George’s Saga: Armor

George So it’s an RPG with hand-to-hand combat against vicious Ladybugs and Cosmic Horrors and such-like. It’s a tough world out there; you have to have armor.

Now, in a typical computer RPG (AKA a CRPG) there are different types of damage that armor can protect against: physical damage, natch, but also acid damage, fire damage, and so forth, all of the usual elemental folderol, plus maybe some peculiar additions of my own. (In homage to Doug Piranha, I’m thinking I might have to add rhetorical damage. Ahem.) And in CRPGs, it’s typical that a player character (PC) can wear a number of articles of armor at the same time: body armor, helmet, boots, shield, and so forth. The number of different kinds depends on the RPG, but sometimes it can be quite stunningly high. George’s Saga currently supports the four types listed, though the list might prove to vary by character class. (The Friar’s shield might prove to be remarkably…book-shaped. Ahem.) And then, the effect of the various items of armor is cumulative: all of the armor the PC is wearing combines to block any hit.

So my notion was that each article of armor would block some percentage of each kind of damage, i.e., 33% of the physical damage but only 20% of the acid damage. Similarly, monsters would do damage of one or all types: a Fire Roach’s bite might do 5 to 10 points of physical damage along with 5 points of fire damage. When the Fire Roach bites the George, doing (as it turns out) 9 points of physical damage and 5 points of fire damage, George’s armor blocks 33% of the physical damage, living 6 points, and 20% of the fire damage, living 4 points, and so George takes 10 points total. Conceivably there could be other effects as well. George might be stunned by the damage, or burned by the fire such that he takes damage each turn until the burn heals. (Pokémon! It’s all in Pokémon! What do they teach in these schools?)

This scheme turns out to be somewhat problematic. When George, having gained 10 or 20 levels and having gotten the Truly Amazing Unobtainium Armor with the patented Asbestor Inner Lining that blocks 60% of physical damage and all fire damage, returns to the Fire Roach’s lair…the Fire Roach’s 10 point physical attack is still going to do 4 points of damage. It sure seems like George ought to be able to wade through the Fire Roach’s lair with impunity.

And then, why should armor that protects against 10% of the damage of a Fire Roach’s bite also protect against 10% of the physical damage inflicted by the Inflatable Cosmic Horror Juggernaut of Doom, which can do a whopping 500 points of damage with the lash of a single inflatable tentacle? It doesn’t pass the laugh test.

So how does armor work in GURPS Lite?

First, a piece of armor protects the part of the body it’s on. Helmets protect your head, breastplates your body. If your opponent strikes your head, your helmet matters and your breastplate doesn’t. Second, armor has a damage reduction factor (DR), which is the number of damage points absorbed by the armor. If your breastplate has a DR of 6 (appropriate for plate mail), then it will block six points of damage.

This highlights a significant difference between table top RPGs and CRPGs. In GURPS really amazingly good body armor has a DR of 12 points. Just twelve. There are no epic boss battles where you’ve got to be able to absorb or block thousands of points of damage in this scheme.

Shields are also different than the usual CRPG fair. In CRPGs, shields are usually just another kind of armor, interestingly mostly because if you use a shield you can’t use a two-handed weapon. In GURPS Lite, shields aren’t armor in the sense given above. Instead, shields help you to avoid being hit to begin with. That’s an interesting notion, and one I intend to think about—but that’s a combat detail, while I’ll have to come back to later.

So what should armor look like in George’s Saga?

First, armor effects will be cumulative for all armor worn; monsters simply aren’t going to be targeting particular body parts.

Second, some armor should clearly affect your evasiveness, i.e., whether you get hit at all. Shields are good candidate for providing this as a usual thing.

Third, armor should probably block damage points directly, rather than as a percentage. Thus, a given degree of armor protects you against a certain subset of the monsters in the game, leaves you somewhat vulnerable to others, and hardly protected at all against others.

Fourth, a combination of the effects might be useful: this armor protects against 20 points of physical damage plus 50% of the acid damage (because it blocks 50% of the acid). In short, I can use one scheme for some kinds of damage, plus another for other kinds. I like that.

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