Wednesday, March 16, 2016

After the End and the problem of Armor Stats

I recently bought the new GURPS PDF "After the End: Wastelanders." It's a character creation book for post-apocalypse games, and +Douglas Cole and +Peter V. Dell'Orto have reviewed it at Gaming Ballistic and Dungeon Fantastic.

I found it interesting, and started experimenting with creating some characters. That quickly led to equipping the characters, which led to the problem of "which set of armor stats to use?" Now I'm stuck until I can answer that question.

GURPS has multiple sets of armor stats. Here's the major ones I'm aware of:

  • The Basic book stats: These are the recommended stats for After the End. They're too light for low-tech textiles, incorrectly have leather weighing less than layered cloth for the same protection, and have the odd property that metal armor weighs more per point of DR than cloth armor does. They bother me too much to use them.
  • The Low-Tech stats: supposedly painstakingly researched, these stats are too heavy to be worthwhile in most games, except for plate harness (and to a lesser extent brigantine) which is better in every way but cost. On the plus side, cloth weighs less than leather, and metal weighs less per point of DR than cloth or leather. Sadly, these don't play well with the next set.
  • The High-Tech stats: researched by getting weights and costs out of a catalog, which is great until you have to figure out how much coverage and actual protection a PASGT vest actually provides. On a $/DR and lb/DR basis, the numbers are all over the map, and these can't really can't be used to extrapolate to cover other armor locations. Also, there are oddities with respect to the Low-Tech stats, like some WWI vintage metal armor being noticeable worse than Renaissance plate harness.
  • David Pulver's Armor Design System (ADS): Contained in two articles in Pyramid, this covers all armor types from leather hides to titanium-ceramic nanocomposite plate. It's unfortunately difficult to use, since you calculate the square footage that the armor covers and then work out the cost and weight from that, but I could (in theory) rejigger it into a BFA style system where each armor has a $/DR and lb/DR value and then you multiply by coverage. Unfortunately, I think David based some of his values on the Basic Book stats, so those annoy me, and there are other oddities like iron segmented plate weighing and costing more than iron scale/lamellar for the same protection. 
  • My own Better Fantasy Armor: I like BFA a lot, since it's a straightforward way to create a variety of armors, and it's explicitly set up so that weak leather/cloth armor has a manageable weight and heavy plate harness weighs a sane amount. Unfortunately, it lets people wear way too much DR for not enough weight. This was intentional, so that people could wear enough DR to handle GURPS' overinflated damage from swung weapons, but after playing with it for several months in Castle of Horrors, I don't think it plays nicely with firearms, which makes it unsuitable for an ATE game.

You'd think with five options one of them would work for me, but apparently not.

Currently, I'm working on "Easier Armor Design", which is currently several spreadsheets and most of GCA file. It's an attempt to reconcile ADS with Low-Tech, seasoned with a bit of BFA and some sensible values. It is not going as well as I'd like, and I'm having to accept that a fair bit of the numbers are just going to SWAG'd or massaged to get values that I like. Which takes away the purity of adapting ADS to the simpler, BFA format.

My current struggle is how to handle high-tech and ultra-tech armors like Titanium-Steel Alloy plate harness or polymer nanocomposite lamellar suits. My initial plan was to treat them as material modifiers for iron plate or iron scale armor entries, but the math gets a bit wonky (in the sense that the cost ratio between Ti-Steel Alloy scale and TL6 steel scale is not near the cost ratio between Ti-Steel alloy plate and TL6 steel plate). Now I'm thinking about having separate entries for all of them, but that's like another 15 -30 entries for things like "Fiberglass lamellar" or "Plastic plate" and that may not be reasonable, nor readable. So now I'm stuck until I can resolve that conundrum.

I also need to write up the various flexible armors, which is mostly problematic because some of the less advanced materials are just better than the more advanced armors.

Basically, I'm still thinking and trying to write about GURPS, but I'm nerd-wrestling a bunch of numbers without much success.

1 comment:

  1. You might be able to get around the "Way too many entries" problem with some clever Excel work and dropdown menus. GCA will also handle it well.

    That said, I think the best approach might simply be to throw simulationism out the window and come up with some armor stats that just work according to your ideal for game balance. The Fallout series is probably the thing that immediately jumps into peoples' minds for 'post-apocalypse' and does just fine with 'raider', 'leather', 'metal', and 'combat armor' coming in light, medium, and heavy varieties, with power armor being either a fifth armor type (awesome) or a special limited-resource vehicle-equivalent (annoying, but possibly better for balance).