Armor as damage reduction.

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Current armor essentially makes you harder to hit. actually, with the exeption of magic armor, that all it does. if you thing about it, armor doesn't make it harder to hit you. if anything it slows you down and makes youu more likely to be hit. I thing that rather than having AC bonuses tied to armor it should act as damage reduction.

this could be just strait damage reduction (reduses all damage by x amount) or it could be like temporary hit points (you have a pool of extra HP that is reduces instead of your HP until it runs out.) If the latter is utilized, rules for armor repair would be most likely included as well.

what does everyone else think? 
I don't personally care for tracking armor HP and dealing with repairs.  I've had to do that in other systems, and I found it boring.  Out of the options you provided, I'd much rather go with armor as DR.  I think it's definitely worth exploring in a rules module.  The only hitch is how to handle shields (and there is a thread on this where I and others have expressed our thoughts).
There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

Flat damage reduction is tricky. Taking X damage off the top means that multiple attacks for low damage can be very weak, while single attacks for higher damage can be very strong. It's also tough to implement for a wide range of armor types. If the weakest armor (leather? padded?) has DR 1, does the best have DR 10? That sounds too high, but there needs to be a range of values to make different armor types fit in the game. Even DR 5 is extremely powerful at low levels. Balancing flat DR is really tough.

Percentage DR is a great model for computer games, since the math is never trouble for the user. % DR is cool when you're getting hit for 100 damage and knocking it down by even 1 or 2 more points can help over time. Maybe the wizard takes 8% off the damage, the rogue reduces it by 15%, the cleric by 25%, and the fighter by 40%. These are significant differences, but not as dramatic as the flat DR can be. Finding slightly better armor that shaves off a tiny bit more damage is useful but not game breaking.

I'd expect any flat DR to be pretty unbalanced unless D&D started using BIG numbers for hit points, and % DR would be unfun for most groups trying to run a combat. 

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

I've always liked armor as DR, but it is tricky to do right. EarthDawn did a very good job of implementing it, and I wouldn't mind seeing something along those lines as an optional rule in a modular 5e game system. It would take some effort for the designers to do it right and make sure it worked in the DnD system, though. I'd rather they spend their time on other, higher priority (at least to me) issues than this.

In the end, by having armor make you harder to hit, it means you are reducing damage by not taking it (damage) in the first place. So, really, it is still doing its purpose. 
Balance = Equally effective, but different, ways of reaching a goal or overcoming an obstacle.
Armor as DR has problems with balance against groups of enemies -- unless it's very low relative to typical damage, either tough characters are immune to groups of foes, or lightly armored characters who get attacked are absolutely shredded. If we use DR equal to armor bonus (e.g. 2 for leather, 8 for plate), 1d10 attacks average 0.3 damage against plate, 3.6 damage against leather, 5.5 against someone unarmored, meaning the unarmored target is 18 times as vulnerable as the armored character. In 3e, the maximum vulnerability difference would be x9 (plate only hit on a 20, unarmored hit on a 12+), and it's usually much less (typically you use critters that hit the heavy armor guys on 15 or so, so 7+ on the unarmored guy, which is a ratio of 2.33). To keep that ratio in a DR scheme, you need attacks doing 4d6 or so. And that's for level 1 monsters.

One possibility would be armor dice -- plate is 1d8, a breastplate is 1d6, a chain shirt is 1d4, leather is 1d2 -- as that lets smaller attacks leak through.
One possibility would be armor dice -- plate is 1d8, a breastplate is 1d6, a chain shirt is 1d4, leather is 1d2 -- as that lets smaller attacks leak through.


Or you could go with a damage cap form of DR.  Instead of "DR 15" meaning the first 15 points do nothing it could be changed to mean only the first 15 points of damage are taken.
There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

Current armor essentially makes you harder to hit. actually, with the exeption of magic armor, that all it does. if you thing about it, armor doesn't make it harder to hit you. if anything it slows you down and makes youu more likely to be hit. I thing that rather than having AC bonuses tied to armor it should act as damage reduction.

this could be just strait damage reduction (reduses all damage by x amount) or it could be like temporary hit points (you have a pool of extra HP that is reduces instead of your HP until it runs out.) If the latter is utilized, rules for armor repair would be most likely included as well.

what does everyone else think? 

