Weapons Locker – Body Armour – Chapter 2 – Medium low-tech armour

Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game


This is a chapter of our Weapons Locker – Body Armour series, a great and thunderous saga full of, err, well, body armour.

The start of the series is about the DC Heroes RPG rules for body armour. So DCH players should start there, to make sure they understand the stats.

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


Not-so-bleeding edge

Many of the medium (and heavy) armour types are, historically, quite resilient against edged weaponry. Slicing through metal with a sword or ax presents obvious difficulties. Realistically, one doesn’t field a blade against good chainmail, never mind plate.

However, most fiction retains the image of knights, samurai, youxia or whichever being armed with a sword and successfully engaging well-armoured opponents. The symbolism of a sword is a strong one in most cultures. This is also true in many modern RPGs, novels, videogames, TV series, etc..

In our body armour articles, we strike a murky compromise as always :

  1. Raising RV by 2 is quite significant on the scale of ordinary fighters. But this importance recedes for more heroic characters, who use Martial Artist (EV) to increase their armed damage. Which represents in no small part the ability to strike at chinks in the armour.
  2. Many swords have other Descriptors than “Slashing”. This is an important reason why many historical swords have such a large, heavy pommel (and a non-sharp area in order to half-sword). They do get used as bludgeoning weapons to beat down well-armoured opponents. That, too, works better for elite fighters with Martial Artist (EV). And, for that matter, Hero Points .


Quilted war dress

This is a large version of the quilted armour, described in the previous chapter. Rather than a jacket or a onesie, it is a full length heavy dress. Or a robe, if you insist.

The examples that come to mind are some African cultures of old. For instance the sultanate of Baguirmi  (in what is now Chad) and certain Sudanese warriors. Their bulky war robes were visibly padded using raw cotton.

Though these are a 20+ pounds affair (dry !), these offer robust protection even against sabre blows. The latter came as a surprise for colonisers…


BODY 03, Blunting: 01, Damage capacity: 01, Enhance (Piercing, Slashing RV): 02 (cap is 07), Stealth Penalty 2/1, Recommended STR 02, Bonuses & Limitations: Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery Bonus.

Partial Coverage at Long Coat level is the norm.


Wearing thick fur clothing is something that is done by fantasy barbarians and fantasy cavemen. And orcs.

The use of this “armour” in reality may not have been common. Even when it comes to folks who live in sub-arctic climates. Using multiple layers of soft hide to trap warm air within is less cumbersome, more efficient, and easier to waterproof.

But in case somebody *is* wearing clothing with thick animal fur that looks like it should cushion blows, we suggest this.


BODY 02, Blunting: 01, Damage capacity: 02, Enhance (Cold RV): 01 (cap is 08), Enhance (Bludgeoning, Structural RV): 01 (cap is 07), Stealth penalty 1/1, Limitation: Damage capacity has Full Recovery with infrastructure.

Partial Coverage (Jacket) would be common.


In the traditional D&D nomenclature, this is thick non-metallic armour worn by nomads, barbarians and humanoid hordes.

It is probably not rawhide. Because once rawhide gets wet, its worth as armour is sub-zero. Thus, it is likely a mix of nearly rigid pieces made of layered leathers, and soft covering made of cured but not tanned hides to protect the joints. There may be harder bits, perhaps crafted out of bone or bronze, to reinforce and structure the lot.

It seems mostly there to occupy a slot as “cheap, easy to make but bulky leather armour” in a setting where the words “leather armour” are associated with stealthy characters.


BODY 02, Blunting: 01, Damage capacity: 02, Enhance (Cold RV): 01 (cap is 05), Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 01 (cap is 06), Lightning immunity: 01, Stealth Penalty 2/1, Bonuses & Limitations: Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery With Infrastructure Bonus.

Partial Coverage (Jacket) would be common.

Chain mail

Chainmail (or mail armour) is made of interlocking metal rings. It is usually worn over a padded foundation (called a gambeson or pourpoint). In popular imagery mail is often associated with Middle-Ages European men-at-arms, but this invention actually precedes Historical times by centuries.

This sophisticated armour excels against edged weaponry – and, for that matter, animal bites and shrapnel. Breaking chainmail with a sword is extremely difficult. Mail is also lighter, less heat-trapping and more flexible than a solid plate.

However, mail does little to stop raw impact. For that, you have but the gambeson underneath. Mail is also poor against bullets and the better crossbow bolts.


BODY 03, Blunting: 03, Enhance (Slashing, Piercing RV): 02 (cap is 08), Power Loss (Blunting drops to 01 against non Slashing/Piercing damage), Stealth penalty 2/3.

Ancient forms would often have Partial Coverage (Jacket). Later forms were usually a hauberk, thus having Partial Coverage (Long Coat).

Concealed chainmail vest

This is a specialised, harder-to-make form of chainmail. It is light, quiet and thin, and can be worn under loose clothing. The light rings are assembled in a particularly tight pattern, to leave the smallest possible holes.

This isn’t intended for combat. The goal is to prevent knife thrusts from penetrating too far, by interposing some light metal. It’s for security against assassination, or just random assaults.

This form of chainmail is sometimes associated with “the East”, as the techniques to make it were at times known in the Middle East but not Western Europe. The technical term is jazerant or jazeraint, which is badly mangled Arabic.


BODY 03, Blunting: 02, Damage capacity: 01, Enhance (Piercing RV): 01 (cap is 04), Miniaturisation: 02, Stealth penalty 1/0, Bonuses & Limitations:

  • Blunting only vs Piercing and Slashing.
  • Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery Bonus.
  • Miniaturisation is Encumbrance Only.

