1 or thr+1 if swung or poked at the foe. A typical warrior type is likely to have ST 14 or so (about twice as much lift capacity as Joe Average) so that will be 2d+1 (all dice are six-sided in GURPS) or 1d+1 crushing damage. The knightly sword is a Thrusting Bastard Sword, doing 2d+1 cut or 1d+2 impale. If you want just a tetch more damage, you can swing with two hands for +1 damage.

The way GURPS damage works, that results in an average of 12 HP injury on the swing (average of 8, x1.5 for cutting damage type) or 11 HP injury on the thrust. Why thrust? You can target the vitals on the thrust, increasing injury to about 18 HP. Any of those is enough to make an average (or not-so-average in the second case) foe start rolling for KO.

Axes, maces, and picks (the Warhammer) are likewise related by skill (oddly enough, the Axe/Mace skill), which is for unbalanced one-handed weapons. The classic medieval mace, with plenty of room for two-handed use, will do 2d+3 crushing damage for our ST 14 warrior, while an axe will do 2d+2 cut (a fearsome 13.5 HP on the average). A one-handed pick is 2d+1 imp, average 16 HP impaling damage, while a much larger two-handed proper Warhammer does a massive 2d+4 imp (and two yards of reach) for 22 HP per blow, enough to force a death check in one shot.

The pole weapons, the spear and the pollaxe, are also treated, with the short spear being 1d+2 imp in one hand, or 1d+3 imp and an extra yard of reach in two. The pollaxe is a special kind of badass in GURPS, with three attack modes, and all of them nasty with a one or two yard reach. The spear tip thrusts for 1d+3 imp, the beak can be swung at 2d+3 imp, and an axe blade hits at 2d+4 cut. Any can fell an unarmored man in one blow, and the swung modes, on the average, will start an opponent making death checks in one hit.

Night’s Black Agents

This really, really isn’t the game to bring out medieval weaponry, in the main, but when you absolutely, positively need to sever the head of a vampire or one of their minions, you make a Weapons roll and that covers it.

In fact, all of the weapons listed fall under the same damage type except maybe the club, which is -1 to damage. A mace might be a heavy club at +0, and the rest are in the category of sword and axe, at +1. The roll being modified is a simple 1d6.  It might be tempting to give the swung pole weapon a +2, but given the example for a +2 damage is a .50 BMG (a .50 caliber bullet with something like 13,000 Joules of energy), I feel pretty good in lumping all of the weapons into that +1 category.

A frightened civilian will have Health 2, a militiaman might be Health 4, and serious foes might be Health 6-8 on the human side (a Spec Ops solider is Health 8, for example). So any “real” weapon other than a light club or mace is likely 1d6+1 against a Health from 2-8. You need to get to -6 to really risk unconsciousness, which means 8-14 total Health depletion to drop a given foe. At 2-7 points per hit, one will need to score a couple of hits – or use the Called Shot rules to increase damage – to drop a villain that qualifies as a threat. The Night’s Black Agents mantra of letting the heroes be awesome (“Player-facing Combat”) means that truly faceless threats can simply be neutralized with a point spend.

Still, when push comes to shove, there’s very little differentiation in weapons, by design.


As with Night’s Black Agents, the focus is on the charaters and their story, not their gear – at least for the most part. The rules in Fate Core don’t really go into detail there – the damage you do on an attack is related to your Fight skill and any Aspects you invoke.

There is a rule tucked into the back of the book under Extras, which suggests that we classify the light club as a 2-shift weapon, most one-handed weapons as 3-shift, and two-handed weapons as 4-shift. In this lexicon, the mace, axe, sword, spear, and a one-handed Warhammer are all 3-shift weapons, while the pollaxe is a 4-shift weapon.

It’s hard to say how much damage one can do, because that depends on your skill and invoked Aspects as well as that of your foe. A “regular” attack by a Good fighter (+3) hitting with a +3 weapon (!) will on the average do 6 shifts of impact to the foe, enough for a pretty serious Consequence. Two of those, or even a good roll, and the foe is down and out of the fight.

