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Damn it, why didn't we upgrade the anti-stick shielding on this armor?


Hector: A man died while wearing it!

Artimaeus: ...Hector, it's a suit of armor. Men who wear them tend to do that.

In fiction, armor has virtually no protective qualities. Characters who wear no armor to speak of are no more (and often less) at risk of injury or death than somebody who is "protected". Indeed, it's often the case that people who wear armor find themselves far more competent after they either discard it or have it destroyed for them by the nice people out to kill them. In the latter case, it leaves one wondering why they bothered with it in the first place, if they can survive attacks that completely demolish their armor anyway.

This trope probably stems from the fact that armor—especially helmets—in movies, games, and other media often serves not to protect characters but to render them faceless and anonymous. Thus dehumanized, they make excellent Red Shirt and Mooks. The Unspoken Plan Guarantee may also be connected; the armor represents a plan to be invulnerable, which, once presented to the audience, has to fail or it'd be boringly predictable. (This helps explain why hidden Bulletproof Vests usually work.)

See also The Law of Diminishing Defensive Effort. The logical extreme of this trope is the Full-Frontal Assault. For non-armor objects that make for bizarrely non-useless armor, see Pocket Protector.

Examples of Armor Is Useless include:

Anime and Manga

  • Sailor Moon: The Sailor Senshi wore nothing but moderately skimpy clothing made of what appears to be cotton, yet appeared to be perfectly capable of keeping their wearers—exposed skin and all—protected from everything from flying debris to flames to the vacuum of space. Further, while they were often smacked around, their clothing only showed it when they were fighting the Big Bad or somebody directly under them. In the live-action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Senshi wears some armor—a sports-bra-style Breast Plate made of what looks like fiberglass or plastic.
  • Inuyasha: While in one of the earliest episodes Inuyasha insists on Kagome wearing his robe (a kind of magical fireproof vest), for most of the series a simple Sailor Fuku had no trouble keeping her safe from harm. And then there's Inuyasha's own luck with that red robe ...
  • Vision of Escaflowne Van's armour is destroyed in the first fight and he spends the rest of the series fighting in vest and trousers. Except when he is in the eponymous Humongous Mecha, where he tends to sufferer a greater number of injuries rather than fewer.
  • Dragonball Z - Everybody who wore armor either got rid of it or died for real. No exceptions. However, this isn't due to the uselessness of armor (which was used quite often by even the protagonists) but due to the fact that they eventually got to the point that their superpowers outstripped their armor's ability to protect.
    • Explained in some of the earlier seasons, as most characters wore armor or clothing that was weighted for training purposes, and after removing it they become much faster.
  • In One Piece, armor is usually either not present or is dismantled fairly quickly (ignoring, or course, characters who are literally Made of Iron). One notable exception is in the Baratie Arc, where a major part of the battle involves Luffy's attempts to get through Don Krieg's armor.
  • The Hellsing anime. Anyone with body armor is really dead by the end of the arc they show up in, if not the very episode. Now, the vampire in a miniskirt is fairly easy to Hand Wave. Walter Dornez, who remains human, take out dozens of ghouls, and has no armor greater than a cloth vest, is a bit harder to figure out. However, Walter has had decades of experience at this sort of work, and thus may be covered under the same rules that protect the Old Master. Zigzagged with Alucard, who is totally unprotected, gets torn to shreds for it and just keeps on going anyways.
  • In Samurai 7, most of the titular samurai wear no armor, and the armored one is a cyborg. They are shot at fairly frequently, by everything from soldiers to giant mecha.
  • Predictably, Neon Genesis Evangelion played with this trope. The armour on the Evangelion units ostensibly protects the pilot, but has the ultimate purpose of weakening them and keeping the Evas under control.
    • The multiple layers of armor covering the Geofront become increasingly less effective as the series progress. Ramiel (#5) takes 24 hours to drill through, while Zeruel (#14) penetrates it with just a few energy blasts.
      • The first encountered angel- Salchiel (#3)- manages to blast through it in two shots- much faster than Zeruel- though he doesn't actually use this hole to his advantage.
    • Played more conventionally in End of Evangelion. When Misato takes out several of the invading commandos, a close examination will reveal that the soldier's vest was penetrated despite Misato only using a Pistol.
  • Berserk is an excellent example; soldiers wearing full plate armour might as well have put on paper mache, as both Guts and the demons he fights can tear through it with the greatest of ease. Guts explains in one scene that his sword is three times thicker and heavier than a sword that length would usually be, and this is before the Eclipse. After the Eclipse, Guts gets an even bigger sword that was designed for killing dragons.
    • Even minor states are shown to equip many tens of thousands of troops in full plate. It's no wonder they had to make it tinfoil thin.
  • Von Jobina in Bastard!!, full stop. He's always clad in armor from head to toe but, as the series' resident Butt Monkey, that doesn't stop him from getting his ass kicked around.
  • Wolf's Rain: The Nobles' elite guard have heavy full-body armour and shields with built-in disruptor rays. Yet even all that doesn't prevent several of them from being bitten to death by wolves. The wolves went straight for their necks, which had no plate armor to allow their heads to move easily.
  • Saint Seiya: Varies wildly. Sometimes armors play a vital role in a fight, sometimes a Saint gets his armor destroyed yet it doesn't seem to make him more vulnerable to attacks. The fact that some armors leave a lot of the wearer's body completely exposed remains consistently unimportant.
    • Shiryu is an isolated case, as he always seem to end up naked (and blind too), but still wins most of his fights. In the fandom it is common to joke that a battle starring Shiryu is to take a while while he's still armored (and seeing). It is a common theme that Shiryu needs to outgrow the need for his armor to win a battle, not in small part because the armor gets in the way of his special technique of the week. On the other hand, he usually ends up the most battered of the team (Seiya gets bettered a lot too, but since it is usually in his Hard Head, he's fine).
  • Black Lagoon subverts this in the Greenback Jane arc. One of the few hired guns to walk away from the siege (not counting the ones who had to swim) — and the only one to do so under his own power—is the one who wore a bulletproof vest.
  • The heavily kevlar-armoured soldiers in Elfen Lied die in scores when battling naked teenage girls - then again, said teenage girls have immense Psychic Powers that render them Immune to Bullets and lets them pull people's limbs off with their mind.
  • Tears to Tiara : The enemy soldiers in the first arc may as well have been wearing Saran Wrap, for all the good their armor did them against the heroes' attacks.
  • Gundam: Played with in every possible way. Usually averted in the beginning, where the titular Super Prototype is usually invulnerable or at least highly resistant to enemy fire at the start of the war, the usually played straight as the enemy develops weapons capable of penetrating it. Played straight and justified in Universal Century series from Zeta Gundam onwards, as no armor except for exceptionally thick ones like on Scirocco's The O could stand up to beam weaponry, so the main defense was not getting hit in the first place. Thus, most Mobile Suits built after the One Year War period usually had less armor than previous designs.
    • Series that include Mobile Armors generally follow this principle. Whenever a Mobile Armor is introduced, it is very likely to be destroyed in that episode. One notable exception is the first Destroy Gundam, which took an entire story arc to take down, while a later battle against 7 of them takes about 2 minutes. Another exception is the Psyco Gundam, introduced around episode 20, and didn't leave the show until episode 40. An improved version returned in ZZ Gundam only to get destroyed. Probably the only one that survives the series it appears in is the Regnant - and even then, its main reason for survival was its Roboteching Wave Motion Gun and Stun Guns, not armor. Neither its Flawed Prototype Empruss, nor its Ace Custom successor Gadelaza achieves this feat, however.
  • Naruto: Various characters wear plate armor (samurai, Choza, Choji, the 1st and 3rd Hokage), some wear what appears to be chainmail underarmor (Naruto, Jiraiya, Anko), the vests/jackets most ninja wear is ostensibly suppose to be a form of armor (looking a lot like the type of flak vests used by soldiers before bullet-resistant vests were invented) yet they have only ever been shown to be useful on one occasion, when one samurai that was consumed in Amaterasu fire was saved by having it taken off.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the only one to ever wear armor is actually Thymilph, the first General of the Capitol. He's also the second named character to die (Kamina being the first, despite the fact that he only truly faded away after performing a Giga Drill Breaker, thus avenging his own death).
  • Possibly the only thing in all of Bleach to wear armor is the giant summoned by Sajin Komamura's Bankai. However, it seems to wear normal samurai armor in a world where other characters can, say, cut through all the buildings in a half-mile radius just by unsheathing their sword. The fact that Komamura takes any damage the giant does makes the worf notoriously strong with this one.
    • Hardly Worfed. The only person able to damage him through the Bankai was [[spoiler: Tousen, another captain who had become a Vizard, and that put a graze on his arm.
  • In animated short Kigeki, the Black Swordsman cuts through an army of heavily armoured cavalry knights like butter. One of them he even slices in half down the middle.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin's sensei tells an armored giant opponent to remove his armor because it restricts his movements, weakening his offense, and that the false sense of protection from armor weakens his dodging/parrying skills.