If I remember correctly Star Wars did the whole DR for Armor. It was a good idea, but didn't work kind of like Communism...j/k >:D

The 3.5 Unearthed arcane has this variant rule for armor as DR. My group tried it out and the fighters loved it but everyone else hated it. Basically light armor gave you DR 1 or 2, medium armor DR 2 or 3 and heavy armor DR 4 or 5 and the AC bonus for everything is roughly halved. Part of the adventure involved large groups of goblins ambushing with poisoned weapons. The fighters were immune to the goblins and tactics such as flanking or other bonuses to hit were useless because unless they scored a critical hit they could not injure the fighter. So maybe something like DR with a minimum of one point of damage getting through would have worked but just by it’s self that variant was not a good fit for us.

It would certainly be more realistic for armor to reduce damage.  To be realistic it would have to reduce it differently vs different sort of damage, and have some sort of threshold beyond which it's just been punched through and is no help.  That would all be complicated and wouldn't mech well with how simplified and unrealistic hit points are.  If you took some sort of wounds instead of having hit points, and armor reduced the severity of wounds, maybe?

Or you could lump the protection of armor in with hit points and just have armor add directly to them.

 
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What if we counte by having armor make you easier to hit?

Low or non armored characters take fewer hits but those that do hurt more, while an armored character takes a lot of hits, and each one hurts less. 
What if we counte by having armor make you easier to hit?

Low or non armored characters take fewer hits but those that do hurt more, while an armored character takes a lot of hits, and each one hurts less. 


That kind of system can be really swingy, sort of like a rogue "evasion tanking" in WoW, if that's familiar. Beyond the mechanics, I dislike armor as DR because it changes the open, abstract nature of hit points.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

Under the idea that AC like HP is an abstraction, I've always figured people in armor get hit but don't take damage. I'll discribe a miss sometimes as, "You hit but it doesn't phase the creature. You just can't get your blade through its hide." Or "You look over at the fighter and there are arrows sticking out of his shield."
Damage reduction was introduced in one of the boxed sets of 1ed. They also added other extra rules (From memory. feel free to correct)


  • A hit would always deal at least 1 damage.

  • A hit roll of 18 allowed you to ignore damage reduction

  • A hit roll of 19 dealed maximum damage ignoring damage reduction

  • A hit roll of 20 dealed twice maximum damage without damage reduction and would always hit regardless of AC

  • A fighter could specialize in a weapon to deal much more damage per round.


Each of these rules tipped the balance towards fighters or spell casters, but IIRC you could get a balance by adding all the rules at once.

I would personally like to use with damage reduction, if they release it as an optional module, but I fear that it will be difficult to balance.
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
I like AC and hit points because it's a system that works. AC represents anything that stops you from losing a resource. Hit points are the resource. When you add in other details (armor as DR + AC or armor as DR only) then you are adding steps that don't add meaning. An attack that does damage less than a target's DR does nothing. So why not call it a "miss" and be done? An attack that does very little damage because of DR could have just been taken from a larger resource (hit point) pool, making it less meaningful. If combat has added complexity, I'd rather see it in terms of options than resolution methods.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

The way I see armor is that it's something that prevents you from getting hurt. Plate being able to just stand there and have attacks bounce off the steel and cloth making the wearer dance around an attack. Being hit means that the opponent has overwhelmed your defense or was able to target weaknesses in your suit. Damage reduction can function as an added layer of protection but it shouldn't be straight built in.
I'd just like to point out that "armor as damage reduction" is the default in virtually every RPG there is, with D&D being one of the few exceptions. Folks who are mainly D&D-players are often very surprised to hear that, since they assume the way D&D does things is the standard.

It's really not difficult to balance, if you design the damage system around the idea. 
The way I see armor is that it's something that prevents you from getting hurt. Plate being able to just stand there and have attacks bounce off the steel and cloth making the wearer dance around an attack. Being hit means that the opponent has overwhelmed your defense or was able to target weaknesses in your suit. Damage reduction can function as an added layer of protection but it shouldn't be straight built in.


If you want realism then the damage reduction should probably depend on the weapon


  • Rapiers were initially designed to poke through a weakness in the armor these weaknesses can be diffifult to hit, so ideally the armor should give an AC bonus against rapers

  • Morning stars were designed to hit someone through the armor, so armor should give damage reduction against maces

  • Slashing swords were somewhat ineffective against plate mail. They couldn't hit through the defenses.


