+ Denotes a blunt object. Blunt objects inflict bashing damage unless targeted at the head (see “Targeting”). Head shots inflict lethal damage.
* May paralyze a vampire if driven through the heart. The attacker must target the heart (difficulty 9) and score three damage successes.
|Revolver, Lt.||SW Bodyguard (.38 Special)||4||12||3||6||P|
|Revolver, Hvy.||Ruger Redhawk (.44 Magnum)||6||35||2||6||J|
|Pistol, Lt.||HK USP (9mm)||4||20||4||15+1||P|
|Pistol, Hvy||Springfield XDM (.45 ACP)||5||25||3||13+1||J|
|Rifle||Beretta Tikka T3 (30.06)||8||200||1||3+1||N|
|SMG, Small*||Glock 18 (9mm)||4||20||3||17+1||J|
|SMG, Large||HK MP5 (9mm)||4||50||3||30+1||T|
|Assault Rifle||FN SCAR (5.56mm)||7||150||3||30+1||N|
|Shotgun||Remington 870 (12-Gauge)||8||20||1||5+1||T|
|Shotgun, Semi-Auto||Benelli M4 Super 90 (12-Gauge)||8||20||3||6+1||T|
Damage: Indicates the damage dice pool. Against mortals, firearms are considered lethal damage. Versus vampires, firearms are considered bashing damage unless the head is targeted (see “Targeting”), in which case the damage is considered lethal.
Range: This is the practical shot range in yards or meters. Weapons may be fired at twice this distance, but the attacks are considered long range (difficulty 8).
Rate: The maximum number of bullets or three-round bursts the gun can fire in a single turn. This rate does not apply to full-auto or spray attacks.
Capacity: The number of shells a gun can hold. The +1 indicates a bullet can be held in the chamber, ready to fire.
Concealment: P = Can be carried in the pocket; J = Can be hidden in a jacket; T = Can be hidden in a trenchcoat; N = Cannot be concealed on the person at all.
*Indicates the weapon is capable of three-round bursts, full auto, and sprays.
**The crossbow is included for characters who wish to try staking an opponent. Crossbows require five turns to reload. Unless the crossbow is aimed at the head or heart, it inflicts bashing damage on Kindred. It inflicts lethal damage versus mortals.
Armor adds its rating to the character’s soak dice pool against bashing damage, lethal damage, and aggravated damage from fangs and claws. It does not protect against fire or sunlight. However, armor also subtracts a number of dice from dice pools related to bodily coordination and agility (most Dexterity- based dice pools). This is reflected in the penalty listing. Attackers may make targeting rolls to hit unprotected portions of a defender and thus ignore the armor (Storyteller assigns difficulty penalty — typically +1 or +2).
|Class One(Reinforced Clothing)||1||0|
|Class Two(Armor T-Shirt)||2||1|
|Class Three(Kevlar Vest)||3||1|
|Class Four(Flak Jacket)||4||2|
|Class Five(Full Riot Gear)||5||3|
Dark Ages Gear
Knives and Swords
Virtually everyone in the Dark Medieval owns a blade of some kind, even if just to harvest herbs or skin rabbits. Some may be little more than sharpened scrap but a skilled smith makes swift, sharp blades suitable for war.
Dagger and Short Swords: This category of long pointed knives are specifically designed for fighting. The misericorde (“mercy knife”) possesses a thin blade to penetrate eye slits in helmets. In the 14th Century the rondel dagger will deemphasize blade sharpness, and some will only be intended to kill with the point. The old gladius, seax, and other blades blur the line between knife and sword. Peasants and soldiers both have uses for very long knives (or short swords) as traveling weapons, or to finish off deer and boars. These may simply be shorter knight-style swords, often used with a buckler in the other hand.
Estoc (14th Century): In a century or so, plated armor will resist cuts and impact so well that soldiers will develop the estoc. It’s the size of a longsword but its unsharpened blade has a thick diamond cross section, tapering to a wicked point. Soldiers use it to thrust at weak points in enemy armor. An estoc’s metal blade can’t immobilize Cainites like a stake, but a Potence-strengthened thrust might pin a victim to a stone wall.
