Armor in a secondary world

Here’s a post by Marie Brennan at Book View Cafe: New Worlds: Armor

Mind you, not all armor is made of steel. But leather armor isn’t really what games would like you to believe: while leather has been used in many parts of armor-making, as a backing for rigid pieces or a connector between different parts of the armor, on its own, it isn’t actually much use as protection. It works reasonably well against incidental dangers — that’s why motorcyclists often wear it — but even in hardened form, a deliberate attack can too easily cut right through it. Still better than nothing, of course, and the same is true of wooden armor, or the linothorax of ancient Greece. But on the whole, metal was historically your best bet for protection, whether it was bronze, iron, or steel….

Now, as it happens, I was just looking at historical types of non-metal armor because the world of my current WIP is metal-poor, or at least iron-poor.

Did you know it’s possible to make relatively effective armor out of paper? Paper armor may or may not have really been an important thing, but isn’t that a neat concept? If it was used at all, it may have been injected with shellac of some kind.

I bet you can think of one potential issue with paper armor, though:

One problem that they noted with this idea is that the paper armor rapidly disintegrated when it got wet or if it was subjected to repeated blows. This suggests that paper armor, if used, would have been limited to situations where the armor getting wet or being used excessively would have been unlikely.

So I reluctantly gave up on the idea. My setting is very SE Asian in climate, so rain is not going to be infrequent. No paper armor for me, no matter how cool it might be.

Lamellar armor — plates of metal or other materials laced together — was often used, and offers a lot of design options. Apparently this kind of armor was often lacquered to weatherproof it, or just for decoration, which is cool right there. Even more important, the plates could be made of lots of different things — leather, horn, bone, stone (stone? But it’s on the list).

I like the horn option. That sounds neat and lends itself to good visual images.

According to this Wikipedia article: Japanese lamellar armour was made from hundreds or even thousands of individual leather (rawhide) or iron scales or lamellae known as kozane, that were lacquered and laced together into armour strips. This was a very time consuming process.

Yes, pretty sure different styles of lamellar armor are going to appear in my current WIP… probably types made to be cooler to wear! It seems to me that sheer guts and a desire not to get stabbed are not going to protect you from heatstroke in a tropical environment!

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4 thoughts on “Armor in a secondary world”

  1. If your story is set in SE Asia, I’ve heard that bamboo could be used in lamellar armor.

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