Arms and Armor

As a fantasy author and reader, I need a passing familiarity with arms and armor.  I am typically not someone who dwells on clothing, which extends to and includes armor, so my acquaintance with greaves and hauberks and plate and scale mail is mostly from my reading.

I am growing fond of weaponry, though.  Again, the original knowledge came from reading fantasy.  I often use context clues when I don’t know what something is, but I will also look things up from time to time.

Today I wanted to share with you just a couple of my favorite terms.  Some of them are actually favorite pieces, others are just fun words. I’ll restrict myself to personal weaponry – as much as I like siege engines, we’ll save them for another day.  Many of these I’d like to handle and/or use at some point, just for the experience, but that seems relatively unlikely.

Flail – this should come as no surprise to the people who know me or who have read this blog.  A flail is that lovely weapon which consists of a metal ball (or two) on a chain, attached to a reinforced club.  This is not a mace!  Maces are simply metal-reinforced clubs; if there’s a chain involved, it becomes a flail!

Crossbow and Windlass –  Ah, the crossbow.  One of these days I am going to fire one!  It is powerful enough (usually) to puncture armor.  It takes so much power to pull the string into place that they are often reloaded using a type of crank called a windlass.

Gambeson – this looks like a quilted shirt.  It’s worn under armor, be it plate or chain, as a protective layer (and padding)!

Vambrace – armor for your arms!  Vambraces cover the forearms, usually from wrists to elbows.  You’ll sometimes see authors who put fighters in vambraces without other armor, to add extra protection for unexpected fighting.

Anybody else want to share their favorite fantasy arms and armor?


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lyricalmeanings
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 17:31:14

    I am totally with you on the crossbow, though for me the long bow has the edge in terms of speed and dexterity. It always seems a more delicate weapon. I also love the two hand swords and the swordplay that needs to be adapted to use each weapon to its best advantage.


    • Leigh Townsend
      Mar 03, 2012 @ 16:48:13

      The longbow definitely has its place in my writing, but for some reason I’m fascinated by the crossbow. And I do love swords, but the swordplay is one of those things I have to actually act out (with weapon stand-ins) in order to write it correctly.


      • lyricalmeanings
        Mar 03, 2012 @ 17:20:01

        I would love to be able to do that! Sounds like total commitment to the integrity which is brilliant. I hope the weapons training all adds up to a spectacular result. 🙂

  2. deshipley
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 19:22:58

    Ah, “gambeson”! I know him well, Horatio — or rather, just learned what it was during the drafting of my latest novel. Normally, I try to get by with the minimum, clothing-description-wise — (my imagination isn’t much suited to envisioning more than one or two outfits per character; what comes, I suppose, of growing up watching kids’ shows where no one ever seems to change clothes unless there’s a severe weather shift or special occasion) — but the question of “what on earth do you call that padded shirt thing, anyway?” needed to be addressed. (Online search engines: A writer’s best friend and biggest distraction, all rolled into one.)

    “Vambrace” is new to me. Love the sound of that word. (:


    • Leigh Townsend
      Mar 03, 2012 @ 16:50:40

      I have a great reference book that is a wonderful place to find the names of clothing and weaponry. It’s called “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” and while I’m not a fan of many of the sections (you should create your own fantasy monsters, not borrow someone else’s) I love the sections on weaponry, castles, and clothing. 🙂


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