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Somewhat related to my previous question, How to make a realistic giant, since it has been established that a nine- to ten- foot tall humanoid would be quite a bit stronger than a normal human, I was wondering as to the practicality of something which I thought up solely based on rule-of-cool: Mail Cloaks (As opposed to cloaked mail, which is all Google would give me).

How effective would a thick cloak made of mail (I'm thinking the more traditional chain mail, but I'm open to any suggestions, really) be as a form of armor? Since the giants live in a cold-ish climate, would the mail be effective at keeping them warm (I read somewhere that medieval armor could get incredibly stuffy)? What would be the advantages/disadvantages of such a form of armor?

Finally, if the advantages are greater than the disadvantages, why was it never used in real life?

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  • $\begingroup$ I thought this was about Fedex at first. Um, wouldn't chainmail be made out of, you know, metal? Anyone who's ever touched a doorhandle barehanded at -10 can assure you that chain mail would only be stuffy in hot weather. I'd go for Mammoth hides anyday if i were a giant. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Jan 13 '15 at 2:35
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    $\begingroup$ I can only see bad things happening when you have a 50 pound piece of clothing that is held up only by your neck and shoulders. At the least, you're going to have neck problems. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jan 13 '15 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ The "stuffy" medieval armor is probably more from plate armor than mail, and the padded doublet or gambeson worn underneath. Mail cloaks were never used irl because if you have a backplate or a mail shirt, why would you need one? $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Jan 13 '15 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ One major issue: chainmail cloaks would only cover your back in combat, which is only really helpful if you're running away. $\endgroup$ – ckersch Jan 14 '15 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @ckersch Since the weight slows you down, the cloak would be the first thing you'd toss away! $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Jan 16 '15 at 1:31
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If we assume the giant anatomy compensates for their greater weight, so that their strength increases faster than simple geometry suggests, which is plausible, the weight of armor they can carry could scale with their weight, they would be able to carry thicker armor. Unfortunately, the reason this is plausible is because the required increase in strength is small enough. Thus the increase in armor strength is also not that dramatic.

Considering chain mail, the larger giants could have the same level of comfort from chain mail with proportionally larger links. This would make the armor more rigid and better able to distribute the energy of attacks. Combined with the assumed increase in thickness, giant chain mails should be noticeably better than normal human chain mails. Additionally since this scaling would keep the total number of links the same, the giant chain mail should not be dramatically more expensive.

In contrast a plate mail would be slightly less rigid than the scaling would suggest and the amount of work would scale more linearly. So chain mail is a fairly good choice for giant armor.

Unfortunately, what chain mail is not, is a good material for cloaks. Cloaks need a light and flexible material to flow properly to be comfortable and retain mobility, chain mail is neither. Also chain mail assumes having padding inside to absorb the energy of blows; the chain just stops the weapon from penetrating and spreads the impact. Essentially it makes edged weapons and large enough pointed weapons work like blunt weapons, the padding actually absorbs the impact. The padding also protects the user from chafing and, in case of a cloak, impacts caused by the armor.

So, no to chain mail cloaks. The giants would use normal cloth for cloaks. That said, cloaks actually were used defensively in melee combat, to confuse and entangle opponents. The giants totally would use their giant cloaks against any normal size opponents. If made from cloth resistant to tearing the cloak would entangle pointed weapons penetrating it. This might actually be important if you are wearing a chain mail the point might otherwise slip thru.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welp, I guess I should have thought things through. Funnily enough, it didn't sound like such a terrible idea when I was toying with it in my head. :P $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Jan 13 '15 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ Also chainmail is heavy regardless of size, a chainmail cloak swinging out behind you would put your centre of gravity way behind your feet, which would be likely to cause you to stagger at best, fall on your ass at worst. This would be more liability than asset, I fear. $\endgroup$ – glenatron Jan 14 '15 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ @glenatron Yes, that is part of the mobility issue I noted. In addition to unbalancing you, it would also constrain the movements of your limbs. Not a good thing in combat. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Jan 14 '15 at 9:43
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Assuming armour retains the same thickness, a giant's armour would scale in mass at the same rate as its raw strength, but the amount of that raw strength going to support the giant's own weight is increasing faster, so the strength available for carrying armour increases slower than the load of the armour. So your giants are less able to support heavy armour than humans unless their strength is magically augmented.

Also, much of what makes armour stuffy is lower layers of thick cloth. A cloak of mail would not significantly help with keeping warm.

However, just BEING bigger though would improve their ability to withstand cold. The heat you generate is proportional to your mass while the rate you radiate it is proportional to your surface area. So big things overheat more easily while small things freeze more easily. So giants wouldn't need as much protection from the cold, but would be in trouble if dropped in the tropics (that's why elephants have big heat radiating ears)

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah, that makes sense, though it is somewhat dissapointing xD Just for the sake of discussion though, how effective would a mail cloak be? $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Jan 13 '15 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ Effective how? In blocking attacks from the front or side, not very. In making you stagger or fall, quite effective. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Jan 15 '15 at 23:27
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The biggest issue I see with a maille cloak would be inertia. A cloak is very flowy; it doesn't cling to the body very well. In a combat situation, it would be difficult to strike or block without having to haul large swaths of this maille around. Worse, the amount of effort you would have to put into it would be unpredictable. Sometimes the last movement you made would be helping you, sometimes it would be hurting you. This would make it hard to do precise movements, relying heavily on senses such as your eyeballs.

That being said, if your giants are as smart as they are strong, it would be reasonable for them to develop a martial art which leverages this unpredictable cloak of steel, whirrling it around, keeping it in control at all times. If you could find an advantage to this art that would outweigh the disadvantages of choosing a cloak over a tunic, you might be on to something.

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