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, dehumanizing them so they make excellent Red Shirts and Mooks (not to mention that an entire army can be portrayed by a half dozen or so stuntmen). Related to this, quality armor (such as the plate suit that stamps someone as "medieval warrior" on sight) ought to be quite expensive; mooks might be looked at as issued cheap protection that only looks like elite armor. 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 hiddenBulletproof Vests usually work.)
See also The Law of Diminishing Defensive Effort, Armor-Piercing Attack, and Anti-Armor. 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. The best armor, of course, is Plot Armor. When armor isn't useless, but it limits speed, see Shed Armor, Gain Speed.
See also Tanks for Nothing, if the armour in question has treads and a gun on it.
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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.
Fate/Zero: The Black Knight Sir Lancelot supposedly wears armor of the highest quality, but due to his insanely high stats, a Noble Phantasm that allows him to wield anything like he was born to do so (including an F15 jet fighter, a gatling gun and a steel pole) makes it almost meaningless, as he is only hit once throughout the entire series (Excluding when Rider ran him over with his A+ Rank Noble Phantasm chariot, which he survived seemingly without any more damage than a few bruises). His armor is technically extremely powerful and very useful, but he doesn´t even need it because he´s so damned good.
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...
Mazinger Z tried to avert this trope. Mazinger's cockpit offered little protection, and in the first chapters, Kouji repeatedly got hurt and even knocked out because he fought in civilian clothes (and in the manga the villains were aware of that and tried to exploit it. In an early story, Baron Ashura commanded a Mechanical Beast to grab Mazinger, fly high and drop it, knowing -as Kouji did- that the freefall's impact would kill the pilot, even if Mazinger endured it). In order to avoid that, he began wearing a Latex Space Suit to protect his body during the fights. It was more protective than plain clothes, but he still got injured while wearing it.
On the other hand, New Mazinger averted this trope. Kabuto wore a Power Armor protected him efficiently during the whole story.
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.
Dragon Ball - Everybody who wore armor either got rid of it or died. 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. It's also 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 frequently, by everything from soldiers to giant mecha.
The armour on the Evangelion units protects the pilot but the list of damages is incredible. Broken skull-piece (Sachiel, #3), broken arm (ditto), pierced (Shamshel, #4; Armisael, #16), cut (Zeruel, #14), not to mention nearly turning its pilot into Kentucky Fried Shinji (Ramiel, #5; also aversion to Convection Schmonvection against Sandalphon, #11). Also, it can't do anything against psychic attacks at all. Poor Asuka ... The armor's true purpose is to weaken and keep 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 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 soldiers' vest were 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.
Eventually subverted in a flashback story from Guts' lone mercenary days before he met the Hawks: A certain king wants his son to kill his first man in single combat before he goes to war and chooses Guts for the honor of being killed. During the fight Guts tries to stab through a weak point in the boy's full plate armor, but it is revealed to be an expensively-made Armor of Invincibility and totally blunts the edge of Guts' sword. It is hinted that Guts might have pulled it off if he hadn't been weakened by captivity, but luckily he remembers a special technique that Gambino had taught him for throwing an armored man to the ground.
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.
Wolfs 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.
Justified, in that the armor was intended to protect agains the attacks of other human beings instead of an extinct animal.
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 battered 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. (Or, as Char demonstrated, no amount of armor will protect you from a sudden and violent change in acceleration.) 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 sustained exposure 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.
Reaches a head in Crossbone Gundam, where it turns out that while regular armor (that is, built onto a Mobile Suit as a standard feature) won't do jack against beam weaponry, ablative armor works just fine, and the Anti-Beam Coating mantles the Crossbone Gundams use means they can charge in as they please. (The Crossbones were designed on the principle that Mobile Suits of this time focused on evading and defending against long-range beam attacks, with beam shields in common use, and were thus rather inept at close-in or melee beam attacks.)
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 Gundam ZZ 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 RobotechingWave 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 first three Hokages), some wear what appears to be chainmail underarmor (Naruto, Jiraiya, Anko), the vests/jackets most ninja wear is ostensibly supposed to be a form of armor (looking a lot like the type of flak vests used by soldiers before bullet-resistant vests were invented). They have only ever been shown to be useful on three occasions:
A sand jounin survived a neck shot with a sword because his flack jacket's high collar absorbed the strike and trapped the blade. He then counter attacked with a wind blade that sliced through armor.
Hinata's chainmail underarmor saved her life when Pain tried to stab her in the heart with a spike, though she did require some healing.
A samurai being consumed in Amaterasu fire was saved by having his armor 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 Tousen, another captain who had become a Vizard, and that put a graze on his arm.
Exaggerated in the Vandenreich arc, where Komamura's Deadly Upgrade causes his Bankai to shed its armor... and makes it completely indestructible.
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.
Subverted in the last episode of Noir, where a Soldat nun charges at the titular duo with a broadsword and proves to be horribly difficult to kill because of the armored breast plate she's wearing, and while she clearly feels the impact of the shots she keeps charging at them and finally has to be taken down with a knife to her neck, which wasn't armored.
Fairy Tail: Despite being armor-equipping being her primary magic, Erza later in the manga seems to do much better the less armor she equips, as her stronger opponents tend to break through them very easily.
Gamaran: Armors (usually chainmails) are pretty effective against swords, but more often than not, the sword users (99% of the times, Ogame Ryu Members) will find a way to pierce the mail anyway. In Iori's case, is because he's so powerful that even his slashes can break a chainmail.
Katanagatari: Subverted in at least one case - one of the Deviant Blades is a suit of armor that is not only impenetrable, but actually designed to defeat techniques specifically designed to penetrate armor. It's only defeated by the hero getting creative.
In ElfQuest, 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.
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, noting that he might as well work in comfort, since the suit won't save him from a blast that big. The armor's weaknesses are demonstrated at the start of the film when the Decoy Protagonist is in full armor and running away from the bomb when it detonates, but is still killed by the blast. Also inverted; wearing the armor does save one life in the course of the film.
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 The Two Towers, Aragorn wears a chain mail hauberk while Legolas has only bracers and leather paldrons. In this same battle, Théoden, 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 chainmail 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, as Gimli had to hit him twice to take him down.
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Merry and Pippin take several heavily armored Uruk-hai down by throwing rocks at their heavily armored heads. note Sort of Truth in Television, as medieval helmets, on their own, offer limited protection against blunt-force blows - the helmet prevents cutting edges from making a mess of your head, but without some form of shock-absorbing padding it does next to nothing to mitigate the effects of a few pounds of steel (or rock) smacking into it at speed.
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...
Many people make fun of the Stormtroopers' full body armor, which does not seem to protect them hits by blasters 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 and Imperial officers 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. In addition, after a few battle scenes, Stormtroopers who got hit directly by blasters (at rather close range) do indeed get up; they're wounded and have to be helped by teammates, but alive. The same doesn't apply for the unarmored rebels. Stormtrooper armor also seems to resist penetration from arrows and absorb the impact of rocks on Endor (though the wearersstillwent down anyway). Other sources state the armour should still absorb most of the impact from a bolt if it fails to avoid penetration. Despite this, the armour is never actually shown stopping anything visible.
One plausible fan explanation is that stormtrooper armor is about as effective as a bulletproof vest in real life—getting shot while wearing it hurts like hell and may break some ribs or cause you to fall over from shock, but at least it'll save your life. The camera doesn't linger on shot stormtroopers, so for all we know they could be getting to their feet a few minutes later and limping off to the medic. While I'm at it, armor designed to absorb/dissipate energy bolts while remaining lightweight and long-wearing might not be equipped with heavy plating and padding to stop rocks, sticks, and knives.
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.
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. Presumably they weren't properly trained in its use, which the men guarding the Death Star presumably are.
In the EU, stormtrooper armor usually works better. In Rogue Squadron, Corran Horn credits the stolen armor he was wearing with saving his life after he gets shot (he spends a week in a bacta tank, but believes he would have been dead without the armor). The armor is also shown to be basically impervious to kinetic penetrators in the Young Jedi Knights series: a metal spear is thrown at an armored character hard enough to lift him completely off his feet and throw him a few meters backward into a wall. The armor comes out with a small nick; the character is sore but otherwise unharmed.
Then there's Mandalorian battle armour, which, depending on who's writing, can be anywhere from slightly more effective than Stormtrooper armour to being virtually impervious to lightsabers. Considering the Mandalorians' long history of fighting Jedi, that second part can be justified as they found one of three materials in the universe that can withstand lightsabers.
This part is justified in universe as Mandalorians of different era wear armor made out of different materials. The heavy armor that is lightsaber resistant tends to be very heavy armor whereas the mass produced armor likely IS made out of the same materials stormtroopers use, but is much cheaper and highly mobile.
Fighter Deflector Shields also qualify. 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. There's a partial justification for this in A New Hope, where they're told to switch their deflectors on "double front". As anyone who played X-Wing or its successors will point out, this dumps all your shields forward, leaving your rear uncovered. The problem is that this explanation falls utterly flat in light of the other films.
Played straight in 300, which mimics the bare-chested Spartan battle outfit found in Frank Miller's graphic novel.
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 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.
In Dredd, Judge armor can't even seem to stop a pistol round, much less anything else. Dredd himself gets hit with an armor-piercing round which would logically go through, but his partner get hits with the pistol.
Earlier, Dredd rebukes the rookie about her leaving her helmet on her bike instead of on her head. She replies that the helmet makes it difficult to use her Psychic Powers. Dredd replies that a bullet to the head would make that difficult too. Given how ineffective their armor is, it's unlikely their helmets would be much better. For his part, Dredd never takes his helmet off, as a nod to the comic, unlike the film Judge Dredd.
