War Craft

Copyright Joeri Timmerman © 2012

Edited by Terence Wynne for The Guild Companion

"These tables are the product of years of dedicated research."

War Craft

A lot has been written, over the years, about arms and armor in the Guild Companion, but with the new system looming around the corner, this might be a good opportunity to take a final look at the gear of war people used throughout the ages. Over the years I have collected and researched information about many items, among which weapons and armor. Due to the new information discovered I got deeply interested in how ancient warfare was conducted. It turned out that a lot of information I held to be true was actually totally false. The conjecture of less than scholarly researchers up to the 1980's had been filling the books we, the RPG community, use. Re-enactors, experimental archeology, and a commercially successful arms and armor crafting renaissance, however, brought us a lot of new information. I intend to root out the fundamental falsehoods plaguing our games. These tables (PDF or XLSX) are the product of years of dedicated research and, although I can only be as accurate as the information they are based on, I'm sure they are fair and keep a balance in game, as well as more accurately reflecting reality.


Armor penalties

Wearing armor is a bother, but it turns out it is not as bad as was once thought. Armor wasn't as restrictive to movement and dexterity as thought. In general, it was designed to be as unencumbering as possible. Some of this is inherent in the type of armor; such as maille. Although it is heavy and certainly inhibits fine motor skills somewhat, the armor itself was fluid and fell around the body like a silk robe. Where the armor consisted of small pieces of leather or metal, movement was slightly more inhibited, but on the battlefield movement is life, so it couldn't have been too restrictive. Armor was made to be tradeoff between protection and agility. I therefore reduced the armor penalties to reflect our better understanding. Armor still required some training, but the remaining penalties are more in line with the levels of freedom of movement I observed with re-enactors.

Armor protection


The level of protection offered by armor is dependent on many factors. Foremost is coverage: How much of the body is protected by your armor. This determines how hard an armored person is to hit. In RM it is elegantly modeled (albeit with a steep learning curve). By having four levels of coverage per armor type, the tables are able to give an indication of how well the armor protects vs. a specific weapon. This has been one of the staples of RM and has served to give it its reputation of being contrived and difficult to master, but accurately conveys our knowledge back in the 1980's and gives a level of realism not seen in other systems.

Armor of this type covering the body was referred to as a cuirass, breastplate, or Do for rigid coverings and a byrnie, jerkin or katabira for flexible coverings.

Shoulder armor: Pouldron, spaulder, aillette, or sode.

Arm armor: Braces, bracers, kote, or brassards. The individual pieces are:
Upper arm: Rerebrace,
Elbow: Elbow cop,
Lower Arm: Vambrace, or bracer,
Hand: Gauntlet, mitten, or glove.

Leg armor: Greaves or suneate. The individual pieces are:
Groin: Tassets, haidate,
Upper leg: Cuisses,
Knee: Knee cop,
Lower leg: Greave,
Foot: Solleret, sabaton.

Limb protection came in many forms. Most common are plate. In addition, separate maille sleeves and chausses could be had. Less likely to be added to armor are cuir bouille greaves and brassards. Padded and soft leather limb protectors are mostly built in their respective armors, but the Japanese did have some loose sleeves available of these types.

Armor type:

The first thing people will look at is the material the armor was made of. Leather, metal, wood, string are all materials with their respective strengths and weaknesses. How the material is used and how the materials are combined is a critical factor in determining how well the armor protected. In RM there are several armor types and they react to weapon attacks in their own way.


This type of armor represents the lowest level of protection possible. It implies no armored covering whatsoever. The only thing represented is how heavy clothes (AT 2) can hinder your movement. The armor types 3 and 4 are for the fur and thick hide, usually available only on animals as a natural covering. It is vulnerable to any kind of damage mechanism, but allows a great deal of freedom and maneuverability.

