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Weapons Locker – Body Armour – Chapter 4 – Helmets


Context

This is a chapter of our Weapons Locker – Body Armour series, a great and thunderous saga full of, err, well, body armour.

The start of the series is about the DC Heroes RPG rules for body armour. So DCH players should start there, to make sure they understand the stats.

This article is in beta. I prefer to get the basics out of the way before I start doing the genuine research, so character profiles using those basics can progress along.

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Introduction

DC Heroes isn’t a details-oriented game, or one with punctilious granularity. Therefore, whether we want a/ to abstract out helmets or b/ to write them up is debatable.

It is tempting to just handwave them away as part of an armour suit. Especially since in visual stories (comics, movies, TV series…) the important characters often don’t wear helms, so we can see their face.

It’s not realistic, but it’s firmly established. And in Weapons Locker articles we’re modelling stories, not reality.

On the other hand, DCH is also capable of covering fairly low-powered, gritty stories. And in these, whether to wear a helmet is an interesting choice, with trade-offs.

Therefore…

Since we love murky and unsatisfying compromises, let’s settle for this :

  1. Helms do get modelled, but with simple stats that are worked back into the armour’s stats so armour + helmet is one item. It keeps things simpler.
  2. They have clear benefits, but they also have drawbacks. And going without isn’t pants-on-head crazy, otherwise characters in stories would wear helmets.
  3. Which mechanically means that the benefits are relatively fringe ones.

I wanna introduce you to a personal friend of mine. Feel the weight.

To keep things simple, we’re going to assume that people aren’t mixing and matching armours and helms. Such as wearing a greathelm along with ratty padded fabric, or a wooly hat filled with rolled-up socks along with gothic plate.

In stories, people usually wear helms matching their body armour. Which we appreciate, because it keeps stats simple.

Therefore, the low-tech helms are simply going to match the light/medium/heavy body armour categories used in prior chapters.

See me, feel me

The main drawback for helmets is penalties to Perception rolls. Having your ears covered and seeing through slits muffles everything. It definitely messes up your spatial awareness.

But it is worthwhile to note that this is more true in ranged, dispersed combat than in melee, formation combat. Low-tech melee doesn’t often involve picking up distant signals. And it can be so chaotic that you’ll be disoriented even without a helmet.

By contrast, more modern combat involves much more dispersed units. They are interacting at a range, and seeking cover (both visual and material). So mechanically, combattants are going to make a lot more Perception rolls.

Take the force of the blow — protection

To keep things simple, we’ll assume that helms protect against two kinds of attacks :

  1. Critical Blows, Devastating Attacks and attacks that rolled a double. For simplicity’s sake and to reflect most action stories, these are assumed to be headshots.
  2. Unarmed attacks. Helmetless people can be punched in the face. But on the other fist, fully armoured people should be more impervious to unarmed attacks than standard DCH mechanics suggest.

Any APs of Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles) can also, with the GM’s approval, be applied against attacks that are clearly going to hit the top of the character skull. Objects falling onto the character’s head are the simplest example.

Remember – the rules stuff concerning body armour is summarised in the Body Armour – Chapter Zero article.

A different sort of headbutt

Many helmets are a heavy, large object. It is also common for them to have a sort of internal “harness” made of fabric and/or leather, to make them wearable. This can be used as a grip to wield a helm as a weapon if nothing else’s available.

Suitable helms thus have a “silent” Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 04) Power, with a Bludgeoning Descriptor. This doesn’t have to be paid for or written down in the Gadget. It’s just a consequence of being a hunk of metal (or composites).

If desperate, a helm can also be used as a very small buckler, as per the “very small shield” and “buckler” sections of our shields article.

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Table of content

Low-tech helmets

Stand-alone infantry helmets

Other head protections

Low-tech helmets

Since we simply match the weight categories for body armour, we need but three kinds of helmets.

Light low-tech helmet

This likely is but a hat made of cheap metal. It might have some level of lateral or nasal protection, but nothing fantastic. Typical shapes are pot-shaped, bullet-shaped or almost conical.

