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TheIT
08-23-2005, 11:59 PM
In a fight between someone armed with a quarterstaff and someone armed with a sword, who would you bet your money on? Assume both combatants are equally matched physically.

In my fantasy WIP, my mage fights with a quarterstaff (whenever he allows an opponent close enough to affect him). Unlike Gandalf, my mage would probably chop off his own foot if he picked up a sword. I'm looking for what the capabilities of a quarterstaff would be. I know travellers in the Middle Ages relied on quarterstaffs to defend themselves from bandits. How good are they against swords? Would a swordsman look at someone with a quarterstaff and laugh ("Ha, ha, all you've got is a stick."), or would a swordsman stay away?

Also, what type of wood is used to make a good quarterstaff? Would maple work?

Thanks!

Vomaxx
08-24-2005, 12:57 AM
I have no experience with hand-to-hand medieval fighting. But I would just observe that, as far as I know, everyone who could afford a sword had one, and long sticks were not very often used in combat by anybody who could get his hands on a sword. I infer from this that a trained swordsman would normally defeat a trained quarterstaff fighter. (Othwise we might be reading about Excalibur, the famous stick in the stone, or Durandal, Roland's mighty stick...) I know of no battles where units of quarterstaffmen appeared, unless it was a case of poor peasants who could get nothing else.

Of course, if you can put a point on the stick and an axeblade on one side, you have a halberd, a very effective weapon indeed. I would bet on a good halberdier rather than a good swordsman.

It will be interesting to see other views on this topic.

Richard
08-24-2005, 01:01 AM
Mythological correction: Excalibur wasn't the sword in the stone (in most versions, anyway - although it's been simplified in a few so that it was). He supposedly got that from the Lady of the Lake, along with a rather useful scabbard.

veinglory
08-24-2005, 01:25 AM
sword. All the staff has is extra reach but not enough impact to use it.

clintl
08-24-2005, 01:50 AM
I'm guessing that if a quarterstaff could beat a sword, no one would have used a sword.

azbikergirl
08-24-2005, 02:21 AM
I don't think it's so much a matching of the combatants' size/strength that's important as skill level with his chosen weapon. I'm betting that the best staff fighter in the world could take out a mid-level swordsman, just as a champion swordsman could take out a mid-level archer.

I'll bet Zornhau will have a good answer for you on this.

Ivonia
08-24-2005, 02:46 AM
In the real world, I too, would place my bet on the guy with the sword (and I generally prefer those fantasy stories where the mage isn't also a skilled melee fighter. Kinda lame for me if they can fight very well up close and do ranged damage via magic. For me, it should be one or the other. After all, a mage that spends all his time reading books will probably not have much fighting skill, but don't let him cast spells on you hehe).

I think historically, the reason why a long stick would be no match for a sword is because the swordsman probably spent all of his life training with that weapon, whereas anyone using a long stick as a weapon probably hasn't trained very much in it, and therefore would really be no match against a well trained soldier (it'd probably be a little different in Asia though, where they did train with "sticks" and were often quite good with them).

Of course, since this is a fantasy question, it could very well go either way. Perhaps your mage casts some spells that weaken the sword guy first? Or they are more skilled with their stick than the other guy is with his sword? If he can parry the attacks by the swordsman, and knows how to thrust that stick into a guy (esp. an unarmored foe), a stick can hurt almost as much as a sword (granted, they probably won't die via bleeding, but those bruises would certainly hurt as well).

You should do a scenario like that, where the swordsman is overconfident, and thinks he'll make quick work of this guy with a long stick (because he's "beaten up guys with sticks before"), and have the mage surprise him with some evasive manuevers (and give the guy a heavy sword so that it'll be easier for your mage to dodge, as a heavier overhead swing is slightly more predictable than a quick thrusting move).

Basically, the mage in a straight up fight would be no match for the swordsman, but make the swordsman have faults that the mage can rely on and use to his advantage (although only do it for this one time, or else it'll seem like a cop-out after the mage defeats swordsman #15 this way in your story).

Unimportant
08-24-2005, 03:03 AM
I should think it would depend a lot on the type of sword in question, the circumstances of the fight, the technology level of your world, and the natural assumptions of people in your particular culture/world. Pine branch versus long sword is not going to be the same as six feet of iron-shod oak versus foil.

TheIT
08-24-2005, 03:06 AM
Thanks for the responses so far. To clarify, I'm not talking fight to the death. My mage isn't running around picking fights with swordsmen, but he does live in a world with danger. He's justifiably paranoid (yes, they are out to kill him), so he'll employ whatever means at hand to defend himself. He's very practical, and not above "cheating". Normally he would use magic to prevent an attacker from getting close enough to deal a blow, he also needs to defend himself using hand to hand. His strategy would be to use the staff defensively while he works out how to use magic to attack. If his enemies underestimate his abilities, so much the better.

He's also telekinetic, so I think he'll be able to augment his fighting to make himself stronger.

The reason I'm questioning the automatic assumption of sword overpowering staff is from some reading I've done and from a documentary I saw about quarterstaff. For a sword to be effective the swordsman has to be able to get within reach of his opponent. Some defensive staff techniques seem to be designed to keep everyone away. So I could see sword/staff conflicts quickly becoming stalemates if the person with the staff concentrates on defense.

dragonjax
08-24-2005, 03:14 AM
In THE WHEEL OF TIME, Jordan touches on this very thing, I think in Book Three. I believe in the story, he's got a group of Warders in training, and their master is telling them about the one opponent whom no sword-wielding soldier could beat: the farmer defedning his land with only a quarterstaff. The soldiers all mocked, of course. And one of Jordan's heros, Mat, used his quarterstaff against the soldiers in training with their swords. I'm pretty sure that Mat won.

