Saturday, April 23, 2016

Easier Armor Design

Easier Armor Design (EAD) is an alternate take on the piecemeal armor systems presented in Pyramid v3.52 (Low-Tech Armor Design) and v3.85 (Cutting Edge Armor Design). It is intended to make armor affordable, wearable, and protective. It gives a nod towards realism, but when it doubt, it leans more toward the heritage of D&D and the like It also includes simplified scaling rules that allow tiny races to usefully wear armor.

A lot of the concepts in EAD were introduced in Better Fantasy Amor but have been repeated here in a slightly refined form. Armor costs and weights are also slightly modified from BFA to work better with standard GURPS products, especially firearms.

Basic Concept

A piece of armor is made of a material and covers one or more locations to provide a specified amount of DR. The armor's weight and cost is proportional to the DR and coverage, with different base values depending on the material. In general, lighter armors are more expensive on a per DR basis at the same tech level.

There are a limited number of base armor materials and designs, but these can be modified by additional material types and other qualities to create a very large range of armors.

Armor also has a bulk rating, which represents the thickness of the armor. Better materials are less bulky per point of DR, and smaller races can tolerate less thickness. The interaction of these factors determines how much DR a person can wear before starting to run into DX penalties or before the armor can no longer be concealed.

Armor Locations Table

Armor locations in italics are sub-locations of the previous location, and do not need to be purchased separately if the main location is purchased. Sub-locations can also be purchased separately. For example, buying head protection at 8% of the total armor weight includes the skull, face, and neck protection, but a skullcap could be bought for 3% of total armor cost.

LocationCost and 
Hit LocationNotes
Head8%3-5, 17-18
Torso32%9-11Vitals are hit on a 1 on a d6
  Chest(11%)9-10Vitals are hit on a 1 on a d6
  Abdomen(11%)10Vitals are hit on a 1 on a d6
  Pelvis(10%)11Vitals are hit on a 1 on a d6
Includes groin
Arms20%8, 12
  Shoulders(6%)8, 12*Roll 1d; on 1-2 this location is hit
  Upper Arms(4%)8, 12*Roll 1d; on 3 this location is hit
  Elbows(4%)8, 12*Roll 1d; on 4 this location is hit
  Forearms(6%)8, 12*Roll 1d; on 5-6 this location is hit
Legs24%6-7, 13-14
  Thighs(12%)6-7, 13-14*Roll 1d; on 1-3 this location is hit
  Knees(4%)6-7, 13-14*Roll 1d; on 4 this location is hit
  Shins(8%)6-7, 13-14*Roll 1d; on 5-6 this location is hit

Simplified Face Sub-Locations

There are 6 sub-locations on the face: jaw, cheek, ears, nose, eyes, and brow. Each one can be separately protected at the cost and weight of 0.5% of the base armor. Eye protection gives No Peripheral Vision. Ear protection gives either Hard of Hearing or removes -2 in penalties to target the armor gaps in the head. If the face is targeted and the target is wearing partial face protection, roll 1d: if the roll is less than the number of protected locations, the armor protects.


Voiders are small pieces of flexible armor worn beneath the joints of low-tech rigid armor. They're intended to prevent damage from attacks to the chinks of the rigid armor.

The locations that can be protected by voiders are the shoulders, elbows, abdomen, and knees. A voider costs and weighs 1/5th of the cost and weight of a piece of armor of equivalent DR at that location. Because voiders have to be at the inside of the joint, they are effectively bulkier than their small size and nominal bulk would suggest. Increase the effective bulk of the armor by one step for every bulk category of the voider less one.

Voiders are normally attached to clothing, such as an arming doublet or gambeson, that is worn under the rigid armor. However, voiders can just as easily be attached to the rigid armor itself. Voiders can also be worn under flexible armor, though there is normally little point since flexible armor doesn't have chinks.

For easy reference, voiders for all the joints cost and weigh 5% of a suit of armor of equivalent DR.

Armor Material Table

The following table shows armor cost and weight, per point of DR, for a full suit of armor, for each of the basic materials. Armor cost and weight can be adjusted by material and other modifiers below.