Other forms include quilted linen hats (Ancient Egyptians used this for a while), quilted linen renforced by metallic straps (there are nice Korean examples of this), leather hats or helms, etc..

When worn with light low-tech body armour, it improves the Partial Coverage Limitation by one step. Vest becomes Jacket, Jacket becomes Long Coat, Long Coat means no Partial Coverage Limitation.

It also adds the following Power to the light armour suit :

  1. Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 02 (cap is 06).

The armour + helmet combo is noted as [NAME OF THE ARMOUR] w/HELM.

Ancient assyrian warrior helmet art

Ancient Assyrian soldier with a bullet-shaped light helmet and a lamellar vest. Art by J. Shumate  , presumably for Osprey Books.

Variant – boar tusks light helmet

These seem to have been popular in the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean, and feature in Homeric poems.

Pragmatically, there’s no reason not to use the statistics above. Especially since these are broad stats that also include cheap steel helms from centuries later.

But on the other hand, obvious symbolism and Homer.

Raising the cap of the helmet’s Enhance Power by 1 is a possibility. This extra AP will only benefit heroes with a tremendous BODY score. And these are the ones for whom you’d expect the poem to devote some space about describing their manly, teethy helm.

Boar tusks helmet Ancient Greek Knossos

Boar tusks helmet from Knossos, about 1,400 years before our era.

Medium low-tech helmet

This helmet will likely be made of steel. It will come with partial protection for the sides and front of the head. A typical example is the shaped metal plate on the nose seen in archetypal Viking and Norman helmets. Another is the “sideburns” on an archetypal Roman legionary’s helmet.

When worn with medium low-tech body armour, it improves the Partial Coverage Limitation by one step. Vest becomes Jacket, Jacket becomes Long Coat, Long Coat means no Partial Coverage Limitation.

It also adds the following Powers and Drawbacks to the medium armour suit :

  1. Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 03 (cap is 08).
  2. Enhance (Unarmed RV): 03 (cap is 10).
  3. Drawback: Audial Perception rolls have +1CS to their OV/RV.

The armour + helmet combo is noted as [NAME OF THE ARMOUR] w/HELM.

Norman casque helm from Darksword Armory

11th century Norman helmet. I would normally be worn along with a layer of chainmail protecting the back and sides. This replica is sold by Darksword Armoury  .

Heavy low-tech helmet

This is a full-on cavalry or heavy infantry helm. The European greathelm is a typical example. Early examples of it are essentially a steel cylinder with eye slits.

It’s not uncommon to wear *another*, smaller helmet underneath – in French it was called a cervellière (“brain-protecting thingie”).

Later on the helmets have better designs. For instance they can come with a hinged face plate so you can see and breathe when not in melee.

The Japanese kabuto is a big-arse steel helmet, with additional plate or banded protection to cover the sides and even the back and front of the neck. Then there’s a steel mask (somen) or half-mask (menpō) to cover the face proper.

When worn with heavy low-tech body armour, it improves the Partial Coverage Limitation by one step. Vest becomes Jacket, Jacket becomes Long Coat, Long Coat means no Partial Coverage Limitation.

It also adds the following Powers and Drawbacks to the heavy armour suit :

  1. Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 04 (cap is 10).
  2. Enhance (Unarmed RV): 04 (cap is 11).
  3. Shade (Audial): 01.
  4. Drawback: Audial Perception rolls have +2CS to their OV/RV.
  5. Drawback: Visual Perception rolls have a +1CS to their OV/RV when the face protector is on.

The armour + helmet combo is noted as [NAME OF THE ARMOUR] w/HELM.

German heaume replica from Armstreet

14th century German heaume. This is also a replica/reenactor item, picked since it would look right in a movie. This one comes from Armstreet  .

Medieval snout helm replica by Armstreet

As long as the Armstreet site is open (I was looking at the princess dresses, okay ?), an example of a heavy helm with a “snout” design to facilitate breathing and have blows to the face slide to the side.

Samurai kabuto helmet with half-mask

Japanese replica of a 18th samurai kabuto. Note the lamellar/banded construction of the attached protectors, and the half-mask styled as a demon (demons have big noses and moustaches. It is known.)