Soft leather

Organic pliable, organic padded, organic scales, or bad armoring with a soft organic backing is encompassed by the soft leather type. It is not real armoring in any sense. It is light, somewhat weather proof, and it probably protects its wearer from minor injuries such as abrasions, bruises, and elemental attacks such as cold and heat. The soft leather armor type is actually worse than wearing no armor in most cases. Removing the high penalties will make it a more viable choice, but one must remember that it is never a good idea to put on heavy clothes and coats to feel protected when going in a full scale battle, where dangers include hails of arrows, sword and spear strikes, and being overrun. Organic scale armor, according to my estimation, falls in this category, because it is only going to stop light blows and it still is flexible to react as a flexible armor.

The covering runs from: Body only, to body and arms and groin, to body arms and legs, to all of the above, except slightly better. AT 8 is, on the whole, not a bad armor type: Incoming blunt weapon blows will be slightly lessened by wearing armor that falls in the soft leather category, but other weapon damage mechanisms will not be mitigated.

Rigid leather

Organic rigid, metal scales, and badly constructed armor types that resist flexing belong in this category. It was a much used armor type and was used everywhere, until the advent of firearms. The main armor material used is cuir bouille, or boiled leather, or kurbul. By boiling the leather in water or wax, the natural glue of the skins was activated and the leather would retain its shape and form a rigid shell. Sometimes the armorers tightly wrapped several layers of animal hide around wooden busts and models to form armor pieces of several layers. Adding lacquer or paint was done to weather proof the piece, and makes it look shinier. This reduced the protective qualities.

I used this AT range to model metal scales because of 2 factors. Scale was capable of protecting its wearer from cuts but it was vulnerable to puncturing. One type of organic scale falls in the rigid class as well, because of excellence: Rhino plate scale. Coverage by this armor type is kept minimal, as no extra heavy suits were available. AT 9 represents torso covering and AT 10 adds greaves and braces. One armor goes beyond; the Nerigawa O Yoroi, cowhide great armor. This was a staple for the poorer samurai in Japan. Normally AT 11 and 12 are reserved for animal hides and as such are quite good. Blunt weapons are not going to do an overwhelming amount of damage, but this armor type's strength lies in stopping cuts and hacks with some efficiency. It is very vulnerable, however, to punctures from thrusts and leveraged piercing weapons, especially when lacquered.


This category includes metal lamellae, maille, metal scales (the good types), korazin, and brigandine type armors.

This armor, sometimes mistakenly referred to as "chain," was used for a very long time. It is a staple for use in battle since its inception by the Celts in the Bronze Age. It has been used in one type or another on the battlefields of the world right up to the First World War, where it was researched to see if it worked to stop shrapnel and bullets. It did not. Maille was such a good armoring material because it was sturdy, light while giving excellent coverage, and its flexibility has never been matched. Lamellar armor is also modeled to be like maille. It is still flexible, but not as vulnerable as scale. Some lamellar armor is put in the Plate AT range.

Coverage of maille armor types is typical: AT 13: Body only; AT 14: Body, some arm and leg protection; AT 15: All-round coverage by the good stuff; and AT 16: Full coverage by improved or special armor. Maille is excellent against cutting weapons. In addition, it provides adequate protection against puncturing, except against the really heavy weapons, such as picks and longbows. It was bad against krushing blows. It would stop penetration, but the trauma force transferred straight through the armor and was only countered by the padding.


This category includes metal plate, metal lamellae, augmented maille (plate on maille, lamellae on maille, and scale on maille).

Plate armor has existing from the dawn of armor right down to today. Early plate armor was made from bronze and copper. These metals held their shape well in large plates and also not much stress had to be resisted from the weapons of those days. Iron, however, tended to become brittle when made into large plates such as a breast plate, so was an illogical choice for the 2500 years which began with the iron age. In using these armors, remember to apply the bronze armor DB penalty (-10) when considering the Mycenaean panoply or hoplite armor. In addition, plenty of Chinese armors, although looking good in stats, suffer from the fact they were made of bronze, especially the Bronze Age gear.

Other types that are adjudicated as plate include lamellar armor, if the lamellae are large enough and well made and maille that has been augmented with some lamellar, or scales pieces, especially pieces that add on, such as a coat of plates, or rows of lamellae, or a corset of plate bands. Even some well made korazin type armors (plates woven in to the maille) should be modeled as plate. Such armors were usually very heavy and restrictive. Maille with pieces of plate added on is also modeled by Plate AT. This is due to the logical placement of plate in a few, key locations.

