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.)
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.