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House Rules: Dragonhide Armor

 
I usually am not one to argue with the magical item rules in d20, but the official Dragonhide armor rules are, frankly, stupid. Taking both statistics (such as hardness/hit points of the substance) my own GM-need for simplicity into account, and a fair amount of common sense, here is my "house rule" description of Dragonhide Armor:

Dragonhide Armor Statistics:
Armor bonus +5, Dexterity Bonus +4, Armor Check Penalty -2, Arcane Spell Failure Chance 25%, Max Movement 20', weight 30 lb. Dragonhide Armor is considered Medium Armor. Dragonhide, while crafted to make armor in a similar way of fashioning other hide armors, is a superiorly tough and more durable material than ordinary hide–and therefore makes a tougher and more durable hide-based armor. It takes a skilled craftsman to properly shape and fit dragonhide, so it is considered masterwork armor and is a desirable material for enchantment. Dragonhide itself is completely immune to the element related to the dragon it came from; for example, red dragonhide is completely resistant to fire. This does NOT transfer to the wearer of the armor and only comes into play if one is calculating damage against the armor itself. However, since the armor is already attuned to resist the element, enchanting the armor to protect the wearer from its specific element is much easier. Therefore, the materials cost for making armor of the proper elemental resistance is halved (i.e., a quarter of the market price for the enhancement).

In order to make a suit of dragonhide armor, the dragon must be at least one size category larger than the individual for whom the armor is made. As long as the dragon is at least size Large, there is enough hide to make a shield as well (it is a wooden shield reinforced with the hide, and for all intensive purposes its qualities are identical to that of a masterwork light steel shield).

While the price of an unenchanted suit of dragonhide armor is roughly 2,500 GP, it is rarely found on the market. Rather, dragonhide armor is a prize, normally worn proudly by the slayer of the dragon; it is often enchanted to make the armor even more useful and valuable. A suit of dragonhide armor found on the market likely has somehow been separated from the dragonslayer, legitimately or otherwise. The "legendary" factor of a particular suit of dragonhide ("This suit was worn by Sir Kalas the Brave, who saved Derraf Castle from the wicked red dragon that ate the king") will inspire wise merchants to inflate the price of a piece of armor as much as they can, and GMs are encouraged to roleplay out haggling over such an item. If one is "lucky" enough to find dragonhide armor on the market and can afford it, one should still consider buying it carefully: will they be able to handle a situation where they meet the unfortunate dragon's living kin? And thus why dragonhide is considered the armor of only a truly legendary hero or villain.

Why I wrote new rules, for those of you who care
I usually have little reason to question d20 3.5 rules usually, but whoever came up with the rules for dragonhide armor was smoking something they shouldn't have been. According to the rules, I can kill a dragon one size larger than I am, and all I get for my trouble (after going through tanning and preparing the hide) is masterwork hide armor?? I could kill a couple deer and get the same damn thing as long as I knew a competent armorsmith. There should obviously be a further difference between hide armor crafted out of a dragon than hide armor crafted from an ordinary animal beyond the fact that it is masterwork. Especially since dragonhide has a hardness of 10–equivalent to iron or steel–whereas ordinary hide has a hardness of 2. And while dragonhide is not quite as enduring as iron (10 HP per inch of thickness versus 30–but that is explained in the hide's elasticity compared to metal) it again is still tougher than hide (only 5 HP per inch of thickness). So obviously, even if one used dragonhide to make a suit of hide armor, it would offer far better protection.

As for making the banded mail or plate armor out of dragonhide, using dragons of larger size–I eliminated this for simplicity's sake. Since dragonhide is discussed as "hide" I figured armorcrafting methods would be similar to that of crafting hide armor, and for my own sanity left it at that.

My final reasons for doing this is more emotional, I admit. In older editions of D&D/AD&D, getting dragonhide armor was a really special thing. Stats varied, but it usually resembled ordinary armor with improved durability and armor class; it often conferred magical elemental resistance. And it should be a special thing. Usually wearing dragonhide means you've slain a dragon; it's the mark of a hero, and thus it should have heroic qualities. Saying that it's just "organic masterwork armor" just doesn't cut it, when you can easily get masterwork armor of any kind without the whole risking-death-by-dragon thing.

 


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