How to make heavy armor worth it


Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells


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Remove TAC. That's it. If you were to remove TAC as a mechanic, I think heavy armor would have enough of a trade-off associated with it to be a viable option. But to explain why, I need to start with a brief history lesson on why TAC is a thing.

Way back in war gaming days, your battleship might be described as having 1st class armor, 2nd class armor, 3rd class armor, etc. This is the origin of the term "armor class" and why it was decreasing in AD&D. When porting this concept over to a pseudo-Medieval fantasy setting, Gygax and co. made a list of armor types and ranked them. For example, wearing full plate and carrying a shield was 1st class, wearing full plate without a shield or wearing half plate with one was 2nd class, and wearing half plate without one was 3rd class. Dexterity did affect your AC, but at least in AD&D 1e, it did nothing from 7-14, and changed your AC by 1 point for every point of Dex up or down. (E.g. 15 Dex was -1 AC and 16 Dex was -2) Thus, and this is slightly speculative, going into 3e, the assumption was that the bulk of your AC would come from armor. This will be important in a second.

See, while all this was happening, they were shifting how attack rolls worked. First it was Class x Level x AC tables. Then it was THAC0, which let you generate the entire row for Class x Level with a single value. And eventually, in 3e, they had the idea to simplify attack rolls into the 3.PF BAB+Str/Dex mechanic. But that led to a bit of a problem. Wizards had low BAB so they wouldn't be good with weapons, but that also meant they had a hard time landing spells. Thus, the solution was to create a new type of AC- touch AC- for wizards to target. And- and this is the speculative part- since armor was the main source of AC, wizards could just ignore it.

This, of course, led to a feedback loop. Because armor no longer applied to all of your defenses, it was more useful to invest in Dex and wear lighter armor. But because people weren't wearing armor, wizards had trouble hitting targets again, as long as they didn't rely on natural armor.

This is where UTEML comes in. It and 5e's Proficiency Bonus are both variations on giving you the equivalent of full BAB with weapons you should be good with. Thus, it becomes entirely reasonable to expect casters to be able to hit regular AC, as long as they put a few points in Str/Dex, eliminating the original need for TAC. And at that point, heavy armor would have a purpose again. Given high enough Dex scores, light armor would be superior for not having as many penalties. But heavy armor would have the benefit of immediate gratification, as opposed to needing to wait until relatively high levels for Dex+light to be able to compete.


Not a good solution, in my opinion. Going against full AC instead of the slighly lower TAC is pretty hard for casters. They usually have a lower attack bonus not just because of BAB/Proficiency but also because they lack the ability to max out Str/Dex.

Their proficiency for touch attacks increases more slowly than most martial character's weapon proficiency. Casters also usually prefer ranged touch attacks, which often means the enemy has screening and can't be flanked for an easy -2 AC. This effectively puts a caster at -3 attack compared to a martial melee character. This -3 is a huge penalty not only to hit but also to your crit chance in PF2.

Ranged martials have similar problems, of course, but they attack multiple times per round and don't spend a valuable limited per-day resource that's lost on a miss.

If they remove TAC completely, they need to make up for it somehow. Allowing casters to use their casting stat for spell attack rolls or something like that.


I'm not entirely opposed to switching to the casting stat to determine chance to hit. Yeah, Paizo really wants most stats to have a use, but given that the vast majority of offensive spells are going to be ranged that means that it's just even more reason for casters to use DEX. Even without DEX to-hit for casting spells, DEX is often going to be the second or third highest stat anyways because most casters don't have access to heavy armor. If some casters end up not taking DEX at all... that's OK.

Using that to remove TAC is more for the sake of removing unnecessary complexity, though. You can remove an entire section on the character sheet with that change, that's one less thing to track and one less way for the players or GM to mess up during play. You can cut out so many keywords through the elimination of that mechanic. The buff to heavy armor at that point is almost secondary.

For heavy armor itself, I really do want it to be better so that I have an excuse to wear full plate, but because of how stats now increase in PF2 (at level 5 and every 5 levels after, you increase 4 different stats) there's only two stats that won't increase. DEX is almost never going to be one of those two stats that don't get increased, it just does so much and the ability to get lighter armor to shore up on TAC while literally moving faster is generally going to be more useful than increasing CHA or INT for many characters. Seriously, +5 movement speed is an entire general feat, it's something you'd pick an Elf for despite the malus to CON, it's something that is important for anyone that has to be able to reach a target first before they can deal damage, the movement speed debuff is just nutty.

The result is that most characters at level 10 are going to have at least 14 DEX. There's no ancestry that lets you take a malus to DEX and DEX isn't the worst or second worst stat to improve for most classes. Most characters that are mildly optimized are going to be looking at having a 14 in DEX by level 5, because again it's very hard to not give DEX one of those four free boosts. By level 10 or 15, it simply stops making sense to wear *any* heavy armor, you'll just naturally bump into having 16 DEX at some point without even really trying.

The only exception to this right now is that some classes get additional expertise only with heavy armor, which is a pretty ugly solution.

I think the core of the issue is that generally when a player makes a character concept, they already envision what their outfit looks like. If I want to make a full plate dude, I want to be a full plate dude from 1-20. I don't want to gradually wear less and less armor, I just want my plate armor to get more and more flashy. The current system, however, forces all characters to change out the type of their armor every time they get free boosts because of how DEX caps work and how TAC and ACP just make heavier armor strictly inferior to lighter armor.

