troperville

tools

toys

Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Scary Impractical Armor
Even the Avatar cannot stand up to it... nor in it.

"I am a monster truck that walks like a man!"
Yahtzee, Zero Punctuation, "Darksiders review"

Armor with loads of flashy things that look intimidating, but it often looks more useful than it actually is. It has loads of Spikes of Villainy, Shoulders of Doom, and often some skulls. If there is headgear, expect to to be a Rage Helm unless the bearer is a main character.

Armor that is meant to be scary exists in Real Life (albeit as more of a side benefit), but this just overloads it, to the point where someone actually wearing this would be... overloaded. In short, this is almost always Impossibly Cool Clothes.

Animated Armor made from this kind of suit of course has none of the mobility problems a human would have, probably due to lacking any structure without the armor to begin with. A Wizard Did It indeed. Similarly made more plausible by Powered Armor in sci-fi settings.

Sometimes an Evil Overlord will wear this even when not in battle, which creates a variation of Ermine Cape Effect. Many of these are also Tin Tyrants. Bonus points if said armor comes with a High Collar of Doom.

Cursed variations may become a highly impractical Clingy Costume.

Compare 24-Hour Armor, Bling of War, Impractically Fancy Outfit, Impossibly Cool Weapon, Breast Plate, Stylish Protection Gear, Battle Ballgown.

Compare/Contrast Pimped-Out Dress.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Barry the Chopper from Fullmetal Alchemist is an Animated Armor that looks like this, complete with skull-like helmet.
    • So is Al; he has spikes all over the place even on the joints. The way his chest bulges out seems impractical but it's probably supposed to be an exaggerated sort of sloped armor.
    • Some armor had the wedge on the breastplate for better deflection.
      • Luckily for them they don't have to worry much about weight and self-injury, for they are the armor.
  • In Dai no Daibouken, Dai buys an impossibly cool armor which turns out to be horribly impractical. He ends up throwing half of it away so it fits better.
    • The armor itself is normal. The problem is that Dai is a Kid Hero who is about a head and a half shorter than the regular cast, trying to equip adult-sized armor.
  • Saint Seiya progressively becomes like this. In the final parts of the series, we see stuff like this. Must be noted that even the weakest of the Cloths are powerful magical artifacts.
  • Naga from Slayers has spikes on the shoulders of her armour that she ends up injuring herself with every time she raises her arms.
  • Every knight in Berserk has Scary Impractical Armor, verging on Costume Porn in most cases (though calling them impractical is perhaps unfair, since we only see them demonstrate Armor Is Useless against the Dragonslayer). Guts' Berserker Armor, on the other hand, looks like Batman's suit if it had a Savage Wolf motif and can keep the user in combat at the cost of their prolonged health by jamming metal spikes to bypass broken bones.
    • Griffith's Apostle cavalry goes even further, with the Apostle and his mount melding with the armor to form a single nightmarish creature based on the armor's theme.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men villain Stryfe wore a suit of armour that looked like it was made out of blades, giving many readers the impression that he'd decapitate himself if he ever shrugged his shoulders.
    • Partially justified in that Stryfe is a world-class telepath and telekinetic (which is saying something in the Marvel world). His armor is meant to be scary and impractical, because not only does he not need to move to attack his enemies, he doesn't actually need the armor, since wrapping his own telekinesis around his body is more effective. And he is aware of both facts.
  • The final batsuit worn by Jean Paul Valley, aka Azrael, during the Knightfall arc qualifies. At first it mainly added gauntlets with projectile shooters, extra chest armor, a glider cape, and other bits of tech. Towards the end of the arc, as Jean Paul was going insane, he added more armor, added ammo feed belts for his gauntlets connecting to a drum on his back, and ditched the cape for a set of metal fins. And of course, being the 90's, the suit had brighter colors, particularly after it was set on fire, revealing a red and yellow paint scheme underneath, despite the role of Batman requiring stealth. As Bruce noted when he had to fight Jean Paul to get him under control, the armor hampered his mobility, making him slow and awkward.
  • Mr. Freeze is often shown in suits of armour that are incredibly large and bulky and look like big badass robots. They do their job keeping him cool. However, the live action version of this suit was 75 lbs, and there is the problem that some are so wide in the shoulder/chest that for the rather average built Freeze to wear them and actually move his arms would have to be cut off and stuffed in the sleeves. In his later appearance in the 90s animated series he adopted a very broad look but it was justified: His body was robotic and his only living flesh was a head in a jar.

    Fanfiction 
  • Harry, of all people, in My Little Denarians, after his Face-Heel Turn.
    Discorded Harry: Everyone knows that once you turn evil, you have to get new clothes. It's in the rules.
    • He then asks Lash if she would like a hooded black robe, tight black leather, or spiky black armor. Lash' response:
      Lash: I see you opted to combine all three for your own outfit, before covering the whole thing in skulls and adding a cape. I'm speechless.

