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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2022 2:10 pm    Post subject: Does shields make duels "unfair"?         Reply with quote

Someone picks a longsword, his enemy picks a heater shield and an arming sword. How difficult would be for the unshielded duelist to fight against a shielded enemy?

Of course you can add variables like the proficiency gap and such, but that's pretty much a similar question to how much trouble you would get if you're unarmoured fighting an enemy in full plate armor (both using swords). I think even if your opponent has small experience, ability, and such, he still has the upper hand here.

CONTEXT
Long ago I made a post on why would you pick a one handed-sword in a fight against someone with a bastard or two-handed sword; my views were targeting the fact I barely knew any fencing techniques to be used with a one-handed sword, while a longsword have tons of options AND can do everything a one-handed sword can, but better.

Your answers pointed out the fact the biggest advantage of it is having a shield. You also pointed out that reach is an important thing in a duel; e.g. someone armed with a zweihander can keep half a dozen dagger-armed unarmoured enemies at bay just by swinging the sword around, so a priori having a longer sword also means having at least some advantage.

However how big is your advantage when using a shield when your opponent does not, and both of you are unarmoured or not supposed to be hit? Can you cover a particularly big amount of ability gap with a shield? I know the bigger the shield, the better for those situations. You can add your practical experience, historical knowledge and all other things.

If the shield is so useful, why it's stated that since early 15th century fully armored men rarely used them in battle? A combo of shield+arming wouldn't still be better than a longsword wielded with both hands?



Besides historical interest, I'm planning to balance my RPG's shield mechanics. Currently, an attacker rolls a d6 and the defender another d6, the bigger number wins, equal numbers favor defense; if he has a shield, the defender rolls 2d6 and choose the higher number. At 10 attacks, only 5 of them generally gets a hit (according to my testings, not that accurate), the shield drops the occurrence of sucesses to 2/10, rendering it way too OP. But, if it's historically accurate, I'm planing to keep it.

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Houston P.




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2022 6:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Pedro,

The first strategy I used when I fought with a longsword against sword and shield was to step offline on the shield side threatening a high attack before striking under the shield. It is pretty easy to position yourself in such a way that the shield obstructs your enemy’s lines of attack and vision momentarily. I also frequently used the whip technique where I would release my grip with my lead hand and strike the opponent’s knee, which is extremely effective if the shield user is leading with the shield-side leg. As you pointed out, I could do this from a distance great enough that I could miss and still usually recover before being hit. I also frequently used extended krumphau- type strikes to hit their sword arm while taking a passing step towards their sword-side. I don’t mean to make it sound easy; however, it is very difficult. Nothing prevents the shield user from simply using the sword to cover open lines, meaning that they don’t lose visibility. They also have the advantage if you close in a straight line. In fact, I lost every bout when I didn’t step offline. Altogether, a shield is a significant advantage in unarmored combat, and I wouldn’t want to fight against it with a long sword.

Fencing armored is another matter entirely. If I am in armor, I have little to fear from sword and shield. Thrusting into armor gaps without half swording can be done, but is extremely improbable. Even if they do get the point into a gap, they lack the significant amount of control that half swording gives, meaning that they are far less likely to seriously injure their opponent. Meanwhile, it would be very easy to grab the shield and use it to control them while thrusting with the longsword.

The reason fully armored men did not use shields is because the armor is basically a shield covering all of you constantly without limiting attack angles. You really only have to fear extremely lucky (or unbelievably accurate) arrows, thrusts, and heavy strikes from impact weapons, particularly to the head or knees. Against someone armed only with sword and shield, you could almost run at them with utter impudence.

As for how to balance your game, you might take into account that shields can limit attack angles, making defense better at a slight cost to offense.

Hope This Helps,
Houston

...and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭36‬)
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2022 7:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is a good example of why it is hard to balance armour in a game. Realistically, a fighter fully covered in armour is practically invulnerable to anything an opponent can do with a one-handed weapon (doesn't matter whether it is plate or mail or scale). You need to look at how these men were dealt with historically and develop rules to simulate it. Look at systems such as Codex Martialis and GURPS for ideas.

Shields come into their own when in formation, which is another thing that many RPGs don't handle very well.

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Michael Beeching





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PostPosted: Mon 10 Jan, 2022 11:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro,

It's very interesting to me to read about your RPG development - I dabble in that field from time to time myself. It sounds like you're doing an opposed-roll system, of which I'm a huge fan. To that measure, I just want to add that if you have the time for it, you will find that you can use dice - mechanical number generators - to generate very convincing probabilities. Using single D6's for each combatant is a bit bold, and I wonder about the other areas in which you balance the rules and dataset to make those numbers make sense. However, I'm convinced doubles happen A LOT in sparring and likely, real fights as well, so a base ~17% chance of a double (no modifiers accounted for) is something I can endorse!

...I also lack time against a shield in sparring. However, it does not take too much brainpower to see how effective they can be. On the downside, they are also an implement you might hide behind and rely on too much to offend the opponent - though this is a question of skill. Your shields can range in size from a buckler to a tower shield, and that size and weight difference almost strikes one as a linear change with respect to encumbrance and maneuverability vs. protection. That relation should have some form of bearing on the design of your game for sure.

You're also using non-cumulative dice for your sword-and-shield play in a manner that sounds slightly similar to the afore-mentioned Codex Martialis - if you're interested in learning about that system, you can find the forums over here:

https://www.codexintegrum.com/forums/

...And the author of those works, Jean Henri Chandler, is a member on these boards - it might be worth contacting him. Happy

Plugs aside, you might try balancing your combatants by giving them a number of dice per roll based on their loadouts and stats, and perhaps even their relative loadouts and stats. So, a longsword might give the user two dice to roll with by default, plus the user's skill (stats) and other items would form a total number of dice available per roll. You'd do the same for the other combatant. Perhaps you don't want to consider the size of the shield, but the fact that the shield exists as a defensive weapon gives that user +2 dice to their dice pool as well. Like the longsword user, the sword-and-shield user would tally the number of dice they have in their pool per roll...

...And then, perhaps what they do is subtract the sums of their dice pools from each other to come up with a simple opposed roll where the higher number is chosen for a given player. So, you might get something like this:

[Dice pool per player] = [Sum of items] + [Sum of stats] + [Sum of action points], where any set of the sums can contain negative numbers. The nice thing about a system like this is that you could rapidly tabulate everything in advance, and just have everything ready for when a combat occurs. "Action points" might be off-the-cuff, relative values that would need to be tallied between actions, but that's not too much overhead, really.

Then for your opposed roll, consider:

[Opposed roll dice pool advantage] = | [Dice pool of combatant A] - [Dice pool of combatant B] |, where the absolute value (a positive number) is taken between one dice pool and another. The effect is to see how many more dice one player should have as opposed to the other. So, let's say that combatant A has a pool of 17 and B has a pool of 16... the difference is obviously 1. Each player always has to have a dice, but combatant A will get one more dice for this particular round. If combatant A just happened to have the shield, and B had the longsword, it will be the same scenario as seen in your first post. But, perhaps conditions are reversed, and A had the longsword and B had the shield; in that case, A was just more skillful despite having less protection.

...That might be a novel way of balancing your system. All stats equal, it might just work out that arming sword (+1) and shield (+2) have an advantage over a longsword (+2). But if your longsordsman is really good, that shield might not work out as well as a less experienced fighter is hoping!

Another thing you could do is see the differences in the winning roll to determine damage, etc. Maybe a 4 vs. a 3... a difference of 1... gives someone a nasty cut to someone in street clothes, but a man in plate harness just gets angrier instead! It might take a difference of 2 or 3 to put the hurt on that man in armor. So, the damage aspect is a whole different "can of worms" to deal with as well.

Ultimately the hard part of making mechanical number generators - dice - make sense is trying to match them with real data. It's something I intend to do myself at some point. It might just be worth your time to watch a lot of sparring matches between individuals of varying skill levels and running the numbers. Then, see if those numbers match the numbers your game can produce. If it's convincing, you're on the right track. If it is fun to play and makes sense playing it, you've got a winner!

...I started doing a blog-like report on dice probabilities, and other ramblings as well, on the old Codex forums which you might find interesting. More so, the dice I started with was the D6, as several of the wargames I was looking at back then used the D6 as the primary number generator:

https://codex.masterplanfoundation.com/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=3061&sid=5b95af8cb790994a093eddf13902e8bf

Best of luck with your project!
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 11 Jan, 2022 4:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not a lot to add, but wanted to say that while one-on-one brawls or fights on a battlefield might involve any combination of weapons, *duels* tended to be arranged affairs with rules, and typically included equal or at least similar weapons. Of course on a battlefield, my first question is "WHERE IS YOUR FORMATION???", but there are plenty of scenarios that might lead to unequal opponents going toe-to-toe, so no biggy.

Shields were less common in the 15th century simply because the wide use of armor both allowed and necessitated the use of two-handed weapons. Anyone coming at you with a sword has already lost his halberd or lance or pike, etc. We do see plenty of images of unarmored men in civilian settings with sword and buckler, so the concept of shield use certainly wasn't gone! Also plenty of pavises used by infantry. But as others have pointed out, it's hard to hurt an armored man with a sword, you need something bigger!

Matthew
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Wed 12 Jan, 2022 5:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Not a lot to add, but wanted to say that while one-on-one brawls or fights on a battlefield might involve any combination of weapons, *duels* tended to be arranged affairs with rules, and typically included equal or at least similar weapons. Of course on a battlefield, my first question is "WHERE IS YOUR FORMATION???", but there are plenty of scenarios that might lead to unequal opponents going toe-to-toe, so no biggy.

Shields were less common in the 15th century simply because the wide use of armor both allowed and necessitated the use of two-handed weapons. Anyone coming at you with a sword has already lost his halberd or lance or pike, etc. We do see plenty of images of unarmored men in civilian settings with sword and buckler, so the concept of shield use certainly wasn't gone! Also plenty of pavises used by infantry. But as others have pointed out, it's hard to hurt an armored man with a sword, you need something bigger!

Matthew


I think Matthew nailed it. The main reason not to use a shield is so you can use a pike, a halberd (bill, bardiche etc.) a crossbow, an arquebus, or any number of weapons which require two hands.

That said, I don't think the shield ever really went away. You did have units where few were carrying them, but you still had units where they were. The Rodelero was a late 15th Century and / or early 16th Century invention, and proved quite effective for a while. The Ottomans were also using shields. Then you have the pavise and the LIthuanian style half-pavise which was really important all through the 15th and well into the 16th Century (Certainly in both Central Europe and Italy). We also see cavalry adaptations of the shield, such as the famous Hungarian shield, which was used both actively and passively (behind the back) to help protect light cavalry from missiles.


These were in wide use, in fact they show up in the Gladiatoria fechtbüch.

As Matthew (I think) implies above, the sword (and other single-handed weapons) was almost always a sidearm. The main weapon was something else. Even going back to the early medieval or into Antiquity. Most people carried spears. That was the main weapon of the Hoplite. Lighter troops like peltasts and velites carried javelins. The Roman Legions carried the pilum. Their sword was very important, but the pilum was really the main weapon.

We do have larger two handed swords sometimes facing opponents armed with shields. Some of the Iberian fencing manuals get into how to do this, maybe you are familiar with a few of these? And you also see it in the Bolognese tradition and in some of the other Italian manuals.

Here is a demonstration of using the montante against several opponents armed with various other weapon combinations, including some with rotella. These are Iberian techniques. It gives you an idea what the tactics are.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxHaNRO705k

The shield does give you a big advantage, but not necessarily decisive. IMO from whatever my time fencing matters (probably not that much) larger shields can also get in your way a bit. For this reason I think the buckler is more flexible and seemingly preferred in one on one engagements. And yet, when it comes to a one on one fight, I think the sword and dagger is even more effective than the buckler or the larger target or rotella shield. With the big shield, less of you is vulnerable, but as the shield bearer you are also somewhat restricted. If you are facing a shield armed opponent, you can attack high and low, and strike their weapon arm when they strike. It's certainly not impossible with a longsword. Personally I found a well trained I.33 guy with a buckler probably the most dangerous shield-armed opponent. And a well-trained Bolognese fencer with a parrying dagger even more so.

I think the shield helps enormously against polearms, and against missiles, and is very good to have in any kind of chaotic engagement when facing many opponents - especially if you aren't wearing armor, or not complete armor. Don't forget many types of historical shields were not that physically strong and could be damaged. Viking shields for example.

Your approach of conferring an advantage to the defender s basically a good idea I think. As others mentioned it's pretty much how I handled it. How the balance actually works out in play (and if it is fun, and / or feels like a real fight) is something you need to determine through play-testing. One question I might ask, is if you give such an advantage to a shield, how do you reflect the reach advantage of say, a nine foot glaive?

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Jan, 2022 5:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
This is a good example of why it is hard to balance armour in a game. Realistically, a fighter fully covered in armour is practically invulnerable to anything an opponent can do with a one-handed weapon (doesn't matter whether it is plate or mail or scale). You need to look at how these men were dealt with historically and develop rules to simulate it. Look at systems such as Codex Martialis and GURPS for ideas.

Shields come into their own when in formation, which is another thing that many RPGs don't handle very well.


Just to build off of your point,

I think games, films, pop culture in general, really struggle with the idea that armor works (or worked).

It makes it harder to slaughter armies of 'mooks'. In reality, even really skilled and badass people rarely waded into a crowd of dozens of enemies and killed them with spin-moves and cartwheels. But that is a Trope we have come to expect, or at least, some of us have.

But armor did work, and yet, people wearing armor were still killed in battle. If we start with that premise, it will help lead us to a better understanding of the world in which all this interesting gear we like so much was really like. We will probably never totally understand it, of course.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Jan, 2022 12:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
I think games, films, pop culture in general, really struggle with the idea that armor works (or worked). .

All armour does in a movie is make the actor look cool. When was the last time we saw a show in which armour actually stopped a weapon? The only one I can think of recently is the Mandalorian, and that had to be made of a semi-mystical super-rare metal.

One thing I find ironic in the movies is that improvised things like sheriff's badges, trash can lids, and pocket books can stop weapons but something specifically designed for that purpose (i.e. body armour) can not.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Jan, 2022 6:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Last Duel had a couple of scenes where armor briefly seemed to work, but then also some where it didn't. And the key characters spent half their time in battle (in totally chaotic, disorganized melees with enemies rushing in from every direction) fighting in armor but with their helmets off.

Generally armor seems to be the uniform for bad guys just about to die, or for friendly mooks who are also doomed to die very soon (Lord of the Rings movies when they were fighting at Gondor, as one example). It's almost like a clunkier version of the Red Shirt in Star Trek. Why would anyone go to the trouble of making, or even putting on armor if it doesn't do anything but get in the way? My running joke is that all movie armor is made of cardboard (which some of it probably is).

The most ludicrous scene I remember of inanimate objects stopping bullets was in Walking Dead, 3 or 4 seasons in, where they got in a short range shootout with military assault weapons (30-40 meters from their opponents), and they were literally hiding behind filing cabinets. I had to tap out after that one.

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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jan, 2022 2:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Houston P. wrote:
Hey Pedro,

The first strategy I used when I fought with a longsword against sword and shield was ...


Interesting. But don't we have any strategy to disarm the shield? In a buckler+arming sword video I watched, the fencer could use his buckler to touch the enemy buckler (I don't know if that technique is called binding) and use the short amount of time he has with the enemy shield in his control to attack him, but that requires another shield.

On the other hand, it seems the Vikings used their Axes' beards to hook up in their enemy's shield so they could either open his guard or at least restrict their movement while your ally pokes him with a spear, for example. Axes were popular in the Nothern areas of the Brittish Isles till 13th century, perhaps because of this?

Anyways, this requires a group of fighters on your side, I think an Axe or Polearm hook wouldn't be immensely useful in a 1 vs.1 combat.

Houston P. wrote:
Thrusting into armor gaps without half swording can be done, but is extremely improbable. Even if they do get the point into a gap, they lack the significant amount of control that half swording gives, meaning that they are far less likely to seriously injure their opponent.


I thought the issue with thrusting with a longsword in the normal way versus using halfswording was mainly the force of the thrust. Isn't that important?

Houston P. wrote:

As for how to balance your game, you might take into account that shields can limit attack angles, making defense better at a slight cost to offense.


It seems to be the consensus here. It could be done but I'm brainstorming ideas, the most recent of them is limiting the number of strikes you can do in a single turn. So, as you progress with a weapon type, you unlock some resources, one of them allows you to give more attacks at a given enemy that isn't as fast as you. Let's say, your Agility is 75 and your opponent's 50, with the 25 point gap, you can strike 3 times with a rapier (rapiers require a 10 points-gap for each strike) or twice with a spear (normal spears requiring 20/25), but your opponent can only attack once in his turn, since he's not as fast as you. I could increase the demands on the stats' gaps when using shields; that's the easiest alternative I could think in regards to applying actual penalties in the shielded attacker's hits, but I should consider the dimensions of different shields on that.

-----------
Dan Howard wrote:
All armour does in a movie is make the actor look cool. When was the last time we saw a show in which armour actually stopped a weapon? The only one I can think of recently is the Mandalorian, and that had to be made of a semi-mystical super-rare metal..


Most movies work with the idea that the main character should be relatable to public, so movies like Netflix's Henry V dismisses almost all armor to make Henry looks like a common soldier, a man of the people, a democratic leader or "one of us", while they think gilded armor and jewels make him look like ... a King? Full armor itself is a benefit that other normal soldiers lack, a financial benefit that helps you prevail against numbers and even against crude ability. An armored individual wins not just or exactly because he's more capable, but because he OWNS something the others do not. This pretty much rules armor out of protagonist characters (look, Robert Pattinson can't stand up on the mud, look how stupid he is, Henry wears rusted light armor and knows the drill).

A classical trope of movie fights is also consecutive and huge 1vs.1 fights with the hero defeating one enemy at a time. No numerical advantage usage whatsoever.

“Burn old wood, read old books, drink old wines, have old friends.”
Alfonso X, King of Castile (1221-84)


Last edited by Pedro Paulo Gaião on Fri 14 Jan, 2022 3:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jan, 2022 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Beeching wrote:
Using single D6's for each combatant is a bit bold, and I wonder about the other areas in which you balance the rules and dataset to make those numbers make sense. However, I'm convinced doubles happen A LOT in sparring and likely, real fights as well, so a base ~17% chance of a double (no modifiers accounted for) is something I can endorse!


With a double you mean a double hit, where fighters hit each other, which also happens to be a huge trouble for current HEMA?

By the way I read your suggestions, I'm just trying to understand your dice-system suggestion. Also, I do plan to add a module or fully implement a 2d6 system because Gaussian statistics are way more realistic than linear statistics (which is something that GURPS implement with their 3d6-base), I'm just struggling with the "simplicity is gold" issue.
--------


Matthew Amt wrote:
Not a lot to add, but wanted to say that while one-on-one brawls or fights on a battlefield might involve any combination of weapons, *duels* tended to be arranged affairs with rules, and typically included equal or at least similar weapons.


That's something I notice in artistic evidence, with duels generally having the exact same type of shields and weapons (like German Messer + Hungarian Punch Shield). The observation the adversities of war and civilian context reminded me that when Master Joao of Avis went to Lisbon's palace to give a coup, he had his squire Nuno to appear with arming sword and pieces of armor on the arms and shoulders: not much armor to denounce a coup, not unarmoured to risk your life. Bucklers weren't really a thing in late 14th century Portugal, so he didn't show up with any shield in order to cause alarm. The Queen went paranoic even with Nuno's pieces of armor (she wasn't wrong, as João would put a dagger on her lover's throat that day; Nuno was an inhumane fighter too); the squire got off by saying he was just doing guard duty around, keeping the peace, and people got convinced. Then it was just an inside job.
-----

On Chandler's comments, I would point out that Ottomans never really went as protected as Western knights had. Islamic "plated mail" even used the logic that plates should cover where your shield doesn't (like your belly when on horse). Winged shields were a thing in both sides, of course, but they seen to be more used among Hungarian lighter cavalry (which would always had a shield, perhaps only the archers wouldn't). The Siege of Oran painting (c. 1500) shows Spanish cavalry chasing Moorish troops, all Ginetes (light cavalry) carry Adargas, while the men-at-arms dismisses shields because of armor. Of course, I know shields were used by 15th century MAA even when mounted in war, but it wasn't as common as previously. Professor Agostinho, however, says the Portuguese despised Adargas in the 15th century sources, perhaps contradicting the opinion of neighbouring Castilians who made a more extensive use of them.

I don't know about any Portuguese fencing manual translated to nowadays Portuguese, because for a non-European you have trouble to understand the writing: Medieval and Modern Portuguese wrote in the same way they spoke (European Portuguese speakers had it easily, though). That's the same issue I have with Historical English from England: British dudes showed me a 17th century Parlamentarian propaganda joking about Welshmen's outdated armor and funny accents, but in the way it was written, I didn't get what the Welsh were talking and why it was so funny anyway. Sometimes I like to read Portuguese sources in English (the Portuguese dialogue with the Granadine Moors at India, 1498, for example, is hard for someone outside Portugal), as the translation keeps the meaning but changes the words.

“Burn old wood, read old books, drink old wines, have old friends.”
Alfonso X, King of Castile (1221-84)
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Jan, 2022 7:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While I'd concede that Ottomans probably made less use of substantially armored soldiers than Latinized European armies, they did have their fully armored types as well. The Ottoman Sipahi were fairly close in terms of protection to European cavalry - the Augsburg or Milanese harness might be a bit more sophisticated but you still aren't going to cut through. Armored heavy cavalry seems to have originated in Central Asia after all, they knew what it was and how to do it (and how to contend with it).

Shields show up most often during sieges, during static phases of battles, and with lightly equipped troops like light cavalry, but the shield did remain important. It's a bit glib to just dismiss their role in the 15h Century, including among heavily armored troop types. The pavise and 'half-pavise' type shields were key to the Czech war-fighting system (both for armored and unarmored fighters0 and that was enormously influential through the end of the 16th century.

The various Central Asian and SE European cavalry shields could be carried on the saddle (as seen in one of the images attached)., bucklers were often worn on the belt for personal defense in conjunction with the sidearm (usually a single-handed sword) including by such infantry as marksmen, archers, and pikemen. Conversely longswords were sometimes carried into battle by unarmored or lightly armored infantry as well.

Anyway, you seem to have the information you need to proceed, good luck with your system.



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