Falchion or Messer: Although it usually sports the same cruciform hilt as a knightly sword, a falchion is a single edged weapon, its cutting abilities enhanced by a curve or a broadening of the blade near the point. A 14th-century German weapon called a messer is functionally identical.
Knightly Sword: This weapon is often misnamed “longsword.” It’s a familiar weapon, with the cruciform hilt popularized by the Normans and a double-edged blade tapering to a point. The hilt’s long enough for one hand — for two, you’d have to grip the round pommel. This is almost always used with a shield.
Longsword: Also called a “war sword,” this is a lengthened version of the knightly sword — it might be called a “bastard sword” in future eras (the hilt type is wrong, though it’s long enough). This sword can be used in one or two hands, with or without a shield. Very long swords only see common use centuries from now, against pike formations.
Saif or Shamsir: These are, respectively, the Arabic and Persian words for what Europeans will call the scimitar. It’s an increasingly popular weapon in the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa, though it’s not all they use. (Straight swords similar to European types are also used, and are the dominant form in many places.) They’re usually wielded in one hand and are useful for both mounted and foot combat.
Swords and Knives Table
Weapon Damage Conceal Min. Str Notes
Knife Str P 1
Dagger/Short Sword Str + 1L C 1 Armor Piercing: 2
Estoc Str + 2L N 2 Armor Piercing: 3
Falchion Str + 2L L 2 Shorter than other swords
Knightly Sword Str + 2L N 2
Longsword Str + 3L N 3
Saif Str + 2L N 2
Bludgeons and Cleavers
Swords are favored general purpose weapons, but they’re expensive. Axes and clubs are often cheaper, and sometimes defeat armor that resists sword cuts.
Battle Ax: Between long poleaxes and throwing axes, the typical battle ax is a one-handed weapon whose blade usually thickens into a metal socket for the haft. The Scottish heavy infantry soldiers called “gallowglasses” wield the two-handed sparth ax, based on the Danish poleax but shorter. Some axes are capable of thrusts using the upper corner of the blade. “Bearded” axes with long lower blades are uncommon now, but hooking a shield or weapon is still possible. Double-headed axes are almost unheard of.
Flail: The most common form of flail is a pole weapon adapted from the farm tool, but soldiers use cut down versions. The ball and chain variety is rare (and not called a “morningstar”); instead, a few iron rings join a short handle to a weighted wooden wedge.
Mace: Many maces are simply iron-shod clubs, but the flanged version spreads to Western Europe from Kievan ‘Rus. Like the battle ax, this weapon surges in popularity after the rise of plate armor.
Warhammer and Pick: These are essentially the same weapons, as the hammer (in some cases a configuration of sharp metal wedges) is backed with a spike. Most warhammers can be used in one hand. In contrast to popular stereotype, their heads are usually not any bigger than those of a practical tool, though they have longer, metal-shod handles.
Bludgeons and Cleavers Table
Weapon Damage Conceal Min. Str Notes
Battle Ax Str + 1L N 2 -1 diff. to make Disarm attacks
Two-Handed Battle Ax Str + 2L N 3 -1 diff. to make Disarm attacks
Club Str + 2B L
Flail Str + 1B L 2 +1 diff. to opponent’s defense
Mace Str + 2L N 2 Armor Piercing: 2, bashing damage against Class 4 or better armor
Throwing Ax Str+1L L 2 Throwing weapon
Warhammer/Pick Str + 1L N 2 Armor Piercing: 2
Reach, ease of construction, and formation tactics make pole weapons as popular as they have been since ancient times. Complex pike formations will take over a century to evolve, but armies remember phalanx tactics and experiment with new methods. Pole weapons are also useful in individual combat. This list is greatly simplified from numerous variations. Some include hooks to trip or dismount enemies.
