[Runequest] Hard versus soft armor.

Bjørn Are Stølen stolenbjorn at hotmail.com
Wed Jan 13 20:31:11 EST 2010


(Disclaimer; I'm an amateur, I would like you to not take my reply as "the truth hammered in granite"; I might be wrong on several details in this reply)


I don't know much about armor from before 500 ad, as I personally consentrate on re-enactment from migration-age, viking-age and late medieval (early 15th century). I agree to the one who suggests that RQ armour rules was made more to reflect ancient armor than medieval armor.
What I find most lacking on RQ -armor is the absence of textile-armor. The "gamberson", "panser", arming-doublet, etc-etc. is by far the most common armor in the medieval times, and it's completely absent in the rules. (In addition, the greec used glued textile armor called linothorax, but as I said; I don't really know much about that period.
So, I'll leave rule-technicalities to the ones that know far more about the rq-mechanics than me, and rather write a bit about how armor works in my experience:
-Surprisingly "flexible"/mobile when worn without mail and/or padding beneath. Manuals showing ground fighting with pollaxes (the most efficient armour-defeating weapon of the medieval times; basically a warhammer attached to a 2 meter pole); shows people fighting in plate with chainmail beneath, but the most normal is to have textile cloting only beneath plate. There is allso illustrations of textile padding with chainmail sown to the areas that the plated do not cover(http://wkneedle.bayrose.org/Articles/images/arming_sm.jpg). Plate is impossible to cut through, at least in medieval times. (There are pictures showing swords beeing able to cut through early plate-helmets in the 11th and 12th century, but no re-creation of such event has ever proved successfull. The closest thing to success is some japaneese weirdo managing to make a 10 cm cut in an antique samurai plate helmet with a modernly made katana, and if that cut had been done with a person innside, the padding in the helmet would prevent the edge from even reaching the scull.) Therefore, IMHO; RQ should rule that swords take more damage than give damage when swung against a plate armor, and the damage dealt to the target should be translated to "concussion-damage", or somthing like that.
Wether plate is possible to pierce, is a huge discussion. Personally I lean towards that powerful bows and crossbows, pollaxes, daneaxes, cleacing-axes, warhammers and full-iron-maces can compromise plate armor if one attempts to do that. The discussion is on wether arrows break or pierce on impact. There is mentioning of "bodkin" arrrowheads (that are shaped a bit like a small rpg-7 grenade), that was made to pierce armor, but most bodkins found are made of very soft iron. Plate armor was often painted, and was allso sometimes covered in expensive textiles.
-riveted, interlinking rings. Very flexible (not so flexible when worn beneath plate, as the plate straps and plates themselves "clam" the mail to the body, reducing it's ability to slide). Extremely effective versus cutting, not quite as effective against thrusts, arrows and blunt attacks (I've heard others in my community mentioning the find of a human bone on Iceland with imprints of mail...) Probably never worn without padded textile under. In the crusader/norman-medieval period, the padding beneath was quite thick, but when they started adding plate on top of the chainmail in the 14th century, they gradually started to reduce the thickness of the textile padding. Here is a link to one of many "armor vs arrow" tests that have been done:  www.cotasdemalla.es/

Wonderful historical painting of 13th century knight and his hooded chainmail-shirt with mittens + chainmail hose (only plate would be a helmet worn on top of the plate coif. I would rule this dude as having 1+7 AP in all locations except head where he would have 1+7+8 AP): http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/images/armour/sliced/image_2/armour_13th_century2a_r3_c2

-the poor man's platearmor. Allmost the same as lamellar, but the metal plates are often smaller than on lamellar armor, and sandwiched between layers of textile, not riveted on top of a leather harness which i do believe is the case with lamellar. It's often distributed to soldiers, and one often see archers wearing brigantine. Brigantine is allmost exclusively fielded as a vest that covers (in RQ mode) torso and abdomen. There are effigys of knights in the 14th century wearing leg-armor that could be defined as brigantine, but it could equally be defined as "lamellar". There are several "brigantine" vests found in the battlesite of "Visby", and on the painitng of the battle of Crecy, you see several examples of brigantine (depictured as bright colloured "vests" with rivets on). I believe that they have roughly the same characteristics as plate, perhaps a little easier to pierce, as there is a possebility to hit in a weak spot. I would allso let brigantine cost more encumbrance.