The thing is, the quarterstaff gives you more reach than a sword. Unless you've got a very long (and read, very heavy) sword, you still have to get up close for killing blows. The QS gives you the luxury of distance fighting.

So to answer your question, I think it's a toss up.

Leanan-Sidhe
08-24-2005, 03:54 AM
^ I read that part of wheel of time, and yes, Mat did win. I think that you've got a good idea there, a quarterstaff could be used effectively defensively because of its longer reach, at least long enough for your mage to cast a spell. And as for the sword vs staff thing, I also think it depends entirely on the skill of the fighter. In karate we use a wooden staff called a bo (not sure how similar to a quarterstaff that is but anyway) and let me tell you I would not want to get on the bad side of someone that knows what they're doing with that thing. Bruises are not the only thing a wooden staff can give you. Aim that thing at your head or windpipe and you're in trouble.

Cathy C
08-24-2005, 03:54 AM
As a weapon, a properly prepared quarterstaff was more than a match for the swords of the time. It was made from the heart (center) of a hardwood tree, and then fire hardened after smoothing for a similar strength (if created today) of steel tubing. It could easily defeat a soldier armed with a sword without armor, or who was using padded leather or chain mail armor. However, it didn't fare well against full plate armor unless the user could get the soldier's feet out from under him with a well placed slice. Full armor made it difficult, if not impossible, for the wearer to stand without assistance. He could then be done in by a dagger or short sword to the neck or slipped under the chest plate.

Ivonia
08-24-2005, 03:55 AM
He's also telekinetic, so I think he'll be able to augment his fighting to make himself stronger.



Hehe, suddenly my mind has that scene in Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader begins using the Force to hurl things at Luke. Sorry not sure why, but it just seemed kind of funny reading that part.

If I could use telekinesis, I'd just start hurling stuff at the swordsman before he even gets close. After all, "The pen is mightier than the sword" hehe.

Just a joke reply, don't take it too seriously :P

TheIT
08-24-2005, 04:09 AM
Thanks, Ivonia, that's exactly the type of attack my mage would use. Any enemy trying to walk up to him might have trouble finding the ground, or seeing with all the dirt being flung into his face, or even holding onto his sword.... Lots of possibilities once you throw magic into the equation. With the abilities I'm giving him, I just hope people don't point and say, "Oh, look, he's really a Jedi in disguise!" The logical thing to call him would be a force mage, but unfortunately that name has been taken by both Star Wars and DND.

Cathy C, you said a good quarterstaff would be made from a hardwood tree. I'm not very familiar with varieties of trees. Would maple work? Maple trees figure very prominently in my story.

I'll have to look up the Wheel of Time reference. Another series with a quarterstaff wielder is The Lord of the Isles by David Drake. Good series so far, but I haven't read the latest book.

Thank you all!

LloydBrown
08-24-2005, 04:11 AM
You also want to google Muso Gonnosuke, the only person to defeat Musashi Miyamoto in battle. The story says that he used a traditional rokushaku bo (six-foot staff) in the first time, but it's length was too cumbersome against Musashi's two swords. He went home, meditated, and cut two feet off (off the staff, that is), thus creating the jo.

Or not, since I just told you the story.

Cathy C
08-24-2005, 04:25 AM
Yes, maple is a hardwood. Here are some others:


Lodgepole Pine (excellent for quarterstaffs)
Red Pine
Spruce (difficult to use because of the knotty heart)
Mesquite
Sequoia Redwood
Cedar
Cypress (also not well suited to quarterstaffs due to twisted hearts)
Walnut
Hickory
Pecan
Oak

There are others, but these are pretty well represented around the world.

Hope that helps!

Birol
08-24-2005, 05:03 AM
Find some reputable martial arts schools in your area. Go talk to the sensei teaching there. They could probably give you some practical answers to your questions.

Euan H.
08-24-2005, 05:24 AM
Assume both combatants are equally matched physically.

So your mage is equally physically matched to the guy waving the sword around? Really? :idea:

How much time does your mage spend hunched over books? Studying? If being a mage requires lots of study, then surely a modern analogue for a mage would be a university professor. If you took a university prof. and pitted him against a soldier or a pro. boxer, who's going to win?

Smart money would go on the soldier, I imagine. I don't think the question you're asking (quarterstaff vs. sword) really makes sense, because no two opponents are *ever* completely matched in skill. It's not a question of what's the most dangeorus weapon. There are no weapons that are inherently dangerous, there are only dangerous people.

Anyway, that's my 2c. :)

Richard
08-24-2005, 01:08 PM
How much time does your mage spend hunched over books? Studying? If being a mage requires lots of study, then surely a modern analogue for a mage would be a university professor. If you took a university prof. and pitted him against a soldier or a pro. boxer, who's going to win?

No reason you couldn't have a combat mage or somesuch.

zornhau
08-24-2005, 01:42 PM
I'll bet Zornhau will have a good answer for you on this.

