Way back in this post I debuted a new (I think, or new-ish) combat system. I have since decided that adding armor values to the defensive score is a bit too high (because I'm fickle). I've had a couple of variant ideas kicking around inside my head, so I thought it would be a good time to debut one of them.
When I was looking at Wizard's World one of the things I noticed is that armor actually absorbs hits rather than increasing the difficulty of being hit. This is an approach I first saw in Iron Heroes (which is a game I love and want to play more of). Another thing I saw in that game was that Barbarians had a random die roll for their damage reduction (like a 1d4 DR at first level). All this swirled around in my head until it occurred to me that randomized armor might be a good idea.
In this system, attacks are:
d20 + Combat Bonus (CB) + STR (or DEX)
d20 + CB + CON (or DEX).
I like this because CON now has another use besides HP bonuses. So if an attack hits, the attacker rolls damage and the defender rolls to see how much his armor absorbs. The values are (for generic armor):
Light Armor (Padded Cloth, Leather, Chain Shirt): 1d4
Medium Armor (Studded Leather, Chain Mail, Ring Mail): 1d6 (-1 to DEX)
Heavy Armor (Full Plate): 1d8 (-2 to DEX)
or something like that. This way not only does CON become more useful, but high-damage weapons like two-handed swords are guaranteed to do some damage. Also, rather than incite a bonus war over AC, this simply has characters run the gauntlet of randomness twice, once to hit and once to harm. There must always be a possibility of harm (we don't want armor to deflect hits just because of number discrepancies). As for shields, I would just allow shield bonuses to go to the defense roll as usual, and probably create categories for them as well:
Light Shield: +2
Heavy Shield: +3 (-1 DEX)
This does not accommodate Tower Shields, which I always considered finicky and deserving of special rules anyway. Otherwise we could just go total Old School and leave shields at +1 (which is fine by me).
Feel free to share your thoughts!