An armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) is more or less exactly what it might be expected to be - a vehicle, fitted with armour and used in combat. Specifically, the category only applies to land vehicles in normal usage - armoured aircraft and watercraft are not normally included - and should normally only apply to self-propelled vehicles.
The traditional king of AFVs is the tank1 - a careful blend of armour, mobility and firepower. Traditionally these met some competition in the tank destroyer and assault gun, but those breeds are either extinct or transformed almost beyond recognition in the modern era. To allow the tank to go into battle with vital infantry support, the armoured personnel carrier was invented - and, following that, it's deadlier (and more tanklike) descendant the infantry fighting vehicle. Lighter vehicles - including light tanks and armoured cars exist for reconnaissance work and for less intense theatres of combat (including paramilitary policing and security duties).
Also of note are the various supporting arms that deploy armoured vehicles - the armoured self propelled gun, armoured engineer vehicles and armoured recovery vehicles for example, not to mention those used for command and control, ammunition supply, casualty evacuation and artillery control.
The armoured train is also an interesting footnote in the history of AFVs - for quite some time a highly effective way of fighting wherever the railway happened to be and then, from mid WW2 onward, a large, expensive target.
Game and Story Use
- Should be plot devices in a lot of RPG contexts - most PCs will not routinely carry anti-tank weapons around with them (unless you're running a highly militarised campaign) and so will need to improvise to eliminate AFV. How much will depend on context.
- Having PCs as an AFV crew may work in some contexts - although it can be quite limiting if the AFV is too realistic.
- Of course, keeping an AFV fuelled, armed and maintained can provide a powerful motivation…
- Putting the two together, being able to deploy an AFV in a context where it is not expected and the enemy lack countermeasures could be a game breaker - perhaps the endpoint of a long arc of fetch quests for the parts and expertise to get it running again or the mother of all fedex quests shipping it to where it is needed.