A quarterstaff is a very big stick. As I recall, the Renaisance fencing master, Silver, rates it as being the optimum weapon and gives some instructions on its use (there used to be editions of his work online, try google).

A quarterstaff has the advantage of reach over any civilian-portable sword, i.e. everything up to and including a great sword, and will crush your skull like a battery egg, snap your bones like twigs... An ordinary sword is very unlikely to cut through it, though a really good beat migth deflet it.

On the other hand, you have to know how to use it properly. If we faced off, you with a quarterstaff, me with the sharpened version of my longsword, I would try the following:

Exploit the slightest hesitation on your part...

A surprise attack against your wrists before, or just as you swung your weapon - effectively a parry against your limbs
Tempt you into an attack, step out then in. Before you raise the stick, I grab it with my free hand and slice your wrists or hands.
A standard move done with great precision...

Cut into your attack, deflecting (NOT parrying), bring my blade to a halt with the point forward, then stab you repeatedly
Basically, if you don't know how to use the staff as well as I know how to use my sword, you die very quickly.

If the magician isn't a skilled fighter, I suggest he sticks to surprise attacks, or snipes from the back while his better trained mates do the dirty.

A.REX
08-24-2005, 04:24 PM
Zornhau, thank God you showed up! I thought I was going to have to tackle this alone. Lot's of misconceptions here folks... but some of you are on the right track.

And the answer is: (as has been said earlier) IT ALL depends on the skill of the fighter.

A quarterstaff was by no means a wimpy weapon. In the hands of a skilled fighter a q'staff could have disarmed or killed before an opponent closing with a shorter weapon (ie- sword, mace, axe, dagger, etc.) easily. Plenty of texts to verify this and documented staff training drills (Tallhoffer comes to mind) Quarterstaffs also gave way to polearms, at first the weapons of the peasantry but polearms became popular because of their success on the battlefield, metal piercing polearms (Halberds, war hammers, glaives, etc.) could even defeat the armoured knight (15th c. Swiss Landesknechts were known for their ability to bring down mounted knights and defeat them).

Cathy, your info on staffs is good but I think you're confusing tournament jousting armour from field plate, or war harness which was light enough to wear on foot with ease and correctly articulated to be able to give the wearer full mobility (he could do cartwheels in it) NOT to be confused with the heavier jousting armour which is much as you say, extremely heavy and reinforced in forward mounted position usually requiring assistance to mount a horse.

TheIT: If you'd like to know more about medieval weapons or practices let me know and I'll gather a few links for you.

azbikergirl
08-24-2005, 05:46 PM
TheIT: If you'd like to know more about medieval weapons or practices let me know and I'll gather a few links for you.

I'd like to know! That sort of information always comes in handy to people like me who love stories set in medieval times.

Tirjasdyn
08-24-2005, 06:28 PM
Note on woods. Pine is softer than some of the other mentioned and splinters easily when dried as compared to other woods.

A heavier sword with a stronger wielder would do more damage than a lighter sword. could.

I'm basing this off of chopping pine for fired wood as child. We used to groan if dad brought anything home other than pine. Pine, you could go through easily regarless of thickness with an axe.

zornhau
08-24-2005, 07:48 PM
Note on woods. Pine is softer than some of the other mentioned and splinters easily when dried as compared to other woods.

A heavier sword with a stronger wielder would do more damage than a lighter sword. could.

I'm basing this off of chopping pine for fired wood as child. We used to groan if dad brought anything home other than pine. Pine, you could go through easily regarless of thickness with an axe.

Actually weight of sword and strength of wielder are almost irrelevant if he/she knows how to cut with their entire body. The 1400s Spanish Knight Don Pero Nino is famous for having cut a huge thick rope strung across a river with his sword. He used the same - or similar - weapon to cleave a handsbreath through a shield, through a knightly helm and skull and into the teeth of a foe. I's all in the legs and hips. (Read Guy Windsor's Swordsmans Companion)

However, those who don't know how to cut are generally given short chopping swords - falchions - with the general parameters you describe.

Kasey Mackenzie
08-24-2005, 08:21 PM
I'll have to look up the Wheel of Time reference. Another series with a quarterstaff wielder is The Lord of the Isles by David Drake. Good series so far, but I haven't read the latest book.

Excellent series! I'm reading the latest book right now. One of the characters is indeed a quarterstaff wielder, however we have reason to suspect he's not just your average joe schmoe, which may very well have a lot to do with his particular great skill. Though I have read a lot that indicates quarterstaff wielders worth their salt can definitely hold their own with sword wielders.

zornhau
08-24-2005, 08:26 PM
Excellent series! I'm reading the latest book right now. One of the characters is indeed a quarterstaff wielder, however we have reason to suspect he's not just your average joe schmoe, which may very well have a lot to do with his particular great skill. Though I have read a lot that indicates quarterstaff wielders worth their salt can definitely hold their own with sword wielders.

General tip: Try to go to first hand sources when researching a combat style, otherwise you could end up copying somebody who was copying somebody who was copying Xena.

Also, bear in mind that writers who are good at some military contexts are pants at others - I nearly wet myself laughing when I read Turtledove's battle descriptions in his Young Conan novel.

TheIT
08-24-2005, 09:37 PM
Third time's a charm, I hope. My last two attempts to reply got swallowed.

