“All armor has its weaknesses. That doesn’t mean you should stop wearing it.”
― Elizabeth Carlton, Chivalry’s Code
While poets and the populace might swoon over the image of a mounted knight in gilded plate riding through verdant grasslands, it’s far more likely to find a warrior scrambling through mud in battered steel bashing away at a foe with poleaxe, hoping to rattle them enough to get up close with a blade.
It might not be as artful as fencing or as dramatic as the specialty weapons favored by gladiators, but a heavily-armed and armored warrior is a fearsome opponent. In the Fantasy Trip, however, it is tricky to pull off. Not only is it expensive to purchase plate armor, but it also carries severe DX penalties to attacks. Adding in the ST requirements for the heavy weapons usually carried by these warriors makes it a difficult feat for a beginning PC.
For example, a starting human can begin with plate armor and a large shield. If they wanted a broadsword that requires a 12ST, leaving a maximum DX12 if they spent no points on their IQ. That gives them an adjDX of 6 for attacks, which is less than a 10% success rate. And with minimal points for Talents, by the time they learn to use that sword, shield, and maybe a polearm there is little left for horsemanship or courtly graces.
To start, you might want to lose the shield entirely. Most armored fighters in medieval times did, in favor of heavier two-handed weapons. Or, if you prefer a single-hand weapon you could carry a main-gauche for those finishing moves. You will want fine plate as soon as you are able, but normal plate (or even half-plate) are good for beginners. If you raise your IQ to 9, you can take up to two levels of Toughness (ITL, p.38) to boost your defenses.
Your ST to start should be at least 11 to be able to do any substantial damage. The added boost of a 12ST to wield a broadsword or war axe will be offset (probably) by a loss of DX. The penalty of hitting 9.25% versus 16.2% might not be worth it to you.
Here in the ‘Aerie, as in the German Fechtbücher, we believe that most heavy weapons can be used two-handed. Based on the bastard sword and spear damage for two-handed use, wielding a weapon with both hands gives +1 to damage.
Learning Spear, Sword, and one level of Toughness is the bulk of your Talent pool, but you could still add Thrown weapons, Crossbow, Horsemanship or even Charisma to your starting build. Or, a second level of Toughness. Even at the beginning, your PCs should be more than mechanics. You should try to build individuality and flavor into every character you make. Maybe she is a compulsive gambler or a former seafarer who never wants to have wet feet again.
Note also that every armored fighter, or even cavalryman, is a noble knight. They might be simply heavy infantry that lucked into a suit of plate. Or an opportunistic mercenary who found the best way to survive a battle is by being covered in steel. It will take some time (and XP!) to be a truly successful heavily armored fighter, so you might as well enjoy the trip.
After a few adventures, your hero will probably have the ST to heave those mighty weapons, and the DX to land a few blows. You might even have a horse to ride into battle and the skills to do that well. But being a heavyweight will always require balance, especially if you want to have higher IQ Talents like Weapon Expertise, Tactics, or advanced social skills.
Heavy armor and weapons might not be found in all areas of a game world, and not all cultures would embrace it. Dwarves have the love of craft and metallurgy required, but their low natural DX might make it even harder to be successful in full plate. Elves and other more magically attuned races might avoid that much iron in principle. Also, the availability of iron and the skill required to forge it might limit the popularity of such warriors.
On our Almeri game world, the most common armored warriors are in the service of Venetine Empire. They employ mounted shock troops known as Juggernauts in major military actions, and many provincial powers have their own similar forces as a show of power and wealth. A few members of the nobility embrace this and head the ranks of their steel-clad cavalry, but most are willing to pay others or press them into service. Some of the more notable mercenary companies that serve the Empire (or against it) also field mounted lancers. There are a few companies of heavy infantry serving rulers around the Shard, but most of them are largely ceremonial.
While the dwarves of the Kivilim are unsurpassed at crafting plate armor, its use is not widespread among their people. A warrior caste known as the Undying serves as guards around important locations and borders of their Holds. The fierce Einen warriors of the frozen coasts to the south of them greatly prize these weapons and armor, but the dwarves will not willingly sell to these men. So nearly all the steel in their possession are spoils of war.
A surprising number of Sycoran wizards keep heavily-armored knights as retainers. Commonly called Silver Sentinels as their equipment is not made of the iron the wizards despise, they act as enforcers and spokesmen for the leaders of the godless realm. It is said that a small number of mighty wizards command the Sentinels and wield magic as well as blades, but this has yet to be confirmed.
New IQ10 Talents:
Armor Training (2): Practice and experience with heavy armor, chain mail and above give the warrior greater flexibility in battle. The DX penalty for wearing this kind of armor is one less, so that wearing half-plate would only be DX-4.
Precise Blow (2): This talent allows a figure to target gaps and weak spots in armored opponents. When making a melee attack, they can deduct one point of armor protection. Attacking a foe in leather armor, for example, only one hit would be stopped by the armor. If the figure is making an accurate attack (ITL, p.121), two points of protection are bypassed. This talent is only effective against physical armor, not natural armor like plates or scales or Toughness or spells.
New IQ11 Talent:
Overbear (3): This special attack involves using a weapon to shove over or trip your enemy, knocking them prone. To succeed, the figure must make a successful attack, and if it would do enough damage to bypass the opponent’s armor to does no damage but knocks them to the ground. The enemy cannot attempt to stand until the next round.
New IQ12 Talent
Armor Mastery (3): Like armor training, but more advanced. This talent lowers the DX penalty of wearing heavy armor by 2. A warrior in fine plate with Armor Mastery would attack at only a -2DX penalty.