Weapon characteristics beyond that are left to the narrative flow of the story. Weapons can notionally be treated as an Aspect, so a spear might have the Aspect “The Foe at Bay,” where you can use it to Attack at a Distance, or even Create an Advantage or Defend by claiming a benefit (and spending the Fate point) of the length of the shaft.

If it Bleeds, We Can Kill It

GURPS, D&D, and Savage Worlds all provide a strong equipment focus: what weapon you use matters. Interestingly, none of the three make it matter that much in terms of the weapon itself. A strong fighter in D&D (say, +4 or +5 to STR) cutting with a one-handed sword (1d8) or a more massive weapon (1d10) is still doing about 50% of their damage from the STR bonus rather than the weapon itself. If you want more damage, you need special feats, more strength, or the usual standby: more attacks per round as a virtue of higher level.

Likewise with GURPS, so long as you’re in “normal guy” territory, the +1 to +4 damage bonus on commonly-found weapons is less important than the fighter’s ST score (each point of extra ST is basically one extra point of swing damage, and a half-point of thrust), and maybe even more importantly, the damage type. Swung cutting weapons like axes (sw+2 cut) combined with ST 17 adds up to 3d+1 cut – a typical die roll of 11-12 points, for injury in the 16-18 range. Swung impaling weapons like picks are 20 HP per blow type weapons at that ST score. If you want more damage, you can use higher skill to target more vulnerable areas, such as the legs (cripple or sever!), vitals (extra injury), neck (extra injury, plus satisfying chance of decapitation), or skull (the brain is a x4 injury multiplier).

Savage Worlds blends Strength with weapon in basically equal measure, and you can do as well or better ensuring you get a Raise for the extra d6 that might explode as picking precisely the right hand weapon.

Night’s Black Agents and Fate take the opposite tack, where by default it’s the character action and narration that matter, with small shifts for weapon use. Using the optional rule in Extras in Fate (Fate Core, p. 277) provides differentiation . . . but in the box on the next page, the authors caution against the implications of providing so much detail, especially with high-shift weaponry.

Night’s Black Agents and Fate are well suited to cinematic realities where Natasha Romanov can go hand-to-hand with her electro-zapper things against an army of Chitauri and all that matters is how cool she looks doing it, or Jason Bourne is equally deadly with a rolled-up newspaper as he is with a .338 Lapua Magnum sniper rifle.

The other three games are, in essence, driven first by the character’s strength score. Weapon is about as useful as strength in D&D and Savage Worlds, while the big boost provided by weapon selection in GURPS is more about the damage type than the adds to STR . . . though that’s less true at low strength than high (at ST 10, which is 1d swing, an axe is a big deal, doing 1d+2 cut instead of a baton’s 1d cr (2.3x more injury).

In all cases, though, the designers have taken pains – mostly to wholly successfully – to put the character’s abilities at center stage, rather than their gear.

Image Stolen from Trovare de Spada

GURPS Day postponed to later in the week for me. But instead, I give you four interesting articles about how to stab people with swords, courtesy of linkage to Trovare de Spada

Dubious Quick Kill – Part One

Dubious Quick Kill – Part Two

Dubious Quick Kill – Part Three

Dubious Quick Kill – Part Four

These make for interesting reads thus far. Check ’em out.

I’m stealing +Christopher R. Rice‘s name for gear and tools entries. ‘Cause it’s awesome, and that’s key.

The Alien Menace game is on hiatus, but one day I’ll get back to it. When that is I do not know, but I swear I should be able to start it up again, and I need to play GURPS again. It was also a really fun campaign idea, even if I did trap myself a bit.

But forget that, let’s talk weapons.

The XM8-Derived Primary weapon

I like weapons, and for the game, I wanted to have a slightly-futuristic feel to it. There seems to be a good argument that the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge is frankly the wrong tool for the job the way that many of the countries want to use it. Fashionably-short barrels which cut enough velocity from the usually 4g projectile that the terminal effects drop off pretty hard, pretty fast.

However, no one can really deny that a short, handy, accurate weapon is a good thing.