Thanks again, everyone, for the replies! To clarify further, my original post was a general question about the capabilities of the weapons rather than a specific example using my mage, which is why I said to assume the combatants were evenly matched physically. No, my mage is nowhere near as strong as someone who fights for a living. He's physically fit (mid-thirties rather than half-past ancient) and can use his magic to augment his strength. In a straight fight between him and a trained swordsman I don't see him lasting long, but if he can use his magic the swordsman better watch out.

Zornhau, A.REX, anyone else, if you've got references to actual techniques, please post them. I agree about not using fictional sources as sole reference, but I find other people's fiction is good inspiration for how something can be used (as long as I check my facts).

Cathy C et. al., thanks for the information about trees. Maples play an important role in my story, so I'm glad maple would work.

So the consensus I'm seeing is that, like any other fight, it all boils down to the skill of the fighters and the combat conditions. A skilled quarterstaff wielder should be able to take on a swordsman, or at least walk into the fight with a good estimate of his own chances.

Would a swordsman of the Middle Ages regard quarterstaff as a serious threat?

fedorable1
08-24-2005, 11:18 PM
I apologize if I repeat anyone, but having this many replies tends to blur in my head when I read them.

Anyway, I participate in a Stage Combat / Medieval Faire troupe and in my semi-professional opinion, the quarterstaff is probably more effective than the sword - if not equal - for several reasons. Let me explain.





* The Quarterstaff as a considerable reach advantage against the sword, and because it is made of wood, it is about the same speed.

* The Quarterstaff is a double-loaded weapon. This means, that as someone parries or blocks one end of the staff, the other end comes swinging out instantly. This can be extremely effective, and can "out-speed" many other weapons, including swords.

* Swords are very painful to anyone, but against some armor - such as chain or plate - it's not nearly as effective, except as a bashing weapon. Here again, the Quarterstaff comes through. Because it is designed to crush, chainmail won't do a whole lot against it. Plate, however, is still an effective deterrent.

* A normal stick off of the ground would obviously break against a sword (or the ground, or armor...). But a well-made, hardened one is virtually as hard as metal itself.

* There is a common misconception that a fighter using a Quarterstaff tends to rely on "dodging" or "evading" an enemy's swords. This is completely backward. I don't know who came up with that concept, but they must not have ever seen a Staff vs. Sword fight. Because the staff, even a Quarter one, is too cumbersome to do any rolls, leaps, or what have you, the staff fighter usually resorts to blocking, parrying, and counterattacking. As I said, the staff is double-loaded, and so counterattacks make up a good portion of the defense. The swordfighter on the other hand? You'd better believe he'll be the one having to duck, dodge, and get out of the way. The reach advantage of the Quarterstaff means the swordsman will have to work faster and harder to get in close.

* People also seem to be under the impression that a staff doesn't do any "real" damage, at least not compared to a sword. All I can say is, go ahead and get busted in the nose by a Quarterstaff, knocked unconscious, or hospitalized for internal bleeding and broken ribs, and then you can decide for yourself.



Obviously, thought, it comes down to the skill of the fighter. Someone noted that "someone with a sword would have trained for years with it, whereas someone with a stick probably just picked it up." I'm paraphrasing, but that's basically what was said. That's also a load of hooey, and pure speculation.

Swords were common because a) they were effective killing weapons, b) they were easy to make, and c) they were a lot easier to carry around than a staff or an axe. So, in reality, it's more likely that the swordsman could have just picked up a sword somewhere.

Staves on the other hand are much harder to learn to use effectively. The range can be an issue, and because it's double-loaded the staff fighter must be thinking of two things at once. However, a seasoned staff fighter could very easily defeat if not kill a swordsman in melee combat.

In the end, if you ask who would I put my money on - assuming they are both "equal" in skill, size, reaction time, etc. - I'd say Quarterstaff. Would the staff fighter kill the swordsman? It'd be pretty tough, but it's possible.

fedorable1
08-24-2005, 11:22 PM
Would a swordsman of the Middle Ages regard quarterstaff as a serious threat?

Hell yes! Pardon my French, but if the swordsman has any sense - or at least any experience getting hit in the head with a 2x4 - he or she would know that the Quarterstaff should in no way be underestimated.

This holds true for any weapon, but fighting a Quarterstaff is like fighting two weapons at once. Remember Darth Maul? Huh? Yeah, 'nuff said.

:D

A.REX
08-25-2005, 01:11 AM
Ok, here's a list of some links (finally! Had some trouble getting them to post) HAVE fun! Hours of good info on these...

http://www.martialartsplanet.com/forums/ (scroll down to Western Martial Arts or you'll be stuck in karate talk all day :D )
http://www.martialartsplanet.com/forums/search/topic/31692-1.html (silver’s quarterstaff chat)
http://www.stoccata.org/ (Aussies getting into the mix w/ Stoccata school of defense)
www.thearma.org (European historical combat training)
http://www.aemma.org/ (European historical combat training)
http://www.oakeshott.org/ (study of medieval weaponry)
www.netsword.com (sword and medieval weapons & tactics forums)
www.swordforum.com (my local hangout- like netsword but more members)
http://www.myarmoury.com/home.php (armour forums)
http://www.ehcg.net/ (historical combat guild)
http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/scholagladiatoria/ (UK based Gladiators)
http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/%7Ewew/rapier.htm (rapier defense)
http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/a/armsarmor.html (basic info page)
http://arsgladii.com/about.html (small fighting school)

TheIT
08-25-2005, 01:21 AM
Cool! Thanks for the links, A.REX, and thanks again for everyone's input. I'm not sure just how much fighting will end up in my finished story, but I'm trying to make certain whatever's there is feasible.

