Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The Insufferable Quandry of Helmets
Ok, what's the deal with helmets in D&D and its kin?
I know two facts from real life:
1. People who want to kill you often aim at your head, and
2. Wearing a helmet offers you a bit of protection against that.
One of the earliest known militaristic civilizations, the Assyrians, never left home without their trusty helmets:
And we are still perfecting the materials and designs of helmets to this day:
Despite all that, helmets offer no definable protection in-game, barring an obscure rule in AD&D no one uses. Kudos if you know the rule I'm talking about; if you don't, I'm going to make you go look it up just to make my point about obscurity. So there.
What to do about this?
One solution is to allow helmets to offer an AC bonus of 1. This is the solution I'm leaning toward. The more I think about this, the more appropriate it seems, especially considering the 2 facts above. I suspect helmets were originally left out of armor class due to the simple fact that they cover a smaller area of the body than a mail shirt, and cannot be moved around at will like a shield. But that still doesn't take into account that people with clubs, swords, crossbows and other instruments of harm are often aiming precisely for your head!
An alternative (based on the assumption I see in many books that a purchased suit of armor typically includes a helmet) is to impose an AC penalty of 1 if the helmet is lost or not worn.
Whichever option, I think it would be appropriate to make helmets a bigger part of the game, both in terms of AC and of a valued piece of adventuring equipment. It also helps open up a whole category of magic item for exploration. And lets you put cool stuff like this in the game:
What do you think?