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Matt J




Location: Durham, NC
Joined: 18 Aug 2015

Posts: 63

PostPosted: Wed 19 Aug, 2015 12:10 am    Post subject: Historical Sword Maintenance         Reply with quote

Hello everyone,
This is my first post on the forum, though, I've been reading posts and a lot of the pages in the Features section. I am interested in learning more about historical combat and warfare in an attempt to create a more realistic fantasy role playing alternative to Dungeons and Dragons and other games that do not really represent combat correctly.

I am interested in the general maintenance of swords. I've seen the Care and Maintenance section for replicas, but I don't feel that this is accurately answering my questions regarding historical weapon upkeep.

So, I am under the impression that swords are not delicate, neither are they indestructible. What conditions would cause a sword to break? I'm assuming this would happen on the blade. Would this be mostly due to lack of care or in unlikely circumstances against a foe with a much larger weapon.

Obviously swords became more dull with use, and I'm sure this varies based on more variables than I could factor, but generally speaking, how would a knight keep a "healthy" sword? Would it be regularly sharpened, and only replaced when it breaks? Or would it be used until a certain amount of dullness takes place, at which point it is replaced, or possibly replaced after a certain amount of times being resharpened.

I've read that blood is corrosive, and that people would wipe the blood off their blades on their tabard or any cloth or whatever was available, to pretend corrosion, rust, fair wear and tear, etc. This, among many other factors, was one of the reasons I have researched that explains the lack of poisons and venoms used on blades, like so commonly seen in fantasy games. Discounting the impracticality of using poisons on a weapon with such a short reach, would having a sword made of Stainless steel prevent it from being corroded from blood and other corrosive elements?

I believe, Carbon Steel is what is used for weapons, like swords, not stainless. This is because of the hardness, I think, that stainless steel is too hard and does not bend and therefore is too rigid for combat use - it would snap.

For a typical Man at Arms wielding a sword, how frequently would I need to maintain and care for my sword, and at what expense would this cost me? Is this something that is typically provided by the army you belong to? I imagine mercenaries were in charge of their weapon maintenance, how much investment would be spent in keeping their arms and armor up to standard?

When creating my game, treating players as mercenaries, paying them for services and requiring that they purchase and take care of their equipment, will be the goal. I'm interested in what amount of time/money/effort was spent each day, week, and month for a typical soldier.
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Tom Wolfe




Location: East Anglia, England
Joined: 10 Aug 2015

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Wed 19 Aug, 2015 1:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Matt- welcome to the forum.

I appreciate that you are coming to this from a fantasy background where I assume to some extent "anything goes", but when you ask about real-life history, the simple response is that there is no single answer, because a different answer could apply for different centuries.

Up until at least the 15th century the overwhelming majority of people on the battlefield would not have a sword. Like plate armour, they wouldn't afford one, and there wouldn't be all that many of them to loot from the field at the end of a battle.

Some men at arms would have them, and knights would all have them- often a short sword and a long sword- the long sword being the one they would use for battle.

Generally speaking, kit would be maintained in as close to combat-ready state as possible, but the eve of battle would be the time for preparing armour- hammering and closing up rivets, making sure all was ready for the battle, and for sharpening up weapons, including swords.

Steel rusts fairly quickly, even when it is dry, and this is particularly true of freshly scrubbed or sharpened steel. You would need to maintain a decent level of sharpness at all times with a sword, but you would only get it sharpened up to razor sharpness hours before the battle.

You are correct to say that blood is corrosive to steel- it also takes the bluing of guns. However, it isn't so bad that you'd need to get blood off your blade at the earliest opportunity. The reason to get blood off soon after battle is that it is sticky, and becomes harder to remove.

Collector of original 16th-17th century European arms and armour. Would like to collect earlier, but budget doesn't allow- yet!
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Vasilly T





Joined: 02 Dec 2014

Posts: 66

PostPosted: Wed 19 Aug, 2015 3:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom Wolfe wrote:
Hi Matt- welcome to the forum.
Up until at least the 15th century the overwhelming majority of people on the battlefield would not have a sword. Like plate armour, they wouldn't afford one, and there wouldn't be all that many of them to loot from the field at the end of a battle.

I'm asking not because I think you are wrong, but because I'm genuinely interested in the topic: can you provide some sources on that statement? Swords were around since the ancient times, I find it hard to believe they were an attribute of a wealthy minority up until the renaissance.
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Andrew Gill





Joined: 19 Feb 2015

Posts: 97

PostPosted: Wed 19 Aug, 2015 4:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt:

In answer to your questions regarding cabon vs. stainless steel: remember that stainless steel is a recent invention (first made in the 1890's) requiring considerable metallurgical and chemistry knowledge, so it wasn't even an option for renaissance weaponry. Most stainless steel alloys available today are less tough and shock-resistant than carbon-steel (which is why stainless steel sword replicas are viewed as inferior, apart from their anachronistic material choice), but until a few decades ago, most commonly available stainless-steel alloys were actually also softer than properly heat-treated carbon steel, so early stainless steel knives did not hold an edge well until the development of high-performance stainless-steels and their associated hardening techniques (which are typically much more complex than the classic heat/quench/temper heat-treatment of simple carbon steels).

As for poison on weapons (I'm no expert on poisons-take with a pinch of salt!): given the small amount which can be transferred to the victim from a blade, and the fact that many poisons don't act immediately, I don't think there would be much motivation to use poisoned weapons in a battlefield melee, where you want to disable opponents as fast as possible - whether they live or die later is less important. Add to this the fact that there was some motivation to capture high-ranking enemies alive so one could ransom them, and the danger to the user of having to handle a poisoned weapon, I don't think it would make much sense. I think this, rather than the danger of corrosion was the reason poisoned weapons were uncommon.

