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fencing-style swords compared to other melee weapons

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  • ImperatorImperator Member Posts: 154
    I read, or possibly saw, somewhere that with long swords and other "bladed" swords there really was no point in hitting the opponents sword, as this just serves to dull the weapon. Instead, knights would bash each other with their shields, waiting for a opportunity to thrust or slash.

    Even with a bastard sword or such I'd say that thrusting is more efficient, if aimed correctly. Armors were designed not to withstand the hit so much as to deflect it. A sword tip would rip through chainmail used to protect neck and joints of heavy knights. Pressure per square inch and so on, same reason why curved swords cut better.

    For OP, you don't have to worry whether it makes sense in our world to have pointed swords, as long as the story has it's own inner logic it abides to. But then again you probably already knew that.

    And staff vs. sword. I'd say staff wins because of versatility, two striking heads, thrusting, not to mention if the staff is reinforced somehow. But then again, my knowledge of this comes from that scene in Wheel of Time, where a weakened, albeit trained character beats two world class swordsmen attacking him simultaneously.

    rexregsunset00
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959
    There seems to be a bit of a quarterstaff love-in here :P

    Staves are cool... I like them, I am Chinese, and the quarterstaff is arguably the signature weapon of our signature warriors (Shaolin monks). However, realistically speaking, they are primarily a non-lethal weapon used for training and ceremonial combat. Sure a trained Shaolin monk could probably beat a squadron of imperial soldiers armed with spears, but the spear is still the battlefield weapon, not the quarterstaff.

    Put it this way, if I had to fight a clone of myself to the death in single combat, and we both get given a long wooden stick, I'd much rather mine was the one with the sharp steel spike on the end!

    Specifically with regards to bladed weapons... they are clearly very effective and desirable. I read the Conqueror series by Conn Iggulden, detailing the rise of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire. It gives you an appreciation of the value of iron and quality bladed weapons in a nomadic culture where access to such technology and resources is very limited.

    sunset00
  • AendaeronBluescaleAendaeronBluescale Member Posts: 335
    edited August 2013
    Fencing-Style swords are mainly used as pointy weapons, require quite a feat of dexterity to be of efficient use. Basically, you stab at the weakspots. Feasible against lightly armored targets (cloth and leather) only. Mainly a melee weapon if the range is too short for effective gun usage. However, reserved for the wealthier warriors.

    Shortswords were crafted by regular smithing (not by cast iron), mainly in the ancient roman times. They were secondary weapons while the primary ones were spears (the Pilum). These shortswords are, due to their size, not effective at slashing, but, like daggers, better at stabbing. They are used for closed-quarters combat where a pilum is too long or if the pilum got lost. In more modern times used as bayonets.

    The Celts used the spatha (that's the roman/greek name), the first longsword, as a rider's primary weapon, because stabbing became not feasible with heavier armor. Due to the price, however, only wealthier warriors could afford a longsword. It was not a good idea to craft one with iron, due to the missing hardiness at it's length. You need steel to craft a durable longsword. It was also one of the primary weapons of the vikings and germans, next to the battleaxes.

    With the invention of plate armor, shields became redundant against most threats. The free hand could be used to wield an even longer blade: The greatsword. This blade is intended to strike both the heart and the liver at the same time. Due to the penetration power of guns, plate armor became useless, so became the greatswords which themselves were replaced with guns.

    Clubs are the most primitive and cheapest weapons, mainly made of wood. Some further advanced made of iron or steel is the mace. Clubs are the peasant's primary weapon if a hoe or similar spear-like weapon is not acquirable. Maces were used as alternative weapons for men-at-arms (who use leather armor) if they encounter heavier armored foes.

    Spears were, as said before, the primary weapon of the romans, however, are very effective against riders. Have you seen the scene in Braveheart where all the spear wielders formed a spear wall in which the english horsemen were brutally impaled?

    The Bo, the japanese quarterstaff, was the first staff used for martial arts. They did not find any use in europe until the 16th century however. The Shaolin monks used the Bo as a primary (mainly non-lethal) weapon of choice (disguised as a trekking pole) in defence against ambushes because non-Samurai were not allowed to carry weapons.

