On page 152 of the nWoD core-book I have, the "Attack Dice Pools" section states:


Meanwhile, your character's target more than likely tries to avoid being harmed, and may wear protective gear of some kind. In close combat, the target's Defense trait and the rating of any applicable armor worn is subtracted from your attack dice pool.

And again on page 166:


The rating of any protective gear is automatically subtracted from the dice pool of an incoming attack. If your character wears armor rated 3, three dice are removed from the attacker's dice pool.

On page 170, under the Armor Chart, Leather (Hard) is listed as 1/0 for rating, 2 for Strength, -1 for Defense, 0 for Speed.

The two values of contention here are the rating and defense.

Defense: The penalty imposed on your character's defense trait for the armor worn.

By the rules here, if I am understanding correctly, the "Leather (Hard)" would subtract 1 die from the attacker's pool (because of its rating) and the defending player (the player with the armor) would also take a -1 to their defense; this would negate the benefits of the armor. The same would apply to "Chainmail" and "Plate" would only have an effective bonus of 1.

To put succinctly, is my understanding of how the armor applies to a defender correct?

I do not know what edition I have.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've deleted the old version of your post, and the "edited for clarity" line, since we don't signal edits in text here. The old version of your post is still available in its revision history: hit the "edited X time ago" link in the bottom center of your post to view that. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 6, 2016 at 7:08

2 Answers 2


You read the rules right, Armor in the nWoD (at least in 1e, which I am familiar with) works exactly the same as Defense, but with one key difference: it is not Defence. I know that statement seems odd, but it is important for numerous abilities, which I will touch on here:

All-Out Attack and charging (Core, p. 157 and p. 164):

Your character foregoes all pretense of self-preservation. He gives his all to do his opponent harm. You gain two bonus dice on your characterÕs attack for the turn, but lose his Defense trait for the turn.

Your character can move up to twice his Speed and stage an attack at the end of his movement, all in the same turn. Your character's Defense score is not subtracted from any attacks made against him in the turn. He makes a relatively easy target of himself by making a beeline to a specific opponent.

This is available for everyone, and quickly establishes why Armor can be fantastic. An heavily-armored landsknecht can go all-out with attacks every round because his armor does the job of his defence, while a lightly-armored fencer cannot afford to, or he can charge to cover more ground while still having damage reduction (even if Speed is reduced by the armor).

Environmental Conditions (Core, p. 155)

A target who is tied up, unconscious or simply unmoving does not receive Defense as protection. Nor does one who's taken by surprise or who is unaware of an incoming attack (say he has his back turned). If multiple close-combat attacks are directed at your character in the same turn, he may try to evade each of them, but doing so becomes progressively more difficult. Each attack after the first diminishes your character's Defense modifier by one.

Since melee attacks will be a significant portion of a medieval system, not losing your primary defenses when knocked prone or surprised or attacked by multiple opponents would be very beneficial. Armor takes the attacker from +2 (for being prone) to being +2 minus the Armor rating. A lesser use for it is for drawing weapons; drawing a weapon and using it in the same turn gives up Defense for that turn (without Quick Draw, of course), which doesn't hit someone who uses Armor as much. Other things that can reduce or eliminate Defense, but not Armor, include tear gas (not likely to see), the Feint Merit from Fencing, and the Destroy Defense Merit from Boxing and Kung Fu (Armory Reloaded).

Ranged attacks ignoring Defense (Core, p. 155; Armory, p. 90):

This automatic Defense does not normally apply against Firearms attacks. (See p. 164 for how they may be avoided.) The only instance in which Defense does apply against Firearms-based attacks is when the attacker shoots within close-combat range; within a yard or two of the target... Defense does apply normally against thrown weapons, such as rocks, knives and spears. A character may use either Athletics or Firearms to fire a bow... A character may use either Athletics or Firearms to fire a crossbow.

As you can see, Armor has another use in deflecting fire from arrows and bolts, which form a not-insignificant part of medieval warfare.

Better use of Merits

Rather than finding the quotes, I will simply list the various Merits that require sacrifice of Defense (there might be more in the Werewolf/Vampire/Mage/etc. books, I mainly know core and Hunter):

  • Core: Boxing, Combination Blows and Haymaker; Kung Fu, Whirlwind Strike; Two Weapons, Focused Attack and Fluid Attack; Gunslinger, to aim at two targets (for hand crossbows).
  • Armory: Chain Weapons, Whirl and Thrust; Combat Marksmanship, Rapid Fire (not useful unless you have a chu-ko-nu or other repeating crossbow).
  • Armory Reloaded: Aikido, Ukemi; Entering Strike; Langschwert, Fool's Guard and Doubling Cut and Wrathful Cut (and Armored Fighting reduces penalties from Armor as well!); Shurikenjutsu, Choku Da-Ho and Ikki-Gokken; Berserker, Strength in the Fury (for All-Out Attack) and Ignorant in the face of Death and Bloody-Handed Bastard.