Plate coverage is standard again: AT 17 covers just the torso and shoulders. AT 18 includes Torso armor with added greaves and braces; some of the late medieval corselets, with pouldrons and tassets fall in this category. AT 19 is a full coverage armor, but it leaves a lot of room to maneuver and some areas are not as well protected to make the armor lighter. AT 20 is full coverage by the best armor materials available. Almost no spots are uncovered and it was designed to make at most limited maille additions to cover the weak spots.

Plate was excellent in defeating plenty of weapons: Blunt was adequately stopped, cutting and hacking was almost ineffectual and only piercing weapons could try to find a weak spot and bite flesh. As far as personal armoring goes, plate is about making a combatant into a tank.


Based on my observations, armor was used in different regions because of different reasons. Some principles remained the same, but using heavy padding in the deserts of Egypt would result in a quick defeat, while the preference for some weapons in a specific reason might make certain armor types more dominant. In addition, each region came up with different solutions to protecting from weapon damage. According to the major trends, the world is split in several theaters of war.

Chinese armor

The Chinese have a somewhat special place in history and therefor deserve to have their own armor section. They are probably the largest single empire, united for the longest period of time. This has led to them having plenty of advantages over others. The one failing of the empire is that its size makes it too large to control. The resources from such a great empire has produced some incredible stuff, including many outstanding pieces of armor. Chinese history is tied in strongly with the ruling dynasty of the time, and its roughly equal to the European reckoning of time periods, although the technolgy level varied widely between both theaters.

The Zhou dynasty was the first to arise, and the one we have records from. The first armors were not for the common soldier, but only made for important and rich combatants. Those on chariots, or on horseback probably purchased their own armor and were keen on buying the best protection. Metal lamellar armor, as well as a variety of leather armors were used.

Armor didn't change much, but a lot was improved over time. The typical lamellar armor inspired many other cultures to make their own and Korea, Tibet and Japan began developing their own war gear, based on Chinese design. Later on the Mongols invaded China and blatantly took over their lamellar armors, as their own. Chinese armors used skirts mostly, instead of pants.

Han lamellar byrnie
Han lamellar cataphract suit
Han lamellar haubergeon
Han scale byrnie
Han scale haubergeon
North South scale haubergeon
North South states lamellar corselet
North South states Round breastplate
North South states round breastplate and lamellar suit
Qin jezeraint apron
Qin jezeraint corselet
Qin leather scales coat
Qin leather scales jerkin
Qin wicker haubergeon
Rhino plate byrnie
Rhino plate haubergeon
Shang turtle scale byrnie
Song double lamellar haubergeon and abdomen disk
Song mountain pattern scale hauberk
Sui breastplate and lamellar tassets and pouldrons
Sui Round breastplate and lamellar on maille
Tang half plate
Tang mountain pattern scale byrnie
Tang mountain pattern scale haubergeon
Yuan mongol maille haubergeon with cuir bouille breast plate
Yuan Ting-kia coat
Yuan Ting-kia suit
Zhou beast faced cuir bouille
Zhou coat of plates cuirass
Zhou Ge Jia
Zhou heavy lamellar cuirass
Zhou heavy lamellar haubergeon
Zhou wei jia corselet
Zhou wei jia cuirass
Ge jia
Heavy animal hide, without fur. Rhino leather was used.
Chinese lamellar armor was one of the earliest in History. Larger lamellae, laced together, or sewn on a backing material.
Mountain pattern scale
Small Y-shaped scales, interlocking with each other.
Rhino plate
Plates of wood, reinforced by glued rhino skin.
Small scales, sewn on backing material.
Wei jia
Chinese cuir bouille.

