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Why wouldn't you wear a helmet?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by D. Gray Warrior, Oct 24, 2017.

  1. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Troubadour

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    Something that has been pointed out in many fantasy works is how the protagonist and sometimes other characters are rarely seen wearing helmets, when the head is the most important part of your body you should be protecting. I know this makes identifying the characters easier, but would there be any practical situations where you would not want to wear a helmet in battle? Helmets can restrict vision and hearing, but even then, you could wear an open-face helmet or at least something the covers that top of your head.

    I'm reading one novel where it's sorta justified because the protagonist is sent to a world that is an MMORPG and he has an exceptionally high defense stat.
     
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    This is mostly a thing in visual mediums I think, where identifying the character by their looks is important. In books, I don't believe it's nearly as common. I can't think of a practical reason why wearing an appropriate helmet wouldn't be done. The keyword here being appropriate - it may very well be that there are helmets that are unsuitable to for combat situations and which would be getting in the way.
     
  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    In various roles I've worn helmets. And I can tell you one thing they all have in common after about half an hour...
    Sweat. Lots and lots of sweat.
    They are hot, uncomfortable, and smelly, and they fall off really easily.
    Most of the time, you found a good reason not to wear one unless you really had too. The only exception to this is cycling or riding. Yes the helmets are still a pain but things happen to fast for me not to need one.
     
    Dark Squiggle likes this.
  4. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I can't think of good reasons not to wear a helmet. I have worn helmets for many things (football, cycling, car racing, hockey) including medieval combat. They can get hot, and uncomfortable, but not wearing one in combat puts you at a much higher risk of death, brain injury, disfiguring injury, loss of teeth or an eye or two.

    There are plenty of helmets that don't cover your face if that is really important.

    Also, the vast majority of martial cultures used helmets where they would be useful. There are some types of warfare where they really were not, but not a lot of them.

    There are also social and economic issues you can play with, but a simple helmet I would think would be pretty inexpensive.
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    The fact that most warriors in most eras and in most places have worn helmets would sort of argue in favor of helmets. I'll take sweat over blood, any day.
     
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I saw a graph somewhere - I should've grabbed it - that showed how helmets evolved based on things like whether soldiers needed to hear shouted orders or see more than what was directly in front of them in a tight shield-to-shield formation. In the real world design choices on all of this stuff really does make a huge difference.

    Based on that, I think in some cases you might take no helmet over the wrong helmet. For instance, if your shield unit breaks up, now you're in a skirmish, and you really need to see and hear what's happening around you... I have no idea about realism, but you've got believability for sure.
     
  7. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    The only reason I can think of to not wear a helmet where it is needed is if I couldn't afford one. Even then, I'm pretty sure there was less expensive headgear one could wear to reduce the possibility of a lethal head injury that mightn't qualify as a helmet. Like padded or mail coifs. I think turbans were used in lieu of helmets in some places? But generally, some kind of helmet would be the best option.
     
  8. wirehead

    wirehead Acolyte

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    Yeah, being bad-ass and helmet-free is totally a movie trope. And comic books. Because you want to see people's faces.

    And, I dono, yeah, I wear helmets all the time while I'm biking, but if it was metal, I'd think twice about having all that weight on my head. Heck, even there, I bike past tons of folks with the helmet helpfully clipped to the handlebars and it's a foam thing.

    Most tank battles have gone better for the side where the commander of the tank has his head popped out of the top of the tank, instead of inside and using the periscope. Especially for a general, having that clunky thing on your head is going to suck.

    So, I suspect there's a lot of situations in a battle where the generals would be exposed and somewhat un-armored, people get caught with their helmet off because they didn't expect to be in battle, et al
     
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  9. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    I can think of reasons not to wear a helmet, but I think Joe and Russ covered a few of them. One i might add is they cause neck strain, and they slosh around. They may not be the best reasons, but people are people, and some wont have a helmet. I think if I had a helmet, and I was sure to be in a fight, I would probably want it. But I could also see it getting in the way and taking it off if it just wasn't working out.
     
  10. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    I don't see this in books nearly as much as I see it in movies. It's either artistic license on the part of the director, or maybe the actor has it in their contract that they have X amount of time with their face visible.

    Either way, it's idiotic. Human heads are stupidly designed. There are far more places on the body where you can take a hit from something sharp and/or heavy and walk away than there are on the head.

    Head wounds are ghastly. Even superficial scalp and face wounds bleed profusely; enough to stop a professional fight, and enough to take you out of a battle for the day.

    A moderate blow to the right spot on the head will drop you like you've been poleaxed. I'm thinking here of the side of the neck, the mastoid complex (the knob of bone behind the ear), the temple, the orbital socket (holy shit, hit the orbital socket with the pommel of a sword and you're going to get blood and eye goo all over your nice clean armor), and the old standby, an overhand punch to the chin. This last one is particularly underrated, and the #1 source of boxing knockouts before the invention of the upper-and-lower one-piece mouthguard. A clean, uninhibited, straight punch to the chin will slam the jawbone against the base of the skull, jarring the brain stem, and it's Good night, Gracie. There's also a sweet spot on the side of the jaw, but it's tougher to hit than Hollywood would have you believe.

    On top of this, a heavy blow to the head, anywhere, has results that nobody wants to see if the recipient lives through it. Trust me on this one. And goddamn, hit a skull with an axe or a three- or four-pound warsword. Seriously. Go to a butcher shop, get a pig skull, and go to town and then tell me why your hero wouldn't want a helmet. Also, eww.

    I CAN'T FIND THE SPOILER TAG SO. . .

    SPOILER: These aren't even particularly good swords. Also, don't watch if you just ate.




    Given a choice, I'd rather wear a helmet into battle without armor than the other way around.
     
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    And, in fact, we see helmets on even very lightly armored infantry.
     
  12. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    I don't think the evolutionary process was thinking it would have to be sword proof. Maybe in the next iteration.

    Also, I think the pig has had better days.
     
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  13. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Sage

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    If I carry the proper magical talisman, I won't need no stinkin' helmet.

    It can be noted that from the 17th Century to the early 20th, helmets disappeared from use by most soldiers. They only made a comeback in the First World War.
     
  14. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    I was going to mention there were not many helmets in the american civil war but i thought that it being due to muskets and canons would seem obvious. But i do wonder. Maybe pickets charge would not have seemed so entirely foolish if more of them wore metal plates of some sort.
     
  15. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Sage

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    Trench warfare was somewhat responsible for the return of the helmet. Their heads were soldiers' most vulnerable spot when they were down in a ditch with shells exploding around them.
     
  16. so you can feel the wind in your hair
     
  17. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    That is exactly why I would not wear one.
     
  18. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Helmets make a character seem like the muddy rank and file, aka the jobbers. . Give Aragorn a helmet and suddenly he looks alot less badass.
     
  19. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    Going into a fight without headgear, given the choice, makes you look like a dumbass.
     
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  20. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Not if you're too much of a billy badass to need it.

    By the logic of the practicality nerds, Aragorn also should be leading from the rear, directing his formations. Anduril should be a pole arm because polearms are more useful in war. He should also have a shield. But you know what, Imagery beats practicality in high fantasy,
     
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