Thursday, June 23, 2011

Shields Deserve Better, Dammit!

This table is from Chainmail, the earliest combat system for Dungeons and Dragons.

I wish to draw your attention to the first three armor class columns: No Armor (9), Shield Only (8), and Leather Only (7).

As you can see, Shield Only is a better defensive option than Leather Only.

Against four weapons, Sheild Only is better than Leather Only. Against the other nine weapons, Shield Only is as good as Leather Only.

Somewhere in translation, Armor Class 7 (Leather Only) mistakenly became better than Armor Class 8 (Shield Only).

15 comments:

Stuart said...

It's a loose thread that once you start pulling at begins to unravel the entire combat system.

Padre said...

I (and the 13 other people left playing Dragonquest in the world) prefer the solution of separating defense and protection. Bigger shields afford more defense but make it more difficult to wield weapons. Heavier armor affords more protection, but lowers combat speed and defense. I don’t think it has any correspondence to real life dynamics of weapon-shield & armor, but it works as a game construct well enough for me.

Taketoshi said...

somewhere there's a system that:

1. Treats a Parry as an action rather than rolling it up into general armor class.

2. Allows the performance of one action per wielded weapon (shield included) each combat round.

3. Allows for increases in the number of combat actions for fighting-types only as level increases (adding to either parries or attacks per round, as applicable).

4. Narrows the hit-point range of various classes a bit.

This would improve the value of both two-weapon and weapon-and-shield fighting as well as the overall survivability of the sword-and-board fighter type (especially if it were allowed as protection against breath attacks, narrow-focus targeted spells, etc).

My eggs are already in a certain shield-rules camp, but mainly because I want shield wearers to feel cooler than they often do.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Stuart said...
It's a loose thread that once you start pulling at begins to unravel the entire combat system.

In what way? That the system was always abstract and unrealistic, and that trying to provide post-facto justifications is a fruitless exercize?

I don't know how many times i've railed against verisimilitude. I'm sure i've become a caricature of myself.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Padre said...
I don’t think it has any correspondence to real life dynamics of weapon-shield & armor, but it works as a game construct well enough for me.

As long as it makes sense wihin the game, I think that's the main thing. It depends on what you are trying to achieve.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Taketoshi said...
My eggs are already in a certain shield-rules camp, but mainly because I want shield wearers to feel cooler than they often do.

That's the same reason I like the Dex as AC idea, it allows for the nimble-fighter trope to work within the D&D system.

It all depends on what you want the D&D system to emulate.

Jaap de Goede said...

Thanx for the chainmail tab, was already wondering what that looked like again after Blackrazors loooong post.

I'm starting to wonder how is the math in real life? Did any SCA-er or swordfighter do some field research?

Jim said...

Nice chart. Good food for thought. Somehow, wearing leather AND having a shield makes you MORE VULNERABLE to "Halbeards"... :) Just an observation...

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Jaap de Goede said...
I'm starting to wonder how is the math in real life? Did any SCA-er or swordfighter do some field research?

Let me speculate and say that the relationship between the math in D&D, and reality, is a tenuous one.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Jim said...
Nice chart. Good food for thought. Somehow, wearing leather AND having a shield makes you MORE VULNERABLE to "Halbeards"... :) Just an observation...

Jim, that's true of any kinds of beards, not just the ones worn by computers.

I don't pretend to understand the table, I merely recite it during morning prayers.

:D

Jim said...

HA!!! LOL!!!

HAL-BEARDS!!! Very funny! Nice one!

:)

Eric said...

