Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Armor Costs

In my recent OED house rules update, I increased the cost of armor in the OD&D price list -- boosting chain mail from price 30 to 50, and plate mail from 50 to 200. Why? (Granted I try to avoid making lots of changes like that.) I've been on the cusp of doing this for some time (link) -- here are some reasons for finally doing so.
  1. For PCs to experience the full range of the resource scale. It always irks me in OD&D that fighters of median starting money (or less) all get to start with plate mail, the best possible armor in the system; and thus have no room for improvement in that regard. It's much more interesting if they starting with a lower armor type, possibly leather, and work their way up through the options (even if just for a single adventure).
  2. To explain why so many NPCs in the world are just wearing leather armor. This would include the majority of bandits, brigands, etc.; if chain and plate are just marginally more expensive, then there would be almost no reason for them to not all be outfit in those heavier armors. Also, this armor-resource scarcity explains how thieves are able to masquerade as generic low-level fighters. 
  3. To be somewhat more historically accurate. While many costs in OD&D, expressed in silver pieces (groats), are surprisingly close to their real-world historical documentation, one glaring exception is the armor costs. The lowest price I could find for historical plate documentation is about 200sp in our system, with most many times higher than that (see below for specifics).
Obviously, this is not totally dissimilar from what Gygax did in the AD&D PHB, by increasing the cost of chain to 75 and plate mail to 400; but I find those numbers a bit ugly and didn't want to go quite that far. What I'm doing here is to take two steps on the Reynard-like 1-2-5 scale; i.e., say leather is about 10sp, say chain is 50 (count 20, 50), and then say plate is 200 (count 100, 200).

Also, looking at the esteemed Medieval Sourcebook Price List (link; armor citation from Ffoulkes), we see the lowest-documents price for "Complete Lance Armor" at 3 pounds, 6 shillings, 8 pence (which converts for us as about 3×3×20+6×3 = 198sp). Other entries are at price points of 5, 8, or 16 pounds (or even 103 or 340 pounds for "gilt and graven" armor for the Prince of Wales in the 17th c.) -- so it's not unreasonable to set it possibly much higher.

What do 1st-level fighters get for those price points? Obviously, with starting money 30-180sp, plate mail is outside the budget for any starting fighters (and I think that's a good thing). Let's consider some "starting packages" with fighter budgets split into quartiles (1st Quartile meaning that 25% have this amount or less, etc.). In what follows, "sundries" means a backpack, waterskin, small sack, and three other 1-cost items (total 10sp).
  • Poor Fighter (1st Quartile) -- Leather, helm, sword, shortbow, arrows, sundries (80sp). This is equivalent to a bandit archer figure. Alternatively, the fighter could trade the leather, shortbow, and arrows for chain mail; but then they wouldn't have any shield, missile, or backup weapon.
  • Average Fighter (2nd Quartile) -- Chain, helm, shield, sword, light crossbow, quarrels (105sp). At this level, a character can definitely afford chain, but they can't get a pricey missile weapon at the same time; I also had to forego sundries in this list (hopefully assisted by other party members there).
  • Rich Fighter (3rd Quartile) -- Chain, helm, shield, sword, shortbow, 40 arrows, sundries (130sp). With this amount of money, the fighter can comfortably purchase chain, as well as a nice missile weapon and extra ammunition, and whatever minor items they need.
So I'm pretty comfortable with that profile for starting fighters -- some will have to wrestle with starting out in either leather or foregoing any shield or missile weapon. Most will have chain, but none will have plate initially (something to look forward to).

Presumably the PCs are starting with middle-class type money, more than the peasant bandits who must do with only leather; although some unfortunate PCs may start at that reduced level of circumstance. Some few may start with only leather, helm, shield, sword, and sundries (55sp), similar to the majority of bandit light foot. On the other hand, fighters with above-average money can possibly start equipped as light cavalry: leather, helm, shield, spear, dagger, light horse, saddle, sundries (115sp) -- although obviously that's not optimized for a dungeon setting.

In summary: Changing the OD&D price points for armor hit that "proud nail" for me, and I don't see anything else on the original price list that bothers me the same way. It gives starting PCs reasonable kit-outs, and something to look forward to in the near future.


25 comments:

  1. That is one of the details of 3.5/PF that I like - the increased armor costs that makes even chain out of the reach of most 1st level characters at chargen. A well-equipped fighter can start with scale mail, more along the lines of an ex-soldier, perhaps. Chain and especially plate were complex to construct, so a 'beginner' would only have them under extraordinary circumstances.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, and it's the same in 3.0, and similar to its being altered already in AD&D 1st Ed. I really wanted to use the OD&D list as written, but the armor is obviously out of whack -- for me, very similar to starting the coinage at the top level of gold, always one of my "top 5" pet peeves.

      Delete
    2. After reading this, I checked ACKS noted that plate is also 60 gp, and now I thinking of using the AD&D or 3.x prices for armor.

      Delete
    3. Yeah, like ACKS I tried to keep the OD&D prices as long as I could, and I finally snapped this week.

      Delete
    4. Well, speaking as someone who makes reproduction armour, even a "simple" gambeson takes work, to ensure it fits correctly, etc. There is an added layer of material cost and specialty skills in constructing metal armour, of course, but all of it is complex to some degree.

