Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Better Fantasy Armor: Armor Modifiers

As I mentioned in my first article on better fantasy armor, the system I'm setting up depends on having a set of modifiers that can turn the standard armor types listed below into the wider variety described in GURPS Low-Tech. So here are most of those additional modifiers. They're available in a GCA file for people who use GCA4.

First, a quick review of the base armor types.

Armor MaterialTypeNotes$/DRLbs/DR
Layered ClothTextile-2 DR vs imp/pi;
LeatherHide-2 DR vs imp/pi;
ScaleScale-1 DR vs cr25010
-2 DR vs cr;

Armor Modifiers

Armor modifiers can define the armor's workmanship, base material, or some other characteristic of the armor. All workmanship modifiers are mutually exclusive with each other, and all base material modifiers are also mutually exclusive with each other. All other modifiers can be combined with each other except as specifically noted.


Fine: Fine armor is well-made and only fits the wearer. There is an additional -1 penalty to target armor gaps. Workmanship modifier. +3 CF, -20% to weight.
Very Fine: Very Fine armor is made by master smiths and only fits the wearer. There is an additional -1 penalty to target armor gaps. Workmanship modifier. +14 CF, -30% to weight.
Cheap: Cheap armor is either mass-produced or made by inferior craftsman or from inferior materials. There is a +2 bonus to target armor gaps. Workmanship modifier. -0.4 CF, +25% to weight.


Silk: Armor made from silk is lighter and more resistance to piercing, impaling, and cutting damage. Gives +1 DR vs cu, imp, and pi damage (though textile armor starts with -2 DR vs imp and pi). Material Modifier. +4 CF, -10% to weight.
Spider Silk: Spidersilk is stronger than normal silk, but harder to farm. Gives +1 DR vs cu, imp, and pi damage (though textile armor starts with -2 DR vs imp and pi). Material Modifier. +9 CF, -30% to weight.
Giant Spider Silk: The silk made from the webs of giant spiders is stronger than steel, though still flexible. Gives +1 DR vs cu, imp, and pi damage (though textile armor starts with -2 DR vs imp and pi) and reduce armor thickness by one category. Material Modifier. +29 CF, -50% to weight.
Meditative: Grants the wearer +1 Chi Talent. +3 CF.


Layered Leather/Hardened Leather: Multiple thin layers of leather are heavier but stronger than a single thicker layer. Alternately, a single thick piece of layer can be hardened by boiling. Either way, these treatments remove the DR penalty against piercing and impaling attacks as well as the Flexible quality. Material Modifier. +0.1 CF, +25% to weight.
Quality Leather: The hides of certain exotic creatures (giraffes, sharks, trigers, reptile men) are stronger than the hides of creatures normally used to make leather, and makes for better armor. Material Modifier. +2 CF, -30% to weight.
Quality Layered/Hardened Leather: Quality leather can be layered or hardened, for armor that is nearly as strong as steel but still organic. Quality layered/hardened leather is not flexible and has no DR penalty. Material Modifier. +3.3 CF, -15% to weight.
Dragonhide: The skin of dragon's wings can be used to make strong and light weight leather armor without the need for hardening or layering. Dragonhide has no DR penalty, triple DR against fire and heat attacks, and reduces its thickness by one category. Exotic variants do not cost any more but give triple DR against other types of elemental damage - most commonly cold, but acid and lightning resistant versions exist. Material Modifier. +49 CF, -50% to weight.


Horn: Armor made from sculpted animal horns, tusks, or shells is reasonable strong and cheap, but bulky. Remove the semi-ablative quality of bone armor. Material Modifier. +0.5 CF, -20% to weight.
Dragonbone: The bones of a dragon are much stronger than normal animal bones and make excellent armor. Remove the semi-ablative quality of bone armor and reduce the bulk by one category. Dragonbone provides triple DR against fire and heat attacks just like dragonhide. Material Modifier. +29 CF, -50% to weight.


