Defenses in Echelon

I’ve written before about saving throw talents, and there is a talent to improve a character’s Dexterity, but I haven’t yet discussed much how to help keep a character from getting hurt in a fight.

I have not yet run numbers on this, so this is greatly subject to change.

I’d like to see a defense system in which martially-trained characters are less likely to get hurt than non-martial characters. Hit points work to mitigate the effects of being hit, and as described in my Determining Hit Points article (and demonstrated in the Hit Point Tables article) martial characters get rather more hit points than non-martial characters… but they’re still being hit. I’d like to see martial characters better able to evade damage altogether.

For that matter, higher-level characters should also be a little better at not getting hurt, though perhaps not to the extent martial characters are.

Also, tank vulnerability to touch attacks annoys me no end, and it irks me that you can end up with better Armor Class wearing light or no armor than by wearing heavy armor.

Hmm. I think I found a nerve.

Changes to Armor

Let’s start with armor, since the implementation in D&D 3.x has been a peeve for quite a while.

First, heavy armor should have some benefits beyond making you get to the bottom of the lake faster. From previous conversations online, having armor grant Damage Reduction and Energy Resistance is probably a pretty good choice, especially if it scales with ‘heaviness’. A good starting point may be to grant base DR/- and energy resistance equal to the armor bonus. Special materials or crafting techniques may change these values, possibly independently of each other.

Second, armor isn’t that hard to move in with practice. Let’s lose the limitations on movement (speed, maximum run multiplier, etc.) for proficient wearers. Encumberance penalties still apply if the weight is too much to readily handle (the armor still counts toward your load). For now, I think it’ll be better to keep Arcane Spell Failure, though.

Third, martial characters should be better at using armor than nonmartial characters. When not helpless, let’s allow martial characters wearing armor with which they are proficient to add their Martial Training Bonus to the Damage Reduction and energy resistance, to a maximum of doubling the modified values above.

Bypassing Armor

No armor is perfect. Let’s say for now that critical hits and coup de grace attacks (automatic critical hit, but only against a helpless opponent) bypass armor Damage Reduction and energy resistance.

Defense Bonus

Armor is good, but even without armor experienced characters should be good at not getting hurt. I still want martial characters to be better at it than nonmartial characters, but nonmartial characters should get better as well, so let’s look to the Base Attack Bonus (Level Bonus + Martial Training Bonus).

It might also be nice if a character that is skilled enough at not getting hurt could reasonably do without armor, at least as far as evading damage entirely.

I see three options here that can accommodate this.

  1. Use the greater of Base Attack Bonus and armor bonus for armor class. This ignores differences between Level Bonus and Martial Training Bonus, but means that at ninth-level (Master Tier) you can have a better armor class without full plate than you would have if you depended only on that – as long as you are not helpless. You lose the Damage Reduction and energy resistance, of course.
  2. Use the greater of Martial Training Bonus and armor bonus for armor class, then add Level Bonus. This means that everyone gets to have a better armor class (starting at second level) as long as they are not helpless, and martial characters can reach the point of not needing armor for the armor bonus as long as they are not helpless (but will still benefit when they are, and would still be able to use the Damage Reduction and energy resistance).
  3. Use the greater of Level Bonus and armor bonus for armor class, then add Martial Training Bonus. Everyone can get to the point of not needed armor for the armor bonus, but only martial characters benefit further (Damage Reduction, energy resistance, and armor class) when not helpless.

Of the three, I like the last best. Everyone can eventually overcome the need of armor for the armor bonus (and most of those that would take the longest would have other options earlier anyway), but martial characters would get the most benefit all along (Damage Reduction, armor class, and energy resistance).

If you are denied the use of armor (such as by touch attacks) but not helpless you may use your Level Bonus plus Martial Training Bonus as your Defense Bonus. If you are denied your armor bonus you may still be able to apply any Damage Reduction or energy resistance provided by your armor if the damage is from energy or physical effects.

Examples

It’s time to run some numbers.

Tank

This character is a full martial character wearing full plate. He is strong enough to handle the load and is proficient with the armor (Basic Armor Focus). He starts with Dexterity 13.

