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Realistic Fantasy Adventuring Armour


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A comment made in the Witcher 3: it needs to be light, not impair mobility and be able to be donned without help. To which the blacksmith replies, should it also wipe your ass? You may be conflicting between what someone might wear riding into a battle, versus what someone might wear patrolling the walls of a castle at knight. You would be right to say ANY armor would be cumbersome after a long period. You'd also be right to say that eventually you'd get used to wearing it. I have a large winter flight suit which is somewhat restrictive in movement and weighs about five pounds. My first wearing of a year, and after having it on for a few hours, my back is usually sore like I slept funny. However, after about a week it's as natural to wear as my normal lightweight suit.

Armor isn't really so different except just like my flight suit, it isn't meant to be lived in. That's where RPGs usually 'got it wrong'â€â€not that an adventurer might don armor to protect themselves but that they would make it their sole attire. That's something I like about the Witcher, most monster quests are laid out in such a way that you can gather information on the monster you are going to fight, and then tailor your gear for the battle. These types of interactions make the battles feel like more than just a bag of chips you gnaw through, so it's pretty easy to see a situation in which you might don normal travelling armor, but once you know you are going to fight some beast you prepare accordingly with a more complex set. Of course, this is more a musing on the implementation of the idea in a video game rather than what you might actually choose to wear so, for being on topic:

It's most likely if travelling alone or in a small group I'd don mostly lightweight armor, and probably no more than a shortsword. The most effective defense against traps is the identification and disarm/avoidance thereof, a heavy armor is more likely to cause injuries or be abandoned if the trail gets rough. A nice pair of boots and some wool or leather trousers and overcoat would maintain dexterity, minimize fatigue and provide protection from the environment. If I were expecting to run into a fight, I might trade up for a long sword and probably don some basic chain mail, a helmet or skullcap and a buckler or other lightweight shield. Anything more would simply be too impractical, and impose heavily on all the OTHER items you need for travelling like food and water. If I were going to war and if it were available I'd put on as much armor as I was still able to move in.

Edited by Hyomoto
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There are a lot of suggestions there, but every battle is different and without a good understanding of the total logistics, plans, available gear, circumstances etcetera, you can never properly tell whether such an event or choice actually means something, or simply was forced upon people by the circumstances.

That tens of thousands of men over hundreds of years would choose plate armor to defend themselves against hundreds of thousands of arrows, and dozens of contemporary sources record its effectiveness, strongly suggest plate armor was effective against longbows. I don't know what else you'd want.

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That tens of thousands of men over hundreds of years would choose plate armor to defend themselves against hundreds of thousands of arrows, and dozens of contemporary sources record its effectiveness, strongly suggest plate armor was effective against longbows. I don't know what else you'd want.

Or it suggests that it was the best they had at the time and that it was better than nothing. I just do not like speculating too much on what could have and might have been, but that tends to be the nature of historic discourse.

Please note that you chose to make the discussion about longbows, while it actually was about armour piercing arrows.

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That tens of thousands of men over hundreds of years would choose plate armor to defend themselves against hundreds of thousands of arrows, and dozens of contemporary sources record its effectiveness, strongly suggest plate armor was effective against longbows. I don't know what else you'd want.

Those same tens of thousands of men would willingly take off some of their armor to gain more mobility when situation called for it, which was most of the time. That, or risked being flailed to death by some stupid peasants. Quite a few historical battles were lost by armored knights who misjudged the situation and (unlike game and movie makers) their peers were well avare of that. Most of heavy sets were meant to be used in full only in tournaments to prevent injury. Now, if we were talking cavalry charge in good terrain, that'd be sure pick for heavy armor, no question about that. Besieging castle? Much less so. Crawling through some muddy cave? Hell no, anything heavier then boiled leather is more likely to kill you then save you. I'd pick gambeson, morion helmet, gladius or cutlass and a round shield.

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Would I be right in saying that an armour-piercing arrow is going to do you a lot less damage if it hits you than a big, serrated arrowhead? It's the difference between a small puncture wound, and a massive, bleeding gash. And as others have said, even an armour-piercing arrow is going to deflect off plate armour with a glancing blow, whereas if you were unarmoured, it would stick into your flesh.

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Would I be right in saying that an armour-piercing arrow is going to do you a lot less damage if it hits you than a big, serrated arrowhead?

That rather depends on what you are hitting, does it not? That is pretty much the point of the distinction. The downside of armour piercing points is that you do less damage when you hit something unarmoured, but the upside it that you actually have a larger chance of doing damage against armoured targets.

Even in modern tanks and ammunition the difference is still present.

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I take the money I would have spent on armor and hire minions and meat-shields. ;-)

IRL, I wear 5-10 pounds of Gnomish Workman's Armor and carry a shortspear and a falchion (machete):

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It's EXCELLENT adventuring gear--Perfect for crawling through brush, and it reliably deflects punji traps and whip attacks.

