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Thread: Platw v. Chain

  1. #1
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    Default Platw v. Chain

    The notion that chain armor restricts and weighs less than plate armor is common in any kind of medieval or fantasy game, but it's false and I don't understand why it persists (other than addle-brained reasons like 'balance' or 'fairness'). Hell, AD&D's Unearthed Arcana pointed this out 30something years ago, quite properly plate offers more protection with less weight and encumrance than chain.

    Chain armor puts most of the weight onto the shoulders, neck and waist (if a long coat is worn with a girdle or belt). Plate armor is largely self supporting. Both of them can cause balance problems in awkward positions and both restrict movement, but full chain armor is heavier, bulkier, moves/swings more (making the wearer's inertia less controllable). The improved flexibility of chain over plate is not as relevant as one thinks, since full plate armor has sophisticated joints and balancing built into it deliberately, something not even possible with chain armor. Plate armor is hotter to wear, but overall chain puts more strain on the wearer for extended use.

    So, all in all, chain armor has the advantage of: less skill required to manufacture and repair (though it's actually more tedious), better heat dissipation, low cost (sometimes - in the mid-late renaissance nobody would be making full maille and you'd be paying novelty prices).
    Plate Armor has the advantage in: every other area. Plate and chain hybrids are, likewise, superior in all the areas plate in though not so much as full plate.
    It's something I noticed in Barbarians of Lemuria, too, and it's just not accurate to make plate more encumbering, slower, heavier or more difficult to perform skills in. It's not fair, but that's superior technology for you. Hell, all of this is true of the Roman 'banded' plate Segmentata v. Hamata, the only reason Hamata made a comeback was oversized armies, declining treasuries and a decline in the availability of skilled steel workers (plate requires laege blooms of metal).

    Granted there is some ultra heavy plate armor, but unless your PC likes novelty equipment or semi-bulletproof gear that's not going to come up, and it would still be superior to the equivalentin chain.

    A chain hauberk will be lighter than full plate, but it will also grant less protection than a breastplate and be heavier for the protection it affords.

    Chain armor is going to be better for sneaking, crawling and climbing. Plate is better for running, jumping, fighting and any kind of acrobatics or cartwheels. Basically, if you are moving like a biped, plate is better. And with good reason, it's far more sophisticated, better metal, better designs, better craftsmen and much less overlapping material.

    I suggest swapping the Burden, ENC and Physical skills penalty of Chain and Full Plate, then taking half-plate down to a -15%, since it is at least as maneuverable as Lameller, the latter being rather bulky and heavy because of overlapping pieces and swaddling leather/cloth that make up its backing.
    Last edited by QueenJadisOfCharn; December 23rd, 2013 at 18:15.

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    I suspect that one of the reasons for the misunderstanding concerning the advantages
    and disadvantages of chain armour and plate armour was the existence of mass pro-
    duced plate armour created to outfit entire Renaissance armies. This common type of
    plate armour was not custom made, and therefore lacked the weight distribution and
    flexibility of plate armour custom made for a specific individual. Without the perfect
    fit of a custom made plate armour the approximately 25 kg of metal certainly became
    an unpleasant burden that hindered at least as much as it protected.
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    Older and inferior make of plate would certainly lack the advantages of a late cavalier's gear, but I can't see it as being any worse than chain, for the reasons I've listed. If anything, it's cause to differentiate between fitted plate armor and plate that is only generally sized and otherwise fitted with straps, as was the case with the mass produced armor of men-at-arms.

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    Personally, I don't really care either way.

    The values seem to work OK in practice, even if they are not absolutely historically correct.

    If chain had less APs and more ENC than plate then nobody would buy chain, as it is people buy chain and then plate when they can afford it.
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    I think it is mostly out of a combination of habit and a somewhat warped modern view on things, helped a bit by ignorance.

    RE: Habit - Why are we still referring to mail armor as chain or chain mail? It's the same thing. We got so used to calling it chain that it stuck. Likewise, we got used to the common notions about mail and plate.

    RE: Warped Modern Worldview - people generally didn't walk into a shop and chose between mail or plate based on game stats, weight or cost. Historically it was a bit more complicated. Fully articulated medieval plate (as opposed to earlier plate) was developed in stages, took a lot longer to make than mail, and was much, much more expensive. At least up until some technological advances were made that drove down the production costs to the point were it ended up cheaper and faster to produce than mail - at which point everyone who could afford armor did mostly stop buying mail for plate.
    For the most part it wasn't like mail and plate were competing technologies.

    As far as the relative weights, weight distribution, and costs of mail and plate, it varies quite a bit depending on which examples you use. Some of the Gothic and jousting armors were quite a bit heavier than mail - especially when some of the "suits" of mail might only have mail covering the upper arms and chest. There is even a good deal of variance between different types of mail armor based on weave, reinforcement and quality of fit.

    Basically armor got better over time. Plate evolved from mail. It is more an evolution of mail than a competing technology. When armor was made is probably a better indicator of protective value, ENC and cost than the armor's basic form.

    RE: ignorance. Since few people have actually worn armor, let alone relied on it for protection, we lack enough familiarity to spot the fallacies. If somebody were to claim than a VW Beetle could fly, or reach speeds of 20,000 kph, we'd know something was off right away.
    Last edited by Atgxtg; December 24th, 2013 at 19:26.
    Smiley when you say that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by soltakss View Post
    .
    If chain had less APs and more ENC than plate then nobody would buy chain, as it is people buy chain and then plate when they can afford it.
    Well, no one plays the Beggar class in Stormbringer because it sucks. It's there for poor people and npcs - like mail!

    In reply to ATGetc, I agree with much of what you said, and as I indicated in my OP there is indeed ultra heavy plate that's impractical for actual melee. I was talking about articulated plate, and renaissance plate in general (an especially the wasp-waistline Maximillian plate, my choice for Fighter-Mages in any game, thus my personal stake ) but as I also pointed out even . Roman plate, Loric Sefmentata, was better for protection and weight than their Lorica Hamata chain armor. Expense and a lack of skilled technicians is the main reason mail was usedx the Persians generally wore scale-and-plate hybrids as long as 1800 years ago, and they were archers at that! As for the redundancy of 'chainmail', I think that is Gary Gygax, at least in rpg circles. I've never read 'chainmail' anywhere but videogames and rpgs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenJadisOfCharn View Post
    I've never read 'chainmail' anywhere but videogames and rpgs.
    Well, actually ...

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0910094946.htm

    But it is similar in German, while many people call chain "Kettenhemd", and this term tends
    to creep even into scientific papers now and then, the scientific term is "Ringpanzerhemd"
    (no chain / "Kette" involved, only rings).
    "Mind like parachute, function only when open."
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    Quote Originally Posted by rust View Post
    Well, actually ...

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0910094946.htm

    But it is similar in German, while many people call chain "Kettenhemd", and this term tends
    to creep even into scientific papers now and then, the scientific term is "Ringpanzerhemd"
    (no chain / "Kette" involved, only rings).
    That's funny, I wonder why none of the editors stopped to ask what 'mail' means. Isn't that what editors are for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenJadisOfCharn View Post
    That's funny, I wonder why none of the editors stopped to ask what 'mail' means. Isn't that what editors are for?
    I think it was a translation problem. When one enters the correct German term "Ringpanzerhemd"
    or the still common "Kettenhemd" into one of the typical translation programs like Google Transla-
    te or PROMT one almost always gets "chain mail" as the English translation. Only the scientific dic-
    tionaries, and not even all of them, give a correct translation.
    "Mind like parachute, function only when open."
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    I blame the Victorians for chain mail and Gary for promulgating something from the 19th century into a game. After that people used it because it's a term 'everyone' knows and can relate to. I wonder how many terms used in Chainmail and D&D became common tropes for video games, fantasy novels and the like.

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