Fully Articulated Powered Carapace Armor, or simply "Powered Plate", is the result of literally decades of cooperation between the numerous branches of the Society of Makers, the Sacrosanct's 'Coggite Ingineerium' Cult, and the Greatland College of Arms and Heraldry.
In principle, it's not too much different than a normal suit of Carapace armor worn by men-at-arms or rank and file soldiery. It's a simple series of interlocking plates, that use channels and ball-bearings to slide across each other smoothly and offer as little restriction upon the wearer's freedom of movement as possible. However, a regular suit of carapace armor is usually comprised of a breastplate, some shoulder plates, a helmet, greaves and a long chain skirt. Powered Plate armor is a veritable exoskeleton that offers complete protection from head to toe.
It improves upon regular Carapace Armor in every way, taking advantage of bits and pieces of Xenotech and Archeotech that has been dug up, preserved, reverse-engineered and re-engineered over the decades. While Carapace Armor offers decent protection from blades, arrows and gunshot, Powered Plate Armor is impenetrable to all but the most powerful weaponry. It also augments the speed, strength and endurance of the wearer through numerous enhancements and feats of technology.
Unlike normal guild produced armor, there are no templates to making this armor. While Carapace Armor comes in a variety of fashions and styles that are different across the globe, they all essentially provide the same coverage, weigh the same in stone, and after all guild fees and taxes, cost about the same (providing they are all manufactured from ordinary run-of-the-mill steel, and providing they are supposed to be functional armor pieces rather than a inlaid gold-and-silver ceremonial suit or something of the like.) Powered Armor is an entirely different beast. There are no templates; in fact, no two sets of Power Armor are exactly alike. One must jump through a number of hoops to commission the fabrication of a suit, and must make a substantial monetary investment beforehand to ensure that his or her gold is as good as his or her word.
APPLICATION AND DESIGN
Firstly, the "Applicant" must visit the local College of Arms and Heraldry - there is usually one located in every major city across western Greatland, and a spattering of such places across the east, where Powered Armor is much less popular. There he must submit a "Claim of Worth" along with several thousand Drachma as a deposit. The Claim is essentially a credit check, to ensure the Applicant has sufficient monetary funds to finance the building of a suit of Armor. Consequently, they also check to see if the Applicant has a history of wrecking expensive suits of armor. Usually this is established by contacting members of his or her house, and searching out co-signers if need be. Once the College has Established that the Applicant has the funds necessary (which can take as little as an hour for a member of a prominent family or upstanding citizen and as long as years for members of a lesser house or house less burghers,) they Accept the Claim, and instruct the Applicant to make an appointment for "Fitting" at the local Artificer.
The Applicant officially becomes a "Client" once he sets foot in the Artificer. The Artificers first sit down and ask exactly what the Customer is looking for from the Armor. First they talk performance - does the wearer value defense or speed? How much use will the suit see? Does it require any on-board weapons systems? What conditions will it be operating in? All these basic questions will help evaluate the needs of the wearer, so that his suit of Armor will perform amiably in any theoretical battle situation. After these details have been nailed down, the Artificer and Client talk aesthetics. What kind of motifs or designs will adorn the armor? Does it just need to be functional? Or does it need to glimmer with gold-plated highlights in the sun? Perhaps the helm needs to be adorned with a giant crest, sporting the heraldry of the Client's house. Stylization and application often times coincide, and plays a big part of requisitioning a suit of Powered Plate. Making an impression is as big a deal as victory - after all no one is going to forget a Suit of Jet Black and Gold with a helmet fashioned like a maw of a Dragon wielding a twelve foot great sword of obsidian steel, with shoulder mounted Plasma lances and giant metal bat wings that act as posterior shields. Even if the battle is lost and the Knight is slain, that is the sort of picture soldiers never forget.
Once the plans have been laid, the Client is told to return in twelve to eighteen months, which is the projected time period that it takes to make a suit of Armor. From here on in, the Artificers work tirelessly, usually in a group of twenty to thirty, on a single suit of armor.
First the metal frame is set - usually a skeletal looking device, comprised of lightweight metals that will act as an endoskeleton within the armor, giving inner support. This usually lined with soft cloth, to make for more comfortable wear-ability. While this endoskeleton is being fashioned, the Artificers send word to the Coggite Ingineerium. The Coggites, are priests of the God "Cog" who is the patron deity of Technology, both simple and Complex. The Coggites run the Culta Ingineerium, a Sacrosanct Cult, devoted to the practice of technological fabrication and application in the name of Cog. It is the Coggites who fashion the most important "guts" of the suit - Synthmuscle and the Plasma Core.
Synthmuscle is an organic tissue taken from a family of flora known as Kellerhadrin Plants. It's a very tough, stringy, sinuous material that distends and contracts with an electrical impulse, much like that found in the human body. The force exerted from two dozen strands of this material is roughly proportional to a human muscle, but when assembled into cords of hundreds, the energy output is quadruple or greater (depending on the stock of the plant and from where the plant is harvested.) While bundles and cords of synthmuscle are being assembled, the Coggites work tirelessly on the other part of the "power assembly" (the organic component of the suit from which it draws it's great strength) the Plasma Core. The Core is comprised of two parts - the Plasma Radiator and a large Altera Crystal. Since all automated functions of the suit must be powered electrically, including the flexing of the muscles and the computer system that controls the coordination of the suit, an electrical core was essential.
