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Weapon and Character Matching Query

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Cu Mara, Nov 25, 2019.

  1. Cu Mara

    Cu Mara Dreamer

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    Hey all, I’ve been doing some character building and have realized that the weapon I first assigned one of my characters may not be the best suited for the character she will grow to be.

    Initially, I gave the best friend of my main character a bow (she also has a dirk for closer combat and general use). But, I think it may not be quite right and am looking for input.
    She will later grow to become Captain of the Rangers (my world’s “army”). Her characteristics are bravery, impatience, integrity, strength and loyalty. Due to her impatience and bravery, I was thinking she might need something that’ll get her a little closer to the action?
    And I am hoping for something with a Scottish origin (or at least affinity).
    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    For starters, never give bow to a girl/woman if you can help it. Or to a small or slim man, for that matter. Bows require significant upper body strength, and in fact skeletons of English archers were deformed from the excercise they had to do to in order to pull the bow. Women have 40% less upper body strength than men. As a result, any ranged weapons used by a woman will be either slings or crossbows, never or rarely bows. For close combat, you are looking at swords, spears, poleaxes, polehammers... not so much dirks and daggers as that would require wrestling the opponent, which also places weaker person at a disadvantage.

    Read this for more information:
    Medieval weapons and body type

    Between that and her psychology, I would say that you should give her a spear and a sword, as both of these - especially spear - are "quick" weapons which would fit somebody described as impatient. Not that warhammer is a slow weapon either, but you get the idea...
     
  3. Yora

    Yora Inkling

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    That seems like terrible writing advice. Impact strength is not everything when it comes to using weapons. A big guy with massive shoulders would have some chance to get an arrow through plate armor, while a small person wouldn't have any real hope of doing so. But that's not all that shooting bows is. Saying women must never use bows is horrible.

    It's just as awful to say that women can never wrestle men. Stronger people are advantaged over weaker people. The average man is stronger than the average woman. But not all characters are average. Most of them are not. There are plenty of women out there who could completely beat up anyone of us here.
     
  4. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    And not everything you shoot a bow at is wearing full plate. No armor, a decent kids’ bow will kill you.

    Also, the dirk is a fine weapon, but you have the question of what situations does the character get into? Weapons tend to fit the need.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2019
  5. Nighty_Knight

    Nighty_Knight Dreamer

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    Everyone should have a dirk or a dagger as a secondary. You can never always avoid close combat and if a bigger stronger person forces you down, the small knife/dagger may be the difference between life and death.

    I second the character having a spear or even a pole arm such as a glaive or war scythe. Gives them reach and is still great for fairly close combat.
     
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  6. Nighty_Knight

    Nighty_Knight Dreamer

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    They are mainly referencing the English longbow, which was massive and just to shoot took a lot of training and strength. They are not wrong in that scenario, a female to shoot an English longbow as her primary weapon would need to be pretty built, they exist, but the character would need to be built like a Ronda Rousey or a Gina Carano. Now a later composite bow now works for a more traditional built female, or a non-war bow from earlier periods would work as well.
     
  7. Yora

    Yora Inkling

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    I think to recommend a fitting weapon for the character we still need more information.

    In theory, I think this character could fight with pretty much anything that is typical for the army in which the serves. If you want a weapon that symbolizes her personality, that really would depend on her individual character and the kind of equipment the army is using.
    With the attributes bravery and strength, I would assume she's fighting right in the front line. So I probably would just give her the standard weapons for the regular soldiers.
     
  8. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    Agreed; though I was talking about primary weapons in the post (e.g. Legolas using only bow and knives - he could have easily carried a sword).

    You are simplifying too much. War bows in general have high draw weights, although it is true that English longbow is towards the upper end of the scale due to need to counter armour. Composite bows are no different, they also tended to have high draw weight, and could be of either longbow or shortbow size. If you really want your female characters to use bows, your setting should be one without significant or any armour where even a hunting bow would be sufficient for warfare. In that case, heavy draw weight would not be that important. I'll try to find data later.

    EDIT: I think this is it:
    https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2943/42c68bb3c7bc2d2e6c6e0d8ebd7bb2b29eee.pdf

    It is not so much about women never using bows, as it is about the perception that bow is an ideal weapon for a woman... because they are smaller and weaker as a rule and should thus avoid close combat. Chronicles of Narnia: the only archer in the group is Susan. King Arthur (2004), Guinevere uses bow and Arthur sword. Less said about video games, the better.

    In fact, it is so widespread it has its own trope page.

    Also, small person using low-draw bow will not get arrow through any armour. Good plate is proof even against longbow, unless you manage to find vision slot or some part not covered by the plate. But an arrow from a weak bow? It will get stopped by riveted mail or good gambeson.

    When it comes to bow, impact strength is everything if you are looking to kill. Even unarmoured horses are not easy to kill.