    The most primitive weapons are:
    * The club, as a blunt weapon, easy to craft.
    * The spear, mainly used for melee hunting in the stone age. The javelin is a throwable variant of it. Used as an anti-cavalry weapon or as a poor man's weapon if the fighter cannot afford a short- or longsword.
    * The bow, used to sling pointed sticks (some arrows were also made with a sharp stone arrowhead) for ranged hunting during the stone age. Later perfectioned up until the Middle Ages; Replaced by guns, and for shorter ranges, the crossbow, since the 14th century.

    Post edited by AendaeronBluescale on
    typo_tillysunset00
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    :D Great summary!!

    So plate armour replaces shields. That's interesting. ^_^ You probably would not see someone wield a 2 handed sword if their armour was not as good as plate then? :) They'd just be leaving themself open.

  • AendaeronBluescaleAendaeronBluescale Member Posts: 335
    edited August 2013
    Correct. You cannot use a two-hander dextrous and be a pro in dodging at the same time, the two-hander is just too heavy to do that. Plate hinders your mobility also, that is why you'll miss the power needed to block with a shield efficently and plate is as hard as a shield (with some weakspots at the links of course), making it very difficult for archers (but not for gunners) to hurt you anyway. A shield is thus, for a plate-equipped warrior, dead weight.

    Chain armor and scale armor offer more mobility, but have more open spots for arrows to go through, though. Leather does not protect you from arrows efficently, just from shorter weapons. That is why warriors in chain and leather used shields.

    typo_tilly
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    So what do chain and leather block? Not puncture or stabbing attacks? :)

  • ImperatorImperator Member Posts: 154
    Weak hits and dull blades. Wouldn't be amazed if the main advantage of armor was psychological, a feeling of invulnerability.

    LLLEEERRROOOYYYY JJJEEEENNKKKIIINNSSS!

    typo_tilly
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959


    Spears were, as said before, the primary weapon of the romans, however, are very effective against riders. Have you seen the scene in Braveheart where all the spear wielders formed a spear wall in which the english horsemen were brutally impaled?

    The Bo, the japanese quarterstaff, was the first staff used for martial arts. They did not find any use in europe until the 16th century however. The Shaolin monks used the Bo as a primary (mainly non-lethal) weapon of choice (disguised as a trekking pole) in defence against ambushes because non-Samurai were not allowed to carry weapons.

    Most of your summary is pretty accurate/logical, or at least I don't know any better to comment. I do have some objections to these two parts in particular.

    It is totally wrong to say 'spears were the primary weapon of the Romans'. The Roman pilum was nothing like the long pikes used by the Scots at the Battle of Stirling Bridge depicted in Braveheard, or the long spears of the famous Greek/Macedonian phalanx. The Roman pilum was designed as a light throwing weapon, a javelin, not a heavy anti-cavalry spear. The Roman soldier's primary weapon was his short sword, the Gladius. If you were an enemy soldier charging towards a Roman position, you would not see a wall of spears like with the Greeks. Instead, as you got close, the Romans would unleash two volleys of javelins, decimating your front ranks. Then they would all draw swords, advance in close formation, forming an impassible shield-wall, pushing relentlessly fowards, and stabbling from behind their shields at close quarters. If a Roman Legion maintained its formation and coherence, it was virtually unstoppable, as many barbarian foes discovered at great cost.

    On the quarterstaff point. It seems pretty pointless to attempt to claim who used the 'first quarterstaff' for fighting purposes. It is essentially a long heavy wooden stick, sometimes with weights added to the ends. i.e. like the bow it is not technologically complex, and probably had multiple origins all over the place.

    It is totally pointless to mention Shaolin Monks in the same sentence as Samurai. I think your knowledge has been clouded by Hollywood/Mass media rather than informed research. Shaolin Monks are Chinese. Samurai are Japanese. The Japanese prohibition on the katana for those of the non-samurai class has NOTHING to do with Shaolin Monks. The Shaolin Monks are supposed to strive for mastery for numerous fighting styles and weapon types, including 'Qiang' (spears), 'Dao' (Chinese Scimitar), 'Jian' (Chinese long sword, usually lighter than European versions) and many more exotic weapons like whips, darts, hook swords etc. In fact the Shaolin have so many fighting styles no one monk can truly master them all, and so they have specialists within their ranks in different forms and weapons.

