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Brenton Hudson




Location: Barnwell, SC
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 8:04 am    Post subject: Longswords?         Reply with quote

Hello everyone. I'm Brenton Hudson, although you can call me Brent, but I don't really have a preference. Anyhow, I recently joined here. Being someone who has played video games (especially RPGs) and D&D games, I have noticed something: longswords. In my articles about historical weapons, it is stated that longswords were used with two hands, but in the games, the longsword is often used with one hand while the other held a shield or another weapon. Are both versions of the longsword accurate or is just accurate?
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Michael Mercier




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 8:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Brent,
My best advice is never to rely on video games as a basis for historical fighting. Despite the appearance to look "authentic", they aren't created by people who have a historical background and they are designed as entertainment. The longsword was never meant to be used with a shield. It was a weapon designed for 2 hand use, however light enough for one hand.
If it was in one hand, the free hand could be used for grappling or blade manipulation. As armour became easier and cheaper to produce, the shield slowly disappeared. That is not to say that it was completely gone, but why tie up a hand holding a shield when the armour you wore was sufficient enough to protect you?

My 2 cents

Mike
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Jakob Elbæk E. Pedersen




Location: Brabrand, Denmark
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 8:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A longsword (or 1½-handed sword) can be gripped both one- and two-handed.

Normally the sword will be used two-handed - but several techniques features the one-handed grip. Especially techniques that conmtains close combat. Several follow-up moves and counter-attacks feature the one-handed grip.

For graphical examples of what I am talking about, see here; http://base.kb.dk/pls/hsk_web/hsk_vis.forside...p_lang=eng

Longswords and shields were rarely used together - and when they were the shield was mounted on the shoulder/back of the fighter, as seen on the front-page of the link above. Either way this seems to have been a rare thing.


/Jakob

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Brenton Hudson




Location: Barnwell, SC
Joined: 21 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 9:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So the longsword was actually a two-handed sword. Then, what sword was used with the shield, besides the shortsword? From researching types of swords for a History 101 paper, I discovered that the longsword was used with the shield, although the information was probably outdated. I did discover that the bastard sword (or one-and-half sword) could be used with one hand or two hands.

Anyhow, what you both are saying is that the longsword and bastard sword were the same sword with different names, correct?
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Jakob Elbæk E. Pedersen




Location: Brabrand, Denmark
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

No, the longsword is a longsword - a two-handed sword handles quite differently than a longsword.

The term "bastard sword" is not a medieval term. In the german fighting manuals the sword is called a Langenschwert (longsword) or a Anderthalbhänder (1½-handed sword). The reason for the longsword, in modern times, being called a "bastard sword" is most likely because some people see it as a hybrid between the one-handed and the two-handed sword.

By my opinion a "bastard sword" is a 16. c. bybrid between a sword and a rapier. But I am quite sure that quite a few has a different opinion about that. Happy

The sword most commonly used with shields was the one-handed sword - the term "short sword" is also a modern one. The one-handed sword varied greatly in lenght, but most averagly the blade was between 50 and 80 cm. long.


/Jakob

Quia Possum
(Because I can)


Last edited by Jakob Elbæk E. Pedersen on Thu 21 Dec, 2006 9:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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Brenton Hudson




Location: Barnwell, SC
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 9:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah, I see now. The longsword was designed to be easily used in one hand or two hands.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 9:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The thing is, though many long swords can be used with one hands, almost all (if not all) the historical manuals illustrating their use depict them being used with both hands. Fencing with two hands is quite a different dynamic than fencing with sword and buckler or sword and shield.

As for single handed swords, medieval people just called them "swords". "Single handed sword" is a useful way to clarify what you mean, and I sometimes use the term "knightly sword" although the latter term is more problematic and certainly is not one that was used historically.

I'm not sure why "long sword" is used in Dungeons and Dragons and the like to refer to a single handed sword. I was also confused by the fact that long swords and broad swords seemed to be nearly the same thing in roleplaying games, the latter merely being broader than the former. As it turns out though, "broad sword" is a Victorian term for medieval swords. If you look up "broad sword" in the Oxford English Dictionary it only appears once in the Middle Ages circa 1000 AD. In this case, the term refers not to a type of sword, but rather a particularly "broad" specimin, according to the author.
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Bryce Felperin




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 10:13 am    Post subject: Re: Longswords?         Reply with quote

Brenton Hudson wrote:
Hello everyone. I'm Brenton Hudson, although you can call me Brent, but I don't really have a preference. Anyhow, I recently joined here. Being someone who has played video games (especially RPGs) and D&D games, I have noticed something: longswords. In my articles about historical weapons, it is stated that longswords were used with two hands, but in the games, the longsword is often used with one hand while the other held a shield or another weapon. Are both versions of the longsword accurate or is just accurate?


I'd just add to the other comments about the longsword that you shouldn't trust anything as fact if it comes from games, be they video or role-playing pen and paper. I have played most of these games too and I can tell you that most of what they give for weapon information is always wrong. D&D is a good example. They give the wrong weights, wrong names and in my opinion a bad interpretation to how the weapons they name look, are used and the damage they do. So take the information they present as game information, but not necessarily real life information for these weapons.

Also remember that in most all cases the game developers have never even handled these weapons, nor have they learned to use them. So when it comes down to it, their opinion doesn't even count. Enjoy playing the game, but don't think anything you see in it is necessarily accurate. Do your own research.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 10:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I'm the kind of person who'd say that the bastard sword is the longsword. The problem is that the term "bastard sword" came up in the 16th century--technically a little outside the medieval period--and even then it was not used in a consistent manner so we moderns can define it one way or another as we like. To get a meaningful comparison you'd have to refer to the specific Oakeshott type.

That being said, remember that combat in the European Middle Ages was not restricted to foot combat; men-at-arms also fought on horseback, and there is ample pictorial evidence that the long-handled longswords were used with a one-handed grip in horseback fighting. Granted, I think most men-at-arms would have preferred to use the more strictly one-handed "arming swords" with shorter grips, but from my personal experience I can say that most longswords would still have been quite manageable in one hand, especially in mounted combat. The only difference is in some details of the balance--and in that you'll have to be careful about where the pommel goes.

I'd also say that D&D is a very poor source for weapon info. Just look at the "Greatsword" entry in the PHB, where it is stated that the weapon weighs fifteen pounds while historical examples of it (mostly of Oakeshott types XIIa and XIIIa) weighed between two and four pounds. I'd also take issue with the totally inaccurate classification of a katana as a "bastard sword" there because if a katana can be described in two words then they're "short" and "light." Honestly, I'd rather put it in the "short sword" category.

It doesn't help either that the D&D illustrations represent the rapier as a curved blade. Now if that's not an ARGH point then I don't know what is.
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Ed Toton




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 1:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Brenton Hudson wrote:
So the longsword was actually a two-handed sword. Then, what sword was used with the shield, besides the shortsword?


Unfortunately, many of the historical weapons don't fit into nice neat categories as per our modern sensibilities tend to require. A one-handed sword is just that... a single-handed sword. It would generally have just been called "sword" back in the day.

The term longsword implies a sword that is longer, thus designed with two-handed combat in mind, but with the option of single-hand use, as most people here have been pointing out. The thing to keep in mind here is that most of the single-handed use with a longsword would be temporary, such as letting go with the off-hand to grapple, or grip the mid-blade for "half-swording" techniques, or for extra reach in a thrust, etc. It's quite possible to use a buckler in the off-hand and use the longsword single-handed, but it requires a lot more energy and is not nearly as agile. I tried this in some of our practice bouts last week, and I must say I'd rather use a smaller sword if I'm going to use some sort of buckler or shield with it. It worked, but not comfortably by any means.

Longswords are definitely not the same as what people would specifically call a "two handed sword", which implies a much larger beast that requires both hands to be effective, such as the zweihanders and their ilk.

-Ed T. Toton III
ed.toton.org | ModernChivalry.org
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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 4:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Brenton Hudson wrote:
So the longsword was actually a two-handed sword. Then, what sword was used with the shield, besides the shortsword? From researching types of swords for a History 101 paper, I discovered that the longsword was used with the shield, although the information was probably outdated. I did discover that the bastard sword (or one-and-half sword) could be used with one hand or two hands.

Anyhow, what you both are saying is that the longsword and bastard sword were the same sword with different names, correct?


You are going to find that terminology is vexing. There are few conventions on names and popular culture tends to muddle things even more, as other have demonstrated. Its worth noting that in most cases, mass media reflects the bias of authors who are more enthusiastic than knowledgable.