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Your average metropolis doesn't have an automobile factory, yet they all have mechanics and dealerships. A capable blacksmith can maintain things they could never make. Furthermore your average police department of today was a knight and his retinue back in the day. There was plenty of work for maintaining arms and armor. You could always make nails if work slowed down.

Peadar would be right regarding a bodkin versus a broadhead, particularly when you consider barbs. Barbs are downright evil as they force the victim to shove the arrow the rest of the way through to remove it. However once a bodkin gets through the plate, chain and linen arming-coat, it makes for a deep puncture. You would not want to take one in the thoracic cavity, or anything else, for that matter. Hence the breastplate was second only to the helmet, and only the helmet has been present on more battles.

Radonek, contemporary accounts record knights in full plate assaulting castles with near impunity to missile fire. Heavy infantry built both Classical empires, chain armored knights dominated the "dark ages", Swiss mercenaries used pikes with full plate, the Landschneckt were similarly attired... If you or your quartermaster could afford it, you wore plate, even on foot as a lowly man in the pike blocks facing musketeers and cannon. If plate wasn't yet invented but you could still afford it, you wore chain. Fifteen kilograms of fitted steel sheets tied to a military-aged male will not reduce his combat effectiveness. By comparison, the 90's Ranger Body Armor weighed eleven kilograms and only covered the front and back with two square plates.

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Meat shields is a terrible idea. What if, when clearing a dungeon, you discover that there is not only a necromancer in it, but the ever-so-feared Dwarf Necromancer? When your meat shield is overwhelmed by skeletons, and he cries out to you: "It was inevitable." You watch in horror as the necromancer catches a glimpse of his body, and with a shudder he rises again, along with his dismembered limbs and hairs. Only then will you realize that hiring meat shields isn't that great of an idea.

Edited by Legendary Emu
more pl0t
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Just a point about bodkin arrowheads: While a lot of people assume they were intended to be armour piercing, current archeological evidence dosen't seem to back this up. The Royal Armouries looked at the metalurgy of the medieval arrowheads in their collection, they didn't find any examples of bodkins points made of hardened steel. By contrast type 16 arrowheads (which are fatter than bodkins and have barbs) were often found to have hardened, high carbon tips and cutting edges (generally welded onto a softer iron core).

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A lot of medieval armors weren't made to be just functional either. Some went so far as to make the wearer look terrifying. As in, if you saw one of them running at you, you wouldn't think it was a man at all, but some kind of fairy tale monster. Intimidation was a big part of warfare, and having a huge horned dragon head for a helmet could actually be beneficial.

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There's one part of adventuring armor that everybody forgets. The fact that it should not only defend against everything, but also work with what you're capable of, and with the environment you're going adventuring to.

For example, if you're a capable swordsman but couldn't use a bow even if your grandma's life depended on it, you would require something heavy, cause your enemies would, most likely, be shooting at you with everything they can, so you either have to be quick enough to dodge them, which is superhuman, or be armored enough so that it doesn't really bother you that much.

From the other side, if you can shoot a hummingbird into the eye from a kilometer away, but the only blade you can use is the one in the kitchen, then you'd need something lighter, less restrictive and, preferably, silent. You'd be better off not being seen at all, than being seen and surviving a few blows. And even if you do get noticed, it'd be much easier to hide from plain sight if your enemies wouldn't be able to hear you from a hundred meters away. And even if you take away the hiding aspect, I don't really know just how restrictive/unrestrictive custom-made plate armor is, but I still don't think it'd be that easy to quickly operate the bow between and during firing. It's still more weight you have to move and endure, and it still, probably, slows you down significantly.

There are also other weapons, such as spears, that require specific gear and skills, but I don't have the time I need to ramble about them right now.

And even if you're great at everything weapons-wise, there's still the environment you're going adventuring into. If it's a swamp, you'd need something light and mobile, as even if you take away the drowning part, moving through water is still hard. If it's a dungeon, you'd probably need something warm and heavy, cause there's not a lot of range to shoot from and places to hide behind, and if it's underground but not too deep, it'd probably be cold. But I think that as it gets deeper, you'd be better off with something less warm. If it's an in general wilderness, i.e. a forest, huge plains or city ruins (yeah, not wilderness, but close enough in conditions), it'd also depend on weather, the time you're going to spend there, and the current season.

Overall, there's just too many variables to make a perfect armor for adventuring in medieval times, and if there is a variant, I can't think of it. What do you people think? Have I missed something?

Edited by DestinyPlayer
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Overall, there's just too many variables to make a perfect armor for adventuring in medieval times, and if there is a variant, I can't think of it. What do you people think? Have I missed something?

Agreed. As we say in the construction industry, "Your brain is the most important piece of safety equipment you possess." Everything else is situational and conditional.

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