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Weapons Locker – Body Armour – Chapter 3 – Heavy low-tech armour


Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

This is a chapter of our Weapons Locker – Body Armour series.

This article is in beta. I prefer to get the basics out of the way before I start doing the genuine research, since that’s wots needed in so many character profiles.


Scale armour (special guest: bezainted armour)

First, you need to forge a lot of small metal plates, shaped like fish scales. As blacksmithing goes, this is fairly simple. Then the metallic scales are affixed upon leather in such a way that they overlap with each other, again like fish scales.

It is sometimes called “scale mail”, for… reasons. Presumably through excessive analogy with chain mail.

A close relative is bezainted armour. Instead of fish-scale-shaped bits, it uses overlapping discs. Discs probably aren’t as convenient as fish scales, but in areas that use large coins made of hard metals you can just use those.

Scale is probably the simplest, most low-tech way to make metallic armour. On the other hand, the metal may present so-so resilience. This is because those with better ore and metallurgical technique will likely have come up with better armour design, such as lamellar or mail.

The top of Captain America’s suit (the shoulders and upper chest) is scale armour. But the rest is chainmail to retain flexibility. Many forms of early cataphracts (“well-armoured cavalry”) in the Middle East were also rocking scale armour.

Stats

BODY 02, Blunting: 02, Damage capacity: 02, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 01 (cap is 05), Stealth penalty 3/3, Bonus: Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery with Infrastructure Bonus.

Partial Coverage (Jacket) would be the most common.


Mountain scale armour

This is a Chinese style of scale armour. The scales have a 山 shape (well, sort of – the bottom isn’t flat, but angled like a “^”). This logically led to the name “mountain scale”.

The shape and the way they overlap allows the scales to tightly lock together under impact. Thus, they protect much like solid plating against bludgeoning attacks.

The overlap also makes the individual scales look like stylised three-branched stars. That helped make them an iconic form of ancient Chinese armour.

Stats

BODY 04, Blunting: 02, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 02 (cap is 08), Enhance (Laser, heat/flame, Acid RV): 01 (cap is 06), Stealth penalty 3/3.


Ring armour

This is a variant over the “set metallic objects over a leather base” concept, crossed with the “if you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it” concept . But here it uses non-interlocking rings rather than overlapping scales or discs.

As with studded armour (in the light armour chapter), I don’t think there were many examples of this in Earth’s history. But it *looks* like it’d be cheap and easy to do. It just wouldn’t be that protective. Thus, it occupies a niche as cheap hauberk for people who can’t afford chain. And it is less cumbersome than scale.

Badly-made bezainted armour would also use these stats. As would studded armour with an unusual density of studs.

Stats

BODY 03, Blunting: 01, Damage capacity: 02, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 01 (cap is 05), Stealth penalty 2/3, Bonuses & Limitations:

  • Damage Capacity is Slashing Only
  • Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery with Infrastructure Bonus.

Partial Coverage (Jacket) would be the most common.


Lamellar/splint armour

A lamella is thin plate. Here, the idea is to forge plates of metal (usually rectangles), then pierce holes near the edges. Which allows the lamellas to be laced together in overlapping patterns. You’ll still want to wear thick fabric or leather underneath, but the armour itself isn’t set onto a backing.

The lamellar design is popularly associated with Eastern ancient armours such as samurai armour or Mongol raider armour. But just style it a bit differently and throw in a horned or winged helmet, and people will think of it as “Viking armour”.

It is also called splint armour.

Lamellar armour is where technology will likely top out without access to good ore. Some areas simply don’t have proper iron and thus can’t build something tougher than lamellar.

Stats

BODY 03, Blunting: 02, Damage capacity: 03, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 01 (cap is 07), Enhance (Slashing, Piercing RV): 01 (cap is 08), Enhance (Laser, heat/flame, Acid RV): 01 (cap is 06), Stealth penalty 3/3, Limitations:

  • Damage Capacity only vs. Piercing and Slashing RAPs.
  • Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery with Infrastructure Bonus.

