Friday, May 16, 2014

Spirit Armor Rules (for Guys in Grass Skirts)

Pictured: AC 15

Spirit Armor

If you want to play a game in the isles, you'll soon run into the problem of armor.  You just can't run around diving into tropical lagoons while wearing a breastplate.  It'll rust to shit, shortly after it drowns you.

I already wrote a post about using fashion to modulate AC (instead of armor).  This is the same thing, except spirituality = AC.

Tapu refers to actions, objects, or places that are special to the gods.  This can be unholy, holy, or simply spiritual.  It has the whiff of divinity about it.  Gods pay attention to these things.  Touching or doing tapu things can make you more tapu, too.

Noa refers to actions, objects, or places that are common or mundane.  These are things that animals can do, like eating, working, and having sex.  Touching or doing noa things can make you more noa, too.

AC 14

Mixing noa and tapu is very bad.  It pisses off the gods something fierce.  For example, eating is among the most noa (mundane) things that a person can do.  If a god walks on the earth and a tree then grows in that spot, the tree is then infused with his power (it is tapu).  If a person eats (noa) from that tree, it is a grave offense and he will probably fall sick immediately and die soon after, unless he quickly atones.

Basically, tapu stuff makes your spirituality go up, and noa makes it go down.  You want to strike a balance here.  If you are 100% noa, you are like the dirt in the field.  You have lost your divine connection to the gods, and they will not protect you.  If you are 100% tapu, it is equally dangerous, since everything you touch becomes mildly tapu as well.  At this point, you can only be fed by someone else, since touching food would make it tapu and it would be a sin to then eat it.

So an islander PC has a new stat called spirit.  This is just a measure of how the PC falls on the scale between dirt and divinity, and "spirit" is an ambiguous enough word that it will serve our purposes.  It goes from 0-10.  New PCs start out with spirit = 1d6.  AC granted by spirit overlaps-with-but-does-not-stack-with AC granted my wearing normal armor.

Spirit directly affects your AC.  The sweet spot is right in the middle, around spirit 5.  Any lower and you reduce your divine nature enough that the gods will protect you less (although it would be equally fair to say that the world protects you less).  Any higher and you tempt disaster with your commingling of the divine and the worldly, commiting microblasphemies with every breath you take.

Here's the chart.


Things that raise Spirit by 1 point (tapu):
  • chanting a hymn to the spirits
  • engaging in a sacred ceremony (burial, birth, certain holidays)
  • speaking with the dead
  • open combat (not just shooting an arrow at someone and running away)
  • consuming piece of a dead and honored enemy
Things that lower Spirit by 1 point (noa):
  • eating common food
  • working (digging, building, sailing, etc.  Any common labor)
  • having sex
AC 11--he is a spellcaster

You cannot raise or lower spirit by doing the same thing multiple times in a row.  Repeats don't count.  If you have sex three times, you only gain +1 Spirit.  If you have sex, dig a trench, and then have sex again, you gain +3 Spirit.

Items can have great power, too.  Although it wouldn't grant any bonuses to a foreigner, a headdress that was once worn by a great chief will grant an islander +1 AC as long as the islander hasn't pissed off the gods.

If an islander pisses off the gods by mixing noa and tapu, this whole spirit armor thing comes crashing down, and they are treated using the familiar no armor = 10 AC thing.  They need to go see a shaman if they want to reactivate their Spirit stat.

If you want to integrate spellcasting with this system, link it to Spirit as well.  Shamans (spellcasters) need to have at least 9 Spirit if they want their spell to go off without a hitch (which means low AC as well).

Is it balanced?  Well, it lets you get some AC without any of the drawbacks of armor, but it does place some picky restrictions on behavior.  (Possibly too much finicky bookkeeping?)  Additionally, it doesn't go as high as armor-derived AC normally does.  I certainly can't imagine everyone in a party wanting to use Spirit Armor instead of normal armor, which means it's sort of balanced, maybe.

Pretty much everything in this section has been hacked from Mythos of the Maori, a cool little RPG written by Christopher Johnstone (who taught me everything I know about kapu and noa).

AC 17--note the magical headdress


  1. How about spirit-infused tattoos, perhaps filling a magic item slot so they compete with armor? A tattoo of a crab on your chest could grant an armor bonus, while a boar across your shoulders grants Constitution, or bonus hp. Having a tattoo in an area would preclude wearing another magic item in the area, so you couldn't cheese the game by stacking armor and ink, and tats would be slightly less powerful than magic armor to balance out not having the armor's disadvantages.

    1. Wearing armor or clothing over the tattoo would also certainly offend the spirits.
      The Nyambe d20 setting (based on African mythology) had similar rules, calling it "Sanguar"