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Armor Is Useless

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"I have never seen stormtrooper armor protect anyone from anything."
Neeku Vozo, Star Wars Resistance

In fiction, or at least a large portion of it, 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". A single swing of a sword is enough to kill an opponent wearing full plate armor. All arrows are armor-piercing and will penetrate even thick armor as if it were just a sheet of paper. Indeed, it often happens that people who wear armor find themselves far more capable 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.

There are a couple of reasons that this trope may appear:

  1. It is often the case that in movies, games, and other visual media, armor and especially helmets are not really there to protect characters, but to render them faceless and anonymous. Such dehumanized extras make excellent Red Shirts and Mooks, with the bonus that an entire army can be portrayed by a half dozen or so stuntmen.
  2. Creators making a historical or fantasy work include armor for the sake of aesthetics, but don’t want the bother of factoring it into combat. The repertoire of Flynning is largely based on unarmored fighting, and it's easier for the actors if they don't have to learn a whole different set of moves for defeating armor. In a video game, you can avoid the bother of additional fight animations or complicated physics/damage modeling if just hitting any part of the enemy can kill them.
  3. A creator may want to make battles look as violent and gory as possible, so making the armor useless provides more opportunities for bleeding and dismemberment. Sometimes combined with Made of Plasticine.
  4. It may be justified if the attacking character is much, much stronger than the defending character's armor was designed to handle. They could have Super-Strength, Charles Atlas Superpower, or be some nonhuman creature like an ogre, an alien, etc.
  5. The creator is simply ignorant or misinformed about how armor works. There are a lot of popular myths and misconceptions about historical armor, and it's pretty common for creators to be inspired by previous works of fiction which had these errors in them, rather than doing historical research. You can even be led astray by genuine historical documents or artworks if you look at them without understanding their context, such as religious/mythical subject matter or the possibility of artistic license.

A potential handwave is that quality armor (such as the plate suit that stamps someone as "medieval warrior" on sight) should be quite expensive; mooks might be issued cheap protection that only looks like quality armor. From a more meta perspective, 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. That would do a lot to explain why hidden Bulletproof Vests usually work. The Law of Diminishing Defensive Effort is a reason that heroes or the "cool" characters are often less armored than the common rabble; they're either confident enough in their skill to not get hit in the first place, or else so superhumanly tough that armor would be superfluous.

It should be noted that in Real Life, the balance of power between weapons and armor has fluctuated throughout history. There really have been certain times when a new weapon appeared that could reliably defeat even the highest practical level of armor, leading to decreased reliance on armor for protection until some improved version was invented. The trope can be justified in a story if it depicts such a transitional period in technology, or if a violent First Contact occurs between peoples or species of different technology levels. The trope becomes unrealistic when people of the same technology level as their foes are shown to wear armor that doesn't have enough protective function to justify its expense and encumbrance, to the point where you wonder who bothered to invent that useless armor in the first place.

As in real life, there are many different levels of threat and also different levels of protection. World War I saw the reintroduction of steel helmets, which may not have been expected to do much good against rifles and machine guns, but did greatly reduce deaths and injuries from low-velocity shrapnel from artillery. Similarly, an armored car for reconnaissance may have a shell that's proof against machine guns, but wouldn't stand a chance against the main gun of a tank. Troops are armored according to their role, and no matter how armored you may be there is always someone out there with a Bigger Stick. Mobility, cover, and not being seen are often at least as important as armor for avoiding damage.

The logical extreme of this trope is the Full-Frontal Assault, where the warrior doesn't even bother to wear clothes. See also Tanks for Nothing, if the useless armor in question has treads and a gun on it; see also Shields Are Useless specifically for shields.

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 Armor-Piercing Attack or Anti-Armor for different ways of modeling the vulnerability of armor, and Body Armor as Hit Points, in which your game character gets armor points as a way of supplementing their hit points. The inversion is Armor of Invincibility, which is not only not useless, but amazingly good.

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  • The tyrant king in The Apotheosis of Washington is easily knocked over and stomped on despite wearing full-body metal armor. His opponent, Lady Freedom, is wearing a liberating dress and cape that shouldn't protect her, but she conquers her opponent despite this apparent flaw.

    Comic Books 
  • Frank Miller's 300 features Spartans going bare-chested into battle, with little but loincloths 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.
  • Democracy: The Spartans, given their profession, are heavily armoured, but this proves utterly useless when the Athenians rebel against them.
  • 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.
  • Harlem Heroes. The Heroes don't wear armour, unlike other teams. At one point, they use this to their advantage on the ground, as they use their speed on the ground to dodge past the other team.
  • In his first few years, Prince Valiant deliberately outfitted himself relatively lightly, to allow himself greater speed in combat. Somewhat justified here, as Val isn't even 18, going up against experienced, fully-armored knights. If he had a full loadout, he would be easily out-muscled. Using his maneuverability to stay ahead of his opponent is his only chance.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): The Amazons don armor to defend Paradise Island from Hades invasion as Earth-One draws close to its destruction in Crisis on Infinite Earths but it looks impractical and proves to be entirely ineffective.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): During the slave revolt which Diana turns into an outright rebellion against the empire the Sangtee slave drivers are wearing armor and are easily taken out by a bunch of slaves wearing rags, who start out with rocks and their fists as weapons. This is justified as the slavers are very outnumbered and several of the slaves are khunds and durlans.

