Datini’s Wares in GURPS
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Categories: Medieval

Datini’s Wares in GURPS

Two soldier crush silverware for easier packing as a comrade throws more loot out a window
Want to know whether helmets of scales like Mr. Red wears were just artists’ fantasies? Check out Medieval Warfare VIII.1. British Library, MS. Royal 20 C VII (painted in Paris between 1380 and 1400)

Last spring I published a two-page article in Medieval Warfare VIII.1 talking about the kinds of concealed armour which were for sale in the Avignon of the Babylonian Captivity. As far as I know nobody else has talked about these sources in any language except Italian, so I hope translating them was helpful! Now, I am interested in the real things and how they were made … if I ever have money I might commission a few reproductions. But what if your interest is in gaming? How might you represent this armour, say in GURPS?

  • Corsets of mail to wear in the giache: Medievalists don’t seem to have a firm idea of what made a garment a corset, except that it protected the body (corps) and was little (-et). Datini sometimes specified that corsets did not have collars, and distinguished them from panceroni (short-sleeved shirts of mail), and chotte di ferro (literal ‘coats’ of mail!) They weighed almost as miuch as his panceroni. I do not know what pound Datini used and how heavy it was, but most medieval pounds weighed somewhere between 300 and 480 grams.
    Fine Mail Torso (100%) + Neck (5%): DR 4*, 16 lbs, Holdout -2.
  • Concealable short cuirass: In the 1360s, short clothing for men ended a bit below the crotch, although still more scandalous fashions were to come.
    Light Brigandine Torso (100%), Heavy +50%, Concealed (Low Tech p. 102) in TL 3 Status 0 Ordinary Clothing (+2 to Holdout). DR 4, 15 lbs, Holdout -2.
  • Strong Privy Skullcaps: Asking for “strong” caps rather than ones of a specific weight was practical, but leaves us guessing! I do not have any measurements of cervelliere handy, so I will guess.
    Light Plate Skull (20%) + Heavy 100%. DR 5, 3.2 lbs, Holdout -5.
  • Skullcaps of scales for wearing concealed with a camail of scales: In the fourteenth century, a headpiece with camail covered everything except an oval around both eyes and the bottom lip. Datini does not describe the scales, but in paintings they often seem on the large side. GURPS does not worry about the way that a camail will stop most cuts to the body as it flares out to the points of the shoulder: it is just not feasable to compress all the complexity of real combat into a game that ordinary people can run at 2 in the morning.
    Medium Scale Skull (20%) + half Face (5%) + Neck (5%). DR 3, 4.8 lbs, Holdout -1.

What about prices? Well, you can chose either of two approaches. If you want to use historical prices, Datini tells you how much he thought things were worth. A florin of Florence was worth about 3 shillings English according to Peter Spufford, and most families in England earned between 2 and 5 pounds (13 and 33 florins) a year. So you can use that to get a feel for how significant prices from a quarter of a florin to 10 1/2 florins were. Edit: If you assume that 14 florins a year is a Struggling income, then 1 florin = 300 GURPS dollars, and the corsets of mail cost $3,450, the short cuirass $300, and the privy skullcaps $75 to $150.

Usually taking the time to look up historical prices would slow down the game, so GURPS books print more-or-less arbitrary prices in GURPS dollars. These prices don’t match any particular real society, but they tend to work well together and let you get back to fighting orcs or bantering with the handsome but sinister prince. If you want, you can calculate prices in ‘GURPS dollars’ using the formulas in GURPS Low Tech.

As you can see, modelling even detailed sources like these in GURPS requires a historian to make many assumptions (while the ability of armour to resist weapons is also subject to debate). I hope that these writeups are ‘good enough to game with’ and give examples of how to use the armour design rules in GURPS Low Tech.

What kinds of societies have concealed armour? The ones I know of are 14th through 17th century Latin Christendom and the Ottoman empire, Syria a bit earlier, Edo period Japan, and the slums of American cities in the 19th and early 20th century. Those are all complex societies with lots of clothing, lots of material goods, and casual violence, or as gamers call them “adventure settings.” So if you are telling adventure stories, there is a good chance that your setting needs some concealed armour. If you want to know about the medieval European kinds, check out Medieval Warfare VIII.1 (warning: it is just a two-page article).

GURPS fans can find another article on low-tech concealed armour in Pyramid -52

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