Blackbound Armor - Power Armor for your HARP Fantasy game

Copyright Clint Fell © 2103

Edited by Mario Butter for The Guild Companion

"Since times unknown warriors have dreamed of armor that would give them strength, speed, and invulnerability."

Mortal kind ever seeks to keep at bay the breath of my masters. I have been tasked with recording these efforts so that a true telling of the lives of those who stand in the halls of the dead awaits them. Those still living have found several powerful enhancements for their armor. Chief amongst them is the Blackbound Armor - binding demons to the will of the wearer. So powerful are these protections that their stories have inspired others to bind the essence of other creatures into armor, but none of these have met with the great success of the Blackbound.

My former colleges in the holy city have beseeched the light for an answer to this dark armor of the empire. The few paladins who have worn the divinely powered armor granted them in return have seen great success, until they cross the will of the powers of light. Some of these paladins are sure to join me in the halls of the dead in due time.

Savages in the wilds have bound the essence of great beasts into their armor. These suits of armor are often made of the hides of the very beast bound. These suits grant strength, speed and ferocity but lack the fell power of a demon.

Some foolish necromancers have sought to bind the souls of the dead or undead into dark suits of armor. A few have found success; most have met me in these very halls. My masters have a special place of torment for these fools.

A greater sin to the dread lords is the efforts of those who seek to bind the souls of the living into armor. Only the strongest of souls would be of use to another, but some seek to slip the grasp of my masters by hiding themselves in such a vessel.

One last group of researchers seeks to craft wyrmbound armor. The rewards of such an endeavor are sure to be great, but the gathering of research specimens has hindered this effort greatly. I am sure that many of those hired to gather these specimens will join me here soon. That is good, I could use the help.

———Brother Mord the Fallen, Annalist for the dread lord of recordkeeping

Dhac is big and Dhac is strong, but big folks come to take from tribe of Dhac. Big folk scare tribe, but Dhac is smart. Dhac bring best war badger to witch on hill. Dhac bring tribe's best armor too. Witch gives strength of badger to armor, now Dhac never scared of big folk.

———Ramblings of Dhac, King of the Kobolds

The trope of Power Armor has a strong presence in the works of science fiction, but why should it only reside there? Since times unknown warriors have dreamed of armor that would give them strength, speed, and invulnerability. Few ancient soldiers would not want the strength of Hercules combined with a cloak made from the skin of the Nemean Lion. Fantasy settings may typically lack Utility Power Cells, anti-matter engines, or nuclear reactors - but most have magic that can easily replace them. Most fantasy games see the value of magical defensive armor, but why not incorporate offensive capabilities into this same armor? By doing so, you create Power Armor for your fantasy setting.

Just as in a science fiction setting, GMs looking to add Power Armor to their fantasy setting should consider several factors before doing so. Questions such as "How common is it", "What powers it", "What powers should it have" are all important. Questions like "What effect will this armor have on the world's society and warfare" are equally important and should be considered as well.

In most fantasy settings I suspect Power Armor would be a rare item, but it doesn't need to be. In settings where magic can be bought at a shop in large towns it would be completely reasonable for wealthy warriors to ask enchanters for these kinds of powered armors. A GM should ask themselves how rare they wish power armor to be in their game early in their game planning. Deciding the rarity of this armor will help the GM to determine how costly and powerful he wants the armor to be.

The question of what ‚eurooepowers‚euro the power armor is an important question as well. The power source is an easily overlooked, but key aspect of the armor. This can create a great deal of flavor for the armor and help guide the GM to decide what abilities it should have. Using power sources other than just "magic" helps the GM make the armor stand out and can turn even a weaker powered suit of armor into a unique and memorable item for the campaign. Possible sources include not only just generic "magic", but also: the binding of creatures into the armor, divinely powered armor, armor powered by the chi or Power Points of the wearer, and armor that consumes magical fuel. The power source can also act as a limiter for the powered armor - perhaps the demon bound in the armor can influence the wearer, the armor only has its powers while being used for the benefits of a divine power, or the armor needs the user to pour a magical potion in it's tank every few hours of operation.