    Fan Works 
  • Abyssal Plain: Skitter's spider-silk armor, which in-universe was noted to be spectacularly knife resistant, does nothing when a carnivorous Mermaid takes a chomp out of her leg.
  • Both played straight and averted in Age of Strife.
    • The deadly plant life on the Death World of Dandriss kills anyone who doesn't wears heavily armored bodysuits. However, actual military grade weaponry goes though it like tissue paper.
    • The even heavier military issue armor made from Dandriss wildlife carapace is capable of standing up to biomancy enhanced mutants.
  • Also averted and played straight in Be All My Sins. As heroine Natalie points out, the standard guard flak armor is useless against many weapons, but will offer some protection against at least a few. Therefore, it's better than nothing.
  • Fire Emblem Fates fanfic A Brighter Dark goes to lengths to avert this. There are multiple instances where armor saves a character's life, either by allowing a blow to glance off of them or by mitigating the damage.
  • Averted in Sailor Moon: Legends of Lightstorm:
    • In Episode 1, upon seeing her Combat Mode for the first time, Jason is disappointed that it does not contain armor. Internally, he repeats these sentiments as the other Sailor Scouts are activated.
    • In Episode 5, when Sailor Jupiter comments that her uniform isn't very protective, Jason explains why: "The people of the Silver Millennium Moon Kingdom always preferred aesthetics first and performance second." He goes on to assure her that her durability will increase over time.
    • Jason himself uses handcrafted armor all the time, in part because he has no powers of his own.
  • A Feddie Story zigzags the trope. A Zaku's armor is resistant to shoulder-fired rockets and tank kinetic penetrator rounds depending on where it's hit, with the legs and arms doing better than the torso generally, but at least in early models offers no real defense against 150mm HEAT shells from Federation tanks...which are rare because before the war there wasn't much need for them. Federation tank armor by contrast is nearly immune to Zeon infantry weapons and even shoulder-fired rockets from most angles; but it offers absolutely no defense against the weapons carried by Zakus.
  • Played with in The Night Unfurls.
    • The Bloodborne hunters are simply on a whole nother level compared to their adversaries. They a) are superhuman, b) have weapons empowered by Blood Magic, and c) have guns. Of course armour would mean nothing to them. Heck, it would be unrealistic if their bullets somehow fail to penetrate a mook's armour.
    • As for the Soren's P.O.V. in Chapter 29 shows, the apprentice hunters are trained to attack the weak points of armour. While he does lampshade how he doesn't have enough strength to tear into the chestplate with his bare hands, Soren goes for his armoured opponent's throat, winning the fight.
    • There's also how the hunters invoke and exploit this trope via their emphasis on manoeuvrability over protection. After all, avoiding damage outright is better than receiving damage, with incapacitation or death being the likely result.
    • By reading in between lines, it is evident that a majority of mooks don't have access to high-quality plate armour. To start off, the fantasy "monsters", dumb brutes as they are, hardly wear any armour, though some groups (e.g. orcs, mutants and other Smash Mooks) compensate this with their innate toughness. Most of the Black Dog mercenaries, supposedly the most renowned Private Military Contractors in the country, all wear light leather armour. The exceptions are The Leader Vault (hard leather, metal plate) and, in the remastered version, Boris (mail and leather). On a similar level are the human rebels, ranging from being poorly armed to wearing leather armour. Armed soldiery / guards in general are assumed to be wearing metallic armour (the narrative does not specify whether it is heavy plate armour or not).
    • The one time where heavy armour is portrayed as durable is when Kyril fights a Dual Boss — Mandeville's familiars. The pair's golden heavy armour manages to protect them from Kyril's blows... for a short while. The first ends up having its entire helmet cleaved off, while the second is finally struck down via a vertical blow of the Hunter's Axe that splits it in half.
    • Last but not least, any amount of armour is worthless when the unit is on the receiving end of a giant fireball, a Sword Beam, or an exploding star that scatters streams of starlight, all of which classify as Anti-Armor.
  • In Pony POV Series, this is generally averted:
    • Guard Armor frequently protects against injuries in combat. During his own arc, Shining gets a divinely created set from Pandora when she intervenes at one point that saves his life on a few occasions.
    • During the Wedding Arc, the mane six decide to put on armor for the final showdown and Silver Tongue/Silver Ax spends much of the arc in guard armor (being a retired one). This is both for protection and, because of Rarity's customizing, to inspire those fighting alongside them. During the Final Battle of the story with Discord and Nightmare Diamond Tiara, Mother Deer (the Tree of Harmony itself) unlocks a function in the Elements giving the Mane Six magical armor from the Elements. It does very well, both due to blocking attacks conventionally and because its magical abilities protect them from certain types of attacks to the point of No-Sell if it's based on something that Element actively opposes (such as Generosity stopping Greed based mind magic). It also comes with other useful abilities, especially if used together.
  • Averted in "Tarkin's Fist".
    • The Imperial High Command is smart enough to order armor that can stand up to most ballistic weaponry, testing it against slugthrower models from the Home Galaxy before issuing it to the Stormtrooper Corps prior to their deployment to Earth.

