7 Tips to Using Armor in Fantasy

Goblin Slayer

As I said on Monday, armor isn’t always given much attention in fantasy.  The exceptions are magical and legendary pieces that are key plot points.  Beyond that, an author may mention if a character is wearing platemail or chainmail, but then move on to the rest of the description.  Unfortunately, a reader may remember this fact while an author doesn’t pay it a second thought.  Then, you get into a hint of trouble.  So, what can you do when it comes to armor?

  1. Consider the character’s fighting style and upbringing before choosing a type of armor.  The faster and more agile the warrior, the lighter and more flexible you need their defense to be.  They might not be able to afford stronger armor too, so they will have to start at something either cheaper or nothing at all.  Don’t go with what’s flashiest or a type usually has.  For example, a knight typically has platemail, but one who just started might not have that yet.  Work up to it, which might not happen if they develop a faster fighting style.
  2. Like swords, armor needs maintenance.  They are taking blows, so dents and scratches build up.  This weakens the material regardless of what it is.  The owner either needs to know how to do repairs on the road or go looking for a blacksmith at times.  If the armor is repeatedly getting damaged with no maintenance, it’s going to lose its effectiveness and possibly break.  This is very true if the same spot is getting hit like over the heart or the helmet.
  3. The heavier and more complex the armor, the longer it takes to put it on.  You can’t just toss on a suit of platemail during a sneak attack.  Warriors will have to either risk their lives getting ready or going without.  Same goes for getting ready in the morning and taking the suit off.  There’s no way around this either because this is simply how armors work.
  4. Aside from fighting, you have to think about armor’s effect on other activities.  Will it get in the way of climbing and jumping?  If it’s very heavy, swimming will be nearly impossible.  Same goes for walking and running because this is a lot of weight on a body.  The character’s stamina will drain faster while wearing armor than if they were in regular clothes.
  5. Simple armor like padded robes and hides have their advantages, but aren’t as strong as metal.  These work best with those who aren’t frontline fighters or are from more natural cultures.  I’m talking barbarians, shamans, and others who craft gear out of animals and wood.  So, you have to remember that these aren’t going to do much against heavy weapons.
  6. Helmets . . . Just remember if the character has one and is wearing it.  This is a scene-by-scene tip.  These can muffle voices a bit and reduce peripheral vision.  Put on a helmet of any kind to see how that works.  I’d recommend a fencing helmet to get a good feel for it.
  7. Chainmail bikinis aren’t practical or safe.  They will pinch and hurt without leather backing.  This goes for both genders.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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16 Responses to 7 Tips to Using Armor in Fantasy

  1. L. Marie says:

    Great, practical post! Number 7—😆😆😆 I wonder if people don’t think about armor because they don’t really know that much about it (though they could do the research to learn). This is why I love the behind-the-scenes videos of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies. Watching the artisans at Weta make chainmail (and how arduous that was) was very inspiring and eye opening. Even costume armor is heavy and sweat-producing. And, like you said, things take damage. Even a casual playthrough of a Breath of the Wild shows that!

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  2. As I understand it, even with full plate, it’s possible to run, jump and climb if you’ve trained for that. One reason knights had squires was to start training them at 8 or 9 so when they reached their adult growth they would be ready for it. (Also, the squires helped maintain the knight’s armor, giving them a good understanding of all the parts.)

    In video games, we’re all accustomed to grabbing found armor or weapons and just strapping them on with a mouse click, and I think we agree that isn’t realistic. It works within the frame of the games, though.

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    • I think I read that too. Looked it up again and saw that the armor was not a fully connected piece. This means it allowed joints to move and wasn’t as heavy as people would think. The weight was spread around the body too.

      Games definitely work best with the general categories. Though it would be funny if you had to find a suit of armor that matched your height. Can’t use the 5’10’’ platemail if you’re 6’0’’.

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  3. More interesting stuff, Charles. Thanks

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  4. Oloriel says:

    Excellent points, find myself while writing conveniently forgetting about some of these.
    One that I would like to add is that a lot of times, I read about characters who simply somehow procure the armor with ease or get one “crafted” in a speedy time, almost instantly.
    So what I am trying to say is: armor availability, I guess. Armor takes time, does not fall from the sky and the best plate/metal armor is not always so readily available.

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  5. I’d bet you could roast like a tri-tip during the summer months in plate armor. Can you imagine fighting in that stuff on one of our hundred degree days.

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  6. V.M.Sang says:

    Good point about chainmail bikinis, Charles. I often wonder, when looking at fantasy pictures, how the artist thought what use the scanty armour, usually on females, would be in a battle, but I never thought about comfort before.

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  7. Pingback: 7 Tips to Using Armor in Fantasy | The Official Christyleinc. Blog

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