So, I decided that my future space commandos would sport a bullpup version of the XM8 rifle. The XM8 has a lot of the things I’d want in a platform: piston driven, modular, etc. I also love bullpup rifles, the look, the feel, and the way you can get a ridiculously short weapon with a long barrel for accuracy and velocity. If you look at the old Bushmaster M17S, you’ll find the overall length of the weapon is 760mm, while the barrel is about 550mm. The variants of the full-sized M16 (A1, A2, A4) are 985-1010mm, but the barrel is 510mm. So 40mm more barrel, but 250mm less length.


I also like the concept of an intermediate cartridge. The 6.8x43mm SPC is my current choice. It’s not quite as long-ranged as (say) the 6.5mm Grendel, which has a very long aspect ratio and a longer cartridge. I’m sure other intermediate rounds (anything between 6-7mm, really) could fit the bill. But I’m familiar with the 6.8 and it also has a nice, even damage rating of 6d, so yay.

Ultimately, though, I wanted an advanced-ish weapon that could be given out. Fortunately, I’m not the only one with such ideas, and a quick Google search for “bullpup XM8” provides much inspiration. I particularly like the one highlighted to the right by PatTheGunartist.

The bog-standard weapon is basically something like a 16-18″ barrel in a bullpup. It probably looks something like the one above. That’s the C version, for carbine. The S version is “short,” which is probably cut down in both stock and barrel, and loses a bit of accuracy and damage in exchange for lighter weight, lower bulk. The SW is a support weapon, which is a bit heavier and uses 100-round drums and a heavier, longer barrel. The DMR is a semi-auto-only Designated Marksman’s Rifle, accurized. It probably has a 24″ barrel or something like that – bullpups can have very long barrels and still be handy. If, for example, you made a rifle as long as the M16A4 but in an M17S frame, the barrel length could be something like 31″ (likely more than you need).

So that’s the set of primary weapons.

The Thor PDW

I completely stole this likely-impractical but ultimately very cool PDW by Pascal Eggert. It’s got a pretty unique C-shaped magazine, but it’s also a very compact weapon. Plus: super-cool looking. I gave it the full benefit of the doubt in stats, but did it also in 6.8×43 SPC for ammo compatibility. You lose a few points of damage for increased ammo capacity and lighter weight, but not that much lighter. It’s a good compliment to a very large weapon, like a grenade launcher or sniper rifle.

Other Guns

The Barrett XM500 and MP7 are both real guns, ported over to my fictional Oliver Industries or whatever – I basically took the entire H&K weapon catalog and said that all of these weapons are really made by Oliver Indistries, my Patron in the game. Maybe there was a merger.

The PDW at 3d(2) is an assault rifle like penetration but in a pistol-sized package. Not sure if any of the characters took one; the bad guys have tended to require bigger guns than this. Same thing with the Kahr concealable pistol, which again is the last-ditch category.

The Weapon Chart

Parting Shot

I wanted to give the guys a bit of hypothetical weaponry that was fun enough to want to add to a character sheet, but no so crazytown that the players would balk at being supplied with weapons that could not be manufactured in the time frame of the campaign.

Thus far, they’ve had fun with it and used the weaponry to good effect. I hope to start up the game again at some point.

Until then, enjoy the hardware.

Thursday is GURPS-Day, and as part of writing a future entry in my Violent Resolution series (it should show up as my fourth content post, I think), I got thinking about armor piercing weapons again when reading about how the Oakeshott Type XVII sword typically had hexagonal cross sections so they could punch through armor better on the thrust, etc.

I’ve seen arguments (and one optional rule appears in print in Low-Tech, p 102) that edged weapons have a hard time penetrating any sort of metal armor. On the other hand, weapons like the pollaxe would mount two out of a hammerhead, spike, or axe blade (plus a nasty spike on top, likely for thrusting into joints?).

Just musing here, and wondering if a way to go would be to apply some sort of conditions to the armor divisor, as we oscillate between (0.5), (1), and (2).

Balanced and Unbalanced

Take two weapons that each weigh 2-3 lbs, but one has the weight distributed through the entire blade, with a nice hunk of steel at the pommel as a counterweight to the blade. Then take a weapon that has most of that mass concentrated at the end. 

Which hits harder? Almost always the tip-heavy weapons have a few more points of damage, but I’m not sure that’s enough.

Let’s say that U is a “more bad” shift in the piercing department.

