Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction Writers => Writers' Corner => Topic started by: Yora on November 20, 2014, 05:32:40 PM

Title: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on November 20, 2014, 05:32:40 PM
While I would not go so far to call myself an expert on these things, I have a great interest in understanding how the devices and methods seen in fantasy and also sci-fi actually work and how realistically they are shown. Unfortunately, the answer to the second one is "usually really bad", and what we usually get to see often has almost nothing to do with the way people in the past actually fought. In another RPG forum I frequently post, we have threads about this topic going for years with tens of thousands of posts, and since I think this is a subject that many writers and also readers of fantasy books care about as well, I want to see if we can get something similar going here.
I haven't studied any of this at an academic level, but have had a great interest in the real history of weapons and armor for many years, and even as a pure hobbyist you can pick up quite a lot that most people don't have any idea about. And I am probably not the only one around here. That being said, this is of course purely armchair history, but writing fight scenes that are full of mistakes is still a lot better than ones that are complete nonsense. So if you have any questions regarding weapons, armor, fighting, and strategies that inspired fantasy, fell free to ask them at any time, even if it's not the current topic of discussion.

The thing I am currently struggling with is learning about the use of axes in actual battle. There is a huge amount of information about swords (though they were among the rarest types of weapons), and a good amount about spears and bows, but for axes there is very little. Is anyone familiar with axes used for fighting and has any information about them to share?
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: ScarletBea on April 12, 2015, 11:43:30 AM
I can't believe no one replied to this question!

I am going to piggyback on it (hoping someone answers Yora in the meantime) and ask about swords in general.
Yesterday during a conversation I realised that even my limited knowledge was potentially wrong (ok, I knew a rapier was to stab, but apparently it's not exactly as I imagined), and even the time spent in the Leeds Royal Armouries wasn't enough (reminder to return and study some more).
So, what types of sword are most commonly used (in fantasy books), and what do they look like/are their main purposes? When you know, battles look much better in my brain...

(maybe we should actually move this thread to the 'Fantasy discussion' section? Or the Writers' one?)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 12, 2015, 01:44:21 PM
There's a huge number of weapons that fall under the category of "sword". Perhaps even more than all other premodern weapons combined. A complicating factor is that swords always evolved. Some people tried out making swords with somewhat longer blades or narrower blades, actually liked how it sat in the hand and moved, and recommended it to others. But there never was a perfect sword, because swordsmiths always had to take the availability and prices for raw materials into consideration, and more sophisticated constructions would take a lot longer, making the sword more expensive for the buyer. And always there were other people trying to improve armor against the types of weapons they were commonly facing against. As a result, it all blurs together into a very broad range of "swords", which is really anything with a long blade on a short handle.
Of course in practice there were some forms of swords that worked really well and lots of people used them, while others just never caught on. So there are many different types of swords. But it never was an exact science and there was no standardization, so the distinctions between types are often quite blurry. Like literature genres, you have certain archetypes, but the personal preferences of the smiths and users don't conveniently stay within those lines. Modern historians like to pretend there are such clear lines, but many of the categories used today are modern inventions.

That being said, the names used for swords in fantasy are almost always completely wrong. Mixing up an African leopard with a South American Jaguar is not a big deal, they are extremely similar. But calling either of those a Siberian Tiger is just plain wrong.

Generally speaking, there are two types of swords: Bronze swords and steel swords. I am almost certain that you will never see a copper sword or an iron sword anywhere. Copper and iron are both too soft for large blades (though I think there are some copper knives) and you have to mix them with other elements into an alloy that has much better property. Copper alloys are usually called bronzes (brass is a modern term for a specific type of alloy that was lumped together with other bronzes in ancient times) and iron alloys are called steels, regardless of what those other elements are.
You can make steel that is superior to bronze, but this is very advanced metalurgy that has been invented only in recent centuries. Ancient and medieval steel is not superior to bronze! The reason bronze fell out of favor for weapons and armor around 3,000 years ago is that tin, which was most commonly mixed with copper to make bronze, became fantastically expensive and almost unaffordable. This forced metalworkers to find some way to make a good alloy based on iron. Those early types of steel were inferior in quality to bronze, but still could do the job decently enough and were many times cheaper. Over time the quality of steel improved, but it really is the much cheaper price of steel that made it the primary metal of choice throughout late antiquity and the middle ages. When you have one guy with a bronze sword and one guy with a steel sword, it really doesn't make any difference. When you have five guys with bronze swords and twenty guys with steel swords, it makes a huge difference.
Copper and bronze didn't really play a big role in ancient Central and Southern Africa, and they started with steel. (Though much later did develop bronze technology for art.) In America, they didn't even have that (only gold and silver, which doesn't work for weapons), but the Aztecs did have a weapon called macuahuitl that has a size and shape similar to sword and is also used in a very similar way, so it's sometimes called an obsidian sword. It's constructed more like a wooden club with a row of obsidian shards set into it as an edge. Completely different construction, but works almost the same way, so whether you want to call it a sword or not is probably personal preference. If it looks like a sword, handles like a sword, and cuts like a sword...

Okay, now we are getting to the kinds of swords you usually see in fantasy:
Keep in mind that the "Middle Ages" refer to a period of 1,000 years and an area that includes all of Europe and extends into Northern Africa and Asia. There are lots of differences between specific places and times, so everything here is a very gross simplification. Scientifically very inaccurate, but I think for the purpose of fantasy weapons entirely sufficient. Unless you want to have a fantasy story set in real world France in the year 1241 and want to have it as historically accurate as possible. The most common one-handed sword that every halfway decent knight runs around with would have probably called by him a "sword". It wasn't like the swordsmith had a wide range of different models on a rack. You picked your length and weight that best suited your height and strength, but that was mostly it. When people are talking about knights now, it's usually called an arming sword and looks like this.
(http://www.strongblade.com/prod/prodimages/sba-gentrysword1_m.jpg)

Which looks very similar to a viking sword, which lloks like this.
(http://www.swordsswords.com/ProductImages/s_s/CLASSIC_VIKING_SWORD_SS133.jpg)
The only real difference is a much smaller crossguard between the blade and the hilt. Not really sure why. The term Arming Sword is used mostly for swords that are later than the viking period so it might be possible that the crossguard was a new invention that came up around 1000 AD, but as I said those developments are always fluid evoultions that reach different places and different times and might not be adopted everywhere.
This sword was not only used in Scandinavia, but I think throughout all of northern and central Europe.

It is almost the same weapon as the earlier Roman spatha.
(http://wiki.cantr.net/images/thumb/e/ea/Steel_spatha.jpg/300px-Steel_spatha.jpg)
Again, the handle is a bit different, but the blade is mostly the same. A straight steel blade about as long as an arm and two fingers wide.

Even in China, at the opposite end of the Old World, you get the jian, which again is really pretty much the same thing.
(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Jian_%28sword%29.jpg)
Why? Because it works! It's good. It's weight and proportions are a very good match for a human swordsman and it's a great alrounder that combines speed, accuracy, and versatility, while also being easy to carry around with you all day on your belt.

Big downside: It's really expensive. Which is why most people who went to war didn't have one. Not only does the blade of a sword need five or six times as much metal as a spear blade, it also needs to be forged at a much higher quality because longer blades are at greater risk of bending or snapping. That's basic mechanical physics. Imagine taking a pencil and snapping it in two. That's easy. Now take one of those halves and snap it again. Which is a lot more difficult. And good luck snapping one of those quarters with your bare hands. And it's not because you have a bad grip on a small piece. Long things bend and snap easier than short things in relation to the thickness. Which is also why you get to see small blades very early, but really big and long swords only very late. You need a lot of metalurgical tricks to make steel that can take the stresses of such a large blade.
Most people who went to war had spears or axes, which have much smaller blades and are therefore a lot cheaper. In most languages other than English, the word "knight" means "rider", because they were a small elite of people who were wealthy enough to own a horse bred and trained for battle. These people also tended to be rich enough to own a sword. Which is why knights are usually very much associated with them. A sword was nice to have on your belt when you visit the village or run around in the castle, but for really serious fighting, there were better alternatives:
When you fight a guy with really heavy armor, you want a weapon with a lot of punch, because your sword blade can't cut through it. When you do a cavalry charge, you don't want to get into the reach of your enemies spears to be able to hit them, so you also use a spear (a "lance" really is just a spear used while on a horse for most of history). Or a bow. The sword is wonderful when you don't have anything else. It's a great alrounder that will be useful in almost any situation. But when possible, you want a specialist weapon for your specific task. When you went into battle with one, it was your backup weapon, like a pistol. Even the samurai didn't make a big deal about their swordfighting skills, because that implied you somewhat regularly got into situations where you lost your bow and spear. Then why do modern Japanese people make such a huge deal about their swords? Because contrary to common belief, exotic foreigners are just as stupid as Europeans and Americans and love cool stuff they see in movies or read in unrealistic fantasy books.
The lack of reach of a sword compared to a spear is a real problem in battle. Sparring is of course not the same thing as battle to the death, but people who are decent with swords and spears made the experience that if you have one person with a spear against one person with a sword, the swordsman needs to be extremely good to win.

