Nearly every game needs to consider armor and how to handle it. Some of this comes from reality and some of it comes from game balance. Some games ignore it altogether. The purpose of this blog post is to address it for what it is and to help gamers approach armor armed with the best possible knowledge.
Movement, endurance, and encumbrance are all handled in different ways but swimming is pretty much handled the same in nearly every game. Character goes in armor. Armored character goes in water. Character drowns.
So the question is, can you swim in armor? Well, it depends on the armor. Here are some videos of people answering that question.
While this is not the end-all-be-all in testing rigor, it does show that it is not optimal. The guy in the video is not a trained swimmer and does not look to be very strong. However, he is trained to wear and use armor.
Here's another one but in chain. As a surprise benefit, this guy is a game designer!
Here's another one but of Samurai armor.
This was probably not a big surprise. It is made of wood after all.
Mobility in armor is hotly contested as far as I've seen. I found a lot of videos on this topic. I have included three.
Armor does encumber you. However, it isn't nearly as impairing as I was taught. In fact, even full plate seems to be fairly mobile.
I didn't find anything on the effects of heat exhaustion but I can tell you that there is no way it doesn't effect that. My work sometimes involves people wearing body armor and/or chem-bio suits and it's always a major factor in how long they are able to operate in hot temperatures.
Here is how this information affects my game design. Armor does encumber characters. However, not as bad as it did in my previous designs. Much of it can be countered with training. Swimming in metal plate will be near impossible. An armor trained character who is also strong and a trained swimmer will be able to do it for very short periods of time. Heat exhaustion will remain a factor. Even if it's just as a story telling element.
That's my takeaway. Let me know in the comments if you agree. If not please feel free to post a link to someone showing something different. Opinions are welcome but never as welcome as hard fact.