    Additional Points

    China had no military aristocracy like Japan (that's essential what the samurai class were), instead it was governed by a massive civilian bureaucracy, headed by the 'divine guidance of the Emperor'. Some emperors attempted weapons control (rather like gun-control debate in the USA right now) to reduce the risk of warlordism and peasant uprisings, but China was far too large and complicated for such measures to really have much of an effect.

    Japan did have prohibit non-samurai from wearing katana, but this was primarily because the katana was a status symbol, much like nobody was allowed to wear yellow/gold in China, since it was the reserve of the Emperor. The katana ban was much easier to enforce compared to a general weapons ban since katanas are hand-forged specialist weapons, which relatively few smiths could produce, and most commoners would not be able to afford it anyway.

    typo_tillysunset00
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959

    So what do chain and leather block? Not puncture or stabbing attacks? :)

    Leather only protects against glancing attacks. It was probably partly for protection and partly for the psychological impact of an army that seemed to be well equipped and organised (everyone wearing the same uniform armour).

    Chain-mail is quite different. It won't save you from a 'solid hit!', but it will reduce the damage of glancing and even 'semi-glancing' hits, especially from slashing attacks. It will also offer protection from slings (which is why they went out of fashion pretty soon after iron armour became quite common) and even archery from long range.

    typo_tillysunset00
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702
    huh -_-

    ... I'm going to have to make a spreadsheet for this. Then maybe a diagram. :D

    Would leather protect more against blunt weapons than plate? I mean, plate would get bent while leather may cushion the blow? n.n?

  • EntropyXIIEntropyXII Member Posts: 656
    edited August 2013
    @typo_tilly - To address a few comments made above: Greatswords did not necessarily constitute a requirement to wear full plate. In fact the greatsword itself was considered an extremely effective shield. It is very difficult to get near a warrior when he/she is swinging a 5-6 foot razor sharp hunk of metal around. There were a great many warriors in fact that fought wearing nothing more than leather/studded leather and wielding what you would call 'large weapons'.

    Even though considered quite heavy and difficult to wield, it was still incredibly important to remain agile whilst wielding such a weapon. Full-plate and greatswords would require an immense amount of stamina to wear and wield both effectively. I am not saying it didn't happen, but I am saying it was a rarity.

    The scots are a great example.

    Also, Chain-mail has never and will never become obsolete. It is still used today for a variety of occasions. There are a few youtube videos out there that show historically accurate katana's causing practically no slash damage vs chain-mail - however, a katana, like most weapons with a point could penetrate the mail with enough force. Full-plate never 'replaced' chain-mail. It was better protection, but much more expensive. It proved better protection against piercing weapons but both were still very vulnerable to bludgeoning damage.

    The katana itself is a visceral, deadly weapon that could cut through flesh like it was paper - however it has never been tested against western full-plate in a a straight up battle. In real, genuine full-plate there are very few, if any, gaps between armour. It is of my opinion that an ancient samurai would likely 'bounce' off a western knight. Not due to skill, but simply because a katana would be rendered ineffective. Katana's were never made to fight tempered steel plate. It is true that a katana could 'pierce' full-plate, but not by enough, and not without the knight pounding down hard with what weapon he is carrying.

    In regards to your question @typo_tilly the musketeers still wore breast plates whilst wielding one handed piercing weapons. They would generally wield a rapier which is longer than your typical duelling foil and slightly heavier, but it is still a very light and dexterous weapon. It is still regarded as a 'fencing' style sword, if not a much earlier version.

    typo_tillysunset00
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959

    huh -_-

    ... I'm going to have to make a spreadsheet for this. Then maybe a diagram. :D

    Would leather protect more against blunt weapons than plate? I mean, plate would get bent while leather may cushion the blow? n.n?

    lol I'd say 99% of authors don't worry about realism as much as you. As long as it kinda makes sense, it's fine for fiction. In some cases it doesn't even need to make sense :D

    Anyway common sense tells me... no. At least standard leather armour won't be thick enough to cushion a heavy blow from a blunt weapon.

