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Keller: Metal Armor -- Quite Long, my Apologies.
Tue Sep 17 03:37:22 2002
While I realize that in some cases people aren't going to believe
me regardless of what I say here (as evidenced by some of the
commentary that I got when I mentioned this on gossip earlier this
evening) the concept of the limitations of metallic armor in
the real world that are being bandied about are patently false.
Metallic armor is no more, or less, limiting to your ability to move
(ie. Dexterity) than leather armor. In most cases, leather armor that
actually protected (beyond the protection afforded by the equivalent
of a leather jacket or duster) was boiled in beeswax or vinegar,
which hardened the leather and made it rigid.
a typical full suit of plate armor is typically between 45
and 60 pounds, and was fully articulated to the point
cartwheels are possible, as was vaulting into the saddle in
Most of the protection from plate armor was from the way it
was constructed. Much like modern tank armor, it sloped,
deflecting blows away from important areas. Armor that was not
rigid -- leather coats, chainmail, etc. had the tendency to
put most of the weight on the shoulders, and to work less
effectively versus a crushing blow than a cutting blow, due
to less of the force being transferred.
The notion that a knight in full armor could not get up once they'd
fallen, or that they had to be winched into the saddle, is the product
of Mark Twain's _Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court_. It
no more an accurate depiction of the medieval world than _Ivanhoe_
or _Idylls of the King_ (and I will not even mention the mangling
that the various fantasy role-playing systems do). A good place to go
when looking for literary example of what someone in armor could or
couldn't do would be the various Arthurian Romances written during the period
and especially Froussart's _Chronicles_. Often the focus is more on the
characters than the armor and weapons, as you would expect in a book about
soldiers written today to take what various weapons can or cannot do for
granted and not state rediculous claims that would have made anybody actually
using said equipment likely to die, thus negating it's battlefield popularity.
However, that being said it is precisely for this reason they are useful-
when the characters do something the armor and weapons are taken for granted,
giving a much more realistic view of what someone could or could not do.
All this being said, there are certain situations in which a dexterity minus
would be in order regarding armor. If armor is damaged, it will not bend
with the wearer as well, which would create a likely dexterity minus until
it could be fixed. Also plate armor had to be fitted, so plate armor that
had not been properly fitted would likely have a dexterity minus. Note this
may or may not matter for leather armor (it would depend on the rigidity
of the armor I suspect -- it might be broken in, like boots, I suppose.
Chain, however, would not need any sort of reworking assuming someone of
approximately the same size. however, all the weight in chain hangs off the
shoulders, instead of being more evently distributed as in plate and mail or
If anyone is still reading this, and really wants to get into a discussion,
some sources I can suggest to you. For a simple quick reference the following
page answers some common questions about weapons and armor. Note it is from
an armorsmith, but one who is trying to create historically accurate pieces.
The page is http://www.armor.com/2000/info.html
I apologize for the length of this note. I am a medievalist by academic bent,
and a re-enactor as a hobby, and the misconceptions that are often touted
as fact irks me to a significant degree. I have worn armor on several
occasions and found it less troubling as far as my mobility went than a
backpack. Also, the ammount of weight carried in a suit of armor is similar
to that a soldier carries into combat. So I have trouble understanding
how such a gross misconception came to be accepted dogma.