Comic Books

  • In Elf Quest, when the elves fight the trolls for the Palace, the rogue half-troll Two-Edge set the elves up with plate armor. It does, in fact, even the odds - but even so, many die, and one character spends two good pages on the horrified realization that armor doesn't make him invincible (not that he was in much danger by that point, as co-creator Richard Pini had taken a shine to the lad and even vetoed an earlier dramatic death for him).
    • It is not so much that this trope is played straight, but merely demonstrates that despite the considerable advantages of arming your foot soldiers in full plate armor, it's not impenetrable, especially not when your enemy is a hulking, raging troll
  • In Frank Miller's 300 features Spartans going bare-chested into battle, with little but loinclothes and bracers as armor besides their shields. Miller, with his background drawing spandex-clad superheroes, was more comfortable drawing human physiques, and thought the Spartans in armor looked too weird. In reality, Spartans wore heavy bronze armor, including breastplates, which was a major advantage over the cloth armor and wicker shields of the Persian soldiers.
  • In the New 52, Superman wears armor. Given that he's tougher than any materiel in the DC universe, the only possible explanation for this is that he wants clothing that won't disintegrate when he so much as sneezes. There's a Yakkov Smirnoff joke in there somewhere.


  • The Hurt Locker: Played relatively straight; a bomb squad worker is confronted with a bomb so big it completely fills a car trunk. He chooses to take off his armor at this point; might as well work in comfort rather than wear bulky body armor which will do absolutely nothing to protect him at this point.
  • The The Lord of the Rings films have interesting combination of both aversions and invocations of the trope.:
    • Legolas and Aragorn wear no armor through all of fellowship and slaughter goblins and Uruk-hai with half plate armor and heavy shields by the dozens. At the Battle of Helms Deep in Two Towers Aragorn wears a chain mail hauberk while Legolas has only bracers and leather paldrons. In this same battle Theoden, wearing the best armor of anyone in Rohan's forces gets wounded in the shoulder.
    • The Uruk-hai berserkers take this trope to the max. They wear nothing but helmets and chain mail loincloths yet are deadly against the defending Rohan forces. In a slight aversion the helmet of one of them comes in handy while he is fighting Gimli. By which this troper means Gimli had to hit him again to bring him down.
      • In the Fellowship of the Ring Merry and Pippin take several heavily armored Uruks down by throwing rocks at their heavily armored heads.
    • The soldiers of Gondor especially have rather useless armor. In one scene in the Extended Edition of Return of the King, an orc arrow goes straight through a random soldier's breastplate. In real life, steel breastplates would deflect an arrow from that range, especially from such a flimsy shortbow.
  • In the second movie based on Resident Evil, Alice takes down a fully armored Umbrella Squad while wearing only skimpy clothing. Jill Valentine also wears a skimpy outfit through most of the film and never sees fit to cover up a bit to guard against zombie bites.
  • In Hero, the Emperor wears armor at all times to protect himself from assassins, but whenever he's confronted by one, they can kill him at will.
  • Starship Troopers where the MI's armor vests provide no protection whatsoever. Bug claws, their own weapons, and a high-velocity shovel-yes, a shovel-penetrate without any trouble at all. You have to wonder why they even bother with armor...
  • Star Wars:
    • Many people make fun of the Stormtroopers' full body armor, which does not seem to protect them hits by lasers or light sabers. However, no Stormtroopers are ever shown to go down when a laser blast hits a wall near them, while some unarmored rebels do. Thus, it might be shown that Stormtrooper armor does protect against shrapnel, which is one of the main functions of real body armor in today's ballistic age. Stormtrooper armor also seems to resist penetration from arrows and absorb the impact of rocks on Endor (though the wearers still went down anyway). Other sources state the armour should still absorb most of the impact from a bolt if it fails to avoid penetration, so clearly the reason the armour was so ineffective in the movies was the commonly close-ranges of combat in it.
      • The most common fan interpretation of the armor failing on Endor is that while armor can protect one from rocks and sticks, that won't matter for long when the enemy is throwing hundreds of them onto you.
      • Star Wars Rebels has Captain Rex (a Republic Clone Trooper) derisively comment on the cheapness of Stormtrooper armor compared to its Clone counterpart. Kanan later outright says that the armor doesn't protect you from anything.
    • Darth Vader deflects laser shots with his armored hand, though it's never explained in the film whether this is a function of his gauntlets, Force powers, or both. The novelization states it's the gloves, but Force Deflection is a power that allows a Force-user to block blaster bolts with their bare hands.
    • Somewhat highlighted in the first film, where Han and Luke steal Stormtrooper armor so as to walk the halls of the Death Star undetected. As soon as they free Leia and escape the trash compactor, they immediately dispense with the armor. Once its use as camouflage is rendered irrelevant, so is its use as armor.
    • Fighter Deflector Shields also qualify. Pretty much everywhere except the films, an X-Wing's shields can repel TIE fighter lasers for several seconds. Not so in the movies, where the X-Wing is destroyed if it's hit squarely once.
  • Played straight in 300, which mimics the bare-chested Spartan battle outfit found in Frank Miller's graphic novel.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Necromonger troops wear heavy, bulky suits of what looks suspiciously like 16th-century Maximilian armor, which have no apparent damage resistance whatsoever.
  • All cops in The Fifth Element wear bulky armor that does absolutely nothing to stop bullets.
  • Most of the troops in Red Cliff wear various forms of armor which provide no protection whatsoever. Master Archers who (because this is a John Woo film) can bullseye any target they can see shoot enemy troops right through their breast plates, not even bothering to aim a few inches higher to hit exposed necks. The senior generals frequently cut off limbs with a single stroke, not even slowed down by the heavy metal armor their targets are wearing.
  • In Final Fantasy the Spirits Within, the soldiers wear all of this heavy armor that does nothing to protect them from Phantoms.
  • In Battle: Los Angeles, the Marines' armor is ineffective at stopping the aliens' weapons, as the incendiary rounds they have burns right through them and they impact with enough force to consistently throw people off their feet and backwards.


  • Dragaera: Justified, as metal armor is a great target for sorcery. This is a bit of an after-the-fact handwave by author Steven Brust, who loves the cloak-twirling romances of Dumas and modeled his world after them, complete with the general lack of armor. We do see that some leather armor is used during war.
  • Practically none of the Redwall characters wear armour, except Martin and the Badger Lords. Tsarmina's Mooks were an exception, but the armour was described as "cumbersome" and hindered more than it helped (particularly when the heroes flooded the castle). Possibly justified because mice and other small mammals have slightly tougher skin than humans, their fighting style in the books is based more on speed which armour would hinder, and going by the flexibility of most rodent and mustelid skeletal structures it would be really difficult to make armour to fit them without severely restricting movement.
    • Also the Redwall forest is not particularly industrialised - something of a lack of iron mines and foundries to provide the wherewithal for armour to be common. Note also that even swords are pretty rare in the books, with most combattants using spears, clubs and knives as melee weapons. Not a great smithing tradition, you might say.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40000 novel Brothers of the Snake, Space Marines fight a foe that they can see only with the naked eye. They open their visors with explicit commentary about how it makes them more vulnerable in one sense. (Indeed, several of them die because of it.)
  • Perfect Dark: The first novel (yes, novel) notes the uselessness of armor in the games. The evil company is so huge that it's offensive division is constantly outclassing the defensive division. Nobody is telling the right hand to stop inventing guns that can chew through the bulletproof vest they issue the company soldiers.
  • Partial credit for the Thalesians in David Eddings' {Elenium} and {Tamuli} - Thalesian knights go to war in chainmail, not in full plate, as Thalesia is full of deep rivers and streams, making platemail more of a hazard than a help. A chainmail shirt is easily removable, whereas by the time you have a chance to get a full suit of riding armour off, you'll have drowned.
    • To Khalad's assertion that he could create a crossbow capable of firing a bolt several miles, Vanion shakes his head and foresees the obsolescence of the knight in full armour.

Live Action TV

  • Stargate SG-1 featured all kinds of armor, none of which were actually useful. The kevlar worn by the Tau'ri (humans from Earth) does nothing to stop any of the weapons they face (in fact, it's been stated that it actually makes things worse when it comes to staff weapons). It's worth noting that SG-1 itself doesn't bother with armor yet seems to have the lowest casualty rate of any SG team. Jaffa armor starts off being effective, a situation that is changed once the Tau'ri replace low-velocity MP5s with P90s and armor-piercing ammunition, instantly turning initially invincible juggernauts into generic mooks.
    • "Heroes," the same episode that mentioned the kevlar problem, also demonstrated an experiment in new anti-Jaffa armor inserts, which let Sgt. Siler take a full staff blast in the gut and only get knocked back and lightly set on fire. This armor is credited with saving Colonel O'Neill's life when he's shot in action.
    • The Jaffa in the original movie were more ceremonially dressed, and didn't wear armor, allowing O'Neill to take one down with a burst of submachine gun rounds into the exposed gut. The TV show had to tone down the violence though, and had armored Jaffa largely because bullet impacts on armor are less graphic than bloody chunks getting shot out of somebody. So the armor was more to protect the show's rating than the Jaffa themselves.
    • Realistically averted in one episode where SG-1 is doing an operation on Earth wearing bulletproof vests. Col. Simmons shoots O'Neill twice in the back. One bullet is stopped by the vest and breaks a rib, the other hits him in his unarmored arm.

  O'Neill: I want sleeves on my vest.

  • Kamen Rider Kabuto: Each Rider has a bulky "Masked Form" and a sleek "Rider Form". Allegedly the Masked Form is tougher and better protected, but one cannot help noticing that the Riders invariably cast it off at the first opportunity and finish off the monster in Rider Form.
    • The Riders in that series need to shed the heavier armor to use their finishing moves. Yeah, even the ones whose finishers use almost-completely external equipment (Drake and Sasword).
  • Lampshaded in Heroes. As Mr. Bennet is putting on a Bulletproof Vest, he admits that it'll be useless against the supervillains he's about to face, and he's only bothering with it in order to keep up The Masquerade.

Tabletop Games

  • In Dungeons and Dragons armor is the easiest way to get higher Armor Class, but it tops out at a certain point, and using the really heavy armor comes with drawbacks—including penalties to many physical actions. Some characters are prohibited from using their special powers while wearing armor that is too heavy, or wearing any armor at all. In versions 3.0 and beyond, armor is also judged worthless when determining whether "touch attack" spells hit, which generally confer the most devastating effects in the game. Ultimately there are many magical alternatives to armor that will increase your Armor Class at a greater cost, but without all the drawbacks.
    • Monks in particular embody this trope since they lose almost all of their abilities if they put on anything heavier than a wool shirt. Additionally, they gain a bonus to Armour Class based on their Wisdom and level. It is fairly easy, magic aside, for a monk to quickly outstrip even the heaviest armoured fighters.
    • In the 3.5 Edition, many players feel that Armor Class itself, encompassing all types of defense, is useless because most monsters have a high probability of hitting you anyway, due to their huge Base Attack Bonuses granted by racial hit dice, their often enormous strength, and the fact that their natural attacks do not follow the same degradation formula that weapon users do. It does limit the extent of Power Attack that can be levied against players and certain creatures do make extensive use of weapons, meaning that their last few hits have a lowered chance of hitting you, but it doesn't change the fact that against anyone who doesn't use weapons will tear a player character apart and there's nothing his or her armor can do about it. Players ultimately discovered that the best defense is a good offense, sacrificing Armor Class for the sake of increased attack power, effectively turning most characters into Glass Cannons.
    • As early as level 7 (of 20), the right combination of magical effects (decoys and percentile "miss chance" rolls) can provide just as much protection as an arbitrarily high armor class. These effects are most readily available to Sorcerers and Wizards, the characters who suffer the most from wearing actual armor.
    • With 4e armor becomes more of a relative thing because characters add half their level to their armor class while adding half their level to their chance to hit. While it can create problems, it tends to nicely simulate films of the fantasy genre: Achilles in Troy can wade through soldiers by slashing throats and otherwise finding the weak spots in their armor, while Aragorn and Legolas don't get hit during a mass melee despite their light armor.
      • Additionally, if a character is wearing light or no armor they can add their DEX or their INT bonus to their armor class. So now Gandalf, even as a 5th level wizard, is all but impossible to hit for orcs due to his awesome intelligence.
      • Also, not to forget, 4e Essentials allows a Warlock to wear Chainmail without any kind of backdraw in battle.
    • In D&D in general, there is a rule about heavy armor and sleep. If a character sleeps while wearing heavy armor, he'll wake up more exhausted than when he went to sleep.
    • Armor in D&D 3 ed. is essentially this. In reality, heavy armour provides protection at a expense of mobility. In D&D armor protects the character from being hit but does nothing to attacks that connected. It also places a cap on dexterity bonus rendering the character easier to hit. It means that very nimble character is usually better off not wearing most armors. Which is peculiar as D&D 3 ed. incorporates mechanics for non-armor damage reduction.
      • A smart DM may avert that version by a describing failed enemy attack roll on a heavily armored target as "the blow bounces off harmlessly" or some such.
  • One of the official Pathfinder supplements has a barbarian variant that grants the ability "Naked Courage." It grants the character a bonus to AC when not wearing armour. Granted, it's a fairly small bonus.
    • Firearms, if allowed, render armour useless at close range since they are treated as touch attacks.
  • Star Wars d20 had armor that really was useless, unless you were already almost dead. It provided damage reduction only when you were out of vitality points or against a critical hit, when damage went to wound points. So for most of a battle, all most armor did was provide a situation bonus to one ability and an armor check penalty to certain skills. ...yay? It also denied you your class-based AC and limited your max Dex Bonus. This could be designed to reflect the stormtrooper armor's uselessness.
    • In Star Wars: Saga Edition, characters gain bonuses to their Reflex Defense (the defense that keeps blaster bolts hitting you) from armor or a level-based bonus, and they don't stack. At higher levels, it's better to go into a fight naked, rather than wearing the heaviest protection you can find. However, it isn't played completely straight as the bonuses to Fortitude Defense from armor do stack and with the right talents, you can get them to stack with the Reflex Defense as well.
