Sunday, February 20, 2022

Armour rules in gamebooks

So if you play most Fighting Fantasy books, you usually get told htat you are wearing some leather armour when you start.  There you go, what more needs to be said about armour in gamebooks?

Ok, more I guess.  Armour seems to get an inconsistent approach in gamebooks, if it is not completely ignored.  I guess the writers are following the tenet that in a gamebook you do not want to create more rules or mechanics where necessary.  If a situation comes up rarely, then you should just assign a random die roll, give some common sense consequences and forget about it rather than trying to come up with a new rule.

Which is great until you realise that armour is not a situation that comes up rarely.

Now that I'm thinking (and writing) about it, it seems strange to me that a situation that comes up quite commonly does not actually get a clear rule for it.  In Fighting Fantasy, armour could add to your skill (leading to the question that since the rules say that you cannot go over your initial skill, does it do nothing if you are at your initial skill?), it could reduce damage in certain situations, it could increase your attack strength, it could reduce your opponent's attack strength, it could reduce damage on a die roll, reduce damage for certain or reduce damage for certain, but wear out after x hits.

So armour does come up a lot, in any gamebook series that involves a system for determining combat at any rate.  So it does need a system.  Which one could we use?

Armour makes you harder to hit

Works quite well in Fabled Lands - you have to get over your opponent's defence score with 2d6 + your combat score to hit them.  Defence is based on combat + rank + armour.  This is a good system as long as it is not too hard to hit people as it will lead to stalls.  Also makes logical sense that armour makes you harder to hit and damage.  Tin Man Games has an armour system which makes you harder to hit, but does not reduce damage.  Space Assassin has a system where armour makes you harder to hit, but every hit it absorbs makes it weaker. The pitfall with this is that if one combatant has a really high armour, it might make them hard or impossible to damage, making combat a joyless slog or a frustrating dead end.

Armour as damage reduction

it makes sense that armour reduces damage and that is find when you are dealing d12 damage a blow to an opponent and plate armour reduces it by 4, but when you do 2 damage with every hit, you have very little room to play with.  You can reduce 50% of the damage or 100% of the damage.  Not really an option.  It is possible in a system where you could lose a lot a hit points in one hit (Lone Wolf could have used this system, but decided to do something else).  Ways to get around this include a limited number of uses or damage reduction only occurs on a certain die roll.  Good ways around it with a bit more book keeping.

Armour as a skill or attack strength bonus

As long as the skill bonus applies, this makes sense.  If you are harder to damage, it will make combat easier and so you will be more likely to win.  A shield can be used offensively, which is another reason it can increase your attack strength.  Increasing skill in Fighting Fantasy is a little unrealistic - if you can't go above your initial skill, then wearing armour has no effect (?).  If it can, then for some reason, armour makes you better at all the other things skill covers in Fighting Fantasy including jumping, sneaking and climbing.  Things that armour should hinder.

But a helmet is no use here :S
Armour that has a benefit in story

A more realistic approach, but one that requires more effort.  Your helmet prevents damage to the head, your shield blocks an arrow etc.  Adds a nice touch if you can be bothered to use it.

Armour as hit points

Used in Lone Wolf (combined with armour as Combat Skill increase).  A chain coat adds 4 to your endurance for example.  At first, I couldn't see how that would make sense, but there is a reason to it.

If for example, you have 20 endurance points and you lose 10, you have lost 50% of your endurance. A chain coat prevents some damage. 

If you wear armour that increases it by 5, and lose 10 endurance, you have lost 40% of your endurance.  The armour has not magically made you gain 5 points of endurance - it has reduced the damage you received by 10%.  Of course, there are flaws - it reduces damage from hunger and other things that it shouldn't.  And also healing becomes less effective as it is restoring a smaller proportion of your endurance.  however, it is super simple and no more die rolling or maths is required beyond adding two numbers.

So there you are.  What's your favourite armour system for gamebooks?


  1. Hello Stuart, try this: