Ruins of Adventure
Return to Armor Prices
Gullet Guardian (+1 AC)
A variety of “festival armor” that has become popular with merchants and caravaneers, the gullet guardian resembles a misplaced leather breastplate or over-large broadbelt, protecting from the waist up rather than the shoulders down.
Custom tooling and scenework is the norm, with most identifiable to a particular crafter or owner. They are praised highest in areas of sweltering heat or where custom frowns upon casual armor wear. When first encountered, the whole may be taken as some outlandish attempt to gird an expansive gullet. Yet those who wear them warrant they protect where most vulnerable to common attack.
Padded (+2 AC)
Padded armor, also referred to as quilted armor, is the simplest form of manmade armor. It consists of two or more layers of spun cloth stuffed with thick batting and quilted together.
Padded armor typically covers the chest and shoulders, but full-length suits are sometimes seen.
Padded armor is mostly found among the poor and unskilled. Only the poorest excuses for armed forces would be caught dead in padded armor. The bulky and restrictive nature of the armor makes it a poor substitute for a stout set of leather.
Village militias, neophyte bandit packs, urban street gangs, and primitive barbarian hordes are the most common users of padded armor. In short, this includes anyone who cannot afford leather armor (i.e., the truly destitute), cultures without the technology to tan hide (i.e., the truly primitive), or those who have no other option at their time of need (i.e., the truly desperate).
Padded armor can be made by any race or nation. Thus, it is common protection for the poorer classes. Since making a padded suit of armor requires little more than a crude needle and thread, low-level or desperate adventurers in need of additional protection can usually whip up a set of padded armor in less than two days. The durability and level of comfort afforded by the homemade suit naturally varies in direct proportion to the skill of the would-be armorer. For game purposes, several layers of heavy cloth or furs can be considered padded armor for the purposes of determining a character’s base armor class.
Padded armor, being little more than multiple layers of clothing, tends to soil and wear out easily. Although newly fashioned sets may sell cheaply, padded armor must be replaced often, even if it is well cared for. Lice, sweat, dirt, fleas, and insects all take their toll.
If the DM judges that a set of padded armor has seen its last days, the armor class of the armor drops one place (AC +1). The armor, now rotted and torn, is little more than bulky clothing. Importantly, heavily soiled armor reduces the wearer’s saving throws against disease and disease-causing spells by -2.
Under ideal conditions, a set of padded armor should be replaced monthly. However, when travelling through heavily infested swamps or in monster-laden forests, padded armor may require replacement as often as every few days. On any long journey, spare sets of padded armor should be taken along as if they were spare sets of clothing. Too much frugality before a journey can lead to much discomfort later.
Naturally, those who have no access to better armor try to make the best appearance whenever they can. Nobody wants to appear cheap or desperate, especially when they are. Therefore, decorating one’s padded armor is the most common form of “upgrading” the appearance of one’s forces. All armies and nations have banners and shields adorned with their own colors, and these colors are often repeated in intricate patterns on their padded armor. This is most often seen when the local king or noble quickly recruits the local farmers’ militia to defend his lands or aid him in launching an assault. The wives, sisters, and daughters quickly whip up anything they can to protect their ill-trained husbands, brothers, and sons. The colors of the lord are either quilted into the design of the armor in checkerboard fashion, or painted or dyed onto the hastily prepared protection.
In similar fashion, the most nefarious of evil knights have been known to use quilted armor to camouflage their own soldiers as peasants of the opposing ranks, taking devious advantage of the militia’s known lack of combat training.
This is only one of many reasons why 0-level fighters are neither feared nor respected by the armed forces. Certainly in the case of padded armor, one can tell a knave by his suit.
Leather (+2 AC)
Leather armor, despite the popular misconception, is not soft and supple like the leather used to make a ranger’s boots or a druid’s robe. That kind of leather offers no better protection than common clothing.
Leather armor is actually strong and stiff, having been hardened in boiling oil and then stretched over a wooden or stone model of a man’s or woman’s chest. The resulting breastplate and shoulder guards are combined with a tunic or kirtle and, in colder climes, leggings of wool or soft leather.
This is the most common form of “modern” armor. The materials (leather and oil) are readily available in all civilized lands. Only the techniques for boiling and shaping the leather is necessary, and this is not a difficult feat for a leatherworker.
This armor is both inexpensive and durable. While the leather is extremely stiff, it is never fashioned into anything larger than a breastplate, which keeps restriction of movement to a minimum. Naturally, this arrangement means leather armor affords no protection to the joints, but this is true of most types of armor, and is a challenge all civilized races have been attempting to overcome since wars began.
In severe combat situations, leather armor may need to be replaced weekly. However, the armor is easily cleaned, reasonably unaffected by weather, and resists all but the severest of abrasions. This means a good set of leather can be worn daily for many months without need for replacement. Many retired warriors and middle-class militia have a set of leather armor stored away that they take out and polish at least annually.
Because raw leather comes from a by-product of medieval daily life (i.e., eating beef and other meats), in civilized societies leather armor is very common. Even rural communities have little trouble manufacturing leather armor for the troops within a few days.
Cows are not the sole source of hide for tanning. Horses, sheep, and camels can be used just as easily. In short, the creature must have a thicker skin than that of a normal man, but not quite as thick as that of an elephant of bear. The skins of these well-protected creatures, when tanned, becomes hide armor.
Irregular human forces (e.g., militias and levies, freemen, commoners above peasant level, barbarians, light infantry, and marines) are the primary users of leather armor, for the following reasons: A) leather armor is drastically cheaper and more readily available than metal armor; B) the armor can be worn for long periods of time without leading to increased fatigue or disease; C) the method or protection is so simple that many armies can make new sets of armor from cattle seized in newly raided territories, often scant days before meeting the defenders in battle; and D) they can be stockpiled for years without the excessive maintenance required by metal armors that are prone to rust.