Original visby brigantine-plates: http://www.djurfeldt.com/patrik/bilder/korsb_p1.jpg

Plausible reconstruction of visby-brigantine: http://img.auctiva.com/imgdata/2/5/2/5/4/8/webimg/176599626_tp.jpg

Later brigantine (as often worn by guards and archers in late 14th century -15th century: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/7b/Brigfront.jpg

"textile armor" (panser, gamberson, jupon, arming doublet, padded hose, etc, etc)

Several layers (4-17) of (usually) linen sown together, or two layers of linen stuffed with hair. Difference in thickness varies greatly. The earlies evidence is from 11th century. In the "Maciovsky-bible" and other 13th century sources, many "ordinary soldiers" have tunika-shaped textile armor as the only  body-protection. It is allso shown worn beneath chainmail, and it is even shown worn outside chainmail(http://wkneedle.bayrose.org/Articles/images/jackman_sm.jpg). As chainmail became more common, and later plate, the textile armor gradually got thinner, and allso shorter, and was reshaped as a "jacket". Towards the end of it's use, it was sometimes worn as a "doublet", called an "arming doublet", combining the function as padding with the function of holding up the hose/plate legs. I would say that thick, stand-alone-textile-armor is surprisingly effective against cutting and "bashing" attacks, and allso offers quite a lot of protection against piercing attacks. The biggest drawback with this protection, is that it hinders heat-dissipation, and is allso quite movement-restrictive (more than mail and plate; at least the heavier, thicker, earlier ones). 

To the left in this painting, you see example of thick, early stand-alone-textile armor: http://home.tiscali.nl/~t401243/mac/mac10rA.jpg

To types "Stand-alone-tectile-armor" Theese two examples probably illustrates the sort of civilian armor worn by people outside the battlefield in 14th/35th century; several layers of textile (silt/linen/wool). It's garnments like this, that forces dagger-techniques in medieval times to resort to 90% stabbing-techniques instead of cutting, and who led to daggers like the rondell-dagger. Kali/silat-knifefighting would be harmless against someone wearing this short of garnment: http://www.gazetarycerska.pl/forum/attachments/jupon%5B6%5D.jpg


Finally, I show you a video of the re-enactment-group I'm in, doing a tourist show in Oslo (captial of Norway) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0Kf7a1GFEo I'm the ground-fighter fielding a pollaxe and the yellow "houpullande"(jacket with the flapping arms),at about 3min 20 seconds. 

I'm wearing:

*Arming-doublet; 3 layers of thick cotton (If ruled as "soft leather", = 1AP)

*Reinforced hose (3 layers of wool/leather) (If ruled as "soft leather", = 1 AP

*Chainmail hose (7AP)

*Plate legs -minus lower leg and foot (8AP)

*Chaimail "sweater" (7 AP)

*Breastplate (8AP)

*Plate arms (8AP)

*Chainmail trousers (7AP)

*Plate helmet (8AP)

*padded coif (if ruled as "soft leather", = 1AP)

*Plate gauntlets (8 AP; actually I would rule plate hands as an impossebility, as the fingers in it's design is scale)

I've never weighed myself in full armor, but the weight is really not a problem, it's the movement-restrictions that is the most tireing; I guess I weigh somewhere between 20 and 30 kilos extra when wearing this.

With following total AP-stats:

Head: 9 AP (face 0 ap)

Torso-front: 16 AP

Torso-back: 8AP

Arms: 16 ap (hands 6 AP, inside of arms 8 AP outside-arms/elbow 16 ap, shoulders 8 ap)

Legs: 16 ap (groin, back of legs, lower leg and foot =8AP, front tighs, knee= 16 ap)

Abdomen: 8AP
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