Armor as DR Question


Advice


I'm considering building a campaign world based on the latter part of Victorian Europe (circa 1870-1900 in Earth analog). I am planning on down-playing magic and playing up the Jules Verne type of sci-fi technology. Obviously, the "modern" firearms like revolvers and repeating rifles will exist.

The feel I'm looking for is along the lines of the computer RPG "Arcanum" from 2001, if anyone remembers that one.

I don't want firearm combat to just completely dominate everything, so I was considering using the Armor as DR optional rules. That way, pretty much everyone is hitting using what amounts to "touch AC," and most attacks have to deal with DR. The idea is that firearms won't be such an obviously superior choice to melee weapons, but should still be strong.

Has anyone used the Armor as DR rules from Ultimate Combat? What were your experiences with it? Any other suggestions to try to make this theme work?


I did it back in previous editions (2nd and 3rd). It's a lot of work. A lot.

You will end up modifying every monster in the bestiary and every NPC you make. Painful.

Worse, spells become overpowered. For example, if a level 1 fighter in the RAW attacks an orc using a longsword, he expects to do around 8 HP of damage when he hits. The mage does around 2 HP with a cantrip. Switch to armor as DR and that fighter does around 10 HP but the orc's armor absorbs about 6 so he only does 2 HP that gets through the armor, about the same as the cantrip. But the mage can do it at (short) range and stay out of combat so suddenly it feels superior. That's just one example of hundreds.

HP and Healing gets weird. It's built around an assumption that characters are taking dozens, even hundreds of HP of damage each round. But now their armor avoids most of that. For example, a 10th level barbarian with 120 HP can probably only take 5-6 hits from a CR 10 giant by RAW, but with armor as DR, now he can take twice as many hits. He's also doing half as much damage. This means every fight takes longer.

One solution for that last part (I did it) was to reduce everyone's HP. After using my homebrew armor/DR rules for a while, I switched it so that d4 classes got 1 HP per level, d6 classes got 2, d8 classes got 3, d10 classes got 4, and d12 classes got 5. It helped quite a bit.

Once you accept changing every stat block of every NPC and monster, reducing everything's HP, and toning down damage and healing spells, the system works very well. Lots of fun.

But if you don't do all that, it's fairly problematic.


I appreciate the advice.

I had considered the issue with magic, but I am already considering several changes to make dedicated magical classes less of an obvious power choice, while still allowing them to be worthwhile.

Any other suggestions for a Victorian era style game?

(I'm not too terribly worried about changing stat blocks because I'd only have to handle a few at a time. The vast majority of creatures in the Bestiaries would never see any play time.)


First, unless your players are using gunslingers, guns aren't all that great, even decent guns lose out as they are harder to do damage with.

there's lots of suggestions of how to deal with guns.

Some popular ones are
Guns reduce AC by X (like 4) so they are better than a sword, but not the ignore all that they are now.
Guns ignore half of your armor.
armor just gain some DR for bullets. Like half the AC bonus armor gives is DR against guns that can't be reduced.

Or if guns are quite common and don't misfire, make them go against normal AC like all other weapon. Still good for gunslingers to get dex to damage with a ranged weapon.


Saldiven wrote:
Any other suggestions for a Victorian era style game?

It's never my first solution, but I think it's applicable here: Maybe Pathfinder is not the best game system for what you're trying to do. I'm sure there are a dozen systems out there that model a late 1800's style steampunk game system with less overt magic, decent firearms, reasonable armor, and better theme-appropriate technology and rules in general.

Sometimes, when the project is uniquely demanding, it's best to find a uniquely appropriate tool for the job.

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To me the real tricky part of balancing armor as DR is how damage scales per level. You need a system where a group of CR1/4 goblins doing 1d4 damage can threaten a level 1 character, but armor is still relevant when a CR 10 giant is hitting for 30+ a pop - but you also don't want the level 10 character to be utterly immune to normal weapons.

