Monday, February 6, 2012

Amor: When You Can't Run & You Can't Hide

To cap off this mini-series on fantasy weapons, today’s post will be on various types of armor. I’ve written about swords and bows, which are all very well if you’re fighting with them. But what about protecting yourself from those missiles of doom? Here’s where armor can come in handy. I’ll begin by going through variations of armor throughout the ages, and then discuss how to best incorporate those forms in your fantasy story.

1. Leather Armor
-- Dried animal skins were used from ancient times for clothing. The next step, then, was to dry the animals skins into leather, then strengthen them by soaking them in wax or some other hardening chemical, thus creating a protective garment.

-- This is best for poorer or more “primitive”/less developed cultures, especially ones where enemies don’t have advanced weapons. Keep in mind that the poorest people would probably just go to battle with the clothes on their back, maybe a bit of padding. Leather is probably the easiest armor to supply, but, as with everything easy, it’s not the best protection. (Note: the picture on the side is more complex than leather armor would generally be.)

2. Scale Armor
-- The next so-called “evolution” in armor technology was the introduction of scale armor. True to its name, scale armor involves attaching thousands of pieces of leather or metal together to form a scaly surface. Naturally, this form of armor offered much better protection than simple leather armor.

-- Because the scales are simply “woven” together, scale armor is relatively easy to make and can be supplied to a large number of troops on short notice. Note that this kind of armor does clank a lot, so if you’re looking for a good armor for your band of ninjas, this is not your best bet!

3. Plate Armor
-- Ah, the joy of knights in shining armor! Yes, folks, this is the honest-to-goodness armor of King Arthur fame. Plate armor is basically large pieces of metal shaped to cover a large area of the body and linked together through various straps and strings.

-- Let me stress that Plate armor is not your standard issue damsel-in-distress-wear. Because of all those large pieces of metal, it’s incredibly heavy and expensive to make and wear. Thus, use it sparingly, perhaps by strong, well-trained nobles or your own knightly battalion. (One thing I’ve always wondered: once you’ve taken hours to get the whole outfit on, what do you do if you need to use the bathroom?)

4. Chain Mail Armor
-- The final realm of armor is chain mail, which is made from thousands of metal rings that are pressed or riveted together. One of the best things about chain mail is its high maneuverability, unlike plate armor. It also provides excellent protection against all sorts of blunt, slashing, stabbing, and otherwise-maiming weapons.

-- If your culture has advanced smiths with a lot of time and metal on their hands, then this is the armor for them. Just do be aware that chain mail is by no means mass-produced—it takes a lot of resources to construct. Still, for the occasional fight-to-the-death, this little baby would sure come in handy!

Of course, if your hero/heroine is the Chosen One, gifted with superb fighting powers and the ability to stay alive almost indefinitely (or at any rate through the duration of your 200-page volume), then this whole post is irrelevant. You can get on with your story, and all armor-clad enemies beware.

I would also like to make another note that applies, not just to this post, but to also the previous posts on swords and bows. What I've mentioned above are various types of armor and gear as we know them on earth. However, we are fantasy writers. If you would rather make up your own weapons and protective coverings/armor unique to your world, go right ahead! If you don't feel quite so inspired, you could simply modify one of the earthly items into fantasy garb more appropriate for your world.

To exemplify this, let's turn to our old favorite, J.R.R. Tolkien. In the Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo and company travel through Moria, a (supposedly) abandoned Dwarvish mine. This mine was especially famous for mithril, a silver-like metal that was light and strong and incredibly valuable. You may recall that Frodo had a chain mail shirt of mithril that was weightless, supple, and--more important--protective. It saved him from dying at least once! 

So, to follow Tolkien's example, you could utilize something like dragon-skin for your leather armor, making it impregnable to fire. Or use the Jubjub plant to keep your scale armor from clattering. The options are only as vast as your imagination! (Thanks a bunch to B.L.S. for the suggestion to include this idea in the post.)

If this post sparked your interest, most of my information for came from this excellent article. I highly recommend checking it out for more information. God bless!


  1. I really love this post! I'd never even heard of the scaled armor but it sounds almost perfect for my story world. Thanks for a great post!
    ~Sarah F.

  2. Thanks, Sarah! Yeah, scaled armor is particularly cool because 1) it's rarer, and 2) it looks like dragon-skin! What could be better? I'm glad you liked the post! Thanks! :)

  3. Neato :) Those indeed are the 'basic' types of armor. But the thing to remember here for the authors of fantasy, these armors are only 'start' armors. In fantasy, you can make different types of armor. You have regular leather armor, but maybe the 'leather' from that type of dragon you just killed is stronger? Or, for instance, in a fantasy world, have a chain-mail armor of a stronger 'chain' or 'steel'. As a warrior, the armor that appeals is definitely the stronger armor...but the 'knight' armor or 'Plate Armor' can be extremely heavy, so the best type of armor is that that defends against a lot of different weapons, but you can still move freely and speedily, and the armor needs to be light enough so that you don't run out of energy to fight. I should know, being in a few 'battles' myself. And I must say, using a 'shield' takes a lot of energy, as well as wielding two weapons at the same time.

    1. Ooh, those are fabulous & awesome ideas! Dragon leather? Impressive! So something like Tolkien's mithril, which is super light, shiny, and protective chain mail, is an very good use of making the best of fantasy. Hmm--now I'm wondering whether I should edit that into my post!

      Thanks a bunch for the cool ideas! :)

  4. Thanks! Yeah, that's what I thought :) Also, maybe even for the 'plate armor' a fantasy world, you can have stronger ore then what we have on earth. :) Or you can do a continued...:D Of course, there's not much else to say besides that, so you could edit it in :)

    1. I edited it in, and credited you too! :) That was a great idea, and the plate armor could be cool too. For example, plate armor that changes color according to your surroundings, like a chameleon? That'd be awesome! Thanks again!

    2. Oh my goodness, that really would be awesome. You don't mind if I use that in any of my book ideas, do you? :D

    3. Don't mind at all; go right ahead! I love getting ideas from other people :)

  5. Another wonderful post Sienna :-) Thank you! I'll for sure check out that article too.

    1. Thanks, Ryan! Yes, do check out the article--it went into a lot more detail on some modern armors, too.


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