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Armor for All Classes in OD&D

One thing that really seems to sit wrong with some players in older versions of D&D are the armor and weapons limitations on classes. Some players really want their magic-users to wield swords and wear armor. While I've never felt this way, I did come up with a system back in the late 1970s that allows any character class to wear any type of armor while doing a fair job of maintaining the "balance" of each class.

Base Armor Class: Each class has a base armor class that is in effect anytime the character is conscious and not tied up to the point they can't move at all. This base armor class takes into account the character's combat training which allows him to dodge and parry blows.

Fighting Man -- Base AC of 5
Paladin/Ranger/Monk -- Base AC of 6
Cleric/Druid/Bard -- Base AC of 7
Thief/Assassin -- Base AC of 8
Magic-User/Illusionist -- Base AC of 9

Any character who is unconscious or heavily restrained has a Base AC of 9. Other classes should be slotted in on the level of the character that makes the most sense. ONLY the fighting man should get a Base AC of 5, however. Other fighter classes/subclasses should come in on the Paladin/Ranger/Monk line at best. The Monk is a special case, the AC by levels given in the monk class chart simply need to be replaced, starting with AC 6 instead of AC 9.

Armor: Armor adds to the character's Base AC when worn. Armor may have side effects for some classes. (Remember that a plus to AC in older versions of D&D reduced one's AC.)

Leather Armor: +1 to AC. Magic-Users and Illusionists cannot cast their highest level of spells known while wearing Leather Armor.

Chainmail Armor: +2 to AC. Magic-Users and Illusionists cannot cast their two highest levels of spells known while wearing Chainmail. Thief abilities are halved while wearing Chainmail.

Plate Armor: +3 to AC. Magic-Users and Illusionists cannot cast their three highest levels of spells known while wearing Plate Armor. Thief abilities are unusable while wearing Plate Armor.

Shield: +1 to AC, only when character is concious and mobile. Magic-Users and Illusionists cannot cast their highest level of spells known using a shield -- if they are using a shield and armor tthe shield adds 1 to the levels of spells they cannot use.

Examples: An unarmored OD&D fighting man is AC 5. The same fighting man in plate armor and using a shield would be AC 1.

An unarmored 10th level (OD&D) wizard would be AC 9 and could spells normally. If that tenth level wizard wears chainmail, she would be AC 7 but would not be able to cast any of her 4th or 5th level spells. A 1st through 4th level magic user wearing chainmail would not be able to cast any spells at all.

This system was playtested with OD&D and AD&D 1e rules (reduce base AC by 1 as the worst AC in AD&D is 10 instead of 9) in the late 1970s and worked well. I did not use this much back then and probably would not use it today, but a number of groups in South Texas were using these rules back in the day as they were published in a local gaming club newsletter.

[Don't forget that rare Traveller fanzines (Working Passage & Imperium Staple) and the RPGA limited edition AD&D Modules R1 (To the Aid of Falx) and R2 (Investigation of Hydell) are available (for Cancer Fund Donors) -- addition to the usual PDF downloads every donor has access to. There is still plenty of time to make a donation and get in on the giveaway which ends mid-October 2009. Thanks much to those who have already donated.]

Rod said...
October 7, 2009 at 6:01 PM  

Great system -- I love finding out how many simple, elegant solutions to long-standing RPG bugbears were already around in the very first years of the hobby.

When you say south Texas, do you mean around San Antonio, or more like Corpus Christi (my hometown)? Not that I would have been playing D&D then (I'm one of the 1981 Basic set crowd), but I can't help being curious.

Benoist said...
October 7, 2009 at 6:50 PM  

Ooohh... That is a very nice house rule. Very simple, and it certainly seems efficient. Thanks for sharing, Randall!

Randall said...
October 7, 2009 at 6:51 PM  

Rod: I spend most of my life in the San Antonio area (say from 1963-ish to 2003-ish).

While there were a lot of simple and at least somewhat elegant solutions to what some people say as problems in RPGs like D&D back then, there were a lot of solutions in search of a problem and solutions that were far more complex than they need to be. I know as I wrote my share of both. LOL.

The Rusty Battle Axe said...
October 7, 2009 at 11:13 PM  

Very cool. I stumbled across something along the same lines when the "Defense Bonus" rule popped up in my online search from, of all places, the 3.5 d20 SRD website. The "Defense Bonus" is an optional rule that is at least conceptual similar to what you have done, but your approach is much sweeter (and much older).

Benoist said...
October 8, 2009 at 11:57 AM  

Hope you don't mind: I just posted about this houserule on the K&K Alehouse, with all proper credits and link to this post. See this thread if you want to follow the discussion.

mthomas768 said...
January 11, 2010 at 8:51 AM  

Excellent little hack to the system! Definitely adding this to my bag of tricks for future use!

Timeshadows said...
January 14, 2010 at 12:14 AM  

Really neat. I like it. :D

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