I honestly don't have a good answer to this dilemma, but it's the major problem with armor as DR that I've noticed. Maybe armor should take off a % of the damage, but that seriously complicates the math and would require a calculator at the table for many players.

Also, non-armor AC bonuses like deflection and dodge generally become pretty worthless. Nobody is going to pay 50k gp to raise their AC from 10 to 15 at the levels when they have 50k gp to spend.

Edit: To play off DM_Blake's suggestion, you might look at Savage Worlds. It's lower magic than pathfinder and supports pulp-style adventuring quite well - there are even steampunk-style published settings for it. It also has a weird science system for "magic like" inventions.

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Yeah - as others have said - armor as DR doesn't really work in Pathfinder.

I like the vibe of it - but a system needs to be designed with armor as DR in mind from the ground up. Slapping it onto Pathfinder leads to LOTS of issues.

As a simple example - pounce PA builds become even more dominant for 3 reasons.

1. Accuracy matters far less, so PA becomes even better.

2. Since everything is easy to hit, getting those iteratives every round becomes even more important.

3. Shields become worthless - as even with shields characters will be hit on nearly every swing. About the only characters who aren't auto-hit past the first couple levels are dex monks.


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Ryric hit on another point I neglected to mention.

When everybody is attacking low Touch-AC values, there is no benefit to having +10 or +20 or +3- to hit. It all just hits. There is also no benefit to having a few points of non-DR AC (from DEX or Dodge) because everything still hits anyways.

My fix for that was that I did not scale attack bonuses. A level 1 fighter with a longsword had a certain bonus to hit (1 for being a fighter and a few for STR) while a level 20 fighter had about the same bonus (1 for being a fighter, a few for STR, plus his magic weapon). The bonus was a little better (higher STR and magic weapon) but not a LOT higher - it certainly didn't have the additional +19 from going up levels.

That made it possible for high level combatants to actually miss some of the time, and made it useful to pump up DEX or Dodge or other non-DR bonuses to AC.

As for Ryric's other point about having scaling damage, I compensated somewhat for that by reducing damages across the board (more stat block changing) as well as allowing some magical bonuses, feats, and stacking to increase that DR as characters gained levels. Of course that meant that a level 10 character could just about guarantee that he was immune to normal weapons but I'm personally OK with that - real world experienced fighters don't win by letting enemies hack them to ribbons, they win by avoiding being injured at all. If the whole idea is to make it more "realistic" then this works just fine for me.

The short of it is that it took me a huge amount of system editing (most of the pages of my Monster Manuals were covered with Post-It notes with my stat block changes, made it easier to reuse them, and so were my spell descriptions in the various books). This evolved over a long time (I didn't come up with it all at once; I made a armor-as-DR change and as we played over the years, I found the things that broke and fixed them). Meanwhile, the game sessions were filled with weirdness and I was constantly changing things on the fly:

Player: I cast Chain Lightning.
Me: Oh, wait, that spell hasn't been edited to the new rules. *time passes while I work it out* Here, try this.
Player: Wow, you nerfed that a lot.
Me: I think it's probably fairly balanced with the rest of the house rules.
Player: I'm not sure. Seems to weak. *more time passes as we discuss it*
Me: Just try it and we'll see how it works together.
Player: OK, here goes...

Later, by email:
Player: Can I ret-con so that I chose Death Spell instead of Chain Lightning?
Me: Sure. I have to consider changes to that spell too, lemme get back to you...

In the end, I had a stack of house rules and owned stock in the Post-It company, but I thought it was worth it. I played with the same players for 15 years and they liked it too. It all worked out, but it was a huge, long-running headache.


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
3. Shields become worthless - as even with shields characters will be hit on nearly every swing. About the only characters who aren't auto-hit past the first couple levels are dex monks.

Shields need to be added to DR too.

I think I gave the wielder a choice - use it for AC or for DR but not both (and added a feat with higher level and prereqs that let it do both).


Every time I've looked at the Armor as DR rules in Ultimate Combat, I always get hung up on how easy it is to bypass armor. Your character just needs a magic weapon (Magic Weapon spell) or to be large sized (enlarge person) to completely bypass all mundane armor. I'm not sure it works even on a fundamental level.