The next question about the powered armor is an obvious one. "What powers should it have"? This is a question with an open answer, so a lot of care should be taken when answering it. While answering it for myself, I looked at both what features science fiction power armor has, and what kinds of powers would a fantasy warrior be looking for. At its core powered armor is intended to help warriors carry more protective gear and weapons without hindering them. Secondary features such as stealth, and enhanced senses are also important but not at the core of most power armor ideas. I also looked at the power source of my powered armor to help inspire what powers it should have. I recommend keeping the number of abilities down to 3 for weak suits, while stronger ones may have 7 or 8. How many powers the armor has and how strong they are will directly impact the next question

Perhaps one of the most important questions for a GM about power armor is "What impact will this have on both my game and my game world". All the questions leading up to this one will have an effect on this. A GM will need to take care to not only balance the power and rarity of the power armor in the game, but also to think of how the world would respond to the existence of power armor. If it is rare then perhaps it would have little impact other than in stories, but if it were powerful and somewhat common then warfare and the whole armor smith trade in the setting will be greatly impacted. I suggest that weak powered armors only have a +5 or +10 DB, perhaps a bonus of +5 to ST, and maybe one or two additional minor powers or traits. Powerful suits of power armor could be considered artifacts. Loot: A Field Guide has several sections that may help a GM determine how powerful the armors abilities should be.

Blackbound Armor - an example of fantasy powered armor

Without the Pact of Light to guide them humanity divided into many nations and fought amongst themselves and other races. For centuries peace was not known in the land. Eventually the lords of Reyjak learned of the Pact of Light and vowed to bring humanity into it.

Thus was started the wars of the Imperial founding. Nation after nation fell before Reyjak's might, until all that remained was the western kingdom of Kephik. But Reyjak proved unable to conquer Kephik despite many efforts.

Finally the great sorcerer Pyronius created the dreaded "Blackbound Guard" by binding demons into terrible suits of armor. With the aid of the Blackbound Guard the armies of Reyjak pushed back the forces of Kephik to the very walls of their city. Rather than watch their beautiful city ravaged by the demon-wrapped guard, Kephik surrendered and was the last city brought into the Empire of Man.

Emperor Herrod the First dissolved the Blackbound Guard as an official unit of the Imperial Army and split his champions throughout the Empire. With the Empire of Man complete humanity was able to join the Pact of Light. Peace followed and has lasted for nearly two centuries.

Pyronius took his secrets to the grave and mages everywhere have tried to recreate his works with varying degrees of success. The most notable was the Black Warlock of Stykks.

The Black Tower of Stykks was built to allow wizards to defend against the Northmen Raiders. Gatisly the Black Warlock of Tower Stykks studied there for a decade binding demon after demon mastering the process until he was confident in its perfection. But the research chipped away at his sanity until one day despite his successes he pulled his retainers inside and sealed the tower. Every non-combatant in the tower was found gruesomely killed at the foot of the tower. No one has dared enter the tower and told the tale in the three decades since.

All Imperial records of the Blackbound Guards and the creation of their terrible armor have been kept hidden by the Emperors of Man since. What little that is known about them has been pieced together by countless researchers. Bits of rumors, the loose tongues of the Blackbound Guards themselves, and whatever notes avoided Imperial notice are all that remains.

———excerpts and musings on Blackbound Armor by Cynnlot the Brash, field investigator for the Imperial Guild of Mages

As an example of fantasy power armor I have created several suits for my Allotropa setting. These suits of armor are considered some of the most advanced pieces of magical items in the setting. The more powerful suits of these armor border on artifact levels of magic. I've included price values here as a guide and reference, but they would truly be priceless pieces and the listed prices are mere guesses at their value. The rule of thumb I used for these guesses was 100,000gp per Class for well bound suits, and half this value for poorly bound suits.

