This week we’re taking a bit of a detour to critique some video-game armor, in this case the armor of Baldur’s Gate III. I have been meaning to do a general critique of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition armor system from a historical perspective for a while, and the massive outsized success of BG3 made this seem like the obvious time to do so. In particular, BG3‘s success, I suspect, will make its artwork the ‘standard’ visual depictions of these armors for many DnD players when they imagine their characters. Moreover, a critique of DnD on this point generally is, I think, useful: DnD remains one of the most common entry-points into pre-modern arms and armor for many people, which has traditionally been a challenge educating in this field, because DnD‘s treatment of historical arms and armor is generally quite bad and its mistakes have a habit of becoming popular ‘knowledge.’
Alas, 5e and Baldur’s Gate III, while they offer some improvements (goodbye, ‘banded mail,’ whatever the heck you were!), still generally display a pretty weak grasp of pre-modern armor, from materials to construction, to fit to function and weight.
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In brief, the fifth edition (5e) rules for Dungeons and Dragons divide armor into three categories (light, medium and heavy) and that makes an easy enough division for discussion. In particular I am interested in three questions: do the name and basic rule-book description resemble actual historical armors? Do the statistics and relative weight in turn make sense given the qualities of those actual armors? And finally, do the visual depictions of the armor in Baldur’s Gate III make sense as translations, albeit fantastical ones, of the armor described? I’m particularly interested in BG3‘s visual interpretation because I suspect, given the tremendous popularity of the game, that its interpretation is going to become the standard reference for what armor in DnD looks like for many people.
And since we’re looking at the visuals of the armor in game, that means lots of screenshots, so everyone please welcome our model of the hour, half-elf Oath-of-Vengeance Paladin1 Aimee:
I am mostly going to focus on the base, unenchanted armors; the +1 variants and so on have slightly different designs (indeed, that is a +1 chain mail up there), though in a few cases I am going to comment on the higher variants, particularly when they make the problems of the base variant worse.
Before we dive in, let’s clarify how armor works in 5e. Each kind of armor contributes to a character’s “armor class” (AC), every point of which reduces the chance of being hit by 5% (to a maximum of 95% and a minimum of 5%).2 In 5e, light armors are mechanically distinct in that they allow characters to use their full dexterity bonus3 to armor, whereas medium armor caps this bonus at 2 and heavy armor doesn’t allow it at all. In practice, given the AC values, that means light armor is the optimal choice for a character who cares not at all about stealth at 20 dexterity4 and for a character who can’t afford to be at disadvantage5 on stealth rolls at 18 dexterity.6 While we’re here, plate armor technically beats all medium armors at any dexterity, but is very expensive; at a dexterity of 14 or above, medium armors otherwise match heavy armors.7
In practice the way this works is characters take the heaviest armor their class’ proficiency allows and then, in a point-buy system (and where players are interested in optimal builds), dexterity is tailored to the armor type; light armor classes tend to max it out, medium armor classes cap dexterity at 14 and heavy armor classes will leave it at 10. AC values in 5e (in contrast to earlier systems, like 3.5 which had a lot more ways to build much higher ACs) thus tend to vary within fairly tight ranges.8 Assuming no shields, a light armor rogue might have 15 or 16 AC9 while a medium armor barbarian might have 16 or 17 AC,10 while a heavy armored fighter (wearing splint or plate) might have 17 or 18 AC.11
We start with light armor, which comes in three kinds: Padded, Leather and Studded Leather in order of cost and weight. Studded leather is more expensive, a touch heavier and offers 1 point more AC than the others, while Padded is cheaper but comes with disadvantage on stealth checks in pen & paper. Here is what they look like in Baldur’s Gate III:
And we actually start off pretty strong with padded armor. Padded armor was a real kind of armor and the the rule-book description that this is “quilted layers of cloth and batting” is a decent enough description of how it was structured. Historically, this armor shows up in a lot of cultures and goes by quite a lot of names (gambeson, aketon, padded jack, arming doublet, etc), sometimes worn as a primary armor or worn as foundation layer for other armors.12 At around 3kg or so, armor like this makes a lot of sense in the ‘light’ category too.
