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    Default Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    New thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by Thiel View Post
    This thread is a resource for getting information about real life weapons and armor. Normally this thread would be in Friendly Banter, but the concept has always been that the information is for RPG players and DMs so they can use it to make their games better.

    As far as I can tell, the previous threads don't exist any more, except Version V and Version VI. This is Version IX. Version X

    A few rules for this thread:

    This thread is for asking questions about how weapons and armor really work. As such, it's not going to include game rule statistics. If you have such a question, especially if it stems from an answer or question in this thread, feel free to start a new thread and include a link back to here. If you do ask a rule question here, you'll be asked to move it elsewhere, and then we'll be happy to help out with it.
    Any weapon or time period is open for questions. Medieval and ancient warfare questions seem to predominate, but since there are many games set in other periods as well, feel free to ask about any weapon. This includes futuristic ones - but be aware that these will be likely assessed according to their real life feasibility. Thus, phasers, for example, will be talked about in real-world science and physics terms rather than the Star Trek canon. If you want to discuss a fictional weapon from a particular source according to the canonical explanation, please start a new thread for it.
    Please try to cite your claims if possible. If you know of a citation for a particular piece of information, please include it. However, everyone should be aware that sometimes even the experts don't agree, so it's quite possible to have two conflicting answers to the same question. This isn't a problem; the asker of the question can examine the information and decide which side to go with. The purpose of the thread is to provide as much information as possible. Debates are fine, but be sure to keep it a friendly debate (even if the experts can't!).
    No modern real-world political discussion. As the great Carl von Clausevitz once said, "War is merely the continuation of policy by other means," so poltics and war are heavily intertwined. However, politics are a big hot-button issue and one banned on these boards, so avoid political analysis if at all possible (this thread is primarily about military hardware). There's more leeway on this for anything prior to about 1800, but be very careful with all of it, and anything past 1900 is surely not open for analysis. (I know these are arbitrary dates, but any dates would be, and I feel these ones are reasonable.)
    No graphic descriptions. War is violent, dirty, and horrific, and anyone discussing it should be keenly aware of that. However, on this board graphic descriptions of violence (or sexuality) are not allowed, so please avoid them.


    With that done, have at, and enjoy yourselves!

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    Last edited by hamishspence; 2012-03-31 at 06:22 AM.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    So, to kick us off I have a few questions. Do we know much about how long swords stayed with a person? Would a professional soldier carry a sword his entire carreer if it didn't break before he died? If a whetstone is applied to a sword that is often in use, how much of the sword would shave off after several years or decades?
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    The quality of the material would certainly made an impact. If it holds the edge better, you need less sharpening. Also I assume that you get smaller nicks when hitting something hard, which would need less grinding to get them out. This should increase the life time quite substentially.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    About how early was artillery that could arc a shot instead of using direct fire invented? How early did it become the standard of the battlefield?

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Quote Originally Posted by MacAilbert View Post
    About how early was artillery that could arc a shot instead of using direct fire invented? How early did it become the standard of the battlefield?
    All projectile motion is arced. Every damn bit of it. With enough training, crews can do indirect fire with a machine gun.

    Indirect fire was well known before artillery. Archers and siege engineers used it back as far as we have records. So I'm sure early artillerymen were able to do it.

    As far as indirect fire becoming "standard," that's late. Like WWI late, where most artillery is located well behind the lines and fires at a co-ordinate rather than by the crew aiming at a point target. Through the 19th century most battlefield guns, or field artillery were fired directly at enemy formations, although siege mortars existed very very early on.

    The big limiter on effective indirect fire is not the gun, it's communication between the artillery crew and the artillery spotter.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Id even say that indirect fire was around long before directed fire. To aim a weapon by looking down the barrel and pointing it at the target you need projectiles at very high velocities. Catapults and trebuchets would fire in a very distinctive arc and as said, even with a bow or thrown spear, you have to fire or throw in an arc unless you are at point blank range tothe target.

    If you can see the target you are aiming at or not, mostly depends on high its cover is. But to point the weapon directly at the target, you would have to be either very close or fire at very high velocity.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Id even say that indirect fire was around long before directed fire. To aim a weapon by looking down the barrel and pointing it at the target you need projectiles at very high velocities. Catapults and trebuchets would fire in a very distinctive arc and as said, even with a bow or thrown spear, you have to fire or throw in an arc unless you are at point blank range tothe target.

    If you can see the target you are aiming at or not, mostly depends on high its cover is. But to point the weapon directly at the target, you would have to be either very close or fire at very high velocity.
    Direct trajectory (the term "fire" didn't come into parlance until the musket was a dominant armament) just means the arc is not very high compared with the distance to the target, and the angle of incidence at the target is more horizontal than vertical. The release mechanism on a trebuchet typically limits launch trajectory to about 30°, which is a fairly flat trajectory.

