Saturday, March 9, 2013

Thoughts on Armor in Chanbara

So, I managed to get all my grad school reading done, and had plenty of free time at work on Thursday, so I finished up my chapter on equipment for Chanbara.  There are weapons, armors, normal equipment (just a copy/paste from Flying Swordsmen with one or two little changes) and special ninja equipment.

Then, last night, I was watching Kurosawa Akira's 蜘蛛の巣城, or Throne of Blood.  For those unfamiliar, this was the movie where Kurosawa transplanted Shakespeare's Macbeth and changed all the Scotsmen into samurai.  Of course, Toshiro Mifune stars.

Watching it, and looking at all the different types of armor presented in the movie then reminded me of participating in several festivals during my time in Japan where my friends and I was able to wear reconstructions of period armor.
My buddy Justin decked out in a parade
Anyway, I think I may need to go back and make the armor section a bit more general.  I could go full-bore AD&D style and try to cover every single armor type, or AD&D OA style and try a piecemeal armor system, but that's a bit too complicated.  I've maybe got more armors than I need.  I may have hit a sweet spot with Flying Swordsmen, but then since there's not much call for armor there except for NPCs for the most part, I felt safe with a more abstract system.

So I'm a bit unsure on what to do.  Right now, I've got three categories, Light, Medium and Heavy.  Each category has three armors in it.  One, Kote, works like a shield, being able to combine it with what in Flying Swordsmen I termed "corselet armor" meaning just a breastplate and maybe a few other pieces.  There are three of these, two light and one medium.  The other medium and all of the heavy armors would be considered "suit" armors in Flying Swordsmen.

Maybe it's fine the way it is.  I've got most of the major Japanese armor types covered, in a non-historically accurate way.  Or maybe the more abstract FS version would work better?  A super simple way like OD&D/Classic D&D's leather/chain/plate?  3E OA's categorical armor (ashigaru armor, samurai armor, barbarian armor)?  Or should I go full-bore baroque detail AD&D/OA style?

What say you, readership?


  1. You do know that Mifune had that terrified expression because kyudo archers were really shooting arrows at him?

    I think a piecemeal system is a mistake, since it is a bit of a hassle. Maybe just have 'piecemeal' as a class of armor itself. I am surprised you kept D&D style AC. I would have figured letting DEX be the To Hit number and having armor as a dice reducing damage would be more in the Wuxia tradition.

  2. Three categories plus a shield is enough to get numbers for combat. Save the individual piece types for magic items (to diverge from the ubiquitous bracer or ring).

  3. Ted- yeah, I do recall reading or hearing that once before. Awesome Shakespeare play, awesome movie, awesome scene at the end there.

    I do have some classes that get AC = Dex already, but didn't want to make it universal (although for my Flying Swordsmen revamp, if I ever get around to that, it may be standard for all Xia). While I do enjoy the TV jidai-geki like "Abarenbo Shogun" with unarmored samurai facing off against hordes of low-level opponents, armor suits the samurai/ninja tradition much more than the kung fu/wuxia tradition.

    Thanks for the input to both of you guys. I'll wait until the poll closes though to make any final decisions.

  4. I agree with Lee. Light , Medium, and Heavy armor and shields sounds good to me.

    For uniqueness, maybe have non-magical bonuses for wearing ancestral/historic/famous armors. Bonuses like +1 Cha, +2 morale bonus to allies, or +1 to saves vs. fear. Basically, small social, emotional, or inspirational bonuses.

    This could apply to weapons with histories as well.