Friday, June 8, 2018

Pendragon Armor in B/X

So I was watching Vikings again last night (and, again, staying up waaaay too late), because of its fascinating portrayal of European cultures in the 8th century. As a product of the History Channel, I expect it to be at least somewhat historically accurate, even if the drama is created purposes. But things like the clothes, armor, artwork, village life, religion, politics, law...these are the things I'm interested in and the reason the show draws me.

Well, that and Norsemen hitting people with axes. I love that.

Anyway, the episodes I streamed last night (from the second season) raised some interesting thoughts about the medieval economy...not just monetary economy, but the economy of raiding (ships and men and armies). But in thinking about it, it brought me back to some recent thoughts I'd had...specifically an interest in having a B/X campaign set in the EARLY "middle ages," circa 6th century or 7th century.

[there's a bit more fantasy in this time period (think the film Dragonslayer or the Northern and Southern dynasties of China...the period of the historic Mulan hero), while still having recognizable fighters of the traditional D&D stamp. Hell, even some cities large enough to support thieves of the adventuring type, and characters that would pass for D&D clerics are performing miraculous deeds as well. Even if the setting isn't historic Earth, it's not a bad time period to emulate]

And as those little wheels started turning in my head, including the sticky wicket of economy that I've discussed before (and before that...jeez, another recurring topic), it hit me that I have at least some (again, presumably somewhat researched) economic information from that time period (at least with regard costs): Chaosium's Pendragon, and it's tasty supplement Knights Adventurous.

So it was that between 1ish and 3am last night (well, 2:45, really) I found myself with a bee-in-the-proverbial-bonnet, doing my usual song-and-dance crazy trying to reconcile internet-researched records of historic price lists with game product written by History majors in their spare time.

No need to remind me of the futility in such an exercise; I know the drill. Here's the part that MIGHT interest you: once I eventually circled around to giving up, I spent a good chunk of time converting the 6th century armor types of Pendragon to the B/X system. For your enjoyment (and for future posterity; i.e. so I don't have to do it again), I'll go ahead and post it here. Synchs up pretty well, actually.

[prices will be given as per Pendragon, where one pound (L) = 20 shillings (s) = 240 pennies (d). A campaign set in 6th century Camelot would probably want to change the "gold standard" of B/X to the silver shilling, and so prices will be listed using a shilling base]

Suit of Armor (without padding or helmet)
Leather: 1s, 3d
Cuir bouilli (boiled leather): 5s
"Norman" mail: 15s
Reinforced mail: 80s
Plate and mail: 200s

Open helm: 3s, 4d
Great helm: 8s, 4d
Visored helm: 12s, 6d

Padding ("dublet")
Normal: 7d
Fancy: 2s, 1d
Silk, 3 colors: 20s

Armor value (AV) is subtracted from base AC 9 to arrive at the character's armor class.

AV 1: leather, padding, open helm
AV 2: cuir bouilli, closed helm (great or visored)
AV 3: mail with padding
AV 4: plate-and-mail with padding
AV 6: full plate with padding

Typical "Norman" Mail
Norman mail without padding has an AV of 1; both reinforced mail and plate-and-mail have an AV of 2 without padding. Padding is not worn with leather or cuir bouilli. All armors are generally worn with an open helm except reinforced mail and plate-and-mail which are usually worn with a closed (great or visored) helm. Full plate is always worn with a closed helm and padding.

ACStandard Armor Worn
8Leather, dublet, or open helm (only)
7Leather + helm, cuir bouilli
6Cuir boilli + helm, mail
5Mail + helm (Norman style), plate-and-mail
4Mail + closed helm
3Plate-and-mail + closed helm
1Full plate armor

Plate-and-Mail; AC 3
These would be typical AC values (based on usual type of padding/helmet worn). A shield would, of course, subtract 1 from the listed AC, providing a range of 9 to 0. Please note that no cost is given for "full plate armor" (the typical Milanese variety and similar) because it's not widely available prior to the 15th century; however, in a fantasy world it might be something created by some genius wizard or mad dwarf inventor. As with the author of Pendragon, I provide it here for the sake of "completeness."
: )


  1. Well made dublets were very good at even turning away sword slashes I watched in a historic documentary. In fact they were better than mail because of the time and cost involved in manufacture and if chain was not made well could protect less than a dublet..poor chain was easilly rent if the snip and bend method was used. That small gap in each ring was it's downfall. Chain that was riveted was amazingly good but took even more time to manufacture correctly. I thought of changing ACS knowing this. Secondly, Shields are godly protection if trained in thier use. I never got the 1 AC bonus. A good shield kept you alive better than your armor especially in one on one. Thanks for the cool info...oh get that osprey military book on german warriors 236 to 568 ad. Good stuff.

    1. "Riveted chain" would be more or less equivalent to "reinforced chain" above, but all mail was substantially more effective with the addition of the dublet (and ineffective without). My thoughts on shields in the B/X game (and their mathematical effect on probabilities) can be found in this post:

      Do you have the name of the "osprey military book" you cite? Or an author? I wouldn't mind perusing it...thanks!


  2. Couple of thoughts:

    - in the West, all mail was riveted (as opposed to Japan, where all mail was butted)
    - cuir bouilly doesn't seem to have been used historically as war armour
    - plate armour was not used outside of the Roman Empire before about the mid-13th century. If you want 6-8th century non-Roman Europe, ditch the plate.
    - great helms were not in use until the 11-12th century or so

    So, in "Dark Ages" Europe, you'd see people with padded armour or mail (with padded beneath), with or without a simple helmet (no greathelms or visors), and that's it.