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Help Weapon's!

Discussion in 'Research' started by dangit, Oct 26, 2012.

  1. dangit

    dangit Scribe

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    Alright I'm having trouble with coming up with a weapon for my character :banghead:.


    He's a horse archer who sometimes goes around on foot. He's part of a well equiped standing army of professional soldiers.

    Any thoughts would be welcome :help:.
     
  2. Chime85

    Chime85 Sage

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    If he's an archer, why not a bowman or crossbowman? I imagine if he was one of those two, he would also carry a small dagger with him for both close combat defence and skinning animals.
     
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Mounted Archers used shortbows that are extremely deadly when you charge in on horseback but don't really have much in range. On foot, the shortbow wouldn't be much use on most typical battlefields, except maybe in guerrilla warfare (shooting down from a tree or rooftop, for instance). From what I can tell, a mounted archer usually required more skill than anyone else on the battlefield.

    From a mount, the next weapon you would want is a thrusting weapon for reach and armor penetration, either a lance (preferred, but according to Ravana below, can't be used on the same horse as a shortbow) or a straight sword (useful unhorsed). If you've a third weapon, it would probably be a curved sword for speed like a long thin sabre (could probably slash or thrust) or a wide fat scimitar (mostly slash). I've seen a few places (fantasy books? documentaries? commentaries? I can't remember) where curved swords were considered cowardly because they're mostly used against unarmed civilians, but that would depend on how much armor you'd expect a soldier to wear.

    As Chime mentioned, pretty much every soldier would keep some kind of a knife or dagger, often more than one, to double as a tool as needed. More than skinning, soldiers often had to dig out fortifications or clear away underbrush, so blades would come in a variety of shapes and sizes to favor one use or another.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2012
  4. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    err... no... the dagger's for finishing off wounded enemies laying and bleeding into the mud after a battle. Skinning animals is just too cruel.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2012
  5. dangit

    dangit Scribe

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    Well I've got the recurve bow and the Knife down, the problem is the fact that I think he needs something else like a short spear or a sword of some kind (should have specified that in the original post).
     
  6. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    A mounted archer would generally not carry a spear/lance, the entire point behind them being not to come into direct contact with the enemy. Also, while it's possible to put a bow into a case when you want to switch to another weapon, it's nowhere near as easy to holster a spear when you want to use the bow. It would be difficult to switch to spears unless they were able to withdraw to the rear and grab some from support units.

    They would carry "small arms" of some sort or other, for those times they were unable to outdistance pursuit (rare) or were cut off by some surprise movement of the enemy (occasionally). As Devor mentioned, this would commonly be a one-handed sword, probably on the shorter end of the scale–you would never, ever, use a two-handed weapon from horseback. That these were often curved is in part due to somewhat greater ease of use in the situation–curved blades, apparently, are less likely to get stuck in an enemy's body, at least as long as you're slashing–and in part due to historical coincidence: the cultures most associated with horse archery are also most associated with curved swords. (For comparison, Celtic cavalry, and subsequently most Western cavalry, used straight swords, all the way up until the time that armor fell out of fashion… which might suggest they had reasons for doing so, and for changing when they did.)

    Other possibilities should not be ignored, however. The mace was a remarkably common weapon for mounted troops–a fact generally overlooked due to the "romance" attached to swords: it was, if anything, more effective than blades, especially when going up against armored opponents, and was very unlikely to get lodged, unless it was gussied up with spikes or such. Short flails were used as well, though these are far harder to control–they're a pain to control even when you're standing all alone in an empty field, and if you ever take it into your head to experiment with one, make sure it's padded and you're wearing at least head protection. One-handed axes saw some use, almost exclusively when armored opponents were expected; picks and hammers were eventually adapted for this purpose as well. In all of these cases, the weapon was shorter than foot soldiers would use–often no more than 18 inches total length–and was generally all-metal, rather than having a wooden shaft.

    All of these could be supplemented with a small, usually round, shield, which could be hung from the saddle or slung on the back until needed.