All told, Armor can have excellent benefits over Defense. Characters of that period who wish to maximize benefits from it are most likely to have Merit families like Two Weapons, Langschwert (and especially Armored fighting), or Berserker, but every melee-based character can benefit from all-out attacks and charging.

To specifically address your confusion on Leather (Hard) armor, you do not get a net bonus to your damage prevention, but you do get to keep the same bonus through many actions that would otherwise leave you defenseless. If you want an extra bonus, look at the leather armor from Armory, p. 177. It is the same as Core, but:

Some vanity outlets sell a stronger version of leather armor. This armor consists of leather scales or leather strips riveted over one another, making the armor tougher. Such riveted leather, sometimes called lamellar, costs ••, but offers a Rating of 2/0 against attacks.

and also offers heavier armor!

Plate Armor: Rating 3/2, Strength 4, Defense –2, Speed –3, Cost ••••; If plate armor is not fitted to the wearer (say, if a character simply picks up a set of plate armor from a museum or collection and tries to use the armor in battle), the character suffers a –3 Defense penalty and a –4 Speed penalty instead of the Traits above, though the armor still provides the Rating and Strength requirements listed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Those are all very valid points. Does the defense bonus from armor suffer from the halving effect of multiple attackers? For example, if your defense is 3 and your armor provides 1/0/-1 (the -1 being defense), your defense would be 3 (+1/-1). On the second attack that turn, would it be reduced to 1 (3 * 1/2 round down), 2 (3 * 1/2 round up) or 2 (2 * 1/2 + 1 from armor)? \$\endgroup\$
    – jon
    Jan 6, 2016 at 7:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Without that armor, the first attack would have -3, the second -2, the third -1, and any more would have no penalty. With the armor, all attacks past the second have -1. At least in 1e, it is an incremental reduction in Defense, not multiplicative. If it's 2e, I am not familiar with the rule changes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sawyer
    Jan 6, 2016 at 7:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, that's right. It is -1 per additional attacker. My mistake. So, the armor would not be reduced by successive attacks against a single target within a single turn. How do you handle armor durability? \$\endgroup\$
    – jon
    Jan 6, 2016 at 7:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Armor durability rarely comes into play. If a PC's armor gets particularly mangled (mace crushes plate, ripped rings in mail, etc.), the Storyteller would decide how much it would be to repair, as well as how much time. Repairs for Leather might be short and inconsequential for price, while un-denting plate might require few funds but much time before it is fully functional. Basically, armor is treated as always usable despite any mangling unless the ST declares it to be so. If the players can afford the armor, the repair time is probably all that matters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sawyer
    Jan 6, 2016 at 7:58

Are you using the rules for 1st edition or the new 2nd edition Chronicle of Darkness / God-Machine Chronicles rule book? If you are not using it yet, it might solve your problem. Perhaps you are already using them, but not as intended.

In 2e, each piece of armor has 2 ratings, general armor and ballistic armor. The first one subtracts damage on a 1 for 1 basis. So, if you take 3 damage and have 2 points of general armor, you only take 1 damage. This works for every kind of damage, subtract the worst damage first. Ballistic armor downgrades lethal damage to bashing, but only applies to firearms attacks. So, if you would take 3 points of lethal and had 3 points of ballistic armor, all damage is downgraded to bashing. Ballistic armor never removes damage directly.

A single armor can combine both qualities, this is typically written X/Y where X is the general rating and Y the ballistic rating. So a 1/2 armor has 2 points of ballistic and one point of general. Apply ballistic armor first, then general armor.

In any setting without firearms, several source books suggest replacing it with an Archery skill or similar. In those settings, you could should apply ballistic armor to Archery attacks instead of firearms. However, the examples for archaic armor in the core book are limited and you might want to adapt modern armor ratings to your own setting, even if you keep the rest of the systems the same.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe I am using the first edition as my copy says nothing of the sort, though I do like where it is going. I'll look into that edition if I can find someone who has it. How do I differentiate between editions? \$\endgroup\$
    – jon
    Jan 6, 2016 at 7:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If it talks about Beats, Integrity, or Conditions, it's probably 2e. If it discusses Morality, it's probably 1e. I don't know about other changes yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sawyer
    Jan 6, 2016 at 7:44

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