Fading Suns and Flaming Heresies
Everyone needs a little protection from time to time, especially when traveling off-world. Naturally, most of the protective gear available comes in the form of heavily padded clothing or leathers enhanced with metals and plastics. See the Armor Chart in Chapter Six: Combat for the traits of the armors listed below. The Tech Level is the lowest at which the armor is manufactured; higher tech level versions may be made of lighter materials.
An armor’s defense value is rated as a number of d20 (results of 1 to 13 = one armor point). Metal armours subtract one die from their defense against energy weapons.
Characters can sometimes wear two types of armor. Padded clothing, heavy clothing, leather, synthsilk and polymer knits can be combined. Add their protection dice together and subtract -2 from Dexterity and Vigor (in addition to existing penalties). For example, Cardanzo is wearing a synthsilk jumpsuit under a suit of stolen leather Decados guard armor. The total protection is 8d (the synthsilk’s 4d plus the leather’s 4d), but he suffers a -2 penalty to both his Dexterity and Vigor.
Such a combination of clothing is not very comfortable, as it is usually tight and hot. Gamemasters may want to levy additional Vigor penalties if a character spends too much time under two outfits to reflect heat fatigue or rashes.
Metal armors assume an underlayer of leather or cloth, and thus cannot be worn over or under an additional layer of armor. Stiffsynth is generally too tight to be worn over another layer, and it expands too much to be worn under another layer.
Padded Clothing: Clothing two layers thick — a jacket or thick sweatshirt. Not usually intended to be used as armour, it will nonetheless prevent some damage. This is the most protection a serf can be expected to wear. Padded clothing can be worn with an energy shield.
Heavy Clothing: A heavier and stiffer fabric than padded clothing, sometimes designed as fashionable armour where thick leathers or metals would be too “barbaric.” This can include light leather, but not heavy or thick leather. High fashion designs can cost much more than a few wings, depending on who is tailoring the outfit. Heavy clothing can be worn with an energy shield.
Spacesuit: A standard spacesuit is designed to resist common tears but does not stand up well against swords or gunshots. It is airtight when completely assembled (gloves, boots, helmet).
Leather Jerkin: Popular among many as an elegant armor, leather is often worn when heavier armors would be too “brutish.” In fact, Brute-hide leather is a fine, supple material that is heavy enough to work well as armor. Most guards wear leather in addition to whatever other armor they might have.
Studded Leather: Studded leather is a simple, inexpensive alternative to heavier metal armors. It adds a degree of extra protection to a leather jerkin without too much added discomfort. However, as with most metal armors, the defense dice suffer -1d against energy weapons. Some of the more expensive forms of studded leather use hard plastic instead of metal. Where plastics are used, there are no penalties against energy weapons. Many factions of the Church use studded leather jerkins as the armor of choice for their journeymen.
Scale Mail: Overlapping metal scales in a variety of shapes and sizes bolted to a leather jerkin. Common among low-tech militias but disfavored by those who can afford better.
Chain Mail: Woven layers of metal links. Higher tech versions are known using lightweight but strong plastics (no Dex penalty). Common among low-tech but well equipped militias.
Half Plate (metal): Conquistador-style chest plate with light vambraces and greaves. Usually worn only by commanding officers, but also the armor of choice for Brother Battle priests. Often decorated or enameled with fanciful designs or depictions of animals. Plastic versions are available at Tech Level 5 and above.
Plate: Medieval style, bulky metal armor. Used by well equipped troops on many worlds when energy shields are unaffordable or unavailable. Plate composed of moderately flexible lightweight plastics (TL5 and above) is rarer than metal plate, and thus used mainly by commanding officers.
Synthsilk: One of the finest inconspicuous armours, synthsilk is comfortable and lightweight. Used for construction and utility worker uniforms during the Second Republic, it comes in a variety of colors, but is quite expensive.
Most of the synthsilk made today is manufactured using precariously maintained Second Republic textile mills. Synthsilk was first designed and used in the Diaspora era. Later improvements allowed for thinner, lighter materials until, by the time of the Second Republic, the fabric was as light as cotton and just as comfortable to wear. Synthsilk can be worn with an energy shield.
