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Welcheren
08-17-2016, 11:12 AM
So I enjoy fantasy settings in which the military tech reflects serious consideration of the practical demands of whatever combat its peoples are likely to engage in.

Here are three elements that might feature in the world I am currently toying with. Historically they are an odd amalgamation, so my question is whether my (brief) justification below makes sense.

Primary body armour: Gambeson, some mail; very little plate (actually I would prefer to omit it alogether).
Primary sidearm: Basket hilt swords
Primary shields: boss-held, migration-era swords (I am open to rondache shields, but I still need to learn combat techniques for them)


The setting is a mercantile kingdom in which travel by river is the most expedient. Consequently, rapid response along the river routes shapes military conventions, especially given a rise in small scale enemy raids. This necessitates a lighter armour than plate. The likelihood of ship-to-ship fighting and of small scale skirmishes renders swords with adequate hand protection attractive (hence the preference for early basket hilt swords over arming swords). Given the prevalence of light to medium armour, boss-held shields are preferred over smaller bucklers. Kite shields and pavises are still in use for large-scale engagements.

Maxx
08-17-2016, 03:52 PM
So I enjoy fantasy settings in which the military tech reflects serious consideration of the practical demands of whatever combat its peoples are likely to engage in.

Here are three elements that might feature in the world I am currently toying with. Historically they are an odd amalgamation, so my question is whether my (brief) justification below makes sense.

Primary body armour: Gambeson, some mail; very little plate (actually I would prefer to omit it alogether).
Primary sidearm: Basket hilt swords
Primary shields: boss-held, migration-era swords (I am open to rondache shields, but I still need to learn combat techniques for them)


The setting is a mercantile kingdom in which travel by river is the most expedient. Consequently, rapid response along the river routes shapes military conventions, especially given a rise in small scale enemy raids. This necessitates a lighter armour than plate. The likelihood of ship-to-ship fighting and of small scale skirmishes renders swords with adequate hand protection attractive (hence the preference for early basket hilt swords over arming swords). Given the prevalence of light to medium armour, boss-held shields are preferred over smaller bucklers. Kite shields and pavises are still in use for large-scale engagements.

People on ships seem to have preferred smaller, shorter swords, though, of course, short pikes and axes could be used.

River fighting often involved some intricate engineering. For example the blockade at Paris against the Vikings or the Weird amphibious siege engines of the Crusader attack that got smashed in Egypt or the attack on Constantinople.

realityfix
08-17-2016, 07:58 PM
Your proposed setting offers opportunities for more weapons then those you originally posted. If it is a mercantile kingdom, which I will assume is larger then the city-states of 15th and 16th century Italy, then it will most like have a number of cities, towns, and villages connected by a decent system of roads, maybe even canals, that will lead to the rivers where barges and other such river craft transport goods to other locations within your kingdom or to other kingdoms. Here are some points for you to consider:

1) Will your larger towns be fortified against raiders or an invasion? If so, then you have a whole selection of offensive and defensive weapons concerning siege warfare.
2) With a decent system of roads your kingdom should have both robbers and soldier patrols traveling such roads.
3) Medieval wars typically start from within a kingdom, so a rogue Duke or a plotting Earl, etc., or between kingdoms who are rivals in trade, commerce, and territorial
expansion. If your kingdom is surrounded by unfriendly neighbors then you will have fortified borders presenting more opportunities for battle.
4) As an afterthought, your larger cities will have their assorted thieves and assassins and city guard patrols to keep them under control.

You may want to add blunt trauma weapons like axes, maces, and hammers because these type of weapons were effective against armor. Considering armor, you may want to add scale mail which are overlapping tiny plates instead of interlocked ring. I think boss-held shields would be mostly used by organized military or guards but I think bucklers would be favored by robbers, bandits, and fast-moving horse mounted men. You have also left out archers and crossbows. These were also effective against armor. Personally, I consider basket hilt weapons to be more suited for dueling or fencing as opposed to battlefield combat but I could be wrong. Best of luck.

Welcheren
08-17-2016, 09:32 PM
Your proposed setting offers opportunities for more weapons then those you originally posted. If it is a mercantile kingdom, which I will assume is larger then the city-states of 15th and 16th century Italy, then it will most like have a number of cities, towns, and villages connected by a decent system of roads, maybe even canals, that will lead to the rivers where barges and other such river craft transport goods to other locations within your kingdom or to other kingdoms. Here are some points for you to consider:

1) Will your larger towns be fortified against raiders or an invasion? If so, then you have a whole selection of offensive and defensive weapons concerning siege warfare.
2) With a decent system of roads your kingdom should have both robbers and soldier patrols traveling such roads.
3) Medieval wars typically start from within a kingdom, so a rogue Duke or a plotting Earl, etc., or between kingdoms who are rivals in trade, commerce, and territorial
expansion. If your kingdom is surrounded by unfriendly neighbors then you will have fortified borders presenting more opportunities for battle.
4) As an afterthought, your larger cities will have their assorted thieves and assassins and city guard patrols to keep them under control.

You may want to add blunt trauma weapons like axes, maces, and hammers because these type of weapons were effective against armor. Considering armor, you may want to add scale mail which are overlapping tiny plates instead of interlocked ring. I think boss-held shields would be mostly used by organized military or guards but I think bucklers would be favored by robbers, bandits, and fast-moving horse mounted men. You have also left out archers and crossbows. These were also effective against armor. Personally, I consider basket hilt weapons to be more suited for dueling or fencing as opposed to battlefield combat but I could be wrong. Best of luck.



Excellent thoughts realityfix.

Thanks. I realise that I forget to mention that the opening list of weapons is not exhaustive. What bothered me was the use of basket hilt swords, which were not prevalent in the 1400s - the era I am loosely basing this world on. All the other weapons you mentioned would be great: axes and maces against mail, pikes and bills as a main polearms, with bows and crossbows for range.

I would prefer to avoid the well trodden fantasy setting of long dusty roads, and sprawling cities have already been done so masterfully by previous authors. I have a taste for smaller trading posts with rural traditions, webbed into large politics.

So: small towns and fewer roads. My thinking along these lines were: If the kingdom has a great many navigable rivers, rapid deployment along the rivers might (hopefully) become a necessity. It occurs to me that one character (who for reasons I shall not bore you with now) aims to break the power of nobles, and intends to do this by breaking the kingdom reliance on their military muscle. The nobles still field heavy infantry. He hopes that by creating an effective, mobile navy with backing from the monarch's standing army in case of invasion, the nobles will be reduced.

Make sense? I don't want readers to go meh when they eventually pick up these elements of the setting. I am not at all married to this idea of extensive river systems. It is not crucial, but I like the fact that it is a little different from many other fantasy settings I have read.

Welcheren
08-17-2016, 09:33 PM
People on ships seem to have preferred smaller, shorter swords, though, of course, short pikes and axes could be used.

River fighting often involved some intricate engineering. For example the blockade at Paris against the Vikings or the Weird amphibious siege engines of the Crusader attack that got smashed in Egypt or the attack on Constantinople.



Thanks Maxx. This is precisely the kind of response I was hoping for. If basket hilt swords are less practical for river fighting, then perhaps I should look at gladius type swords? Actually, given a pseudo 1400s inspiration... what about long rondel daggers?

Maxx
08-17-2016, 11:25 PM
Thanks Maxx. This is precisely the kind of response I was hoping for. If basket hilt swords are less practical for river fighting, then perhaps I should look at gladius type swords? Actually, given a pseudo 1400s inspiration... what about long rondel daggers?

Falchion? Short, heavy, one-sided blade? Kind of like a machete?

Welcheren
08-18-2016, 10:31 AM
Falchion? Short, heavy, one-sided blade? Kind of like a machete?

Made for slashing and cutting... could work. Gambeson offers reasonable defence against it. Mail protects one even better. That could make for nice scenes. I was hoping for a thrusting weapon.

... Actually, the idea of falchions is really growing on me. I am not super familiar with their use, but that's another thing Matt Easton's YouTube channel is good for. What about having some factions use arming swords with finger rings and knuckle bows? Historically, we are not entirely certain when these first appeared, but somewhere in 1400s seems likely, and they would great for thrusting into gambesom. The fact that they are less useful against mail, forcing you to aim for unprotected body parts, makes for a nice set of advantages and disadvantages to play out in a fight sequence.



Larger issue, though: I am beginning to rethink the entire rivers as highway set up. Maybe one or two major arteries for trade.

benbenberi
08-18-2016, 07:01 PM
Larger issue, though: I am beginning to rethink the entire rivers as highway set up. Maybe one or two major arteries for trade.

River travel as the primary linkage between communities makes sense particularly if the country is not conducive to ordinary land routes, e.g. mostly wetlands, densely forested, or very jagged/broken terrain. They're also the best route for moving bulk goods over distances. In Europe even as late as the 18c travel by water was generally more efficient & faster than travel by land -- that's why they were building all those canals. Throughout the middle ages rivers were the primary industrial focus in Europe -- lots of watermills for all sorts of purposes, built at every possible place, and easy access to supplies and markets. Rivers didn't have to be big to carry traffic, they just had to be predictable, and big enough for a boat or raft to float.

So what you've said about your original plan sounds perfectly plausible to me.

Maxx
08-18-2016, 09:11 PM
River travel as the primary linkage between communities makes sense particularly if the country is not conducive to ordinary land routes, e.g. mostly wetlands, densely forested, or very jagged/broken terrain. They're also the best route for moving bulk goods over distances. In Europe even as late as the 18c travel by water was generally more efficient & faster than travel by land -- that's why they were building all those canals. Throughout the middle ages rivers were the primary industrial focus in Europe -- lots of watermills for all sorts of purposes, built at every possible place, and easy access to supplies and markets. Rivers didn't have to be big to carry traffic, they just had to be predictable, and big enough for a boat or raft to float.

So what you've said about your original plan sounds perfectly plausible to me.

I agree with Benbenberi. Bear in mind how extensively re-engineered waterways were even by as early as 1100 in Europe. Waterpowered mills and small canals, channels and weirs and empoundments were all over the place. Not to mention Roman aqueducts and so on.

Maxx
08-18-2016, 09:17 PM
I agree with Benbenberi. Bear in mind how extensively re-engineered waterways were even by as early as 1100 in Europe. Waterpowered mills and small canals, channels and weirs and empoundments were all over the place. Not to mention Roman aqueducts and so on.

My modify thing isn't working -- but don't forget the extensive hydraulic engineering in the lakes in the Valley of Mexico. Quite complex by 1500. Of course those people would have worn quilted armor and hacked at each other with obsidian-edged swords and clubs and big rocks and spear-throwers.

nossmf
08-18-2016, 11:23 PM
So far you've been mostly concerned with personal hand-to-hand combat. Don't forget to have proper ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship defenses. I'm not thinking cannon per se, but more along the lines of ballista, especially bearing burning bolts against ships or onagers to propel widely scattered clusters of anti-personnel devices (mini-bombs or poisoned caltrops) against people.

Welcheren
08-19-2016, 11:39 AM
River travel as the primary linkage between communities makes sense particularly if the country is not conducive to ordinary land routes, e.g. mostly wetlands, densely forested, or very jagged/broken terrain. They're also the best route for moving bulk goods over distances. In Europe even as late as the 18c travel by water was generally more efficient & faster than travel by land -- that's why they were building all those canals. Throughout the middle ages rivers were the primary industrial focus in Europe -- lots of watermills for all sorts of purposes, built at every possible place, and easy access to supplies and markets. Rivers didn't have to be big to carry traffic, they just had to be predictable, and big enough for a boat or raft to float.

So what you've said about your original plan sounds perfectly plausible to me.


This helps a great deal benbenberi, especially by giving me a feasible way of making the development of Roman-style roads less likely. I had actually forgotten about all the water wheels. Thanks a bunch.

I have been reading up on river travel during the Middle Ages and I would appreciate if you would let know if the following makes sense:

First, I am grateful for your point that I should think about making the terrain between rivers less conducive to road building.

Second, sources suggest that one of the factors that could make travel by river less efficient than by roads (provided these are excellent roads) is the number of bends, sandbanks and shallows, as well as contrary winds. So: let's imagine a kingdom blessed with a high number of fairly large rivers, moving fairly straight in one direction, with rugged terrain between them. This allows for convenient one-way travel. I might also add a coast line that allows decent travel in the opposite directions.

Third, all these natural advantages makes this kingdom the envy of hostile neighbours.



Of course, this is all backdrop to the characters' personal conflicts.

Welcheren
08-19-2016, 11:41 AM
So far you've been mostly concerned with personal hand-to-hand combat. Don't forget to have proper ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship defenses. I'm not thinking cannon per se, but more along the lines of ballista, especially bearing burning bolts against ships or onagers to propel widely scattered clusters of anti-personnel devices (mini-bombs or poisoned caltrops) against people.


In thinking about how the characters' personal conflicts intersect with this river-travel world, I had actually forgotten all about those weapons. Thanks so much. Simon Scarrow has a great novel on naval fighting in the Roman world. Will definitely reread that.

Welcheren
08-19-2016, 11:45 AM
I agree with Benbenberi. Bear in mind how extensively re-engineered waterways were even by as early as 1100 in Europe. Waterpowered mills and small canals, channels and weirs and empoundments were all over the place. Not to mention Roman aqueducts and so on.



All great points. Before even thinking of this book, I spent a great deal of time reading about political, military and cultural developments in early modern Europe. But all these wonderfully useful points were only covered briefly, so thanks for giving a list of points to research. What really kicks me now is that my day job is sponging up my time for research. But I guess everyone has that.


Sorry for the multiple posts - I struggle to get multi-quote working.

snafu1056
08-19-2016, 05:45 PM
Since it's fantasy, no need to restrict your inspirations to just Europe. They were doing a ton of this kind of stuff in medieval Asia too. A good quick read on the subject (with lots of pictures) would be Osprey Publishing's Fighting Ships of The Far East (https://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Ships-Far-East-Vol/dp/1841764787) series.

Welcheren
08-20-2016, 09:56 PM
Since it's fantasy, no need to restrict your inspirations to just Europe. They were doing a ton of this kind of stuff in medieval Asia too. A good quick read on the subject (with lots of pictures) would be Osprey Publishing's Fighting Ships of The Far East (https://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Ships-Far-East-Vol/dp/1841764787) series.


Thanks for the source. This look great, and its precisely the sort of response I was hoping for. Will definitely give it a read.

H.G.Aguilar
09-23-2016, 02:54 PM
Do not forget that clashes of culture almost always result in convergences of technology. In my book, the advanced invader uses the glassworking technology of the victims to create even more horrific weapons.

Brian G Turner
10-30-2016, 09:01 PM
Mine mediaeval Europe all you want - but it might help to think about peoples and cultures, rather than just the weaponry. Especially as we're so used to standardisation in the modern world, and that certainly didn't exist through the mediaeval period for arms. The more specialised you make those arms, the more they are in danger of standing out as being out of context.

For example, you abandon basket-hilt swords for the Roman gladius at the drop of a hat, which makes no sense - these are very different weapons used in very different periods to support very different methods of fighting.

Also, rivers *were* the primary means of navigation inland. Europe is filled with rivers, and even small and otherwise unremarkable ones are perfectly capable of being used by shallow-draft boats - as we know too well from the viking excursions of the Danes.