Armor Power Assembly
Since there is little in the way of combustible resources on New Terra (save for lumber and the combustible fluid known as Alitol, both of which require very large furnaces to convert to electricity) the Altera crystal proves to be the best solution. When heated, it gives off a pulsating electrical charge - more than enough to power the systems of a suit of Armor. The heat for the crystal comes from the Plasma Radiator, which encapsulates the Altera Crystal. This is a disposable "Fuel Cell" resides in an enclosure known as the Plasma core, which routes the electricity to the systems of the suit. Fuel cells are "fairly" cheap and should be replaced regularly and removed when the suit is out of use.
Extraordinary Armor Augmentations
Once the Power Assembly has been put together, the Coggites next task is to engineer all the other electronic components that were ordered for the suit. Targeting modules are the most popular, but other amenities, such as damage indicators, automatic repair systems and helmet mounted vocal amplifiers are all common additions. Needless to say, technological implements skyrocket the price of the suit, but if one has the money to burn, there is no better way to burn it.
Mithrilized Carapace Plating
By this time, the Artificers are ready to begin fashioning the outer plates of the suit. The outer plates are made of high quality, heavy steel, which goes through a process of galvanization, which helps the suit become rust resistant. It further undergoes a transformation known as "mithrilization" which further hardens the steel. Mithrilization can be done to most any metal to further harden it, though Mithrilized steel is by far the most common. The technique is guarded jealously by the Artificers guild, and those from outside the Society of Makers who are found trying to steal or sell the technique are dealt with quite severely.
While the outer plates are undergoing the mithrilization, the Power Assembly (musculature and power source) is fashioned onto the suit's endoskeleton. Critical electronic components are mounted and the endoskeleton undergoes tests to ensure that it will no malfunction, and that it has as full a freedom of movement as the suit will physically allow. Once these tests are complete, the Outer Plates are mounted. Ball bearings and slide joints allow the plates to glide across each other with ease, and lobstered back plates and stomach plates ensure that the wearer can bend or even perform acrobatic maneuvers while fully encapsulated in the Powered Plate. Gauntlets are fully articulated as well, and go through a rigorous series of tests to ensure that the subject will have maximum dexterity. The leg plating covers the wearers shins, thighs and calves fully, and contain the largest bundles of synthmuscle to allow for movement and breakneck speed, and near whiplash inducing agility. A mail skirt is attached at the hip and cascades down to near the ankle, in the same fashion as normal carapace armor.
At this point, the armor is "vented" - slits are created with plasma torches in the armor to ensure that the synthmuscle, which gets warm with use, can "breathe" efficiently. These vents prove to be the biggest weakness in the armor, though it will cease to function properly without them. A blow or cut to the muscle can sever it, or render it useless. Thus these vents are usually covered by a light mesh and placed in hard to reach areas, to ensure that no stray blow will accidently find a mark.
Additionally, the other weapon systems and electronic components are fashioned into the suit. While the Society of Makers has not guild to deal with Technology, they work very closely with the Coggite Ingineerium to ensure that the advanced tech is implemented properly in the suit, and all of these installations are done under the careful supervision of one of their Engineers.
After this the suit is painted and adorned - usually with expensive cloth sporting the colors of the Client's house, and painted according to the wishes of the client. Goldsmiths are often called in to do the Ornaementum on the armor, from accentuated rondels, to pauldrons fashioned in the shape of eagle heads, to helmet visors to look like a golden dragon's maw. Painters from the Artisanal guild are shipped in to do elaborate scrollwork across the inlays of the armor, while Ark Priests are often called to adorn the armor with Bivlical passages. Once the suit is primed and pained, it undergoes a field test, to ensure all aspects of the suit perform according to specifications, before it is branded Complete, and stamped with the official seal of the Society of Makers and the College of Arms. At this point, the Client comes, tests the armor, pays, takes it and goes.
So what's this going to run a client?
On average, a full suit of Articulated Powered Carapace Armor costs about 72,000 Greatland Drachma. To put that into perspective, that's about as much money as it takes to construct a small Mansion, complete with it's own Plasma Generator. Most nobles consider that to be a "Comfortable living" though perhaps a bit small.
Is it too Good to be True?
For what one pays for a suit of this armor, he or she might expect near invincibility. And this is partly true. Few conventional weapons can even so much as dent a suit of this wonderful armor. Arrows break, swords clang fruitlessly off of them, even Archenbusse rounds are deflected harmlessly. But even the toughest armor has a problem deflecting blows from a giant weapon swung by another in a suit of similar armor. Knights wear Powered Armor to protect themselves from other Knights quite simply. And in the Age of Kings, there is a resurgence of discovery of technology that was thought to be lost. Plasma Lances can, with sustained fire, cut through the Mithrilized Plates of the Armor, exposing the delicate musculature beneath. Volleys of Thumper fire have been known to dislodge plates of armor, providing they hit at just the right angle. Vibro-weapons prove to be dreadfully effective at disrupting the flow of energy through the synthmuscles, slowing the wearer down considerably. And a good whack to the Plasma Core can dislodge the Plasma Cell, shutting off the suit and trapping the wearer inside nearly eight hundred pounds of metal.
So is it worth it?
Every army needs a little heavy armor. There are few things more frightening than a dozen knights wielding massive weaponry, striding across the field, sending contingents of light infantry every way, screaming "RETREAT." Near invulnerability and true invulnerability are two very different concepts, and as with all things on the battlefield, one's greatest asset to staying alive is common sense, and of course, a strict discipline. That being said, Superheavy Armor granting superhumn strength can't hurt to solidify one's chances of victory, or at least survivability.