Friday, May 6, 2011

Leather vs. Chain

Here's an interesting thread (several years old) at testing various weaponry against padded linen and good mail armors. Lots of nice pictures.

Executive summary -- Arrows are stopped by both types. Slashing with a sharp blade can work against padded, but is basically futile against mail. Thrusting attacks can work against both (even mail, if the weapon is long/heavy like a 2-handed sword or spiked poleaxe). A heavy poleaxe can be used to chop mail, and while the links maintain structure, the person beneath is likely smashed to pieces.

So really, I read this as a nice test between the basic armor types that OD&D calls "leather armor" (which I assume is mostly layers of padded linen, with an outer coat of leather, i.e., a padded jack) and "chain-type mail". You might rule-ify this by saying that swords have no extra bonus (as base armor level), axe/hammer/halberd get +2 vs. chain (i.e., making chain & leather equivalent), but arrows are -2 vs. leather (again, chain & leather equivalent). That's quasi-similar to what the OD&D Sup-I/AD&D weapon vs. AC charts (and my house rules) do, except for the arrow part which is actually reversed (and simply ignored in my OED).


  1. The linen thing looks more like a linothorax to me, but you do have a point. :)

    Anyway, this test is important because:
    1: it shows that chain behaviour is compels, being made of two layers with completely different properties, interacting for better protection.
    2: it give us hard data! :D
    3: it demonstrates that polearms are THE AWESOME

  2. This is great stuff, thanks for the link.

  3. All of those pictures of fragmented chain links and slashed linen make me glad I am not a soldier in medieval times. Painful looking! Even if a slashing sword or polearm didn't penetrate, I would imagine it could be like getting whacked with a baseball bat --- bones would break and organs get ruptured.
    I once got hit by a golf ball right in the stomach. It hurt a lot more than a fist would have and I was sore for days.