Blackbound Armor is powered by binding demons into armor. These demons form the "power source" for my fantasy Power Armor. Starting from this premise, I chose to apply traits of demons to the armor rather than just adding ST bonuses, magic attacks, and magic enhancements to the armor. But by applying these traits I managed to do all the above. Poorly constructed versions of this armor only partially bind the will of the demons, this allows the demon to control his powers to some extent and possibly even possess the wearer - much like intelligent magical items. Properly bound these suits of armor completely suppress the will and intellect of the demon inside. Any suit of armor can be bound with a demon - the exact process I leave to the GM to determine.

The powers I included in this example were inspired by the demons in Monsters: A Field Guide before the HARP Fantasy revision. The revision changes many of these traits but for now I have used the older versions. The Bonus DB follows the Survival Instinct talent found in the demons in the current version of the book, but a similar trend could be followed using the Tough Hide talents (which will result is only slightly different DB bonuses).

All Blackbound armor adds the Enhanced Senses advantage to the wearer if they do not already have it and +5 ST bonus per Class. Additional traits are added depending on the class of demon bound to the suit of armor. Some Optional enhancements are also possible for these suits, but again depend of the demon bound and if the GM wants to allow them.

Bonus DB Dark Vision Fear Soulburn Poison Resistance Regeneration
Class 1 +5 None None None None None
Class 2 +25 Lesser 10' 90RR Minor - secondary only None None
Class 3 +40 Greater 40' 110RR Minor None None
Class 4 +60 Greater 90' 130RR Major +60 to RR None
Class 5 +70 Greater 160' 150RR Greater +70 to RR 1 concussion hit/minute

Optional enhancements

  • Bane (living) Class 5 or above
  • Corrupting presence Class 3 or above (as a demon of two classes below)
  • Demonic Endurance Class 3 or above
  • Incorporeal (none known but possible for Class 4 or above)

Genuine suits of Blackbound Armor created by Pyronius were class 3 and above. Most of these were class 3, while class 4 was for officers and class 5 was for senior officers and champions. All class 3 versions were made with improved workmanship base armors, while class 4 suits were a mix of improved and masterwork base armors. All class 5 armors were masterwork quality. No genuine suits were made from exotic materials due to the time requirements of the war.

Imitation suits made by later mages are class 1 or 2. Rumors persist that a few mages have been able to create class 3 suits. Regardless of the class most of these imitations seem to have issues with the suppression of the demon bound. A variety of workmanship and materials for these armors exist depending on the capabilities and needs of their makers.

Sample Blackbound Armors

blackbound-armor

Class 1 Imitation weak bound armor

DB UF Mx MP UF Mn MP Mx MP Mn MP CP Cost
Improved worked superior studded leather armor 45 -75 -5 -35 -0 +4 25 gp
Class 1 enhancements +5 0 0 0 0 0 +50000
Totals 50 -75 -5 -35 -0 +4 50025 gp

Additional Powers and features: Adds the Enhanced Sense talent while worn if user does not already have it. The armor grants a +5 ST bonus to the wearer.

This armor has a low intellect malignant personality with low WIL (SD 41, IN 41, RE 41, PR 41).

Class 1 Imitation well bound armor

DB UF Mx MP UF Mn MP Mx MP Mn MP CP Cost
Soft Leather armor 10 -26 -6 -20 -0 +2 1 gp
Class 1 enhancements +5 0 0 0 0 0 +100000
Totals 15 -26 -6 -20 -0 +2 100001 gp

Additional Powers and features: Adds the Enhanced Sense talent while worn if user does not already have it. The armor grants a +5 ST bonus to the wearer.

Class 2 Imitation weak bound armor

DB UF Mx MP UF Mn MP Mx MP Mn MP CP Cost
Improved workmanship chainmail armor 45 -115 -5 -55 -5 +6 33 gp
Class enhancements +25 0 0 0 0 0 +100000
Totals 70 -115 -5 -55 -5 +6 100033 gp

Additional Powers and features: Adds the Enhanced Sense and Lesser Dark Vision talents while worn if user does not already have them. The armor grants a +10 ST bonus to the wearer.

