1. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Question on War, and Weapons

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Shattered Shields, May 14, 2016.

    Alright, so, this is a question I've mulled over for days but haven't worked out an answer for.

    Say you have two nations (that seriously hate each other). The one in the east is a nation of Elves (mountain people) that specialize in mining and stonework. They like to use heavier, more brutal weapons as a result. Mattocks, pikes, the kinds of weapons made to pierce armor and rip heads off.

    What could the folk of the west do to counter this sort of warfare? Mind that their general strategy is to rain arrows from longbows on their enemies, flank them with lighter infantry (think Alexander's hypapists), while heavier swords/axes and shields hold the line.

    Is there any kind of armor that could stand or impede a heavy weapon like a mattock? Is there any sort of additional strategy the westerns could implement to make winning easier?

    Last question, should I even have Elves at all? Are they too overdone?
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2016
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  2. Nidhogg
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    Nidhogg Member

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    Are the weapons of the elves devised from fights with one another, or for specifically fighting the enemy westerners? If the latter, would this therefore imply that the westerners used to use metal plate armour? Also, I personally find the presence of stonework and mining to be a poor justification for using heavy weaponry. It would definitely allow for weapons and armour to have a higher metal content, but this could still result in weaponry that differs from armour smashing weapons. For example, swords could be quite common, as these weapons use a reasonable amount of metal and are quite versatile in their usage.

    As far as combating these weapons, the current strategies are good for those kind of weapons, as the majority of them keep distance away from the larger weapons. Armour wise, I can't think of too much that could be used, seeing as war hammers and the like are specifically designed for combating armour. I imagine prioritization would be focused more on keeping distance than taking blows.

    You are right in that elves have been done a lot, but in the end your usage of them is up to you. With them focusing on masonry and metalwork, they are already differentiated from the norm of elves in fantasy literature. There is a market for elves and a market for something different, so it doesn't matter in the long run which you go for- just do what you want :)
     
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  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I have a habit of rolling my eyes anytime I see something with elves, dwarfs,or dragons. Other people are really into this stuff and would love it. It's all your choice.

    My biggest problem with it is that I see it as laziness on the part of the author. You are creating a universe with the ability to do whatever you want. Why call them elves? You can make up your own humanoid type creatures and call them something new. I'm guessing you have plans to make them different in SOMEWAY to other versions of elves so why use the same name?

    Think big. Maybe thirty years from now, authors will be using your new name for a creature as a trope.
     
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  4. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    My reasoning for the weapon choice is that the Elves wouldn't (at least at first) innovate from tools they're already used too. My idea is that they would look at hammers and pickaxes, and say "eh, that works." Then they would modify them slightly and use them for war. It's the same reason the western folk like to use axes and bows. Timber working and hunting are economic constants in their society. Are you saying this isn't believable? (I'd like honest feedback on this)

    I was thinking along the same lines. I was just hoping that I didn't miss anything. You make a very good point, why get close to the horrid weapons if you don't have to? One thing that just occurred to me was that the westerns would ditch the heavier, more expensive cuirass and switch to leather and mail (or some other cheap equivalent).

    See, now that's why I have my doubts. That's the reaction I fear. My little universe used to have creatures like Centaurs in more prominent positions. It also used to have Dwarves (I took those out). Do you recommend that I replace the Elves with another race if I could very easily do so? (Because I definitely can).

    But, mind, I only speak of these Elves, the Vulcanics (one name for them). Would either of you mind the Elves as much if their role on the map was diminished? (Taking Elves out entirely would wipe at least 20 percent of the continent clean)
     
  5. Nidhogg
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    Nidhogg Member

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    That's more reasonable- I just felt it wasn't without the further clarification of the thought processes behind it. Even then though, some variations in weapons may occur. For example, a sword shaped device likely had little usage outside of combat, and the same could be said of other weapons (such as the Mexican macuahuitl).
     
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  6. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    S'alright. And of course. War is a mother of innovation and invention. It would be very right to assume that sword-like weapons would appear on both sides. Or perhaps more exotic weapon variations.
     