  • One of the most notable examples in the Warhammer 40000 background is the standard issue flak armour of the Imperial Guard - a bulletproof, heat and shrapnel resistant uniform with potentially extra armoured-areas by our standards... that is generally useless against most of the weaponry of the other species within Warhammer 40000. The Power Armor worn by the Space Marine Mascots, on the other hand, is generally an aversion. Most weapons have a better than even chance of bouncing off harmlessly, and the even more powerful Terminator Armor is protection against anything short of Heavy Anti-tank weaponry or plasma weapons, and for dealing with such weapons, Storm Shields and The built in energy shield of terminator armor still provide reasonable protection.
    • Admitedly, the weaponry used by other species includes, but is not limited to, armor-piercing rocket-propelled grenades, mono-edged high-speed shurikens, armored flesh-eating acidic worms or droplets of superheated plasma. And thats just what the line infantry uses. Especialists and other elites can, and often do, pack much deadlier weaponry. On the other hand, flak armor provides quite decent protection against lasbolts, bullets (even high-caliber ones) and most conventional melee weapons and its one of the best armors available to starting characters in the RPG.
    • Dark Eldar wyches play this trope to a tee, with a superhuman athleticism that means the less armour they wear, the more they've practised to avoid needing it (and wearing less armour allows you to be more agile). A wych who goes into battle wearing nothing will mess your heavily-armoured troops up badly.
  • In Exalted, averted at the low levels, as good armor vastly increases your survival chance in a fight—aside from the fact that the rules specifically state that the only reason to wear a helmet is if you don't think your hairstyle is cool enough. Played straight at high levels, as there are enough Martial Arts and Crafts abilities that only need to touch you to mess you up in ways ranging from petrification to having your soul fall off that characters will mostly be depending on magically-powered defenses, rendering armor somewhat redundant.
    • Armour is a lot more useful with the 2.5 revisions, which halved the cost in Artifact dots for a decent suit and reduced weapon damage across the board. It's still vulnerable to bad-touch effects, though.
  • Armor in GURPS very roughly mirrors the rise and fall in armor usefulness in reality, with available armor playing catch up early in each TL. This ceases to be the case at TL 12 where you can buy guns that delete people from reality, which renders armor rather pointless.
    • In 4th Edition GURPS: Spaceships the rules have led to the comparison "eggshells armed with hammers".
  • FATAL has such things as stabbing attacks (which hurt rather a lot even through armour) and magical armour that actively reduces your Current Armour stat. And that's not going into the armour that kills you and raises you as a zombie serial killer, armour that simply kills you, or armour that fills your crap with kitten seeds.
    • Even that's not as terrible as the armor that turns you into grotesquely offensive racial stereotypes from countries or ethnicities that supposedly don't even exist in the setting. It ain't called "the worst RPG ever made" for nothin'.
  • In Ammo almost every player character has some sort of manga-inspired power, but only a few will be even moderately defensive, or last more than a few battle turns. Armors, both passive or Powered Armor, are required, even against the weakest foe. Between normal unprotected humans a round kick is often lethal, and two is overkilling.
  • For Wild Talents this is a Zig-Zagging Trope. Armor is both hugely important and easy to circumvent, much like in real life, and attack powers with Non-Physical can ignore most armor outright. With that said, it's also possible to build armor that normal weapons and even many superpowers can't penetrate, and stacking all three types of armor (light, medium, and heavy) will make you pretty damn hard to stop.
  • The only form of armor worth using in Seventh Sea is a rare form of nigh-magical armor held by one nation. If you're anyone else... well, they don't even print statistics for armor. That should tell you all you need to know.
    • Technically, they did print statistics for armor, if "it does nothing" counts as statistics.
    • To quote the Player's Guide, "Everyone else simply does without."
    • Armor rules were later printed in the Cathay supplement, which was written after all of the setting's creators had jumped ship.
  • In MERP,[1] unarmoured was usually better than soft and hard leather armour against most weapons. Each weapon had a strike table against each armour type (AT) and it was far easier to hit higher armors on average, but you dealt mere damage. The real killer in rolemaster/MERP was the critical strike table roll, which was easier to gain against most armors in the game than it was against not wearing armor at all. Soft and Rigid leather was not only easier to hit and deal damage to, it was far more deadly to wear as critical strike table rolls occured more often! Medium armors like chain also suffered from this to an extent against many weapons. Not only did critical strike table rolls deal things such as stuns, even the weakest table (A) had a chance to maim, incapacitate or outright kill your character on a percentage roll! And this is something you not only had to invest dev points in for manouvrability, it also carried a quickness penalty to make you even easier to hit while wearing it!