Straw: Straw mat armor is cheap but doesn't provide much protection. Add Flexible to the armor qualities, and increase the bulk by one category. Material Modifier. -0.4 CF.
Paper or Barkcloth: Layered paper is bulky but reasonably strong. Material Modifier. +0.5 CF, -20% to weight.
Cane: Flexible cane rods can be woven into a weak protective garment. Cane armor is heavy, bulky, and tends to come apart quickly under attacks. Add semi-ablative to its qualities. Material Modifier. -0.3 CF, -10% to weight.
Ironwood: Elves, druids, and faeries use this remarkable wood to create armor nearly as light and protective as steel plate, at nearly the same cost. Material Modifier. +9 CF, -40% to weight.


Cloth armors with some kind of metal reinforcement such as ring mail or penny-plate are examples of cheap scale armor.
Star Scale: Making the scales in scale armor out of a star shape allows them to withstand impact better. Remove the DR penalty against crushing attacks. +0.4 CF, no change to weight.
Brigandine: Advanced scale armor puts the scales inside a cloth or leather framework and tailors and overlaps them more efficiently than standard scale. Remove the DR penalty against crushing attacks. +1.25 CF, -20% to weight.
Dragonscale: The heavy body scales of a dragon are stronger and lighter than steel. Removes the DR penalty against crushing attacks, reduces the bulk of the armor by one category, and provides triple DR against heat and fire attacks just like dragonhide. Material Modifier. +19 CF, -40% to weight.


Banded: Weaving leather bands through the alternate rows of mail makes the armor less flexible and more resistant to crushing damage, in exchange for a notable increase in weight. Remove the -2 DR penalty versus cr and the flexible quality. +0.1 CF, +50% to weight.
Mail and Plates: Mail can be reinforced by small overlapping plates of metal, similar to scale. Reduce the DR penalty versus cr to -1 and remove the flexible quality. +0.2 CF, +25% to weight.
Elven: Advanced elven techniques make mail flexible but still resistant to crushing damage. Remove the DR penalty versus cr. +3 CF.
Mithril: The silver moon metal is nearly as strong as orichalcum, but cannot be forged into large plates, only wire. Reduces the armor bulk by one category. Material Modifier. +29 CF, -20% to weight.

Textile, Hide, or Mail

Athletic: The encumbrance of the armor doesn't penalize Acrobatics, Jumping, Running, or Swimming rolls, nor attacks with Fencing weapons. +5 CF.
Thieves: The encumbrance of the armor doesn't penalize Climbing or Stealth rolls. +3 CF.


Spiked: As per DF1 p 27. +2 CF.
Segmented Plate: Less advanced metal workers cannot forge large plates, and must carefully construct armor from smaller pieces riveted together. Unlike scale, there is no underlying textile or hide layer. -0.2 CF, +15% to weight.
Dwarven: Dwarven techniques provide articulation of even the thickest armor in exchange for increased weight. Reduces the armor bulk by one category. Incompatible with the Cheap or Segmented Plate modifiers. +1 CF, +5% to weight.
Orichalcum: Essential metal makes excellent armor, but cannot normally be made in large plates and must be combined with the Segmented Plate modifier. Extremely skilled smiths can harden it, add fluting, and tailor it so well that an impenetrable harness weighs little more than heavy clothing. Reduces the armor bulk by one category. Material Modifier. +29 CF, -35% to weight.
Celestial Steel: Armor made from the metal of the gods glows with an inner light and resists the forces of corruption. The glow eliminates darkness in a 3 hex radius (as a Daylight Continual Light Spell). Reduces the armor bulk by one category, and provides its full DR (Cosmic Irresistable) against any attack made by Unholy, Demonic, or Undead powers. Material Modifier. +29 CF, -20% to weight.

Scale, Plate, or Dragonparts

Fluting: Carefully designed fluting, ribs, bosses, and vertical ribs can strengthen key components of armor, making it effectively stronger. For dragonparts, using the parts of elder dragons produces a similar effect. +4 CF, -10% weight.

