24 August 2016

Hey Barkeep! Fantasy Redux


Dwarven Iron Brew: the top of the heap when it comes to strong drink. This beer puts lightweights under the table with one serving.

Dwarven Brandy: another drink known for high alcohol content and strong flavor. Few besides the mountain folk can stand the taste, which has been described as earthy and dark.

Endari Moon Wine: the high elves serve up this dark maroon wine only rarely to outsiders. The taste is said to produce feelings of melancholy and futility in non-elves.

Nordari Sky Wine: wood elves produce wine, though they tend to prefer ale. Sky wine can lift the spirits of any human or demi-human, removing any penalty to morale (though it will not increase morale above normal). Sky wine is so called due to it's sky blue coloration.

Nordari Ale: the preferred brew of the wood elf clans. A heady brew with a faintly fruity taste.

Gnomish Mead: the gnomes brew a variety of meads ranging from almost beer to cloyingly sweet.

Gnomish Small Beer: this brew is quite popular among the hill folk. It has a sharp taste that distinguishes their brews from others. Non-gnome brewers cannot duplicate that sharpness and gnomes aren't sharing their secret as to what it is.

Ent Draught: brewed in the Free City of Coleston, this beer is not truly the rumored drink of the tree-giants. This beer is famed for flavor and balanced taste.

Hey Barkeep!

I'm Parched!

What is there to drink in your typical quasi-medieval medieval campaign milieu?

Beer

Beer: an alcoholic drink made from yeast-fermented malt flavored with hops. Beer and it's variations were popular among the poor and working class.

Ale: a type of beer with a bitter flavor and higher alcoholic content. In medieval times it was produced without hops and would therefore not taste like its modern day namesake.

Bitters: beer that is strongly flavored with hops and has a bitter taste.

Small Beer: a beer or ale with low alchohol content. Similar to what is known in modern terms as a session beer.

Wine

Wine: an alcoholic drink made from fermented grape juice. Popular among the aristocary and gentles. Wine was often watered down.

Mulled Wine: is a beverage made with red wine along with various mulling spices and sometimes raisins. It is served hot or warm and may be either alcoholic or non-alcoholic. It is a traditional drink during winter, particularly around holidays.

Mead

Mead: is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water.

Metheglin: mead blended with herbs.

Distillates

Distillates: distillation was known but primarily used to produce medicines. Two commonly imbibed distillates were aqua vitae and brandy.

Aqua vitae: translated as the water of life, this is the forerunner of the various forms whisky. This was also popular for fakirs and magicians for use with their trick of fire breathing.

Brandy: distilled wine.

Other

Cider: made from apples and could also be blended with pears.

Claret: red Bordeaux wine.

Hippocras: claret sweetened with honey and flavored with spices.

Malmsey: as hippocras but even sweeter.

Punches: were much prized and also had the distinction of people believing that it helped prevent tooth decay.

Milk: not consumed by adults, being reserved for the poor and elderly. Even then, it was typically buttermilk or whey that was consumed rather than milk as we commonly drink it.

Tea or Coffee: not consumed in Europe before the 16th or 17th centuries, though they were popular in East Asia and the Muslim world.

Water: due to concerns over purity and the belief alcohol was an aid to digestion, water was not a popular choice as a beverage.

21 August 2016

Attacking From A Distance: Missile Weapons

Self Bow: a simple bow made from a single piece of wood. The famed English longbow was a self bow, as are short bows. Seasoning of the wood notwithstanding, a self bow can be constructed in a day.

Longbow: a self bow with impressive range and penetrating power. Massed longbow fire is very demoralizing to all but the most disciplined of troops. These were as long as a man is tall.

Shortbow: or more simply bow that is simply a shorter self bow. A preferred missile weapon in dungeon environment, where the shorter length makes it easier to carry around in confined quarters. Less range but an equal rate of fire to the longbow. 

Composite Bow: (aka laminated bow) similar in appearance to the self bow but constructed of horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. Size, range, penetrating power are similar to the self bow, but these are more sensitive to moisture. Composite bows require a week to construct.

Recurved Bow: a bow with limbs that curve away from the archer when unstrung. Recurve bows grant greater power in a shorter bow and are popular with archers in confining terrain such as brush or forest. Recurved bows are also popular with mounted archers such as Turcopoles. A disadvantage of the recurve bow is that is makes more noise when used. If the recurve is extreme, the bow can be quite unstable while being strung.