Another benefit of leather armor, much extolled by those of a more disreputable persuasion, is the ease which it can be silenced. While leather armor is not typically noisy, its buckles and fasteners tend to rattle and clink. Unlike metal armor, leather armor is easily muffled by clothing and as such makes little sound during normal movement. Additional layers of clothing further dampen sounds made by the wearer while hiding. More rouges than can be counted owe their lives to muffled leather armor.
The freedom of movement, adequate general protection, lack of noise, high availability, and low price make this the armor of choice for the general human population.
Cord Armor (+2 AC)
Typically only found among savage or exotic tribes, cord armor consists of rope-like fibers woven and knotted into a thick, tough fabric. It may be found in places where leather is scarce. It may also be used by those who possess the Rope Making proficiency, but who lack more traditional armoring or leatherworking skills.
Studded Leather (+3 AC)
Studded leather armor has little in common with normal leather armor. While leather armor is a hardened shell, studded leather armor is soft and supple with hundreds of metal rivets affixed. The rivets are so close together that they form a flexible coating of hard metal that turns aside slashing and cutting attacks. The soft leather backing is little more than a means of securing the rivets in place.
Studded leather armor is known as “poor man’s mail” because of its metallic components and low price. It is more common among the general population than most people would first believe because, unlike other types of mail armor, studded leather is relatively easy to make.
While a soft leather backing is the most durable and comfortable, any stout cloth can be used as a backing for the rivets. The rivets themselves are also easy to acquire, as everything from nails to pebbles have been substituted at one time or another in times of desperation. In general, as long as the backing is secure and the rivets are hard enough to withstand a glancing blow, the armor so comprised should be considered studded leather for purposes of weight and protection.
Studded leather, like brigandine (described later), is commonly worn by pirates and other seafarers. The protection afforded is better than normal leather armor, which is an important point during sea combat when a shield may not be practical (a shield is useless when climbing or fighting in a ship’s rigging).
With regard to swimming, the weight of studded leather is significantly less than metal armor, and the flexibility of the soft leather backing is better for such demanding activity. Indeed, for short times in the water, it is as easy to maneuver in studded leather as it is to move in a normal leather breastplate. Therefore, most sea-going mercenaries and pirates prefer to wear studded leather as their all-purpose armor. Trained marine contingents, however, whose main function is boarding, usually wear normal leather and carry a shield.
Miserly merchants, who shave pieces of gold more than they like to admit, will often buy studded leather to outfit their hired guards. However, these copper-pinchers pay for the protection one way or another, as studded leather tends to wear out rather quickly. Not only does the soft backing wear out as quickly as thick clothing, but the metal studs can be affixed only by driving them through the leather, considerably weakening the overall strength of the backing. Eventually, the holes open up and the rivets drop out. Studded leather is also prone to the same problems of sweat, grime, and insects as padded armor.
Gnome Workman’s Armor (+3 AC)
Gnomish workman’s leather armor is a variation of high-quality gnomish leather armor. Gnomish workman’s leather is adorned with dozens of tiny tool holders and pouches, typically filled with the most bizarre collection of coins, nails, tools, weapons, widgets, and sprockets ever assembled on one body. For this reason, a set of gnomish workman’s leather provides protection identical to studded leather armor.
Typically, gnomish workman’s leather is as silent as normal high-quality gnomish leather armor (no Thieving Skill Armor Adjustment). However, this is before a gnomish workman has gotten anywhere near it. As with most things of gnomish design, the whole is a rather sundry compilation of many disjointed parts.
Strange inventions, secret compartments, locked and trapped pockets, and a dizzying array of tool holders and layered item racks are added, modified, moved, and camouflaged almost daily. From week to week, a gnomish workman’s armor may change drastically in appearance and function. The armor has a stowage capacity of 10 lbs., up to half of which can be considered hidden.
Importantly, the special benefits of gnomish high-quality leather armor are lost when a gnomish workman begins collecting items to tuck into this leather garb. While a few items on the belt do not significantly ruin this feature of the base armor, enough gadgets to alter the armor class cannot help but clink and bang into each other, crinkle and spill out when the owner bends over, or accidentally drop off or explode in the most heated battle or flight.
Outside of gnomish society, this type of armor has been rarely seen by non-gnomes. Humans and elves rarely steal things they cannot use, unless hired to do so, and dwarves, who might squeeze into a suit if offered, find the concept distasteful and the appearance much too garish for their otherwise stoic tastes. Halflings have displayed a weakness for the many secret compartments found in gnomish workman’s leather, and halfling thieves in particular might treasure this type of armor above all else. Indeed, the black market for gnomish workman’s leather is rumored to be funded entirely by halfling-run thieves’ guilds. This only adds fuel to any fires of discontent between halfling and gnomish clans.
In human settlements and cities, gnomes only don workman’s armor when working privately, deep in their secret workshops. Since no one around them either appreciates or respects the trappings of “master craftsmanship,” there seems to be little need to flaunt them.
Within the gnomish clan, however, there is a constant competition between all gnomish craftsmen, among both masters and apprentices. In some clans, the competitions have become formalized, with actual categories (most items carried, best personal trap, most secure pouch, nicest appearance, etc.) and prizes (clan contracts or a special badge to be sewn onto the armor). These contests are held on high festival days, much like a merchant’s bazaar (just another special guild tradition to confuse the newcomer or overnight visitor).
In the largest of clans, many competing craftsman’s guilds might sponsor and support individual designs or candidates. Every craftsman in the hall will spend long nights tinkering with his own armor to emulate or duplicate the desired effect. Those who succeed will claim partial credit for “testing and perfecting” the basic design. Those who fail might offer small sums of gold for the secret of the new invention.
