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A Treatise On Mages & Armor in AD&D, 2nd Ed.

by Joel Hahn

Players Handbook (Revised), p. 42, top of 2nd column:
"Wizards cannot wear any armor, for several reasons. Firstly, most spells require complicated gestures and odd posturings by the caster and armor restricts the wearer's ability to do these properly. Secondly, the wizard spent his youth (and will spend most of his life) learning arcane languages, poring through old books, and practicing his spells. This leaves no time for learning other things (like how to wear armor properly and use it effectively). if the wizard had spent his time learning about armor, he would not have even the meager skills and powers he begins with. There are even unfounded theories that claim the materials in most armors disrupe the delicate fabric of a spell as it fathers energy; the two cannot exist side by side in harmony. While this idea is popular with the common people, true wizards know this is simply not true. If it were, how would they ever be able to cast spells requiring iron braziers or metal bowls? ... A wizard...cannot use magical armor, because no armor is allowed."

As for multi-classed characters:
ibid., p. 62:
"A multi-classed wizard can freely combine the powers of the wizard with any other class allowed, although the wearing of armor is restricted. Elves wearing elven chain can cast spells in armor, as magic is part of the nature of elves."

ibid., p. 128 (bottom of right-hand column):
"If a character is attempting to wrestle in armor, the modifiers on Table 57 are used." [Table 57: studded leather -1 through full plate -10]

And dual-classed:
"Once these restrictions are lifted, the character must abide by the restrictions of whichever class he is using at the moment. A dual-class fighter-mage, for example, cannot cast spells while wearing armor."

"Official" variants:
PH2R, p. 113, last paragraph in gray box:
"Spell Components (Optional Rule)...The three different aspects of spell components also change the conditions under which your character can cast his spells. No longer does he need to be able to speak, move, and use some item. He only needs to fulfill the required components. Thus, a spell with only a verbal component could be used by a naked, bound spellcaster. One requiring only gestures could be cast even within the radius of a silence spell. Most spells require a combination of components, but clever spellcasters often create new spells that need only a word or a gesture, enabling them to take their enemies by surprise."

Player's Option: Skills & Powers, p. 61 (and again on p. 62):
"Armored wizard (15): This wizard can cast spells while wearing the armor of his choice."

Player's Option: Spells & Magic, p. 24:
"Armor (5/10/15): With this ability, a wizard may ignore the normal restriction against using armor. As a 5-point ability, the wizard may wear padded armor; for 10 points, the wizard may wear leather, studded leather, hide, or brigandine armor; and for 15 points, the wizard may wear any armor he chooses. Note that a wizard may not use any kind of shield."

ibid., p. 46:
"Restrictions: Multi-classed wizards gain the full benefits of all their classes, but must abide by any restrictions that aren't specifially negated by a class benefit....While a multi-classed fighter/wizard may wear any armor he chooses, the armor itself interferes with the character's ability to cast spells. In order to cast a spell, the character must remove his armor. The only kinds of armor that do not interefere with spellcasting are elven chain mail and elven plate mail. (Note that single-classed wizards can't use these special armors because they're not trained in the wearing of armor.)
"Optional Powers: With the DM's permission, multi-classed wizards may select some of the optional abilities described in Chapter 2, incliding armor,..."

The PH descriptions are for "standard" mages, rather than the exceptions to the rules. The standard mage (and standard specialist) had no time to learn the ways of warriors, as he was probably apprenticed to an experienced mage very early on. The stereotypical mage is obsessed with studying magic, and thus spurns anything--such as armor that prevents certain movements--that might cut deeply into his spell repertoire, since *every* spell involves some somatic component. Armor is designed to allow the movements necessary to, for example, swing a sword and dodge attacks; there is not enough freedom of movement to allow the sorts of motions that are required for spell casting. The modifiers to attempting to wrestle in armor prove that armor does indeed interfere with free movement of the limbs.

I suspect many people differ on the AC benefits of someone utterly clueless in the ways of armor and used to just using innate agility (or magical ability) to dodge attacks donning a suit of armor; this section seems to imply that they are nil or possibly that any AC benefits are negated by the wearer's lack of knowledge not to do things like raise one's arms to cover one's face and thus expose the armpits when defending against a swordsman or just stand there in the face of the imminent attack with faith that the armor is all-protecting--which, in a system that deals with a combat round that involves dodging, parrying, attacking, tiring, etc. all in one roll and one AC#, can be deadly reactions. However, it is written elsewhere in the Players Handbook thieves may don any armor at the expense of losing some of their thief abilities for the duration. This can be explained (though not suitably to some) by figuring that, since thief training covers some armor use (leather/studded leather), it also covers enough of armor use in general to apply some knowledge to any armor; whereas the standard wizard knows next to nothing about armor, and thus has nothing to apply. The spell disruption problem is enough to drive most mages to spurn armor completely, and the utter lack of any protective bonus convinces the rest to not bother.

Since the problem of mages wearing armor apparently involves *both* restriction of movement *and* lack of training to get any meaningful bonus out of the armor, both givens have to he overcome for a mage to wear armor.

A fighter/mage dual-class (assuming the levels work out so that class-ability restrictions are lifted) can wear armor, or cast spells, but not both at the same time. The fighter/mage has had training in the use of armor, but only in the context of being a warrior; mage training was a completely separate set of studies. The fighter/mage cannot overcome the movement problems inherent in wearing armor, and thus cannot cast spells while wearing armor.

A figher/mage multi-class has a mish-mash of training in both fields. From elves' ability to cast spells in special types of armor, and the dual-class abilities in general to simultaneously use abilities of both classes one can infer that "the wearing of armor is restricted" actually means "restricted only when the Fighter/Mage desires to use certain mage abilities and not be just a fighter" rather than "the only type of Fighter/Mage that can wear armor is an elf, and even then only when the armor is elven chain." (An individual DM might use the latter interpretation however; this one is a judgement call--logical as the former assumption may be--and thus this can't really be considered part of the "default" rules.)

So far, everything in the "default" rules is self-consistent, assuming you accept certain givens, namely:

  1. armor prevents a full range of arm and body motions in such a way that, while it allows a sword to be swung and an arrow to be nocked, it prevents wizards from performing the somatic component of spells, and
  2. the ability to get any useful defense out of armor hinges in part on being trained to properly use armor of some kind.

One interesting side-effect of all this is that if one has captured an enemy mage, the best way to leave him mobile (and not requiring a fireman's carry to transport him to the nearest jail) yet completely cut off his spell-casting ability is to take the time to strap him into a spare suit of armor. He will not even get any real AC benefits from the armor, so the situation is doubly humiliating! In addition, since every spell has a somatic, verbal, and material component, mages cannot cast any spells when tied up (see #5 below), gagged, or naked in a competely empty room.

Now to toss in optional & house rules:

  1. House Rule: First and foremost, change the armor rules so that it is possible (if not automatically, then with the use of a proficiency slot) for anyone from farm-boy to warrior to get an AC bonus by donning armor. In this way, a mage could temporarily sacrifice spell use for protection if necessary. This appears to be something left out of the "main" game, though I think I understand the reasoning behind it. This a fix which I suspect 99.44% of DM's have done, consciously or unconsciously, which is why I included it first. Ramifications: Mages can prounce about in armor, or cast spells, but not both. Likewise for all Fighter/Mages, since their martial training should give this ability automatically. Spellcasting and armor use are still either/or propositions. This also eliminates one of the two factors that prevent mages from casting spells in armor, so if a mage can discover a way around the other factor, he can then cast spells while wearing armor.

  2. Use the Optional Rule of specific spell components. (Note: Every single AD&D campaign I've played in used this optional rule to some extent.) This would allow a mage, if he so wished, to research verbal-only spells that could be used while wearing armor or while tied up--whether or not that armor gives any actual AC protection (see #1). Ramifications: Many mages may start researching verbal-only variants of every spell they come across/think up; this way, they can have non-magical defense as well as cast spells when tied up; this can be easily balanced out in-game, however, by an increased use of Silence, 15' spells, including a wizardly version (and maybe even a lesser "Silence AoE: single creature" version). Many mages would rather have the flexibility of creating spells with other components, however, so not all will take the verbal-only path. This also means that some mages may take the time to research multiple versions of the same spell, so that the spell can be cast under any conditions. Such research would take a lot of time, however, and each variant should count towards a mage's maximum number of spells per level, so while a few mages may wish to go that route, most will probably opt for more adventuring time and a greater variety of spells.

  3. Use the Optional Rules in S&P to create a variant wizard who had a bit of martial training in his background, but had to (probably) skimp on his magic knowledges as a result; rather than be mediocre in everything, the mage simply foces on specific schools of magic and left a few school unlearned. Ramifications: The armor use is balanced by the (potential) lack of up to three schools of magic (I say potential because taking extra restrictions can easily cut this down). Also, these are designed to be the exceptions to the rule; there will still be many "standard" mages about who want to have use to all schools without any extra restrictions.

  4. Create a wizard using the Optional Sp&M point system, rather than the S&P system, one with some variable length of martial training instead of some magic studies. One school for padded armor, two for leather through brigandine, and three for any armor seems an eminently reasonable tradeoff for spending time learning how to properly use armor rather than spending that time boning up on, say, the basic nature of enchantment/charm spells. Ramifications: The highest level of armor here is identical to #3 above, and has the same ramifications. The other two serve as logical gradations between All and None, and seem to work just fine in that role. Padded armor isn't all that much of an extra edge--enough to tempt some players, but not enough that it would probably become a problem; trading off two school for leather will work fine for some characters, but most players will think twice before cutting the character off from 25% of the normal spell base. A note of interest though--the Sp&M rules make no mention of wizards using these rules being able to cast spells in armor. It makes logical sense that they should be able to cast in armor by taking the ability--especially since Fighter/Wizards, who can use any armor but not cast spells as it is, can take the ability; and since the equivalent S&P wizards are able to do so for identical cost (and the Sp&M ability list is really not all that much more than an extension of the S&P list)--but it is quite possible for a DM to use the Sp&M optional creation guidelines and decide that a mage with the Armor ability is like a "default" Fighter/Mage: either wear armor, or cast spells, but not both simultaneously.

  5. House Rule: Keep the rules as is, and declare that anything restrictive around a mages body prevents spell use (or prevents non-verbal-only spells use if #2 is also used); this is not mentioned at all in 2nd edition AD&D, but it is in 1st:
    WSG (1st ed.), p. 20:
    "[V]ery cold clothing is thick enough so that (at the Dungeon Master's discretion) it may be considered to impart an armor class of 8 to its wearer. SImilarly, cold clothing is the equivalent of armor class 9. Obviously this distinction is only important to character who are not wearint armor over the clothing--and to magid-users and illusionists, who are forbidden to wear actual armor of any sort. But, techinically, cold-weather clothing is /not/ armor, even though it does procide some protection from physical attacks. To balance the benefit that magic-users and illusionists can gain from being bundled up, the Dungeon Master may wish to rule that the wearing of thick, bulky clothing inhibits the character's ability to move freely. This could be translated into (for instance) a base chance of 10% that any spell requiring a somatic component will be miscast adn thus ruined."
    To be consistent with the way armor is treated, the above should read that any DM choosing to give the AC bonus should also deny spell use, since it is the bulk of the clothing that both gives the AC and also restricts movement. This goes for any bulky or restrictive conditions, from being tied up to very heavy ceremonial/traditional robes to parkas to armor. Ramifications: None, really; this merely deals with an eventuality that is not discussed in the current rulebooks and applies the "default" standards consistently to the new situation.

    House rules that are not as universally implemented as the first included above, and aren't logical extensions of existing rules into uncharted territory as the other, but stay with the spirit of the rest of this article and create exceptions to the rule rather than rewrite the rule completely:

  6. Divine Intervention: Either as a favor to a specific wizard, or as part of the requirements for priesthood, a diety allows a wizard (or a small priesthood of cleric/wizards, etc.) to cast spells successfully and get full AC bonuses from armor (or see #1 for this last part). Ramifications: It's either a one-shot, single-case scenario, or it's easy to make the priesthood in question a really rare occurrence, with strictly limited membership numbers (and rigidly enforced maximums, to boot); there's more control needed by the DM in the latter case, and it means adding a new priesthood to the world, something most DM's would rather not do. The former case is, as I stated, a one-off event that makes an indivuidual mage special, but doesn't effect mages in general at all.

  7. Magical armor: The mage discovers a suit of armor that is actually an artifact (or merely a really powerful magic item) that is only usable by wizards which allows the wearer to cast spells freely while wearing it. Ramifications: As long as it's unique or really rare, this is basically the same as the first half of Divine Intervention, and thus not a problem for the campaign world (and raises the interesting questions "Who created this item and why?" and "How could I create a set of this for myself if this is destroyed, or create a suit for my friend over here?" This also currently exists to some extent as the elves in elven chain rule; the rarity of elven chain prevents this from getting too far out of hand as it currently stands.

  8. Allow study, or a NWP or WP to give a mage the ability to cast spells in armor. Ramifications: If there are not any societal pressures in your world to push most mages away from armor use, expect this to be as standard for mages as the ambidexterity/two-weapons skill combo is for fighters. Alternatively, the skill could be for certian types of armor (i.e. the abiity to cast spells in leather armor only--not better, and not worse). In any case, it's very possible for roleplayers to nullify the easy bonus this grants to mages by playing interesting characters--regardless of the class bonuses--rather than powerful beings, and thus potentially select other classes instead of opting for a minimized/maximized mage or choose to not spend proficiency points on this ability. Such an ability may even balance out the ever-greater powers some see as being given to Fighters in the main rules and with each new supplement, what with ambidexterity, two-weapon style, blind-fighting, being able (with sufficient strength) to weild a long sword or katanna in each hand, and so forth.

  9. As part of their training, multi-classed fighter/mages learn to cast spells in armor; however, dual-classed fighter/mages, having only been one class and then switched to a second, do not have this ability. Ramifications: Multi-classed Fighter/Mages become really popular; unless there is some way to curb the use of demi-human characters, (like with racial hatreds), or find some way fo creating a drawback for Fighter/Mages, you may soon find yourself with an entire groub clamoring to play the most powerful character type around. This ramification can be nullified, as above, by a group of players who are more interested in roles than the potentiality of attaining almost any goal they set their minds to without much challenge whatsoever.
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