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

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    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.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by endoperez View Post
    Before I started reading this thread, seeing "people can swim in mail" could have made me mistake it for plate mail, and swimming in a chain mail shirt that doesn't cover (and weigh) the arms or legs is much easier than swimming in plate.
    It's still a good 20kgs worth of metal you're wearing (not including the gambeson underneath) and while it's true that swimming in a mail shirt is easier than swimming in plate, it's like saying it's better to be burnt alive on a bonfire than in a blast furnance.

    What is true, is that it's much easier to get out of a mail shirt (get the belt off, then shrug out of it), so someone who's fallen in can get out in under a minute, while the guy in plate is doomed.

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

    With regard to keeping rust off armour: Would beeswax have been the best option, or would some suitable oils have been available? Alternatively, how well could it last if it got wet without such a coating, but was regularly cleaned and dried?

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    It's still a good 20kgs worth of metal you're wearing (not including the gambeson underneath) and while it's true that swimming in a mail shirt is easier than swimming in plate, it's like saying it's better to be burnt alive on a bonfire than in a blast furnance.

    What is true, is that it's much easier to get out of a mail shirt (get the belt off, then shrug out of it), so someone who's fallen in can get out in under a minute, while the guy in plate is doomed.
    A real mail shirt may weigh as little as 12-13 lbs actually. I think 20 kgs is probably past the upper range even for cap-a-pied mail protection including leggings, full arms, coif and so on, though there is no doubt it would be much harder to swim in all that..

    With regard to keeping rust off armour: Would beeswax have been the best option, or would some suitable oils have been available? Alternatively, how well could it last if it got wet without such a coating, but was regularly cleaned and dried?
    Wax was used for this, and they did also have various oils, including the petroleum based type (bitumen) which then (as now) came mostly from the Middle East, but they used mostly oils which came from plant sources, pine oils and pitch from pine trees up in the Northern part of Europe, various types of olive oil down south near the Med. They had for example a type of olive oil which was inedible and was used for lamp oil exclusively.

    They also made use of whale oil, which gradually began to replace plant based oil for lamps and so on starting from the late 15th Century when the Basques started the first really systematic whale harvesting. But whale oil would probably be too stinky to put on armor.

    Mail armor was cleaned by putting it in a barrel with sand and shaking it to scrub off the rust. Mail without some kind of coating of wax or oil would get rusty very fast, especially if it got wet. We are used to stainless steel today but any kind of carbon steel (which is all they had back then) gets rusty fast. Salt water is even worse.

    There were other ways to preserve the armor, it could be blackened, blued or bronzed to give it a patina that could help keep off the elements, and in Japan mail like other forms of armor was lacquered. There has been some debate if lacquering was ever done in Europe but there is no evidence of it that I know of. Plate harness was quite often blackened in the forge as protection against the elements to help with maintenance, this became a signature look of mercenaries in fact. There are thousands of breast plates and half armors which are blackened.

    But the bottom line is, having armor meant doing a lot of maintenance. Swords too, rust is always an issue which has to be dealt with. One fingerprint can start to be a problem in just a day or two if it's not wiped down right away.

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    Last edited by Galloglaich; 2012-09-11 at 10:08 AM.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Quote Originally Posted by Galloglaich View Post
    A real mail shirt may weigh as little as 12-13 lbs actually. I think 20 kgs is probably past the upper range even for cap-a-pied mail protection including leggings, full arms, coif and so on, though there is no doubt it would be much harder to swim in all that..
    True, it would depend on the size of the links and the pattern.

    The mail shirt that I borrowed for re-enactment occasionally was about that weight, although it was 8 or 10 mm links (I think), which probably explains the weight difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Galloglaich View Post
    Mail armor was cleaned by putting it in a barrel with sand and shaking it to scrub off the rust.
    'Shaking' is one way of putting it. Normally they just seal the barrel and roll it down a hill a couple times.
    Last edited by Brother Oni; 2012-09-11 at 10:45 AM.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Galloglaich View Post
    There has been some debate if lacquering was ever done in Europe but there is no evidence of it that I know of.
    There are countless depictions of helmets in bright colours. Those at least were pretty obviously painted or lacquered in some way, even if it was just for the looks it would give significant protections against the elements.

    For rigid armours, something similar would be possible even though I can't think of any sources on it actually being done. On the other hand, there are depictions of mails ranging from bright pink through baby blue to black, I'd like to know if they actually did that -and how...

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Galloglaich View Post
    A real mail shirt may weigh as little as 12-13 lbs actually. I think 20 kgs is probably past the upper range even for cap-a-pied mail protection including leggings, full arms, coif and so on, though there is no doubt it would be much harder to swim in all that.
    The gambeson is going to be worrying as well - cloth generally absorbs a lot of water, and when you've got multiple layers of thick cloth it's bad news all on its own.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Quote Originally Posted by GraaEminense View Post
    On the other hand, there are depictions of mails ranging from bright pink through baby blue to black, I'd like to know if they actually did that -and how...
    While I can't comment on the bright pink, I can maybe shed some light on the baby blue/black. Depending on the type of steel used to make the wire for the links, the colour can vary and depending on how the light catches it, it can appear black to almost blue.

    The reason why swords and other types of armour don't do the same, is that they're significantly easier to clean and polish, so you tend to have a more uniform shiny appearance (I wonder if an apprentice being made to polish every link of a mail shirt was the medieval equivalent of hazing the new guy?).

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

    What are the strategic disadvantages to wearing gauntlets while fighting hand to hand?

    I've worn sparring gloves
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    (but not metal gauntlets) and found them to be easy enough to grab with and punch with, but intricate finger dexterity was a bit of a challenge, so attacking nerve clusters, or grabbing small items or smooth items was a bit of a challenge, and not really feasible in combat. And anything that required finger and hand sensitivity was right out.

    Would you say it's the same, more so, or less so for steel gauntlets?
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Might work quite well for boxing, but in that case the opponent would probably want to grapple and then not being able to grab his clothes would probably be a considerable drawback.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Quote Originally Posted by inexorabletruth View Post
    What are the strategic disadvantages to wearing gauntlets while fighting hand to hand?

    I've worn sparring gloves (but not metal gauntlets) and found them to be easy enough to grab with and punch with, but intricate finger dexterity was a bit of a challenge, so attacking nerve clusters, or grabbing small items or smooth items was a bit of a challenge, and not really feasible in combat. And anything that required finger and hand sensitivity was right out.

    Would you say it's the same, more so, or less so for steel gauntlets?
    The thicker and the stiffer the gloves, the less manual dexterity you have; plate mittens, for instance, radically reduce the possible hand movements, but, if well designed, should not reduce the ability to grip small rounded objects too much (you do lose out on different finger placement though).On the other hand, even badly fitted work gloves tend to make any precise movements difficult, or even impossible; however the added grip somewhat makes grabbing smooth objects easier.

    From my experience, any gloves that are thick enough to give some protection to the fingers reduce your ability to perform precise grabbing techniques (such as grabbing the collar bone or applying pressure on the metacarpus), and mittens make they all but impossible; however, in combat, especially with a trained opponent, those techniques are of little value (and all but useless if he is also wearing armor). Most grappling should still be doable with anything but the heaviest of gloves (talking boxing gloves here), and most precision based finger techniques (eye gouging, ear ripping, stabbing thumbs between the ribs, etc.), should still be easy to do, although may be hampered by the extra thickness.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    There was a lot of different gauntlet designs, so it's really hard to tell.

    Still, inside of the hand wasn't usually even covered with mail, so there was still a lot of dexterity.

    Attempting some really precise stuff is hard enough even in woolen glove, so it's obviously out of question, but combat with armor and stuff isn't really about sleight of hand.
    Last edited by Spiryt; 2012-09-12 at 10:52 AM.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Thanks!
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    And lets not forget that you're carrying a nice piece of very stiff metal at the end of your arms. This should provide all kinds of advantages if facing someone who isn't completely armoured. Say someone wearing an open-faced helmet for instance.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    A lot of grappling can be done without actually grabbing - major joint locks/breaks can be performed by hooking with the wrist and good body positioning. I'm no mediaeval combat expert, but I have little doubt that I could do them in my steel gauntlets just as easily. That doesn't mean it WAS done, but it's certainly possible.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    For RPG purposes, is the following a reasonable division of Medieval European steel weapons into four categories based on penetration?

    Picks and War Hammers and some Maces
    Maces, War Axes, Pole Axes, and War spears
    Morning Stars, Throwing or Wood Axes, Hammers or Clubs, Cut-and-thrust swords, and Hunting (Broad Point) Spears
    Slashing Swords

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

    Well, most clubs and maces won't really penetrate anything....

    But assuming it's of 'direct anti armor' qualification, that's seems about alright for RPG needs.

    Although particular weapon being one or two handed, and generally overall dimensions, weight and handling will cause huge variation among particular 'type'.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    How much does one's skill effect he damage you accomplish? Based off Tatami mats, it seems the skills guys can cut them in half pretty easily, but those who aren't so skilled have trouble getting more than half-way through (even if they're bigger and stronger).

    Is it just a matter of learning basic cutting techniques, then everyone does roughly the same damage? Or would masters get through much more flesh than journeymen of the sword?
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Master swordman most certainly can cut way more mat/meat/bamboo, however actual 'damage' in combat will pretty much never depend on some perfect 'take an aim and swing' blows.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Doesn't cutting the Tatami train your cutting technique for fighting?
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Quote Originally Posted by Conners View Post
    Doesn't cutting the Tatami train your cutting technique for fighting?
    I'm pretty sure that a lot of tatami was 'sword test' originally.

    Anyway, it can most certainly train cutting technique, but 'stay square and cut' ones that's usually performed by enthusiasts just won't happen in combat all too often.

    Some more serious cutting in competitions etc. out there looks like it's about some more 'realistic' cutting.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Question about ranged weapons and rate of fire:

    In Runequest, which I am playing soon, ranged weapons such as bow, crossbow, and sling all have a "load" quality which tells you how many actions it takes to reload. This is designed to compensate for the fact that melee characters often have to spend actions actively defending themselves or maneuvering, while ranged attackers are more likely to be able to use all their actions on reloading and shooting as fast as they can.

    * Bows have load time of 2 actions.
    * Crossbows are 4 or 5 actions depending on size
    * Slings are 3 actions.

    Most characters get 2 to 4 actions per 5-second round, and remember, some of those actions will be spent parrying or dodging incoming attacks.

    So, are those load times realistic? The bow and crossbow I'm okay with, but I'm not sure Slings should be slower than a bow. I mean, how long does it really take to grab the other end of the sling and drop a new rock/bullet in the pouch?
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Quote Originally Posted by Edge of Dreams View Post
    So, are those load times realistic? The bow and crossbow I'm okay with, but I'm not sure Slings should be slower than a bow. I mean, how long does it really take to grab the other end of the sling and drop a new rock/bullet in the pouch?
    I'd actually say it takes longer than reloading a bow generally does. You have to retrieve the other end, transfer the end to the hand holding the sling (knots and toggles make this take relatively little time, but it's still a step), then put a stone or glande in the pouch properly. Assuming that people are decent at knocking arrows, the sling is a hair slower.
    Last edited by Knaight; 2012-09-13 at 01:42 PM.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Assuming that those actions are purely 'load', so don't involve aiming and shooting, they can be alright, but still on the way fast side...

    Particularly reloading any heavier crossbows, with say, gaffe, goat's foot or similar lever in 5 seconds doesn't seem entirely realistic.
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    Hand-spanning a ~125 lb crossbow gives, at best, about 8 shots/min. Using belt hooks or a lever for heavier crossbows is significantly slower. A cranequin or winch for really powerful crossbows (400-800 lb or more) has to be attached, cranked, and detached and stowed, which could take a minute or two.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Skill definitely effects your ability to cut (cause damage with a sword). If you don't know what you are doing you can in some cases barely cause any damage at all, it's pretty easy to slap with the flat, to hit and pull back right away, to where you can't even cut a plastic water bottle (it will just fly away) or a pool noodle. On the other hand if you do know what you are doing, you can

    Tatami are pretty hard to cut, and are used (at least today) to improve your cutting skill.

    People lining up cuts in youtube videos are not particularly skilled at cutting (myself included) but they are starting to have more realistic cutting contests now in HEMA circles.

    Here you can see Mike Edelson doing some Mastercuts on Tatami

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNEBpu8eDsU

    and here some quicker ones

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4ucq...feature=relmfu

    In Japanese and Korean martial arts circles that has been going on already for a long time and they have it down to a science, I think this is as fast as in any real fight.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHNjKu1Kx9c

    Here is a fairly realistic test showing rate of shots for a longbow vs. a relatively low powered (about 180 lbs) crossbow. That is about the lowest grade for military use historically, most would be much stronger and as Spiryt said, require spanning devices.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HagCuGXJgUs

    These weapons were used in very different ways though. One of the many differences between them is that infantry crossbowmen were often deployed behind a pavise ('tower shield', more or less, in most RPG's) and two weapons were used, one being spanned by an assistant while the other was aimed by the shooter. The other way was mounted on horseback where they would shoot and move out of distance, more similar to the way pistols were used.

    They were also used less often for 'area fire' for lack of a better word (bad term since bows aren't 'fired') though they were also used that way ... bows tended to be used more for 'lofted' shots and crossbows were more specialized at direct shots. The crossbow tends to have a much longer direct-shot range for individual targets, and is more accurate, but the longbow shoots a lot further at small areas (where the rate of shots is much more important)




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    Last edited by Galloglaich; 2012-09-13 at 07:27 PM.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Thanks for all the bow/crossbow/sling info. Based on that, it looks like the rules I'm working off of may not be perfectly realistic, but they represent the relative advantages and drawbacks of each weapon well enough for my table.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    I have seen a belt hook crossbow reloaded and shot nine times in sixty seconds, so one shot per round would not be too far off what is possible. I would not be inclined to class that as a "heavy" crossbow, though.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Quote Originally Posted by Straybow View Post
    Hand-spanning a ~125 lb crossbow gives, at best, about 8 shots/min. Using belt hooks or a lever for heavier crossbows is significantly slower. A cranequin or winch for really powerful crossbows (400-800 lb or more) has to be attached, cranked, and detached and stowed, which could take a minute or two.
    Minute or more would be mostly very lazy rate, vast majority of bows probably didn't require that much time, with enough effort.

    http://crossbows.republika.pl/cr/crannequin2.jpg

    Unless sad remains of my German are failing me, this cranequin allows to draw about 1100 pounds over 140mm, in 25 seconds during which hands will cover about 20m, providing mechanical advantage.

    So with a lot of effort and dextrous use one shot every 30 seconds would be good guess.

    Crossbows of about 400 pounds generally weren't of winch etc. variety, save for hunting ones, where rate of fire didn't matter much anyway.
    Last edited by Spiryt; 2012-09-14 at 07:22 AM.
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    Default Re: Got a Real World Weapons or Armour Question? Mk XI

    Quote Originally Posted by Spiryt View Post
    Unless sad remains of my German are failing me, this cranequin allows to draw about 1100 pounds over 14mm, in 25 seconds during which hands will cover about 20m, providing mechanical advantage.
    14 turns of the crank pull the string 140mm, which with a crank radius of 230mm results in 14 rotations with a combined radius of about 20m. This takes about 25 seconds, with a two-handed crank about 12 seconds.

    The 1100 pounds refer to a different mechanism from a few centuries later, which I think would pull a distance of 350mm. (It says that's the mechanisms length, which seems to consist entirely of the hook with the notches, so probably more like 300mm of draw length for the string.
    Last edited by Yora; 2012-09-14 at 07:18 AM.
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