Spiked Leather (+3 AC)
A variation of studded leather that is sometimes seen among barbarians of northern climes (and, oddly, among some hill giant clans) is spiked leather. Much as it sounds, spiked leather armor is studded leather armor in which the rivets have been augmented by sharp spikes. (Most intelligent beings would be worried about mounting spikes into their armor, just in case they should trip and fall, not to mention the problems packing or storing the armor).
Overbearing and grappling while wearing such armor inflicts additional damage based on the wearer’s size. A small creature inflicts 1-2 points of piercing damage, a man-sized creature inflicts 1-3 points, and a large creature inflicts 1-4 points. These values are considered for each individual attack, not for every round that a creature is grappled.
Spiked armor is usually made specially for the wearer and costs about 150% of the price of a normal set of studded leather.
Spiked armor is occasionally used to equip gladiators, pit fighters, and other specialists.
Ring Mail (+3 AC)
This form of chain mail is made by sewing large metal rings to a leather or cloth backing. Ring mail has the same role in early-period campaigns that chain mail has in later ones. In later campaigns, it is more expensive to buy than chain mail, weighs a comparable amount, provides worse protection, and suffers all the maintenance problems of padded and studded leather armor. Few human groups, other than town militias and bandit gangs, use ring mail to any significant degree.
Hide (+4 AC)
Hide armor is made from the thick hide of a very large animal (an elephant, for example) or from many layers of normal leather from common animals, like cows.
Hide armor is much too thick, heavy, and inflexible to be used much in the advanced human cultures. Its weight is comparable to chain mail, but its protection is less. However, among the barbaric humanoid masses throughout the dark forests and misty jungles of the world, hide armor is common.
Because of its simple construction, any race with Low Intelligence or better can make suitable hide armor. All that is required is a dead animal and someone to wear its skin. Since no effort to tan the hide is necessary to get basic protection, creatures with a desire for excellent protection at a fair price (i.e., usually free) find hide armor ideal for everyday use. Proper tanning, of course, improves the armor’s life (and acceptance in polite society).
The smell of untanned armor, as any ogre can testify, is something a warrior must get used to.
As mentioned in the section on leather armor , the stiffness that results when hide armor dries completely isn’t considered a drawback by humanoids. (In fact, without that stiffness, the hide would lose one level of armor class protection.) For only a little bit of work, any humanoid worth his hit dice can start adventuring with hide armor and begin hunting for a shield.
Ironically, while leather armor may allow greater freedom of movement, durability, and a more pleasant appearance and smell, hide armor is actually two levels of protection better. It illustrates that humans trust their dexterity and intelligence to aid in avoiding wounds during combat, while less-intelligent humanoids typically rely on reducing the chances of a vital strike with a thicker armor.
Like padded armor, hide armor is often decorated to show tribal allegiances. Commonly, the type of creature used to make the armor is sufficient to denote clan alliance, as with the Hydra clan fire giants or the Black Bear ogres.
Unique to the humanoid races is the habit of affixing some part of one’s notable kill to one’s hide armor. While this doesn’t affect the armor class rating of this armor in any substantial way, it does tend to make one less popular around the civilized campfire but more important around the humanoid or barbarian camp. Importantly, these trophies, which often include such grisly things as skulls, scalps, teeth and claws, are considered a sign of ferocity and ruthlessness and are therefore seen most commonly among high leaders and shamans.
Back and Breast (+4 AC)
This armor is simply a steel breastplate and back piece, worn like a shirt. It protects the wearer’s vital organs but leaves the limbs uncovered. Historically it saw use throughout the Renaissance.
Brigandine (+4 AC)
A development of both scale mail and studded leather, brigandine armor is composed of a layer of small metal plates riveted to an undercoat of soft leather, thick cloth, or coarse canvas. A further overcoat of cloth is applied to the exterior of the suit, making for a layered protection that is lighter than scale mail. An alternative configuration is for the plates to be sandwiched between two layers of soft leather.
Brigandine is a light armor of composite construction, often worn by brigands and other rogues. The armor is essentially a variant of studded leather with an overcoat of cloth. The cloth covering serves both to strengthen the entire framework as well as to make the armor less conspicuous from a distance. Brigandine armor is quieter than chain, splint, or banded mail, but less quiet than studded leather or leather armor.
Brigandine weighs more than hide but less than scale mail. It is generally more flexible than hide, but its three layers make it somewhat stiffer than scale mail.
Brigandine armor is generally the best armor a run-of-the-mill village armorer can make and still get good results. For anything with a higher armor class, a professional master armorer is required. This means that brigandine armor is the highest level of protection afforded many low-level cultures and campaigns.
This represents the limit for the early Middle Ages period. If a campaign resembles the Dark Ages more than the Age of Chivalry, scale mail and brigandine armor probably represent the pinnacle of personal armor.
Pirates and bandits (i.e., brigands) find that brigandine can be made from anything on hand from sails to canvas sacks, and from coins to brass shavings. Such armor still offers decent protection against most slashing attacks (the most common types encountered in these professions).
As mentioned, brigandine is easier to muffle than most metal armors and mails and thus is the armor of choice among many rogues and the less reputable members of the campaign society.
Rangers often own a set of brigandine as a field combat backup to their normal armor of either studded leather or leather. Poor or novice rangers and warriors might be able to afford or acquire brigandine armor when other armors might not be accessible.
Brigandine armor can also be useful for smugglers, allowing items to be concealed within its multiple layers. Not only coins and precious metals might be concealed, but treasure maps, personal defense traps, and concealed weapons are all possibilities for the clever character. Whether these are actual machinations of devious minds or just rumors spread to discourage personal thievery is a subject of some debate among adventurers and legal authorities.
What is known is that it is possible to conceal such items, either within the padding or by interleaving them with the metal plates. This potential for use (or abuse) of brigandine armor in the campaign should not be overlooked by the DM or player. Secret pockets for use by thieves or prestidigitators might be revealed in the heat of combat, or local authorities may miss a valuable clue the PCs are lucky enough to discover on their own. Much like gnomish workman’s leather (described later), an adventurer’s set of brigandine may hold many welcome or unwelcome surprises.