Level

Dex

Dex Bonus

Level Bonus

Martial Training Bonus

Armor Bonus

Full AC Bonus

Touch AC Bonus

Armor AC Bonus

Flatfoot AC Bonus

Helpess AC Bonus

DR/ER

Helpless DR/ER

0

13

+1

+0

+0

+8

+9

+1

+9

+8

+8

8

8

1

13

+1

+0

+1

+8

+10

+2

+10

+9

+8

9

8

2

13

+1

+1

+1

+8

+10

+3

+10

+9

+8

9

8

3

13

+1

+1

+2

+8

+11

+4

+11

+10

+8

10

8

4

14

+2

+2

+2

+8

+12

+6

+12

+10

+8

10

8

5

14

+2

+2

+3

+8

+13

+7

+13

+11

+8

11

8

6

14

+2

+3

+3

+8

+13

+8

+13

+11

+8

11

8

7

14

+2

+3

+4

+8

+14

+9

+14

+12

+8

12

8

8

15

+2

+4

+4

+8

+14

+10

+14

+12

+8

12

8

9

15

+2

+4

+5

+8

+15

+11

+15

+13

+8

13

8

10

15

+2

+5

+5

+8

+15

+12

+15

+13

+8

13

8

11

15

+2

+5

+6

+8

+16

+13

+16

+14

+8

14

8

12

16

+3

+6

+6

+8

+17

+15

+17

+14

+8

14

8

13

16

+3

+6

+7

+8

+18

+16

+18

+15

+8

15

8

14

16

+3

+7

+7

+8

+18

+17

+18

+15

+8

15

8

15

16

+3

+7

+8

+8

+19

+18

+19

+16

+8

16

8

16

17

+3

+8

+8

+8

+19

+19

+19

+16

+8

16

8

17

17

+3

+8

+9

+8

+20

+20

+20

+17

+8

16

8

18

17

+3

+9

+9

+8

+21

+21

+20

+17

+8

16

8

19

17

+3

+9

+10

+8

+22

+22

+21

+18

+8

16

8

20

18

+4

+10

+10

+8

+24

+24

+22

+18

+8

16

8

This character, with just full plate armor and his training, has an armor class of 32 at 20th level.

His full armor class is 34 (defense bonus), his touch armor class is 34 (defense bonus, ignoring armor bonus), his flatfooted armor class is 28 (armor bonus plus Martial Training Bonus), and his helpless armor class is 18 (armor bonus only). He has Damage Reduction and energy resistance 16 as long as he is not helpless, and still has Damage Reduction 8 and energy resistance 8 when helpless (though a critical can still get past those).

At first level he has full armor class of 19, his touch armor class is 11 (defense bonus, no armor bonus), his flatfooted armor class is 19 (armor bonus plus Martial Training Bonus), and his helpless armor class is 18 (armor bonus only). He has Damage Reduction and energy resistance 9 as long as he is not helpless, and still has Damage Reduction 8 and energy resistance 8 when helpless (though a critical can still get past those).

Rogue/Mobility

Light armor and high Dexterity. In D&D 3.x this was functionally better than the tank at not getting hurt in most cases… but let’s see what happens under these rules.

This character started with Dexterity 18. I have included only the general ability score bonus and not the specific ability score talents (which this character would likely take at least a little bit of).

Level

Dex

Dex Bonus

Level Bonus

Martial Training Bonus

Armor Bonus

Full AC Bonus

Touch AC Bonus

Armor AC Bonus

Flatfoot AC Bonus

Helpess AC Bonus

DR/ER

Helpless DR/ER

0

18

+4

+0

+0

+4

+8

+4

+8

+4

+4

4

4

1

18

+4

+0

+0

+4

+8

+4

+8

+4

+4

4

4

2

18

+4

+1

+0

+4

+8

+5

+8

+4

+4

4

4

3

18

+4

+1

+1

+4

+9

+6

+9

+5

+4

5

4

4

19

+4

+2

+1

+4

+9

+7

+9

+5

+4

5

4

5

19

+4

+2

+1

+4

+9

+7

+9

+5

+4

5

4

6

19

+4

+3

+1

+4

+9

+8

+9

+5

+4

5

4

7

19

+4

+3

+2

+4

+10

+9

+10

+6

+4

6

4

8

20

+5

+4

+2

+4

+11

+11

+11

+6

+4

6

4

9

20

+5

+4

+2

+4

+11

+11

+11

+6

+4

6

4

10

20

+5

+5

+2

+4

+12

+12

+11

+6

+4

6

4

11

20

+5

+5

+3

+4

+13

+13

+12

+7

+4

7

4

12

21

+5

+6

+3

+4

+14

+14

+12

+7

+4

7

4

13

21

+5

+6

+3

+4

+14

+14

+12

+7

+4

7

4

14

21

+5

+7

+3

+4

+15

+15

+12

+7

+4

7

4

15

21

+5

+7

+4

+4

+16

+16

+13

+8

+4

8

4

16

22

+6

+8

+4

+4

+18

+18

+14

+8

+4

8

4

17

22

+6

+8

+4

+4

+18

+18

+14

+8

+4

8

4

18

22

+6

+9

+4

+4

+19

+19

+14

+8

+4

8

4

19

22

+6

+9

+5

+4

+20

+20

+15

+9

+4

8

4

20

23

+6

+10

+5

+4

+21

+21

+15

+9

+4

8

4

This character, wearing a chain shirt and depending on his training, has an armor class of 31 at 20th level, his touch armor class is 31 (defense bonus, ignoring armor bonus), his flatfooted armor class is 19 (armor bonus plus Martial Training Bonus), and his helpless armor class is 14 (armor bonus only). He has Damage Reduction and energy resistance 8 as long as he is not helpless, and still has Damage Reduction 4 and energy resistance 4 when helpless.

At 10th level his native agility and training exceed the protection from being hit, but it’s probably still worth having the chain shirt for the 6 points of Damage Reduction (and energy resistance), and for the +4 armor bonus when he is helpless (Armor Class 16 if flatfooted but not helpless).

Rogue/Mobility/Totally Twinked

Light armor and high Dexterity. In D&D 3.x this was functionally better than the tank at not getting hurt in most cases… but let’s see what happens under these rules.

This character started with Dexterity 20. I have included both the general ability score bonus and kept Dexterity at a maximum using the Great Dexterity talent as soon as possible.