    Film 
  • Sauron in The Lord of the Rings films, and some of the artwork for him.
    • The books say that Sauron's physical form during that time was that of a man who had been burned to ashes, but was still alive, and in general was brick shittingly horrifying to look at.
    • This is kind of a subversion, since John Howe went to great lengths to stress the idea that all the armour in the movies must work properly. This trope was lampshaded by the artists, however, as they joked that Howe specialized in scary-looking outfits with Spikes of Villainy that "could poke your eye out." But he did indeed go to great lengths to actually make it possible to even move your fingers without slicing an artery.
  • The Green Goblin's armor in the first Spider-Man movie didn't seem to help much when Spider-Man started pounding the living bejesus out of him.
    • Given Spidey once exploded a telephone booth from the inside, and Norman Osborne has only slightly superhuman strength, he probably would've been reduced to a pulp fairly quickly without the armor.
  • In Highlander the Kurgan has a skull helmet. He would have been better off with a normal metal one. Possibly justified since nothing but decapitation would do more than annoy him, and the Kurgan is not all that right in the head.
  • Similarly, in Willow General Kael's helmet has a skull for a faceplate. Half of it breaks off when swatted with a sword.
  • In Brotherhood of the Wolf, the Beast wears armor covered in bone and metal spikes that is simply there to make it appear more monstrous. The armor doesn't appear to hinder its movements, however.

    Literature 
  • David Eddings example: Towards the end of The Elenium, Sparhawk and his armor-clad companions enter the abandoned city of a dark god and his insane high-priest. The square outside the temple's main door turns out to be positively COVERED with undead soldiers wearing armor like this, which gives the church-knights pause... until they realize that the undead soldiers are basically brainless, and the armor utterly useless: The Zemoch has never really invented plate-armor, and only saw it during the previous war against the Elenes - who favored heavily-armored cavalry such as the Church Knights. They simply did not understand the idea behind it - all they knew was that it was really scary. So they ended up making armor that looked really scary while being more of a hindrance than anything else...
  • In The Once and Future King, a character spends at least a paragraph hating on ornate armour, stating that the designs just make it easier for a lance to get a good hold and knock you off your horse.
  • In The Black Company, The Lady and Croaker have sets of this armor justified that without having magic to protect them, they would be sitting ducks. It looks something like this
    • It should be noted that they're wearing them to scare their enemies, so it's an invoked trope.
  • The elves in one of the worlds of The Death Gate Cycle use an ancient armor (now they use magic) to scare dwarves, it's so impractical that an armored elf is unable to get up after he was pushed down.
  • In Michael Moorcock's novel "The Eternal Champion," the humans use very elaborate armor with many flanges and other impressive looking touches. Ekrose (who has extensive war experience) comments how dangerous it is, as a sword or axe blade can easily be caught in such armor. His own armor is very plain, but light and practical.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Warriors of Chaos of Warhammer fame are essentially Vikings in Scary Impractical Armor.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • The Dark Eldar warriors have armour suits are covered in blades and attach by hooking into their skin. Subverted, since the hooks are meant to produce a little bit of pain which enhances the senses. And given their proclivities, armour that can cut whilst in use is approved of. Parodied in a Turnsignals on a Land Raider strip here.
    • Standard power armor looks kinda sinister, but that's just a design quirk compared to the power armor worn by Chaos Space Marines. Each suit is individually customized to be downright menacing, and invariably include an excess of horns, spikes, skulls, and arrows. Most of them are decorative or devotional, but more than a few of those horns coming out of their armor are actually parts of their bodies.
    • Ork mega-armor and vehicle/walker armor, in a ramshackle design, live up to this trope, partly due to deliberately making it intimidating, and partly because they're pretty terrible at creating anything that's designed practically.
  • The First and Forsaken Lion, one of the Deathlords in Exalted, has gigantic soulsteel armor covered in spikes and skulls and anything else intimidating and impractical. It's not like he has much choice to change it out for something more efficient, though, as his Neverborn master basically welded him into it after he screwed up his initial plan for world domination.