Scale Mail (+4 AC)
This is a coat of soft leather covered with overlapping pieces of metal, much like the scales of a fish. It is just as heavy as chain mail, but offers slightly worse protection. It has no significant advantages over hide or brigandine armor.
Scale mail is an old type of armor, much like splint mail (described later). It never became popular in western medieval culture for very long; its production was found to be too time-consuming and thus less efficient to make in comparison to other armor types. Scale mail is most common in Dark Age periods, in foreign cultures, or in those areas where its materials are unusually plentiful.
Some human cultures, notably those similar to the Byzantines and other eastern and southern kingdoms, did not pursue the evolution of armor made of large plates, but rather chose to make use of small plates. Where metal is not forged but is instead cut from sheets of malleable metal ores, the technology of scale mail and its successors (splint, brigandine, and banded armor) predominates.
This is not a matter of primitive versus civilized, but rather two separate approaches to the same problem. Where western cultures stress protection, eastern cultures seek to maximize flexibility (and ventilation in the hotter climates).
The scales in scale armor are made smaller in order to make the suit more flexible and comfortable when worn. Indeed, in this respect, scale mail far exceeds either plate or banded mail.
However, all those scales require more maintenance, as the more items attached to an armor’s backing, the greater the chance some will fall off. Scale armor not properly maintained loses one level of armor class protection.
Scale mail suffers the same problems of dirt, grime, lice, and odor that studded leather and padded armor suffer.
Scale mail does offer protection as good as that of brigandine for the same price and at a comparable weight. The choice between scale mail and brigandine armor is likely to be determined by the nature of the cultures.
Coin Armor (+4 AC)
A variant of scale mail is armor made with the common coins of the realm. This coin armor is seen only rarely, and then usually among dignitaries and high generals. Each set of armor can stock a large quantity of coins (up to 1,000!). Rarely are they stolen, however, as the people who are rich enough to wear them are also rich enough to see to their personal security.
There are many variations possible, from armor scaled wholly of gold or silver coins to mixed suits wherein the coins themselves are arranged in a personal, family, clan, or other heraldric pattern.
Metal Lamellar (+4 AC)
Lamellar armor consists of small, overlapping plates of metal sewn together or stitched to a backing of leather or cloth. It is similar to brigandine and splinted mail, but isn’t sandwiched in leather like the other two armors. Lamellar is a very ancient armor that was used in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt thousands of years before the rise of Rome. Byzantine and Persian cavalrymen used breastplates of steel lamellar as part of their heavy armor.
Chain Mail (+5 AC)
Chain mail is made of interlocking metal rings. It is always worn over a layer of padded fabric or soft leather to prevent chafing and lessen the impact of blows.
Chain mail is the standard medium armor in most fantasy campaigns. In many places, it is so common that the price of a good suit of chain mail may actually be cheaper than less sophisticated armors like scale mail and brigandine. This makes the appeal of chain mail armor very high indeed.
Chain mail is only slightly heavier than hide or brigandine armor and much lighter than any of the plate armors. Important to the wearer, however, is the fact that the weight of a suit of chain mail does not rest evenly upon the body. Rather, most of the burden of a chain suit rests upon the shoulders, making chain armor feel heavier than it really is.
In game terms, this means chain mail can be worn for only about a day before the shoulders of even the strongest warriors begin to fatigue. Experienced warriors usually carry a second set of lighter armor (often leather or studded leather) for use when traveling or at night when not on watch. Prolonged shoulder fatigue from wearing chain mail more than one day at a time affects combat (-2 to hit) and leads to headaches and backaches.
In general, chain mail is worn by mid-level fighters, guardsmen, mercenaries, and men-at-arms with some official capacity. The price of chain mail is equivalent to many years income for most peasants, and is thus out of reach for most common folk. However, some middle-class families have a set or two of heirloom chain mail armor handed down from glorious days past for use in dangerous days to come.
Typically, town guards and noble patrols are bedecked in chain mail armor. It is perfect for short duty tours and gives the noble warrior a great advantage over the local rabble. Just the difference between chain mail and leather armor alone can give the officer a significant advantage over most ruffians. Anyone wearing chain mail armor with any sort of heraldic crest or uniform is usually assumed to be a local official of some kind by the experienced and perceptive traveler.
In general, chain mail is the basis for all of the more advanced and more protective armors. The potentially low cost of chain mail is a reflection of the fact that many sets of chain mail are bought as a base for banded mail and the more sophisticated plate armors.
Because chain mail armor is not usually worn for long periods at a time, its underlying padding rarely suffers the problems of padded armors. The metal mail, however, will rust if not oiled and scrubbed with a wire brush weekly. After a month of neglect, chain mail armor loses one level of armor class since it is no longer as flexible and links may have begun to rust. (Naturally, this applies only to ferrous armor mail and not to chain mail constructed of non-ferrous metals).
Chain mail is certainly the best armor value for adventurers who cannot yet afford the heavier armors.
Elven Chain Mail (+5 AC)
Elven Chainmail is perhaps the greatest testament to elven magic and craftsmanship. These strange shirts of mail barely cover the wearer, leaving the back, sides, arms, and most of the chest exposed, and yet protecting just as well and just as thoroughly as normal chainmail crafted by other races.
Elven chainmail weighs half as much as normal chainmail, not because it is magically light, but because it covers only half as much skin.
The elves guard the secret of making elven chain mail with more ferocity than they protect even their own children. Human and dwarven armorers have been able to craft lightweight shirts of mail in the same style as their elven competitors, but any amount of testing will quickly prove the fakery — when the user is inevitably stabbed in the shoulder.
Naturally, when one has a thousand years to perfect the skills for one’s job, just about anything is within grasp. The dwarves call this an unfair advantage, while the humans don’t even bother trying anymore. Life is too short, they feel, to waste time on creating something that would be easier stolen or discovered in a dragon’s horde.
Silenced Elven Chain (+5 AC)
A special form of silenced elfin chain is available through some thieves’ guilds. Such armor has each individual link of chain armor wrapped in thin leather or light cloth binding. This to some extent “silences” the armor, at the cost of increasing its encumbrance by one-third above that of normal elfin chain. It is also fiendishly expensive, costing more than plate mail. Of course, it is even rarer than ordinary elfin chain itself. Finding a craftsman and persuading him to make such a suit of armor could be a challenging adventure in itself for a thief.
Bonuses for moving silently and hearing noise above those which apply for normal elfin chain are somewhat offset by penalties to picking pockets and climbing walls. Silenced elfin chain is particularly useful to a thief for whom subterfuge and sneaking around unobserved are very important, but who suspects that there is a high probability of combat at some stage during his mission!
Doublemail (+6 AC)
Where standard chain mail employs a single link to connect its neighbors, double mail weaves a second set through the first. The armor weighs more than normal chain, but protects as well as splint mail. An internal leather harness distributes the armor’s weight more evenly than normal mail, reducing fatigue from extended wear.
Double mail is superior in manufacture and less prone to smithing flaws than plate armor, while still being cheaper. Refitting and repair are also less troublesome, both real concerns for standing forces. Perhaps best of all, its enhanced protection is delivered while leaving both hands free to wield weapons or a shield.
Elite troops typically pay the added expense of using adamantine or some similar light-weight alloy in their double mail.
Splint Mail (+6 AC)
Splint mail is a variant of banded mail in which the metal strips are applied vertically to the backing of chain, leather, or cloth rather than horizontally as in banded mail. Since the human body does not swivel in mid-torso as much as it flexes back to front, splint mail is more restrictive in battle.
In game terms, splint mail is to banded mail as scale mail is to brigandine: splint mail is the style of the earlier and less efficient armoring techniques. Much like scale and ring mail, splint mail will be used by the less advanced cultures and poorer warriors. Its relatively low street price in a western campaign when compared to banded mail and even chain is due to the fact that few western warriors will even touch a set of splint mail unless they are destitute or desperate.
The protection splint mail affords is equivalent to that of banded mail, but it is much more fatiguing to wear in a lengthy battle. Furthermore, broken splints tend to work inward toward the wearer in the course of a battle. More than a few warriors have found themselves painfully cut across the ribs when broken banded mail would have merely shifted up or down. Maintenance problems for splint mail are otherwise the same as for banded mail.
For characters with a light purse, splint mail can be picked up in seedier armor shops. Its price makes it ideal for adventurers who want the extra bit of protection over chain mail.
Banded Mail (+6 AC)
Banded mail armor is made of overlapping horizontal strips of laminated metal sewn over a backing of normal chain mail and soft leather backing. Lamination in this context refers to a process in which many thin sheets of metal are hammered or riveted together to form each individual metal strip.
This type of armor is most commonly worn by eastern warriors and would be as common as plate mail in a culture based on the Turks, for example, late period Mongols, or the Japanese. In a western campaign, banded mail can be considered to be the precursor of plate armor. Since banded mail inevitably will have gaps between the metal strips, however, the total protection of vital areas is not quite as good as heavier plate armors. The result is the slightly poorer armor class rating of banded mail.
The strength and flexibility of chain mail makes it ideal for protecting the jointed areas where large metal plates are traditionally incapable of providing adequate protection. One advantage of this metal-and-chain arrangement over chain mail alone is the fact that the construction of banded mail naturally restricts movement of the metal plates across the torso. The beneficial side effect is that the weight of the armor is more evenly distributed on the wearer, making it easier to wear banded mail for longer periods of time.
In game terms, while banded mail does have an overall higher level of protection than normal chain mail, the durability of banded mail, especially at the joints, is about half that of a standard suit of chain. While a fine set of chain armor might last six months or more, a set of banded mail rarely lasts three months, even with constant upkeep.
Much like chain mail, ferrous metal bands are subject to rust. However, since the metal strips found in banded mail are already inflexible and designed to remain that way, the armor class of rusty banded mail is no different from that of a new suit. However, the estimation of one’s peers would certainly be diminished, as a well-tended suit of banded mail can gleam most beautifully if cared for properly.
Bronze Plate (+6 AC)
The softest of the true plate mail armors, bronze plate mail is made of heavy metal plates attached to a layer of brigandine or composite layers of metal scales and leather or padded armor.
Historically, by the time the armorer’s craft had advanced to the point that plate mail had become common, steel had replaced bronze as the best metal for constructing armor. Thus, aside from ceremonial armor, most bronze plate mail appears in areas where copper and tin are plentiful and iron is rare. In general, since bronze plate mail is designed to be lighter and more flexible than normal plate mail, bronze plate armorers use leather and padding under the bronze plates instead of the heavier chain mail. Also, to reduce the overall weight of the armor, there are no bronze plates attached to the moveable joints. A large bronze breastplate and greaves are often the only difference between bronze plate mail and bronze scale or brigandine armor.
Bronze plate offers better protection than normal brigandine or chain mail and a lower price tag than standard plate mail. Since bronze plate is usually backed with stiff layered armor rather than loose chain mail, bronze plate mail isn’t as flexible as banded, splint, or plate mail.
Who would use bronze plate mail in a standard campaign, when so many other alternatives exist? Plate mail, as will be discussed later, is a sign of nobility to the general population. What does the lowly peasant or innkeeper know of the advantages and disadvantages of various types of plate mail? Little to be sure. In fact, this armor is one piece of equipment whose price is not determined by its true value in combat but by its perceived value to persons around the wearer.