Scale, Mail, or Plate

Copper: Metal armor can be made from copper, which is an inferior metal for the purpose. No one does this if they have access to iron or more exotic alternatives. Material Modifier. +3 CF, +20% weight. Low-Tech suggests +0 CF for copper, but doing so means that copper scale is 1/3rd the cost of copper by weight, which doesn't seem right.
Bronze: Metal armor can also be made from bronze, which is as good a choice as iron. Material Modifier. +3 CF. Assume in DF settings that tin is plentiful. In historical games set outside Britain, bronze should probably be +9 or +14 CF.
Hardened Metal: Any metal armor can be made from hardened metal, produced from master mages, dwarven smiths, or gnomish factories. Can also be applied to dragonhide, dragonbone, and dragonscale, to represent the use of elder dragons parts to produce a similar effect. +4 CF, -10% weight.
Meteoric Iron: Armor made from sky-metal is resistant to magic. No spell can affect it, and counts as cosmic DR against spells normally ignore armor (such as a wizard's Mystic Bolt or Deathtouch) if the spell has to pass through the armor (ie, a meteoric iron helmet won't prevent a Deathtouch to the unarmored hand, but it will act as armor against a Mystic Bolt targeted at the face). Material Modifier. +19 CF.
Soulsteel: Armors made from the tortured souls of the damned are disturbing, but are a cheap and effective armor for the champions of the unholy. Provides the wearer with Resistance to Holy Powers +8 and Frightens Animals. Material Modifier. +3 CF, -20% to weight.


  1. I'm not sure why you get so few comments on your work - so I thought I'd just show some love. This stuff is really good, keep it up!

    1. Thanks! I'd just assumed that no one cared =/. I've probably got two or three more posts in this series to come.

  2. 1. This is good stuff.
    2. Copper scale is ~$21/lb and raw copper is $62.5 lb. Cheap copper scale is ~$10 lb. Backing, straps, impurities, etc can only dilute the value of the metal so far. Consider a CF of x2 or something - it's not like it will make it significantly less attractive as armor.
    3. Other purely negative modifiers are worth discussing. Ill-fitting, badly maintained, etc. as easy yo add modifiers for ancient artifacts and so forth.
    4. Don't stop.

    1. Nice catch on the copper, but I'm in good company: Low-Tech also has copper scale armor costing $20-$25 per pound. I can't think of a good solution that doesn't make bronze even more insanely awful/expensive (in theory, Comfortable to Wealthy Greek hoplites are supposed to be able to afford full bronze panoplies at TL2, and that's already stupid hard to pull off).

      My usual approach is to price gold at $500/oz (40% of the suggested prices, but comparable to modern ore values until recently), which would knock copper down to $25/lb, and make copper scale almost reasonable maybe sorta.

      Poorly maintained seems like an obvious add to any armor: Cost x1/4, add semi-ablative (or increase semi-ablative armor to ablative armor). Armor isn't nearly as cool when it gets shredded after a couple of blows.

      I'm not as concerned about negative modifiers, though, since I write with an audience of players in mind, and bad options tend to get ignored and thus time and energy can be saved by not writing them. Though I suppose if you find the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd and it turns out to be rusty, ill-fitting, and badly maintained, you might still go with it because hey, where else are you going to get DR12 Fluted, Hardened Orichalcum Segmented Plate with an integral DR3 Hardened Mithril Elven Mail liner, all of which is enchanted out the wazoo?

    2. "in theory, Comfortable to Wealthy Greek hoplites are supposed to be able to afford full bronze panoplies at TL2, and that's already stupid hard to pull off"

      Wouldn't it be easier to assume the Greeks in question were richer than rejigger all the other stuff?

      As for the bad modifiers, you hit the nail on the head. Old corroded yet insanely magical stuff is fun, as is scavenged stuff when yer broke, as is just really nice stuff you inherited or looted but can resize, or mooks in cheap crap armor, or even nasty status effects applied to your armor after the fat-sucking vampire changes your build, etc.

      In other words, there's a lot of fun for the GM available here too.

      Random tangent: there might be some fun enchantment effects associated with some materials. Copper might be easy to enchant with lightning effects, bone with necro effects, etc. with etc. effects.

  3. Hello !

    I just want to say that this system looks very interesting ! I definitely have to make an program taking it all into account to calculate armor characteristics...

    I was very surprised, opening those two articles once again today (third reading), that there was so few comments, for so great a system...