    There are a very few exceptions to the first rule: some units, in particular cataphracts (Parthians, Persians, later Byzantines), would use fully armored archers mixed in with lancers, and these sometimes did switch to lances after firing… though more often they were used to soften up formations for their lancer companions, and to engage enemy archers. I can't speculate as to whether they carried their own lances or whether their companions carried spares to hand off when needed. In general, though, the armored archer would not engage in the primary heavy cavalry charge (sometimes they'd form back ranks, using their sidearms to finish off what was left after the lancers broke up enemy formations); they were armored to protect against enemy archers more than to engage in melées. In an interesting reversal of roles, some cataphract units carried heavy darts or javelins they'd loose during their charge; it would be simple enough to carry the lance in the off-hand until it was required.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
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  7. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    The recurved shortbow would be the primary weapon for a horse archer. Long bows would tend to get caught up in things on a rider. Crossbows are good as well, but slower to reload. And if he had to switch to melee combat a single handed pole arm of some sort. Axes, hammers, maces, anything with a nasty bit of gut busting metal on the end of a stick. These are relatively easy to use compared to swords, and often lighter as well, and they can be swung from horseback or on foot. (Don't go for morning stars though, they require much more training to use).

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    The wikipedia article on flails doubts the historical existence of one-handed flails. Were they a thing, or do I not get to put a diagonal line through the other four notches counting the times wikipedia has failed me?
     
  9. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Actually, crossbows are trouble on horseback: the horse's motion tends to knock the quarrel out of the slot, and a saddle is no place to brace to cock the heavier ones.

    But like psychotick said, the bow would be a recurved or other not-too-long weapon (unless it's an asymetrical thing like the Japanese came up with where most of the length is above the hands).
     
  10. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    I suppose it depends on what one counts as a one-handed flail. They certainly existed in the Orient: we just tend to call those nunchakus. There's no reason you couldn't turn a Western two-handed flail into a one-handed one simply by shortening the handle, either, though I have no idea if this is ever attested. I'm sure it had to be tried by someone at some point, since just about every variation on any possibility was. I do at least have to disagree with Wikipedia's claim that "[t]he chief tactical virtue of the two-handed flail was its capacity to defeat a defender's shield or avoid it entirely." The chief tactical virtue was that you didn't need to hit the same person with it twice. They're closer to the truth in addressing its liabilities… including the "lack of precision" part, which means that aiming a blow well enough you could "avoid" an opponent's shield, while still getting the head to whip into the target properly, would be very tricky. I suppose shattering the shield should probably count as "defeating" it, so I'll give that part a maybe. Most of the time, though, these would be used against other people armed with two-handed peasant farm implements, so it probably didn't come into question terribly often.

    For the ball-on-the-end-of-a-chain variety… examples exist in museum collections, and would need to have been badly misdated to be completely off base; since some artwork from the same periods (which is far easier to date in most cases) also depicts them, this is unlikely. So I'd have to say they existed. Whether or not they saw widespread use is another story. Personally, I can't imagine trying to control one while mounted. They're damn near impossible to control under ideal circumstances; this may be one of those instances where the examples survived because they didn't see much use—and thus remained intact—rather than because they did. On the other hand, I'm not a professional mounted soldier who's been trained in horsemanship almost since he could walk, and in the use of weapons not that much shorter a time; their results might have been different. Though my previous warning applies to any non-rigid hand-to-hand weapon: chained, hinged, or simply flexible (such as simple chains, or whips), all are far more hazardous to the user than those that merely feature sharp edges and points.

    I'm being very serious here: if you are ever fool enough to "try this at home," at least be smart enough to start with a tennis ball taped to a piece of rope… and to have a spotter on hand. And ideally to wear at least some form of head and neck protection. Because that tennis ball will be able to achieve enough force to knock you out, or the rope can wrap your neck tightly enough you aren't going to be able to free it yourself—not in time. Never mind any of various other injuries it might cause. Do it exactly wrong and the rope wraps your neck in such a way that the tennis ball reaches maximum acceleration at the same point it reaches your neck vertebrae, at which point it won't matter even if you do have a spotter. In the SCA, there are exactly two classes of melée weapons which are not allowed. One is staves. We use wood (well, rattan, actually) in place of metal for swords—and padding in place of metal for axe and mace heads: tennis balls taped to a handle are quite popular for the latter, and also make great back spikes—but substituting wood for wood tends not to reduce the effect significantly. The other is flexible weapons of any sort… because they cannot be made safe under any accommodations whatsoever. Including a 14-gauge steel, enclosed-face spangenhelm with camail and a gorget. When you can understand that it's easier to feel the impact of a tennis-ball mace through that helmet than it is to feel the impact of a 2-inch-wide rattan sword—that's what I wore when I fought, so I speak from personal experience here—maybe you'll be able to understand why we are unwilling to allow a tennis-ball head on a weapon that allows it far greater acceleration courtesy of a hinge. Let alone something that might wrap a limb or neck. Tens of thousands of fighting members over more than four and a half decades… and we don't use these. Hopefully, that tells you something.