Stiffsynth: Heavy, leatherlike material, stiffsynth even looks like leather until it is struck. Upon impact, stiffsynth hardens temporarily into an inflexible shell, and then softens a second later.
Stiffsynth was originally used as protective gear by Second Republic athletes during vigorous sporting events. Stiffsynth suits are passed down from generation to generation. The secret of their manufacture has been lost (except perhaps among a few secret guilds). Most existing suits still bear the insignias of various sporting teams. It is stretchable and can fit just about anyone of the same relative height it was originally manufactured for.
Polymer Knit: A plastic and cloth weave highly resistant to bullets. Very rare — the tech know-how to make polymer knit (such as Kevlar) was lost after the Fall, since it was rarely made during the later Second Republic time of energy shields and guns. Polymer Knit can be worn with an energy shield.
Ceramsteel: This heavy duty, thick-formed armor is designed to withstand amazing impacts. It is composed of the high-tech ceramics and metal combination used to make starship hulls. Most suits are lacquered or painted by the owner to represent their house, sect or guild affiliation. Unless powered by a cell pack, this armor is simply too heavy to lift without a substantial penalty to mobility. Once powered, however, the armor seems remarkably light.
Adept Robes (Cassock Superior): The legendary powered armour of the Brother Battle order. It is an enhanced ceramsteel suit that boosts its wearer’s abilities and provides an array of extras: 30 minutes of life support, built in range-finders, 10x binoculars, radio sending and receiving, and protection from skin-contact poisons and dangerous levels of radiation. Some models even provide hoverpacks, leg servos for faster running and incredible leaps, built in weapons (flamers) and more. These suits cannot be bought with firebirds; they must be earned by Brother Battle monks.
Frictionless Gel (TL7): This amazing substance was first created during the Second Republic for use as a frictionless oil in advanced engines. However, someone early on realized its potential as a toy, and began marketing it as a “slimy fun gel for slick, slippery play.” It is applied to a surface (such as a piston or gear or human skin); after an hour of drying, its dried surface becomes frictionless. Obviously, this can avoid a lot of kinetic damage, but if misapplied, can lead to pratfalls. Gamemasters and players are encouraged to get creative with the possibilities. The effects only last for a day before the substance dries out completely. Frictionless gel can be smeared over any type of armour; modifiers are cumulative.
Psi Cloak (TL8): A Psi Cloak defends against mental powers and neural disrupters. It isn’t so much a physical cloak as an energy aura around the wearer. The aura is not visible to the naked eye, but will is revealed in the ultraviolet or infrared spectrum (as a shimmering haze around the wearer). Most occult perception powers (Subtle Sight, Second Sight, etc.) will also perceive the cloak.
Physically, the cloak is like a dueling shield core, and can be concealed in a casing, such as a belt buckle, brooch or wristwatch. It requires a fusion cell and will take 10 hits (just like a shield) before shutting down. Some rarer models are known which can take more hits or defend with more dice. These are no longer manufactured and are highly sought by everyone.
**Buckler: Bucklers are small shields, held in the off-hand and used to parry or block hand to hand or melee blows.
Large Shield: A larger and usually heavier version of a buckler. They come in many shapes: round, kite, square, etc. The Tech Level determines the manufacture (see Buckler).
Energy shields are not uncommon in the Known Worlds. Anyone involved in dangerous work has one. Dangerous work can be anything from adventuring into Unknown Space, spying on enemy installations, or even being a diplomat to a rival house or sect.
Although churned out by the millions during the Second Republic, the theories used to develop energy shields are now lost, but the maintenance of the technology is fairly common, since they are found all around among nobles, Church priests, guildsmen and military forces. Peasants and yeoman would love to have them, but they’re not that common.
Shields are impact and energy activated, meaning that they automatically turn on when their field (usually an inch around the body) is compromised by a kinetic or energetic force of a certain magnitude. The magnitude threshold is determined by the shield.