    I second Martin Leubschen on the Wealth level of the heavy armored Hoplites. They are the top of the Greek warrior society, they have numerous slaves working to sustain them, and those able to afford their own armor are not many. First, they are free and able bodied. Those too poor just have weapons, and a helmet probably, richer ones get light armor, and the richest get bronze armor. Maybe the get their father's armor and shield too ?

    I think I'll use your articles for my Conan game, as soon as I make the application to calculate everything for me ^^ (and include rules for the time of crafting from http://rpg.wikia.com/wiki/GURPS/Smithing ).

    Thanks, keep up the (very) good work !

  4. I'll grant that a full bronze panoply was often inherited, but that doesn't change the wealth level of the owner, it just explains where it came from. And bronze armor hoplites were not the richest guys in the ancient Greek armies - the richest guys were the cavalrymen. The bronze armored hoplites were rich, but they weren't that rich - Wealthy to Very Wealthy at best. And given that a reasonable bronze panoply is already coming it at over $10K, that's already hard to afford even for the Very Wealthy at TL2. So bumping the price of copper armor to CF+3 (even though it sucks) and bronze to CF+9 (arguably should be CF+15) and thereby doubling the cost of bronze panoply doesn't make much sense.

    Of course, GURPS rules for wealth don't work very well, but I don't know a good way to square that circle.

    I'm going to add a GCA file for this stuff Real Soon Now (tm). I'm hoping to get some help from Bruno, since she did the armor file for Low-Tech, but I'll do it myself if I don't hear back from her soon.

    1. There are multiple interacting problems with bronze armored hoplites in GURPS in general, yes. On the other hand, you are writing this specifically for DF so I respectfully suggest that you screw those guys.

      In DF, copper is a modifier for backwards types and ancient artifacts, and it's main purpose is to give stats to *treasure*. Bronze is similar, but it has an extra niche role as a standard in settings where the GM wants armor to be more expensive in general, or for critters who don't like iron. A high CF won't break the game or make your players sad - they *want* the loot to be valuable.

    2. Those are good points, though there is something of an issue in that my games, fae and elves tend to replace Sense of Duty: Nature with various other disadvantages, often a weakness or vulnerability to iron. So letting them have reasonably priced bronze armor is helpful.

      Still, this is DF, and we can assume that tin comes from someplace other than central Britain and thus is stupid expensive if you're a Theban hoplite. Making copper and bronze CF+3 wouldn't be insane, would let people find ancient copper armor as cool treasure, and would let Nymph Warlords wear bronze cuirasses at enough of an extra cost to make the disadvantage count but not so bad that they couldn't afford armor.

    3. Have you considered making the relatively abundant availability of Greek bronze armor an attribute of the Greeks rather than of bronze armor? Perhaps they had a cultural or technological advantage that made it abnormally easy to acquire in that time and place.

  5. "Nymph Warlords" would be a great name for an adventuring band.

  6. Just to continue the kibbitzing:

    Please consider having some of the options affect the chinks targeting penalty. For example, cheap might lower it for nonflexible armors, as might a hypothetical ill-fitting, and that's probably a good option for wearing overly heavy armor as well.

    Additionally, an option combining underlayers with chinks in overlayers would be fun if you could make it straightforward.

  7. Cheap already makes it easier to target gaps (reduces the -8/-10 penalty to -6/-8), and if you combine that with the heavy armor rule, you're down to -4/-6 to target the gaps in the abdomen, elbows, shoulders, knees, hands, and feet of cheap, heavy armor. Given that the abdomen includes the vitals, you're only at -6 to get half DR while stabbing important bits. What more do you need?

    Voiders, a kind of flexible armor that only covers the gaps in rigid armor at the abdomen, knees, elbows, and shoulders, should cost 4% of base armor cost and not count as layering if it's Thin for SM0 armor. DR 3 mail voiders would cost $60 and weigh 0.7 lbs; DR5 elven hardened mithril mail voiders would cost $3780 and weigh 0.8 lb. If you're already wearing DR8 armor (reasonable if not a little low for someone who can afford mithril voiders) that would give you DR9* against attacks in the gaps - already better than your base armor.