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Idea about fantasy plate mail

BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 4,805
Hey, I was just playing a swords and sorcery game, and I found a really awesome rare magical plate breastplate that I could wear, according to my strength score in the in-game rules.

It got me to thinking about how I could take it on and off from day to day, and actually live as this character.

What if there were hinges in the shoulders, around the neckhole? You would be able to lift it over your head, with one hand on the breastplate, and one hand on the hinged-on backplate, then lower it over your head through the generous or custom-fitted neckhole crafted between the chest and back plates. Then, you would secure it by means of leather straps and buckles, just like a series of common belts, along the sides. Viola, your core is protected front and back with plate. And, you could put it on and take it off, all by yourself, with just a bit more effort and time than it would take for a contemporary person to put on a button down shirt.

So, I'd like to ask our forum's resident historical experts. Was there ever such a contraption in history? Or, did I just have an inventive idea about 500 years too late, in relation to the invention of gun powder and revolving chamber guns. As we all know, the invention of revolving chamber guns and rifles, and then of machine guns, completely made moot the wearing of armor in combat.

But, before that, I wonder why the technology did or didn't come together for the easy-wear plate cuirass I am imagining?

I wonder if it has to do with the history of the invention of the steel hinge, and the steel-and-leather buckle? Did people not have these in time to apply them to plate mail armor before it became obsolete?



  • SethDavisSethDavis Developer Posts: 1,812
    edited April 2015
    I imagine that would require things like external hinges and fastenings which would create visible weak points in the armour. Or it could be metal fastened to an undershirt kind of thing, but that only trades away part of that weakness and gains some weight. But I've got no historical background, so maybe people were actually fine with those things and just compensated with adding small plates after the main thing was on.

    EDIT: oooo, maybe internal sliding hinges

  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 4,805
    @SethDavis, shoulder pauldrons could be fastened over the hinges if it were that big of a concern. Perhaps a justification for big shoulder pauldrons?

    However, I don't really see the threat of an overhead chop aimed at the shoulder hinges to be a bigger concern than the impracticality of needing help to get an unhinged cuirass over your head. At least, that would be true for daily life and adventuring. You might want an unhinged cuirass requiring a squire or two to help you get it on or off if you knew you were going into war.

    But, for daily life in a violent world? I think my idea is pretty good for a warrior who wants to both protect the innocent day to day with quite a bit of protection, but still have a life outside of combat. I'm assuming that the custom hinged breastplate would be exorbitantly expensive to commision, making it a status symbol of nobility and wealth.

  • hisplshispls Member Posts: 166

    I'm assuming that the custom hinged breastplate would be exorbitantly expensive to commision, making it a status symbol of nobility and wealth.

    I'd wager that just about any suit of mail was reserved for only those of wealth and privilege.

  • SquireSquire Member Posts: 512
    That's pretty much what they were, except instead of hinges it was leather straps that joined the breast and backplate together.

    Pauldrons were tied onto the shoulders using "arming points". In fact, a lot of plate armour was tied onto the jack, which was designed specailly with lots of arming points all over it with which to attach plate armour.

    Could the straps and arming points be cut? I suppose, if you're really unlucky, but they are made of leather, and a difficult target to actually aim for. Either way, it worked for a couple of hundred years before guns started to make armour not so useful anymore, and they started taking bits off.

  • scriverscriver Member Posts: 1,743
    As for why something like a "self-put-on-ing armour" didn't see widespread use, that's because the people wearing the most complicated armours had no need for such "do it yourself" solutions, they already had servants and retainers that saw to their every need, including putting their clothes on, so there is no reason why they shouldn't help them with getting armour on as well. Maybe somebody did invent/think of such a design, who knows, but it's a bit of a "ancient Greeks inventing steam power" situation - the Greek-gyptian Hero of Alexandria (iirc) developed and formulated many of the mechanisms of steam power and even built steam-powered devices, but they never saw the same kind of "industrial revolution" come from this as we later did due to how ancient Greece had no need for steam power as they already had slave power to do what needed to be done. Likewise, the use of servants and squires during Medieval times would prevent a "self-wearing" armour from being an improvement in design for the rich people who wore the most armour.

    Maybe if it was targeted to late era/renaissance mercenaries, but I am not sure how much armour those usually wore.
    Squire said:

    In fact, a lot of plate armour was tied onto the jack, which was designed specailly with lots of arming points all over it with which to attach plate armour.

    Forgive a non-english speaker, but what is a jack? Is it related to "jacket", ie what was worn under the armour in this context? Is "jacket" really "jack-ette", a "small jack"?

  • SquireSquire Member Posts: 512
    edited April 2015
    Yep, the jack is the padded garment worn under the metal parts (and sometimes as armour in and of itself for the common soldiers who couldn't afford mail). It's basically a newer version of the gambeson. In D&D, it's the cheapest, crappiest, worst armour that you can buy. ;)

    An arming jack was different to a standard infantry jack, in that it had arming points (i.e. bits of thick leather string) hanging from it, with which to tie the plates on. Points are basically ties, and medieval clothing was often held up with points, before they had elasticated waists, braces and belt loops.

    As for the root of the word "jacket", I'm not actually sure. I did think that maybe it came from that (i.e. a small jack or "jack-ette"), and has lost its original meaning over time, but can't verify this, especially as I've never seen later garments referred to as "jacket" before the 20th century.


    This video shows how a 15th century knight got into plate armour.

    Post edited by Squire on
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