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Squirrel_Dude wrote:
Every time I've looked at the Armor as DR rules in Ultimate Combat, I always get hung up on how easy it is to bypass armor. Your character just needs a magic weapon (Magic Weapon spell) or to be large sized (enlarge person) to completely bypass all mundane armor. I'm not sure it works even on a fundamental level.

Right - and then all CRs need to be adjusted drastically to make up for stuff like that.


I've played a slightly homebrew D20 game (not Pathfinder) where all armor was DR before. It actually felt quite good and natural, but also there wasn't armor doing 9 DR in it. I had the most OP armor in the universe at the end of the game and it was only DR 5. (Though it was light stealth armor with build in weapons and an energy shield.) The bank breaker armor was 8 DR and no Dex. because basically you were wearing a tank. It never came up once.

The chain shirt equivalent was about 3 DR and everything else light 1 DR.


GURPS is good for that type of game. All armour is DR based and at that tech level firearms are balanced versus other weapons by having a slower rate of fire. GURPS Steampunk might be a good sourcebook to use.

If you are stuck using Pathfinder rules then I suggest that you keep armour as AC for all weapons except firearms. For firearms armour acts like DR. Following this strategy you won't have to rewrite any monster stats.


DM_Blake wrote:
Saldiven wrote:
Any other suggestions for a Victorian era style game?

It's never my first solution, but I think it's applicable here: Maybe Pathfinder is not the best game system for what you're trying to do. I'm sure there are a dozen systems out there that model a late 1800's style steampunk game system with less overt magic, decent firearms, reasonable armor, and better theme-appropriate technology and rules in general.

Sometimes, when the project is uniquely demanding, it's best to find a uniquely appropriate tool for the job.

That's definitely something I've wondered, but unfortunately, I can't think of any that are up to snuff. I still have my copy of Space 1889 that I got back around 1988 that I think is an awesome game concept, but the actual mechanics are incredibly simplistic. I'd like to have something with more options and depth, so even suggestions for another system wouldn't be out of the question for me.

@Boomerang: I'll check out that GURPS book. I'm not unfamiliar with GURPS, but it has been 15+ years since I last played it.

Another edit for Boomerang. With GURPS, do you still need to have the basic book in addition to the specific setting/genre books? I'm shopping on Amazon right now....


If you are buying 4th edition the minimum you need is the players handbook and the campaigns (GM's) guide.

The settings books are all optional and generally speaking include little in the way of new rules but heaps in terms of: campaign ideas, NPCs, historic information etc.


Squirrel_Dude wrote:
Every time I've looked at the Armor as DR rules in Ultimate Combat, I always get hung up on how easy it is to bypass armor. Your character just needs a magic weapon (Magic Weapon spell) or to be large sized (enlarge person) to completely bypass all mundane armor. I'm not sure it works even on a fundamental level.

I would suggest house ruling that this kind of DR cannot be bypassed. Otherwise if armor provides no AC and no DR, there is no reason to wear it. The simple fix is to assume that if YOU have DR, the usual bypass rules apply, but if you WEAR external DR, they don't.

Perhaps not exactly realistic, but hey, we're talking about house rules to fix a kludgey and dysfunctional mechanic slapped onto an extremely abstract game system anyway.

Lantern Lodge

Why not just have armor ac added as extra DR?


Boomerang Nebula wrote:

If you are buying 4th edition the minimum you need is the players handbook and the campaigns (GM's) guide.

The settings books are all optional and generally speaking include little in the way of new rules but heaps in terms of: campaign ideas, NPCs, historic information etc.

Thanks.

I'll see if my LGS can order one. I feel I should buy from him since he lets our group play there.


I have a homebrew system (called Draconian) I have been running for 20+ yrs with ADR. Some text from the manual below. Now, before the lawyers and statisticians come out, please note some imbalance is 1) mitigated by other mechanics not listed below, and 2) intended by the designers to foster a high mortality grim-dark low magic setting.