In Iron Man 3 Extremis-enhanced soldiers cut through Tony's armors like butter, as their bare hands can generate heat of up to 3000 degrees Celsius.
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.
Mostly Averted in The Dresden Files. Armor, especially iron and spelled armor like Harry's many trenchcoats, are extremely useful and Harry and co wear them even when it's extremely uncomfortable - and it saves their lives many times over.
Once, Michael's steel and ceramic plate armor layered with kevlar actually hurt him - the bullet had enough velocity to get in, but not out, and shredded his insides. He survived, but barely.
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.
A number of other Warhammer 40,000 novels fall back on playing it straight, especially the Horus Heresy series (where hundreds of power armoured supermen get cut down by necessity, usually by guns that wouldn't actually penetrate the armour in the game itself) but notable exceptions are skirmishes in the Abnett Eisenhorn and Ravenor series, where even basic armour is a major obstacle to the protagonists, and Ciaphas Cainnote HERO OF THE IMPERIUM who has his life saved on several occasions by his battered set of misappropriated carapace armour.
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 the left hand issues 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.
Funnily enough, a full suit of riding armor incorporates quite a bit of chain, is about as heavy as a full chainmail and is easier to remove under water than chainmail. If we were looking at normal plate, it would be lighter than chain, and way easier to remove. Removing chain is about pulling it a bit over your head, and wriggling out of it, while gravity pulls it down, which is way harder to do underwater than to cut the straps of the plate parts that hinder swimming.
To Khalad's assertion that he could create a crossbow capable of firing a bolt several miles, Vanion shakes his head and forsees the obsolescence of the knight in full armour.
A literal case happens at the end of the Elenium, when they encounter several undead Zemochian knights. The Zemochians have never understood that armor is supposed to protect you, and assume it's there for intimidation purposes only - so they wear Scary Impractical Armor that hinders their movement and has countless weak and blind spots, and with spikes that threaten to cut or impale the wearer if they make a wrong move.
Played with: Adus' armor, which might have saved him if it had ever been fitted to him. As it was, there were more than enough unarmored gaps for Talen's dagger to slide through. (Whether Adus had sufficient brainpower to put armor pieces on correctly is another question.)
Also played with in the final confrontation between Sparhawk and Martel. Martel's armour is very far from useless, but it's style and ornamentation make it far heavier than the suit worn by Sparhawk, and causes Martel to lose his wind quickly.
In the Wheel of Time, many characters forgo armor either because they fight with magic, or because they're trained swordsmen, not soldiers, and the armor would only slow them down. Besides them, this trope is largely averted for mundane weapons. Though obviously magic fireballs and lightning aren't terribly impeded by steel.
A Song of Ice and Fire takes this trope, plays it straight, subverts it, and does everything in-between. Characters survive from armor's protection, die from it's weight, and have to calculate how much armor to use along with how it's advantages and disadvantage apply to a certain situation.
Victarion Greyjoy uses the advantage of armor to it's full effect whilst fighting out at sea. When boarding any enemy vessel he notes most forgo heavy plate for fear of drowning should they fall into the sea. Victarion has no such fear. Notably it's only when he encounters another warrior brave enough to dawn armor like himself, something Victarion respects, does he find a challenge.
Prince Oberyn Martell only wears light armor when facing "The Mountain", Ser Gregor Clegane, in a Trial by Combat. This is actually a sound strategy given armor wouldn't be all that useful against the ridiculous brute force of his opponent. Instead the Red Viper opts uses his superior speed to his advantage. Whilst he inflicts mortal wounds on the Mountain, the Prince lets his guard down and is killed nonetheless. This is basically the same strategy used, with rather more success, by Bronn during Tyrion's Trial by Combat in the Eyrie.
The Once and Future King sometimes plays it straight, such as when Lancelot kills Agravain, but usually inverts this. When fighting unarmoured peasants on the battlefield, being an armoured knight is like using an invincibility hack. White includes one passage where a knight was none the worse for wear from being unhorsed and mobbed by spearmen. Indeed, after his comrades rescued him, it was actually found that he fought better because now he had lost his temper.
Subverted in The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron. Armor is one of the few things that mankind has to protect them against the forces of the Wild. More than once, a man's life is saved solely due to the fact that he is wearing armor... or dies painfully because he was not. The most telling example is of a Hold the Line situation where a single man in medium armor is forced to hold a breached gate against an incoming swarm of boglins. The armored man takes many blows during the battle, but since boglins are armed with only stone weaponry and have no strategy asides from Zerg Rush, which isn't very useful in an extremely narrow area, he's able to hold them off for quite some time. One unarmored man jumps in and tries to help him, and within three seconds, the man who jumped in is injured, grabbed by boglins, pulled into the onrushing mass, and is eaten alive.
