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View Full Version : Shouldn't bludgeoning weapons like warhammers and maces have advantages over armor?



MonkeySage
2016-02-20, 12:49 PM
Like maybe a warhammer have at least +1 against full plate for example?

Necroticplague
2016-02-20, 01:54 PM
Like maybe a warhammer have at least +1 against full plate for example?

What system? Some games just don't bother going into details that fine. I know of a couple systems where such is the case. Like one where armor basically acts as DR, and defends by different amounts against different types of attacks. Bashing damage is generally harder to get good armor against than stabbing or slashing, so this is is true in that system.

Donnadogsoth
2016-02-20, 01:55 PM
Like maybe a warhammer have at least +1 against full plate for example?

Phoenix Command models weapon type vs. armour as a damage modifier. Edged, flanged, and blunt weapons use one glancing table, stabbing weapons (a poor choice against plate armour) use another table. A battleaxe has no disadvantage over a warhammer, here.

There are also rules for beaked axes, which let the attacker roll blunt-attack dice, but applied on the stabbing damage table.

Piedmon_Sama
2016-02-20, 02:36 PM
Back in super old-skool times when there was only Basic and Advanced D&D, it could get that detailed if you wanted. But since remembering which weapons were advantaged vs what armor was a headache, pretty much nobody used the Weapons vs Armor tables.

Yes, realistically a weapon like a mace, hammer or warpick had a much better chance of severely injuring someone in plate harness than a longsword. If your weapon tapered to a wedge-point it could punch through a cuirass, while a mace or hammer might leave a dent which would impinge breathing, not to mention blunt impacts could always seriously injure someone even through the best steel plate.

However once we get into that level of detail you have to give other weapons their due. Swords were called "the king of weapons" due to their sheer versatility----pommel strikes could deal bludgeoning damage, most swords could cut or thrust, or in other words a sword should be able to deal all three of D&D's damage types. Axes of course could be swung with the obverse side to deal bludgeoning damage etc etc so-on. Pretty soon you have a system so overdetailed that nobody would want to read it!

Darth Ultron
2016-02-20, 02:50 PM
Yes.

But most games ignore that level of detail.

And you only get two real choices: A way to simple rule system like ''+1 to hit'' or a way to complex one that simply stops game play.

Morty
2016-02-20, 02:51 PM
In some systems, they already do.

Gallade
2016-02-20, 02:52 PM
I know in Dwarf Fortress armor works "realistically"...and by "realistically" it means that rigid armor (like plate mail) works by spreading the force of the impact over a bigger area. For instance, if you had a force of 10 hitting you in a spot, the armor would turn that into a force of 2 spreading over an area 5 times that of the original impact.

Flexible armor like chain mail, instead, worked by absorbing part of a force over the surface area of the impact, for instance if you had a force of 4 hitting you over an area of 10 it would become a force of 2 over the same area.

Thus, best efficiency is had by wearing rigid armor over flexible armor, so that the blows get first spread out, and then widely mitigated by the mail underneath.
So...yeah, where am I going with this. I don't really know, but what I can say for sure is that with rigid armor, any attack that can't puncture them (such as bullets or arrows made of stronger materials) will turn into a bludgeoning attack, so you need more overall force since it's getting spread out no matter what. Hence why heavy attacks with big bludgeons work better on them: the heavier and faster the blow, the more overall force.
Flexible armor instead would work poorly against concentrated attacks such as those from swords or spears, where the area of impact is very small, but they would offer more protection against bludgeons.

nedz
2016-02-20, 04:14 PM
In Chainmail, OD&D and 1E AD&D there was a table reflecting this. I never saw it used since it just added complexity. You can do this sort of thing if you want, but ask yourself: does it add to the game-play ? Or is it just realism-porn ?

lacco36
2016-02-20, 04:18 PM
In some systems, they already do.

Example:
Warhammer: Particularly effective against armor: +1 damage against all forms of armor.

In D&D that would at least double-up the die used (e.g. 1d8 to 2d8).

Mark Hall
2016-02-20, 04:48 PM
In Chainmail, OD&D and 1E AD&D there was a table reflecting this. I never saw it used since it just added complexity. You can do this sort of thing if you want, but ask yourself: does it add to the game-play ? Or is it just realism-porn ?

Hackmaster has it built into the weapons table. Combat and Tactics for 2e had a new system whereby this was specifically mentioned with the weapon, whereas base 2e just had the optional rule of weapon type v. armor type.

Keltest
2016-02-20, 05:05 PM
In a computer game going into that level of detail is fine, but when you have humans who have to calculate all the damage and attack rolls, there needs to be a certain level of K.I.S.S. applied.

nedz
2016-02-20, 05:15 PM
Hackmaster has it built into the weapons table. Combat and Tactics for 2e had a new system whereby this was specifically mentioned with the weapon, whereas base 2e just had the optional rule of weapon type v. armor type.

I thought they'd dropped it from 2E ?
Nope - it's there on page 90, and it is just weapon type.
Oh well, I never did use it so I might have just ignored it.

Vitruviansquid
2016-02-20, 05:25 PM
Yes and no.

Yes, if there are good gameplay reasons to give some weapons advantages in certain conditions than others.

No, if "because realism" is the only reason.

Dienekes
2016-02-20, 05:54 PM
In a computer game going into that level of detail is fine, but when you have humans who have to calculate all the damage and attack rolls, there needs to be a certain level of K.I.S.S. applied.

And yet there are games like The Riddle of Steel that do model weapon advantages realistically and I generally consider the combat faster and more fun than D&D style games. It's all about how the system is set up to make these variables work quickly for the player and GM.

Of course, everything else about TROS is kinda iffy so take all lessons from that game with a grain of salt

BootStrapTommy
2016-02-20, 07:06 PM
One of the major features of armor is distribution of force. Even more than protecting you from a wound, armor's job is to redistribute the force of a blow. So blunt forces, which are already distributed, being better against armor seems strange.

Anyone got a more scientific source on that?

Keltest
2016-02-20, 07:20 PM
One of the major features of armor is distribution of force. Even more than protecting you from a wound, armor's job is to redistribute the force of a blow. So blunt forces, which are already distributed, being better against armor seems strange.

Anyone got a more scientific source on that?

Basically, heavy armor turns all forces into crushing forces rather than cutting forces, so a weapon that already crushes well is going to do better. Or at least that's the logic.

If nothing else, it would probably be better for the weapon if it were already blunt.

MonkeySage
2016-02-20, 07:26 PM
A Warhammer actually concentrates a great deal more force on a small surface area than a sword would, and was a practically designed to deal with plate male.

Add to t hat that warhammers were actually pretty small, and many had a spike on at least one side that pretty much begged to be used to pierce a helmet.

Donnadogsoth
2016-02-20, 07:49 PM
A Warhammer actually concentrates a great deal more force on a small surface area than a sword would, and was a practically designed to deal with plate male.

Add to t hat that warhammers were actually pretty small, and many had a spike on at least one side that pretty much begged to be used to pierce a helmet.

But, remember that a spike is going to turn more easily than a hammerhead. If the spike sinks home, Bob's your uncle, but if you strike a glancing blow it's going to turn.

Feddlefew
2016-02-20, 07:57 PM
I know in Dwarf Fortress armor works "realistically"...and by "realistically" it means that rigid armor (like plate mail) works by spreading the force of the impact over a bigger area. For instance, if you had a force of 10 hitting you in a spot, the armor would turn that into a force of 2 spreading over an area 5 times that of the original impact.

Flexible armor like chain mail, instead, worked by absorbing part of a force over the surface area of the impact, for instance if you had a force of 4 hitting you over an area of 10 it would become a force of 2 over the same area.

Thus, best efficiency is had by wearing rigid armor over flexible armor, so that the blows get first spread out, and then widely mitigated by the mail underneath.
So...yeah, where am I going with this. I don't really know, but what I can say for sure is that with rigid armor, any attack that can't puncture them (such as bullets or arrows made of stronger materials) will turn into a bludgeoning attack, so you need more overall force since it's getting spread out no matter what. Hence why heavy attacks with big bludgeons work better on them: the heavier and faster the blow, the more overall force.
Flexible armor instead would work poorly against concentrated attacks such as those from swords or spears, where the area of impact is very small, but they would offer more protection against bludgeons.

Note that this system had issues modeling flexible weapons, like whips and scourges, leading to what was known as The Goblin Lightsaber.

Keltest
2016-02-20, 07:58 PM
But, remember that a spike is going to turn more easily than a hammerhead. If the spike sinks home, Bob's your uncle, but if you strike a glancing blow it's going to turn.

Well sure, if weapons totally invalidated armor, nobody would wear it. But getting hit in the side of the head by a spike with a lot of force behind it is still going to hurt or disorient you even if it doesn't stab your think meat.

MonkeySage
2016-02-20, 08:00 PM
http://medieval.stormthecastle.com/images/warhammers/warhammer-large.jpg

That's what they really looked like; the shape of the grip made it easier to direct the hammer in a particular direction. The head was pretty narrow, the weapon pretty small, much smaller than video games would have you think. Sure there's a chance of it glancing off, but there's a reason that medieval combatants used this weapon so much.

Necroticplague
2016-02-20, 09:45 PM
Note that this system had issues modeling flexible weapons, like whips and scourges, leading to what was known as The Goblin Lightsaber.