Video Games

  • In The Elder Scrolls games Morrowind and Oblivion a character's protection depends more on his skill with armor class rather than the armor itself, though despite that NPCs are almost always armored appropriately. This includes the existence of "Battlemage" profession, military mages wearing heavy armor. NPCs will occasionally reference this trope if the player asks them for advice. You're warned not to judge how tough a fight will be based on the amount or quality of your opponents armor or weapons, as the really powerful characters don't need these things to kill you.
    • Another thing is that, a least in Oblivion, Normal Armour is useless against magic, as are basic shield spells.
  • Bioshock 2. Yes, you are wearing a suit that can withstand pressure at the bottom of the ocean. No, that won't help against a gun. Or a wrench. Or fire. Or anything else, for that matter.
  • Metal Gear Online lets you customize your player characters, where you have the option of giving him/her combat armor or helmets, but these are merely aesthetic accessories, and have no effect on how much damage you take. You still take as much damage as shirtless male characters or bikini-clad female characters.
  • Soul Calibur: The female warrior Hilde and male hero Siegfried both wear heavy plate armor, and yet they still take damage at the same rate as the rest of the cast, who wear ordinary clothes, fabric bodysuits, or in Voldo's case, a simple codpiece.
    • Nightmare too; when he's not Siegfried, he is a set of heavy plate armor and still takes the same amount of damage as all the bondage-clad nudists running around. Plus, Darth Vader's in the fourth game and is subject to the same convention too (contradicting the Star Wars example above in "Film").
  • Played straight in Dead or Alive, with the fully power-armored Space Marine Nicole being just as vulnerable to punches and kicks as the more Stripperiffically-dressed women.
  • In Drakengard, there is no amount of armor you can be wearing, damaged or undamaged, that changes how much damage you take. And in cutscenes, we're shown it works the same way for The Evil Army, although that's possibly because the protagonist is a Badass Normal.
  • The Ghosts 'n Goblins/Ghouls 'n Ghosts series has Arthur, who starts in full plate armour: however it just takes one hit and your armor goes flying off, leaving you to fight beasties in his pretty underpants. Another hit in that state, and he's dead.
    • Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins has a variety of armors, most of which can take more than one hit. The trouble happens when you need a certain armor that can take only one hit to get past a certain point (especially the Angel Armor), meaning that once you lose the armor, you're hosed. Two ways, in fact.
  • In the anime-themed PC game Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, the enemies come in many varieties, some sporting basic uniforms, others power armor, and still others ten foot tall mini-mechas. The difference that makes in their durability is negligible: 100, 125 and 150 health points. All forms die to a single shotgun blast or a short burst from an assault rifle.
  • Fire Emblem doesn't actualy include armor as a mechanic (except for the 2nd game where shields existed). Defense is based entirely on character growths and class based caps, rather than what armor a character is physically wearing. For example in the 10th game, full plate wearing Meg's defenses are lower than the breastplate, helmet and shield wearing Aran (although Meg has a higher def cap, but her growths are so bad she will never reach it)
  • While armor is quite important and tends to provide benefits other than sheer protection in World of Warcraft, these values don't necessarily correlate with the amount of armor. Females get away with much less armor in general, and an Eyepatch provides just as much protection as a full plate helmet, as long as it's given the same armor class. Another weird instance is the druid's bear form, which, despite not showing any armor whatsoever, magically quintuples the armor rating of his equipment, enabling the usually rather fragile, leather-wearing class to be a very capable tank which outranks full plate warriors and paladins in terms of sheer physical damage reduction (however, they can't use shields to block or weapons to parry, and have a rather limited array of abilities).
    • In addition, Armor Is Useless when fighting elemental enemies whose elemental damage ignores armor, as do spells. Which kinda makes sense to some extent; getting hit by a fireball will probably melt you the same regardless of the thickness of what you're wearing—it may even be worse with metal armor if it's hot enough—but considering how the fire came from a flaming boulder, and therefore part of the damage is blunt force trauma, there's many types of magic for which you must scour your brain for the reasoning of how it damages someone, in that you'll survive a fireball from someone around the same level around you, despite how it's hot enough to set a boulder on fire, which makes it kind of like a meteor...
  • In Fable, different armors have different strengths and weaknesses, but these are negligible. Defeating the final boss wearing nothing but underpants is not only possible, but hardly more difficult than doing so in full plate-mail.
    • Lionhead Studios realized that armor was useless in Fable, and as a result, in Fable II, you get the same armor bonus for wearing a harlot dress as you do for wearing a heavily layered assassin outfit: zero.
  • Played straight in Gears of War, where one of the FEW people wearing an honest helmet, Anthony Carmine, gets sniped in the head early on, killing him. Though the helmet made him one of The Faceless, despite being an actual character, his death was an in-joke to the developers, based off a study that showed people who wore helmets like that get shot more due to the lack of peripheral vision.
    • Lampshaded in Gears of War 2 though. During one level the group is complaining about the smell and even has to run through toxic gas at one point. The one member wearing a helmet points out that they wouldn't have this problem if they'd wear one. Also, the character with the helmet is the Benjamen Carmine, little brother of Anthony Carmine.

