Armor

Copyright Chris Tozer © 2018

Edited by Terence Wynne for The Guild Companion

"Often a warrior will likely choose to wear one or more types of armor at once—in most historical references a combatant would typically wear up to three or more different types and designs of armor."

Some fundamental points regarding armor and armor terminology are listed below:

  1. It is assumed that with the heavier Armor Types (AT) such as chain and plate armor that some form of armoring jacket/doublet, gambeson, padded wool garments underneath it
    • In this game, unless specified otherwise, should a character take off for example, his chain hauberk, he will always have an arming doublet (AT3) underneath.
  2. Terminology is often very varied depending on author, commentator, or rule book; a slightly different interpretation is given and is often contradictory.
    • With some authors brigandine is the same as coat of plates. With others both are different, if similar, and distinct.
  3. Also, sometimes the differences between different armor construction are not always large;
    • Scale and lamellar armor both follow the same basic notion: numerous small pieces of overlapping leather or metal. The difference? In scale, the pieces are joined at their tops to a backing (usually soft leather) and hang loose at their bottoms, creating a strong yet flexible defense—in fact, scale is the best protection of all against blunt trauma, better even than plate.
    • In lamellar armor, the plates are fastened to one another, rather than to a backing. Lamellar’s directly-joined plates better retard stabbing: the main weakness of scale armor is that an upward thrust can pass beneath the scales. Later, brigandine—cloth or soft leather garments with small metal plates riveted to the inside of the fabric—emerged to contend in the evolving world of combat.
  4. Sometimes Armor falls under multiple types because the actual material that it is made from can vary
    • For example, brigandine armor can be made from leather or metal as with lamellar and scale armor.
  5. Often a warrior will likely choose to wear one or more types of armor at once—in most historical references a combatant would typically wear up to three or more different types and designs of armor.
    • For example, in the picture above several different designs and material are being used: red brigandine vest, leather gorget and metal Pauldrons and greaves.
  6. Some of the terminology used in this document is not fully historically accurate:
    • There is, by all accounts, no such thing as “chainmail” rather the original name was “mail” or “maille.” Chainmail, however is now more widely understood today than simply mail hence using the modern term
    • the same is true with phrases like “half plate” which does not appear to have been historically used, however again this phrase helps with modern readers who are already familiar with the term
  7. It is impossible to cover every type of armor ever conceived or even created and certainly no way to cover all of the different combinations of using different Armor Types available.
    • Should player a want his character to use a different combination of armor, either different materials, design or combination of armors, he should check with his Gamemaster (GM).
  8. Lastly and perhaps most critically, this is a game, and while with these rules there is a strong attempt to make them realistic, naturally in the spirit of a game/fun sometimes realism doesn’t always mesh with a role-playing game.

Armor Material

Historically, armor comes in many different styles and is made of many different materials, from coconut fiber to steel. Usually there are two factors that determine the type of armor that an individual of a given culture will have in his possession: materials and money. Some of the more common Armor Types are described below.

While Rolemaster attack tables only covers Leather, Chain and Plate armor, there are several other types of Armor that have been used all over the world. As with most other Armor, they are defined by both the materials used and design, which is the way these materials are put together.

All manner of different material may make up armor; perhaps most commonly metal, leather, and cloth would predominate, but also historically bone, horn and other sturdy substances were used.

Ultimately, in a fantasy Role Playing Game, armor materials and types are limited only by the GM and the players’ imaginations. Exotic armors can be created from the rare hides of magical creatures such as dragons or trolls and armor can be imbued with mystical properties.

In Combat Companion (p. 43–50) and the Art of Fighting there are listed some more exotic and fantastical materials used to create armor.

Armor Design

The groups may include armors that are quite different from one another cosmetically—one character may prefer one armor over another Armor, but the overall protectiveness of the armor is the same, so they fall within the same category.

The following descriptions below outline the main Armor Types used in this ruleset. As per the Rolemaster original core rules, all the armor listed below falls into one of six Rolemaster categories:

Cloth, Skin, Hide Armor Types
(AT1–AT4)
Soft Leather Armor Types
(AT5–AT8)
Rigid Leather Armor Types
(AT9–AT12)
Chain or Metal Scale Armor Types
(AT13–AT16)
Plate Metal Armor Types
(AT17 - AT20)
Modern Body Armor Types
(ATI–ATIV)

Each one, with the additional Armor Types, is listed below with more explanation of their base material, structure, and creation.

Cloth, Skin, Hide Armor Types

This category covers skin, normal clothing, the natural hides of animals, textile armor, and hide armor.

Textile Armor

Quilt Armor consists of two layers of cloth with cotton or some other soft material between them, while padded Armor consist of a heavy layer of felt.

Both types were normally used under most metal Armors to lessen the force of blows and to prevent chafing, but they can be used on their own. Recent studies have shown that they protect surprisingly well, but they are easily destroyed particularly by cutting and slashing weapons.

Quilt and Padded Armor only lasts one or two, or potentially slightly more, combats against cutting or slashing weapons, making them inconvenient for most adventures, unless the PCs have the skills or spells to repair them.

The development point cost for cloth Armor is half of that of soft leather.

  • Quilted Armor/Gambeson1: Simple armor constructed of two layers of heavy cloth with thick padding sewn in between. This long jacket is quilted together from dozens of layers of fabric, forming a flexible and surprisingly resilient protective garment that protects the body from bludgeoning attacks and even turns aside sword cuts and deflects arrows. It is widely favored for being easy to make and highly affordable compared to more protective armors. It can, however, get uncomfortably hot in unfavorable weather or the heat of battle.
    • Other Names: Gambeson, Padded Jack; Aztec - Ichcahuipilli; Sudan - Jibbah
    • Most Often Used In: Cuisses, leggings
    • Pros: Relatively cheap and easy to work with. Light and mobile. Quiet.
    • Cons: Does not always protect especially well and only viable for a few combats, but more than the lighter Arming coat, before repairs (stitching, resewing, re-padding) would need to be made. Can also get very hot for the wearer very quickly. Likely to start to get very heavy when waterlogged/saturated, with potential a penalty to maneuvering.
  • Padded Cloth/Arming Coat2: Usually an arming coat of heavy cloth and some padding. Much lighter than quilted armor and intended to be worn under heavier armor such as chain mail and plate to serve as added protection against blows and protect the body from chafing and pinching. Most types of armor cannot be worn without an arming doublet or some similar garment underneath. Arming doublets for plate and full plate have reinforced ‘arming points’ where the plates are tied or strapped to the doublet, forming the understructure that keeps the armor together and its wearer moving freely. All types of armor except leather, padded, woven, and hide come with an arming doublet included. The cost, weight, and protective qualities of the arming doublets are already factored into each type of armor - they are presented here for the benefit of the character whose armor is destroyed, or who only has time to don his arming doublet before battle. Masterwork armor comes with a masterwork arming doublet. Wearing a masterwork arming doublet under non-masterwork armor has no mechanical effect, although it is noticeably more comfortable.
    • Other Names: Aketon, Arming Coat, Pourpoint; Norse - Vápntreyja
    • Most Often Used In: Cuisses, leggings
    • Pros: Relatively cheap and easy to work with. Light and mobile. Quiet.
    • Cons: Does not always protect especially well and only viable for a few combats, less than the heavier/stronger gambeson, before repairs (stitching, resewing, re-padding) would need to be made. Can also get very hot for the wearer very quickly. Likely to start to get heavy when waterlogged/saturated, with potential a penalty to maneuvering.
  • Hide Armor: At the bottom of the food chain is untanned hide armor; typically uncured, rough (and most likely smelly) hide armor. The most primitive form of armor. This rudimentary armor is usually less treated and refined than normal leather armor. Its appearance and functionality vary widely depending on how it is made and what beast the hide was taken from. Sometimes, especially with hide armors constructed in cold environments, the fur is even left on. Hide armor is the easiest armor to make, considering all it takes is the hunting and skinning of an animal. But hide armor has many flaws … one being that it often stinks horribly. This stench was said to be so pungent that it could give away a group’s location before they were even spotted. Hide typically does not last long, either. While it does offer an advantage in mobility, and may be effective against animals, hide is near useless against weaponry; regardless, given the right opportunity, hide will save your characters’… erm… hides.
    • Most Often Used In: Cuisses, leggings, greaves
    • Pros: Relatively cheap and easy to work with. Easily decorated. Light and mobile. Quiet.
    • Cons: May smell bad. Does not protect especially well particularly against hardened steel. Susceptible to damage by weather and age (i.e., warping, cracking)

Soft Leather Armor Types

This category covers leather vests, leggings, coats (full & half) and reinforced soft leather armor. Generally heavy outer garments normally worn as weather protection by certain civilians and as combat protection by some militia and irregulars.

An evolution from hide, leather is far more durable and effective. Leather armor was one of the most widespread and most used types of armor. Aside from being cheap to make, it also provides some slashing and bludgeoning defense while offering great mobility.

Soft leather armor is a good choice for the nimbler sort of combatant, one who wouldn’t necessarily be in the middle of a melee and particularly wants to be unheard.

  • Soft Leather3: Usually made from cured animal hide. This type of armor is a common undercoat for heavier armors such as chain mail or banded armor or used as wet/cold weather protection for military and civilians.
    • Other Names: Jerkin, leather tunic
    • Most Often Used In: Vest/cuisses, leggings.
    • Pros: Light and mobile. Keeps the character dry and warm in wet weather. Soft leather is also cheap and readily available in any pre-industrial society. It's comfortable to wear and may be just right or too hot depending on the weather. Cowhide is not the best available. Horsehide is stronger, so are buffalo, rhino, and elephant.
    • Cons: Often does not protect especially well against a strong attack. Susceptible to damage by weather and age (i.e., warping, cracking). Its biggest surprising drawback is that it's noisy: leather creaks, though soft/supple leather less so than other types of leather.
  • Reinforced Soft Leather: Reinforced leather with either rigid-leather sections or metal sections sewn in for reinforcement that covers to the lower leg.
    • Most Often Used In: Vest/cuisses, leggings, braces.
    • Pros: Relatively cheap and easy to work with. Easily decorated. Light and mobile.
    • Cons: Only good for certain pieces of armor. Does not protect especially well. Susceptible to damage by weather and age (i.e., warping, cracking). Its biggest surprising drawback is that it's noisy: leather creaks and squeaks.

Rigid Leather Armor Types

This category covers rigid leather, leather scale, leather lamellar armor made from rigid leather (or Horn), reinforced leather armor, ring armor, leather brigandine and the rigid natural hide covering of creatures like certain reptiles and fantastic creatures like Dragons, Trolls, and Giants.

Leather was a cheap and relatively accessible material to obtain during the Middle Ages. Most purely leather armor would have been worn early in the Middle Ages, although leather continued to see use as a foundational material for other types of armor even into the Late Middle Ages.

Leather can be hardened and shaped into various forms during the tanning process. Some hardened leathers can contend with plate and mail.

Leather has its disadvantages as well; leather, like hide, is organic. It doesn’t survive the decay of time; leather also offers limited penetration protection. Even boiled leather won’t reliably stop arrows, hefty battle-axe swings, or sword lunges. Leather is for the nimbler sort of combatant, one who wouldn’t necessarily be in the middle of a melee.

There has been much debate concerning a type of armor called cuir boilli4, which is leather armor boiled in wax until reaching a tough, wood-like consistency. This material holds up well under bludgeoning strikes but can actually be easier to cut through with a sharpened blade than softer leather that has not been treated with wax.

  • Rigid Leather/Hardended Lacquered Leather: This is rigid leather that has been hardened by boiling or lacquering. It is very hard and provides good protection. It is often called “a poor man’s plate” armor. By boiling leather and treating it with other substances, tanners and armorers could turn it into the next cheapest form of armor—hardened leather, or Cuir bouilli. The thickness, toughness, and general effectiveness of this armor varied with the leather and the skill of the person treating it. The shape of cuir bouilli armor was usually similar to pieces of plate armor. A soldier might have arm or leg guards made from leather, or a plate protecting his chest. Pieces might be added to other armor, such as a quilted jacket or suit of chainmail, to add extra protection. By the fourteenth century, many English infantrymen wore a few mismatched pieces of Cuir bouilli or metal armor that they had inherited or acquired
    • Other Names: "Molded leather" or "Hardened leather"
    • Most Often Used In: Bracers, cuisses, greaves
    • Pros: Relatively cheap and easy to work with. Easily decorated. Light and mobile.
    • Cons: Only good for certain pieces of armor. Moderately loud with creaks and squeaks.
  • Leather Scale Armor5: Leather scale armor consists of leather pieces shaped into triangles, squares, or circles and then woven together with leather strapping or attached to a flexible cloth or leather undercoat. This provides a good balance of flexibility and protective coverage, but less so than more advanced armors like lamellar or mail.
    • Other Names: Japanese - Gyorin Kozane, Kawara
    • Most Often Used In: Cuirass, bracers, greaves, tassets.
    • Pros: Protects well against slashes and mildly well against crushes. Medium weight. Not terribly difficult to make with basic leather and metalworking skills.
    • Cons: Distribution of weight is generally in one place, making the armor seem heavier. Difficult to maintain in case of damage. Only useful for certain pieces of armor. Moderately loud.
  • Ring Armor6: Ring armor is a leather or textile item of clothing (a jacket, or trousers) with a large number of metal rings (usually steel or iron) sewn or tied directly into the foundation garment. Unlike mail armor, the rings are not physically interlocked with each other. This provides slightly more protection than just leather. It is sometimes called ringmail or ring mail.
    • Other Names: Ring Mail
    • Most Often Used In: Bracers and cuirass.
    • Pros: Still fairly cheap, and easy to make with basic leatherworking skills. Light and mobile, and better protection than plain leather. Moderately quiet.
    • Cons: Still only useful for certain pieces of armor. Not very good against percussive or crushing blows.
  • Leather Lamellar Armor7: Lamellar consists of small hardened leather rectangular plates called lames or lamellae, attached to each other with lacing. More advanced than scale armor, lamellar is heavier, overlaps more efficiently, is less vulnerable to thrusts, and is not necessarily attached to any backing material. Instead of lacing directly to a leather backing, the scales in lamellar armor usually lace to each other. Also, their alignment is usually bottom-to-top patterning in rows instead of scale armors top-to-bottom pattern. It is superior to scale in every way, superior to chain Armor against bludgeoning weapons and thrusts, but heavier and more susceptible to battle damage from cuts. When the lames are made of leather they would often be hardened by a process such as cuir bouilli (boiled in oil to make the leather hard) or lacquering. Lamellar armor is sometimes constructed with lamellae of bone or horn. Should a player want to armor his character with “Leather Banded Armor” Leather Lamellar statistics can be use.
    • Other Names: Chinese - Pixiongjia; Japanese - Nerigawa Hon Kozane
    • Most Often Used In: Cuirass, bracers, cuisses, greaves.
    • Pros: Excellent defense against cuts and thrusts. Decent protection from crushes.
    • Cons: Moderately heavy. Loud. Difficult to make. Not widely commercially available. Hot.
  • Leather Brigandine Armor8: Leather Brigandine, or a Coat of Plates, is made of small hardened leather plates sandwiched between layers of leather or canvas and riveted in place. It was a popular defense on its own for less wealthy soldiers and as a second layer over mail for richer knights. The most primitive (and heavy) brigandines are made of large rectangular plates, but more skillfully crafted ones combine largish plates several square-inches in size with much smaller lames shaped and positioned for maximum flexibility and protective coverage. Brigandine’s popularity derives as much from its level of protection as from its affordability relative to plate armor - it is much cheaper to make a breastplate out of dozens or hundreds of small plates of metal than out of one large sheet of metal shaped to the wearer. This armor is either worn over a padded arming doublet or has a padded doublet integrated into it.
    • Other Names: Coat of plates; Chinese - Dinjia; Indian - Chihal'ta Hazar masha (coat of ten-thousand nails); Japanese - Kikko; Mongolian - Hatangu Degel; Russian - Kuyak
    • Most Often Used In: Cuirass, cuisses, gorget.
    • Pros: Protects well against slashes and moderately against crushes. Medium weight, but fairly evenly distributed. Not terribly difficult to make with basic leather and metalworking skills. Easily commercially available.
    • Cons: Moderately expensive. Only good for defending relatively large areas. Not especially useful for arms or shins. Does not breathe very well. Can be moderately loud.

Chain or Metal Scale Armor Types

This category covers Chainmail, Full Chainmail/Chainmail Hauberk, Barmail, Metal Scalemail, Metal Splint Armor, Platemail Armor, and the Natural Hide covering of fantastic creatures like Dragons, Drakes, or Golems.

Chainmail, or simply, mail, the predecessor to plate. Chainmail consists of small, interlocked metallic rings, creating a flexible, durable sheet of protection.

While expensive and tedious to craft, chainmail offers superb slashing defense as well as decent piercing protection—enough to stop normal arrows, though perhaps not enough to make charging headlong through a volley appealing.

Mail combines minimal limits on range of motion with a phenomenal amount of protection, as long as it is employed properly. Mail has major issues with weight distribution: much of the weight falls upon the shoulders, though a belt can take up some of the weight. An average suit of mail weighs in at around 40 to 50 pounds, similar to plate armor. Having this weight pressing on your shoulders day in and day out, battle and skirmish and ambush, can be tremendously fatiguing. And if you’re not wearing an arming coat underneath, the chafing can be horrendous.

Chainmail has other weaknesses as well, particularly against bludgeoning force, especially to the joints. While chainmail provides some bludgeoning resistance for the torso due to the need of any such blow to “pick up” the armor draping below the point of impact, a powerful enough swing from any weapon can still break bones. Piercing attacks—specially-designed arrows, crossbow bolts, and lances—can break links and penetrate if they are forceful enough.

Typically, it comes in the form of a hauberk or byrnie - a long tunic covering the torso and upper arms and extending down to the knees, often split down the middle to allow the wearer to ride a horse. A shorter shirt of mail is referred to as a haubergeon. A hood of mail - called a coif - protects the head and neck, though a mail collar hanging from a plate helmet is called an aventail or a camail, and mail face protection is called a ventail. Mail armor for the legs is called chausses. Mail armor for the hands typically takes the form of a mitten, but the palm is always of leather or cloth to aid in gripping the weapon.

A "byrnie" is a waist-length mail shirt; a "haubergon" reaches down to mid-thigh and a "hauberk" down to the knees.

It is assumed that people that those wearing metal Armor have quilted or padded Armor under it, so there is no need to add this to maneuver penalties.

  • Chainmail9: Probably one of the most common armors found. It is composed of small metal rings that are “woven” together in a pattern. Mail is made of tens of thousands of interlocking, riveted metal rings, resulting in a supremely flexible and resilient armor. While mail is quite heavy, the main drawback of the armor is not so much its weight as how it is distributed; the whole armor hangs off the shoulders and - if belted - the waist. Masterwork mail might reject the heavy hauberk for a more form-fitting suit of mail tailored to the body of the wearer, perhaps even including glove-like hand protection with individual fingers. Some advanced suits of mail may include metal plates to protect the knees, elbows, and shoulders. This armor has extreme flexibility and allows a wearer to move or bend in any direction, however, it can be very heavy and expensive to construct. One advantage of chain mail is it allows a wearer to protect vital areas that rigid materials such as leather and plate cannot, such as an armpit or behind a knee. Typically, each ring is connected to four other rings. Sometimes the rings are riveted closed during the weaving process allowing it to sustain more damage.
    • Other Names: Maille, Mail Armor, Mail, Japanese - Kusari; Persian - Zereh
    • Most Often Used In: Hauberk, gauntlets, chausses, coif.
    • Pros: Flexible. Simple to make. Offers good protection against cuts. Not hot to wear if worn with much underneath. Easy to transport (compared to plate armor).
    • Cons: Moderately heavy, and bad distribution of weight. Relatively poor defense against thrusts and crushes. Loud. Moderately expensive. Very hot (if worn with an arming shirt/padded armor).
  • Reinforced Mail; Bar Mail: Very similar to chain mail, except every other row is comprised of a heavier ring made with a bar through its center. This provides added protection resulting in less chance of the mail being split or pierced. Theta or bar link mail the links resemble the Greek character "theta" Θ hence the name
    • Other Names: Bar Link, Theta Chainmail
    • Most Often Used In: Hauberk, gauntlets, chausses, coif. Easy to transport (compared to plate armor). Not hot to wear if worn with much underneath.
    • Pros: Flexible. Relatively simple to make. Offers good protection against cuts.
    • Cons: Heavier than normal mail. Loud. More expensive than normal chainmail. Very hot (if worn with an arming shirt/padded armor).
  • Metal Splint Armor: Somewhat similar to lamellar armor, splinted Armor consists of long narrow strips (or splints) riveted onto to a leather backing. While it gives protection and is fairly light and quiet, it's also inflexible and splinted Armor was used almost exclusively for greaves and leggings to be worn with other armors, usually lamellar armor, especially since splinted Armor is even easier to make and maintain than lamellar armor. In the few cases where splinted Armor is used for a whole suit, it counts as scale armor in terms of Rolemaster rules. Limb armor consisting of strips of metal ("splints") are attached to a fabric (cloth or leather) backing ("foundation"). The splints are narrow metal strips arranged longitudinally, pierced for riveting or sewing to the foundation. Splint armor is most commonly found as greaves or vambraces. Splinted armor is another leather/plate hybrid. In this case, the leather is only used as a backing as opposed to being constructed in a sandwich manner. Plates are long narrow strips (or splints) riveted onto to the leather backing so that they are exposed. This type of armor predates either of the other leather/plate hybrids and saw use in the Early Middle Ages and partially in the High Middle Ages. While a few complete suits of armor have been found made from splints of wood, leather, or bone, the Victorian neologism "splinted mail" usually refers to the limb protections of crusader knights. Depictions typically show it on the limbs of a person wearing mail (armor), scale armor, a coat of plates, or other plate harness.
    • Most Often Used In: Bracers, Greaves, Vambraces
    • Pros: Cheap and easy to make. Offers good protection again cuts and mild protection against crushes. Fairly light. Quiet.
    • Cons: Not useful for protecting large areas (torso, thighs).
  • Metal Scale Armor10: Scale armor or jazeraint is the oldest known type of metal body armor. It is normally made of small, thin plates of iron, bronze, or brass laced, sewn, or riveted onto a cloth or (more rarely) a leather backing. Scales are staggered from one row to the next to increase the strength of the armor. Scale armor offers better protection from blunt attacks than chain. It is also cheaper to produce, but it isn't as flexible and doesn't offer the same amount of coverage. Forms other than brigandine and coat of plates were uncommon in medieval Europe, but scale and lamellar remained popular elsewhere, especially in the east. The Roman Army also made use of scale armor, called lorica squamata. It is typically seen on depictions of standard bearers, musicians, centurions, cavalry troops, and even auxiliary infantry, but could be worn by regular legionaries as well. A shirt of scale armor was shaped in the same way as a chain armor shirt or lorica hamata (Roman chain armor), mid-thigh length with the shoulder doublings, equal to AT 13 in Rolemaster. Leather or metal scale armor consists of leather pieces shaped into triangles, squares, or circles and then woven together with leather strapping or attached to a leather undercoat. Scale armor is very flexible. The pieces are then interlocked and riveted to a cloth or leather backing. It effectively covers the torso, the shoulders, and the thighs while remaining comfortable and flexible enough to allow movement.
    • Other Names: Jazeraint
    • Most Often Used In: Cuirass, bracers, greaves, tassets.
    • Pros: Protects well against slashes and mildly well against crushes. Medium weight. Not terribly difficult to make with basic leather and metalworking skills. Very flexible.
    • Cons: Distribution of weight is generally in one place, making the armor seem heavier. Difficult to maintain in case of damage. Only useful for certain pieces of armor. Relatively easy to pierce if attached from below with a puncturing strike. Very loud.
  • Chainmail Hauberk11: Made out of interlinked rings of metal, producing it was a time consuming and laborious task. Flexible enough to allow movement, it helped to spread the impact of blunt force attacks and could block slashing or stabbing blows. A chainmail hauberk, as worn by the Norman knights in the Bayeux Tapestry, was a classic example of this. It covered the whole torso, descending from there into a split skirt that protected the upper legs. Wide sleeves gave freedom of movement and protection for the arms. It often included a coif—a chainmail hood—and was accompanied by a solid metal helmet to give the head added protection. Chainmail was the armor that first marked out the aristocratic elite. Their wealth gave them access to better protection, making them vastly more likely than their followers to survive on the battlefield, as well as visually reinforcing their status as a group apart from common men. Mail is made of tens of thousands of interlocking, riveted metal rings, resulting in a supremely flexible and resilient armor. While mail is quite heavy, the main drawback of the armor is not so much its weight as how it is distributed; the whole armor hangs off the shoulders and - if belted - the waist. Masterwork mail might reject the heavy hauberk for a more form-fitting suit of mail tailored to the body of the wearer, perhaps even including glove-like hand protection with individual fingers. Some advanced suits of mail may include metal plates to protect the knees, elbows, and shoulders. This armor is worn over a padded arming jacket.
    • Other Names: Roman - Lorica Hamata
    • Most Often Used In: Hauberk, gauntlets, chausses, coif.
    • Pros: Flexible. Simple to make. Offers good protection against cuts. Not hot to wear if worn with much underneath. Easy to transport (compared to plate armor).
    • Cons: Moderately heavy, and poor distribution of weight. Average to poor defense against thrusts and crushes. Loud. Moderately expensive. Very hot (if worn with an arming shirt/padded armor).
  • Reinforced Mail & Plate Mail12: In the 13th century, additions started to be made to chainmail in Western Europe. Pieces of plate metal, or sometimes boiled leather, were attached to the chainmail, reducing the chances of a blade or point penetrating the armor by forcing a gap in the rings. Essentially a combination of light mail and lamellar, plate mail armor retains the flexibility of light mail with the added protection of overlapping steel plates. It consists of a close-fitting suit of light mail with lamellae of steel incorporated directly into the structure of the armor wherever it wouldn’t impair movement. Early reinforcements were often on the knees and elbows. Joints were particularly vulnerable to attack, and damage to them could be crippling in both the short and long term. Over time, shin and arm guards were added, as well as plates on the body. Increasingly sophisticated metalwork led to articulated gauntlets protecting hands and wrists. Within the aristocracy, the availability of increasingly expensive but protective and prestigious armor helped to reinforce the varying social status of nobles, with the wealthiest wearing growing amounts of metal plate. Simpler examples of mail-and-plate armor may just have four plates fastened over the lower torso with additional plates over the forearms and shins - a style known as ‘mirrored armor’. Masterwork suits of mail-and-plate tend to have more plates than rings.
    • Other Names: Plated mail, Mail and Plate; Japanese - Karuta, Tatami; Korean - Gyeongbeongap; The Philippines - Baju Lamina; Persian - Zereh Bagtar; Russian - Behterets, Kalantar, Yushman; Turkish - Zirh Gomlek
    • Most Often Used In: Hauberk, gauntlets, chausses, coif.
    • Pros: Flexible. Simple to make. Offers good protection against cuts.
    • Cons: Moderately heavy, and bad distribution of weight. Average to poor defense against thrusts and crushes. Loud. Moderately expensive. Very hot (if worn with an arming shirt/padded armor).

Plate Metal Armor Types

This category covers Metal Brigandine, Full Plate, Half Plate, Jack of Plates, Metal Lamellar13, Metal Banded Armor, and the Natural Hide covering of fantastic creatures like Dragons, Demons, or Golems.

The oldest piece of plate armor is the breastplate, which has been used by various cultures throughout history. The ancient Greek and Roman armies both used breastplates with or without shoulder- and leg-protection (Armor Type 17 and 18), but in medieval times (around the 13th century) they placed the steel breastplate over chain armor.

As development moved on, more pieces of plate were added. During the next hundred years, the arms and legs were gradually incased in metal plates until almost the whole body was covered with plate secured over chain armor (Armor Type 19).

However, in the 14th century suits made entirely out of plates started to emerge (Armor Type 20) and during the 15th century these suits became better and better until the best of them were masterpieces of workmanship. What made these armors obsolete was the introduction of firearms into warfare. Though firearms were used in Europe during the 14th and 15th century, they were unreliable and misfired frequently. With the invention of reliable guns, such as the matchlock gun around 1500 and later the flintlock gun, common soldiers had a weapon that could defeat a knight in full plate armor. It might have been the end of suits of armor, but it wasn't the end of plate armor. Soldiers, and especially officers, wore breastplates for several hundred years after that.

As with European swords there are many misunderstandings about full plate armor (Armor Type 20 in Rolemaster). In most movies, knights in full plate armor are slow and clumsy and need help to get onto their horses or on their feet if they fall. That is not the truth.

A suit of plate armor had an average weight of 55 to 66 pounds and, while that sounds like a lot, it is less than the weight of modern combat gear of an infantry soldier, and the weight is better distributed. The weight was so well spread over the body that a fit man could run, or jump into his saddle. This doesn't mean that suits of armor were comfortable to wear, but that the main cause of discomfort did not come from the weight of the armor, rather from the fact that the armor restricted breathing and the ability to ventilate body heat.

Adding a helmet that limits vision and hearing does not help with the comfort either. What it does mean is that a warrior in full plate armor is a formidable and surprisingly maneuverable opponent that only a fool would underestimate.

Often associated with the “knight in shining armor,” plate armor is the strongest type of armor that was worn in the Middle Ages. It was formed of iron or steel plates that fit together by a system of rivets and straps. It could be simple nearly to the point of crude, or ornate to the point of florid. It was sometimes painted in order to keep rust from forming. Nearly all helmets were made of plate.

As with “scale mail” the term “plate mail” has appeared in role-playing games and has worked its way into the popular lexicon of medieval fantasy enthusiasts. However, the proper term is simply “plate armor.”

It is assumed that people that wear metal Armor have a quilt or padded Armor under it, so there is no need to add this to maneuver penalties.

  • Metal Brigandine14: Leather or heavy cloth with interlocking metal plates riveted or sandwiched between its layers. The plates give protection against crushing and slashing blows and helped reinforce the leather. Because of the way it is made, brigandine was much cheaper than plate armor, simple enough in design for a soldier to make and repair his own Armor without needing the high skill of an armorer. It is also easily concealed under normal clothes. Brigandine is fairly flexible, easy to wear and is very good at absorbing blunt impact, but because of its construction it is easily destroyed particularly by cutting and slashing weapons. Another weakness of brigandine Armor is that it typically doesn't cover the sides or the upper thighs, leaving those areas unprotected from attack. However, depictions of brigandine Armor with sleeves are known. The small Armor plates were sometimes riveted between two layers of stout cloth, or just to an outer layer. Unlike Armor for the torso made from large plates, the brigandine was flexible, with a degree of movement between each of the overlapping plates. Many brigandines appear to have had larger, somewhat 'L-shaped' plates over the central chest area. The rivets, or nails, attaching the plates to the fabric were often decorated, being gilt, or of latten, and sometimes embossed with a design. The rivets were also often grouped to produce a repeating decorative pattern. In more expensive brigandines, the outer layer of cloth was usually of velvet. The contrast between a richly dyed velvet cloth and gilded rivet heads must have been impressive and, unsurprisingly, such Armor was popular with high status individuals. It was a popular defense on its own for less wealthy soldiers and as a second layer over mail for richer knights.
    • Other Names: Brigantine, Coat of plates15, Chinese - Dinjia; Indian - Chihal'ta Hazar masha (coat of ten-thousand nails); Japanese - Kikko; Mongolian - Hatangu Degel; Russian - Kuyak
    • Most Often Used In: Cuirass, cuisses, gorget.
    • Pros: Protects well against slashes and moderately against crushes. Medium weight, but fairly evenly distributed. Not terribly difficult to make with basic leather and metalworking skills.
    • Cons: Moderately expensive. Only good for defending relatively large areas. Not especially useful for arms or shins. Does not breathe very well. Can be moderately loud.
  • Plate 16: Interlocking pieces of metal armor designed to cover as much of the body as possible. With full plate, almost every part of the body was covered in carefully shaped and jointed sheets of metal. The helmet, once a separate piece worn with chainmail, was now part of the whole, and regularly covered the entire head including the face. The joints are covered by articulated pieces of metal. Usually custom designed for a specific individual. Probably the best armor money can buy, but expensive and heavy to use. The oldest piece of plate Armor is the breastplate, which has been used by various cultures throughout history. It usually consisted of two pieces, a front and a back, fastened together at the wearer’s sides and shoulders. Worn over chainmail, it provided a solid shell that could be pierced by very few weapons and that spread the force of a blow, reducing the chance of a severe impact on any part of the torso. Possibly developed at first for tournament fighting, the breastplate soon gained a place as a common piece of battlefield armor among the wealthy. Some plate armor intended exclusively for jousting is heavier, weighing in at as much as 90 pounds, with some pieces several millimeters thick; this armor would never be worn in the field. Of course, a medieval warrior had to have quite the purse to buy a suit of plate, for every piece had to be custom built and fitted to the warrior for maximum protection. Plate isn’t invincible—no armor is—and neither were the knights who wore it. Knights still died from arrows and blunt trauma, while weapons such as the halberd were designed specifically to be effective against plate. Anything that could exploit and take advantage of areas left exposed by the joints in the armor was a significant threat. Despite all this, plate armor proved to be a walking fortress on the medieval battlefield. With so many separate pieces of plate mail armor in action, it was a small step to reach full plate. This is the armor in which knights are most often shown in modern popular culture, the all-enshrouding suit that hid the wearer’s face and transformed the shape of his body, turning him into a figure at once both more and less than human. Be aware that advanced full plate is made on demand and typically takes about 180 days (six months) to make. Typically, only nobles had such armors because they were very expensive (600 silver) and because the few armor smiths who could make such armors usually did not work for anybody other than the nobility. Heavy hand weapons and narrow waxed arrow heads were developed to penetrate this armor, yet even against these it often remained invulnerable. Infantrymen generally would have to knock a knight down and work a blade through the joints in the armor if they were to have any realistic chance of penetrating it. As at Agincourt, a huge flurry of attacks could shake the wearer but seldom drew blood.
    • Most Often Used In: Everything. Especially helmets.
    • Pros: Excellent protection against everything. Good distribution of weight, even though it is heavy.
    • Cons: Very hot. Unbelievably Loud. Expensive. Heavy, even with good distribution of weight. Poorly fitted plate armor can be difficult to move in. Difficult to make without advanced knowledge of metalworking.
  • Half Plate17: Plate and chain mail worn together in combination. This highly protective armor consists of large, shaped plates of steel that cover most of the body, with mail filling in the gaps. Typically, it includes a breastplate and backplate to protect the torso, vambraces and bracers for the arms, cuisses and greaves for the legs, and articulated gauntlets and sabatons for the hands and feet. The most basic gauntlet is shaped like a mitten, providing coverage to the back of the hand but allowing only the thumb to move independently; a masterwork suit of plate might have fully articulated gauntlets to allow all the fingers their full range of motion. The neck might be protected by a plate gorget or a mail aventail. The mail that covers the gaps between plates is integrated into the padded arming doublet to which the plates are strapped. Solid steel plates provide more protection than mail, and a system of straps distributes the armor’s weight more evenly across the body, making it less cumbersome as well. Its burnished steel surfaces are also quite pleasing to the eye and offer areas for decoration and embellishment, adding to the armor’s appeal as a status symbol. Skilled armorers are required for the construction of a suit of plate armor, which must be fitted to the wearer and angled to deflect blows away from vital areas.
    • Most Often Used In: Everything. Especially helmets.
    • Pros: Extremely good protection against almost everything. Good distribution of weight, even though it is heavy.
    • Cons: Hot. Unbelievably Loud. Expensive. Heavy, even with good distribution of weight. Poorly fitted plate armor can be difficult to move in. Difficult to make without advanced knowledge of metalworking.
  • Banded or Laminated Armor18: Banded or laminated Armor consists of metal strip or bands that are overlapping and fastened on the inside with leather strips. While this may sound a lot like lamellar Armor, there is a huge difference: banded Armor is always made of articulated metal strips. This heavy armor is made up of solid overlapping bands of metal (called lames) fastened together with internal leather straps. This construction grants greater flexibility than a solid breastplate would, at the expense of structural integrity. It is worn over a thick leather tunic or an arming doublet. Many types of banded armor are designed to be broken down for ease of storage and transport. The effectiveness of banded Armor is very close to that of lamellar armor.
    • Other Names: laminar, segmental armor; Japanese - kiritsuke iyozane, munemenui di Roman - lorica laminata, lorica segmentata
    • Cons: Cuirass, cuisses, gorget.
    • Pros: Protects well against slashes, punctures and moderately against crushes. Medium—heavy weight, but fairly evenly distributed.
    • Cons: Moderately expensive. Only good for defending relatively large areas. Not especially useful for arms or shins. Does not breathe very well. Pretty loud.
  • Jack of Plate19: A jack or jack of plate is a type of armor made up of small iron plates sewn between layers of felt and canvas. They were commonly referred to simply as a "jack" (although this could also refer to any outer garment). The jack is very similar to the brigandine. The main difference is in the method of construction: a brigandine is riveted whereas a jack is sewn. Jacks of plate were created by stitching small overlapping squares of iron in between two canvases. The garments weighed about 17 pounds, which made them much more pleasing to wear than solid breastplates. They allowed soldiers with weapons to rest the butts of the weapons firmly against their shoulders, which wasn't feasible with smooth surface plate armors.
    • Most Often Used In: Cuirass, vests
    • Pros: Protects well against slashes and moderately against crushes and punctures. Medium weight, but fairly evenly distributed. Not terribly difficult to make with basic leather and metalworking skills.
    • Cons: Moderately expensive. Only good for defending relatively large areas. Not especially useful for arms or shins. Does not breathe very well. Can be moderately loud.

Modern Body Armor Types

This category covers Soft Ballistic Vests, Flak Vests, and Reinforced Flak Armor:

  • Soft Ballistics Vest/Flack Vest (ATI)
  • Extended Flak Vest: (ATII)
  • Reinforced Flak Vest: (ATIII)
  • Reinforced Flak Armor: (ATIV)

These are modern body armor which would be found today used by police, SWAT units and regular and specialist trained combat units.

Typically, these types of armor use layers of woven or laminated fibers, ceramic plates, metal plates or Kevlar to protect, or at least lessen the injury a wearer, from weapons such as handguns, grenade explosions and some automatic fire.

The reality about bulletproof vests is that they are not bulletproof, they’re actually bullet resistant. The reality is that bullet resistant vests don’t protect the wearer from every threat.

Nothing is bulletproof, not even a manhole cover. In extremely minute percentage of cases, a bullet can pierce a vest that has been rated to stop them.