Regarding weapon maintenance, especially sharpening: I'm not sure what period of history you are interested in, but you may find it interesting to note that in the migration era (just after the fall of the roman empire), there was considerable importance attached to the stone implement used to hone sword-blades in some parts of Europe. These are more like big stone sharpening steels than grind-stones, and the king buried in the Sutton-Hoo in Britain had a particularly large and ornate example buried with him as well as his jewel-encrusted, gold-hilted sword, a roundshield and various other interesting artifacts. The object is so big that it is probably impractical for actual use, suggesting a ceremonial or prestige-related purpose. You can see it at the British Museum, and I think someone on the forum had a replica made at some point. There is also a reference to a "warrior's whetstone" in the irish saga of Cuchalain, which might be something similar. In the later viking period, in a saga, there is a reference to a warrior borrowing a sword for a duel, then damaging it by striking a metal component (probably the boss) on a shield so that the blade cracked. He then tried to grind or polish the crack out, but just made it worse (probably because of the pattern-welded construction of viking-era swords - he may have revealed more of the crack by grinding away a layer of steel which had been concealing it). This also illustrates what is probably the most common cause of blade damage; striking something hard. Slight corrosion is not actually all that serious as long as it isn't allowed to run away; I have made a set of carbon-steel steak-knives, and even though meat-juices tend to blacken the blades somewhat, they don't significantly blunt them.
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Matt J




Location: Durham, NC
Joined: 18 Aug 2015

Posts: 63

PostPosted: Wed 19 Aug, 2015 9:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To give you some background as to the parameters of the fantasy people in my game. This is a world that is moderately based off of human history here on earth, but with the introduction of magic - using religion and spirituality to feed into fantasy magic.

The world would be complex and diverse, like the real world, but generally speaking... You have humans who live longer and are healthier, due to magical influences. These people lived longer (50-60 years) than historical counterparts. These people were taller (avg of 5.5' currently). But, on the flip side, putting the power of Magic into religion will cause these societies of man to rely more heavily on spirituality and less on technology, resulting in a slower technological progression. It is far more likely, that instead of developing gunpowder, these people were still working out the kinks in plate armor.

I'm not good with specific dates and times, but if, for example, a specific item, like Mail, was invented in 2 BC and then stayed around for 2 thousand years (going off memory from the "Mail" Uncovered page) in our world's human history. The people of my world would have probably been able to "perfect" it much quicker, due to the fact that they had magic, but these 2 thousand (ish?) years would go by and no gun powder would be developed. Other things would not be developed either, or it would simply take much longer. Like aqueducts, possibly. Anything that magic could already do (which, could be anything, really), there was less of a demand for.

Okay. So. Tom.

Swords, and I assume most weapons, required minor daily care. I imagine this was as simple as trying not to hit something hard. And then it would be wise to sharpen your blade prior to battle. Would you say that is the basis of weapon upkeep?

Assuming you use your weapon regularly (you're a warrior), the only times it will be seriously damaged will be when you noticeably harm it by striking hard targets. The boss on a shield, plate armor, what about binding? Parrying, beating, and hard or abrupt binding, would that cause severe damage? Or is all of this some small dulling of the blade?

Also, you mention that blades were sharpened before battle, this makes perfect sense. But, as someone who owns a firearm, I can't help but ask, is there any merit to sharpening a blade after a battle? Like, instead of sharpening it the night before you need it, why not sharpen it after each use?

Andrew, I see, I've heard most of what you said from the last post a read (I believe it was on this forum) about poison and flaming blades for a fantasy story (it was the perfect post for me to read). I, personally, do not care for poison, and I think the simple "damage over time" that poisons generally are used as in games are misrepresenting poisons, and are more suited towards bleeding, which weapons already deal naturally. But, I have a friend who is going to make a B-line for poisoned swords, and I know other fantasy oriented people will be disappointed with a lack of poisons. With that said, it is more important to me that poison (and everything else) is represented accurately, and not just used to please the masses.

I was hoping, if I could BS my way into having the means to create well made stainless steel weapons, that these could be used, with poison to prevent the corrosion and the need for replacing your blade. It seems, even with a stainless steel blade, the practicality of which I am still questioning, poisoning your blade is also just impractical.

The poison was less relevant. I am mainly interested in the maintenance, which you have both answered very well. Thank you very much!

To recap: Whetstones for personal, regular maintenance. Proper sharpening prior to battles. Finally, professional repairs when broken.
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,820

PostPosted: Wed 19 Aug, 2015 10:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Welcome aboard Matt

Oft referenced regarding arms and ownership

http://medieval.ucdavis.edu/120D/Money.html

Then consider the Bayeux tapestry showing the Normans loading barrels of swords being loaded on the ships. Propaganda or not, it seems like there were plenty of swords around.

Regarding maintenance and durability, a little common sense goes a long way. There is nothing mystical or mysterious about it. An incredible amount of time in inquiry is spent overlooking some basics in caring for equipment. Sand and soil were plentiful for cleaning and polishing. Many stones will grind a blade Of course broken or damaged arms and armour were repaired or replaced. Water dissolves blood. Fat and oils abound. Faced with a screw, some do wonder if a hammer will work. Why wipe blood all over yourself when there are options (like the fallen enemy's tabard Wink ). In a nutshell, keep it real and get a grip.

Although chromium has been noted in steel back in antiquity, it was not until about 1900 that "stainless" steel was being introduced for cutlery. It had been a development process beginning in the earlier 19th century. Information out there that can make anyone an expert in the matter. Again, a little common sense and effort go a long way.

Cheers

GC
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Michael Beeching





Joined: 22 Jan 2014
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 160

PostPosted: Wed 19 Aug, 2015 4:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wonder if this isn't an answer you'd be looking for:

Regarding my own maintenance of swords and knives day to day, it is very important to oil them. Keeping them sharp is important, but preventing corrosion is also quite important - I think this is why you seem to be hitting on the usage of stainless so much.

In my own practice, I like to keep things simple. I use WD40 to remove anything that has affixed itself to the blade, and then I use food-grade white oil (Bayes Mineral Oil) to prevent rusting. The former would not have been available to someone "back in the day," but a flavor of the latter would have been. I cannot say how many white oils/mineral oils would have been available in antiquity, seeing as many available today are actually petroleum products. "Organic" oils, however, have been used since, well, forever! Olive oil is usable as a protective lubricant, but you need to understand as well that because it is in fact an organic product, it can start to "rot" and oxidize itself - therefore, keeping up maintenance is important, as well as how you actually apply oil to the blade. It seems to me that you need to coat the steel components with an eye to not "overcoating" or "undercoating" them - I'm sure someone on this forum is familiar with using organic preservatives on blades, and would have more useful input. Alternately, many katana cleaning kits have traditional oils/solvents included - you might start pulling some ideas from there as well. I do not know what sort of other solvents may have been available for simply cleaning the weapon - abrasives are interesting to think about: would one use a very fine powder to polish a blade and remove debris? For an RPG, keeping a small flask of oil and a pouch of powder would not do too much work on a character's inventory - the character would also not have too much trouble maintaining a weapon with that set-up, either.