    • While kevlar and flak jackets worn by Earthling soldiers can't withstand a direct blaster bolt, they are still useful against shrapnel.
  • Averted in Traveler when Ash's new armor saves his life twice in a single encounter, though admittedly it's completely ruined afterwards.
  • Jaune averts this in The ProfessionArc as Yang struggles to do much in their first spar due to his armor and shield giving him a massive defensive advantage. What makes it a close match is that Jaune simply isn't used to fighting people, having only seriously fought Grimm before coming to Beacon.
  • Subverted in Equestria: Across the Multiverse, as a major development in everything is Powered Armor. This proves nigh-invulnerable to conventional weapons and even against higher tier weapons that can threaten it provides life saving protection.
  • Pointedly averted in Son of the Western Sea. Even with the Mark of Achilles, Percy still wears armor in part to protect his mortal spot whenever he knows he is going to be going into battle. At some point during his time in Japan, it stopped a yuki-onna from clawing his back.
  • Averted in Ward/Skyrim crossover Point Me at the Skyrim. The only reason Antares's many horrible wounds aren't even worse was because she wore metal armor as part of her costume, and bemoans losing them in Skyrim. Her first act once things calmed down was to request some armor from Claudya.
  • Subverted in Hellsister Trilogy's second story arc. Supergirl wears a Kryptonite-proof armor which doesn't provide a better protection than her own invulnerable skin but will save her life if she runs into Kryptonite-based enemies on Darkseid's payroll.
  • Zig-zagged in Spirit of Redemption. The armor the Young Guns start out with works as well as expected when it is 10-20 years old and comes face to face with modern high-end weapons. However, when you take a vibroblade to a rachni's natural armor, it will scratch it at best, and piss off the rachni at worst.
  • Gospel of the Lost Gods: Averted. All of the Wards have spider-silk armor in addition to their costumes (Grace wears light-armor studs, Golem has various hard materials as armor, and Cuff walks around with Valerian steel armor). Olly imbues his armor with his powers as well.
  • Subverted in My Hero Academia: Unchained Predator. While normal armor is largely useless against the Slayer's munitions, reinforced armor is shown in various chapters to stop Super Shotgun blasts and .50 caliber bullets from his HAR. One example is Curator's helmet being destroyed from a Super Shotgun blast, but successfully preventing Curator's death. The Slayer's armor is a major aversion due to how powerful it is, capable of withstanding everything thrown at him.
  • Averted in Remnant Inferis: DOOM. Armor is routinely shown to be highly useful for survival. The Slayer's armor tanks several blows that would outright kill any normal Aura-enhanced human, and the students are given more practical combat armor as part of their uniforms. Even Ozpin's suit is lined with armor, which protected him from an unexpected sword strike when he was trying to save one of his students. When Yang's Aura is completely drained from exhaustion and fighting numerous demons, she would have been killed had she not been wearing her armor to withstand the attacks she couldn't at the time.
  • In the Jessica Canon Drop-In spinoff of Promotion to Queen, Naofumi's armor becomes pointless in only two days due to Malty/Jessice power leveling him until he's over level fifty. At that point, his defense stat is so ludicrously high that it's unlikely an armor exists which would be useful for him.
  • Averted in Some Dreams Just Can't Come True. Vista's helmet and armor save her life multiple times during the Empire's attack.
  • With This Ring:
    • Averted, with Orange Lantern, who wears high-grade body armor under his Ring-generated armor, which wound up saving his life. He also points out that Robin and Kid Flash have Kevlar incorporated in their costumes, and later convinces Kaldur to wear Ocean Master's armor in battle after he claimed it as spoils of war, and arranged for Artemis and Zatanna to acquire proper armor of their own. And Kon, despite the whole "near-invulnerable kryptonian" thing, received a set of armor with Nth metal in the Paragon timeline, increasing his durability and allowing him the power of flight. In Renegade, Kon has Apokolipitian armor despite being full Kryptonian. On top of all that, when stealth goes out the window, one of the first things OL usually does is cover the entire team in Construct-armor. So far only M'gann is the only one he hasn't convinced to wear extra plating in the field, and that's more of her powerset not being suitable for it than anything else.
    • When Zatanna brings up Wonder Woman fighting crime in what is essentially a leotard, OL points out that not only could Wonder Woman, quote, "Tank anti-armor rounds naked", but her armor was forged by the Greek God of the forge and is actually of higher quality than his own.
    • Played with in regards to head covering and hand coverings; OL deems the loss of awareness and dexterity far more deleterious to his survival than a minor increase in protection.
      • OL later produces a power-armor construct that includes a fully covering helmet with 360-degree vision coverage through construct cameras.
    • Had Prince Orm wore gauntlets with his Ocean Master armor, he probably wouldn't have lost his hands.
  • Vow of Nudity: As the name would imply, Haara doesn't wear armor (or anything else) in combat. In fact, thanks to being a monk, she's statted out so that her armor class would actually decrease if she put any on.
  • Zig-zagged in "Dust In The Wind", Most of the cast is of the opinion that armor isn't useful, both due to the presence of aura and the limited protection it provides against the Creatures of Grimm. Despite this however, Courier Six, The Narrator, has demonstrated that armor is effective against more conventional weapons and enemies when the user is lacking aura. With multiple instances being shown where his choice of attire helped him to avoid more serious or even fatal injury.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the soldiers wear all of this heavy armor that does nothing to protect them from Phantoms. Which makes sense because the Phantoms are ghosts.
  • Played with at the end of Ultimate Avengers: when the team fights The Hulk, guess who appears to be doing the least well in the fight? Iron Man. That's right, the only dude wearing any kind of outfit that would seem useful when fighting something that can rip a tank apart, is the one who seemingly does the least. This is, however, mostly due to his massive power demands to operate the suit and less due to the armor itself failing to protect him. It even manages to shrug off a hit from the Hulk, though not before he rips Tony's helmet off.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played straight in 300, which mimics the bare-chested Spartan battle outfit found in Frank Miller's graphic novel. The Spartans do wear helmets and shields, however, which are shown to block several blows.
  • Averted in Aliens. Xenomorph acid burns swiftly through Hicks' chestplate and onto his chest, but it's obvious that the armor kept the damage from being lethal. While the other Marines' armor doesn't prevent them from being killed, it wouldn't have offered protection anyway against being set on fire, thrown into a wall by an explosion, or being seized by a xenomorph.
  • 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.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Necromonger troops wear heavy, bulky suits of what looks suspiciously like 16th-century Maximilian armor, which have no apparent damage resistance whatsoever.
  • Discussed in The Dark Knight when Lucius and Bruce are discussing upgrading/improving Batman's armour - increasing its worth against knives makes it less resistant against bullets and vice versa, and the payoff to agility and speed is less protection. Both are Truth in Television. Strangely, despite hanging this lampshade on how impractical it actually is for superheroics, the armoured design of Batman in this film ended up proving popular enough to inspire a trend of superheroes dressing in armour across live action and comics, particularly street level heroes like Batman, but even superpowered ones like Superman who wouldn't even need it. Very rarely does it seem to offer any more protection than just wearing tights, and in live action it can even cause Fight Scene Failure by encumbering the actors.
  • In District 9, the kevlar/ceramic vests worn by MNU security forces provide no protection whatsoever against high-powered Prawn weaponry. The weakest alien weapon shown is a kind of compressed-air cannon that sends a grown man crashing through the wall of a cabin, and he doesn't get back up from that. A rapid-firing Prawn Railgun punches clean through the heaviest protection like wet tissue. Another weapon, a kind of Lightning Gun, simply causes the unfortunate target to explode like a blood-filled balloon if they are hit.