As for the visual depiction, I have a few quibbles. Because these are made of fabric, there’s no reason they can’t extend down at least to the knees to offer more protection and for padded armor worn without any other armor layer over them, they generally do. Also – and this is a problem with several of BG3‘s armor designs – there’s no reason this armor needs to split so high up on the body and doing so exposes the lower torso. Instead, an armor like this can extend down to the knees while being a bit loose and closing with an overlap in the center to provide more coverage with no reduction in freedom of movement. Judging from some of the other armor designs, I suspect they split this high up actually to avoid lots of clipping and necessary fabric physics. Finally, the gigantic leather belt the character wears with this armor is unnecessary, though the idea of purely cosmetic, stylistic elements in armor is perfectly reasonable: people decorated armor!
Leather armor creates a lot more problems because the weight-class of this armor doesn’t agree with its rule-book description which doesn’t agree with its appearance. The description says this armor’s chest and shoulder protection is, “made of leather that has been stiffened by being boiled in oil.” That runs into a whole mess of problems; cuir bouilli (‘boiled leather’) is clearly what is intended here, but it is both unclear of cuir bouilli was ever actually boiled and second it seems pretty clear it was not ever boiled in oil. Still, we might assume some kind of hardened leather, but then the problem is that most hardened leather armors are quite a bit too substantial to be in the ‘light armor’ category. Cuir bouilli was a substitute material for iron plates in armor, not for a padded jack; the material is relatively heavy and inflexible.
We’re long overdue to discuss leather in armor here, but briefly the tanned sort of leather in a modern leather jacket isn’t going to accomplish much of anything as armor, while the hardened leathers that will are usually not very light or flexible. However, I can think of one sort of leather armor which would fit quite well into this category: buff leather. Somewhat flexible (though less than your leather jacket), coats of buff leather (“buff coats”) were used as protection underneath armor and on their own in early modern Europe and became something of a signifier of aristocratic status in artwork.
The visual depiction splits all of these differences in unsatisfactory ways. It has a light shine to it that makes me think they were thinking of cuir bouilli, but the light-tan color is not generally a color one sees cuir bouilli in (though it isn’t an impossible color by any means), but the thickness an structure isn’t consistent with cuir bouilli, which had to be arranged in much the same way as metal plates: either as smaller scales or lamellae or as fitted plates like in a plate harness. Meanwhile, they don’t have the very distinctive yellow-orange color of buff-leather, or its normal shaping. Personally, I’d love to see the ‘light’ leather armor of DnD traded out for buff leather, with heavier cuir bouilli armor showing up in higher categories.
All of which now brings us to studded leather, a standby of medieval fantasy, but unfortunately not a thing to actually existed. The added protective value of a few rivets run through leather is basically nil. Instead, ‘studded leather’ seems to be based on a misinterpretation of medieval artwork, what I am going to refer to broadly as the ‘English Effigy Problem.’ What I mean by this is that modern folks (often Victorian moderns) looking at statues (famously, English coffin effigies, but also manuscript illustrations) without any experience of the objects being depicted tend to badly misunderstand what it is they are looking at.
In this case, there was a kind of armor in the Middle Ages which, from the outside, resembled a leather or textile coat with rivets through it: the brigandine (and also some coats of plates). But those rivets weren’t the defensive element, they were securing many small overlaping metal plates and those were the defensive element. A brigandine was not by any means light; it was a viable substitute (and with the coat of plates, a chronological forerunner) for a full breastplate. Looking at the BG3 armor, even this many years removed from the original mistake of having ‘studded leather’ in DnD, it is still immediately clear to me that this is a misinterpretation of a brigandine. Studded armor wasn’t a thing.
On to medium armor.
The first armor in the medium category is hide armor and in the rules it is explicitly an armor of “folk who lack access to the tools and materials needed to create better armor” consisting of “thick furs and pelts.” And while there are certainly armors made of rawhide (a kind of hide product), ‘hide armor’ of this sort was not a historical armor. This sort of thing seems to me to derive from Hollywood depictions of the armor of Mongols and other Steppe peoples, but they frankly had access to much better armor options. The visual depiction in BG3 further seems to confirm to me that this is intended to be armor just made of some thick pelts and furs thrown together, rather than something intentional.
That said, hide occupies a position where a hardened leather armor, made of cuir bouilli or rawhide would make a lot of sense! These hardened kinds of leather, thick, stiff and relatively heavy, were used as armor materials. This sort of armor tends not to survive, but we know, for instance, that lamellar armor – a form of armor made of small overlaping metal or hardened leather plates – was often made with hardened leather when metal could not be afforded. An armor of hardened leather scales or lamellar would thus make a lot of sense as the cheapest form of medium armor.
Next up is the ‘chain shirt.’ This is a real historical armor, though I would call it a ‘mail byrnie’ rather than a ‘chain shirt.’ ‘Chainmail’ is a modern term that historians generally won’t use; mail isn’t made of chains in any case but of linked armor rings. Where I think this goes a bit wrong is in how DnD and BG3 understand a mail shirt to be worn. In particular, the rulebook description says, “a chain shirt is worn between layers of clothing or leather,” which muffle its noise. Now mail was always worn over some kind of foundation garment (like an arming jack), but it was very often worn without any kind of cover over top and certainly not something heavy enough to muffle the sound of the links as one moved.
That problem is intensified with the BG3 artwork. The problem here, I assume, is the desire for a level of ‘visual interest’ in the armor, but mail generally looks pretty simple.13 So instead the mail is actually set into a leather backing, which ties up in the center with a wide leather fringe. Now there’s no reason you couldn’t sew mail into a backing like this, but apart from the shoulder-guards of very early mail, it seems to have almost never been done. The mail shirt was a separate garment, put on after the arming jack. Mail ‘voiders’ (bits of mail to over gaps in another kind of armor) might attack to an arming doublet, but the chain shirt isn’t a set of voiders; you’re not wearing anything over it. So while this is a real armor, it doesn’t really look the way it is shown in game, though the depiction is not entirely impossible, so long as we assume that the mail continues beneath that textile (otherwise there are huge gaps in the armor over vital areas).
Next up is scale mail. So I should note that the addition of ‘mail’ to the name of armors to make ‘plate mail’ or ‘scale mail’ is wrong; there is scale armor, plate armor and mail armor (armor of interlocking rings). But the basic concept in the rulebook is a real kind of armor, consisting of a backing – the rules naturally specify leather but textile could be used – with metal or hardened leather scales attached. Scale armor is distinct from brigandine or lamellar in that the scales are attached to the backing at the top, rather than to each other at multiple points; that makes it easier to get a weapon in underneath the scales of scale armor, making it a simpler but more vulnerable form of armor compared to brigandine or lamellar. And this makes a lot of sense as a ‘medium’ armor, though I should note that a coat of scales could weight every bit as much as a breastplate or a brigandine; there’s no less metal there, it’s just not as solidly attached.
But the visual depiction here is an absolute mess; I’m not even fully sure I know what I am looking at. It seems like there is a base layer of scales, but then leather straps that go over those scales and then also leather (scales?) running down the center (which is exactly where you would want your more durable metal scales!). This doesn’t look like any scale armor I know. It’s odd: game designers tend to overuse scale armor because it is more visually interesting than mail, but apparently here even that wasn’t enough and so we end up with a wildly overworked scale armor design. Scale armor is conceptually simple: you have a backing material and then you layer scales over it. And then you are done! Adding more layers is going to prevent the scales from moving, which will surrender the one major advantage of scale armor which is that it is flexible!
Next up is the ‘breastplate,’ and once again while this is a real armor, the artists have somehow managed to get it quite wrong. The rulebook description also, frankly, bothers me, describing this as, “a fitted metal chest piece worn with supple leather.” At this point, our leather is getting properly out of hand. You could wear a breastplate over something like a buff coat, but it would have been far more common in the sort of societies we are talking about to wear it over a padded textile arming doublet. There does seem to be a trend here where the DnD rules feel like every bit of flexible material has to be leather because leather is strong and badass. But there’s a reason no one wears a leather T-shirt: it’s uncomfortable. You don’t usually want a lot of leather, no matter how supple, right up against your skin. You want cloth. So base layers tend to be textiles.
And then the artwork. The BG3 artwork for the breastplate is a mess. The breastplate is a tiny plate, connected to a tinier backplate by straps, with a whole second ‘belly guard’ below it. This is not what a breastplate looks like. This is what it looks like:
And that basic form is not new, here is a breastplate from 600 BC:
That’s how a breastplate is structured: it extends from the shoulders to the natural waist (not the beltline but also not halfway up the ribcage!) with a front- and back-plate that connect directly together, providing good protection for the sides of the body and usually featuring a downward projection at the base which flares out to allow movement while protecting, to at least some degree, the pelvis (if this part is very substantial it is called a ‘fauld’). There’s no reason to have a second belly-guard when that can just be an incorporated part of the main breastplate. Likewise, there’s no reason not to have the cuirass wrap around and join at the sides, thus removing the vulnerability there.
Finally, the garments underneath the armor are a mess. The character wears a quilted green garment that I assume is meant to be a padded jack (good) but over a second quilted ‘leather-brown’ garment which is…I don’t know? Is it another padded garment, but faced in leather? If so, that wasn’t the normal way to make them. Also it covers the legs; these sorts of things generally did not extend over the legs. The whole thing gives the real impression that the artists understand that medieval armor sometimes involved quilted garments, but that they haven’t yet sussed out when or why, so they’ve just put quilting patterns on everything. Meanwhile the outfit has knee-guards (poleyns) but no greaves or any other metal protection for the legs or arms, which isn’t an impossible configuration, but it is an odd one.
Breastplates should not be this hard; the Pillars of Eternity games absolutely nailed this design already.
On to the half-plate. I have actually found folks surprised when I tell them that of all of the armors in the DnD system, half-plate is not one of the ones simply invented out of whole cloth. Half-plate was a real thing, although we probably ought to say ‘half-armor’! This was a term used to describe late medieval ‘munition’ armor, also called ‘Almain rivets.’ The rule-book description isn’t way out in left field, but also isn’t a particularly good fit: “Half plate consists of shaped metal plates that cover most of the wearer’s body. It does not include leg protection beyond simple greaves that are attached with leather straps.”
In practice, half-armor consisted generally of a breastplate with a backplate, generally with long tassets (segmented, articulated metal plates covering the upper thigh), a metal collar and spaulders covering the shoulders and upper arms, providing very strong protection for only the most important parts of the body and avoiding all of the really hard to armor areas. That gave this armor the advantage of being cheap, modular and one-size-fits-most, and it tended to be an armor stockpiled for issue to regular soldiers in the very late medieval and early modern period.
But the BG3 artwork treatment here is baffling. The historical original is actually a visually interesting armor, especially once you put it over an arming doublet and add some details! But the BG3 artwork has instead gone with an armor, again, where I have a hard time figuring out exactly what is going on. Once again, the breastplate is inexplicably literal in covering only the upper third or so of the torso instead of extending down to the natural waist and below it we have what looks to be three layers of alternating leather-textile-and-leather? And then we have what looks to be at least four belts.
All in all then, medium armor from a rulebook perspective is alright, but the visual choices for BG3 are almost all quite a bit off; given the tremendous success of BG3, I suspect this will exert a significant ‘pull’ in how players imagine and understand their medium armor, which may counteract the somewhat better rulebook descriptions. On to heavy armor.
The first of these is ring mail and this is an easy one: ring mail is not a thing. The rules say, “This armor is leather armor with heavy rings sewn into it” and that’s just not an armor anyone ever seems to have used at any point, historically. ‘Ring armor‘ like this was conjectured armor during the Victorian period, composed mostly of misunderstandings of artwork. Visually, the structure of the armor in BG3 reminds me quite a lot of a brigandine, in terms of the length of the coat and its front-joining, leading one to wonder if this is another example of the ‘English Effigy Problem.’
The design for ‘chain mail’ is much better. The rule-book description even specifies that mail gets, “layer of quilted fabric worn underneath the mail” rather than leather! And the core of what we see in the game at least has a decent resemblance to a mail hauberk. And, for visual interest, they’ve added a surcoat, which is good, mail was often worn with surcoats as decoration and for temperature control, so a decorated surcoat is a great addition. There are a few problems here, though. The first is in the ‘cut’ of the mail, which includes split sides and a large front opening; for mail this long, some split is necessary, but it was usually just a front-and-back split at the base of the mail and it didn’t extend nearly this high. More frustrating are those hardened leather pauldrons and collar; that’s not an impossible configuration, but it wasn’t a particularly common one either and surely if one was going to add reinforcement, they’d reinforce the chest first?
Looking at the +1 version clarifies this problem as the quintessential ‘English Effigy Problem.’ We’ve now added metal pauldrons and a high collar that is almost a bevor protecting the neck, while keeping the rest of the armor simply in mail with a surcoat. I’ve often supposed that the problem here is a misinterpretation of some medieval sculpture (again, particularly certain English funeral effigies depicting figures in armor) where the figure appears to be wearing a lot of leg, arm and neck protection, but just what might be interpreted as a surcoat over mail over the body. But what that figure is actually wearing is either a coat of plates or a plate cuirass covered with textile (such as a jupon).
