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Thread: RL combat

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    Default RL combat

    So, for those of us who have tried medieval-style combat in RL, what were your experiences? What catgirl-killing comments have you? Mounted combat? Slings are underpowered? Tridents should do more damage? The greataxe is an impossible weapon? Splintmail doesn't work? Is sword and board of THF better that THF? Go ahead and discuss!

    My first quibble - spiked chains. It's a classic, but I just wanted to bring it up. There is no way to hit a conscious opponent with something that long and bendy!
    My second - the range increment on bows. I just can't work. Robin hood has been so much exaggerated. No way you can shoot without penalty at a range of 70ft. It makes for a very tough shot.
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    Default Re: RL combat

    As I understand it, sword-and-board is VASTLY better IRL than it is in D&D.

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    Default Re: RL combat

    Two-handed weapons are vastly inferior to sword-and-board in real life. They're also inferior to dual wielding a pair of one-handed weapons.

    Except reach weapons. Reach weapons are good.
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    Default Re: RL combat

    Well, I'm not what you would call an expert certainly, but since historical background evidence backs me up on this: Two weapon fighting was not designed to give you double your normal number of attacks, it's so you can have one weapon dedicated to parrying as you strike with the other. You can switch between the two fairly rapidly, but if you try to use both for attack you'll have trouble reaching the vulnerable areas that you normally go for with a single weapon.
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    Trust me, Spiked Chains aren't BS. There are entire schools of martial arts dedicated to fighting with long chains, spikes or not. It's because they're bendy that they're deadly; they don't initially cause much damage when they hit, but they bend around an opponent, and the spikes or barbs catch and tear. Something that long is also hard to dodge once it gets its momentum going, since it carries itself with only minute strength to guide it, especially because of the art it moves in.
    Two hand fighting is a bad idea unless you're using a polearm or another reach weapon, purely because one cannot block and attack with it. Your single weapon does one or the other. With double-weilding or Sword and Shield, one weapon attacks while the other or the shield blocks. Also, swinging something with two hands limits the dexterity and flexibility you can put into it. Greataxes aren't impossible, but they're just a less efficient, poorly balanced version of a Halbard. They way one would fight with one would be to strain enough to lift it, then hold it until you were close enough to hopefully hit something when your dropped it. Not quite that bad, but it's not really a good idea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reptilus View Post
    Trust me, Spiked Chains aren't BS. There are entire schools of martial arts dedicated to fighting with long chains, spikes or not.
    The manriki gusari is the only chain weapon I can think of off the top of my head and it's certainly not spiked. It's used as a combination flail and entangling weapon. It's also fairly short, the one I own is 36" long.

    I've never heard of any "spiked chain" in real life. And the one shown in the D&D books would be unusable. Frankly, I don't see any chain weapon giving you a 10' reach...you'd have to pull it back and recoil it any time you threw it out that far. It's far too heavy to be usable as a whip.

    It's because they're bendy that they're deadly; they don't initially cause much damage when they hit, but they bend around an opponent, and the spikes or barbs catch and tear. Something that long is also hard to dodge once it gets its momentum going, since it carries itself with only minute strength to guide it, especially because of the art it moves in.
    Getting past the use of barbs I've never seen, chain weapons rely on momentum for damage. In other words, you have to spin them in circles and keep them going. The worst issue (and why they're a lousy combat weapon) is you have to regain your momentum after every hit. In the time it takes you to whirl the chain back up to speed, the sword wielder is going to hit you at least once.
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    Default Re: RL combat

    Didn't we have the arguement about the Spiked Chain a couple days ago?

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    Having been in the SCA as well as a dedicated martial artist, allow me to put in my own two cents:

    1) Sword-and-board fighting is vicious, and extremely easy to learn. In short, you don't need to do much, you've got a sheet of steel between you and your opponents most of the time.

    2) TWF requires significant training, however is equally deadly if one is adept at it. Realistic TWF styles include Escrima (twin short-sword, used in the Phillipines to fend off Magellen and his crew), some styles of fencing (rapier and Main Gouche in particular, although the parrying dagger would often accompany a longer blade in many of the more realistic and offensive fighting styles), and some forms of eastern martial arts (Butterfly Swords were intended to be duo-wielded, and while it didn't occur NEARLY as often as many would think, the Katana and Wazakashi can be used paired. More often, however, the Katana was used by itself, more on that later.)

    3) Two-handed weapons were massive and slower, however when they hit, they hit HARD. Greataxes weren't used all that often, but greatswords were quite handy. They literally COULD hit a shield and break the arm behind it and if not actually cut through then at least crumple the shield. Moreso with a two-handed blunt instrument. Also, once they got their momentum going, they were very hard to stop, and have the reach to keep you from being able to close with them. The other side of the two-handed weapon coin is the Katana, which was traditionally used two-handed. Iado, and it's precursor, Iajitsu, focused on the 'strike first, strike last' side of combat, striking as they pull their katana out of the sheath, easily able to cut a man in half, then Kendo, which was the style used after they have the blade out of their sheath, is a two-handed style, using the Katana's speed, and both hands to not only increase power, but accuracy and speed. I defy you to call a two-handed katana slow and ungainly...

