Saturday, 28 March 2015

PowerFrame: Customising Armour

Eight illustrations to go! Last week I made a post about armour in the PowerFrame RPG. This week I'm back with the Modern Armour illustration, and some further armour discussions.

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Custom Armour

If you want to make your own armour, or if you disagree with the ratings PowerFrame provides for a particular armour type, you can easily create a set of balanced stats that reflect the performance you have in mind. As with all things in PowerFrame, just about anything's fair as long as you follow the guidelines.


Designing armour is pretty easy. The main thing is to decide how much protection it will provide against the four different types of damage – Cutting, Piercing, Bludgeoning and Energy. 

Compare your proposed armour to the listed armour types to get a feel for appropriate Toughness Bonuses. They are normally between +1 and +3 for Ancient armour, with an additional +1 for Modern and again for Future armour. To make the calculations easier, assign an even number of points between the four Damage Types.

Add together the Toughness Bonuses you’ve assigned to the four Damage Types to give the armour’s total protection rating – which is then used to calculate its Cost, Encumbrance, and Threat.


Currency in PowerFrame is rated in abstract Currency Units; 1 CU is around $50, and is also 1 gold piece in fantasy settings.

Cost per Location is equal to the protection rating divided by 4.


Encumbrance is an abstract measurement of weight and bulk. The numbers are small enough to easily keep track of, and it can be an intriguing balancing act to outfit your character in a combination of gear that doesn't slow them down.

The Encumbrance of each Location is equal to the protection rating divided by 4, minus 1, with a minimum of 0.


Threat is a rating of equipment's combat effectiveness. The more Threat characters are equipped with, the less Experience they get from combat.

A point of Threat is equivalent to 1 point in an Ability. Since a complete suit (six Locations) of armour that provides +1 against all Damage Types is the equivalent of 1 extra point of Toughness, each section of armour is rated in 12ths of Threat. For example, armour that provides +1 against all Damage Types is worth 2/12ths of Threat per Location.

The Threat per Location (in 12ths of Threat) is equal to the protection rating divided by 2. To figure out the Threat of a suit of armour, add together the Threat of each Location and round up to the nearest whole number.

Lightweight Armour

Modern and futuristic armours often provide better protection for the same weight, as they use lightweight materials and production techniques not available in ancient times.
  • In most cases you can reduce Enc by 1/2 for modern armour, and by 1 for futuristic armour.
  • Any reduction in Enc results in an equivalent increase in both Threat and Cost.

Next up, I'm probably going to draw a selection of polearms to put in the Weapon section. Yes, PowerFrame is one of those systems that has several pages dedicated to weapon lists, and for the next post I'll delve into the ways the system differentiates them and creates interesting choices.

Friday, 20 March 2015

PowerFrame: Armour

Last Sunday I posted PowerFrame's Size Comparison diagram, and with only ten pictures left to do, committed to completing one illustration a fortnight. Now, less than a week later, I'm pleased to present the next picture already - Future Armour!

This picture will sit alongside the Future Armour table in the Armour section, and will also feature in Under the Hood to illustrate the section on designing armour. 

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For this post, I'm going to go over the basics of armour in PowerFrame.

Reducing Damage

When you get hit by an attack, the attacker rolls and adds their Damage rating – typically a combination of their Strength (or another Ability) and a Damage Bonus from the weapon. Some weapons such as firearms just have a set Damage rating. To resist you roll and add your Toughness, plus any protection granted by Armour. If the Damage roll exceeds the Toughness roll, you lose the excess off your Health.

The very first draft of PowerFrame was built around a techno-fantasy setting, and there were only four types of armour. The basic three fantasy varieties – Leather, Chain (Maille) and Plate – granted a +1, +2, and +3 bonus respectively. Futuristic power armour granted a +5 bonus.

Diversifying the Armour List

For a long time, weapons and magical attacks had Damage Types – Cutting, Piercing, Bludgeoning, and Energy. However, since armour provided uniform protection against all types of damage, it was really just for flavour. Eventually during a system discussion with +Andrew Grosse and +Melysa Hamilton, we realised that giving different Protection ratings against the four Damage Types allowed us to expand the armour list dramatically! It was a pretty obvious step, but I'd been focussing on the system's simplicity in the past and hadn't really thought about it until then.