    While most artillery fire today is directed at targets not visible to the gunners, a gun firing at a target 10 miles away might only arc 2-3 miles high and hit the target at a comparatively shallow angle of incidence. Many artillery guns cannot be elevated much more than 40°, which is near the angle of maximum range. Mortars arc higher than the distance to target and typically cannot be depressed lower than about 40°. A howitzer will fire through the full range of direct and indirect fire and elevation angles.

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    I vote the thread title should include, "But Deadliest Warriors Said!"
    "Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum Europae vincendarum"
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Quote Originally Posted by Galloglaic
    Actually that isn't true. It's amazing to me the myths that persist about the Middle Ages. They were mass producing all kinds of weapons and armor by the 14th Century. The Arsenal at Venice was producing thousands of guns per year by the 15th C with basically all the technology of a modern factory, interchangable parts, an assembly-line, automation etc. Automated production (based on hydro power) was widespread throughout Europe by that time.
    Point taken. My previous statement also carried a strong North-Western European bias where I would expect the situation to be different than in the Mediterranean trade cities, though I might well be wrong there as well.

    On that note: I was under the impression that one of the limitations of early gunpowder weapons was the availability of gunpowder -the ability to make it in quantity, to store it and to transport it, and the availability of salpeter.
    Can anyone enlighten me as to whether or not I am embarrasingly mistaken?

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    Well, one can bet that misfires due to moisture would've been common, and exploding weapons due to material flaws less rare than desired. Now, how expensive the guns were, and the powder... that would be another factor against widespread early use.

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Quote Originally Posted by GraaEminense View Post
    Point taken. My previous statement also carried a strong North-Western European bias where I would expect the situation to be different than in the Mediterranean trade cities, though I might well be wrong there as well.

    On that note: I was under the impression that one of the limitations of early gunpowder weapons was the availability of gunpowder -the ability to make it in quantity, to store it and to transport it, and the availability of salpeter.
    Can anyone enlighten me as to whether or not I am embarrasingly mistaken?

    Gunpowder was rather expensive -- the price falling during the second half of the 1400s (I think, it was discussed in detail on an earlier incarnation of this topic). Early powders used calcium nitrate which is hydrophillic (?). Dry compounded gunpowder seperates when transported so mixing in the field was common.

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    A quick wikipedia search on mortars delivers this

    Mortars have existed for hundreds of years, first seeing use in siege warfare. Many historians claim that the first mortars were used at the 1453 siege of Constantinople. A European account of the Siege of Belgrade (1456) by Giovanni da Tagliacozzo credits the Ottoman Turks for using seven mortars that fired "stone shots one Italian mile high".[3] The speed of these was apparently slow enough that casualties could be avoided by posting observers that gave warning of their trajectories.[4]
    Found here.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Quote Originally Posted by GraaEminense View Post
    Point taken. My previous statement also carried a strong North-Western European bias where I would expect the situation to be different than in the Mediterranean trade cities, though I might well be wrong there as well.
    France and England are a little behind the rest of Europe technologically through most of the Medieval period, though there are some exceptions. The most important art / technology / production centers in order of importance are the cities of Northern Italy (Florence, Milan, Venice, Genoa, Brescia, Padua, and so on), the cities of Flanders and the Low Countries (Ghent, Bruges, Ypres, Liege, The Hague, Amsterdam and so on in what is today Belgium and Holland), the North-German Hanse cities (esp. Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck), the central German Rhine and Swabian cities (Cologne, Strassbourg, and Augsburg), the Catalan cities (Barcelona and Valencia), and the Baltic north/central European cities of Prussia, Poland, Northern Hungary and Bohemia (Danzig, Krakow and Prague being most important).

    So a lot of important industries were dominated by a few of these towns. For example, almost all the top quality armor used in Medieval Europe from the 14th Century onward (the era of plate armor) was made in three cities: Milan, Brescia, and Augsburg in Swabia (Germany - then part of the Holy Roman Empire). This continued from the 14th C through the early 16th.

    Some of the English towns were part of the Hanseatic league, York and London were pretty sophisticated in certain ways... and they had Oxford and Cambridge Universities... Paris was also a hugely important University. Generally speaking though France and England were much more rural and Feudal, with strong Monarchies, and as a result they lacked the economic and technological dynamism of the Italian and Central European city-states.

