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Ceramic Armor

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Sir Tristram, Mar 11, 2014.

  1. Sir Tristram

    Sir Tristram Scribe

    So in my world, Antikthon, armor for the wealthy or for professional soldiers is mostly made of nonmetallic substances, ceramic being a favorite because of its resistance to heat/cold, and because of the fact that nobody wants to fight someone who can melt steel with a thought in a suit of steel plate. My question is whether or not this is a feasible method of self-defense. Would a suit of fully ceramic armor be too cumbersome to fight in? Would it be usable?
  2. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    It might depend on the the pottery's thickness, but I would think it would shatter too easily. You might want to consider that, in archaeology, pottery is generally held as an invention of sedentary cultures because it's impractical for nomads to keep carrying around without breaking.
  3. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    My first thought on ceramic armor is, wouldn't it shatter on impact with a blunt weapon? Metal-melting powers aside, if anyone could get close enough to try to cave their ribcages in, I'm not sure ceramics would protect them. It might do more harm than good, unless they wear something underneath to catch the inevitable shards ad keep them from piercing flesh.
  4. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    You could probably get away with augmenting ceramics to certain parts of the body but not cover it whole. Ceramics are brittle to just about every weapon they might come across, even a quarter staff could probably do in a suit of ceramic armor. Perhaps the answer you are looking for in order to stay away from your metals would be to go for more leathers, it was historically cheaper than plate armor... did it have problems with arrows... yes, but it holds up better to other weapons and isnt clunky when your charging into battle.
  5. Lunaairis

    Lunaairis Sage

    I agree with everything here. But I would like to add, If your culture has tons of trees paper might be an option. Mythbusters did an episode on paper armor- its decent, sort of cumbersome but remember things like metal plate armor (Or how I think you wanted ceramic armor to be like) where not meant to be walking around in. You wanted to be on a horse. Paper armor could stop arrows and a sword or two but after the battle it would need to be replaced.

    you can watch the parts of the episode here ----> MythBusters: Paper Armor? Really? : Video : Discovery Channel
  6. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

  7. Malik

    Malik Auror

    Ceramic plates stop bullets, all right. . . once. The ballistic SAPI (small arms protective insert) is disposable, and designed to absorb the impact from the round and disperse it by shattering. And it hurts like a bastard, rendering you combat-ineffective. Broken ribs and contused organs are common. (EDIT: You survive by having a large force with you to lay down suppressing fire while others pull your gasping ass to safety before you can get hit in the same place again.)

    A heavy weapon with a focused impact - hammer, morning star, greatsword - would likely do the same as a bullet; i.e, shatter the armor and for all intents and purposes cold-cock the wearer. There is not enough beer in the world to make going into a medieval-era battle in disposable, breakable armor sound like a good idea.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2014
    Snowpoint, stephenspower and CupofJoe like this.
  8. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    This sounds more like the mage would melt their skin instead, cased in nice heat-resistant armor.

    Unless their armor is a complete body suit, it needs to repel magic, not just come through it intact.
  9. Julian S Bartz

    Julian S Bartz Minstrel

    I think if you are keen on using ceramic it needs to be used sparingly and augmented by something more flexible and lightweight. Potentially leather which has ceramic plates worked into it. Yet again as has been mentioned many times, they are liable to break with blunt force trauma.

    If you are not 100% set on ceramic look at alternative things. Either have them wearing more toughened hide or leather. I like the paper idea, but also look at types of wood and strong organic material.

    I am assuming this your own fantasy world. What is to say there isn't a material that doesn't exist in the real world that they use for their armour? Maybe there is a particular type of tree or bush that they make their breastplates out of. Or a form of ceramic which is infused with something that gives it stability/sturdiness. Maybe they wear the carcasses of wyverns?

    Also it is important to think about the dynamics of fighting and warfare here. If metal armour is off the table, battles would be different to our historical battles. Certain weapons would become more effective. Other weapons which were effective because their wielders were heavily protected would be not as effective. This could change a lot of things in your world.
  10. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate Sage

    I'm going with boiled leather too, possibly splint and scale using bone, horn, tortoise shell or bamboo stiffeners.

    Does this heating effect extend to all metals? The bronze breastplate might be making a comeback.

    Weapons technology might be undergoing a bit of a revolution, too. If you can actually melt steel, swords become pretty useless (if you can only warm it up to white heat, research could concentrate on thermally insulating handles, and there ceramics could come into play. Being stabbed with a glowing blade is still disagreeable, even if it does cauterise the wound nicely). Clubs, arrows and spears with obsidian points, even whips and slings become reasonable alternatives if you're not facing swords and axes. You lose the advantage of shod horses (and most heavy cavalry gear has rivets and buckles), and can't put hobnails in your caligae. Helms? Leather, hardwood. What use is a glass dagger?