But from a gamist point of view, I like the idea that fact that damage reduction makes the damage received by front line fighters is less swingy. That adds to the predictability of combat but also to to the tension.
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
I'd just like to point out that "armor as damage reduction" is the default in virtually every RPG there is, with D&D being one of the few exceptions. Folks who are mainly D&D-players are often very surprised to hear that, since they assume the way D&D does things is the standard.

It's really not difficult to balance, if you design the damage system around the idea. 


I agree, especially with the bolded part. What we saw in 4E was that giving PCs a larger number of initial hit points was treated by some - regardless of context - as a sign that 4E characters were not "really" level one. DR works best with decently high hit point totals, since lower hp can easily make DR overpowered. It's certainly possible to design the combat system around DR, but I think the base hit point numbers would have to be pretty high, and maybe too high for a lot of people's tastes.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

It is POSSIBLE to do, if you design the system around it.  Granted.  I would argue many of the systems that do use it have not in fact balanced it successfully, but there's a bigger problem.  AC as DR is not going to be in the core.  It just isn't, regardless of what any of us here say - this is the edition to bring old-schoolers back into the fold not the edition to strike out in new directions (at least in core).  It is NOT possible to balance such a thing as a module, without completely reworking monster attack and damage expressions.  Do you really expect a module that requires rewriting every monster stat block they print?
There's also the issue of relevant HP increase being a staple in D&D, and, for DR to be balanced, it would have to take that into account. I mean, how do you balance something that gives you a very large bonus on level 1 (let's say, for example, DR 10? It makes Level 1 characters pratically immortal) while being completely unimportant at the higher levels (DR 10 when you have over 300 hit points means absolutely nothing).

So, in my view, DR could ONLY work if the values are increased over level (Plate, for example, could give a DR of "5 per tier"). But that is a stretch in most people's imagination ("Why is my leather armor getting better?"), one that I believe would be even worse than just using armor as AC.
I'm not really crazy about this idea, but to play devil's advocate for a moment it could be balanced by characters gaining increased skill with armor they're proficient in (like 3.x's scaling BAB) or simply have the magic bonuses apply to the DR rather than AC.  If they wanted to do it, it could be done, and well I think, but it seems to be the majority's opinion that it shouldn't be done.

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I'm not really crazy about this idea, but to play devil's advocate for a moment it could be balanced by characters gaining increased skill with armor they're proficient in (like 3.x's scaling BAB) or simply have the magic bonuses apply to the DR rather than AC.  If they wanted to do it, it could be done, and well I think, but it seems to be the majority's opinion that it shouldn't be done.



Agreed on characters gaining increased skill. Magic bonuses applying to DR, on the other hand, requires that magic items are again an integral part to the leveling system, which the devs already said that is something they didn't want to do.
I'm not really crazy about this idea, but to play devil's advocate for a moment it could be balanced by characters gaining increased skill with armor they're proficient in (like 3.x's scaling BAB) or simply have the magic bonuses apply to the DR rather than AC.  If they wanted to do it, it could be done, and well I think, but it seems to be the majority's opinion that it shouldn't be done.



Agreed on characters gaining increased skill. Magic bonuses applying to DR, on the other hand, requires that magic items are again an integral part to the leveling system, which the devs already said that is something they didn't want to do.

Agreed on that, simply stating it as an option for gaming.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/10.jpg)

I very much like the DR idea with the rationale the OP said.
middle earth role playing had a good implimentation of this.   They had insane open ended criticals as well which meant the whole system wasn't good.

The good bits were that in heavy armor you got hit for small amounts a lot and it was hard to crit you, and in no armor you cld dodge around and were hard to hit but when they got you they were likely to crit. 

It used a percentile system for attacks and it might be hard to make it work in a simple way without a table for each weapon vs each armor type and using a d20.  


I think dr sounds like a very bad approximation of this.    either you go to a totally different mechanism or you keep the normal d&d way i think.


One other point is in 4e it seemed defenders and wimpy magic using types were a lot closer in defenses than in the older editions.  No idea if this was good or bad just a comment.     
I prefer the system as-is. Here's why:

  1. If armor provides DR that stacks with AC/reflex from dexterity, then there is a huge advantage to having both high dex and also wearing full plate. Everybody runs around in full plate. Regardless of reality, the convention is the lightly armored acrobat who dodges every attack and the heavily armored tank who takes a beating but can't be hurt. I don't want my thief and my knight to both be running around with 18 dex in full suits of platemale.