Crossbows: a stock with a crossarm that is cocked either by hand or with a mechanism, firing a quarrel (or bolt) when the trigger is pulled. Crossbows removed the need for the years of training the longbow required, basically changing the way battles were fought (though not to the degree firearms did later).

Crossbow, Heavy: likely intended by the game's authors to be cranequin (hand cranked), or windlass (foot stirrup and cranked with both hands) type weapons. This would grant greater penetrating power against better armored opponents, but with the disadvantage of a lower rate of fire.

Crossbow, Light: smaller crossbows with pull or push levers. Typified by a higher rate of fire but with a shorter range and less penetrating power than a heavy crossbow.

Hand Crossbow: (or pistol crossbow) this is the smallest of crossbows and is intended to be fired with one hand and rapidly reloaded. Pistol crossbows sacrifice range and penetrating power in the name of portability.

Stone Bows: bows and crossbows of any type but constructed to shoot lead bullets or rocks. Primarily used for hunting wildfowl, these usually have a double string with a pouch between the strings to hold the projectile. Also referred to in modern terminology as pellet bows. Stone bows are more commonly found in areas in our campaign lacking wood (or good types of wood) and thus usually resemble composite weapons more than self. 

Bow Strings: hemp, flax, or silk.

Bowstaves: yew was the preferred wood for the English longbow, but woods such as ash, elm, and others were also in wide use.

Arrows: poplar, ash, beech, and hazel.

Bolts: (or quarrels) the arrow-like projectiles fired by crossbows, typically constructed of the same types of wood. These are shorter but heavier than arrows.

Other Missile Weapons: 


Dwarven Bolt Rifle: a curious bit of equipment, the bolt rifle resembles a heavy crossbow but lacks the crossarm. Bolt rifles are cocked with a lever and fire a mundane crossbow quarrel, which is magically propelled without a bowstring. The actual propulsive force or mechanism is unknown. Range, rate of fire, and damage are all as the heavy crossbow. These are carried by Dwarven Elite Heavy Infantry, anyone else seen carrying one of these is considered an enemy of all dwarves.

Slings: a simple projectile weapon used to throw a lead bullet or stone. This is an effective weapon in the hands of a skilled user. Missile troops equipped with slings are referred to as Peltasts.

Sling Ammunition: lead bullets, clay, well-rounded stones.

Special Sling Ammunition: lead bullets with drilled holes thought to contain poison. These could be used to produce an intimidating whistling sound when hurled, at the coss of less damage.

Knife: usually a last defense type of missile weapon, though knives specifically designed for throwing are formidable weapons at closer ranges.

Hand Axe: similar to the knife, the axe may be used as both melee and missile weapon.

Rocks: short range and varying weights make these a last choice. Advantages are they are still a ranged weapon and the supplies of same are often quite plentiful.

Spear: spears are usually intended for either melee or missile. In our campaign the former are referred to as spears and the latter as javelins (or sometimes just throwing spears). Either can be used as missile weapons but we grant a longer range and higher rate of fire to javelins.

Darts: not modern day pub darts, these are the same as javelins in our home campaign.

Bolas: a missile weapon consisting of weights on the end of interconnected cords. These are favored by brawlers in our campaign, as they are meant to immobilize and incapacitate rather than kill. Number, size, and weight of the weighted ends varies widely, but a good bola will stop and temporarily neutralize a fully grown adult human.

Blow Guns: (aka dart guns, needle guns) long tubes of wood with plain or fletched darts, primarily used for hunting game rather than as weapons of war. Blow guns are associated with assassins and poison in our campaign. At best, reactions from Lawful types to anyone openly carrying one of these will be at a large penalty. At worst the local assassin's guild will be hunting down the rogue agent operating on their turf, and they are not known for their kindness and understanding.

Boomerangs: are throwing sticks of two types, returning and non-returning. The former were used as hunting aids, primarily to decoy birds or scare up small game. The latter were used as killing weapons.

Anything Else: anything that can be picked up and thrown will be given the range of hand-hurled rock and damage as an improvised weapon. Rate of fire will likely be once per round, circumstances allowing.

17 August 2016

Every Three Levels, How To "Wing" It

There are lots of opportunities for ad-libbing in the OD&D rules set, but they boil down to a few general options (with as many variations of these themes as there are referees).

