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What is armor?
The world of Toril is a vast collection of diverse cultures, each with varying technology and skills. As trade expanded across the realms, adventurers began investing in various goods, including armor. Whether leather, chain, or plate, armor is often customized to be as unique as the wearer.
Throughout recorded history, the creatures of Toril used a wide variety of materials to create armor. Early versions consisted of leathers and fabrics that artisans worked into wearable protective garb. Variations of leather and hide armor persist, though the advancements of metalworking introduced a wide variety of chain and metal plate options.
As armor developed, so did the rest of the world. Breakthroughs in armor technology have led to other advancements like wood lamination, mining, metal refining, transportation manufacturing, and leather processing.
What is the best armor?
With the wide variety of players and the equally diverse options for protection available to them, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for armor. What works best for a player depends on their race, class, and specific combat needs. Fortunately, Dungeons & Dragons organizes most armor into three easy-to-understand categories: Light, medium, and heavy.
Often made from thin and flexible materials, light armor provides adventures moderate protection while allowing for the highest mobility. Artisans created padded armor by quilting together layers of cloth and batting. Leather armor typically consisted of a breastplate and shoulder protectors made of stiffened leather and a collection of other more flexible pieces. Some leather armor also added studs in the form of close-set rivets or spikes for additional reinforcement.
As it sounds, medium armor provided more protection than light. However, it also restricts more movement, which can cause minor hindrances for those that rely heavily on their agility. Hide armor is similar to leather but much less refined. This armor consisted of thick furs and pelts and was typical of humanoids and other creatures who lacked the necessary skills to craft better protection. Chain shirts made of interlocking metal rings offer modest protection and are often worn between layers of clothing to muffle their sound. Scale mail covered the body from the neck down and was created by attaching overlapping pieces of metal to an under-layer of leather. Also worn over a leather base, breastplates are form-fitted chest pieces that provide the wearer considerable protection for their vital organs. Half plate offers the best defense in the medium category. Smiths carefully shape this metal armor into smaller plates that cover most of the wearer’s body.
Heavy armor easily provides the best protection for an adventurer. These sets of armor offer full-body coverage and protection against a wide range of attacks. However, their weight and bulk require a particular proficiency and skill to keep from obstructing their wearer. Ring mail is similar to studded leather armor, swapping the spikes or rivets for heavy sewn-in rings. Chain mail is a heavier, more resilient cousin to the chain shirt. It typically includes a quilted fabric underlayer to help cushion the impact of an enemy’s attack. Splint armor evolved from scale mail, swapping metal plates for narrow vertical strips, and areas of flexible chain to protect the wearer’s joints. Sturdier still, plate armor consists of carefully shaped interlocking metal plates covering the entire body. Perhaps the most iconic representation of armor, this suit includes gauntlets, leather boots, a visored helmet, and a thick layer of additional padding worn underneath.