  2. If armor provides DR that replaces AC/reflex from dexterity and one is better than the other, then either lightly armored melee characters or heavily armored melee characters are trap choices, depending on which sorts out better.

  3. If armor provides DR that replaces AC/reflex from dexterity and both are equal, then there's no point in having separate mechanics for the two just for the sake of it.


Counter-proposal:


  • Eliminate reflex saves and only have fortitude, AC, and will defenses. Insulation provided by armor can protect you from lightening and fireballs just as well as it can help protect you from a mace to the face. AC then represents the ability of a physical attack (that cannot be physically or mentally resisted) to both hit and harm your character. That's what it is supposed to represent already, but I think that the existence of reflex as a separate stat makes that a little confusing.


if anything it slows you down and makes youu more likely to be hit.



Max Dex Bonus
Another alternative to DR is decreasing the damage die (equivalent to DR in increments of 2, but less math). You could also have damage have a minimum cap of 1 per die rolled. This greatly depends on how much damage is variable versus static. Personally, I would prefer they drop the attack roll altogether, and just have every attack auto-hit, and have a separate resist/save for status effects.

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I think that damage reduction made 1ed platemail fighters weaker.


  • Before we introduced damage reduction, the fighters' AC was so good that many monsters had trouble hitting them.

  • After damage reduction, the armor did not contribute to AC anymore andbthat made the fighters became easier to hit.


From a math perspective, the gain from damage reduction depends on the percentage of succesful hit rolls. If the game is designed so that most monster hit rolls are succesful, then damage reduction will typically be more effective than AC, but if the game is designed so that most monster hit rolls fail then AC will typically be more effective than damage reduction

My only problem with damage reduction is that it doesn't add meaningful choices to the game. I would like to play a fairly simple game where the fighter often has to make a meaningful choice, and damage reduction doesn't bring me closer to that game.. 
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
What?

I mean how is it any less a meaningfull choice than deciding on how much armor to wear in a traditional dnd core armor system? 
What?
I mean how is it any less a meaningfull choice than deciding on how much armor to wear in a traditional dnd core armor system? 

 
Oops, I meant to say that I want to make meaningful tactical choices during combat, but I also want a fast paced game. Therefore I don't want to rules that slows down combat without providing meaningful tactical choices during combat. Therefore I will probably prefer to play without damage reduction.

BTW: I believe that the choice of armor will (almost) always be trap choice. In most situations one armor will be so much better than the others.
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.

BTW: I believe that the choice of armor will (almost) always be trap choice. In most situations one armor will be so much better than the others.



Ugh, I hope not, please not another Chain Shirt scenario.
I think I'd prefer a return to more traditional armour ratings and capping the maximim Dex bonus that someone in heavy armour receives on AC at +1 is a good idea (and maybe +2 for a chain shirt or elven chain, and +3 for an elven chain shirt).  It keep some incentive to have a reasonable dex but gives an advantage to dextrous, lighter armoured characters.  I don't think some level of damage resistance for heavier armours is a bad idea but it needs to be minor if they want low level monsters to remain a threat for longer (maybe 1 point for medium armour and 2 points for heavy armour negated for the rest of the encounter if a monster scores a crit).  Spending an action to use a shield for damage reduction (1 buckler/small, 2 medium, 3 tower shield) could also be viable if it scaled with level (so if a level 1 character in heavy armour with a medium shield spends their round just defending, they'd have DR 4 and a higher level fighter could forego his extra attacks to defend with his shield for a better DR score).

1e (Unearthed Arcana) kept a rough cap on AC by limiting armour availability.  So +4 armour had to be made from mithral, and +5 armour had to made from adamantine meaning that light armour was capped at +3 (and technically elevn chain should be capped at +4 - although I do recall a 1% chance of finding +5 elven chain back in the day...).  3e took a step on the cookie cutter item trail with every armour having the same range but 4e reflects the old system with its faster scaling masterwork heavy armours.  Something akin to the old system could help maintain the advantages of heavier armours. 

