Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mail Armor: Using Real World Data in RPG sets a dangerous precedent

Dan Howard has come out with a recent article about the science behind Mail armor, dispelling myth and enlightening us. Others have voiced that basing RPGs on reality sets a dangerous precedent, particularly the argumentative one on authenticity and realism.

I have no problem with it, because RPGs are Ideas that are always subject to innovation, evolution, change and improvement. We can always improve on the previous game, we can achieve that same high again, and we can always learn something new. I'm not much for RPG nostalgia because to dwell on the past and the impossible task of recapturing it may overlook the merits of the present and the possibilities of the future.

As in my previous post about my GMing style, it evolved from science and it got better over time, and I feel it can be better still with discipline, empathy, diplomacy and transparency.


Pete King said...

This is all fine and dandy in theory but lets see some tests!!!

On the program Deadliest Warrior, Scottish Highland mail armour was shown to be ineffective against the Maori spear; it literally went right through it.

Until weapons and armour are tested against each other to prove what can penetrate what by any scholar, I'd question the 'realism' of any theoretical essay.

justin aquino said...

This is not Theoretical BTW, this is the product of 8 years of tests and research by the Royal Armories.

It technically falls under an Academic Journal since it is a Peer Reviewed piece of work.

If you want to get the actual figures, you will have to join My Armories (the site hosting the article).

Joshua Macy said...

My take is that the point of "realism" in RPGs is two-fold:

1) It's an aesthetic preference: people who are playing a game set in Ancient Greece *because* it's Ancient Greece want the setting to conform to what is known about Ancient Greece.

2) It's an aid to the suspension of disbelief. Even if you're playing in a made-up setting that's not based on any specific culture or time period, players prefer not to keep running into situations that make them wonder why things never turned out that way in similar parts of our history. If the rules make the spiked chain the ultimate weapon, players can't help wondering why nobody in our world ever seemed to realize that. Rules that are designed to encourage mechanical outcomes that are compatible with real-world arms, armor and tactics avoid that problem completely.

Pete King said...

I might have to do that... but I watched Ancient Discoveries last night where bullet proof platemail was under discussion. A member of Leeds Royal Armouries was on the program and he said the problem with testing ancient, classical and historical armour is that no one wants to break these antique (and valuable) items... so the best that can be done is to reconstruct them from scratch and test the reconstructions instead. Still, I suppose that is as real as you can get and a hell of a lot better than just talking about it. BTW, bullet proof plate did prove effective and showed that armorers did have an answer to gunpowder, if you are interested, but I digress.

justin aquino said...

Hehehe, Dan Howard is doing a great job so far for GURPS 4E Low Tech and has done a lot to enlighten the forums about the science behind the myth. He is the reason why renaissance plate cuirass can stop a flintlock (DR10). He also cleared up much of the myths about the armor weights, dispelling the illusion of people running around with 115lbs of armor (not even counting the other equipment). Highlighting the difference between Jousting Armor and regular combat armor.

I would like to advice the "Historical" shows be augmented by the some Literature and a healthy amount of skepticism. There is a tendency to gloss over the finer details and focus on the "highlights" which makes a unbalanced picture.

Lucky to have him contributing for GURPS.

Pete King said...

I agree that is really good. I must admit I haven't checked out GURPS in a very long time... it might have even been the first edition the last time I flicked through the rule book, so I'm way out of touch with what is in the system.