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Basic Information

The brigandine is a development of the earlier coat of plates - a piece of armour consisting of a number of small metal plates rivetted onto the inside of a cloth or leather carrier. In many ways this design is similar to an inside-out suit of scale armour except that the plates seem to have tended to be oblong and abutted rather than overlapped. Actual styles varied from the "wasp waist" fashionable in the late C15 to all sorts of other designs.

This type of armour seems to become common in Europe during the late 14th century and remain in widespread use into the the 16th. Despite its name1 brigandine was worn by men of all classes from archers to knights, varying mostly in materials and quality of manufacture. In high quality sets the rivet heads on the outside of the garment could even be gilded. In India and Japan, brigandines - or at any rate extremely similar types of armour - remained in use into the 19th century.

A brigandine was typically worn over a gambeson and possibly a mail shirt as well. Most sets covered only the torso and abdomen (although some were long enough to provide at least partial leg protection as well) but provided a relatively cheap and easily maintained bridge between plate armour and lighter forms before the adoption of the munition cuirass. Sane users would also attempt to add some form of limb protection and there is strong historical evidence of brigandine pauldrons, but equally of brigandine wearers using plate or mail limb protection.

Visually brigandine is frequently mistaken for studded leather armour which was far less common than is often thought and the name is often confused with brigantine … which is a type of ship.


Game and Story Use

  • These were extremely common pieces of armour in their period - a PC in a late medieval setting should be much more likely to wear one than is normal in RPGs, especially if plate is priced realistically. They may well even be cheaper than chainmail2.
  • Presentation can make all the difference - a well finished brigandine with gilded rivets may be accepted in places where ruder armour - even much more expensive harnesses of plate - might be frowned upon. Especially given that PCs often seem to think armour is appropriate dress for pretty much all activities.
    • Indeed, there is historical evidence of pieces of plate armour having a layer of cloth, rivetted onto the outside of them so that they resembled brigandine.
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