Damage Type

Hard to imagine that a narrow edge is worse for armor piercing than a blunt crushing head, but I can certainly see where they would both be bad. But let’s take Low-Tech at its word, and say that cutting and crushing are one shift worse, but impaling is one shift better.

Swing vs. Thrust, 1H and 2H
I’m going to leave this one alone, largely because of the already-huge difference in damage between thrust and swung weapons. Likewise, 1H and 2H use of weapons is already controlled for in the statline.


One thing I will do is to allow weapons held in a Defensive Grip to be thrust for a one shift benefit 


Sword: Balanced (0), cutting (-1). -1 shifts. That’s the (0.5) suggested. If we go crazy and use the size and speed range table, it would be (0.7). We’ll do that from now on, actually. That’s when it’s swung. If you thrust it, it’s impaling (+1), and thrust from a defensive grip, it’s (+2). Again, that’d be thrust for (1.5) and (2), respectively.

Axe: U weapon (+1), cutting (-1). If you thrust with an axe in a Defensive Grip, you’d be looking at crushing (-1) but with the extra stability of the grip (+1) for a net of no change. So an axe is better than a sword, as it should be, and basically strikes even-up against armor. Axe is sw+2, so 2d+2 cut.

Warhammer: The military pick, it’s swung (ouch) for impaling damage (+1) and is a U weapon (+1). That makes it a (2) armor divisor. Damage 2d+1 (2) imp.

Pollaxe: swung with the pick end or an axe, you get the same as above. With a hammer, it’d work like a mace, with a +1 for the U stat but -1 for the crushing damage type. So it strikes with no armor divisor. The hammer is 2d+4 cr; the pick is 2d+3 (2); the spearpoint is 1d+2 (2) imp, and an axe-blade is 2d+4 cut.

Spear: Balanced (no change), impaling (+1). So in one hand or in two hands but leveraging the reach of the thing, you get a (1.5) armor divisor using the SSR table. In a close-in defensive grip (-1 yard to Reach), you get a (2). With two hands you’d get 1d+3 (1.5), defensive grip would be 1d+2(2) I think.

Parting Shot

I’m not sure I’d use this myself, but I got into a rules tinkering mood as I was writing into the wee hours last night, and I wanted to explore if there was a systematic way to look at the different ways to punch through armor.

Right now, a thrust is basically half the penetration as a swing. ST 14 is 1d thr and 2d sw, to pick the most obvious example. Thrusts are usually impaling on bladed weapons, which means they can target the vitals, and on a unarmored target, the impaling helps ease the loss of raw force – but not fully, since cut is x1.5 and imp is x2 . . . or again, x3 for vitals.

The addition of armor divisors to many thrusting weapons, and additional help from taking a defensive grip (half-swording) would make thrusting vs. armored opponents a more appealing choice than swinging. Against DR 6, a swung sword with ST 14 would actually be facing DR 9 due to the armor multiplier, and with 2d+1 for a broadsword, you’re going to need a good roll. With a half-sworded thrust, you’re facing DR 3 with 1d+1 imp, which is a real threat.With a regular thrust, it’s DR 4 and 1d+2 imp. Basically the same in this case.

Picks and polearms become plate-crackers. Maybe even too much so, especially in Dungeon Fantasy where the characters’ ST combined with advantages like Weapon Master and magical boosts make DR 10-14 “maybe not enough.”

But with a more realistic rescaled value, for those that do that, those armor divisors are going to be key to getting emergent behavior out of the mechanics.

So, my daughter is in a small school that does very interactive history studies. So last time, they did Ancient Egypt, and made canopic jars, faux jewelry for the pharaohs, etc.

This time, they’re doing Ancient Greece, and since she’s a huge Wonder Woman fan, and a big fan of costumes in general, I thought I’d try my hand at kitting her out with some pseudo-authentic ancient greek armor, but done up in a way that is a bit of a mix between historical pieces, film pieces, and of course, Wonder Woman.

Back at Christmastime this past December the visiting cousins were using some cardboard as shields to play games at grandma’s house. Box top, that sort of thing. My girl went without during the day, so naturally, with our home full of cardboard from Amazon, I decided to make her a shield. But rather than a heater or kite shield, I decided to go different, and whipped up a shoulder-to-shin Trojan-style shield.