I also find I have an issue with placing mail so far up the weight scale as to put it in the ‘heavy’ class. Certainly, a full maul harness (which might have included with the hauberk full sleeves, hand protection, and leg protection (chausses)) could be fairly heavy and was in its day the heaviest armor available in Europe. But in a setting where full plate protection is an option, a simple mail coat like this was no longer ‘heavy’ protection. And the rule-book weight of 55lbs is wildly off; a heavy mail coat of this sort might weigh 30lbs, tops. Most are closer to 20-25lbs. The rulebook cost is also comically wrong, with the ‘chain mail’ costing 75 ‘gold pieces’ to half-plate’s 750 (remember, half-plate was a cheap armor for cheap soldiers) and the breastplate’s 400. In fact, a mail hauberk would have been much more expensive than either. In particular it’s strange to put the mail hauberk in the same weight-class as plate armor, which historically often incorporated a complete mail hauberk as part of its foundation.
After this comes splint armor and the historical interpretation problem is clear. Splint armor, which is, as the rule-book says, “narrow vertical strips of metal riveted to a backing” of some flexible material, was never a complete armor, but a form of protection for the arms and the legs, with the body being protected generally in some other way (like mail, or a coat of plates). But the phrase ‘splinted mail’ is coined by Victorians looking at armors which incorporate splint elements into the arm and leg defense, leading to the assumption that this was a complete and distinct kind of armor, rather than just a specific way to make rerebraces (upper-arm guards), vambraces (lower arm guards) and greaves or cuisses (leg guards).
The in-game visual depiction is also a mess, with a tanned-leather base with a mix of lamellar that doesn’t overlap vertically (which defeats much of the purpose of lamellar) and segmented plates which also don’t appear to articulate; the whole thing ends up looking like someone threw three or four different armors in a blender and took what came out, but I can’t fault the artists too much because they’re being asked to imagine how a design principle (‘splint’) could be applied to parts of the body it was never applied to. Nevertheless, I can’t help but notice that the BG3 ‘splint armor’ includes no splints on the arms or the legs (or any other part of the body).
In practice, I think this would have been an excellent spot to simply have a lamellar armor with metal lamellae or alternately a Roman-style segmented plate armor. Another option here could have been some kind of reinforced mail armor, as we do see societies where instead of wearing plates over mail, metal plates are integrated into mail.
Which at last brings us to the end with plate armor. The basic rule-book description is fine, “shaped, interlocking metal plates” covering the whole body with “thick layers of padding underneath.” One crucial thing missing here however is mail; plate armor was generally worth with either a mail shirt between the padding and the plate or with mail ‘voiders’ – smaller pieces of mail made specifically to cover the gaps in the plate protection around joints.
Still, this is a real kind of armor and was the heaviest and most complete sort of protection we might expect in a late medieval society. The BG3 artwork here is colorful and detailed and works hard to sell the, “This is really expensive!” part of concept, but leaves some things to be desired, at least with the base version. The aversion of the artists to fauld-and-tassets means that there are gaps between the leg harness and the breastplate (half-obscured by an oversized cloth skirt, another feature – belted cloth skirts – the designers love which were not, in fact, common in these sorts of armor) and the leg harness as a result runs very high; it looks like bringing the leg fully up might be pretty uncomfortable. Meanwhile, there are visible gaps between the spaulder/rerebrace (upper armor protection), which is normally where a pauldron would go (or mail voiders!). The breastplate also has a multi-piece riveted design which we might say is for artistic flourish, but actual breastplates often avoid that sort of thing, preferring instead a globular shape to better let blows glance off. Finally, the cuirass has the same problem as the others, where the breast and back-plates don’t fit together well, leaving a visible gap where none is needed in a properly made armor.
Closing the Gap
So how might I ‘fix’ this system? I think its worth thinking in two ways: what might we do while keeping the basic mechanical structure (light/medium/heavy and the AC system) in place, and what might we do if we weren’t confined to that system.
For the former, first I think we can safely remove the armors that are made up: studded leather, hide, ring mail and splint can all go.14 We replace ‘leather armor’ with ‘buff coat,’ at roughly the same position in the set. We can then add in some of the transitional armors oddly left out: brigandine and lamellar, to fill in the gaps created by getting rid of the made-up armors. Next, some re-ordering, with our conceptual division being less about pure weight and more a function of restriction of movement and fatigue. Our basic mail byrnie (replacing the ‘chain shirt’) moves to light armor (back where it was in 3.5, I might note), while a mail hauberk becomes the standard medium armor (again, back to 3.5). Meanwhile our heavy armors are reserved for fully rigid armors covering most of the body. That gives us, in roughly ascending order of AC:
- Light Armors
- Mail Byrnie (‘Chain shirt’)
- Medium Armors
- Mail Hauberk (‘Chain mail’)
- Scale Armor
- Hardened Leather Lamellar
- Brigandine/Metal Lamellar
- Heavy Armor
- Breastplate (over mail)
- Half Plate
- Full Plate
Now what if we could completely change the mechanics?
