Scientists and World Design - Armor for those amazons

Recently I heard a story about a girl role playing her favourite character, a female knight. That isn't something special. Yet when the party entered an inn, she have met with a sudden surprise, someone slapped her on face, and explained to her, how women should belong to the kitchen. Before we would start complaining about sexism, we know that sexism, racism and other forms of prejudice and hatred exists in most fantasy and scifi worlds. So encounters like this can happen, right? Probably not. And it has nothing to do with feminists and how they would condemn us for this. But lets evaluate the differences in power: An unarmed commoner on one side.... And a fully armed and armored knight who is free to kill the commoner for this insult.

Of course this story quickly started an "endless debate" about female knights and their gear. Of course quite a few people who loved knights, played larp and had a BSc degree in History spoke about how unlikely a female knight would be, and even if it would happen how they would look like, and pointed on a few paintings. And soon we were overwhelmed by articles about how most "fantasy armor for females" would kill. And some armorsmiths shared their oppinions, after all he knows the old customs inside out. The problem is, against this large mass of experts there were other voices. Some with "just an MSc" degree, designing modern body armor. Some had even DSc degree in History, yet others represented fields like sociology, psychology and what else. 

And soon we even had to talk about the definition of magic. Magic in our own real world history. 

The guy who represented sociology explained: 

  • If you want to achieve something rational, by rational means, that can be technology. 
  • If you want to achieve something rational, by irrational means, that is magic. 
  • If you want to achieve something irrational (going to heavens), by irrational means, that is about religion. 

And if we know history we know how this kind of magic worked. And the medieval times were full of magic. And whats even more surprising, some of this magic worked. Before you say nonsense, think a bit about this: understanding the character of people is rational goal, some who practice psychology can be very competent at this. But turning to the stars to understand a person? Pretty irrational thought. But look at a medieval village: At certain times of year people worked hard, at other parts of year they lived social lives, etc. we know this. And this included when "most decent folks" tried for baby. If your parents partied at wrong time... You born at "wrong time", that spoke about your parents. And spoke about something more. It spoke about what have you seen in the first part of your life. 

So that astrologists who spoke about stars, and planets actually knew what happened in the village when you were 3, 6 or 9 months old. You see the point? When you would need plenty of faces to grow up well, he knew if you seen those faces, or are those people were on the fields. So this magic, this astrology had plenty of results to gain credibility. Then it changed peoples expectations, and this led to some "self fulfilling prophecies" and soon it worked more and more. As you see people managed to achieve some rational goal pretty often by irrational means.

Most of the mediaval healing practices were pretty dangerous, pretty irrational, but some of them worked. 

Horns on helmet can be just as risky as boobs on plate mail, yet we seen them in history. And with fear, psyschological warfare they worked. 

The word Grimoire is about grammar. Priests and monks learned latin, and when their knowledge was needed for anything and they have read something about those "rituals", it was in the language that is in that grimoire. Anyone who copied even the most basic methods didn't knew why those practices worked... So in addition to doing essential steps, they also tried to use the magical language from that grimoire... And those who remembered the "whole ritual" accurately (and spoke better Latin with it) had a higher chance to remember the really important steps as well. The moment when you know how it really works and know how to design your spells, it won't be that mysterious and magical anymore. 

We talk about this magical era. 

Modern body armor often has place for "boobs" and it yet it doesn't break the breastbone. Why? Because even with this design it hits boobs first. But before the wearers ribs would break, it also hits the breastbone to distribute force more evenly. And also pointed out a few more things:Using "embossing" on outside doesn't always mean dangerous edges on the inside. So the "compelling hard science evidence" that suggests those fantasy female armors would lead to broken breastbones and would be like a suicide are nothing but myths and missinterpreted half-truths.

But even if they were true, they would be unknown to both the armorsmith and the character who gets those armor. 

Plate mail wasn't a product of the dark ages, it came in late medieval times and fluorished in renessaince. And even then there were very different plates for jousting, for war, and for times when a nicely decorated armor along with heraldic shields just showed your status. Yet even with any decor that limited their effectiveness they were more than enough. We know about females who are knighted for deeds in war, and we knew there were female warrior knights. Order of the hatchet is one example. But others got into various orders of knights at various times. Yet, at the times of plate mail, there were other things known to men.

Longbows. Pikes. Crossbows. Long gone were the days where the invincible knight rushed into battle. Cannons, fortifications, etc. ended that era. As a leader in a "chain of command" a female knight would probably get a more or less sage position, and wouldn't be expected to stand up against male opponents in jousting or other similar things. Also for a skilled combatant how to avoid being hit is important, if you are good at this, you are rarely hit in a way where this difference in armor design would be really important. But psychology is important, both about your own confidence and about surprising your enemes and "putting them off balance". And of course in the course of History sometimes female warriors were used for this purpose a few times.

At other times a female warrior wouldn't be feared, but would be underestimated. And it would be rare, and as we only have paintings made by painters who often haven't seen them in armor, we don't have too much solid infomation. But we suspect they would be severely underestimated. It could be used as an advantage or it could be a serious disadvantage. As you see there are reasons to either emphasize or hide the gender of a female warrior. Of course it can be a bit more complex than this. Skills of armorers (what can be made), what would the wearer expect from various armor designs (remember what was said about magic) can influence decisions. Coming up with a different armor design, experimenting with how to make it, considering their added complexity would be an issue.

Yet, when the combat system doesn't reflect how combat works, weapons and armors from different centuries are used in same party, some weapons and their weight are very unlikely, a lot of people only speak against those armor designs ignoring all the reasons mentioned above. When a fast paced chaotic combat where one who doesn't move would be dead meat is turned into a slow paced "strategic combat", where people shouldn't move most of the time, and things are so bad armor design isn't a big issue. Well, for one side. But when the female knight with the "feminine" plate armor has more realism than the combat system and it is important to one of the players, there is no valid reasons to disrupt her fun.

Female knights were rare, but known in History, and when they got title and land, it often came with exceptions about inheriting title and land, about how powers of nobility can be used, etc.But peasants looking for trouble by insulting a such knight based on "gender roles" were much more rare. And even most people knew, most noble ladies didn't spend time in the kitchen, they had staff to do most of the cooking. Their responsibilties were elsewhere. 

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