Heavy armor materials for a setting with limited metal


Advice


I'm currently planning for a future campaign that takes place in a vast tundra with a very Inuit-inspired culture. Historically, most Inuit tribes had very little metal (with some exceptions) and I want to stay true to that. Weapons and medium armor are easier to find materials (typically bone) but heavy armor is a bit trickier. Any ideas for what it could be made out of, whether mundane or magical?

Liberty's Edge

Is there room in your tundra for extremely large mammals such as Mammoths or other megafauna?

Properly treated leather and hides can be EXTREMELY tough and rival metal in terms of strength with better flexibility if hardened. A real life elephant hide is .75 - 1.5 inches thick so I imagine that after treatment the hide would still be at least as thick, if not thicker, than the type of Sheet Metal that Heavy Armor is made from. From a Mammoth, it's not a stretch to think that it would be even thicker and cold-resistant than our modern elephants.

The same thing could be applied against other large creatures such as scaled creatures or large insects for their chitin.


I would suggest large aquatic reptilians, either for shells (nice for large breast places) or scales (smaller, easier to work with).

So we are talking turtles, sea serpents, lesser dragonkin, etc.


Mega-hides would likely be bulkier than plate, but not much of an issue for strong warriors.
Odds are in an Inuit campaign players would avoid such builds, yet here are some other options:

Feist had lacquered armor for his Riftwar series where a metal-poor country similar to Japan invades a typical fantasy setting via a dimensional rift meaning they've had no contact nor trade.
Metal was better even though the lacquer was special, but you could have the "whatever passes for lacquer" formula be superior. Or collect enough tusks for some crazy, pokey plate.
Or a local warlord could be bringing in metal, dominating others by having it, perhaps through trade, but maybe pillaging like a Viking. That might arouse a neighbor against all the Inuit-like folk!

If the setting is poor, then what metal there is might simply be too expensive, even if as expensive as in the books. If it's a copper economy, the party might reach there (being PCs) even if the main economy does not. Makes pricing awkward, but there is enough cheap stuff to get started as adventurers.

Though I suppose the best option is via monster killing.
The Remorhaz, White Dragon (plus Drakes & Linnorms), Arctic Bulette, and furry Arctic Ankheg (which would be low-level) can all suffice for material as needed. And that's not even tapping into all the aquatic monsters.
In fact, with the lack of metal, therefore coins, monster bits might be a reasonable way to distribute treasure. Shiny bits, hard bits, furs, meat, etc.


Thanks everyone for the ideas! Some sort of creature hide definitely seems like the way to go.

@themetricsystem
Your comment also gave me the idea of giant mammoths, which terrifies me. They'd probably be the holy animal of one of the deities of the setting or something.

@Castilliano
Thanks for the ideas for currency! I'll have to figure out how to balance an economy without money as we think of it, but if I use ABP that'll remove a lot of the need for it.


Salamileg wrote:
I'm currently planning for a future campaign that takes place in a vast tundra with a very Inuit-inspired culture. Historically, most Inuit tribes had very little metal (with some exceptions) and I want to stay true to that. Weapons and medium armor are easier to find materials (typically bone) but heavy armor is a bit trickier. Any ideas for what it could be made out of, whether mundane or magical?

Dragonhide will be a prime material for such constructions, since it's both natural and strong enough to substitute for metallic components. Not available for lower levels, though.

I'd otherwise take a page from PF1's Stoneplate.

Counts as a natural source since it's fashioned from rock, has identical attributes to Full Plate, but it weighs about 50% more than Full Plate, so it would weigh 6 bulk instead of 4, and costs 20% more compared to Full Plate (so 36 gold to buy). Give it the Uncommon trait (with them having access to it, of course), and boom, you got a new heavy armor that fits your requirements. Excellent for those druids with that pesky armor anathema!

**EDIT** It's not an actual PF2 item, but it's stupid-easy to convert that there's really no reason for it not to be at this point.


In another rule system one armor is basically made from overlapping plates cut from mammoth task

So every creature with many and/or big teeth/tusks can be a 'donor' for heavy armor material

Also, if treated right wood can make an good armor (admittedly that would be more likely a medium then a heavy one)

And maybe theres a tribe of people who know how to work the sap of a rare kind of tree into a very hard resin

In pathfinder 1 there were also number of non-metallic armors and materials from all categories:

spider silk-bodysuit
leaf armor
horn lamellar
bulette armor
chitin armor
clam shell armor
coral armor
darkleaf cloth
griffon mane


Artic Aurumvorax's: Old school burrowing carnivores that would sniff out metal and ores and eat them, giving them metallic hides and claws. Just make an animal like that that metals can be extracted from and you're all set. Some kind of elemental animal works too, say an iron wolves or copper bears.

Aurumvorax


Themetricsystem wrote:
Properly treated leather and hides can be EXTREMELY tough and rival metal in terms of strength with better flexibility if hardened. A real life elephant hide is .75 - 1.5 inches thick

I don't think you will have much flexiblity wearing armor that thick (that's 2 to 4 centimeters in metric).

Armor dex penalties would be much higher.

If you wore than on your forearm and upper arm you pretty much could not bend your elbow past 90 degress, unless the unarmored joint part was huge. You'd be walking with your legs apart too. This armor would only be usable as inflexible torso plates.

Medieval full plate was maybe 3 mm (0.1") thick for battle suits. Jousting armor was muck thicker but those guys couldn't move and were lowered onto the horse with a crane.


Remoraz scales?


Your coins aren't metal either then. Take a look at the old Darksun 2E AD&D setting, in which metal was rare and illegal. The old Darksun books will have plenty of ideas.


