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Ask me about Warfare

Discussion in 'Research' started by thecoldembrace, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    My world happens to be a very high magic world but a low enchanted item world. Therefore, mages can cast spells with tremendous force and are devastating to anyone facing them. I've had to plan a lot with my battle scenes to deal with their ability to change the game.

    When I think of a mage, it can be someone who uses simple cantrips to awe a crowd at a fair, or an archmage that can summon a demon lord or call down fire and lightning to smite dozens of foes.

    To put it into use on the battlefield you have to think of magic as nothing more than another type of weapon. When gunpowder began to be effectively used on the field of battle, armies compensated, integrating the new technology with specialists... developing an artillery corps, building earthen barriers and trenches to avoid the deadly fire. Mages are no different. Armies compensate, integrate or perish. In our case they would simply involve mages amongst the ranks, because of their broad aspect of use they can do a multitude of things to aid. Commanders would also realize that they are very valuable units, and would have men guard them, because well a sword to the heart is still a sword to the heart with a mage.

    Each army would try to out magic the other, setting defensive spells against other spell casters and devising ways of getting their men into melee without having them just smoking husks because of errant fireballs. They are also well learned men and women, who also offer great benefits off the field as surgeons, medics and the like.

    In my world my main nation has a core of warmages, specifically trained to do what they must on the battlefield to offset enemy spell casters and aid their own soldiers. A mage has to know when you let loose a spell so that it won't endanger his/her own comrades. A mage has to know the inner workings of the military machine to operate effectively.
    Because of all this, the composition of the army doesn't change. You still have your light and heavy infantry and light and heavy cavalry, your engineers and so forth. The mage is just an added element that integrates the flowing magic of the world into a military purpose.

    To give an example from one of my own battles. I had the army my character was part of go against an army about five times its own size, but it used its spell casters to great benefit. The enemy had black robes, users of the dark magics dealing with shadow, death, and summoning demons and devils. Clerics, using divine magic were able to suppress the dark ones just enough to force melee between my main troops and theirs, while at the same time my mages concentrated on full destructive magics on the enemy flanks, forcing the enemy ranks to bulge in the center, taking away their advantage of numbers. This combined with horrendous weather caused a lot of men to fall into the muck and be trampled on by their fellows. When the first lines hit, the enemy were already tired, while the main army was fresh and could do their deadly work without much fear of being flanked and thus annihilated. I termed it "Carver's Gambit" for the man that came up with the idea.

    Now mind you there were other elements to the battle that were a contributor to the success of the battle, but I'll let readers see those XD.

    I hope this answers some questions. If you have a specific frame of battle to start with, I could help more with basically going over it with you, as in.. what would happen if my mages do this?

    -Cold
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014
  2. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    Sorry to interrupt, this is my last post on this subject.

    It seems I was wrong and the Yatagan existed in the 12th century, possibly under a different name. But only according to a source I found through Wikipedia. Does this seem accurate to you?
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014
  3. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    Definitely not accurate... there may have been something that looked similar but the Yatagan was created and perfected in the 16th century. I wince sometimes on Wikipedia entries, some are good don't get me wrong but others don't have sufficient proof or research to back up their claims.
     
  4. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    Too bad. Thanks again!
     
  5. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    No worries, glad I could help, Trick.
     
  6. hots_towel

    hots_towel Minstrel

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    wow, so much great info in this thread! ill have to go through it a second time to take some notes. i'll probably be making a few stops to this thread as this is the area of my WIP that i really want to be authentic.

    my first question for you coldembrace is: How much did firearms affect warfare in the late 16th/early 17th century. i realize that's a very broad question, but what i mean by that is were matchlock units just seen as archers with different weapons? i would imagine that firearms could only be effective if they are being used from atop a hill (as bullets have a much higher trajectory than arrows, and cant simply be flung over their own soldiers and into the enemy).

    im also curious about cannon artillery. i noticed around the 18th century an up, we begin seeing artillery deployed into open field battles. but if you were to try and bust out the artillery in an open battle a few centuries earlier, that would be pretty nonsensical. What im asking here is, around when do we see artillery being used in open field battles. Is there still to some degree a "defender" in these battles, thus making it a bit more practical for them to bring in some extra muscle?

    this im imagining would be a fairly short answer (unless theres a lot more factors im not considering). around what size would you consider armies to be small, medium, large, and so large that the author clearly doesn't know what they're talking about? I have in mind a few skirmishes, medium scale engagements, and 2 large scale ones. however, i feel like i might be coming up with ridiculous numbers (as im pretty much just mimicking the numbers ive read in other various history sources). I know numbers can be tricky because there have been a few times where armies outnumbered 5 to 1 have come out on top (which still makes me scratch my head).

