This campaign uses the following modular armor system, rather than going to the trouble of enumerating all of the armor types appropriate to an Iron Age/Viking Age technology level.

Every suit of armor has both a weight category and a construction. The armor’s weight category determines its base characteristics and its construction determines its special qualities; there exists an appropriate Armor proficiency for each weight and each construction, and both of the relevant proficiencies apply to a given suit of armor.

Armor Weights

Armor Category Base Cost Armor Bonus Max Dex Bonus Speed Reduction Weight
Light Armor 50 sp +2 5 -5 ft. 1 st.
Medium Armor 100 sp +4 3 -10 ft. 2 st.
Heavy Armor 400 sp +6 1 -15 ft. 3 st.
Shield Category Base Cost Shield Bonus Max Dex Bonus Speed Reduction Weight
Round Shield 5 sp +2 -5 ft. 1/2 st.
Kite Shield 25 sp +4 3 -10 ft. 1 st.

A wearer who is not proficient with his armor or shield doubles its weight for the purposes of determining encumbrance.

Light armor, regardless of its exact design, generally covers its wearer’s torso, extending to cover his shoulders and upper thigh. Medium armor covers the torso as well as the forearms and lower legs, still leaving the neck, elbows, knees, and other somewhat vulnerable points exposed. Heavy armor fully covers those vulnerable points, and also includes a helmet and gloves or gauntlets. Within those basic guidelines, armor can appear however its creator wishes, and most experienced warriors customize their armor to some extent; example appearances for particular types of armor are given in the material descriptions below.

Armor Construction

Padded armor and wooden shields are the baseline, and use the above statistics without modification. For other constructions, see below.

Construction Cost Modifier AC Modifier Speed Modifier Weight Modifier Special Quality Armor or Shield?
Cloth +15W -1 +5 ft. DR 2W/Slashing Both
Hide +20W +1 -5 ft. +1/2 st. Energy Resistance 3W Both
Mail See Description +2 +1/2 st. DR 3W/Piercing Armor Only
Scale See Description +1 -5 ft. +1/2 st. DR 3W/Bludgeoning Both

The “W” in the above table refers to the armor’s weight category, and is 1 for light armor and round shields, 2 for medium armor and kite shields, and 3 for heavy armor. For example, light cloth armor costs +15 silver and grants DR 2/slashing, medium cloth armor costs +30 silver and grants DR 4/slashing, and heavy cloth armor costs +45 silver and grants DR 6/slashing.

If a character is wearing armor and wielding a shield using the same construction, add together the W for the armor and shield to determine the final benefits.

Cloth armor is armor made of multiple different layers of cloth, designed so that weapon blows hopefully only penetrate one layer at a time. The speed “bonus” for cloth armor noted in the table only reduces a suit of armor’s or shield’s speed penalty, it does not actually increase a wearer’s speed if the speed reduction is otherwise reduced to 0.

A “cloth shield” is a standard wooden shield covered on both sides by two thin sheets of linen to prevent splintering. Light cloth armor might be a gambeson or a jarl’s embroidered and jeweled tunic; medium cloth armor might be a long silken overcoat captured from a Moorish trader or a gambeson plus thick arm and leg wrappings; heavy cloth armor might be a thick cloak or heavy cold-weather clothing.

Hide armor is armor made out of the skin of an animal that has been treated in some way, usually either cured leather or a reinforced pelt. The type of energy resistance granted by the armor depends on the type of hide it is made of; leather grants fire resistance and a pelt grants cold resistance, but armor made from the hide of more exotic beasts might grant a different type of resistance or even resistance to multiple energy types.

A “hide shield” is a standard wooden shield trimmed in fur with leather covering the face of the shield. Light hide armor might be a calf-skin jerkin or a fox-pelt cowl; medium hide armor might be a leather cuirass with shinguards and armbands or a wolf-pelt cloak; heavy hide armor might be a full outfit made from a slain stone giant’s skin or a barsarkr’s heavy bear pelt.

Mail armor (sometimes called chain armor) is armor made of many tiny interlocking metal rings that distribute the force of an impact over the wearer’s body. Like other equipment made entirely of very valuable iron, the cost of mail armor is priced in gold marks rather than silver pennies. (Even mail made of non-ferrous exotic materials incur this price increase, due to the difficulty of crafting such materials into small rings.)