As per the durability of swords, my mantra is that they are equally as strong as they are fragile. I would actually point you to the video selection hosted on thearma.org. It's full of John Clements being John Clements (for better or worse), and includes destructive test and meat-cutting videos. Bone is quite a danger to weapons under the right conditions, and can roll edges or even scallop sections out of a blade. The most important thing to recall about a sword is that its generally assumed use is as a cut-and-thrust weapon - such a weapon is used against soft and unarmored targets UNLESS it is used in an alternate fashion such that it can be used against the armored fighting man/woman. Probably one of the best things you could do for character stats is to have proficiencies in both armored and unarmored combat, and the usage of weapons in those applications. I can't think of any game, on paper or on the computer, which does that. In short, learn about half-swording and harnissfechten!
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Matt J




Location: Durham, NC
Joined: 18 Aug 2015

Posts: 63

PostPosted: Wed 19 Aug, 2015 10:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

@Michael...

I think I've got maintenance down. So, the fantasy is a campaign in the north, meaning there is an institution or some sort of organization that is in charge of the "war effort." You do missions or quests for them, and in return, you are rewarded. Such is the basis of why people do things. For each mission, quest, patrol, etc, whatever it is, you will be given Rations. This is similar to the Roman Empire (only example I've found in my research). Depending on the length of your mission (1 day? 1 week?), you will be given a number of rations. This would include daily necessity. Food, potion(s), eating/cooking utensils, metal wire (for repairing mail), flint (or something for fire making), a torch or flammable stick, etc, etc. Lots of various things any "soldier" would need each day. The difference is, we are not traveling over miles, we are defending a perimeter, going on raids and returning to "base" or patrolling the surrounding area. Daily weapon maintenance will be provided via your rations, while certain circumstances may cause severe weapon damage that would result in seeking out a blacksmith (or going to the armory) to replace or repair your weapon (or armor).

I really appreciate the information about those videos, especially bone vs swords. The difference between flesh and bone has become a debated topic between me and my roommate because of how magic works with the two materials. I plan to make a distinction between broken bones and torn flesh.

You will be happy to know that I have been looking into things deeply. I've been to a few medieval longsword martial arts classes where I learned the basis of holding a sword. And how it is held softly and loosely. I've also been to military school and have been taught how to march with a sabre. I've looked into half swording, I'm very excited to incorporate it. If I understand it correctly.... generally speaking, swords and thrusting go like this:

Thrusting is very quick and easy. The range of your weapon is important, being the first one to strike helps insure success. But, if simply make a really long weapon, you are vulnerable at closer ranges. Plus, the ability to penetrate armor required a short blade, as the ratio between thickness and length was key to armor penetration. Thinner blades, and/or shorter, were the best. Half-swording, after all, is designed, primarily, to combat incredibly heavy defense. Though, I am imaging it being extremely useful if your enemy was able to get too close (say, broadsword and shield vs zweihander/dopplehander/bidenhander) to hold your sword closer like that, though, simply backing up would be more beneficial, right?

Half Swording, being used to combat heavy armor, increases your control of the point (accuracy) and increases your penetration due to halving the ratio of width to length (armor pen).

Does half swording also provide the "benefit" of being able to fight at close range? Would you agree if I said that backing up and using your longsword ("knight sword" or "2hander") in the normal fashion is superior to half swording, with the exception of fighting against plate armor (full or mostly full). If you were using a longsword, and unarmored, fighting a man wielding a gladius who was also unarmored, and that guy with the gladius go within a foot or two of you, what would you need to do in order to harm him? Could you strike with the "strong" of your blade? or would backing up be the only practical option? Would a transition from full swording to half swording happen immediately prior to missing with a swing and seeing my target getting within my reach? Or would I be more inclined towards quickly backstepping?
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Tom Wolfe




Location: East Anglia, England
Joined: 10 Aug 2015

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Thu 20 Aug, 2015 1:20 am    Post subject: Re: Historical Sword Maintenance         Reply with quote

Matt J wrote:
Obviously swords became more dull with use, and I'm sure this varies based on more variables than I could factor, but generally speaking, how would a knight keep a "healthy" sword? Would it be regularly sharpened, and only replaced when it breaks? Or would it be used until a certain amount of dullness takes place, at which point it is replaced, or possibly replaced after a certain amount of times being resharpened.



Matt, I suggest you read "Fatal Colours" by George Goodwin. It is an account of the Battle of Towton (North Yorkshire, 1461), and the events leading up to it. Chapter 10 contains detailed discourse on "battle prep"- the activities that would have been taking place in the Yorkist and Lancastrian camps on the eve of battle- cleaning armour, preparing swords, oiling bows and readying the canons.

Fatal Colours is well worth reading anyway, as it is a very well written book on a fascinating battle, with a lengthy foreward by David Starkey. In light of your current question I think it would be of particular interest. You can pick up copies of the book on eBay or Amazon usually for about a fiver.


As to the question of the relative rarity of the sword on the battlefield- other readers have been quick to comment on this, so I shall clarify my comment. Swords were not rare- there were plenty of them about. However, with armies composed on each side by large numbers of peasant fighters, polearms such as war scythes, flails, bills and the like would have proliferated, as well as hand weapons such as axes and clubs. Indeed, such fighters were often referred to as "naked men", because they had no armour, helmets or other protective kit. Swords were valuable items and would have been in the hands of knights and professional soldiers, who would have had the money to buy them and to whom the expense would have been justified. Obviously, at the great battles of the Hundred Years War, for example, the armies consisted almost exclusively of professional soldiers, so fairly high quality kit would have been the norm. As a knight, the sword was a symbol of your status and your vows as a holy warrior. You would carry a short "arming sword" at all times and a longer "long sword" in battle. This cache would not have existed if they were in the hands of every turd farmer pressed into military service in the campaigning season.

Collector of original 16th-17th century European arms and armour. Would like to collect earlier, but budget doesn't allow- yet!
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Matt J




Location: Durham, NC
Joined: 18 Aug 2015

Posts: 63

PostPosted: Thu 20 Aug, 2015 8:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Swords were more expensive than other weapons. I'm not heavily concerned, at the moment, about the specifics of the price differences. But, I have a hypothetical for you.

If I am a guy with some money, planning to buy some equipment for self defense/combat. I may be a Knight, or a peasant, either way, it has come time for me to figure out which weapon I am going to use. Obviously there are many factors, availability, costs, and others.

Understanding that a sword is a symbol of status, what other reasons does it have going for it? So, it's difficult to skillfully use, unlike maces, axes, and spears. Does it perform much better? With unlimited funds, is a sword (or hilt and blade weapon) typically considered the best primary weapon? I know weapons have different purposes. But, there must be a reason it was so expensive. Or, would a peasant paying $1,000 for an arming sword not be able to perform significantly better than a peasant who purchased a Spear for $150?

Tom Wolfe: "Swords were valuable items and would have been in the hands of knights and professional soldiers, who would have had the money to buy them and to whom the expense would have been justified."

And to whom the expense would have been justified. Why/how? Is it that only knights and professional would have the knowledge and training to use a sword proficiently, therefore they were the only ones who could gain the benefits from wielding a sword? What is the justification for the expense of swords.

In my game, how should I represent them? Should they be practically the best, meaning anyone who can afford a sword, would most likely be wielding one, or at least have one in addition to something else. Should swords be very expensive, but perform evenly with other weapons? Making them really only expensive for the idea behind what it stands for? I believe, their popularity and price must have meant something. Surely the rich and trained knights would be equipped with the best gear, leading me to believe swords either gave you a slight advantage or a great advantage.
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Raman A




Location: United States
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 143

PostPosted: Thu 20 Aug, 2015 2:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I recommend going to Matt Easton's youtube channel and watching his videos. He is a historical fencing instructor and addresses most of your questions. He should also clear up a lot of your misconceptions.

https://www.youtube.com/user/scholagladiatoria/

One huge and common misconception I want to address is that weapons are not "balanced" in terms of effectiveness. Some weapons are clearly better than others. The worse weapons are used because they are smaller and convenient to carry, or cheaper, or some other reason.

From George Silver's 1599 Paradoxes of Defence:

Quote:
First I will begin with the worst weapon, an imperfect and insufficient weapon, and not worth the speaking of, but now being highly esteemed, therefore not to be unremembered. That is, the single rapier, and rapier and poniard.

The single sword has the vantage [advantage] against the single rapier.

The sword and dagger has the vantage against the rapier and poniard.

The sword & target has the advantage against the sword and dagger, or the rapier and poniard.

The sword and buckler has advantage against the sword and target, the sword and dagger, or rapier and poniard.

The two handed sword has the vantage against the sword and target, the sword and buckler, the sword and dagger, or rapier and poniard.

The battle axe, the halberd, the black-bill, or such like weapons of weight, appertaining unto guard or battle, are all one in fight, and have advantage against the two handed sword, the sword and buckler, the sword and target, the sword and dagger, or the rapier and poniard.

The short staff or half pike, forest bill, partisan, or glaive, or such like weapons of perfect length, have the advantage against the battle axe, the halberd, the black bill, the two handed sword, the sword and target, and are too hard for two swords and daggers, or two rapier and poniards with gauntlets, and for the long staff and morris pike.

The long staff, morris pike, or javelin, or such like weapons above the perfect length, have advantage against all manner of weapons, the short staff, the Welch hook, partisan, or glaive, or such like weapons of vantage excepted, yet are too weak for two swords and daggers or two sword and bucklers, or two rapiers and poniards with gauntlets, because they are too long to thrust, strike, and turn speedily. And by reason of the large distance, one of the sword and dagger-men will get behind him.

The Welch hook or forest bill, has advantage against all manner of weapons whatsoever.

Yet understand, that in battles, and where variety of weapons are, among multitudes of men and horses, the sword and target, the two handed sword, battle axe, the black bill, and halberd, are better weapons, and more dangerous in their offense and forces, than is the sword and buckler, short staff, long staff, or forest bill. The sword and target leads upon shot, and in troops defends thrusts and blows given by battle axe, halberds, black bill, or two handed swords, far better than can the sword and buckler.

The morris pike defends the battle from both horse and man, much better than can the short staff, long staff, or forest bill. Again the battle axe, the halberd, the black bill, the two handed sword, and sword & target, among armed men and troops, by reason of their weights, shortness, and great force, do much more offend the enemy, & are then much better weapons, than is the short staff, the long staff, or the forest bill.


Now, don't take that excerpt as gospel, since Silver is extremely biased (he hates rapiers, and like a good Englishman loves the quarterstaff and bill). There's a lot of room for argument with his ranking since context and personal preference matter a great deal. I posted it because it illustrates two important points: weapons are not equal, and there's a general trend of larger weapons being better than smaller ones. Small weapons like swords and daggers are used because they can be easily carried. If you're familiar with firearms, a good analogy would be a sword is to a handgun as a spear is to a rifle. If your character is in a town and not expecting any trouble, a sword is fine. If they are expecting combat they should have a better weapon.
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Matt J




Location: Durham, NC
Joined: 18 Aug 2015

Posts: 63

PostPosted: Thu 20 Aug, 2015 9:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Raman, I've seen many of Matt Easton's videos, and I plan to keep watching until I've seen everything relevant.

Yes, I know that you are right about different weapons and their effectiveness.

You are not suggesting that combat is a rock-paper-scissors kind of set up, are you? Where one weapon beats another?

First off, I was under the impression that some weapons are better than others, but also each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses and some were better in certain situations while others were better in other situations.

A mace vs a sword for example, a sword might be better in general, as it provides a variety of techniques and can do many different think effectively, however, what the mace does, it does better than a sword.

There are a variety of weapons, some are used because you don't have the money to afford something better, however, in fantasy game, this is quickly irrelevant.

