"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sans Armour - the S&S Trope in B/X

Three posts in one morning! After this I might have to go lay down.

One thing that is often seen in the sword & sorcery literature and artwork that is not directly included in B/X - or any other version of D&D - is the loin-skin wearing barbarian or chainmail bikini clad amazon wading into battle.

Now the argument could be made, and quite convincingly I think, that the increase in hit points each level actually does reflect the ability for an unarmoured character to avoid getting hit. But, an idea I have been considering to accommodate for this standard S&S trope in a way in which players might be happier with than just the increase in hit points every level is that a character's Armour Class can improve as they go up in levels as long as they are not wearing any armour.

Unarmoured AC is adjusted by Dexterity Armour Class Adjustment.

The idea behind it is that Fighters can hit an unarmoured opponent Fighter of the same level 50% of the time and the unarmoured AC progresses at the same rate as the improvement in the Fighter's "to hit". So as per the Attack tables on page X26, a level 1-3 Fighter hits AC 8 50% of the time, level 4-6 hits AC 6 50% of the time, level 7-9 hits AC 3 50% of the time...

From this base line assumption all of the other classes are worse and improve slower. I would also strongly consider not allowing this ability for any other classes besides fighters.

The key is that they must be unarmoured - wearing any armour including as shield makes the character use the standard AC system.

Art Used Without Permission


  1. If reinforcing the trope is the aim, maybe instead of un-armoured AC improvement, one could allow characters with no armor to use one of the B/X saving throws (say Turn to Stone?) to reduce the damage of a blow to 1 hit point. This would encourage everyone in battle to "pick on someone their own size", as it were.

  2. Actually, I thought the unarmored ACs were a little too strong, but now I see what you mean with regards to the probabilities to hit.

    Actually, a better/easier method vs. the armored/unarmored problem might be to go with what you've got there, and then drastically lower the effectiveness of armor. That way, the level of the character matters more than the armor they are wearing at any but the lowest levels.

    Another way to do this might be to have AC be entirely the purview of level and shield bonus. Make armor a damage reducer; 1d4 for leather, 1d6 for mail, and 1d8 for plate. To still give a reason for going sans armor, state that one's AC is one, two, or three points worse depending on which type you're wearing.

    Sorta turns the AC mechanic on its head a little, but I think basic D&D is robust enough to handle that without much fuss.

  3. RE: Armour as damage reduction

    I have had that thought and I do like it. If I flesh this out further I will definitely consider that approach.

  4. I've been pondering a similar system myself. Nothing to do with all the Conan stories I've been reading lately though, I'm sure...;)

  5. I have been ridiculed because of the picture I had originally used for this post :)
    I understand it was from some animated movie or show I haven't heard of.
    Here is another Frazetta painting that is above reproach :)

  6. You might want to browse thru Fantasy Craft at your FLGS. They use an AC (Defense) by Class&Level and armor as damage reduction.

  7. Not bad...I was reading somewhere else recently about the BONUS dexterity bonus given to fighters in Supplement 1 of OD&D (which I don't own) and found myself quite intrigued. B/X is of course based almost exclusively on the LBBs, but NOT the supplements.

    Must research further. Where would the other B/X classes fit on your chart.

    [and by the way...mucho praise for not boosting the thief unarmored bonus. You include this and the "thief-as-lightly-armored-fighter" becomes a thing of the past!]

  8. For those willing to risk the taint of 3.5 and the taunts of their OSR buddies, the online SRD d20 (3.5 D&D) has a Defensive Bonus variant rule that I adopted for our Castles & Crusades game, mainly because I wanted to try to create a swashbuckling sort of feel to the game. It has worked surprisingly well despite the initial "what? no plate?"

    Here's the link: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/adventuring/defenseBonus.htm

    Just don't click on the other links, lest your purity be sullied by heresy.

  9. This option in conjuction with ascending hit points would make the characters almost invincible. I could use it if the hit points had fewer increments by level.

  10. Invincible?

    I don't understand. Nearly every Fighter I have seen in B/X wears armour that gives much lower AC's than what is shown in the table. Most 1st level fighters have an AC around 2 or 3.

    Maybe you are confusing that this Unarmoured AC would stack with the protection given by wearing armour - which isn't the case.

  11. Everyone got the Dex AC when I played B/X... Was I doing it wrong? Anyway, if I was, I'm starting from a false premise, but I was thinking of doubling the Fighter's Dex bonus.

    However, I like Badelaire's solution very much. It gives me additional reason to reverse engineer the monster entries to determine things like what armor those Hobgoblins are wearing and what their Dexterity is.

    Could Constitution supplement Badelaire's damage reduction or my Fighters AC?

    I don't see why not. Depends on how untouchable you want your Fighters I guess.

  12. Yeah, in B/X everyone gets the DEX Armour Class Adjustment. I think the post that JB mentioned is over at The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope.

    If I were to actually go with something like this for a sword & sorcery inspired game I don't think I would bother reengineering any of the monster ACs. But I would also remove many of the humanoid type monsters

  13. I really like this idea. Think I'll port it to AD&D (probably just using the fighter to-hit progression from that system as an AC bonus). STOLEN.