*********************************
Draconian Combat – Defensive

Armor Class
There is no Armor Class (AC) in Draconian. AC is replaced by Evade and Armor as Damage Reduction (ADR). Evade represents the ability to avoid a blow while ADR represents the amount of damage your armor negates. Mechanically, an attack is made and the defender rolls an Evade check. If the Evade is higher than the attack, it misses. If the attack is higher than the Evade roll, it hits and damage it rolled. Resulting damage is reduced by the character’s ADR (in most cases - some damage types are more effective against ADR).


Evade
Evade is the character’s ability to avoid being hit by melee, ranged and touch attacks. Evade = d20 + ½ BAB + DEX + Shield + Misc. An aware target may roll a d20 to make an Evade check. An unaware target or one who is the subject of a touch attack always takes 10 (even if his d20 roll was higher or lower). The attack must equal or exceed Evade to hit. A natural 20 on an attack always counts as a hit unless countered by a natural 20 on an Evade check. All other sources of defense (deflection, dodge, cover, profane, sacred, luck, etc.) apply to Evade except for armor. Targets not wearing manufactured armor apply their Wisdom bonus to Evade.

The Evade action suffers against multiple attackers. Evade goes down by 1 for each attack made against a target in a round and 2 if the attack is from a flank. Evade does not reduce due to Attacks of Opportunity or by more than 1 due to multiple attacks from the same source. Evade also does not reduce when the target has cover or a solid surface on two or more sides (such as when in a corner).

Passive Evade
Passive Evade means you can’t see the blow coming or can’t realistically do anything about it. Passive Evade = d20 + ½ BAB + Misc. A target’s Passive Evade is the same as his Flat Footed AC in Pathfinder. Draconian firearm attacks that would normally target Touch AC target Passive Evade instead. A target that is blind must take 10 on Passive Evade checks. Insight, competence, morale, dodge or any other bonus that suggests an active and/or aware target do not apply to Passive Evade. Passive bonuses such as deflection, luck, profane, sacred, etc do apply.

Combat Maneuver Defense & Bonus
CMD = 10 + BAB + DEX + STR + Dodge + Deflection
CMB = 10 + BAB + STR

DEX replaces STR in the CMB formula if the attacker is using Weapon Finesse or a ranged combat maneuver. If a combat maneuver is being attempted with a weapon, the bonus of the weapon and any feats that add attack bonuses also apply to CMB. Any attack bonus that does not specify a weapon type as melee or ranged also adds to CMB (e.g., Ioun stones, spell affects).

Armor as Damage Reduction (ADR)
Each point of natural armor and/or manufactured armor acts as DR vs piercing, slashing and bludgeoning damage. Armor enhancement bonuses count as ADR. A chainshirt +2, for example, has a DR of 6. ADR offers ½ protection against energy, sonic, and force damage, and no protection against incorporeal or positive/negative energy.

Called Shots
Called shots ignore ADR. A called shot is made as a full round action by subtracting the targets ADR from the attack role. Unarmored targets, including those with only Natural Armor, treat their Wisdom as their ADR for the purpose of determining Called Shot to-hit modifiers. Called shots do not ignore Natural Armor.

**********************

Draconian Combat - Offensive

Criticals & Critical Statuses
Criticals automatically confirm. Any class ability, racial trait or feat that gives bonuses to critical confirmation rolls instead apply as a damage bonus that is multiplied by the critical multiplier of the attack. When a critical is rolled the attacker rolls again to confirm a Critical Status. If the second roll is also a critical the attack applies one of the following random statuses:

Critical Statuses
1. Step Through – Take a free 5’ step.
2. Disarming Strike - Target drops a held item.
3. Forceful Blow - Target shifts 5’ in a chosen direction.
4. Knockdown - Target falls prone.
5. Massive Damage - +50% to weapon damage.
6. Following Strike - Make an immediate attack of opportunity at highest BAB.

