Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gygaxian Armor

AD&D Armor by David C. Sutherland III

The picture above should have been included in the 1E AD&D PHB or DMG. It illustrates the nine standard types of AD&D armor as described in those books, but appeared only in the relatively obscure AD&D Dungeon Masters Adventure Log, published in 1980.

Below are the corresponding descriptions from 1E AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, page 27, plus a few notes from the shorter descriptions given on page 165. I've reordered them & included the encumbrance and move ratings from the table on page 27, and the armor classes and cost from the PHB. These use the unarmored AC 10 system that debuted in AD&D PHB, replacing the unarmored AC 9 system of OD&D.

Padded Armor (AC 8, MV 9", 10 lbs, 4 GP) is "heavily padded, quilted coat and an additional soft leather jerkin and leggings".

Leather Armor (AC 8, MV 12", 15 lbs, 5 GP) is "shaped cuir bouli (leather hardened by immersion in boiling oil) cuirass and shoulder pieces and softer shirt and leggings" (pg 27) and "includes boots and gauntlets" (pg 165).

Studded Leather (AC 7, MV 9", 20 lbs, 15 GP) is "leather armor to which have been fastened metal studding as additional protection, usually including an outer coat of fairly close-set studs (small plates)" (pg 27), and with "an extra layer of protection at shoulder area" (pg 165).

Ring Mail (AC 7, MV 9", 25 lbs, 30 GP) is "relatively soft leather armor over padding. To the long coat of leather are sewn metal rings. This makes the coat rather heavy and bulky".

Scale Mail (AC 6, MV 6", 40 lbs, 45 GP) is "armor similar to ring mail, but overlapping scales of metal are sewn to both coat and leggings—or a skirted coat is worn. As with chain, weight falls mainly on the wearer’s shoulders and waist".

Chain Mail (AC 5, MV 9", 30 lbs, 75 GP) is "padding plus interlocking mesh armor covering the upper and lower body. Vulnerable areas have multiple thicknesses. Weight falls upon the shoulders and waist of the wearer".

Splint Mail (AC 4, MV 6", 40 lbs, 80 GP) is "light chain, greaves, and a leather coat into which are laminated vertical pieces of plate with shoulder guards".

Banded Mail (AC 4, MV 9", 35 lbs, 90 GP) is "a layered armor with padding, light chain, and series of overlapping bands of armor in vulnerable areas. Weight is somewhat distributed".

Plate Mail (AC 3, MV 6", 40 lbs, 400 GP) is "light chain with pieces of plate — cuirass, shoulder pieces, elbow and knee guards, and greaves. Weight is well distributed".

Plate armor (AC 2, MV 9", 40 lbs, 2000 GP) is "a full suit of plate which is no more weighty and a bit less bulky, considering what is known as “field plate”" [This is an optional addition that Gygax mentions; it is not illustrated above. Rules for this were later expanded in Unearthed Arcana in 1985]

On page 165, Gygax refers the reader to Charles Ffoulkes' Armour and Weapons (1909), which thanks to the internet can be viewed here.

Original D&D and the Classic D&D successors only included Leather, Chain and Plate, so the additional armor types are typically associated with AD&D. However, many of them actually appeared all the way back in Chainmail Man-to-Man Melee Table:

The AD&D Monster Manual, which uses the original AC system (unarmored AC 9) gives us a few clues for adapting these armor types to OD&D.

Halflings: "The usual protection ... consists of padded or leather armor", with an AC of 7.
Wood Elf: "They usually wear studded leather or ring mail (AC 6)".
Gnomes: "...armored with leather armor which is ringed or well studded with metal and shield (armor class 5)".

Thus, if adapting these additional types to Holmes Basic or OD&D, we might use:

Padded Armor:  AC 7, MV 9", 10 GP
Leather Armor:  AC 7, MV 12", 15 GP
Studded Leather:  AC 6, MV 9", 20 GP
Ring Mail:  AC 6, MV 9", 20 GP
Scale Mail:  AC 5, MV 6", 25 GP 
Chain Mail:  AC 5, MV 9", 30 GP
Splint Mail:  AC 4, MV 6", 40 GP
Banded MailAC 4, MV 9", 45 GP
Plate MailAC 3, MV 6", 50 GP
Plate Armor:  AC 2, MV 9", 200 GP 

The AC & prices for Leather/Chain/Plate come from the original list in OD&D and Holmes Basic. In AD&D, there's little functional difference between Studded Leather and Ring, other than Ring being slightly heavier and costing twice as much, so I just left them as identical on this chart.

One pratical use for this table in OD&D might be for adapting AD&D modules with these armor types

See also: The Monster Manual is a Holmes Supplement
(DMs Guild links include affilitate #)


  1. Great post!
    I made a quick comment on a french D&D forum, hope it's ok with you. Thanks!

  2. "The picture above should have been included in the 1E AD&D PHB or DMG."

    Or Unearthed Arcana at least, which is where we had the wonderful appendix o' pole arms!

  3. Wow. I've never realized that the MM was on an AC 9 base! I'll have to revisit that (as soon as I have time...).

  4. Now I finally know what splint mail is. It would have been nice if Gary at least explained leather armor in the Players Handbook. Thanks.

  5. Though Ffoulkes book is really out of date and not terribly reliable. "Banded" and "Splinted" armours really correspond more to the late 13th/early to mid 14th "Coat of Plates" type armours, of which a number were found at the mass graves at Visby dating to the 1346 battle fought there. I don't think "Ring Mail" actually existed, but certainly "Chain Mail" (really, just "Mail") is well attested from at least the 3rd Cen. B.C. and later.

    Claude Blair's "European Armour," published in 1958, is a much better reference, though even it could do with some updating. Would also have been nice if Gygax had consulted Ewart Oakeshott's books such as "Archaeology of Weapons" and "Sword in the Age of Chivalry" (both of which came out in the 1960's) so that we could have avoided some of the more ridiculous armour and weapon types, to say nothing of massively overweight weapons...

    1. Thanks for info, Angantyr. I'm fine with my D&D containing "imaginary" types of armors, although I realize the importance of understanding what exactly was actually used.

    2. I suppose, but it is perhaps worth noting that these were not strictly speaking "imaginary" (i.e. in the sense of "swordswomen and their chainmail bikinis") but rather an artifact of poor research. Better and more recent scholarship was available, but Gygax chose to use a very out of date work. (Parenthetically, in defense of Ffoulkes, he was inventing armour types based on artwork - the actual relics weren't found until the first excavations in 1905, and not published until the 1930's, I believe). Had someone shoved Claude Blair's book under Gygax's nose, rather than Ffoulkes, none of this would have been in the game, since I think Gygax actually wanted to get these details right - he just didn't use the best references...

    3. I should expand this to point out that, given Gygax's wargaming background, I think he was genuinely trying to get it right - he just picked the wrong sources. In other words this is not strictly speaking "imaginary" armour; rather, it is armour as it was interpreted by scholars of that time, using mostly art of the period. When Ffoulkes wrote his book, the Visby mass graves had only recently been discovered and excavated, and it was some time before the findings of various examples of Coats of Plates were published (in the 1930s, I believe) - thus, the artwork was subject to much interpretation without a lot of hard archaeological evidence to back it up. Had Ffoulkes had access to the Visby material, I don't think he would have invented "Splinted" or "Banded" armours. "Ring Mail" is very doubtful as well - probably based more on the crude depictions of actual chain mail in the Bayeux Tapestry more than anything else. Again, scholarship c.1909 thought these were real "things" but by 1958 much better info was available. I just think D&D would have been better had Gygax looked up Blair rather than Ffoulkes is all...

  6. I haven't seen this picture in over 30 years! Bought that dm's log and never used it. DCS art really pulls at my Holmes heartstrings. Loving these research posts.