It's pretty much a consensus that the trademark-avoidingly-named Advanced Body Armour found in High-Tech (p. 66) is cinematic, as its DR value is based on the hype of Pinnacle Armour's Dragon Skin vests, not on the actual NIJ protection levels of said armour that could later be proven.

But if I don't want to completely strike out the item out of inventory lists, how should its DR be adjusted to make it non-cinematic and based on its actual material/physical/ballistic properties, while conforming to High-Tech's principles of DR calculation (as distinct from somewhat different principles of Low-Tech, Cutting Edge etc.)?


2 Answers 2


After a cursory review of this particular product, it seems like there are a few specific defects that you'll probably want to focus on:

  • Environment issues (temperature, oil, sand) cause failures in the ceramic 'scale' adhesive, reducing effectiveness
  • Single-shot protection was good, but it didn't stand up to subsequent testing

For the first point, I'd have some sort of environmental limitations - have the armor's high DR only apply if it hasn't failed (equipment failure is on B485).

For the second point, I'd consider the possibility of failure and/or semi-ablative properties. High-damage hits could be an additional chance of equipment failure. That failure could be a total reduction of the DR, a partial reduction, or beginning to treat the armor as semi-ablative (the same way High-Tech mentions an option to treat ceramic plates as semi-ablative).

Finally, the armor's actual DR. Supposedly in non-failure testing it stood up to multiple rounds from a .308 rifle and then a 9mm MP5, then another test from an AK-47 followed by more 9mm fire. A .308 rifle is in the 6d to 7d range, so the armor's listed DR of 35/5* (5 against crushing) seems actually fairly reasonable.

The failure case is more questionable - there aren't a lot of public details on exactly how the product failed when it did fail. I'd make it conditional on exactly how it failed - failure from multiple subsequent hits from a .308 would probably make it behave differently than failure from high temperatures. Maybe damage-based failure makes it semi-ablative but other failures are catastrophic, dropping it to something like 20/5*, or even down to 12/5* or 10/5*.

Depending on your level of realism, the biggest problem with this particular product is going to be acquiring it. If your game is set in 2006-2009 or so, I wouldn't worry about it. However, if it's post-2010 when Pinnacle went bankrupt, I'd make this an extraordinarily expensive item, if I allowed it to be bought at all! Maybe require an equipment perk that included a plausible story for access to a rare item.

To expand on your point a little bit, there is a deficit between the armors presented in High-Tech, current real-life armors (with NIJ ratings against specific calibers), and the armors in Ultra-Tech. There isn't something that bridges the gap between the High-Tech TL8 armors and the not-quite-real TL9 armors in Ultra-Tech. I'd recommend allowing some custom options based NIJ ratings, though you'll need to decide exact DR/cost/weight.

Here's a rough summary of the NIJ ratings paired with the approximate damage from a gun of that caliber. I recommended a number for DR - that's the number that 85% of the time you won't exceed the DR of the armor with that number of dice. I picked 85% because from what I saw, the NIJ testing included five or less successive shots (though I think NIJ level IV was a single shot).

|   Level    | Damage | DR |                                                        Notes                                                         |
| Level IIA  | 2d     | 10 | Tested to stop 9mm and .40 S&W ammunition fired from short barrel handguns. No rifle ammunition protection.          |
| Level II   | 2d-3d  | 11 | Tested to stop 9mm and .357 Magnum ammunition fired from short barrel handguns. No rifle ammunition protection.      |
| Level IIIA | 3d     | 14 | Tested to stop .357 SIG and .44 Magnum ammunition fired from longer barrel handguns. No rifle ammunition protection. |
| Level III  | 5d     | 22 | Tested to stop 7.62mm FMJ lead core rifle ammunition.                                                                |
| Level IV   | 7d     | 30 | Tested to stop .30-06 steel core armor piercing rifle ammunition.                                                    |

Keep in mind that NIJ level IV armors are extremely heavy - someone not trained to regularly wear those armors would suffer numerous penalties in combat.

I think the TL8 Assault Vest plus Trauma Plates do a pretty good job representing NIJ level IV armor. For the NIJ level III, I'd consider either creating something like a "Thin Trauma Plate" or using a tweaked version of the Aircrew Armor - reduce the weight and making it more than front only (and having a split DR like other plate insert vests).

You could also use the TL9 armors in Ultra-Tech for some inspiration - you could also take the TL9 Reflex Tactical Vest plus Trauma plates or the TL9 Light Clamshell from Ultra-Tech and reduce the DR, increase the weight, and come up with a fair cost.

  • \$\begingroup\$ > "85%" is this choice consistent with the correspondence between High-Tech armour DRs and their NIJ ratings? Asking because I would like to know what to expect within a conversion paradigm consistent with High-Tech's. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 9:39

If you wish to adjust the DR of an armor type, we might fall back on the old "reality check" mechanic that was introduced at the very beginning of GURPS (in Man to Man, 1986).

Common soft Kevlar will reliably stop a common pistol bullet, so its DR ought to be at least as large as the average damage from a range of common pistols -- say, a 1911, Colt Peacemaker, something in .38 Special, or anything in 9 mm -- if not equal to the maximum from most of them.

Similarly, if you have better armor, its DR needs to be based on what it will stop. If it'll soak up a bullet from an AK-47, it needs to have enough DR to do so.

I'm not directly familiar with Pinnacle Armour's claims, or the test data for their equipment, but modern military hard plate armor is partially ablative (the hard plates soak up energy in part by shattering or crumbling, and lose effectiveness against following shots in the same location), and in new condition can stop even 7.62x51 bullets (of the common "ball" type, not Armor Piercing).

So pick a weapon you want your version of the armor to protect against, and set your DR near the top end of that weapon's damage. Done.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you sure 'pick a DR near the top end' is how DR is calibrated in High-Tech? Because my memory hints that this is one of the bits which are not intuitive about how the armour items in HT have been assigned their DRs. Also, lack of my own confidence in being able to properly distinguish, read and convert that data is a major reason why I posted this question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 17:56
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @vicky_molokh I'm sure it's not, because in 4th Ed. SJG completely forgot the entire concept of reality checks. I don't own 4th Ed. High Tech (and the 3rd Ed. version doesn't have "calculation" for armor DR). That's why I dropped back to the reality check -- if you have armor intended to do a job, you assume it does. If that job is to stop bullets reliably, it has to have DR close to the top of the bullet's possible (before Piercing etc. adjustments) damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another downvote for not quoting/linking rules that make no sense and caused the question by their lack of sense? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 11:01

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