1. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2019
    Messages:
    239
    Likes Received:
    156

    Problem of guns in medieval fantasy

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Aldarion, Aug 1, 2019.

    I had spent time thinking about whether to introduce gunpowder weapons to my otherwise-technologically-Renaissance setting or not. The article below is result of that thinking. End result is: better not, unless you have a very good way of preventing any further developments of gunpowder-based weaponry, or are fine with relatively quick technological progression. I thought about Warhammer Fantasy, but I am not actually sure whether that setting is in technological stasis.

    Problem of guns in medieval fantasy
     
    Foxxx, jannert and Simpson17866 like this.
  2. ElConesaToLoco

    ElConesaToLoco Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2018
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    100
    Location:
    Alicante
    Why would you want to stop technology, though? It's one of the most annoying things that people do in fantasy, and it's absolutely ridiculous. It's specially stupid in many fantasy videogame franchises, like The Elder Scrolls. You're telling me that in hundreds or even thousands of years no new technologies have been developed? That's nonsense. Nothing evolves, nothing is invented, everything is always the same. How boring! My first novel was based on early medieval history, and my second (Not a direct sequel, just the same world) happens eight centuries later, and is based in the napoleonic era.
     
  3. KiraAnn

    KiraAnn Active Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2019
    Messages:
    233
    Likes Received:
    149
    Location:
    Texas
    I read that article and do not agree with all the assertions made. That’s opinion not fact.
     
  4. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2019
    Messages:
    239
    Likes Received:
    156
    I'm not saying you would want to stop technology - hence my "fine with relatively quick technological progression" - but fact is that many fantasy settings do stop technology, for whatever reason (I think it might be imitation of Tolkien, but without fairy important thematic point he was making). I was looking at when, exactly, would such stoppages be most logical.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  5. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,677
    Likes Received:
    19,865
    Location:
    Scotland
    Very interesting article. I don't know if all the facts are correct, but the principle is sound. I never thought about the subject in this way before.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  6. Lone Wanderer

    Lone Wanderer Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2013
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    82
    Real life is almost never in technological stasis. You’d have to fundamentally change the nature of human interaction for that to be true and believable. Even during the so-called “Dark Ages,” advancements were being made in the production of armor and weapons. Building techniques were evolving from simple wood and earth Motte and Bailey castles into the earliest castles using masoned stone. So yes, technological stasis is jarring in world-building.

    That being said, the article isn’t entirely accurate. The Italians used firearms in the 14th century when most battlefield soldiers still looked like this: [​IMG]

    Don’t constrain yourself, you can have primitive firearms in a story without having to bend over backwards to explain why they don’t invent AR15s in the coming centuries.
     
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    20,859
    Likes Received:
    24,193
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    and the Chinese used firearms against the mongols earlier than that

    There are a number of other inaccuracies in the article - for example it is over simplistic to say that Bronze was 'better' for cannon than iron... it was less likely to burst (unless there was a flaw in the cast) but it also wore out quicker, was significantly heavier (meaning fewer could be carried on a sailing vessel) and was considerably more expensive

    Its also simplistic to say that without firearms there is no needto evolve beyond plate armour - the English Yew bow could easily drive a bodkin point through most plate, which lead to the evolution of milanese arrow proof plate which was only partially successful since the English archers would aim at the horses since an unhorse knight was desperately vulnerable.

    Also bow men didnt suddenly die out with the advent of gunpowder - In the time it took to load a musket or a cross bow a long bow man could close the range and shoot five or six points.

    Also steel did not plateau at late renaissance - the metalurgy of steel is still evolving today, anfd improved types of steel plaid a big part in the evolution of firearms

    Overall its an interesting article but it suffers badly from trying to simplify a very complex subject and also from stating opinion as though it is fact
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2019
  8. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2019
    Messages:
    239
    Likes Received:
    156
    I am aware of that. But my primary problem are actually cannons: I am not entirely certain, but I think sieges in gunpowder era tended to last much shorter than before that (see several-year-sieges of Constantinople vs three months or so for Vienna). Which is kinda problem if you want long-lasting strategic stalemate (think situation on Roman-Arab frontier in late 7th to early 9th centuries).

    Soldiers you have posted image of could have also had breastplates IIRC. Not full Gothic plate armour, but not coat of plates either. Below are examples of (late) 14th century plate armour.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    However, brigandine armour may have actually been superior at resisting arrow impact when compared to plate armour:
    http://markstretton.blogspot.com/2016_01_01_archive.html?view=classic

    Bronze was heavier, but you could make barrels thinner, so I believe bronze cannons were actually lighter than iron ones. It was more expensive, though.

