TL;DR For light armor to be viable, it must impact stealth.
For stealth to be viable, you must get XP from GP.
For XP from GP to be viable, base it on dungeon level, not monster level.

In “Clones and Rules, Inside and Out,” from the blog Semper Initiativus Unum (which will appear on my Friday list), Wayne R. describes some differences between Swords & Wizardry and Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

His points about treasure being based on Dungeon level versus Monster level make a lot of sense to me, for the purpose of exploration.

I think he’s right.

When treasure is based on a monster’s level, players have every reason to go after tougher monsters. If the treasure is based on the dungeon’s level, the players will instead want to delve deeper to get at the better treasure.

Furthermore, when it’s a given that players will need to fight monsters, either to get treasure or gain experience, they’ll want the best armor they can afford.

Back in September, Peter Dell’Orto wrote about how it’s difficult to get players to ditch their heaviest armor (“Armor, Travel Speed, and Players”). And he’s right. Why would the players want lighter armor? They’re going to fight.

The two points are related.

If the players’ stealth is penalized by heavier armor, they’ll only care if stealth is a viable option for gaining treasure and experience. It isn’t about surprising monsters, it’s about circumventing encounters.

Because if you ever get in a fight, the advantage of wearing little or no armor is lost completely. Because the advantage is not being penalized for stealth.

And that’s the critical divide.

If you get the majority of your treasure and experience from killing monsters, you have “solved” combat. You always want the best armor, the best weapons. Because combat is inevitable. There’s no reason to avoid it.

If instead you get experience based on the dungeon’s level, then you want to make it down a few floors as quickly as possible. You want to avoid traps and monsters so you can grab the best possible loot you can find.

That’s the excuse for having “way too tough” monsters for an area (to reward clever players for avoiding them), and also to ensure that combat is never “solvable.” There will always be something beyond you.

You can still load up on the best armor possible, and just . . . slog your way through fights. But it’s a losing battle.

Because you can’t clear a dungeon.

There will always be more monsters.