    [If you're determined to experiment in spite of the above, my personal recommendation for protection would be a straitjacket. As with many forms of personal protection, you'll need someone to help you with the straps. Properly worn, however, I can pretty much guarantee it'll keep you safe from fracturing your own skull with the weapon, unless you deliberately throw yourself on the latter. I'd name a runner-up… but there isn't one I'd be willing to. And I've also worn, and fought in, fully-articulated 16th century plate before, if that tells you anything.]

    Indeed, given just how dangerous flails are, the fact that they didn't come to dominate the field of Medieval military hardware ought to tell you just about everything you need to know concerning their difficulty of use as well. So, while, as I said, the results of putting one in the hands of a well-trained warrior might have been different, I somehow suspect they weren't, much, nor often. Had they been, the weapon would have seen far broader use.

    As for multiple-headed chain flails, I highly doubt these were ever more than a novelty, in much the same way as some oversize swords, axes and polearms were—in this case, with better reason: they'd be less effective than a weapon with a single head, since the force would be scattered across several smaller points of impact, making serious wounds, let alone armor crushing/penetration, all the less likely. And they'd be even harder to control, since if you didn't get all the heads moving in the same way at once, they'd cause the weapon to wobble, aim to be less accurate still, and force to be reduced that much more.

    I suspect the chain flail is probably what psychotick intended to refer to by "morning star," by the way. In fact, a morning star is a spiked, or sometimes flanged, variety of mace, no more difficult to wield than any other head-mass weapon, and not a ball-and-chain… usually. Nomenclature having been inconsistently applied over the centuries, and into the present day, the discussion can often become confusing. Try talking about polearms some time: that gets worse still.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2012
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  11. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

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    Recurve bows are the only way to go on this. The Mongols of the steppes ruled supreme for a reason. As far as secondary weapons, what has been suggested so far, I feel, are good options. Curved swords or sabres are a typical cavalry sidearm, easily drawn and capable of inflicting heavy damage from horseback. Lances shouldn't be considered, as they are very cumbersome and are usually reserved for heavy cavalry troops.

    I would think that either a curved sword designed for slashing or a morning-star would be best suited for mounted combat. As stated in posts above, a morning-star is extremely unstable in terms of control. For this reason alone I would say a sabre-like sword would be best for a secondary weapon for mounted archers. Though it must be reiterated, mounted archers would do their best to stay away from the fight. A secondary weapon should be looked upon like a pistol on the modern battlefield; proficient, but not what you'd want in the end.

    Edit: Just wanted to say that you're a cool guy. From the chat discussion we had, I can tell you have a motivated heart into what you do. These kind of details should be secondary to your story. A sword is a sword (Anders please don't kill me :)), a reader will understand. The pressure to make a full on detailed world is there, but understand the plot supersedes all.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2012
  12. Clarence Matthews

    Clarence Matthews Dreamer

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    I think FatCat makes a great point. Short recurve bows would be manueverable on horseback with the bumping and bouncing of a moving horse. Easy to load and quick to fire. Also mentioning the mongols they used what is now called the mongolian thumb release that drew the bow back using the thumb which would allow a much higher draw weight on your bow than holding onto the knock of the arrow. With todays mechanical releases and compound bows people today can shoot an unimaginable draw weight for a bow compared to when you had to draw the string with your hands and hold the full weight of the bow while you aimed. I have done archery with both and I can shoot my compound bow all day long with a mechanical bow but shooting with fingers and a recurve bow actually fatigues the shooter very quickly if they are not conditioned for it.
     
