A Look at Armor

A Look at Armor

In this I want to talk about armor. In an RPG the concept of armor is simple: wear a piece of equipment or have an ability, and make getting damaged more difficult. There are three major ways that RPGs often handle this:

  • Armor as Damage Reduction (DR)
  • Armor as Defense
  • Armor as ablative Hit Points (HP)

Most RPGs, of which Saga Machine is one, take the first approach. In this approach armor simply subtracts from the damage being dealt. This is easy and avoids some of the problems of the last two options. But is has its own problems as well. And foremost among them (in my mind) is that it's difficult to balance.

The problem that a lot of DR systems fall into is that DR values are very temperamental. Having a DR value too small can make it negligible, while having it too high can break the game, as the character is never hurt. Imagine the case of a character with DR 5. If in the game most attacks do 5 damage or less, the character is almost never hurt. On the other hand, if average damages are 100, having DR 5 becomes worth very little.

So in this post I'm going to brainstorm about possible fixes to this.

One common solution is to have all hits always do a minimum of 1 damage. In this way a swarm of attackers dealing small change damage will eventually be able to plink through DR until their attacks add up. How viable this solution is, however, depends largely on typical HP values. Essentially it will take many more small attacks at 1 damage each to matter to a character with 100 HP than one with 5 HP.

Another possible solution is to make DR a divisor than a subtractor. In this fix instead of subtracting DR from damage, divide damage by DR. So with DR 2, hitting for 10 damage only deals 5. The downside of this approach is that now players have to do division with each hit. Additionally, there's a pretty huge gap between no DR (or DR1, which is the same thing) and the next lowest (DR 2). That is, unless you want to make people divide by fractions…

A third possible solution is try to make armor a hybrid approach with other armor systems. DR 1 may be negligible by itself, but it may be less negligible if combined with a bonus to Defense as well. Or perhaps armor provides a pool of ablative HP, but only takes the first 5 points of damage from its pool, and the rest come from the character's main HP. These fixes can be effective, but they also have the downside of complicating the game, since players then have to apply several different effects per hit.

The last possible solution I'm going to take a look at is a variant of the first fix. In this fix instead of attacks doing a minimum damage of 1, instead each attack can have a different minimum. One can think of the minimum as an "Armor Piercing" value. So an attack that does 5 damage minimum 2 against DR 10, would still deal 2 damage. The downside is that this adds an extra step when dealing damage against enemies with high DR, but on the other hand it can be made to scale to higher HP values more easily.

And now a few development updates:

Good progress is being made on the ganjifa cards we Kickstarted a little while ago. The art for the cards is not fully complete, the rules sheet has been written and edited, and the first draft of the art for the tuck box has been done. At this point we're waiting for the tuck box's art to be finished and for money to transfer so we can make our initial payment to the printer.

Meanwhile, in Against the Dark Yogi land, Beta 3 is in its last couple weeks. Many changes have been integrated into the text, and the last chapter is being written. We're in the process of lining up an editor and planning its Kickstarter campaign.

Finally, we're preparing for a major update to the website. This update will occur in the next month or so. The style of the website won't visibly change much, but it is a much needed overhaul of our backend code, which will enable us to keep track of things better in the future. It will also update the content of our website to be in line with being under the auspice of the new Tab Creations LLC.

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