    last one (for now, mwahaha). are there any books or history blogs you recommend? i frequently check up on http://militaryhistorynow.com/
    The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps

    but just those two. and i recently picked up "What i'ts like to go to war" by Karl Marlantes. When im finished with that I'll probably check out "On War" by Mr.Clausewitz, and I read the art of war a long time ago but i think i may have to dust that off again. But what do you suggest?

    thanks for your time :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2014
    Lohengrin likes this.
  7. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    While designing the demonic hordes that humanity is at war with in my latest setting idea I've come up with some problems and I've come up with possible solutions for those problems which I'd like your take on.

    Now first off my setting is a science fantasy setting where humanity has figured out how to make a bunch of cool toys through understanding the rules of the universe enough through science that they're able to break them through magic. It's basically Cthulhu Tech only with less mind rape-y despair and more hope if that means anything to you.

    Problem 1: As part of the nod to the fantasy aspect of it, I want to make combat up close and personal again, which means making most conventional weapons ineffective and melee weapons viable again. That I think the warhammer 40k chainsaw swords are awesome may or may not have an influence on this desire.

    Solution 1: The demons are fake, made out of magic. They have no internal organs, veins, or muscles to be destroyed. Think of it like pouring plastic into a mold to make a toy and then painting it up, say a toy soldier. The toy soldier has arms and legs and eyes. If it was moving around like a living thing, it wouldn't be strange to think that the toy soldier would have muscles, skeletons, blood, etc and so on. However when you chop it open it's just solid plastic. It's the same concept with the demons, only they're made out of a black Ichor instead of plastic.

    Now, my idea behind this is that the average bullet wouldn't be effective against them. No matter where you hit it'd be like the bullet only hitting muscle and nothing vital because they don't have anything vital. It'd be perhaps even less effective then hitting muscle as they wouldn't have real nerves to cause pain or blood to bleed, just the ichor. The damage done by a bullet would be limited to the cut of the bullet hole and having the bullet itself lodged into it.

    As a result of this, the most viable ways to fight them for the average human would be chopping them to bits, (melee weapons made viable again, goal achieved) explosions to blow them to bits (not ideal, but hey, explosions are cool) and something to get rid of the bits. (I’m thinking fire. Fire is cool.)

    Is this viable?

    Problem 2: Unfortunately as a consequence of making the demons vulnerable to explosions as a result of solution 1, the logical solution to a demonic invasion would be to use planes dropping bombs and ships firing missiles to blow the shit out of them, but that ruins the fantasy-ish intimate form of warfare that I want.

    Solution 2: The demons emit a miasma. The miasma doesn’t do much at short range. Mildly poisonous to the point that if you don’t have a gas mask you’re dead in three days or so from breathing it, but it’s main purpose is to act as a barrier cutting off the demon’s turf from the outside world. Cell Phones won’t connect, TV, Internet, and Power goes out. Even running a physical cord to something inside it from outside it would only produce a fuzzy, static filled picture.

    The idea is that missile strikes and bombing runs wouldn't work because there’s no guarantee of accuracy and with the miasma mucking around with electronics there’s no promise of the bombs going off at the right time or at all.

    Is this viable? Or would they still try bombing runs despite the setbacks? If so I had an idea for a more solid Barrier serving the same role which the bombs and missiles wouldn't be able to penetrate.
     
  8. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    @hots_towel
    late 16th, early 17th century changed the course of warfare for that of firearms from old bow and crossbows. During this time you have the rise of the great kingdoms of Europe, and subsequently a lot of wars between them. Prussia would be the easiest to link to, who incorporated firearms into its military and had reformed its units into that gunpowder era of battle. It was a revolution of technology. Castles and cities could be torn down with cannon shot rather quickly, forcing the need to change defensive tactics and standards.

    At first musket armed men were laughed at. Yet, as the technology improved and the weapon became more accurate and devastating it was the other way around, plus it was a lot easier to train someone with a gun than with a bow, resulting in larger and larger armies.

    As to the final question on that, warfare at this time was still a melee affair. Men did not stand across the field from one another and fire till the other fled. Several volleys were let off, usually 3-5 before a charge was sounded. Most men died in melee, not by being struck down by a musket ball. Men were drilled extensively on how to fight with the bayonet attached to their gun. For the gun itself men just had to be drilled to stand in line, reload and aim at a massively packed group of men and hope they hit. (Lots had tendencies to fire above the enemy ranks.) The rest was the charge and melee.

    Actually the cannon came to be used more than the handheld gun for a long period of time, because it took time to learn how to cast a smaller, thinner barrel that wouldn't blow up in your face more often than not. The oldest notable cannon was made and used in China around the 13th century, and was used by both the Chinese and the Mongols, hand cannons were also used on the field.

    In the middle east the hand cannon and cannon were used about a hundred years later and used quite extensively. (First against the Mongols and then against each other)

    By the siege of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, the Ottomans had made massive cannons, and I mean massive to break down the walls of the city. They weighed a little more than 16 tons and could fire a ball of around 1500 pounds over a mile. They made sixty eight of these to reduce Constantinople's walls to rubble in 53 days.

    Against Europeans who were rather slow catching up to the Ottomans, they used cannons and hand cannons extensively, which is one reason why for a long time the Ottoman's were extremely fearsome to enter battle against. (There are other reasons of course but the great cannons of the Ottomans were devastating.) So about mid 15th century the cannon was already well in service and getting better every year by gunsmiths. Because, it was at this time a direct fire weapon, it was generally used as the open salvo against enemy ranks, before the infantry got in front and obstructed the view. Though moving the cannon to higher ground so it could lob rounds over friendly heads and into enemy ranks became more and more common and a standard tactic until cannons that could be moved up and down on their seat were invented, along with the mortar.

    Defender battles did not change, and in most cases the defender has most of the advantages. They have picked the terrain (usually) and set up earthen bulwarks and the like to protect against enemy fire.

    If we are talking about the same time period for armies and their size it varies. A skirmish is generally defined as a small group of men fighting another small group of men or disrupting a large group of men in combat. So for this, size wise would range between 100 to a little above 1k men across a broad space of land or a small piece of land.

    A small army of this time period would be around fifteen to twenty thousand, medium around 30-35 thousand and a large reaching up to the 100k mark or above.

    To give an example, when the Ottomans invaded Austria in 1529 at the Siege of Vienna they had around 120k men. The Austrians who had been dealt several large defeats had around 20-24k men. The defenders were so successful at detecting and defeating the Ottoman sappers and using the rubble of the city defenses to best advantage were able to hold off until relief arrived from several other European nations who brought in another 80k men to push the Ottomans off the field and end the siege.

    So unless you are the Spartans at Thermopylae where you are facing down hundreds of thousands and holding... I would stay in the realm of 100k or less for a single side. Even in battles with 80k or above, only a central chunk would actually do any fighting at any one time. When you get into these size ranges, battle becomes very unwieldy, and generally falls into the laps of commanders under the main guy.

    This depends on whether you are looking for books on military theory or actual tactics. I always recommend Clausewitz, and I force my own students to read On War because it is the most comprehensive book for the whole encompassing theory on how war works.

    If you are actually looking for tactics and strategy, what I always encourage my students to do are to find and pick up the memoirs/journals and the like written by the actual generals, I.E. someone wanting to know Roman warfare should pick up The Gallic Wars, by Julius Caesar. You get the idea. Getting into their heads gives you a very good view of how things were conducted in their times... and while they do tend to embellish, it gives you a grounding to go off of.

    Hope this gives you some help.
    -Cold
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2014
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  9. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    Ayup. I have a query. What was warfare like during the 19th century? Specifically, toward the latter part of the 19th century.
     
  10. hots_towel

    hots_towel Minstrel

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    thanks a lot for the info cold! i really appreciate how you gave both the answers i was looking for as well as some historical context in which it fits.
     
  11. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    @Queshire

    If you want your demons to be safe from large scale bombing runs, you'll probably have to go with your last point of providing some wall or barrier that they explode upon instead of on and amidst the demons themselves. The reason for this, regardless of the electrical interference, bombs can be set to explode on impact, avoiding the need for lots of high tech gadgetry that could get screwed with. And accuracy is only a recent improvement on our bombs. Carpet bombing was the mainstay of tactics for awhile... and honestly we still do use it because of the mass spread when it is needed, like not in areas where military commanders are worried about collateral damage.
    At the same time people will ask... why is this force field type of thing protecting against bombs and missiles but allowing me through? That is up for you to answer, but I honestly feel sorry for those facing your demons if they are forced to get up close for a hack and slash match, it would be horror untold. -shivers- It would honestly through us back to the age of melee combat though, and this is where you have expressed interest in revitalizing for your story.
    And my own thought is... I bet on your demons unless your humans have some wicked skill with swords and knives or magic :D
     
  12. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    Hello, Gryphos.
    This is a rather broad question. Is there a particular part of the world you have an interest in getting information about?
     
  13. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    Yeah, sorry, realise now that is very broad. I was thinking land warfare in Europe. What was the general strategy? How were cavalry used? How different was it from the line battles of the previous century? Etc.
     
