Jump to content

Platw v. Chain


QueenJadisOfCharn

Recommended Posts

The notion that chain armor restricts and weighs less than plate armor is common in any kind of medieval or fantasy game, but it's false and I don't understand why it persists (other than addle-brained reasons like 'balance' or 'fairness'). Hell, AD&D's Unearthed Arcana pointed this out 30something years ago, quite properly plate offers more protection with less weight and encumrance than chain.

Chain armor puts most of the weight onto the shoulders, neck and waist (if a long coat is worn with a girdle or belt). Plate armor is largely self supporting. Both of them can cause balance problems in awkward positions and both restrict movement, but full chain armor is heavier, bulkier, moves/swings more (making the wearer's inertia less controllable). The improved flexibility of chain over plate is not as relevant as one thinks, since full plate armor has sophisticated joints and balancing built into it deliberately, something not even possible with chain armor. Plate armor is hotter to wear, but overall chain puts more strain on the wearer for extended use.

So, all in all, chain armor has the advantage of: less skill required to manufacture and repair (though it's actually more tedious), better heat dissipation, low cost (sometimes - in the mid-late renaissance nobody would be making full maille and you'd be paying novelty prices).

Plate Armor has the advantage in: every other area. Plate and chain hybrids are, likewise, superior in all the areas plate in though not so much as full plate.

It's something I noticed in Barbarians of Lemuria, too, and it's just not accurate to make plate more encumbering, slower, heavier or more difficult to perform skills in. It's not fair, but that's superior technology for you. Hell, all of this is true of the Roman 'banded' plate Segmentata v. Hamata, the only reason Hamata made a comeback was oversized armies, declining treasuries and a decline in the availability of skilled steel workers (plate requires laege blooms of metal).

Granted there is some ultra heavy plate armor, but unless your PC likes novelty equipment or semi-bulletproof gear that's not going to come up, and it would still be superior to the equivalentin chain.

A chain hauberk will be lighter than full plate, but it will also grant less protection than a breastplate and be heavier for the protection it affords.

Chain armor is going to be better for sneaking, crawling and climbing. Plate is better for running, jumping, fighting and any kind of acrobatics or cartwheels. Basically, if you are moving like a biped, plate is better. And with good reason, it's far more sophisticated, better metal, better designs, better craftsmen and much less overlapping material.

I suggest swapping the Burden, ENC and Physical skills penalty of Chain and Full Plate, then taking half-plate down to a -15%, since it is at least as maneuverable as Lameller, the latter being rather bulky and heavy because of overlapping pieces and swaddling leather/cloth that make up its backing.

Edited by QueenJadisOfCharn
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suspect that one of the reasons for the misunderstanding concerning the advantages

and disadvantages of chain armour and plate armour was the existence of mass pro-

duced plate armour created to outfit entire Renaissance armies. This common type of

plate armour was not custom made, and therefore lacked the weight distribution and

flexibility of plate armour custom made for a specific individual. Without the perfect

fit of a custom made plate armour the approximately 25 kg of metal certainly became

an unpleasant burden that hindered at least as much as it protected.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Older and inferior make of plate would certainly lack the advantages of a late cavalier's gear, but I can't see it as being any worse than chain, for the reasons I've listed. If anything, it's cause to differentiate between fitted plate armor and plate that is only generally sized and otherwise fitted with straps, as was the case with the mass produced armor of men-at-arms.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, I don't really care either way.

The values seem to work OK in practice, even if they are not absolutely historically correct.

If chain had less APs and more ENC than plate then nobody would buy chain, as it is people buy chain and then plate when they can afford it.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it is mostly out of a combination of habit and a somewhat warped modern view on things, helped a bit by ignorance.

RE: Habit - Why are we still referring to mail armor as chain or chain mail? It's the same thing. We got so used to calling it chain that it stuck. Likewise, we got used to the common notions about mail and plate.