The results were good. But as I was thinking about costumes, and with her admonition that proper armor should be “gold,” I thought I could do better.

I tried a few different tests, with gold and bronze, a weathered/oil-rubbed look, and then for fun, I tried spraying the cardboard with adhesive, then sprinkling sand on that. The sand stuck to the glue as it should, and then I painted the entire thing.

The look was nice – roughened and almost stone-like, with a great texture to it. The color was good with the raw bronze, too. Very antiqued, even pitted.

So I found a good looking Wonder Woman crest, in the form of an eagle with an embedded WW in it in a better version than the one I’d printed out a hard-copy of and glued to the face of the shield. My 5yo and I spend a good time tracing out each piece, to make a relief image, then we textured, sprayed, and glued away on the back deck.

The results were good, and bode well for the rest of the armor.I may wind up adding a bronzed, textured rim around the shield as well, as I think that wuld be a great accent to the eagle.

For the rest, first I ordered plenty of white sheet cardboard, 2’x3′, from OfficeMax. That was going to take a few days, though. No matter – I needed to figure out how the heck I was going to make a round helmet out of flat cardboard. The greaves, bracers, and even the torso armor could be faked together with basically flat pieces and some trimming. Some of the historical Greek armor – such as Hoplite armor of some types, seems really quite straight-forward, as it lays quite flat when not worn.

So the helmet is the hard part. I saw a video on how to make a metal Spartan helmet, and came away thinking that I had my work cut out for me, big time.

Still, I thought it should be doable, with a dome, a backpiece for the neck, and a faceplate that affixed simply to the dome, 

So I started to work in paper, making a dome I knew to be flawed, but it was only to test the basic concept. The first attempt proved to me that I could do it, now it was just a matter of doing it “right.”

 I’d have to work the dimensions of the face plate, but the back worked very well for what I had in mind. Felix the stuffed cat was well protected in his paper helm.

So then I did a bunch of work trying to figure out how to make proper “gores,” which is what the sections of a hemisphere are called when you pound them flat, out of an ellipsoid of revolution, which is to say, a head-shape that is not circular.

The second trial turned out OK, but I still wasn’t thrilled. The gore method, calculations aside, requires a lot more sophistication than I really wanted to provide. Sure, it sat well enough on short-stack’s head, but it just wasn’t going to be satisfying.

So I reverted back to empiricism. I used the same basic frame as my first paper mockup, a circlet around the head, and a basic support cross that was basically a one-inch-wide strip from front to back, and a similar strip from ear to ear, that joined on the top. That math was easy.

Then I had my selfless model (pacified with Easter candy) sit for me as I filled in the front quarter piece by piece, electing three pieces to do that. I replicated those three pieces three times, mirrored two of them, and then taped them all back together. The final template is nothing I’d have ever come up with through math, but it goes together well and will fit her perfectly.

I’m fairly sure it’ll scale up, too, you know, in case I ever need to do this for myself. 

The  picture on the lower left shows the left side of the helmet complete, the right is the full template. Even though the cutouts don’t go all the way to the base strip (vertical band on the left), the slices need to, for the required flex.

When I make it out of cardboard, hopefully this coming week, I think the corrugations will run top to bottom on these pictures, so that the natural bend is more forgiving. I’ll probably do the faceplate in two layers, so it butts up against the inner dome, but also overlays it.

I will also, almost certainly, try and replicate that Wonder Woman eagle in relief on the helmet, as well. The eagle’s tail can ride down the nasal, the wings on the forehead, and the crest/eagle head won’t stick up too much. Gold helmet, bronze eagle? Should look pretty sharp.


One interesting thing struck me from the previous post, especially when one considers the often-repeated admonition that just because you have located your miniature figure on a hex-map in a given spot, doesn’t mean that you’re sitting in the middle of that hex at all times. In fact, you’re probably anywhere in it.

Evil Math?