Subverted in Star Wars Expanded Universe series New Jedi Order: Yuuzhan Vong armor is incredibly tough, they can with stand blaster fire, and even lightsabers. How ever the Vong aren't always full armored and the regular Mooks don't wear helmets.
Justified in Sergey Lukyanenko's A Lord from Planet Earth with the planarswords being the main weapon of combat. The blade can cut through anything without slowing down with Like Cannot Cut Like completely averted (swordfighting techniques are focused on avoiding getting your own blade cut while timing your strikes to cut the opponent's blade). Combatants can wear special armor, but even that can't prevent a blade that sharp from cutting. The main goal of the armor is to harden at the point of the cut in order to allow the wound to heal (which takes about 3 seconds given how fine it is). A wound to the heart, though, can never heal, as the heart beating will expand the tiny cut into a gaping hole. An additional effect of the armor hardening is to try to hold the sides of the blade, keeping the opponent from moving it. The protagonist accidentally figures out how to defeat the latter function, killing the Big Bad of the first novel in the process in a gruesome fashion.
In the third novel, the protagonist dons an advanced nano-armor that can take any hit and will protect the wearer and self-repair (being composed of nanites). However, the nano-armor still can't stop a planar blade, although it, presumably, can function like the normal dueling armor. When the protagonist faces off against his Fang counterpart wearing their equivalent of the armor, the two armors destroy each other nanite-by-nanite.
Subverted and Played With in The Stormlight Archive, where knights wear Shardplate, magitek Powered Armor capable of shrugging off anything short of a Shardblade or sustained attacks by almost entire armies. Two knights equipped with full Plate and Blades are able to survive against an army that outnumbered their own greatly for the better part of a day, albeit with horrific casualties among their more conventionally armored allies.
Live Action TV
Stargate SG-1 featured all kinds of armor, almost 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.
Also averted with Anubis' Kull Warriors, whose armour was friggin' invincible to pretty much all the conventional weapons the Tau'ri could bring to bear, even heavy explosives.
Ori warriors also wear armor that appears to be more for show. Then again, it's not clear how that armor faces against energy weapons, as we mostly see it fail spectacularly against P90s. Of course, the Ori hardly concern themselves about the lives of their worshipers.
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). It's only in their leaner modes that they can move at hyper-speeds, too, and not having anybody who could counter the monsters' ability to do that themselves was why ZECT was losing so badly before the Riders started seeing action.
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.
Averted in Firefly. In the pilot, Zoe wears a bulletproof vest to the meeting with Patience, expecting violence to ensue. When it inevitably does, she takes a bullet to the chest and is knocked flat and apparently unconscious for a couple minutes, but is otherwise unwounded. In the movie, the Operative likewise wears full body armor to his meeting with Mal, and it likewise saves his life when Mal loses his temper.
Seemingly played straight in the flashback to the Unification War in the pilot when Mal shoots an armored Alliance soldier. Under closer analysis it's muddier: Mal fired several shots before the guy fell over, and he was using a full size assault rifle. Also, given that the Alliance equips its troops with body armor as a matter of course, Mal's rifle could have been loaded with armor-piercing rounds. Or the guy might have been knocked unconscious by the impact without the bullets penetrating.
While normally played straight in Andromeda (with personnel armor, that is, starship armor works just fine), Gennite soldirs have "photo-reactive" armor that is show to be quite resistant to handheld weapons.
One episode also mentions that most handheld weapons use guided projectiles. Thus, they can be fooled by special bracelets that throw up interference.
considering every weapon is some kind of plasma, laser, or coil gun, armor generally seems useless. the Electromagnetic Bracelets are used as an excuse for some defense.
Nietzschean bone blades (which grow out of their forearms) can also go right through armor. This is similar to Real Life cases of bulletproof vests being incapable of stopping a blade.
On Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Roman soldiers in full armor seem, if anything, more hindered when fighting against nearly-naked rebel gladiators. In one instance Spartacus even knocks a helmeted soldier unconscious using another soldier's helmet! The rebels meticulously collect any weapons they can from fallen soldiers, but never bother with their armor or helmets, presumably because they did not do their deceased wearers any good.
Another reason would be that, in the heat of battle, you wouldn't want to be wearing the enemy's uniform. The rebels do start wearing more castoff and modified Roman armor as the series progresses, especially in War of the Damned.
Averted in Game of Thrones when Jorah Mormont, wearing plate armor, fights against a more agile but unarmored Dothraki warrior. The Dothraki lands a blow but his sword gets stuck in Mormont's armor and doesn't hurt him; Mormont uses that moment to kill the Dothraki.