RE: Warped Modern Worldview - people generally didn't walk into a shop and chose between mail or plate based on game stats, weight or cost. Historically it was a bit more complicated. Fully articulated medieval plate (as opposed to earlier plate) was developed in stages, took a lot longer to make than mail, and was much, much more expensive. At least up until some technological advances were made that drove down the production costs to the point were it ended up cheaper and faster to produce than mail - at which point everyone who could afford armor did mostly stop buying mail for plate.

For the most part it wasn't like mail and plate were competing technologies.

As far as the relative weights, weight distribution, and costs of mail and plate, it varies quite a bit depending on which examples you use. Some of the Gothic and jousting armors were quite a bit heavier than mail - especially when some of the "suits" of mail might only have mail covering the upper arms and chest. There is even a good deal of variance between different types of mail armor based on weave, reinforcement and quality of fit.

Basically armor got better over time. Plate evolved from mail. It is more an evolution of mail than a competing technology. When armor was made is probably a better indicator of protective value, ENC and cost than the armor's basic form.

RE: ignorance. Since few people have actually worn armor, let alone relied on it for protection, we lack enough familiarity to spot the fallacies. If somebody were to claim than a VW Beetle could fly, or reach speeds of 20,000 kph, we'd know something was off right away.

Edited by Atgxtg

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

.

If chain had less APs and more ENC than plate then nobody would buy chain, as it is people buy chain and then plate when they can afford it.

Well, no one plays the Beggar class in Stormbringer because it sucks. It's there for poor people and npcs - like mail!

In reply to ATGetc, I agree with much of what you said, and as I indicated in my OP there is indeed ultra heavy plate that's impractical for actual melee. I was talking about articulated plate, and renaissance plate in general (an especially the wasp-waistline Maximillian plate, my choice for Fighter-Mages in any game, thus my personal stake :P ) but as I also pointed out even . Roman plate, Loric Sefmentata, was better for protection and weight than their Lorica Hamata chain armor. Expense and a lack of skilled technicians is the main reason mail was usedx the Persians generally wore scale-and-plate hybrids as long as 1800 years ago, and they were archers at that! As for the redundancy of 'chainmail', I think that is Gary Gygax, at least in rpg circles. I've never read 'chainmail' anywhere but videogames and rpgs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've never read 'chainmail' anywhere but videogames and rpgs.

Well, actually ... ;)

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910094946.htm

But it is similar in German, while many people call chain "Kettenhemd", and this term tends

to creep even into scientific papers now and then, the scientific term is "Ringpanzerhemd"

(no chain / "Kette" involved, only rings).

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, actually ... ;)

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910094946.htm

But it is similar in German, while many people call chain "Kettenhemd", and this term tends

to creep even into scientific papers now and then, the scientific term is "Ringpanzerhemd"

(no chain / "Kette" involved, only rings).

That's funny, I wonder why none of the editors stopped to ask what 'mail' means. Isn't that what editors are for?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's funny, I wonder why none of the editors stopped to ask what 'mail' means. Isn't that what editors are for?

I think it was a translation problem. When one enters the correct German term "Ringpanzerhemd"

or the still common "Kettenhemd" into one of the typical translation programs like Google Transla-

te or PROMT one almost always gets "chain mail" as the English translation. Only the scientific dic-

tionaries, and not even all of them, give a correct translation. :(

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I blame the Victorians for chain mail and Gary for promulgating something from the 19th century into a game. After that people used it because it's a term 'everyone' knows and can relate to. I wonder how many terms used in Chainmail and D&D became common tropes for video games, fantasy novels and the like.

Nigel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I blame the Victorians for chain mail and Gary for promulgating something from the 19th century into a game.

I think you picked the right targets. They were also responsible for adding the word "mail" to every sort of armor, i.e. scale mail, ring mail (a whole other can o' worms), banded mail, plate mail, etc.

Gygax wouldn't have to use "field plate" to refer to actual plate armor if he hadn't clouded the issue up with plate mail.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, no one plays the Beggar class in Stormbringer because it sucks. It's there for poor people and npcs - like mail!

