Sunday, December 04, 2011

Gamer's View on Metals, Armour & Weapons

  - There is a interplay between material, technology and application throughout history. In our real world, the reason why a specific type of metal was used for a specific form of armour & weapons can have to due with more complex factors than 'what is most effective. (My favourite example is the Trojan War being fought with *bronze* armour and weapons - although *iron* technologies had been developed at least 1500 years earlier!)
This piece may not necessarily be insightful to a good number of my regular readers. It maybe does represent a kind of creative thought experiment however.


I am a private game designer and am in the middle of writing a game that utilizes different metals for forging primarily armor and weaponry. I have a compiled list of most metals and alloys but I'm having extreme difficulty in generating a 'generalized' list of the most common metals / alloys used, and maybe with a few durable rare ones I'm not aware of, that are used for weapon and armor forging and what their comparable strengths are when compared against one another based on damage type received (blunt, slashing etc.)
...
Could you, or would you please, help me to figure out the best types of metals for armor and weaponry over the others and why they're better or why they shouldn't be used either for weapon crafting, armor crafting or both?

Dan

So - your problem (as with all *game* designs) is the line between the real  world and the ideal in a game universe

First thing I should mention is that the melting points are not (basically) important here. They may give you some idea of the working temperatures, but most of the *functional* metals and alloys are in fact not cast (melted and poured) but either cold hammered / hot forged.
So here is some basic information for you / I have re-ordered the list in terms of 'effectiveness' - plus added some stuff you have not considered. The way the individual materials is worked - or the form of the armour itself is also an important factor to consider.

'skilled' means a generally useful individual with basic knowledge and tools
'specialist' means a trained individual with specifc tools
'expert' means an experienced artisan with highly specific tools

Listed 'lowest to highest'

ARMOURS

Quilted cloth (non metal)
soft (minimal protection, but cheap and easy)
some resistance to thrust and slash (but minimal at the 'seams') minimal against crushing
no special tools

Leather (non metal)
soft (minimal protection, but cheap and easy)
some resistance to thrust, better against slash, not good against axes
no special tools

Boiled leather (non metal)
boiled or baked with wax
better resistance to thrust, good against slash, slightly better against crushing
no special tools

Horn (non metal)
most typically used as scale construction
slightly better resistance to thrust, good against slash, less effective against crushing
very materials intense to produce

Scale
overlaping pieces of metal (horn, boiled leather) on cloth or leather vest
varies with material used
very good against slash, good against thrust, less effective against crushing
labour intense to produce

Chain
interlocked rings of metal
1) butted ends
2) rivet closed
3) welded
very good against slash, good against thrust (only fair against arrows), less effective against crushing
extremely labour intense to produce
extremely fatiguing to wear

Coat of Plates
'vest' of leather or heavy cloth - contains bars or small plates of metal
varies with metal used
bars - very good against slash, not great against thrust, good against crushing
plates very good against slash, thrust, good against crushing
minimal metal working required

Primary Plate
large pieces cover non moving body areas (chest, thigh, forearm)
varies with metal used
very good against slash, thrust, crushing
skilled metal working required
good balance of protection vs fatigue

Articulated Plate
larger plates over front sides of target areas, moving plates over major joints (knees & elbows)
usually worn over chain (to protect inside of joints)
excellent against slash, thrust, crushing
specialist metal working, careful fitting
extremely fatiguing to wear

Full Plate
entire body covered with fully moving plates (may include inside of joints)
exceptional against slash, thrust, crushing
expert metalworking, careful fitting
moderately fatiguing to wear.

METALS

Lead and Lead Alloys (pewter)
extremely soft (virtually useless as armour)
almost no resistance to thrust, slash crushing
could be either cast to shape or cold hammered from sheet
widely available

Tin (melts at 232 degrees C)
marginly better than lead (virtually useless as armour)
almost no resistance to thrust, slash crushing
could be either cast to shape or cold hammered from sheet
remote and limited sources, used as an alloy component for bronze

Copper (melts at 1083 degrees C)
soft, but can be slightly work hardened
typically cold hammered to shape (difficult to cast)
possible use for scale, coat of plates
weapons - slashing, crushing
alluvial deposits
skilled working

Silver (melts at 1064 degrees C)
soft, but can be slightly work hardened (varys with alloy)
typically cold hammered to shape,  could be cast
high cost against lack of function (never used )
alluvial deposits

Gold (melts at 1064 degrees C)
extremely soft (varys slightly with alloy)
typically cold hammered to shape  could be cast
extreme high cost against lack of function (never used)
alluvial deposits

Electrum (gold-silver alloy) (melts at 1064 degrees C)
soft, but can be slightly work hardened (varys with alloy)
typically cold hammered to shape  could be cast
high cost against lack of function (never used )

Bronze (copper-tin alloy) (melts at 950-1083 degrees C, depending on the proportion of tin)
Speculum (high-tin bronze) (melts at 850-950 degrees C, depending on the proportion of tin)
Tin in this alloy has the effect of lowering the melting point, and increasing the hard / brittleness of the mixture. So at 15% plus the alloy casts very easily, but is so brittle it breaks if dropped on a hard surface.  Depending on alloy, the lower tin contents can be hammered cold. All alloys can be cast, or hot forged.
the advantage to bronze is that it is easily cast into moulds, making mass production possible
primarily seen as primary plate
weapons based on thrust rather than slash (spears)
specialist working

Stone
depending on stone type, finished blades can be *extremely* sharp, problem is that they are also very brittle.
no armour applications
weapons slashing or crushing
skilled working

Iron (melts at 1536 degrees C)
Pure wrought iron is actually *softer* than a high tin bronze. Wrought iron is quite flexible, so resists impact damage (sword may bend, but not break)
Iron ores are everywhere, and althought the production of ore to iron is difficult, working iron bars into objects is relatively easy.
Iron is hot forged to shape. Armour may have cold hammering to finish
suits all armour types, especially chain, plate
weapons of all types, especially slashing
specialist work to smelt
specialist work to forge
skilled work for basic repairs

Steel (iron-carbon alloy) (melts at 1300-1536 degrees C, depending on the proportion of carbon)
Small quantities of carbon (typically .2 - 1 %) allow radical changes to the qualities of the metal via a complex heat treating process. As carbon increases, so does potential hardness, but also potential brittleness. Individual alloys best suit specific applications only (.5 carbon for swords, .75 carbon for knives)
The 'case hardening' process bakes a thin layer of higher carbon over the surface of a softer wrought iron core. This method was often used for plate armours.
suits all armour types, especially plate types
weapons of all types, especially slashing
Steel is hot forged to shape. Armour may have cold hammering to finish
expert work to smelt
specialist to expert work to forge
skilled work for basic repairs

Layered Steels
The best way to create exceptional weapons (to the advent of modern exotic alloy steels) was to layer together thin plates of wrought iron (flexible) and carbon steel (hard). The resulting layered block combines the primary desired qualities of the two components.
Layered steels are hot forged to shape
weapons - primarily slashing
expert work to forge
specialist to expert work to repair


Note : The sole *historical* exotic alloy used was nickel iron - sourced from metallic meteors. Nickel contents typically 7 - 15 %. (For comparison, your modern table knife is roughly .5 % nickel) Likely you would place it on this simple chart between Steels and Layered Steels

Note : The iron alloys were never used as a cast material (carbon content over 1.5 %) for either weapons or armour. Although easy to mass produce, the metal is brittle -and because of the process extremely heavy.

1 comment:

stag said...

And the latest Conan movie casts something with a low melting point which magically turns into steel to make a sword blade.

Riiiiiight

 

February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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