I just finished the first real dungeon I’ve ever run – OSR or otherwise – and it’s given me some thoughts. I ran A Hole in the Oak from Necrotic Games (of Old School Essentials fame) using the Black Hack 2nd Edition rules. TBH certainly has taken and held my attention as my OSR rule system of choice.
I may write about my experience with Hole in the Oak in the future, but that’s not what this post is about. It was fun, if a little unfocused (intentionally so), and felt like it was a pretty good tasting of OSR dungeon crawls in general. I certainly would recommend it as a first exposure for both GM and players to the genre of play.
But like I said, that’s not what this is about. While I love TBH, the one thing I don’t love about it is the way armor works. I found myself having to explain it every session again to my players (not their fault, IMO), and it relied on a lot of bookkeeping (well, a lot for our online game).
Every class has an Armor Die listed in its entry. This Armor Die functions as a usage die does but is used exclusively to negate physical damage in a fight.
When a player character would take physical damage during combat, they may choose to roll their Armor Die instead. The damage is negated entirely, and the player rolls their Armor Die.
On a roll of 1 or 2, the Armor Die drops down one size just as when a Usage Die is rolled. If an Armor Die of d4 rolls a 1 or 2, the player character can no longer rely on that armor until repaired.
After a long rest where the character spent some time repairing the armor, the Armor Die is returned to its default value.
Shields provide one free reroll of the Armor Die before breaking.
CLASS ARMOR DICE, ABILITIES, AND SPELLS
Warrior: d8 Armor Die
Replace Self–Reliant with: You may repair/increase a damaged Armor Die one step after one short rest once per day.
Thief: d6 Armor Die
Cleric: d6 Armor Die
Wizard: d4 Armor Die
Replace Shield with: Gives the caster Arcane Mail (Armor Die d6) – when you roll a 1 or 2 on Arcane Mail’s Armor Die d4, it’s gone for good.
Replace Protect with: Gives Nearby Characters Aura (Armor Die d6) – when you roll a 1 or 2 on Aura’s Armor Die d4, it’s gone for good.
So instead I took direction from the game itself and went with a rule that seems like a natural evolution of the mechanics already present. So these rules completely replace the rules for armor as they exist in TBH 2nd edition. It shouldn’t be difficult by that same standard to extract how to mod other rules from here.
It’s also trivially easy for me to give a notable monster/NPC an Armor Die.
Overall I think my players definitely preferred my houseruled armor. I kept little cards on my end and tracked with little beads where their armor was at any given point. This was much easier, but it did have an interesting effect in that a d8 Armor Die seems to be a source of over confidence whereas a d4 really made them hold back using it, which I think might feel right, actually.
I actually very much want to run with the Usage Die and take it even further, but this was a good test run. I mean, if it works for armor, why not hit points all together? What about armor dice against sources of damage like magic or psionics? Against fire or other elements? Very easy to implement. Sky is the limit here on this one.