In reply to ATGetc, I agree with much of what you said, and as I indicated in my OP there is indeed ultra heavy plate that's impractical for actual melee. I was talking about articulated plate, and renaissance plate in general (an especially the wasp-waistline Maximillian plate, my choice for Fighter-Mages in any game,

Uh, the Maximillian PLate isn't all that great a choice for fighter magi. It's not all that light and has two chestplates (a breastplate and a plackard) and a backplate. A well fitted mail shirt or a coat of plates would probably be a better choice..

but as I also pointed out even . Roman plate, Loric Sefmentata, was better for protection and weight than their Lorica Hamata chain armor

It was better for what it covered. Part of the problem with plate armor was that because it was rigid, it couldn't be used to cover joints. At least not until the high middle ages, and even then suits of plate were augmented with mail.

. Expense and a lack of skilled technicians is the main reason mail was usedx the Persians generally wore scale-and-plate hybrids as long as 1800 years ago, and they were archers at that!

Horse archers. That helps a lot when it comes to weight and fatigue. Protection wise, mail was about as good as any other armor until the high-late middle ages, when the smiths were skilled enough to make the Gothic armors.

As for the redundancy of 'chainmail', I think that is Gary Gygax, at least in rpg circles. I've never read 'chainmail' anywhere but videogames and rpgs.

Oh Gary is the source, as far as RPG circles go, but my point is that the term is still widely used,m even though many of us know better. Just like with the plate vs. mail thing.

Honestly, I think the real reason why plate is better, heavier, and more expensive in most RPGs is that most game designers are setting up for all the various armors to be available at the same time and place, and so they need to tweak values to make it logical for all those armors to appear in the same shops. Realistically, and historically, newer armors phased out older ones. It's even worse with weapons.

Hmm, there was some stuff I was working on for armor in Pendragon that might be portable over to BRP. It's not that tough to convert. Just divide the AP in half. I'll have to dig it up and see if it could help here.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Uh, the Maximillian PLate isn't all that great a choice for fighter magi.

I like my F/MUs heavy, usually a sword and shield or a mace and axe with full plate. Not always practical for Dungeoneering, but I don't really emphasize mobility; more the tank approach. And as elves usually have an outlandish Dexterity score the penalty to Physical skills isn't that much of a probelm. Think more Oblivion or Elric (at times) than anything else.

Honestly, I think the real reason why plate is better, heavier, and more expensive in most RPGs is that most game designers are setting up for all the various armors to be available at the same time and place,

I get that to some extent, but I generally assume different areas have different technologyy, styles and resources. Making maille out of I wird reHonestly, I think the real reason why plate is better, heavier, and more expensive in most RPGs is that most game designers are setting up for all the various armors to be available at the same time and place, making mail from soft steel wire requires a lot less sophistication than making plate, even the cheap stuff. Scale and mail or scale and plate armors are also a good compromise for horsemen who aren't primarily shock (such as archers or medium auxiliaries). Most RPG worlds are pretty big, and a lack of equal technology isn't that big of a deal. It's really that 'same place' that makes it weird. I treat it more like Stormbringer, where Melniboneans have a monopoly on full plate and the young kingdoms and assortment of ring and maile armors. Elric ends up wearing maile, for the most part, after he destroys his empire; as there's not much of a source for plate anymore even when he'd like to wear it.

Edited by QueenJadisOfCharn
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

For this whole debate I think you generally have to accept the old "It's a game thing" as the reason behind it. For the same reason you'll see a weapons table listing 8 different types of sword and players will sit down and work out which set of stats they like best. The list will probably cover 200 - 300 years worth of technological improvements and most of the blades would never have seen service in the same time frame because of changes to the requirements for warfare as well as tastes and fashions. The idea that a smith in a fantasy world has racks holding everything from a gladius through an arming sword to a rapier is ridiculous. It would be like walking into a car dealer today and being expected to choose between a Model T Ford, a 70's hatchback and an electric car.

