Originally Posted by Seerow
The first step to making armor more useful is to bring the RNG in line, so armor can be more useful in a wider variety of situations. To fix the RNG, the following changes are to be made:
Natural Armor and Armor no longer stack-Natural armor acts in all ways like regular armor that is a part of your body, and has no weight or other penalties.
Shields now provide a deflection bonus to AC-With this change, Shields now provide a potentially higher and cheaper way to gain a deflection bonus to AC, but the two cannot be stacked. This does weaken shields, but for the purposes of narrowing the RNG this really had to happen.
Base Attack Bonus is added to AC-This is the biggest change, but all characters get a scaling bonus to armor class. This both helps high BAB classes, and provides much needed scaling to keep up with attack bonuses. A character using the same gear at level 20 is going to have a much better defense than at level 1.
Iterative Attacks cap at a -5 penalty-That is to say that PCs now follow the same rules for attacking monsters have always followed. So a level 16 Fighter on a full attack has an attack sequence of 16/11/11/11. This is done to ensure the attacks remain on the RNG, with the raised AC later iteratives were even more likely to be useless.
Base Armor is 5, not 10-This is a simple change that was needed to make it possible to balance the RNG without rewriting all of the armors. The basic reason is because attack rolls get their highest attribute, but armor gets the armor value plus an attribute, at a value that's always equal to roughly 8. This means until attack attributes hit 8, armor has an advantage right out of the gate.
These changes pretty much cover it for how to affect player characters. High ACs are now doable without spending half your gold on assorted bonuses from gear. A 20th level character is now most likely to have an AC of around 45+deflection mod. Attack bonuses at this level are usually around 35-40, so this seems like a good place to be.
One further change currently under consideration is the limitation of deflection bonuses. For example making it so shields can't be enchanted with +x modifiers (though could still get +x equivalent enchantments, waiving the normal +1 minimum requirement), and capping deflection bonuses at +2 across the board. Currently a character can get 50-52 AC with full BAB, capped armor, and a shield, this is nearly impossible to be hit by a medium BAB character, and at this time I'm not sure that's a good thing.
Love the write up, particularly this section about the RNG. Do you mind if I
borrow some sections of it for my own homebrew?
I'm not entirely sold on the necessity of Temp-HP instead of DR, but you can probably just chalk that up to my lack of experience with high level campaigns.
I do have one or two little issues that are still niggling at me though. The first is linking the scaling of AC to BAB. The medium BAB classes (rogues, monk, TWF rangers) are in melee combat nearly as much Warriors and Paladins, and there is no guarantee the demon you're fighting won't turn around and try to gib them, or that the horde of orcs will all line up and politely wait for a shot at your party's meatshield.
What if we let AC scale just with ECL or HD, rather than BAB? Yes it means that wizards and sorcerers get a full Base Armor Class (BAC) but I can't think of a better way that won't penalize quite a few melee-based players.
The second thing is, since heavy armor is now definitely better than medium or light armor from a pure defensive point of view, can we either increase or remove the Max-Dex Bonus? At higher levels, it's restrictive enough that some Dexterity based builds forego armor entirely, and under your system that leaves them very (comparatively) squishy.
Or are you worried that higher Dex scores will combine with your improved AC to make some classes untouchable?