Thanks for the chart, Paladin. Just in case anyone is curious, I took the chainmail chart and converted it from roll equal to or better on 2d6 to d20, which produced a sort-of AC vs. weapon chart (with "ascending" AC). Then (although this was a fairly crude method) I averaged the AC for each column/armor class. Here's the results: none, 9.5; shield only, 10.5; leather, 10; leather +sh, 11.3; chain, 10.4; chain +sh, 11.6; plate, 13.7; plate +sh; 15.9. Now, if you average the shield benefit for each armor class, you get +1.425. What strikes me, though, is not that shields are under-rated in the switch from chainmail to the "alternate" combat system, but rather that leather and chain armor is over-rated. Leather is only .5 better than nothing (instead of +2) while chain is only .9 better (instead of +4). So, on average, it looks like shields are better than chain, but only because chain helps so little. Just some food for thought.

By the way, if you converted this to a descending 'old school' system, it could look something like this:

AC9: None, Leather
AC8: Shield only, Chain
AC7: Leather or Chain, with shield
AC5: Plate
AC3: Plate and shield

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Great minds thing alike. I was planning on doing the same thing.

I might be tempted to put them in this order, for game purposes...

AC 9: None (9.5)
AC 8: Leather (10)
AC 7: Chain (10.4)
AC 6: Shield (10.5)
AC 5: Lth+Sh (11.3)
AC 4: Chn+Sh (11.6)
AC 3: Plate (13.7)
AC 2: Plt+Sh (15.9)

Otherwise, you end up with the perverse result that you get no benefit from wearing leather armor, and the equally perverse result that leather + shield and chain + shield yield the same defensive benefit.

I know the Chainmail tables don't support as big a benefit as the above AC table suggests for certain defensive options, but at some point you have to provide rules that require meaningful choices and cost/benefit decisions.

duckduckdie said...

Damn, just when I think I'm being all cool and creative, someone else comes along and does the exact same thing. Eric, I did a similar analysis on my blog, but I seem to have gotten different numbers than you. Did you take ranged weapons into account? (I did not) What method did you use to calculate the d20 to-hits?

For the record, I got
No Armor - 10
Leather - 11
Shield - 13
Leather & Shield - 13
Chainmail - 14
Chain & Shield - 15
Plate - 18
Plate & Shield - 19

Obviously I rounded to the nearest whole number to make it usable. In practice I'd probably even it out and fold the weird anomalies (the Shield to hit, and the jump to plate) into the weapon modifiers.

Eric said...

Duck, I converted the 2d6 to a percent, then rounded to the nearest 5%, then converted to d20. So, for example, a 9+ is 27.7% to hit, rounds to 30%, which becomes 15+. I realized that I punched in the wrong numbers for one of the conversions, so my figures were off. I didn't include missle fire either, but probably should of. Here's my "d20 chart" if you want to look at it...
Weapon table

Leng Weapon None +Sh Leath +Sh Chain +Sh Plate +Sh
1 Dagger 7 13 9 13 15 18 20 20
1 Hand Axe 9 13 9 15 18 18 19 20
3 Mace 13 13 13 15 13 13 9 13
4 Sword 9 13 13 15 13 15 18 19
4 Hammer 13 13 13 13 9 9 15 18
5 Battle Axe* 13 13 13 13 9 9 15 18
6 Morning Star 7 9 7 9 7 9 13 13
7 Flail* 9 9 9 9 7 9 7 9
8 Spear 13 15 13 15 18 18 19 20
9 Pole Arm* 7 7 7 9 9 13 15 18
9 Halbeard* 13 13 13 9 7 7 9 13
10 2H-sword* 7 7 7 7 4 4 7 9
11 Mtd Lance 4 4 4 4 7 9 13 15
12 Pike* 13 13 13 13 13 13 15 18

Average 9.8 12 10.2 11.3 10.6 11.6 13.9 15.9
Round up 10 12 11 12 11 12 14 16
Descending 9 7 9 7 8 7 5 3

Paladin, if I wanted to make "more chainmail like chart" for od&d or b/x, I'd do exactly as your chart. I'd follow the principle of "differences should make a difference" ... that is, since chain is better than leather, it should be better in the combat table too.

Now, I'll take a look at the missle table, and maybe think a bit more about how weapons (or weapon types) interact with shields...