The wearer may create a 10' radius fear effect with a 90RR as per the demonic fear trait. Additionally the wearer may empower melee attacks with minor soulburn.

This armor has a below average intellect malignant personality with low WIL (SD 46, IN 46, RE 46, PR 46).

Class 2 Imitation well bound armor

DB UF Mx MP UF Mn MP Mx MP Mn MP CP Cost
Improved worked superior steel chainmail armor 55 -115 -5 -55 -5 +6 98 gp
Class enhancements +25 0 0 0 0 0 +200000
Totals 80 -115 -5 -55 -5 +6 200098 gp

Additional Powers and features: Adds the Enhanced Sense and Lesser Dark Vision talents while worn if user does not already have them. The armor grants a +10 ST bonus to the wearer.

The wearer may create a 10' radius fear effect with a 90RR as per the demonic fear trait. Additionally the wearer may empower melee attacks with minor soulburn.

Class 3 Imitation weak bound armor

DB UF Mx MP UF Mn MP Mx MP Mn MP CP Cost
Master worked Black Alloy Plate/Chain armor 80 -150 -20 -70 -5 +8 450gp
Class enhancements +40 0 0 0 0 0 +150000
Totals 120 -150 -20 -70 -5 +8 150450 gp

Additional Powers and features: Adds the Enhanced Sense and Greater Dark Vision talents while worn if user does not already have them. The armor grants a +15 ST bonus to the wearer. The Wearer may create a 40' radius fear effect with an 110RR as per the demonic fear trait. Additionally the wearer may attack with minor soulburn.

This armor has an averagely intelligent malignant personality with moderate WIL (SD 51, RE 51, IN 51, PR 51).

Class 3 genuine armor

DB UF Mx MP UF Mn MP Mx MP Mn MP CP Cost
Improved worked superior steel chainmail armor 55 -115 -5 -55 -5 +6 98 gp
Class enhancements +40 0 0 0 0 0 +300000
Totals 95 -115 -5 -55 -5 +6 300098 gp

Additional Powers and features: Adds the Enhanced Sense and Greater Dark Vision talents while worn if user does not already have them. The armor grants a +15 ST bonus to the wearer.

Wearer may create a 40' radius fear effect with an 110RR as per the demonic fear trait. Additionally the wearer may attack with minor soulburn.

Class 4 genuine armor

DB UF Mx MP UF Mn MP Mx MP Mn MP CP Cost
Master worked superior studded leather armor 50 -70 -0 -30 -0 +4 38 gp
Class enhancements +60 0 0 0 0 0 +400000
Totals 110 -70 -0 -30 -0 +4 400038 gp

Additional Powers and features: Adds the Enhanced Sense and Greater Dark Vision talents while worn if user does not already have them. The armor grants a +20 ST bonus and +60 to Poison RR to the wearer. The wearer may create a 90' radius fear effect with a 130RR as per the demonic fear trait. Additionally the wearer may attack with major soulburn.

Class 5 genuine armor

DB UF Mx MP UF Mn MP Mx MP Mn MP CP Cost
Master worked superior steel plate armor 80 -190 -30 -90 -10 +10 400 gp
Class enhancements +70 0 0 0 0 0 +500000
Totals 150 -190 -30 -90 -10 +10 500400 gp

Additional Powers and features: Adds the Enhanced Sense and Greater Dark Vision talents while worn if user does not already have them. The armor grants a +25 ST bonus and +70 to Poison RR to the wearer. The wearer may create a 160' radius fear effect with a 150RR as per the demonic fear trait. The user may attack with Greater soulburn while wearing this armor. Additionally the wearer gains the ability to regenerate at a rate of 1 concussion hit per minute.