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Equipment Checking Guide 04 Shields & Armor

By, Adakan Rafenson, Lord Corvus of Ordo Corvus


Checking a shield is a fairly simple task, and is good for people who are new to volunteering for an equipment check.

Just like a weapon, give it a quick visual inspection to see if anything may be off. Make sure the size of the shield is within the allowed range, look for exposed bolts and check to make sure they are not sharp or protruding more than roughly ½” from the nut, or other hard/sharp pieces on the back, the presence of covering material, and look for tears in the covering material. Shields are allowed to not have covering material along the back of the shield, but it is certainly preferred that they do. Also check to make sure the shield follows the Aesthetics Standard.

After that, move on to the physical inspection. Check for loose foam, especially around the edge where it tends to happen most often. After that comes the shield testing version of a strike test. Place the shield on the ground or another solid surface with the edge of the shield facing vertical. Using the pinky-finger side of your hand in a chopping motion, go around the edge of the shield delivering solid chops to the foam all around. These chops should not cause any muscle-deep pain. In addition, use these moments to additionally feel for abnormalities in the foam like soft, worn out spots.

Assuming there are no issues, conduct this same test on the face of the shield, but instead with soft strikes from the bottom of a closed fist. Because shields are able to strike opponents with the face and edge, we need to make sure those strikes won’t likely cause injury with these tests. Assuming everything seems fine, the shield can move to the passing pile!


Armor is type of equipment where moderate experience is preferred in checking. There are a number of things you need to look for in armor for it to pass, and certain things you need to check are general for all types of armor, and others depend on the specific armor that’s being used. First we’ll go over all the general things to look for first, then handle each type of armor individually.

Just like in all other parts of checking equipment, you should start with a visual inspection of the armor. Some checks require participants to be wearing their armor in order for it to be checked, and others do not. This part is entirely up to you. The first thing to look for is if the armor passes the Aesthetic Standards; does it have an allowed historical period look or a fantasy equivalent? Does it lack moderns symbols, patterns, etc…? Next, make sure none of what the player wishes to count as armor is disallowed. This can include disallowed materials (such as aluminum or foam), or pieces that have other functions besides armors (such as a small belt, straps, quivers, jewelry, or masks).

Remember: Armor must appear to be armor, and not something else.

Then look to see if the armor has any rigid projections that need to be tested with a template. Check to make sure it doesn’t have rigid spikes, and make sure all the edges and corners are either rolled or sufficiently blunted so as not to likely cause injury. Test any questionable edges by carefully running your palm along them. If any armor appears to be even too dangerous for this test, say, because the edge looks actually sharp, it should be failed outright. However, no edge should be able to cut a player even with a swift movement of the hand.

While inspecting the armor, make sure there’s no easy way for appendages to be pinched or snared during grapple. The large majority of armor won’t have this problem, but you may occasionally run into something like this. In addition, some armors may seem to breach this restriction at first glance, such as some gladiator helmets that have holes in the faceplate one could put the finger through. However, when applying any rule to equipment checking, some additional thought is required. Since grappling of the head is frowned upon, worrying about appendages being caught in helmets is largely irrelevant, for instance.

Check to see if the armor is made with studs, scales, plates, or rings that are attached to a non-armor backing. Check to make sure the backing is made of cloth or leather, too. If so, you’ll need to check and make sure those pieces are not spaced more than ¾” apart from each other. This can be easily tested by moving a penny around the surface of the armor. If at any time the penny is completely flat on the backing without touching any studs/scales/plates/rings, the armor fails.


Leather armor is very easy to check. After looking for general failures listed above, you only need to check and make sure the leather is thick enough in accordance with the Treatise of War. Use calipers to take measurements of three different locations on the armor. Look for large areas of thinness. A piece that is largely of thickness but has a small area that has worn and no longer meets requirements isn’t a cause for failure. Simply let the owner know the piece has worn and they should repair the armor for their next event. If a large section is under thickness however, then it should be failed.


Metal armor is a little more complicated to check than leather, mainly because there is a larger variety of them than leather. After giving the initial visual inspection, you’ll want to note what kind of metal armor it is, as this can determine how you will check the armor. For instance, chainmail (or maille) type armor is made of interconnecting metal rings that form larger pieces. This type of armor is checked in a different way than all other types of metal.

Should you be checking chainmail armor, you need two tools to help you. First, use the ⅜” dowel rod and push it against a section of the free-floating armor. If it doesn’t go through without needing to be forced, than it passes as armor (assuming all other safety concerns are met). Make sure to see if there’s any different sized rings anywhere on the piece that may be larger, and check them as well.

However, there are two types of mail armor in the game: chainmail, and micromail. To determine which one this mail armor is, you need the calipers. Check the thickness of the rings to see if they are thinner than the current minimum thickness requirements for metal armor. If they are below, then that piece still passes, but is considered to be micromail, and is classified as Light Armor. If the thickness meets or exceeds the minimum thickness, then it is considered chainmail, and is classified as Heavy Armor.

Other types of metal armor you may run into are:

Scale: Armor made from small interconnecting metal pieces (scales) usually around a couple inches in length. These scales are often attached to a non-armor backing, or connected to chainmail. In this instance, if the chainmail underneath passes for armor, then the scales do not need to meet the minimum thickness requirement, but do need to meet all other safety and material requirements.

Lamellar: Armor made from smaller overlapping plates that are tied together. The plates are typically up to 6” long, and rectangular, but not always.

Brigandine: Armor made of many medium sized, overlapping plates sewn into a non-armor suiting of sorts.

Coat of plates: Armor that is very similar to brigandine, except the plates tend to be fewer and larger.

Plate: Armor that is made of large, single pieces of metal that only have seams in areas of articulation.

When dealing with any of these armors, they much meet the minimum thickness and not surpass the maximum thickness requirements for metal armor in order to pass. Use your calipers and, like leather armor, check three major sections if you feel they may be different thicknesses. Typically, sheet metal is consistent in quality and thickness and doesn’t wear down as easily as leather can, so testing only one area is often sufficient as well.

Make sure to check any edges with your finger, being very careful during this process. It is unlikely that one would cut their finger doing this, but it is possible if the armor is poorly made. The edges and corners of the armor should be smooth and rounded so that running your finger along it in any direction does not feel even close to sharp or pointed.

If the armor meets all specifications listed in the Treatise of War, then it can be passed!

Tools of Equipment Checking

- Template: A weapon’s checking template can be made of anything such as wood, metal, or plastic, but the key is for it to have a specific shape and dimensions to aid you in checking combat equipment. The best template will have two holes that are 2” and 2.5” in diameter, and be .5” thick. This allows you to check Thrusting and non-Thrusting tips of weapons, other sections of the weapon, as well as certain armors. The template should also be exactly 6” long in at least one direction. This allows you to measure flail chain lengths and minimum striking surfaces for Light and Heavy weapons.

- ⅜” Dowel: This allows you to check chainmail armor.

- Electrical or Athletic Tape: Have extra tape on hand for all weapon and equipment color types (blue, red, green, yellow, white) in case you receive a piece of equipment that isn’t properly marked.

- Digital Scale: Allows you to weigh Light and Heavy weapons, as well as flail heads for minimum weights.

- Digital Outside Calipers: Allows accurate checking for armor thickness requirements.

- Penny: Useful in checking for spacing gaps in armor.

- Digital Fishing Scale: Used to measure bow draw weight poundage.

- Draw Length String: Used to measure the draw length of a bow while checking poundage.

- Measuring Tape: For checking weapon and various other length requirements.

Congrats! You have now completed going over the standardized Combat Equipment Checking Guide for Hearthlight Combat! Remember, you can only be a good checker if you get out there and volunteer at your local events. With practice, you can help make our combat games safer, more immersive, and more fun for all!

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