Funny, when I saw DF blunt weapons come up, my first instinct was to ask if they ever got around to fixing that. Long Live the Lashdwarfs!

Feddlefew
2016-02-20, 10:21 PM
Funny, when I saw DF blunt weapons come up, my first instinct was to ask if they ever got around to fixing that. Long Live the Lashdwarfs!

Nope. They still cut through both types of armor (and limbs) like hot knives.

It's not quite as bad as it was, since I think lash-type weapons now have the longest windup/recovery time per attack, but they still combine all the strengths of edged and blunt weapons.

(For the uninitiated, lashes in DF are treated as long, thin blunt weapons by the game. But the combat engine also takes the speed that an object is moving into account when calculating damage, and lashing weapons are always considered to be moving at the speed of sound.... The end result is a weapon which functionally does massive amounts of both blunt AND slicing damage, bypassing both types of armor and severing body parts. A no-modifier copper whip in the hands of a skilled user can take down a Bronze Colossus, one of the most dangerous creatures in the game.)

Necroticplague
2016-02-20, 11:52 PM
Nope. They still cut through both types of armor (and limbs) like hot knives.

It's not quite as bad as it was, since I think lash-type weapons now have the longest windup/recovery time per attack, but they still combine all the strengths of edged and blunt weapons.

(For the uninitiated, lashes in DF are treated as long, thin blunt weapons by the game. But the combat engine also takes the speed that an object is moving into account when calculating damage, and lashing weapons are always considered to be moving at the speed of sound.... The end result is a weapon which functionally does massive amounts of both blunt AND slicing damage, bypassing both types of armor and severing body parts. A no-modifier copper whip in the hands of a skilled user can take down a Bronze Colossus, one of the most dangerous creatures in the game.)

Don't forget it also takes into account area of the striking surface of the weapon, which is incredibly small for whips and scourges. The only really faulty assumption the engine has is that it assumes the weight of the entire weapon is behind the blow of such weapons.

Feddlefew
2016-02-21, 12:15 AM
Don't forget it also takes into account area of the striking surface of the weapon, which is incredibly small for whips and scourges. The only really faulty assumption the engine has is that it assumes the weight of the entire weapon is behind the blow of such weapons.

It also assumes that the rigidity of the weapon is always equivalent to the rigidity of the material. In reality lashes should deform around the target, but in game they're treated as solid [material] at the point of impact.

Edit: Hmm... How well do admantium lashes work? Admantine* bludgeoning weapons are the worst weapons in the game, but lashes double as edged weapons, which work as you'd expect a weapon made from the legendary metal to.

*DF admantium is sometimes referred to as cotton candy, because it's less dense than Styrofoam. Well, there's other reasons. It's also the strongest material in the game (besides [SPOILERS!]), so the density issue doesn't effect edged weapons.

lacco36
2016-02-21, 04:00 AM
And yet there are games like The Riddle of Steel that do model weapon advantages realistically and I generally consider the combat faster and more fun than D&D style games. It's all about how the system is set up to make these variables work quickly for the player and GM.

Of course, everything else about TROS is kinda iffy so take all lessons from that game with a grain of salt

I agree with the first part - it all comes with the system and playstyle.

The strength of D&D lies - by my opinion - in the abstraction. It represents the flow of cinematic combat quite well, although can lead to strange results in higher levels (now talking only about fighters).

The strength of RoS lies in the realism. It's still abstract (dice pools representing how proficient you are with the fighting style), but it's focused on realistic-looking combat.

This equals the fact, that if you try to pull off realistic combat by D&D rules (full rules, no homebrew solutions applied), it falls apart. The same however goes for RoS if you go for full-flashy-cinematic combat (although the rules offer this variant as well).

And yes, the combat in RoS is faster (and usually shorter) and for me - more fun. But that's because I tend to get bored if my only option that involve selection as fighter is how I use the combat expertise feat, power attack feat, and then counting all the small +1s or other modifiers. For me it's fun to be able to choose manuevers I want, fighting style I want and makes the face-offs more interesting - for the fighters - by my opinion.

...and yes, the other parts of the system are not so good. Though, I encourage everyone to give it a try at least once. It's an interesting experience.

Back to the topic: if we look at the cinematic-friendly D&D, it makes sense that armour helps "avoid being damaged by attack". My suggestion to the OP would be: don't give the weapon advantage. Give the armour disadvantage (e.g. plate armour handles bashing damage and piercing damage worse than cutting). Why? Because there are quite a lot of weapons, but only 3 damage types and only several types of armour - so make the work easier (otherwise you'll have to also give disadvantage e.g. to scimitar against any hard armour). If you want to make the weapon especially good at handling type of armour, provide damage bonus, not to hit bonus, and even provide improved chance to overcome damage resistance (if there is any). Also, the warhammer you presented (the one with the "beak" used for piercing damage) could be used both as piercing or bashing type of weapon.

Lvl 2 Expert
2016-02-21, 01:50 PM
In D&D armor deflects blows. There is no way to damage someone by piercing or denting their armor. If we're really going for realism here a bonus to rending armor might be better. (For leather or mail armor a penalty to armor class would actually be pretty realistic, for plate mayby less so)

I do agree that a difference in effect versus armor would be a fun reason to pick another weapon class, or get a backup weapon, and you could use a sense of realism to justify the addition. Even if it's not necessarily that realistic.

But... maybe think about the group you're playing with. To some people a system like D&D 3.x is already too crunchy, they don't need another +2 to keep track of. Extra rules are mostly for when a group thinks their current system is not crunchy enough. (Also, in D&D 5 this idea could backfire brilliantly, making sure opponents using bludgeoning weapons can never get disadvantage against you because you wear armor.)

halfeye
2016-02-21, 02:22 PM
So far as I am aware, back when there were swords and armour used in real wars, nobody used hammers. Which since hammers were known from metal working, implies that hammers were useless as weapons.

Takewo
2016-02-21, 02:33 PM
Let me question the fact that bludgeoning weapons have a considerable advantage against armour. I'm not saying that everything that I'll say is true or that bludgeoning weapons aren't better than other kinds of weapons, I just want to avoid being too hasty in assuming that it is so.

Disclaimer: Let me say, dear friend, that I am no expert on medieval warfare and that I might be in error. I have read a few things about the middle ages and always been interested in the topic, which has led me to do a lot of personal research on the topic. However, that doesn't make me particularly knowledgeable on the topic. I'm trying to bring a few questions to consider before assigning bludgeoning weapons a superiority above other kinds of weapons, not to dismiss the possibility that they should be, in fact, superior.

First, there is the fact that pretty much all medieval hand-to-hand weapons are, in a sense, bludgeoning. Swords, axes and stuff can break bones, especially if the person who receives the hit is wearing armour.

Second, plate armours were wrought iron or steel designed specifically to make the person wearing in invulnerable. Even latter mail was pretty much impenetrable. Medieval battles, particularly after the 13th century, did not present a really high death rate for knights and people in shiny armour, they tended to be captured for a ransom. I seriously doubt that a couple hits of a hammer were enough to make a dent on a plate armour. It could be rather that the blunt part was designed to stun the opponent and the pointy end to get through the weak points of his armour.

Third, the most used weapons of the middle ages are swords and spear-like stuff (spears, pikes, halberds and the like). There has to be a reason why the sword was the preferred weapon of knights and spear the favourite weapon of infantry. One reason for that could be its being very cheap, also the fact that they were incredibly useful against cavalry, but that still doesn't explain why knights preferred swords over bludgeoning weapons. In the late middle ages it could be simply a fancy, but war hammers have existed since the Roman era, and I don't know of any period or people who has preferred hammers over swords. My explanation is that swords are better at killing other people.

Fourth, maybe bludgeoning weapons do, in fact, impact more strongly but are more difficult to handle properly or their use bears some deficiencies that make it more difficult to actually hit with them, even if their impacts are stronger. Then it would be reasonable that they had a penalty on their attack rolls but dealt more damage.

Lastly, I want to say that game designers are game designers, not historians or experts in medieval warfare. Some games may have a very reliable foundation based on historical research for their combat system, but that is certainly not the case with D&D. There's a lot of preconceptions and myths going about that originated in games and are not particularly accurate to what we know about the middle ages.

GrayDeath
2016-02-21, 02:36 PM
Which shows that you are not very aware in that regard. :smallcool:
In short: to few people could afford armor that was good enough that Hammers and other "AP Weapons" mattered for them to outdo spears, axes and swords on full scale wars, but in special occasions (against fully armored opponents in CC) they were superior by far.

And I agree. making sub-rules like that in a system like D&D can only end badly.
If you are into simulationistic approaches, try systems aiming for simulationism. :)

Mastikator
2016-02-21, 02:45 PM
Yes.

But most games ignore that level of detail.

And you only get two real choices: A way to simple rule system like ''+1 to hit'' or a way to complex one that simply stops game play.

Taking 3.5 as an example, armor could give damage reduction x/bludgeon, where x is something like half armor class. Give weapons like halberd a pierce/bludgeon damage option since they were designed specifically to deal with plate armor. A warrior in plate armor is basically an invincible tank (as long as you're facing non-superhero human enemies). It gets complicated when you add in wizards and ogres, a 3 meter tall ogre could be strong enough to utterly destroy a knight by turning the knight into canned spam by dropping a tree on the knight.