 B. Carmine: "If you wore a helmet, you wouldn't have to breathe in the dust."

Dom: "Yeah * Cough* but I wouldn't be able to see snipers so well, would I?"

Marcus" "Dom..."

    • In Gears of War 3, Clayton Carmine, also wearing a helmet, is walking with the squad towards a COG base when a friendly sniper mistakes them for the Lambent, and shoots Clay in the head only for the bullet to ricochet off Clay's helmet, prompting a shocked, "Jeez louise, what the fuck?!"
    • While all the gears tromp around half a car's worth of armor, they seem to be about as tough as the Locust, most of whom aren't even wearing shirts. Sera also seems to have a surprising number of indigenous species that are completely immune to gunfire on some or most of their carapace (including rockworms, serapedes, Berserkers, and Corpsers), which begs the questions of why no one's making armor out of them.
    • Averted by Maulers and Armored Kantus. Maulers carry a shield that can absorb (or in the case of Elites, reflect) bullets and even rockets. Kantus armor slows the wearer down (and denies it the use of Ink Grenades in Beast Mode) but is nearly immune to bullets. Unlike the Mauler's shield, a Kantus' armor doesn't help it against fire or explosives.
    • Exaggerated in 3, which has unarmored versions of Anya, Dizzy, Marcus, and a version of Cole in football pads. All can take just as much damage as their heavily armored counterparts.
  • Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors have a number of characters who run around the battlefield in heavy armour. There is little or no evidence that they take any less damage than the characters who run around in robes or barechested. They do tend to be pretty slow, though.
    • DW and SW seem to work off the principle of Glass Cannon instead. Those bigger guys or armored guys DO do more damage, or at the very least, have much larger range. Except for Xiahou Yuan. Because he just fails that much. Whoopee! Free arrows! Now, do you have anything else to offer? Worse, his attacks have a habit of juggling enemies, which means they can't attack, but they also take a third as much damage, making one on one fights take even longer.
  • Played straight at higher levels in Elona, as elemental resistance followed by speed become the most important defense. After all, if an enemy only does 1-3 HP damage, but gets 5-8 TURNS compared to your one, (say a quickling or alien kid, who does additional acid damage on top of that) then you may as well be taking 30HP damage a turn anyway. However, with light enough armor you can cut this down to as low as two or three, and with a pair of rings of speed, even out, as well as get chances to dodge the attacks. However, it is inverted again when you face down Frisia, the cat queen, as you'll never be able to match her speed unless you play a Catgod as well, or a quickling or bell, so it's best to reduce the damage you take as much as possible and let her kill herself by spamming Firewall/Acidground or throwing things which cause damage over time along with wearing the artifact mentioned. She takes so many turns compared to your character that you'll do much more damage in the same amount of time as trying to hit her with your main weapon, even if she only takes roughly 5-8 HP damage per turn. The other two bonus bosses are chumps compared to Frisia.
  • Armor in Might and Magic 6 - 8 is only as good as three things: Your skill with the armor in question, The abilities of the enemy you're fighting, and how good your Repair Skill is. Given how many late game enemies had abilities that (a) ignore armor class and (b) break armor, you may as well rely entirely on magic resistance once you reach the Lost Technology section of the games.
    • Leather armor is slightly more useful than the other armors - every class that can use armor can upgrade the leather skill to a level where this is no disadvantage to having one on, which meshes well with that it, as all armors, can carry useful bonuses that have nothing to do with armor class (there are no non-armor options for the torso slot), and in 7 and 8 the Grandmaster bonus applies even if the armor class does not.
  • In Mount and Blade, most weapons do cutting damage, which is significantly hampered by armor. Piercing and blunt attacks get through more often, but generally have less power once they pass the armor.
  • X-COM: Enemy Unknown is a peculiar case that caused a fair bit of Natter. A soldier wearing the most powerful armor in the game, hit where it's thickest, has roughly a 2/3 chance of surviving one hit from the most common alien weapon. There's no guarantee against multiple shots. What would be rejected in most games is here a crucial improvement from losing half the squad on nearly every mission. The first armor available occaisonally saves from getting their faces imploded, and instead leaves them in dire need of a medic on the field and time in the infirmary when they return.[2] It's another major development.
    • Tricky players note that advanced armor makes automatic high-explosive and incendiary rounds into amusing close combat weapons, and that its flying version reduces Chryssalids from nigh-invincible instant death machines to mostly harmless. (While it also makes Silacoids completely harmless, that's not really a downgrade for them.) The sequel Apocalypse has much stronger armor.
  • Final Fantasy
    • In the original Final Fantasy I, the Black Belt could wear some equipment, but when unarmored he gains one absorb for each level which will outstrip the absorb he can get from armors at very high levels. It's not something that people who tries to beat the game on a timely pace should worry about, though.
    • Final Fantasy VII: The only "armor" you can buy for any character is "bangles," which are essentially large, heavy bracelets. You can see the characters wearing them, and occasionally even making motions as if they are trying to block or deflect attacks with them. As for how well this works... the way the game calculates damage means that defence stats in general aren't really worth the effort to improve (the most effective armor work by halving damage from physical elements), a glitch means that mdef ignores what armor is supposed to contribute to it, and you can cause your defence to role over if you raised your stats high enough.
    • Final Fantasy VIII: While most Final Fantasy characters equip armor, even if only in inventory, here characters do not wear armor, visually or no. In-universe they're covert operatives who often go undercover, and wearing heavy armor would blow said cover pretty quickly. Besides, with Guardian Forces and junctioned magic, they don't need it.
    • Final Fantasy II plays this trope straight by the end-game. While armor does exist, Firion will be better off, facing the Emperor with only two Blood Weapons and a Ribbon equipped. Wearing any kind of armor will greatly reduce his chance of avoiding both physical and magical attacks, thus making armor literally useless.
    • Final Fantasy X has this rule too, to a certain extent. Nobody wears armor, aside from the crusaders, who are practically the Redshirt Army of Spira. Any playable character in the entire game, however, can only equip a weapon and an arm-guard.
    • Final Fantasy XII: Subverted in the opening sequence. Some poor sap had a gaping hole in his armor, right in front of his throat. Three guesses where he was shot, and the first two don't count.
  • In Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled, armor isn't entirely useless so much as Defense is. You appear to take the same damage from introductory-area enemies, even after abusing a specific shop's buy/sell mechanics to purchase hundreds of Defense Up potions and using them to max every character's Defense. It's for this very reason that it's best to equip armor based on any offense and status resistances they have, as opposed to Defense. At least technically the armor itself isn't what's useless...
  • Played straight in the Rainbow Six games. Even with Level 3 armor (which includes a full-face helmet), enemies can still get off One-Hit Kill shots with almost any gun.
    • It's more like helmets are useless. Heavy armor will completely shrug off shotguns loaded with buckshot at point blank range as well as submachineguns with JHPs at long range, as long as it doesn't hit your head, which doesn't happen very often since enemies almost always aim for your head and are often equipped with assault rifles.
    • Lampshaded in the original novel, where it is noted that 7.62 rounds will still go through their armour. Of course, it takes about three missions before anyone they go up against can even get a shot off.
  • Operation Body Count. While most attacks will hit armor first, two enemies that start appearing in the first 10 levels will also damage your health directly regardless of armor: Giant rats and shock drones. The former has health damage reduced by the presence of armor, the latter completely bypasses it.
  • Yo-Jin-Bo: Nobody wears armor, except for Mon-Mon, who wears chain mail under his clothes. Which does save him from being stabbed in the back in one event, but the trope is played straight aside from that one instance.
  • In City of Heroes, your powers are completely divorced from your appearance, so armor really is useless. At least for protection, anyway. If you choose to wear armor, it's typically for conceptual reasons or looking cool.
  • In The Siege of Avalon Anthology, the action takes place in a castle under siege, which had run out of good quality steel months earlier. Consequently, the armor and weapons coming out of the armory are pretty much worthless—one soldier calls them "tin swords and paper armor," and one of your earlier optional quests is to locate a cache of steel in the ruins of the town outside (though you only get a sword, not armor, for completing it). The real determining factors of whether you survive are how many hit points you have, how quickly you heal, whether you heal yourself using magic (and how good you are at it), and how many hits you actually take. Even the enchanted armor you can pick up toward the end of the game is more useful for the enchantments than the armor they're attached to.
  • In Scribblenauts it is possible to create armor, helmets, shields, etc. but they don't make it any harder to die.
  • None of the possible PCs, or your companions for that matter, wear armor in Jade Empire, and it doesn't affect their defense at all, although amusingly several incorrect descriptions of you by enemies describe you wearing head-to-toe suits of armor.
  • Neverwinter Nights was based on the D&D ruleset, so armor was completely useless for around half of all possible characters at higher levels and only moderately useful for the other half.
    • Ditto Neverwinter Nights 2. At a certain level, you're wearing armor less for protection and more for the bonus effects from the enchantment on it.
  • Space Empires: Mostly averted in the series. It can have special effects, like damage regeneration, and armor-piercing weapons aren't very common.
  • In zOMG your character's appearance is fully independent of your stats, to allow for total character customization. However, this also means that no matter how cool that Mythrill Armor(sic) looks on you, or how badass you look with your giant axe, you can still get killed by a flamingo if you don't have rings. The opposite is true as well.
    • This is illustrated in the zOMG Manga, where a guard named Baldur is equipped with rare and expensive Mythrill Armor and an Ancient Katana, but is still taken out in one hit by a Buzz Saw. Conversely, Dani (Who is wearing Armor, but forgoes the chest plate) and Blaze (who isn't wearing armor at all, save for a small leather jacket) are much more effective fighters.
  • In Assassin's Creed, Assassinations, Hidden Blade Counter Attacks and Brotherhood's new Arrow Storm and Execution moves will one-shot anyone regardless of health. Also, the Captain from Brotherhood multiplayer is a One-Hit-Point Wonder despite wearing full plate. On the other hand, Ezio's damage-taking improves as he gets better armour and more heavily-armoured opponents are themselves harder to kill in a straight fight, with Borgia Captains (those that fight you anyway) and Papal Guards needing multiple Hidden Gun shots to kill. To add to this, the Armor of Altaïr saved Ezio from a nasty stabbing at the end of 2, while part of the Cesare fight is spent stripping off the boss's armour so he can be properly hurt.
    • They seem to be improving on that with the enemies, as in Revelations the Janissaries cannot be one-hit killed by the hidden blade.
  • Tyrian: Once your ship loses its shields, its own armor is what separates you from a very explosive death. On higher difficulties, even ships with the highest armor ratings will fall apart after about a dozen hits.
  • Ragnarok Online - upper end armors like full plate armor are comparatively little more powerful than lesser armors. While a character in full plate in most RPGs can get beat on all day (especially by 'trash' and low level monsters) and not feel it, RO characters in full plate take much more damage than the idea of full plate armor seems to indicate. It is true that armor is upgradeable and you can add 'cards' to the slots, it is ridiculous how little protection the best armors give warriors and tanks.
  • Deus Ex: straight in the first game. Armored soldiers from UNATCO and Majestic 12 have as many hit points as homeless bums. NSF terrorists are actually weaker.
  • An eroge RPG Lightning Warrior Raidy has an infamous "Spell" skill that does fixed damage no matter what kind of armor you're wearing. The stronger the armor late in-game you wear, the more of your speed and evasion are reduced. So people just end ups wearing mid-game armor and rely more on avoiding hits.
  • Double Subverted in Fallout 3. Normally armor does a pretty good job reducing damage. Then you go to Point Lookout, where the weapons automatically get a certain amount of free damage in. This means that a player who easily mows through Enclave soldiers and Super Mutants can get pwned by mutated rednecks with shotguns. The tricksy bit is, said armor-ignoring effect only happens when they're fired at YOU.
  • The improved graphics of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess reveal that Link wears chainmail under his trademark green tunic. But he takes exactly the same amount of damage from goblin attacks with the armor as he does without it in the prologue.
  • Averted in the multiplayer online game World of Tanks, that is all about armor. Highly armored vehicles take little or no damage when shot by much weaker vehicles. There are weaker spots in hulls or turrets, but that´s relative to the overall endurance of the vehicles, and only an appropriately powerful gun can truly exploit them. For example, a Tier IV Russian light tank like the A-20 could empty his ammo rack on a Tier IX Heavy like the IS-4, without causing serious damage.
  • Prototype 2 has a DLC Pack which includes an Armored form for Protagonist James Heller, as well as another that was used by Alex Mercer in the first one; both of them are merely skins, so you won't take any less damage using either one.
    • Averted for the first one, though; Armor Power does a number on your speed and mobility, but decreases the overall damage you'll take.