So, what does that imply? It means that if the middle of the hex is “zero,” then you can be anywhere between -0.5 and +0.5 yards. Tack on the length of a kick, and you’re from 0.5 yards to 1.5 yards. Basically, you cover the entirety of your adjacent hex (0.5 to 1.5 from the center of your own). So no problems with Reach 1 for kicks!

But with punches, you have a situation where your normal reach will vary from +0.2 yards treating the arm as 0.7 yards) to 1.2 yards. Hrm. That’s a little short, but the foe’s hex is about 70% covered.

You should be able to punch into his hex. Maybe not reliably, but it should be possible. And it shouldn’t require, necessarily, a Step.

Is it?

The Usual Suspects

There are longer-reach options on the books already. Interestingly, none of them are in the Basic Set, but are covered in Martial Arts.

All-Out Attack (Long) (MA p. 97) : This lets you perform a full-extension jump or lunge. A full extra yard is added to your Reach. There’s a damage penalty for swing attacks. This doesn’t feel quite right.

Committed Attack (MA, p. 99-100): This one’s better, but you have to work for it. There’s no Committed Attack (Long) option, but you can do an attack with two steps, and those steps can be forward and then back. So Committed Attack (Determined), but with two steps (one out, one back) works out to be an attack at full skill that has an extra yard of reach, but at -2 to defend (and you can’t parry with the hand(s) used to attack). This is probably a good fit.

That’s about it for formal options.

Attack Options

What would be nice, though, is to get the benefit of a bit of extra reach, but be able to tack this on to existing strikes. Basically, an enhanced-reach Attack Option, like Telegraphic Attack (MA, p. 113).

Which honestly is probably about what it is – something that is a bit out of your reach, but not requiring more than a bit of a lean.

This little discussion will be wrapped around a human norm. I’m sure it’s possible to consider how a creature with a 5-yard reach might well just get more than a single extra yard out of an All-Out Attack (long), but not today.

Option 1: Trade Reach for Skill

All-Out Attack provides us with an extra yard of reach being the same as +4 to hit, so we’ll go with that. You’re not giving up defenses to get there, though, so it’ll have to be worse than just each 0.25 yards being a -1 penalty to hit.

So let’s double it.

Each 0.25 yards of reach is -2 to hit. Using the RAW reach options, where your arms seem to be treated as 0.5 yards long, you cover from 0 to 1 yards with a punch, and thus need to add 0.5 yards to your reach. That should be -4 to hit, in exchange for a Reach 1 punch.

Using my suggested 0.7-yard reach, you only need -2 to hit, since that takes you from 0.45 yards to 1.45 yards. That nicely mirrors a kick, in a way. -2 to hit in exchange for getting the next yard of reach. It’s -1 damage, but you can’t fall down.

Option 2: Trade Reach for Defenses

Maybe those long attacks are easy to see coming. So it’s somewhat of a Telegraphic Attack. Instead of getting +4 to hit, you can trade that for +0.5 yards of Reach, in exchange for the usual +2 bonus your foe gets to defend, assuming a 0.5-yard punch.

For my rules tweak, Telegraphic Attack (Long Punch) still covers the same Reach 1, but your foe is only at +1 to defend instead of +2.

Parting Shot

I like all three options: Committed Attack, plus the variant Telegraphic Attacks, where you can either trade a lower hit chance or higher defenses for extending your punches to Reach 1.

If you want to be a stickler for “full hex coverage,” then you don’t even need to bother with my distinction of 0.5 vs. 0.7-yard punches. 0.45 to 1.45 yard coverage for the longer arms does not fully cover the foe’s hex, so the Rule of Slavishly Following Breakpoints kicks in, and both cases compress down to the harsher penalties.

Ridiculously Fine Distinctions

If you play games that can benefit from such, looking at reach in terms of yards rather than hexes can make calculation of Reach a bit more nuanced, and puts some rigor behind A Matter of Inches (MA, p. 110). Apply breakpoints ruthlessly, decide on effective lengths for each class of weapon, and then apply the additional reach above.

For example, treat each class of weapon

  • Very Short: 0.25 yards long
  • Short: 0.7 yards long
  • Medium: 1 yard long
  • Long: 1.25 yards long
  • Very Long: 1.5 yards long
  • Extremely long: 2 yards if reach 3

This isn’t the overall length of the weapon, it’s how far it protrudes past the hand closest to the foe. If you know this from a real weapon (a 24″ baton held 16″ past the grip, for example) go ahead and use that – batons are thus about .45 yards.