Armor TypeLbs/





Max Medium









  (Cloth, Silk, Early Polymers,

  (Leather, Hardened Leather)
-1 DR vs Impaling
Advanced Textiles
Sheer Liquid)
x2.5 DR vs Cutting and Piercing
  (Wood, Straw, Paper, Cane)
  (Lamellar, Brigantine)
10$250-1 DR vs Crushing24591113
-2 DR vs Crushing
  (Segmented Plate)
Rigid Polymer8.5$20
Rigid Composite3.5$135

Any type of armor can theoretically have any amount of DR, but see the limits on bulk below.

Using these two tables should be pretty simple: choose an armor type, an amount of DR, and coverage, and multiple them together. Make sure that the DR is less than the maximum heavy amount for SM0 wearers and see below for the limits for larger or smaller people. For instance, a long-sleeved mail hauberk that covers all of the arms and torso (55%) and provides DR7 costs ($400 * 7 * .55) $1540 and weighs (6 * 7 * .55) 23 lbs. A head to toe suit of iron plate that provides DR9 costs ($500 * 9) $4500 and weighs (7 * 9) 63 lbs. A horn helmet that covers the face and skull and provides DR4 costs ($150 * 4 * .08) $48 and weighs (12 * 4 * .08) ~4 lbs.

Armor Bulk

Thicker armor is bulkier armor, and armor that is bulky enough imposes a DX penalty. Larger creatures can tolerate more bulk; smaller creatures can tolerate less bulk. So while a pixie is strong enough to lift enough bronze to make a suit of 2mm thick plate armor, armor that thick wouldn't give him space to bend his elbows (being roughly equivalent to armor that is 12mm thick on a human). Thinner armor is also easier to conceal under or as clothing.

The maximum thickness of armor that a person can conceal and/or wear without a DX penalty depends on their SM, and is shown on the table below. Similarly, a larger creature can wear a thicker layer of armor beneath another piece of armor without having their DX penalized. The weight and cost of any armor layer is also dependent on the size of the wearer.


So an SM-6 pixie can only wear the thinnest of armors; a normal human can wear Heavy armo without penalty; and a SM+2 Ogre Barbarian isn't penalized by jousting armor and could wear a suit of thin mail under it without suffering penalties.

Each armor type has its own maximum DR for each category of bulk. The DX penalty for wearing armor that is too bulky is -1 per level of bulk: an SM-4 leprechaun wearing jousting plate is at -3 DX.

The bulk penalty only applies to locations that are at least 50% covered by armor.

Joints and Heavy Armor

As an optional house rule, anyone who wears the thickest safe armor on their joints (shoulders, elbows, knees, pelvis, and neck) suffers a -1 penalty to DX, which can be mitigated by leaving big gaps in the armor - attacks through the armor chinks in those locations get at +2 bonus. Wearing thick armor on the hands gives the Ham-Fisted 1 and Bad Grip 1 disadvantages. This rule only applies to armor made before TL7.

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.
Weak Limbs: Historically, armorers uses thinner pieces on the backs and interiors of the arms and legs, which were harder to hit and needed less protection. Any full suit can have weak limbs, which halve the DR on attacks against the legs and arms from the back. -11% to armor cost and weight.
Weak Back: Historically, armorers also used thinner armor on the back of a breastplate than the front. Any armor with full torso coverage can have a weak back, which halves the DR of the back of the torso. -8% to armor cost and weight.
Reinforced Vitals: The thickest part of any armor is usually over the heart, lungs, and kidneys - basically, the vitals in GURPS terms. Gives doubles armor DR against attacks to the vitals. +3% to armor cost and weight.

