Weapons Locker – Body Armour – Chapter zero

(Technical introduction)

Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game


This article deals in body armour, from the low-tech to the future tech. Like most Weapons Locker articles, the primary goal is RPG stats. The other chapters are mostly in plain English, but this intro chapter is mostly technical.

As always with Weapons Locker articles, we are interested in fiction, with an emphasis on comic books, action movies, RPGs and video games. It’s not a historical study of body armour.

This article is forever in beta. It is slowly and gradually expanded.

We do have material about shields, but it is in another castle.



To keep the articles manageable and avoid having to split them up later on, let’s have them as separate pages from the get-go.

Part 0: DC Heroes technical considerations.
Part 1: Lighter low-tech armour.
Part 2: Medium low-tech armour.
Part 3: Heavy low-tech armour.
Part 4: Helmets.
Part 5: Modern armour.
Part 6: Sci-fi and comic book armour.

Them’s the rules

An important aspect of body armour in MEGS is the limited number space. Not for power armour  à la Iron Man, but for ordinary protection such as chainmail or ballistic vests. What these can do is improve one’s RV by one, maybe two APs.

So we’re going to also use a number of community-developed tools. Namely :

The Enhance Power

This’ll get used a lot to avoid the “substitutive vs. additive” quandary (explained in our Character Design document).

Enhance is explained in the New Powers (part 1) document.


The Damage Capacity Power

It serves as a RAPs buffer, and is explained in the New Powers (part 1) document.

Damage Capacity is much more granular than simple RV increases, whilst remaining simple. We can also play with the Power’s Recovery options to model how ablative a suit of body armour is.

Damage Descriptors

Damage Descriptors (such as Piercing, Lightning, Bludgeoning, Flame, Slashing…) are important to model the weak and strong points of various kinds of body armour. And of some superhumans, such as Wonder Woman.

The notion is present to a degree in the rulesbook. But it got fleshed out in our New rules – Miscellanea document.

Enhance + Damage Descriptors

One interaction of these two factors *might* not be obvious. Namely, it is possible for multiple Enhance Powers to stack (within their cap, obviously) if their Descriptors do.

The most common example would be a piece of body armour with Enhance (Kinetic RV): 01 and Enhance (Unarmed RV): 01. Unarmed is a Descriptor for a type of Kinetic Damage. Since all Unarmed attacks are also Kinetic, the RV against Unarmed attacks would be enhanced by 01 + 01 = 02. Both Enhance Powers apply.

Of course, this cannot take your RV above the cap given for the Enhance (Unarmed RV) Power.

Other tools

The Blunting Power, the Conditional Soaking Advantage, and the discussion about the Skin Armour Power and Kinetic Damage are also useful to review if you missed them.

Partial Coverage will also get used a lot. That one’s in Blood of Heroes: Special Edition (BOH:SE) p171.

BODY scores assumptions

This is another important bit to consider when discussing body armour. You can find our assumptions spelled out in our Human STR and BODY scores benchmark article.

Double-scale DCH

Increasing quantities by one in MEGS can have little impact given the Columns system. To fix this and in the spirit of increase granularity, you can check the Double-Scale DCH article.

The level of detail for the armour suits is done with the existence of the double-scale in mind. Frex, we might hesitate about modelling something that hinges on a single AP of difference, as it may not be worth the bother. But in double-scale DCH this difference is more meaningful, and thus it’s noted after all.

Your /BODY/, my /BODY/, everybody work your /BODY/

Mayfair-era body armour is often written up as italicised BODY, or /BODY/. While it has the advantage of simplicity, we have long since veered away from it for two main reasons.

Excessive coverage

Wearing body armour that provides /BODY/ means that you’re also protected against attacks such as :

  • Toxins.
  • Disease.
  • Suffocation.
  • Ageing (if delivered in Cell Rot form).
  • Harmful gasses.
  • Dazzling flashes of light.
  • Vertigo effects.
  • Exhaustion (if you have home rules about that).
  • Being knocked down (via the Stagger Power).
  • Etc.

The “jettison all damage !” effect

Tough Guy Of Justice has BODY 05 and wears a /BODY/ 06 doorgunner vest. He comes under heavy fire from the Dastardly Minions of Injustice. With LDD, Tough Guy of Justice is reduced to a Current BODY Condition of 01.

Oh, no ! One more telling blow and Tough Guy of Justice goes down !

Quickly unfastening the straps, Tough Guy of Justice ditches his vest. Ta da ! Now either :

  • He’s suddenly back at a Current Condition of 05 (his BODY) since the vest with the /BODY/ is off. He was almost down, now he’s entirely fresh.
  • The GM considers that the RAPs carry over, and Tough Guy of Justice immediately goes down because he unfastened his vest.

The spread RAPs fix that wasn’t

Though it is also possible to spread the RAPs between operator and armor, that fails at describing most power armour operators in comics.

Early Tony Stark was in bad health and with major cardiac problems when he wore the first Iron Man suit. He had perhaps a BODY of 02. Which starkly (so to speak) limits options.

But /BODY/ is fine in many cases

Power armour is in fact a good example of /BODY/ usage. Such suits will be environment-controlled to a high degree, and perhaps even medicalised. Having them resist a super-wide spectrum of assaults with their /BODY/ is fine.

And having the wearer emerge more or less intact from a wrecked suit of power armour is common enough in stories.

