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I'm trying to design armor for the main characters in my story, who are both sprites, or the typical small winged fairies you'd imagine.

Most of the time armor works by redistributing the force across the entire body. But fairies are so small there's nowhere left in the body to redistribute the force to. Pretty much their whole body gets hit at once.

But fairies do fly.

So I'm wondering, is there a way the force could be distributed as spin? Or otherwise into the air?

My current thought is that some kind of curved prongs might extend out from the armor to connect with a weapon first and shift the energy into an angle, sending the fairy into a spin.

Would that work? Is it viable? What in the world would that actually look like?

Please help me out.

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3 Answers 3

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Crumple zones.

Yes prongs but for a different reason.
The prongs on the armor will absorb the shock by deforming, like a car bumper crumples as it absorbs the shock of impact. This armor will have long spines which will intercept a blow; the spine will then crumple and deform and break, preventing the impact from harming the fairy. This means armor will be used up if it is hit, like a car bumper or bike helmet.

Fortunately the fairies have a lot of this kind of armor because they can make it out of cockleburs and chestnut shells.

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  • $\begingroup$ Also you get sent flying with each blow that lands. The armor makes it so you go wheeeeeee! instead of splat! $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Nov 12, 2020 at 21:41
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No

Make the fairy spin like that and you're just changing how they die. Instead of being squashed, they'll have torn ligaments, popped lungs and twisted necks.

Even of the fairy survives, spinning like that in battle puts you in a disadvantage. The fairy is now dizzy and less likely to dodge the next hit.

If you're small, invest in keeping yourself a small target. If you still wanna get tough, check beetle armor - some of them can take a crushing.

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Using armour is very nice because often times it ensures survivability in case of mistakes. However, you also lose overall speed and acceleration speed (how fast you can change your speed). Does this trade-off of defense and mass vs speed and reaction-time would work with these tiny feys? Well... It depends.

Actually, your way of fighting differs vastly between opponents of different sizes. You don't tell explicitly that you intend to fight human-sized foes, so I'll tell you about the two main cases : When facing against equally or slightly taller opponents (rats, cats, birds, other feys...), and when facing much bigger ones (humans, wolves, heck, bears! I like bears).

Against opponents of same size

Overall armor strategy

Against an opponent of roughly the same size, using an armor is a not a bad idea, far from it; Aside from not having as much the strength issue in your question, opponents are much more likely to strike (or eat?) you at a distance you can reach with your weapon. Because, as cool as armors may be, they can't protect you indefinitely, and you really want to have a strike back one time. This reach principle goes from fighting techniques to even world-wide strategies : if you can't hit, you can't win. But using armor in this case, you can still hit, so everything's alright

Don't forget the wings }i{!

There is however just one big issue : The wings and the flanking issue they pose. And this is also why I don't advise spinning against equally sized foes, since spinning means you will be showing your back every round.

You can't really protect the wings. Indeed, doing so will be uncomfortable and/or prevent flight, and you will probably get unbalanced by the armor's weight (a lot of surface needs to be covered, meaning lots of armor volume, and lots of weight). And finally, unless you're making a "protective backpack" encompassing all your wings, you will suffer from bad blow deviations : a blow that strikes the inner part of the wings would deviate towards your back and strike full force there, exactly where you don't want. Not great.

So an armoured lone fairy should never face two or more opponents in this case, nor should they spin and show their back. They would flank/wait the right time and strike where there is the less defense and a clean cut is possible.

Side note : Don't panic over this flanking issue, though; In duels and battle formations, you really rarely show your back, and in such a disadvantageous fight, it's often wiser to flee the confrontation anyway.

What armor to fight tinies, then?

For this kind of fight, you don't necessarily need to be extremely creative : Indeed, most real-world armor would work since the physics behind it stay the same. If you wish to push deeper into the fey thing, nut and beetle shells are a nice choice for making armor : It's really sturdy for their size and their round shape helps in deviating blows away. Unless you're constrained and get your armor popped like a peanut, you should be really well protected.

Against much larger opponents

How is it different from equally sized foes?

Against much larger opponents like humans, big doggies and wolves, the effectiveness of any kind of armor will decrease a lot, even if you always manage to parry with the correct position and timing. Why is that? If your opponent is four-times bigger than you, the impact of their blows will be multiplied by tenfolds. This is because the volume³ of a body or weapon increases much quicker than their size², and so their corresponding mass and applied force. Eventually, you need to improve your protection with extreme trade-offs, most notably speed to the point it will be more a bunker than an armor.

Even when not taking into account the damage done :

  • You will be pushed in an uncontrollable manner, especially when flying. You will most probably be moved down or sideways at a high speed from top or side swings, respectively, but generally away from your target, meaning you have to move closer all over again to attack, risking another hit.
  • You will receive about the impact twice if you get smashed into a wall or the ground, 3rd newtown law speaking. Since you will get pushed at a very high-speed, recovering your fighting stance will be very hard. And this is not taking into account you may bounce off the environment. Not recovering quickly enough is extremely perilous, because it means you will be easily grabbed or/and struck again.
  • Even if you find a way to transform all force into a spin without harm, you will not be able to give a meaningful blow, since you can't really aim nor move while spinning this fast and you still aren't in melee reach to give that tornado slash special technique.

All in all, taking a hit is an almost guaranteed game-over, like a human would by taking in a rhino charge upfront. You don't really want that, do you?

What armor to fight biggies, then?

So here, your best bet would be to use the fairies's strengths instead : Speed, size, and ironically short reach. If you're only a finger away from your opponent and moving around them, they won't catch you with standard weapons at all, and even hands and paws will have a hard time touching you. Then, you should adapt your equipment to this tactic and fly carrying little to dodge incoming attacks, but also one that allows you to close in as much as you can before you get attacked.

Hence, I would go with a camo-like light armor instead, to sneak upon the foe and get the first strike on their eyes in order to blind them and make their task of hitting you even harder. Such suits should be adapted to the environment of course, but in a typical forest, it could be leaves, flowers, body and wing paint (again, don't forget these!), hollow pine cones you can hide in until you engage...

To add a touch of weirdness, it may also be an interesting tactic to oil your suit with soap or something similar. This in turn would help you in escaping potential grabs that may reach you. Yeah, quite unconventional and not comfortable, but it's better to be sickly slick than captured or dead, right?

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