As others have said, it's mostly general ignorance of the specifics that mean people tend to conflate them all into a single ill-defined epoch of 'swords' and the same goes for armour. Also, everyone loves a shopping expedition and they all want their own characters to wear and wield what they want, whether it makes any sort of logical or historical significance is largely moot. realistically there would be two or three styles of sword available in a given era (and swords are not really the most popular of historical weapons, but spears are less flashy) and most game systems don't have enough detail to make it worthwhile determining the difference between several different makers of the same weapon, if there is even a meaningful difference to extract.

I think what you're doing is focusing on a single aspect that personally irks you when the same problems are inherent in pretty much all areas of a fantasy game. You've just got to accept that it makes for a decent game and get on with it.

"Not gods - Englishmen. The next best thing."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can justify the coexistence of many different weapons and armor types, but they would tend to be geographically dispersed; I.e Ottoman v. E. Europe v. France. Still, choosing between them would be pretty involved, requiring one pay a merchant or craftsman from there to import or produce it. As you say, the most likely option would probably be 'broadsword, longsword or bigger longsword'; with most people opting for pole weapons and axe and mace weapons fairly popular, too. Swords have some kind of Renaissance-Victorian mythology to them, otherwise they're by no means obvious choices for a warrior. That's why I use armor v. AC in AD&D.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Swords have some kind of Renaissance-Victorian mythology to them, otherwise they're by no means obvious choices for a warrior.

I think this mythology is much older. A good example are the various early North German tales

which mention Wayland the Smith, the many famous named swords he forged, and the histories

of these swords and the heroes who owned them. I would find it difficult to imagine a heroic war-

rior of that age without his sword, whether Sigmund without Gram or Roland without Durandal.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, swords can be inferior to other weapons when it comes to mass combat, but they are a status symbol of nobility. And they are easy to carry. So while they are not the weapon of choice for killng a dragon, an iconic hero cannot go without one of them. For the rest, KingSkin is right in assuming you will not find all kinds of armour in the same shop. But it is plausible to find different kinds of armour in different areas of the same world. Even the real world. Just think of 16th-17th century european armour and its Japanese counterpart - and it was the peak of melee weaponmaking for both areas.

Proud member of the Evil CompetitionTM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it is mostly out of a combination of habit and a somewhat warped modern view on things, helped a bit by ignorance.

RE: Habit - Why are we still referring to mail armor as chain or chain mail? It's the same thing. We got so used to calling it chain that it stuck. Likewise, we got used to the common notions about mail and plate.

RE: Warped Modern Worldview - people generally didn't walk into a shop and chose between mail or plate based on game stats, weight or cost. Historically it was a bit more complicated. Fully articulated medieval plate (as opposed to earlier plate) was developed in stages, took a lot longer to make than mail, and was much, much more expensive. At least up until some technological advances were made that drove down the production costs to the point were it ended up cheaper and faster to produce than mail - at which point everyone who could afford armor did mostly stop buying mail for plate.

For the most part it wasn't like mail and plate were competing technologies.

As far as the relative weights, weight distribution, and costs of mail and plate, it varies quite a bit depending on which examples you use. Some of the Gothic and jousting armors were quite a bit heavier than mail - especially when some of the "suits" of mail might only have mail covering the upper arms and chest. There is even a good deal of variance between different types of mail armor based on weave, reinforcement and quality of fit.

Basically armor got better over time. Plate evolved from mail. It is more an evolution of mail than a competing technology. When armor was made is probably a better indicator of protective value, ENC and cost than the armor's basic form.

RE: ignorance. Since few people have actually worn armor, let alone relied on it for protection, we lack enough familiarity to spot the fallacies. If somebody were to claim than a VW Beetle could fly, or reach speeds of 20,000 kph, we'd know something was off right away.