Partial Coverage (Long coat) would be the most common, by combining a sleeved top and a skirt.

Heavy low-tech armour in RPGs guide - Last Samurai

Very nice armour suits from the movie The Last Samurai . Mostly lamellar but with a scale one (though I’d treat it as lamellar in RPG terms).


Charioteer’s lamellar hauberk

Normally, lamellar armour doesn’t hinder movement – low-tech people are low-tech, not stupid. But here’s a corner case where it does, based on period depictions of ancient Hittite  warriors.

The armour is a short-sleeved robe of lamellar armour, ending at mid-shin height. This allows for better, heavier coverage than would otherwise be possible at this tech level. But it hinders the legs.

It gets deployed because the warriors wearing these ride in a chariot. So they’re not concerned about running around, but prefer good protection as they do low-tech drive-by shooting. Chariot were fantastic weapons on the battlefield, or so am I assured by Civilization  editions where the Egyptians get them as national units.

Stats

As normal lamellar, but giving Long Coat Partial Coverage before it would be otherwise technologically practical. The OV/RV of actions using the legs are penalised by +1/+0 CS, which is considered a Minor Physical Restriction Drawback.


Banded armour (special guest: lorica segmentata)

Banded armour uses large strips of steel. These are mounted on a leather harness. It can be seen as an evolution of lamellar, except with metallurgy that allows for tougher, larger, more rigid bands rather than lamellas.

The leading example is the Roman “lorica segmentata” used at the beginning of History (that is, the A.D. era). The “stack” of bands wraps around the entire torso, and there’s an impressive system of shoulder plates. This works in coordination with the steel helm, and the legionnaire’s big-arse shield (the scutum).

To the layman, this type of lorica evokes a crustacean, such as a lobstah.

A small bezainted apron can also hang from the bottom of the lorica to protect the legionnaire’s boy bits. On the other hand, lacing everything tightly in place to wear a lorica segmentata is a spot of bother.

Stats

BODY 03, Blunting: 02, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 02 (cap is 07), Enhance (Laser, ballistic, Acid RV): 01 (cap is 06), Stealth penalty 3/3.

A lorica has Jacket-level Partial coverage.


Brigandine

A brigandine, or coat of plates, can be seen as an evolution over lamellar and banded armour. It consists of two tough layers of leather, with metal plates held *between* the leather layers, as lining. The plates are held in place using big rivets, and it’s possible to add shoulder protectors.

So that’s a smart, streamlined design that became the standard during the 1300s in Europe.

From the outside it looks like a leather vest with rows of big metallic studs – the rivets’ heads. Faux-brigandine (without actual metal plates inside) was popular for a while, to look like manly hard man. This may have caused the “studded leather” confusion.

Originally, “brigand” means “soldier belonging to a brigade”. And thus “brigandine” is stuff these wear. But abuses soon led to the word meaning “poorly disciplined soldier” and eventually “murderous robber”.

Brigandine doesn’t usually feature in heroic fantasy stories, even when those also have full plate armour that historically came after brigandine. Part of the reason might be the low visual signature. It doesn’t look like anything special, and it’s associated with common soldiers.

Stats

BODY 04, Blunting: 02, Damage capacity: 02, Enhance (Piercing, Slashing RV): 02 (cap is 08), Enhance (Bludgeoning, laser, cold, ballistic, Acid RV): 01 (cap is 06), Stealth penalty 2/3, Limitation: Damage Capacity has the Instant Recovery Bonus.

Usual coverage is Vest-level.


Plate mail

Unsurprisingly, a mix of metal plates and mail armour. The rigid plates cover most of the body, while mail and padding protecting the joints where plate can’t be used. The plates also have padding underneath, of course.