The biggest mechanical change I would make is this: armor in a real fight doesn’t generally negate damage the way armor class functions in DnD. A strike which hits armor rings or a breastplate isn’t cancelled out, but merely converted into blunt-force trauma. Consequently, I’d want different kinds of armor to bring damage reduction rather than a set chance to negate incoming attacks. Armor class is a huge part of DnD’s balance, so it would be hard to remove without overhauling everything, but I might also give escalating damage reduction (something like DR/magic in ye olde 3.5 rules). To go even further I might add a rule that all hits which beat the AC rating always do at least one damage.
What would I do if I could rip out the whole system and start over? Well, I run my own games with a heavily homebrewed version of the d10 (‘Storyteller‘) system, in which armor purely serves as damage reduction. Each character can have one type of armor in each of three layers, which approximates the layering of medieval armors in Europe and the Middle East: a padded lower layer, an intermediate mail layer and then a rigid armor surface layer. The ‘soak’ (=damage reduction) values of each layer are added together to give the character a single, fairly simple to manage armor value. Since the Storyteller system splits damage types into bashing, lethal and aggravated, that gets expressed as a soak value against each damage type, with armor downgrading each level of damage into the next lowest (aggravated becomes lethal, lethal becomes bashing, bashing becomes no damage at all). So a fully plate-armored knight might have a 1B/4L rating, meaning the first four points of lethal damage in an attack are instead treated as bashing and the first bashing point is negated.15
The mechanical result is that players facing an armored opponent either need to score a big enough hit to overwhelm the armor or find a way to attack that avoids it.16 That in turn creates a balance space for weapons designed to specialize against armor, something that DnD largely lacks, but which was a significant concern historically.
- For some reason, when I planned this, a part of my brain thought, “oh, I’ll need to pick a class with all three armor proficiencies. In retrospect I did not need to do this just to take screenshots, but, oh well, paladins are neat anyway. Also the added base moment speed half-wood-elves get is really handy with a melee-focused class like paladin.
- For those familiar with the game this may seem an odd way to sum this up, but this is the statistical impact of the dice system.
- (Dex-10)/2, rounded down
- Where studded leather will result in 17 AC, a statistical tie with the heavier, more expensive half-plate.
- Forced to roll two dice and take the lower result
- Where studded leather statistically ties a breastplate at 16 AC, while being lighter and cheaper.
- Half-plate at 14 dex or higher gives 17 AC, equal to splint and greater than chain mail or ring mail. All heavy armors give disadvantage to stealth, so that’s not a factor.
- Most non-armor classes have access to something like Mage Armor, which gives them a base AC very similar to armor-wearing classes. Mage Armor sets a caster’s armor at 13+Dex Bonus, making it equivalent to a +1 Studded Armor, so long as the caster doesn’t wear any armor.
- Studded leather with 16 or 18 dexterity
- 14 or 12 dexterity with either a breastplate or half plate producing a range of 15 to 17, depending on build
- Though at low levels characters might not be able to afford optimal armors. Assuming cost-constrained characters, we might expect light armor at 16 AC, medium armor at 16 AC and heavy armor at…16 AC (Studded, Scale and Chain mail respectively). And the wizard with Mage Armor might have around 15AC (assuming 14 dexterity). It really does vary within a relatively narrow range, especially when you remember that 1AC is just a 5% chance to hit; significant but not enormous.
- Structurally, I should note that arming doublets worn under armor might be differently constructed (in terms of thickness, facing materials, etc.) than padded jacks intended as a primary armor.
- Though decorations to mail armor, like incorporating bronze or gilded rings to add color in patterns or as fringes, were common enough.
- Splinted arm and leg guards could remain as components of other primary armors.
- The base storyteller system allows character to further negate levels of bashing damage with a stamina roll, so a knight with a lot of stamina has a good chance to negating the rest of those bashing damage levels.
- The base storyteller system includes rules for taking a higher difficulty on the attack role to target specific body parts. I ended up codifying these by giving certain weapons higher difficult ‘precision’ attacks which lessen or ignore armor, making weapons historically designed to defeat armored opponents dedicated ‘can openers.’ Alternately, I set the base damage on some blunt trauma weapons high, making them good choices since they bypass the lethal damage protection.