Joe Cigar

Joe Cigar

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Master Class: Armor



This suit of armor is 90% awesomeness and 10% outraged-Picard-meme-worthy.


I found several pics of this armor on Tumblr and the only quote I could find leads me to believe it's for a movie that's about to begin shooting.

So close, guys. So, so, so close!

Probably not historically authentic but 90% plausible.

Two minor -- okay, major -- problems:

1.) There are no keepers on the buckles in the front. Nor on the gorget. You'd have to be insane to wear that into a fight. Anyone wrestling with you -- and wrestling was 50% of armored fighting (we'll cover that later) -- would have that coat of plates open and be shivving you to death with a misericorde or long knife in less time than it would take you to make up enough swear words to cover the situation.

2.) HUGE FUCKING HOLE AT THE THROAT. He needs a mail coif under that helmet, ideally with a mantle to fall over the gorget. A small helmet with a hanging aventail or camail would solve the problem, as well. Proof that the art director / tech guru has never practiced killing someone with a knife.

2A.) That helmet is stupid. It looks evil and intimidating, which makes it good art, but that's a tilting / jousting helmet. You can't see out of it, you can't breathe in it, and you'd be in a coma from asphyxiation and heatstroke inside of five minutes if you were wearing it and fighting for your life. Go hit a tractor tire with a sledgehammer as hard and as fast as you can without stopping for two straight minutes. Fighting in armor -- not SCA sparring, not LARP'ing, not even longsword fencing; real Goddamn armored hand-to-hand fighting for all the marbles, whether you're in mail or an IBA -- leaves you about that tired. Now imagine doing it wearing a gas mask, because that's about how well that helmet breathes. Better yet, try it yourself. Call 911 first, though.

Spectacled Norman helm with full aventail, C. 900-1200 A.D.  The kind of 
helmet that guys in that kind of armor would / should be wearing. Maybe not 
historically in line with the armor, but 10,000% less likely to get you murdered.

Finally, the gloves are suicidal. You either lose the advantage of a bare hand on your sword handle, or you lose the protection of actual . . . well, protection. You either need gauntlets or you don't. See "Roundshield Combat 101," below. Add butcher's-glove type mail gloves that cinch around the wrists. Problem solved.

What I like about it, though, is the artisanal look to the coat of plates. It's not a true 15th Century coat of plates / brigandine, which looks like this:

Still no keepers on the front-mounted buckles, though. I left SCA fighting 
because of stupid things like the "no-unbuckling-his-armor-during-a-match" rule. 
("What? I thought we were going for historical accuracy, here.")

. . . but rather, it looks like something that somebody put a lot of thought and time into. "Hold my beer; I've got an idea. I have these iron plates, see? And this really nice leather. How 'bout I make you a second layer of armor that buckles over your mail? I could sandwich the plates inside the leather and then sew it up with rawhide in big pockets. It'll buckle together in the front and you can throw it on like a jacket."

It's completely plausible to see something homemade like this 200 years earlier than the brigandine pictured directly above. It would be expensive, but possible, as much as 500 years before, in the Late Vendel period; the technology was available and the concept isn't particularly novel. And in a world like the one I created for Dragon's Trail, with centuries of lost technology and gear handed down for millennia coupled with the "git 'er done" mentality that pervades mankind no matter what planet we're on, I can completely see knights and well-funded mercenaries wearing variations on something like this.

Artistically, the asymmetry to the pauldrons and lames on each side. Very functional, very utilitarian.

And the patina. The sweet, sweet patina. The deep color of the leather dye, the weathered look to the harness, even the shininess of the gorget giving a kind of "just bought a new thing for my armor" feel that I'm sure a lot of suits of armor had. There's a lot to this that feels authentic and gives it a history of its own.

The functionality of the "sword breaker" flare on the left shoulder is a recurring point of contention with my sword geek buddies and me. Personally, I see the utility in it; there's an argument to be made on physics's side, though, that a flare like that deflects a blow into the pauldron at a 90-degree angle. I argue that the pauldron, if properly crafted, is a compound curve and therefore it doesn't matter. (In a compound curve, a straight line between each pair of points constitutes the chord of the arc through  the points. A heavy blow into a compound curve will either glance, or return the force of the blow to the weapon, which very likely will snap a sword blade at its weakest point.) We agree to disagree. If it was me, I'd want as much armor between my neck and a strong-side sword or axe blow as possible. I'd want a flare three feet high if I could get one. My protagonist is left-handed so I'm sticking with the left-hand shoulder flare; his shield is on the other side and to me that makes even more sense. I'm also stealing the general concept of this armor as the rig that my main character brings from Earth to fight a war in a fantasy world. Because it's that close.

So, so, so close.

EDIT 01 JANUARY 2014: I now have a post on Armor Basics.

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