The only case I am aware of where regular soldiers were all using swords were the Roman legionaries. And that was because the legions used a very specific type of formation combat that relied on getting everyone squezed together so tightly that spears couldn't be really used and then stabbing swords were extremely effective. But that is really the only case I know of large numbers of soldiers using swords instead of spears.

Speaking of the Roman sword: I mentioned the spatha earlier, but the standard roman sword was the gladius. Which also really just means "sword".
(https://portalhistoria.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/cena_pagana_gladius13.jpg)
The gladius is shorter than the spatha, but not really by much and calling it a "short sword" is quite misleading. They are still pretty big. I mentioned before that large blades require advanced metalurgy and forging techniques, and therefore most bronze swords tend to fall into this category.
In the same way daggers can be really big too. Much larger than a small pocket knife. The roman pugio looks like a big knife (though technically a knife has a single edge, while a dagger has two), but some types are large enough that some people might think of them as small swords.

The other type of sword that is super popular around the sword are sabers. There is a huge variety of sabres, both in blades and handles, but they all share the same trait of having a single edge and being curved.
(http://www.coldsteel-uk.com/store/1860-heavy-cavalry-sabre-88hcs.jpg)
Sabers have some advantages and disadvantages compared to straight swords. The disadvantage is that they are generally not as good at chopping, but instead work much better at slicing. Which is why soldiers on horses generally tend to favor sabres over straight swords because when you ride by someone on the ground quickly, it's easier to just slice your blade over him than trying to get a good chop from an akward position. But when you hit armor, a sabre has less of an impact and doesn't hurt as much. Neither sabres nor straight swords can cut through metal armor, but any heavy impact still hurts and can push you over.

Then you have a couple of "hybrids" like the German messer ("knife") and the Japanese katana ("sword").
(http://www.coldsteel-uk.com/store/grosse-messer-88gms.jpg)
(http://www.zombie-guide.com/wp-content/uploads/katana-japanese-sword.jpg)
While they do have a single edge and a slight curve, the curve is quite subtle and the blade pretty heavy. You see katanas everywhere, but I don't remember seeing a messer anywhere in fantasy, even though there's no reason why it shouldn't.

Going back to antiquity, there is also a kind of chopping sword that looks really quite weird at first. Again, there are many names, but the most generic is kopis.
(http://www.marqalicante.com/contenido/genericas/02_-falcata%283%29.png)
And the title for weirdest looking sword probably goes to the Egyptian khopesh.
(http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-m8JL1FhFlQA/TmVb2JZwKMI/AAAAAAAAAuM/s-kDUP9Xxsc/s1600/KhopeshSword.jpg)
Swords like these are almost a kind of hybrid between sword and axe and saber. You can't do any fancy fencing with them as you see in a three musketeer movie, but you can both chop and stab with them. And you really just have to look at them to see how extremely good these are at chopping.
While they look very exotic, this was one of they ypes of swords used by the Greeks for quite a long time. But they went out of fashion during Aniquity, and I don't really know why. I would suspect that a straight sword is simply easier to forge, though.

You also might know the Asian kukri, which really is just the local adaptation of the kopis introduced by Alexander the Great when he was in the region. Most kukris you see are small and knife sized, but they can get to the size of big two-handed swords.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: JMack on April 12, 2015, 01:56:09 PM
And as usual, an incredible post from @Yora (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=35236)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: ScarletBea on April 12, 2015, 01:59:34 PM
Wow, just wow.
Thanks so much Yora!

And just a side note: a 'catana' (which I assume comes from the 'katana' you mention), is a big broad 'sword' used to cut vegetation in the wild woods. What the discoverers used when arriving in Brazil or to get through the African jungles.
Or at least that's the word used in portuguese - so I think that the japanese word must have come from the portuguese, when the discoverers arrived over there in the 16th century. Or vice-versa, word brought over to the portuguese language from their trips to Japan...
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: JMack on April 12, 2015, 02:06:04 PM
Wow, just wow.
Thanks so much Yora!

And just a side note: a 'catana' (which I assume comes from the 'katana' you mention), is a big broad 'sword' used to cut vegetation in the wild woods. What the discoverers used when arriving in Brazil or to get through the African jungles.
Or at least that's the word used in portuguese - so I think that the japanese word must have come from the portuguese, when the discoverers arrived over there in the 16th century. Or vice-versa, word brought over to the portuguese language from their trips to Japan...
I'd be fascinated to know more about the cross-cultural effects for Japan and Portugal. The "opening" of Japn (at cannon-point) in the 1800s led to a fever fir all things Japanese in US and Europe, and of course all the Meiji adoption of Eiropean technology and fashions in Japan. We also had a huge cross-impact between Japanese art and European Impressionism, then cubism, etc. on Japanrse art.

SB, any thoughts on the much earlier interaction for Portugal? Yes, I know we're way off swords, but it's really all your fault.  ;)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 12, 2015, 02:09:11 PM
I looked it up. "Catana" was picked up by the Portugese in Japan. Which isn't too surprising, as katana just means any kind of sword, regardless of shape and construction.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans who visited Asia in the 15th century and Japan in the mid-1500s. There was a lot of trade and exchange with Europe for almost a hundred years, and even after that there were only travel restrictions, but trade still continued on at a significant scale.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: ScarletBea on April 12, 2015, 03:22:53 PM
SB, any thoughts on the much earlier interaction for Portugal? Yes, I know we're way off swords, but it's really all your fault.  ;)
I'll leave that question for @Saraband (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=32607), he's the resident portuguese historian. Not me, I'm afraid, I just know the basics.
And please, my post had sword references ;)

Yora, thanks for clarifying (I could have looked up myself, but I'm living through a lazy fog today...)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: JMack on April 12, 2015, 03:38:07 PM
SB, any thoughts on the much earlier interaction for Portugal? Yes, I know we're way off swords, but it's really all your fault.  ;)
I'll leave that question for @Saraband (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=32607), he's the resident portuguese historian. Not me, I'm afraid, I just know the basics.
And please, my post had sword references ;)

Yora, thanks for clarifying (I could have looked up myself, but I'm living through a lazy fog today...)
Oh, yes, the OP.
@Saraband (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=32607), please include in any response numerous references to Portuguese and Japanses cross-cultural influences in regards to everything swords.  ;D

Speaking of swords and Japanisme, plus a shot of Anglophilia, the great Gilbert &Sullivan operetta The Mikado was inspired by a Japnese sword falling from it's decorative position in British home onto Gilbert's head. Much like the proverbial apple and gravity, but leading to something much funnier and with less, er, gravitas.  ;)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 12, 2015, 03:41:27 PM
OK I will bite: Eek this has all moved on since I started typing

I had been considering starting a thread on these lines since joining the boards only a little while ago, but didn't want to just barge in. I get passionate over this stuff. As any who suffered me talking history and re-enactment Saturday will testify, but where do you begin. I am happy to give opinion on pretty much anything medieval as well as fight scenes and have reference works I am happy to browse looking for answers.

I have some practical knowledge of using rebated steel weapons in competitive combat. Single combats through to battles of several hundred a side covering a time period between between 800ad to 1600ad. Recreated War of the Roses hoop and stave cannon and was lucky enough to crew the Mary Rose replica gun at Fort Nelson. I have made tents as well as carpentry items and some done some limited smithing, Built a Perrier and worked for the company that made the siege engines on display at Caerphilly Castle. Burnt charcoal and built bread ovens and I fletch and shoot my own arrows when time and space allow.
Yes I know how big headed this makes me sound but hopefully I can share some of this and maybe help someone with their writing on the mechanics of this stuff.