    Except wrestling is much more about skill than it is about physical strength. And in contact sports, any physical characteristic can be advantage or a disadvantage: smaller person is usually weaker and has shorter reach, but also has lower centre of gravity and shorter limbs. So it ends up with each opponent trying to play to their advantages. Same goes with melee weapons: you try and use whatever advantages you have. But bows are purely mechanic, arithmetic weapons: they have draw weight, and if you cannot draw the bow, you are screwed - no matter how much skill you have. Other weapons, generally speaking, do not have that limitation.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2019
  9. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

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    Sometimes I really hate realism. :)

    >And I am hoping for something with a Scottish origin (or at least affinity).

    Any thoughts?

    Maybe you should give her a sword. Historically swords have been associated with the the nobility/professional warriors. The most famous Scottish sword is the claymore. Personally I always wanted to write a character who is armed with a claymore, but none of my characters are suitable.
    Alternatively you can give your character some kind of polearm or axe as her main weapon and a dirk as a secondary weapon.
     
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  10. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Sage

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    The carrying of a bow (or crossbow for those who lived in a forest), a sword and a dagger was mandatory for every male aged fifteen years or older in medieval England. Boys were trained to use bows from a very young age and were more than capable of taking out another person by the time they were seven, especially in northern England. This is the likely the reason why many English archers had the sort of deformed limbs described elsewhere.

    It's also important to remember that very few people, even soldiers, wore armour because of the cost. The most common type of protection worn was chainmail or hardened leather. Thus, there wasn't much of a need for archers armed with bows that could penetrate armour. On those occassions when a person found themselves face to face with a knight in armour a crossbow would've done the job effectively.

    Also, I suspect that on those rare occassions where women did use bows they would've gone through the same sort of training and exercises that the men had gone through so the whole upper body strength argument would've been moot.

    So, in reply to the original poster about deciding what would be the best weapons carried by a Captain of the Rangers, some questions need to be asked including the most obvious question: What types of combat is she most likely to experience? The next question is what is the status of a Captain of the Rangers in your society as a whole? Is she a person of status outside the Rangers such as an aristocrat? Is a Captain of the Rangers well paid? All of these things play a role in determining what types of weapons they carry and - more importantly - the quality.
     
  11. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    Yes and no. Reason why boys were trained from very young age is precisely because they had to be trained from very young age to effectively use a war bow.

    Chainmail is never worn alone. Chainmail + gambeson combination is very effective against arrows, and even chainmail by itself is not something to laugh at. Crossbow (and longbow) could likely easily penetrate it if shot at direct line, but as I said, chainmail is not worn alone.

    Crossbow was not much better against plate armour than longbow, I'd say.

    Upper body strength argument is never moot. Training only adds to baseline strength, so a trained man will usually be stronger than a trained woman.
     
  12. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    I'll just leave these here.

    Ask me about archery, longbows especially.

    Ask me about archery, longbows especially.
     
  13. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    What's the draw on a Mongol bow? Or a Seljuk Turk? Or ancient archers? Also, bows can be effective even if they cannot penetrate armor (but which sort of armor are we talking about here?). I think there may be more to it than just ability to penetrate a sheet of metal.

    It's also worth mentioning that the longbow isn't medieval, it's *late* medieval. That edict to have everyone train with the bow comes from ... Henry V? Thereabouts. Heck, by 1415 the Italians were already declaring the Middle Ages were in the past. I'd be willing to bet those deformed skeletons date to no earlier than the 15thc.

    Also, isn't it curious that no one else seems to have picked up on the longbow? I think there were a few attempts, but they didn't stick. And even with the longbow, the English managed to lose their share of battles. And the war. In any case, for story purposes I see no reason why our Captain of the Rangers couldn't use a longbow. It could be unique to her, which would help set her apart from the other rangers. As for some other type of weapon, why not invent something? It would be cool and memorable.
     
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  15. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    Yes, but swords and axes didn't penetrate armor, either. At least, not during the later period when the longbow was a thing. That was the whole point of armor. I have a blog post about exactly this, and an article on this site about greatswords and their use against armor. You probably should read both.

    The short of it is that armored combat isn't about slicing through your opponent's armor. It's about beating the crap out of them inside it. Bows don't do that. You wouldn't fire a bow against someone in armor unless you were just trying to get their attention.

    For taking down an unarmored, man-sized (or hell, horse-sized) target, a hunting-weight bow is plenty.

    Longbows were area-denial weapons, used during a relatively short period of late-medieval warfare in a relatively small area of the world, where battles followed a fairly scripted set of tactics that evolved in large part because everybody was reading the same books. Nobody used a war bow outside of, well, war. You sure as hell wouldn't use it in a melee. You used them to keep light infantry from rushing a position, and to funnel their formations into your flanking maneuvers, attrit light cavalry by taking down some of their horses, and so forth.

