The buff coat was a piece of early modern armour consisting of a long coat, typically made up from ~3mm suede cattle hide. The "buff" part of the name being derived from the yellow-brown colour of undyed suede (although more expensive versions could be dyed in appropriate colours and embellished in other ways).
This item was more or less ubiquitous (in Europe at least) during the 17th century, having evolved from the earlier leather jerkin. It was worn by all arms to some degree or another, sometimes on its own and sometimes overlaid with pieces of munition plate. The coat could be full or three quarter length and was also made in a sleeveless version for musketeers - although these may just have been a standard issue model with the arms cut off. Arguably this made it the sucessor of the gambeson.
As a tough, hard wearing and significantly weather resistant piece of clothing the buff coat became popular amongst civilians as well, being worn in one form or another by men from all orders of society. Indeed, by the mid 17th Century it had become positively fashionable.
The nearest modern equivalent is probably the duster.
Game and Story Use
- If your campaign happens to take place in the 17th century (or early 18th) these should be fairly widespread - and socially acceptable - protection.
- When we say "17th century" bear in mind that this includes the English Civil Wars, the Thirty Years War and the founding of several of the North American Colonies (amongst other things).
- The removal of the sleeves from the muskteeer's version implies that they were providing some kind of dexterity penalty that made it hard to use a musket. This may be too much detail for your ruleset.
- Just as flavour, the transition from Tudor era jerkins and gambesons to buff coats may make and interesting observation as your PCs cross a border and go up a tech level.