In a recent Legends and Lore article, Mike Mearls discussed the the Design Goals of D&D Next. He stated that the two guiding principles are:
- Create a version of D&D that embraces the enduring, core elements of the game.
- Create a set of rules that allows a smooth transition from a simple game to a complex one.
While I wish him and his team good luck on that first goal (they'll need it), it's the second that hooked me. It brought me back to the state I was in during my Playtester Profile Interview last month (props to the interviewer).The desire to peel away layers. And the best layers to peel are Armor layer, right?
No. Not sending your blood-frenzied barbarian to tackle a stalwart hobgoblin warrior, toss it's face a few knuckles, and rip his chainmail into pieces with just his rage filled hands.
But searching for a small kernel of goodness that is simple enough to use but open enough to expand on with complexity and verisimilitude of your own desire.
Armor is an awesome illustration. Now I know nothing of real armor, its history, effectiveness, or proper usage. I did all my fighting unarmored with all my Dexterity bonus, but deep knowledge is not needed for looking in and swimming out of the core system of armor.
So let me interpret and explain my thoughts of this simple to complex system.
D&D uses armor groups since the beginning. Armors were light, heavy, and every medium in between that granted different AC for each. In many edition, the weight and heaviness of the armor adjust the bonuses to Armor Class gained from a high Dexterity. Sometimes the heaviness also reduces the wearer's land speed. And there are time where the weight affect skill and stealth usage.
To me, armor starts at light with padded cloth. This is the weakest of armors, just heavy cloth. Next is Leather, the stereotypical armor to rogues. Then there is chain shirt. After this is hide and studded leather armor. Scale comes after that. Then you get to the heaver armors: ringmail, chainmail, split, and banded armor. And finally the granddaddy of them all, plate armor.
With just armor class values, armor groups, speed penalties, and stealth adjustments, there is a lot of room for modules to place on top.
There could be simple rules like modules for masterwork armor and nonmagical armor enhancement. Who doesn't like locked gauntlets and armor spikes?
Then there could be rules for special material. Everyone loves mithral plate, dragonscale and wooden armor. Well druid love wooden armor.
Also partial armor could be an option. Half-plates and rules for each layer. People would love it. Especially that guy... the player running a warrior with just armored sleeves and pants and no shirt. Or the person running the fighter-mage in a sleeveless scale battle-dress. A bladed battle-dress.
The possibilities are endless when you start from a simple powerful and reminiscent ingredient and work your way to the tasty recipes of your own RPG playstyle. D&D Next is in the perfect position to make a cookbook role playing game we all desire. And less is more in this case.
Don't forget to peel those layers, my friends.