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Martin Evensen




Location: Norway
Joined: 12 Dec 2007

Posts: 12

PostPosted: Thu 13 Dec, 2007 8:43 pm    Post subject: Hi, and a few quick questions regarding medieval weapons         Reply with quote

Hey everyone, I'm Martin and I'm obviously new here. I found this site while searching for articles on various polearms. I've found alot of answers just by lurking for a few days, but I need to confirm some of my suspicions.

I wrote a long post yesterday, but windows update was helpful and restarted my computer while I was away checking a few scources. Mad

So instead I'll just open up with a few questions for my Wheel of Time roleplaying game.

1. Halberd vs English Bill. Which is the longest? Can both strike enemies 10 feet away? Does either of them have an advantage over cavalry the other does not?

2. Are the weapons called Poleaxe and Guisarme significantly different than the ones above in use or effectiveness?

3. Spears. Will spears equal in lenght to the ones used by the Greek Hoplites be any advantage vs cavalry? I'm not just talking lancers here, also sword-based heavy cavalry and light cavalry using short spears or swords. How long can spears be before you need two hands to wield them effectively? Are there any historical two-handed spears that could be thrown 20' or more?

Are the short ikwla (sp?) zulu spear of any real use against cavalry of any kind, or will any sword, club or axe be as good or better? I've played too much Total War games were spears are always good vs cavalry, but I suspect the length of the weapon is the only thing that matters here.

That's it for now. I may have some armor questions later on, as most armors in my game seems no better than the ones in D&D.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Fri 14 Dec, 2007 2:42 am    Post subject: Re: Hi, and a few quick questions regarding medieval weapon         Reply with quote

Martin Evensen wrote:
1. Halberd vs English Bill. Which is the longest?


They're more or less identical as far as techniques are concerned. Some 16th-century Italian fencing masters actually said this in fairly explicit terms within their fencing manuals.

Quote:
Can both strike enemies 10 feet away?


It depends. 10 feet from a static position? I don't think so. But it does not sound implausible when the attack is done in conjunction with some sort of footwork like a passing step or a lunge.

Quote:
Does either of them have an advantage over cavalry the other does not?


Not as far as I know. And I don't really think the halberd was specifically an anti-cavalry weapon--its usefulness against cavalry primarily derived from the spear point at its top, and this is by no means a feature unique to the halberd or bill. If anything, it would seem to be a much more versatile weapon against an unarmored or lightly-armored opponent on foot!

Quote:
2. Are the weapons called Poleaxe and Guisarme significantly different than the ones above in use or effectiveness?


Yes, in a sense. The halberd and bill both had sharp cutting edges good for use against unarmored troops, while the poleaxe with its hammer-head and narrow, massive top spike was probably designed with heavily-armored opponents in mind. Poleaxe techniques also seem to involve a great deal more grappling and wrestling than halberd/bill techniques because throws, locks, and takedowns can often be more effective against an armored opponent than a straightforward long-range blow.

Oddly, I think the "gisarme" should be in the halberd/bill rather than the poleaxe category, but we can't really be sure because inconsistency was the hallmark of medieval polearm nomenclature!

Quote:
3. Spears. Will spears equal in lenght to the ones used by the Greek Hoplites be any advantage vs cavalry?


No--not the spear as such. What gives you an advantage against cavalry is not this weapon or that but rather a tightly-packed, unyielding formation. If you can keep that formation then you'd probably be able to convince the horsemen to abandon their charge before they reached your lines regardless of what your men were armed with.

Quote:
I'm not just talking lancers here, also sword-based heavy cavalry and light cavalry using short spears or swords.


A division between lance-armed and sword-armed cavalry in a medieval or pseudo-medieval setting may be a little naive because...well, medieval lance-armed cavalry always carried swords as well, while cavalrymen who had swords but not lances usually carried another weapon beside the sword, like crossbows or handguns. The 16th- and 17th-century cavalrymen from whom Robert Jordan (the author of the original WoT series) derived much visual (but not tactical) inspiration were sword-and-pistol cavalry, not sword-only cavalry. Perhaps the only setting where I can find a convincing example of cavalry primarily armed with swords and rarely using any other weapon is 18th- and 19th-century Europe, where the great proliferation of gunpowder weapons had forced most infantrymen to abandon armor--this unarmored condition, ironically, made them more vulnerable to swords and so the sword began to assume a greater dominance among heavy cavalry weapons than it had ever had before.

Quote:
How long can spears be before you need two hands to wield them effectively?


Again, it depends. If you can brace the spear against the ground or the top of your shield, this can get pretty long. But it's a safe bet that anything over eight or ten feet would be quite hard to wield in only one hand, so either of those points can be used as a rough (and definitely not universal) guide of the difference between "spear" and "pike."

Quote:
Are there any historical two-handed spears that could be thrown 20' or more?


It depends again! Wink

OK, seriously now. The eight-foot spear used by most Western European cavalrymen at the end of the 11th century (including those wielded by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings) was probably near the "wieldiness" limit for one-handed spears, but we have narrative and pictorial evidence that it was used for throwing as well as for hand-to-hand attacks in the overhand, underhand, and couched manner. The momentum of the horse definitely helped to extend the spear's range when thrown and I'm sure it would have been able to reach well beyond twenty feet. I'm not sure about anything longer than that.

On the other hand, we should remember that most historical javelins were a lot larger than what modern people imagine them to be--a length of four feet was probably not uncommon, and might have actually been at or near the lower end of the spectrum. Longer javelins that could double as hand-to-hand weapons tended to be the rule rather than the exception because such javelins would have been both economical and effective. Were any of them long enough that they had to be wielded with two hands in hand-to-hand combat? I'm not sure, though I think the answer is probably not.

Quote:
Are the short ikwla (sp?) zulu spear of any real use against cavalry of any kind, or will any sword, club or axe be as good or better? I've played too much Total War games were spears are always good vs cavalry, but I suspect the length of the weapon is the only thing that matters here.


Look above. It's not the weapon that mattered, it's the formation--and, of course, discipline. The Carolingian Franks repelled Moorish cavalry assaults "like a wall of ice" at one point during the tactical encounter at Tours/Poitiers, and they did this with formations of sword-armed men who might have been infantrymen trained according to the Frankish version of Vegetius's late-Roman military manual. I wouldn't be surprised if this interpretation is correct (if, because the "swordsmen" mentioned might have been a mounted bodyguard instead).

The Zulu iklwa, FYI, was primarily an anti-infantry weapon and its broad-bladed, sharp-edged profile was tailored for use against unarmored opponents. There might have been incidents where the ZUlus faced horse- or camel-mounted opponents (I can't quite rmemeber whether my memories of it were from a work of fiction or non-fiction) but, knowing the ZUlus, they probably won by attacking the mounted enemies first rather than waiting for their charge!

Oh, yes, an aggressive infantry opponent was very disconcerting to cavalrymen. And the Total War games are not really very good places to look beyond the most basic details because a tactical game certainly needs some simplification in order to fit its code within a manageable file size, and one (over-)simplification the TW games made was by casting spear, sword, and horse as a simple rock-paper-scissors triangle where each component is particularly strong against another and particularly weak against the third--whereas we know that the historical reality is not that simple.

Those are the best answers I can give according to the limits of my knowledge. As you probably can tell after only a couple of days' browsing, there are many people more knowledgeable than me in this forum!
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Martin Evensen




Location: Norway
Joined: 12 Dec 2007

Posts: 12

PostPosted: Fri 14 Dec, 2007 4:58 am    Post subject: Re: Hi, and a few quick questions regarding medieval weapon         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Martin Evensen wrote:
1. Halberd vs English Bill. Which is the longest?


They're more or less identical as far as techniques are concerned. Some 16th-century Italian fencing masters actually said this in fairly explicit terms within their fencing manuals.


Ok, that was a suprise to me. After browsing around in a spotlight thead regarding poleaxes and halberds, someone said that the english "black" militairy bill was about 5-6 feet long, while the "forest" bill was 8 feet long. In my game they gave the Bill 10' reach but not the Poleaxe, which I found weird.

Quote:
Can both strike enemies 10 feet away?


Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
It depends. 10 feet from a static position? I don't think so. But it does not sound implausible when the attack is done in conjunction with some sort of footwork like a passing step or a lunge.
A lunge, yeah I think that can be applied. I have to think in the terms of game rules, and they are very abstract. For instance, most melee weapons in that game has can be used to attack opponents 5' away, be it a dagger or a bastard sword.

Quote:
Does either of them have an advantage over cavalry the other does not?


Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Not as far as I know. And I don't really think the halberd was specifically an anti-cavalry weapon--its usefulness against cavalry primarily derived from the spear point at its top, and this is by no means a feature unique to the halberd or bill. If anything, it would seem to be a much more versatile weapon against an unarmored or lightly-armored opponent on foot!


Well the pointy end might be able to be set in the ground against a charge, creating a wall of points. But I suspected the main advantage would be the "hook" of the axe could used to grab someone and pull him out of the saddle, something I doubt can be as easily done with a sword or spear. Isn't the hook on the Bill created for this exact purpose? (not necessarily against cavalry)

Quote:
2. Are the weapons called Poleaxe and Guisarme significantly different than the ones above in use or effectiveness?


Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Yes, in a sense. The halberd and bill both had sharp cutting edges good for use against unarmored troops, while the poleaxe with its hammer-head and narrow, massive top spike was probably designed with heavily-armored opponents in mind. Poleaxe techniques also seem to involve a great deal more grappling and wrestling than halberd/bill techniques because throws, locks, and takedowns can often be more effective against an armored opponent than a straightforward long-range blow.


Oh, I thought poleaxes didn't need to have a hammerhead to be a poleaxe. And doesen't heavy axeheads fare better against armor than swords, as their weight and concentrated blows can crush bones beneath the armor? And again, I thought the main difference between a Bill and a Glaive was the hook that can be used for grappling.

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Oddly, I think the "gisarme" should be in the halberd/bill rather than the poleaxe category, but we can't really be sure because inconsistency was the hallmark of medieval polearm nomenclature!


I thought a Guisarme was just a catch-all for all polearms with hooks on a blade, and thus would be used in a similar manner to a Bill. A Halberd at least distinguishes itself for having an axehead.



Quote:
3. Spears. Will spears equal in lenght to the ones used by the Greek Hoplites be any advantage vs cavalry?


Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
No--not the spear as such. What gives you an advantage against cavalry is not this weapon or that but rather a tightly-packed, unyielding formation. If you can keep that formation then you'd probably be able to convince the horsemen to abandon their charge before they reached your lines regardless of what your men were armed with.


So a bunch of Swiss mercenaries armed with daggers could hold a line against heavy lancers? I thought the whole point about pikes was to make a spear wall that could kill the enemy horse or rider before they could strike? And even though Hoplites don't exactly use phalanx tactics, I thought the point there was to present a wall of spearpoints rushing against the enemy line.

Quote:
I'm not just talking lancers here, also sword-based heavy cavalry and light cavalry using short spears or swords.


Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
A division between lance-armed and sword-armed cavalry in a medieval or pseudo-medieval setting may be a little naive because...well, medieval lance-armed cavalry always carried swords as well, while cavalrymen who had swords but not lances usually carried another weapon beside the sword, like crossbows or handguns. The 16th- and 17th-century cavalrymen from whom Robert Jordan (the author of the original WoT series) derived much visual (but not tactical) inspiration were sword-and-pistol cavalry, not sword-only cavalry. Perhaps the only setting where I can find a convincing example of cavalry primarily armed with swords and rarely using any other weapon is 18th- and 19th-century Europe, where the great proliferation of gunpowder weapons had forced most infantrymen to abandon armor--this unarmored condition, ironically, made them more vulnerable to swords and so the sword began to assume a greater dominance among heavy cavalry weapons than it had ever had before.


Good point, sword-only cavalry was probably a thing of the past (or future), if it even existed. My take on Jordan's cavalry is that they operate as lancers, as their leaders seems to dream of glorious charges that are almost always countered by pikemen. The Shienaran heavy cavalry seems to me very much akin to Agincourt-style french knights. That is heavy plate, lances and shields. Gunpowder doesen't seem to be used in that setting (apart from Mat), so pikemen and heavy crossbows seems to be the only counter against heavy cav.

Quote:
How long can spears be before you need two hands to wield them effectively?


Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Again, it depends. If you can brace the spear against the ground or the top of your shield, this can get pretty long. But it's a safe bet that anything over eight or ten feet would be quite hard to wield in only one hand, so either of those points can be used as a rough (and definitely not universal) guide of the difference between "spear" and "pike."


I'm talking about spears that can be used effectively also out of formation or even single combat. Lances can be gripped and held in one hand, but I doubt they would be much effective at that without the speed of the mount while on foot.

Quote:
Are there any historical two-handed spears that could be thrown 20' or more?


Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
It depends again! Wink

OK, seriously now. The eight-foot spear used by most Western European cavalrymen at the end of the 11th century (including those wielded by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings) was probably near the "wieldiness" limit for one-handed spears, but we have narrative and pictorial evidence that it was used for throwing as well as for hand-to-hand attacks in the overhand, underhand, and couched manner. The momentum of the horse definitely helped to extend the spear's range when thrown and I'm sure it would have been able to reach well beyond twenty feet. I'm not sure about anything longer than that.


Well when used in the saddle in the couched manner, all bets are off. Couldn't lances be as long as 12-14 feet? I was thinking more about infantry weapons here.

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
On the other hand, we should remember that most historical javelins were a lot larger than what modern people imagine them to be--a length of four feet was probably not uncommon, and might have actually been at or near the lower end of the spectrum. Longer javelins that could double as hand-to-hand weapons tended to be the rule rather than the exception because such javelins would have been both economical and effective. Were any of them long enough that they had to be wielded with two hands in hand-to-hand combat? I'm not sure, though I think the answer is probably not.


A four foot javelin doesen't sound wrong to me. Even the D&D one is more than 5' long.

Quote:
Are the short ikwla (sp?) zulu spear of any real use against cavalry of any kind, or will any sword, club or axe be as good or better? I've played too much Total War games were spears are always good vs cavalry, but I suspect the length of the weapon is the only thing that matters here.


Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Look above. It's not the weapon that mattered, it's the formation--and, of course, discipline. The Carolingian Franks repelled Moorish cavalry assaults "like a wall of ice" at one point during the tactical encounter at Tours/Poitiers, and they did this with formations of sword-armed men who might have been infantrymen trained according to the Frankish version of Vegetius's late-Roman military manual. I wouldn't be surprised if this interpretation is correct (if, because the "swordsmen" mentioned might have been a mounted bodyguard instead).

The Zulu iklwa, FYI, was primarily an anti-infantry weapon and its broad-bladed, sharp-edged profile was tailored for use against unarmored opponents. There might have been incidents where the ZUlus faced horse- or camel-mounted opponents (I can't quite rmemeber whether my memories of it were from a work of fiction or non-fiction) but, knowing the Zulus, they probably won by attacking the mounted enemies first rather than waiting for their charge!


Hmm, that would be a sight to see, a bunch of spiced up Zulu's charging with their short spears a heavy cavalry unit also charging with their lances. I don't know, I guess the Zulu's would take heavy casualties from such an impact, if the horses did not turn. The Zulu's could still win I think, with overwhelming numbers and/or flanking tactics.

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Oh, yes, an aggressive infantry opponent was very disconcerting to cavalrymen. And the Total War games are not really very good places to look beyond the most basic details because a tactical game certainly needs some simplification in order to fit its code within a manageable file size, and one (over-)simplification the TW games made was by casting spear, sword, and horse as a simple rock-paper-scissors triangle where each component is particularly strong against another and particularly weak against the third--whereas we know that the historical reality is not that simple.


But I like the rock-paper-scissors! Are you telling me all that is rubbish? Nooo! Ah yes well I know the game is simplified, but I actually believed in the "spears beat cavalry" dogma from these games. They made sense in Shogun at least, even if the Yari wasn't as long as the Pike. Oh, and it's spear>horse>bows btw Happy Swords beat spears wasn't really introduced until Medieval 1, and even then I found my Order Spearmen or Italian Infantry units capable against feudal men-at-arms using sword and shield.

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Those are the best answers I can give according to the limits of my knowledge. As you probably can tell after only a couple of days' browsing, there are many people more knowledgeable than me in this forum!


Well I haven't read enough to actually know which is better than others. Waiting for a few to make a comment though Wink

Now the reason I was asking about historical weapons is that I feel the rules of the game doesen't correspond with my (limited) historical supicions. Since my historical scources include Total War and Civilization games, I want to ask more knowledgeable people here on these fora before making any changes that might be in error anyway.

I don't care to make the weapons of my game 100% historical correct, as that would make it unplayable. I want a balance between simplicity (similar weapons use the same stats), playability (weapons should be balanced, even if historically inaccurate) and believability (me and my players should be able to use them in the game without going "WTF?"

In my WoT D20 game the weapons have certain qualities, in addition to varying damage rolled on special dice. Determing these qualities is what I need to feel better about the weapons. In D&D I can handwave it, but I want my world to be more in flavor of Jordan's world who was an avid weapons collector and history buff.

In this game weapons can have the following qualities: Reach (can strike targets 10' away, otherwise only 5'), Trip (can grab/grapple enemies and make them fall down), Disarm (can more easily be used to grab weapons and pull them away), Set against charge: Can be used to cause double damage to a charging enemy.

The Poleaxe got Trip and Set, but not Reach. The Bill got Reach and Trip, but not Set. In the interest of the game, do you think these weapons should have the abilities they have or should they be changed? FYI the Poleaxe has the higher damage, so giving it Reach might unbalance it compared to the Bill (which is only marginally cheaper).

In the game there is also something called a "Seanchan Spear." Although this is a fantasy weapon, it uses the exact same stats as the normal Spear does in D&D: Two hander, can be thrown 20-100', can be set against charge. It also has the same damage as a sword and axe, which might be the reason the designers wanted to require two hands, as it is much cheaper than a sword and has special abilities as well. In the books the Seanchan uses spear and shield combo, and there is nothing special about the spears except that they have colorful tassels.

Now there is obviously a difference in the rules and author's take on this weapon, but I wondered what you history people might have to say about it's realistic use.

That will do for now, hope I don't bore you with game rules.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Dec, 2007 6:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi there.

Depends entirely on time and place. Some helbards where quite long, others quite short. What defines them is the shape of the head, not the length of the shaft.

Polaxes, however, are all short, typically 6.something feet. They are used in relatively close combat by heavily armoured men.

Georg Silver states
"To know the perfect length of your short staff, or half pike, forest bill, partisan, or glaive, or such like weapons of vantage and perfect lengths, you shall stand upright, holding the staff upright close by your body, with your left hand, reaching with your right hand your staff as high as you can, and then allow to that length a space to set both your hands, when you come to fight, wherein you may conveniently strike, thrust, and ward, & that is the just length to be made according to your stature. And this note, that these lengths will commonly fall out to be eight or nine foot long.."
-Silver, Pardoxes of Defence, 1599

So, with a step or thrust, a long polearm can definitely reach 10 feet.

Agianst cavalry, any weapon that has the posibility to hook and pull is good. Note, though, that this in not going to help the poor sod in the front rank, who will take the full force of the charge before he has the posibility to retaliate, as the knig-it will be armed with a 16 ft lance for exactly that purpose.
Once the cavalry gets bogged down, however, polearms are great.
Spears are also good against cavalry, as they pierce armour better than other weapons, and give you reach.
In fact, it's easier to say that short weapons are bad against cavalry, since thats mostly the way it goes.

The maximum length of your one handed spear depends on the thickness of the shaft. The Byzantine skutaoi carried one handed spears 4 m (13ft) long! (Now, where did those go in MTW?...) These where made from light wood, with shafts 2cm or less in diameter, and typically thrown.

Even with little training I can throw my 2,4m (ca 8ft) one handed spear 20 ft. Its not traveling all that fast though.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Martin Evensen




Location: Norway
Joined: 12 Dec 2007

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Dec, 2007 10:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Hi there.

Depends entirely on time and place. Some helbards where quite long, others quite short. What defines them is the shape of the head, not the length of the shaft.

Polaxes, however, are all short, typically 6.something feet. They are used in relatively close combat by heavily armoured men.

Georg Silver states
"To know the perfect length of your short staff, or half pike, forest bill, partisan, or glaive, or such like weapons of vantage and perfect lengths, you shall stand upright, holding the staff upright close by your body, with your left hand, reaching with your right hand your staff as high as you can, and then allow to that length a space to set both your hands, when you come to fight, wherein you may conveniently strike, thrust, and ward, & that is the just length to be made according to your stature. And this note, that these lengths will commonly fall out to be eight or nine foot long.."
-Silver, Pardoxes of Defence, 1599

So, with a step or thrust, a long polearm can definitely reach 10 feet.

Agianst cavalry, any weapon that has the posibility to hook and pull is good. Note, though, that this in not going to help the poor sod in the front rank, who will take the full force of the charge before he has the posibility to retaliate, as the knig-it will be armed with a 16 ft lance for exactly that purpose.
Once the cavalry gets bogged down, however, polearms are great.
Spears are also good against cavalry, as they pierce armour better than other weapons, and give you reach.
In fact, it's easier to say that short weapons are bad against cavalry, since thats mostly the way it goes.

The maximum length of your one handed spear depends on the thickness of the shaft. The Byzantine skutaoi carried one handed spears 4 m (13ft) long! (Now, where did those go in MTW?...) These where made from light wood, with shafts 2cm or less in diameter, and typically thrown.

Even with little training I can throw my 2,4m (ca 8ft) one handed spear 20 ft. Its not traveling all that fast though.


Hei Elling Happy Artig å se nordmenn her også. /gibberish

More well though out answers here. It seems I came to the right place. 16' lance you say... hmm, how to work that into the game system? I suppose 15' reach could do the trick, if I also give pikes 20' reach (some pikes were 24' I think). That would make halberds, bills etc. 10' reach and still not perfect against cavalry, but give them advantage against foes with swords, axes and short spears.

BTW did you read the latter part of my previous reply? Historical notes and scources are good, but I need to alter the system as little as possible in regard to balance and simplicity as well. The exact length of the character's weapons are unimportant, but what category their weapons are in is all that matters.

I didn't know about the Skutaoi, javeliners with 4 meters long javelins sound awesome. The think shafts would make them ineffective in close combat though I think, as they would break rather easily.

Thanks for your answers.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Dec, 2007 11:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lances where lengthened to counter pikes, and vise versa. But, for most purposes they are about the same.

Thing about cavalry is that they dont STOP on the spotwhen they hit. Even if they pull back out after breaking their lances, the turn will bring them into range of the foe.
Say they hit, and move one a couple of meters. They are now within reach of about ten foes, depending on how tight the formation is.
Of course, he COULD just keep on going right through, if the formation is lose and he is lucky.

As a rule, spears and pikes are a bit longer than the long polearms used in their age. "Short" poles like great axes, polaxes and so stay at roughly six feet.

However, RPG systems, PARTICULARLY D&D is well known as the source of many common misconseptions about arms and armour...

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Pierre T.




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Dec, 2007 1:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:

However, RPG systems, PARTICULARLY D&D is well known as the source of many common misconseptions about arms and armour...


Oh yeah.

Calling an arming sword a "longsword" is a classical mistake they've been doing for years. Lately (well third edition) they have come up with these rather ridiculous double headed weapons - the gnomish pick/hammer being particularly offensive.

I love the game but yeah, some things were definitely gotten wrong.

Pierre
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Martin Evensen




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Dec, 2007 1:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pierre T. wrote:
Elling Polden wrote:

However, RPG systems, PARTICULARLY D&D is well known as the source of many common misconseptions about arms and armour...


Oh yeah.

Calling an arming sword a "longsword" is a classical mistake they've been doing for years. Lately (well third edition) they have come up with these rather ridiculous double headed weapons - the gnomish pick/hammer being particularly offensive.

I love the game but yeah, some things were definitely gotten wrong.

Pierre


Yeah I know alot of things are wrong. But as for the longsword, I'll stick with it because the players are familiar with the term. Calling it an arming sword won't change anything.

I've noticed a half-hearted attempt in WoT D20 to change some of that - but only the nomenclature. For example, instead of chain mail and full chain they call them mail shirt and full mail. They've also introduced Brigantine shirt and Full Brigantine (taking the place of scale mail and splint mail, respectively).

That's some of the reasons why I want to change things, when they already changed names but kept the old rules, I want those new names to make sense. But ah, that's another thread.

Elling good point about cavalry and momentum. Strangely enough, in d20 you actually need a feat (called Ride-by Attack) to charge a foe on horseback and continue the charge without drawing extra attacks and exposing yourself to the one you just attacked (if he survived). Seems like something has to change there as well Happy
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 21 Dec, 2007 5:23 am    Post subject: Re: Hi, and a few quick questions regarding medieval weapon         Reply with quote

Martin Evensen wrote:
Oh, I thought poleaxes didn't need to have a hammerhead to be a poleaxe. And doesen't heavy axeheads fare better against armor than swords, as their weight and concentrated blows can crush bones beneath the armor?


No, and some poleaxes did have axeheads. But in a curious twist of terminology, most of them had hammer-heads instead of axe-heads!

As for the axe's advantage against armor, I suppose that'd be true for flexible armor like mail, but against plate you're probably not going to be any better off than if you were trying to cut the armor with a sword. You'd just get a "ding" and a jarred arm and an enemy who stares at you in puzzlement for an instant before he whacks you over the head. A more beneficial use for the axehead against a plate-armored opponent would be for hooking with the crooked inner "edge," which is often sharpened just for this purpose. You should probably ask Hugh Knight about this, since he seems to have done a lot of research on the use of poleaxes (and isn't reluctant to post/argue about it on the forums).


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I thought a Guisarme was just a catch-all for all polearms with hooks on a blade, and thus would be used in a similar manner to a Bill. A Halberd at least distinguishes itself for having an axehead.


That classification for "Guisarme" is probably valid for a museum curator's cataloguing and categorization purposes. Unfortunately, the martial artist's perspective doesn't necessarily coincide with the museum curator's, and...well, most of the weapons labeled as "guisarme" in the curators' scheme seem like they'd fit alongside the halberd and the bill when it comes to martial utilization.


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So a bunch of Swiss mercenaries armed with daggers could hold a line against heavy lancers?


I think they have a fair chance--as long as they kept their formation.


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I thought the whole point about pikes was to make a spear wall that could kill the enemy horse or rider before they could strike?


No. The whole point about pikes was to present the threat of impaling the horses and riders. When a pike stands firm before a cavalry charge, the horsemen would almost always veer away and retreat before impact rather than rushing headlong into the forest of pike-points. Of course, exceptions exist, but there's a reason why they're called exceptions. And remember that military historians speak of pike formations repelling mounted charges or the charges being repulsed by the pike formation, not of pikemen killing the horsemen flat out?


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And even though Hoplites don't exactly use phalanx tactics, I thought the point there was to present a wall of spearpoints rushing against the enemy line.


With the hoplites, it was more a wall of shields than a wall of spearpoints. A spear might break or skid away or be jarred out of your hand. But the huge bronze aspis is...well, huge, and heavy to boot, and a line of aspides with the momentum of a whole mas of onrushing men behind would be quite scary, to say the least.

BTW, why did you say hoplites didn't use phalanx tactics? They didn't use the Macedonian pike phalanx, of course, but their formation was a phalanx--a distinct kind of phalanx, in fact, known among modern historians as the "hoplite phalanx" to distinguish it from the Macedonian model. The Greeks themselves first used the term phalanges for the hoplite formation long before the Macedonian pike phalanx was born.


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My take on Jordan's cavalry is that they operate as lancers, as their leaders seems to dream of glorious charges that are almost always countered by pikemen. The Shienaran heavy cavalry seems to me very much akin to Agincourt-style french knights. That is heavy plate, lances and shields.


When you've studied medieval and Renaissance military history, you'll find that Jordan's approach to pre-modern tactics is way too simplistic. I've criticized him elsewhere about projecting Viet Nam sensibilities (he was a 'Nam vet) to medieval warfare. The Aiel in his books are all but VC armed with spears and bows instead of Kalashnikovs and RPGs!

Oh, the French at Agincourt mostly fought on foot with swords on poleaxes. And their armor provided such complete protection that most of them had discarded shields altogether in order to be able to wield their weapons in two hands (for both greater power and better control).


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I'm talking about spears that can be used effectively also out of formation or even single combat. Lances can be gripped and held in one hand, but I doubt they would be much effective at that without the speed of the mount while on foot.


Er...that'd be the Norman cavalrymen's spear. Less than a century after Hastings, an English force of 400 men-at-arms fighting with their spears on foot repelled the mounted charge of about 400 French men-at-arms on horseback. There is no reason to believe that the two opposing forces fought with two different kinds of spears, since the English force dismounted from their horses when they saw the French--so they were men-at-arms (milites) just like the French, not lowly foot (pedites).


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Well when used in the saddle in the couched manner, all bets are off. Couldn't lances be as long as 12-14 feet? I was thinking more about infantry weapons here.


In medieval Europe, lances only became that long in the late 12th century or so. Before that their spear was a general-purpose thrusting, charging, and throwing weapon. And even in the later days the lance was still considered suitable for use as pikes, since this was exactly how a group of dismounted Italian men-at-arms drove off a bunch of Swiss halberdiers at Arbedo (1422). Note that late-medieval Italian lances are often said to be longer than the lances of most other peoples in their time, so they'd be particularly suitable for conversion into the infantry pike role.


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Hmm, that would be a sight to see, a bunch of spiced up Zulu's charging with their short spears a heavy cavalry unit also charging with their lances. I don't know, I guess the Zulu's would take heavy casualties from such an impact, if the horses did not turn. The Zulu's could still win I think, with overwhelming numbers and/or flanking tactics.


The horses would turn, trust me. If you're a horseman who has been taught that foot are going to run away when you attack, and suddenly you're faced with a bunch of foot that doesn't run away and is actually trying to attack you, wouldn't you get frightened out of your wits?


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Now the reason I was asking about historical weapons is that I feel the rules of the game doesen't correspond with my (limited) historical supicions. Since my historical scources include Total War and Civilization games, I want to ask more knowledgeable people here on these fora before making any changes that might be in error anyway.

I don't care to make the weapons of my game 100% historical correct, as that would make it unplayable. I want a balance between simplicity (similar weapons use the same stats), playability (weapons should be balanced, even if historically inaccurate) and believability (me and my players should be able to use them in the game without going "WTF?"


See, I'm afraid you're asking the wrong questions here. You're DMing an RPG session with how many PCs fighting at the same time--four? Five? Six? And how many enemies? A dozen? The tactics and mechanics of fighting at that scale can be very different from a large-scale tactical encounter on the battlefield. Just think about pitting a single pikeman against a single horseman; I'd bet the pikeman will be dead in five seconds flat. But raise the stakes and pit 100 horsemen against a square of 100 pikemen and the horsemen would be stumped unless they had infantry or artillery support.

So let's narrow down the field of our discussion here. Are you talking of the usual small-scale encounters between adventuring parties and NPC enemies, or of massed battlefield encounters? If it's the former, then let's focus on that and not veer into the largely irrelevant field of massed battlefield tactics.


Elling Polden wrote:
The maximum length of your one handed spear depends on the thickness of the shaft. The Byzantine skutaoi carried one handed spears 4 m (13ft) long! (Now, where did those go in MTW?...) These where made from light wood, with shafts 2cm or less in diameter, and typically thrown.


Umm...really? I thought the Early Byzantine skoutatoi who carried throwable spears of the Late Roman spear--as modelled on the Emperor Maurikios's Strategikon--was quite different from the thematic/tagmatic skoutatoi (later renamed to kontaratoi) who carried pikes. Neither were the same as Nikephorian skoutatoi who operated in combined formations of spearmen and archers. We must be careful not to conflate details from different periods here.


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Thing about cavalry is that they dont STOP on the spotwhen they hit. Even if they pull back out after breaking their lances, the turn will bring them into range of the foe.
Say they hit, and move one a couple of meters. They are now within reach of about ten foes, depending on how tight the formation is.


That's the point. When cavalry was repulsed, they usually retreated without contact or hand to-hand fighting. They knew they'd be slaughtered if they entered an unbroken infantry formation without support.
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Jean-Carle Hudon




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PostPosted: Fri 21 Dec, 2007 6:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette,
with regards to the hallebarde vs cavalry: halberds or hallebardes are often referred to as having a hook which is useful in catching armour and serving to unhorse cavalrymen. Of course this is also useful in tripping up infantrymen, a good hook is a very versatile tool, but I wouldn't eliminate its' use against armoured cavalry .

Bon coeur et bon bras
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Bob Burns




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec, 2007 2:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Martin, I just want to say hello to you and welcome you to the myArmoury Forum, congratulations, you have found the best website on the Internet related to the collecting of historic arms and armour! This website created by Nathan Robinson has been extremely helpful to me, there are numerous experts in various fields who are part of the forum and they too have helped me so much it's incredible! I can't thank myArmoury and these Experts enough for all they've done to help me in their postings Exclamation
I guess I should sit down one day and figure out how this "Quote" feature works, I've been a member since early September of 2005 and I still don't know how to use this feature! Laughing Out Loud At some things I am just a nimbnull! LOL!
The next time I go to a cutting get together I am going to ask one of the members to teach me how to use this feature.

Anyway, welcome and I really enjoyed your very intelligent posts!

Sincerely!

Bob
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Robin Palmer




Location: herne bay Kent UK
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PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec, 2007 4:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi martin Like you I am new to this site and finding it interesting reference your questions i would like to add a few points that may be of interest.
Reference the bill question I agree with most of what has been written with but must disagree with the statements concerning it's effect against heavy armour. I have done re-enactment for thirty years and studied arms for forty so I have some experience with using medieval weapons. The bill was very effective against plate the blade weight and shaft length gave a massive strike well capable of splitting the best plate. The duke of Burgundy was killed by bill men one blow sheered his plate open the second stab to the buttocks finished him. The bills main weakness was the profusion of hooks points and bit tended to tangle in opponants equipment the same fault noted in the Hali bard. I would also note that in a bill verses pike fight the bill was the better weapon as proved in the Scots wars the Scots used a twelve foot spears. The English bill attacked using edges to chop through the Scots pike then used points out reaching the Scots swords.
On Cavalry verses foot, foot will always win so long as they hold formation this has as much to do with horses as weapons. It is instinctive in horses to avoid obstacles which might hurt them hence riders thrown by refusals in show jumping. horses faced with a wall of shields yelling men and spikes will not charge home. In Norman time horses were ranked into three types. New unblooded horses trained against dummy's made of light wood and cloth these could be urged to charge home once. The second class were horses which if spurred hard enough might be forced to do it twice. The third were horses which had faced battle before and those would not charge home no matter how hard they were spurred. The length of pole arms was less important it should be noted that a twelve foot spear would always beat a fifteen foot lance the spear mans target was the horse. His point would reach horse before the lance got to him. As to the effectiveness of bill or halberd against horse given the horses refusal to charge home a charge would stop short at which point the foot had free rain to attack. As already stated the lance is little value without momentum so the rider either poked with lance which was an easy target for a bill stroke. Or abandoned lance and drew sword at which point he was out reached by the pole arms. Plus the foot would target his horse first a knight on foot was an easy target.
One last point the effectiveness of Axe against plate the arming sword as stated was of little value Bastards and swords of war were somewhat more effective. The mace and the Axe were the real killers in fact there was a saying the sword was the weapon of Honour the Axe was for killing if a knight took an Axe into a fight he was out to kill someone. The Axe and the mace were both popular in the middle ages highly effective weapons while a generalization it was noted that during the hundreds year war the French favoured the mace the English the axe. In part possible traditional given the prominence of the Axe in English history there were practical considerations. The mace crushed and delivered concussion where it failed to crush. An axe of the same weight delivered the same concussive power plus cutting effect the key was the edge. Battle Axes were given chisel edges designed not to blunt or fold on impact with plate so they would split the plate open there popularity with English knights prove they were effective weapons. It is fact that weapons which lack effect rarely last long.
I hope this is of some value R.palmer
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Bob Burns




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec, 2007 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin if you or anyone else reading this post is interested in top notch polearms, in my humble opinion the best place to get something made is Arms & Armor of Minneapolis at www.arms-n-armor.com They have a polearm section and there are more polearms in the custom section. In fact, one of the members to this website commissioned a few of the custom polearms and a couple of the swords, he has excellent taste! There is a custom glaive and halberd with crossguards on them and these pieces are exceptional. Jean Thibodeau another member with superb taste had an awesome custom polearm made by Arms & Armor but it is not yet in the custom section.
I had a custom Sparth Axe made, which the standard is $290.00, however mine was $420.00 and worth every nickel to me. Mine has a haft that is 14 inches longer, a reinforced spine on the distal aspect of the axehead and I had the piece specially tempered.
By the way, I am 50 as of this past summer and it was not until 2003 that I discovered my very deep love for this hobby, and with all the martial arts I've done in my life, I don't know how I missed this for so long! Confused
Oh, if you want an awesome Axe made, contact Eric McHugh!!
Attached are a couple of pictures.

Once again welcome Martin!

Bob



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Last edited by Bob Burns on Sun 23 Dec, 2007 8:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec, 2007 10:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bob Burns wrote:
Jean Thibodeau another member with superb taste had an awesome custom polearm made by Arms & Armor but it is not yet in the custom section.


Thanks Bob for the nice things you said about me and the polearm. Wink Cool

Craig probably doesn't want to make another one of these unless someone wants to pay a lot more than I did for it: It turned out to be much harder and longer to make than in his initial estimate ! I love the result though.

Here is a link to a Topic thread showing the process of design and production and the final product:
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...p;start=60

Long Topic so make sure you are on the right page ( page 4 has the finished pics ).

The only thing I changed though is that I gave it a blued/aged finish using gun blue and yellow mustard and used scotch bright pads to tone it down to a dark gray finish with just a hint of blue.

No hooks on this one but the top spike should be a good " impaler " in chinks between plate armour and powerful against mail voiders. The edges acting very much in the way of a double edged axe I think.

Most if not all of this covered in the original Topic so I shouldn't repeat much more of it here: Just read the whole 5 pages of posts and almost every possible comment/question/theory of use has already been discussed !

Naturally if anybody has a fresh or new idea(s) I'll be glad to read it.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Bob Burns




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec, 2007 8:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the link to the LDB, that's an awesome piece and the first time I had ever seen that kind of polearm. By the way I corrected the spelling of your last name in the previous post where I had an "e" and it should have been an "o". Sorry about the wrong spelling there.
Your more than welcome for the reference to you, but you do have Excellent taste, I only told the truth Jean!

Sincerely!

Bob
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Dec, 2007 11:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Palmer wrote:
I would also note that in a bill verses pike fight the bill was the better weapon as proved in the Scots wars the Scots used a twelve foot spears. The English bill attacked using edges to chop through the Scots pike then used points out reaching the Scots swords.


Hmm...really? I thought this was just a fanciful 19th-century explanation. Modern historians seem to favor a less colorful theory that the English usually won because they had better combined-arms cooperation between their archers and heavy infantrymen. Moreover, many of the Englishmen who faced the Scots in hand-to-hand combat would have been armed with poleaxes/longswords (the men-at-arms) or sword-and-buckler/axes/mallets (the longbowmen) rather than bills.
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Martin Evensen




Location: Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Jan, 2008 7:50 am    Post subject: Hey I'm back         Reply with quote

Hello guys, I'm finally back from my Thailand holiday. Thanks for your replies, I'm glad you have taken an interest in answering my questions and not ridiculing my historical ineptitude Wink

I'm guessing that I probably have to give up my ambitions making my game more historically accurate, neither the system nor the setting lends well to that.

I have a few more questions and comments, but I have to write them tomorrow, just wanted to chime in and say I'm alive. Oh, and I bought a sword and a knife in Thaland: A Japanese Katana (?) found in Burma, and a kukri in good conditions from Burma.

Later!
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Jan, 2008 11:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as bills versus pike go, English billmen did indeed defeat Scottish pikemen at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513. Archers did little against the heavily armored Scots. Various primary sources note the ineffectiveness of arrows. English artillery forced the Scots to attack, which surely gave the English an edge in the melee that followed.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Jan, 2008 1:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Hey I'm back         Reply with quote

Martin Evensen wrote:
Hello guys, I'm finally back from my Thailand holiday. Thanks for your replies, I'm glad you have taken an interest in answering my questions and not ridiculing my historical ineptitude Wink

I'm guessing that I probably have to give up my ambitions making my game more historically accurate, neither the system nor the setting lends well to that.

I have a few more questions and comments, but I have to write them tomorrow, just wanted to chime in and say I'm alive. Oh, and I bought a sword and a knife in Thaland: A Japanese Katana (?) found in Burma, and a kukri in good conditions from Burma.

Later!


The best system for decent historical roleplaying and combat would be GURPS. The new Martial Arts supplement answers virtually every question you have asked here.
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Martin Evensen




Location: Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Jan, 2008 1:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Hey I'm back         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Martin Evensen wrote:
Hello guys, I'm finally back from my Thailand holiday. Thanks for your replies, I'm glad you have taken an interest in answering my questions and not ridiculing my historical ineptitude Wink

I'm guessing that I probably have to give up my ambitions making my game more historically accurate, neither the system nor the setting lends well to that.

I have a few more questions and comments, but I have to write them tomorrow, just wanted to chime in and say I'm alive. Oh, and I bought a sword and a knife in Thaland: A Japanese Katana (?) found in Burma, and a kukri in good conditions from Burma.

Later!


The best system for decent historical roleplaying and combat would be GURPS. The new Martial Arts supplement answers virtually every question you have asked here.


GURPS, hmm? Well I must admit I have some bad experiences with the system. It seemed overly complicated and detailed for a roleplaying game. At least, with the modern combat rules - our GM in Conspiracy X made us change from that simple yet effective system over to gurps, which took hours of conversion.

But perhaps I'll try to find that book and use it as a basis for houserules. As someone pointed out, ny rules need not take into account RL battles, as whatever combat played out will be minor skirmishes and duels. No massed cavalry charge, no pike formations etc.

However, both heavy cav and pikemen are prevalent in the setting so these weapons should be fairly good even when used in an ahistorical sense. For example, 4-5 pikemen should be able to cooperate better to take down 1 man than normal. The game's system of reach could facility this, as a swordsman would have to be subject to 3-4 attacks of opportunity while moving towards the spearmen.

I'm not making rules for WAR horses refusing to attack spearmen, as the player characters will never have to face more than a handful anyway, and reach is enough of an advantage.
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