  • In Dracula Untold, Vlad's armor evaporates to allow a stake to pierce him. Subverted in that he was setting himself up to dematerialize into a bat swarm.
  • Noticeable in Dragonheart, where the ragtag, unarmored peasant army led by Bowen, has no noticeable issues, punching through the mail and other armor the villain's troops are wielding, despite being armed with sharpened sticks and other Improvised Weapons, mixed in with a few real ones.
  • All cops in The Fifth Element wear bulky armor that does absolutely nothing to stop bullets.
  • In Hero (2002), 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. It also doesn't help that most of the versions of the armor we're shown during the battle are half-baked prototypes that Tony didn't bother perfecting before moving on to the next idea. The Iron Man armor does, however, hold up extremely well against almost everything else in the MCU, with the notable exception of Thanos. And even then, the Nanosuit manages to keep Tony alive in a hand-to-hand fight against a guy that beat the Hulk, so it's very far from useless.
  • Averted in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. The climax of the film has the Adjudicator send in a squadron of the High Table's elite forces decked out in armor that protects them from most conventional firearms, requiring John and Charon to get in close to shoot point-blank in order to penetrate it. They later rearm themselves with shotguns loaded with armor-penetrating shells to properly deal with this problem.
  • The Lord of the Rings films have an interesting combination of both aversions and invocations of the trope:
    • Legolas manages to shoot an arrow through two Uruk-Hai warriors and both of their breastplates. The armor was so useless, the arrow penetrated three plates of steel and two bodies.
    • In The Fellowship of the Ring, Merry and Pippin take several heavily armored Uruk-hai down by throwing rocks at their heavily armored heads, and whether or not they're outright killed is never clarified.
    • 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 mail hauberk while Legolas has only bracers and leather pauldrons. In this same battle, Théoden, wearing the best armor of anyone in Rohan's forces, gets wounded in the shoulder (albeit in the weak armpit underside, putting the blame on his mail undercoat).
    • Especially ironic in that while warning Théoden how much more dangerous the Uruk-hai in compared to orcs, instead of bringing up the obvious fact that they're bigger and tougher, Gimli points out how thick their armor and broad their shields are.
    • The Uruk-hai berserkers take this trope to the max. They wear nothing but helmets and mail loincloths, yet are deadly against the defending Rohan forces. In a slight aversion, the helmet of one of them comes in handy while he is fighting Gimli, as Gimli had to hit him twice to take him down.
    • The soldiers of Gondor especially have rather useless armor. In one scene in the Extended Edition of The 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 small and flimsy bow.
    • Perhaps the biggest aversion comes when Frodo is seemingly impaled by a spear, only to reveal that the spear failed to penetrate his mithril shirt. Instead of being skewered, he merely had the wind knocked out of him and was probably bruised, but otherwise fine. Considering the spear was wielded by a giant troll (upgraded from a big orc in the book), it's amazing it didn't break his ribs, mail or no.
  • The Hobbit:
    • At one point in The Battle Of Five Armies, the dwarves all don elaborate suits of armor. However, when they actually come out to fight, they show up having taken the armor off, charging into battle in the same traveling clothes they wore for the prior films. This was a behind-the-scenes issue, as the armor in question turned out to be so clunky that the actors couldn't fight in it.
    • During the final fight with Azog, Thorin stabs him straight through his breastplate.
  • Prince Caspian prompted at least one reviewer to throw up his hands and declare the Pevensies all had lightsabers disguised as swords, given how quickly and easily they'd kill men in full plate with a single slash across the chest over and over again. Averted in the duel between Peter and Miraz, where they block sword blows with their armor several times and the only hits occur on unprotected parts of the body.
  • 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 Resident Evil: Apocalypse, 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 the climax of Robin Hood (1991), outlaws in carnival costumes are beating up fully armoured soldiers with ease.
  • Zigzagged/Played With through the RoboCop films. RoboCop's titanium/kevlar composite armor provides more than adequate protection from most small arms fire, but ED-209's heavy weapons compromise his armor and make him much more vulnerable when the police turn on him and unload with a massed assault rifle and shotgun barrage. In the second film, the goons upgrade to rocket launchers and anti-armor rifles which do a real number on him. In the third film, a single shot from a grenade launcher is enough to disable him. In the first film, before he became RoboCop, Murphy's standard-issue police flak vest crumples in the face of four gang members each unloading a shotgun's (presumably an R870) full tube of rounds into his chest, but without the vest, there wouldn't have been enough left for the paramedics to try and save. However, the vest does nothing when Boddicker puts a coup de grace shot through his head.
  • The Siege of Jadotville: Commandant Quinlan and Sergeant Pendergast examine the UN helmets provided. They're plastic — and rather flimsy at that — and offer no protection against a bullet or shrapnel. They decide them pointless to issue. Notably, special forces actually made use of plastic helmets, using them to protect against bumps to the head against doorframes, walls, etc.
  • Starship Troopers where the mobile infantry's armor vests provide no protection whatsoever from anything. Bug claws, their own weapons, shovels...
    • In the animated DTV sequels Invasion and Traitor of Mars, the MI get armor that, while looking bulkier, are still useless at protecting them from Bug attacks. At least the new armor gives them a boost in mobility and firepower.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Chang's Bird of Prey rattles the hell out of the Enterprise with its photon torpedo barrage. Even before the shields fully collapse and the saucer section takes a critical strike, the ship is littered with burn marks and the blasts are powerful enough to damage auxiliary power. Even the Excelsior, which is more advanced than the Enterprise, takes a good hit when it arrives.
  • Star Trek: Generations: Happens when the Klingons Lursa and B'etor slip a hidden camera into Geordi's VISOR and can see the "modulation" of the Enterprise-D's shields and program their torpedoes to fire at the same frequency, thus passing through the shields as if they aren't even there.
  • Star Wars: It is often lampshaded that Stormtrooper armor is almost completely useless for protection. So far, the only thing the armor has ever canonically stopped is a very weak stun weapon.
    • A New Hope: At one point during the film, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker stole two sets of Stormtrooper armor to hide among Death Star personnel. 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.
    • Attack of the Clones: Averted. Jango's armor is the only reason why he's able to take as much punishment as he does. Whether it's a beating from Obi-Wan, damage from a jetpack malfunction, or a blow from a reek, Jango's armor can take it.
    • Rogue One: Chirrut manages to kick much Stormtrooper ass with a staff. On the other hand, the armor is shown deflecting the Stormtroopers' own rounds, so it could simply be a case of the armor being made to withstand more common blasters, as opposed to the military-grade or heavily-modified stuff we would see in the Original Trilogy and beyond.
    • The Last Jedi: Averted. Snoke's Praetorian Guards are notable for wearing armor despite being trained to fight lightsaber wielders. Given the nature of lightsabers armor would normally offer no additional protection against lightsabers, and merely slow down the wearer. However, one guard survives a glancing lightsaber slash to the torso courtesy of Rey, and manages to rejoin the fight later. Though we see direct, head-on thrusts from lightsabers penetrating the armor, and the combatants aim strikes at gaps in the plating at the neck and legs, if whatever armor the guards wear can withstand glancing strikes that would kill an unarmored person, then it is certainly worth it.
  • In the Italian movie Uomini contro, troops on the Italian-Austrian front during World War One are sent waddling across No Mans Land in full-body armor, only to get cut down by machine guns. Needless to say this is total fiction. While Italian troops did wear Farina armor, it was in the form of chestplates and face shields to protect them against shrapnel.