Historical Notes

  1. Padded armor, due to its simplicity, affordability, and surprising effectiveness, is an armor found across a wide span of time and geography. In Europe, it was probably worn since ancient times, and definitely since the High Middle Ages - the era of the arming doublet. Its use as infantry armor continued into the 17th century. In the kingdoms of sub-Saharan Africa, padded armor was commonly worn by warriors and their horses well into the 19th century. Native Americans wore quilted armor as well, sometimes stuffed with sand and with more sand and pebbles glued to the outside. Padded armor called ichcahuipilli was the main armor of Aztec warriors. This armor can also be used to represent the stiff linen armor common to the ancient Mediterranean, notably worn by Greek hoplites and Alexandrian infantry, although the layers of linen armor were possibly glued rather than quilted together. The Greek Hoplites and the early Romans used a linen cuirass (torso protection) known as a linothorax or 'stiff shirt' that consisted of many layers of linen glued together. It was very lightweight compared to the bronze breastplate that was the alternative, and it was also a lot cheaper and gave good protection against the bronze or iron weapons used at that time. However, as steel weapons that could cut through the linen cuirass became more widespread, the linen cuirasses were replaced with more efficient armor.
  2. All cultures that have used armor heavier than leather have developed some type of arming garment, usually in the form of a coat of padded cloth.
  3. While cuir bouilli makes a fine material for crafting armor, regular unboiled leather makes for an acceptable if inferior substitute. Garments of thin hide have been used as armor across many cultures, often simply because their clothes were already made out of leather and wearing clothes into battle is generally considered to be better than wearing nothing at all (unless you are a Celt).
  4. Plates of cuir bouilli were common in the High Middle Ages during the time when knights were transitioning from mail to plate. Leather plate was a cheaper and lighter alternative to steel plate and, although it didn’t provide the same level of protection, it could still reliably turn aside a sword cut or lance blow. I don’t know of any specific find, description, or illustration of a complete suit of leather plate, but it is not hard to imagine its existence in a fantasy world. Cuir bouilli remained a supplement to plate armor well into the heyday of full plate; the Emperor Maximilian I (b.1459 - d.1519), that noted jousting enthusiast, had a suit of tournament armor with a large molded piece of cuir bouilli that completely covered his left arm, torso, and neck.
  5. Leather scale was presumably the precursor to leather lamellar, just as metal scale armor gave way to metal lamellar armor in the Near East and Central Asia. As with all leather armors, there are few surviving examples. We know that the Japanese had employed leather scale armor called kawara. An 18th century source attests to the construction and use of rawhide leather scale barding armor by the Apache or Comanche.
  6. However, there is no direct evidence of ring-armor being worn at any point in history in Europe (although there have been finds of Asian ring-armor). European iconographic evidence seems to suggest the existence of such defenses, however. This type of armor might have been worn in the Early and High Middle Ages and may even have seen use by poorer soldiers in the Late Middle Ages. The Bayeux Tapestry has been misinterpreted as depicting several different types of armor. It is generally acknowledged today that virtually all the armor on the tapestry is standard mail armor and not "ring mail", "trellised mail," or "mascled mail" or any other Victorian misinterpretation. In the Victorian era the term "mail" was used fancifully for any form of metallic body armor. Modern historians reserve the term "mail" for armor formed of an interlinked mesh of metal rings.
  7. Although boiled leather could be used to make large, tough plates of armor, it was more commonly used to make smaller overlapping lamellae or scales. Leather lamellar armor was used throughout much of the ancient and medieval world. As with most types of leather armor, material remnants are few and far between, so unfortunately, we can’t know just how widespread this armor type was. Leather lamellar attained particular longevity in China, where it is attested as early as the 6th century and as late as the 20th. In some places, such as Japan, lamellae of leather, horn, and metal were used together in the same suit of armor, forming a composite lamellar. The lamellar cuirass was especially popular with the Rus, the Scandinavian settlers of Russia, as well as Mongols, Turks, Avars, and other steppe peoples as it was simple to create and maintain. A great part of the Samurai Armor as well as other Japanese Armor are also lamellar armors. While lamellar armor was much more widespread in the East (China, Mongolia, Japan), it did see use in Europe during the Early and High Middle Ages—predominantly in areas close to Middle-Eastern influence (Byzantine Empire, Italy).
  8. Brigandine seems to have developed independently in High Medieval Europe and 8th century China, although some have theorized that the Chinese invention spread to Europe by way of the Mongols. Brigandine in Europe was almost always just torso protection, perhaps extending down to a skirt, with other armor serving to protect the arms and legs. During its early development, it appears to have been worn with mail, but during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) a common arrangement for foot soldiers was a cuirass of brigandine with plate armor protecting the limbs. In renaissance Italy, a doublet of brigandine with no limb armor was a common defense for the middle class. Brigandine in Asia was often used over more of the body. Chinese dinjia was a long brigandine coat covering about as much of the body as a mail hauberk. The Indian ’coat of ten-thousand nails’ included sleeves, leggings, and pauldrons. The Mongolians even wore leather boots lined with metal plates. This type of armor sees fairly widespread use in the High Middle Ages, and slowly tapering off (although not disappearing completely) in the Late Middle Ages. What many role playing games refer to as “studded leather” armor is likely a confused interpretation of medieval artwork that depicted Brigandines (as the only visible metal part of the armor is the rivet structure holding the plates underneath in place). Most of what is known about this type of armor is taken from either iconographic sources, or—like the Coat of Plates—from a mass grave site near Wisby largely excavated between 1928—1930, and full of remains from a battle fought in 1361. Brigandine, also known as jack-of-plate or coat of plates, consists of a series of overlapping metal plates sewn or riveted to the inside of a cloth or leather garment.
  9. Warriors of the Middle East, India, and Central Asia preferred a lighter mail to the heavy hauberks worn by Europeans. While it was less protective, it was correspondingly lighter and less encumbering - a decided advantage in hot climates. Light mail saw continued use in Asia, especially in India and Japan, into the 17th and 18th centuries. Mail armor was far and away the most popular and widespread type of armor used during the Middle Ages (Normans). Made of interlocking steel or iron rings riveted closed, mail is flexible and tough. It was used nonstop from the height of the Roman Empire until the end of the Renaissance, reaching its peak in use during the High Middle Ages.
  10. Scale armor of bronze or iron was widespread in the ancient world, from Europe to the Far East. The Roman lorica squamata was one such armor. However, its popularity waned with the advent of more new armors that simultaneously offered more protection and flexibility - mail in Europe and lamellar in Asia. Jazerant was primarily a Middle Eastern armor, used throughout Anatolia, Persia, and the Levant in the 11th-14th centuries. A form of jazerant was also used in Tokugawa Japan. The Chinese developed the normal scales into what is known as the Shan Wen Kai or "Mountain Pattern Armor". It began to appear during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) and was further perfected during the Ming dynasty. It is made from a multitude of small pieces of steel that are vaguely shaped like the Chinese character for the word shan (Mountain).
