[Runequest] Questions about armor.

Bjørn Are Stølen stolenbjorn at hotmail.com
Sun Dec 5 11:23:38 EST 2010

 I added two pictures, and the mail became too big. If you're interrested in the two pictures I mention in this mail, just send me your personal mail.

From: stolenbjorn at hotmail.com
To: runequest at rpgreview.net
Subject: RE: [Runequest] Questions about armor.
Date: Sun, 5 Dec 2010 00:20:40 +0000

Heh, fun to see a link to an old post! I still agree with myself in the post in that link, here is reply to your questions:
The armor you suggest wouldn't be uncommon, I think. But (as I allso mentinon in that old reply) textile armor was allso very popular at this time. I would recomend you to look through theese bible-illustrations: http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/exhibOnlineThumbs.asp?id=OnlineKings Worn like a long armed -knee-long padded tunika without opening in the front, would be the poor man's armor. Theese textile-armors are allways worn under chainmail, some times both over and under chainmail. If you're talking about knights, you begin to see pictures of mail-hose or mail strips tied to the ankle with straps going around the back, to protect the knights lower leg. Some textile padded tunikas allso had mitten-styled gloves sewn to the arms, with an opening in the hand, so you could have your hand out of the mitten if you needed to fondle somthing witch required dexterity.
As for helmet, the kettle-helmet begins in this time, and the spangen-helmet is probably still popular.
As for strapping chainmail, that is a bit of a trick. I've never had chainmail "t-shirt-style" that needed any strap'ing. When I've used mail-hood, I've often made head-gear to have beneath the mail-hood with holes, so I could knit the mail-edge to the head-gear-edge. That works fine, so you don't get the mail-hood in your eyes. It's when you want to use mail-legs that problem arise. Here's a link to a show we did, where I fight with mail hose (pleace ignore the shoes I use...) You have to go to about 3:15 to see me fighting (and losing) with mail hose: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0Kf7a1GFEo -you can see how it behaves in a fight. While the t-shirt-mail offer little restriction to overall movement and dexterity, mail-legs have despite all my efforts been a whole other cup of tea. Mail hose limits IMO your movement very much, and their tendency to sag makes you very vurnerable to snapping a strap, etc. The best solution I've experienced, is to make textile-padded hose with holes, so you can strap the mail-hose-leg to the textile-hose-leg. This makes the hose follow the line of the leg, making it look as it does in the pictures. The other main problem with hose is that it sag's and puts great strain to the points where they are knitted to your Pourpoint/arming-doublet. In order to avoid this, it's very smart to: 
A: Not having a point by your spine, strap it no further bach than you can knit it yourself (on your hip). This makes your rear-department feel a bit airy, but at least you don't rip your pourpoint on your first bending forewards... 
B: Use a ribbon(?) around your knee, so the weight of the lower mail-hose hangs on the ribbon, and so the mail over the knee folds nicely at kneecap-height, making flexing of the foot easier. 
As for wearing mail without padding, well it's very tempting, and as long as nobody tries to swing a weapon at you, it looks OK and feels allmost like just wearing a heavy t-shirt. When we look at pictures from later medieval times, I cannot remember having seen mail worn without padding beneath (or on the outside). As for Viking-age, we have very little textile finds, and we are not sure if units in northwestern europe used padded textile armor. Some speculate that they used only one or two woolen tunikas and a linen shirt beneath the mail, others speculates that the only mail worn in scandinavia in "viking-age" was relics from roman times, and that most people relied on the viking roundshield and helmet alone for protection.
I've attached two pictures of what sort of clothes were used to strap plates to, and I guess similar type clothing would be used to tie mail-hose to. Note the second picture, showing how mail was used in later periods, sewn to jackets to cover the areas plate did not protect. Earlies sign of plate protection was jack-chains, worn on textile or mail-armor to protect against hard blows.
As a lazy reenacter, I've tried using only mail on several occations, and we've allso tested mail. If someone hits your joints, you break bone beneath the mail. When we shoot 60lbs bows at mail, they penentrate the mail and goes 2-5 cm in. If we have padding beneath, the arrow stops in the padding in 99% of the times. This fits with arabic accounts of having seen up to 14 arrows sticking out of knights, with no visual sign of them causing any harm. (IIRC)
Norwegian law from 1200 states minimum armor for the conscript in order to avoid being fined for inadequate equipment. IIRC, it amounts to Round-shield, bow and arrows, spear, and axe or sword. I believe that mail was quite expensive, and reserved for the elite-force of only the richest warlords. It became somewhat cheaper as production was streamlined in late medieval, but in the end, plate became both cheaper and offered better protection. 
As you want some input on viking-age as weell, I'd like to mention that many have experimented with I-33-like techniques using the viking roundshield, and it seems that the viking roundshield is a fine shield to use with I-33.
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