D&D (or was it AD&D) had armor class 0 but Traveller introduced us to BATTLEDRESS!
Battledress was a Jump 6 move from the other lesser armor classes in protection and coolness. Never mind we're told the version adventurers mustered out with was a stripped version of the suits the active military got. Back in '77- '78 we were all a long way off from active military and central governments. After psionics my crew all went after battledress with a vengeance.
What the hell is it anyway?
According to LBB 1 battle dress and combat armor are armored versions of vacc suits. While anyone can use a vacc suit Vacc-1 is required to don battle dress. It enhances the strength and senses of the user using servo motors and personal feedback sensors. This doesn't sound like something you can just climb into and do cartwheels in. Doubtless the enhanced senses must be quite difficult to process to someone not used to a vacc suit's heads up display.
The nature of the enhanced senses is never done in detail in the classic books. But at a minimum I'd say telescopic vision and sound amplification are needed to justify the bonus to surprise. I'd also include mounting to install any of the sensors you can buy in LBB 1 because of the coolness factor. Some players may insist that sort of stuff is included because of the price. I advise them to go to a Rolls Royce or Ferrari dealership and see what extras they can get on one of those high end vehicles. The assumption is you got credits to afford the suit, pay for the goddam bells and whistles.
Looking at the combat tables we find that attacking a man in battle dress with melee weapons or tooth and claw is an act of desperation. The same can be said of body pistols and indeed revolvers and auto pistols are not the way to go either.
When we get into the long arms its a different story. A rifle has a -3 Dm and an auto rifle at -3. ADM gives a rifle user +1 DM and an auto rifle +2 DM nearly eliminating the minus for attacking battle dress. At medium range an auto rifle comes into its own hitting battle dress at 9+ (before dextrity and skill mods) and getting two hits per turn to try. This (oddly enough) is an even better chance to hit than with laser weapons and the way to go for low tech armies. Check a later post for why the laser rifle is to Traveller what the Katana is to AD&D.
But charging riflemen in large numbers is a form of suicide for BD wearers. That's just the LBB 1 weapons. Unless a rifleman with an ACR or LAG has a religious objection to rock and roll with automatic fire you will get hurt (doubly so for RAMs, FGMPs, and PGMPs). With the exception of the plasma and fusion weapons these weapons are all lower tech level than battle dress!
The ultimate is personal protection is not therefore a humanoid tank, invulnerable to harm. It will protect from low power weapons and melee weapons for quite a while. Long arms will take a wearer down.
So what the hell do you do with it?
Like vacc suits the wearer can operate in any environment. Vacc suits have re-entry kits allowing them to be dropped from space and I'm sure battle dress has similar gear. I assume unlike most vacc suits battle dress is a rigid construction of articulated plating. This is part of the reason it's so hard to score a hit. Other armors are not all over protection. The rigid protection means you don't need to worry about outside pressure changes or doing 30 minutes of decopression to put on your vacc suit. You can jump in and go. I'd extend this pressure immunity to combat armor as well.
It isn't the armor of mindless minions. It will protect you from a lot of collateral damage (like AA guns firing at you as you're dropped from the air or higher). It's pretty obvious personal weaponry wins out over defense from TL 10 or so on. The designers of battle dress built it to resist incidental dangers like shrapnel, ricochets and lower tech weapons not to make the wearer an action hero. The suits are optimized to amplify strength and nearly unstoppable in melee combat. The enhanced sensors give a powerful modifier to gain surprise. Without becoming tired an amplified marine (or trooper) could travel nearly anywhere and pretty quickly.
The suits are great for commando style operations. Boarding actions, in spite of popular views, are not where you stick battle dress troops unless 1) that's what you got or 2) the action is crucial. Sticking battle dress troopers in a ship to fight it out is sort of like ordering tanks into an urban area. It's way to easy to be jumped and by people who have pea shooters that could only hurt you at close of short range. Battle dress is expensive!
Show up anywhere. Silence guards with a variety of sharp implements (or throttle them with your cybernetically encased fingers). Strike and escape and keep doing that wearing down the defenders' will to resist. Faced with 'modern' weaponry the users respond much the same as conventional troops. They use cover, concealment, and smoke to avoid being hit.
I would avoid painting it in white. No need to tempt fate.
I'd also increase the damage done by these brutes in close combats as follows:
18 +1d6 +2
24 +2d6 +2
Battle dress allows the wearer to strike blows or run without using endurance. Some referees might allow wearer's who's modified strength exceeds 15 to run three bands or faster. Another suggestion is to count the extra strength for wounds and to halve any damage to strength when the wearer removes the armor.
See there's a reason Marines train with cutlasses. On a lighter note any locale at all familiar with battle dress and a law level of 3+ would probably restrict it after some player character types embark on the usual mayhem ("You threw a motorcycle at them ... because they pulled knives on you and you felt threatened?!")
There are other uses for man amplification gear: exploration, rescue, heavy labor or the Robot/Armor Wrestling derby. Typically this gear has less protection (Cloth or Cloth +1 equivalent) and does not have the bonus to surprise. The hands might show further evidence of cheapness by being simple claw type waldos or having a universal socket for accepting various tools (or cutlasses!). Unlike military gear suits for labor they might also drop the expensive power systems and use cables like an old style deep see diver's rig. These versions could be available as early as TL 10.