Any knight worth his salt acquires full plate armor as soon as he can, even if it means selling prized items of magic or a stout warhorse. If a knight can scrape up 400 gold pieces but can’t get the extra 200 gold pieces to buy a real set of plate, bronze plate is the only real choice open to him.
More than a few low-level adventurers with perhaps a little too much gold to spend and not enough experience or training in such matters often are cheated into buying bronze plate mail that has been painted silver. They immediately lose 200 gold pieces in the deal by taking home the inferior armor. After even one such sucker-sale, the charlatan salesman skips town for a few weeks or moves to a different part of the city. Naturally, such gullible warriors usually don’t discover their mistake until the heat of battle, when a weapon strike that would have bounced off a real set of plate mail dents or cuts through the bogus plate. Caveat emptor!
Not all bronze plate is part of a hoax or scam, however. There are versions of bronze plate used by cultures who for one reason or another haven’t learned the fine art of forging iron and steel. There is much precedent for this in history and fantasy, and many advanced cultures have lost the art or never struck the right mix of metals throughout their long history. These cultures may have developed the skill of forging bronze into a high art, making armor that looks like gold but wears like steel.
Note that these types of bronze mail last much longer than the typical medieval forms and may have a backing of solid bronze chain and leather. These suits wear like real plate, and the relative softness of the metal is often worked into a decorative design. Easy to emboss with one’s family crest or tribal insignia, well-worked bronze shines like gold and can be polished to the sheen of a mirror. Some tribes have literally won entire battles on the distracting beauty of their exquisite armor alone.
Plate Mail (+7 AC)
Plate mail is a combination of chain or brigandine armor with metal plates covering the vital areas such as the chest, abdomen and groin. Similar in construction to bronze plate mail, true plate mail comprises heavy steel plates riveted to a sturdy backing of chain and leather. These metal plates are often better constructed than those found in bronze plate and banded mails, relying on superior metallurgy and advanced lamination techniques to produce a lightweight steel with excellent combat characteristics.
Brigandine backing for this type of armor is rare, because the stiffness of brigandine armor makes this type of backing an unpopular choice among plate armorers and warriors alike.
For all of these reasons, plate mail protects the human body more effectively than bronze plate mail.
The development of plate mail heralded the beginning of the age of chivalry and knighthood. Associated most often with classic French medieval culture, the names given to the segments of plate mail reveal their French origin to this day.
The most important metal plate on the armor is called the plastron-de-fer, or breastplate. It protects the vital chest and abdominal areas from attack. Typically, the shoulders were protected by metal shoulder guards called epaulieres. Lower leg protectors, called grevieres (or greaves), and metal-plated chain gloves, or gauntlets, are also common accessories to a plate mail suit. Any manner of helm is also desirable.
Plate mail is the most common form of heavy armor in fantasy campaigns. It provides maximum protection for a fraction of the cost of field or full plate armor, and can take month after month of grueling combat punishment. It is only moderately heavier than banded or chain mail, and because of its custom fitting and sturdy straps, wears easier than either.
Because the plates are carefully fitted to combine with the chain suit beneath, the layer of leather or padding beneath the chain is often much thinner and more flexible than that found in banded or brigandine armor. Many long years have gone into perfecting the construction of plate mail, which makes even the most basic of suits a wonder of medieval engineering. With regard to cost, the purchaser of a set of plate mail may have to fork out a considerable sum of money compared to banded mail, but no wearer of plate mail doubts for long the value and summary wisdom of his purchase.
Knights, royal guards, and mercenary captains often wear plate mail. Even as a prize of battle, plate mail is infinitely easier to fit to a new owner than either field or full plate armor. Plate mail is the preferred protection of the vast percentage of the world’s most experienced warriors, because it is not nearly as cumbersome to don or remove as other heavier types of armor.
It is a matter of pride among many kingdoms that even the slightest improvement to the general plate mail design was quickly attributed to the armorer who invented the alteration and the king whose wisdom it was to accept the change.
As such, most sets of plate mail were constantly upgraded throughout the known world, and now are very similar indeed. In fact, the perfection of the basic plate mail design was so nearly complete that many armorers had already begun devoting most, if not all, of their time and resources to working field and full plate armor with similar care and precision.
Plate mail is the heaviest armor commonly used by adventurers, both as a matter of pride and for the general necessities of daily use and efficiency.
Dwarven Plate (+8 AC)
The forged black iron plate made by the dwarves exclusively for their own warrior leaders is both heavy and unattractive by human and elven standards. However, dwarves have traditionally placed less emphasis on appearance than on personal defense. Dwarven warriors who wear dwarven plate are often called “waddling cauldrons” by their enemies due to the bulk of this armor.
High-quality dwarven plate is the boilerplate version of human plate armor. It is 50% heavier than equivalent mails, making a single suit of dwarven-sized plate mail armor weigh approximately the same as a set of human-sized plate mail.
Additionally, the denser armor affords protection equivalent to field plate, and the armor itself saves against equipment damage at +6, in addition to any bonuses permitted if the dwarven plate in question is also magically enchanted. Stories about dwarven plate armor withstanding the smelting fires of a red dragon’s breath may be boastful exaggeration, but it is an established fact that dwarven plate often survives an attack that its wearer does not.
As mentioned, dwarves prize combat effectiveness over a warrior’s appearance. It is therefore very rare for the iron appearance of dwarven plate mail to be adorned in any way.
Much like the elves, dwarves do not make dwarven plate for non-dwarves. Not only is it considered impractical to spend one’s time building a suit of armor no dwarf can ever hope to wear (a waste of time), but the dwarves will admit to having no skill in working with the peculiarities of the human body. Dwarves tend to ignore things like flexible joints, as their range of movement is already restricted by nature. An ancient dwarven warrior’s saying goes something like “If it doesn’t fit, bend it. If it still doesn’t fit, break it!” Along those lines, another popular dwarven saying is “Never let your armor impede a good fight.”