You might use a less effective weapon because close, physical combat is not your focus, and so you do not have as much proficiency, and would use a simpler weapon, as this is a secondary weapon.

What weapons would you classify as Top Tier and which would be the Bottom Tier?

If you were leaving town, on a patrol through enemy territory, or if you were going on a raid, what would you bring? Assuming you could have the proper proficiency and that you could afford to arm yourself with moderate equipment. Maybe not the best of the best, but you could at least afford anything, even if it was a cheap, or munition, version.

Would you bring a Longsword and only a longsword? Wouldn't there be advantages and disadvantages for any and all of the common combinations?

Greeks used a spear, short sword, and a shield. While the knights had an arming sword, buckler, and longsword, right? But when they went to fight in combat, they would leave their one handed swords at home?

Anyone who can survive continuous campaigns, combat encounters, and warfare in general, would be able to become wealthy enough to purchase top-grade gear. Players who play in a fantasy RPG would be seen as mercenaries, they spend their money on their ability to continue campaigning, so you'd have to assume that the choices are not so limited on finances and economy. It's more a matter of what you are willing to invest in, in terms of you can only bring what you can carry, and bringing excess gear will result in a loss in performance.
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,820

PostPosted: Fri 21 Aug, 2015 12:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Swords were often secondary weapons, even with archers, pike men and peasants with various pole weapons. Especially in England after a point, any earning a wage could afford a sword. Some within the matter of a few weeks or a month. Swords were not relegated to knights and "militia" men at arms. In fact every freeman of England of an age was expected to be able to serve and have at least some arms and armour (spear, shield, helm and hauberk).

Silver is one example of dissimilar weapons and outcome comparisons.

Each weapon and system really needs to be considered in context but body mechanics and simple truths paint similarities across many cultures and time.

For gaming, you are really only limited to how much code you are willing to key in.

In one line you mention basic maintenance as a cost, when it should be a reward unless the the weapon was unduly damaged. Routine maintenance should go in the allowance/wages/reward column with basic clothing and food rations, cost of living.

Cheers

GC.
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Tom King




Location: florida
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PostPosted: Fri 21 Aug, 2015 12:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

if I may add a modern simile, consider a sword a handgun and a polearm a rifle. A sword is a sidearm, not a primary weapon; something you carry in a town or traveling, etc. assuming social status ALLOWED to carry a sword without issue. Consider a dagger a CC handgun and a sword a fullsize duty handgun. Think of blade length limits seen in some cities as capacity limits on handguns; certain german cities banning Bauernwehr's over a certain length are like US states banning pistol capacity past __ arbitrary round count.

Assuming a circa 15th century setting most men at arms (in full white harnesses) would be armed with poleaxes, bec de corbins, polehammers, etc. as primary weapons with a sword as a secondary weapon. footsoldiers would have billhooks and other longer polearms and lighter armor such as maille and jackchains, potentially armed with a dagger or sword as a backup weapon. sword+ buckler is commonplace as backup arms for people of working class soldiery needs who do not have full plate to facilitate a 2h sword as an effective primary or secondary arm.

An early medieval setting you're dealing with heavy infantry wearing maille with spears and shields as primary armament with a sword, mace, warhammer, langseaxe, etc. as a sidearm. Cavalry post castled saddle and stirrup would have a lance+shield and a sword or other weapon as a sidearm.
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Tom Wolfe




Location: East Anglia, England
Joined: 10 Aug 2015

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Fri 21 Aug, 2015 3:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt J wrote:


If I am a guy with some money, planning to buy some equipment for self defense/combat. I may be a Knight, or a peasant, either way, it has come time for me to figure out which weapon I am going to use. Obviously there are many factors, availability, costs, and others.

Understanding that a sword is a symbol of status, what other reasons does it have going for it? So, it's difficult to skillfully use, unlike maces, axes, and spears. Does it perform much better? With unlimited funds, is a sword (or hilt and blade weapon) typically considered the best primary weapon? I know weapons have different purposes. But, there must be a reason it was so expensive. Or, would a peasant paying $1,000 for an arming sword not be able to perform significantly better than a peasant who purchased a Spear for $150?

Tom Wolfe: "Swords were valuable items and would have been in the hands of knights and professional soldiers, who would have had the money to buy them and to whom the expense would have been justified."

And to whom the expense would have been justified. Why/how? Is it that only knights and professional would have the knowledge and training to use a sword proficiently, therefore they were the only ones who could gain the benefits from wielding a sword? What is the justification for the expense of swords.


Hello again Matt. You're asking some good questions here.

Knights and men at arms expected to spend a lot of their adult lives fighting. For knights it was their duty to serve the king in time of war. More frequently this meant that they served their liege lord in his various squabbles with neighbours and rivals ("bastard feudalism"). Equally, men at arms were professional soldiers. Just as a professional reaper or blacksmith would invest money in the tools of his trade (hammer, anvil, scythe, sickle or whatever) so a man at arms would invest in the tools of his chosen profession.

As we know, at various times in mediaeval history, armies numbering the tens of thousands were formed, by all and sundry being pressed into service. Before a battle, the lords of the king could press the peasantry into service, requiring them to fight. Take a battle like Towton, in 1461- there were two opposing kings of England (Henry VI and Edward IV), each of whom was able to press men into their service- hence numbers of fighters on the field that day of about 70,000. Take as another example any of the peasant risings of Europe- for example the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 in England.

Many of these men were poor peasants- "naked men" who owned no armour or weapons, who had never fought in a battle before. These men would have made do with what they could. A certain amount of kit and weaponry would have been available with the standing army, but most would have had to provide their own weaponry.

These men were not accustomed to fighting. Most would have hoped never to have to fight and, duty done, would hope never to be called upon to do so again. For them, the expense of buying kit would probably not have been possible, and also wouldn't really have been worth it. To give a modern analogy- if someone invites you on a totally one-off daytrip scuba diving, are you going to spend 2,000 on buying all the kit? No- you'll just use the gear they have at the dive centre, plus anything you happen to have at home.

Improvised weapons were more evident in use- the war scythe, the bill, the flail and the axe being among them. Of course these were very effective weapons, and would in time become specialised as battle weapons.

There's a great documentary on youtube about the Peasants' Revolt, which has discussion and demonstration in the use of peasant weapons adapted from agricultural implements. I'll find the link and post it for you....

Collector of original 16th-17th century European arms and armour. Would like to collect earlier, but budget doesn't allow- yet!
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Tom Wolfe




Location: East Anglia, England
Joined: 10 Aug 2015

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Fri 21 Aug, 2015 3:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt J wrote:
Swords were more expensive than other weapons. I'm not heavily concerned, at the moment, about the specifics of the price differences. But, I have a hypothetical for you.

If I am a guy with some money, planning to buy some equipment for self defense/combat. I may be a Knight, or a peasant, either way, it has come time for me to figure out which weapon I am going to use. Obviously there are many factors, availability, costs, and others.


Matt, I suggest you watch this video on youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6pZTBxNTMc&index=56&list=FLM30WDsYBoLAkE2jBU3fMDQ

If you can cope with Tony Robinson it's a great documentary. If you wan to see some excellent information on and demonstration in the use of "peasant weapons" watch it from about 1:20:42 to 1:25:16. Mike Loades demonstrates the use of the weapons. He is a very well-known and respected historian of mediaeval warfare. His other programmes on youtube are well worth a look.

Collector of original 16th-17th century European arms and armour. Would like to collect earlier, but budget doesn't allow- yet!
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Matt J




Location: Durham, NC
Joined: 18 Aug 2015

Posts: 63

PostPosted: Fri 21 Aug, 2015 8:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am trying to avoid wasting everyone's time with my fantasy story/game, as this is a historical forum, not a fantasy fiction forum. You've given me some very good information, and a lot to think about. I am going to provide a brief history of my world (alternate human history) in an effort to describe the warriors and the war "tone."

A certain number of years ago (within the lifetime of most of us adults), a series of dimensional portals opened far in the north of the world. From these scattered portals, demons and corruption spread. Mutating stuff, people, animals, plants, rocks, etc. Demons would come out and plague the northern civilizations. Not armies of demons, not like giants epic battles of demons vs people. Just small and steady, ever growing, chaotic and divine powers/energies creeping from the north.

The humans reacted swiftly, some "nations" quicker than others. They settled their petty squabbles and sent men north (there is also a church that is dedicated to slaying these demons, this church is based off the holy roman empire and will be, essentially, the focal point of my campaign). Will such a large number of men, they were easily able to push back the demons, and slay all of the crazy, mutated, undead, or corrupted things in the north. At least, anything you get get rid of, most things will remain desolate and scarred. However, these large armies (comprised largely of peasants) would become corrupted and, too, begin to mutate after spending so much time near the energies in the north. Like a radiation sickness, they would slowly decay and wither away until they were nothing left by mindless creatures (undead).

Nowadays, the battle continues, with limited success. Wizards and scholars travel to the north to study and research. Knights, men at arms, and other professional soldiers travel to the north to join the forces that are guarding the world. Now, there is less of a need for large numbers of untrained men, mostly, there is no need for anyone of the faint of heart of weak minds, as these people will be corrupted and turn on their brother. The majority of people heading north should be trained to an extent, otherwise it would be a bad idea.

Let me note that this is not an online game, this is an interpersonal game that uses a table with miniatures and terrain that is to scale. I'd prefer a video game, but I'm not a programmer.

Glen:
"In one line you mention basic maintenance as a cost, when it should be a reward unless the the weapon was unduly damaged. Routine maintenance should go in the allowance/wages/reward column with basic clothing and food rations, cost of living."

Yes, this is basically what I was getting at. So, there should be a large number of passive rewards, things that you would get for being a part of a military service or campaigning service. This would be things that a person playing a game wouldn't care at all about. Things such as food, room and board, etc, like you listed. Is there a good place for me to learn more about the typical "bonuses" included in medieval military service? Or could I simply look towards modern military bonuses?

But, as a game, there MUST be active rewards. Money is easy, and realistic. I can easily, and surely will, provide payment for these people, in addition to their extra bonuses, though the money will be slim. Most of their rewards were gained through looting, right? How would the feeling a serving a military campaign change if you were fighting against non-human creatures that may not have as valuable or abundant loot/treasure to be plundered? Did these people not expect as much from their Lords (or whoever) because a lot of their rewards came from their dead enemies?

Tom:
"sword+ buckler is commonplace as backup arms for people of working class soldiery needs who do not have full plate to facilitate a 2h sword as an effective primary or secondary arm."

Full plate facilitates a 2h sword? To what extent? How bad is a 2h sword without full plate? Why, how. lol, I'd really appreciate an explanation, or at the least, point me in the direction to learn what you know.

I am a huge fan of 2 handed swords, and I'm assuming you are not referring to a longsword, but a true 2 hander. I've learned a little about the 2 handers, in real life. I've learned that they are very long (6ft) but that they are not thick or wide, like giant swords, they are thin. I know the Claymore is super wide, and I think it's heavier and a tad shorter, generally. From what I've read, the claymore seems very similar to the "zweihander" but looking at them, I feel like they'd actually be quite different, so I'm not sure. I read that the zweihander actually performs more similarly to a poleweapon than a sword, which is interesting. I've read that they were commonly used to cleave off spear and pike tips, though I've also read that this was less likely, and it was more likely that they batted the tips aside and moved in for their own thrusts. It seems, to me, that the largest weakness to a greatsword is the same as its greatest strength, it's length. If you were too close to an enemy, I don't think you'd be able to strike effectively, nor thrust at all. Half-swording (or simply backing up, right?) should solve this issue.

That, plus the fact that it's huge and you can cleave people's heads off, is about the extent of my knowledge lol.
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Matt J




Location: Durham, NC
Joined: 18 Aug 2015

Posts: 63

PostPosted: Fri 21 Aug, 2015 8:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am trying to avoid wasting everyone's time with my fantasy story/game, as this is a historical forum, not a fantasy fiction forum. You've given me some very good information, and a lot to think about. I am going to provide a brief history of my world (alternate human history) in an effort to describe the warriors and the war "tone."

A certain number of years ago (within the lifetime of most of us adults), a series of dimensional portals opened far in the north of the world. From these scattered portals, demons and corruption spread. Mutating stuff, people, animals, plants, rocks, etc. Demons would come out and plague the northern civilizations. Not armies of demons, not like giants epic battles of demons vs people. Just small and steady, ever growing, chaotic and divine powers/energies creeping from the north.

The humans reacted swiftly, some "nations" quicker than others. They settled their petty squabbles and sent men north (there is also a church that is dedicated to slaying these demons, this church is based off the holy roman empire and will be, essentially, the focal point of my campaign). Will such a large number of men, they were easily able to push back the demons, and slay all of the crazy, mutated, undead, or corrupted things in the north. At least, anything you get get rid of, most things will remain desolate and scarred. However, these large armies (comprised largely of peasants) would become corrupted and, too, begin to mutate after spending so much time near the energies in the north. Like a radiation sickness, they would slowly decay and wither away until they were nothing left by mindless creatures (undead).

Nowadays, the battle continues, with limited success. Wizards and scholars travel to the north to study and research. Knights, men at arms, and other professional soldiers travel to the north to join the forces that are guarding the world. Now, there is less of a need for large numbers of untrained men, mostly, there is no need for anyone of the faint of heart of weak minds, as these people will be corrupted and turn on their brother. The majority of people heading north should be trained to an extent, otherwise it would be a bad idea.

Let me note that this is not an online game, this is an interpersonal game that uses a table with miniatures and terrain that is to scale. I'd prefer a video game, but I'm not a programmer.

Glen:
"In one line you mention basic maintenance as a cost, when it should be a reward unless the the weapon was unduly damaged. Routine maintenance should go in the allowance/wages/reward column with basic clothing and food rations, cost of living."

Yes, this is basically what I was getting at. So, there should be a large number of passive rewards, things that you would get for being a part of a military service or campaigning service. This would be things that a person playing a game wouldn't care at all about. Things such as food, room and board, etc, like you listed. Is there a good place for me to learn more about the typical "bonuses" included in medieval military service? Or could I simply look towards modern military bonuses?

But, as a game, there MUST be active rewards. Money is easy, and realistic. I can easily, and surely will, provide payment for these people, in addition to their extra bonuses, though the money will be slim. Most of their rewards were gained through looting, right? How would the feeling a serving a military campaign change if you were fighting against non-human creatures that may not have as valuable or abundant loot/treasure to be plundered? Did these people not expect as much from their Lords (or whoever) because a lot of their rewards came from their dead enemies?

Tom:
"sword+ buckler is commonplace as backup arms for people of working class soldiery needs who do not have full plate to facilitate a 2h sword as an effective primary or secondary arm."

Full plate facilitates a 2h sword? To what extent? How bad is a 2h sword without full plate? Why, how. lol, I'd really appreciate an explanation, or at the least, point me in the direction to learn what you know.

I am a huge fan of 2 handed swords, and I'm assuming you are not referring to a longsword, but a true 2 hander. I've learned a little about the 2 handers, in real life. I've learned that they are very long (6ft) but that they are not thick or wide, like giant swords, they are thin. I know the Claymore is super wide, and I think it's heavier and a tad shorter, generally. From what I've read, the claymore seems very similar to the "zweihander" but looking at them, I feel like they'd actually be quite different, so I'm not sure. I read that the zweihander actually performs more similarly to a poleweapon than a sword, which is interesting. I've read that they were commonly used to cleave off spear and pike tips, though I've also read that this was less likely, and it was more likely that they batted the tips aside and moved in for their own thrusts. It seems, to me, that the largest weakness to a greatsword is the same as its greatest strength, it's length. If you were too close to an enemy, I don't think you'd be able to strike effectively, nor thrust at all. Half-swording (or simply backing up, right?) should solve this issue.

That, plus the fact that it's huge and you can cleave people's heads off, is about the extent of my knowledge lol.
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Raman A




Location: United States
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 143

PostPosted: Fri 21 Aug, 2015 8:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt J wrote:
What weapons would you classify as Top Tier and which would be the Bottom Tier?


I pretty much agree with George Silver, except for how much he hates the rapier. In general I'd say daggers and swords would be the bottom tier, spears and polearms would be the top. For people who don't practice martial arts, it's hard to imagine just how much of an advantage a 9 foot weapon has over a 3 foot one. Not just in reach but in terms of power as well. The advantage becomes more pronounced with more people involved in the fight. https://youtu.be/2Dj5fWYvSx8?t=5m3s

Quote:
If you were leaving town, on a patrol through enemy territory, or if you were going on a raid, what would you bring? Assuming you could have the proper proficiency and that you could afford to arm yourself with moderate equipment. Maybe not the best of the best, but you could at least afford anything, even if it was a cheap, or munition, version.


It depends on context. What is the level of technology of this world? How many people do I have with me? How many am I up against? What is the terrain like? Am I attacking a fort? If I were definitely expecting combat I would equip myself as much as possible. Full armor, a horse, a spear, a shield, a sword, and a dagger is pretty much the minimum I'd go in with. If I didn't have enough money then I'd just get cheaper armor, a cheaper spear, a cheaper horse, a cheaper sword, etc. I'd spend as much money as possible on the armor, and buy everything else with what was left. If I'm just traveling and not expecting any sort of trouble a horse and sword is sufficient.

Quote:
Would you bring a Longsword and only a longsword? Wouldn't there be advantages and disadvantages for any and all of the common combinations?


Haha, no way. This question sounds as ridiculous to me as if I were a Marine and you were asking if I would go to war with only a handgun.

I'd bring a sword but it probably wouldn't come out of its sheathe unless something went wrong. Yes, there are advantages and disadvantages to the various hand weapons which is why historical warriors brought as many as possible. The main advantage to daggers and swords is that they can be worn, so you have a back-up in case for some reason your main weapon becomes unusable.

Quote:
Greeks used a spear, short sword, and a shield. While the knights had an arming sword, buckler, and longsword, right? But when they went to fight in combat, they would leave their one handed swords at home?


The specifics depend on the exact period, but in general a knight's primary weapon would be a spear and shield as well. Bows, shields, and spears were the main weapons used across pretty much all pre-industrial cultures.

Quote:
Anyone who can survive continuous campaigns, combat encounters, and warfare in general, would be able to become wealthy enough to purchase top-grade gear. Players who play in a fantasy RPG would be seen as mercenaries, they spend their money on their ability to continue campaigning, so you'd have to assume that the choices are not so limited on finances and economy. It's more a matter of what you are willing to invest in, in terms of you can only bring what you can carry, and bringing excess gear will result in a loss in performance.


I'd have the highest quality armor the setting permitted. I'd have multiple spears, multiple polearms, a decent sword and a dagger. I'd have a bow, crossbow, javelins and multiple horses, one for riding and one for fighting. I'd hire an assistant to carry my extra gear and keep it in top condition. The more successful I became the more people I would hire. If you want a historical look at real mercenaries look up the Italian condottieri. If you want to know what it was actually like to campaign through a hostile land read Bernal Diaz's The Conquest of New Spain.
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Matt J




Location: Durham, NC
Joined: 18 Aug 2015

Posts: 63

PostPosted: Fri 21 Aug, 2015 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have taken martial arts (taekwondo and judo) when I was younger and 2 classes of longsword martial arts, which I understand is essentially the same as none :P

I have really come to understand the advantages of long reach. First off, in the ability to strike/thrust first, as it only takes 1 good hit with a weapon to "win" (kill or incapacitate). Armor aside. Then, to increase the force or impact damage, fantasy games always go with the MAKE IT BIGGER, and I get it, but I understand that increasing the length of the blade, handle, or both will result in a more effective lever. Whether sword, axe, or hammer, making it longer increases it's effectiveness (per pound) a lot more than simply adding mass.

I have a simple question. Would stabbing someone with a short blade (dagger), a medium blade (sword), a long blade (longsword), and a blade on a stick (spear) all feel the same? Assuming it is the same 6" blade tip on the end. Does the extra mass in the weapon increase its ability to punch through flesh? Or would these all be relatively similar, and only really effect it's ability to punch through armor?

With combat effectiveness, thinking about weapons, keep in mind that I am not referring to rank and file combat. These are not soldiers fighting together, these are mercenaries traveling together. Combat would be more like a handful of guys fighting a skirmish against another handful of guys. Typically, you will be outnumbered between 1:1 and 1:3. Sometimes you will outnumber your foes. So, standing behind a shield wall and spitting spear thrusts forward is not as viable of a strategy. Likewise, volleys of aimless arrows are equally worthless against a smaller number of targets.

The level of technology is pre-gun powder. You have access to all forms of armor, quilted armor, leather, and iron/steel. Mail, Plate, Laminar, Lamellar. Until I discover more, which I am really hoping for. You have access to things up until around 1600-1700, that's about as late as it gets. There may be some later things. There will be firearms, but these will be Exotic, Legendary, Epic, if you are familiar these terms. They will be so rare that you should assume they do not exist.

You ask very specific questions. I will answer based on if you were in my stronghold, at level 1.

You have 3 people with you. These 3 people are real people, sitting next to you in real life, playing their own character. Then, you may (not likely) have non-player characters assisting you, too. If you are not a wizard, you should assume that one of the people joining you is a wizard.

You are up against a large number of enemies, currently. You are inside a keep, have you seen the movie Ironclad, very similar. You are within the castle wall, inside a kingdom, and the kingdom has been overrun with undead zombie-like human creatures. Your objective is to go outside and slay the ones nearby, and then defend your blacksmith or repair guy, or whoever, as they repair the barricade and work on it. You are defending the position from these hordes, whilst within the castle that should be undead-free. Keep in mind, while you are outnumbered, your foe is unarmed.

The terrain is flat, where you are, standing on, I'm assuming, dirt. You are inside the castle walls, outside the Keep itself, or the castle, the "small" building in the center with the throne or whatever.

There are no horses, they were devoured prior to your arrival. The stronghold is working on acquiring more, but currently they only have a couple, and these are currently on the road or elsewhere, hence why they were not eaten.

If you would own multiple spears, multiple polearms, a decent sword, and a dagger, plus a crossbow, bow, javelins, and multiple horses, what would you actually bring with you if you were going out on a daily (possibly multi-day) patrol or mission. I mean, you will most likely return by dark. You don't know what you will find, but you know where you are going and what to expect. I'm going to pick something, to be specific, because I am basically asking you "how much armor+plus weapons+shields should an average man be able to carry and still be battle effective?" How high is a warrior's equip burden?

In a fight, you'd have a sword on your waist, a dagger on your chest(?), a poleweapon in your hand, and a shield in your hand or on your back. Yeah?

Say, you are getting on your horse and you will ride for half a day to an outpost several miles (however far it'd take 6 hours to go) away. At this outpost, you expect to find other humans, but it is possible everyone will be dead. You are expecting to see undead on the way, though it is unlikely that you'd be forced to fight them, you are on horseback. However, when you get to the outpost, you should expect to be fighting. If you ever fight anything, it will always include unarmored undead peasants. It may, or may not, include more powerful creatures such as undead crusaders like yourself, in armor, with weapons, or large creatures. Then you may also fight things such as harpies or demented wolves. Animals and creatures that will be hostile, and not care about their life (fight to the death).

It is safe to say, the majority of your foes are unarmed, and most unarmored too. They very, but a lot of the undead, demons, and mutant creatures will have only the natural weapons and armor of their kind.

Knights had squires, but Mercenaries had servants too? Did these people join you in battles? Either by fighting too, or standing nearby with the rest of your equipment, or did they follow you on campaigns and stay waaaay behind or something. Do most mercenaries work near home? Or do they work for months and then return for months?

Did the medieval period have things set up that would be similar to Military Bases? If I was a Man at arms, would I live at my house until war time and then I'd just be hiking all day until battles. Then when the war ends I go home.

In my game, I'm making a stronghold in the north, basically a military base. You go live there, like the Wall in Game of Thrones, and you do work. Whether you are a servant here, or a blacksmith, a cook, etc, you may also be a warrior here, someone who goes on patrols and fights and defends. A crusader. Also, many people that travel around in the north, as it is dangerous, they hire mercenaries as bodyguards, then they travel from one stronghold to the next buying and selling, traveling merchants and traders. Is this not how it worked back then? Would it be relatively unheard of for a man at arms or other professional soldier to live on a base, away from home.
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