It's a gimmie that the Sheriff's men in any series of Robin Hood will be issued with almost completely unarrowproof armour. In the creators defence, the mooks are often shown with what a well equipped soldier in the reign of King Richard might wear. It's just that the outlaw's longbows shouldn't be around for another hundred years or so.
Averted in season 3 of Breaking Bad when the Cousins use bullet proof vests in their mission to kill Hank. One of them takes several handgun bullets to the chest and walks away unharmed. Too bad it didn't cover his head.
In BIONICLE, armor is mostly a part of the characters' anatomy, but unless it's explicitly made of some super-rare and super-strong material (like protosteel), or is somehow connected to their powers, does little to protect their wearers during battle. This is because there rarely is any physical combat, most of the attacks are based on powers that make protective armor not only useless, but at times disadvantageous. And even so, the armor almost always leaves many fleshy bits uncovered. But even when armor does prove useful, there usually is some contrived story reason why they have to take it off (such as with the Exo-Toa mechs that blocked the users' powers). In a nutshell: armor is essential for day-to-day life, but doesn't do much during battle. This is however averted in the Bara Magna storyline, where the fights are physical and armor is very important.
In Dungeons & 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.
At the very high levels, a character who wears no armor (and uses Dex or Int to boost AC) will eventually outpace the heavily-armored characters. Various fixes have been created and proposed to fix this issue.
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.
Which is truth in television, as any armor is not designed for comfort at the best of times and is downright uncomfortable when lying down. You don't sleep well wearing it.
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.
Pathfinder also published the "NPC Codex", which provides official stats for the game's iconic characters. With her spells running, Seoni (the sorceress in the slinky red dress) officially has a better armor class than any of the heavy-armor wearing melee characters.
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 40,000 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 40,000. 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.
the Imperial Guard are intentionally a Redshirt Army, so they follow several tropes of skilled and decently equipped soldiers being useless. Medium and high levels of armor provide good protection, but light armor is penetrated by the basic weapons, not to mention heavy and armor piercing ones.
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 7th 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 MERPnote and by extension ''Rolemaster, 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!
Discussed in the Fate Core System, which by default assigns no special bonuses to either weapons or armor; mechanically, combat is resolved simply using skills, stunts, and aspects just like any other type of conflict. The point is brought up that if one does make some types of weapons and armor better than others strictly in game terms — and there's explicitly nothing preventing any given GM from doing so —, then player characters will naturally gravitate towards wanting the best, NPCs (at least the important ones) will have to compensate to not get slaughtered in droves themselves, and it's potentially easy to end up with a game that ends up playing out just the same way it would if it didn't bother with the modifiers in the first place, only with less variety in terms of "useful" equipment. (Which is, of course, a plausible enough outcome, just not necessarily the most entertaining one.)
In early editions, armor was practically pointless in Mechwarrior, the RPG spinoff of BattleTech. The only armor that existed with any regularity was the flak jacket, armored flak suit, and anti-laser ablative armor. Statistically, any of those armors would stop, on average, three shots from the weapon type they are designed to resist (ballistic weapons and lasers, respectively) and nothing from everything else. It also only protected a limited portion of the body (the flak suit being the exception—covering more of the body and providing a bit more protection, but degrading more quickly due to it being constantly hit). This meant that your rare and highly expensive laser-absorbing armor could be bashed to pieces by a thug with a tree branch and there was nothing you could do about it, and none of this was much good if your characters were called on to fight vehicles or 'Mechs. Later editions of the game improved this somewhat, but it was only after the advent of the revised second edition that Mechwarrior characters finally had a modicum of protection to call on.
In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: 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.
In addition to the above, in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim armor will never block more than 80% of the damage dealt. If you max out your heavy armor skill tree, it's possible to reach this cap wearing nothing more advanced than steel.
Skyrim Armor also depends on the level of smithing and which skill tree you invested in. If you are a master smith, alchemist, and trained in the use of light armor, it's very well that a set of simple reinforced leather is actually stronger for you than even something made from dragon bones, or ebony metal (which is crystallised gods' blood) forged with demon hearts.
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.
However, in the first game you do get to equip a Big Daddy diving suit, which, unlike in Bioshock 2, does reduce the damage you take. You still aren't invincible though.
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").
Averted in Sabres Of Infinity with Banehardened armor, which, while incredibly expensive, renders the wearer extremely effective protection against conventional weapons.
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.
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 actually 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 Radiant Dawn, full plate wearing Meg's defenses are lower than the breastplate, helmet and shield wearing Aran (although Meg has a higher defense cap, but her growths are so poor she will almost never reach it)
Still, characters and classes featured with heavy armor tend to have a higher Defense base, growth, and cap.
The exception to the above rule is Jagen from the first game, who has a 0% defense growth despite wearing his famous purple armor.
