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Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Every once in a while, the blogosphere goes crazy posting shield rules variants, but The Bane is the only person I've seen post his helm rules variants. His rules probably would fit in with a lot of medium crunch approaches to D&D. My approach, on the other hand, would be to get rid of some crunch and instead focus on more variation in results.

First, my approach to the effects of helms on surprise, hear noise, and similar abilities is more freeform. I've mentioned before how I go with a +1 bonus for the side which has an advantage over the other. There's no set list of when to apply the bonus: it's a matter of interpretation. Here are some examples:

  • listening at a door: wearing a helm that covers the ears places you at a disadvantage.
  • surprise during an ambush: narrow eyeslits place you at a disadvantage for ambushes you could detect with peripheral vision; helms that cover the ears place you at a disadvantage for ambushes you could detect with hearing.
Initiative is less important. My feeling is that initiative doesn't represent game world events, but is a convenience for deciding which person at the game table gets to make moves first. I don't think these should be altered, except by surprise results. Speed of action, on the other hand, might matter, and a helm might affect reaction speed -- but off hand, I can't think of a situation where I would alter the speed based on wearing a helm. Maybe dodging an attack from the side, noticeable with peripheral vision.

That leaves attacks aimed at the head. Attacking the head means using the head's AC instead of the body's AC, and there are three kinds of helms: non-rigid (leather or padded headgear,) semi-rigid (chain coif,) and rigid (helm.) A successful hit requires a Con save instead of general hp loss, with a penalty based on helm type (no penalty for rigid helms.) Failure means loss of the body part -- immediate unconsciousness, for blunt attacks to the skull; decapitation, for edged attacks to the neck.

The difference between a Roman-style metal helm with an open face and a great helm is that an attacker can attempt a blow to the AC 9 chin/jaw instead of a blow to the AC 3 skull. Blows to the jaw aren't killing blows, but can cause serious damage and put an opponent at a disadvantage. Similarly, an attacker can aim a thrusting weapon at the eye (AC 9 for most helms, AC 5 for great helms with a wire mesh over the eyeslit.) A failed Con save results in blindness.


  1. If a player from simply announces that they will stab at the lower AC eye or face every single time, won't events become somewhat sadly predictable?

  2. Not too far off what AD&D arrived at in the end ... with a little more detail.

    My inclination is to just roll with the fact that D&D doesn't do hit locations - no matter if the equipment list lets you buy a great helm and you're tempted to make that count for something. If you are drawing distinctions between minute hit areas on the head, even as a houserule, "Runequest" mentality has won.

    So, I assume the standard adventurer helmet lets you hear and see at the cost of some protection, but you have to take it off to press your ear right up to something. -1 AC if you are helmless (maybe -2 to a suit of platemail).

    You'd really be insane to go into a skirmish situation wearing a full helm with just an eyeslit, let alone a dark dungeon. Those were worn in large scale battles where the tactics were "point me at the enemy." I'm pretty happy not to have great helms, or to include them in a late-medieval full plate suit with base AC2 - then throw the book at the wearer for not being able to see worth a damn.

  3. I like it. Simple for the most part, and just mechanical enough to make it detailed and interesting.