      Delete
    5. That makes sense. I actually briefly considered upping the cost of leather (which I read as a gambeson/"padded jack") a little bit. If it weren't for the overall curve of the game-design (always the priority) then I wouldn't have bothered with this.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the link to the Medieval source book. You might enjoy a Roman equivalent:

    http://www.constantinethegreatcoins.com/edict/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, that's great. Thank you for that!

      Delete
    2. I have a spreadsheet I compiled from multiple sources of the Edict of Maximum Prices, if you're interested:
      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AhK6_eOITnt_dDE2UlE1ckIzczZQYTFqUHdBV1RZWFE&usp=sharing

      Delete
    3. Wow, that's crazy spectacular. Thank you so much!

      Delete
  3. OD&D and its immediate brethren are so deadly at low levels that I have no issue with cheap armor. Nothing wrong with your approach, so please don't take this as a criticism, but ...

    Have you considered, instead, making the book prices for "beginners only"? Maybe some heirloom armor a neighbor was willing to part with for few coins? Or surplus sitting in the local smithy's inventory for a bit too long?

    After that, it'll cost ya', man.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can respect that. I think would like to have a "real" price on the charts for things like economy assessment, outfitting henchmen and hirelings, etc., even if there's some special consideration given to the PCs.

      Delete
    2. You can also always add the additional layer of quality (poor, medium, good) that a few people have toyed with, so a 'poor' plate and 'good' chain may be equivalent price but more subject to wear and tear/failure. Add to this that armor can be treated as a consumable as well, requiring either repair or replacement after damage.

      Delete
    3. You whet my appetite for consumable arms & armor, but I've never crossed that bridge to date. Although I think my critical tables do have cases for possibly broken weapons.

      Delete
    4. I firmly like having "real" prices for goods. If one insists on allowing 1st level characters to have plate (a not unreasonable idea - see my post below) then either allow them a "family heirloom" or more starting money (to reflect plunder, etc., from the presumably successful campaign that got them from 0 to 1st level in the first place).

      Gear quality is another good idea. One might rule that the armor you have is plunder taken from someone with a different build, and you move at -1"/rnd and attack at -1 because it fits poorly. Certainly real mediaeval armour was all over the place in quality. Mail rings for a hauberk or haubergeon were usually around 3/8" I.D., but could be as large as 1/2", or as fine as around 1/8". Plate armour could be made from poor quality iron or tempered sword grade steel (c.f. William's "Knight and the Blast Furnace" for examples). Lot of wiggle room here.

      Delete
    5. Those are reasonable ideas. The only hair I'd split is that I don't assume that 1st level characters had a prior campaign: (a) the XP tables start at zero, (b) in OD&D there's no separate existence of 0-level types, (c) I assume that focused training can gain a level, although PCs usually don't get that chance. Their first real combat is the first real game.

      What I do assume is that the median PC is at least a middle-class freeman, with some teenage training in arms, and a little bit more cash than the average peasant. So I agree that not starting with the very lowest type is reasonable.

      Delete
  4. I like your price lists for the fighters so far, but I'd change one thing. Take the sword off the 1st & second and give them spears. In many places, owning a sword was a sign of being the aristocracy, and local laws protected that privilege

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. +1, though do see my comment below.

      Delete
    2. You know, I actually did do that in my initial notes? One of the things that switched me back is that the OD&D tradition is that even the lowest-level bandits are armed with swords (see AD&D MM p. 66, etc.). That plus not wanting to change the price convinced me to include the swords there (for compatibility purposes). But anyone who includes that as a factor, that can be a nice idea.

      Delete
  5. One thing to keep in mind is that a 1st level fighting man is actually a veteran, who has seen battle, given and taken wounds, and likely even obtained a small amount of plunder. While I do think the prices for armour and other things should be more realistic, it is also not unreasonable that even at first level better armour might be available. Having said that, however, I do like the idea of having to work a bit to get the better stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A fine point. Partly I'm looking at this in the OD&D perspective where there seems to be less of a threshold for what counts as "1st level" (there's no notion of non-leveled people yet); and for example, at least 80% of the bandit forces listed (all 1st level) are wearing leather.

      Initially I attempted to arrange it so 1st level PCs could generally only afford leather. Looking at that attempt seemed like I was pushing the issue too much, so I backed off and settled for almost all PCs starting with chain. I agree that for the slightly more favored fighters (PCs) having at least chain mail is reasonable.

      Delete
    2. Right, I see your point but keep in mind that what mostly prompted me to say this was the fact that the level title is "Veteran" - this implies that they are, well, "veterans". The rest though is based on impressions from later post OD&D rules, of course.

      Delete
    3. That's a good point, I do tend to overlook that.

      Delete
  6. Great analysis as always. I was much less scientific about it and just upped the cost to 5/20/100/400/2000 for clothing/leather/chain/plate/full when I last worked on my equipment list, mostly based on the intended setting being points-of-light-ish. I like your 1-2-5 scale a lot better though. I have much less of a problem with weapon prices, mostly because swords and such don't have big advantages game-wise. But full plate does, at least for a tank.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree. When I started here the first thing I thought of was 100/200 cost for chain/plate, so I think there's a couple order-of-magnitudes room for flexibility. Bringing it down to 50/100 was the bare minimum I could live with and be a bit generous.

      Delete