Layering of Historical Armor


Historical armor in Cataclysm is in a really weird place, with a lot of logical inconsistencies. Granted, armor in Cataclysm has a lot of logical inconsistencies in general (how come nomad gear is made out of a duster but goes on the normal layer?) but the historical armor seems to suffer particularly badly from this.

Specific Example: Gambeson+Chainmail+Gothic Plate

One example of a complete set of historical armor that can be constructed in the vanilla Dark Days content pack is the armor of a 15th-century knight, as might be worn in the Holy Roman Empire. It is composed of three main layers: a gambeson, a suit of chainmail, and a suit of Gothic plate, not counting the ordinary clothing underneath the armor.

The in-game description of the gambeson item matches the historical reality excellently – it’s a thick cloth jacket used as armor, worn either beneath a suit of metal armor or on its own if metal armor was too expensive or encumbering. However, the stats of the item in Cataclysm make it skintight, sharing a layer with ordinary undergarments! This is grossly inaccurate: gambesons were worn over clothing, under the rest of the armor. They were coats. As things currently are in Cataclysm, wearing a tunic underneath a gambeson imposes a greater encumbrance penalty than wearing the tunic over the gambeson!

My guess as to why the gambeson is skintight in Cataclysm is to allow it to be worn with both chainmail and plate armor. But, Cataclysm being Cataclysm, players will probably be far more likely to wear a gambeson with other gear – and in any context except that of a full suit of armor, it makes no sense at all for gambesons to be the skintight layer (really not even then, because knights weren’t naked under their gambeson.)

Proposed Solution

For this specific case, I think a good solution would be to move the plate to the strapped layer, the mail to the outer layer, and the gambeson to the normal layer. This still isn’t perfectly accurate, since gambesons were historically worn over normal clothing, but it’s better than having a quilted jacket fit under your t-shirt. This will also allow other clothing to be worn under chainmail.

Consequences of moving plate mail to the strapped layer

Plate mail on the strapped layer might seem a bit weird, but note the following:

  • Hard arm guards are on the strapped layer.
  • Both steel arm guards and steel leg guards (which, combined with the cuirass, from Cataclysm’s plate armor) are described as having leather straps to keep them in place.
  • The 15th-century cuirass was composed of a breastplate and a backplate held together by leather straps, the top two of which rested on the shoulders.

What would it clash with, though? Plate armor being strapped would mean that it would share a slot with the following:

  • Backpacks. This would make sense, because the straps of backpacks are designed to rest on your shoulders and go under your arms while the pack itself rests on your back, and cuirasses are designed to rest on the shoulders like a backpack, and are wider than the torso, forcing the descending straps to go around the curvature of the cuirass on either side of the body (possibly geting caught in the leather straps installed there to hold the breastplate and the backplate together.
  • Baldrics/back-scabbards. Most of the research I’ve done seems to indicate that back scabbards weren’t used in battle, so encumbrance as understood by Cataclysm is not really an issue here. If you want to use a back scabbard while wearing plate, just drop the scabbard before you start fighting.
  • All quivers. This doesn’t seem contradictory; archers don’t wear plate.
  • Chest rigs, drop leg pouches, and other modern gear would realistically run into many of the same problems that backpacks would, and aren’t designed to be compatible with 15th-century military equipment anyway.

The only other possible concerns I can think of would be the fact that armor being strapped would mean that there would be no encumbrance penalty for wearing armor on the outside of a cloak or duster.



Aside from some wonkyness in your post like 13th century Gothic plate? What? Plate being worn with chainmain is also only semi correct, Typically special garments with Chain attached only at the joints would be worn with them as plate with a full suit of chain is rather redundant and wasted weight with a full set of plate. Won’t dock points there though as sometimes it did occur.

Skin tight definitely seems a little odd for gambeson and plates are typically something one would consider strapped so yes, that makes perfect sense. Except maybe for sets of Gothic Plate which could be particularly tight fitting with some astounding flex joints for slim, tight fits and overall tighter style then older sets full of flared join protections. Outer may actually make more sense for some of those. An Italian style set or just an older set available on strapped may make a good compromise of both being available.

I’m surprised you never mention the games ridiculous handling of Great helms though. Great helms are literally helmets for your helmet yet they count as normal layer.


“13th century gothic plate” whoops. I meant 1300’s. Funny how centuries anno domini work.
E: I don’t even know what I meant, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “Gothic plate in the 1200s AD.”

I was mainly going off of what I assumed was the intended (in Cataclysm) outfit for a full set of medieval armor. Why would mail be on the normal layer if it wasn’t meant to be worn under plate? Why would a gambeson be on the skintight layer if it wasn’t meant to be worn under mail?


Gambesons on the normal layer, chainmail on the outer layer, and plate harness on the strapped layer makes sense to me.

0.D just landed, so the merge queue is open again, so why don’t you submit a PR to fix it?


I actually like platemail on the strapped layer. I think that’s very clever. As for it still allowing over items there’s two ways I can justify it in my mind.

  1. Surcoats and 18th century pourpoints. When I do a medieval crusader start I usually make a sleeveless trench coat or duster and treat it as a surcoat in my mind. Obviously this doesn’t work in all instances since fur suits are in the over layer IIRC and I have no idea how that would work with plate mail. There’s also probably some large jackets where it might be wonky, but encumbrance would already be very high for trying to do this, even without the stacking penalty.

  2. Some outer garments could probably reasonably fit under plate mail. Even without the stacking encumberance penalty I can’t really think of any 0 encumbrance outer garments, so it would still hamper you to attempt to wear most outer garments with plate mail. Which isn’t ideal for fighting in any case, which is really all plate mails should be used for.


The encumbrance penalty for stacking is a minor penalty. It’s not crippling.

Surcoats were not worn over plate armor, apparently, probably because they were too bulky and encumbering, so having them on the strapped layer would make sense. If you’re a crusader, your armor scheme is under clothes (skintight), gambeson (normal), mail (outer), surcoat (strapped) and there’s no layer penalty. If you’re a knight in 14th century gothic harness, your armor scheme is under clothes (skintight), gambeson (normal), plate harness (strapped).


That makes sense to me. I guess you’re right though with surcoats being ahistoric for plate armor,but I know pourpoints were a thing, though I don’t think they’re really “armor”

Though a strapped surcoat would also make sense for the crusader setup you described.