  1. Referee Fiat
  2. Ability Score Based Roll
  3. Level Based Roll

Referee fiat means the ref arbitrarily assigns a chance of success and the player rolls the dice. An ability score roll requires the player to roll under an ability score, typically on 3d6 or d20. For example, he may have to roll his Strength or less on d20 to perform a feat of physical prowess. A level based roll is based upon the player-character's level in some way, such as the Thief ability scores from Greyhawk.

We ourselves have pondered the nature of ability versus level based challenges since an excellent article incorporating player level into the outcome of Chainmail's jousting system appeared in the pages of the Dragon magazine.

First, a quick word about how dice rolls work. This is only basic information so if one is a probabilities wonk please do not get stuck on the simplified language.

Linear versus Weighted Distribution

 A linear distribution assigns an equal chance of any result. The OD&D monster level tables in Volume III pp. 10-11 are a good example of a linear distribution. They are generated with a straight die roll, that is, if one has 10 possibilities then a ten-sided die is rolled and giving an equal chance of any result in the table. 

A weighted distribution is the dreaded bell curve from school days. Weighted distributions have a higher likelihood, on average, of producing a typical result than an extreme result. Take your travel time to and from work: on most days your commute will take an average amount of time, say 20 minutes give or take for the sake of the example. On a summer holiday weekend your commute may stretch out to 35 minutes as you fight hordes of vacationers on the road, whereas on Christmas morning when the whole world is opening presents your may make it to work in 12 minutes. So if you were dicing for that result you would want the most common result to be 20 or thereabouts, to reflect your typical day. The ability score generation 3d6 dice rolls are good examples of this, forcing abilities such as Strength or Intelligence toward average but with a chance for higher or lower results. These chances decrease as you go toward the extreme results of 3 or 18. Weighted distributions are generated by rolling multiple dice and summing the result.

Ability versus Level 

So the reflexive argument for options #2 vs #3 above is the former does not take PC level into account whereas #3 does not take ability into account. Could a young boxer with a great deal of talent (ability score) kayo an experienced but less talented boxer (levels)?

At any rate, a common solution to skill checks typically involves rolling dice on a weighted distribution based upon 2d6 or 3d6. The former is often based around the OD&D reaction table (found on OD&D Volume I page 12) and the latter based upon ability scores.

We propose using the latter: 3d6 for generating a weighted curve of results ranging from 3 to 18. These would be based upon the most pertinent ability score. To solve the dilemma of level versus ability? One could simply modify the sum of the die rolls by +1 per 3 levels, as inspired by Attack Matrix 1: Men Attacking (Volume I, p. 19). This could be further modified in the same way the combat matrix by reducing the bonus to every four levels if the referee feels level is of decreased importance, and by 1 per five levels if level is only minimally important.

In this way experience could compensate for lack of natural ability and increase desired outcomes. The more experienced the PC? The greater the likelihood of a good result.

The table can also be used for random "reaction table" type die rolls but with 3 dice instead of 2. One such proposal is included here. Roll 3d6 on the table below. Give a bonus of +1 per 3 levels (alternately, per every 4 or 5 levels). Results of 7 or higher may be reattempted. Astute readers will note results are weighted toward neutrality, with experience increasing chances for success.


This table may also be used if the referee determines a player must be of minimal level to attempt something. In such a scenario he may subtract -1 per 3 levels (or any part thereof) below the target level from the sum of 3d6.

15 August 2016

Going To The Dogs: Dogs In The FRPG Milieu

Most of the early era D&D books mention dogs, though mostly incidentally or by implication (animal trainers, for example). Here are some specifics sorted by edition. This is not an exhaustive index, merely a quick list of any significant information. 

OD&D
No Listing. The section on NPC Specialists has an animal trainer with no specific mention of dogs. The monster section has a Small Insect Or Animal listing that could be used to stat out a dog but has no specific reference to them.

Blue Book
No Listing. Dr Holmes did include a monster entry for Blink Dogs that could be used as inspiration for statting a mundane dog.

B/X
No Listing. Basic mentions both wolf and dire wolf cubs could trained as dogs if the referee allowed, leading a referee to perhaps use the statistics for wolves as a basis for dogs in his campaign. Expert has an entry on Animal Trainer that specifically mentions dogs as a possibility for training. There is also a Blink Dog monster entry that might also give guidance for creating one's own dog statistics.

BECMI
No Listing. Beyond references similar to those in B/X, no specifics on dogs and their capabilities.

AD&D PHB
Dog, guard 25 g.p., Dog, hunting 17 g.p. Beyond the price listing, no real specifics about dogs or their training.

