Monday, October 25, 2010

Height, Weight and Plate Armour

I have always struggled with how best to prevent character inheritance from spoiling the balance of my campaigns. This is brought into special relief by plate armour, which I give to newly rolled up Fighting-Men for cheap (50 coins, as per Men & Magic) and then sell for a much steeper price in the marketplaces of the campaign world. My reasoning is as follows: new warriors should already come equipped with the critical boost of plate armour, but such a powerful resource should be a pricy upgrade for later characters and henchmen. Yet at gaming tables as deadly as mine, those plucky warriors do end up dying, thus leaving their priceless plate for the rest of the party's malfeasance.

Plate armour, of course, is the nicest thing a low-level party has to inherit. At higher levels, inheritance does not cause such imbalance problems in my experience, so I can happily focus my efforts on the specific problem of plate armour. Loathe as I am to import overly artificial or contrived constraints on our favorite numeral three armour class, we must look to the particularities of the historical suit of full plate.

What immediately stands out is that, more so than any other piece of armour (let alone equipment), plate armour is custom tailored to its owner. Here, the height and weight of the wearer are of principle importance. Not only does transferring the suit to a new owner entail a thorough scrubbing to remove any remnants, but the body type of the new ward must be similar enough to the former, lest the suit require an extensive retooling to properly balance and fit comfortably. We must therefore provide a method to determine the height and weight of characters in OD&D. And Lo!;

Human: 5 feet*
Elf: 4 feet*
Dwarf/Hobbit: 3 feet*
*Add 3d6 inches for males or 2d6 inches for females.

1 Stone per foot (rounded) + 2d6 (average build) or + 1d6 (slim) or + 3d6 (heavy)

For the uninitiated, this results in an average male hero of 5'11" and 182 lbs. If the dispossessed and the new owner are within 3" of height and 3 stone of weight, the inherited armour can be worn without difficulty. Otherwise, the armour must be retooled - to the price of a new suit of armour!


  1. Glad to see you blogging again! :) I've found your articles on Chainmail extremely interesting.

  2. You could also rule, in many cases, that whatever attack was sufficient to kill the character, effectively ruined the plate armor.

    Additionally, you need to consider the disposition of the body. Did the rest of the party lug it and the armor back to town? Or did they bury him outide the dungeon. Did they bother to strip the body of the armor and carry that back to town?

    I do like the cheap initial armor, expensive if bought in-play method. Never thought of that, always just hated on Plate being so cheap.

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