I have a lot of book learning, a little from primary source most from modern experts in the field. I would like to think this gives me some insight. All I can say is I may have an idea of how things were done for much of what I did it's guess work and you recreate a tool, be it butter churn or Viking sword and find how it is practical to use it. For later European sword work there are surviving manuals. George Silver is a good read.

http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/paradoxes.html

Summary don't mince around and hit them in the head. Stay away from those Italians and their effete rapiers.
He was onto a loser but there are some nuggets in there.

A slightly earlier work by Talhoffer, a German is very useful for War of the Roses period combat.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/33637817/Fight-Earnestly-Talhoffer-s-1459-Fight-Manual

Neither of these are exclusively sword manuals but are geared to impart military knowledge or in the latter half of Talhoffers work describe judicial combats, often between husband and wife which just gets weird.

Before I get too caught up

Quote
The thing I am currently struggling with is learning about the use of axes in actual battle. There is a huge amount of information about swords (though they were among the rarest types of weapons), and a good amount about spears and bows, but for axes there is very little. Is anyone familiar with axes used for fighting and has any information about them to share?

Bit like your swords reply there are a lot of variations in axes across the millennia. For simplicity and to hide my lack of a clue I will stick to the European/Scandinavian stuff a bit over 1000 years ago as that’s what I have actually fought with. I would split those down into the two handed Dane axe type and all the one handed stuff.
For the big stuff anything with a straight edge is going to be ceremonial or for executions fighting axes tend to have a curved blade. The haft is long enough to leave the top point of the blade below your shoulder height. You are not going to hit the ground now and hopefully you have enough control not to smack your own knees or shins.
Harold’s busy getting killed using one on the Bayeux Tapestry. Like pretty much any weapon the stance is side on to your opponent(s) and you keep the blade moving its real advantage is intimidation. It's big and heavy but hits hard and will cause massive trauma even against armoured targets. You keep it moving in a slow figure of 8 and change that rhythm before you strike. Defensively you can block with the haft diagonally and with the head pushed forwards or to the side. Breaking horses and shields (and getting the user stuck with spears) seems to be the best use for them. You can use it as a hook and catch an opponents shield with the back point the punch it forward so the front point meets their face or neck. Or just drag them out of their shield wall so your mates can finish them.
To use it effectively you need people to support you. A lone spear-man should beat a lone axeman every time.

With the single handed axes a shield in the other hand is a great idea. In fact for fighting in a shield wall the axe is a far more useful weapon than the sword as the movement you have is all up and down and you can only stab not slash with a sword in a wall.
In single combat and with shield half the aggressive moves are at the edges of your adversaries shield or shield boss. If you can knock their own shield rim into their teeth you can distract then for the half second needed to try and land the real blow. You can use their shield boss to push their shield down and then as they react slide it up the face of the shield. Even the blunt side of and axe can hurt.
In a wall you can reach over shields with them and tangle them up in the sleeves of a mail brynie, baldrics or shield straps and pull your opponent to your shieldwall for someone else to deal with.
There are disarming moves to catch the blades of other weapons and lock them on the head and the (haft or the head and the tail of the head on a Viking skeggox) where you catch their blade and twist to try and disarm or to break their weapon. If you can get inside the reach of a swordsman and stay nose to nose with him you can still chop chunks out of him but he has problems swinging a sword.

HTH feel free to ask any specifics if this isn't what you were looking for.

BTW there is something called the Fransisca which is worth looking up and they can be thrown from horseback.


Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: ScarletBea on April 12, 2015, 03:46:28 PM
Eeeek, it seems I didn't talk enough with you Rostum, sorry! I missed all the re-enactement conversations, sounds really interesting... I must have been talking plots and characters with Adrian, James and Geoff at that time.

Summary don't mince around and hit them in the head. Stay away from those Italians and their effete rapiers.
Love this ;D
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 12, 2015, 04:40:07 PM
Quote
Eeeek, it seems I didn't talk enough with you Rostum, sorry! I missed all the re-enactement conversations, sounds really interesting

I think conversation may be the wrong term. I talked at length and my victims eyes slowly glazed over.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 12, 2015, 05:18:31 PM
Rapiers are the consequence of armed people walking around town in an environment where you can be pretty sure not to get into a fight with someone wearing armor. Once armor penetration ceases to be a factor, people want to get as much speed and agility out of their sword as possible. And when the fight is a duel, you can expect to get a lot of room to move and nobody falling on your back, so you want to also maximize your reach with a long blade.
In those conditions, a rapier is really pretty good. But you wouldn't go to war with it. Then you want something heavier that can still be used to hack instead of just pierce. Fighting with a rapier against someone with plate armor would be pretty pointless, I think. You could injure him if he holds still and you can wriggle your blade between the plates, but if he fights back or just tries to avoid getting stabbed, it's probably close to impossible.

Don't remember if any books or movies ever did that, but someone going to war with a rapier before muskets dominate the battlefield (and making armor quite pointless) just doesn't make any sense.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 12, 2015, 05:52:58 PM
From memory Rapier means sword of the road. There are Italian manuscripts showing how you fight someone in armour, which are eluding me at the moment one may well be called the flawless defense dating to 1650ish.
I think the got popular in England as it has never been legal to murder anyone here but varying levels of self defence have been allowed. If you are accosted on the road and poke a hole in someone you can probably deliver them up to the local law alive, at least for the time being. They were also usful for duelling where you wish to win but not kill.

There is a really odd fighting style using a rondel dagger (A spike with two round discs making up the beginning and end of the handle) and a mace where you wriggle the pointy dagger into the chinks of your opponents armour then drive it home with the mace. The Rondel is pretty much the last 8" of a rapier.

New Model Army English civil war armour was proofed against ball. This involves shooting it with a musket with twice the powder charge it should have at a measured distance after the piece of armour was finished and planished. surviving pieces often have a crease where the lead ball failed to penetrate and skids off.

Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 12, 2015, 06:25:54 PM
There is one example of a breastplate that got hit by a canon ball. But not sure if it's actual battle damage or the result of artilley gunners goofing around with surplus armor on the training range. But it very clearly did not stop the canonball at all.   ;D

Putting two disks on the ends of the handle of a dagger made to get through armor probably is to get maximum grip. You don't want it to slip it from your hand even when pushing down or pulling on it with a lot of strength.
That being said, rapiers can be very deadly. Even a pretty grisly cut can be patched up with a bandage and a surgeon has easy access to fix any damaged muscle or sinews. Being impaled even with just a pretty thin blade is much more difficult to treat. If nothing vital got hit, it's a relatively small wound. But if you hit an artery or organ, there isn't much surgeons at the time could do.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: silvijanus on April 12, 2015, 06:45:31 PM
Interesting topic. I wont add anything about weapons (later I might write a few lines about archery, although I know basic stuff, but learned them from a real master), just want to remind you on something: more writing, less exploring and world building. :D
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 12, 2015, 07:18:38 PM
Quote
Interesting topic. I wont add anything about weapons (later I might write a few lines about archery, although I know basic stuff, but learned them from a real master), just want to remind you on something: more writing, less exploring and world building. :D

Please do post regarding plinking arrows. I wish I could write. Sadly I have a head full of ideas some knowledge and the ability to produce a training manual if I try and write fiction.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: JMack on April 12, 2015, 07:22:45 PM
Quote
Interesting topic. I wont add anything about weapons (later I might write a few lines about archery, although I know basic stuff, but learned them from a real master), just want to remind you on something: more writing, less exploring and world building. :D

Please do post regarding plinking arrows. I wish I could write. Sadly I have a head full of ideas some knowledge and the ability to produce a training manual if I try and write fiction.
May just have to use you as live resource manual.   ;) Sparingly ;D
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 12, 2015, 07:36:54 PM
Quote
May just have to use you as live resource manual.   ;) Sparingly ;D

Please do.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: night_wrtr on April 12, 2015, 10:41:09 PM
Excellent thread!

There is a video on YouTube with Lars Anderson showing off his archery techniques. Does anyone know how accurate this portrayal of archery is? He makes some interesting points with how the weapon is fired compared to modern bows.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: JMack on April 12, 2015, 10:43:08 PM
Excellent thread!

There is a video on YouTube with Lars Anderson showing off his archery techniques. Does anyone know how accurate this portrayal of archery is? He makes some interesting points with how the weapon is fired compared to modern bows.
There's a full thread on it, including someone's critique.
I don;t know how to link threads here. If you search the forum for "Lars Anderson" I'm sure it will pop up.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Lady Ty on April 12, 2015, 10:56:46 PM
Excellent thread!