Saanen
08-25-2005, 01:40 AM
This thread is amazing. I'm trying to think how I can fit a quarterstaff wielder in my WIP now. :) Do you think that maybe a few years from now there will be a sudden upsurge of books where warriors with quarterstaves clobber swordsmen? The rest of the world will be flummoxed, but we'll know why.

TheIT
08-25-2005, 01:42 AM
This thread is amazing. I'm trying to think how I can fit a quarterstaff wielder in my WIP now. :) Do you think that maybe a few years from now there will be a sudden upsurge of books where warriors with quarterstaves clobber swordsmen? The rest of the world will be flummoxed, but we'll know why.

My work here is done... ;)

Glad everyone is enjoying the thread!

DaveKuzminski
08-25-2005, 04:56 AM
Not quite. Keep in mind that all weapons have built-in limitations. That's why other weapons were invented. You can't use a quarterstaff effectively on a ship, particularly if you go below to fight. It's equally useless inside small rooms of buildings, in thick forests, and so forth. These will forcibly dictate some necessary descretion on the parts of their users, but might be useful to you if you need to put your character in a situation where he can be captured or wounded easily.

Euan H.
08-25-2005, 05:24 AM
Not quite. Keep in mind that all weapons have built-in limitations. ... You can't use a quarterstaff effectively on a ship, particularly if you go below to fight. It's equally useless inside small rooms of buildings, in thick forests, and so forth. ...
Yup. No shield walls with quarterstaffs.

fallenangelwriter
08-26-2005, 06:34 AM
Of course, quarterstaves aren't the only "stick" weapons


I've worked some with both bo and smaller kali sticks, which are light enough to use in one hand, sometimes two at once. i'm by no means an expert, but it's apparent to me that sticks do plenty of damage. sticks always seemed among the most effective weapons to me, but then i generally imagine myself fighting people without weapons, or with knives.

I'd be willing to hazard a guess that light sticks would be an acceptbale choice against a sword, but not a rgeat one, mostly because you'd be forced to get close enough to potentially succumb to a lethal stab.

incidentally, my WIP also has a staff-wielding mage who holds off a swordsman long enough to use a combination of words and spells to intimidate his foe into halting his attack.

the sword-weilder was a young memebr of a superhuman rac,e thus incredibly, strong, fast, etc. but lacking in skill.

TheIT
08-26-2005, 07:42 PM
All right, this opens up another line of inquiry. What exactly is a "quarterstaff", and what other type of stick weapons are there? I may be using the term incorrectly. "Quarter" of what? How long are stick weapons?

MadScientistMatt
08-26-2005, 09:36 PM
Some of the writers at the time called the weapon itself a "short staff." This staff was typically from six to nine feet long. Ideally, Quarterstaff was actually more of the style of fighting, in which you would hold the staff with one hand at half its length from the end, the other hand a quarter of the staff's length from the same end. The Exiles (http://www.the-exiles.org) have a gallery of pictures and videos showing how to handle one. (http://gallery.the-exiles.org/view_album.php?set_albumName=album14)

Some editions of Dungeons and Dragons claimed the staff was "a weapon that takes little skill." This is very misleading. Skilled quarterstaff fighting is a fairly complicated martial art, with different parries and a wide variety of attacks.

Another European stick fighting style is Irish cudgel fighting. This one uses a somewhat smaller stick resembling a cane. In contrast to quarterstaff fighting, a cudgel is held in only one hand.

The other well known staff fighting techniques, the bo staff and the shorter jo staff, are of Japanese origin. A whole generation of kids like me grew up learning that the bo staff was the weapon carried by Donatello the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. A bo staff is typically a little bit smaller than a quarterstaff.

fallenangelwriter
09-04-2005, 06:44 AM
My karate school uses Kali sticks, which I belive someone said cam from the philippines. they're smaller than jo and two can be used simultaneously.

LloydBrown
09-04-2005, 06:55 AM
I would like to remind everyone that virtually anything can and has been used in one-on-one combat, especially in specific situations like martial arts schools--including fans, oars, ropes, and parchment.

No military force has ever used these weapons as their primary method of killing other people, and there is a reason. Swords were the first weapon invented solely to kill humans, and they are very good at it. Spears are also very good (arguably better), and much cheaper to field in the tens of thousands.

Overall, between different warriors and cultures and numbers and styles, and all other variables, more people have been killed by sword or spear than any pre-gunpowder weapon (and maybe those, too!).

Minister
09-04-2005, 07:02 AM
I suspect that some of that is because of massed force tactics. A sword (or spear) can be used more effectively than a long staff as a thrusting weapon, posing less danger to one's own comrades, and allowing for a tighter mass of troops (at various times a plus and at others a minus). A peasant (or anyone else) can be taught to cover themselves with a shield and thrust with a sword as part of a marching unit much more quickly than they can be taught to use a long staff as part of a coordinated unit. Individual combat is a fish of a different kettle, with a whole different set of objectives and possible tactics.


