This is an ‘if I were an MMO developer’ post discussing some elements of integration of magic. You have been warned.
This is a continuation of the concept of “every skill is potentially available to a beginner.” Constraints are time to learn (aka development points from leveling or any other mechanism) and intervening pre-requisites (e.g. Have to learn to ride before you can use a lance).
Conceptual effects of armor beyond damage mitigation effects:
1) Resists the PASSAGE of magic;
2) Negative modifier to dexterity;
3) Restricts sight;
4) Burdens wearer ( part of loading limits; increases exhaustion).
1) The resistance to passage of magic has a lot of interesting spillover effects. It increases resistance to spells that DIRECTLY affect the wearer such as polymorphs and sleeps. It also has a resistance effect on casters who target anything outside the armor. Self-targeted casting, on the other hand, is not noticeably affected in that regard. (See dexterity, though.) This means it behooves fighters to pick up self-healing spells.
I will point out that self-polymorph spells in armor are a bad idea. The spell changes the wearer but not what is worn. Robes and even well-made trousers and shirts can be burst. Armor is resistant to bursting and the changer will take damage in the process. It also destroys the armor. Yes, I think that should apply to enemies who are successfully morphed as well – assuming, again, you can get the morph past the armor.
I’m inserting two ‘hacks’ here to help healers, both of which potentially help enemy casters as well. First, touch contact without intervening armor bypasses the armor’s spell resistance. Second, I’m allowing a partial ‘contagion’ rule. The theory of contagion is that anything that was once part of a person is always a part of a person; thus spells cast on a doll that has hair and nail clippings will affect the person from which the hair and clippings came. The ‘partial’ is that the contagion decays – both the raw materials and the developed link have limits on how long they’re usable. To prevent a ‘stupidity’ (target’s been stabbed, bleeding on outside of armor, so I cast on the spilling blood to escape the resistance) I’ll insist any ‘magically contagious’ item has to be prepped for the linkage. In MMO play this means a healer goes to each potential target and gets the materials for a “token” (clip of hair and drop of blood) and casts a small spell that actually makes it a token. Spells cast on the token will have a degraded effect on the target, but the armor resistance(s) will be bypassed. Tokens will as stated by on a clock. More than an instance, less than a week, I think, but it’s one of the tweaks. Note finally that this means first that MMO quests can be “get the hair/blood/etc of HIMHER,” and second it MIGHT be possible to get materials from enemy players — or steal already made tokens from healers. (Pickpocketing becomes a combat skill. hmmm.)
2) Part of “reduces dexterity” is obvious from any MMO. Cut the dexterity by some number and everything that relies upon that is automatically reduced as well. Here’s where I’m going to get kind of sneaky, though. I think magic should rely on dexterity as well. What that means is that spells will have a greater chance of failing depending on their reliance on subtle gestures and other, well, dexterous maneuvers. (Yes, I think the MMO graphics should have more than ‘just lift the arms’. A hop and a skip, a twist and a shimmy, a jump to the left and a step to the right and with your knees tight and your hands on your hips do the pelvic thrust that drives them insaaaane… ahem, sorry. You get the idea. It’d be relatively easy – tie a set of moves to difficulty levels and go from there. Of course, “Is he casting or lagging or just messing around?” mwuhahahaha.)
Consequence, whether intended or not. Setting aside skill learning, this means thieves and light-fighter types (archers for example) are more likely to use spells than front-line warriors.
3) Restricts sight. I insist that if a helmet is worn (and a helmet is better damage mitigation than anything but armor – for a lot LESS resistance) it impacts vision. Helms come in two types for this discussion, open-face and close-face. Open doesn’t protect as well, but doesn’t restrict vision as much. (Actually it affects hearing, but for MMO purposes I’ll substitute sight.) Closed, well, it’s ugly. For programming purposes this can be modeled fairly simply by ‘spotlighting’. For open-face helms make everything outside a ~120 degree frontal arc 50% dimmer (shadowed), with the rear 60 degrees 90% dimmer or “dark”; no other effects should be applied. For closed-face helms make the front 60 degrees and the back 120 degrees. Yes, in both cases the sides are 90 degrees. However, for the closed face helmet add a ‘range’ effect – outside that range the brightness is reduced one step.
Some helmets will thus be designed with quickly opening fronts to convert from ‘open’ to ‘closed’ very swiftly – not quite instant, but fast enough to deal with most instances and ambushes. Reversing may be a bit slower. Putting on and taking off helmets, on the other hand, should take longer.
I will add my customary digression – I despise ‘instant clothing changes’ common to so many MMOs, despite understanding the reasoning of avoiding the graphics (contortions and exposure). Even so, I’d like all wearables to have what amounts to a ‘casting time for both putting on and taking off. (Changing clothes, then, is the sum of the times – no concurrent actions here.) End of the digression.
4) Armor is a burden. It’s heavy; so if you’re carrying it you can carry less of other stuff. Because of the balancing I’m doing here I would not allow skills to make armor have no effect, nor would I allow ‘weightless’ armor. I can, however, see skills and spells that reduce this somewhat; just nothing that’ll eliminate it.
Armor also contributes to exhaustion. In my MMO concept, exhaustion is a moving score (similar to hit points or mana pool) that is constantly changing. Exhaustion is a negative modifier to strength and dexterity. It’ll also have an effect on damage resistance, but that can wait for my post on combat modeling. ANYWAY, wearing armor puts a permanent exhaustion level in place; you cannot get to zero exhaustion (fully rested). Note that this puts in place a possible double-tap on dexterity (point 2), and I’d be willing to eliminate the specific dexterity hit if it turned out to be too much of a cumulative burden.
An ancillary point. ANY load will contribute to exhaustion. Armor carried is more burdensome than armor worn. However, for gaming purposes I’d allow a ‘free load’ limit — carry under the limit and there is no burden. Again, armor worn can’t squeeze under this as part of the exhaustion is the straps and bindings that somewhat restrict ‘normal’ movement.
Summary: Mages CAN wear armor, but it has some ugly impact on spells.