Web Comics

  • In Errant Story, weapons technology (guns, magic, Durus Flamma weaponry, etc.) has advanced significantly farther and faster than armor, making most armor relatively useless. Sarine comments on this when considering if she should get her damaged armor repaired, stating that most people don't even bother wearing armor any more because of it.
    • However Jon did have to fire pointblank in an armor-wearing elf's gut just in case.

Web Original


 Hopefully those guards have good armor / No they don't, maybe they do / They don't.


Western Animation

Real Life

  • A Cyclic Trope in regards to naval warfare. During the age of Wooden Ships and Iron Men, cannon fire could blast through anything that could float, so warships didn't bother with armor. Then came the era of ironclads, where cannon balls would bounce off armored hulls. This began an arms race between naval weapons and naval armor that saw both getting ever bigger and heavier. This pattern finally broke in World War II, when it became clear that heavily armored warships were not effective against serious airpower. Thus, ships were generally low on armor again... at least until the 1970s and 80s showed that then-modern destroyers were so unprotected that they would take catastrophic damage from things that WWII-era ships could just shrug off. So they began adding some protective armor back; for instance, the USS Cole (a 90s design) survived an explosion that would've destroyed a 70s-era Spruance-class destroyer.
    • The Soviet Navy feared the Iowa-class battleships above any other ships in the US fleet because of this. There is a story that they even nicknamed them the "Cockroach Battleships" because, when the Sovs ran simulations, they just wouldn't die.
  • Modern body armor, intended to stop bullets, is fairly defenseless against bladed weapons - the fiber weave is designed to stop (or at least slow) relatively blunt objects travelling at high speed, and can be cut or pierced by a sharp edge much like any other cloth. This has been a problem for some, such as prison guards, who wear Bullet Proof Vests as part of their standard equipment, but frequently face lower-tech threats than firearms. Stab vests, designed to protect against knives, have the opposite problem of offering no protection against bullets. Fortunately, most modern vest designs try to combine both protections in one way or another.
  • During World War I, armies experimented with chain mail and found that it actually made bullet wounds worse—it couldn't stop a bullet and the rings would shatter, shoving more shrapnel into the wound than if the bullet just hit an unarmoured person. However, when hung like a curtain, it proved surprisingly effective at stopping shrapnel, leading to terrifying items like the British splatter mask for tank crews.
  • Not the fault of the armor, but human psychology can make armor useless. People tend to react to increased safety by taking more risk, in an unconscious attempt to balance risk versus reward (riskier behavior is offset by safety equipment like armor, resulting in increased reward for the same amount of risk); this is called the Peltzman effect. The problem is that a) risky behavior may transfer the risk to Innocent Bystanders rather than the one wearing the safety equipment, and b) people are really bad at judging risk, meaning that instead of balancing out, safety equipment + risky behavior may actually be significantly more dangerous than no safety equipment + no risky behavior.
  1. and by extension Role Master
  2. Thus doing exactly what reasonable armor can be expected to do in real life; making what would have been fatalities into living casualties.