Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bullet Points: An armor issue

As you probably know, there wasn't much armor worn in the Wild West, cinematic or otherwise. Aside from the admittedly awesome ending to A Fistful of Dollars, I don't think I've seen a western where armor figures in.

Naturally, this is a problem for a D&D-based Western game.

In the early levels of Swords and Wizardry and other early D&D-based retroclones, it is heartily encouraged to buy the best armor that you can with your starting gold to give you even the slightest of defensive advantages. Hence the average starting AC for a 1st level character is somewhere between 12 and 15, depending on Dexterity modifier and available equipment. So how can a character whose armor is made of cured leather or animal hides at most compete with his medieval equivalent's chainmail and shield?

Well, first of all, the Wild West already has a shield equivalent: the duster. Obviously it can't do everything that a shield can do, but in terms of keeping bullets away from bodies, it's a better thematic alternative than any other shield equivalent, save the ol' "lucky hat" (which, rest assured, already has D&D stats prepared.)

Second, characters in Western movies are always diving behind cover, be it stables or water troughs, to avoid getting perforated and I think that ranged combat in a Western D&D will definitely involve a whole lot more cover than your average dungeon crawl. Creative use of barrels, wagons and horses should definitely be rewarded with bonuses to AC or penalties to enemy attack roles, either in flat bonuses (Partial Cover is +2, Total Cover is +4) or on a case-by-case basis. Coupled with Robertson Games' incredibly elegant Aiming and Evasion rules, I think you could run a very fast-paced, yet cinematic gunfight with these special rules.

Finally, for any characters wearing either light or no armor, adding a bonus to AC equivalent to half your level (rounded up) would help out a lot in a magic item-less economy. It makes sense thematically, too: as a character experiences more gunfights, horse chases and slugfests, they gradually learn how to handle themselves in a combat situation. Since the game is probably going to have a 10-level cap, the bonus should be enough to keep folks competitive without being completely overwhelming. Of course, players who use heavy armor would not get the level bonus. But the only heavy armor that I have so far in my equipment list is boilerplate armor ( -6 [+6] AC). And boilerplate armor looks like this:

Ned Kelly, ladies and gentlemen...

Picture of Ned Kelly's armor from Wilson's Almanac.

1 comment:

  1. That boilerplate is impressive. If only he'd covered his legs.