How often should a DM remove or restrict a character's ability to use their equipment? Is it considered bad game design, overly punishing, or otherwise frowned upon to do so regularly?
There are a lot of situations in which a character that relies on weapons or armor can find themselves at a disadvantage due to being unable to use them, or even harmed for using them. Examples include:
- Being ambushed while sleeping and having to fight naked
- Having to escape captivity after being stripped of all gear
- Having your weapon/armor/shield disarmed, sundered, disintegrated, teleported into another dimension, etc.
- Having Heat/Chill Metal cast on you while using metal equipment
- Fighting a Rust Monster
- Having your hands literally tied behind your back
- Being in any high-society situation where it is socially inappropriate to be geared for war
- Being on a ship on the high seas and not wanting to risk falling overboard while wearing heavy armor, which would be all but certainly insta-death without magical aid
- Being in a magical location that arbitrarily doesn't allow metal equipment (a la the Dark Elf cave from Final Fantasy 4)
The possibilities for limiting equipment usage in this way are many. However, it may or may not be looked on favorably as a good DM technique.
The purpose of these sort of situations mechanically is essentially to let some characters shine over others. Characters like Monks (in the versions they appear in) are all but immune to the problems that arise from these scenarios, while characters that are extremely specialized and reliant on equipment (Fighters who specialize on specific types of weapons, etc) are punished very hard. How do the positive effects of putting some classes in the spotlight compare to the negative effects of making other characters suck in the process? Do the benefits out-weight the detriments when using this technique? Is it fair to make players consider the downsides of relying on weapons and armor, or is this a "cheap shot" due to how integral it is to all editions of D&D as a whole?