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Basic Information

Bracers (from the Latin brachium meaning "arm") are pieces of plate armour that protect the arm. This piece is also known as a vambrace - in which case it is divided into the lower canon (protecting the forearm) and the upper canon (protecting the upper arm). Or the vambrace may just be the part on the lower arm and the piece on the upper arm may be called a rerebrace. Other variations exist given that the concept has existed for thousands of years and consistency over that sort of period is hard to achieve.

As noted, bracers of one form or another are fairly ancient and, given that the arms in general and the forearm in particular are fairly exposed in most forms of melee combat, they seem to have been a fairly high priority in armour design. As such materials of construction can be virtually any metal used for making armour and they can be worn as anything from part of a suit of full plate to virtually a wearer's only armour - given that quite a lot of unarmed combat styles use the forearm to parry attacks the bracer would seem particularly effective in this case. With that in mind, a bracer could also conceivably be spiked to give a limited form of passive attack when blocking an unarmed opponent.

Technically, the bracer need not necessarily be made of metal - wood or boiled leather (both potential historical metal substitutes) could also be used and modern examples may well be made of some kind of plastic. However, the piece should be rigid (otherwise it would just be a sleeve of some kind) but may not need to be a solid piece since some authorities may classify the iron sleeve rods allegedly used by Japanese ninja as a sort of bracer (these being, essentially, a series of metal rods worn around the forearm, either in a cloth carrier or sewn into the sleeve of the wearer's clothing, mainly to allow the wearer to block slashing weapons more safely).


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • In "some fRPG systems" bracers are a popular choice for a magic item that provides protection in place of armour. This was, perhaps, over emphasised in places.
  • These have a reasonable chance of appearing in the modern era, possibly as concealable armour designed to be used with martial arts blocking techniques. They certainly remain part of modern riot armour.
  • They also seem to be popular mounting points for all manner of Steampunk gadgets and similar wierdness.
  • Potentially highly decorated versions could serve as token armour for ceremonial use.
  • They are also likely to serve in things like gladiator costumes.
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