If a chain shirt is treated as medium armour AC7 with a +2 dex cap would that bring it slightly back in line?  Its advantage would be that it could be enchanted to +5 or an elven chain shirt allowing +3 dex but enchantable only to +4.

If Bracers of Defence as AC were to come back, they should cap their power - maybe AC8 for low, AC6 for mid and AC4 for high levels so that armour retains some attraction.

But then until we know their dex bonuses to AC are going to be calculated the argument is rather speculative.
AC is one of those core aspects of D&D that works and works well.

I would like to see armour as DR as a module (optional rule).

Previous editions of D&D were too invested into the AC rule to allow such a change, sure they tried but it never worked well. Pathfinder took a crack at it in their Martial module but its just horrible.

Honestly the only ones that ever did it well were Mongoose in the 3.5 version of Conan (2nd edition).

The key thing, is while building AC to keep in mind the armour as DR optional rule so that DMs can switch between rules without making fundamental changes to the game.
What if we counte by having armor make you easier to hit?

Low or non armored characters take fewer hits but those that do hurt more, while an armored character takes a lot of hits, and each one hurts less. 


That kind of system can be really swingy, sort of like a rogue "evasion tanking" in WoW, if that's familiar. Beyond the mechanics, I dislike armor as DR because it changes the open, abstract nature of hit points.



This. Plus you get into avoidance vs absorbtion issues, where avodiance is almost always better, due to mitigating more rider effects. If you absorb 5 points of damage on a 6 point prone attack, you're still prone...

AC works fine. It helps protect your "not dead yet" points through making it harder to get dead.
Oops, I meant to say that I want to make meaningful tactical choices during combat, but I also want a fast paced game. Therefore I don't want to rules that slows down combat without providing meaningful tactical choices during combat. Therefore I will probably prefer to play without damage reduction.


Typically you renormalize damage in any game where armor provides damage reduction, so it doesn't really slow down combat by that much. It just means that base damage tends to be much higher, and there usually isn't as much variation in damage levels.
Oops, I meant to say that I want to make meaningful tactical choices during combat, but I also want a fast paced game. Therefore I don't want to rules that slows down combat without providing meaningful tactical choices during combat. Therefore I will probably prefer to play without damage reduction.


Typically you renormalize damage in any game where armor provides damage reduction, so it doesn't really slow down combat by that much. It just means that base damage tends to be much higher, and there usually isn't as much variation in damage levels.


I think he just means that adding one more step (subtract DR from damage done) slows things down. And usually the math major with the 160 IQ messes up the subtraction because... I don't know why, but he does.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

I think every armor type should have a damage reduction vs weapon type modifier.   I also think that, some armors should have deflection properties as well. 

I wouldn't mind an AC system that is divided into three parts;  avoidance, absorbtion, and deflection.  

In addition, I'm all for changes that help to approximate a medieval arms race.   



Someone posted on another thread what I though was a unique suggestion: Light Armor would provide only an AC bonus and Heavy Armor would provide DR equal to it's AC bonus minus 10, while only providing an AC of 10. Medium Armor would fall somewhere in the middle.

While I don't think this is necessarily a perfect solution, it could be a great starting point. I really like the idea of providing 'specialization dice' for different types of armor. At the very least you could build DR into the fighter build through a combat style? And on that note, I like the idea of providing 'specialization dice' for every class. If that were the case, the DR machanic could be run that way.
I have been tinkering on a homebrewed equipment list..
In that I put damage reduction on heavy armors that would be ignored by weapons with the Armor piercing property.
Ill post it in here when I am done with it.
The way I handle it is:

-Normal Armors range from 1-5 AC
-Masterwork quality armors can add 1-3 points of AC to this
-Armor + (Max Dex/2) = 5+masterwork level. So your Masterwork Plate that has 8 AC will have max dex 0. Your masterwork chain shirt with 4 max dex will have 6 armor.
-You gain damage resistance equal to armor value, this amount is multiplied by bonus attacks from BAB (was made for 3.x, scaling can be tied to something else)
-Damage resistance applies per round rather than per hit. So if you get hit by 5 arrows for 10 points of damage each, with resistance 10, you still take 40 points of damage. 


There's a few other details in the armor design, but that's the core of it. This way makes high dex characters have more AC, and thus be harder to hit, but heavy armor characters get hurt less when they do get hit. It roughly balances out.