Art of the Genre: Armor… how I love thee!

Art of the Genre: Armor… how I love thee!

OMG!  Look, redheads don't hate clothes after all!
OMG! Look, redheads don't hate clothes after all!
I was buzzing around Facebook this week, as I’m sure most of you all do from time to time, and I always marvel at the 200 friends I have there and the incredibly interesting images they manage to post.

One such image spoke volumes to me as I surfed, and I was motivated to write a piece concerning it. The image in question was of a woman in armor, like real armor, and I couldn’t help but think how incredibly awesome armor is or how much it’s captivated my imagination over the years.

To me, there is nothing cooler in the realms of fantasy than armor. My first D&D character was a fighter, and I can still remember reading the equipment lists and thinking ‘all I can afford is chainmail, but someday… oh yes, someday, I’ll wear platemail and then I’ll be epic!’

Really, truly, I can’t tell you how much I like platemail… and NO, I’ve never worn it, but Yes, I would if someone would let me! I mean, armor in general is like the ultimate aphrodisiac to my gamer inspired imagination.

I well remember, back in 1991, a friend of mine who lived across the hall in the dorm had a computer [which I didn’t, if that tells you what life was like back then] and he had a game with actual graphics. I mean, to this point I’d had a Nintendo [no numbers or words attached, just a Nintendo!] which was ok for something like Techmo Super Bowl, but graphics wise it didn’t really feature any supreme RPG-like games, so to that point I had to rely on written-word based games like Wizardry and Bard’s Tale on and old Commodore 64 and a black and white TV for my imaginary outlets.

A young Heigl and her Prince Valiant
A young Heigl and her Prince Valiant
Now Metzner, my friend, got some awesome fantasy game. [No, I can’t remember what it was and that still kills me to this day! True story, I looked him up in like 2001 and called just to ask him what that game was, but he couldn’t remember, although I’m sure he thought I was insane.] This game moved your characters around a small continent as they went up levels. You had a party, and there was a screen in which you could pull up a male or female body and dress it with the equipment you owned. OMG! I was like a kid in a candy story with a hundred dollar bill. All I wanted to do was get enough armor pieces to make a full set of plate armor, although I never was able to do so!

[Special geek notice here, if anyone cares, the beginning of this game had a starting graphic of a lone swordsman walking down an infamous wilderness road with lighting striking in the background. I remember it so clearly because you would have had to have been unbelievably tough to walk that road alone. If there is anyone out there that remembers this, please let me know the name of this game!]

How can you not look awesome if your helmet has a mustache?
How can you not look awesome if your helmet has a mustache?
Anyway, back to task. I posted a piece last year on The Fighter, and in it I included one of my all-time favorite images concerning armor. That Dragon Magazine picture still sits in my subconscious today [and the rust monster still stresses me out!] and as I sat down to write this I couldn’t help but wonder what other armor foundational images have stuck with me over the years.

Certainly, the 1997 little seen film Prince Valiant sticks with me because near the end of the film a young Katherine Heigl gets decked out in a suit of plate armor that absolutely blew me away. I think the primary reason I loved her armor was because there was nothing inherently female about it. No fake-forged boobs, no strangely missing pieces that exposed flesh, just solid plate over chain, and yet she was inherently feminine just by being herself in it.

That particular vision is probably what drove home the inherent ‘like’ of the image that headlines this article. Here sits another woman warrior, polished and pure, and yet not a single piece of her armor says anything but she’s a fighter and you’re going to have to deal with that.

My youthful love of plate armor was further challenged when I was at last introduced to AD&D’s Oriental Adventures in 1985. Suddenly, instead of my fighters wearing plate armor, I was looking at something completely foreign but equally as cool. This Japanese o-yoroi armor at first confused but later captured my imagination. I found it fascinating that instead of decorating their armor with a tabard as European knights did, the samurai wore armor of various colors, styles, and even masks that depicted all manner of terrible spirits.

Sorry Ryan Harvey, but it doesn't get any better than Iron Man!
Sorry Ryan Harvey, but it doesn't get any better than Iron Man!
I can still recall the Japanese epic 1991 film Heaven and Earth [not to be confused with the 1993 Oliver Stone Vietnam film] where warlords Kagetora and Takeda try to stop each other from gaining power over the greater portion of Japan in the 16th century. The costumes in this film were unmatched, and although I loved the 2003 Tom Cruise vehicle, The Last Samurai, I still think it has to place a distant second to the armor found in Heaven and Earth. And yes, there’s a female samurai-ko in Heaven and Earth that also doesn’t show any skin and I love her for it!

You know, although I’ve always loved plate armor and considered that adoration a direct link to my early gaming days, I’m certain my fanboy respect of Iron Man predated my RPG days by at least three years. Therefore, it’s completely possible that I love plate because of this armored Marvel super hero. Certainly he’s my favorite super hero and always has been. I mean, how visually stunning was it when Tony Stark would go back to his workshop and there’d be like fifty different armor suits hanging all over the place? What I wouldn’t have given for just one of those suits…

That techno armor reminds me of my quest for RIS Armor in the MMORPG, Star Wars Galaxies. I stated that game at its release in 2003 and it consumed my life like nothing I’d ever encountered before, but before it all came to an end I got a suit of RIS, all in red, and wore it proudly even though there weren’t enough folks left in the game to care.

It’s the same with any video game I’ve played, modern or fantasy. Give me a visually customizable character of any type and I’m going to have to get them the best armor in the game, and by best I mean the coolest looking! How many of you have ever played a video game and kept worse armor than you could wear because what you already wore just looked far superior on your avatar to what your level actually allowed? If you’ve done this, I tip my hat to you!

Anyway, I’d say that’s all for now, but let me know your personal take on armor; what was your favorite, or if you even cared for it at all or if I’m simply some kind of armor-loving freak!

If you like what you read in Art of the Genre, you can listen to me talk about publishing and my current venture with great artists of the fantasy field here or even come say hello on Facebook here. And here’s a view of my current Kickstarter

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The game you’re talking about sounds a lot like the origin game Knights of Legend. Seems like the right time frame too.

Also, this seems like the screenshot you’re talking about:,521958/

John ONeill


Yeah, that sounds a LOT like Todd Porter’s Knights of Legend. That’s the game I thought of as soon as you described the lightning bolt, anyway.

I went to get my copy to check if you can dress characters, but it’s still in the shrink and I can’t open it (obviously I played it at some point. Apparently, I took the shrinkwrap off. Then I put it back on. Yes, I put the original shrinkwrap back on. Don’t ask).

If I find a duplicate copy, you can have it.

John ONeill

P.S Great pics! Who’s the redhead??


Ive always hated that painted wool stuff Hollywood tries to pawn off as mail…

Especially after making my own hauberk.

And to futuristic stuff, Ironman rocks, another one that makes an impression is the Penguin(?) Starship Troopers cover. (the one with the guy standing helmetless with the BFG in his hand)

Sarah Avery

She is magnificent. So magnificent I had to stare at her for several minutes…before I even noticed that the horse next to hers seems to be wearing a jester hat. (It’s sort of like the famous psychology experiment where the subjects are so busy watching the basketball players in a film that they don’t even notice the guy in the gorilla suit in the middle of the screen.) I especially like the reflection of trees, grass, and sky in the mirror finish of the breastplate.

The practicality of the armor is a big part of its charm. However, I must pass along the only report I’ve heard from a woman who actually wears plate mail with sculpted boobs in anything like combat. Inasmuch as what Scadians do can be called anything like combat. Anyhow, she does seem to have real prowess at her sport, but attributes some part of her success to the distraction her bodacious armor causes her opponents. They just can’t look away. Since it confers a definite, if unconventional, benefit in a trial of arms, I have no objection to depictions of women in full plate with boobs.

Armor wasn’t really what drew me, back in my gaming days. I always liked playing a character with some weird expertise that duplicated as few other skills of other party members as possible. My longest-running character was a circus-trained escape artist, my second-longest a snake oil saleswoman with real oil from real snakes. There was always some way to meet the story with the oddity I had to hand.

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