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fencing-style swords compared to other melee weapons

typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
edited August 2013 in Off-Topic
There are many weapon buffs on these boards. :D I have a question for them. :3

fencing-style swords function
compared to
short swords
long swords
2 handed swords
clubs
staves
spears
(and other important things you can think of)


I'm writing a story with fencing-style swords* and without guns. (it's anachronistic)
//*foil, epee, sabre, rapier, small sword, etc.

From what I've read, these smaller swords came about because firearms became a primary weapon. Carrying a much lighter sword was preferred when it was a secondary weapon.

However, I've also read (and I can no longer find the source) that these swords were superior in combat to the larger swords. Is this true? If people were using sabres and rapiers, would short swords, long swords, 2 handed swords be used at all? Are the former too quick (ie. stabbing people through vital organs)?

Also, how would they stack up against clubs, staves, and spears? Would those weapons have their place? I realize these are 4 weapon types with different functions, but it may do well to consider just what those functions are.


Katanas: Note that I'm not really considering Japanese swords such as katanas. But if you want to compare them, great. Or not. :)

«1

Comments

  • FredjoFredjo Member Posts: 477
    edited August 2013
    Comparing weapons from different eras has many caveats. If you were to compare zweihander against a foil in a so called "crash test" hitting one another, it's obvious the foil would brake apart. But if you take armor-types into considerations, the foil would be the best joke for any knight in plate or even ring armor with quilt underneath.

    Katanas can impale plate armor and slash through ring armor but it takes much more power than destroying the wood-leather armor of japanese bushi.

    Concenring clubs, I'd bet on a skilled gentleman with foil rather than Minsc with a club. But spears are extremely effective, they are super fast and dangerous. That being said, they also have to be in skilled-warrior's hands in order to use their potential.

    typo_tilly
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    n.n' Eras? Well, I'm assuming that certain swords stopped being used because better swords came along. Does that sound right? *-)

    Ah right! :D If no guns to penetrate armour, people would actually wear armour. Most fighting with sabres was done with little or no armour, eh? -_-

    *blinks* Takes... more to impale wood-cow than plate? How does that work? n_n

  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    edited August 2013
    Fredjo said:


    Concenring clubs, I'd bet on a skilled gentleman with foil rather than Minsc with a club. But spears are extremely effective, they are super fast and dangerous. That being said, they also have to be in skilled-warrior's hands in order to use their potential.

    ! neat :D


    So... no guns.

    fencing-style weapons: dueling weapons for upper classes, status symbol, possible light weapon to carry around
    swords: combat weapons for use against armoured opponents
    clubs (and maces?): combat weapons like swords, but also used in sneak attacks
    spears: combat weapons with reach
    staves: combat weapons and also walking aids? (eg. checking marsh depth, steadying self)

  • FredjoFredjo Member Posts: 477

    n.n' Eras? Well, I'm assuming that certain swords stopped being used because better swords came along. Does that sound right? *-)

    Ah right! :D If no guns to penetrate armour, people would actually wear armour. Most fighting with sabres was done with little or no armour, eh? -_-

    *blinks* Takes... more to impale wood-cow than plate? How does that work? n_n

    New sword designs were usually an answer to new tactics and armor and also new steel alloys.

    You could have never made a foil in bronze or iron, the bronze one would bend like chocolate in summer and the iron would be so brittle it wouldn't be even funny :D. So there are many variables producing new designs.

    Heindrichtypo_tilly
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959
    edited August 2013
    I'm no weapons expert, but I have done some research on the topic before, as well as some intuitive extrapolation from what I know.

    So as I understand it, the evolution of weapons and armour has been a constant arms race. Long swords, Great Swords etc developed partly in response to improved infantry body armour (Iron and Steel instead of Bronze/Leather Armour) and partly because longer reach favoured mounted combat, which of course was common at the height of the Middle Ages, with knights dominating the battlefields of Europe. As protection improved even further (Full Steel Plates on top of chain-mail vest, with thick padding beneath that), long sword type weapons also became obsolete to an extent, which lead to the development of halberds, maces and other weapons.

    The development of the English Longbow, improved Crossbows, and of course finally early guns, soon made heavy plate armour increasingly useless. As a result the armies of Europe began to decrease how much body armour they wore.

    I guess this meant that lighter swords like rapiers could become useful again, as a skilled swordsman could accurately strike less protected parts of an enemy's body. As you said, these weapons were mostly 'sidearms', as a backup for rifles, pistols and bayonets, so they were probably designed for utility as well as simple combat effectiveness. Also they were more of a ceremonial weapon than battlefield weapons. 'Gentlemen' would often challenge each other to duels in honourable single combat.

    A parallel exists in Ancient China, where the 'Jian' (long straight sword) is regarded as a noble weapon, used by many wandering 'adventurers and heroes' and worn by nobles as a status symbol. They are often used to settle disputes between warriors in honourable single combat. However, on Chinese battlefields, where soldiers often wore armoured protection, the heavier 'Dao' (kinda like a Scimitar, but usually less curved) was much more commonly used, alongside spears and halberds of course.

    Fredjotypo_tillyBelgarathMTH
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    Fredjo said:


    You could have never made a foil in bronze or iron, the bronze one would bend like chocolate in summer and the iron would be so brittle it wouldn't be even funny :D. So there are many variables producing new designs.

    Oh it couldn't have been made with older weapon-making methods. That makes sense. :D

    Then I have to consider that all weapons are above bronze and iron, eh? :)


    @Heindrich1988
    So different weapons are better against different armour? :)

    unprotected = sabres (fast, puncturing weapons)
    padding protection = swords
    chain-mail = ??? swords?
    plate = maces?


    What armour are spears and halberds good against? Are they meant to aim for the face?

  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959

    Fredjo said:


    You could have never made a foil in bronze or iron, the bronze one would bend like chocolate in summer and the iron would be so brittle it wouldn't be even funny :D. So there are many variables producing new designs.

    Oh it couldn't have been made with older weapon-making methods. That makes sense. :D

    Then I have to consider that all weapons are above bronze and iron, eh? :)
    If you look at Ancient Greek, Chinese and Roman weapons (Bronze or early-iron), they were all pretty simple designs and swords were short because metallurgy couldn't produce a long sword that didn't break all the time. So yes weapon diversity was constrained by forging technology. So a Bronze katana would have been impossible.


    @Heindrich1988
    So different weapons are better against different armour? :)

    unprotected = sabres (fast, puncturing weapons)
    padding protection = swords
    chain-mail = ??? swords?
    plate = maces?

    What armour are spears and halberds good against? Are they meant to aim for the face?

    The above is broadly true. In practise it depends on training, and circumstances (individualised combat or massed battlefield tactics). For example Roman Legions were exceptionally powerful because soldiers were trained to fight in units, allowing them to defeat far superior numbers of barbarians. One on one however, a Roman soldier was at best the equal of the average barbarian warrior. Similarly Chinese armies drilled extensively in battlefield formations and group tactics.

    Spears and Halberds are different weapons really. Spears are the classic 'easy to learn, difficult to master' weapon. Effective either as a one handed weapon with a shield (Sparta) or two handed weapon. Halberds are almost excusively two-handed, and there are so many designs that it's impossible what 'halberds are designed against'. For example English Halberds were heavy had a sharp steel spike designed to pierce plate armour. The iconic Chinese halberd (Ji) from the Qin Dynasty on the hand was designed to chop horses' legs off, or hook a rider off his steed.

    typo_tillyBelgarathMTH
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    *nods* Quite interesting! :)

    So were any bladed weapons good against full plate? Or was it mostly about beating the person into submission with maces?


    In a world without guns, armour would be used... which would keep sabres out of heavily armoured combat. They would still do well as a dueling weapon or sidearm, as you say. :3 Neat!

  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959
    edited August 2013
    image

    This weapon (Ji) is genius, and mass production of this halberd, along with crossbows, allow the State of Qin to conquer and unite the other 6 Kingdoms of China, to create the culturally (largely) homogeneous Civilisation-state we know today as 'China'.

    The sharp spike is obviously used for stabbing. If the strike missed, or was deflected by armour, the soldier would pull back, severing heads and limbs with the horizontal blade. Of course it can also be used as a 'swinging' weapon, given that the horizontal blade is also sharp enough to pierce light-medium armour.

    typo_tillyFredjoCrevsDaak
  • FredjoFredjo Member Posts: 477
    edited August 2013

    Fredjo said:


    You could have never made a foil in bronze or iron, the bronze one would bend like chocolate in summer and the iron would be so brittle it wouldn't be even funny :D. So there are many variables producing new designs.

    Oh it couldn't have been made with older weapon-making methods. That makes sense. :D

    Then I have to consider that all weapons are above bronze and iron, eh? :)


    @Heindrich1988
    So different weapons are better against different armour? :)

    unprotected = sabres (fast, puncturing weapons)
    padding protection = swords
    chain-mail = ??? swords?
    plate = maces?


    What armour are spears and halberds good against? Are they meant to aim for the face?
    A military weapon meant to be aimed at the face would never be implemented, it's way too difficult to aim at the head in the heat of a combat.

    Very long spears were usually against horses, spears are good against unarmored but with heavy armor they become too slow to operate and too easy to be broken by the enemy. That's where long swords, maces, flails and war hammers as well as two-handed swords come in.

    Warhammer is one of the most effective weapon against plate mail and it's been quite popular against heavy cavalry and knights.

    Heindrichtypo_tilly
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959

    *nods* Quite interesting! :)

    So were any bladed weapons good against full plate? Or was it mostly about beating the person into submission with maces?


    In a world without guns, armour would be used... which would keep sabres out of heavily armoured combat. They would still do well as a dueling weapon or sidearm, as you say. :3 Neat!

    European Plate Armour is near impossible to penetrate with slashing weapons. Even the finest katana, arguably the best slashing weapons forged, stood little change.

    In order to penetrate such armour, you usually need to use heavy piercing weapons like halberds and pikes, and often use the momentum of a heavy cavalry charge against them.

    Long swords would not have had much chance against well made full-plate armour. Usually you'd try to target relative weak spots in the armour like joints (knees, under the shoulder), but even those body parts were increasingly protected by better armour design.

    Often the goal is to exhaust or incapacitate a knight, and then stab him through the eye sockets with a knife.

    typo_tilly
  • Awong124Awong124 Member Posts: 2,643
    Fredjo said:

    A military weapon meant to be aimed at the face would never be implemented, it's way too difficult to aim at the head in the heat of a combat.

    There was this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_guillotine

    Although it might have been a completely fictitious object, since I would imagine it being ridiculously difficult to actually use.

    Fredjotypo_tilly
  • FredjoFredjo Member Posts: 477
    edited August 2013
    Awong124 said:

    Fredjo said:

    A military weapon meant to be aimed at the face would never be implemented, it's way too difficult to aim at the head in the heat of a combat.

    There was this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_guillotine

    Although it might have been a completely fictitious object, since I would imagine it being ridiculously difficult to actually use.
    It might be a stylish way to win a duel but having this as a primary weapon in a war, I'd rather use it to decapitate myself before the enemy does the job for me :)

    That being said, in the years before cca 1200+ A.D. Japan, the soldiers were actually dueling against each other, first calling up their names and ranks and then taunting and choosing the right and WORTHY opponent. And I've read that something in those lines had been true also in China at a certain time.

  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    Too hard to aim for the face. Got it. :D
    Warhammers would beat the shape of the armour.
    Halberds, pikes, and lances (presumably) could penetrate full plate.
    Use knife to stab incapacitated full plated person through eyes. o_o'

    In some societies and times, people would call out other commanders to duel someone else. I wonder: after the duel, would the losing side still charge forward to fight on occasion? *-)

    Very cool. ^__^


    Would bladed weapons have any chance against the step below full plate? Like chain-mail?

    If the eyes were the only open part of a full plated opponent, I wonder if people tried to throw things at them like water or oil? Or would that still be far too risky to stop and aim? -_-

    Fredjo
  • Awong124Awong124 Member Posts: 2,643
    I found this interesting video. It still seems too ridiculously difficult to be a reliable weapon. But the cool factor is off the charts!

    typo_tillyFredjoCrevsDaak
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959
    edited August 2013
    Fredjo said:


    That being said, in the years before cca 1200+ A.D. Japan, the soldiers were actually dueling against each other, first calling up their names and ranks and then taunting and choosing the right and WORTHY opponent. And I've read that something in those lines had been true also in China at a certain time.

    It's a bit different in China and Japan. In both countries it was customary for two sides to select champions, who either fought one on one, or in small groups. Sometimes a battle would be decided by champions, but more often than not it was just a prelude to the main battle.

    Japanese warfare evolved in a pretty isolated environment, so Japanese battles retained a great deal of ceremony and honour right up to Sengoku Jidai, arguably the first time in Japanese history where massed battles took place and ceremony took a backseat.

    Chinese warfare however abandoned its ceremonial traditions around the time of the Warring States Period, where massed conscript armies and industrial-scale weapons manufacturing turned warfare from a 'hobby of the elite' into Total War between rival kingdom-states. Warfare became much more ruthless and bloody as a result. For example the State of Qin was said to have executed 450,000 PoW from the State of Zhao after the Battle of Changping. It was probably an exaggeration, but regardless it was pretty unthinkable to kill so many enemy prisoners in earlier Chinese history.

    Chinese warfare was also heavily influenced by pressure from Northern nomadic enemies (Mongols, their ancestors and various related groups). They had no concept of fighting with honour, or rather their concept of honour was entirely alien to Confucian Chinese culture, and Japan, which was heavily influenced by Confucianism and Buddhism. I remember coming across an amusing description of a skirmish between a Mongol and Japanese force in the first Mongol Invasion of Japan in 1274. Basically the Japanese sent champions to challenge the Mongols in ceremonial combat per custom, the Mongols just fired arrows from horseback in reply.

    typo_tillyBelgarathMTH
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959
    edited August 2013



    In some societies and times, people would call out other commanders to duel someone else. I wonder: after the duel, would the losing side still charge forward to fight on occasion? *-)

    As I said, it depends... in Chinese warfare duels were more for the sake of morale and tradition, and rarely decided a battle. In Japanese warfare, up until Sengoku Jidai, even the main battle had elements of ceremony, for example were each side would send a few hundred bowmen to shoot at each other to see which side had superior archers.



    Would bladed weapons have any chance against the step below full plate? Like chain-mail?

    I'd guess so yes. Although I'd imagine you'd have more lucky with stabbling than slashing. It does depend on quality of weapons and armour though.


    If the eyes were the only open part of a full plated opponent, I wonder if people tried to throw things at them like water or oil? Or would that still be far too risky to stop and aim? -_-

    I don't see how making a knight wet will stop him killing you :P

    But Chinese armies commonly made use of explosive and incendiary weapons like fire-pots and early grenades. Oh and all cultures made use of burning oil in siege battles. (What a way to go... cooked in your own armour.)

    typo_tilly
  • Awong124Awong124 Member Posts: 2,643

    I don't see how making a knight wet will stop him killing you :P

    Make him wet then cast Lightning on him.

    typo_tillyrexregSirK8sunset00
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    :) Thank you all for humouring me :D


    Does anything think there could be even fights between armoured or lightly armoured people with
    - sabre
    - staff
    - shorter spear
    - short/long sword?

    Using my naive knowledge, I could imagine such opponents being evenly matched.
    - sabre is very quick... but perhaps too brittle against the other weapons? -_- I don't know.
    - staff and spear have long range, but if the opponent gets in close that advantage is lost?
    - short/long sword are stronger swords

    Awong124 said:

    I don't see how making a knight wet will stop him killing you :P

    Make him wet then cast Lightning on him.
    Ha! XD I haven't even brought magic into this yet.

    With magic fire, I'd think people would be less likely to don full plot if casters were thought to be around. The armour would just... get really hot? n_n'

    Awong124
  • Awong124Awong124 Member Posts: 2,643

    Awong124 said:

    I don't see how making a knight wet will stop him killing you :P

    Make him wet then cast Lightning on him.
    Ha! XD I haven't even brought magic into this yet.

    With magic fire, I'd think people would be less likely to don full plot if casters were thought to be around. The armour would just... get really hot? n_n'
    Not if it was a Full Plate of Fire Resistance +13!

    typo_tillysunset00
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959

    :) Thank you all for humouring me :D


    Does anything think there could be even fights between armoured or lightly armoured people with
    - sabre
    - staff
    - shorter spear
    - short/long sword?

    Using my naive knowledge, I could imagine such opponents being evenly matched.
    - sabre is very quick... but perhaps too brittle against the other weapons? -_- I don't know.
    - staff and spear have long range, but if the opponent gets in close that advantage is lost?
    - short/long sword are stronger swords

    I'm not entirely sure what you mean...

    The advantages and disadvantages of specific weapons and armour usually depends on circumstances, training and skill. Rome conquered its empire with heavy infantry armed with javelins and short swords. Macedonia (Alexander the Great) did it with massed pike formations (Hoplites), whilst the Mongols and Huns did it with horse archers.

    In general Western armour focused on protection, and weapons focused on defeating the such armour. In the East, armour tended to prioritise mobility more, and warriors focused more on skill than sheer strength.

    This translated into strategic philosophy too. In a head-on melee the average European knight would slaughter a Mongol warrior, riding a smaller pony and wearing light armour and furs. However European armies were logistically inefficient and moved at a crawl, so the Mongols never engaged unless they held a decisive advantage, usually when the Europeans had been soften-up by exhaustion, hunger, disease etc... and then they'd just pepper the enemy with bow fire before moving in for the kill.

    BelgarathMTH
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    Awong124 said:


    Not if it was a Full Plate of Fire Resistance +13!

    ... true XD

  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    @Heindrich1988

    Sorry, I meant to write "single combat" :)

    Could a decent sabre-wielder reasonably fight someone with
    - staff
    - or spear
    - or short/long sword?

    Could a decent staff-wielder reasonably fight someone with
    - a short/long sword?

    if lightly armoured or unarmoured.

  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959

    @Heindrich1988

    Sorry, I meant to write "single combat" :)

    Could a decent sabre-wielder reasonably fight someone with
    - staff
    - or spear
    - or short/long sword?

    Could a decent staff-wielder reasonably fight someone with
    - a short/long sword?

    if lightly armoured or unarmoured.

    Assuming both combatants are roughly the same skill level. It depends on if his enemy is well armoured. If both sides wear little or no armour, then it's basically a test of skill. If his enemy is clad in full-plate, the sabre user needs to out-skill his enemy.

    For example put me in full-plate, gimme a long sword and shield, I'd be so weighed down that I'd barely be able to move, so I imagine any decent warrior could just push me to the ground and stab through the neck or eye slits. If however I was a trained knight, I'd fancy my chances against a random dare devil with a sabre.

    typo_tillyBelgarathMTH
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    Gotcha. :) Very interesting. :D

  • ZanathKariashiZanathKariashi Member Posts: 2,867
    edited August 2013
    Depending on skill, anyone could beat anyone. Staves are brutal weapons in trained hands. Depending on construction and design as well as the fighting styles the user is trained in.

    Halberd, depending on the design are jack of all trades weapons. They usually had an axe head for general killing, a spiked tip on top for stabbing or using to ward off cavalry, and a re-enforced pick opposite the axe head to slam down and penetrate very heavy armors.

    A staff wielder would likely beat the $#^# out of any of the above, except maybe the spear guy (depends on the model of the spear). Though as above depends heavily on the design of the staff and what it's made of as well as how the person is trained. Medium or above armor would make the staff much less effective since they in general lack the force to cause heavy internal damage due to more material to soften the blow, like a mace or hammer would.


    Axes were the cutting weapon of choice for penetrating heavy armor, but they tend to have much more narrow blades then you'd expect, about 4 inches wide, and of largely uniform thickness across the head to keep it from getting stuck in the armor. It's basically designed as a hammer...that just happens to be sharp on 1 side, kind of a like a wood busting axe. The blade isn't so much meant to cut, but rather give a narrow point of contact to increase penetration. Wide bladed heavy weapons are anti-cavalry and used cutting legs or lopping off horse heads. And are heavy enough can even crush through most armor...but they're ridiculously heavy and you can't fight but for short periods of time with them, making it more of a static position, where you have several other lines of defense to thin out attackers and then move in to attack the reduced number that makes it through.


    Also, depending on the design, two-handed or bastard swords could penetrate plate just as easily as a pick if they had sharpened reinforced cross-guards. Swinging a sword by the blade to use it like a pick is a perfectly valid tactic if you're wearing mail gloves after all.

    typo_tillyBelgarathMTH
  • Awong124Awong124 Member Posts: 2,643
    Heavy armor vs light armor:

    typo_tillyFredjoBelgarathMTH
  • ZanathKariashiZanathKariashi Member Posts: 2,867
    God there's so much flenning in that video...kind of hard to watch.

    CrevsDaak
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959
    @Awong124

    Actually that knight is wearing plated/scale armour, almost of an Eastern design, so I'd regard it as medium armour, perhaps on par with Chainmail.

    European fullplate would protect against those slashing attacks made against arms and legs, and make this battle even more difficult for Bronn.

    Actually, for some reason there's a lot of Eastern influences in Game of Thrones when it comes to costumes and armour, not to mention the Dothraki are basically Mongols. For example House Lannister Guardsmen armour almost resemble Japanese Samurai armour.

    Awong124
  • rexregrexreg Member Posts: 292
    @typo_tilly
    part of what makes a short staff so wonderful is its versatility...it can be used both as a reach weapon & as a close-combat weapon; it is also versatile in that you can attack/defend w/ both ends of the weapon

    a short staff will be 6'-9' long (depending on your height) and have about the same circumference as your wrist - a long staff is a halberd-type weapon
    quarter staff and half staff refer to the position your hands occupy when holding the short staff...
    some have called the short staff the greatest weapon ever invented & claim it can, in the hands of a master, best any other melee weapon it would come up against

    here is an interesting link, should you wish
    http://backswording.webplus.net/page16.html

    typo_tilly
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