Perhaps the best way to think of a longsword is as a sword that is long, while shortsword is simply a sword that is short. trying to read much mroe into these terms can cause quite a bit of confusion for everyone, quickly. There are more specific terms that can be applied to regional and chronological variations of the long and short sword that allow people to understand frame of reference in conversation more precisely.

That said, many collectors and people trying to relearn European martial traditions consider a longsword to be a distinct group of sword types. A longsword is not a two handed sword. It is a sword that may be predominantly used with two hands, but there can be more to this than technique. Many longswords date from period when armor made shields redundant, so with two hands free, why not put both on the sword and hit your opponent harder?

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 5:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The longsword or shortsword I think we are discussing here is in the Medieval context and is or can be confusing and as others have mentioned mostly a modern way of naming stuff that may or may not reflect what they were called in period.

For me and just for me " shortsword " always meant something like the Roman Gladius in length or smaller until one reaches a size where one obsesses about the difference between a shortsword and a large dagger.

This idea may have been or is erroneous but shortsword was something in the range of 15" to 20" blades of enough weight to have some good chopping potential. The 20" to 24 " range sort of a grey zone as far as what to call a sword.

One handed swords are just " sword " with blades usually in the 30" length give or take 5".

Then we go up from there with again some overlap in blade length but handles suitable for twohanded use blades 30" to 40"

When we get to even longer blades one handed use becomes impractical and we are in twohander territory.

Don't take the above as anything more than my own personal way of deciding what is what. Wink

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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 2:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Brent,

Have you been to the Features section on this site? It contains several well-researched articles that may help you in your studies.

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 8:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And the recurring links to *cough* Oakeshott....
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Jeremiah Swanger




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Dec, 2006 12:37 am    Post subject: Re: Longswords?         Reply with quote

Brenton Hudson wrote:
Hello everyone. I'm Brenton Hudson, although you can call me Brent, but I don't really have a preference. Anyhow, I recently joined here. Being someone who has played video games (especially RPGs) and D&D games, I have noticed something: longswords. In my articles about historical weapons, it is stated that longswords were used with two hands, but in the games, the longsword is often used with one hand while the other held a shield or another weapon. Are both versions of the longsword accurate or is just accurate?


Hi Brenton,

As a fellow gamer, I can relate to exactly the dilemma you're having. It took me 5 years of research and constant communication with more knowlegable people than myself, primarily on forums like this, to get things straight in my head.

Gary Gygax (the original author of the original D&D) had a bit of a dilemma-- he had to apply attack and damage values to the weapons. This required a neat classification system, which history, particularly European history, doesn't provide.

In the early days, like the Migration Era, the Viking Age, and the Middle Ages, a sword was typically single-handed, and typically used with a shield. Plate armor didn't exist in these times-- though chainmaille was an excellent defense against blades and spearpoints, it wasn't as resilient as solid plate, and a dead-on hit can shear the links. Shields were still important in these times.

Eventually, in order to better defeat chainmaille, and to improve reach and impact from horseback, the smiths and cutlers started introducing swords with longer blades, with hilts that could accomodate both hands fairly comfortably. The English called this type the Grete Sverde, or "Great Sword", and the French started calling them Epee de Guerre, or "Sword of War" (though it probably wasn't that cut-and-dry-- there was probably some overlap). The average length of the grip of one of these swords was 7 inches-- long enough to accomodate both hands and keep them in a locked, secure grip. Although the single-handed sword was still prevalent, these larger swords appear to have gained in popularity VERY quickly.

After about a century or so, we start seeing steel plates being integrated into a wealthy nobleman's armor, as newer mining and manufacturing methods allowed for greater volume of better steel. Thus, the broad, fullered, flexible cutting blades were gradually being supplanted by narrower, more pointy, and stiffer blades that could help their wielders thrust into the areas of his opponent's armor that were not protected by steel plates. It is around this time that the terms "Great Sword" and "War Sword" are gradually supplanted by the term "longsword."

Also, around this time, we start seeing swords meant for everyday use, and not just for the battlefield. These swords were often lighter, slimmer, keener, and more decorated. Single-handed versions were called Riding Swords and are the most probable ancestor of the rapier. Single-handed swords meant for military use, being broader and heavier, were sometimes referred to as Arming Swords.

