The Immortal Rants of Sean K. Reynolds – “Armor should give damage reduction instead of armor class!”

Maximilian Gothic armour

Image via Wikipedia

Editorial0 has contributed a set of article-replies to some of Sean K. Reynolds rants about third edition design decisions. Those decisions have heavily influenced a lot of game designs since, so I’ll be putting those up – along with some additional comments.

To avoid excessive reprinting, you can find the general introduction to this series in the first article, HERE.

This particular rant is entitled “Armor should give damage reduction instead of armor class!” – and explains why Mr Reynolds feels that trying to model armor as damage reduction is disruptive of the game system, excessively complicated, and nigh-impossible to introduce.

Fundamentally, this has the same problem as some of his other rants: an alternative doesn’t have to model reality perfectly to do it better – and the difference in complexity is a trade-off, and not a race to perfection. There’s no magic reason why a particular group can’t or shouldn’t prefer one over the other – which is why, in Eclipse, there are ways to do either.

Sean’s most basic objection to armor as damage reduction-granting armor is that it slows play. Unfortunately, the amount of time needed to subtract some damage is vastly less than the time taken deciding what to do – which everyone does in every combat round anyway. It doesn’t have to be horribly complicated either; Armor as Damage Reduction is as complicated as you want it to be, and no more.

Moreover, the fact that numerous groups promptly house-ruled it in proves that this particular argument is  wrong in the easiest and most vivid fashion possible – by simply going out and doing it.

And of course, Damage Reduction has a great many advantages, both for players and for the game. Reynolds assumes all damage takes place in combat, from someone trying to hit you. Thus he abstracts it out to mathematical equivalent in terms of Armor Class. But damage isn’t always a combat function, and some Damage Reduction makes sense (why shouldn’t the Fighter’s plate armor protect him from incidental scrapes?) out of combat as well. Sure, his math is good, but his assumptions are not. The game already contains a lot of abstraction, and at some point people get annoyed and push back, demanding a more complete simulation.

For a quick set of rules for Armor as Damage Reduction, you can look at the next article, HERE.


4 Responses

  1. It seems to me that if Dex bonus adds to armour class because it is ostensibly “evading” an attack, and physical armour is not about evading an attack but reducing its effectivenes, then DR is about the perfect mechanism to model armour. SKR almost gets this but then backs away from it and the changes it implies.
    I see AC as making an attack miss, or otherwise be completely ineffective. Sure armour performs this function but not by evasion, but by DR. So DR:8 for plate armour (Fantasycraft) is pretty high but the ability to evade whilst wearing it is pretty damned low.
    As stated elsewhere on this site after about L-6 characters transcend what is believably human anyway.
    I think armour as DR works a bit more in line with how I perceive armour to function in our world’s phsyics. In d20 it can work well-enough either way. The question I feel is more important is which method of modelling armour works to allow your suspension of disbelief and continued enjoyment of the game? If you know which one then use it. :-)

  2. Sorry about double-post. :-{

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