Exists but to a lesser degree in the Monster Hunter series. While armor is both useful and effective, the trope comes into play in terms of how you'll commonly use them. The good armor is made from killing the monster the armor set comes from many times to get loot used to make it. The problem is that the armor tends to be most resistant to the element said monster uses. Say you kill a monster with electric powers over and over again, you've now made armor most effective in defending against the very monster you now never need to see again. While the armor can still help if there's ANOTHER monster of that element you have trouble with, this still heavily contrasts with crafting weapons which do the opposite (are less effective against the monster you were grinding with and more effective on some other monster).
When it comes to offering damage protection from monster attacks, most armors in Monster Hunter games are horrible when faced with monsters of the same rank. You got armor with high elemental resistance and high raw defense? Yeah that's great, instead of being killed in 1-2 hits now you can take about 3 (maybe 4!) hits before dying.
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 later in the game. 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, [coughs] but I wouldn't be able to see snipers so well, would I?"'' Marcus Cool it 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 "Sonic The Hedge Hog 2006 the first Iblis boss battle with Silver requires you to throw rocks a Iblis's ARMORED HEAD!
In Mount & 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: UFO Defense 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 occasionally 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.note Thus doing exactly what reasonable armor can be expected to do in real life; making what would have been fatalities into living casualties. 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.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the 2012 reboot of X-Com, plays Body Armor As Hitpoints, and it does improve your operatives's survivability in battle as long as you take care to avoid getting exposed to flanking attacks, as critical hits will still hurt like crazy. In some cases, the armor can even help your operatives avoid being hospitalized in the medical bay for days or even weeks if the damage they suffered is less than the bonus health provided by the armor. Furthermore, the advanced suits of armor all possess unique abilities that give your operatives other benefits besides protection from weapons fire.
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 roll 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 Red Shirt 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...
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.
Not counting armor (or shields) provided by your powers, which work and do provide protection when in use. Although there aren't many powers that really produce material armor instead of auras of some sort, and you'll still get something like being temporarily covered in ice or granite instead of plate mail or a flak jacket out of them.
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.
Fallout: New Vegas changes the armor calculations from being percentile to being additive, and if you don't exceed somethings armor rating you only do Scratch Damage. It's played straight or averted depending on where you are in the game: higher enemy damage makes armor progressively less helpful, and all energy weapons ignore some by default anyway (although one Perk makes metal armor more potent against energy weapons). Any of the various infinity plus one armors, however, do greatly increase your survivability, and the wearables with stat boosts but poor defense are highlysituational.
It does get double subverted on the highest difficulty, and against the most powerful enemies. Basically, they're going to kill you in either 1 or 2 hits, and no armor you wear will help with that. Worse, if they make you slower then lighter equipment. Most of the DLC enemies and some of the main game enemies also scale to the player's Experience level. On the vice versa, your offensive capacity ALSO skyrockets so everyone is basically a Glass Cannon.
The Giant Rats/Rodents of Unusual Size in Broc Flower Cave, with their saber-like gnawing teeth, especially on higher difficulties, hit hard enough to kill a Courier in two hits at the level where they may first find the cave, regardless of the armor they have procured.
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.
Not a very obvious example, but basically everybody in every Halo game. Energy shields are pretty much the only real defense anybody has (Elites, Spartans, Jackals) in each game, and a unit not having a personal shield, or having its shield down, is practically synonymous with "defenseless," despite all units (Covenant, Human, whatever) being heavily armored. Not even Spartans, with their supposedly incredibly advanced tailored-specifically-for-Spartan painstakingly-manufactured cutting-edge-armor, can survive one single shot to the head from a basic pistol in any game, or more than just a couple shots to the body from almost any other weapon in any game. Even though most weapons in the universe are admittedly pretty advanced, it's appalling how useless armor is, when it should be equally advanced, really.
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.
Averted in Dwarf Fortress, up to a point; any stabbing or slashing attack that fails the armour check is re-rolled for bludgeoning damage, which plate armour or chainmail do very little to protect against. Broken ribs are definitely preferable to getting run through with a sword, however.
One straight example is that the current version's armor is remarkably vulnerable to Annoying Arrows, with weak-material arrows reliably piercing anything up to adamantine. The only exceptions are that wood or bone arrows/bolts are still liable to deflect off any metal armor, and adamantine armor is immune to adamantine projectiles yet vulnerable to any other metal arrow or bolt.
Averted in Team Fortress 2 with the Heavy and Demoman, who wear black ballistic vests and have the highest amount of health of all the classes (300 and 175 HP respectively) (aside from the Soldier, who has 200).
Averted in the third Max Payne, where armoured paramilitaries and Dirty Cops are noticeably harder to kill than unprotected favela gangbangers or mobsters. The extreme of this are the thankfully rare Heavily Armored Mooks that are Immune to Bullets centre mass and can only be killed with headshots. It's especially obvious when Max goes to the UFE HQ and fights both the armoured frontliners and the unarmoured desk jockeys; the latter are much easier to kill.
