Roleplaying In A

Armor Degradation

In General on March 4, 2010 at 9:00 am

This is a topic I think we should see in more games, including fantasy. If someone punches a hole in armor, is it still effective? Can you repair it? How effective is the damaged armor?

Sn-42 Body Armor

Image via Wikipedia

Well, first, does your game use armor class or soak? If you have armor points that soak damage, this will be much easier to implement. If armor class, it’s going to take more bookkeeping.

For games with armor points that soak damage, every time a hole is punched in the armor, subtract an armor point. In my game this means that every time the bad guys do enough damage to do even one point to a player, the armor is degraded by one point because kevlar is less effective at continuing to soak damage the more often it’s hit. Punch holes in it and you’re going to start having real problems.

If you use armor class, you might degrade the AC rating by 1 every time 5 or 10 hits. Since armor class doesn’t directly soak damage and affects the chance to hit a given target, this one is harder to determine effectively and you’ll have to play around with the numbers a bit to find the best balance.

Can the armor be repaired

If it’s steel or leather or some other natural material, likely. If it’s kevlar, not so much. Kevlar can be patched with fiberglass in some cases when applied to a hard surface but kevlar armor is not repairable and will simply degrade over time. The same will likely be true of other modern materials such as the much-anticipated spider-silk fabrics.

In my Cyberpunk 2020 campaigns, the most common chest armor is a kevlar vest which is rated with a stopping power of 20 (ie, it soaks 20 points of damage from every hit). This means that for every 20 hits that actually damage a character, they’ll need to outright replace their armor. Given that I roll randomly for the location hit, that’s actually pretty good as many bullets will hit that location without penetrating as well. And in the case of kevlar, that still degrades the armor.

I’m only requiring this degradation system per location and not per piece of armor regardless of the number of locations that garment covers to facilitate bookkeeping for my players.

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  1. Midgard (Free viking RPG) has armor like that. It’s a lot of fun.

  2. A note you might want to consider for other armor, specifically the recent stuff the US Military uses. The Ceramic/Metal/Kevlar impact plates can only sustain about 5 direct hits from anything that fires 5.56mm ammo(M16), and only 3 hits at most from anything that fires 7.62mm ammo(AK-47/SAW).Anything larger/faster than the latter will most likely punch through on the first hit.

  3. In Cyberpunk 2020, a Kevlar vest has a “stopping power” or armor value of 10. A light rifle does 5d6 for damage, which will average 17+ points of damage. That seems reasonable.

    There is something called a “Flak Vest” that has an SP of 20 but with 5.56 rounds doing 5d6 damage per hit and 7.62 doing 6d6+2, I feel the system does a reasonable job for combat mechanics.

  4. […] Ballistic Testing Sheet Rock Testing A View On The Strength of Kevlar […]

  5. @viricordova – I’m the RPG do Mestre owner, the brazilian blogger who linked this post, remember? I’m very glad you appeard there and, don’t worry, there’s no problem using Google TRanslate or even post a comment in english there, ok?

    For sure I’ll let you know if someone comes with a new idea about armor class or elsewhere! Great post! Thanks again! See ya!

  6. Thanks and it’s good to see I’m reaching people 🙂

  7. For sure it is! I’m a RSS suscriber, indeed 🙂 Keep the good job, huh? See ya!

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