Dwarven field and full plate armor do not exist. Not only would dwarves look like miniature iron golems when so protected, but dwarves prefer to let their facial expressions speak for them in combat. The problem of free movement plays a big part in this practical decision as well. No human has ever managed to convince a group of dwarves to forge a set of full plate armor for them. If such a task were even to get past the bargaining phase, it would quickly become apparent to all concerned that the dwarves have no experience or knowledge of such constructions and lack the motivation to learn it. Dwarves themselves claim they’d rather be “beating their hammers on orc skulls than beating them in the forge.”
Curiously, gnomes have offered to give full plate their “best shot” from time to time, but so far, no human has been brave or foolish enough to accept the offer.
Dwarven plate mail lasts longer than its human counterpart. Dwarven plate mail can sustain twice as many points of damage as normal plate mail.
Field Plate (+8 AC)
Field plate is actually a more commonly used form of full plate armor (described later). It consists of shaped and fitted metal plates riveted and interlocked to cover the entire body. Like plate mail, a set of field plate usually includes gauntlets, boots, and a visored helmet (see Helms ). A thick layer of padding must be worn under the armor.
This armor is rarely used, except by noble knights on a military campaign. In theory, the bulk of a set of field plate armor is so evenly distributed over the whole body that the encumbrance rating of field plate compares quite favorably with that of plate mail and banded mail. In practice, the increased protection is paid for with reduced mobility and increased fatigue.
Each suit of this extremely rare and expensive armor is custom-made and fitted for its prospective wearer. Only a master armorer can create field or full plate armor, and only a master armorer can re-size captured pieces of a suit for a new owner. The new owner must be of at least a similar size and build as the previous owner, or the effort required to modify the piece in question exceeds the expense and effort necessary in forging an entire new set.
Aside from its expense, the main disadvantages of field plate armor are the lack of ventilation through the suit, which make moisture and fungus a problem, and the time required to put it on and take it off. 1d6 +4 rounds are required to dress in field plate armor with outside assistance. Triple that amount of time is required if the wearer is alone. Similarly, it takes 1d4 +1 rounds to remove such armor, and half that time (fractions rounded up) if pressed for time or assisted by an attendent.
Field plate armor is typically used by the high knights of a kingdom, like King Arthur’s legendary Knights of the Round Table, for everything except formal ceremonies and triumphant battle celebrations. Full plate armor is reserved for such occasions where style is more important than combat.
Field plate can be fixed much more cheaply and easily than full plate, and is built to withstand the rigors of long-term use and combat. The entire body is encased in metal plates, and even the joints are protected with metal caps and sturdy chain mail. A great helm bearing the emblem of the house or name of a legendary knight is common and is one of the few ways a knight can recognize a friend or foe from a distance.
Field plate, while expensive and painstakingly crafted by master armorers, is normally not adorned with many trappings or embellishments. Since legendary knights make a habit of battling great armies and dragons almost daily, their armor rarely lasts longer than a year without needing to be completely replaced.
If a character insists on wearing badly repaired or patchwork plate mail. Following every strong jolt to the wearer, whether from a good hit in battle or a fall from a cliff, the material binding the patchwork plate to the backing (as stated at the time of repair) must make a saving throw versus Crushing Blow. Failure means the plate falls off, while success means the next saving throw is made with a -1 penalty to the roll. Note that this penalty is cumulative, so any patchwork plate is bound to fall apart eventually.
Full Plate (+9 AC)
Full plate armor is the best armor a warrior can buy, both in appearance and protection. The perfectly-fitted interlocking plates are specially angled to deflect arrows and blows, and the entire suit is carefully adorned with rich engraving and embossed detail.
Suits of full plate armor are as rare as powerful magical items in most fantasy campaigns. Magical sets of full plate are artifacts to be treasured and hidden away, the objects of glorious quests.
In most campaigns, the number of sets of full plate armor can be counted as easily as the numbers of crown knights who owe their allegiance to the king. In many kingdoms, it is a crime to possess a set of full plate armor without royal permission, as a wise king keeps any armorer capable of such craftsmanship at his beck and call.
Full plate armor is one of the greatest gifts a great lord can bestow upon his followers. It is a prize as coveted for the status it confers as its monetary value. A suit of full plate armor will often be a gift presented to great knights upon great service to the realm, or as an incentive to attract a knight errant of unquestioned prowess to the king’s private circle.
In addition, full plate armor is the most technologically advanced armor available in the later medieval and high chivalry settings. The special touches and custom enhancements added by the few living master armorers are what give full plate armor its increased armor class rating over the more traditional forms of field plate. At prices that start at 4,000 gold pieces for a simple, unadorned suit, full plate armor represents the crowning achievement of the armorer’s ultimate goal—to forge for man a new skin of steel, as flexible as his own, but as invulnerable as anything in the land.
This increased protection comes only with a price. While full plate armor wears well when correctly fitted, it is cumbersome to don or remove without assistance. Herein enters the attendent. For most knights, the attendent is a vassal or squire who tends to the knight’s every need. He sharpens his lord’s sword and brushes his horse. However, the great knight chooses his attendent carefully, for he knows his life may depend on this decision. Without the assistance of a capable attendent, a knight requires 1d10 +10 rounds to don his armor. An attendent cuts this time by half. As most combat veterans know, cutting the average armoring time in half can mean the difference between being at the battle and missing it entirely!
Warriors in a hurry can cut this dressing time by half again. The ramifications of this haste is that a knight and his attendent who are extremely lucky might, at best, be able to get dressed in only 3 rounds (i.e., best roll of 1, add 10 equals 11 rounds; 11 rounds cut in half for attendent’s assistance equals 6 rounds; 6 rounds halved again for rushing yields 3 rounds).