Takewo
2016-02-21, 03:06 PM
Which shows that you are not very aware in that regard. :smallcool:
In short: to few people could afford armor that was good enough that Hammers and other "AP Weapons" mattered for them to outdo spears, axes and swords on full scale wars, but in special occasions (against fully armored opponents in CC) they were superior by far.

And I agree. making sub-rules like that in a system like D&D can only end badly.
If you are into simulationistic approaches, try systems aiming for simulationism. :)

Wow, I love how you dismiss all my questions without even answering one of them.

However, this (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Agincourt) lists 1500 men-at-arms for the English side and 10000 for the French side at the battle of Agincourt, which were highly trained troops equipped with good weapons and full armour (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-at-arms). The English also had about 7000 archers, on which they based they tactic. The French had probably at least 20000 commoners, maybe even 40000 which they did not deploy. So, yes, in a battle there were loads of under-equipped people, but in Agincourt at least a 20% of the French army was in full armour (and, point to be made, the not-so-well-armoured people weren't even deployed on the battlefield). The English army, for an army that does not rely on men-at-arms also had roughly a 20% of well-armoured people.

In short, yes, good armour was common enough in battlefields that if war hammers had been so overwhelmingly effective against it, they would have been a lot more common.

Keltest
2016-02-21, 03:07 PM
Let me question the fact that bludgeoning weapons have a considerable advantage against armour. I'm not saying that everything that I'll say is true or that bludgeoning weapons aren't better than other kinds of weapons, I just want to avoid being too hasty in assuming that it is so.

Disclaimer: Let me say, dear friend, that I am no expert on medieval warfare and that I might be in error. I have read a few things about the middle ages and always been interested in the topic, which has led me to do a lot of personal research on the topic. However, that doesn't make me particularly knowledgeable on the topic. I'm trying to bring a few questions to consider before assigning bludgeoning weapons a superiority above other kinds of weapons, not to dismiss the possibility that they should be, in fact, superior.

First, there is the fact that pretty much all medieval hand-to-hand weapons are, in a sense, bludgeoning. Swords, axes and stuff can break bones, especially if the person who receives the hit is wearing armour.

Second, plate armours were wrought iron or steel designed specifically to make the person wearing in invulnerable. Even latter mail was pretty much impenetrable. Medieval battles, particularly after the 13th century, did not present a really high death rate for knights and people in shiny armour, they tended to be captured for a ransom. I seriously doubt that a couple hits of a hammer were enough to make a dent on a plate armour. It could be rather that the blunt part was designed to stun the opponent and the pointy end to get through the weak points of his armour.

Third, the most used weapons of the middle ages are swords and spear-like stuff (spears, pikes, halberds and the like). There has to be a reason why the sword was the preferred weapon of knights and spear the favourite weapon of infantry. One reason for that could be its being very cheap, also the fact that they were incredibly useful against cavalry, but that still doesn't explain why knights preferred swords over bludgeoning weapons. In the late middle ages it could be simply a fancy, but war hammers have existed since the Roman era, and I don't know of any period or people who has preferred hammers over swords. My explanation is that swords are better at killing other people.

Fourth, maybe bludgeoning weapons do, in fact, impact more strongly but are more difficult to handle properly or their use bears some deficiencies that make it more difficult to actually hit with them, even if their impacts are stronger. Then it would be reasonable that they had a penalty on their attack rolls but dealt more damage.

Lastly, I want to say that game designers are game designers, not historians or experts in medieval warfare. Some games may have a very reliable foundation based on historical research for their combat system, but that is certainly not the case with D&D. There's a lot of preconceptions and myths going about that originated in games and are not particularly accurate to what we know about the middle ages.

Your average soldier in the relevant period of time was generally not wearing the period equivalent of iron man armor. Full suits of heavy plate or mail were expensive and somewhat difficult to mass produce. They weren't nonexistent, but soldiers wearing full plate were the minority, not the majority, of soldiers. A cataphract (any mounted warrior with the horse and rider both fully armored) would be even rarer. Hence, spears and swords remaining relevant.

halfeye
2016-02-21, 03:13 PM
Your average soldier in the relevant period of time was generally not wearing the period equivalent of iron man armor. Full suits of heavy plate or mail were expensive and somewhat difficult to mass produce. They weren't nonexistent, but soldiers wearing full plate were the minority, not the majority, of soldiers. A cataphract (any mounted warrior with the horse and rider both fully armored) would be even rarer. Hence, spears and swords remaining relevant.
There's also the weight. Against a pickaxe handle, a sledgehammer is a loser, because it's so slow. Defensively, a hammer is useless.

Keltest
2016-02-21, 03:16 PM
There's also the weight. Against a pickaxe handle, a sledgehammer is a loser, because it's so slow. Defensively, a hammer is useless.

That's a bit of a muddy area because shields are a thing. Youre generally going to prefer using a shield to stop the killing bit of a weapon over using your own weapon, for a couple different reasons.

Having said that, sledgehammers and war hammers are different things entirely. Someone linked a picture of one earlier in the thread, and it is decidedly not a sledgehammer.

GrayDeath
2016-02-21, 03:25 PM
Wow, I love how you dismiss all my questions without even answering one of them.

However, this (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Agincourt) lists 1500 men-at-arms for the English side and 10000 for the French side at the battle of Agincourt, which were highly trained troops equipped with good weapons and full armour (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-at-arms). The English also had about 7000 archers, on which they based they tactic. The French had probably at least 20000 commoners, maybe even 40000 which they did not deploy. So, yes, in a battle there were loads of under-equipped people, but in Agincourt at least a 20% of the French army was in full armour (and, point to be made, the not-so-well-armoured people weren't even deployed on the battlefield). The English army, for an army that does not rely on men-at-arms also had roughly a 20% of well-armoured people.

In short, yes, good armour was common enough in battlefields that if war hammers had been so overwhelmingly effective against it, they would have been a lot more common.

We posted almost at the same time.
I was replying to the post above yours.

And quoting Agincourt, the one glaring example of "How to trash heavy armor units on foot" might ... not be as representative as you might think.
Its a bit similar to quoting Vietnam as "modern armed forces obviously cannot beat Djungle Fighters", ya know?

Also, you might want to reread my post: CC.
CLoseCombat.
Enough skilled Ranged Combattants always was the death of Armored units (see various historical examples).

Being a bit less agressive and using the golden rule (always assume the other is NOT attacking you first) might be a better way of communication.
Just saying. :)

Also: +1 to what keltest wrote.

Spiryt
2016-02-21, 03:33 PM
In the late middle ages it could be simply a fancy, but war hammers have existed since the Roman era, and I don't know of any period or people who has preferred hammers over swords. My explanation is that swords are better at killing other people.


Well, any examples?

Because as far as I'm aware, the complication here is that there were really no large scale usage of weapons like 'warhammers' in Europe anywhere before 14th century.

They really start appearing in sources then - mostly miniatures at first.

Sources about them are hard to find, so their origin is very fascinating thing.

Did they appear specifically due to the fact that mail became cheaper and more widespread, and stiff plates began to appear all over combatants body?

Tempting simplification, but why were they so popular in 17th century Poland in perfectly civilian, unarmored context then?

Did they simply start to appear with the the development of iron/steel industry?

Steel stuff became cheaper and more available, and weapon smiths operating in something that became huge market started to experiment?



There's lot of questions and not many facts, unfortunately, but it's safe to say that throughout most of the world, and most times, hammers never really appear as common weapons.

nedz
2016-02-21, 04:52 PM
There was the standard 15th century trick of half-swording, where you turned your long sword around and hit him with the pommel. That is, you use it like a hammer. This tactic was designed to be used against armoured opponents.

This is well attested in fighting manuals of the day, e.g. Tannhauser, so they did try and do this.

Necroticplague
2016-02-21, 05:00 PM
There was the standard 15th century trick of half-swording, where you turned your long sword around and hit him with the pommel. That is, you use it like a hammer. This tactic was designed to be used against armoured opponents.

This is well attested in fighting manuals of the day, e.g. Tannhauser, so they did try and do this.

That's a murder-stroke, not a half-sword. Half-swording is when you put one of your hands partway down the blade, then stab with it like a spear.

Spiryt
2016-02-21, 05:13 PM
That's a murder-stroke, not a half-sword. Half-swording is when you put one of your hands partway down the blade, then stab with it like a spear.

Well, not really, half-swording was indeed just grabbing the blade" in half".

You could then stab, or deliver strike with pommel or do many other things. With a half-sword grab.


This tactic was designed to be used against armoured opponents.

Reasonable assumption, but it's shown as used against normally clothed men very often.

Might have been mostly a way to deliver strike with a sword from certain angles/distances/binds before everything else.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v603/mapachtli/MurderStroke.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/32/De_Fechtbuch_Talhoffer_067.jpg/800px-De_Fechtbuch_Talhoffer_067.jpg

nedz
2016-02-21, 05:33 PM
All the half-swording pictures I've seen do show the sword being used to bludgeon - as do the two above.

Keltest
2016-02-21, 05:37 PM
All the half-swording pictures I've seen do show the sword being used to bludgeon - as do the two above.

The poor guy eating the sword in the second picture appears to be attempting to stab the other guy by half-swording it.

kraftcheese
2016-02-21, 05:45 PM
The poor guy eating the sword in the second picture appears to be attempting to stab the other guy by half-swording it.