  • Blood Sword has armor of most characters stopping 2 damage (the Warrior's chainmail stops 3). Besides taking up a slot on the very limited space a character can carry, armor stops being effective after Book 1 as
enemies soon cause so much damage that a 2 or 3 point reduction isn't noticeable.
  • In early Fighting Fantasy books, armor just gave a skill increase however there's a rule in the books that states that a skill increase cannot put it over a player's Initial Skill. This meant that armor is only useful if a player lost a skill point from injury or other bad event. Later books made armor useful by either decreasing damage taken, increasing Initial Skill or increasing Attack Strength.
  • Lone Wolf has armor just give a small boost in Life Points, which is barely noticeable. But at least there's no drawback for Lone Wolf to wear some.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • 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. Further (sort-of) justified when it's Robin Hood doing the shooting - he of all people would be capable of hitting even a small opening in someone's armor.

By Series:

  • While normally played straight in Andromeda (with personnel armor, that is, starship armor works just fine), Gennite soldiers have "photo-reactive" armor that is shown 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.
  • Stormtrooper armor is generally useless in the Star Wars universe; in Andor, during a riot scene, one trooper is taken down by a headbutt from a civilian rioter.
  • Played with in the "Ming Warrior vs. Musketeer" episode of Deadliest Warrior. When testing whether the respective warriors' firearms could punch through their opponents' armor, it's shown that a musketeer's wheellock pistol could punch through a Ming warrior's leather lamellar, while a Ming Warrior's 3-Barrel Pole Gun only put a dent in a Musketeer's steel cuirass (a stray shot hit the dummy's exposed neck, but it was deemed inadmissible, as the goal was to hit the armor). During the live-action simulation, musketeer shots are shown to be deadly to Ming warriors, while a Ming warrior's first shot with a pole gun only knocked a musketeer to the ground. However, just as his friend is helping the fallen musketeer to get up, another shot hits the same musketeer right between the eyes. The musketeers still win the battle.
  • Doctor Who
    • In "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky", the Sontarans' armour seems mostly decorative, as UNIT mows them down with impunity once they regain working guns. It might be that their armour is specifically designed to counter energy weapons like their own, in the same way that Kevlar is intended to stop bullets so is decidedly less effective against blades.
    • In "The Masque of Mandragora", the Doctor dons a suit of armor under his clothes to channel the Hand Blasts of the Villain of the Week, though he uses a wire to ground it. In the novelisation the wire melts from the energy pouring through it, forcing the Doctor to absorb the final blast unaided.
  • Game of Thrones often discusses and averts the trope, but plays it straight at other times:
    • Ramsay Bolton manages to kill several fully armed soldiers while half-naked.
    • Ser Hugh is killed in a joust when he's struck in the neck by a splinter of Gregor Clegane's lance. In the books, it's explained that he lacked a squire and so did not put on his gorget correctly; in the show he is clearly under-armored compared to his opponent and it's subtly implied the armor was sabotaged.
    • Bronn champions Tyrion against Ser Vardis Egan. Bronn refuses a shield and wears almost no armor, using his speed and maneuverability to simply evade his opponent until Egan's heavy armor exhausts him and makes him a sitting duck.
    • The long-awaited Oberyn and Mountain duel is a fascinating glimpse of this. Oberyn wears light armor and no helmet to give him speed, while the Mountain is a walking Tank covered in mail and metal helmet, Oberyn wields a very sharp spear that proves effective in piercing Gregor Clegane and he ends up defeating him and flat on the mat, he could have easily won had he not delayed the Coup de Grâce.
      • While Oberyn's cut to Ser Gregor's leg made perfect sense, he followed it up with a stab to the chest to the "walking tank."
      • Some of the Game of Thrones examples should be taken with the consideration that they involved skilled warriors taking considerable effort to attack unarmored gaps in their opponents' defenses during extended duels. Very few warriors would be able to last more than six seconds against the likes of Bronn or Oberyn if they didn't have armor to ward off killing blows right off the bat.
    • Zig-Zagging Trope when Syrio Forel defeats several armored mooks with his wooden practice sword by knocking them on the helmets but fares less well against a slightly heavier-armed Ser Meryn Trant of the Kingsguard. Why Syrio Forel did not pick-up a real sword from one of the already defeated guardsmen to give him a better chance against Ser Meryn Trant remains a mistery...
    • On multiple occasions armor is played as useless when a mook needs to go down and a sword slash or stab anywhere on the body will do to move the plot along. In a flashback battle, a Targaryen Kingsguard puts his sword through the chest (and out the back) of a Stark bannerman who is clearly wearing several layers of mail, leather, and wool. Although this perhaps is more a justified example as the sword in question was crafted from an extremely rare meteorite metal considered on-par with Valyrian steel.
    • Rakharo believes a Dothraki would defeat an armored knight in a duel because of speed and freedom of movement. Ser Jorah's duel with Qotho convinces him otherwise, although it can be seen that even Ser Jorah had a very surprised look on his face when the blade was stopped by his breastplate.
    • The Hound puts it best to Arya when they discuss the death of her fencing instructor. This being right after she tried to stab him with Needle and being unable to penetrate his armour.
      The Hound: Your friend's dead, and Meryn Trant's not, 'cause Trant had armour. And a big fucking sword.
    • There's also a brief exchange when Arya and Gendry stay with the Brotherhood Without Banners where Gendry, a blacksmith by training, is shown an arrowhead designed to penetrate plate armor and asked if he can duplicate it. In response, Gendry makes a point that he would need quality steel to work with (not easy to come by since Westeros has yet to develop the Bessemer process).
    • Averted in "Stormborn" when Yara Greyjoy's flagship gets attacked while she's off-guard and not wearing her usual halfplate armor. With no time to locate and don her armor she's forced to enter combat without it and, as a result, is bested and taken prisoner by her fully armored uncle Euron.
    • Absolutely averted with Euron. Nymeria is not able to significantly hurt him with her whip or knife because of his armor, even striking at his softer parts. Euron's unconventionally heavy armor allows him to go full offense with little risk of being severely injured.
    • During the penultimate episode, the writers kind of forgot that swords aren't lightsabers, and Sandor is able to pierce his sword through his brother's armor all the way to the back.
  • Hanna: The Pioneer commandos use helmets and body armor, yet are still killed easily. Meanwhile, the protagonists are unarmed, but get away with flesh wounds at worse (of course, they have the far more effective Plot Armor to protect them).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Mandalorian:
    • Averted with the title character. His beskar-steel armor (especially when upgraded) is able to withstand everything from full blaster bolts to other attacks and barely showing much damage afterward. The only blaster weapon shown to pose a threat to him is a high-powered sniper rifle, which he says is capable of penetrating even beskar if he takes the hit from close enough.
    • Several droids from IG-11 to security droids likewise have very tough armor plating.
    • Played straight (of course) with Imperial stormtroopers easily going down to a single blaster shot or a hard punch. It's clearly shown to be useless in-universe and not just as a storytelling device, as the main character learns the hard way when he has to briefly use some instead of his usual armor.
  • 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.
  • 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 gets 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.
    • 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.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess makes sure that no amount of armor will ever save an enemy warrior from any sort of attack, whether it's a thrown chakram, a casual sword slash, a small dagger stabbed right through a breastplate, or Gabrielle's staff easily knocking out armored and helmeted bad guys.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Played very straight in The Bible, and possibly the Ur-Example: David and Goliath. When David prepares to face Goliath, King Saul offers him his armor, but as David is a young boy, the armor is too big and heavy for him, so he declines. Goliath is heavily armored, but David nails him in his unprotected forehead with his sling to knock him out, then decapitates him with his own sword. Then again, God is responsible for this outcome: God's protection is better than any armor, and if God is on the side of your enemy then no armor will keep you safe. This example is more of a Downplayed Trope, because while David was indeed putting himself at great risk without armor, a real sling is not at all like the modern-day slingshot that kids use for toys. It is comparable to a modern firearm and is easily capable of breaking bones and denting armor. David didn't bring a child's toy, he brought a GUN!
  • Thoroughly averted in The Book of Mormon, where the widespread introduction of armour among the Nephites is a game-changer that makes the clash of armies quite one-sided until the Lamanites catch up. To the point where, while the Nephites praise God for their victory, the Lamanites insist it was merely their armour.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • When Eddie Guerrero tried to wrestle in a flak jacket back when Smackdown went to Iraq in 2004, it was considered an illegal advantage and he was forced to remove it. When Dean Ambrose wrestled for the same company in a flak jacket, it served him no better than his t-shirts and wifebeaters had before. So this is either Three Month Rule or Depending on the Writer (booker?) in effect.

