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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Chain and scale armor, their cost and protection Reply to topic
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Sep, 2008 1:03 pm    Post subject: Chain and scale armor, their cost and protection         Reply with quote

So I am revamping the traditional DnD 3.5 armor list to fit my early iron age setting. I am giving them iron scale as a furtherance of bronze scale, but since this new setting involves maille, I bumped into a slight problem.

Chain armor is listed as being 3 times the cost of scale, being 1 level more protective, and restricting movement by 1 level. The DnD "armor" is actually normally a group of armor, with chain in this case coming with a gambeson and some form of head protection. Taken from that context though, should scale be more protective (being plates) and more expensive? Or how should those two be related in those categories?

M.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Sep, 2008 4:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Regular scale would offer similar protection to mail but is heavier. You can increase the protective capability of scale by adding more lacing but it becomes even heavier and less flexible. However you can do the same thing with mail by using thicker links or increasing the density of the weave. Also, if you are bothering to revise the stats for DnD armour then you can also start calling it "mail" instead of "chain" Wink If you want to see roleplaying armour done properly, wait for GURPS Low Tech 4e which will be published next year. Personally I would give scale and mail similar protective values but make mail lighter and more expensive.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Sep, 2008 4:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the tips. Sorry about calling it "chain", was kind of half distracted. I'll see what I can do for those stats.

M.

EDIT: They seem to have a concept of a "light" maille shirt; I'm assuming this is supposed to have more "open" rings and no sleeves. Trying to keep this in for the "spirit" of the game, while not making it too good or too bad to not leave other options.

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Sep, 2008 10:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Thanks for the tips. Sorry about calling it "chain", was kind of half distracted. I'll see what I can do for those stats.

M.

EDIT: They seem to have a concept of a "light" maille shirt; I'm assuming this is supposed to have more "open" rings and no sleeves. Trying to keep this in for the "spirit" of the game, while not making it too good or too bad to not leave other options.

I always figured that a full mail armour was something like a helmet and hauberk with coif, full sleeves, and possibly leggings, while the mail shirt was a steel cap and haubergeon. Who knows what the game designers or artists thought they meant ...

What's this about GURPS Low-Tech coming out soon, Dan?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Sep, 2008 3:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

SJG has found authors. I wouldn't say any more until an official announcement is made.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2008 8:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is "chain" really an inappropriate term? As far as I'm concerned, either "chain" or "mail" would be correct, and only the pleonasm "chain mail" is wrong....

Anyway, I think a Dark Ages armor might be more appropriately represented by the d20 "chain shirt," since the byrnie was quite short--way shorter than the Norman hauberk that the "chain mail" is supposed to represent. As for the scale...do you really have to represent the differences between bronze and iron scale? I would have thought that, by the time the Roman Empire fell, scale armor would have been largely iron anyway, and D&D's "scale mail" would be perfectly suitable for representing it (although some people might disagree about the scale "cuirass" creating more encumbrance than a short byrnie). Maybe this way you could use the normal "chainmail" to represent a vest of scales worn over a byrnie?
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 9:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've actually devised a system of "modular" armor, and considered making maille and scale the best regular armor you could get, and enhancing it by wearing greaves/bracers/etc. I'm revising a few things and then I'll post it here for review; not exactly "on topic", but of all places, this is the place.

M.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 3:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For all practical purposes there is no difference between iron and bronze armour. It isn't until quench-hardened steel is mastered is there much difference. Bronze is more expensive and that is why it was reserved for the elite. The greater availability of iron enables a much higher percentage of a host to be protected.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 6:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, for the purposes of this exercise I had assumed the iron plates in the scale vest where in some way hardened; was early "iron" armor (I've seen the word iron used over steel in everything in segmentata to most medieval plate defense) of high or low carbon content, compared to steel (which gets real hard at nearly 1% carbon content)?

M.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Sep, 2008 3:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bronze of an alloy that was actually used historically was just as hard as all but the best quench-hardened steel. Here are some decent references.
R.F. Tylecote. "Metallurgy in Archaeology: The prehistory of metallurgy in the British Isles"
R. F. Tylecote and B. Gilmour. "The Metallography of Early Ferrous Edge Tool and Edged Weapons"

As far as a roleplaying system goes the only difference between bronze armour and iron armour is cost. Iron doesn't produce superior armour until the 15th century when higher quality quench-hardened steel started to be used.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Sep, 2008 8:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting. I was aware that iron was softer than bronze (after work hardening I assume), but always figured that one of the reasons (besides tin availability) we went over to the iron armors was because it could be hardened further; what about the weight differences? Bronze is an alloy of two metals, where steel is an alloy of iron and a non-metallic component (carbon), so would armor of the exact dimensions in the two materials have a significant weight difference?

M.

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Sep, 2008 10:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Interesting. I was aware that iron was softer than bronze (after work hardening I assume), but always figured that one of the reasons (besides tin availability) we went over to the iron armors was because it could be hardened further; what about the weight differences? Bronze is an alloy of two metals, where steel is an alloy of iron and a non-metallic component (carbon), so would armor of the exact dimensions in the two materials have a significant weight difference?

M.

I think that bronze is slightly more dense than most iron alloys, which makes for good mace heads but is a slight disadvantage for armour.

Bear in mind that the price difference was really big! In my research for my bronze-age GURPS setting, it seems like objects made from mostly bronze will be three or four times as expensive as a medieval equiivallent in iron. That's easily enough to push swords and armour into the hands of the prosperous (a hoplite with a bronze Corinthian helmet and greaves) or full-time soldiers (a Shardana who sells all his flocks and goods, buys a bronze sword, and moves to Egypt to work as a mercenary). The same was true with Age of Sale cannons: bronze ones were three or four times more expensive than cast iron ones.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Sep, 2008 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't think the weight difference is going to be significant. I've got several brass and bronze helmets that are lighter than my repro steel ones, but still heavier than the bronze and brass originals!

Similarly, while it does seem that copper alloys were more expensive than iron in ancient times, there were still plenty of things which continued to be made of bronze and brass inspite of the easy availability of iron. This includes all kinds of helmets and armor through the Classical era, plus very common domestic items such as cookware right through the Roman Empire. For decent armor in a gaming system, I'm not sure I'd worry much about cost for specific materials, just let that be determined more by availability. In other words, in one town it might be easy to pick up nice bronze scale armor, but impossible to find iron mail. The next region might be just the opposite (even if mail is more expensive overall).

Matthew
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Sep, 2008 10:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Out of curiosity, was it historically "bronze" or was it "brass" scale or mail?

Brass (copper-zinc,usually some other elements) has a reasonable degree of ductility and impact resistance, lending itself to such things as bullet shell casings, drawing and extruding processes, etc.

Bronze (simple copper-tin alloys) generally needs to be cast. Bronze has minimal ductility, or malleability. As such, it should not perform well under harsh impact, such as the application of rings within mail. It was fine for large objects such as heavy breast plates, bells, or mace heads where the stresses were more spread out.

The Coopergate helmet had an aventail with a row of BRASS rings according to the metallographical anaylsis of ring material at the Oldsaksamlingen in Oslo.

I am curious, are there are any examples of bronze (copper tin only composition) rings in historical mail?

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Sep, 2008 3:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

IIRC there are a few bronze (copper/tin) Persian mail shirts dating to C. 6th C AD.

Last edited by Dan Howard on Mon 15 Sep, 2008 3:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Sep, 2008 10:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had wondered if maille was done in bronze, though 6th century BC is iron age, so this bronze maille could well be an "upscale" version of already existing iron maille. In all honesty, I've never actually held wrought iron, or messed with it before. Everything I've had my hands on has been steel of some form, at has at most .9%-1% carbon content (tool steel, but these are old tools as newer stuff seems to have other metals alloyed in).

Once iron has been crushed out of it's ore form, and run through a bloomery to get sponge iron (which has slag), then shingled into a larger workable piece (like a par or a plate), which removes most of the slag and carbonization, leaving me with wrought iron. Since sponge iron (fresh from the bloom) isn't useful, would I be correct in assuming that if my iron was destined to become something at all (in this case, scales for a scale vest), it would be further worked and alloyed with carbon to become harder? Wrought iron is quite ductile, and would be easily shaped into scales, and I would think would stop cuts across the skin, but wouldn't hold up to the thrust of a spear, or the impact of an arrow, would it? If they are further worked, about what carbon content would they end up with (a range I assume)? I'm under the impression that steel was difficult to create in quantity (I would imagine it would be very easy to go over that small range of carbon you need and end up with something hard and brittle), and thus was in short supply.

M.

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Bram Verbeek





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PostPosted: Mon 15 Sep, 2008 2:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I thought that the wrought iron would gain carbon in heating over a charcoal fire, thus an outer layer of harder, though still low content, steel.
Also, wrought iron is ductile, but I think it still would need relatively much energy to deform, and the attacks would also be of a low carbon content steel. If the armour and the arms are of similar hardness, there will be deformation on the edge as well, reducing penetrative power against the undergarment (which needs a very sharp edge to effectively cut).
I also thought that steel with a very high carbon content is quite bad, it is no longer harder than tool steel, but increasingly brittle.
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Steven H




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PostPosted: Mon 15 Sep, 2008 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Dan Howard"]Regular scale would offer similar protection to mail but is heavier. You can increase the protective capability of scale by adding more lacing but it becomes even heavier and less flexible. [quote]

I'm a bit surprised by this. I would think that scale would be preferable because it spreads the force out over a larger area. Though I assume there is a tradeoff that made mail the standard. My guess is that the tradeoff is cost and/or maintenance. That is mail is cheaper than scale armour and/or easier to take care of.

Cheers,
Steven

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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Mon 15 Sep, 2008 12:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
Bronze (simple copper-tin alloys) generally needs to be cast. Bronze has minimal ductility, or malleability. As such, it should not perform well under harsh impact, such as the application of rings within mail. It was fine for large objects such as heavy breast plates, bells, or mace heads where the stresses were more spread out.


The hardness and workability of bronze depends a lot on its tin content (plus any trace elements), but also on annealing. Yes, high tin alloys are much harder to hammer out, and require frequent annealing to avoid cracking. But all KINDS of objects survive from the Bronze and Iron Ages that are worked--hammered--from sheet bronze, often surprisingly high in tin content. Armor, helmets, shields, buckets and cauldrons, cups, jewelry, etc., all clearly worked from sheet metal. Just making any piece of sheet bronze had to be an incredible amount of very skilled work, but they did it frequently.

If you leave the finished item hammer-hardened, it can be very tough, though something *very* thin and hard could be prone to cracking. Annealing the metal makes it ductile again (though I wouldn't necessarily call it "soft"!).

Matthew
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 15 Sep, 2008 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Correction to above post. The Persian bronze mail dates to 6th C AD not BC.
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