In most settings, this is expensive kit for professional warriors. Which means it’ll likely be worn by knights of some sort. But it offers excellent protection against blades and arrows, and non-trivial protection against bolts and maces/hammers. And over time it’ll become affordable for elite heavy infantry.

Stats

Why, AC 3  of course. Oh, wait.

BODY 04, Blunting: 02, Damage capacity: 03, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 02 (cap is 09), Enhance (Laser, cold, ballistic, heat/flame, Acid RV): 01 (cap is 08), Stealth penalty 3/4, Bonuses & Limitations:

  • Damage capacity has the Instant Recovery Bonus.
  • Damage capacity is Slashing and Piercing only.

This is considered as having Long Coat-level Partial Coverage. However, Trick Shots to bypass it will still run into one AP of Enhance (Piercing, Slashing RV) (cap is 06).


Full plate

Also called field plate. This is a significant step up in plate mail technology, in that you no longer need mail to protect the joints. Plates can now also protects these parts. This is usually done after inventing rivets that are not set in place, but can slide along a slit when the plates they’re holding move.

Armour-making technique, metallurgy and smithing will also have progressed since the days of the plate mail. So overall it’s tougher. But it’s also even more expensive. Also, it’s dang complex. Such a suit is made of about 200 pieces that must meet tight specifications.

“Knights in shining armour” are often portrayed as wearing full plate. But not all fantasy settings necessarily allow for this level of technology. If nobody wears full plate, you might be in a low fantasy story.

Stats

BODY 05, Conditional Soaking (Slashing damage), Blunting: 02, Damage capacity: 04, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 02 (cap is 09), Enhance (Laser, cold, heat/flame, Ballistic, Acid RV): 01 (cap is 08), Stealth penalty 3/4, Bonuses & Limitations:

  • Damage Capacity has the Instant Recovery Bonus.
  • Damage Capacity only for Slashing and Piercing damage.

The suit proper is Long Coat-level Coverage, but there normally will be a helmet worn atop.


Jousting plate

This is *specifically* designed for sport. Jousting is the thing were two heavily-armoured guys on huge horses gallop at each other. They then try to unhorse the other bloke with a mostly-blunted lance. Traditionally, the public sings Queen’s We Will Rock You during the event .

This type of plate is closer to a wearable fortification than “body armour”. Warm weather will cook you alive, and all you can do in this is sit on a horse, aim a lance and bear a shield forward.

Even *getting* on the horse requires helpers, or even a small wooden crane. By contrast, hopping astride a horse while wearing plate mail is feasible. It gets mentioned as an demonstration of excellent fitness and training.

Stats

BODY 06, Blunting: 03, Damage capacity: 04, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 03 (cap is 10), Enhance (Laser, Ballistic, cold, heat/flame, Acid RV): 01 (cap is 09), Stealth penalty 4/4, Drawback: All tasks requiring full-body movement receive a +2CS OV/RV penalty (that includes stealth, as both penalties stack).


Late gothic plate and Maximilian era plate

In many ways the apex of low-tech body-armour, in the late 1500s. It is a form of field plate, but with even better technique and metallurgy. Its is ginormously expensive.

The plates also employ a ribbed, scalloped design. This makes it harder to achieve a solid, square hit. The layering is also more intricate, with the breastplate likely having two different layers.

This armour actually can take hits from musket bullets. *If* said sloping means that the hit is a glancing one.

Stats

BODY 05, Conditional Soaking (Slashing, Ballistic and Piercing damage), Blunting: 02, Damage capacity: 04, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 02 (cap is 09), Enhance (Laser, cold, heat/flame, Ballistic, Acid RV): 01 (cap is 08), Stealth penalty 3/4, Bonuses & Limitations:

  • Damage Capacity has the Instant Recovery Bonus.
  • Damage Capacity only for Slashing, Ballistic and Piercing damage.

The suit proper is Long Coat-level Coverage, but there normally will be a helmet worn atop. Which takes us to our next article…


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Helpers: Kevin Berger, Darci.

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