European armor

On the forefront in many cases, and because RPG is mainly a Western game, European arms and armor development is taken as a sort of base line. However it is making sense. As is apparent from my tables, Europeans had more cruel ways of trying to hurt each other, that they had to come up with better ways of protecting against that. Armor staples as rigid leather, maille and plate were used first and foremost in Europe and then copied in the other theaters.

When it comes to warfare, Europeans tend to be more inventive and although other cultures sometimes had the edge, for example if the Qin dynasty had been next to Europe, they would probably have had no problems in taking it over because their armies would be numbering in their 100,000's while Europeans had such numbers only when on a mass migration.

The most defining factor in armor development is the favorable climate. People could wear almost any type in almost any weather. Heavy armor was no problem, not leading to heat exhaustion, as in other theaters. Another factor was the large diversity present in such a relatively small area. Many weapons were used and new ones developed every 10 years or so. The ambition of rulers meant that almost every country owned land in almost any another country's borders at one time, or another. This crossbreeding of warcraft proved a fertile ground for development.

Bezanted armor with greaves and brassards
Bezanted byrnie
Brigandine of large plates
Brigandine of large plates on maille hauberk
Brigandine of small plates (jack of plates)
Brigandine of small plates and maille chausses
Brigandine with brassards and cuisses
Buff coat
Buff jerkin
Coin byrnie
Cuire bouille cuirass and backplate
Cuire bouille with greaves and brassards
Full hide suit
Gambeson or arming doublet and hose
Gambeson, or arming doublet
Hardened leather scales body armor
Hardened leather scales suit
Heavy clothes and coat
Hide or fur body covering
Hide or fur clothes
Hide or fur jacket
Leather jerkin on clothes
Leather overcoat, knee length or longer
Maille byrnie and lamellae torso cover
Maille byrnie, lorica hamata
Maille haubergeon
Maille haubergeon and chausses
Maille haubergeon and chausses and lamellae
Maille haubergeon and lamellae torso cover
Maille hauberk
Padded armor
Plate cuirass and back plate
Plate cuirass with brassards and cuisses
Robes, cassock
Gothic full plate
half, field plate
Jousting plate
Maximillian plate
Plate corselet
Plate cuirass on maille haubergeon
Tonsolet plate
Transitional plate armor

Eastern Europe and Russia

This theater took its clues from the Orient, the Middle East, and Europe. They were in the middle of things and as such developed a plethora of unique armors. Due to the type of war fare that was waged in Russia, they used light to medium armors mostly. Russia's vast open plains and never before explored forests and the sweeping rolling hills are ideal light cavalry country. Maille was called Kolchuga. In Russia they also used the coat of small plates under, or over a Kolchuga.

Anime breastplate
Baidana byrnie
Baidana haubergeon
Baidana hauberk
Bechteretz byrnie
Bechteretz byrnie and chausses
Bechteretz hauberk
Kalantar hauberk and chausses
Koryak armor
Maille hauberk with reinforcements or double hauberk
Wooden plates armor
Yusman haubergeon
Anime breast plate
Thin lames, like bands, riveted together to form a single breast plate.
Small plates on mail. The platelets were ringed on the maille.
Maille armor, but with flattened rings, providing more spring and less gaps.
Double maille
Maille hauberk, but with a wrap around section of maille that closes over the front, doubling maille protection on the front area.
Kalantar is a plate addition to maille, using strips of plate, like a lorica segmentata, but only covering lower back and abdomen.
Other types
Under influence of the Mongols and Tartars also their scale/ lamellar maille was used. Many of the tribesmen living on the plains descended from them, or were subjugated during the Khanates. They were assimilated first and later they became very much like their oppressors.
Reindeer skin hauberk, with rings of scales overlapping 1 side, then the other way around, alternating. The armor came with a leather neck guard, to protect from hurled missiles from friendlies.
Plate in maille. Small to medium sections of maille are replaced with integrated metal plates.
Wooden plates
Wooden planks on a leather backing.

Mediterranean armor

After the demise of the Roman Empire, the Mediterranean area largely conformed to the Western armor patterns, but the Greeks and the Romans used to come up with a variety of new armors, in their days. The ancient armors provided the basis for latter day armors and it is therefore they are mentioned here. The ancient armors had one thing in common. They were designed for maximum maneuverability and were as a result light and not providing full coverage.

Bezanted armor with greaves and brassards
Bezanted byrnie
Hoplite armor breastplate
Hoplite armor breastplate and greaves and bracers
Lorica hamata suit
Lorica plumata
Lorica segmentata
Mycenaean panoply
Scale byrnie, lorica squamata
Bezanted armor
Small 1" round plates sewn to backing of leather. A Bezant is a large coin.
Cuir bouilli
Also called kurbul. Leather boiled and stretched over wooden forms while boiling gets rigid and holds its shape.
Lorica segmentata
Roman armor. Laminar or banded armor. Strips of metal form horizontal bands covering the torso. Shoulder lames run vertically.
Lorica squamata
Roman name for scale armor. Small fish-like scales sewn to a soft backing.
Lorica Hamata
Linked ring armor, known as maille.
Hoplite armor
Breast plate, greaves, and bracers supplement the Hoplon. Quite effective armor.
Lorica plumata
Lorica hamata with small scales integrated to be on top.
Mycenaean Panoply
Bronze plate. Several lames of bronze plates, to form a surprisingly agile armor.

Middle Eastern / Indian armor

Due to the prevailing weather in these parts the armors developed here tended to be light and permitted cooling in order to prevent heat exhaustion. Maille was a favorite after the Romans brought it to the Middle East. Before that armor was considered something for the elite. The normal soldiers usually had just a shield for protection. Later helmets were added. Cavalry and charioteers wore leather and scale armor for protection. Indian soldiers mostly conformed to the Middle Eastern patterns.

Char aina on Haubergeon and chausses
Char aina on maille byrnie
Jazeraint byrnie
Jazeraint suit
Korazin byrnie
Korazin full suit
Korazin haubergeon and chausses
Lamellar byrnie
Lamellar haubergeon
Lamellar suit
Pot lid haubergeon and chausses
Scale armor suit
Char-aina (4 plates armor)
4 plates, front, back and 2 side panels, connected by hinges, worn mostly over maille.
Scale maille, without any overlap.
Maille with integrated plates.
Larger scales, overlapping, usually not on a backing material, but made in to a cohesive suit.
Plates on maille
Maille, augmented with platelets, scales, lames or lamellae. The extra material is used on the most vulnerable places to give added protection.
Pot lid
Aptly named after dustbin lids. Serves as a sort of breast protector, combined with maille.
Small scales on a backing material.

Oriental armor

In the East the soldiers were nothing more than slaves in the early ages. Evidence shows them wearing either padded or quilted fabric, or some form of Jezeraint armor. Helmets were probably rare, as were shields. Helmets were shown to be lamellar as well. Later they became solid pieces and widespread. Shields, however, were used sparingly, except in China. Later on, the lamellar construction stayed dominant, albeit improved from the basic design. Coats of plates, and laced lamellar armor were taken up by the Mongols on their conquests. Maille never was used much, until later centuries. Japanese used it in making greaves and sleeves and normal soldiers wore maille byrnies.

Oriental armor is made for mobility and easy production and never attained the same protection as the Western armor. It was very attractive to look at and metallurgic advances made it corrosion resistant and of course it was probably adequate against the weapons that were used. Another feature of Oriental armors was that it almost always featured just a breast plate (Do in Japanese). Sleeves (kote) and pauldrons (sode) and waist armor (haidate) and greaves (suneate) were added by wealthier, more important combatants. Such additions would be made from other armor materials as the main armor. Homogeneous suits are very rare. In essence any armor could be made from just a cuirass, in to a more complete armor. One should notice that the materials that were used for greaves and sleeves were usually very well adapted for that purpose.