  13. Chime85

    Chime85 Sage

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    I meant skinning them for food while out in the wilderness. I didn't mean he skins them because he's taken a shine to it, that would be horrid!! :)
     
  14. dangit

    dangit Scribe

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    Thanks a lot for the help! there's been some great replies here:happy:.
     
  15. Depends a bit on wether he is light cavalry or heavy cavalry.

    Wikipedia on mounted archery:

    That's where I'd start, and then research the historical equivalent mentioned.

    I don't see what's so cruel about skinning an animal you have already killed. It's the only way to get leather and you can't cook the meat before skinning.

    That said, this would be the job of a hunter or butcher, not a solider. It would also be performed with a knife, as daggers are generally considered pure combat weapons.

    A sword seems reasonable, even for a light cavalryman. Probably some kind of shield as well.
     
  16. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    One added problem with flails: the only thing more unstable than a flail would be trying to use a flail when the guys on your left and right are swinging them too. Flails have more crushing power than any other weapon a human arm can swing (simple physics there) but that doesn't help if you have to spread your line of troops twice as thin just to get them on the field.

    In fact, the main examples I've heard of are nunchatku and similar Japanese weapons (that evolved as part of civilians trying to fight off soldiers and ex-soldier bandits without carrying illegal swords) and their use in riot control and other anti-peasant operations. In other words, flails make most sense for amateurs, or for fighting against amateurs-- not for war.
     
  17. Wanara009

    Wanara009 Troubadour

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    Not quite, since flail can be used on horseback (in fact, I think its part of medieval knight common arms) and you get get around the thinning by making multiple rows. When used on horseback, it has the added benefit of having more power behind it. Also, a flail is definitely not a weapon for amateur because as far as I know, a flail's trajectory is very difficult to control once you start hitting enemy.

    A good example of mounted cavalries would be the Mongol, the Saracen, and the some tribe of Native Americans. Also, it make sense in my mind that horse-mounted spear-man to have multiple spears, since they will leave them with their stabbed enemy.

    A good alternative alternative to the of curved swords are glaive or naginata-type weapon. Greater reach and has more force behind it due to the length.

    However, don't quote me on this since most of my weapon knowledge is from studying Indonesian Pendekar and Spartan Hoplites which led to my tendency of writing infantry-based army.
     
  18. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    Here is what one society did:
    Mongol military tactics and organization - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Lancers and bowman as a team.

    File:MongolCavalrymen.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    pictures of bowman with lancers, the bowmen have swords.

    I agree a long weapon works as the primary weapon, but must be tossed aside when using the hands for other weapons, as there is no place to keep the long weapon. So if you use a bow while riding first, there is no way to keep the long weapon for future use.
    Also, as the videos show, why engage a target up close, when you can avoid the melee, and deliver arrows as you race around the battle field?

    How about a video, rider shoots at least a dozen arrows at a target in one pass. (video at the bottom)
    Horsebackarchery.net - Kassai-Reiterbogenschule Österreich
    background on the horse archer:
    Magyar index
    video at bottom shows more horseman archery.

    I don't know if it shows, I miss equestrian activities, and one was mounted archery, that I wanted to learn.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2012
  19. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    See previous discussion. The evidence of its use as a cavalry weapon is highly limited… to put it generously. It may have seen occasional use, but I think it would be a stretch to call it "common."

    Depends on how you're taking "amateur." Most times, an amateur soldier will be a professional peasant–who may have been wielding a flail for most of his life, just not against human targets. Which is why they did show up in the hands of conscripts, militia, etc. That, plus it's what they had, if their employer was too cheap to provide spears. Even then, most other farm implements would have been easier to wield.

    Keep in mind, too, that these flails would all be of the "hinged" variety (that is, the two parts are linked very close together, either two metal loops attached directly or by a single link of chain: none would use an actual hinge), not the long-chain variety associated–correctly or otherwise–with cavalry.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  20. JBoots

    JBoots Acolyte

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    I'd give him a hand axe. He would be travelling light and a sharp hand axe would double as both a camp tool and a decent weapon. He'd probably have a shotsword or a dagger as a standard issue as well.
     
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