  • Destroy the Godmodder: Zigzagged, describing an entity as having armor doesn't bring any defensive capabilities unless the armor itself has its own health bar that has to be destroyed before the entity can be actually attacked or otherwise augments its actual stats. In addition, armor alchemies stand out for being the only clothing alchemies to actually do anything.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • In the 4th Edition of Ars Magica Armour actually makes characters more vulnerable to injury. This is because the encumbrance penalty imposed by the weight of the armour detracts from the character's Defense, giving the opponent a bonus to their Attack Advantage that can be substantial enough to more than compensate for the armour's Soak.
  • Played with in Chainsaw Warrior, picking some clothing uses your precious and oh so limited equipment choice but there are some benefits that can be major or minor. Armor has 50% chance of stopping any attack from hurting the Chainsaw Warrior though it'll eventually break, metal gloves give him a boost to melee skill and reduces the damage a ratpack can do to him, rad-suit reduces radiation taken and while helmets don't prevent damage, they make him immune to getting poisoned by zombies (zombie venom only comes from their mouths and they're compelled to only bite at the head). A powerful Chainsaw Warrior could probably skip over clothing choices while a weaker one might want to spend some points.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons in general armor works, with heavy armor being the easiest way to get higher Armor Class, but it has a number of drawbacks depending on the version:
    • The trope does not apply in the first and second editions, where armor is one of the few ways to increase your Armor Class and make your character more difficult to hit. Further, it provides few drawbacks.
    • In 3.0 and 3.5 editions, armor tops out at a certain point, and using the really heavy armor comes with drawbacks — including penalties to many physical actions, decreased movement speed and penalties for sleeping in it. Some characters are prohibited from using their special powers while wearing armor that is too heavy or wearing any armor at all. 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 or make you more difficult to hit without many of these drawbacks.
    • 4th edition reduces the importance of armor by having characters add half their level to their armor class. This means that high-level characters are still more difficult to hit. Further, if a character is wearing light or no armor they can add their DEX or their INT bonus to their armor class. All of this means that high-level characters can evade attacks even when lightly armored.
    • In 5th edition heavier armour is generally the best way to get high AC. Medium armor with okay Dex or light armor with very good Dex can get pretty close, but plate is the best armor available AC wise, although heavy armours and some medium armours give disadvantage on stealth checks. Notably Barbarians and Monks can end up as good or better (depending on magic items) with their unarmored defense class features. Spellcasters in general will have poor armor and be quite squishy as a result, although it's possible to create even a wizard who walks around in full plate harness.
  • 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. In the 3rd edition, however, armor has become viable again, and stacks with the Resistance skills. However, most Martial Arts don't function with armor on.
  • F.A.T.A.L. 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'.
  • 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 variations that use the Weapon and Armour rating extras, or variations on them, weapon values are generally higher than armour: the Atomic Robo Role Playing Game has Weapon:4 cost as much as Armour:2, while Jadepunk has Harmful 2 for the same price as Protective 1, and even if your Armour/Protective rating does nullify a hit, the enemy will still get a boost, making them more likely to penetrate next time.
  • Godbound has armour that's useful early on and against weaklings, but the to-hit bonuses a high-level Godbound gets will effectively nullify the attack, and that's if they aren't spending Effort on something that hits automatically. Also, there are plenty of Gifts that give you an AC on par with heavy armour even if you're naked, although those do cost some of your sharply limited pool of Gift points.
  • 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". When you reach TL 9, Powered Armor starts appearing. This type of armor's true strength is to turn choosing between dodging and DR a False Dichotomy: Powered Armor will stop small arms fire or fragmentation damage while still allowing you to dodge heavier rounds.
  • 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 MERP note , 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 occurred 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 maneuverability, it also carried a quickness penalty to make you even easier to hit while wearing it!
  • Pathfinder uses a system based on the D20 system of Dungeons and Dragons, so it has all the same examples. It also riffs on the trope in a number of additional ways:
    • There is 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.
    • In the NPC Codex, which provides official stats for the game's iconic characters, Seoni (the sorceress in the slinky red dress) officially has a better armor class with her spells running 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.
    • By mid levels anything capable of doing significant damage to a character will have such a high attack bonus that AC in general is nearly irrelevant. Defense becomes all about spells like Mirror Image and Blur that provide a flat miss percentage, along with damage reduction and regeneration effects.
  • Recon describes the standard issue US flak vest as "Five pounds of useless, dead weight." It was heavy, uncomfortable to wear in the sweltering jungles of Vietnam, and couldn't stop rifle rounds anyways, so most soldiers didn't bother wearing it. As such, no rules are provided for body armour in the game.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • 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. It's fan nickname is "the T-shirt" to go alongside the similarly underpowered lasgun, "the flashlight". On the tabletop, until 8th edition, basically everything immediately punched straight through flak armor; 8th edition AP rules changed this to adding negative modifiers to armor rolls instead. It is actually reasonably effective against smaller arms fire, with flak armor actually stopping would be fatal shots from non-armor piercing weapons 1/3rd of the time.
    • 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.
    • Terminator armor is dramatically nerfed in Space Hulk, where Genestealers easily shred it (in the normal game, they just have a rule that reduces its protection from "block 5/6th of attacks" to "block 1/3rd of attacks", 1/6th of the time).
  • In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition, armour grants a single point of Damage Reduction, whereas a character's innate Toughness grants an average of three points and can increase with level. This leads to situations where a naked dwarf (with their +1 Toughness) is hardier than a human in full plate armor. Later editions scale armor up to a much more useful 5 points, leaving only the difficulty and expense of getting the good stuff.
  • 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.

