Friday, January 8, 2010

Fighters: Armor Plated Battle-Turtle or Run n' Gun Stab-Monkey

Throughout my history with Dungeons & Dragons, I've always dreamed of making a fighter that wasn't reliant on layer upon layer of the thickest armor I could beg, borrow or steal just to survive, and in turn, help my party survive.
We've all seen movies where the warrior is decked out in nothing but a frilly shirt and pantaloons or a leather loin cloth and fur boots and yet is the most effective and deadly fighter on the battlefield. So why was it that in D&D if you strolled into a dungeon with pantaloons on you were a pile of hamburger after the first encounter? There was an unfortunate lack of rules that allowed a fighter to defend himself with just skill alone. As such, he was forced to heap layer upon layer of thick metal on himself just to survive.

Recent rule changes have changed some of that. For example, Dodge, Off Hand Defensive abilities (Gaining AC bonuses with an off hand weapon), the Duelist prestige class etc, but none of these can come close to the combat effectiveness of a fully armored warrior.

I'm willing to accept the fact that, for full protection, armor can't be beat, but it would have still been nice to express my swashbuckler side without being the laughing stock of the fighter community. So the question arises: Is it better to make the fighter you want and suffer the inequity and potential life threatening ass-kickings that will certainly be coming your way, or do you throw your lot in with the rest of the fighter world and just buy the same armor and shield and be another cog in the fighter machine?

What happened to the concept of Conan or Robin Hood or rapier waving Erol Flynn? Should they have all gone out and bought chainmail and a shield? (Before you comment, yes I know Conan sometimes wore mail in combat. I'm talking about the stereotypical image of Conan in leather breeches with a battle axe in one hand and a sword in the other. In fact, Google Conan and count how many picture you see of him with and without armor) Should the Three Musketeers gone out and got a 3 for 1 deal on Plate Mail armor?

Of course, as the fighter, your job is to engage the enemies in up close, tooth and nail melee combat and you would be doing a disservice to your party if you weren't the best player at your position, but to me, the essence of Role Playing Games is to create an image in your head of the hero you would like to play and then create him on paper and be a viable asset to the adventuring party not to be a cookie cutter clone of the next guy that picks the same career path as you. We should leave that to MMORPGs.

Don't get me wrong, I've played the typical fighter with plate armor and a huge shield and helmet striding headlong into the thick of battle, and it certainly is fun and has it's appeal. I would just like to have some alternatives as well.


  1. Conan wears armor when ever he can in the books. I guess artists like to paint muscles more than metal.

    The thing is what you describe is not a "fighter", they are a barbarian, rogue, duelist, ranger, etc. For better or worse D&D Fighter is defined to be full-metal melee machine.

    Why are those other classes not at as "good" at combat compared to fighter? Blame that pervasive destroyer of fun, balance.

  2. Good point about "balance". I suppose it would allow for Min/Max-ers to abuse rules is they could be super nimble and then load up on armor too. It's just a play style I wanted to explore using the fighter but the "Balanced" rules didn't really allow for.

  3. Fighting without armor is stupid and it looks stupid. Conan didn't 'sometimes' wear armor, he wore it whenever he possibly could because, contrary to the popular conception of Barbarians, Conan was not a retard.

    I don't get 'style over substance'. The only people who should willingly go into battle without armor would be suicidal lunatics.

    Errol Flynn and the Musketeers (who, btw, wore breast plates much of the time) are in a time where guns are overtaking swords. They actually are kind of idiots for not using guns in this case, too.

    The hack-job of a 'film' called 300 makes this point perfectly; what should have been a bronze wall of phalanx (the whole fucking point of HAVING a small pass to hold) ends up being a football game with capes.

    Crap. Stupid crap. I know the RPG public has been spoon-fed this nonsense for decades (along with 'bows are useful in personal combat' trope) but I think it just shows a slaw-jawed credulity more than anything.


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