Why do we have to wear different types of armour?

breastplate Back since MUD days, we’ve had different classes of armour available to characters. Cloth, Leather, Chain, Plate, is the usual progression. So some classes (usually casters) aren’t allowed to wear anything heavier than cloth, while the specialist fighter types will eventually have access to full plate, the ‘best’ armour in the game.

And usually, the heavier armour is the most expensive to repair and may be the most expensive to make also (actually WoW has gone the other way with the rare cloth requirements on crafted gear lately –- but at least it shows that they realise there’s no special reason why fancy cloth should be cheaper than fancy metal in game.)

In a game where a leather-wearing druid can shift into a bear form that means they have more armour than a plate wearer and where cloth-wearing casters frequently have access to protective spells and crowd control, I do wonder why my repair bills always have to be so high. The cost of wearing plate is really not justified by the extra protection.

I do remember MUDs where heavier armour was really significantly better. It gave a solid percentage reduction on all damage done. So it may have been more expensive to repair but you could see that being allowed to wear it was a bonus to a character. These days, I feel that it’s more of a drawback. If you can wear it, then your character is probably balanced around that level of gear, but all the other characters are balanced for solo play anyway. So there’s really no big drawback from wearing cloth (like I say, your character is probably balanced for it) and you save a lot in repair bills.

But really, is there any special reason why we have to get stuck with four completely separate classes of armour (D&D has approximately a zillion)? And surely a caster could pick up a magical mithril chaincoat or strap on a pair of leather bracers without interfering with her spellcasting?

I think it is considered important to the look and feel of a ‘fantasy’ game that characters have to be as close as possible to the standard D&D party in looks. So that means heavy fighters in heavy armour, casters in robes, rogues in light armour, and so on. But I get bored of seeing robes and platemail everywhere I go. I’d love to see some more flexibility with the armour classes.

What if my warrior could choose to wear a couple of pieces of lighter armour and trade off some armour for a bit more mobility and better dodge, and that was a totally viable way to gear? What if a caster could choose to wear a magical mithril coat and not be hindered from spellcasting? What if we had the same sorts of character creation options in fantasy games as you do in say … City of Heroes?

But it is the repair bills that really bug me.