AD&D MM 
Monster listings for Dog, War; and Dog, Wild. The first actual printed rules regarding the statistics for dogs in a D&D campaign world. Unfortunately, there is little useful information in the monster listings for running dogs as NPC companions.

WSG
Mounts And Beasts Of Burden (Sled Dog). Scant useful information.

DSG
A few mentions, with the discussion of them as beasts of burden on p. 60 being one of the better references of refereeing NPC dogs among a rather sparse field of same. 

Swords & Wizardry, Any
No direct reference. 

Labyrinth Lord
List prices for dogs. Stats blink dogs and references dogs in the Wolf monster listing.

Delving Deeper
Lists dogs in encounter tables, both dungeon and wilderness. Stats out dogs, gives description.

OSRIC
List dogs in various encounter tables. Stats out dogs, gives descriptions.


All That Aside?

We have our every day knowledge of dogs and their capabilities to guide us. Dogs are the oldest domesticated animals and have adapted to us as completely as we to them. So what can a dog do and, more importantly, what can a dog do that we (humans or our demi-human kin) cannot? 

Dogs have a superior sense of smell: they are able to track specific individuals over great distances. They are also able to detect approaching strangers: monsters, known enemies, anyone not its owner or his allies. Dogs can also be alert for specific smells, as using drug-sniffing and bomb-sniffing dogs has shown us.

Dogs have a superior sense of hearing: when serving in a guard capacity they can hear approaching enemies much farther away. They are more likely to awaken from sleep at the approach of a monster to camp. 

Non-Reliance On Vision: a dog's keen senses means it will detect invisible or otherwise magically veiled creatures or even objects. Their honed senses means this non-visual detection will be far more accurate than a human's. 

Sensitivity to magnetic fields: they can sense the approach of bad weather, for example. This also makes them sensitive to seismic events well in advance of their occurrence. Magnetic field sensitivity allows dogs to sense electrical current, giving warning adventurers of electrified traps if trained properly. 

Intelligence: while we will refrain from assigning specific INT ability scores to them, dogs are demonstrably intelligent. They are able to memorize and follow hundreds of commands (both verbal and gesture) and in at least one case, two thousand separate commands.  

Symbiosis: in addition to intelligence and learning, dogs are adept at reading human body language (including facial expression, posture, and emotion). This means a dog will be able to sense a person of malicious intent hiding behind a friendly face. 

Symbiosis Again: dogs have adapted well to the human diet and thrive on foods their wolf ancestors would be unable to live on. 

Anecdotally: dogs are able to sense spirits both malevolent and benign. Thus invisible spirits, possessed individuals, demons masquerading as humans, doppelgangers, even a polymorphed creature if the dog is familiar with the scent of either the true form or the represented form of the entity before it. 


The Bottom Line 

We've only scratched the surface of usefulness of dogs to a D&D player-character. We suggest the Monster Manual as a good starting place for dog statistics. Give them preternatural awareness (as discussed in my house rules, basically the ability to know your surroundings independent of vision) based upon their keen senses, and a strong sense of protectiveness regarding their master and secondarily his allies. Dogs should be able to sense strongly magical or otherwordly entities, and be able to sense storms, earthquakes, invisible creatures, as well as beings with hostile intent. Suggested statistics follow, for use as is or for inspiration:

Dog: AC 7[12], MV 15, HD 1+1, #ATT: 1, AL: N, MR: Standard, INT: Semi-

11 August 2016

Pardon Me, But Your Destrier Just Bit My Rouncey

These are the various classifications of horses used during medieval times. This may provide the referee a bit of guidance and flavor for his campaign. Note the term classification ... these are not breeds, they are ways of classifying the type of horse.

Palfrey: a lighter weight riding horse with an ambling gait, suitable for riding long distances. An unarmored knight would ride one of these to travel long distances, then ride a charger into battle. Referred to in the OD&D rules as a light horse.

Charger: a warhorse, that is, a mount specifically trained for battle and bred for both speed and agility in addition to great strength. Chargers came in 3 classifications: destrier, courser, rouncey. Chargers were often stallions because of the natural aggression of male horses.

  • Destrier: the most prized of the heavy warhorse types. Destriers stood 14-15 hands and mainly differed from palfreys in strength and training more than size. Unfortunately, destriers were difficult to find, resulting in many knights riding coursers or rounceys. Classed in the OD&D rules as a heavy warhorse. 
  • Courser: prized for being light, fast, and strong. Coursers got their name from their running gait. In addition to serving in battle, coursers were often used as hunting horses. These are labelled as medium warhorses in the OD&D rules. 
  • Rouncey: (or rounsey) a good all around horse, similar to a typical riding horse, trained for battle. These were often used a riding horses or even pack horses. The least desirable of the charger type warhorses. Rounceys could be both heavy or medium warhorses.