Incidentally, this is a terrific thread, with a load of great links. I'll have to keep this in mind. Hope some of you guys don't mind if I come back and pick your brains later about weapons/tactics from particular periods.

zornhau
09-04-2005, 09:51 PM
You'll be hard put to find Medieval peasants with swords :)

Minister
09-04-2005, 11:15 PM
True enough. :) But I think my point stands. Just because something was popular in general doesn't make it superior in a specific situation. The sword became popular in general use, but I think this thread has adequately shown that it's not automatically superior as a weapon in every situation.

zornhau
09-05-2005, 12:08 AM
True enough. :) But I think my point stands. Just because something was popular in general doesn't make superior in a specific situation. The sword became popular in general use, but I think this thread has adequately shown that it's not automatically superior as a weapon in every situation.

Absolutely. The general consensus amongst WMAers I know is that the sword's attraction comes from its versitility rather than it's brilliance in any one scenario. For example, the longsword is the only weapon you could wear to the pub, but also use in an armoured mellee.

Anyway, enough! I shall gladly chip into any new threads.

badducky
09-26-2005, 09:55 PM
Swords were also symbolic of the Judeo-Christian Crucifix. Many of the stories we cherish about swords and swordsman derive from the romances and poems that strove to unite a Judeo-Christian concept of life into the pagan hordes.

Quarterstaves and various other forms of the cudgel represent an older tradition of warfare, wherein peasentry pick up what they got to defend in single combat against banditry.

Weapons don't just have tactics. They also have symbolism. The more important question, I think, is which weapon the character is best symbolized by? A quarterstaff carries a connotation beyond just martial warfare, yes?

Frankly, I tire of stories where everyone is such an awesome, awe-inspiring fighter. If the characer would stab himself in the foot with a sword, why should his stick be any different?

My-Immortal
09-26-2005, 10:31 PM
Just a thought, or perhaps I should say, a question or two...

Why does your mage 'fight' with a quarterstaff?

Is it because in all the D&D books wizards are only allowed to fight with few weapons? Dagger, dart and staff - if I remember correctly.

Why can't he fight with a sword? An axe? A bow? Even a crossbow?

Honestly, if I were a wizard with the abilities you've mentioned for the wizard you've created, I don't see why I'd use a quarterstaff at all. I wouldn't want my enemy to get into range with me. I'd use my magic and my mental abilities against him long before he could close the distance and get in range with his sword. (Or even use my mental abilities to "control" his sword?)

Please don't think I'm being overly critical. That's not my intention. I just think you should really determine "why" exactly you have a certain character using a certain weapon in the first place. I would think the wizard would want to keep both hands empty (assuming he uses gestures to cast his magic). What does he do with the staff while he's casting? Is it clumsily slung across his back? Placed on the ground?

Just some thoughts for you to ponder when you're working on writing your wizard. Good luck, and I hope you take this post as it was intended. (to be helpful).

Take care all... :)

Jamesaritchie
09-26-2005, 11:17 PM
Swords come in all types, and some are better against a quarterstaff than others. A sword is better for the average soldier, and it slices and dices. But in a one on one battle, a quarterstaff beats the sword every time, all things being equal.

A shield evens the odds a good bit, but the sqword is still a disadvanatge. Swords are best against swords, far superior in mass combat, and much better from horseback. But one on one, sword against staff or quarterstaff, the stick wins far more often than not.

Long, heavy, two-handed swords aren't even a terribly good match against an unarmed opponent who is fast on his feet. And many think a shield is only for blocking. The shield, in fact, is a terrific offensive weapon. Think an opponent is only going to clock with his shield, and you'll be dead quickly.

David McAfee
09-26-2005, 11:35 PM
Just a quick note:

This has probably been said already, but I though I'd say it just in case....

A quarterstaff is a light, strong, and incredibly fast weapon in the hands of the right person. Traditional European swords were often (not always) blade heavy and wide. There are exceptions, such as the foil and the rapier. A scottish knight with plate armor and a claymore isn't going to be able to match the speed and agility of a peasant with a quarterstaff.

Reach really isn't that much of an issue as most people fighting with a staff don't hold the end of it and swing it like a sword, they hold it closer to the middlle, which gives them better control over the staff's movements.

I read the Jordan scene where Mat beat the warders in training and I loved it because it's true. Again, there are always exceptions, but I'd put my money on the guy with the stick...

TheIT
09-27-2005, 01:06 AM
Thanks for all the replies, this has been extremely useful.

I started this thread because I had a couple of scenarios in mind which hinged upon swordsmen looking with disdain on quarterstaff. Based on the replies, it sounds like a well-informed swordsman would be wary of quarterstaff so that doesn't quite fly. I can still make the scenarios work by having them doubt my mage's abilities as a fighter (which is not unreasonable based on some of the replies ;) ).

As for the abilities of my character, thanks for the interest. Quarterstaff is a small part of his arsenal. He sees it as both a personal melee weapon and a form of exercise (gotta get away from the books sometimes). In a fight he would use 1) magic, 2) ranged weapons such as darts which he could control using telekinesis, and lastly 3) quarterstaff. He's got a lot of tricks up his sleeve, and for a fighter to get close enough to him to attack with a sword would mean all his other defenses had been breached. I don't expect it to happen often; he specializes in defense. The scenarios I had in mind are set in sparring situations, not the heat of battle, though with these scenarios there might not be much difference.

Vomaxx
09-27-2005, 01:51 AM
It seems to me that if staves were such great weapons, we would see troops armed with them somewhere in history. Can anyone give an example of this? Does anyone know of cases where leaders armed their people with staves rather than with swords, or indeed with anything else that they could get? Are there any battles that were won by a force armed mostly, or indeed to any extent, with quarterstaffs?

David McAfee
09-27-2005, 02:26 AM
It seems to me that if staves were such great weapons, we would see troops armed with them somewhere in history. Can anyone give an example of this? Does anyone know of cases where leaders armed their people with staves rather than with swords, or indeed with anything else that they could get? Are there any battles that were won by a force armed mostly, or indeed to any extent, with quarterstaffs?


See James A Ritchie's post above, it pretty well explains it. :D

Pthom
09-27-2005, 03:04 AM
My guess is that it takes a bit of doing to bash someone to death with a stick (quarterstaff or otherwise), especially if the victim is doing his best to keep you from it. Whereas one good thrust or slash with a sharpened metal weapon (knife, dagger, sword, spear) is often all that's needed. So generally, swords are 1) manufactured by an armoror and 2) are designed as offensive weapons; quarterstaffs are 1) made (or found) by the user and 2) are primarily a defensive weapon.

I've been watching this thread for awhile (as I do all threads in this forum ;) ) and I've yet to see anyone mention the excellent defensive weaponry used in the Kushiel's Dart series by Jacqueline Carey: vambraces and daggers. Early in the movie Batman Begins, there is a demonstration of this sort of weaponry (sort of), although Carey's vambraces don't have the hooks. It seems to me there could be some serious problems with those hooks, by the way. Besides not hiding well under a garment (something a smooth vambrace will do), the opponent could catch the hooks with his weapon (such as a quarterstaff) and use them to defeat the wearer.

TheIT
09-27-2005, 03:04 AM
It seems to me that if staves were such great weapons, we would see troops armed with them somewhere in history. Can anyone give an example of this? Does anyone know of cases where leaders armed their people with staves rather than with swords, or indeed with anything else that they could get? Are there any battles that were won by a force armed mostly, or indeed to any extent, with quarterstaffs?

I think it's more a matter of the right tool for the right job. A quarterstaff requires open space, so it probably doesn't make sense as a battlefield weapon where fighting becomes very close. How could you stop from hitting your ally next to you? It also wouldn't make sense on a ship or in an alley. But quarterstaff does seem a good choice for a traveler to defend himself from bandits on the open road.

When the nobles called the peasantry to fight, would they provide weapons or expected the peasants to come armed with whatever they had?

The only historical example I have for units is based on a fictional reference. I don't have time right now to verify the facts, but it might be based on reality. The Belisarius series by David Drake and Eric Flint is an alternate history set in Roman times which explores a lot of possibilities with time travel and mixing styles of warfare from different eras. In one of the later books, they set up a force based on the Knights Hospitaller (or Templar, can't remember the reference off-hand) armed with quarterstaves. As a coordinated unit, they manage to stop a rampaging mob. They formed up in lines where each man performed the same attack, then stepped back and let the next line move forward to perform the next attack. It's not an equal battle, but it sounds plausible the way it was written. Good series, and I'm eagerly waiting for the last book to be released in a couple of months.

DaveKuzminski
09-27-2005, 07:08 AM
One thing I've seen happen too often in the movies is where the characters have more weapons than they can actually carry and use.

Speaking from experience, there are real limitations and only some of those can be addressed. When I was in combat, I was armed with an M14E2 rifle that possessed a bipod and pistol grip along with full automatic capability as my personal assigned weapon. When I received the point position, I was offered an M60 machine gun which I accepted. However, I didn't give up my rifle. So, that meant doing a few things. One of which was we fitted the machine gun with a sling so I could carry and fire it one-handed while on the move. Since the rifle already came with a sling, I simply slipped it over my other shoulder and flipped it over so that I could hold both weapons facing forward at the same time. Right there, we're talking about 30 to 40 pounds of weapons, but I wasn't about to give them up since I already knew who was the better shot and who was willing to actually shoot to kill. I had no argument from the rest of the patrol. During the year I was in combat, we had 12 men from the company wounded in a mortar and rocket attack on our camp but we never lost a single man or even had any wounded from my patrol while we were outside the camp.

What else did I carry? Well, 23 magazines of 20 rounds each for the M14E2. Two belts of 7.62 ammunition for the machine gun strapped around my chest and a 50-round assault belt locked in the weapon ready to use. Other than that, I had two survival knives hanging from my combat belt and a switchblade in one pocket. I don't think I could have carried much more.

The assistant assigned to me carried a full ammo case of belted ammo for the machine gun and his own rifle. I don't think he liked being so close to the point.

By the way, at the time I weighed 125 pounds and yes, those weapons and ammunition were heavy, but I wasn't about to give them up even though it meant that I was slowed down. Still, if you've ever swept an area with two automatic weapons blazing, you can appreciate the effectiveness those gave me.

I got sidetracked here and forgot to make the point that long range weapons are one reason why quarterstaffs are not the weapon of choice for armies. I'm going to leave what I wrote in case it's useful to anyone.