There is a video on YouTube with Lars Anderson showing off his archery techniques. Does anyone know how accurate this portrayal of archery is? He makes some interesting points with how the weapon is fired compared to modern bows.
There's a full thread on it, including someone's critique.
I don;t know how to link threads here. If you search the forum for "Lars Anderson" I'm sure it will pop up.

Hi night_wrtr here is the thread,  there was a good long discussion  http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/general-discussion/genuine-real-archery/
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: night_wrtr on April 12, 2015, 10:58:32 PM
Thanks!
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: JMack on April 12, 2015, 11:06:47 PM
Excellent thread!

There is a video on YouTube with Lars Anderson showing off his archery techniques. Does anyone know how accurate this portrayal of archery is? He makes some interesting points with how the weapon is fired compared to modern bows.
There's a full thread on it, including someone's critique.
I don;t know how to link threads here. If you search the forum for "Lars Anderson" I'm sure it will pop up.

Hi night_wrtr here is the thread,  there was a good long discussion  http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/general-discussion/genuine-real-archery/
@Lady Ty, how do I get the exact http for a thread link?
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Skip on April 12, 2015, 11:48:41 PM
Just a direct thanks to Yora for giving me the clue for understanding the etymology of Messerschmidt!

Well, and for the sword stuff too.  :D
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Saraband on April 13, 2015, 12:47:00 AM
Great topic, and wow at @Yora (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=35236)'s lengthy post, really informative!

I have little to contribute in regards to this question. I know of a particular mistake that is done in videogames and movies with fight scenes using swords, and that is to have two blokes crossing their blades for a long time. Especially when it comes to the Japanese Samurai, they trained to be able to kill / defeat their opponent with as few strikes as possible, to keep the blade sharp - it actually gets blunt faster than most people think.

As for the Portuguese-Japanese interaction question raised off-topic, I am no expert in that matter. The Katana word actually made its way from Japan to Portugal, and there's some debate as to whether the Japanese for 'Thank you', Arigato, comes from the Portuguese Obrigado, which sound very similarly. The Portuguese Jesuits were also the first real propagandists for the spread of Christianity in Japan, and the first to present a Gunpowder weapon to the archipelago. Oh, these were also the first Europeans to bring tea back to the West from Japan, so yeah, you owe us that my British friends  ;) Unfortunately, I know little more than this - I have always focused on the study of Islam, and so am more familiar with Portuguese relations with Northern Africa, Middle-East and India at the time of the Mughal Empire  :)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Lady Ty on April 13, 2015, 01:39:53 AM
Excellent thread!

There is a video on YouTube with Lars Anderson showing off his archery techniques. Does anyone know how accurate this portrayal of archery is? He makes some interesting points with how the weapon is fired compared to modern bows.
There's a full thread on it, including someone's critique.
I don;t know how to link threads here. If you search the forum for "Lars Anderson" I'm sure it will pop up.

Hi night_wrtr here is the thread,  there was a good long discussion  http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/general-discussion/genuine-real-archery/
@Lady Ty, how do I get the exact http for a thread link?

Go to thread itself. Click left on http at top, to highlight, click right to copy then come back to original thread and click right and paste.   Does that make sense? Same as usual links but you need to know which thread on this huge forumand I began this one so knew where it was.  ;)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: JMack on April 13, 2015, 02:28:19 AM
Excellent thread!

There is a video on YouTube with Lars Anderson showing off his archery techniques. Does anyone know how accurate this portrayal of archery is? He makes some interesting points with how the weapon is fired compared to modern bows.
There's a full thread on it, including someone's critique.
I don;t know how to link threads here. If you search the forum for "Lars Anderson" I'm sure it will pop up.

Hi night_wrtr here is the thread,  there was a good long discussion  http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/general-discussion/genuine-real-archery/
@Lady Ty, how do I get the exact http for a thread link?

Go to thread itself. Click left on http at top, to highlight, click right to copy then come back to original thread and click right and paste.   Does that make sense? Same as usual links but you need to know which thread on this huge forumand I began this one so knew where it was.  ;)
Got it. Thanks!
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: CameronJohnston on April 13, 2015, 08:45:18 AM
Oh I have lots of problem with the way fighting, weapons and armor are depicted in fiction but usually just roll with it. I have a fair bit experience via HEMA with the highland broadsword (a lot applicable to arming sword), some longsword, sword and targe/buckler, quarterstaff (awesome weapon!), sword & dagger and bayonet.

Some of my pet peeves:
- A full medieval-esque army all wearing plate...when it is so stupidly expensive and customized.
- Choosing normal swords to up against fully plate-armored knights rather than, say a mace, axe or a flail that has a much better chance of blunt force trauma or penetration.
- Swords cleaving plate like cheese, lopping off armored heads and arms and whatnot with ease.
- Sword vs sword fighting...and no mention of grabs, kicks, punches, footwork etc.
- Swords locked together for ages, heaving against each other (Youtube 'longsword winding' for what should happen)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: DDRRead on April 13, 2015, 09:33:01 AM
Hey,@Yora (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=35236) this guy has some good axe and shield techniques . . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFs4wP_hByA

. . . and on the subject of viking techniques this guy has a really interesting theory on shield usag . . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkhpqAGdZPc
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 13, 2015, 09:39:03 AM
There is a video on YouTube with Lars Anderson showing off his archery techniques. Does anyone know how accurate this portrayal of archery is? He makes some interesting points with how the weapon is fired compared to modern bows.
What he does is trick shots for show archery. I think it's a great demonstration of what archers could potentially do, but it is not something anyone would have been doing in warfare. We also don't see how many tries it took until it worked. In a battle situation, you don't try the fancy thing that works 10% of the time, but the reliable thing that works 70% of the time or something like that.
It's not "fake", but you have to keep the context in mind.

That being said, actual military archery was a completely different thing than Olympic archery as well. Olympic archery probably has as much to do with real archery as olympic fencing with swordfighting. In an archery contest, time is not an issue and you can all the  time you need to get that one extra point. In a combat situation, it's more important to get the maximum number of hits instead of super-precise hits with the minimum amount of shots.

The most common criticism I've heard against fast shoting archery videos is that those people tend to use very low powered bows that are very easy to pull. Which looks good on video, but also means they have little range, poor accuracy at longer distances, and won't penetrate deeply on a hit. The counterargument is that those people do it as a hobby and don't have the decades of training to increase the strength of their arm and chest muscles, so genuine military archers would be able to get the same speed with much more powerful bows. But I believe accuracy would still be pretty poor at anything but very close range (which you usually see in videos), and with arrows being pretty big, they would want to make every shot count or you run out of arrows very quickly.

I think the most interesting thing about trick shot archery is that it demonstrates how fast and precise the human brain can do the aiming and control the arms to make a shot against very small and moving targets. And when you then make this brain stop fooling around and actually try to kill someone effectively at long range, you get an idea of how dangerous those archers would be in a real battle situation.


The Katana word actually made its way from Japan to Portugal, and there's some debate as to whether the Japanese for 'Thank you', Arigato, comes from the Portuguese Obrigado, which sound very similarly. The Portuguese Jesuits were also the first real propagandists for the spread of Christianity in Japan, and the first to present a Gunpowder weapon to the archipelago. Oh, these were also the first Europeans to bring tea back to the West from Japan, so yeah, you owe us that my British friends  ;)
Since we're talking history here, I think it's acceptible to correct each other. It's not smartassing when it's science.  ;)

"Obligatio" is Latin. Though I have no clue when the shift from L to R happened in Portuguese. It's still an L in Spanish.

And the Portuguese were not the first to bring guns to East Asia. Guns had been invented in China many centuries before. However, the Europeans did make some really major progress with improving those guns so that by the time the Portuguese came to the region, the portuguese guns were significantly better than what any local gunsmiths could make. And the Japanese being the kind of people who they are (seriously, this is a major thing throughout all Japanese history) throw out their domestically produced stuff and bought the superior alternative from foreigners to learn how to do it themselves.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: silvijanus on April 13, 2015, 10:36:41 AM
The most common criticism I've heard against fast shoting archery videos is that those people tend to use very low powered bows that are very easy to pull. Which looks good on video, but also means they have little range, poor accuracy at longer distances, and won't penetrate deeply on a hit. The counterargument is that those people do it as a hobby and don't have the decades of training to increase the strength of their arm and chest muscles, so genuine military archers would be able to get the same speed with much more powerful bows. But I believe accuracy would still be pretty poor at anything but very close range (which you usually see in videos), and with arrows being pretty big, they would want to make every shot count or you run out of arrows very quickly.

I think the most interesting thing about trick shot archery is that it demonstrates how fast and precise the human brain can do the aiming and control the arms to make a shot against very small and moving targets. And when you then make this brain stop fooling around and actually try to kill someone effectively at long range, you get an idea of how dangerous those archers would be in a real battle situation.
Bows are not close range weapons. It would be too clumsy. Tricks shots are allowed in fiction. About poor accuracy... archers comes in bigger groups so accuracy is not a issue. One can be deadly even on long range, but it's pretty hard to hit moving objects. They dont fight as individuals. Archers unit let it rain in big numbers - that's their thing and it's deadly ;)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 13, 2015, 11:36:21 AM
In a large field battle, that is certainly the case. But in smaller scale fights aiming is not optional. If you have a group of 20 attacking a group of 30, just shoting arrows in the general direction won't do you much help. And it's totally not an option once your own people with spears and swords are getting close enough to use them. Same goes for hunters.
Which are all situations fantasy characters are much more likely to find themselves in.

And if you are doing long range indirect fire, then you still need to pull the bow at full strength so that your arrows even get that far.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: silvijanus on April 13, 2015, 01:58:04 PM
True, but let's say it this way - we are on writers corner pdf. As readers and potential writers we love the image of individual, renegade looking type with the hood hiding his face, and a bow in one hand. Looking cool like gunslingers from western films. Thing is in RL, unlike gunslingers, archers would avoid getting in close fights. In fiction, especially fantasy, Legolas is allowed.

If you imagine the fight scene, 5vs5 or 10vs10 somewhere in old fort courtyard... archers wouldn't go there. If archer is caught up in situation described above, he would probably grab his knife or try to run away. We talked about fear and survival instincts on other fight topic. Simply they are range units with no armor and if infantry gets to them usually it's game over. Crossbow is a different story, but still need too much time to reload.

All depends on few variables actually. Back to old fort courtyard fight, archer could go for his bow but he needs time and space to work his thing. If you give your character enough time and space, it will work.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 13, 2015, 02:29:10 PM
In Skirmish type situations where a few archers are spread out showing your enemy a clean set of heels is always a good option. If any of the enemy chase you, you try and draw them into the field of your friends shots and separate them from their own line. If you are in a block and do this in a bigger engagement you may cause your own side to rout. I have watched a couple off archers turn a shield wall because the guys on the end wanted to keep their shield between them and the arrows. This makes a wall very weak to work it needs to have everyone facing the same way.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Saraband on April 13, 2015, 02:59:56 PM


The Katana word actually made its way from Japan to Portugal, and there's some debate as to whether the Japanese for 'Thank you', Arigato, comes from the Portuguese Obrigado, which sound very similarly. The Portuguese Jesuits were also the first real propagandists for the spread of Christianity in Japan, and the first to present a Gunpowder weapon to the archipelago. Oh, these were also the first Europeans to bring tea back to the West from Japan, so yeah, you owe us that my British friends  ;)
Since we're talking history here, I think it's acceptible to correct each other. It's not smartassing when it's science.  ;)

"Obligatio" is Latin. Though I have no clue when the shift from L to R happened in Portuguese. It's still an L in Spanish.

And the Portuguese were not the first to bring guns to East Asia. Guns had been invented in China many centuries before. However, the Europeans did make some really major progress with improving those guns so that by the time the Portuguese came to the region, the portuguese guns were significantly better than what any local gunsmiths could make. And the Japanese being the kind of people who they are (seriously, this is a major thing throughout all Japanese history) throw out their domestically produced stuff and bought the superior alternative from foreigners to learn how to do it themselves.

No, no, no, maybe I didn't make myself clear; obrigado is definetly latin, the debate is on whether obrigado gave origin to the japanese Arigato, and not the other way around  ;) As for the guns, thanks for that correction! We've always been taught around here that we were the ones who brought guns to Japan, but we tend to appropriate the achievements of others quite often, so it doesn't surprise me that what I said was incorrect  ::)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: xiagan on April 13, 2015, 07:08:50 PM
Great topic, thanks to all!

I agree with Yora on the rapier. A cut hurts or maims, a pierce kills.

A friend of mine (who has a PHD in medieval history and can read all the original texts) does medieval sword fighting with real blades and in the style of Liechtenauer (http://www.wiktenauer.com/wiki/Johannes_Liechtenauer), one of the most famous medieval fencing masters.
I trained with him once and have watched him fight a few times and it is astonishing how much it reminds me on Asian Martial Arts.
I do Wing Tsun (or Chun) Kung Fu and did some Karate, Escrima and Capoeira a few years ago.
All the main principles of Kung Fu, the ways to move, to attack are similar to European medieval sword fight.
Which of course makes sense, since the anatomy of the human body is about the same and so the same things work or work not...
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 13, 2015, 07:29:06 PM
Yeah, at some point I noticed that I've seen all of Lichtenhauers four starting positions in samurai movies.

(http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/1a/02/8c/1a028c6297bf6a8f343a10ea572f8d50.jpg)

(http://www.katorishintoryu.pl/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/pozycje-podstawowe.jpg)

Gedan, jodan, gasumi, seigan. All there.

And why? Because they work! And not only do they work, people didn't come up with anything much better for many centuries. And it's unlikely that they were happy with what they got and stopped trying. It probably is just the best you can get for a human body with this kind of weapon.

When you want to know if something worked and worked well, try to find out if it was common and if it kept being used for a long time. If it's only in one place or for a short period, it probably isn't actually that great.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 14, 2015, 09:49:27 AM
Shoting into the dark here, but does anyone know something about armor made from fabric and textiles? There are some pieces of "common knowledge" flying around the internet, but almost none of them hold up under serious examination.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 14, 2015, 12:28:38 PM
I believe there was some ancient Greek breastplates made out of glued linen folded several times but I have no real clue how they were made. They were supposed to be good at stopping arrows though, which laminated materials usually are.
Jacks were made by sewing a double thickness of linen into tubes or sometimes diamonds and stuffing the gaps with scraps of linen. This is surprisingly good protection. Later on linen was layered on itself by folding it 16 times and then cut and sewn to shape and soaked in oil this makes it very dense and heavy but as good as plate If somewhat more cumbersome and requiring to be dipped again and again to keep it useful. Later still metal plates were sewn in between the layers similar to how a brigandine is constructed.

These all work wholly or partly the same way as modern ballistic cloth, They slow and spread the force of the blow across the surface of the armour.

Linings from helmets show unspun silk was often used (on the surviving ones anyway) and moulded to the head as they were worn. a bit like cotton wool would. This would absorb a lot of shock and hopefully keep your own helmet from braining you.

Cuir Bouilli is worth a look as well this is leather boiled in beeswax and was used for armour. It was so tough that cannon barrels have been made out of it. Although you would probably not want to stand next to one being touched off.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: silvijanus on April 14, 2015, 02:57:04 PM
Shoting into the dark here, but does anyone know something about armor made from fabric and textiles? There are some pieces of "common knowledge" flying around the internet, but almost none of them hold up under serious examination.
Wearing silk shirt under armor helps against arrows. Arrow usually doesn't pierce through silk so it's easier to cleanly pull them out (helps with healing process too). Hope that helps. Just have in mind that silk shirts are expensive so lord, king or whoever is financing that army has to be rich (and willing to invest).;)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 14, 2015, 03:32:15 PM
Strangely Silk was cheaper than Cotton in England until about 500 years ago. Cotton was brought from Egypt at great cost to make banners as silk weaving makes a banner that is too heavy to unfurl properly.

I had forgotten about the silk shirts worn as protection which started in the East. Silk is a protein and is less likely than cloth made from fibres to fester if it gets caught in a wound and is not retrieved.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 14, 2015, 03:41:40 PM
The Greek glues linen armor is something that gets mentioned in regard to this topic a lot, I believe mostly two American historians built one put a video of it on youtube. But looking deeper into it, all the useful information anyone can really name is one historic quote from a document which says that "Alexander's soldiers got a new shipment of armor and burned their old ones". Which really only tells us that some soldiers in Alexander's ary had armor that burns. Also quite possibly implying that this type of armor wears down over time and needs replacing at a somewhat regular basis, though even this is already conjecture.
What it was made of, how it was constructed, what it looked like, and what it was called we don't know anything about. At least as far as armchair historians on the internet (like me) are concerned. What those Americans did was to prove that glued layers of linen cloth stops arrows pretty well. At least certain types of arrows shot from a certain type of bow under certain conditions. And the videos don't say anything how much those factors match what Alexander's soldiers were facing.
I've often seen people say that we know it existed and what it looks like, because we can see it on Greek vase paintings and the Alexander mosaic in Pompeii. But we only see some kind of armor and the image from Pompeii was 400 years later. What most amazes me is that the artist of the mosaic went to a lot of trouble to use stones in very slightly different tones of white and light brown, which he placed in a way that make the surfaces of Alexander's armor look like polished bronze that gleams in the sunlight. How anyone can use that as proof that he wore linen armor is beyond my comprehension.
Could they have used armor made from glued linen cloth, even though there is no indication for or against it? Perhaps, but shoting arrows at it and seeing that they are stopped from penetrating doesn't tell us much. What I would like to know is how well that armor holds up when you head a sweaty guy running around with it in the desert and perhaps he fell face down in a river once. Would it still work? Some years ago there was some minor scandal about the US army refusing to buy new lighter body armor for all soldiers while keeping the construction of the armor a secrety, which lead to accusations of bribery by their old and current supplier of the old type of armor. But apparently the reason they didn't adopt it despite being lighter and very effective at shoting range test, is that these things just don't last long in a desert environment. Wonderful armor that lasts only a week or two isn't much good on campaign. Apparently that was a problem for the Greeks too, but making something without glue seems much more likely.

What really surprised me is that apparenty quilted armor also works very well against cuts and is not just padding. The wonderful thing about quilting is that you only need an inner and outer top layer of woven cloth, but between them you can stuff strips of old cloth or even unwoven fibers. Without having to spin and weave 20 layers of textile, production becomes much faster and therefore cheaper. And by using rows of stiched thread to make this "pillow" into a series "tubes", the entire thing becomes apparently much stiffer, like super thick leather or something like linoleum. And the lines of stitching don't even need to be very close together. Two fingers space between them still makes the armor quite stiff. Another great advantage: You can wash it. Probably not very well, but when the thing got a month of sweat and the blood of three people on it, then even just rinsing it in a river is certainly highly appreciated by everyone nearby.

Regarding leather armor: Cuir bouilli was certainly a thing as far as materials go, but I've never seen any examples of how a suit of armor made from it would have looked like.
What I can tell you for certain is that 95% of fantasy leather armor you've ever seen is total rubbish. Normal  leather does nothing against sharp blades. Seeing a leatherworker at work, they cut through that stuff like nothing. Since it doesn't crumple as easy as cloth, cutting it is even easier. It won't do anything to stop any kind of weapons. Best it can do is to protect your legs from thorny bushes. (Except when you are a woman wearing fantasy leather armor, because then the armor won't cover your legs. Or stomach. Or chest.) And there is no such thing as "studded leather armor", which Dungeons & Dragons insist is an actual thing for 40 years. Making holes into the leather to add metal studds only weakens the material and makes it hurt more when you get hit.
One type of leather armor that is very well documented is Mongolian leather scale armor. There is a good reason they were using it, which are that they were plains nomads who did not have iron mines and great foundries and lots of charcoal to make steel, and they also were herders, which means leather was something they had huge supplies of. The scale armor construction is also a really great idea, because like quilted armor stuffed with scraps and raw fibres, scales can be recyled. When leather is cut, it is cut, You can not fix a hole. If the armor is made from scales, you just replace a damaged scale which is made from small pieces of leather. If you had a whole breastplate made from a single large piece of leather, getting a replacement for it is a lot more difficult, and it would be a lot more expensive.

I really should add pictures, but I am on my android now and searching and linking to images with it really is no fun. I'll add some later.

I also noticed the post on swords is at a tie with the most liked post of the forum. Wow. :D
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 14, 2015, 09:01:33 PM
Quote
The Greek glues linen armor is something that gets mentioned in regard to this topic a lot, I believe mostly two American historians built one put a video of it on youtube. But looking deeper into it, all the useful information anyone can really name is one historic quote from a document which says that "Alexander's soldiers got a new shipment of armor and burned their old ones". Which really only tells us that some soldiers in Alexander's ary had armor that burns. Also quite possibly implying that this type of armor wears down over time and needs replacing at a somewhat regular basis, though even this is already conjecture.

Thanks for this I knew I had picked this up somewhere but know next to nothing about it.

Quote
What really surprised me is that apparenty quilted armor also works very well against cuts and is not just padding

Shooting bodkins (needle point armour piercing arrows) into gambersons and jacks the arrows often hit dead on but are turned before they go all the way through, often you hit the middle of a runnel and the head comes out the side by the stitching. Broad heads tend to bounce out. Not tried taking a sword to one but wouldn’t bet on being able to pierce one properly made with a sword unless it was seriously pointy a slash would probably bounce I did manage to put a sharp spear through a 15th century replica breastplate and the arming jacket beneath it and into a fencepost with a thrust. The breastplate wasn't really penetrated but I hit on the overlap between the placket and breastplate which burst the rivet out causing the two parts to seperate.

Quote
Regarding leather armor: Cuir bouilli was certainly a thing as far as materials go, but I've never seen any examples of how a suit of armor made from it would have looked like.

Pretty much like Plate harness  but with lots of embossing  as that was possible to carve decoration into the moulds the leather was pressed into. Archers Bracer, travelling chest and powder horn below.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/18014467229445426/

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/furniture-lighting/a-french-cuir-bouilli-and-iron-banded-casket-5387688-details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5387688&sid=8a408c7d-35d4-4dec-9cac-c167ea4db0d2 (http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/furniture-lighting/a-french-cuir-bouilli-and-iron-banded-casket-5387688-details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5387688&sid=8a408c7d-35d4-4dec-9cac-c167ea4db0d2)

http://static.squarespace.com/static/523caa4ee4b0fc1c4a58a5db/5273ec2ce4b03cb93b8418d8/5273ed21e4b0fff56f6f734b/1383329059646/Italian_Cuir_Bouilli_powder-flask_circa_1570_GARY_FRIEDLAND_1.jpg (http://static.squarespace.com/static/523caa4ee4b0fc1c4a58a5db/5273ec2ce4b03cb93b8418d8/5273ed21e4b0fff56f6f734b/1383329059646/Italian_Cuir_Bouilli_powder-flask_circa_1570_GARY_FRIEDLAND_1.jpg)

There is a beautiful milanese helm made out of a single piece of leather but I cannot find it on the web.
Buff coats were in use for quite a time in Europe and offer some protection from knives or slashes. They were probably made from horse hide and the hide was soaked and hammered to compress the leather.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 14, 2015, 10:07:42 PM
Pictures, as promised.

The famous mosaic of Alexander, not wearing linen armor.
(http://www.latinorum.tk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Alexander_mosaic.jpg)
The white gleaming is not a reflection of the cammera flash. It's on every photograph of it. I think I probably saw it in person, having been to Pompeii when I was 11 and 19, but I don't remember it as one of the impressive sights. (I do very much remember the "Warning: Dog" sign.  :D)

I am pretty sure that is is leather armor.
(http://farm1.static.flickr.com/4/4896705_df8ce6c8f9.jpg)

(http://img34.imageshack.us/img34/9315/1jgp.jpg)
Always hard to tell though, as this type of armor can be made both from leather and metal, and it was quite common to coat both types with water repellant paint to prevent rott and rust. Then they look almost identical.

This is a pretty cool armor made from animal skins from Siberia:
(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/20/%D0%9A%D0%BE%D0%B6%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9_%D0%BF%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%80%D1%8C.jpg/450px-%D0%9A%D0%BE%D0%B6%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9_%D0%BF%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%80%D1%8C.jpg)
Looks terrible to fight in, but I suspect that there is actually lots of winter clothing under it, and what good is armor if you freeze to death?

I'll probably write something about medieval European armor later this week.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 22, 2015, 10:57:11 AM
I found this article (http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-14204717) on a study about the amount of energy it takes to run in heavy armor.
Which they concluded is pretty high. You can run and jump around in plate armor, just not very long.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Raptori on April 22, 2015, 11:11:19 AM
I found this article (http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-14204717) on a study about the amount of energy it takes to run in heavy armor.
Which they concluded is pretty high. You can run and jump around in plate armor, just not very long.
Interesting article. It definitely seems to be a common theme that the things that often happen in tv shows/films/books are semi-realistic at best, and one of the most unrealistic aspects is the length of time the characters spend doing those things.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 22, 2015, 12:16:13 PM
Interesting that they are running in cavalry armour.
Without knowing the weight of the harness and how used to wearing it the test subject was the test results give you no more than armour is heavy and your performance over a measured distance is better without it.
The same could be done with running in modern military kit and Bergan which is of comparable or heavier weight.

If you are going to wear armour to fight you train wearing it to acclimatize and condition your body to the use of it. Most of the big battle re-enactment I have done the issue with armour hasn't been charging round in it which you do over very short distances but actually wearing it for hours on end hurts your feet and joints. Adrenalin counters a lot of fatigue when you are actually fighting and you are rarely fighting continuously for more than a few minutes at a time and resting between. Overheating is a bigger issue and getting enough water into a body as they are sweating it out due to the additional weight of the armour and weapons into non breathable layers of padding.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: DDRRead on April 22, 2015, 12:21:25 PM
Someone in my G+ RPG circle pointed this out . . .

Swordfighting for Writers, Game Designers, and Martial Artists (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Swordfighting-Writers-Designers-Martial-Artists/dp/952679348X/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1429701286&sr=8-7&keywords=guy+windsor)

(http://guywindsor.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/SwCover-207x300.jpg)

. . . thought it might be of interest. Going to put it on my to buy list. His other books look interesting too.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Elfy on April 23, 2015, 12:45:24 AM
Even chainmail is quite heavy. I've felt a length of it and it would take significant strength to wear an entire garment of it. Then there's the padding you have to wear underneath it, which may not be that heavy, but would increase the heat inside it.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on April 23, 2015, 10:24:08 AM
And if you want to be pedantic, it's mail. Not chain.

Though in German we don't even have any word like "mail". It's all chain.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on April 23, 2015, 10:57:32 AM
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Even chainmail is quite heavy. I've felt a length of it and it would take significant strength to wear an entire garment of it. Then there's the padding you have to wear underneath it, which may not be that heavy, but would increase the heat inside it.

A Norman style mail hauberk is as heavy as plate harness. You alleviate the weight by the gambeson that is worn underneath and by pulling it up over your belt so some of the weight comes off your shoulders. Should you be inclined you can do cartwheels in both. As a rule of thumb armour that restricts your movement will get you killed in battle. Jousting plate was much heavier and designed to make smashing pointy sticks on it safe was not designed to be mobile as you are sat upon a horse and not expected to use it on foot.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on May 02, 2015, 02:58:21 PM
Since I just read something related and it reminded me of this:

Shields are not usually made of metal.

At the very most you have a thin layer of metal that covers the main body of the shield, which is made from wood or wicker. It's also not as thick as a table or door. Since the shield is held at the end of the arm, you want it to be light and making it out of metal would be too heavy, making it slow and very exhausting. Also, since the shield is at the end of the arm, the arm acts like a large spring and on an impact with a weapon the shield will be pushed away instead of absorbing the full force of the blow, so it does not actually have to be very strong. If you put a shield on the ground and hit it with a heavy blow and it shatters, that's not a problem because that's not going to happen in an actual battle.
You also might have noticed that many later shield designs are slightly curved or very low cones, which greatly increases their stiffness and ability to survive impacts. Fantasy shields (like all fantasy armor and weapons) usually don't get it right and are very impractical. Boromirs shield from the Lord of the Rings movies seems like a pretty good example of a real shield, though.

Also, shields are absolutely super awesome! A naked guy with just a weapon and a shield might actually be better protected than a guy with a weapon, full armor, and no shield. (If he's good.) Few fantasy characters have shields, but they are almost certainly the single best piece of armor anyone could possibly have. Having a really big sword or axe can be useful in some situations (though those were few and they were specalist weapons for elite professionals), but usually you either want to have the protection of the shield or the reach and speed of a spear. Sometimes a shield is impractical to carry around all day, but when someone gets ready to go into battle, they should pick up a shield. (Well, if you're writing a story that attempts to have a considerable degree of realism.)

Since we're already here: Helms!

Helms are also super awesome. There are very few (and alomost no good) reasons to go into battle without head protection. Since your head holds your brain, even relatively minor hits to the head can still be lethal or cause severe permanent damage. Not only might you get hit by a weapon, it's also easy to slip and bang your head on something in the heat of battle, especially when there's blood and corpses all over the ground.
It does not necessarily have to be some kind of metal hat. Even a padded turban or fur hat can still make the difference between serious injury and lethal injury or reduce a medium injury to a light one.
Having your long blonde hair flow in the wind during a battle is not worth it. (It's also a convenient handle to grab your head and pull it around. Braid your hair and put it into a knot or something like that.)
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: mesmithcity on May 07, 2015, 05:13:42 PM
I'm totally new here, so please feel free to disregard all of this but...

Two things:
One - the specifics of the sword type used: do you really need to describe it in detail? I don't, generally, as a reader, care a whole lot about the shape of the pommel or the length of the blade. Too much detail starts to be an "As you know, Bob" moment for me...

Secondly, I've put in about thirty years as a martial sports person, using both basic long swords and Dane axes. It's the description of the movement, pacing and flow of the fight that most writers get wrong, as well as the psychological aspects from the fighter's point of view. The description of the mechanics will tell the reader a whole ton more about what kind of weapon it is than any jargonized and detailed paragraph about the actual weapon.

Those kinds of essentially irrelevant detail will just derail the whole fight if you are the reader. What you can do with a particular weapon or weapon style depends a lot more on the fighter than anything else. I spent years (literal years) trying to perfect a specific move until somebody smarter said "You're too short to do that - here, try this instead" and the whole world pretty much changed, after that.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on May 09, 2015, 12:39:52 PM
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I'm totally new here, so please feel free to disregard all of this but...

It's a forum, hopefully we will all gain wisdom from what’s posted. There is rarely a right and wrong when discussing fantasy and even with the historical stuff much of it comes down to interpretation.

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One - the specifics of the sword type used: do you really need to describe it in detail? I don't, generally, as a reader, care a whole lot about the shape of the pommel or the length of the blade. Too much detail starts to be an "As you know, Bob" moment for me...

That would be entirely up to you as the writer how descriptive your writing is. As a reader too much certainly grates. You will know the difference between a scramseax and a scimitar, not every reader will. A fight scene is not the place to descibe gear in any detail it breaks the flow.

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Secondly, I've put in about thirty years as a martial sports person, using both basic long swords and Dane axes.

Likewise through re-enactment. Although I gave up a decade or so ago as my hands don't work anymore and I decided this retiring disgracefully was better than growing old and fat wearing silly clothes. Are you a re-enactor or a fight interpretor?

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It's the description of the movement, pacing and flow of the fight that most writers get wrong, as well as the psychological aspects from the fighter's point of view. The description of the mechanics will tell the reader a whole ton more about what kind of weapon it is than any jargonized and detailed paragraph about the actual weapon.

I agree with you. I would look to describe someone’s gear a long time before combat. If the reader knows that the character has a bossed round shield and a short axe tucked through their belt because it has already been described then no description is required beyond a line such as.

"They pulled the shield over their head from the shoulder strap and gripped the centre while simultaneously freeing the axe and raising it in their right hand"

when what is needed to make a fight flow are the emotional and mechanical actions that are taking place.
It is hard to do well and really easy to do badly. Plenty of threads on the forum covering writing fights and some really good perspectives from members here.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: mesmithcity on May 09, 2015, 04:32:32 PM


Likewise through re-enactment. Although I gave up a decade or so ago as my hands don't work anymore and I decided this retiring disgracefully was better than growing old and fat wearing silly clothes. Are you a re-enactor or a fight interpretor?


I did both, actually, beginning with re-enactment, but I became an archaeologist, and the martial arts/sports stuff kind of merged. I found it really good for community archaeology stuff (people really are pretty bloodthirsty, as long *their* ass isn't on the line.)