Them’s the new rules

Furthermore, we’re also going to introduce two optional but simple rules for body armour.

Stealth penalties – how it works

In DCH, stealth is an OV/RV opposed to people’s Perception Check. Stealth penalties lower this OV/RV.

So say, if you have Thief (Stealth): 06 and you wear an armour with a 1/0 stealth penalty, your OV/RV is 05/06.

The penalty assumes that the stealthy person has made some serious preparation work to muffle the armour. Attempting to sneak around in unmodified armour is a -2CS penalty.

Stealth penalties – in Gadgetry

See our Gadgetry document for implementing this Gadget Drawback.

XXXXXXXXX (Gadget Drawback remains to be written up).

Wearing body armour

Generally, correctly-made body armour at any technology level will not hinder general speed and mobility.

Exceptions include :

  1. Wearing armour that isn’t correctly fitted, for instance because you stole/looted it from another person.
  2. Armour that is designed to be used whilst riding an animal or vehicle (such as jousting plate armour, or a doorgunner vest).

But there are downsides still

Again in general terms :

  • Body armour tends to be heavy. Carrying the armour around isn’t trivial (especially the heavier suits). Wearing it for a prolonged while is tiring, even for a person in good shape.
  • It is hot. This further cuts on the amount of time most characters can wear body armour. In particularly hot climates, even superbly fit persons may end up having a heat stroke.
  • It is body-shape-specific. Armour will have to be adjusted for wearing unless it was made for somebody of a remarkably similar size and body type.
    As a common example, most women wearing a men’s tactical vest will experience issues with :

    • Chafing at the hips.
    • Insufficient shoulder width for the straps to rest properly.
    • Overlong rigid sections making it difficult and/or painful to bend forward or even move one’s arms.
    • Inconvenient access to weaponry and ammunition.
  • It must be maintained. If not, it will start to stink then grow parasites such as fungi.
    Humidity may also be problematic for certain types of armour, especially the low-tech ones.

Super-convenient armour

The downsides above are considered a normal part of Equipment, Gadgets and Artefacts. This is why Gadgets and Artefacts have a cost divisor.

Having to wear a magical scale mail is less practical than having blades-resistant skin. Having to hop aboard your Ferrari Testarossa is less convenient than running at 170mph. Carrying a shotgun is less convenient than shooting eye beams.

However, some body armour is largely free from said downsides. A fine example is the beta cloth jumpsuits issued by S.H.I.E.L.D.. They offer excellent protection, but wearing them seems to be as much of a bother as wearing a tracksuit. *And* they’re way more flattering.

For these, we suggest using the Miniaturisation Gadget Advantage (BOH:SE p170) with a – 1FC Limitation (Encumbrance Only).

Donning and doffing armour


Under the skin

Historically, one key role of body armour — even very light one — is to reduce the odds of an open wound. Of being cut or impaled open.

This is triply important, as :

  1. The wound may not kill you, but with a bit of back luck a severed artery will do the job pretty quickly.
  2. Efficaciously treating this sort of wound often requires high-ish tech, sterile surgery.
  3. These types of wound are a gateway for one of the great killers of low-tech violence – infection.

In DCH terms, the Blunting Power is a nod in this direction. But these aren’t elements that are within scope for DCH as a game system.

These considerations usually are a thing in gritty historical/quasi-historical stories, and in bleak low fantasy. And some less common genres, such as gritty western (the kind that emphasises what being shot in the gut meant back then) or realistic post-apocalypse. DCH *can* handle these, but it’s just not an optimal system pick.

“Generic” body armour

The next chapters are going to describe a gazillion specific types of armour, because this is a Weapons Locker-type article. However, it is *possible* that you run a game that needs much less detail than that.

So here are a tiny selection of *simplified* stats if that’s all you need :

LIGHT LOW TECH BODY ARMOUR [BODY 02, Blunting: 01, Enhance (Physical RV): 01 (RV cap is 05), Bonus: Enhance is doubled vs. Unarmed descriptor]. Say, a full suit of exceedingly generic armour-grade leather.

HEAVY LOW-TECH BODY ARMOUR [BODY 04, Blunting: 02, Enhance (Physical RV): 02 (RV cap is 07), Rec. STR 02, Bonus: Enhance is doubled vs. Unarmed descriptor, Drawback: Stealth penalty 2/1]. Say, a full suit of exceedingly generic plate armour.

LIGHT BALLISTIC BODY ARMOUR [BODY 02, Blunting: 03, Enhance (Physical RV): 01 (RV cap is 07), Miniaturisation: 01, Limitation: Enhance is inapplicable against Bludgeoning and Unarmed, Drawback: Partial Coverage (Vest)]. A concealable, undershirt vest.

HEAVY BALLISTIC BODY ARMOUR [BODY 04, Blunting: 03, Enhance (Physical RV): 02 (RV cap is 08), Drawback: Partial Coverage (Long Coat), Drawback: Stealth penalty 1/0]. Obvious, SWAT or infantry type body armour.

FUTURE TECH HARDSUIT [BODY 06, /BODY/ 08, Blunting: 02, Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 02, Radio communication: 06, Sealed systems: 09, Drawback: Stealth penalty 1/1]. Exceedingly generic “space marine” body armour without advanced functionalities, but capable of withstanding some alien environments.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Current version from the 20th of September, 2017.