Crests

Many light or medium helms have a superstructure perched atop. A claw-like thingie, a spike, a thick triangle, a crescent not unlike an axe blade…

One of the better-looking variations is to have a thick crest made of horsehair, like the “mohawk” on Ancient Spartan helmets.

All these help deflect downward blows hitting the soldier over the nogging. Especially from the likes of swords and sabres.

The typical use case is being slashed at by passing cavalry. But crude attempts at downward cleaving blows certainly happen in the heat and confusion of a melee.

Another use case is having been knocked down and getting hit as you scramble back on your feet.

This doesn’t quite change the stats. But when a character does Last Ditch Defense against a suitable assault, a crest deflecting the brunt of the blow is a fine description.

Stand-alone infantry helmets

This is what soldiers wear during the span when body armour is no longer a strong presence on the battlefield. Which presumably means that the bulk of the fighting is now done with firearms of some sort.

At this stage, body armour isn’t going to stop direct impact, or even most artillery shrapnel. Plus, armies have become too large and costly to pay for body armour.

However, protecting the skull is still worthwhile. In no small part because this is often the part that’s likely to get hit bad. For instance when the soldiers are prone, or peeking from behind cover.

Trench warfare then consolidated the importance of protecting the skull.

Leather pot infantry helmet

A hard leather, pot-shaped hat. This is cheap, offers *some* protection and can be made to look somewhat good with a uniform. It also leaves the eyes and ears unhindered, for orientation on the modern battlefield.

A famous model is the Pickelhaube that German soldiers were still wearing during WWI. It has a distinctive steel spike atop, since cavalry charges with sabres still could sporadically occur in previous conflicts. Pickelhauben are sometimes seen in steampunk  stories.

Stats

BODY 02, Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 01 (cap is 06).

Pickelhaube World War One helm

Replica of a Pickelhaube sold by various parties on Amazon.

Steel infantry helmet

Once trench warfare becomes a thing, better helmets are a necessity.

The early models, from WWI, are tougher-than-leather affairs made of sheet steel, about 0.7mm thick. A typical example is the Adrian helmet from France, used by many armies even into World War Two.

Later designs were considerably tougher. The successors of the Adrian in France were 1.2mm thick manganese steel affairs. Many WWII and Cold War helmets are similar – for instance the American M1 helmet was ≃1mm thick manganese steel.

Still, it won’t take a direct impact, unless the projectile is at the outer limit of its useful range. But it helps against weak and glancing impacts, lighter shrapnel and non-metallic shrapnel.

Traditional firefighting helmets provide similar stats. But their shape is a bit different, since the emphasis is on protection against falling objects.

Stats

BODY 04, Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 02 (cap is 08), Stealth Penalty 0/1.

World War One helmet Casque Adrian

Replica of a Casque Adrian, a very common WWI design. From Doursoux.com  , my usual provider of surplus crap (in French).

Composite infantry helmet

These are XXIst century models, made of synthetic fibres such as para-aramids or polyethylenes.

Normally, they will also have better ergonomics – so they stay in place better and are less of a pain to wear for a long while, in hot climates, etc.. *Normally*.

These and the preceding generation (which in the US was the PASGT helmet) are also compatible with various pieces of headgear. Such as full-face gas masks, night vision equipment, tactical radio headsets, riot visors (for MPs), etc..

Some soldiers add “cat’s eyes” reflective markers on the back. These help the buddy behind you keep track of where you are even in poor light, cutting down on friendly fire.

Weight and protection

Unintuitively, these helmets are heavier than steel pot helmets. 1.4Kg (3.1 lbs) would be a common weight for, say, a USMC “lightweight” helmet, or a French Spectra-shield helmet.

But they tend to have better coverage on the sides and back. And are markedly more resilient to penetration.

Such a helmet is the equivalent of wearing a soft undershirt ballistic vest on your head. It is probably going to stop medium-calibre handgun rounds, and with luck one can survive a hit from a 5.56mm round from far way (200+ metres).