I just get a bit worried when I see people obsessing over the minutiae of weapon styles and the idea of the "one true way" to throw a blow. I know there are lots of manuals (I've studied them) but what people *say* they do (and teach, as a form) and what they actually do when fighting are often wildly far apart.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on May 09, 2015, 08:24:37 PM
There really is "one true way" it's whatever leaves you on your feet when the other guys aren't!

The reason to practice, repeat and learn any move is to develop the strength to carry it out well and the muscle memory to make it fast and instinctive whether armed or unarmed. Doing the right thing in the right way is never foolproof and if your opponent has a different style or no style at all fights can get very random and potentially more dangerous very fast.

Way back near the beginning of this thread (don't know if you have read all of it) I posted up a description of how axes can be used. I would welcome your full and forthright thoughts and any additions you would make if you have the time? My thoughts are two opinions on this are of more use than one.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Roxxsmom on May 11, 2015, 01:49:47 AM
I've found some nice sites about arms and armor, including some that dispel common myths. Most particularly, medieval swords were not ridiculously heavy or unwieldy.

http://www.thearma.org/ (http://www.thearma.org/)
http://www.thearma.org/essays/TopMyths.htm#.VU_61pOJLE1 (http://www.thearma.org/essays/TopMyths.htm#.VU_61pOJLE1)

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/aams/hd_aams.htm#only_b (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/aams/hd_aams.htm#only_b)

Also, a link to a treadmill study that suggests that overheating and restriction in breathing might have been an issue for armor wearers (hardly surprising, as a suit of metal probably doesn't breathe very well).

http://news.sciencemag.org/2011/07/heavy-armor-gave-knights-workout (http://news.sciencemag.org/2011/07/heavy-armor-gave-knights-workout)

Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on May 11, 2015, 02:34:40 PM
One of those mentiones poisoned blades. And yeah, those are fantasy. Poison really only makes sense when you think that you might only get one try to injure your target and you want to make sure it will die eventually. Hunting with poisoned arrows is a good example of poisoned weapons, as often the prey will flee after the first hit and you won't get a second one. It can take hours until the prey dies from the wound and poison can speed that up, reducing the chance that you lose its trail.
Poison on a dagger might make some sense if you want to make a kind of suicide attack and expect to get stopped after getting only a stab or two against your target and you might not even get a good one. The poisoned sword in Hamlet is one good example (spoilers?).

But I am not aware of any cases where people used poison to win a regular swordfight. There are some really nasty animal venoms that can cause paralyzation or crippling pain within a few minutes, but that is injected into the blood and directly from the animal. Old venom on a blade is unlikely to act that fast and except for duels it's unlikely for a swordfight to last more than than two or three minutes, often a lot less than that.
Better to try to take out your enemy through blood loss when you have a sword or something similar.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on May 11, 2015, 03:29:26 PM
Arma are a cool bunch if a little strange they differ from re-enactors in that they don't try to portray the lifestyle but just keep the fencing and fighting techniques alive. They fight full contact and tend to break each other a lot.
If you play with swords you tend to meet lots of ex members.

In one of the 3 musketeers films the female antagonist tries to kill D'artagnan with a pair of acid filled glass daggers. These were a thing (at least in Italy) I have come across French account of the English poisoning arrows due to the mortality rate from festering wounds, but this is put down to standing them in the ground in front of you ready for use while suffering the effects of dysentery. No English account exists of arrows being poisoned.

If you are hunting large prey hunting with broad heads and then chasing with dogs to work the arrow in the wound seems to be method. Poison used with blowpipes in both Africa and South America certainly happened
but there are plenty of frogs, spiders and snakes to extract poison from , something we lack in Northern Europe.

Duelling the idea is to hurt and  humiliate your opponent. Killing them was frowned upon and often led to murder charges. In Italy between 1680 and 1800 over 2000 official duels were fought resulting in only 45 deaths.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Elfy on May 12, 2015, 12:17:11 AM
Arma are a cool bunch if a little strange they differ from re-enactors in that they don't try to portray the lifestyle but just keep the fencing and fighting techniques alive. They fight full contact and tend to break each other a lot.
If you play with swords you tend to meet lots of ex members.

In one of the 3 musketeers films the female antagonist tries to kill D'artagnan with a pair of acid filled glass daggers. These were a thing (at least in Italy) I have come across French account of the English poisoning arrows due to the mortality rate from festering wounds, but this is put down to standing them in the ground in front of you ready for use while suffering the effects of dysentery. No English account exists of arrows being poisoned.

If you are hunting large prey hunting with broad heads and then chasing with dogs to work the arrow in the wound seems to be method. Poison used with blowpipes in both Africa and South America certainly happened
but there are plenty of frogs, spiders and snakes to extract poison from , something we lack in Northern Europe.

Duelling the idea is to hurt and  humiliate your opponent. Killing them was frowned upon and often led to murder charges. In Italy between 1680 and 1800 over 2000 official duels were fought resulting in only 45 deaths.
Poisoned blow darts and the like were also used in parts of the Pacific and Asia. During the Vietnam War pungee sticks were smeared with human excrement so that any word incurred by them was more likely to fester and become infected.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Yora on May 12, 2015, 09:18:59 AM
Someone in an RPG forum just complained about game rules for fighting with two weapons at once. But yeah, while it's popular in fiction, it wasn't usually done. The one real "exception" are certain fighting styles in which someone would have something like a dagger in his second hand, but it would generally not be used offensively. The use of a dagger with a rapier is more similar to that of a small shield so you could deflect without having to push your fingers into your enemies blade. Big advantage is that a dagger is very easy to carry around with you all the time, while a shield tends to be more than a bit cumbersome.
Of course there were the occasional master swordsmen who did some sparring with two weapons, but mostly that was for showing off in situations that were not fights of life and death.

Even if you have the sufficient precision and control in your second hand to fight with it, the brain can really only concentrate on one weapon at a time and the way swords, axes, maces, and so on are swung you can only strike with one weapon at a time. It doesn't make you any faster if you strike alternating with two weapons.
Title: Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
Post by: Rostum on May 24, 2015, 05:22:13 PM
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Someone in an RPG forum just complained about game rules for fighting with two weapons at once. But yeah, while it's popular in fiction, it wasn't usually done. The one real "exception" are certain fighting styles in which someone would have something like a dagger in his second hand, but it would generally not be used offensively. The use of a dagger with a rapier is more similar to that of a small shield so you could deflect without having to push your fingers into your enemies blade. Big advantage is that a dagger is very easy to carry around with you all the time, while a shield tends to be more than a bit cumbersome.

I would have to respectfully disagree. Sword and buckler Sword and dagger are established styles in English, Italian and Spanish fencing manuals as you state but there are lots of variations and if you were formally taught to use a sword you were taught how to use it in conjunction with a dagger amonst other things.

While the fighting I did was play, it was competitive. The style I choose to fight in would depend on  lots of things but largely what my opponent was using.  If I have a sword and dagger against a sword It should be a short fight. I would engage using the sword defensively and look to parry and lock out their sword while stepping in and using the dagger. This is safer than parrying a sword with a dagger and gives you more control (which is what fighting is all about) over your opponent.
Simply put defend strong attack weak. Not being maimed or killed is more important than maiming or killing your opponent.

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Big advantage is that a dagger is very easy to carry around with you all the time, while a shield tends to be more than a bit cumbersome.

Shields and bucklers are military equipment. Not really the done thing to carry round unless you are going to war.

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Of course there were the occasional master swordsmen who did some sparring with two weapons, but mostly that was for showing off in situations that were not fights of life and death.

Sir Walter Raleigh carried a pair of Katana for a while(show off that he was) and deemed the satisfactory.

Fighting with two weapons requires practice, nothing more. I am certainly not a master anything but could fight sword dagger, sword buckler, sword axe, longsword shortsword and  spear dagger and a few more combinations with reasonable ability to use the advantage each weapons has to benefit the overall effect. By preference I would take a shield, but is is all easily done with time and effort.

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Even if you have the sufficient precision and control in your second hand to fight with it, the brain can really only concentrate on one weapon at a time and the way swords, axes, maces, and so on are swung you can only strike with one weapon at a time. It doesn't make you any faster if you strike alternating with two weapons.

The control is acquired through practice. Your left arm and right arm are connected by your body and controlled by your brain. There are a thousand tasks you carry out a day where your hands are both active and independent. I am typing right now. Parrying and attacking at the same time would be the most common use of two weapons but striking high and low simultaneously can work or just overwhelming them with a flurry of blows until one gets through can work just as well.