He is NOT having a good time.

nedz
2016-02-21, 05:48 PM
It looks more like an attempt at the Alber guard to me.

Mastikator
2016-02-21, 06:08 PM
All the half-swording pictures I've seen do show the sword being used to bludgeon - as do the two above.

Half swording and using the pummel as a mace to end him rightly is certainly a thing. Half swording give you more power and more accuracy, so you can aim at the weakspots.
http://31.media.tumblr.com/43d827e8ad1cea2339328389179c65ad/tumblr_inline_njb2qeXaYV1rtdfb6.png
http://cdn2.vox-cdn.com/imported_assets/2293266/a-half.jpg


But it's really the poleaxe you want if you're going up against someone in plate armor. It can potentially get through the plate, the only other way to get through plate, through the mail, through the aketon and into his body is to charge with a lance on horseback.
http://photos2.meetupstatic.com/photos/event/4/c/0/6/600_422119462.jpeg


Poleaxes and halberds are the traditionally anti-armor weapons for infantry to use, things like maces and flails work too but they weren't used quite as much in combat.

Keltest
2016-02-21, 06:34 PM
Poleaxes and halberds are the traditionally anti-armor weapons for infantry to use, things like maces and flails work too but they weren't used quite as much in combat.

Flails at least were an anti-shield weapon far more than an anti-armor weapon. Smack the shield with the end of the stick, the chain goes over or around the shield, smashes the arm or hand holding the shield. Sad soldier.

nedz
2016-02-21, 06:47 PM
Half swording and using the pummel as a mace to end him rightly is certainly a thing. Half swording give you more power and more accuracy, so you can aim at the weakspots.
http://31.media.tumblr.com/43d827e8ad1cea2339328389179c65ad/tumblr_inline_njb2qeXaYV1rtdfb6.png
http://cdn2.vox-cdn.com/imported_assets/2293266/a-half.jpg

Those pictures look more like an attempt at Alber because their hands are reversed. It is hard to be sure with this stuff though since all we have are a few fencing manuals.


But it's really the poleaxe you want if you're going up against someone in plate armor. It can potentially get through the plate, the only other way to get through plate, through the mail, through the aketon and into his body is to charge with a lance on horseback.
http://photos2.meetupstatic.com/photos/event/4/c/0/6/600_422119462.jpeg


Poleaxes and halberds are the traditionally anti-armor weapons for infantry to use, things like maces and flails work too but they weren't used quite as much in combat.
Poleaxes, and various other pole-arms, were the thing - yes.

Flails at least were an anti-shield weapon far more than an anti-armor weapon. Smack the shield with the end of the stick, the chain goes over or around the shield, smashes the arm or hand holding the shield. Sad soldier.
Ah - the great Flail debate.
(Heavy) Flails were used for thrashing corn and so were a popular weapon with peasant levies - these were more of a bludgeon.
We only have a few examples of smaller (light) flails - so we don't know if they were used much - which might tell us if this worked or not.
As to the shield, well raising the shield will stop this. You might be able to knock it out of the way though, so there is that, but then what ?

Mastikator
2016-02-21, 06:48 PM
Flails at least were an anti-shield weapon far more than an anti-armor weapon. Smack the shield with the end of the stick, the chain goes over or around the shield, smashes the arm or hand holding the shield. Sad soldier.

I think the deal with maces and blunt weapons is more about tiring the enemy out. You can survive getting hammered if you wear plate armor but after a few blows you'll feel exhausted, then you can get knocked down and that's game over. It's not like in the games and movies where people can just slice through steel.

nedz
2016-02-21, 10:25 PM
I think the deal with maces and blunt weapons is more about tiring the enemy out. You can survive getting hammered if you wear plate armor but after a few blows you'll feel exhausted, then you can get knocked down and that's game over. It's not like in the games and movies where people can just slice through steel.

Well that's partly true of all hand to hand combat. Part of the skill of it is in using less energy in defending yourself than the other guy.

Aedilred
2016-02-22, 05:31 AM
So far as I am aware, back when there were swords and armour used in real wars, nobody used hammers. Which since hammers were known from metal working, implies that hammers were useless as weapons.



Because as far as I'm aware, the complication here is that there were really no large scale usage of weapons like 'warhammers' in Europe anywhere before 14th century.

They really start appearing in sources then - mostly miniatures at first.

Sources about them are hard to find, so their origin is very fascinating thing.

Did they appear specifically due to the fact that mail became cheaper and more widespread, and stiff plates began to appear all over combatants body?

When looking for prevalence of weapons throughout history I think it's possible to get overly bogged down in semantics and subcategorisations. This is a tendency of nerd culture in general, I think, but it's sometimes useful to take a step back and look at things - like, say, weapons - in broad terms.

Fundamentally, I think that despite the huge variety of melee weapons throughout history, they really boil down to one of four principal types: stabbing, slashing, bludgeoning and what for want of a better term I'm going to call cleaving. Stabbing weapons are designed to be plunged into an enemy along a straight line, hopefully skewering something vital; slashing weapons aim to produce lateral cuts that will lead to loss of blood; bludgeoning weapons tend to be swung in an arc in an attempt to break bones and smash armour. Cleaving weapons have some of the brute force element of bludgeoning weapons but also have a blade, with the intention of producing large, deep, trauma. The archetypal weapons of each form are, respectively, the spear, the sword, the club, and the axe.

Even that relatively simplistic division, though, is too neat. And looking at it, I think it's apparent pretty quickly one of the main reasons why the sword has become synonymous with warriors and was seen on pretty much every battlefield from the neolithic to the obsolescence of melee weapons in the twentieth century: while primarily a slashing weapon it's capable of filling any of the other roles. Sharpen the point and you can stab people. Turn it around and you can use it as a makeshift club. Get a good swing behind it and it'll take someone's head off as well as an axe. Part of the reason it's been so ubiquitous is that it can be almost endlessly adapted.

The other reason the sword has been so popular, I think, is, quite simply, class. Among basic weapon forms it's pretty much the only one which is only really useful for personal combat, and has to be made as such. Axes (not to mention billhooks, pitchforks, hammers, etc.) are everyday tools adapted for battlefield use (even if, in fact, they are purpose-made). A spear or club can be hastily improvised from what you find lying around. When you carry a sword, part of that millennia-old caché rubs off on you; you're standing there in the tradition of true warriors since time immemorial. It might not - strictly - be quite as effective as what Johnny Parvenu over there is carrying, but who cares? Humans being what they are, and "professional" warfare being for a long time the purview of a certain class of people, I don't think this factor can be underestimated.

But partly because of this ubiquity we're much more generous when it comes to classifications of swords than with some other weapons. The difference between, say, a khopesh, a falchion and a smallsword is huge, and none of them are really used in the same way. But if pushed you'd probably casually refer to the lot as swords. Hammers don't have that luxury. While clubs and maces have been around on the battlefield consistently from the dawn of warfare to the end of the Middle Ages, and are essentially part of the same weapons continuum as a warhammer - indeed, arguably rather moreso than the three "swords" mentioned above are with each other - they are not, identifiably, "hammers", and so don't count.

The golden age of melee weapon diversification was probably the late Middle Ages, between the period when personal armour became good enough that specialist weapons were needed to deal with it, and the adoption of widespread gunpowder that changed the face of warfare. That's also when warhammers (along with halberds and other polearms) flourished - although, like the mace, they were never as ubiquitous as swords or spears. Maces and hammers are to an extent also kind of "meta" weapons: assuming they're designed as weapons rather than improvised from tools, they're really intended to deal with armoured opponents, who are likely to be in relatively short supply on any battlefield. This is supposed to be one of the reasons why the sceptre (a stylised mace) is part of the traditional royal regalia, symbolising their dominance over the (heavily-armoured) nobility. For your average soldier who doesn't have the luxury of picking and choosing opponents, even assuming he can pick his own weapons, a sword, spear or even axe is a more versatile option.

Brother Oni
2016-02-22, 07:30 AM
Thus, best efficiency is had by wearing rigid armor over flexible armor, so that the blows get first spread out, and then widely mitigated by the mail underneath.


Part of the issue is the modelling system used by games. Games typically assume that a person is just wearing one type of armour, whereas in reality, nearly all armour was worn with padding underneath to help cushion blows, even flexible armour like mail (a gambeson was worn underneath).

Incidentally, mail is very good at stopping things from penetrating, not so good at cushioning blows - your knight wearing plate over a full mail hauberk would still need a gambeson and would tire very quickly from all that weight. Typically such plate and mail combinations had the critical areas protected by rigid armour with the parts requiring flexibility (joints, etc) protected by mail.

There's also records of people going for wearing triple layers of protection - a chronicle records a Frankish crusader wearing a gambeson over mail over an inner gambeson looking much like a porcupine from all the imbedded arrows, still fighting.

Tiktakkat
2016-02-22, 02:28 PM
Third, the most used weapons of the middle ages are swords and spear-like stuff (spears, pikes, halberds and the like). There has to be a reason why the sword was the preferred weapon of knights and spear the favourite weapon of infantry. One reason for that could be its being very cheap, also the fact that they were incredibly useful against cavalry, but that still doesn't explain why knights preferred swords over bludgeoning weapons. In the late middle ages it could be simply a fancy, but war hammers have existed since the Roman era, and I don't know of any period or people who has preferred hammers over swords. My explanation is that swords are better at killing other people.

