This week we’re taking a bit of a detour to critique some video-game armor, in this case the armor of Baldur’s Gate III. I have been meaning to do a general critique of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition armor system from a historical perspective for a while, and the massive outsized success of BG3 made this seem like the obvious time to do so. In particular, BG3‘s success, I suspect, will make its artwork the ‘standard’ visual depictions of these armors for many DnD players when they imagine their characters. Moreover, a critique of DnD on this point generally is, I think, useful: DnD remains one of the most common entry-points into pre-modern arms and armor for many people, which has traditionally been a challenge educating in this field, because DnD‘s treatment of historical arms and armor is generally quite bad and its mistakes have a habit of becoming popular ‘knowledge.’
Alas, 5e and Baldur’s Gate III, while they offer some improvements (goodbye, ‘banded mail,’ whatever the heck you were!), still generally display a pretty weak grasp of pre-modern armor, from materials to construction, to fit to function and weight.