Stats

BODY 04, Blunting (see below): 02, Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 02 (cap is 09), Enhance (Structural RV): 01 (cap is 06).

The APs of Blunting are limited to attacks that are clearly hitting the skull. Examples include an object falling onto the character, or a shot hitting a prone fighter using a sidewalk’s gutter as cover. Look, it’s better than nothing.

When such helmets become available, body armour usually is making its return to the field. So the helmet moves up the body armour’s Partial Coverage by one step as usual. But they can still be worn without a vest.

US military advanced combat helmet ACH

A US Army Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) from McGuire  .

Riot or corrections helmet

These look quite similar to steel pot infantry helmets. But they usually come with better padding that extends to protecting the sides (and perhaps the rear) of the lower skull.

The main material isn’t steel (except for older models) but fiberglass. So it’s lighter and more comfortable, but offers little protection against firearms.

A flip-up transparent visor is also added. It extends all the way down to beneath the chin. The chin strap will resemble those used by airborne troopers, though it’s often a bit thicker. The visor is made of resilient polycarbonate.

All in all, this offers robust protection against small melee weapons, burning and/or corrosive liquids, thrown projectiles, etc.. And in riot and protest situations, most projectiles hit from above (from a ballistic arc), and will thus likely hit the helmet.

Stats

BODY 03, Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 01 (cap is 06), Enhance (Unarmed RV): 02 (cap is 07), Enhance (Structural RV): 01 (cap is 06), Enhance (Facial attacks (see below) RV): 02 (cap is 08).

This is usually worn in conjunction with riot control armour, thus bumping its Partial Coverage up by one step. But it could be equipped without – usually by a detective or other plainclothes officer.

“Facial attacks” means attacks that are naturally aimed at the face such as a mace spray, splashing the person with a corrosive liquid, etc.. It will not work against aerosols saturating the area (like tear gas). But it should work against thicker and stickier gasses used as a directed spray.

Stats – composite

It is also possible to equip a steel pot or composite infantry helmet with add-ons to turn it into a riot helmet. Simply use the BODY and Powers of the steel or composite helmet, and add the two Enhance (Unarmed and Facial) Powers of the riot helmet.

Monadnock riot helmet

Monadnock riot helmet (a very common brand). Sold by Safariland.

World War One tanker face protector

This visually distinctive leather, metal and chainmail contraption is a nice example of “long XIXth century”  attempts at protecting against shrapnel.

This turned out to be unworkable for infantry, but not for tankers and some pilots.

In the tankers’ case, the issue was spalling. Projectiles can be engineered (or just happen to) have poor penetration, but be able to send metallic splinters flying on the *other* side of armour. This usually is small shrapnel, but it could hit an eye, or get blood in your eyes or into your nose, etc..

Pilots of open-frame WWI aircrafts had comparable issues with hail.

Stats

  • BODY 02.
  • Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 01 (cap is 06).
  • Enhance (Facial attacks (see above) RV): 01 (cap is 06).
  • Enhance (Unarmed RV): 01 (cap is 04).
  • Stealth Penalty 0/1.
  • Drawback: Visual Perception rolls have a +1CS to their OV/RV.

Such a mask can “stack” with an infantry helmet.

World War One anti-spalling tanker mask, with British helmet

World War One British tanker mask.

Modern ballistic mask

Though such supplies exist, they are seldom used.

  • They impair vision and (especially) breathing.
  • They offer but limited protection against most bullets.
  • They greatly hamper communication.

But they might be of use during very short engagements, where protecting the operator is a key objective. One example would be the breaching/point officer during a SWAT assault, if the opposition is armed with low-calibre handguns and/or buckshot-firing shotguns.

And of course, in movies and comic books, tough guys can somehow operate with those on for extended periods. Frex, one such mask is worn by Lt. Weiss of Team Achilles.

Stats

These stats assume that the mask is worn along with APEL-rated clear ballistic goggles (more on those later) and a fire-resistant balaclava. The stats can stack with an infantry helmet (which is the usual use case).