In PF1, this wasn't as obvious an issue because you only ever could get a +1 to one stat as you leveled up. Nothing practically forced you to increase your DEX if you weren't a DEX-based character. If you could get your DEX to an acceptable level for the armor you wanted to wear at level 1 and you weren't a DEX-based character, it could be assumed that you weren't going to put your scarce +1's into DEX and that you'd be wearing the same type of armor forever. This made heavier armor useful as a way to "partially dump" DEX and only suffer some of the consequences.

That's no longer true, so the entire armor system needs to be seriously rethought. 5e's system isn't ideal for what PF is trying to do because it encourages you to dump either STR or DEX, with little benefit for leveling both. A possibility for PF is to give each class of armor different benefits based on whether you have DEX or STR, or to just make heavier armor always better except at stealth and to jealously gate armor profiency, remove armor proficiency altogether and rebalance armor around the assumption that any class can wear whatever armor they want.

Anything that would make armor easier to understand and better enable a player to pick what they like aesthetically while still enabling the armor to do what it should be doing thematically would be good. Think of how weapons currently work - because 2d6 no longer exists, you can actually choose a wide variety of weapons and be generally equal-ish in your performance if you're not doing anything special with the weapon. In practice, the difference between a greataxe and a great sword is almost nonexistent. It's only when more focused and specialized builds that take advantage of the quirks of weapons do their differences shine through. I'd love for a similar system to exist in spirit for armor.


I actually like it.

You would need to rework casters' proficiency scaling for performing attacks with magic...not sure how we would call it but that's minor.

Forcing casters to invest in dex so they can touch the enemy, I'm cool with. Most already invest in dex for AC anyways.


Blave wrote:

Not a good solution, in my opinion. Going against full AC instead of the slighly lower TAC is pretty hard for casters. They usually have a lower attack bonus not just because of BAB/Proficiency but also because they lack the ability to max out Str/Dex.

If they remove TAC completely, they need to make up for it somehow. Allowing casters to use their casting stat for spell attack rolls or something like that.

I'm not going to try to make any claims about Str/Dex vs casting stat for said attack rolls. My main point is that by putting everyone on the same +level track with TEML modifiers, Paizo's already removed what was basically the only reason to have a separate, lower version of AC for spells to target. And by removing TAC, you give heavy armor a reason to exist. The difference would be "Instant high AC, but has penalties" vs "You need to invest in your Dex to max out your AC, but you don't have those penalties". But because those penalties don't include "Does not work against some attacks", they become more bearable.


RazarTuk wrote:
My main point is that by putting everyone on the same +level track with TEML modifiers, Paizo's already removed what was basically the only reason to have a separate, lower version of AC for spells to target. And by removing TAC, you give heavy armor a reason to exist. The difference would be "Instant high AC, but has penalties" vs "You need to invest in your Dex to max out your AC, but you don't have those penalties". But because those penalties don't include "Does not work against some attacks", they become more bearable.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I totally agree with you that heavy armor is in a pretty bad shape right now. I'm just not sure that getting rid of TAC altogether is the best solution. It SHOULD be harder to hit an agile monk with a touch than a heavily armored fighter. Unless we suddenly retcon magic being unable to pierce mundane steel, so that full-plate will protect against touch attacks. Then again, paizo already went halfway there with heavy armor having any TAC bonus at all.

I don't really care whether there's TAC in the game or not. But simply getting rid of it without taking a very careful look at what it affects would be a bad choice. I'm pretty sure casters would stop using touch spells because their chance to hit wouldn't be good enough to warrant the use of a spellslot. And even Cantrips become useless again if your chance to hit is at 25% or something like that.

I haven't seen too many Wizards being played besides my own one, but from what I can tell players prefer Ray of Frost to Telekinetic Projectile since the slighly higher damage is not worth going up against additional AC.

If they remove TAC, they need to do something about caster touch accuracy. Badly. This makes your solution much more complicated than "Remove TAC. That's it.". Not impossible, mind you. Just more complicated.


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5e got rid of TAC and its casters hit just fine. It's pretty simple, just use your casting stat to hit instead of DEX. DEX is gonna get pumped anyways so it's not really making casters any less SAD, just limiting the possibilities of STR-based casters. Eliminates a lot of complexity.

I think heavy armor has a lot more going against it than just TAC, though. The movement speed penalties, ACP, certain spells and monsters that explicitly f!@# over those relying on metal armor, the fact that virtually every reasonably optimized character is going to get 16 DEX at some point if they continue playing. I don't see much other than a complete overhaul on the scale of 5e's rework to fix that mess.


The AC numbers are pretty tight so there might just not be much room to distinguish armor types there. They could always have armor provide physical damage resistance instead. That's half of what shields do already.


I feel like the way to make heavy armor attractive is to give heavy armor traits which are positive (like most weapon traits are). Lighter armors can have fewer traits (positive and negative) while the heaviest armors can have lots.


Part of the problem is the penalties for wearing heavy armor is too high. For starters I would change ACP to 0 for light armor, -1 for medium and -2 for heavy armor. Then I would change speed to 0 for light and medium armor and -5 for heavy armor.

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