  7. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Elves are very much overdone. It may serve your story well to create something new. Alternatively you could attempt to do elves in a way they have never been done before.
     
  8. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Well, do you think a reader would be able to stomach Elves if they're role (on a grander scale) was kinda diminished? For instance, if they just lived in one corner of the continent and nowhere else? I can easily reduce the range of the Elves, taking them out of the mountains that border my nation of timber workers, and put in a race no one has seen before.

    Well, my Elves are, at their worst, arrogant, selfish, especially prone to hubris, and don't give any cares to the natural world. Is that different enough?
     
  9. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    My problem with the elves has nothing to do with what they are like or how prominent of a role they take. It's only with calling them -elves- Keep everything you have but use a new a word for them.

    Or don't. I'm just some random dude you're asking on the internet. Write whatever you want. Have fun, enjoy yourself. This shit is hard enough without trying to please everyone.
     
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  10. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    No, this is not believable. In the annals of archeology we don't really find tools being repurposed as weapons until late in the weapon specialization game. To put it another way, what you see is a progression like this:
    pick-axe --> heavier pick-axe --> war hammer --> mace

    But that's not actually what we see in archeology. When ancient man was making weapons it went more like:
    shovel --> spear --> sword --> bigger and better sword

    And we see this everywhere from Greece, to Mesoamerica, to India, to China. If ancient people ever went through a stage in development in between shovel and spear whatever it is is very limited and never shows up in the record. People, even ancient people, are smart enough to see that the only part of the shovel that kills anyone is the pointy bit, so why not make the whole stick pointy? And while you're at it, just make the whole stick sharp. And now you've got a sword, which is pretty much where weapon innovation comes to an end.

    Oh sure, there are battle axes, and maces, and war hammers, and flails; and people used all of these things. But as Fiore De Libre said, "The sword is the prince of weapons." And it's the go to for just about anyone trying to put an army in the field. Easy to learn, easy to use, easy to kill with.

    But let's talk about how ridiculous the idea of "race" weapons is. I'm sure you can trace a lot of it back to Dungeons and Dragons, where certain races are given bonuses for using certain weapons in 1st edition. Out side of that, there's really no cultural reason for this to exist. It doesn't even appear in the seminal fantasy texts. Lord of the Rings features elves and dwarves that uses swords, and men that use bows and spears.

    Ask yourself for a moment, why that particular cultural identity would exist in a fantasy when it has no mirror in real life? The weapon of choice for every soldier, every commander, and every army, is the one that kills other people best. And so while you see variations in length, weight, scale, and proportion, of different weapons, you don't see a lot of not-swords. There are no rules about Chinese using only blunt weapons, while the Africans use only weaponized sandals.

    This is especially perplexing, because there are cultural differences in weapons. They just aren't in class. In the terrible Hobbit movies, for example, you see every dwarf carry a different kind of battle axe, while it's all accepted that as long as it's an axe it must be dwarven. In the real world, you can absolutely tell the difference between a French and English bow, or an Egyptian or Grecian sword.

    Just to pull up what you said up there, this is war, and innovation kills. The first side to think outside of the box and invent themselves a sword wins the next battle, and keeps winning battles until the other side catches on. As you might imagine, the other side will catch on pretty quick.

    Ditch the race/class weapons. They're as realistic as rolling a d20 in the middle of a war.

    I don't. I recommend you don't listen at all to a critic whose contention is that they don't like they was you've named something, and make that leap before even reading your book. You don't need to remake everything just serve some reader who, by their own admission, was going to roll their eyes at your work anyway.
     
  11. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Well, that's an easy enough comparison to make with a tool like the shovel. It's only use as a killing tool is to bludgeon someone to death with it. And also, I like to draw from history, truly I do, but why should I limit my peoples to strictly follow the weapon developmental paths from antiquity? I like to draw from those periods, but not to such an extent. A better question for my reasoning would be: Is it logical?