The GM determines the results of special circumstances resulting from critical status. Players may ignore any rolled status affect (such as if it is not advantageous).

Shock & Staggering Blows
Shock occurs when damage exceeds a character’s Shock value. Shock value = ½ CON + STR Bonus +1 per HD. The minimum starting Shock value for a small creature is 3, medium is 6, large is 9 and so on. The Toughness feat adds 1 to Shock value (in addition to its regular benefits).

If damage received exceeds Shock, roll a Fort save. DC = 10 + Damage over Shock. On fail, the character has received a Staggering Blow and is staggered for d4 rounds. A staggered creature retains his full Evade and ADR value but may only take a single move action or standard action each round (but not both, nor can he take full-round actions). A staggered creature can still take free, swift, and immediate actions. A target that is shocked again while in a shocked state adds 1 round to his remaining shock duration.

Firearms
Firearms ignore 5 points of Damage Reduction (DR) per +1 enchantment bonus. Additionally, firearm attacks that would target Touch AC in Pathfinder instead target Passive Evade.

Surprise Actions
Surprise is a significant advantage in Draconian. These special rules are in addition to the standard benefits of gaining surprise (such as attacking first and targets being denied their DEX bonus). Some surprise actions grant special advantages if the target is completely unaware of the attacker (see Stealth Advantage).

During a surprise round:
1. The target must take 10 on their Evade check for the duration of the surprise round
2. The attacker rolls twice and takes the highest number on the first attack in a surprise round, and;
3. If the target is unaware, the attacker may choose to use a Stealth Advantage [optional]

Stealth Advantage
Stealth Advantage requires the target to be totally unaware of the attacker. Sniping, sneaking up behind a guard or attacking a sleeping target are examples of a Stealth Advantage. Quick drawing and striking during diplomacy does not create Stealth Advantage because the target, while possibly surprised, has a brief but critical moment of forewarning. Only one Stealth Advantage may be used in a surprise round by an attacker.

Aim
You take time to make a perfect shot. Gain a +1 to hit for the first ranged attack in a surprise round against a single target. Gain an additional +1 for each round spent aiming up to a max of the attacker’s WIS bonus. The Aim action only works with bows, crossbows and firearms. The attacker may do nothing but Aim during this action. Range penalties apply as normal.

Assess Target
Watching your target for a time gives you an important insight. Gain a +1 on a single skill check against a target for each round spent observing up to a max of your INT bonus. The particular skill you use only affects the target (e.g., Stealth, Diplomacy, Bluff). A typical use of Assess Target is to boost Stealth to get into a better position for Stealth Advantage on a later round.

Blindside
You sneak up on a target and deliver a devastating blow to a vital area. Gain a +1 to the critical threat range of a melee attack in a surprise round against a single target up to a max of the attacker’s STR bonus. If the attack crits, does Massive Damage and/or the target receives a Staggering Blow, the target can make no verbal or audible sounds until the beginning of his next turn.

Rushing up on an unaware target risks detection. An opposed Stealth check is required to close to melee range with the target for every 20’ the attacker must travel before he attacks. The attacker gets a +5 circumstance bonus to this check. If he is detected, the target is no longer unaware or surprised and may noise as a free action (if it is capable).

Deadly Throw
You take time to optimize the timing and power of a thrown weapon attack. Gain a +1 to damage for the first thrown weapon attack in a surprise round against a single opponent up to a max of the attacker’s DEX bonus. Any range penalties are reduced by 2. A sling may be used to make a Deadly Throw.

Death from Above
You leap from higher ground (e.g., a cliff or tree) onto an unsuspecting target to deliver a terrible blow. Gain a +1 to the critical threat multiplier of a melee attack in a surprise round against a single target up to a max of the attacker’s STR bonus. The attacker must succeed on a DC 15 Acrobatics check before he makes an attack roll. On failure the target is out of reach and you land in a random square (roll deviation). The attacker may also have to make a separate Acrobatics check to avoid falling damage but if his attack is successful he ignores d6 fall damage (if any).

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