    IIRC, proper plate armour (e.g. Gothic, Milanese, Maximillian) could stop longbow arrows; they were hard to penetrate even with heavy crossbows. Bodkin point was developed to penetrate mail armour, by passing in-between the links or else pushing them apart, and was supremely successful at that; but plate armour was more-or-less impervious to longbows (as well as early gunpowder weapons) unless arrow found part not covered by plate. Reason for this is that - unlike in the tests - arrow would almost never strike the plate at 90* angle, and so would deflect or deform during penetration. If arrow deformed while penetrating plate, it would not be able to penetrate the mail or gambeson underneath.

    That being said, some quick search shows that brigandine or lamellar armour might actually be better against arrows, and that longbow could indeed penetrate plate armour:
    http://markstretton.blogspot.com/2016_01_01_archive.html?view=classic
    https://www.quora.com/Why-was-the-usage-of-lamellar-armor-so-common-in-East-Asia/answer/Wic-Wong

    This might explain why armies which a) focused heavily on archery and/or b) fought against steppe nomads which focused heavily on archery often used lamellar armour, or else coat of plates, instead of mail or plate armour. Examples would be Roman Empire (of Byzantine period) and China - although that might also have been due to logistics. Plate armour might have been better at resisting couched lance, though.

    They were very much dead by the time musket appeared. What you are looking for are early hand cannons, which were loud, imprecise, and could not really penetrate plate armour either.

    Right, thanks.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,918
    Likes Received:
    27,156
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Guns started in China around the 9th century, though they were
    more like spear launchers than proper metal ball slingers. By the
    the 13th century they started to branch out of Asia and into Europe,
    so it is entirely plausible that they had some form during the period
    you are looking at (at least by 100 years). While they wouldn't be
    implemented en-mass for any standing army, I wouldn't rule out
    that they did have a few cannons, or smaller force using some kind
    of hand held weapon similar in the field. Though a pea shooter may
    not be effective against well made armor, except at close range, but
    there is little doubt that an 8 pound solid metal ball (or larger) would
    cause all kinds of damage to the armored unit by kinetic force alone
    without actually piercing the armor (though it could due to having
    the kinetic force and weight).
    Though more common ways of defeating armor was to use a flail,
    mace, warhammer, or the hand guard of a sword. Yes that last one
    is as suggests, holding the blade of a sword and wielding it like a
    warhammer.
    Cause armor may stop a few things, it doesn't need to be penetrated
    to defeat it since the user could essentially take enough damage to
    the body to cripple or kill them by sheer amount of blunt force trauma
    to the organs or bones.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  10. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    2,410
    Likes Received:
    2,757
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    No, they weren't.

    The Royalist Army still employed longbowmen during the English Civil War, well after the matchlock proliferated. Matchlock muskets and bows coexisted in Japan during the Sengoku Jidai, and rebel forces used bows in a limited way during the Satsuma Revolt and Boshin War.

    The Russians used horse archers during the Napoleonic Wars. Warriors of the Western Confederacy annihilated roughly a quarter of the entire US Army at the Battle of the Wabash, using a mix of melee weapons, bows, and muskets. Comanche horse archers had a decisive advantage over their Spanish, Mexican, and Texan opponents until the advent of the revolver and the lever-action rifle.

    Arquebus and musket supplanted the bow in Europe for one reason: training a man to use a musket was faster than training him to use a bow.
     
  11. Dropstitch

    Dropstitch Banned

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2019
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    30
    My view is that early muzzle loaders were slow, inaccurate and lacked power due to most of the energy being dissipated around the balls/ lack of rifling or consistency in manufacture. There are very real reasons why you would choose a bow instead. They are not a game changer if in that state of early technology.
     
    Cave Troll and Simpson17866 like this.
  12. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2015
    Messages:
    668
    Likes Received:
    584
    Location:
    The middle of the UK
    Fantastic points all round, though I will say that, as a reader, technological stasis doesn't bother at all, but I really dislike the age-of-sail and steam punk bleeding into what I was hoping would be medieval fantasy.

    As soon as a gun turns up, my interest plummets, so I'd rather the author be upfront about it so I can just skip the whole thing.
     
  13. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2018
    Messages:
    1,516
    Likes Received:
    1,680
    To maintain the limitations, conflicts, and aesthetics of a particular era? I would think that's obvious.
     
    Simpson17866 and NiallRoach like this.
  14. ElConesaToLoco

    ElConesaToLoco Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2018
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    100
    Location:
    Alicante
    Why would would you need to? What's the lenght of this story? If it takes place in the timespan of thirty years or less, you don't need to justify a lack of technological advancement (It's fantasy, you control the speed and order of discoveries and advancements, as long as they follow a logical progression). If it's going on for longer than that, it's going to feel absolutely ridiculous when the Johnny the VIII wears his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather's pants.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  15. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2015
    Messages:
    668
    Likes Received:
    584
    Location:
    The middle of the UK
    If you look at both ASOIAF and LOTR, both are predicated on technology largely remaining unchanged over large spans of time. It doesn't make sense for Elrond to be using the same weaponry "now" as he was when Sauron was first defeated, if we don't simply waive the progression of technology.
     
  16. ElConesaToLoco

    ElConesaToLoco Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2018
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    100
    Location:
    Alicante
    Is Aldarion's the same kind of story, though?
     
  17. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2018
    Messages:
    1,516
    Likes Received:
    1,680
    Replace 'need' with 'want' and see if you're still confused. If you are, then I don't know what to tell you.

    Yet it doesn't.
     
  18. ElConesaToLoco

    ElConesaToLoco Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2018
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    100
    Location:
    Alicante
    I wasn't confused at any point. I just think it's ridiculous to keep technology static, specially if there is no need to.
     
  19. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2018
    Messages:
    1,516
    Likes Received:
    1,680
    You keep writing and reading what you need, and I'll keep writing and reading what I want.
     
  20. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,677
    Likes Received:
    19,865
    Location:
    Scotland
    Mod hat on here: You guys are all making good points, and some of them conflict. That's fine—it's a subjective topic when applied to fantasy fiction, and nobody is 'right' or 'wrong.' Let's not allow this thread to deteriorate into personal tit-for-tat squabbling. It's an interesting topic, and it has made me think. I never considered this aspect of fantasy before, but I will from now on. I don't write fantasy, but I do read it.
     
    Simpson17866 and Iain Aschendale like this.
  21. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2019
    Messages:
    239
    Likes Received:
    156
    Length of the story, probably few years. But I will be having a very long history background, though I may allow technological progression during it.

    Similar, yes, but not exactly the same. Depends on what you are asking, exactly.
     
  22. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2015
    Messages:
    668
    Likes Received:
    584
    Location:
    The middle of the UK
    Who knows? But they're both very important and influential fantasy works, so looking there isn't a bad place to start. Neither story works if in the 8000 years since the long night Westeros develops guns and coal power and can simply snipe the others from miles away, nor if Sauron returns and discovers that his nazgûl are useless because Gondor developed tanks a few decades ago.
    Making them work with that those developments in mind would change the stories basically beyond recognition.
     
  23. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    690
    Likes Received:
    737
    Location:
    Seattle
    It took hundreds of years for a soldier with a firearm to become more effective than a trained longbowman. The reason why guns made such a drastic change to society is because it enabled mass conscription. With very little training, normal folk can be recruited, handed guns, given some basic training, then sent off to war. It's much less expensive and time consuming than training them to use swords or bows effectively. Longbowmen were very highly trained.

    Once this starts to happen -- once soldiers are conscripted -- we start seeing the structure of society change very rapidly. The old martial aristocracy, which held a monopoly on military force, aren't that powerful anymore. Combine that with other technologies that automate the most manual work and we see the value of the average citizen rise quite a bit. The balance of power changes. The economy changes. And maybe there are some new enlightenment ideas floating around that help guide this new era philosophically.

    The driving force here is economic. Incentives and interest in making better technology every year. Once that is happening in force, things change rather quickly. This happened near the end of the Middle Ages, but there have also been periods of relative stasis throughout history. The Roman Empire is one example. While the technological bar was higher in many areas than medieval societies, the society was too rigid. It didn't have the right incentive structure. The Romans did not proceed to have an industrial revolution. They reached a limit and then they declined. Progress is not always inevitable. There have to be the right incentives in place.
     
    Aldarion likes this.
  24. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2018
    Messages:
    1,516
    Likes Received:
    1,680
    Nothing is inevitable in fiction.
     
  25. grayj0265

    grayj0265 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2019
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    18
    As I always like to say, you can do what every you want in your story. Although I do have a couple of questions for you. What do you considered medieval? That is a very specific time period from some, while others, not so much. I googled it to see it ranges from 476-1492. What part of the world are you in? The only two place (if I am correct, may be wrong) would be east Asia, or Europe. Don't forget as I have has pointed out correctly, Guns didn't become effective until later, you could do the same.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice