... now with 35% more arrogance!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ring, Scale, Chain

In the past, I may have said something about making either ring or chain (I forget which) more vulnerable to missiles, or something like that. In yesterday's post about studded leather and splint mail, I inadvertently suggested that ringmail, scalemail, and chainmail provide identical defense. Part of this is because, from what I read in the Ffolkes book on armor, it looks like there wasn't much difference between the protective value of different kinds of mail, just in the quality of the armor. Older mail seems to be mainly scale or various kinds of ring arrangements (including banded mail, which I never knew was actually just a way of arranging rings, scales or splints.) Chain is a more elaborate (and expensive) way of doing the same thing, but making the end product sturdier.

Specifically, ring or scale connect their metal bits with leather or to a cloth/leather garment, while chain is interwoven links that don't use any other material than the metal itself (although it has to be worn over a quilted or leather garment to avoid discomfort.) Therefore, attacks that rot or harm leather (engulfed in flame or ochre jelly) can ruin a suit of ringmail or scalemail, but will leave chainmail basically unharmed.


  1. The underjacket isn't just to prevent discomfort, you need it for padding against impact and to stop chain links from getting driven into your flesh.

    1. I dunno. I'd call that pretty uncomfortable.

  2. Studded leather, ringmail, and banded mail are not things, at least not in Europe.

    Studded leather is people misunderstanding Brigandine (plates riveted between two pieces of leather) - it looks like a leather doublet with rivets in it. Adding studs to leather would literally add zero protective value, but would significantly add to the weight of the piece. Why would anyone do that? The answer is - they wouldn't, and they didn't.

    Ringmail was, for all intents and purposes, never used. It was certainly never used in Europe, and there is only limited evidence of very rare use in Asia. If you think about it, this would be a lousy defense. Which is why it wasn't a thing. Chain is better, and scale is better, and require the similar levels of technology.

    Banded mail is people misunderstanding old drawings of chain mail - it's not a different thing, or a different way of arranging the links, or anything. Banded mail is a meaningless term. European chain was almost without exception of the 4-in-1 riveted variety.

    So, for game purposes:

    "Studded leather" should really be called "Brigandine" and treated like (half) plate or plate and mail.

    Ringmail need not be included, as it wasn't a thing (and would be a crappy defense if it was, which is why it wasn't).

    Banded mail = chain mail.

    I don't think Ffolkes is a reliable source on armour, as he was writing too early. There were a lot of bizarre misconceptions about armour before about the 50's. Any book that mentions banded mail can safely be discarded as thoroughly unreliable.

    European Armour by Claude Blaire is excellent, but I don't think it's in print.

    1. @Charles

      Very useful comment. Thank you for posting it, and for the link to the Blair book.

  3. Here's ring armour from Japan - you can see that it is, for all intents and purposes, just scale armour with little holes in the scales:


    Incidentally, this would be crap. A thrust would have a very high chance of sliding off a ring into the space between the rings, where there is no protection.

  4. Yeah, I was going to say I think the Ffoulkes book is dated, if that's the one I'm thinking of, where you basically have all these illustrations based on funeral brasses and grave reliefs where mail armor is drawn in a variety of ways and interpreted as different designs. Not a lot of lighter armor survived (as opposed to plate) so there was a lot of speculation based on art. (The ffoulkes book on plate (The armourer and his craft...) is still good though. Both are online at archive.org, for the curious.