I realize that there is no direct mechanical difference between being hit in the leg or the head in the RAW and any color desired for injuries is up to the GM. I do find it interesting that there is a game disadvantage to wearing grieves rather than just a vest though (Noisy and Heavy penalties) with the natural assumption that the lack of such protection would leave the wearer exposed in these less vital areas while covering the goods (Chest, abdomen, groin etc.)
Has anyone tinkered with a house rule increasing the effect of a hit to the head or torso over the limbs to make protecting these vital areas actually something worth considering? In a practice combat a PC took an arrow in the leg (no armor) and a spear thrust to the arm (no armor) as they were wearing a mail vest only. I implemented a minor modifier to their performance for each of these injuries but it occurred to me that there was no real advantage to covering his chest v.s. his limbs in any case.
Would something simple like a +1 Damage when taking a head or torso shot be unbalancing in some way I havent the experience to recognize? Perhaps an added penalty if you take a Wound in one of these area in addition to the typical modifier? Or am I just adding detail where it isnt needed and let the GM description and narrative effects take care of it?
The torso is more likely to be hit by an attack, based on the hit location number ranges (head is 2/20, arms and legs are 3/20, and torso is 6/20) so that inherently makes torso armor a bit more important than armor on the other hit locations.
In the Infinity 2d20 game they have a slightly different mechanic. You still take a Wound but it does not have a static negative effect. In Conan, each Wound makes certain Skill tests more difficult. That is not the case in Infinity. You still have the Wound, but the effect is entirely up to the GM (or the player if they inflict a Wound on an NPC).
There are some examples in the book, but it could include that a hit to the arm makes the character loose their weapon or inflict a Difficulty increase to Skill tests using that arm. Hits to the head could increase the Difficulty on Coordination and Intelligence bases Skill tests.
Maybe you could adapt this to a Conan house rule.
The main reason why you would cover one location over the other is the chances of being hit there. Chest injuries are more common on the hit location dice roll than limbs or head, so it’s a matter of hedging your bets as to what you will need. Personally, I wouldn’t want to increase the damage to specific locations, just so people who want the Barbarian aestetic of exposed chest and head aren’t suffering because they decided to go armourless compared to their fully amoured companions.
(also I tend to just have the armour soak count for all hits but I am also a lighter GM so Your Hyborea May Vary)
Don’t forget that you can sacrifice your armour in the location struck to soak a wound. So the type of armour you wear at the location you want is kinda important
I wouldn’t increase damage based on a location’s armor. Not wearing armor already causes you to innately take more damage because you don’t have the soak it would provide. This makes you more prone to receiving wounds. Additionally your wounds do cause the negative affect (as others have mentioned). I have found that there are already a lot of ways to increase damage in the game and it is brutal enough without penalizing the players for not wearing full plate mail in some additional way.
I guess the GM can just institute more serious modifiers when taking vigor losses to the head or chest. No fiddly rules just a quick ruling.
I go to the extreme of doubling the damage on the head. There’s a reason why helmets are worn even nowadays (and in most periods of human history they represent the piece of defensive weaponry that is more often made out of metal and/or more carefully crafted).
I don’t think it takes anything away from the barbaric aesthetics, as there are many representations of Conan wearing basically nothing but an helmet. Also, to avoid people going around full plate and so more in the spirit of Howardian aesthetics, it takes only to keep the characters poor and going into places where armour is not advisable/unconfortable (or to make heavy armour rare to find).
I like when players use called shots.
I’d do it as GM by means of spending 2 to 4 Doom to create a Complication on the fly if I want to add penalties for a head or limb shot. Entirely within the rules and nothing further required.