    4) For sheer damage, a mace beats a sword, particularly a flanged or spiked mace. A one-handed flanged mace can crumple a shield with a good, solid hit (I've seen it happen), and break the arm behind it. It requires considerable upper-body strength, but if you've got the strength for it, this is possibly the deadliest of the melee weapons used in Europe.

    5) Hinged or chain weapons, such as the flail or morningstar (or Nunchaku), are EXTREMELY difficult to wield properly, usually resulting in hitting yourself unless you know EXACTLY what you are doing. They are also not very efficent weapons as far as power of blow, however they are far harder to parry with a weapon or block with a shield.

    6) A one-handed axe is nearly as dangerous as a mace, particularly a bearded axe. I've seen people cleave through shields, plate mail, and more, with these weapons. They're also vicious against unarmored targets, even more so than a sword. However, they aren't as fast as a sword.

    7) The staff is VASTLY under-appreciated. I can, with nothing but quarterstaff, helm, and leather jerkin, defeat a belted knight in full plate using a longsword and shield. Not only are they fast, they hit HARD, and can be used to 'ring their bell' very easily.

    8) Unarmed combat vs weapon combat is insane. Unless you are a Master, and perhaps your opponent is a newbie, using bare hands against an armed and armored opponent is tantamount to suicide.

    9) Large weapons, like polearms, are not intended as single-person weapons, they are intended to be used as a unit. One polearm user is in serious trouble against a sword-user (unless he takes some oriental style like Tiger Fork or Monk's Spade, or the Naginata). However, a phalanx of polearm wielders is an extremely effective formation, and was used extensively until the advent of gunpowder, in which case they used the same formation and handed the soldiers muskets rather than polearms. In particular, a formation of Pikemen was one of the very few things which could stop a heavy calvary charge. To simulate this, imagine if you will, four rows of soldiers each wielding a Pike, which has a reach of 20', although cannot attack anyone inside 15'. A Heavy Calvary unit charges. He provokes an AoO at 15', then again at 10' from the second line, then again at the 5' mark from the 3rd row, before he closes into melee with the first row. The 4th row can still attack the guy in melee (assuming he survives four AoO's), although the first through third cannot.
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    Default Re: RL combat

    ^^ Now that's discussion!

    In my experience, one sword, one empty hand isn't all that bad, but requires a lot of parrying and waiting for a chance to counterattack. Is this that same for sword and shield? Or does the shield allow more impunity in the area of swinging whenever you want? I mean, with one sword, I always wait for the other combatant to make the first move. TWF, I swing offhand first to draw their defense/offense away from the real attack. Ooh, and what sort of TWF stances work well? Does that cinematic 'off hand at waist and pointing up, good hand next to head and pointing down' thing actually work on skilled opponents? What about a leftie? Are they hard to defeat due to the attacks coming from an unaccustomed direction?

    What I have found with the spear (not a pike or other such thing, but maybe 7-8ft long) is that I can defeat a sword-wielding opponent by keeping them at a distance and pocking, then switching to a quarterstaff style of fighting if they get close (which I agree is great until they start to sunder you into submission).

    Also, back to the spiked chain genre of weapons, while I realize that they are tough to block, an armored opponent would take almost no damage from those little spikes and that barbs would slide, not rip and tear. Also, would not spinning that thing around make your net attack somewhat predictable and easy to dodge?

    Nothing to add to unarmed suicidal practices.

    On the topic of a heavy ax or mace. IF they can dodge, would not your momentum bring you way off balance, leaving you open for counterattack?

    Second last thing, what do you think about armored/unarmored fighting? I prefer unarmored, but see the necessity of good protection. Does that mean I should go looking for leather?

    And finally, opinions on ranged combat? The range of bows, the utility of thrown axes/knives on a moving target?
    Last edited by Aramil Liadon; 2007-03-31 at 09:53 PM.
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    Default Re: RL combat

    Surely this discussion should be in the Real World Weapons and Armour Thread?
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    Quote Originally Posted by ShneekeyTheLost View Post
    Having been in the SCA as well as a dedicated martial artist, allow me to put in my own two cents:
    What he said...

    I was taught that the staff was the ultimate defense against the sword (the katana). But you can't hack your way through 3 dozen peasants with a staff as easily as you can with a sword, you can't wear a staff on your hip 24/7, and you can't use it indoors or in tight quarters.

    In my game, the staff is not a double weapon (I hate that), but instead it grants +1 AC in melee combat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramil Liadon View Post
    Second last thing, what do you think about armored/unarmored fighting?
    As I understand it, the point of armor is to stop arrows and stones.

    You know what weapon killed the most people on the Japanese medieval battlefield?

    Thrown rocks.