  • Princess Ida by Gilbert and Sullivan has a guardsman sing an entire song, "This Helmet I Suppose" about how his armor is heavy, stifling, and ill-fitting, and doesn't really offer enough protection to balance those drawbacks out.

  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Played with in Sunrider. All units have an Armor stat that mitigates damage taken from attacks, and the higher your Armor is the less damage you take. However, every time a unit gets hit their Armor stat goes down a bit, making it less and less effective as the fight drags on. Kinetic weapons in particular will tear through Armor like tissue paper. Deflector Shields work the same way, with the added bonus that they get stronger when two or more shields overlap, but unlike Armor Shields will only protect you from laser and pulse weapons.
  • Yo-Jin-Bo: Nobody wears armor, except for Mon-Mon, who wears 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.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Discussed. In Volume 4, Blake's father comments that Blake's combat attire doesn't "seem to cover very much"; he's talking about her complete lack of armour. She defensively points out that she doesn't need any armour in battle, which Ghira accepts. Huntsmen have trained Auras, which act as spiritual armour. While some Huntsmen do wear minimal or token armour, such as Jaune or Ghira himself, who wears an abdominal plate and later gets stabbed in his unprotected shoulder during battle, for anyone who is trained in using Aura, it is always the best protective option available.

  • 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 point-blank 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.
  • Fate/type Redline: An unnamed Servant wears a huge suit of armor, only for Okita to stab him in the throat through a gap in it.
  • In Oglaf, a tribe of orcs realize that "armour does nothing" after finding record of a "toddler" with a stick stabbing right through an orc's breastplate (the "toddler" appears to actually be a hobbit), and switch to Chainmail Bikini armor on the theory that it offers just as much protection, but weighs much less and distracts the enemy.
  • Zig-zagged in Schlock Mercenary. Most uniforms worn by the Toughs and similarly equipped military units use fullerene, a carbon-based compound, and function as lightweight Powered Armor. proof against light arms and most physical attacks, but weak to armor-piercing pistol rounds. For more dangerous missions, combatants usually use more conventional suits of power armor that, while allowing the Toughs to survive firefights with a variety of foes, are often more useful for the extra strength they provide rather than defense, usually falling under the tactics the current enemy's using (nanotech, heavy duty firepower, etc.). It helps that medical science in this universe is so advanced that you can regrow most of your body if your head survives, or even regrow your whole body from scratch from a digital backup later on in the series.
  • In Cryptida, a group of naked mermaids emerge out of the ocean and succeed in invading a naval base in Communist East Germany. They overwhelm the better armed sailors with nothing but shells on sticks (and a few well placed Super-Scream attacks.)
  • Virtually none of the named characters in No Need for Bushido use armor, and it's seldom if ever shown doing much good for the mooks and red shirts who do use it, especially at the end of the comic once the Wataro army begins using firearms en masse. There is one exception however; Honou-ko, a member of the Quirky Mini Boss Squad, wears heavy armor at all times that is specifically made to break the blades of anyone who attacks him. When faced with an opponent that he can't defeat right away, Honou-ko tends to tempt them into making an attack, usually by making it look like he has slipped and given them an opening, letting his opponent break their sword on his armor, and then cutting them down. He is defeated exactly the way a real armored foe would be defeated: moving creates small gaps in the armor and what it covers, and when Honou-ko goes to swing his sword to finish off one downed opponent, the movement creates such a gap at the armpit. Genchu promptly stabs him there.