There are also Darksun books for 4e.

You can also change what "heavy" means. Maybe reorient things so hide is heavy, leather is medium, and padded or bones or whatever are light. Maintain the armor values, just change the name.

Then if you have heavy metal armors you can treat that material as if it's magic, or has extra damage resistance properties, or is even a step above heavy.


It would be useful to know why this setting has a scarcity of metal. This would affect attitudes towards it, and when you might see it.


krobrina wrote:
It would be useful to know why this setting has a scarcity of metal. This would affect attitudes towards it, and when you might see it.

There's a couple reasons:

First and foremost is just a relative lack of easy access metal deposits. IRL, most of the metal used by Inuit tribes traced back to a single source, the Cape York meteorite (the largest known iron meteorite). If that hadn't fallen there, these cultures would have had next to no iron.

Secondly, primitive metallurgy prevents them from making good use of what metal they have. They don't really have fuel that burns hot enough to properly work metal, so it's mostly done through cold forging.


Salamileg wrote:
Secondly, primitive metallurgy prevents them from making good use of what metal they have. They don't really have fuel that burns hot enough to properly work metal, so it's mostly done through cold forging.

No wood, I suppose. And imagine trying to dig up ore using some kind of bone shovel while going through frozen or slushy tundra.

So you would have difficulty even getting the crudest copper tools, let alone anything that would make a good weapon.


There's probably a magical solution to forge metal. That old dwarf Toerag would know it.

I read a sci-fi story about a people that lived entirely under the sea. Their planet had a thick ice crust and an ocean under it. As they had no ability to make fire under the water, they had no ability to work metal and had to improvise various methods to produce energy. They were constantly short of it, and were unable to build submarines strong enough to make it to the surface of their planet.


Salamileg wrote:
They don't really have fuel that burns hot enough to properly work metal, so it's mostly done through cold forging.

If magic doesn't do the trick [produce flame works 1/round], you've always got the Remorhaz: "Those who survive the worm’s initial onslaught must face not only its deadly jaws, but also its hideously hot body. This heat can melt weapons, scorch armor, and burn flesh".

"Most people underestimate a remorhaz’s intelligence, assuming it to be a mere animal. However, remorhazes are capable of learning languages. Frost giants in particular use this trait to form alliances with them. The giants provide food, protection, and shelter for the worm, and in return the remorhaz acts as a guard beast and helps the giants build fortresses and forge metal weapons."

So if you tame one, you're all good to forge weapons. And since it can "burrow through ice and snow with ease", it can help find hidden metal deposits too.


Hide
Carapace
Crystal
Petrified Wood of a magical tree that grew when the world was warmer
Some kind of magical ice that doesn't melt
Bone/Horn
Ironfur (fur from a beast that has a thick hide of supernaturally strong fur)
Shark teeth


graystone wrote:
Salamileg wrote:
They don't really have fuel that burns hot enough to properly work metal, so it's mostly done through cold forging.

If magic doesn't do the trick [produce flame works 1/round], you've always got the Remorhaz: "Those who survive the worm’s initial onslaught must face not only its deadly jaws, but also its hideously hot body. This heat can melt weapons, scorch armor, and burn flesh".

"Most people underestimate a remorhaz’s intelligence, assuming it to be a mere animal. However, remorhazes are capable of learning languages. Frost giants in particular use this trait to form alliances with them. The giants provide food, protection, and shelter for the worm, and in return the remorhaz acts as a guard beast and helps the giants build fortresses and forge metal weapons."

So if you tame one, you're all good to forge weapons. And since it can "burrow through ice and snow with ease", it can help find hidden metal deposits too.

While I don't think I want to include this from the start, this sounds like a VERY interesting idea for a quest later down the line. Thanks!


Salamileg wrote:
graystone wrote:
Salamileg wrote:
They don't really have fuel that burns hot enough to properly work metal, so it's mostly done through cold forging.

If magic doesn't do the trick [produce flame works 1/round], you've always got the Remorhaz: "Those who survive the worm’s initial onslaught must face not only its deadly jaws, but also its hideously hot body. This heat can melt weapons, scorch armor, and burn flesh".

"Most people underestimate a remorhaz’s intelligence, assuming it to be a mere animal. However, remorhazes are capable of learning languages. Frost giants in particular use this trait to form alliances with them. The giants provide food, protection, and shelter for the worm, and in return the remorhaz acts as a guard beast and helps the giants build fortresses and forge metal weapons."

So if you tame one, you're all good to forge weapons. And since it can "burrow through ice and snow with ease", it can help find hidden metal deposits too.

While I don't think I want to include this from the start, this sounds like a VERY interesting idea for a quest later down the line. Thanks!

In one of the APs there is a group of Frost Giants using a Remorhaz to forge weapons.


Just looking through the rules and note the below:

It seems to be the only reference to Heavy Leather. I can see an argument to be made for using it in place of metal with armour that has the group "Composite" (Scale Mail and Splint).

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https://2e.aonprd.com/ArmorGroups.aspx?ID=3
Leather - Source Core Rule book pg. 275
The thick second skin of the armor disperses blunt force to reduce bludgeoning damage. You gain resistance to bludgeoning damage equal to 1 + the value of the armour's potency rune for medium armor, or 2 + the value of the armor’s potency rune for heavy armor.

https://2e.aonprd.com/ArmorGroups.aspx?ID=2
Composite - Source Core Rule book pg. 275
The numerous overlapping pieces of this armor protect you from piercing attacks. You gain resistance to piercing damage equal to 1 + the value of the armor’s potency rune for medium armor, or 2 + the value of the armor’s potency rune for heavy armor.
++++

Cheers

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