I'd probably agree with all of that , except the bit about plate evolving from mail. If you look at the ancient greeks plate was what they wore. Granted somewhat different plate to medieval plate, but nonetheless it's plate. In all fairness I don't know huge amounts about their armour , but I don't recall seeing Greeks in mail. Scale I think , but not mail. I've always been curious why plate was widespread in that period and then faded from view only to re-emerge approx 1000 years later......

Edited by Agentorange
typo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've always been curious why plate was widespread in that period and then faded from view only to re-emerge approx 1000 years later......

One of the reasons was the change from the bronze used to produce a cuirass by Greeks and Romans

to the iron used for armour in later centuries, neither the available metal nor the available skills were

really up to the task to produce a good iron cuirass at an acceptable cost until the Middle Ages.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Economics, smelting techniques and physical coverage.

I think the first two more than the last. I think they have found only one Roman short Muscled Cuirass of iron, but far more in the realm of Lorica Segmentata; smaller easier to produce and presumably less expensive plates. Both only covered the chest and upper abdomen though, and Segemetata was used for a long period during the Principate, and perhaps longer than that by the Centurionate.

SDLeary

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bronze is much harder than iron but far more fragile. To best utilize the strengths and minimize the weakness of bronze armor the solid plate was the best option. Bronze can be crumpled and split much more easily than iron, but it will deflect a point. Mall links of bronze would probably explode apart in combat when struck hard, whereas iron won't stop a point as well but can be used effectively I lighter and less rigid applications. and while Greek bronze armor did not cover the entire body it was - had to be- much bulkier, with up to twice the mass and three times the thickness of steel armor. You can see why steel is so popular, it's still the best core component for melee armor, no plastics or metals have the right strength and rigidity to do what steel does.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd probably agree with all of that , except the bit about plate evolving from mail. If you look at the ancient greeks plate was what they wore. Granted somewhat different plate to medieval plate, but nonetheless it's plate. In all fairness I don't know huge amounts about their armour , but I don't recall seeing Greeks in mail. Scale I think , but not mail. I've always been curious why plate was widespread in that period and then faded from view only to re-emerge approx 1000 years later......

It was actually a very different type of plate, too. Greek Plate was a breastplate (and back plate) with graves, braces, re braces, and a partial helmet. Pet's quite right about the physical coverage bit of his statement (he's right about the rest, too). Mail, on the other hand, could provide much better coverage., and some of the Greeks neighbors used it. So mail was probably a superior defense at the time. Latter medieval plate gave much better coverage and protection.

Some of the other reasons are climate, shields, and weapons. Full, heavy armor is more practical in a Temperate climate than in a tropical one. Also, the Ancients got a lot of their protection from their shields. Pete even had an optional rule to account for it in his Roman supplement. A nice hoplite or figure-8 shield was decent protection against most of the weapons of the day.

But by the latter medieval period, weapons were becoming more effective, so there was a need for better armor. And, as the armor improved, it created a need for more effective weapons. So it was a sort of spiraling arms race between armor and weapons.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Talking of scalding armour, there was a piece of the Battle of Nations FMA 2013 meet last night on UK tv. The whole thing was pretty interesting and the comments about heat problems from the participants in the warmth of southern France were very useful.

The amour seemed to be a sort of mix of D&D 'plate mail' with splint arm and leg protection overlaying a lot of padding. The combat was fairly brutal even with blunt weapons - bruises, minor cuts and broken bones appeared to be very common. The group fighting seemed to be a case of gang up on an opponent and smash him until he collapsed or force him to the ground with a grapple. The 15th century helmets provided a lot of protection for the head and that was need as the maces they used were wielded with vigour and effect.

The swift exhaustion of the combatants meant that a bout was over in a few minutes, 2 or three seemingly. So strenuous activity in heavy armour in 30 degree (Celsius) weather is not for the ill-trained or physically less able.

I found it a useful indication of the issues of melee combat and medieval armour.

Nigel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...