    On that note: I was under the impression that one of the limitations of early gunpowder weapons was the availability of gunpowder -the ability to make it in quantity, to store it and to transport it, and the availability of salpeter.
    Can anyone enlighten me as to whether or not I am embarrasingly mistaken?
    No reason to be embarassed to ask questions, and sorry for my snarky tone earlier. I get grumpy about some persistent cliches but shouldn't be a jerk about it! I apologize.

    The gunpowder question is quite valid. So gunpowder appeared in Europe in the mid-13th Century, first published in cypher form by the English Monk Roger Bacon. Early gunpowder was a mysterious alchemical substance equally intended for use as a flame-weapon as a propellant of bullets or arrows. It gradually got better and more useful, with numerous innovations. The (arguably) most important one took place around the mid-15th Century when they invented corned powder.

    Until that point, the powder would tend to seperate out as you moved around, and could change it's composition over time. Corned powder was made of consistent kernels which retained their composition and size, different sizes being ideal for different weapons. This allowed them to make all their powder long before battle (instead of making it with mortar and pestle on the battlefield!) and quickly led to the use of cartridges, in the form of little bags of pre-measured powder (exactly the amount for one shot), primer, and a bullet.

    From that point it's basically pretty good until you get to smokeless powder Centuries later. This is why most historians call the period from 1500 AD the 'Early Modern Era' because technologically, in war, they had almost all the same stuff they had centuries later. In fact in some cases they had reached the high-water mark in the 15th or early 16th Century on some stuff they wouldn't do as well for a long time to come. Like armor, or early field-guns such as those used by the Czechs, which arguably were not really improved upon until Gustavus Adolphus in the 17th Century.

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    Last edited by Galloglaich; 2012-04-01 at 09:54 AM.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    That's pretty much as I expected -though I did not know corned powder was around as early as 1450. Supply must have increased with demand, but was there actually problems getting enough of the stuff?
    Quote Originally Posted by Galloglaich View Post
    No reason to be embarassed to ask questions, and sorry for my snarky tone earlier. I get grumpy about some persistent cliches but shouldn't be a jerk about it! I apologize.
    No offence taken. I'll admit to a slightly hurt pride, but that's what you get when you make statements without getting your facts straight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Galloglaich View Post
    France and England are a little behind the rest of Europe technologically through most of the Medieval period, though there are some exceptions. The most important art / technology / production centers in order of importance are the cities of Northern Italy (Florence, Milan, Venice, Genoa, Brescia, Padua, and so on), the cities of Flanders and the Low Countries (Ghent, Bruges, Ypres, Liege, The Hague, Amsterdam and so on in what is today Belgium and Holland), the North-German Hanse cities (esp. Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck), the central German Rhine and Swabian cities (Cologne, Strassbourg, and Augsburg), the Catalan cities (Barcelona and Valencia), and the Baltic north/central European cities of Prussia, Poland, Northern Hungary and Bohemia (Danzig, Krakow and Prague being most important).
    I am surprised that you left Constantinople off that list. I had thought in the Early Medieval period the Byzantines were one of the most important centers of art/technology in Europe. Of course, after the 4th crusade they had problems.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Ahh, indirect fire. My favorite topic.

    Ok, what has already been stated is fairly accurate. All fire is indirect in the sense that it arcs at least a little bit. There's no way around that unless you're using a laser weapon. Missiles or guided projectiles that glide might technically be an exception as well, but they have to generate lift somehow or they'll arc like anything else.

    Indirect fire really means any time the weapon being employed is being aimed by someone other than the operator; an observer of some sort. Indirect fire, in that sense, came about one it was possible to send target information from an observer to a gun quickly enough to make shooting like this practical. Essentially, when the first field telephones appeared.

    Indirect fire requires indirect lay. Basically, what this means is that you establish the gun's position, direction of aim (azimuth) and altitude relative to some known point on earth. The target is then located relative to that same known point. That requires some sort of accurate mapping system including a projection, sphereoid and all kinds of other highly technical details. You establish the known point you're going to fire off of ideally by having it surveyed in. The more accurately the gun is laid and the point is known, the more accurate your fire will be. With very modern systems like Paladin, GPS and inertial navigation can be used as well, but you still want to start from a surveyed point.

    Indirect fire is not simply shooting in an arc to bring a projectile down on top of an enemy or because you have to shoot in an arc to get your projectile there. That's direct fire, just a more difficult, complicated version of it. When discussing, say, WWII naval battles, we never say that 2 battleships engaged each other with indirect fire. The 2 ships each directly located, aimed, and fired at their enemy once the engagement actually commenced, using either visual means or radar. Their fire was not generally directed at the enemy ship by an outside observer. On the other hand, an observer might very well direct ships firing at shore targets, making it indirect even though the ballistic performance of the projectile was similar in both situations.

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Yet even when the observer says "shot 200 meter behind that ridge", it's still the gunners at the ship who aim the weapons at a spot they can not see.

    Which is the same thing with a mortar.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Bow question:

    I've learned that the flexibility of the arms of a bow are where most of the kinetic energy is supposed to come from, but what about the elasticity of the string?

    Is it better to use a string that would stretch to give a little extra power, or is it preferable to use a string that will not stretch to lower the variability of a shot?

    Also, in plain fantasy silliness, could a giant use a bow that was strung by a chain? Do chains have the qualities of a good bowstring? I imagine not...
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    It is quite routine for a bowstring to break due to wear and tear from normal use. (my old archery group of about 15 archers saw one string break every 4-6 meets). An archer would have carried around spare strings.

    I would imagine that a non-elastic string would be better. An elastic string would stretch over time, causing the archer to misjudge the amount of draw effort put into each shot.

    A chain could be used as a "string" for a sufficiently large arrow -- say, one that had a shaft about a foot wide (assuming links about an inch wide). Giant bows would be more likely to be strung with thin rope.

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Quote Originally Posted by No brains View Post
    Bow question:

    I've learned that the flexibility of the arms of a bow are where most of the kinetic energy is supposed to come from, but what about the elasticity of the string?

    Is it better to use a string that would stretch to give a little extra power, or is it preferable to use a string that will not stretch to lower the variability of a shot?

    Also, in plain fantasy silliness, could a giant use a bow that was strung by a chain? Do chains have the qualities of a good bowstring? I imagine not...
    Stretching string will not give any power at all, in fact it will rob bow out of energy, as some energy is required for stretching the string, obviously.

    Lack of stretchability is one of most desired qualities of good string, of course it's often hard to balance with resilience - if string won't snap, it usually must stretch a tiny little bit at least.

    As far as chain goes, I can't imagine how should it work.

    Aside from problems with achieving any sort of good tension with chain, after release every link would obviously move a bit in random direction, making it all pointless.

    Adding the fact that metal chain would be obviously terribly heavy for string... Bad idea in general.
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    Quote Originally Posted by No brains View Post
    Bow question:

    I've learned that the flexibility of the arms of a bow are where most of the kinetic energy is supposed to come from, but what about the elasticity of the string?

    Is it better to use a string that would stretch to give a little extra power, or is it preferable to use a string that will not stretch to lower the variability of a shot?

    Also, in plain fantasy silliness, could a giant use a bow that was strung by a chain? Do chains have the qualities of a good bowstring? I imagine not...
    No a more ragid string is necessary for even distribution which effects aim. Also a elastic string will actually weaken the bow since in the default state the arms are still pulling the string taut. over time the string will grow longer and require more pulling distance in order to gain the same amount of energy as using a more rigid string.


    while a chain could work the problem is again distribution of energy between the links. the bow would shoot wildly. depnding on the size of links it could also potentially be a problem with notching as well since ther are will be variable widths of the chain depedning on where you place your arrow. For practicality a chain used a on ballista would probably be better to stabalize trajectory.

    you can use metal wire as a bowstring which is better but the problem then become flaying your skin off the bow holding arm

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Metal wire is bad idea, as it's obviously again - heavy, stiff, and under rapid and repeating stresses, metal fatigues way faster than linen, silk, hemp or any other appropriate non synthetic material.

    And effects of metal wire string failing can be pretty nasty indeed.

    And if it's shaped/massive enough to hold inact, it will quite obviously bite into bow arms instead.
    Last edited by Spiryt; 2012-04-02 at 01:24 PM.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    When you release a bow, a significant portion of the stored energy goes to rapidly moving the bow arms forward. They move a shorter distance than the arrow (the ends move about half as far, and the grip essentially does not move), but they weigh a good deal more. Adding additional mass that had to be moved forward (a chain, frex) would take away more of the energy from the arrow.

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Quote Originally Posted by Diamondeye View Post
    When discussing, say, WWII naval battles, we never say that 2 battleships engaged each other with indirect fire. The 2 ships each directly located, aimed, and fired at their enemy once the engagement actually commenced, using either visual means or radar. Their fire was not generally directed at the enemy ship by an outside observer. On the other hand, an observer might very well direct ships firing at shore targets, making it indirect even though the ballistic performance of the projectile was similar in both situations.
    Actually, indirect ship-to-ship fire was practised by the USN at least, though I'm unsure if it was ever used in action. Anyway, that's part of the reason why the US liked floatplanes so much and kept them in service until the early fifties.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thiel View Post
    Actually, indirect ship-to-ship fire was practised by the USN at least, though I'm unsure if it was ever used in action. Anyway, that's part of the reason why the US liked floatplanes so much and kept them in service until the early fifties.
    I think that "theory" was pretty common, and most battleships carried floatplanes to be used both as scouts and artillery spotters. But I don't think it was ever actually used in battle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by No brains View Post
    Bow question:

    I've learned that the flexibility of the arms of a bow are where most of the kinetic energy is supposed to come from, but what about the elasticity of the string?

    Is it better to use a string that would stretch to give a little extra power, or is it preferable to use a string that will not stretch to lower the variability of a shot?

    Also, in plain fantasy silliness, could a giant use a bow that was strung by a chain? Do chains have the qualities of a good bowstring? I imagine not...
    As mentioned the biggest issue would probably be the weight. The energy produced when a bow is released has to be split based on the relative masses of the bow arms, the string, and projectile. If the first two weigh more then you have less energy transferred to the arrow.

    Additionally, I don't think there was ever a need for ballistas and the like to ever use chain as a substitute.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    You also might lose a significant amount of energy to friction between the links of the chain, particularly if it was poorly lubricated.
    Still her confidence was not shaken. There was always death. If one feared that constantly one had no time for life. One had this day - that was enough to concern one's thoughts.

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    OrcBarbarianGirl

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Thanks for all the bow info! I actually asked because I recently taught my sister how to draw archers and I told her that the bow should deform from its original shape but should not stretch, especially in the string. Good to know I wasn't full of it!

    I didn't anticipate the chain bow getting so much attention. Maybe I'll just say it works by magic, just like all those perfectly flat-sided, ragged-edge, fantasy swords.
    Quote Originally Posted by Petrocorus View Post
    This thread, Questions that can't be answered... Answered by RAW by No brains, is Epic.

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    huttj509's Avatar

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    Quote Originally Posted by No brains View Post
    Thanks for all the bow info! I actually asked because I recently taught my sister how to draw archers and I told her that the bow should deform from its original shape but should not stretch, especially in the string. Good to know I wasn't full of it!

    I didn't anticipate the chain bow getting so much attention. Maybe I'll just say it works by magic, just like all those perfectly flat-sided, ragged-edge, fantasy swords.
    As a practical demonstration of a similar concept, take a belt and hold one end in each hand, can hold a bit in from the ends if it's more comfortable. The belt now droops downwards, and something could be set in the middle, resting on the belt.

    Next, make sure there's nothing breakable above you.

    Now give the ends a sharp tug sideways, away from each other. The object in the middle of the belt goes flying into the air.

    Now dodge as it comes back down.

    A similar example is if you double the belt over, move your hands in so the 2 belt strands bend away from each other, than pull the hands apart quickly creating a loud snapping sound as the ends quickly slap into each other.

    In a bow, the bow itself does the pulling of the ends of the string as it regains its shape, acting as your hands did in the above example. A contrasting example is a slingshot, where the 'string' does the stretching, and regains its shape quickly. It seems like combining the two would work well, but it really doesn't.

    Note in both situations the goal is to store energy over time (either by flexing the bow, pr stretching the slingshot band), which is then released quickly as it springs back into shape.

    Now if you pull the string back a given amount on a bow, a rigid string will bend the bow more than a stretchy string. Why? Because the bow's pulling against the string, so if it can stretch easily to allow the bow to retain its shape, it will. You're losing flex in the bow, and not gaining anything besides stretch in the elastic.

    If you pull with the same FORCE, you need to pull the string farther if it's stretchy. I'm actually not sure how the combination in this case would affect the arrow speed, but it would definitely depend on the particular properties of the bow and stretchy string (bungee cord? Underwear elastic? That sort of thing).

    Given that you can only pull a bowstring back so far, the elastic bowstring rapidly becomes impractical, even if the arrow speed at the same force of pull would work out the same.
    "Come out, Neville."

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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk X

    I've got one question.

    I know that when gunpowder became widespread castles and knights and other "standard fare" of medeval europe declined. What I'm wondering is what the interum period looked like. Were there castle sieges with both sides employing gunpowder weapons, how were the storming actions in these sieges different from the ones before gunpowder, at what point did castles fully become replaced by "modern" forts (think forts like Ft McHenry or Fort Point).

    I'm trying to run a game that takes place in the transition era between medeval europe and "black powder" europe and I've got the PC's about to storm a Fort/Castle and I'm trying to make it as realistic as possible.
    Warning!! This poster makes frequent use of Sarcasm, Jokes, and Exaggeration. He intends no offense.

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