Layered Cloth and Textiles

Some of the earliest armors even designed are made by weaving fabric and then stitching, gluing, or riveting multiple layers together.
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. Material Modifier. 500% of base cost, -10% to weight.
Spider Silk: Spidersilk is stronger than normal silk, but harder to farm. Gives +1 DR vs cu, imp, and pi damage. Material Modifier. 1000% of base cost, -30% to weight.
Rubber: At TL 6, natural and synthetic rubbers are lighter than conventional fabrics and give better protection against impacts. Gives double DR against crushing attacks. Material Modifier. 65% of base cost, -10% to weight.
Elastic Poylmer: At TL 7, lightweight elastic polymers provide strong, light weight, but expansive fabrics. Reduce bulk by one category Material Modifier. 240% of base cost, -85% to weight.
Nomex: At TL 7, some polymers are extremely resistant to fire and burns. Gives quadruple DR against burning attacks but increases bulk by two categories. Material Modifier. 200% of base cost, -75% to weight.
Nylon: At TL 7, ballistic weave nylon creates a bulky but lightweight armor. High speed penetrators such as bullets are easily stopped by the interwoven threads. Increases bulk by two categories and gives quadruple DR against piercing and cutting attacks. Material Modifier. 350% of base cost.
Kevlar: At TL 7, para-amarid fibers such as kevlar are very resistant to bullets. Gives quadruple DR against piercing and cutting attacks but is also semi-ablative against piercing attacks. Material Modifier. 480% of base cost, -60% to weight.
Improved Nomex: At TL 8, Nomex reinforced with kevlar threads is cheaper and lighter than earlier Nomex blends. Gives quadruple DR against burning attacks but increases bulk by two categories. Material Modifier. 120% of base cost, -80% to weight.
Improved Kevlar: At TL 8, second and third generation para-amarid fibers such as kevlar are very resistant to bullets. Gives quadruple DR against piercing and cutting attacks and reduces bulk by one category. Material Modifier. 440% of base cost, -75% to weight.

Advanced Textiles

High tech materials science and biochemistry allows for the creation of advanced fabrics that are much lighter and more damage resistance than natural fabrics. They are optimized to defend against bullets, and have x2.5 DR against piercing and cutting attacks unless otherwise stated.
Early Ballistic Polymer: Ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene weaves such as Spectra Shield that give improved performance over kevlar. Increase bulk by one step. Material Modifier. 85% of base cost, +50% to weight.
Arachnoweave: Made from spidersilk from genetically modified animals and further reinforced with polymer blends. Gives quadruple DR against cutting and piercing attacks. Material Modifier. +150% of base cost, +20% to weight.
Nanoweave: Advanced polymers reinforced by carbon nanotubes. Gives triple DR against cutting and piercing attacks. Reduce bulk by one category. Material Modifier. +150% of base cost.
Sheer-Thickening Liquid Reflex: Arachnoweave armor soaked in a solution of ceramic nanoparticles that instantly and temporarily harden into a solid surface upon impact. Remove the flexible quality. Triple DR aginst cutting and piercing attacks. Material Modifier. +400% of base cost.
Magnetic Liquid Reflex: Nanoweave armor soaked in a solution of magneto-rheological nanoparticles that instantly and temporarily harden into a solid surface upon impact. Remove the flexible quality. Double DR aginst cutting and piercing attacks. Reduce bulk by one category. Material Modifier. +500% of base cost, -33% to base weight.
Laser-Ablative Polymer: Ballistic polymers enhanced with metals and ceramics to disperse lasers. Quintiple DR against tight beam burning attacks and add the semi-ablative quality against such attacks. Material Modifier. +100% of base cost.

Leather and Hide

Tanned and cured animal hide makes for cheap but heavy armor.
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. 110% of base cost, +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. 300% of base cost, -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. 330% of base cost, -15% 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. 150% of base cost, -20% 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. 60% of base cost.
Paper or Barkcloth: Layered paper is bulky but reasonably strong. Material Modifier. 160% of base cost, -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. 70% of base cost, -10% to weight.

Iron Scale/Lamellar

Scale is made from small plates of metal that overlap each other and are riveted to a cloth or leather backing garment. Lamellar removes the backing garment and has the plates strung together. There's no real difference in the cost or weight between the two approaches.
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.


Rings of metal can be interlaced together to create a flexible armor.
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.


Long, solid pieces of metal can be crafted into a harness with covered joints that is fairly impregnable to damage. Before TL4 and the invention of sliding rivets, the joints have to leave big gaps that give a +2 to target armor chinks.
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.
Duplex Plate: Layering plates of hardened metal over similar plates of less brittle metal can dramatically increase resistance to armor piercing weapons, but the process is extremely difficult. Gives Hardened (2) enhancement. Not compatible with Hardened Metal. +8 CF, -10% to weight.

Scale or Plate

Fluting: Carefully designed fluting, ribs, bosses, and vertical ribs can strengthen key components of armor, making it effectively stronger. +4 CF, -10% weight.

