Sunday, August 28, 2011

Static AC Progressions vs AC Progression Based on a Character Statistics

The title is a bit of a mouthful but all it means is that I have my concerns about "Dex tanks" and "Armor tanks" in Pathfinder/D&D. I was working with characters beyond 20th level (for a top secret project) when I began to have my concerns about the progression of AC. See, "dodge tanks" that gain the majority of their AC from their dexterity modifier have what we call a "soft cap" while a character that relies on heavy armor has a "hard cap". A soft cap is generally a limitation on a game mechanic that doesn't have an exact cap on its maximum. (An example is something like "You can do this a number of times per day equal to the number of times you critical." or something to that effect.) A hard cap is an exact cap. ("You can do this three times per day".) The POTENTIAL with a soft cap is that it's unlimited.

Because your Dexterity modifier can fluctuate, you need to consider the potential for an unlimited increase. Armor has a set maximum value. Last night Caleb Aylsworth and I worked though the maximum AC possible with each at 30th level. We did not include things that could be utilized by both types of characters (Amulets of natural armor, rings of protection, small size, shields, class features, feats, etc.) We ascertained that at 30th level a Dexterity-style tank could potentially have about 5 more AC than someone who relies on armor.

From a mechanics standpoint, it is difficult to make up that gap beyond 20th level. We didn't want to do the cop-out and add a level 20+ type of armor ("full full plate!") or just give them a flat "bonus to armor when wearing it beyond 20th level" so we had to brainstorm for a while. The result should be out by about Xmas. :D

While I'm up here on this pulpit I want to voice something. I have a background in historical combat. I've done a few years in just about everything. I've done a mixture of martial arts styles for a few years when I was younger. I've done okinawan staff, some sword (mostly bokken) work in aikido, collegiate fencing (3 years), rapier (6 months), a little German longsword, English longsword, and I'm currently a newbie hardsuit fighter in the SCA. ( I've done the armor thing (SCA) and I've done the dodge/parry road of things (fencing). While dodge/parry is nice- holy shit armor just kicks its ass. If you can combine the two- you’re a total badass (I've seen some very fast armor fighters). I got this feeling that if someone who approached me wearing nothing but a doublet would be in for some real pain if they tried to play the dancy game with me. I once fought in a grand melee with my fencing friends while in armor. (Lorica segmentata w/heavy chainmail) I was able to barrel into/though them, especially when I had a shield. I get the fantasy/game balance side of things but it just doesn't work in my experience. I'm a pretty spry guy but give me armor anytime!