    Intuitively I'd imagine blunt weapons in general lessen the utility of armour, since they don't need to penetrate in order to cause harm. However I suspect that the 'average' hit with a blunt weapon will do less damage compared to a successful penetration of armour with a piercing or slashing weapon.

    typo_tillysunset00
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959
    @EntropyXII makes a good point about Samurai vs Knight. But I'd like to qualify it a bit more with time-frames. Early knights (essentially a European military aristocracy), like those who went on the Crusades (1090s to 1300ish), did not have access to full-plate technology, they mostly went to battle in chain-mail armour. 'Samurai' did not emerge as a military ruling class in Japan until the Gempei War in the late 1100s, and early samurai were mostly horse archers, and regarded the bow as their primary weapon.

    The 'Knights of Hollywood', with their full-plate shiny armour was actually the result of steady improvements in armour technology that continued throughout the 1300s, 1400s and 1500s in Europe. Just when European armourers finally were able to craft armour that was almost impervious to most melee weapons, and yet retained enough flexibility for a knight to fight effectively, the arrival of the gun made their efforts all but futile once more. In Japan, the culture of samurai warfare also evolved, and by the 1400s, most had become katana specialists, partly because of combat effectiveness, and partly because of their code of honour that respected such a form of combat. So like the knights of Europe, the classic samurai you see in games and movies are actually those from Sengoku Jidai (1400s) and later.

    EntropyXIItypo_tillysunset00
  • EntropyXIIEntropyXII Member Posts: 656
    @typo_tilly - leather armour would be 100% ineffective against bludgeoning weapons. Bludgeoning weapons aren't created to cause external damage - they destroy whatever is beneath. A bludgeoning weapon would shatter and shock whatever bones and organs it hits. They often say bludgeoning weapons are actually the most effective against all types of armour. The only defence against them really, is to not be hit by them - they can be quite slow and shields are useful.

    Imagine wearing full American football armour (helmet included) and asking someone to take a baseball bat and start smacking you in the armoured areas. It would cause some serious shock damage. American football body armour is not the same as leather/studded leather but it should give you a good idea.

    sunset00
  • AnduinAnduin Member Posts: 5,745
    edited August 2013
    I have my 1 star fencing badge @Typo_Tilly ! (Don't get too excited it goes up to 5 star (and even 10 for instructors I think) I also happened to fence at college against a member of the english olympic team... His name was... Ian. Ian the smug. Never has a smugger, smugged, and left such a stain of smuggness on this earth as Ian the smug.

    He left my back covered in welts and bruises as he could score points by wipping the point of his foil to hit my back... I hated him and once dented his helmet mesh with a direct lunge to the face after he had already scored the point... He was a little less smug after that...

    I think this thread is missing the vital point. A weapon is only deadly if it can bypass the protection used against it.

    Anyway. Answering your question @Typo_Tilly The function of a fencing weapon is to kill using the point.

    The point is the killer. The point always beats the edge. It has the longer reach. And can penetrate further.

    The shortsword is also a penetrative point weapon. But fencing weapons are a weapon of its time.

    When you think of fencing you think three musketeers! During the 1600s pistols and muskets became reliable enough to become the weapon of choice. However they were still one shot weapons. And they remained so right up to the industrial age. A musketeer would have carried more than one weapon, loaded. Think of the highway man and his bandoleers. The musket also made heavy plate armour irrelevant. A shot from a musket could easily penetrate it, worse the actual armour would be bent inwards meaning the armour would need to be cut off to free the person shot. Chainmail or scale would just leave more bits of metal in the wound. Leather and silk (although the protective qualities of silk are mostly forgotten now... But it was the reason all those Elizabethans were so flouncy and loved ruffles...) were preferred as they could still give some protection against ricochets and edged weapons but would also not hinder in the loading and reloading of a musket (although this reason is why the red coats were so fast reloading... they never got better protection than the coat! But it made em move quick!)

    No plate armour. No shield (also pointless against a musket) No need for a weapon that needs to go through it. Hence the light weight and relatively uncumbersome foil, sabre and epee. Why have a bigger sword when your enemy has not even enough protection to keep them safe from a foil? (basically a car antennae with a point)

    The same can be said against all weapons. They all have their special usage against an enemy having certain protection.

    The longsword is actually older than people think. Bronze longswords were first used in the bronze age and allowed a man on horseback to slash around and kill unarmoured enemies.

