For some, equipping a character is almost a game in itself. For others, it is a tedious chore. We will be providing equipment price lists in the future. But for now, we will only provide guidelines about what sorts of weapons and equipment is appropriate for various types of characters. Many players find that the number of items is not so important to good roleplay as knowingwhy the character would have that item.
A beginning character should probably start out with 0-4 weapons, depending on their social class and profession. A newly escaped slave might begin the game with only the clothes on his/her back. Most peasants should be able to get their hands on a knife. Sticks suitable for a club or quarter staff can also be found and a sling is not hard at all to fashion from a strip of leather. Lower freemen will tend to have more money and thus access to better weapons. They will tend to spend their money on one or two good weapons, and augment those with smaller and cheaper weapons for emergencies.
For simplicity's sake, we will assume that all armor comes with appropriate head gear. A shield, however, is considered a separate item. Most people, if faced with the choice of purchasing a shield or upgrading to a better armor, will choose the shield--depending on the type of weapon they usually wield.
Following are some special rules regarding the effect of social class on equipment choices.
In a society concerned about social status, numerous barriers are put up to distinguish between one social class and another. Among the human tribes, one of the most important distinctions is the right and responsibility of freemen to bare arms and protect their communities. This right to bare arms is generally denied to the peasants who must trust their lords to defend them. But in areas where the threat of the dark races is high, the distinction between what is a weapon and what is a common farm implement can blur.
Of all weapons, the sword carries the highest prestige. Perhaps this is the reason why the prohibition against peasants baring arms is very strictly enforced in regards to swords. Human communities are on near universal agreement that peasants should not be allowed to carry a blade longer than nine inches. Other communities further restrict the peasant's knife to a total length of less than fifteen inches.
Because short swords are generally considered to be between 18-24 inches long, there exists a gray area for blades between 9-18 inches in length. In less civilized areas, where the prohibition against peasants baring arms is a little looser, these so-called long knives are often deliberately overlooked. But, for the peasant who runs afoul of the law, he may find the charge of carrying a sword added to his list of crimes if he is carrying a knife over nine inches.
One popular weapon among peasants in the less civilized territories is the makaira knife. The makaira has a heavy 13-inch blade sharpened on one side and the part of the other where it tapers to a point. Originally fashioned by the T'howmyn, it is still largely made by the smiths of the isle city of Sikarios and is especially popular with sailors. The heavy blade is well suited for both hacking and thrusting.
What constitutes a weapon is entirely up to the local authorities. That determination is usually based on the size, deadliness and context of the weapon. For example, it might be entirely appropriate for a peasant to carry a small bow for hunting (within approved areas) but not a long bow. A flail is a common threshing instrument, but if one handle weighs five pounds and is covered in spikes, it is obviously too deadly to be considered a common farm implement. Even an axe tied to a donkey hauling a load of cut wood would escape notice, but when slung over the shoulder of a man walking into a tavern, it would be considered a weapon.
The most common weapon available to the peasant, other than a knife or a sling, is the pole weapon. Quarter-staves, even those with bronze end caps, may be openly carried without question. Many peasants fit one end with a socket capable of attaching a modified blade, quickly turning a common staff into a deadly pole-arm. As long as the blade is not actually fitted to the staff, it is not considered a weapon. (The attitude of most sheriffs is that even peasants need to be able to protect themselves while traveling on the road.) Some communities have even been known to issue similar pole arms to their peasants when their town or village is threatened.
The Pilgrim's Staff
The pilgrim's staff is an illegal pole-arm sometimes carried by travelers. It appears to be an ordinary staff, but with a quick thrust and jerk, three blades slide out of the end of the pole and lock into place. The arrangement of the three blades makes it possible to disarm or even break blades of attackers.
Peasants do not face the same restrictions in regards to armor. Their main restriction is simply the cost. The most common type of armor used by peasants is the aketon or arming jacket. The aketon is simply a tightly packed quilted linen garment which is usually worn under other armor. Simple enough to be made at home, it works nearly as well as leather armor.
Armor made from hardened leather is easy enough to make and the demand (especially in the outlying territories) is high enough that even in small communities, semi-professional armorers may be found who make it. These same semi-professional armorers may turn out various metal re-enforced armors based on either leather or cloth, but they will generally need a smith to supply the shaped metal components. These components will push the cost of the armor out of most peasant's abilities to pay. Even hardened leather might be too expensive for many to purchase.
Chain is by far the most common of the various piece metal armors. The constant demand for armor causes some armorers to keep large pieces of chain on hand so they can be fitted to customers more quickly. Chain is too expensive for most peasants and even some freemen. Most soldiers or city guards are equipped with at least a chain haubrek over padded or leather armor. Those that can afford it buy full chain or brigandine--which is also very popular, especially among wealthier freemen.
Partial Plate and Full Plate armor is very expensive. Generally, only the son of a noble can be expected to afford such armor and then all the residents in the noble's territories may be taxed to provide it (and other necessary equipment) when he is knighted. About the only way a warrior of lesser status may acquire such armor is by defeating a better-equipped warrior. If a warrior is defeated, his arms and armor belong to the victor--though tradition allows the defeated knight to ransom them both back. If a knight is defeated in warfare (assuming he lives) then his friends and family may have to ransom his freedom as well. Not a few warriors of modest means have made their fortune this way.