Full Plate Acrobats

One of the bad ideas mentioned before in the name of "armor diversity" is the pervasive notion that plate armor turned one into a dexterity-challenged hulk who would be lucky just to raise his weapon arm.  In that same vein, chain provides less protection, so umm it must allow much greater freedom of movement, right?  Wrong.

A suit of chain was in fact typically lighter than a suit of plate (some 30 lbs. compared to around 65 lbs.), but a chain hauberk has terrible weight distribution.  All of the shirt’s weight falls on the shoulders of the wearer, and on the wearer’s head in the case of a hauberk with an integrated coif.  Think about wearing a jacket with 30 lbs. of lead weights hanging from it and you get the idea.  On the other hand, articulated plate is custom-produced for the wearer by a master craftsman, and weight is distributed fairly well.  Articulated plate keeps its shape in bizarre circumstances, too.  It is fully possible to do cartwheels in full plate if one is strong enough.  The same cannot be said for chain.

6 Responses to “Full Plate Acrobats”
  1. What about 20 foot long swords and Fifty lb Warhammers? The don’t inhibit your cartwheeling ability, do they?

  2. After having read about different armors I’ve managed to sort them in this order, with least effective first and most effective last; leather, scale, mail, brigandine, splinted and plate.
    What I don’t quite get is the mail. It appears to have become quite popular from what I’ve read at some places and I initially had it placed right before plate in terms of protection, however from what I gather it only protects well against edge attacks (swords and the like) while both brigandine and splinted armor also protects mildly against blunt and point damage. It also appears mail has poor weight distribution, which neither brigandine or splinted armor suffers of, is loud to move around in which splinted armor is not AND moderately expensive which brigandine and splinted armor also is though. However unless I’m missing something it most certainly seems that mail armors should be placed in between scale and brigandine armors and not between splinted and plate armors.
    To me it just seems like a poor protection, heavy, loud, expensive kind of armor… and nethier of those are good qualities! The only good thing I can think of is flexibility as one article mentioned, however that flexibility must be completely destroyed by the fact that it has poor weight distrubution anyways and as you mention in this article – you would most certainly not be able to cartweel in a hauberk.
    I really don’t know how to give mails and plate armors statistics that reflect that mails are flexible but have poor weight distribution and plate armors are inflexible but have good weight distribution. I barely know what it’s supposed to mean.

  3. @Guess:
    I can’t answer how to assign stats for various types of armour, but I can answer why mail was popular in its time. Mail was used in the pre-antibiotic era, and pre-germ theory era for that matter. Any sort of laceration of penetrating injury was devastating, as no one really knew how to treat them. If you were lucky, you might heal with a scar. Less lucky, you might have a limb amputated. Worst case scenario, you die in spite of anyone’s best efforts. On the other hand, if you avoided any sort of cut, but had a bone broken, well that was a simple matter that was well understood and easily treated.
    Compared to sheet metal, wire was relatively easy and cheap to produce using the technologies of the time. This is a slight edge when compared to scale/lamellar or brigantine styles of armour. Being quiet was not really a factor in the warfare of the time. In fact, the sound of hundreds of rings and rivets clashing would probably have a beneficial psychological effect, especially to unarmoured opponents.
    Having worn mail on many occasions, I challenge the fact that it is impossible to do cartwheels in it. If a belt is worn, the weight distibution of a hauberk is shared between the shoulders and the hips. Of course, it is still more cumbersome than not wearing armour, but one could still swim or do cartwheels in it.

  4. “A suit of chain was in fact typically lighter than a suit of plate (some 30 lbs. compared to around 65 lbs.)”

    Important caveat! Are those providing equivalent levels of protection? A typical suit of mail from some earlier time might weigh less than the plate, but does it cover as much, and does it block blows as well? One can wear thicker layers of mail, for more protection, but more weight; I’ve been given to understand plate’s lighter per protective ability.

    As for popularity: I don’t see why brigandine and splint would be better in weight distribution. Mail gets worn over padding, so it’s not metal right on flesh vs. blunt blows. (Of course, that’s more weight.) Mail’s labor intensive to make, but can be kept up well over time, and resized for new soldiers, and repaired easily, and basically just accumulates over the years. Some of all that might be true of brigandine, but I think mail might be lighter, actually. Non-overlapping plates or scales means more chance of crits, overlapping means more weight, vs. the somewhat holey yet continuous mail.

  5. Any sort of armor that involves bending sheets of metal into a specific shape has to be done at a forge. There are only so many forges, so many blacksmiths, and so much fuel. Most of the work in mail can be done by apprentices during their downtime, or even farmers with nothing better to do during winter. And it’s easy to repair.

  6. I would like to contest your weight issues about chainmail please.
    In actuality, the weight from the chainmail is born upon the shoulders and the hips, as the chain is normally held there by a belt, thus the weight is about 50/50
    between the two. So, roughly 15 – 18ish pounds distributed between the two.

    That said, if the belt slips… yep, all the weight is on the shoulders and it sucks.

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