    And why wouldn't it be logical? If my mountain folk know that a pick could easily kill, why not take an implement they are familiar with, and make it more of a weapon of war? It's a realistic train of thought for a primitive sentient. And axes for my timbers would be even more reasonable, no? Axes have been used throughout history as weapons, even if they can be unwieldy. But both civilizations did use spears, which I suppose led to swords.

    Not really about the swords. They are easy to make yes, not necessarily easy to kill with, and I've read that proficient swordsmanship takes years to accomplish (in fairness, you never mentioned 'proficient')

    Just saying, I don't have any race weapons in my mythos (because of their absurdity). Sure, the timber dudes (Erans) use tomahawks and the mountains (Tal) don't, but thats cause the Tal use massive spears instead. None of the weapons in my little world pertain to only one race without decent reason.

    Another reason the Erans use axes often is because their land is not blessed with a good amount of metal ores. The only range of mountains doesn't have many obvious seams near the surface. Their only options are either to ration these scanty pickings, or trade for the ore. And trading for the ore would mean not actively trying to kill the people they most often war against. One must think of logistics as well as killing ability.

    Thouuuugh. Swords could be passed down through families, like the way they do in Rohan. Hmm.
     
  12. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I guess you'd need some experience fighting with weapons. There are some big drawbacks to fighting with axes, hammers, and mattocks. Both consist of a heavy weight on the tip of a piece of wood. That wood has to be strong enough that a strong hit won't split it, while being light enough that it won't be too difficult to lift. Of course if you're fighting someone with a sword, the can lop the head of your axe clean the fuck off, and then your screwed. Making the haft metal doesn't help you at all, because all it does is ad to the weight, while requiring more metal to make. (As an aside, there's about as much steel in the head of your axe as there is in a short sword.)

    But using them is also more difficult. A lot of weapons fighting consists of trying to land a blow in a way that won't break your wrists, and will still make the edge connect correctly. With an axe or, god forbid, a mattock, this would mean that the edge is several (or many) inches away from the center of the haft. So even a small variation in the way your holding your axe, can mean it's edge is an inch or more out of alignment. So instead of landing clean, your mattock hit your enemies shoulder at an angle, glances off harmlessly, and he runs you through with his sword.

    Oh, no! It's super easy to kill someone with a sword! That's why cultures all over the world use them.
     
  13. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel the need to point out that cutting the heads off of hafted weapons is no easy feat, as this video shows:



    While it certainly happened, accumulated battle damage would have been far more likely to do it than a single swordsman. Further, solid hits like the ones shown in the video would be hard to achieve in battle against a halfway intelligent opponent. Not to mention that as hafted weapons became especially common in the later Middle Ages, langets were added to reinforce them.
     
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  14. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    No, I don't have any real sort of fighting experience. But you're being a bit selective. A sword could break as easily as an axe could depending on the quality. And good God man. Lope the head off? Have you any idea how hard that is? While you're swinging your sword at the axe, another weapon could be coming for your face. (Leather could also help with the shearing part). Finally, axes aren't even that heavy. On average they're only three pounds heavier than a sword. While that attributes the sword with more speed, that doesn't mean it's superior in all respects.

    Now, let's get on with the real crux of this issue. Money. Axes are far cheaper and simpler for smithies, and thus easier to produce (swords use far more metal, blade, tang, and all). Making a quality sword is very difficult for any smith, except for a master. Maintenance on both weapons are relatively simple, but replacing an axe would almost always be cheaper than replacing a sword, hence why the sword is a "noble's weapon".

    On combat performance, well, Asher, why do you think chopping/smashing weapons are as global as the sword? The axe is versatile in its own fashion. The blade can hook if it has a curve on the underside, it can parry a sword chop with the top of the axe. An axe user could cramp a sword user by taking a mid-haft grip and getting very close, making his axe faster. The weight of an axe can also play a part, smashing bones, and even armor (thats assuming the axe has enough weight and doesn't glance off). Finally, axes can be thrown, unlike swords.

    And also, it's well known swords are at their best against unarmored targets. They are, additionally, finesse weapons. So, in the situation I set up, axes are a better option for my forest dudes. Cheap, easy, and efficient.