Swords were not really the preferred weapon of knights.
Spears/lances/polearms were, with swords being what their name implies - sidearms - backup weapons to be used when your primary weapon was lost.
Even then, a variety of axes and hammers, which had better cleaving or crushing characteristics, were used over swords in many cases.
Swords are just easier to carry than axes or hammers, and with the rise of gunpowder and decline of melee weapons, swords were transformed into the most popular accoutrement of thugs and "gentlemen" alike.
Thus when it came time to write romantic stories of the past, people looked at the rapiers and sabers that were being used in modern dueling, and projected them backwards as the dominant weapon of the "knights of yore".


There's also the weight. Against a pickaxe handle, a sledgehammer is a loser, because it's so slow. Defensively, a hammer is useless.

A warhammer is NOT a sledgehammer.
For that matter, a wood axe is NOT a battle axe.

Indeed, using tools as weapons is a very bad idea because they are not balanced for combat use, or designed to defeat armor or counter other weapons.
Weapon versions of tools are quite a good idea, as the difference between a dinner knife and a long sword demonstrates.
Common civilian tools should not be confused with military versions that share the same name.

BootStrapTommy
2016-02-23, 12:46 AM
Swords were not really the preferred weapon of knights.
Spears/lances/polearms were, with swords being what their name implies - sidearms - backup weapons to be used when your primary weapon was lost.
Even then, a variety of axes and hammers, which had better cleaving or crushing characteristics, were used over swords in many cases.
Swords are just easier to carry than axes or hammers, and with the rise of gunpowder and decline of melee weapons, swords were transformed into the most popular accoutrement of thugs and "gentlemen" alike.
Thus when it came time to write romantic stories of the past, people looked at the rapiers and sabers that were being used in modern dueling, and projected them backwards as the dominant weapon of the "knights of yore".While this is kind of true of knights, there are numerous historical warriors for whom swords were primary weapons.

Knaight
2016-02-23, 01:09 AM
What system? Some games just don't bother going into details that fine. I know of a couple systems where such is the case. Like one where armor basically acts as DR, and defends by different amounts against different types of attacks. Bashing damage is generally harder to get good armor against than stabbing or slashing, so this is is true in that system.
I've seen a number of these. A fairly simple one that works fairly well is Fudge's, where blunt weapons are only up against half the armor value, but there's a sharpness bonus to damage*. Against no and light armor, sharp weapons have a bit of an advantage, against heavier armor blunts have a bit of an advantage.

*Something like a late medieval siege crossbow would probably get both of these despite not being blunt, but that's the general trend.

Yes.

But most games ignore that level of detail.

And you only get two real choices: A way to simple rule system like ''+1 to hit'' or a way to complex one that simply stops game play.

It's not even a matter of detail that fine in general. There are a lot of relatively simple games which still go into some detail, with even a "way to simple" system getting a bit of the idea across. While D&D doesn't, it's also worth observing that D&D is a combat heavy game where most foes aren't humanoids. Weapon-armor interactions are generally worth more when conflicts tend to involve humans or humanoids going at it with the aforementioned weapons and armor; if a bunch of the foes are bizarre monsters instead they become niche rules that are less valuable.

Tiktakkat
2016-02-23, 01:14 AM
While this is kind of true of knights, there are numerous historical warriors for whom swords were primary weapons.

There are some, but I don't recall any offhand as the mainstay of armies.
They showed up in late era pike German and Spanish pike formations, but that was to support the pike and musket troops, which of course brings in that whole "gunpowder era disruption".

JoeJ
2016-02-23, 01:15 AM
Yes.

But most games ignore that level of detail.

And you only get two real choices: A way to simple rule system like ''+1 to hit'' or a way to complex one that simply stops game play.

Or give some types of armor two DR ratings; one for bludgeoning damage and the other for piercing/slashing damage.

Knaight
2016-02-23, 01:55 AM
There are some, but I don't recall any offhand as the mainstay of armies.
They showed up in late era pike German and Spanish pike formations, but that was to support the pike and musket troops, which of course brings in that whole "gunpowder era disruption".

To use the obvious example, there's Rome. The extent to which swords were a mainstay gets overstated in popular media - auxilliary troops using anything else have a habit of being entirely forgotten about, periods other than the century following Marian reforms tend to be neglected, the impact of the pilum gets understated, etc. Still, they were absolutely a mainstay.

That's a bit of an edge case though. Generally, the pattern seems to be some mix of spears, shields, and bows, plus variations on those themes for a big chunk of human history. Maybe it's heavy halberd use instead of spears per se (e.g. Swiss confederations circa 1300 C.E.), but a halberd is pretty clearly a spear with a specialized head. The introduction of gunpowder changed this, and if one looks far back enough one can also find lots and lots of slingers, and specialized troops with other weapons, sidearms, and other things complicate this. Still, that's the general trend.

Tiktakkat
2016-02-23, 02:20 AM
To use the obvious example, there's Rome. The extent to which swords were a mainstay gets overstated in popular media - auxilliary troops using anything else have a habit of being entirely forgotten about, periods other than the century following Marian reforms tend to be neglected, the impact of the pilum gets understated, etc. Still, they were absolutely a mainstay.

Right.
And not understating the the pilum, you could wind up seeing them as primarily javelin troops with a back-up sword sidearm, which (of course) is how I look at them.
Certainly it was unusual as having the sword as such a dominant sidearm. (Not to mention relying on what is otherwise a skirmisher's weapon as a primary arm.)


That's a bit of an edge case though. Generally, the pattern seems to be some mix of spears, shields, and bows, plus variations on those themes for a big chunk of human history. Maybe it's heavy halberd use instead of spears per se (e.g. Swiss confederations circa 1300 C.E.), but a halberd is pretty clearly a spear with a specialized head. The introduction of gunpowder changed this, and if one looks far back enough one can also find lots and lots of slingers, and specialized troops with other weapons, sidearms, and other things complicate this. Still, that's the general trend.

Yep, that's my read on it as well. (Including grouping halberds and other polearms into the "spear with fancy extras" category.)

Knaight
2016-02-23, 03:20 AM
Right.
And not understating the the pilum, you could wind up seeing them as primarily javelin troops with a back-up sword sidearm, which (of course) is how I look at them.
Certainly it was unusual as having the sword as such a dominant sidearm. (Not to mention relying on what is otherwise a skirmisher's weapon as a primary arm.)

You could. You could also emphasize the sophistication of Roman fortifications, roads, etc. and argue that they were sort of an equivalent to a modern army corps of engineers, with auxiliary forces being specialized combat troops. I wouldn't, as it involves glossing over the amount of fighting they did too much to be a particularly robust model, but it's part of the mix.

As for the javelin as a skirmisher's weapon, it's worth making a distinction between two very different classes of javelins (and other throwing weapons, but mostly javelins). It was relatively common for there to be front-line troops which had some sort of appropriate weapon, often a shield, and very few heavier thrown weapons that they lobbed at the enemy before closing. The pilum is in this category, as are a number of axes from Northern Europe, some specialized blades from North-Central Africa, a ton of different javelin designs all over the place, and other things. It was also relatively common for skirmishers to have a larger number of smaller thrown weapons, with javelins in general being really common for this role. As a rule they were slimmer, shorter, less metal intensive, and just generally not as nasty on a per-item basis.

Roman doctrine tended to emphasize the pilum more than other cultures did their thrown weapons, though that's a really general statement riddled with exceptions. Calling this relying on a skirmisher's weapon is iffy.

lacco36
2016-02-23, 03:35 AM
You could. You could also emphasize the sophistication of Roman fortifications, roads, etc. and argue that they were sort of an equivalent to a modern army corps of engineers, with auxiliary forces being specialized combat troops. I wouldn't, as it involves glossing over the amount of fighting they did too much to be a particularly robust model, but it's part of the mix.

As for the javelin as a skirmisher's weapon, it's worth making a distinction between two very different classes of javelins (and other throwing weapons, but mostly javelins). It was relatively common for there to be front-line troops which had some sort of appropriate weapon, often a shield, and very few heavier thrown weapons that they lobbed at the enemy before closing. The pilum is in this category, as are a number of axes from Northern Europe, some specialized blades from North-Central Africa, a ton of different javelin designs all over the place, and other things. It was also relatively common for skirmishers to have a larger number of smaller thrown weapons, with javelins in general being really common for this role. As a rule they were slimmer, shorter, less metal intensive, and just generally not as nasty on a per-item basis.

Roman doctrine tended to emphasize the pilum more than other cultures did their thrown weapons, though that's a really general statement riddled with exceptions. Calling this relying on a skirmisher's weapon is iffy.

I remember reading somewhere (no idea where, it was long ago) about "roman javelin" to be used for one specific purpose - breaking the "shield walls". Specifically - when the roman front-lines closed in to the enemy, they threw the javelin, which either killed somebody or stuck into their shield, making them harder to wield (often leading to the shield being dropped or requiring few seconds to get rid of the javelin).
I never knew if this was only a literary fiction, or could be a real tactic. Any ideas?