Light mail armor might be a mailed vest or a shirt edged in strips of chain; medium mail armor might be a mailed robe or a long-sleeved chain shirt; heavy mail armor might be multi-layered chain mail or chain mail reinforced with small iron plates over vulnerable areas.

Scale armor is armor made of separate flattened pieces of metal (or other protective material) of varying size (sometimes overlapping, sometimes not) attached to a backing material. Like other equipment made of a notable quantity of very valuable iron, the cost of scale armor costs a number of gold marks equal to half the armor’s cost in silver pennies. (Even scale made of non-ferrous exotic materials incur this price increase, due to the difficulty of crafting such materials into overlapping scales.)

A “scale shield” is a standard wooden shield with an iron rim and larger-than-normal boss, such that roughly half the shield is covered in metal. Light scaled armor might be a tunic with metal studs sewn onto it or leather armor with bands of metal around the chest; medium scaled armor might be clothing with clusters of two-inch metal plates covering any weak points or cloth covered in a diamond-shaped metal pattern; heavy scaled armor might be a haphazard collection of all the scrap metal a warrior could find or a set of overlapping plates resembling a lizard’s hide.

Crafting Armor and Shields

Crafting light armor, medium armor, and round shields requires a basic Craftsman proficiency keyed to the relevant Craft subskill (Armor for any sort of armor or shield, or Weaving for cloth, Leatherworking for hide, Smithing for mail armor or scale, or Wood for wooden shields) and crafting heavy armor or a kite shield requires a relevant expert Craftsman proficiency. A character with a relevant master Craftsman proficiency can craft a masterwork suit of armor or shield, which increases the cost to construct it by 50% (which does not correspondingly increase the crafting time required) but increases its maximum Dexterity bonus by +1 and increases the effective weight category of the armor for the purposes of special qualities and shield hit points by +1.

Beyond the basic cloth, leather, iron, wood, and so forth from which Norse armor and shields are generally made, it is possible to craft armor and shields from more exotic materials such as monster hides, rare metals, and the like. A relevant expert Knowledge proficiency will allow a character to identify the kind of properties a shield or suit of armor made from a given material will likely have, given some time to study it, and a relevant master Craftsman proficiency will allow a character to craft such a shield or suit of armor, which is priced as though it were masterwork; such armor and shields cannot actually be made masterwork.

Donning Armor

Donning or removing armor requires 1 minute per weight category. If a particular set of armor’s construction allows it, the armor can be reduced by one weight category (or increased back up to its actual category) with 1 minute of effort. for instance, a wearer of heavy chain armor could remove his helmet, gauntlets, and leggings to count it as medium chain armor and (if it’s constructed to allow it) could take off more of the chain to reduce it to light armor. The same applies for donning armor hastily: if a warrior wants to put on his heavy hide armor but only has 1 minute to do so, he could put on enough pieces to count as light hide armor instead if so desired.

Breaking Shields

If a character is wielding a shield with which he is proficient and he is hit by an attack roll that beats his armor class by an amount less than his shield modifier to AC, as an immediate action he may choose to take the attack on his shield. (This attack must of course be coming from a direction against which he can defend himself with said shield.) If he does this, the attack strikes his shield instead of him, and the damage is dealt to his shield instead of to him. The shield’s hardness applies as normal, and so does any damage reduction, energy resistance, or other defensive quality granted by the shield’s construction.

The hit points and hardness of each type of shield are given in the table below; the Vulnerable column indicates damage types that deal double damage and ignore the shield’s hardness when taking an attack on that kind of shield.

If a shield is reduced to less than half of its maximum hit points via breakage, the shield is considered broken: its AC bonus is halved, and the wielder cannot use any Armor proficiencies in conjunction with the shield. These penalties last until the shield is repaired, a process which costs 1/3 the normal time and cost to craft the shield originally. If the shield is reduced to 0 hit points, it is entirely destroyed, but any excess damage or other effects of the attack do not carry through to the wielder.

Construction Hit Points Hardness Vulnerable
Wood 8W 5 acid, bludgeoning, fire, piercing, slashing
Cloth 8W 5 acid, fire, slashing
Hide 8W 7 piercing, slashing
Scale 10W 10 bludgeoning, cold, fire, sonic


Saga of the Northlands PsychicTheurge