Partial Coverage (Vest) would be the usual.

Ninja mail

Ninja mail isn’t when you send a letter so discreetly, nobody realises it has arrived. No, it’s something close to the concealed chainmail above, also with an emphasis on silence and flexibility.

The coverage is more extensive than mail, and it isn’t quite as concealable. It’s not meant to be worn in everyday life. Still, it’s concealable enough to be worn under loose clothing on your way to the job. And it gives you odds that stray arrows and sword hits will not rupture your organs.

Fictional ninja, who get to wear the black or dark red “ninja garb” inspired by theatre stagehands, might wear chain underneath. But this is usually done by elite ninja, not mook ninja.


BODY 03, Blunting: 02, Damage capacity: 01, Enhance (Slashing and Piercing RV): 01 (cap is 05), Miniaturisation: 02, Stealth penalty 1/1, Bonuses & Limitations:

  • Blunting only vs Piercing and Slashing.
  • Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery Bonus.
  • Miniaturisation is Encumbrance Only.

Partial Coverage (Jacket) would be the usual.

Heavy chainmail hauberk

A late form of the mail armour, using thicker, heavier rings. This is made workable by better technique. This type of armour usually corresponds to a fairly good tech, with watermills, windmills and other late/high Middle Ages inventions.

Late chainmail is expensive — often more expensive than plate — but it’s still lighter and less suffocating than plate.

Technically, heavy mail hauberks should be in the next chapter about heavier armour but heh, work with me here. Let’s keep the chain armour types together, because you’ll never break the chain .


BODY 04, Blunting: 03, Conditional Soaking (Slashing damage) Enhance (Slashing, Piercing RV): 02 (cap is 09), Power Loss (Blunting drops to 01 against non Slashing/piercing damage), Stealth penalty 3/4.

That normally comes as a hauberk, meaning Long Coat-level Partial Coverage. Note how the main difference is Conditional Soaking, so this makes more sense for elite and leader types — with Hero Points — to wear.

Bronze breastplate

A cuirass of solid bronze protecting the torso. If you’re evoking Ancient Greece or Rome, the breastplate will be styled after a muscular man’s chest. If the setting is directed by Zack Snyder, the cuirass’ muscles will be be enhanced by CGI. If the setting is a stock heroic-fantasy-for-boys one, the women’s version will have idiotic tits holders.

The bronze model gets a separate entry from iron-based breastplates. This is to emphases the pop-history version of Bronze Age hardware being vulnerable to Iron Age (and later) weaponry. It *is* much softer. That could be a story beat in low-tech milieux.


BODY 02, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 02 (cap is 07), Enhance (Laser, heat/flame, Acid RV): 01 (cap is 06), Stealth penalty 1/2, Power Loss: Enhance is lowered to 01 against weapons made of markedly harder metal than bronze.

Coverage will usually be Vest-level.

Partial, early bronze breastplate

This is an earlier attempt at having a plate of bronze protecting the vitals within the torso. However, the technology and metallurgy aren’t yet up to par. Which forces a kludge giving but a poor coverage.

Two typical examples from Ancient Italy :

  • An early Villanova Culture  breastplate. That’s a bent sheet of bronze with a hole for the head, resting on your shoulders and base of the neck. It doesn’t quite protect the stomach, presumably for weight reasons.
  • A hard leather harness upon which are mounted three bronze discs, each resembling the bosse of a shield. The two on top cover part of the pectoral muscles, and the one in the bottom cover part of the diaphragm.

One good thing you can say about it is, the troops won’t get overconfident in their body armour.


The cleanest way to handle this armour is to have a level of Partial Coverage under “Vest”. This requires using normal scale DCH with 1-AP wide Columns, or Double Scale DCH. The granularity allows for a Trick Shot penalty of 1 AP (normal scale) or 2 APs (double scale), one step under Vest-level Partial Coverage.

BODY 02, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 02 (cap is 05), Stealth penalty 2/2, Power Loss: Enhance is lowered to 01 against weapons made of markedly harder metals than bronze.

Steel breastplate (special guest: Half-plate)

This kind of cuirass is more commonly associated with Napoleonic-era stories, though you’ll also see in Late Middle Age settings. In most cases, it corresponds to a shift from melee combat to ranged combat with heavy crossbows then black powder firearms.

So the onus shifts toward protecting the vitals with a proofed, solid plate of metal. The limbs cannot receive such weighty protection, and a breastplate is the cost-effective approach anyway. If combat is more about ranged engagements, protecting your limbs from melee weapons isn’t as important. But protecting against center-of-mass hits is.

It will probably not protect well against a straight-on, short-range, long arm shot. It is more intended to dampen “ballistic noise” on the battlefield, such as long-range shots, shrapnel, glancing hits, handguns at a medium range, etc..

Breastplates gradually fade out as the power of firearms increases. They eventually become niche items worn for specific tasks. Then ballistic fabrics, ceramic plates and other inventions gradually bring it back as the “bulletproof” vest.


BODY 04, Blunting: 02, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing RV): 02 (cap is 09), Enhance (Laser, heat/flame, Acid, Ballistic RV): 01 (cap is 08), Stealth penalty 1/2.

Coverage will usually be Vest-level. Jacket-level coverage (“Half-plate”) isn’t uncommon, but it increases the stealth penalty to 2/3. Visually, half-plate armour is often associated by the layman with the conquistadores.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Helpers: Kevin Berger.