Bark scale corselet
Baru sinali cord byrnie
Baru sinali cord suit
Beko tzusumi-do
Beko tzusumi-do and kote and suneate
Chujak byrnie
Chujak haubergeon
Hara ate-do
Hara ate-do and kote and suneate
Hatomune-do and kote and suneate
Horn and mail suit
Horn and maille byrnie
Hotoke-do, Nio-do
Hotoke-do, Nio-do and kote and suneate
Keiko byrnie
Keiko haubergeon
Kikko katabira
Kikko katabira and chausses
Kikko suit
Kusari katabira
Kusari katabira and chausses
Lolo corselet
Lolo corselet and sote and haidate
Lolo suit
Maru-do with kote and suneate
Mogami-do and greaves and brassards
Namban-do and kote and suneate
Nerikawa-do and kote and suneate
Okegawa-do and kote and suneate
Ring maille byrnie
Ring maille byrnie and greaves and brassards
Silk armor clothes
Silk armor vest
Tanko, laced
Tanko, riveted
Tatami suit
Tzusumi katabira
Willow leaf byrnie
Willow leaf haubergeon
Bark scale
Tough bark, sewn to a backing material.
Baru-sinali (cord armor)
Tough cords knotted like a fishnet with extra knots to provide more padding.
Beko tsuzumi (Tortoise shell)
Turtle shell armor, on a backing of maille.
Lamellar armor, worn by the Mongols, or successors.
Small disks sewn to a backing material. Looks like coins.
Lacquered scale armor.
Lacquered, kurbul scales. Ashigaru armor.
Lamellae, laced together to form bigger panels.
Horn and maille
Attempt to improve maille by integrating pieces of horn, or turtle shell.
Hotoke-do, Nio do
Breastplates made of steel, but formed like a smooth, or starving monk's belly.
Keikko is the name for Chinese lamellar style armor.
Small rectangular or hexagonal plates, sewn between 2 layers of material. No overlapping pieces.
Maille. Japanese mail was usually 4 in 1.
Imitation keiko, made of wooden or bamboo scales.
Maru do
Large lames, cut to look like smaller, older types.
Mogami do
Large bands of large lamellae, form a good armor.
Namban do
European armor as the basis for Japanese armor.
Nerikawa do
Compressed boiled leather, lacquered and formed.
Okegawa do
Riveted lames form a sturdy shell. Good Japanese armor.
O Yoroi
Could be made from any, fashionable armor. Covering is not optimal, but the best to be had in Japan.
Padded armor (bungakuodori)
Same as padded armor.
Rigid leather scale
Bark or boiled leather scale, lacquered for weather proofing.
Ring mail
Iron rings sewn or strapped to a pliable leather backing.
Silk armor
Many layers of silk stop weapons.
Tatami do
Folding armor made of korazin: maille with integrated plates.
Tanko, laced
Body armor of irregular lames laced together.
Tanko, riveted
Ancient Japanese armor, irregular lames riveted together.
Ting kia
Coat of plates, Chinese style.
Tzusumi do
Coat of plates Japanese style.
Willow leaf
Slender scales on a backing.

Pacific / Americas

In these regions the development of armor and weapons was hampered by a lack of metal working knowledge. All their weapons were made from natural materials, so their armors didn't have to provide all encompassing protection. They used any organic materials they had available that had a chance against the prevailing weapon materials: Wood, shark teeth, obsidian, flint, and animal bone. Although these cultures were distant, in location and time, from eachother, they never seemed to progress further than this primitive armor technology.

Cane and rattan cuirass
Cane and rattan haubergeon
Chuk chi wooden hoop armor
Cocoanut fiber jerkin
Cocoanut fiber suit
Ichcahuipilli and tlahuiztli
Knot armor
Rod and slat cuirass
Knot armor
String tied as a mesh, with lots of extra knots.
Cocoanut fibre
Cocoanut provides really tough armor material.
Animal hide is tough and easy to form.
Rod and slat armor
Slats and rods of tough wood sewn to a backing.
Cane and rattan armor
Rattan is tough and can be worked in to basket like armor.
Chukchi wooden hoop armor
Wooden hoops, spanned with tough leather hides provide protection versus slings and blunt weapons.
Padded leather byrnie. Protected well against South American weapons.
Ichcahuipilli and tlahuiztli
Padded leather vest with an animal skin crafted to suit a specific warrior type.