Sumpter: a packhorse, but note the term packhorse could traditionally be used for a horse, mule, donkey, or pony. A sumpter is a horse bred for sturdiness and used to carry goods or supplies on its back, usually in sidebags called panniers. These animals are built for endurance not speed.

Draught: also called draft horse (USA) or dray, as well as cart horse, heavy horse, or work horse. These animals were bred for pulling loads such as wagons or carts. Draught horses are very tall specimens with heavy musculature. They make poor warhorses because they were not very agile, though some evidence suggests they may have seen some service in battle.

Donkey: (or ass) a male donkey is called a jack and the female is a jenny. Donkeys have a much stronger sense of self-preservation than a horse and are therefore far less likely to be forced or frightened into doing something, giving rise to their reputation as stubborn. These are typically used as draught or pack animals.

Mule: the sterile offspring of a male donkey (jack) and female horse (mare). Typically used as packhorses, though their size, and therefore use, varies widely depending upon the size of its dam. Mules are considered more intelligent and less obstinate than donkeys, and are typically the only packhorse found in an underworld setting. In fact, mules (and hinnies, see below) are considered to embody the best aspects of both horses (strength, ability to travel) and donkeys (endurance, less food).

Hinny: the sterile offspring of a male horse (stallion) and female donkey (jenny). Hinnies are far less common than mules. They also tend to be smaller and have shorter ears than mules. 

Pony: a small horse, ponies for known for their temperament. A fact to which this author can personally attest: these are mean little bastards. They are treated as packhorses and are typically sure-footed and strong. Ponies can serve as warhorses, and in fantasy campaigns smaller human-types will often mount their cavalry upon them.

10 August 2016

So ... "Fantasy" Iron Rations?

If one wanted to have a reasonable depiction of iron ration in the fantasy world, what form would they take? I like my fantasy realm to be about a half-bubble off plumb. That is, I want them to be familiar enough the typical player knows what they are, but fantastic enough to give a bit of flavor beyond real world equivalents. So like every struggling referee, I stole some ideas I really liked!

Qith'Pa: elven iron rations consisting of bars of pressed dried fruit. I always pictured these as tough and chewy like jerky but very sweet. Not the best meal perhaps, but more satisfying than more common forms of iron rations. From Weis and Hickman's Dragonlance series of novels.

Lembas: elven iron rations that were at once savory and satisfying. Just one portion of one cake would sustain a man-type for a full day's march. I always pictured these as faintly magical and retaining their goodness so long as they were kept in the green leaf wrapping. From Tolkien's LotR series of books.

Cram: (or possibly Kram, I pronounce this with an "ah" as in "yahoo") small seed cakes about palm-size. I always pictured these as looking vaguely like compressed cakes of birdseed and having a faintly sweet and spicy taste. These are sustaining but leave the typical person feeling vaguely dissatisfied. I'm having a deuce of a time tracking this reference down. I seem to recall these are gnomish in origin from Brook's Shannara series of novels. If you remember better than I, please let me know, google is singularly unhelpful in this instance.

Mundane: dried sausage, dried smoked jerky, dried vegetable bars, dried fruit, smoked nuts, hard cheeses, twice-baked biscuits. These will be wrapped in waxed paper and bound with twine, often with protective runes inscribed upon them. These are available in just about any settlement of size, and can be produced rapidly from supplies on hand if not pre-prepared. These are filling and somewhat satisfying, though dissatisfaction increases with each consecutive day of this fare. After a week of iron rations, reduce NPC morale by -1.

07 August 2016

What Exactly Are Iron Rations?

On a whim, I decided to look into iron rations and any real-life analog to them. I found a reference to the WWI German Army's iron rations, these were later adapted by the militaries of other countries. Given the co-authors depth of knowledge regarding wargaming, I'm going to assume were the likely inspiration for both the name and the concept.

So what were they? One source lists a standard iron ration as:
  • 1 lb. preserved meat
  • 3 oz. cheese
  • 12 oz. biscuit
  • 5/8 oz. tea
  • 2 oz. sugar
  • 1/2 oz. salt
  • 1 oz. meat extract (meat broth or bullion perhaps?)