    The reason for you wouldn't use a warbow in a melee is that the top speed of a traditionally built stickbow is about 150 fps, which is 102 mph, which is the equivalent of a major-league fastball. Modern reproductions of English longbows using synthetic strings and carbon-fiber backing have been clocked at 170 fps, which isn't bad, but it's not great, either. It's about 115 mph. Outside 10 yards, all your opponent has to do is move to the left. I know; I've seen swordsmen knock arrows out of the air at 30 feet. I've had deer duck under an arrow at ten yards (my recurve shoots at 161 fps), making me miss completely. Boromir would realistically never have been hit, and Legolas would never have made it out of Moria.

    What I'm getting at here is that, as a weapon, the bow is actually pretty lousy. You either have to blanket an area with arrows using hundreds of archers, or you have to use it in such a way that your opponent never knows you're there. This means either sniping with it, or using it from horseback while moving really, really fast and not presenting a target yourself (which you need a hunting-weight bow to do), or navigating a battlefield and looking for people who aren't paying attention. (This last bit would just be an elaborate form of suicide with a longbow; you have to stop and plant to fire a heavy bow, and the minute you stand still on a battlefield, you die.) And on top of that, you're not going to get through well-made, heavy armor with it anyway; at least, not enough to keep anyone you shoot from running over and killing you.
     
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >You wouldn't fire a bow against someone in armor unless you were just trying to get their attention
    And yet they did.
    >blanket an area with arrows using hundreds of archers
    And this is how and why. Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt, but really going all the way back to ancient battles, archers were massed artillery *or* they were used as a harassment tactic. Either way, it was basically shoot pointy sticks at massed targets. You were always sure of a few kills, more wounds, hoping for a bit of disruption. Not a bad investment for pointy sticks.

    I wonder if there were arrow gleaners. An individual arrow wasn't expensive, but costs could run up quickly, and sometimes the right wood could be hard to find, in which case your massed artillery is out of ammo. It might not make sense to send your archers back onto the field, and it might not be practical, but I could see having low-end camp workers goiing out. Or, maybe if there were a truce to recover bodies--a courtesy regularly though not universally accorded--you'd have gleaners out then. Gleaners. Not to be confused with looters, who were after bigger prizes. Anyway, if they didn't exist, I shall have to invent them. Telling a scene from the perspective of a gleaner would make a nicely melacholic short story.
     
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  17. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

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    Swords actually can defeat armour lot more reliably than bows can. Longbow can, possibly, penetrate vision slot and breathing slot areas; maybe the sides of the helmet as well, but even that depends on quality of armour, and higher-grade armour is more-or-less immune. But with longbow, you cannot exactly target an area that is few millimeters to centimeter wide. With sword, you can try and stab the opponent through vision slot or else joints in armour. Or wrestle him to the ground and find those gaps with a dagger.

    But "armour" we are talking about here is full plate. Gambeson and maille are much less effective defence, including against the bows. Longbow may in fact be able to get through them, although I am uncertain as of what conditions exactly would be required for such a shot. Longbow is also capable of killing horses, thus forcing the enemies to dismount.

    But bow's purpose is not just to kill. It also shapes the battlefield: French were forced to dismount when faced with English archers.
     
  18. Yora

    Yora Inkling

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    No. A little bit yes, but mostly no.

    What you're talking about here is 15 and 15th century European full plate armor. That is one of the few special cases of armor that actually provides 99% cover of the entire body. Throughout most of human history, soldiers were never that well protected against the weapons they were facing.
    In most historical contexts, having armor hugely improves your chances of survival, but it doesn't make you close to invincible against many weapons that your enemies would be using.
     
  19. Cu Mara

    Cu Mara Dreamer

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    Oh that sounds perfect. A claymore.

    As to Heathers ability to use a bow- I agree with what most people are saying- I wouldn’t say to never give a female a bow. It’s just not the type of weapon that will get her to the front lines and in the thick of the fighting. Which is where I need her. Her character is stocky and quite strong. Her character type is based off of a female rugby player I knew- I think she could have wrestled and held her own with most.

    I like the idea of a claymore- as it will play to her strengths. And as someone else mentioned, swords are thought of as a noble’s weapon. Spears could be a good option as it would lengthen her reach. she is shorter.

    My main character, Reagan, is scrawny and not all that gifted in athletics. Part of Reagan’s struggle is not being able to be on the front lines or really anywhere near the fighting while Heather gets to lead charges etc. so as impressive as I can make her would help lead to some strain on their friendship later on.
     
  20. Pemry Janes

    Pemry Janes Sage

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    So I did a quick check, I know that our best archaeological evidence for longbows is from the Mary Rose, who had racks of the things. She went down in 1545, so they used longbows for a couple of centuries.
     
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