You are going to want your player character to buy armor, if he is allowed to
use any. Armor is the easiest and cheapest way to improve your character's
chance of surviving the more violent dangers of the adventuring life. Clearly, the
better the armor the character possesses, the less likely he is to be hurt. Armor protection is measured by Armor Class (AC), a number rating; the lower
the Armor Class number, the better the protection. Table 46 lists the values for all the types of armor found in the equipment lists.
Although there is some controversy historically over the different types of
armor, all known or suspected types are included here. However, not all armor may
be available if your DM has chosen to set his campaign in a particular
historical era or locale. For example, full plate armor is not available to characters
adventuring in an ancient Greek setting.
Banded: This armor is made of overlapping strips of metal sewn to a backing of leather
and chain mail. Generally the strips cover only the more vulnerable areas,
while the chain and leather protect the joints where freedom of movement must be
ensured. Through straps and buckles, the weight is more or less evenly
Brigandine: This armor is made from small metal plates sewn or riveted to a layer of
canvas or leather and protected by an outer layer of cloth. It is rather stiff and
does not provide adequate protection to the joints where the metal plates must
be spaced widely or left off.
Bronze plate mail: This is a plate mail armor--a combination of metal plates, chain mail or
brigandine, leather and padding--made of softer bronze. It is easier and cheaper to
make than steel armor, but it does not protect as well. A large breastplate and
other metal plates cover areas of the body, but the other materials must
protect the joints and movable parts of the body. It is not the full plate armor of
the heavy knight of the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Chain mail: This armor is made of interlocking metal rings. It is always worn with a layer
of quilted fabric padding underneath to prevent painful chafing and to cushion
the impact of blows. Several layers of mail are normally hung over vital
areas. The links yield easily to blows, absorbing some of the shock. Most of the
weight of this armor is carried on the shoulders and it is uncomfortable to wear
for long periods of time.
Field plate armor: This is the most common version of full plate armor, consisting of shaped and
fitted metal plates riveted and interlocked to cover the entire body. It
includes gauntlets, boots, and a visored helmet. A thick layer of padding must be
worn underneath. However, the weight of the suit is well-distributed over the
whole body. Such armor hampers movement only slightly. Aside from its expense, the
main disadvantages are the lack of ventilation and the time required to put it
on and take it off (see the “Getting Into and Out of Armor” section). Each suit of field plate must be individually fitted to its owner
by a master armorer, although captured pieces can be resized to fit the new
owner (unless such is patently absurd, such as a human trying to resize a
Full Plate: This is the impressive, high Gothic-style armor of the Late Middle Ages and
Renaissance. It is perfectly forged and fitted. All the plates are interlocking
and carefully angled to deflect blows. The surfaces are normally highly
ornamented with etching and inlaid metals. Each suit must be carefully custom-fitted to
the owner and there is only a 20% chance that a captured suit can be refitted
to a new owner of approximately the same size. The metal plates are backed by
padding and chain mail. The weight is well-distributed. The armor is hot, slow
to don, and extremely expensive. Due to these factors, it tends to be used more
for parades and triumphs than actual combat.
Hide: This is armor prepared from the extremely thick hide of a creature (such as an
elephant) or from multiple layers of regular leather. It is stiff and hard to
Leather: This armor is made of leather hardened in boiling oil and then shaped into
breastplate and shoulder protectors. The remainder of the suit is fashioned from
more flexible, somewhat softer materials.
Padded: This is the simplest type of armor, fashioned from quilted layers of cloth and
batting. It tends to get hot and after a time becomes foul with sweat, grime,
lice, and fleas.
Plate mail: This armor is a combination of chain or brigandine with metal plates (cuirass,
epaulettes, elbow guards, gauntlets, tasets, and greaves) covering vital
areas. The weight is distributed over the whole body and the whole thing is held
together by buckles and straps. This is the most common form of heavy armor.
Ring mail: This armor is an early (and less effective) form of chain mail in which metal
rings are sewn directly to a leather backing instead of being interlaced.
(Historians still debate whether this armor ever existed.)
Scale mail: This is a coat and leggings (and perhaps a separate skirt) of leather covered
with overlapping pieces of metal, much like the scales of a fish.
Shields: All shields improve a character's Armor Class by 1 or more against a specified
number of attacks. A shield is useful only to protect the front and flanks of
the user. Attacks from the rear or rear flanks cannot be blocked by a shield
(exception: a shield slung across the back does help defend against rear
attacks). The reference to the size of the shield is relative to the size of the
character. Thus, a human's small shield would have all the effects of a medium shield
when used by a gnome.
A buckler (or target) is a very small shield that fastens on the forearm. It can be
worn by crossbowmen and archers with no hindrance. Its small size enables it to
protect against only one attack per melee round (of the user's choice), improving
the character's Armor Class by 1 against that attack.
A small shield is carried on the forearm and gripped with the hand. Its light weight permits
the user to carry other items in that hand (although he cannot use weapons).
It can be used to protect against two frontal attacks of the user's choice.
The medium shield is carried in the same manner as the small shield. Its weight prevents the
character from using his shield hand for other purposes. With a medium shield, a
character can protect against any frontal or flank attacks.
The body shield is a massive shield reaching nearly from chin to toe. It must be firmly
fastened to the forearm and the shield hand must grip it at all times. It provides a
great deal of protection, improving the Armor Class of the character by 1
against melee attacks and by 2 against missile attacks, for attacks from the front
or front flank sides. It is very heavy; the DM may wish to use the optional
encumbrance system if he allows this shield.
Splint Mail: The existence of this armor has been questioned. It is claimed that the armor
is made of narrow vertical strips riveted to a backing of leather and cloth
padding. Since this is not flexible, the joints are protected by chain mail.
Studded leather: This armor is made from leather (not hardened as with normal leather armor)
reinforced with close-set metal rivets. In some ways it is very similar to
brigandine, although the spacing between each metal piece is greater.
In addition to the types of armor listed above, your DM may have special
armors prepared from rare or exotic materials. Since it is highly unlikely that your
character can afford these at the start, the DM will tell you when you need to
know about such items.
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