The Glyphstone
2016-02-23, 03:37 AM
I remember reading somewhere (no idea where, it was long ago) about "roman javelin" to be used for one specific purpose - breaking the "shield walls". Specifically - when the roman front-lines closed in to the enemy, they threw the javelin, which either killed somebody or stuck into their shield, making them harder to wield (often leading to the shield being dropped or requiring few seconds to get rid of the javelin).
I never knew if this was only a literary fiction, or could be a real tactic. Any ideas?

I was just about to ask/say the same thing, so now two of us are curious.

nedz
2016-02-23, 04:02 AM
I remember reading somewhere (no idea where, it was long ago) about "roman javelin" to be used for one specific purpose - breaking the "shield walls". Specifically - when the roman front-lines closed in to the enemy, they threw the javelin, which either killed somebody or stuck into their shield, making them harder to wield (often leading to the shield being dropped or requiring few seconds to get rid of the javelin).
I never knew if this was only a literary fiction, or could be a real tactic. Any ideas?

IIRC Tacitus did document one case where they used their pilums as spears to ward off cavalry, but they were normally used to break up a charge.

Ashtagon
2016-02-23, 04:04 AM
I was just about to ask/say the same thing, so now two of us are curious.

It's a common enough trope at least, that both D&D and GURPS include rules for it.

Here's the GURPS fluff for the relevant weapons. Both use an identical mechanic in GURPS for how they affect shield-users, although the fluff justification is different.


Pilum — Ancient Rome. Plural is “pila.” A throwing spear. Its head has an unhardened iron portion that bends on a hit, preventing the enemy from hurling it back or easily removing it from a shield. If a thrown pilum hits, it becomes useless except as a staff until straightened. Should it strike a shield, footnote [4] under the Muscle-​Powered Ranged Weapon Table (page 232) applies. In either case, unbending the head requires a free hand and a foot, and takes three Ready manoeuvres and a ST roll. Treat as a Spear (page B273, page B276) in all other respects.


Plumbata — Ancient Rome. A short javelin or "war dart" with a fletched wooden shaft. Part of the slender metal head is made of lead (plumbum, whence the weapon's name) that deforms on impact, fouling shields and making it a one-use weapon.

As an additional data point, wikipedia confirms this use for the pilum, but makes no mention of it for plumbata.

http://www.comitatus.net/romanplumbatae.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumbata

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilum

Earthwalker
2016-02-23, 06:53 AM
I thought the whole point of Role Master (and MERP) and all its tables was it mapped this kind of thing better.

The warhammer weapon table gave much better results against heavy armour than say the rapier.

For all the complaints of complexity it seemed to go as quick as DnD when I played it. So it gave a mapping of weapons v armour and wasnt that slow.

I personally think warhammers and their ilk were good against heavy armour back in the day. They were under used mainly becuase in unit fighting, you are going to have a problem getting a hit in with a warhammer when you have to navigate past the wall of spear (or pike, or bill or what have you) points to get in close enough to hit with your warhammer.

Ashtagon
2016-02-23, 09:16 AM
The big problem is that the mediaeval weapon called the warhammer was in reality a type of pickaxe. It should do piercing damage. GURPS says as much, and if any game ever researched historical background, that one did it more.

I'd cheerfully make a warhammer good against armour, but because it is a piercing weapon, not because it is (falsely) believed to be a bludgeoning weapon.


War*hammer — Europe. A long, two-​handed Pick. Often given a heavy hammer behind the spike (see Combination Weapons).

Tiktakkat
2016-02-23, 11:50 AM
You could. You could also emphasize the sophistication of Roman fortifications, roads, etc. and argue that they were sort of an equivalent to a modern army corps of engineers, with auxiliary forces being specialized combat troops. I wouldn't, as it involves glossing over the amount of fighting they did too much to be a particularly robust model, but it's part of the mix.

Quite true.
The earlier and later legions are easier to classify, but that period with the Marian reforms is difficult.


As for the javelin as a skirmisher's weapon, it's worth making a distinction between two very different classes of javelins (and other throwing weapons, but mostly javelins). It was relatively common for there to be front-line troops which had some sort of appropriate weapon, often a shield, and very few heavier thrown weapons that they lobbed at the enemy before closing. The pilum is in this category, as are a number of axes from Northern Europe, some specialized blades from North-Central Africa, a ton of different javelin designs all over the place, and other things. It was also relatively common for skirmishers to have a larger number of smaller thrown weapons, with javelins in general being really common for this role. As a rule they were slimmer, shorter, less metal intensive, and just generally not as nasty on a per-item basis.

Again quite true.
Which again makes classifying the troops difficult.
Normally lighter armed, lighter armored troops are clearly "just" skirmishers. For the Romans they were "Combat Engineer Shock Skirmishers".


Roman doctrine tended to emphasize the pilum more than other cultures did their thrown weapons, though that's a really general statement riddled with exceptions. Calling this relying on a skirmisher's weapon is iffy.

And yet they seem to have.

I would however highlight and very much agree with the first sentence though, particularly the "riddled with exceptions".
That's why I cannot see those legions as "primarily" a sword-and-shield army.

The Glyphstone
2016-02-23, 12:06 PM
Wow. If I ever had a desire to play GURPS, I think that excerpt buried it in a shallow grave.

CharonsHelper
2016-02-23, 12:29 PM
I'd cheerfully make a warhammer good against armour, but because it is a piercing weapon, not because it is (falsely) believed to be a bludgeoning weapon.

The hammer side would be bludgeoning - though not nearly as big as most people think, as they often think of Thor's loaf of bread hammer (which would be way too heavy for we mortals to wield well in combat). Both sides were used for different things.

In game terms - I think for D&D style games where armor = don't get hit, it breaks KISS too hard. For games where armor = DR/absorption, giving various weapons some armor piercing can be done rather easily & help to make various weapons feel different.

BootStrapTommy
2016-02-23, 04:50 PM
Right.
And not understating the the pilum, you could wind up seeing them as primarily javelin troops with a back-up sword sidearm, which (of course) is how I look at them.
Certainly it was unusual as having the sword as such a dominant sidearm. (Not to mention relying on what is otherwise a skirmisher's weapon as a primary arm.)Swords were a status symbol, remember? They were costly and and resource intense (since nearly the entire weapon uses up metal). So the added benefit of the gladius, and later the spatha, was that it made the statement that Rome was so much better than their enemies that they could equip their regulars, not just leaders, with swords. Also swords really are good weapons, they were just generally cost prohibitive.


I remember reading somewhere (no idea where, it was long ago) about "roman javelin" to be used for one specific purpose - breaking the "shield walls". Specifically - when the roman front-lines closed in to the enemy, they threw the javelin, which either killed somebody or stuck into their shield, making them harder to wield (often leading to the shield being dropped or requiring few seconds to get rid of the javelin).
I never knew if this was only a literary fiction, or could be a real tactic. Any ideas?Pilum were obviously real. They also have the noted design "flaw" of a thin, metal shaft under the spearhead. This seems to indicate the trope is factual.

Think about it. Your shield wall might handle arrows easily. But 6 foot long iron headed spears designed for maximum penetration? Probably not. I guess the real question is, how effectively could legionnaires throw them?


You could. You could also emphasize the sophistication of Roman fortifications, roads, etc. and argue that they were sort of an equivalent to a modern army corps of engineers, with auxiliary forces being specialized combat troops. I wouldn't, as it involves glossing over the amount of fighting they did too much to be a particularly robust model, but it's part of the mix.The Romans are most certainly an outlyer in the realm of pre-modern militaries, that's for sure.


Wow. If I ever had a desire to play GURPS, I think that excerpt buried it in a shallow grave.GURPS is a behemoth and true to it's mission, it seek to map out as many possibilities as possible. That makes it... rule intense.

Ashtagon
2016-02-23, 05:18 PM
Wow. If I ever had a desire to play GURPS, I think that excerpt buried it in a shallow grave.

If its any consolation, those paragraphs I quoted are pure fluff, with no rules consequences at all. They're basically just descriptions for someone who has never seen the weapons.

Brother Oni
2016-02-23, 06:40 PM
Think about it. Your shield wall might handle arrows easily. But 6 foot long iron headed spears designed for maximum penetration? Probably not. I guess the real question is, how effectively could legionnaires throw them?


With a running throw, effective range was about 10-15 metres, although 20-30 metres was not uncommon.

As for energy output, depends exactly on the weight and design of the pilum and the aforementioned run up (or alternately a charging enemy). The heavier the pilum, the shorter the range, but the better the penetrative capability. Some Roman times re-enactors have experimented with replica pilum at targets and reckon somewhere between 100 to 300J and about 30 yards is the optimal unstressed throw (one account had a 10 yard throw with a heavy 5lb pilum penetrating the shield and splitting the 2x4 plank it was propped up against). For reference, medieval warbow arrows are typically around the range 70-90J.

BootStrapTommy
2016-02-23, 08:00 PM
With a running throw, effective range was about 10-15 metres, although 20-30 metres was not uncommon.

As for energy output, depends exactly on the weight and design of the pilum and the aforementioned run up (or alternately a charging enemy). The heavier the pilum, the shorter the range, but the better the penetrative capability. Some Roman times re-enactors have experimented with replica pilum at targets and reckon somewhere between 100 to 300J and about 30 yards is the optimal unstressed throw (one account had a 10 yard throw with a heavy 5lb pilum penetrating the shield and splitting the 2x4 plank it was propped up against). For reference, medieval warbow arrows are typically around the range 70-90J.And I'm inclined to believe a Roman legionnaire was probably in better shape than most re-enactors...

Tiktakkat
2016-02-23, 08:24 PM
Swords were a status symbol, remember? They were costly and and resource intense (since nearly the entire weapon uses up metal). So the added benefit of the gladius, and later the spatha, was that it made the statement that Rome was so much better than their enemies that they could equip their regulars, not just leaders, with swords. Also swords really are good weapons, they were just generally cost prohibitive.

Maybe.
The gladius apparently also made rather vicious wounds compared to spears, which gave them a morale effect that could justify the cost.


Pilum were obviously real. They also have the noted design "flaw" of a thin, metal shaft under the spearhead. This seems to indicate the trope is factual.

Think about it. Your shield wall might handle arrows easily. But 6 foot long iron headed spears designed for maximum penetration? Probably not. I guess the real question is, how effectively could legionnaires throw them?

Two things:
1. The shield element is significant, as shields were a lot more important than many games, particularly D&D, make them out to be.
2. My general expectation for any weapon is that whoever used it was as good at using it in direct proportion to how long they used it and how often they won with it.
Rome went from a city-state to owning the Mediterranean and a good chunk of the rest of Europe with the pilum.
That suggests they could throw the pilum extremely effectively.

CharonsHelper
2016-02-23, 09:22 PM
They also used the gladius because the general rule is that the bigger your shield is, the smaller your weapon should be, especially if you use the shield offensively as the Romans did. The scutum was pretty darned big. The thrusting blade could also be used without opening up the shield-wall nearly as much as a larger slashing blade would. Plus the Romans were generally rather small men relative to most of their foes, and big shield/short sword is a particularly good combination for a small man vs a big man.

Vitruviansquid
2016-02-23, 10:34 PM
Saying that a sword was a status weapon is like saying a car is a status item. Yes, a car could be a status item, if it was an expensive car. But not every car is expensive and for status. There existed expensive, well-made swords as well as cheap, poorly made swords. There were also expensive, poorly-made swords and cheap, well-made swords... well, you get the idea.

The Roman Legionnaire's gladius was not a status kind of sword. The legionnaire himself is usually of the urban poor, doing military service in order to earn his farm and enter the middle class. He would've been equipped by a wealthy general, but the point was to field many men, not bling them out. Now was the Roman legionnaire poorly equipped? No. He was an infantryman with metal armor, a large shield, his primary melee weapon in the gladius, and secondary ranged weapon in the pila.


They also used the gladius because the general rule is that the bigger your shield is, the smaller your weapon should be, especially if you use the shield offensively as the Romans did.

No. Just... no.

There were plenty of peoples who did incredibly fine using a large weapon with a large shield. The Greek Hoplite and Macedonian Phalangite used large shields paired with relatively large weapons and demonstrated amazing dominance in their heyday. Most pre-modern peoples all over the world seemed to do fine with large spears and large shields.

Thrudd
2016-02-23, 11:28 PM
A big part of the pilum's purpose in battle was to ruin the enemy shields before infantry advanced. The legion would launch a volley or two of pilum, they would stick into the shields (and maybe wound a few people, too). A shield might get split by the force of the blow, and even if it didn't it would be rendered useless by the five foot long javelin that was stuck through it. Fighting with a shield when your opponent doesn't have one is a huge advantage.

D&D really doesn't model that sort of thing very well. One option for doing this would be to give shields a property where they can be sacrificed (rendered unusable) in order to avoid a blow that would have otherwise hit. Or, from the other angle, give certain weapons like the javelin and heavy axes the ability to sunder shields on a crit or on any hit in lieu of doing damage.

CharonsHelper
2016-02-23, 11:38 PM
There were plenty of peoples who did incredibly fine using a large weapon with a large shield. The Greek Hoplite and Macedonian Phalangite used large shields paired with relatively large weapons and demonstrated amazing dominance in their heyday. Most pre-modern peoples all over the world seemed to do fine with large spears and large shields.

The Hopilte did have large shields and middling large weapons (I was talking weight - not reach)... but they didn't use the shields offensively with the spears. No shield bashing. The Macedonians' shields were used almost entirely passively and were rather small (not buckler small or anything, but much smaller than the hopilite shield and pretty small for an ancient battlefield) so that they could use both hands for their pike. The back ranks actually used their pikes to deflect missiles to help make up for it. Look it up.

Aedilred
2016-02-23, 11:56 PM
Rome went from a city-state to owning the Mediterranean and a good chunk of the rest of Europe with the pilum.
That suggests they could throw the pilum extremely effectively.
That's a bit of an exaggeration. The Roman legionary of legend wasn't in use continually throughout Roman history. Early on, they used essentially similar formations and strategies to contemporary Greece: phalanges, etc. They conquered Italy effectively with that. They defeated Carthage and Pyrrhus with the manipular system, in which spearmen and light javelins were predominant (although there were some junior soldiers with pila). The pilum doesn't seem to have become standard legionary equipment until the Marian reforms of the late Republic, by which point Rome was already a - probably the - major Mediterranean power.


They also used the gladius because the general rule is that the bigger your shield is, the smaller your weapon should be, especially if you use the shield offensively as the Romans did. The scutum was pretty darned big. The thrusting blade could also be used without opening up the shield-wall nearly as much as a larger slashing blade would. Plus the Romans were generally rather small men relative to most of their foes, and big shield/short sword is a particularly good combination for a small man vs a big man.
The general rule, I think, is that the better your armour, the smaller your shield. Larger weapons associated with smaller shields is probably a secondary effect, because a lighter shield makes it easier to use your off-hand to assist. But as mentioned, some armies made effective use of heavier weapons while large shields were still widely used.

CharonsHelper
2016-02-24, 12:09 AM
The general rule, I think, is that the better your armour, the smaller your shield. Larger weapons associated with smaller shields is probably a secondary effect, because a lighter shield makes it easier to use your off-hand to assist. But as mentioned, some armies made effective use of heavier weapons while large shields were still widely used.

Actually - the Macedonian phalanx had substantially lighter armor than the earlier Greek phalanx in addition to a much smaller shield - they sacrificed both due to the weight/awkwardness of the pike. They relied upon the length of their pike to keep them safe. Whenever opposing armies were able to get past it (difficult to do) they were basically slaughtered. When the Romans flanked them at Cynoscephalae - they killed at more than 8000 & captured 5000 Greeks (using what we consider the Macedonian phalanx) while losing approx. 700 troops, and that early in the battle before they flanked them.

The better armor = smaller shield didn't really begin until medieval full plate.

And again - the earlier Greek phalanx's spear wasn't that heavy. The dory was 3-5lb/1-2kg or so, and that includes the counterweight. Not very heavy for a thrusting weapon.

Tiktakkat
2016-02-24, 12:48 AM
That's a bit of an exaggeration. The Roman legionary of legend wasn't in use continually throughout Roman history. Early on, they used essentially similar formations and strategies to contemporary Greece: phalanges, etc. They conquered Italy effectively with that. They defeated Carthage and Pyrrhus with the manipular system, in which spearmen and light javelins were predominant (although there were some junior soldiers with pila). The pilum doesn't seem to have become standard legionary equipment until the Marian reforms of the late Republic, by which point Rome was already a - probably the - major Mediterranean power.

You are correct.
I wasn't exaggerating; I was mixing up my dates and putting Marius and the Social War before the Punic Wars for some silly reason.
Correction noted.

nedz
2016-02-24, 06:34 AM
The Roman army went through many changes. The version most people are familiar with only really existed in the two 1st centuries (107 BC to around 100 AD) and contained about 50% auxiliaries too (who supplied many other troop types). Before that the army was class based (Equites = Horsemen were the upper classes, etc.) and afterwards mainly barbarian mercenaries.

There is a reasonable introduction here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_history_of_the_Roman_military#Manipular _legion_.28315_BC_.E2.80.93_107_BC.29).

Your point about D&D not modelling shields correctly is somewhat of an understatement, but not incorrect.

HydwenPrydain
2016-02-24, 09:51 AM
Some thoughts.

Wahammers

Bludgeoning is effective against armor because it has a lot more capability to mess up an armored man even without getting through the armor. A warhammer/mace blow has a lot more raw force behind it than a sword or even axe blow, and it can do all sorts of nasty things through even heavy armor, like break bones, rupture organs, detach an aorta, or just take the wind out of/concuss the opponent. Against a foe wearing plate, brigandine, or even quality chain, a powerful sword blow will have to be quite lucky to do much damage.

Also, warhammers are light, one-handed weapons that are perfectly capable of parrying like a sword (although the weight distribution does make them slightly less nimble). See this video: historical warhammers only weigh a few grams more than an arming sword of (roughly) the same period. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh1QDf_6Dmk

Additionally, although they have a spike on the back, that mostly adds versatility. The spike has disadvantages, most notably its propensity to get stuck in armor, shields, or even flesh. This is obviously not good. Additionally, if the point contacts plate at an angle that doesn't allow it to get through, it will glance off, unlike the flat part that will still impart force and can make the other guy unhappy he got hit. It's a trade-off between higher likelihood of lethality (spike) or higher likelihood of doing *some* damage (blunt end). It can also do fun things like hook shields/weapons.

