In this early article, written three years before Dungeons & Dragons, we can pick out many familiar keywords. Referring to armor prior to the medieval period, Gygax says it "might be padded, leather, scale armor, ring mail, or chain mail," quite a procession in a single phrase. He notes that in the era of the Norman Conquest, the legs of a fighting man might be protected by "studded leather." Later he cites "banded mail" and "splinted armor," though with the caveat that "none of the authorities can agree as to just what the Hell banded mail was." This all led up to the "Plate period" beginning in the fifteenth century, in which "suits of plate were beautifully made and decorated, but they were entirely functional." Indeed, none of the armor types in the new Basic Rules of Dungeons & Dragons (p.44) go unmentioned in this brief article -- even "hide."
This is significant as the prevalence of those armor types in medieval Europe, especially ring armor, became a target of historical skepticism by the mid-twentieth century, largely following Blair's European Armour (1958), which criticized the interpretation of some vague medieval illustrations as indicative of ring mail. Gygax's sources, mostly from the early twentieth century, do not take Blair into account. Thus we might accuse Gygax of neglecting contemporary research in his game designs... except for the fact that Gygax actually did not introduce the ring or scale armor types to gaming. When we look to Chainmail, for example, we see that his system reduced armor to only a few base categories, further divided into those with and without shield, of "armor protection types":
For medieval miniature warfare, Gygax lumps in padded with leather, and considers banded, studded, and splint as equivalent to chain. Ring and scale mail are immediately notable for their omission. Nor did the publication of Dungeons & Dragons fill in that gap. In fact, the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons followed the Chainmail armor categories; unarmored, leather, chain, and plate, which might be worn with or without a shield. Types like padded, banded, and splint, which are at least mentioned in Chainmail, do not appear at all in the original Dungeons & Dragons. This situation remained unchanged through Holmes Basic.
So who first introduced ring and scale to role-playing games? The answer can be found in the first printing of Tunnels & Trolls (1975), which includes a detailed armor chart that divides plate armor into constituent parts (the basinet, breastplate, casque, chausse, cuirass, and solleret), and does the same for chain, ring, and scale. Here Ken St. Andre proves a solitary innovator: though he reuses the ring and scale categories in his Monsters! Monsters! (1976), few soon followed his lead: even the exhaustive list in Chivalry & Sorcery (1977) skips ring and scale, and Steve Jackson's Melee keeps to the simple leather/chain/plate categories of Dungeons & Dragons. Scale armor can be worn by Heroes in Midgard 2; though the rule addition is undated, it surely came before 1977. These types are however present in Runequest (1978), which debuted at almost exactly the same time as the original Players Handbook (1978). It is in the PHB that these familiar armor variants could all finally be worn (when purchased) by characters in Dungeons & Dragons:
[*] In fact, Gygax had published a detailed bibliography of his medieval sources months earlier in Domesday Book #7, which encompasses works he consulted on castles, battles, weapons, and many other matters than just armor. It does include the authors listed above among many other authorities. To capture Gygax's contemporary thinking, these lists should be preferred to the ones cited far later in the Dungeon Masters Guide (1979) or at the back of Unearthed Arcana (1985) -- with the caveat that Gygax did indeed rely heavily on the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica for medieval information in the early 1970s for certain particulars, though that would be a story for another time. We also must remember that Conan wears "ring mail" in the "Hour of the Dragon" and scale mail in the "Queen of the Black Coast," and surely fantasy fiction held more sway over early game designers than academic histories.