I’m thinking again about armor hacks for RPG rules. Fantasy TTRPGs over-obsess about armor, to my mind. Thinking about all the swords & sorcery and fantasy that I read, the only narratively interesting scenes about armor that spring to mind come from The Lord of the Rings:

  • Frodo’s mithril coat saving him from a spear thrust in Moria, to the subsequent surprise and delight of his companions. (In the book, he’s attacked by an orc-chieftain; in the movie, by a cave-troll.)
  • Pippin getting armor at Minas Tirith and the resulting change in perceptions of his social status (though partly that was from his use of familiar pronouns with nobles, because his dialect didn’t distinguish between familiar and formal second-person pronouns).
  • When the hobbits return to the Shire all wearing armor, it’s to the amazement of the other hobbits.

I asked around for other suggestions:

  • Zompist (Mark Rosenfelder) suggested: “There’s a famous bit in the Iliad when Hector scares his infant son Astyanax until he takes off his helmet.”
  • Dan the Man shared: “KJ Parker’s works are good for realistic treatments of armour – the bar being set remarkably low in fantasy literature where it’s rare that authors recall it exists. Also, Parker/Holt has a good essay on armour called ‘Rich Men’s Skins’, which explores the actual availability of armour and its cost. There’s a reason the hobbits left the Shire without armour, and it’s not their peaceful nature.”
  • Voen Octuro shared: “The first thing that comes to mind isn’t exactly a staple of the genre, but in A Knight’s Tale, the armor plays a big role in the story. A suit of armor is basically unobtainable for them at the outset, and the fact that they kind of luck into getting one sets off the whole thing. Then the armor gets damaged, so they need to find someone willing to fix it (and they don’t have any money), which introduces another character and makes them even more non-traditional than they started. There’s several decision points during the movie about what kind of armor to use, whether or not to hide his face behind a helm, and even whether or not to use it at all, because it hinders motion (high risk to take it off, but a very important decision).”

What interesting fictional scenes with armor can you think of? Let me know on Mastodon.

Image credit: Richard Mortel, copyright under the Creative Commons Attribution license.