Glaive: This weapon is a single-edged slashing blade on a pole. In many cases, broken swords and long knives are mounted as glaive blades.
Halberd (14th century): A halberd is essentially a poleax with a spike. It eventually evolves into a shape that allows it to hook and slash opponents.
Lance: The classic lance is a heavy spear modified for cavalry use but in some cases there’s little difference between the foot and horse weapon, and “lance” is a generic term for any spear. Knights use them in massed cavalry charges to break infantry lines and defeat other mounted soldiers. In the 13th century, jousting isn’t a popular tournament game, but a side spectacle where knights might blunt their weapons.
Maul: The two-handed version of the warhammer features a heavy striking surface (sometimes with a back spike, sometimes not) on a pole.
Peasant Flail: These are staves connected to a weighted length of wood by a short chain. Beyond simple reinforcement, they can be taken straight from peasant farms to battlefields, where they are often used in formations.
Poleax: The long version of the battle ax will evolve into the halberd and other cleavers. This weapon was once favored by the Danes.
Spear: On foot, soldiers use spears in small, close formations, similar to ancient phalanxes. The Byzantines maintain old Greek and Roman techniques, but other soldiers as far away as Scotland have developed circular and rectangular sheltron formations of braced spears.
Staff: Stick fighting is a common pursuit among all classes, but the staff (not yet called a “quarterstaff”) is particularly admired for its utility. Staff fighting passes on skills useful for all other polearms.
Pole Weapons Table
Weapon Damage Conceal Min. Str Notes
Glaive Str + 3L N 2
Halberd Str + 3L N 3 Armor Piercing: 1, -1 diff. to make disarm attacks
Javelin Str +1L N 1 No Sweep bonus, throwing weapon
Lance (Mounted) Str + 4L N 3 Armor Piercing: 3, use spear traits on foot
Maul Str + 5B N 4 Armor Piercing: 2, reflexive Str + Athletics or take 1 action to ready each turn
Peasant Flail Str + 3B N 3 Armor Piercing: 1, +1 diff. to opponent’s parries
Poleax Str + 4L N 3 -1 diff. to make Disarm attacks
Spear Str + 2L N 2 Throwing weapon (except for very long spears)
Staff Str + 2B N 2 +2 dice to Sweep instead of +1 die
* All pole weapons are two handed, but can be used one handed at a minimum Strength of 2 higher than normal. All pole weapons except for javelins gain +1 die to Sweep maneuvers. A pole weapon may be given a hook, providing a -1 difficulty break to the Sweep maneuver and the ability to use it at an additional +1 difficulty and -1 die penalty against mounted opponents, unhorsing them.
In V20 Dark Ages’ default year of 1242, the longbow has yet to appear and gunpowder is a rumor born of the Mongols. Ranged combat is most often a prelude to closeranged battle.
Compound and Self Bows: The main advantage of a recurve compound bow is that it compacts the power of a self bow in a shorter weapon. That makes these laminated wood, horn, and bone bows ideal for horse archers. Self bows are easier to build and require no modifications to be switched from hunting to war.
Crossbow: Crossbows aren’t new weapons, but by the 13th century ratchet and strap-levers have made it practice to create stronger examples that can be reloaded in a reasonable amount of time. (The weapons table assumes light crossbows use the strap lever, and heavy crossbows use a ratchet.) Crossbows are considered superior to other bows due to their power and ease of use. Knights avoid massed crossbowmen because bolts can pierce their armor.
Dart: These heavy arrows are hurled by hand or with a sling, at short range.
Hurlbat: A weighted club designed for throwing, the hurlbat will eventually evolve into an all-metal throwing ax similar to those used by the Kongo people of Africa.
Javelin and Spear: The javelin is a light spear, designed to be thrown. Skirmishers harass enemies with hit and run attacks on foot or from horseback. Heavier spears might be hurled when necessary, but are more useful as a close range weapon.
Sling: People make ordinary slings to hunt small game, but rarely use them to fight. In battles, a staff sling allows a slinger to throw a heavier projectile farther. Stones are easy to gather, but lead shot tapered on both ends is more accurate.
