How long to put armour on?

My game is historical, and the PCs don't spend their days underground, fully-armoured, all the time they are awake. Most of the time, they are unarmoured, or at most wearing light armour. Wearing full armour is hot, uncomfortable and tiring. The hot part is especially relevant since the game takes place in and around the Mediterranean.

So how long should it take to get armour on? Most have scale, which is probably just pulling the thorax over their heads and arranging the straps to make it comfortable. But one PC has a full hoplite panoply, with corselet and back-and-breastplate, greaves, and a heavy helm. In all instances they have people to assist them in getting armoured (though often that person will themselves then need assistance getting into their armour).

I'm guessing the most pressing one is when surprised, because you'll have absolutely no time before the enemy can act.

Any thoughts? Is this already in the book and I missed it?

no historical references found but 2e says (note that 2e rounds = 1 minute)

"The time required to don armor depends on its make. Those armors that are a single piece–leather tunics, robes, chain mail–take one round (two for metal items) to don with slight assistance. Without aid, the time is doubled. Armor that is made of separate pieces require 1d6 + 4 rounds, again with assistance. Without help, the time required is tripled. In all cases, the times given assume that the proper undergarments and padding are also worn.

Sometimes characters need to get into armor in a hurry and thus, they dress hastily. This assumes that some buckles aren’t fastened, seatings adjusted, etc. Single suits can be hastily donned in one round at the cost of 1 worse AC (though never worse than 8). Thus, a fighter could hastily pull on his brigandine jack (AC 6) and charge into a fray with an AC of 7. Hastily donning piece armor (plate mail for example) improves the character’s AC by 1 (from a base of 10) for every round spent dressing. A fighter could choose to spend three rounds fitting on parts of his plate mail, giving him an AC of 7, before going into battle.

Removing armor is a much quicker matter. Most can be shed in a single round. Piece armor (particularly full plate) requires 1d4 + 1 rounds. However, if the character is willing to cut straps and bend pins, such armors can be removed in half the time (roll 1d4 + 1, divide by 2, then round fractions up)."

I don’t know about armor donning time, but I’m wondering if, during caravan travel with a large enough group, guards would/could armor-up in shifts so that, if surprised, at least some of the group were fully armored. This really would depend on how tiring armor was and how many guards you had, but having even a small portion of your guards in medium-to-heavy armor when an ambush is sprung could be a life saver.

Certainly not BTB, but our campaign has come up with a fairly simple method that works well at the table so I’ll put it out here for others.

Donning armor takes 1 round per point of AC when acting alone, half that time when assisted by another.

We take it a step further by ruling that hastily donned armor grants an armor class equal to the number of rounds spent putting it on. This reflects missing pieces, unbuckled straps, etc.

Thanks for the replies so far. One round per point when acting alone, halved with assistance seems reasonable. From a game perspective, even if not necessarily historicity. That means there's some cost to having to get armoured up, but not so much that you'd risk being fatigued all the time by keeping it on.


I also like the idea of rotating who's armoured when travelling as a standard policy - with any encounter it could be a random roll to see if your character is already armoured when it occurs.


I should add as a final thing that shields are much more effective in my game (basically +1/+2/+3AC for small/medium/large with a bigger bonus against arrows/slingshot), so while it can be problematic being unarmoured, you have a great measure of defense just picking up your shield.

I’m assuming the encumberance is the same even if the armor bonus is not?

I don’t know about this smooth armor progression, it lets someone abort at any time for fractional armor value when I’d think that throwing on light armor should be significantly better than being interrupted when donning heavy armor. It forces a choice between throwing on your chain shirt and encasing yourself in steel and seems more realistic to me. But then again, I’ve never had to don armor.

Yes, encumbrance stays the same. They just haven’t cinched up the straps nor buckled all the pieces on properly thus having a reduced AC.

We like the rule because it follows the KISS principle and it’s easy for everyone to remember and keep track of while in the heat of battle. Why over complicate the rules for something like this in the name of “realism” when the penalty is appropriately scaled for higher AC? There are far too many other things to worry about.

It also makes for interesting and tense moments at the table (which we relish) and forces significant choices to be made. Several times we’ve been faced with the following: the encamped Party is attacked at night and the Fighters are all busy struggling into their heavy platemail while the rest of the lightly armored members are getting pounded on and screaming for them to “come help”. It’s amusing how many “brave” fighters used to having a high AC are hesitant to join battle with the equivalent of leather armor…

1 generally use 1 round per point of AC in my own games.

It’s worth noting, however, that in the ancient world the Romans, at least, generally did march with their armor on, while carrying their own food, water, and supplies, and hiking upwards of 20 miles per day. They were bad ass.

Humans today are weak - our bones are less sturdy than those of our ancestors. Due to punishing hardship from childhood, our ancestors were physically tougher than we even can be, regardless of genes or training, because our childhoods are spent in comparative ease.

What we see as an inconceivable feat of endurance, they did every day. Modern Olympic rowers cannot sustain the average speed of Trireme rowers. Modern athletes cannot even make it 10 minutes wearing hoplite armor that the ancients are said to have worn for hours. The bones of longbowmen are simply bulkier than our bones can be. Hell, the US Army today can hardly even find soldiers whose feet are tough enough for combat boots! The book Manthropology has great details on this.

To make a long story short, I tend to allow my PCs to wear armor, carry burdens, and perform feats that would reduce me and anyone I know to a whimpering crybaby, on the basic assumption that we are Zoo Humans and they are not.

It helps that my fighter has 24 hp and is level 3 when the others are mostly level 1 and have no more than 7 hp. He takes hits so they don’t have to. He just died last session, but rolled so well on the Tampering with mortality table (after being rushed to a bladedancer npc), that he suffered no side effects and came back healthier than before the fight (his back pains were gone).

As for my comment about hard choices, I was referring to having heavy armor giving you ac at the same rate as leather and allowing you to leave at any time with a smooth fraction of your ac. I’d think that choosing to go plate-mail would commit you to a minimum time investment, with the fighter being sort of screwed if he was interrupted too early. Still, this seems like a good house rule.

Well, as before, in my game shields are much more effective, so the Fighter would be well-advised to forget spending five rounds getting into his full panoply and simply picking up his shield, clapping his helmet over his head and grabbing his spear.