    Web Original 
  • Tobuscus parodies this in his Literal Trailer for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. The lyrics accompany Ezio defeating two pairs of guards with his Hidden Blades and throwing knives, respectively.
    Hopefully those guards have good armor / No they don't, maybe they do / They don't.
  • In Orion's Arm early space warfare is described as being like playing hide-and-seek with bazookas.
  • Students use armor and padded clothing during their spars in Void Domain. Trope averted and played straight at the same time. None of the students injure each other, however one student takes a bout of holy fire which severely burns her.

    Web Videos 
  • In Freeman's Mind, the Alien Grunts' armor zig-zags this. It makes them extremely tough for Freeman to take down, but it also doesn't cover their abs, which severely limits its protective abilities. Freeman at one point wonders if they're wearing such impractical armor because they're male strippers and the invasion has some kinky alien context.
  • Averted in Knight of Hope: the protagonist's full plate armor is realistically depicted as very protective, and he uses it to full advantage. Namely, it lets him tank most of what the bandits throw at him without injury, with only weapons specifically for fighting armor (such as a pole-ax) or strikes to the exposed joints are able to actually harm him. It's one reason he's able to fight an entire bandit camp by himself and win.
  • Mahu: In "Crownless Eagle" there are cavalry troops who ride to battle wearing cuirasses alongside other pieces of armor. For hand-to-hand combat, that gives them an edge against their foes. It does not work so well however, when faced by a line of musket-wielding troops.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: One episode shows Krieger testing a Bulletproof Vest on Chet, a new intern. It shows Krieger firing a submachine gun, then cuts to Chet, slumped against the wall, dead, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds.
    Krieger: Now, normally I don't let an intern do this on his first day, but... Chet? How's it hanging, buddy?
  • Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century: Duck Dodgers plays this trope straight in his first confrontation with Marvin the Martian. Marvin threatens him with a 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 promptly disintegrates him. The completely undamaged vest hangs in mid-air for a moment before plopping onto the pile of Dodger's ashes.
  • Family Guy: Exaggerated/parodied in "It's a Trap!", a parody of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. The stormtroopers' armor can't even withstand arrow fire, and one of them who's riddled with arrows exclaims "This armor's useless! Why do we even wear it?"
  • In Futurama: Bender's Big Score, the head nudist scammer informs the cast that he was wearing a doom-proof vest — then dolefully regrets that he wasn't wearing doom-proof pants.
  • In Samurai Jack, we see Jack slicing through heavily-armored robots and mercenaries with ease, making it likely that the armorers of Aku's evil future make people's armor out of aluminum foil out of spite. Jack himself dons a full set of plate armor after the Time Skip, it gets disintegrated within the first minute of him facing the Daughters of Aku, and he never bothers to replace it.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Jedi wade into battle wearing ordinary fabric (and sometimes quite revealing, in the cases of Aayla and Ahsoka) clothing, while the Mooks under their command have full body armor and armor. The latter get mown down by the dozen; the former only get killed for drama's sake. Though Obi-Wan wears some of the clone trooper armor that he's first seen wearing in the previous Clone Wars cartoon. One episode sees Padmé and Satine investigating a poisoning outbreak. When they finally track down the bad guys, said bad guys open fire. The front line consists of one lightly armored officer and two heavily armored guards bearing blaster-deflecting shields. Guess who goes down?
    • Jedi only really wear armor when the situation is just that dire, because they are ultimately peacekeeping Warrior Monks. As shown in various Star Wars Legends material Jedi used to wear armor, but they abandoned it following the Ruusan Reformation at the end of the Old Republic era as part of their (and the Republic's) demilitarization. The Clone Wars became fierce so quickly that the Jedi had to adapt to survive and embrace many things once thought to be taboo.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • This is both played straight and subverted. Ezra's energy slingshot seems to have no effect on Stormtrooper armor, but seemingly everything above a child's makeshift weapon takes them out. In one scene a trooper commented on his weapon being ineffective, and Ezra took him out by throwing fruit at him. Subverted in S2 when we see Sabine take two hits to the chest and face (by her own blasters no less) and is saved by her Mandalorian armor, and Kanan's shoulder armor saves him from losing an arm in the same fight. Subverted again in "The Last Battle" when the group are up against much better shots than they're used to, and Rex takes hits to his chest and head while Ezra takes a hit to the chest, both times being saved by their armor.
    • Lampshaded in the Season 2 episode "Stealth Strike", when Rex headbutts a Stormtrooper into submission, then comments that the Stormtrooper armor really does seem useless. The rule of thumb seems to be that practical armor (Kallus' ISB armor, Sabine's Mandalorian armor, Rex's Clone Wars armor) is far from useless, but the cheap, mass-produced armor the Stormtroopers wear is, as they're too expendable to waste decent armor on. Rex also says that his own first-generation armor is better than what later marks of clones were issued (although as an ARC Trooper he got a heavier version than standard).
    • All that said, we do occasionally see Stormtroopers get back up(or at least move around in obvious pain) after being shot by blasters, suggesting that the main function of their cheap, mass-produced armour is to turn a lethal hit into a non-lethal one, rather than trying to stop the attack entirely.
    • And then it goes even further in "Heroes of Mandalore" with a weapon that's designed to destroy Mandalorian armor and anybody wearing it, making such armor worse than useless. Ironically, anyone NOT wearing armor or helmets won’t get struck.
  • Gems in Steven Universe fight in unarmored clothing, usually Future Spandex, even during wartime. Rose's armory has several suits of armor and another gem owns at least one set (which she used as formal wear), suggesting they have effective armor, but don't use it. The one partial exception is Jasper, whose gem weapon is a helmet, but she uses it more as a hammer than armor.
  • Winx Club: This trope was common between the red fontana specialists, at least during the first seasons, and the battle of alfea against the armies of darkness was the primal example of this, where we seen many of them taking strikes that could kill a normal person, with minor or medium damage. This applies to the winx girls in a lesser degree, since in an episode, layla took a serious hit from a monster in the holopryector, layla was mostly unscathed by this.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Armour Is Useless


Shino Kuribayashi

The numerical advantage of the Empire is no match for a single JSDF Sergeant First Class armed with a Howa Type 64 Battle Rifle.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / ArmorIsUseless

Media sources: