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    Default Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    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.


    With that done, have at, and enjoy yourselves!

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    Last edited by Thiel; 2014-01-28 at 08:30 AM.
    The fastest animal alive today is a small dinosaur, Falco Peregrino.
    It prays mainly on other dinosaurs, which it strikes and kills in midair with its claws.
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Anyone want to postulate at what a dragon's scales/armour is made of? It supposedly should be biological, should be as tough for its weight as manageable, and hopefully will be resistant to fire.

    I think I've heard suggestions for crystalline structures.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Mask View Post
    Anyone want to postulate at what a dragon's scales/armour is made of? It supposedly should be biological, should be as tough for its weight as manageable, and hopefully will be resistant to fire.

    I think I've heard suggestions for crystalline structures.
    Well you could have asbestos fibers as a part of it, that would help with the fire type stuff (although those aren't particularly tough), but that could be one part of it, and if the dragons have a developed lung then this could work for that sort of thing. Mostly we'd need to figure out how strong you want the dragon's armor to be relative to it's maneuverability.
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    If we are still pretending to have a somewhat realistic flying lizard monster, the scales will be some kind of keratin: the same stuff nails, hair, horn and reptile scale is made from and one of the toughest biological tissues.

    Unless it's fantasy keratin, it won't be enough for proper dragon scale alone. Some kind of metalized or mineralized keratin, dependent on the dragon's diet perhaps? I think there are animals that use somewhat similar tricks, like frogs getting venomous because they eat venomous food -though I may be mistaken.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    That makes me think of crysomallon squamiferum...

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Thiel View Post
    As far as I can tell, the previous threads don't exist any more, except Version V and Version VI. This is Version IX.
    At least we can tell where Thiel copypasted this intro from.


    Going back to burning a ballista bolt out of the air, I remember crunching the numbers for the energy requirement of a firebolt on an armoured human, so let's see how applicable it can be:

    Using a ballista bolt of 200g weight (link), assumption that 75% of it, is the shaft. Making it out of oak, which has a SHC of 2 kJ/kg/K and burns at 200C, and starting from a nice ambient 25C, you'd need 52.5kJ of energy to reduce it to ash.

    This page indicates that a ballista bolt is 16 inches long by 1 inch thick (gah stupid imperial measurements), which gives a surface area of 659cm2.

    Since we're dealing with burning gas (let's use propane again as I can't find the values for any other burning gas), the forced heat transfer coefficient of natural gas is about 10 W/m2K, so a one second contact of propane that would encompass the whole shaft would transfer (1955K*0.0659m2*10 W/m2K) = 1288J, nowhere near enough to ash our bolt.

    In order to burn the wood to ash in a second, you'd need a temperature differential of 75,000 K, which is even more than making a medium rare human chest from last time (57,714K).

    For reference, the sun is estimated to be 1.57x107K which is much higher than our required 7.5x104K.

    Note that I'm not including the bolt head for the sake of my sanity, nor am I including any energy reduction for the wood itself burning (I'm not sure there would be time).

    In the case of the lava burning things in seconds, note that is conduction, which is far more efficient, not convection.

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    Burn temp of propane is 1980C, so subtract remperature of target, which where you got the 1943K from last time



    Edit: on the plus side, at least now we can see where the myth of dragonfire being intensely hot comes from, plus you have the numbers to prove it.
    Last edited by Brother Oni; 2014-01-28 at 08:00 AM.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhynn View Post
    That makes me think of crysomallon squamiferum...
    That is even more awesome than I thought. Ladies and gentlemen: we have iron dragon scales. At least as long as the critters have a healthy diet of armoured knights

    Found the frogs as well.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by GraaEminense View Post
    That is even more awesome than I thought. Ladies and gentlemen: we have iron dragon scales. At least as long as the critters have a healthy diet of armoured knights

    Found the frogs as well.
    A more reasonable in universe explanation might be that they eat metal rich soil from time to time similar to how some carnivores eat grass every now and again to keep their digestive system ticking over.

    This would also explain why dragons like to hoard metallic riches.
    The fastest animal alive today is a small dinosaur, Falco Peregrino.
    It prays mainly on other dinosaurs, which it strikes and kills in midair with its claws.
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Thiel View Post
    A more reasonable in universe explanation might be that they eat metal rich soil from time to time similar to how some carnivores eat grass every now and again to keep their digestive system ticking over.

    This would also explain why dragons like to hoard metallic riches.
    So dragons are the original masters of bling, being literally made out of money, or at least precious metals?

    This reminds me of the time I tried to theorised a 'realistic' dragon built around naturally occuring hydrogen bioreactors and resulted in a photosynthesising semi-translucent thing where a flaming gas breath was the least hazardous emission.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Iron makes for lousy treasures, while gold and silver would make for pretty lousy scales. For one thing, gold and silver have comparatively low melting points: a candle flame is hot enough to melt silver, whereas extremely hot white flames are needed to melt iron.

    (I could not get over how ridiculous it was in The Desolation of Smaug that Smaug's breath didn't melt the gold - of which there was, incidentally, between dozens and hundreds of times more in coins than has been mined in the history of Earth.)

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhynn View Post
    Iron makes for lousy treasures, while gold and silver would make for pretty lousy scales. For one thing, gold and silver have comparatively low melting points: a candle flame is hot enough to melt silver, whereas extremely hot white flames are needed to melt iron.
    That would depend on the world. Iron was a rather precious commodity before industrialization kicked in.
    And since it'll chemically bonded to the organic parts of the scales we can even consider some of the many compounds such as aluminum oxide.
    The fastest animal alive today is a small dinosaur, Falco Peregrino.
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Thiel View Post
    Iron was a rather precious commodity before industrialization kicked in.
    Sure, but gold and silver were more precious, generally. The only RPG setting I can think of where iron (steel, specifically) is the standard currency (in parts of the world, not all over) is Krynn, and that one is just hilarious stupid. "Gold and silver are worthless, but iron can be made into things, so people refine it into steel and stamp coins out of it." *head asplode*

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Peat bogs would be the obvious source. Dragons could just eat the peat (mostly organic after all) to get at the iron content, but a more interesting solution is relying on their intelligence: Dragons could easily harvest and dry the peat, then torch it to extract the iron pellets from the ashes (they´d likely lack the manual dexterity to do it by hand, ehm, claw).

    This would make iron-scaled dragons a result of increasing dragon intelligence and perhaps even studying early human technology, and make iron a resource they would depend on and that could be denied them by crafty humans.

    It would also make for significant differences in dragons, as old ones with good access to iron would be near-invincible while young or poor ones would be far less so.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Old ones with a lot of iron might also be a lot less acrobatic or flight-capable.

    EDIT: Would there be a way for them to, say, shed their scales, I wonder? If so, a very smart dragon could induce shedding if he's anticipating that he'll have to be agile. Then he'd keep his scales in a safe place and eat them later for when he needs the iron again.

    I think that's a good idea.
    Last edited by Deffers; 2014-01-28 at 12:25 PM.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    So, the scales would become the same as iron in properties? What quality of iron?

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Note that the surface of the sun is only around 5,800 K by most estimates.

    For higher-end dragons still guided by known materials science, you'd want some sort of diamondoid structure. And for dragon fire capable of near instantly reducing things to ash you'd likely need a nuclear power source.
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Mask View Post
    So, the scales would become the same as iron in properties? What quality of iron?
    Using that snail as a guideline, the hardness of the iron would be about 4-4.5 on the Moh's scale.

    How that compares to lamellar armour is really difficult to say since it would depend on how the scales are composed (they're not going to be pure greigite but keratin laced with the stuff as GraaEminense suggested), how well they're attached to the dragon, what the underlying structure supporting the skin is, etc.

    About the only thing we can say for definite is that a separated individual scale is going to be hard to cut with a steel sword.

    Quote Originally Posted by Incanur View Post
    And for dragon fire capable of near instantly reducing things to ash you'd likely need a nuclear power source.
    Or some other mechanism than forced convection. Spitting out a jet of burning fuel would be a vastly more efficient heat transfer system and letting the dragon breathe on things for a couple of seconds dramatically increases the amount of energy transfer as well.
    Last edited by Brother Oni; 2014-01-28 at 02:09 PM.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhynn View Post
    Sure, but gold and silver were more precious, generally. The only RPG setting I can think of where iron (steel, specifically) is the standard currency (in parts of the world, not all over) is Krynn, and that one is just hilarious stupid. "Gold and silver are worthless, but iron can be made into things, so people refine it into steel and stamp coins out of it." *head asplode*
    In the real world though this was not entirely so implausible, since iron coins were the major daily currency in Japan and much of East and some of Central Asia for centuries.

    Iron is pretty valuable. Bronze even more so because it's a little easier to reprocess. When the city-state of Rhodes was besieged and defeated their enemy, they took the bronze scales of a gigantic siege tower and made them into the Collossus.

    Considering how much iron is in red blood, I think your dragon might be able to get enough iron for his scales per the Crysomallon squamiferum (excellent, excellent find by the way) simply by eating sheep or deer or what-have you. And older dragon (especially if they live for centuries... which isn't entirely impossible since some reptiles like tortisses and crocodiles live very long lives) would presumably have more iron in their scales.

    I love this discovery since it does indeed provide a plausible mechanism for some pretty tough armor that could exist in the real world without too much deus ex machina.

    I think the other features of your dragon would have to be more clearly defined before you could determine what would be necessary to fight it. How big is it? Godzilla sized? Smaug sized? That would be pretty tough to handle, though probably not impossible depending on the tech level. Elephant to Pleasiassaur sized would be a bit easier to handle. Anything less than that probably well within even early Medieval tech to destroy. How fast? Supersonic? Speed of a large bird? How smart? Super genius? Human level? Ape level? If you are in the realm of plausibility it should also be within the realm of people being able to kill it readily enough.

    Animals could cause a lot of trouble for humans though. In his Crusades era memoires Usamah Ibn Munqidh describes several incidents where Lions were posing real threats to the pretty well armed people in that part of the world. I suspect a lot of animals, both predatory and otherwise, were more aggressive toward humans than they are today. In one instance, he was describing a particularly dangerous 'Frankish' knight who was slaying muslim warriors right and left. At the same time, there was an equally tough Arab knight who defeated all comers from the Frankish side. The Arabs were somewhat nervously waiting for these two to meet and see which one would end the reign of terror of the other... but apparently a Lion ambushed the Frankish knight when he was travelling through a forest in Syria, and they were all able to breathe a sigh of relief. He also mentions another incident when a group of lions on top of a hill kept charging a caravan trying to pass below it on a trail, and the armed cavalry escorting the caravan couldn't cope with them.

    In the Icelandic sagas they describe incidents with dangerous animals. The bear slain by Grettir is one prosaic case; An entire army of Ivar the Boneless being stopped by a 'cow' (probably an Aurochs) is a bit more dramatic. In Poland they were still having trouble with wolves, bears, and aurochs, among other creatures, well into the Early Modern era. The last incident I know of in fact took place on the Russian Front during WW I in the winter of 1917, in which German and Russian soldiers had to temporarily unite to fend off starving wolves.

    All that said, though the animals could cause problems, they were far from invulnerable obviously, and it's hard for me to imagine even a dragon armored with iron-crystal scales could be completely invulnerable. After all, European warriors had been wearing iron armor for a long time and they had gotten pretty good at killing them. I think many of the more common weapons would be readily adapted to an "anti-aircraft" role.




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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volley_...ry_volley_guns

    I think heavy crossbows, recurve and longbows, harpoons, and firearms, especially multi-barrel 'Volley guns', fast firing pintle-mounted cannon (especially the fairly ubiquitous breach-loaders), and ribaldaquins would probably be the most effective. The blunderbuss family as well, for fending off close attacks. Personal multi-barrel gun / morgensterns like this



    All of these would be very common in any world of sufficient tech level for plate armor, which would include most RPG fantasy settings.

    If you have a "no gun" world, the heavy crossbows and roman style scorpion torsion shooters would probably be common. Plus nets, hooks, ropes and cables and various types of traps and poison bait.

    Conversely, I think the most damage that a fire-breathing dragon could cause would be burning crops, first and foremost, since crops are exposed and hard to protect, and burning villages and so on second - though stone buildings with (somewhat) fire proof roof tiles were pretty common by the late Medieval period due to the chronic problems they had with normal fires.

    I would think a dragon would have to be pretty smart and pick it's battles, and probably operate on the fringes of organized human society. Humans are pretty dangerous creatures especially when well organized.

    G
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Incanur View Post
    Note that the surface of the sun is only around 5,800 K by most estimates.

    For higher-end dragons still guided by known materials science, you'd want some sort of diamondoid structure. And for dragon fire capable of near instantly reducing things to ash you'd likely need a nuclear power source.
    Didn't I tell you not to make me giddy this early in the morning/evening? I didn't? Oh... my bad.

    This stuff sounds really neat in and of itself, providing the advertising has some/any truth behind it (forgive me for being sceptical). Having dragons made out of something like this seems great too--they could reach a level of abilities that previously would be seen as magical and impossible (well, it'll still seem that way to many readers/players).


    Oni: That sounds like a good system. If dragons are big creatures with thick armour, the thickness would be enough to make them truly formidable to harm. The main concern would be weight, since flying dragons are best dragons.

    I'm interested in what Incanur brought up, all the same. Perhaps this is what was meant when people spoke about crystalline structures.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Diamondoids are very real-- anything that vaguely resembles diamonds in molecular structure is one. One molecule I'm particularly fond of is adamantane. Yes, it's real. But you might notice that it's "-tane" and not "-tine." "-tane" like pentane or butane. That's 'cos you can find it in oil wells and it's a hydrocarbon. It's not particularly tough. The question becomes what molecules a dragon could conceivably have in its scales, and why-- why would it have diamondoids inside of it? And which ones?

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Mask View Post
    Oni: That sounds like a good system. If dragons are big creatures with thick armour, the thickness would be enough to make them truly formidable to harm. The main concern would be weight, since flying dragons are best dragons.

    I'm interested in what Incanur brought up, all the same. Perhaps this is what was meant when people spoke about crystalline structures.
    They could be like a crocodile instead with bony or keratin plates infused with iron under the skin rather than every individual scale being iron plated.

    The book 'Flight of Dragons' goes into some speculation about how a dragon could exist. I have some issues with the book (he handwaves reacting elemental calcium with stomach acid to get hydrogen), but other things seem fairly plausible.

    One thing he mentions is that just the dragon's head is heavily armoured and by simple panic reflex causing its prey to freeze up (deer in the headlights moment), memories of attacking it and all attacks bouncing off have distorted from one invulnerable spot to being completely invulnerable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    They could be like a crocodile instead with bony or keratin plates infused with iron under the skin rather than every individual scale being iron plated.
    Well I don't think it would need to be completely iron plated right? Already having a lacing of iron in the scales would make them very very tough.
    Of course, why stop with iron, isn't there something stronger and lighter, Titanium perhaps? I don't think the idea here is total invulnerability either? The older a dragon the more exotic materials it might be able to accumulate becoming more formidable.

    I must admit if I was the type to write stuff this is totally how I'd crib dragons.
    Although I think the flying would be the hardest part beyond adding lots of iron.
    I was actually struck by an interesting "plot hook" in the idea of a dragon who decides to go "invulnerable" only to end up losing flight as a result. Pride begets fall and so on.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    G: Replies to your posts tend to deserve a post to themselves (assuming there's something to reply to beyond, "good post!").

    I can add a pretty recent cases to what you mentioned. The friend of a friend, during his Marine training, went to Africa to prepare for the Iraq war. During their training, they were surrounded by a million billion ninjas hyenas! Not that many... but thousands upon thousands of them, so that it might as well have been.

    They surrounded their camp with vehicles, like pioneers encircling their caravans against attacks. Then, they had guys with guns keep watch. Rarely, they would pick off a hyena or two to make them keep their distance.

    After that... time passed, they finished their training, and luckily the hyenas didn't decide to overrun and devour them. Not to say their situation improved--they went into some of the more bloody fights or Iraq.


    As to dragons, I agree with your thoughts on the matter. They're not a threat because they don't flinch when you hit them with your heavy guns, they're a threat because they can hit you everywhere your heavy guns aren't. Animals naturally go for weak targets rather than strong ones, so even stupid dragons can be expected to try this.

    If they were godzilla sized, then I'm not sure how you would harm such a creature without modern tech. I'm sure there is some insanely genius way, or some salt-the-earth method that ancient people would have been capable of.



    Deffers: Well, looking at the article, they talk about technology that seems pretty optimistic.

    I am very interested in what kind of diamondoid materials dragons would be made of.

    I'm also interested in if real adamantane has any properties that would have made it useful as a weapon, as it was in myth (in the form of adamantine).


    Snow: Depends on the size of the dragon and how much effect the metal lacing has. Dragons don't need to be like German King Tigers, but there is the idea that you can't just shoot arrows at them, usually.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Mask View Post
    If they were godzilla sized, then I'm not sure how you would harm such a creature without modern tech. I'm sure there is some insanely genius way, or some salt-the-earth method that ancient people would have been capable of.
    They would think about poisoning an otherwise unstoppable killing machine in about 2 minutes. If it's smart enough to accept "tribute", so much the better. Pay it in sheep and cattle for 18 months to lull it into a sense of false security and then the vizier's revenge is put into play.

    I suspect "not living anywhere near it" would be the first response though.
    Last edited by Mr Beer; 2014-01-28 at 04:43 PM.
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    93. No matter what the character sheet say, there are only 3 PC alignments: Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    You'd need a lot of poison to effect something that big, and it's have to work well against its system. Best I can think of is Anthrax--but they didn't know how to use that till just before WWI.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Mask View Post
    You'd need a lot of poison to effect something that big, and it's have to work well against its system. Best I can think of is Anthrax--but they didn't know how to use that till just before WWI.
    They were using the Black Death as biological warfare in the initial outbreak in the Crimea, and both Chemical and Biological warfare were fairly well developed going back to Classical times. The Mongols in particular were experts at it and used it on a large scale to depopulate whole regions, but the Romans, Persians and Greeks were proficient as well.

    http://www.newser.com/story/173755/s...years-old.html


    G
    “The nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”

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  27. - Top - End - #27
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    I was wondering how advanced germ warfare was. As usual, it performs far ahead of popular expectations, and further ahead than I expected.

    My go-to disease for killing all things living is anthrax, including godzilla. I'm unsure what the next best godzilla-killing disease is.


    ((Alatriste had a good example of gassing tunnels.))
    Last edited by Mr. Mask; 2014-01-28 at 05:29 PM.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Mask View Post
    I'm also interested in if real adamantane has any properties that would have made it useful as a weapon, as it was in myth (in the form of adamantine).
    Nope! That's the best part. It's some white crystalline stuff. According to the wiki, it lacks the covalent lattice that diamond has. The values for how much stress it can resist compared to diamond are... bad. "Plastic" is not something you want to hear next to "crystal" if your sword is made of said crystal. If you fed it to someone, they might get sick, though..

    EDIT: As to which diamondoids WOULD work, I'll write up something else later if I find some info. I think there's one involving boron that's pretty good.
    Last edited by Deffers; 2014-01-28 at 05:42 PM.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    A Godzilla sized dragon is admittedly, a major challenge.

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    “The nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”

    -Thucydides

    Check out Codex Martialis on 1d4chan

    The Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic - take your RPG to a world you've never been before.

    Codex Martialis- fast paced realistic combat for 3.5 OGL.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. XIV

    Quote Originally Posted by Galloglaich View Post
    A Godzilla sized dragon is admittedly, a major challenge.

    G
    Yeah. It's hard to imagine how you begin to fight that.


    Deffers: If it's nothing like the metal of myth, why name it that? I guess for the same reason they named some gene after Sonic the Hedgehog.

    Looking forward to your write up on diamondoid dragons. I know some people who might be interested to see it.

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