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Canotila
10-08-2009, 02:30 PM
So, my MC is drafted into the military in a fantasy world with technology that could probably be classified as mid Renaissance. Gunpowder exists, is mainly used for fireworks and stuff. Most of their weapons are traditional martial weapons.

Anyway, the tactics being used to fight are mostly skirmish. Crossbows seemed like a logical weapon for conscripts.

How many weeks/months of training would be the minimum the army could get away with to get decent results with that weapon? (the government is cheap)

How are crossbows carried? With a sling? In your hands?

What does it sound like when the bow is drawn? Does it make a sound?

What sound does it make when the bolt is released?

How long can the bolt be left ready to fire on the bow without ruining it?

Can you notch the bolt without drawing it back and move around a lot? Or would it just fall off?

I had more questions, but forgot them already. Will post them when I remember. Thanks for your time everyone.

RobinGBrown
10-08-2009, 03:13 PM
>How many weeks/months of training would be the minimum the army could get away with to get decent results with that weapon? (the government is cheap)
I believe you can get the basics of a crossbow down in about five minutes. Pull cord back, place bolt, aim, pull trigger. It takes practice to hit stuff though.

>How are crossbows carried? With a sling? In your hands?
Like a rifle

>What does it sound like when the bow is drawn? Does it make a sound?
Crossbows can be used for hunting, they are effectively silent (unless broken/rusty)

>What sound does it make when the bolt is released?
Very little

>Can you notch the bolt without drawing it back and move around a lot? Or would it just fall off?
Some crossbows have a sprung steel clip to hold the bolt in place, otherwise it falls off as soon as you move

dirtsider
10-08-2009, 05:58 PM
But remember that a cross bow has more parts that can get caught in a sling/carrier than a regular bow.

On the other hand, if the government is cheap, they can recruit people who hunt on a regular basis and therefore have both the experience in using a regular bow and most likely have their own bow. That's part of the reason why the English Longbow was considered a powerful weapon - not only did/does it have a powerful draw, the army was smart enough to find people who used it for a living. Less time needed for training and they had their own equipment.

PeterL
10-08-2009, 09:36 PM
While Dirtsider is largely right about recruiting people who know something about a bow. The crossbow was adopted because it requires much less training, and the crossbow was the preferred weapon of poachers. The majority of peasants were poachers, because they couldn't legally hunt. The English Yeomen who won battles in the Hundred Years War were a privileged class that was paid to practice with the longbow.

hammerklavier
10-09-2009, 08:18 AM
I seem to remember there were several different designs of cocking mechanisms. A crank version, a lever (usually with separate lever bar), and a grab string and pull version. I think some modern versions have a lever built into the stock.

I've heard one fired, it sounds similar to a bow, but not nearly as musical in tone, has a certain clunk along with a much abbrieviated twang.

Nivarion
10-09-2009, 09:29 AM
I love youtube, my second research site for this stuff after google.

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

This video has some music with it but you can still hear the sounds of the people shooting quite clearly

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLMd_B5bJU8 (http://%20http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLMd_B5bJU8)

This one was a bit more crappy, but it did have a few good seconds with a very powerful crossbow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ykrg4rQIO0&NR= (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ykrg4rQIO0&NR=1)1

This one was just beautiful. He explained the evolution of the crossbow, their drawing mechanisms and fired replicas of the bows.


Keep following through links on there, you should find a lot of good videos.

JoshEllingson
10-09-2009, 10:17 AM
A medieval crossbow makes a creaking sound when the string is drawn back, unless a wench is used, then there is a clanking sound, from the gears on the wench. (I have experience with medieval-style crossbows. I am also a member of the SCA.)

Canotila
10-09-2009, 08:36 PM
Thank you so much guys for all your experiences, it helps a lot. Youtube is such a good idea! I hadn't thought to look there. Maybe I can find an SCA event around here somewhere and see if someone will let me mess around with their crossbow.

The people who were drafted in my story are slaves, and were never taught anything aside from agricultural skills. In fact, they weren't allowed to develop any martial skills up to this point. That combined with the skirmish style warfare made me think crossbows would be most logical and cost effective (as opposed to swords or halberds).

PeterL
10-09-2009, 09:17 PM
Thank you so much guys for all your experiences, it helps a lot. Youtube is such a good idea! I hadn't thought to look there. Maybe I can find an SCA event around here somewhere and see if someone will let me mess around with their crossbow.

The people who were drafted in my story are slaves, and were never taught anything aside from agricultural skills. In fact, they weren't allowed to develop any martial skills up to this point. That combined with the skirmish style warfare made me think crossbows would be most logical and cost effective (as opposed to swords or halberds).

Halberds were designed, in part, with ignorant peasants in mind. As long as someone can lift the thing and get it to swing down on the intended target, it works.

Canotila
10-10-2009, 11:33 AM
Halberds were designed, in part, with ignorant peasants in mind. As long as someone can lift the thing and get it to swing down on the intended target, it works.

That would work well if they were fighting rank and file. If they go tromping through the woods carrying halberds though, they'd be shot down rather quickly by the opposition. ;)

JoshEllingson
10-14-2009, 12:26 AM
The people who were drafted in my story are slaves, and were never taught anything aside from agricultural skills. In fact, they weren't allowed to develop any martial skills up to this point. That combined with the skirmish style warfare made me think crossbows would be most logical and cost effective (as opposed to swords or halberds).

If that is your intention, then you might wanna stick to weapons that are derived from, or resemble farm implements:
Pitchforks=trident
scythes=halberd, sorta

spears would be the easiest and most cost-effective weapon. you just cut a sapling, and sharpen the end, or you could lash on a knife blade. axes also would be excellent weapons, as they are tools as well as weapons. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such weapon as a battle axe. (the double bitted axe is a actually still just a wood axe). sickles and flails also are good hand-to-hand wepons that originated from agriculture.

dirtsider
10-14-2009, 12:35 AM
Yeah, I tried using a scythe once. It's harder than it looks. And would be smarter to keep the weapons given to the peasants close to what they're used to.

JoshEllingson
10-14-2009, 12:56 AM
Yeah, I tried using a scythe once. It's harder than it looks. And would be smarter to keep the weapons given to the peasants close to what they're used to.

If they have been doing farm work, then chances are they would have experience with a scythe.

dirtsider
10-14-2009, 12:59 AM
If they have been doing farm work, then chances are they would have experience with a scythe.

Of course the peasants would have experience with a scythe. Not being a farmer, I personally don't.

Nivarion
10-14-2009, 08:08 AM
flails also are good hand-to-hand wepons that originated from agriculture.

I don't mean to be rude, but could you explain what a flail was used for in agriculture?

I'm scratching my brain here and can't really think of anything.

Canotila
10-14-2009, 08:49 AM
If that is your intention, then you might wanna stick to weapons that are derived from, or resemble farm implements:
Pitchforks=trident
scythes=halberd, sorta

spears would be the easiest and most cost-effective weapon. you just cut a sapling, and sharpen the end, or you could lash on a knife blade. axes also would be excellent weapons, as they are tools as well as weapons. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such weapon as a battle axe. (the double bitted axe is a actually still just a wood axe). sickles and flails also are good hand-to-hand wepons that originated from agriculture.

Essentially they are fighting through a forested area. The odds are pretty bad for them. They are the attackers, and the defending side is native to the forest and more of the ranger/huntsman type (imagine Sasquatch hybridized with Tolkiens elves). The defenders I imagine would be pretty good with longbows, as well as creeping around and ambushing intruders.

Both sides are low on manpower though, as the war has been going on for several decades. The side with the slaves likes to use them tactically to bait the enemy into traps or out into the open. If they happen to have a successful battle once in a while, it's like a bonus.

Axes are a good idea! Carrying a close combat weapon makes sense, and in a forest an axe could come in handy in many ways.

IanMorrison
10-14-2009, 09:01 AM
I don't mean to be rude, but could you explain what a flail was used for in agriculture?

I'm scratching my brain here and can't really think of anything.

If I remember correctly, it was for cutting down crops. I seem to recall that nunchaku originated in a tool for cutting down rice, as well. I could be misremembering, however.

RobinGBrown
10-14-2009, 04:31 PM
A flail isn't for _cutting_, it's for _beating_ the cut wheat/rice so that the grains are separated from the stalks.

Nunchaku et al are developed from farm implements

IanMorrison
10-14-2009, 07:09 PM
Yeah, figured I was missing something. My bad.

JimmyB27
10-14-2009, 07:58 PM
A medieval crossbow makes a creaking sound when the string is drawn back, unless a wench is used, then there is a clanking sound, from the gears on the wench. (I have experience with medieval-style crossbows. I am also a member of the SCA.)
Does she have to be a buxom wench? ;)

Mark G
10-14-2009, 11:18 PM
From what I know of medieval weapons, from lots of study and a tiny bit of experience...

Crossbows come in a different sizes: "light crossbow" and "heavy crossbow". The light one can be drawn by hand without huge effort, but the heavy one will have a toe clip on the nose and possibly a crank to draw the string back. The draw weight will determine what method you'd need to pull the string back. The more the weight, the more powerful the weapon; but the more weight, the harder it'll be to pull it back.

There may be a cost difference between crossbows and traditional bows, because of the mechanical expertise and craftsmanship required for each. Crossbows are significantly easier to use than a bow. Prior to the invention of the crossbow, archery was something that required lots of practice. Crossbows reduced the learning curve.