    But one last thing Asher. There is no such thing as "the best ancient weapon". All weapons have their strengths, and weaknesses. Both of which are based on the context of the battlefield.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2016
  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    You don't have to cut the head off. All you have to do is sink your blade in an inch or so. Then the axe or hammer, or pick, has a couple more blows; before the wood splits and the head flies straight the fuck off.
    You've worked with this shit, you know. A tiny flaw in the weapon, and it'll fly apart in your hands.
    See: above.
    ??
    I tell you what you should to. Go to a gym. Pick up a 5 lb weight. Swing it around in every direction you can manage, and do that for a full half hour. Don't stop.

    Then do the same thing with an 8 lb weight and come back and tell me there's no notable difference.

    In a fight you notice a 4 ounce difference in less than five minutes. And you'll really notice it. After a lot of training it kind of goes away, but when you're up against a guy who can swing harder and faster than you, because he has less weight? You might win your first fight, but not your fourth or fifth.

    Here's a history of the gladius, considered instrumental in the Roman armies military superiority, because it was lighter than other weapons.

    No, not at all. As long as you know anything about smithing, I'm told it takes about a year to get competent.

    In any case a "quality" sword isn't really necessary for an army. You don't need perfect balance, you don't need high quality steel. You just need something that'll keep an edge, that won't fly apart when it hits something.

    Having admitted your ignorance on the subject, please don't try to come up with strategy. If you're really eager to see if any of your theories will work, go to a meeting with the SCA, and sit down with someone for 10 minutes. If you can practice your moves without immediately getting stabbed, please come back and tell me all about it.

    With video
    Oh, no. You can throw the shit out of a sword. I watch a guy with a Badger Blade throw it through a washing machine.

    Really? Who knows that?
    No, they're not. A history of armies handing any bumpkin with two arms a sword really works against your theory there.
    As and additional, tell me which of these guys is using "finesse"

    Well in that case I hope you'll find me a story about an army that was equipped entirely with axes beating an army equipped with swords.

    Actually, just find me an account of an army equipped with axes, and I'll entertain the notion. In the meantime, you might consider that history exists the way it does because the people have tried, and failed, at nearly everything. And when you fail at war, you don't get a second chance.
     
  16. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    For my taste, I would not use elves. I would invent something new and interesting. When Tolkien did elves, it was fresh and interesting because he revitalized old folklore and mythology. If you can somehow do something new with the 'elf' concept, then I think that's great. If not, you might end up with a better story without using elves.
     
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  17. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    And an intelligent opponent won't let you get the square, solid hit you need to do that. If it were a huge problem, spears, axes, halberds, and pikes would have died out.
     
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  18. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    You don't parry anyone with a spear, halberd, or pike. You use all of those to fight cavalry, who don't usually prolong a fight with feinting and parrying and such. If you are swinging you sword at a man with an axe, how do you propose he not "let" you get that hit? Because whatever you do, you have to do it a lot of times, because he (and anyone behind him) is going to swing his sword at your axe a lot. Unless you have axes to waste, a better weapon might be preferable.

    And yes, this is why you don't see a large combat force armed with axes in all of the history of everything. "Died out" is pretty much where it's at.
     
  19. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ignoring the long history of using spears and similar polearms against infantry, are we?

    The video shows how you don't let them get that hit. You can pull your weapon in close, or bat the strike aside using the haft of your weapon against the flat of a sword. And in a combat situation, conflicts with opponents will be most often be over in a few blows. They'd be better advised attacking your person rather than your weapon. Further, if you have a shield, you use that rather than let them hit your weapon.

    There's also the not at all small fact that swords were always fairly expensive, and at the times axes were most common swords were the province of warrior and noble classes. You aren't going to encounter a ton of them.
     
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  20. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Ah, dear.

    "Spears top the list in terms of effectiveness - good range, usable in formation (extremely important in ancient warfare), relatively cheap, relatively easy to teach to a usable level. They also pack a lot of punch.

    Spears have been with us since the stone age, and are still in use today in the form of bayonets - that should give you some indication of their effectiveness. They're also found in every culture and historical period - they're just efficient.

    Next up, clubs - I assume you're including other blunt weapons like maces in this category. Despite the short length, they're very fast, and very powerful. Very nasty even if you're using them against good armour.

    Next, axes - they're a lot like maces, but tend to be heavier, longer and slower. The reason I put them after maces is that they can cause a bit of overkill - they'll certainly mush someone up, a mace will also do the same job more easily. In most cases, you want to take the other guy out of the fight, not necessarily cut him in half.

    Finally, swords. More expensive, take longer to teach, and not very useful against armour without specialised techniques. They're also very limited in formation as they need a bit of space to use in most cases. What they do excel in is cutting down unarmoured fighters and single combat.

    While certain success stories (eg. the Roman Legions) used swords, in my opinion their success was more down to being able to train a large mass of troops to fight efficiently as a single body, rather than any specific advantage conferred by using a sword
    ." (Karl Agius, Malta Historical Fencing Association)

    I think this covers most of it. Throwing an axe is easier and more efficient than chucking a damn sword. An axe punches with more force, and tends to be better balanced for throwing. While boiled leather would necessarily stop a sword from cutting into the wood, it would offer some protection. What's more, while you're swinging goofily at an axehead, you're opponent will punch you in the face with his shield, and well, it won't end good after that.

    And my 'theories' with axe fighting? Those are suggestions from weapon experts who have wielded the axe, if you bothered to do any research on this subject you would find a wealth of information.

    And a year for a quality smith eh? And you give me a site for modern blacksmithing as a source? Are you serious? We are not discussing modern blacksmithing, we are discussing ancient times, where finding a decent teacher was rough and skilled blacksmiths were hard to find. I've never heard of any blacksmith academies back then, so I'll disregard this part.

    Have you ever heard of the Franks? They got their name from the Francisca, their favorite throwing axe. And they used regular axes plenty as well. Also, have you heard of Teutoberger Wald? It involved the Germanic Cherusci and the Roman Legion. The end result was that your darling legion was completely destroyed by tribesmen wielding axes and spears.

    I will say this again. The axe is not better than the sword, the sword is not better than the axe. Even the Roman Legion used spears, the Vikings (known for their axes) did the same. Your disregard of context troubles me.
     
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  21. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I don't know what this is. Are you afraid to show context? A random quote from a fencing guy, could be about anything. I'm not going to google it to refute it, but instead I'll just print this quote
    I won't give you context or a source, so you get to decide if it's relevant or accurate.

    Oh! I'm glad you're talking to an "expert". You mentioned that you had no fighting experience, and didn't know anyone with any, so I assumed you were being honest. Then you came up with all the stuff that was guaranteed to get a fighter killed. I was really worried, because explaining what was wrong with it was going to take a video at the very least. But between then and now, you've found an expert, so please take a video of your theories in action so I can try to see what your talking about.

    I find it more likely that your "expert" doesn't actually know what he's talking about, so if you post that video I promise (really promise) to make another one showing exactly why what you're talking about is a bad idea. I really want you to know that there are good reasons what you came up with won't work.

    Do you really not know? Aside for metallurgy, in the last 400 years blacksmiths has changed very very little. It's like knitting. There are only so many ways you can hit steel with a hammer. Sure there are power hammers now (that's the biggest difference) but no one on that site was using one. I'm really sorry you're defending your ignorance to vehemently. Maybe it would be a good time to do what I suggested and find the local SCA guys.

    Hmmm. Quick wikipedia disproves what you're saying. I'll quote and source.
    "It was in this state when it came under attack by Germanic warriors armed with light swords, large lances and narrow-bladed short spears called fremae."
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Teutoburg_Forest
    Hmmmm. No mentions of axes anywhere in there.
    (The viking axe thing is actually a myth. They used them, but spears were far far more common. Also, not an army, and famously repelled by most armies.
    http://www.viking-mythology.com/vikingmyths.php)

    Again, I'm going to ask you for an army that was fielded using axes. You came here asking if your premise was realistic. I explained to you that if it were, history would have an example. Your response has been to attack from a position of ignorance, while offering no real argument. Of course it's your story, and nothing I can do will stop you from writing it the way you want to. But I would examine what drives you to ask people a question about what you're writing, and then aggressively fight against rational feedback.

    I'll wait for that historical example though. Providing it should be pretty easy, if what you say is true.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
  22. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I wonder if they ever argue about writing techniques on medieval warfare forums.
     
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  23. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I'm afraid I've never looked at a forum, because most of the people involved in medieval warfare are out in little groups practicing with one another. Not actually an experience that translates online very well. But you can find where they get together online all over!

    Here's the cite for the Society for Creative Anachronism. They're pretty cool for the most part, if you ignore the role-play aspect, and just focus on the part where they hit each other inna face with swords.

    Edit: Oops, forgot the link!
    http://www.sca.org/geography/findsca.html
     
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  24. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I suppose arguments don't last long between groups of people armed with swords and polearms.
     
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  25. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    This is seriously pathetic. I gave you the name of the organization, which is quite real. Again, you seem incapable of a google search.

    No, I don't have any experience. I also don't know anyone with fighting experience. Thats why I did research. My quote was the sum of what I consistently found on the web. You, Asher, are literally the only person I've met who doesn't know that the sword is, while an effective killing tool, still relies on the context of the fight to be at its best, which is true for every ancient weapon. And also its best against unarmored targets.

    We aren't talking about the last 400 years Asher. They didn't have the internet back in ancient times. Learning how to smith wasn't a quick google search away.

    Let me spit a quote at you from the same article.

    "However, the victors would most likely have removed the bodies of their fallen, and their practice of burying their warriors' battle gear with them would have also contributed to the lack of Germanic relics. Additionally, several thousand Germanic soldiers were deserting militiamen who wore Roman armour, and would thus appear to be "Roman" in the archaeological digs."


    And since knowing there were thousands upon thousands of Germanic warriors known for wielding axes, it's a safe assumption that they used them.

    And yes, vikings didn't use axe as the sole weapon. No army in history has ever used just one weapon. They were still known for their axes.

    Through the course of human history, commonplace objects have been pressed into service as weapons. Axes, by virtue of their ubiquity, are no exception. Besides axes designed for combat, there were many battle axes that doubled as tools. Axes could be modified into deadly projectiles as well (see the francisca for an example). Axes were always cheaper than swords and considerably more available.

    However, the Barbarian tribes that the Romans encountered north of the Alps did include iron war axes in their armories, alongside swords and spears.

    Battle axes were very common in Europe in the Migration Period and the subsequent Viking Age, and they famously figure on the 11th-century Bayeaux Tapestry, which depicts Norman mounted knights pitted against Anglo-Saxon infantrymen. They continued to be employed throughout the rest of the Middle Ages, with significant combatants being noted axe wielders in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_axe.

    I shall repeat this once more for you. In the CONTEXT of my Erans situation. It is entirely plausible for axes to be dominant. They do not have a blessing of metal plenty. Spears and Axes are what they use, and specialize in. Given that they do have lots of good timber; longbows, spears, and axes are a good setup for them. Are swords absent? No, they are just very few in number. Why? Because, as everyone has pointed out, swords are more expensive, harder to teach, and aren't always better than a spear or an axe (again, context). Search for the battle of Pydna. The Romans were slaughtered until the Macedonian Phalanx was disrupted, and they got into their midst with the Gladius. Until then, the Sarissa had the advantage.

    If you want an amy that used axes exclusively, I cannot give you one because such an army never existed. War rewards flexibility, and having multiple troop types with multiple sorts of weapons gives an army that versatility. Which means there was never an army that used swords exclusively either.

    This debate is over Asher. I have never met someone who so blatantly ignores searchable quotes, ignores logic, and dodges hard points. Do me a favor, and never try to start an argument with me again. I don't have the time to dispute with a brick wall.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2016

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