A shield is rated by the minimum amount of damage it takes to activate it and the maximum amount it will block. In other words, attacks with damage below the minimum amount of damage rating (the impact threshold) will not activate the shield, but any attack with damage over the minimum will activate the shield. Attacks with damage over the maximum rating will inflict however much damage exceeds that rating.
Example: Erian Li Halan has a 5/10 shield. Any attacks doing 5 or more points of damage will activate the shield, which will block damage from 5 points up to 10; damage over 10 will be inflicted on Erian. So, Erian will take damage from attacks doing 1, 2, 3, 4 or 11, 12+ points of damage.
Because of the preponderance of shields (designed to defend against firearms and energy weapons), a duelling culture has arisen, where swords are the main method of attack. The skill in fighting then is to nick an opponent light enough not to activate his shield, but strong enough and often enough to harm or kill him.
Shield cores are small devices which can be placed in many different receptacles (which must be designed for this purpose). Nobles prefer gilded brooches or amulets, while soldiers prefer belt buckles. Cores are bulky and obvious to all who know what to look for, although some models (dueling shields) are concealable in a small piece of jewellery or wrist watch.
Shields have fusion cells which require occasional recharging. Since they are only activated when field integrity is breached, they are rated by number of hits they can take. Each time a shield blocks damage, mark it; when it takes more hits than it has, its battery is dead and the field is shut down.
The drawback to a shield is that the field only maintains integrity within an inch or so of the body. Thick clothing or armour may destroy that integrity, causing the field to shut down. These things were designed by Second Republicans for sport and play, to accompany fashionable clothing; the know-how to adjust the field range has been lost. Assault and battle shields are exceptions.
Shields are designed to activate for direct impacts in a small area — a bullet, sword point or even an axe blade, for instance. The force field only hardens at the point(s) of impact.
When confronted with a broad-area impact (or energy dispersal), the shield may burn out. The player should roll 13 or less on one d20. If the roll succeeds, the shield works (and will continue to work) as normal. If it fails, the shield will work for this impact only and then burn out for one turn per point blocked. If the roll is a critical failure, the shield burns out immediately (battery dead) and will not even block this impact.
For example, Erian, pursued by thugs, jumps off a tall building, confident that her shield will protect her (such leaps were a common sport during the Second Republic, when medical tech was superb). When she hits the ground, she takes 8 points of damage. The shield perceives a broad area impact, one which it was not designed to function against.
It marshals all its resources into a broad-area force field. Erian’s player rolls a 14 (she needed 13 or less). The shield works, blocking the damage, but burns out for 8 turns (one for each point of damage absorbed).
Also, when confronted with multiple small impacts from many directions (“et tu, Brute?”), the shield may fail. In this case, it is not the impact but the number of impact points (attacks) which matter: If the number of attacks from different directions exceeds the minimum rating, roll for shield failure as above. This applies to autofire bursts of six rounds or more, which sorely test a shield’s ability to compensate.
Shield Damper: It makes sense that someone would eventually figure out the best way to disable an energy shield. The most common method is a shield damper, a device which sets up a field disturbance on the same vibrational frequency as most energy shields. Since shields were developed from stolen Vautech, few people really understand why and how they work. The frequency is normally invisible to most current tech devices designed to measure energy fields.
When activated, the damper will shut down all energy shields in its area of affect. Different models have different areas (minimum 10 meters, maximum 50 meters). However, the larger the area, the more energy used. Generally, a damper will work for one span, but less if it covers a larger area. After the time is up, it burns out, and exchanging batteries will not make it work again; only a repair session with high-tech tools will do so.
Shield dampers are extremely rare and quite illegal — no noble likes to think they can be assassinated by any common thug with a shield damper. Nonetheless, they are sought out by nobles to use against their rivals. Using a damper on a starship can cause damage to the stardrives or even jumpdrives — penalties for doing so usually involve being tossed from an airlock.
Costs vary, but the average is no less than 1000 firebirds.