It’s ridiculously fiddly, of course, and you don’t want to entertain people using inches of height and weapon length to munchkin the game (though they will). But if such things matter, there’s a way to make them work out.

I’ve seen stuff like this before, with men in full harness climbing stairs and doing some basic gymnastics.

It does make me think that the DEX penalties for wearing certain types of armor, especially very, very expensive and tailored plate harness, are overstated.

I wonder if, instead of a maximum DEX bonus for Medium armor and no DEX bonus for Heavy armor, if instead you just took a DEX penalty for wearing it, perhaps equal to the equivalent bonus you’d get from having the minimum STR needed to wear the armor (round up if you must).

So full plate, with its STR 15 requirement, would simply be -3 to DEX, or if you want, negate up to +3 in DEX boost). So your DEX 18 or DEX 20 warrior might still get a boost for being jumpy like a ferret on meth.*

This would, of course, muck about somewhat with Bounded Accuracy. A STR 15, DEX 20 guy with plate and shield would then have AC 22 instead of 20, and with magical armor and/or shields, that could potentially get pretty high.

Not sure I’d mod the game, but I saw the first video and thought (as I often do) that the notion of how limiting properly fitted armor is really could use with more dispelling.

Not that some armors aren’t limiting. But good ones that you pay a fortune for? Probably not.

*Gaming Ballistic does not endorse or condone feeding meth to ferrets.

Apologies for references without links, but I’m behind a work firewall and for some reason they don’t want me surfing the SJG Forums from work. Unreasonable folks, corporate IT. It’s like they want me working or something.

In any case, there’s a weekly thread that got started up over on the GURPS forums called “Tweak of the Week.” It’s a neat brainstorming idea, and the first one on strength can be mined for good stuff.

I was pleased to find that the second one is about Armor as Dice, a concept I embrace (and while I may have published the first Pyramid Article on the topic, it seems to be a case of parallel evolution, since I remember way back when more than one person positing this as a solution to some perceived issues.

On that same thread, +Mark Langsdorf brings up a few cognitive challenges for Armor as Dice, which I can’t help with, and one issue of figuring blow-through, which I can.

So, since you roll damage and stuff after primary armor penetration, would you then have to convert left-over damage back to dice, etc., to figure out how to kill five giants, all in a row?

Dice, Dice Baby

I think the notional solution to this problem is to invoke the dice concept one more time.

Blow-through thresholds should be expressed in dice, based on the HP of the target. Ideally, a 10HP average guy would have about a 2d+1 blowthrough threshold, allowing a .45ACP to not typically overpenetrate, but a 9mm at 2d+2 will. But frankly, that’s more trouble than it’s worth. I’ll get to it later, though, for those that care.

Ultimately, just convert mass-based HP (or just use racial average HP) to dice, and for people, that would look like the chart to the right. For a 5-ton mecha, it’d be about 6dx2. 

So just look at the armor. If you’ve got (say) 6dx3 DR (DR 60-65 or so) on top of a 6dx2 mech by mass, and you hit it with a 6dx6(2) projectile (say, an APFSDSDU shell), you can look at a total interference of 6dx5 (DR plus HP), halved for the (2) AD to 6dx2.5. The downrange threat is thus 6dx6 – 6dx2.5, or 6dx3.5(2). That will penetrate the armor and the HP of the guy behind it, leaving a 6dx0.5(2), or 3d(2) threat, which won’t penetrate the third guy’s armor, but might be a threat to human personnel.

Parting Shot

It’s all about the dice, ’bout the dice.

Kidding aside, Armor as Dice is supposed to make things simpler, not more complex. You deal with dice as long as possible, and only convert to injury at the end.

The assumption inherent is that the injury is variable (and thus rolled), but the penetration is consistent enough – even through flesh and whatnot – to just treat as dice.

It should be simple, playable, and fast – though the issues such as keeping the mystery of what the foe’s stats are still remain, it’s designed to keep the math a bit more simple where it can be kept simple.