  11. Mail is one of the most widespread and long-lived types of armor in history. It appears to have originated in barbarian Europe around the 4th century B.C., where it was known to the Celts and the Etruscans. It was adopted by the Romans and spread by them across Europe and by their rivals throughout the Near East and Asia, as far as Japan. It was the defining armor of the Middle Ages in Europe, though it declined in popularity with the advent of more effective plate and brigandine. It was still used in warfare in Africa in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It even saw a brief attempted European revival in the trenches of World War One as protection against shrapnel. Throughout the Middle Ages, the fighting elite wore metal armor, offering them great protection than leather or cloth could have done. This began with chainmail, as worn throughout the Dark Ages and never entirely abandoned until gunpowder made metal armor obsolete.
  12. This advanced type of armor evolved in the Middle East or Central Asia, where light mail and lamellar armors were in common use. It was influenced by Persian ‘mirrored armor’, to the point where some suits of mail-and-plate feature incorporated ‘mirrors’. It was common throughout the Middle East, Russia, Persia, Central Asia, and India in the Late Middle Ages, although it may have originated much earlier. It spread far, to Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and it was in continued use in all of these areas into the nineteenth century.
  13. Metal lamellar armor was widespread throughout Asia, first of bronze and then of iron or steel. It saw limited use in Europe as well, though in Roman times mail came to be the flexible metallic armor of choice. The Byzantine Empire made especially fine use of steel lamellar armor; their elite cataphracts garbed themselves and their horses in full suits of it. Vikings serving in the Varangian Guard in Constantinople may have brought lamellar armor back to Scandinavia, though it never saw widespread use in that land dominated by heavy mail. Lamellar armor for men and horses was also widespread throughout Central Asia and Russia, especially among the Mongols and the many kingdoms they founded. Many of types of Japanese samurai armor were also lamellar.
  14. See 8 above.
  15. This armor is constructed in the same manner as a brigandine (steel or iron sandwiched between layers of leather and canvas). It differs in that the plates are substantially larger in a Coat of Plates—usually running the width of the torso. This type of armor was fairly widespread in the Late Middle Ages. Most of our knowledge of Coats of Plates—which come in many different patterns—is taken from finds at the site of the Battle of Wisby. While arguably there is a difference between brigandine and a coat of plates the difference is so modest (i.e. just larger plates in the coat of plates) that for the sake of these rules they are both combined.
  16. Full plate is the finest armor in history, the culmination of hundreds of years of experimentation in plate armor. Expert craftsmen combined hinges, sliding rivets, internal straps, and rotating sockets to create armor that covered nearly the entire body and allowed a surprisingly full range of motion. These suits of armor were never widely used, so great was their expense that only the wealthiest aristocrats and royalty could afford them. Full plate saw its peak in the 16th century, specifically during the reign of Henry VIII in England. Henry VIII’s foot combat armor for the poleaxe (seen above, right), constructed for the tournament of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, is probably the best suit of plate armor ever made, at least among those that have survived to this day. It features overlapping bands of steel that cover every possible gap, including notoriously difficult-to-cover areas like the back of the knee and the sensitive bits between the legs. It so thoroughly covers the body that NASA studied it when designing space suits in the 1960s. What made this Armor obsolete was the introduction of firearms into warfare. Though firearms were used in Europe during the 14th and 15th century they were unreliable and misfired frequently. With the invention of reliable guns, such as the matchlock gun around 1500 and later the flintlock gun, common soldiers had a weapon that could defeat a knight in full plate armor. It might have been the end of suits of armor, but it wasn't the end of plate armor. Soldiers, and especially officers, wore breastplates for several hundred years after that.
  17. Plate came to the fore in the 14th century as an armor for wealthy knights. Advances in metalworking, such as the invention of the blast furnace, allowed for the creation of very strong, light, and flexible steel that made for a superb defensive panoply that was also pleasingly shiny. Armorsmiths soon developed new defensive (and aesthetic) features for the armor, like fluting that guided blades and points away from joints and vital areas. By the latter half of the 15th century, plate armor was increasingly essential not just for knights and other cavalrymen but for all melee combatants. As plate armor developed, more specialized protective plates were developed and less mail was required to cover the gaps, eventually leading to the development of full plate, which saw its heyday in the very end of the Middle Ages through the 16th century. While European-style steel breastplates were spread across the world by the early age of exploration, plate armor seems to have developed and seen widespread use only in Europe.
  18. The classic example of this armor is Roman lorica segmentata, the armor worn by most modern depictions of Roman legionnaires, although historically mail (lorica hamata) was probably much more common in the legions. Classical lorica segmentata, in use for the first two and a half centuries AD, is usually just a cuirass of banded armor. Roman legionnaires and cavalrymen also sometimes made use of a manica - a type of banded arm guard also used by gladiators and probably adopted from the steppe horsemen of the east. The ancient Parthians are known to have used banded limb armor in combination with scale cuirasses. Romans certainly knew about banded leg armor, as some of their neighbors used it, but whether Romans ever adopted it is unclear. For a full suit of banded armor, we must look to Central Asia or Japan. Laminar armor was one of several popular armors used by the steppe peoples of Central Asia and the warriors of Iran, along with various forms of brigandine and lamellar, until Mongolian-style mail and plate began to supersede them. Japanese armors were primarily lamellar until the introduction of firearms to the island, when banded armor made of more solid steel bands that better resisted musket shot became the chief armor of the samurai. The most famous banded Armor in the world is the Roman lorica segmentata, which is known from countless movies, comic books, and historical references. The strips on the lorica segmentata were arranged horizontally on the body, overlapping downwards, and they surrounded the torso in two halves, being fastened at the front and back. The upper body and shoulders were protected by shoulder guards and breast- and back-plates.
    Pedantic Historian's Note: Banded armor should not be confused with 'banded mail', a type of armor postulated by Victorian medievalists to have existed, based on some medieval illustrations, but now widely considered not to have existed. Banded mail's lifespan was extended by early RPG designers, whose use of outdated scholarship ensured that 'banded mail' would still show up in fantasy RPGs to this day, although most people are unaware of the Victorian definition(s) of the armor type and probably assume it to be another way of describing Roman lorica segmentata. Nonetheless, it should never be referred to as banded mail, because the word 'mail' refers exclusively to the armor of interlocking rings commonly referred to as chainmail. For more information on lorica segmentata, see Lorica Segmentata Volume I: A Handbook of Articulated Roman Plate Armor, by M.C. Bishop (available for free on Scribd).
  19. Jack remained in use as late as the 16th century and was often worn by Scottish Border Reivers. Although they were obsolete by the time of the English Civil War many were taken to the New World by the Pilgrim Fathers as they provided excellent protection from Native American arrows; one dating back to 1607 was recently found at Jamestown. The present-day equivalent of a jack of plate is a bullet-proof vest. Jacks were often made from recycled pieces of older plate armor, including damaged brigandines and cuirasses cut into small squares.