    If this technique (that of mentally melting steel) were learnt during a conflict, there would be a sudden massive research project in all regions where traditional fantasy weapons held sway ;).
  11. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    Ceramics don't make good armour. No shock absorbency at all, so they'd shatter on impact. But also ceramics are really heavy. Assuming you use a thickness that won't shatter immediately on first impact, it's going to weigh a huge amount. Think how heavy your average coffee mug is. And that's thin and small. You'd need 3 or 4 times the thickness to get any kind of protection (though even then a second or third blow, or a blow against a weak point like a sharp corner, or the wearer falling over due to having to carry a weight of ceramic they can't easily carry which throws them off balance, would then render the armour useless).

    The kind of technology used to make the ceramics used in modern bullet proof vests is highly advanced, not the sort of thing a medieval culture using charcoal as fuel in brick kilns is going to be capable of producing.

    Why not try using hardened leather for armour? It might not be as effective as steel, but it's not going to be vulnerable to a metal-mage. Alternatively, make a material up. Dragon-scale armour, armour woven from the feathers of griphons or the bark of a magical tree or forged from a magic-resistant mineral.
  12. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    In Feist's Magician the invading force uses lacquer armor, as I remember, having to deal with a problem similar to your world's. Perhaps you could find a variation on laquer.
  13. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    'course there's always the writer's option. Just say "screw all this, it's cool and I want it." Then just say that there's some special alchemical method to making the ceramic used in the armor or some magic voodoo and be done with it.
    Julian S Bartz and stephenspower like this.
  14. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    That is true, they wouldn't have the technology to make it "our" way. That doesn't even take into account magical means of manufacturing it. Assuming wizardry is commonplace, a wizard could easily make something like ceramic using transmutation or some such to give it the hardness of steel but not the inherent weaknesses of it. An alchemist (assuming wizardry isn't commonplace, or you simply want to have a more mundane explanation for the armor) could even manage a magical paint or lacquer that gives any surface painted with it extra resistance.
  15. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    My thought would be a cloth and lacquer armour. Note that some lacquers do burn which could be a sod so you'll need to protect it from fire in some way. But still a layer of cloth painted with the lacquer, than another layer of cloth and another coat of the lacquer etc. You'd end up with somethingthat's lightweight, probably flexible enough to take a blow from a mace and deflect a sword. It could also be up to an inch thick in places for added protection.

    Cheers, Greg.
  16. Sir Tristram

    Sir Tristram Scribe

    So something more along the lines of a cross between lamellar laminate, linothorax, and a central part with a layout designed like Dragon Skin was?
  17. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

    Why not just have something new entirely? Maybe ice with some sort of incantation or enchantment over it that hardens it.
  18. James Chandler

    James Chandler Minstrel

    My first thought was, just go with the Red Sonja option. If the use of magic makes armor a danger to the wearer, and if it's true for both sides, get rid of the armor. That could be something we haven't seen before, an actual reason for scantily clad barbarian warriors. There could be an interesting dynamic. Weapons technology his a tug-of-war between better armor meeting better weapons which then meet better armor.

    Also, maybe a super hard wood, or a fiber that can be woven into armor, something like kevlar(tm).
    Jabrosky likes this.
  19. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage


    I say go for ceramic armor! Let's look at the dictionary deffintion of cermaic: Cermaic, of or relating to the manufacture of any product (as earthenware, porcelain, or brick) made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral (as clay) by firing at a high temperature.

    There are a great many Ceramic materials in the real world, there are even ceramic fabrics. In a fantasy world with transmutation and alchemy the possibilities are endless man or woman!
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2014
  20. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    I had an idea on a similar line although mine is more based on the rarity of metal for the culture, what metal they do have they use to make weapons and use ceramics and leather for armor.

    this is what I did for the ceramics. the ceramics are shaped in thick discs about the size of a coin but twice as thick. these are placed on the thin inner leather of the breastplate or whatever armor piece. they are placed so that they overlap like scales and held in place with a glue. Another layer of these disks are placed on top, again so the bottom of the disc overlaps with the top of the one underneath. On top of these ceramic disks a thick layer of leather is shaped and formed so it seals tightly to the ceramics and then stitched in place.

    The idea I'm going with is that on impact with something the disks break but also, because of the layering and overlap, spread out the force of the impact to those discs underneath and around them. They won't work for a hammer or axe blow but the main weapons used in this region are spears and swords. only problem with this is if the discs are broken they have to be replaced which is not possible during a battle.

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