    Video Games 
  • Diablo III's barbarian has some body armor with horns that protrude from the body in positions that would be really likely to stab him in the arms.
  • The Lich King from the World of Warcraft expansion has what looks like Sauron's armor with a few nips and tucks (and skulls. Loads and loads of skulls.), although since neither are human, armor like that is at least justified.
    • Most of the high level armors count really. They tend to have pauldrons that raise higher then the PC's head (sometimes by almost a whole foot) and make the PC wearing it look twice wider then he is.
      • And as the character moves in various ways, the shoulders often clip through the body in ways that should result in impromptu decapitation or brain surgery. An egregious example is the night elf female, who due to an unfortunate combat stance when wielding two handed axes, swords, or maces will spend most of the fight with their shoulder spikes embedded in their face.
    • Some rogue armor sets glow menacingly. Try sneaking like that.
  • Intentionally averted by the designers of Half-Life 2. The Combine don't care about intimidation and just wear practical outfits - which makes them significantly scarier.
    • Except Elites which wear snow-white armor with a single red eye.
    • Their armor is all black and strongly resembles swat team armor, so they probably care a little about being intimidating.
    • Bear in mind, they're cybernetically enhanced in many ways, so they likely don't need to rely heavily on body armor as much as tactics and efficiency, not to mention invoking fear. Of course... the idea of invoking fear goes out the window near the end.
  • ADOM has a version that is actually more impractical than scary. Moloch armour weighs a ton and gives huge penalties to speed, dexterity and defense (which is not what heavy armour usually grants anyway) as well as attacks. The only positive quality is that it has an even more enormous bonus to protection. As for scariness, the armour is the (dead) moloch, and they are certainly scary enough, both according to their descriptions and when they lumber towards you to punch you hard enough to shatter stone, or at least to take away a lot of hit points.
  • Raider and Super Mutant armors from Fallout 3 fit this trope to a T. They are made mostly from stuff like old tires, leather and the occasional scrap metal; as such, they provide very little protection but significant intimidation factor. The Pitt DLC adds the Tribal Power Armor which is both scary AND practical. The Broken Steel DLC's Hellfire Armor ups the ante one degree more as it's both scary, practical AND cool.
    • In fact, the Enclave likes to build badass armors, as evident from this scan.
      • Especially the Advanced / Remnant Power Armor.
    • Another subversion is the Centurion armor from Fallout: New Vegas, which, although cobbled together from armors of defeated enemies, is very practical as well as intimidating. Lonesome Road adds the Scorched Sierra Power Armor, worn by the Bonus Boss Colonel Royez, which has a bear head in place of the left pauldron and red and green accents. When worn by the player or a companion, it provides a Regenerating Health bonus of 2 HP per second and 25% fire resistance, without the agility penalty of normal T-45d armor.
  • Myth: The Fallen Lords has this with Balor. Not only was his armor spikey, its protective qualities were completely redundant considering how many magical dreams of protection he had woven about himself (which is also the reason most other arch mages in the setting never bother wearing armor.) Balor wore it just for the intimidation factor.
    • Well, the spikes on his helmet did make for a convenient carrying handle when the Legion lugged his severed head to the Great Devoid.
  • Prototype hands Alex the Armor power roughly halfway through the story. On the one hand, it reduces damage, looks awesome (and spiky) and means that, rather than having to leap over and dodge obstacles, Alex will plow right through or over them, enemies included. On the other hand, all this comes at the cost of Alex's agility (his main advantage over his foes) and gives him the frustrating habit of smashing objects that could otherwise have been picked up and thrown. His Shield power lacks those disadvantages and will negate all damage when deployed, but has less coverage and will break after a time. And it just doesn't look as cool.
  • Given the interrogation bonus they give, and their non existent armor rating, Death Squad uniforms from Liberal Crime Squad are this, but since it's an ASCII game, it's hard to tell otherwise.
  • War from Darksiders has armor so ridiculously elaborate, it takes Yahtzee the entire second page of his Extra Punctuation article to describe in detail.
  • In Command & Conquer many of the Brotherhood of Nods elite units have intimidating armor with helmets and capes, and they all wield some awesome weapons. Yet they provide the same amount of protection as any infantry in the game, and still can't protect them from the harmful effects of tiberium.
  • Nightmare from Soul Calibur.
  • Daedric Armor from the later The Elder Scrolls games - noteably Oblivion and Skyrim. It's the strongest armor in the game as well as the heaviest, and gives you a +10 bonus to Intimidation-rolls if you wear a full set - because, well, you look TERRIFYING, all covered with spikes and glowing red bits and chitinous demonic armor forged from demon-hearts and ebony. What isn't adressed in gameplay-terms is that all those glowing red bits should utterly ruin your Stealth-abilities (though the armor's weight will give you a penalty there all by itself), and the spikes should leave you with more holes than a sieve every time you do an Unnecessary Combat Roll. I mean, just LOOK at this thing...
    • Arguably, Falmer Armor as well. It can be more of less effective, depending on whether it's normal, Hardened or Heavy (the best, but also, well, the heaviest), but it always looks monstrous, and is covered in Spikes of Villainy. In this case, however, it's a Justified Trope - the Falmer makes that armor from the only material they have access to, the Chitin of the Chaurus, which happens to be quite spiky. And the helmet makes you look like a monster because it's the hollowed-out head of a huge bug.
  • Final Fantasy cares much more about the Rule of Cool than practicality and as such is in love with this trope. About the only time this could possibly be even vaguely construed as justified is with the Emperor: He wears imposing, elaborate golden armor that gives him a Sculpted Physique, though other, robe-based outfits show him to be very slender (fitting for an Evil Sorceror Squishy Wizard). The justification comes into play when one considers that perhaps the golden armor is meant to primarily be a show of the Emperor's wealth and power, a legitimizing display rather than an accurate reflection of his martial prowess.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Avatar The Last Airbender, "Sokka's Master", Aang tries some on, and soon falls over. The DVD Commentary has the guys saying it's a Take That to this kind of look, and the art book adds that its also a shot at toymakers who wanted armor variant action figures. It's also somewhat self-deprecation, as Fire Nation soldiers did lean in this direction when they were Faceless Mooks, but it was downplayed over time, especially once inhabitants in the Fire Nation started being shown to be normal, generally decent people.
    • The Fire Nation used to follow this trope, with utterly impractical shoulder spikes. Sokka points this out when a group of water-benders are dressing up in 80-year old Fire Nation armor in an attempt to infiltrate the enemy army.
    • The armor that Phoenix King Ozai wears in the finale looks very heavy and unwieldly. This is likely why his first move in his battle with Aang is to take it all off.
  • The Venture Bros. example: The Monarch's "Death's Head Panoply."
    • Parodied too. He can't move an inch in the thing, requiring someone else to activate its flight mode. And, while it is incredibly dangerous, the suit loses balance in the air, causing the Monarch to spin around, throw up, and fall down to earth.
  • In one story arc of Darkwing Duck, Gosalyn is transported into a future where Darkwing becomes unquestioned dictator of the world. In order to make her his ultimate successor, he gives her gifts, including a very imposing scary suit of battle armour. The only drawback to it was that she wasn't able to move. But she sure looked impressive.

    Real Life 
  • Most ceremonial armor tends to be scary and impractical unless the users have a culture of austerity. This is because the armor is more intended to impress the commissioner and display the skill of the craftsman than to protect the wearer.
    • Pickelhauben are a highly visible example from WWI and earlier; they definitely did make an impression, but on entirely the wrong people: enemy snipers found them exceptionally easy to spot and shoot.
  • Ancient Greeks would sometimes wear pieces of armor made of bones, the idea being to tell your enemy "I killed this animal, and I can kill you, too." Bone would still deflect a glancing blow, making it better than nothing, but it also shattered easily under the impact.
  • Samurai during Japan's feudal era had always cared about looking scary as well as protecting themselves, but beginning in the Momoyama period (ca. 1573-1615) the decoration of armor became increasingly elaborate and bizarre. One example is a gusoku type armor simulating the human body with bear fur hair covering the kabuto (helmet) and a Dō (cruirass) with flesh-colored plates embossed with a chest, ribs, shoulder blades, and backbone. Exotic helmets called kawari-kabuto incorporating extravagant papier mache or wooden crests (maedate)and side-crests resembling horns (wakidate) became the height of fashion. In the swordfighting ward migi-no-jódan, the sword is held above the head slightly slanted in order to avoid the helmet decorations. During the Edo period (ca. 1615-1868) when major wars were a thing of the past, kawari kabuto were made in a variety of fabulous shapes from fashion and nature including seashells, animals, mountains, and formal hats.
  • During the 16th century, plate armor in Europe went through its most elaborate and glorious period, and certain forms of costume armor were mainly created for the sake of fashion rather than protection. This is not to say that all armor became obsolete or impractical: it is important to note that armor came in a range of configurations, qualities, and prices during this period. Simple and affordable armor was being made to outfit thousands of soldiers, but at the same time the nobility and royalty were free to commission extravagant armors to suit their needs. Plate armor designed for the battlefield had a good all-round balance between protection, weight, and ease of movement, while armor for tournaments usually included reinforcing pieces that added weight or restricted flexibility for the sake of protecting better against accidents and injuries. Costume armor, on the other hand, was made in fantastic shapes to simulate things like human hair, grotesque faces, or enormous puffed-and-slashed cloth sleeves because it was mainly created to make the wearer turn heads in parades or staged events. Such armor sometimes incorporated shapes that would hinder the wearer, and too much use of embossing technique tended to thin and weaken the steel plates making it less useful as protection.


Red and Black and Evil All OverVillainous Fashion SenseSensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains
Paper PeopleImprobable Appearance TropesSexier Alter Ego
Saved by the AwesomeRule of CoolSerial Escalation
Rage HelmTropes in Shining ArmorShield-Bearing Mook
Scars Are ForeverImageSource/Western AnimationSlipknot Ponytail

alternative title(s): Scary Impractical Armour
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
51679
4