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There is no technical distinction between light and heavy armor, but there is a statistical one. Lighter armor has a lower evasion penalty and has a lower AC boost. Heavy armor has a severe evasion penalty but in return gives you a large boost to AC.

In reading guides for different types of characters, I've seen some that are focused on evasion and others that are focused on AC. Nowhere does it give any guidelines, however, to determine which is more effective than the other.

What kinds of characters should be focusing on increasing their evasion vs. AC? Does heavier armor inhibit movement or slow down your attack speed or have any other effects?

As a case study, if I wanted to play a Minotaur Berserker, what thought process should I go through when determining whether to stick to leather armor vs. putting on the plate mail I just found?

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You should always prefer heavy armour, unless you have a specific reason to avoid heavy armour and use light armour.

Armour has the ability to always reduce the damage of incoming attacks. The heavier the armour, the more the damage is reduced. Evasion only gives you a chance to avoid the attack, and a guaranteed reduction in damage beats a chance at evasion, especially when that evasion chance fails and you take full damage from the attack. Plus, for the last few versions of Crawl, Amour and Dodging are no longer mutually exclusive, so you can wear heavy armour for the damage reduction AND gain the odd miss due to the evasion granted by the Dodging skill.

The specific reasons for avoiding heavy armour relate to the skills that you are using (or planning to use) to cause damage to the enemy:

  • You are using Spellcasting. Most armour gives massive penalties to spellcasting, though increasing your Armour skill can mitigate this and allow you to cast spells effectively while wearing increasingly heavy armour.
  • You are using Unarmed Combat. Armour gives penalties to unarmed combat attack speed.
  • You are using Stealth/Stabbing. Armour gives penalties to stealth, making it impossible to sneak up on someone and dispatch them with a single hit.

In your case study, a Minotaur Berserker is not using Spellcasting, only uses Unarmed Combat for it's horns, and is not using Stealth or Stabbing. Therefore, you should always use the best armour you can find. You should pick up and wear the plate mail immediately.

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