  14. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    19th century land warfare in Europe was the building block for those later great wars that so devastated nations across the globe. It was the testing grounds for new methods of war, and the term "total war" came into effect, though it was not named so until WW1. Total war meaning, even non combatants are effected, in order to sap the strength of your enemy. Armies would burn areas to the ground, tear up tracks and displace the civilians.

    Muskets were upgraded to breech loading rifles with more aerodynamic designs for accuracy, leading to a much higher rate of fire and a much higher hit to miss ratio than before. Technology was changing the way wars were fought on every front.

    Europe itself enjoyed relative peace for a time after the Napoleonic wars of 1803 to 1815, till 1848 which fell into a mass of civil wars, wars of independence and revolution.

    Battle tactics remained the same until the American Civil War and the Crimean War introduced trench warfare. At this point guns were accurate enough to be fired impersonal, meaning you really don't have to see someone across a field to shoot them anymore. Field artillery became a major player, forcing a change of tactics to avoid its devastating range and power. This was also dawning of a transportation revolution, allowing whole armies to be swiftly moved by train to battle sites.

    Whole nations could now with the industrial revolution be conscripted and armed, fielding larger and larger armies.
    So at this point the idea was to pin down your enemy and either by force on the field or by slowly breaking his resistance you would defeat your foe.
    However, in the scale of large wars there were not many conducted in the European theatre, save for those revolutions. Most were fought in the new world or in areas of colonization such as Africa, India and China.

    I could probably go on and on about each individual war, but the tactics hadn't fully shifted, it would take WW1 to do so.

    -Cold
     
    Gryphos likes this.
  15. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Here's a question I don't think gets asked enough: how common were two-handed weapons, really?

    I suppose it's really two questions. One is, when and how completely did soldiers phase out spear and shield for pikes or polearms?

    The other one is, how often did knights and other less formation-based warriors give up their shields for bigger swords or axes? I know there was a major replacement as plate armor started coming out (when one arm just couldn't beat through your foe's armor as well, and the shield seemed more redundant), and of course there's Japan's whole shieldless approach to war. But how common was it really?

    (No, this isn't a Captain America-inspired question for the weekend. But Cap does seem like the only character in popular fiction that knows what a shield is...)
     
  16. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Most two-handed swords, right up until the end of swords as primary weapons of war, were greatswords, optimized for use with two hands (handle length and balance), but perfectly functional with one. Another class of swords, the bastardsword, was designed for use with one hand but had room on the handle for two; you could drop your shield and really nail someone with it in a pinch.

    An entire school of combat developed around the two-handed sword, reflected now in the ARMA / HEMA longsword schools, and texts like Fiore Dei Liberi's Flos Duellatorum, Hans von Speyer's Fechtbuch, and the Gladiatoria Group (which would be a great name for either a rock band or a professional military contracting firm). It was really in vogue only during the absolute last phase of heavy armor, late 1400's-1500's, right before guns became a thing.

    And as I've said before, warswords and greatswords weren't really used for beating through your opponent's armor, but rather for beating him up inside it.
     
  17. Hi, this isn't so much a request for this world knowledge, but to get some opinions on a "revolutionary" set of tactics in my own world, ones that's allowing one of the main threats, an empire (relax, they're not that evil) to defeat all there opponents.

    For a bit of background; the World is a lot like early modern/renaissance Europe, battles being fought mainly with the use of pike and halberds phalanxes and tericos, backed up with sleeves of crossbows and muskets, mainly matchlock- flintlock cost an arm and a leg. and headed by plate clad men with two handed swords to hack into the pikes, cavalry on the flanks ect.

    Now this tactic is to have a double rank of flintlock armed musketeers, firing at around British speeds of three a minute, firing into the approaching formations, destroying the cohesion of the pikes, and then to have heavily armed roman style legionaries (mail +segmented plate, curved shields, broad bladed short swords) smash through the phalanx.

    there are other nuances, like magic (which is pretty small, more like shotgun than nuke) and galloper guns, but is the basis for this tactic sound, and do you think it would work against large blocks of professional, armoured pike men??
     
  18. Hi, this isn't so much a request for this world knowledge, but to get some opinions on a "revolutionary" set of tactics in my own world, ones that's allowing one of the main threats, an empire (relax, they're not that evil) to defeat all there opponents.

    For a bit of background; the World is a lot like early modern/renaissance Europe, battles being fought mainly with the use of pike and halberds phalanxes and tericos, backed up with sleeves of crossbows and muskets, mainly matchlock- flintlock cost an arm and a leg. and headed by plate clad men with two handed swords to hack into the pikes, cavalry on the flanks ect.

    Now this tactic is to have a double rank of flintlock armed musketeers, firing at around British speeds of three a minute, firing into the approaching formations, destroying the cohesion of the pikes, and then to have heavily armed roman style legionaries (mail +segmented plate, curved shields, broad bladed short swords) smash through the phalanx.

    there are other nuances, like magic (which is pretty small, more like shotgun than nuke) and galloper guns, but is the basis for this tactic sound, and do you think it would work against large blocks of professional, armoured pike men??
     
  19. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    This is a good set of questions wordwalker. I would like to address your second set first, the phasing out of the spear and shield.

    What most scholars agree on is that around the turn of the 14th century the use of the (short) spear was all but abandoned. Soldiers had begun adopting heavier armor, mainly to try and halt the power of ballistic missiles as a threat.. (they all but failed). The spear was too short for a soldier to use as a defense, and against heavy armor was virtually useless. It was meant for a man to combat the rise of the horse mounted soldier, who now with the additions of some very heavy armor was just an armored fist that could punch through any line of spear infantry with ease.
    The problem was addressed by increasing the length of the spear into the pike which stretched to about 10-15 feet in length. The unit of men was also reformed into the pike square which had several advantages of being a movable, yet static defensive group that could if ordered be an extremely aggressive and deadly attacking force.

    The shield was never truly phased out until musket had become a staple of the battlefield. For a time when guns had the accuracy of a windblown leaf the shield was still used effectively, because the battle still was met by melee based infantry. When accuracy improved the shield became a liability for mobility and did not offer sufficient protection against the ballistic force of a bullet.

    Now as to your first question flowing into your final. If we are specifically talking about European combat as opposed to Japanese then we get into the specifics of when a two handed weapon was used and not used as a battlefield weapon. The answer in short is, the two handed weapon did not fair well on a battlefield. Now mind you, it was used, mainly by units of men trained specifically to use it. It could be used and had been shown to be a very powerful shock weapon. However, because of the narrow and often cramped confines of an infantry battle it lost it's power. It was also heavy, and regardless most men would tire very quickly with it's use, which was only increased when they wore heavy armor that could repel likewise attacks.
    Units associated with the forlorn hope were usually units of men that would likely die in the coming battle for their role as a shock based assault unit. Men of these units were notorious for using heavy two handed weapons in their bid to hack through an enemy battle line to make it to the weaker units behind. In this sense the weapon was used to it's greatest effect.
    Probably the best use of the two handed sword came with the Zweihänder which was basically a sword meant to chop through a wall of pikes and wasn't too bad when it came to chopping through men either. It was a sword-pike, and when worked in tandem with pike infantry could be particularly devastating.
    For the most part however, the two handed sword while loved was not a weapon most chose to wield because it was so cumbersome, and extremely taxing. If the battle came down to a more dualist type of combat, say knight vs. knight then yes it was actually used more often. Its advantage when allowed the room needed to wield it became very apparent in these types of scenarios.
    Malik does add some good information on this as well.
     
  20. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    I am going to respectfully argue with thecoldembrace. I have fenced against rapiers with a two-handed sword, choking up on the handle and using the ricossa. They are neither heavy nor cumbersome. The smaller, two-handed Type XIIIa greatswords that predated the big Type XX monsters of the 15th Century were graceful and are a joy to wield. Good modern steel replicas are spirited and lively in the hand.

    [​IMG]
    Not a child's hand. A grown man's hand on the handle of a Type XIIIa (3-4' blade) greatsword.​

    Even the big, six-foot Type XX's topped out at 5-6 lbs and were beautifully balanced.

    Plus, you also had to hit someone a lot less with a bigger sword. You actually got more done, with less work.

    [​IMG]
    "How many times you figure I gotta hit you wit' dis? I'm thinkin', once."​

    In armor -- any armor -- a two-handed sword could cause fractures, contusions, and crush injuries; a hit from a sword that big could drive a shield edge into a helmet like a billiards ball and knock someone cold. They are astonishingly powerful.

    In my SCA days, I once hit a guy with a rattan greatsword in a tournament and dented his 12-gauge steel helmet -- which would have been WAY stronger than any iron helmet of the time -- with the metal edge of his shield. I was surprised at the damage; you could lay your finger in the crease. (To be fair, I am immensely strong and he was being a ****; no matter how hard I hit him he wouldn't accept it as a disabling blow, so I kept turning it up.) Everyone present agreed that had it been an authentic, riveted iron helmet, he would have been playing with dolls and making funny little noises for the rest of his life.
     
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