Another source lists an iron ration as:
  • 300 grams of hard crackers (such as Zwieback [twice-baked] crackers)
  • 200 grams of preserved meat
  • 150 grams of preserved or dehydrated vegetables or pea sausage 
  • 25 grams of artificial substitute coffee
  • 25 grams of salt

Then, of course, the US Army's much maligned K-Ration bears mentioning here. Descriptors such as "palatable" and "better than nothing" seem to be used a lot regarding them. There is also the nautical forerunner of hardtack that seems to be at least partial inspiration for the K-ration.

No matter the specific form? Iron rations were notable in their lack of so-called extras such as cigarettes, chewing gum, or instant coffee. They were the bare minimum needed a fully grown, healthy, fit human needed to remain active and were only intended for short term use. Both are vaguely cracker-like in size, appearance, and texture; and are reportedly difficult to chew. The taste was only bearable and better than nothing sounds a lot like damning with faint praise.

This may explain why trail rations are more desirable than iron rations. The former tastes more like "real" food and is more satisfying to the appetite, with the drawback of being bulkier. The latter will sustain an adventurer but will not be satisfying in the least.

May you always roll 20's!

04 August 2016

Chain (Chainmail) & Plate (or Plated) Mail, A Primer

Pedants will insist the words chain and mail mean the same thing and chainmail is therefore redundant in much the same way as the terms cash money and past history. While this is not as clear-cut as one may have been told, the argument can be made for that usage so we will employ it here.

Chain is familiar enough to most readers as to render a detailed explanation unnecessary. Instead, we will focus on terms commonly used in conjunction with chain.

Lets us begin with a common form of chain, the chain shirt. A knee length chain shirt is a hauberk. If mid-thigh length the term haubergeon is used. A chain coat, popular in medieval Europe, was called a byrnie.

There are several patterns to assembling the rings for chain armor, with the most common being 4-to-1. This means each link links to 4 others. These links were riveted, though sometimes riveted links were alternated with solid links. Less effective were butted links. Butted means the ends of the wire link touch each other but were not fastened. Welded links appear to have possibly been used as well.

Material used in most D&D campaigns would likely be wrought iron, though steel or bronze could also be used.

Effectiveness of chain rests upon four factors: link type, link material, link weave density, link thickness. A well made suit of chain was effective versus slicing and piercing attacks, but less effective against bashing attacks. A full suit of chain would also include leggings, head protection, and even mittens.

Plated mail, the type referred to in the D&D rules as plate mail, was simply chain with plates attached to it. It is typically the best mundane armor protection in the rules as written.

This is not the type of armor normally seen in museums or conjured up by young lads dreaming of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. That type of armor is referred to as plate and is not part of early versions of the game until Unearthed Arcana for AD&D was published by TSR in 1985. There it was given the values AC 1 for field plate and AC 0 for full plate, basically light and heavy versions (respectively) of the same type of armor.

02 August 2016

Leather Armor, A Primer

A few caveats before I begin. It's a shame to have to say this but there are actually contentious persons lurking on the web ... and pedants. So let me just state right up front I'm no Master of HistoryTM. I'm just a fellow who did a bit of research. There's always someone with more knowledge and long list of exceptions to general knowledge. Okay? This isn't that post. This is just a bit of information a referee may find useful. If you'd like to shed some authoritative light on any of the bullet points below, feel free to share.

Leather armor isn't soft or supple. It's hard as nails and effective protection. Those two qualities also mean it is stiff and unyielding. Leather armor or cuir bolloi was made by boiling a shaped leather piece in tallow or oil. It's closer in aspect to a piece of flexible sheet metal than a soft leather jherkin (which is how many neophyte players to the game picture it).

So, why leather armor if chain or plate was so much better? Well, leather was plentiful and inexpensive in relation to metal. It could be produced faster than metal armors.

Why not leather armor? Metal was better. So, if you were a big deal you would seek the best protection you could find. Metal armor was much more difficult to come by in terms of both availability and cost, so leather armor was better than nothing.

On a side note: I've been told by those who know better than I that leather armor was more effective than typically represented in the pre-1983 D&D rulebooks. Given I've heard the same about shields? I can buy that. I've no desire to change it because I'm of the opinion that, as a game-ism, it works just fine. But if you're a hardcore simulationist you may want to take a closer look at that aspect of your campaign.

So what was studded leather armor then? I've been told by Medieval wonks that this simply did not exist in the way described in some rules sets. It's possible the author was confusing it with jack or brigandine.