Friday, November 25, 2011

Worldbuilding: knights, part 3

In Knights, part 1, I talked a little about body armor and in Knights, part 2, I talked a little about swords.  Back to the armor -- let's talk about helmets.

Sensible things, helmets. They come in about a million shapes and sizes and have specific names, but they aren't well known so one shouldn't assume readers know them. But using the correct name for a helmet style could save you wordage and avoid info-dumping in a moment of action. A little strategic reader education could come in handy -- can you show your readers the helmet and give it a solid description before the big fight scene?

This is not an exhaustive list, of course. It's just to get your brain burbling.

Armet: these are the hinged-visor helmets that you probably think of when picturing a full-plate-armor knight. AKA "close helm." These date from the 15th century -- it took time to figure out how to engineer the lifting visor. So be careful fitting them into your technology level.

Bascinet: the "beaky" one, which took the pointy front design (very sensible -- you want incoming hits to be shunted off the side of your head) to an extreme. These generally came into use in late-14th century Europe. These often have hinged visors too, so tech level could be an issue.

Barbute: these are one-piece helms with a T-shaped opening for your eyes and nose/mouth. They look something like ancient Greek helmets, but they are a 14th and 15th century design. No moving parts, though, so tech level is less of an issue. 

Great Helm: ye olde bucket with air holes. These were used from the 12th century onwards, but because they're heavy and limiting they were always being replaced by lighter helmets. These are the ones you can get fancy with -- add horns, dragons, crowns -- if you want to look scary on the battlefield. (Hint: you want to look scary on the battlefield)

Sallet: a nice, smooth, aerodynamic look. The slit is to see through. Mid-15th century Europe.

Helmets with mail coifs: You see versions of these in movies because you can still see the actor's face. In reality, the less armor around your head, the more likely your head will get hurt, so bear that in mind. This seems to be an old, low-tech design, though -- tenth century, maybe? At a glance, the style seems to be associated with the Vikings and the Slavic kingdoms. In looking around, I found this nice photo attached to an SCA armorer's sales site. Design based on 13th-century Slavic armor, they say.

Don't let your characters go outside without their helmets. Yes, it gets in the way of their sexy Fabio haircuts and probably looks odd with that strategically torn shirt that's falling off their god-like pecs. But it will keep them alive so they can kiss the girl. No, kiss her later. We've got work to do.

My characters are butt-headed, hormonal teenage knights -- can you tell?

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