Scale, Mail, or Plate

Hardened Metal: Any metal armor can be made from hardened metal, produced by master smiths. At TL5+, this represent industrial hardening processes such as Krupp steel. Not compatible with Duplex Plate. +4 CF, -10% weight.
Industrial Steel: At TL5+, any metal armor can be made from cheaper, mass-produced steel. -80% to cost.
Aluminum: Aluminum is lighter than steel for the same protection, but less dense. Increase armor bulk by one category. -50% to cost, -20% to weight.
Titanium-Steel Alloy: Titanium-Steel alloys are stronger than steel at the same weight, but much more expensive. +100% to cost, -30% to weight.


Modern boron carbide or aluminum oxide ceramic plates used to reinforce flexible armor. Tends to chip and flake apart under damage, reducing it's effectiveness, which is represented by the semi-ablative quality. See the section on "Ceramic, Rigid Polymer, or Rigid Composite" for mandatory armor modifiers.
Improved Ceramic: Advanced ceramics such as silicon carbide, often coated in plastic or backed by metal to improve resistance against fragmenting. Material Modifier. +200% cost, -25% to weight.
Nanocomposite: Nanoscale assemblers create perfect crystal matrices and can optimize layers to provide better face-hardening and even more resistance to penetration and fragmenting. Reduce bulk by one step. Material Modifier. +400% cost, -50% to weight.
Titanium Nanocomposite: Adding titanium platelets to a nanoassembled structure of advanced ceramics and carbon nanotubes provides excellent resistance to penetration and armor degradation. Reduce bulk by one category and remove the Semi-Ablative category. +400% cost, -40% to weight.

Rigid Polymer

Resin bonded kelvar and glass fibers impregnated in plastic are solid materials that are nearly as strong as steel at a much lighter weight.
Plastic: Ordinary hard plastics, made from carbon polymers, are bulky and heavy. They do not make desirable armor except for their utility as transparent eye protection. Can be made transparent. Material Modifier. Increase bulk by two categories. +33% to weight.
Transparent: Some rigid polymers can be made transparent. Transparent armors provide no protection against blinding attacks, but are useful for visors. +1 CF.
Laminated Polycarbonate: Layers of advanced carbon polymer sheets provide adequate protection and can be used for transparent eye protection. Can be made transparent. Add the semi-ablative quality. Material Modifier. +400% to cost, -50% to weight.
Polymer Composite: Adding carbon fibers to standard plastics, or using advanced resins to bond paramid fibers into rigid forms, creates materials stonger than steel for the same weight. Reduce bulk by one category.  Material Modifier. +400% to cost, -50% to weight.

Rigid Composite

A strong blend of materials, based around a lightweight metal matrix reinforced by ceramic particles and polymer fibers.
Polymer Nanocomposite: Nanonassemblers can create advanced plastics reinforced by carbon nanotubes that give excellent protection for minimal weight. +400% to cost, -60% to weight.

Ceramic, Rigid Polymer, or Rigid Composite

All of these solid armor materials are normally made from solid chunks that provide no flexibility. On most living things, they need to be fashioned differently in order to provide movement for the joints. Choose one of the options below for any piece of these armors that covers anything other than the eyes, skull, or face.
Scalar: Small platelets of solid material, glued to an advanced textile backing and usually cushioned with foam. These designs are less efficient that plate but cheaper and easier to make, and the only option for some materials if the technology does not allow for the creation of large, continuous plates of that material. Mutually exclusive with Plate and Impact Absorbing. -10% to cost, +10% to weight.
Plate: Modern plate harness made from large, continuous pieces with articulated joints backed by advanced textiles. Mutually exclusive with Scalar and Impact Absorbing.+300% to cost, -20% to weight.
Impact Absorbing: Modern plate harness made from large, continuous pieces with articulated joints backed by advanced textiles, but further cushioned and padded to optimize protection against large area impacts. Double DR against crushing attacks. Mutually exclusive with Scalar and Plate.+62.5% to cost, +62.5% to weight.


  1. Thanks for this, Mark! I was not aware of the Pyramid article on modern/high tech armor - will need to see about reading it.

    I am recently working on a modern(ish) day campaign setting, and noticed there was some weirdness with modern armor and the way it interacts with GURPS firearms. Unfortunately, I haven't quite put all my thoughts on the matter together. Hopefully this evening or so I can have it up on my blog.

    Combining this with GURPS Supers, Vehicles rules, I now have a feasible setup for Dieselpunk Mecha :D


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