Dungeons & Delvers: Possible Armor Revamp

In our Age of Worms campaign, the cleric finally got her mitts on plate armor, made from the skin and scales of a black dragon no less, with two masterwork traits (which she dumped on +1 AC).

This gives her a base Armor Class of 17 without a shield, 19 with her flying tower shield, and I think a temporary 20 using her Protection Domain.

That's pretty damned high (and she's still looking to squeeze out another point if possible), but what's of greater concern to me is her DR, which currently sits at 5.

That might not seem like a lot, but in Dungeons & Delvers damage is primarily based on ability scores, the weapons used, and/or the monster's size (which can affect base damage and ability scores).

For example, if you had a 1st-level human warrior wielding an arming sword, he'd probably deal 1d8+1 or 1d8+2 damage. Depends on his Strength score.

At 5th-level he'd normally gain an additional +1 to hit, probably an extra attack per turn, but unless he's stronger than usual (not unreasonable) his damage per attack is going to be the same.

Now a GM could decide to give an exceptionally skilled warrior or champion a damage bonus. All of the melee classes get them at various points, and while you don't need to build monsters and NPCs like characters I think it makes sense.

Mind you, you wouldn't want to do it for every monster. That just ends up screwing over the lighter armored characters in the short run, as these level-based damage bonuses would quickly eclipse any DR granted by their armor. DR should be seen as a benefit, and you shouldn't be trying to establish any sort of norm using the highest possible DR values.

For big monsters it's not that, heh, big of an issue: they typically deal quite a bit of damage per attack, and have armor piercing 1 or 2, so an ogre or dragon won't be gradually chipping away at a heavily armored PC to the tune of like 1-2 damage per hit. But the players aren't always going to be fighting big monsters (or monsters that ignore DR partially or even entirely), and they shouldn't be expected to.

We also don't want GMs to have to "level up" monsters to keep pace with the party. In other words, if you fight goblins at 5th-level, unless there's a very good "in-game" explanation they should still have standard goblin stats, not be inflated to 5th-level to compensate. That doesn't make any sense, and if the monsters just magically scale up to be on par with the party (or mostly on par), that to a degree defeats the point of having levels in the first place.

Something else to consider, are classes that either can't wear heavier armor, or get benefits when they wear little to no armor. Namely the barbarian and monk. Both of these are clearly intended to be front-line melee warriors, and to compensate for their they gain scaling bonuses to AC and DR. These scale up, bit by bit, every 5 levels, which means that they won't be seeing plate armor values until 20th-level.

While there is no "wealth-by-level" guidelines or assumptions, I'd expect a fighter to get baseline plate armor by 10th-level at the latest. By the time you get to 20th-level, chances are you've commissioned a suit of masterwork plate, possibly enchanted, or at least made out of a special material like mithril or adamantine.

It's because of all that for Red Book we're considering changing how armor scales. For reference here's the current list:

  • Leather DR 1
  • Brigandine: +1 AC; 1 DR
  • Mail shirt +1 AC; 2 DR
  • Lamellar: +2 AC; 2 DR
  • Scale +2 AC; 3 DR
  • Mail: +3 AC; 3 DR
  • Laminar: +3 AC; 4 DR
  • Chain and plate: +4 AC; 4 DR
  • Plate: +5 AC; 5 DR

And here's the new list I'm thinking of going with:

  • Gambeson/leather +1 AC; DR 1
  • Mail shirt +2 AC; DR 1
  • Scale +3 AC; DR 2
  • Mail +4 AC; DR 2
  • Mail and plate +5 AC; DR 3
  • Plate +6 AC; DR 3

First thing to note is that leather armor grants a bonus to AC.

Whether or not we end up incorporating all of the changes, we're definitely changing leather so that it grants +1 AC instead of 1 DR (other armor would remain unchanged). This is because, as it stands, leather will provide no benefit at all if an attacker has any amount of Armor Piercing, something that Melissa can attest happens quite a bit. By shifting it to AC it'll always be useful.

Otherwise the maximum AC goes up by a bit (and scales with each new suit of armor), while the default maximum DR goes down a few points. Overall it's probably a better deal for PCs on the lighter end of the spectrum, but then we've found that classes capable of wearing heavy armor have plenty of WP and VP, and can choose from a variety of talents to grant additional bonuses.

What do you think? Like it the way it was? Am I overthinking things? Got a better armor list and/or progression rate?

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want! We've also released the first big supplement for it, Appendix D, so pick that up if you want more of everything.

If you want more adventures, we just released Escape From the Flesh Catacombs: a bunch of 0-level characters need to escape from the catacomb-lair of a gorgon that was slain, causing everything she's petrified to revert to flesh and rise as undead.

Our latest Dungeon World class, The Ranger, is now available.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).


  1. Thumbs up...I love DR...but, at times (I'm looking at you Green Ronin's Fantasy AGE/ DRAGON AGE) it becomes a time sink because everyone is just barely chipping away.

    1. So far it hasn't really become an issue in actual play, I'm just concerned that it WILL become one. DR makes sense to me, up to a point, so it's more trying to find that sweet spot where it's good to have but a fighter in plate won't go tromping around while other warriors futilely hammer away.

      How does Dragon Age handle it?

  2. Dragon AGE/FANTASY AGE has ARMOR as DR, but damage doesn't scale well. So heavy armor is Awesome because no one can really scratchy you. The thing that compounds this is high health scores...battles seem long and protracted and not tense because you've got a lot of health and, in the case of warriors, you are subtracting 10 from each hit (for plate mail). It is just too inflated.

    1. That's kind of a concern. None of the players have complained about feeling "too safe", yet. I don't think the numbers favor fighters as drastically as DA, but just in case you aren't familiar with Delvers's numbers:

      HP is split into WP and VP. WP recovers slowly (bit by bit after sleeping for the night), while VP recovers quickly (every 30 minutes of resting: it mostly represents very minor injuries and exhaustion).

      Right now plate armor shaves off 5 damage per hit, unless the creature has Armor Piercing (which generally runs from 0-3).

      Fighters start with 4 VP, and gain 2 every level. The concern is that, mostly around mid- to high-level, most Medium-sized combatants won't be able to shave off all the VP (average damage I'd expect to be like 1d8+2 per hit), which means the fighter can rest up and be perfectly fine.

      And even if the monsters DO start carving into WP, it might not be ALL that much. Mind you magical healing isn't intended to be the norm. Clerics don't automatically start with healing stuff. And potions that restore WP do so at a rate of 1 point per round.

      Again, hasn't been an issue YET, but we've only done one mid- to high-level campaign. So I'm hoping someone will be able to point to something and say "yeah, not a big deal" or "yes it's a HUGE problem and you gotta change it".


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