Also, about this time, we start seeing the emergence of what some of us call "true" hand-and-a-half swords (and you thought it couldn't get any more confusing!)

A longsword can be considered a hand-and-a-half sword, but its blade is quite long, usually a yard to a meter in length, and quite slim. While it is light enough to wield with one hand, weight isn't the only factor. The longer, slimmer blades require the extra control of a second hand when carrying out the intricate and complex style of combat that was prevalent at the time. The day I first picked up a longsword, I could tell right away that the sword wanted to be used with two hands, despite the fact that it was light enough with one.

A "true" hand-and-a-half sword, on the other hand, is often broader than a longsword, and shorter, with a blade that is only a few inches longer than a single-handed arming sword. While a longsword's grip is usually 7 inches or more in length, a true h+h sword will often have a 6 inch grip-- enough to slide on your second hand, but not enough to impede the wrist movements in single-handed technique. These swords are often referred to as Arming Swords as well, but, as noted by another forum member, in the 1500's we start seeing slimmer, lighter hand-and-a-half swords with more decorative fittings-- like h+h versions of Riding swords. These are what we usually mean when we say "bastard" sword.


So, a quick review:

1) Great Sword, or Sword of War-- proto-longswords with broad, shearing blades. Mostly 13th-14th century.

2) Longsword-- military-oriented, long, slim sword that was used two-handed on foot, or single-handed from horseback.

3) Arming Sword-- a term used from the 14th century onward to denote a military blade primarily for single-handed use, though some can accomodate a second hand.

4) Riding Sword-- light, slim, single-handed swords meant for everyday personal protection, or judicial dueling.

5) Bastard Sword-- light, slim, hand-and-a-half swords meant for everyday personal protection, or judicial dueling.

I should caution you, though-- there are many historical examples that can fit in two (or more) of these categories, so these classifications are still largely useless. If you want an effective historical classification system, turn to the Oakeshott Typology.

But, for gaming purposes, these 5 classifications should suit you. I've even written a system of stats, if you're interested...

Again, sorry for the confusion, but the people who lived in a day when swords were a necessity didn't exactly take our scholarly dilemmas into account Wink

"Rhaegar fought nobly.
Rhaegar fought valiantly.
Rhaegar fought honorably.
And Rhaegar died."

- G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Dec, 2006 4:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I daresay that's quite a workable system for a roleplaying game. Brent's purpose, though, is to write a history paper, and any RPG classification scheme is certainly bound to be too clear-cut for it! Wink
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Jeremiah Swanger




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Dec, 2006 3:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Brent's purpose, though, is to write a history paper, and any RPG classification scheme is certainly bound to be too clear-cut for it! Wink


Oops...

Yeah, I definitely missed that point. Nonetheless, I did include a link in my previous post to the article on the Oakeshott Typology on Albion's website. I find myself returning to that article quite often, just to gaze longingly at Peter's design sketches and imagining them in steel.

Yep, with Peter's sketchbook alone, Albion should have enough ideas for their Next Generation lineup for decades to come! Cool

"Rhaegar fought nobly.
Rhaegar fought valiantly.
Rhaegar fought honorably.
And Rhaegar died."

- G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Dec, 2006 5:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hm. Well. We seem to have forgotten to mention that the longer grip of a longsword makes it handier for a desperation move where the sword is couched under the armpit and used as an emergency replacement for the broken lance.
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Jakob Elbæk E. Pedersen




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Dec, 2006 5:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Hm. Well. We seem to have forgotten to mention that the longer grip of a longsword makes it handier for a desperation move where the sword is couched under the armpit and used as an emergency replacement for the broken lance.


That would be a very desperate move indeed - I could think of quite a few handier ways to use a longsword from horseback.

Do you have any historical refrences to that "technique" actually being used on the field of battle?


/Jakob

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 24 Dec, 2006 8:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jakob Elbæk E. Pedersen wrote:

That would be a very desperate move indeed - I could think of quite a few handier ways to use a longsword from horseback.

Do you have any historical refrences to that "technique" actually being used on the field of battle?


/Jakob


Oakeshott mentioned that, though I can't pull the exact reference because I'm 900 miles from my books. I believe it might have been from one of the Crusade chronicles.

Happy

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