However, a knight hurrying in this manner suffers penalties in combat. His straps are not adjusted correctly, meaning his plates are too loose or too tight and will hamper his overall effectiveness in battle. The knights suffers a -1 to all attack rolls and his armor class likewise drops one place, meaning his hasty dressing has given him armor equivalent in protection to that of field plate armor.
If a knight discovers that his loose fittings are causing him to miss his mark or be struck by his enemies too often, he need only spend as many rounds tightening his straps as he neglected by rushing his preparations (twice that if unattended, of course).
Leather Helm (Head AC 12)
The lightest helm available is made from cuir boilli leather reinforced by iron or bronze bands. The leather helm doesn’t provide much protection compared to other types, but it’s better than nothing.
Cap (Head AC 14)
A cap is a padded, leather, or steel skullcap worn much like a close-fitted cap, beret, or bonnet. Caps are usually worn with padded armor, leather, studded leather, hide, or any other lightweight protection.
Mail Coif (Head AC 15)
A coif is a padded chain mail hood. It fits snugly around the neck and over the head, except the face. It usually comes with or is built into a suit of chain mail or mail-based armor. Often, a heavily armored knight will wear a chain mail coif under a great helm. This allows him to remove his great helm for a better view of the field while maintaining a fair level of head protection.
Open-faced Helm (Head AC 16)
This class of open-face helmet, made of reinforced leather or metal, covers most of the head, save the face and neck. These helmets commonly provide protection for the nose (this piece of the helm is called a nasal).
Open-face helmets are popular with officers and leaders, and are appropriately worn with medium-weight armors like brigandine and chain mail. Greek and Roman helmets normally fell under this category, as did many helmets of the later Middle Ages. The open-faced helm provides good protection and only moderately compromises vision and hearing. This category also includes the Renaissance morion, kettle helm, lobster-tail, and other such helmets.
Close-faced Helm (Head AC 17)
The closed-face helmets are identical to the open-face helmets (above), but include a visored faceplate. These tend to be worn by officers and sergeants-at-arms. They are most commonly worn with plate mail.
If the wearer of a Closed-Face Helmet is also wearing plate mail or field plate armor, he gets a +1 to saving throws vs. dragon breath, and to spells such as burning hands, pyrotechnics, fire ball, flaming sphere, wall of fire, delayed blast fireball, incendiary cloud, and meteor swarm, and other fire-based spells and magical effects (as determined by the DM).
Great Helm (Head AC 19)
A great helm is any massive metal helm that covers the entire head, including the neck and often the upper shoulders. The only gaps in the protection are found in the narrow slits that allow limited vision, and some small holes to permit breathing. The visor is not normally removable.
It is rare to find a great helm used with armor lighter than banded mail. Great helms are most often found in combination with plate mail or heavier armor.
The wearer of a Great Helm gets a +2 saving throw vs. wizard spells such as hypnotism, light cast on his eyes, blindness, hypnotic pattern, suggestion, fire charm, rainbow pattern, and some other mind-controlling spells . . . but not charm person, charm monster, or domination.
If the wearer of a Great Helm is also wearing plate mail or field plate armor, he gets a +2 to saving throws vs. dragon breath, and to spells such as burning hands, pyrotechnics, fire ball, flaming sphere, wall of fire, delayed blast fireball, incendiary cloud, and meteor swarm, and other fire-based spells and magical effects (as determined by the DM). If, instead of plate mail or field plate, he is wearing full plate, the bonus is a +3 to saving throws.
Bracers (+1 AC, 1 attack per round)
One of the most prized forms of magical defense, mundane bracers are curiously overlooked. In battle they provide all the advantages of a buckler while being socially more acceptable. The sight of ornate bracers alone has given pause to opponents of the otherwise unarmored. One other great advantage of bracers is that they can be used by virtually everyone—even wizards suffer no penalties for wearing a pair of these, and boiled leather bracers can provide equivalent protection for those that would eschew the use of metal.
Special: All classes and kits (except monks) can use bracers, even if the class or kit would normally disallow the use of armor or shields.
Buckler (+1 AC, 1 attack per round)
A buckler, also known as a target shield, is a small round shield of wood or metal that fastens to the forearm. It can be worn by crossbowmen and archers with no hindrance to their attacks with their chosen weapons.
Because of its small size (approximately 1’ in diameter), a buckler protects against one attack per melee round. The user can choose which attack he wishes to use his buckler against, but he must declare this before the attack roll has been made. This increases the defender’s armor class only by 1 (more if magical) against that single attack.
Note: Bucklers should be treated not as full shields when determining the armor class of the user, but more as a special item that can be called upon to add extra protection for one attack per round.
Small Shield (+1 AC)
A small shield is usually round and is carried on the forearm, gripped with the shield hand. Its light weight as compared to a medium shield permits the user to carry other items in that hand, although he cannot wield or carry another weapon. A small shield (approximately 2’ in diameter) can be used to protect against all frontal attacks.
Medium Shield (+2 AC)
A medium shield is carried in the same manner as a small shield (on the forearm). Unlike the small shield, however, its weight prevents the character from using his shield hand for anything other than carrying the medium shield. Medium shields are usually made of metal, range from 3’-4’ in diameter, and can be of any shape, from round to square to a spread dragon’s wings. A typical medieval shield resembles a triangle with one point facing downward.
With a medium shield, a character can defend against any number of frontal or flanking attacks in a given round. In this instance, the character applies the +2 armor class bonus (not including magical bonuses) for the shield to his overall armor class rating, providing he remembers to disregard the shield bonus during the occasional attack from the rear.
Body Shield (+4 AC)
The body shield, also known as the kite or tower shield, is a massive metal or wooden shield reaching nearly from the chin to the toe of the user. It must be firmly fastened to the forearm and the shield hand must firmly grip it at all times. Naturally, this precludes use of the shield hand for anything but holding the body shield in place.
Standing around 6’ tall, the body shield provides a great deal of protection to the user. As with all shields, these bonuses apply only against frontal and flanking attacks.