Plate Mail - more properly called Plate-and-Mail is an interim step in the evolution of Plate Armour, consisting mainly of chainmail with large pieces of forged plate covering selected areas - typically a breastplate or cuirass and/or limb armour such as greaves, bracers, cowters and aillettes.
The pieces of plate are not articulated to one another1 and rely on the suit of mail underneath for their overall integrity. The difference between this and plated mail is slender and hinges mostly on the number and size of the plates: many small pieces points to plated mail, a few large ones plate-and-mail.
This type of armour suffers from the same problems of weight distribution as chainmail - more so in fact, given that the suit of mail now has large additional pieces of steel buckled over it - but it remains the best protection available until plate armour proper appears.
The plate-and-mail design can be found in pretty much any mail using culture - examples include the disc breastplate and mail coat combination of the ancient Celto-Iberians, Indo-Asian mirror armour and the better publicised European medieval designs.
This style of armour could probably have been managed with scale mail underlying it as well as chainmail, although this seems not to have been attempted particularly often.
The name could also be fairly applied to a suit of armour in which mail is joined to plate rather than underlying it - for example a plate cuirass with a skirt and sleeves of mail, although this also seems not to have been much attempted historically.
Game and Story Use
- The jump from this to Plate Armour is huge - and few RPGs model the fact adequately. The increase in protection may not actually be all that great, but the improvements in comfort and mobility are huge and these should be a big deal given that RPG characters spend an improbable amount of time wearing their armour.