Warhammers were not dominant because the period in which they were used was dominated by polearms for infantry -- spears, halberds, bills, etc. Infantry in this period, although more armored than in the early middle ages, still would have been lucky to have chain. We're mostly dealing with gambeson, a (kettle) helm, and (depending on the weapon) some sort of shield, all of which a polearm can deal with just fine. The polearms, however, have a major reach advantage, so a warhammer-armed formation will be at a major disadvantage against the polearm formation. The pole weapons are also easier to use (and the reach makes untrained men more likely to use them effectively as they don't have to walk through halberd swings and spear-thrusts to try to do something. Carrying 2 weapons as infantry is cumbersome (and expensive), so it's not a big surprise that few if any lords/men-at-arms shelled out to equip their billmen with them.

So, who used warhammers? Knights. It's a knightly weapon. Knights have the money and carrying capacity to carry a specialized anti-armor weapon. A (relatively) rich dude on a big heavy warhorse can carry and afford more than just a sword, shield, and lance. Against other knights, the warhammer puts him at an advantage, and against infantry, once the range is closed and the lance is no longer effective, the hammer is better for swinging down against infantry. This last point is largely due to the increasing prominence of infantry helmets, especially the kettle helm, in this period. Where a sword is very unlikely to get through even an average quality helm, a warhammer blow can do all sorts of zombie-apocalypse-effective things to a man-at-arms right through his helm.

Rome

A lot of this has been covered, but Rome was fundamentally a shield-and-armor army, not a sword or pilum or whatever army. Having a big shield and quality armor on (semi-, depending on period) professional soldiers from a culture that heavily emphasized military virtues (virtue comes from Latin "virtus," meaning "manly/warrior virtues") gives you troops that can hold formation, push through spears or sarissas, close to point-blank, shove a shield in the face, and *then* start stabbing. This was true in the early republican period (see the Macedonian Wars, spear-equipped Romans vs., well, Macedonians.

Why the gladius? Once you close through your opponent's spears and are shoving a huge shield in their faces, a short thrusting sword is really really good. Additionally, Rome by the late Republic (when the gladius was adopted) had the metal reserves and manufacturing capacity to turn out large quantities of swords and heavy armor to reasonably equip an army in that way. Also, it's small and light compared to a spear, and lets you carry a lot more stuff, like pilums/plumbata/armor. And it doesn't occupy a hand the way a spear does, so you can throw your pilums on the battlefield.

Brother Oni
2016-02-24, 12:22 PM
And I'm inclined to believe a Roman legionnaire was probably in better shape than most re-enactors...

While I agree with your statement, the discussion I found regarding the pilum's effectiveness also took this into account and gave ballpark figures based on performance statistics from Olympic-level athletes and equipment, adjusted appropriately - a pilum is not going to reach a flight javelin's distance record of 90m, but neither is a flight javelin going to be penetrating much as it's far too light (800g compared to 2+kg).

BootStrapTommy
2016-02-24, 02:21 PM
Saying that a sword was a status weapon is like saying a car is a status item. Yes, a car could be a status item, if it was an expensive car. But not every car is expensive and for status. There existed expensive, well-made swords as well as cheap, poorly made swords. There were also expensive, poorly-made swords and cheap, well-made swords... well, you get the idea.

The Roman Legionnaire's gladius was not a status kind of sword. The legionnaire himself is usually of the urban poor, doing military service in order to earn his farm and enter the middle class. He would've been equipped by a wealthy general, but the point was to field many men, not bling them out. Now was the Roman legionnaire poorly equipped? No. He was an infantryman with metal armor, a large shield, his primary melee weapon in the gladius, and secondary ranged weapon in the pila.The giant flaw in this is cars are common place (at least they are in North America) and swords were not. Your analogy breaks down on that. Until the late Medieval period, the Romans are one of only a small handful exceptions to the rule that only the wealthy owned swords. Even "cheap" swords were generally very expensive and thus cost prohibitive.


No. Just... no.

There were plenty of peoples who did incredibly fine using a large weapon with a large shield. The Greek Hoplite and Macedonian Phalangite used large shields paired with relatively large weapons and demonstrated amazing dominance in their heyday. Most pre-modern peoples all over the world seemed to do fine with large spears and large shields.And the Romans beat the Greek and Macedonians, in case you forgot.


Wahammers

Bludgeoning is effective against armor because it has a lot more capability to mess up an armored man even without getting through the armor. A warhammer/mace blow has a lot more raw force behind it than a sword or even axe blow, and it can do all sorts of nasty things through even heavy armor, like break bones, rupture organs, detach an aorta, or just take the wind out of/concuss the opponent. Against a foe wearing plate, brigandine, or even quality chain, a powerful sword blow will have to be quite lucky to do much damage.This seems to be the oft repeated assumption of this thread, and I kind of wonder how much water it actually holds.

Does anyone have some science to back the claim up?

nedz
2016-02-24, 02:55 PM
This seems to be the oft repeated assumption of this thread, and I kind of wonder how much water it actually holds.

Does anyone have some science to back the claim up?

That's a good question.

It's unlikely to be because of the concussion - though that is possible - because padding is normally worn underneath armour, except on the head. A lot of the strength of armour comes from it's shape - which your hammering may change. It will also cause metal fatigue - eventually.

What you really want to do is knock them off their horse, or onto their back, because that makes them easier to deal with.

BootStrapTommy
2016-02-24, 03:06 PM
That's a good question.

It's unlikely to be because of the concussion - though that is possible - because padding is normally worn underneath armour, except on the head. A lot of the strength of armour comes from it's shape - which your hammering may change. It will also cause metal fatigue - eventually.

What you really want to do is knock them off their horse, or onto their back, because that makes them easier to deal with.Obviously it seems to be the case, the lucerne hammer and the bec de corbin developing the reputations they did as result.

But best I can tell, the only real benefit blunt instruments actually have versus armor is that they less likely to strike a glancing blow.

Aedilred
2016-02-24, 11:04 PM
But then, not striking a glancing blow is pretty important. Where a bladed weapon might have most of its power deflected, a blunt instrument will still transfer most of its force to the target.

It's not science per se, but a quick google did find me this video:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhknaG9ifbs

Obviously, there are a few things to take into account - it is after all a marketing video to some extent - and it's not by any means conclusive, but I think it does go some way to demonstrate that a hammer's impact on a fully plated individual would be substantial, and not much less on someone wearing chain. There doesn't seem to be a lot of padding underneath the plate armour, but all that force has to go somewhere and I think you'd struggle to pad yourself enough not to suffer some injury from a blow like that while still remaining mobile. That said I don't know to what extent "crumple zones" were accounted for in gothic/white armour.

The suit of armour there is static, which doesn't help the defender, and would likely make the spike less effective than shown in combat against an upright foe (although against an enemy already injured, it would be lethal) and it would probably be more difficult to get in a "perfect" strike with the hammer side. But that the enemy is moving already makes the hammer a good choice precisely because it's not going to get deflected in the same way that a sword or battleaxe would: even a blow that doesn't hit quite square is going to do some damage. It's also capable of directly damaging plate right in the areas expected to be most resilient, where most weapons would be looking for weak spots.

BootStrapTommy
2016-02-25, 01:42 AM
I've seen that guy in other videos. I think a video of him wielding a Chinese war sword made it on Outrageous Acts of Science.

HydwenPrydain
2016-02-25, 09:58 AM
I want to preface this by saying that any weapon is going to have trouble vs. plate armor. The question is which is better at dealing with a plate armored foe. You don't need to kill someone with your primary, just incapacitate them enough that you can grab your dagger and poke 'em in the eye. A bludgeoning weapon doesn't need a huge advantage over a sword to make it worth carrying as a knight. I'll also note that a concussion (or just having the "wind knocked out of you") can be enough to put you at a serious disadvanatage, and those are caused by rapid acceleration/deceleration of the head, something that doesn't require any armor damage at all (see, e.g., NFL players -- their helmets aren't damaged in any way).

The primary evidence for bludgeoning's effectiveness vs. armor is 1.) people who used it historically thought it was good against armor and 2.) physics. It's very hard to get realistic tests because it's not a question of cutting or even impact on armor, it's a question to what sort of damage gets done to the functional squishy bits (and no one wants to stand around in armor and be a weapons test).

As to 1.), well, that's the historical method. If hammers and maces actually sucked vs. armor, people who used the things every day would have stopped using them or at least people would have mentioned it. Medieval history is the period I know the least about, so I'd be happy to hear if anyone has sources that contradict this.

As for 2.), the bludgeoning weapon has a lot more mass behind the point of impact, which is closely related to the "lower probability of glancing blows." The mass of a sword is overwhelmingly near the hilt, while on a mace/warhammer, it's overwhelmingly on the striking part. Most swords have a point of balance within a few inches of the hilt (depending on design/purpose), while bludgeons are balanced very close to the head. This means the point of impact is going to have a lot more weight (and therefore inertia, the ability to resist changes in velocity) behind it, meaning-- it's a lot harder to stop.

Kaiu Keiichi
2016-02-25, 02:18 PM
Lets not forget RuneQuest - this non level % based system had special damage results (if you roll less than 1/5 of your skill percentage, you score a special.) So, if you have a weapon skill of 50% and roll a 12 or less, you score a special.

What kind of special you scored was based on your weapon type. Slashing and piercing Weapons did double damage but subtracted for armor, crushing weapons maxed out their entire die. Piercing weapons could get stuck in people and did extra damage when they were pulled out.