For a government that's cheap, you'll need to factor in the cost of arrows. A favorite scene of mine is in the movie "Braveheart" where the King says "Send in the Irish. Arrows cost money. The dead cost nothing."

The bolt rests on top of the crossbow, and would fall off if turned to the side, unless a mechanism was designed to keep it there. If you have crafty craftsmen, anything is possible.

Keeping any device that uses tension as a motive force in a fully tensed state will degrade its functionality. I was told when I purchased a bow several years back that I should store it "unstrung". I didn't follow that advice (hey, it was modern materials already! No horsehair) and a metal hook holding the bowstring tight actually snapped.

That was on a 70-lb composite bow. Crossbows can have 150 lb draw (or more - requiring a winch to draw).

One of my favorite "that makes no sense" weapons is the crossbow used Van Helsing in the latest movie of the same name. It had a machine-gun style magazine and fired about as fast as a machine gun without drawing the string. Gotta love fiction...

:)

Richard White
10-14-2009, 11:56 PM
There is a repeating crossbow (Korean invention IIRC . . . don't have my reference material handy). It basically looks like a regular crossbow with a narrow box mounted on top and a crank handle on the side for rapidly pulling back the string.

Think of it as a cross between a crossbow and a Gatling Gun.

Mark G
10-15-2009, 12:01 AM
Interesting! I'll have to see that.

By the way, wikipedia has a huge article on crossbows...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossbow
A Chinese version is referenced

Richard White
10-15-2009, 12:04 AM
I'm using a variant of it in a fantasy story I'm doing. Since this world doesn't have gunpowder, ship to ship combat consists of heavy crossbows mounted on the sides to damage the ship and these mounted repeating crossbows for anti-personnel actions (both attacking and defending).

Yes, I'm evil. ;)

Mark G
10-15-2009, 12:14 AM
I'm using a variant of it in a fantasy story I'm doing. Since this world doesn't have gunpowder, ship to ship combat consists of heavy crossbows mounted on the sides to damage the ship and these mounted repeating crossbows for anti-personnel actions (both attacking and defending).

Yes, I'm evil. ;)

You might want to check out how Roman Galleys were armed. A well-placed ram in the side of any ship makes the armaments meaningless :)

Also, fire is your friend when it's catapulted onto your enemy's wooden ship...

Richard White
10-15-2009, 01:15 AM
<thread hijack> Galleys don't fit well in the current world I'm developing, being mostly shore hugging ships, although I do realize they were used in the Med into the mid-1800s.

Fire is a great leveler but one mistake with it and it's a long swim home for both crews.

</thread hijack>

JoshEllingson
10-15-2009, 02:36 AM
Fire is a great weapon, true. but you have to take into concideration how it is going to be transported.

WrathOfMe
10-22-2009, 10:21 AM
I'm using a variant of it in a fantasy story I'm doing. Since this world doesn't have gunpowder, ship to ship combat consists of heavy crossbows mounted on the sides to damage the ship and these mounted repeating crossbows for anti-personnel actions (both attacking and defending).

Yes, I'm evil. ;)

Repeating crossbows, at least the Chinese variety, had a very low draw strength. If you've ever seen one used, you'll be able to see why - you have to be able to draw the string simply by pulling back the magazine. They're quite short-ranged and have very little penetrative power. In China, the bolts were usually poisoned, and the preferred target was horses rather than men, because the bolts were too weak to penetrate even weak armor of leather or silk.

As to farm instruments being used as weapons...

... pretty much anything that we'd describe as a "pole-arm" aside from spears and pikes (and of course the infamous Lucerne Hammer (http://www.7hexdragon.org/images/bec-de-corbin-web.jpg)) is, AFAIK, an adapted agricultural tool. Halberds, pole-axes, longaxes... all practical tools adapted for war.

If you're looking for something that is much closer in its weaponized form to its agricultural, look at glaives (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glaive), guisarmes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guisarme), voulges (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voulge), and bills (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_%28weapon%29). Bills, especially, are essentially an agricultural hand tool attached to a long pole.

One more thing to keep in mind... crossbows were very easy to learn to use, but for cheap peasant recruits to be effective in battle requires training. They need to be able to move in formation and fight in concert with other elements in order to be an effective fighting force. Otherwise, they're just a bunch of men running around the woods with crossbows.

Pole-arms might be ugly and inelegant, but they were extremely effective, especially in combined-arms warfare, and required relatively little training (compared to swords and other hand weapons). So, perhaps having your cheap government hack out a bunch of bills, train some peasants to use them en masse, and then have the rest of your crossbow peasants use the billmen to hide behind when they reload would be a more effective tract. This also has the advantage of being much more historically accurate.

Check these articles out for a bit more info on this kind of formation - they refer specifically to men using handguns, but the same principle could apply to crossbowmen, especially heavy crossbowmen:

Tercio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tercio)
Pike and Shot (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pike_and_shot)