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Armor Descriptions

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Here you can find descriptions and pictures of various types of armor used.

If there is a type of armor you think should be listed here,n please mention it to the Master of Training.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Cloth armor


Cloth armors are very common and very cheap. For this reason, they are often the best the lower classes can afford. They are also worn as a "travelling armor", a light armor for people not immediately riding into battle. Cloth armors are also worn underneith mail or plate to provide protection from the force of the blow. They provide good protective padding against impact, as well as some moderate protection against cuts. This particular cloth armor is made from linen and stuffed with wool, with an outer covering of silk. However, this was a nobleman's armor, and so is made of higher quality materials than usual.



Mail is a strong, flexible defense. Made from thousands of small, interlocking iron rings, this armor is highly effective against one-handed swords, daggers, and light bows and crossbows. Each ring is rivetted closed, preventing the rings from expanding. However, while mail provides a strong defense against blades, alone it provides little protection from the force of impact. This is why quilted padding is always worn underneith mail. Mail is usually a torso defense, although it can have long sleeves and can hang down to mid-thigh. A short-sleeved mail shirt is called a byrnie, and a long-sleeved mail shirt is called a haubergon. Mail hoods (coifs) are also used to supplement a helm. Mail is also frequently used to cover gaps in plate defenses.

Semi-rigid armors

Semi-rigid armors combine many small metal plates along with some kind of flexible joint to provide strong protection, although with less flexibility than mail. They are easier and cheaper to make, as they do not require production of large amounts of wire.

Two types of semi-rigid armors are the coat of plates and scale armor.


Coat of Plates

The coat of plates is an improvement on leather armor. It consists of two layers of leather, with metal plates rivetted between them. The coat of plates is purely a torso defense, although it is quite a good one. Cheaper and easier to make than mail, this is an excellent commoner's armor, as well as being able to be concealed.



Scale armor consists of MANY small overlapping metal plates. Since the plates overlap, scale is more flexible than a coat of plates, allowing scale sleeves to be used. In addition, this spreads out the force of impact over a larger surface, like mail.


Plate was developed to provide a counter to the heavier swords and polearms which developed to combat mail. First used to reinforce vulnerable places over mail, plate eventually was used to cover all portions of the body except the insides of the joints. Cloth padding is always worn under plate, both to absorb the shock of attacks and to soak up sweat, thus keeping the wearer from overheating. While entire harnesses are most often worn, some plate armor is worn either alone, or in conjunction with lighter armors.


Plate harness

A full plate harness is the pinnacle of armor development. A knight in a plate harness is vulnerable in the eyeslits and the joints to most arrow and sword attacks. Axes, maces, polearms and other armor-penetrating devices were designed specifically to combat plate armor, but they are still not entirely effective at it. Contrary to popular belief, plate armor is not as detrimental to movement as is commonly believed. A knight is often ridiculed if he must use the stirrup to mount his horse while armored. The weight is spread out over the entire body, and the range of motion is impressive, due to articulated and/or mail joints. Although speed is reduced somewhat, this sacrifice is well-worth the added protection. The other sacrifice of a full harness is the price. A full suit of plate like this is prohibitively expensive.


Three-Quarter plate

Foot soldiers often wear a partial harness, usually called a three-quarter harness. Because they are not mounted, these soldiers must move faster and with greather stamina. The three-quarter harness is the ideal solution, with less defense on the limbs. This example is like a full harness, but with only thigh protection. Other examples have less arm protection as well. Three-quarter plate is cheaper and allows the warrior to be more manuverable. These advantage are often worth the increased vulnerability.



A curiass is one of the first types of armor made from plate. This strong torso protection is rounded to deflect incoming attacks, most blows simply glance off. Curiasses are an important component of a complete harness, but they are also often worn alone when greater mobility is needed with good protection. This picture shows only the breastplate, but a curiass also includes a matching backplate. The curiass of cavalrymen often include a hinged lance rest on the right side, to steady the heavy lance and to absorb the impact.