    To counter this, the Greeks had the phalanx, basically a group of organised men armed with spears that made the advantage of a man on horse over infantry irrelevant as the horse could not get at the enemy.

    The Romans countered this by using the Gladuis or the shortsword as they needed a weapon that could be easily used one handed (the other using a shield to block the spears) and stab around it. Most of their enemies however, the celts especially, fought naked... Honest wiki it.

    The shield wall was the mainstay from then on. And fighting gets more complicated as siege works, speed of troops, improvements in armour (and sword making which meant the longsword made a scomback) and such makes things more and more complicated.

    Romans reverted to using cavalry as they needed to get troops to where they were needed more quickly.
    Bows caused the same mischief as the musket to armour a lot earlier as well. The reason the Huns, Mongols and the English marauded Europe.

    DnD is all about personal one on one combat over massed combat anyway.

    A dagger in the back has also always been the cause of more kings being laid low and empires being defeated and dynasties ended... You will however never get a "I love the Dagger" thread

    ...

    Sorry love these kinda threads. Will try and keep it shorter next time @Typo_tilly !

    typo_tillyHeindrichsunset00
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 5,702

    In regards to your question @typo_tilly the musketeers still wore breast plates whilst wielding one handed piercing weapons. They would generally wield a rapier which is longer than your typical duelling foil and slightly heavier, but it is still a very light and dexterous weapon. It is still regarded as a 'fencing' style sword, if not a much earlier version.

    oooh that is right! :D I do remember them in plate garb. :)
    Anduin said:


    Sorry love these kinda threads. Will try and keep it shorter next time @Typo_tilly !

    Now don't you dare XD I made this thread for a reason. This is all rather interesting stuff. :)


    lol I'd say 99% of authors don't worry about realism as much as you. As long as it kinda makes sense, it's fine for fiction. In some cases it doesn't even need to make sense :D

    :D Well this isn't much 'research', really. XD But it helps by making me less likely to describe an unintentionally absurd scenario. :) Thank you all for putting a word in. It's much more than I knew before asking. ^__^

    Anduin
  • karnor00karnor00 Member Posts: 679
    Leather armor is still reasonably effective. The fact that it won't do a lot against a full strength direct hit doesn't make it useless.

    In combat a lot of hits are glancing blows - it's rare to get a free shot at your opponent because you need to avoid getting hit by him! A glancing blow from any weapon will do a lot of damage against bare flesh, but much less against leather armor.

    EntropyXIItypo_tillyAnduin
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959
    Speaking of various armour types, I really wish fantasy games better captured the strengths and weaknesses of different types of armour. Like in BG, it is no brainer that a fighter should aim to have full-plate armour over plate armour, over scale, chainmail etc...

    In reality armour design has always been a trade-off between protection and weight/encumberance, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each type of armour. Just being strong enough to swing a sword whilst wearing full-plate doesn't really compensate for the loss of mobility, and the fact that you'd get tired much quicker. Even a strong and fit man wearing full-plate would not be able to march far before exhaustion, let alone fight for an extended period of time once he gets there.

    Whilst a full steel helmet offered vital protection for the head, they greatly limited vision, hearing and thus tactical awareness. A knight wearing full-plate and riding a horse with full barding will find that his horse will not only be slower, but also tire much quicker, compared to a rider wearing lighter armour. When the Mongols invaded Europe, there were many skirmishes where European knights simply could not catch the nomad horsemen, who led their enemy on a merry chase until they were exhausted and vulnerable to a counter attack. In European wars there are stories of knights being so exhausted in a prolonged battle that they could not prevent lightly armoured men-at-arms simply walking up to them and stabbing through joints and eye slits in their armour.

    If we think about the samurai vs knight scenario again. Sure if the combatants were placed next to each other with their standard equipment in a confined arena, the knight would most likely triumph, thanks to the superior protection of his armour. However in real life, an army of knights could easily be out-manoeuvred by lighter and more mobile enemies, who would simply refuse to engage until the knights and their horses were exhausted by having to drag all their gear around.

    In other words, the 'best armour' for a warrior should depend on his role and fighting style, not simply a case of how much metal he is strong enough to carry.

    Anduintypo_tillysunset00EntropyXII
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