Throwing Ax: The francisca-style ax is an antique weapon, but is still occasionally thrown or used as a small battle ax.
Ranged Weapons Table
Weapon Damage Range Conceal Min. Str Notes
Bow (Compound or Self) 2L 60 N 2 Compound usable from horseback at no penalty; self at +2 diff. Armor Piercing: 2
Crossbow 3L 90 N 2 Usable from horseback at no penalty but must be reloaded on foot. Reload takes one turn; Armor Piercing: 2
Heavy Crossbow 4L 90 N 3 Reload takes 5 turns - Archery dots; Armor Piercing: 3
Dagger Str + 1L C 20 1 +1 difficulty
Dart Str + 1L 30 L 1
Hurlbat Str + 2B 30 L 2 Sharp metal versions inflict Str + 1L
Knife Str + 0L 15 P 1 +1 difficulty
Javelin Str + 2L 50 N 2 Armor Piercing: 2
Rock Str + 0B 40 N 1 +1 difficulty
Spear Str + 2L 40 N 3 Armor Piercing: 2
Sling 2B P 2
Staff Sling 4B 50 N 3
Throwing Ax Str + 1L 20 C 2 +1 difficulty
For mortals, armor is a virtual necessity on the battlefield. Cainites knit together flesh with their Vitae, or develop the Fortitude to break blades against their skin, but kine break and tear.
Armor and Society
Armor’s expensive. Mail requires steel, skill, and time. Knights seize armor as spoils of war or tournament victory. Heavy armor is a sign of wealth or theft from the dead, is uncomfortable to wear for long periods and takes time to don and remove. Wearing anything heavier than a gambeson means you expect a fight. If you’re an armored stranger you must be a significant enemy: an errant soldier from a nearby conflict, or a knight turned marauder.
Yet for everything armor signifies, it also obscures the wearer’s identity. Women wear the same armor as men, and even open-faced helmets make it difficult to determine the shape of the wearer’s face or her hair color. 13th century heraldry isn’t the complex art form developed in subsequent years, but an emblazoned shield and surcoat should honestly declare the knight’s identity. “Black knights” are products of legend; anonymity is usually associated with shame, not romance.
Piece by Piece
V20 Dark Ages simplifies the wide variety of armor into five classes and indeed, the topic of armor is complex. If Storytellers wish to detail specific pieces of armor, the existing rules provide a solution. Wearing armor of a particular class indicates, at minimum, protection for the torso.
Attacks are assumed to either strike the torso or be hindered by the need to aim for other areas, resulting in strikes that aren’t as precise or injurious. To bypass torso armor, the character should target another part of the enemy’s body, using the targeting maneuver. Attacking a limb imposes a +1 difficulty penalty; striking at the head adds a +2 penalty. In these cases, apply the armor of the targeted area to any damage. Anyone who sees an enemy wearing mail but no helm is bound to stab for the face. Attacking a vulnerable part of an armored area (such as an eye slit or joint) levies a difficulty penalty of +3 or more, and can only be done with a thrusting attack.
Only torso armor and helmets impose initiative and Dexterity-based roll penalties, but these are not cumulative with each other. Apply the worst between each type. Torso armor penalties arise due to weight and bulk; helmets impose them because they limit vision and head movement.
Torso armor protects against the majority of life-threatening strikes, save for those aimed at the head.
Armored Surcoat: For extra protection, knights add metal plates to their surcoats. In the next century this will evolve into a full coat of plates. A very thick surcoat might both conceal the plates within and provide enough padding to make a gambeson unnecessary, making it excellent armor for traveling incognito. The plates normally cover the chest and belly, and can be bypassed or ripped out of place by a clever enemy.
Plate Cuirass (late 14th century): Armorers develop single piece steel breastplates by the end of the 14th century, inaugurating the era of plate armor. Breastplates must be worn over gambesons.
Cuirboilli: Cuirboilli relies on techniques that turn leather into hardened, smooth plates, sewn onto a soft leather or cloth garment. These turn aside light slashes and scrapes, but remain vulnerable to strong blows from any weapon.
Brigandine and Coat of Plates (14th century): In Western Europe the armored surcoat evolves into a coat of plates. Coats of plates cover the torso with overlapping strips of metal bolted into a stout jacket, typically worn over a gambeson to further protect against blunt impact. The metal plates usually sit on the inside of the coat, so the studs keeping them in place are visible on the outside. This armor is also known as brigandine, and is popular among Eastern European and Asian soldiers.
Gambeson: This basic form of padded armor is a jacket made of layers of linen with pockets of stuffing. Gambesons are warm; wearing one on a chilly day usually doesn’t invite extra scrutiny. Most forms of heavy armor only function properly when worn over a gambeson. This will eventually evolve into the Renaissance doublet.
Lamellar and Scale: Lamellar consists of small metal plates laced together side by side. Scale armor uses overlapping plates fastened to a cloth or leather backing garment. Mongol, Rus, and Byzantine warriors wear this form of armor.
Mail Hauberk: This is the most common form of heavy armor in Europe and parts of Asia. “Mail” is synonymous with chainmail, to the point where it would be considered redundant to use that word. Mail provides excellent protection from cutting blows, but can be defeated by thrusting attacks. It must be worn over a gambeson. Most mail links are closed with rivets; unsecured “butted” mail tears apart much more easily.
Torso Armor by Type
Class Rating Penalty Torso Armor
Class One 1 0 Gambeson
Class Two 2 1 Cuirboilli, Armored Surcoat
Class Three 3 1 Gambeson with Cuirboilli or Armored Surcoat
Class Four 4 2 Gambeson with Mail
Class Five 5 3 Gambeson with Mail and Armored Surcoat, Gambeson with Brigandine, Coat of Plates or Lamellar
Class Six* 6 3 Gambeson with Mail and Brigantine, Coat of Plates or Lamellar, Gambeson with Cuirass**
* In Western Europe, this class cannot be acquired until the 14th century.
** Plate Armor reduces the penalty to 2.
Armor for the limbs may use a combination of types. Use the dominant armor on the limb to determine its overall rating, though you may make exceptions if an enemy aims for a specific, small body part.
Chausses: Chausses are padded or armored hose. Most armor requires gamboissed (padded) chausses to protect against pinching and impact. Mail and other heavier chausses fit over these. Knights’ armor adds plate reinforcements for the feet and knees.
Gauntlets: The dominant gauntlet is a thick leather glove. This may be covered by a mail mitten, perhaps with a few plates of armor. By the 14th century, armorers develop plate gauntlets in the form of segmented mittens or articulated plates for the fingers.
Plate for the Legs (14th century): After the rise of plate armor, wealthy soldiers wear metal strips called tassets that hang from the cuirass to cover the thighs, cuisses, or plates for the upper leg, poleyns that cap the knees, and metal greaves. In the transition to plate, soldiers adopt greaves and poleyns, and protect the upper legs with armor that hangs under the belt or chausses.
Sleeves, Vambraces and Rerebraces: In the 13th century, mail hauberks usually include long sleeves. Better examples add shoulder, elbow, and forearm plates. After the invention of brigandine and later, plate armor, arm protection consists of plated pauldrons for the shoulders, rerebraces for the upper arms, vambraces for the forearms, and cowters for the elbows. Mail might also be reinforced with “splints,” or long attached plates.
Limb Armor by Type
Class Rating Type
Class One 1 Gamboissed Chausses, Gambeson Sleeves
Class Two 2 Leather Chausses and Heavy Boots, Cuirboilli Sleeves
Class Three 3 Partial Mail over Padding (arms or legs)
Class Four 4 Mail Chausses over Padding, Mail Sleeves over Gambeson
Class Five 5 Mail Chausses with Plates over Padding, Mail Sleeves with Plates over Gambeson
Class Six 6* Plate Armor for Arms or Legs
* In Western Europe, this class cannot be acquired until the 14th century.
Helmets and Neck Protection
Medieval helmets trade clear vision and comfort for protection. Thus, while open-faced helmets invite brutal strikes for the face, they also provide the ability to see the shot coming.
Arming Cap: Leather or cloth arming caps are essential if one is to wear a metal helmet comfortably. They also provide minor protection against blows, though this is not their primary purpose.
Aventail and Mail Coif: Often worn under a solid helm, a mail coif is a hood that fits over the head, neck, and upper shoulders. An aventail is a length of mail that hangs from an attached helmet to the neck and shoulders.
Bascinet (14th Century): In the 14th century the iron cap evolves into a full helm with a faceplate that can be raised and lowered.
Gorget (14th Century): By the later 14th century armorers incorporate the gorget: a solid metal collar. This is worn with transitional armor and later, plate.
Great Helm: This one piece, close-faced, bucket-shaped helm offers excellent protection but a poor field of vision — combatants use ventilation holes to see as often as the eye slits. This is the dominant knight’s helm of the 13th century, and is worn with an arming cap, coif, and in some cases, an iron cap underneath.
Iron Cap: This iron skullcap protects the top of the head from blows but leaves everything else exposed. It’s worn beneath a great helm or by itself, among poorer soldiers.
Open-Faced Helm: Numerous examples of open-faced helmets exist. One of the most common is the wide-brimmed kettle-helm, which wards off blows with its brim. Nasal helmets are named for the thick piece of metal that falls over the nose, guarding it and deflecting blows from the face as a whole. These helmets are vulnerable to face thrusts, but offer unimpeded vision.
Helmets by Type
Class Rating Penalty Type
Class One 1 0 Arming Cap
Class Two 2 1 Arming Cap and Iron Cap, Arming Cap and Mail Coif
Class Three 3 1 Arming Cap, Mail Coif and Iron Cap, Arming Cap and Open-Faced Helm
Class Four 4 2 Arming Cap, Mail Coif/Aventail and Open-Faced Helm, Great Helm over Arming Cap, Bascinet* over Arming Cap
Class Five 5 3 Great Helm over Arming Cap and Mail Coif, Bascinet* and Aventail over Arming Cap
Class Six 6 3 Great Helm over Arming Cap, Mail Coif and Iron Cap, Bascinet and Gorget**
* In Western Europe, the bascinet and gorget cannot be acquired until the 14th century. If the bascinet’s visor is up, reduce its penalty and rating by 1.
** A bascinet and gorget reduces the penalty to 2.
Shields are exceedingly useful defensive and offensive weapons. A skilled shieldbearer not only deflects blows, but smashes enemies and traps their weapons. Knights only abandon them after plate armor is perfected, but Europeans carry bucklers for self-defense up until the 17th century.
Buckler: This small shield is about a foot wide and might be made entirely of metal, or include a metal boss (a round cap). Bucklers are often used when traveling light, or for duels. Techniques use the buckler to cover the sword hand or strike the opponent’s weapon and hands.
Pavis: This oblong shield has a flat bottom so it can be wedged into the ground and used as cover for archers and crossbowmen. Once planted, the pavis provides Good cover to a single person crouched behind it. Pavises are made of wood, with some metal reinforcements for striking surfaces.
Standard Shield: The two types of shields in common use are a round shield with a boss that Scots call a targe (though it is found elsewhere) and the shield Victorians will call a heater, though it has no special name during the Middle Ages. Shields are typically made of wood, though they might be reinforced with leather, a center boss, or a metal edge.
Shield Damage Min. Str. Conceal Parry Diff. Attack Penalty Notes
Buckler Str + 1B 1 L 4 0
Pavis Str + 2B 3 N 7 +1 Good cover vs. ranged when planted; +2 diff to use as weapon
Standard Shield Str + 2B 2 N 6 +1 +1 diff. to use as weapon