Level

Dex

Dex Bonus

Level Bonus

Martial Training Bonus

Armor Bonus

Full AC Bonus

Touch AC Bonus

Armor AC Bonus

Flatfoot AC Bonus

Helpess AC Bonus

DR/ER

Helpless DR/ER

0

20

+5

+0

+0

+4

+9

+5

+9

+4

+4

4

4

1

22

+6

+0

+0

+4

+10

+6

+10

+4

+4

4

4

2

22

+6

+1

+0

+4

+10

+7

+10

+4

+4

4

4

3

22

+6

+1

+1

+4

+11

+8

+11

+5

+4

5

4

4

23

+6

+2

+1

+4

+11

+9

+11

+5

+4

5

4

5

25

+7

+2

+1

+4

+12

+10

+12

+5

+4

5

4

6

25

+7

+3

+1

+4

+12

+11

+12

+5

+4

5

4

7

25

+7

+3

+2

+4

+13

+12

+13

+6

+4

6

4

8

26

+8

+4

+2

+4

+14

+14

+14

+6

+4

6

4

9

28

+9

+4

+2

+4

+15

+15

+15

+6

+4

6

4

10

28

+9

+5

+2

+4

+16

+16

+15

+6

+4

6

4

11

28

+9

+5

+3

+4

+17

+17

+16

+7

+4

7

4

12

29

+9

+6

+3

+4

+18

+18

+16

+7

+4

7

4

13

31

+10

+6

+3

+4

+19

+19

+17

+7

+4

7

4

14

31

+10

+7

+3

+4

+20

+20

+17

+7

+4

7

4

15

31

+10

+7

+4

+4

+21

+21

+18

+8

+4

8

4

16

32

+11

+8

+4

+4

+23

+23

+19

+8

+4

8

4

17

34

+12

+8

+4

+4

+24

+24

+20

+8

+4

8

4

18

34

+12

+9

+4

+4

+25

+25

+20

+8

+4

8

4

19

34

+12

+9

+5

+4

+26

+26

+21

+9

+4

8

4

20

35

+12

+10

+5

+4

+27

+27

+21

+9

+4

8

4

Full armor class of 37 at 20th level, touch armor class is 37, flatfooted is 19 (armor bonus plus Martial Training Bonus), helpless is 14. As above, Damage Reduction and energy resistance of 8 (or 4 if helpless).

This character is still slightly better at not getting hit than the tank, as long as he isn’t impeded, and the tank is still better at soaking damage (both from better Damage Reduction due to heavier armor, and better hit points due to higher Martial Training Bonus).

Wizard/Totally Nonmartial

This guy does not want to get into a fight. He’s armorless and has no martial training. Let’s give him Dexterity 15 to start, though.

Level

Dex

Dex Bonus

Level Bonus

Martial Training Bonus

Armor Bonus

Full AC Bonus

Touch AC Bonus

Armor AC Bonus

Flatfoot AC Bonus

Helpess AC Bonus

DR/ER

Helpless DR/ER

0

15

+2

+0

+0

+0

+2

+2

+2

+0

+0

0

0

1

15

+2

+0

+0

+0

+2

+2

+2

+0

+0

0

0

2

15

+2

+1

+0

+0

+3

+3

+2

+0

+0

0

0

3

15

+2

+1

+0

+0

+3

+3

+2

+0

+0

0

0

4

16

+3

+2

+0

+0

+5

+5

+3

+0

+0

0

0

5

16

+3

+2

+0

+0

+5

+5

+3

+0

+0

0

0

6

16

+3

+3

+0

+0

+6

+6

+3

+0

+0

0

0

7

16

+3

+3

+0

+0

+6

+6

+3

+0

+0

0

0

8

17

+3

+4

+0

+0

+7

+7

+3

+0

+0

0

0

9

17

+3

+4

+0

+0

+7

+7

+3

+0

+0

0

0

10

17

+3

+5

+0

+0

+8

+8

+3

+0

+0

0

0

11

17

+3

+5

+0

+0

+8

+8

+3

+0

+0

0

0

12

18

+4

+6

+0

+0

+10

+10

+4

+0

+0

0

0

13

18

+4

+6

+0

+0

+10

+10

+4

+0

+0

0

0

14

18

+4

+7

+0

+0

+11

+11

+4

+0

+0

0

0

15

18

+4

+7

+0

+0

+11

+11

+4

+0

+0

0

0

16

19

+4

+8

+0

+0

+12

+12

+4

+0

+0

0

0

17

19

+4

+8

+0

+0

+12

+12

+4

+0

+0

0

0

18

19

+4

+9

+0

+0

+13

+13

+4

+0

+0

0

0

19

19

+4

+9

+0

+0

+13

+13

+4

+0

+0

0

0

20

20

+5

+10

+0

+0

+15

+15

+5

+0

+0

0

0

Full armor class of 25 at 20th level, touch armor class of 25, flatfooted is 10 (armor bonus plus Martial Training bonus – which is to say, none), helpless is 14. No Damage Reduction or energy resistance.

Medium Martial

Just for grins, let’s see what happens if we give someone with enough Strength to carry it medium armor. He won’t be impeded by the weight and proficiency means he won’t suffer penalties to his movement or speed, but he’ll actually be wearing… oh, let’s say a breastplate. And he’s got Dexterity 15 to start, and he’s a full martial character.

Level

Dex

Dex Bonus

Level Bonus

Martial Training Bonus

Armor Bonus

Full AC Bonus

Touch AC Bonus

Armor AC Bonus

Flatfoot AC Bonus

Helpess AC Bonus

DR/ER

Helpless DR/ER

0

15

+2

+0

+0

+5

+7

+2

+7

+5

+5

5

5

1

15

+2

+0

+1

+5

+8

+3

+8

+6

+5

6

5

2

15

+2

+1

+1

+5

+8

+4

+8

+6

+5

6

5

3

15

+2

+1

+2

+5

+9

+5

+9

+7

+5

7

5

4

16

+3

+2

+2

+5

+10

+7

+10

+7

+5

7

5

5

16

+3

+2

+3

+5

+11

+8

+11

+8

+5

8

5

6

16

+3

+3

+3

+5

+11

+9

+11

+8

+5

8

5

7

16

+3

+3

+4

+5

+12

+10

+12

+9

+5

9

5

8

17

+3

+4

+4

+5

+12

+11

+12

+9

+5

9

5

9

17

+3

+4

+5

+5

+13

+12

+13

+10

+5

10

5

10

17

+3

+5

+5

+5

+13

+13

+13

+10

+5

10

5

11

17

+3

+5

+6

+5

+14

+14

+14

+11

+5

10

5

12

18

+4

+6

+6

+5

+16

+16

+15

+11

+5

10

5

13

18

+4

+6

+7

+5

+17

+17

+16

+12

+5

10

5

14

18

+4

+7

+7

+5

+18

+18

+16

+12

+5

10

5

15

18

+4

+7

+8

+5

+19

+19

+17

+13

+5

10

5

16

19

+4

+8

+8

+5

+20

+20

+17

+13

+5

10

5

17

19

+4

+8

+9

+5

+21

+21

+18

+14

+5

10

5

18

19

+4

+9

+9

+5

+22

+22

+18

+14

+5

10

5

19

19

+4

+9

+10

+5

+23

+23

+19

+15

+5

10

5

20

20

+5

+10

+10

+5

+25

+25

+20

+15

+5

10

5

Interesting. This character actually has the second-best armor class of all, at the end. The tank still does better if the characters are caught flatfooted or helpless, which is to be expected, but the higher Dexterity combined with Martial Training overcomes equipment eventually.

Conclusion

In terms of sheer not-getting-hittedness, this model weights martial training roughly on par with Dexterity bonus. The latter can start higher but grows more slowly (unless the character takes the Great Dexterity talent, which may equate to the Improved Martial Training talent the martial characters have to take to stay ahead).

Heavier armor stays relevant longer than lighter armor (and more relevant even then, with the greater Damage Reduction and energy resistance). Even medium armor doesn’t suck any more – more Damage Reduction and energy resistance than lighter armor and better passive defense, without necessarily slowing the character down if he’s proficient and strong enough.

In the end high Dexterity still leads to a higher armor class much of the time, but the benefits of armor are still worthwhile.

I’m satisfied with this for now.

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4 Comments to "Defenses in Echelon"

  1. hadsil's Gravatar hadsil
    September 7, 2010 - 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m not convinced armor should provide energy resistance. Evocation is now almost useless. Let magical armor have their particular energy resistances.

    Touch AC equaling Full AC makes touch spells almost useless. If anything you force Echelon wizards to take Martial Training if they utilize touch spells.

    Armor providing some DR is fine. Having DR equal to the AC bonus is too much. Combat will drag on and on as much of the damage gets soaked to diddly. 3E Unearthed Arcana allows for DR equal to half the AC bonus; thus, platemail gives DR 4. That I find reasonable. You can allow magic armor to provide an additional +1 DR per +2 enhancement, maybe +1 DR for +1 enhancement.

  2. hadsil's Gravatar hadsil
    September 8, 2010 - 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Low touch AC in D&D is devastating because most touch spells don’t have a saving throw. Wizards don’t have high attack rolls so touch AC is needed to have a chance of hitting the bad guy. These are opposing interests.

    Possible solution I just thought of, no thought process on balance issue: have the touch AC be as above, but spellcasters use their caster level plus spellcasting ability score modifier for attack rolls for spells that target touch AC instead of BAB plus ST or DX. This is equivalent to a warrior’s BAB + ST but now the wizard doesn’t need to spend a talent on Martial Training.

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