Jamesaritchie
09-27-2005, 11:10 AM
My guess is that it takes a bit of doing to bash someone to death with a stick (quarterstaff or otherwise), especially if the victim is doing his best to keep you from it. Whereas one good thrust or slash with a sharpened metal weapon (knife, dagger, sword, spear) is often all that's needed. So generally, swords are 1) manufactured by an armoror and 2) are designed as offensive weapons; quarterstaffs are 1) made (or found) by the user and 2) are primarily a defensive weapon.

I've been watching this thread for awhile (as I do all threads in this forum ;) ) and I've yet to see anyone mention the excellent defensive weaponry used in the Kushiel's Dart series by Jacqueline Carey: vambraces and daggers. Early in the movie Batman Begins, there is a demonstration of this sort of weaponry (sort of), although Carey's vambraces don't have the hooks. It seems to me there could be some serious problems with those hooks, by the way. Besides not hiding well under a garment (something a smooth vambrace will do), the opponent could catch the hooks with his weapon (such as a quarterstaff) and use them to defeat the wearer.

It takes exactly eight pounds of pressure per square inch to crack open a skull, and not much more to break an arm. Ribs are even easier. Staffs are very, very good offensive weapons, and can kill a man in most circumstances as easily as a sword.

A person with a sword is going to have a nearly impossible time with a trained staff fighter. Swords work in only one direction at a time, and are heavy, so direction is very hard to reverse. A staff can block and attack at the same time. A sword has a much harder time doing this.

Swords are used because they are more versatile, can be used from horseback, and are far better when fighting in mass combat.

I think one big mistake people make when think about swords or staffs is of how both are used. Despite what you see in the movies, most swords are not used for slashing. Stabbing/thrusting works best in most combat, and staffs are also used this way. The slashing blow with a staff is usually the second blow, and is preceded by a stab. In mass combat, most swords are short, and you do not get far by slashing, though it may be fun to beat a shield with your sword. You get past a shield by stabbing, not slashing.

Not do you want to run a sword all the way through someone. Bad idea. It means someone else will probably kill you while you're trying to pull out your sword. The human heart is only from one to two inches below the surface, and almost no organ that matters is more than five to six inches beneath the surface. That's how deep the sword should go.

Pthom
09-27-2005, 11:21 AM
It takes exactly eight pounds of pressure per square inch to crack open a skull, and not much more to break an arm. Ribs are even easier. Staffs are very, very good offensive weapons, and can kill a man in most circumstances as easily as a sword.Perhaps you missed this in my comment: "especially if the victim is doing his best to keep you from [bashing his head in]." It just seemed to me that were stick weapons a better choice for the average combatant, swords wouldn't have developed to the degree they did. But you have duly corrected me, James. 'Nuff said.


...almost no organ that matters is more than five to six inches beneath the surface.And those that are, are very close to the other side of the body.

DaveKuzminski
09-27-2005, 04:01 PM
Keep in mind that the cavalry saber was designed for slashing rather than stabbing. It's my understanding that some are heavier and often do not have a sharp edge. This is because you can't stab effectively and retain hold of the saber if you're galloping at an enemy. The sheer momentum of both individuals will send the weapon deep into the enemy and leave you with the choice of releasing it or injuring yourself. Cavalry charges with the sword pointing at the enemy look dramatic, but the actual fighting is done with slashing moves.

kaku
09-28-2005, 12:58 AM
Sword vs staff

Bear in mind that one of the primary uses for swords was intimidation. A staff is not as intimidating. A sword strikes fear into the uninitiated.

It has already been pointed out that swords were better for close-in fighting. A staff needs more room to be effective. All things being equal, advantage goes to the staff in open combat.

zornhau
10-04-2005, 12:17 AM
Whole armies - or at least large units - were armed with staffs, albiet modified ones with axe heads, spikes etc: poleaxes!

http://www.scholasolis.com/Poleaxe/poleaxe_intro.htm

Staff is a weapon in its own right, but also leads into the poleaxe, which cracks armour very nicely, but is a tad slower, and harder to carry in civilian situations.

aka eraser
10-04-2005, 12:33 AM
Some quarterstaffs were capped with metal on each end, adding to their "clobberability" without affecting their balance. Even a helmeted opponent could get his ears (and bell) rung when smucked with it.

zornhau
10-04-2005, 03:14 PM
There's also a weapon called a brandistock(sp?) with three concealed blades which sprout from the end when you swing it.

I suppose a spear is also a staff!

Back to the question of staffs in a military context: the point is that, though a staff might be survivable as a weapon choice, there are other better weapons you can take on the field for not much extra cost.

Really, in a western context, the staff is a civilian weapon (bearing in mind that most of a fighting man's combat might take place in a civilian setting).

Vomaxx
10-05-2005, 02:00 AM
Whole armies - or at least large units - were armed with staffs, albiet modified ones with axe heads, spikes etc: poleaxes!

Now, now: this discussion has been about sticks, not about halberds and the rest. Of course halberds are superb weapons.

zornhau
10-05-2005, 12:21 PM
Now, now: this discussion has been about sticks, not about halberds and the rest. Of course halberds are superb weapons.

That was my point. You don't get whole armies of staff wielders because the military version of a staff is a spear or poleaxe.

It's like saying: The Desert Eagle has enough penetration to get through armour, vehicle bodywork and most building materials, so why isn't it the primary weapon modern infantry weapon? And of course the answer is: Because assault rifles, RPGs and sub machine guns are more cost efective for the battlefield.