  • BODY 03.
  • Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 02 (cap is 08).
  • Enhance (Facial attacks (see above) RV): 03 (cap is 08).
  • Enhance (Unarmed RV): 01 (cap is 05).
  • Flame immunity: 01
  • Drawback: Visual Perception rolls have a +1CS to their OV/RV.
  • Drawback: MPR (seriously hinders breathing).
  • Drawback: MPR (seriously hinders communication).

Black ballistic mask

Ballistic mask with a IIIa rating, though that doesn’t mean much said IIIa protection is sitting right on your face. Same rating as a modern helmet, but the helmet rests on solid bone and has thick padding. Sweat-soaked padding, but padding nevertheless.

Exaggerated ballistic head protector

Of course, research exists to make ballistic head protection that works better. There have been breathless, unresearched (and almost entirely wrong, of course) reports about such models as Japanese manufacturer Devtac’s Ronin system.

These can be used as the base for near-future, comic-book or cyberpunk  gear.

So let’s make things up, drawing inspiration from the real-world product :

  • Modular 7mm thick ballistic plating, magnetically affixed over a composite frame. The front plating can be snapped off to wear a respirator, the cheek plates can be snapped off to precisely aim a rifle.
  • The “helm” comes as a front half and a back half, magnetically clamping together.
  • Glare-filtering, polarised, polycarbonate, wide-angle lenses.
  • Rails to mount additional headgear. Typically that would be flip-up night vision goggles. The stats below assume an imaginary, super-compact binocular model.
  • Particulates filter for sandy or dusty environments.
  • Refrigeration and air circulation system keeping the lenses defogged and the skin temperature tolerable using microfans.
  • Looks scary.

Stats

  • BODY 03.
  • Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 03 (cap is 09).
  • Enhance (Facial attacks (see above) RV): 04 (cap is 08).
  • Enhance (Unarmed RV): 04 (cap is 08).
  • Flame immunity: 01.
  • Shade: 02.
  • Ultra-vision: 04.
  • Charisma (Intimidation): 02.

Devtac Ronin mask helmet full

The Airsoft/paintball version of the Devtac Ronin, which seems fairly popular.

Other head protections

Vehicular full-face helmet

A full-face helmet, or integral helmet, encases the entirety of the user’s skull. It is well-padded within, and often comes with a flip-up transparent face shield.

The most common form of full-face helmets is used by motorcyclists. But similar equipment is used by racing drivers and the like.

There are various designs, for instance to facilitate breathing during physically strenuous rides (mostly meaning off-road).

It isolates the wearer much like a low-tech heavy combat helmet does, though the transparent flip-up visor isn’t as bad as eye slits. And it offers excellent protection, as just looking at an helmet somebody was wearing during a motorcycle crash will attest.

Motorcycling helmets do get used in combat. This is chiefly the case during riots, violent protests and police riots.

Stats

  • BODY 04
  • Enhance (Structural RV): 02 (cap is 09).
  • Enhance (RV against Unarmed, Critical, Devastation and doubles): 03 (cap is 08).
  • Enhance (Facial attacks (see above) RV): 02 (cap is 08).
  • Shade (Audial): 01.
  • Drawback: Audial Perception rolls have +2CS to their OV/RV.

Shoei moto helmet

I need a picture here to separate the subsections, and motorbike-loving friends say that the Shoei GT-Air II is an excellent pick, so here’s a photo of one.

Open vehicular helmet

Older generations of motorcycling helmets lack a lower face/jaw protection. Please never use this crap.

They might not even have a visor, which is a great way to get killed or crippled after hitting a flying insect with your face and/or your eyes.

However, they might be the only thing available. For instance if the story/game occurs before the late 1960s.

Prior generations of motorcycling helmets were even worse, having the stats of a steel pot infantry helmet.

Stats

  • BODY 04.
  • Enhance (Structural, Unarmed RV): 01 (cap is 07).
  • Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 02 (cap is 06).
  • Shade (Audial): 01.
  • Drawback: Audial Perception rolls have +2CS to their OV/RV.

Vintage bad old moto helmet

A modern recreation of a 1950s moto helmet. But no Amazon link because don’t buy these, for Gygax’s sake.

Light sports (and construction) helmets

Light, composite helmets worn for rock-climbing, skateboarding, bicycling (especially if there are cars around), kayaking, etc.. Plastic construction hard hats are similar in game terms.

They protect the skull against falling objects and bad falls/collisions.

Such helmets do not bolster body armour’s Partial Coverage.

Such helmets are also useful *within* a heavy vehicle, where banging your head against hard metal bits can be a genuine problem. Normally this sort of vehicle is operated by folks with military gear (such as a tanker’s helmet) or appropriate construction headgear. But extreme sports headgear (bought on your own dime) can be even better.

Stats

BODY 03, Blunting: 02, Enhance (Structural RV): 01 (cap is 06).

Blunting only applies to impacts that clearly hit the upper skull, such as a falling rock.

Kayaking sports helmet

Most readers are presumably familiar with bicycling helmets and construction hard hats. So let’s have a picture of a kayaking helmet so that’ll look more interesting.

Sports light face protector

This is transparent, polycarbonate mask covering the upper face. It is chiefly worn in basketball, and other sports where high-speed accidental collisions are going to occur.

Such protectors are chiefly meant to prevent bone and cartilage from breaking. This is valuable for people who already have suffered such wounds — say, a broken nose — and are now more vulnerable to impacts. And for those (often women) who prefer their face undamaged.

The photo below depicts a mask used for WNBA star Elena Belle Donne. It’s a relatively light one. The eye apertures are broad to preserve lateral vision and prevent fogging. And the tip of her nose is unprotected to maintain airflow.

These masks are to protect athletes’ health (while still making them recognisable on TV), and are low on combat utility. But they do look like super-hero masks (albeit transparent ones), so they might be comic-book’d up.

Stats

  • BODY 03.
  • Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 01 (cap is 05).
  • Enhance (Unarmed RV): 01 (cap is 05).
  • These also nullify Attack Vulnerabilities caused by existing facial damage, in the unlikely case you have house rules for that.

WNBA star Elena Belle Donne with a light mask face protector

Common models of this kind are fifty bucks on Amazon, if you wisely decide to emulate Ms. Donne. And heh, if having read this article and bought a mask ever saves your nose from being broken, let us know.

Sunglasses

These protect against glare, and to an extent against other type of bright lights. While this is an unremarkable object, the DC Heroes RPG does have the Shade Power. Since attacks using bright lights are a thing in comic books.

And shades should have the Shade Power, of course, of course.

Sunglasses date back to at least the XIIth century in China, though in the Western world you have to wait for the late 1800s for them to become a thing.

Stats

Sunglasses almost always have a BODY of 01. BODY scores of 02 are possible for impact-resistant extreme sports sunglasses.

BODY scores of 03 are possible for bullet-resistant (APEL-rated) spectacles and goggles. CinematicThe level of power and (un)realism found in a spectacular action movie. “bulletproof” models might even have BODY 05 or more !

The Matsuda 2809 sunglasses Linda Hamilton wore as Sarah Connor in Terminator II probably have /INF/ 03 as well. But it’s a specific case. And of course by that point Sarah’s INF is higher than 03, so she doesn’t use it.

Polaroid rectangular sunglasses

We need an image here as a separator so eh, here are Polaroids that are very similar to what I use for my corrective outdoors glasses. They’re pretty neat for my light-sensitive and wind-sensitive eyes. Unfortunately, angry middle-aged White men in wraparound sunglasses saying stupid uninformed stuff while driving a $140K pick-up truck then became a genre on YouTube. Meh.

Hearing protections

Likewise, the DC Heroes RPG has the Shade (Audial) Power. Howbeit, noise-based attacks tend to be more a techno-thriller and tactical action fare than a super-hero one.

Realistically, going through a high-intensity military firefight without hearing protections carry a risk of permanent damage, and good odds of not hearing much once the dust settles. Guns are really loud, especially rifle rounds fired in bursts (and then hitting hard surfaces). At least one out of every five American soldier has some sort of hearing loss.

Hearing protections are routinely used in heavy industry, shooting, loud music genres, when operating noisy engines, etc.. And as a countermeasure to snoring boyfriends.

You can only dampen noise so much, particularly when it comes to low frequencies. A good part of the hearing sense is done not through the ear canal, but through bodywide sensing of vibrations. Thus, more than 3 APs of Shade (Audial) through hearing protection likely belongs to four-colour  stories.

Stats

Foam plugs will usually have one AP of Shade (Audial) and impose a -2CS penalty to audial Perception Rolls. These usually are disposable stuff.

Custom moulded silicon plugs, or wax plugs that are correctly fitted in, have 2 APs of Shade (Audial) and an identical Perception penalty.

Selective plugs have one AP of Shade (Audial), and a – 1CS Perception penalty. This is usually done by inserting a conductive “wire” all the way through the plug (each type of wire corresponding to a frequency range). These protect hearing while still allowing for workers, soldiers, etc. to talk to each other.

A 2010s electronic system such as the TCAPS (used in the US by the military and some SWAT teams) have 3 APs of Shade, and no penalty to Perception. A cinematic version would even have 1 AP of Extended Hearing.
These are big earplugs with embedded electronics, plugged into a small box with controls. These automatically cut off noise above a certain threshold (so you still hear them, but with the excessive loudness edited out) and can enhance sounds under a certain threshold.

TCAPS Invisio hearing protection

Invisio electronic hearing protection and enhancement, as used in the TCAPS program.

Industrial respirator

This is professional equipment used for protection against particulates, gases, vapors and dangerous fragments (such as sparks, or shrapnel from cutting hard materials). It’s either a full-face visor with a sort of gas mask, or a half-face mask worn in conjunction with safety goggles.

Beyond their obvious health benefits for folks with more hands-on jobs (and some DIY enthusiasts), this sort of respirators offers adequate protection against harmful aerosols and liquids. Such as tear gas.

Stats

BODY 01, Enhance (RV vs. particulates, vapors and gasses): 04 (cap is 07), Enhance (RV vs. facial attacks): 02 (cap is 06), R#02.

This is for a high-end model meeting stringent requirements. Older or cheap models will have one or two fewer APs. A small-time DIY setup (stiff paper mask and swimming goggles) will have 1 AP (and a cap of 04) vs p/v/g and no APs vs. facial attacks.

High end 3M industrial respirator mask

Mmmm, picture… Okay, here’s a high-end 3M model. There, done.

Gas mask

Gas masks appear during the 1800s, making them Steampunk technology for our purposes. For instance the Rouquayrol respirators feature in several novels by Jules Verne (which you totally should read).

They become more of a thing with chemical weapons during World War One.

A lot of military and police headgear (such as helmets) are compatible with wearing gas masks. The problem is more with the wearer, as gas masks are a major pain to wear. But the heat retention, insufficient air flow for breathing, fogging up, etc. slowly get better with ergonomics research.

Older models still feel like a death trap, and will significantly cut into the wearer’s endurance even with training.

Stats

Gas masks do not provide full Sealed Systems APs. Their goal is filtration of outside air, and they do not come with an air reserve.

The earliest models are cotton doused with hyposulfite, kept in a pocket of fabric worn as a lower face covering. BODY 01, Enhance (RV vs. particulates, vapors and gasses): 01 (cap is 05), R#05. They’ll provide protection for maybe one hour, which is… a problem.

WWII and Cold War era masks will usually be full-face rubber affairs. One screws in a cartridge that holds a fresh set of filters – usually either under the mask, or at the tail end of a hose attached to the front of the mask. BODY 02, Enhance (RV vs. particulates, vapors and gasses): 04 (cap is 09), R#03. A cartridge will protect for but a few hours, with a lot of variation depending on the volume of air being breathed and the amount and types of particles floating in the air.

A modern device such as the Avon M50 has BODY 02, Enhance (RV vs. particulates, vapors and gasses): 05 (cap is 11), R#02. It provides 24 hours of protection, and it is significantly easier to see and breathe than with older generations. This is in part because it uses two cartridges, so there are two air intakes.

M50 gas mask

The aforementioned M50 General Purpose mask is sold on Amazon to Airsoft enthusiasts. But at this price I’d assume it’s some sort of replica, unless there was a *lot* of surplus floating around.

Modern fire-fighting helmet

These appeared in Paris during the 1980s, but quickly spread worldwide.

These are optimised to intervene in terrible conditions. And look like something that would fit atop a Mass Effect or Halo-style sci-fi military hardsuit.

Such helmets aren’t quite full-face, in that there isn’t a rigid part enclosing the jaw. But this is to leave room for a respirator underneath. So they look more like a ¾ motorcycle helmet, but with a large, rigid faceplate.

Typical features on a high-end, all-options model include :

  • Flip-up glare protection, reflective faceplate.
  • Flip-up eyes protection visor.
  • Rear flaps to protect the back of the neck from impact and heat.
  • Built-in short-range flashlights on the sides of the jaw (or mounting points for larger flashlights).
  • Protection against heat as well as against impacts.
  • Tactical radio headset.

Stats

  • BODY 04.
  • Enhance (Structural and Heat/flame RV): 01 (cap is 07).
  • Enhance (Unarmed RV): 02 (cap is 08).
  • Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 03 (cap is 07).
  • Enhance (Facial attacks RV): 03 (cap is 08).
  • Shade (Visual): 04.
  • Flash (Steady illumination only): 03.
  • Radio communications: 04.
  • Drawback: Audial Perception rolls have +1CS to their OV/RV.

The helmet will often be worn with a respirator (similar to a military gas mask) or a rebreather linked to a dorsal air tank.

Casque pompier MSA F1 XF

Current-gen F1 XF MSA firefighter helmet with reflective anti-glare faceplate lowered. Note the lateral lighting (and French military firefighter crest).

Welding mask

A big plate with a shielded vision slit. It protects the face and neck from sparks and fragments from industrial welding, and the eyes from the intense light of an acetylene torch, arc welder or other high-energy tool. More modern models are closer to a motorcycle helmet or a sci-fi hardsuit in ergonomics.

In realistic circumstances, this has nothing whatsoever to do with combat. But in comic books and fantasy stories, where the opposition might have flame powers, or lightning powers, or photonic blasts… Well, it’s better to have some numbers.

Stats

These stats assume that the mask is worn along with a flame-resistant jumpsuit. There’s not much point of protecting your head from white-hot sparks if your clothing can catch fire, innit ?

  • BODY 03.
  • Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 01 (cap is 06).
  • Enhance (Facial attacks (see above) RV): 03 (cap is 07).
  • Flame immunity: 02.
  • Shade (Visual): 05.
  • Drawback: Visual Perception rolls have a +2CS to their OV/RV.
  • Drawback: MPR (seriously hinders communication).
  • Stealth Penalty 1/1.

Modern welding mask helm

An example of a modern model of welding mask would be this Tekware model.

Sparring headgear

This is worn when practicing boxing and other martial arts (and when playing rugby). A typical one will protect the brow, ears and cheekbones, though there are many models with more coverage.

Having a mouth protector on is also a possibility. It’s a piece of moulded plastic you hold within your mouth, which prevents teeth from being rattled or knocked out. Which is good.

Their primary role is to spread the impact, so it’s less likely to break the skin and/or burst small blood vessels. It doesn’t protect against concussions (little does), but at least you can spar full-contact without looking like you’ve been in a pub brawl.

For wrestlers and rugby players, it also prevents ears getting ripped off. Which is good.

Since it’s padding about the skull, it’ll also protect against bad falls. Say, after an unexpected leg sweep.

Stats

BODY 02, Enhance (Unarmed, Structural RV): 01 (cap is 05).

Boxing protection headgear

A traditional-looking boxing headgear, though nowadays there are many different designs (especially to protect children).

Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Helper(s): Kevin Berger, Darci, Ethan Roe.

Writeup completed on the 23rd of November, 2017.