Using Ancient armour as the baseline, Modern armour gives better protection for the same Encumbrance, but also has higher Cost and Threat. Future armour takes that one step further.

Piecemeal Armour

Characters are divided into six Hit Locations - Head, Chest, Stomach, Hips, Arms, and Legs. Each area is armoured separately, meaning you can choose to wear only a piece or two, a whole suit of the same type, or a piecemeal outfit. You can put together your armour based on what you can afford, how much you can wear without slowing down, your personal sense of style, or simply what's available at the time.

Normally you can only wear one piece of armour on each Location (although the Futuristic Bodysuit allows one extra layer to be stacked on top). If you wear two overlapping pieces, you get an Encumbrance penalty and only apply the highest Protection against a particular Damage Type.

I'm planning to tackle the Modern Armour illustration next, so the next article will expand on the armour variations and the rules for creating your own armour types.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Sizing Up PowerFrame

After this weekend, ten images and a final editing pass are all that stands between me and the release of the PowerFrame RPG PDF! I've just completed the images for the Size Comparison diagram, which is made up of 28 original animal images and some re-scaled images I'd created earlier.

I haven't blogged for a while, but now I'm getting close to completion I'm going to write an article each time I finish an image talking a bit about the section of the book it's for. I'm aiming to complete at least one picture every two weeks, so there should be another post up before the end of March.

Size in PowerFrame

The Size ratings go from -5 to 10. The measurements for Sizes 0 to 10 progress on the Fibonacci sequence: Size 0 is 1 to 2 metres; Size 1 is 2 to 3; Size 2 is 3 to 5; Size 3 is 5 to 8, and so on. Sizes smaller than Size 0 are half the dimensions of the next largest category.

In the very original version of PowerFrame, there was no Size attribute. Larger creatures had higher Strength and Toughness, and lower Attack Abilities and Avoid. When I added Size, it made sense to add it to Strength, Toughness, and Movement Abilities, and subtract it from Attack rolls, Avoid, Wits, and Stealth.

However, while this works fine for animals and unintelligent monsters, it created a problem with large or small creatures that use weapons.

PowerFrame uses different Abilities as the basis of Attack and Damage for different weapon types: Swords use Melee to attack and Strength for damage; axes use Strength to attack and Toughness for damage; some fine blades use Melee to attack and Avoid for damage.

So if larger creatures simply have higher Strength and Toughness, that means that the larger they are the more accurate they become with axes, in addition to having higher damage. On the flip-side, tiny creatures start inflicting massive damage with light blades because of their high Avoid. This runs counter to the intent, that increased Size should boost damage and damage resistance while penalising accuracy and evasion (and vice-versa for reduced Size).

In the end, I had to separate the Strength attribute from the Abilities it affects. After several iterations dealing with the problem in different ways, the final version works like this:
  • All characters pick Abilities within the normal -5 to +5 range (0 being average), plus Racial Modifiers. 
  • Size is always added to Abilities in the following situations:
    • Add Size to Strength when trying to perform a feat of strength against a static Resistance.
    • Add Size to Strength or Toughness when resisting a Physical Effect (such as Damage or Pushing) that is not based on an Ability (crossbows, firearms, traps).
  • Size Differential
    • Whenever two characters of different Size are fighting each other, or one is trying to hide from the other, the defending character must modify their rolls. The Modifier is equal to the acting character’s Size minus the defender’s Size.
    • The defender adds the Size Differential to their Avoid rolls.
    • The defender subtracts the Size Differential from Strength or Toughness when resisting a Physical Effect (such as Health loss or Pushing) that is based on an Ability.
    • The sneaking character adds the Size Differential to their Stealth rolls.
Although it may be a little fiddly and it's one more thing to remember, it does properly model larger things being stronger and harder to damage while at the same time being less accurate and easier to hit.

A lot of the time you're probably going to be playing Size 0 characters fighting Size 0 threats anyway, which means you won't have to worry about Size modifiers at all. If there was only one set of attack and damage stats this solution wouldn't have been necessary, but I think the variable weapon stats are more valuable in terms of flavour and mechanical interest.