Armor in the Wild West

Discussion in 'World Building' started by weechlo, Jul 15, 2017.

  1. weechlo

    weechlo Apprentice

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    So the title is a bit inaccurate but basically, I'm looking to write a sort of... Wild West/High Fantasy combo, where a traditional high fantasy world has progressed to the point of technology in the Wild West: steampower, some rudimentary and rare firearms, etc., but still with magic, dragons, and other fairly significant fantasy tropes.

    What I need some help with is how those fantasy things would translate into a Western setting. For instance, would armor still be applicable, or would a traditional Wild West/Midwest and Southwestern setting be too hot for such things? I've lived in both areas (New Mexico and Kansas) but have never worn heavy, medium or light armor. Basically I just need some help logically figuring out what would and wouldn't work vis a vis high fantasy tech in a western setting.
     
  2. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Lore Master

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    For what purpose would they wear armour? They can't wander the West in full plate.
     
  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Valar Lord

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    Of course they can! :p
    But your first question still stands.
    I'd be tempted to look at Europeans during the Crusades.
    Wearing heavy armour in hot weather usually doesn't end well. Especially for the horses.
     
  4. weechlo

    weechlo Apprentice

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    Well, this is high fantasy in a wild west setting, so I'm picturing things like swords and bows still being the predominant form of warfare. My thing is finding the balance between wild west and high fantasy.
     
  5. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Lore Master

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    They'd get heat stroke if they tried that. Even medieval knights only suited up like that for war. The American West is basically a desert.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
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  6. elemtilas

    elemtilas Mystagogue

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    I could be mistaken here, but I think there may be some confusion, particularly re the desert southwest of the USA.

    The desert isn't what makes a western a western (else Lawrence of Arabia would be a western). It's the atmosphere, the culture, the dichotomy of the settled East (big rule-of-law-more-or-less Empire) versus the, well, "wild" and unsettled West (lots of room, scattered Barbarians). It's the idea that a man (or in this day and age, a woman) is a law unto herself. It's the interface between Civilisation on the one hand, Barbarity on the other, and that curious strip of Inbetween straddling the line. And of course the encroachment of Civilisation on both.

    Oh, and as for armour, the conquistadors wore armour all over Mexico and South America. I see no reason why a knight errant couldn't wear (some amount of) armour in a desert-like setting, if that's what you're after. Perhaps not a full suit of plate, but certainly a helmet and perhaps a breastplate. Would look totally snazzy against leather chaps and tooled leather high heeled boots!
     
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  7. DMThaane

    DMThaane Mystagogue

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    Without knowing anything about the setting it's hard to give a specific answer but generally speaking the argument about heat is a bit of a distraction. First rule of desert warfare is to be mindful of water. Ignorance of that cost the Crusaders at battles such as Hattin but they were highly successful at other battles such as Montgisard. The Byzantine and Sassanid empires employed heavily armoured cavalry for centuries to great success in high heat environments.

    The key thing with armour is protection versus loss of mobility and increased fatigue. Also availability but that's more of an economic issue. If armour can't protect you from bullets or magic you won't bother to wear it. If you rely on mobility (something I'd think key to a Wild West type setting) armour could slow you down, taking up space better used for rations and increasing fatigue. Full armour may not be viable but a thick breastplate may still be worth it. Alternatively you can ditch mundane armour and go for something more magical. Ultimately it's down to what you want in your setting but without knowing more about the weapons and magic involved there's no real reason it wouldn't be present.
     
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  8. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Dark Lord

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    Even something more mundane could be an alternative to a suit of armor. Perhaps a leather vest with steel plates sewn in it as a sort of bulletproof vest. Add protective charms and you'd have more protection for less weight.

    On the weaponry side of things, I have been experimenting with a similar idea. I thought it would interesting if you could augment bullets for different effects. Explosive (flechette) rounds, rounds that cause extra damage from fire, ice or whatever. Blades that cut specific materials.

    On the more day-to-day side, think about how it might affect a normal person's day. How do they communicate long distance? Do they use magic to keep food/perishables fresh? Rodent/insect wards? Healing? I would think with magic, life expectancy would be better than it was in the real west.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  9. Aurora

    Aurora Mystagogue

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    There wasn't really armor in the traditional sense in the Old West. Leather vests. That's...about it. Nothing like you're imagining from medieval times. Granted, in fantasy you can do whatever you'd like, but recall that many people died in shootouts in those days and they didn't have bulletproof vests or any sort of protection.
     
  10. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    You might be surprised to learn there was a period of approximately 300 years where firearms and armor shared the battlefield. There's a common misunderstanding that with the advent of gunpowder, and shortly after firearms, armor just up and disappeared. That just isn't the case.

    Sure, the death knell for armor began to ring after the invention, and improvement, of firearms technology, but it took almost three centuries before the armored knight/soldier was no more. There's a plethora of history packed into that 300 year that you might look toward for information.

    Best of luck!
     
  11. elemtilas

    elemtilas Mystagogue

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    And of course, now that materials science has caught up to ballistics, what do we have on the battlefield again but gallant knights in kevlar armor, bravely wading through hail of bullets atop their mighty mighty armored beasts of war!
     
  12. SMAndy85

    SMAndy85 Journeyman

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    Yeah, agreed. Early firearms were hideously inaccurate at virtually any range above point blank. That, coupled with the really long reload times, given muskets needed to be loaded through pouring gunpowder into the barrel, with wadding, and a bullet. Getting the gunpowder wet made it useless, and hitting a moving target is always really hard. Your armour was to protect you from swords once you get into combat. Mounted on horses, you could get into combat quickly.

    But with magic involved, you could gain accuracy, firepower, or maybe even a magically reloading gun!

    Armour wise, I would imagine that native americans would be more likely to utilise magic, which could give their bows and spears vastly improved range, and armour piercing capabilities. Gun wielding, horse riding cowboys (for want of a better term), would probably go for some kind of middle ground on mobility and protection. Perhaps chain, or lamellae (interwoven discs of metal) whcih awarded decent protection without having the heavy, thick breastplates of plate armour.
     
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