Then with later game updates, adaptive armor was added, which are really just Impossibly Cool Clothes. Since armor rating is based off the mods added to them, and adaptive armor sets could accept any mods, this allows players to disassemble hyper-advanced Power Armor, put the components in a flashy robe or jacket, and get the exact same ratings. Now, the servers are filled with Jedi running around in Leia's stripper outfit and Troopers relying only on their well-toned abs for chest protection, with equal chances of winning against better-armed (and outfitted) opponents.
We don't know enough about Pillars of Eternity's game mechanics yet to say one way or the other whether this is true in general, but the lore does speak of an unusual subversion. The primitive black powder muskets of the setting are effective at piercing wizards' spell shields at close range, so wizards have turned to bulletproof plating as a defense against gunslingers.
Played straight (at least after you become a Jedi) in Knights of the Old Republic, where the main character wearing armor actually makes Force powers unusable, making it necessary to downgrade from heavy combat vests to the simple robes of a Jedi. The sequel introduces a few types of armor designed for Force-users that lack this restriction, although they're only available as random loot.
Played realistically straight in 7.62 High Caliber. Combat is extremely lethal and even the weakest pistol in the game can cause fatal damage with two or three shots to the chest. Armor, like in real life, only provides a token amount of damage resistance, enough for several assault rifle rounds at the most; ceramic and titanium plates can be inserted for improved protection in certain vests, but they can be broken completely by enough damage and have to be replaced. Even worse, helmets and bulletproof vests only protect the head and torso respectively, so any shots not to those areas get no damage resistance (unless you turn on an option on the difficulty settings). And armor piercing ammo (or powerful cartridges) tend to just slice through that armor anyway, so it'll usually only provide just enough protection to escape immediate death and run for cover. As in real life, the best defense is to not get shot.
The only reason why Sora wears armor in Space Paranoids is to blend in. Of course, the armor happens to be his magical clothes in a different shape, and he can still use his Drive Forms; his circuits change color to match each form, from red to blue to yellow.
Completely played straight with his and Riku's armor for The Grid. Their armor's only purpose here is to hold their Identity Discs and, in Sora's case, his Recusant's Sigil; in Riku's case, his Spirit Dream Eater symbol.
In StarCraft I each point of armor translates to one point less damage taken from each attack. Given how little armor units have and the rate most units attack or do damage, this really doesn't make an appreciable difference.
Not entirely invoked because while armor typically does very little to reduce the damage of a Siege Tank which typically does a whopping 70 damage it matters little if you reduce the damage by a few points. But take a Terran Marine which typically does 6 points of damage and send him up against a fully upgraded Battlecruiser which will have 6 points of armor and the marine will do little to no damage.
In the Syphon Filter series starting with the second game, certain enemies deliver headshots that One-Hit Kill regardless of armor condition. Explosions fire, and certain high-power guns also ignore armor. In the fourth game, there are thugs that wear both flak jackets and helmets, but still die from a single headshot.
In the Total War series, whether armored troops are useful depends on both how you use them and what they're up against. Heavy knights on foot or on horseback can tear into light infantry with minimal losses and wade through heavy arrow barrages with limited casualties, but horse-mounted knights are still very vulnerable to pikemen and spears even with all their armor and barding. Dismounted heavily-armored troops are also vulnerable to cavalry charges unless they have their own spears, since all that armor won't help when a lance-wielding knight in full plate charges you on the back of a furious destrier. Heavy armor can also be a drawback when fighting certain heavy infantry types like Venetian Hammers, who deal massive bonus damage to heavily-armored units.
Partly true in Galactic Civilization II, given that armor is one of the three types of defenses you can install on ships, the other two being Deflector Shields and anti-missile systems. Basically, each type of defense is a good counter only for a specific type of weapon. Armor is good against kinetic projectiles, shields are good against energy weapons, and anti-missile systems are (obviously) good against missiles. Against any other type of weapon, their effect is reduced to the square root of the value. So, armor with a defense rating of 9 will only provide 3 defense points against lasers or missiles.
Boktai2 had armor available to the main character which does offer a miniscule defense increase, but also decreases his movement speed based on it's weight. Players very quickly learn they're better off playing as an armor-less Fragile Speedster that is quick enough to dodge and outrun enemies and with a curative item or two on standby, rather than a slow-as-molasses character that's still a Glass Cannon.
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.
In Exterminatus Now, the main characters don't bother to wear armor when assaulting a facility infested with demons. Since the only real defense against a demon is to not get hit at all, armor would only slow them down.
In Orion's Arm early space warfare is described as being like playing hide-and-seek with bazookas.
Hopefully those guards have good armor / No they don't, maybe they do / They don't.
In Futurama, Bender's Big Score, the head nudist scammer informs the cast that he was wearing a doom proof vest — then dolefully repents that he wasn't wearing doom-proof pants.
Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century: Duck Dodgers plays this trope straight in his first confrontation with Marvin the Martian. Marvin threatens him with disintegration-ray. He smugly announces in an Aside Comment that he is wearing a disintegration-proof vest, and indeed he is; Dodgers dares him to shoot, and Marvin does so. Dodgers disintegrates. The completely undamaged vest hangs in mid-air for a moment before plopping onto the pile of Dodger's ashes.
During some battles, Greek hoplites did not have torso armor and relied on their huge shield - hoplon - for protection. Note: They did have normal clothes, and likely also had skirts which served as a part of armor.
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, and especially The Falklands War 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.
...which means the battleship could well make a comeback if only they weren't so awfully expensive. That is the reason why the USN kept the Iowa class battleships in operational service for over sixty years. Had the Royal Navy retained HMS Vanguard or the KGV class battleships, The Falklands War could have taken completely another course and been a completely one-sided Curb-Stomp Battle as the Argentinians would have had nothing to counter them.
The problem with battleship armor was that (since just armoring the whole ship equally would have made it unreasonably heavy) it was optimized to protect against incoming shells, and there primarily those coming in on relatively low angles and hitting the sides. High-angle shots and bombs would hit the thinner deck armor, and torpedoes would just hit below the armored belt in the first place (indeed, the original purpose of destroyers, all the way back to before World War One was to serve specifically as torpedo boat destroyers to help protect the vulnerable battleships against just such attacks). These weaknesses were never truly eliminated, and since gunfire is at best a secondary threat on the modern naval battlefield to begin with the main defensive benefit of a hypothetical 'modern' battleship would be its sheer size — which doesn't really justify the expense.
A similar effect ended up going into the use of anti-torpedo technology. At their advent, ships used Torpedo nets to "catch" torpedoes and explode them further from the hull to reduce damage. This stopped working after WWI when Torpedoes became fast enough to penetrate Torpedo nets. So designers came up with the anti-torpedo bulge, an additional section of the hull with absolutely no purpose other then to be destroyed by torpedoes in lieu of a hull breach. Eventually, torpedoes became guided, being able to explode under the ship. Now a days there is literally no defense against torpedo attacks from modern submarines.
Not entirely true. The VA-111 Shkval supercavitating torpedo was designed as an anti-torpedo weapon. However, there are some operational problems, given that the oxidiser for the rocket motor consists of over a ton of concentrated hydrogen peroxide......
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 Bulletproof 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. However, making protection against rifle shots is often expensive— US Army Interceptor armor by itself cannot stop rifle bullets, and heavier body armor is often inflexible and heavy.
Before armor tech began to catch up, armor, such as kevlar would only protect a person from having bullets penetrate the wearer unless it was in several layers. Most of the kinetic force would still hit the person, and the blunt impact could still injure or kill the wearer. Since this kind of armor is cheaper to produce than military grade armor, it is still in use today.
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.
The battlefield behavior of medieval knights sometimes appeared to confirm this. Knightly armor, especially full plate armor which developed in the 14th century, was actually quite effective and useful. Not only did it offer more protection against arrows, swords, and lances than anything else available, but it was much more light and flexible than most modern people realize. The problem was that bodies of knights were often so eager to come to grips with the enemy—both for glory and to capture loot and ransoms—that they would sometimes decide to charge against a highly prepared, dug-in enemy line without waiting for their own crossbowmen and infantry to soften up the enemy enough for a cavalry charge to have a chance of breaking through. In the worst case such recklessness could lead to a bloody defeat, and the slaughter of mounted knights at Courtrai in 1302 and Crecy in 1346 may have been partly due to the French cavalry's overconfidence in possessing better armor than their opponents.
This was brought up on QI - The safest place to fix a large, sharp spike into a car was right in the middle of the steering wheel. Drivers are so used to a cocoon of airbags and crumple zones that they take more risks when driving, often to the detriment of those around them. This isn't so much Armor Is Useless for the driver so much as the driver's armour for any unfortunate sod in the way.
Though not technically for "combat" but still a form of battle, protective gear in full-contact sports has spurred similar discussions. In games like American Football or Hockey, the response to improvements in padding and helmets was to simply hit harder. Concussions and neurospinal injuries now plague both sports to a startling degree in comparison to their early years.
Additional protection also introduced additional risks in boxing. In the bare-knuckle days a blow to your opponent's head would damage your hands too much to be viable, but now boxing gloves protect the hands these blows have become a lot more popular, meaning both fighters are at risk of more serious injuries.
Bomb-disposal technicians have to weigh the odds that protective armor suits will actually shield them from injury against the degree to which it may impede their vision and movement. If an explosive device is deemed sufficiently powerful that armor can't possibly help, and robots aren't an option, a brave technician may forego armor to free up their hands to work (and allow them to run like hell if the attempt to deactivate it proves futile).