    That's why the knights wore platemail. So peasants couldn't just throw rocks at them and win.

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    Default Re: RL combat

    Thrown Rocks.

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    Default Re: RL combat

    As does Return of the Jedi.

    ...oh, wait. There, the armor did nothing.

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    In my view, it's the hit point system what makes damage output (THF) viewed as more critical than being able to make hits while well-defended (sword+board, or TWF with Two-weapon defense).

    If a one-handed weapon kills about as well as a two-handed one, why sacrifice the defense of a shield?

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    Default Re: RL combat

    Have to agree with Shneeky.

    From what I've seen while LARPing and practising in general, the most effective hand weapons in a battle situation are:

    1) Sword and shield
    2) Polearms

    And they're best of all when you can combine them together, i.e. shield wall with polarms in the second rank. Charging a polarm-studded shield wall is utter suicide, no-one can get away with it if the defenders hold their ground.

    Two-handed weapons are NOWHERE near as good IRL as they are in D&D, due to the amount of space needed to swing them effectively and how vulnerable you are to a second person hitting you while you're swinging at the first. The only really effective two-handed weapon I've seen is a staff, and even that only works because it can be used as a semi-polearm.

    Nunchaku, spiked chains, three-section staffs, and most exotic weapons in general suck.

    Caveat: I haven't done much practice with properly weighted weapons, so that might be messing with my judgement a bit.

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    Default Re: RL combat

    Incidentally, best weapons--for what? Two guys in 12th century European armor and a couple of guys in a street brawl in modern Bangkok are going to want totally different weapons.

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    Indeed. Situation defines everything. If you're part of a formation, and cavalry is charging at you, you probably want a nice, long pike on which to skewer a horse. If you're on your own, facing off against some fellow with a sword and shield, then it's probably the wrong weapon for you.
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    I have to put a plug in here for Two-Weapon Fighting.

    Yes, you have to work at it. Hard. For years. But when done well, it is amazing. The local SCA has a fellow, perhaps eighteen years old, who has been working at it since he was about ten. In the eight or so fights I've seen him in, he "died" once - and his opponent was "killed" in the same instant. He fights one-on-one, three-on-three, and eight person everyone-versus-everyone, and he is always (except that once) the last man standing.

    Part of it is his size, I'm sure - he's a little short and can move more quickly. But the rest of it is sheer ability. He has mastered two-weapon defense, against both reach weapons and shield/sword combinations. As far as I could tell, he made the same number of attacking moves as his opponents, but his off hand threw their defense awry. (Hmm. Actually, if I recall correctly, he was more likely than the others to study his opponents' styles first while defending, but that may just have been the result of him either getting tired or realizing that the others were pretty good, too.)

    I understand that for the average fighter, mace and shield is probably a good combination, and the various reach weapons are also useful. BUT - if a person is willing to put in the time and the effort to learn how to weild a short sword / long sword combination effectively, in addition to learning how to put one's speed to good use, then that person can become very hard indeed to bring down.

    By the way - all this was done in steel armor including helmets, with rattan weapons. I think the reach weapons (can't remember what they called them - used with a buckler, usually) were additionally padded. A hit to the leg meant that the person had to kneel or sit the way they would if their leg muscles were severed; again, the young guy using TWF rarely was struck in the leg, and was only once dealt a "mortal wound".
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    Default Re: RL combat

    A staff can indeed be a great weapon against many opponents, give it a spiky tip and it can be used as a spear two. It’s the ultimate peasants weapon. Also, I would like to insert the psychological effect of a unit of full plated knight with tower shields and swords, backed up by spear wielders and behind that a row of crossbowmen, I have faced that in a LARP, (tough luckily usually being one of the crossbowmen) this is seriously fearsome. the sound of them marching itself is scary. And very few tactics that work against it.
    Also, considering two handed weapons. They indeed leave you open to counters now and then, but those counters had to be swift. So when you are wearing a very thick suit of armour (full plate) those quick counters would only rarely be hard enough to hurt you.
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    I haven't had a lot of training, but longswords (meaning, the 14th-15th c. version - think bastard swords) wielded two-handed are highly versatile. Generally, you defend with the part of the blade closer to the hilt and attack with the outer part. I'd much prefer it over sword and board since you have a lot more control over the blade. For the true zweihanders, what I've read is that they were used against pike formations, and used the weight of the sword to sunder the enemy pikes. The guys who used them got twice the pay of the others, but they tended to have short lifespans.

    About the quarterstaff: This weapon was actually responsible for the highest number of murders in the middle ages. It's simply unparallelled - against unarmoured opponents. If your enemy is armoured, run. Because "ringing his bell" is all you'll do. You can probably succeed in making him highly annoyed before he gets into range, but that's about it. A few bruises don't outweigh him cutting you open to the navel, which is what he'll do with his first hit.

    I've seen a guy demonstrate what swords will do to unprotected flesh; a solid hit with a sharp, one-handed sword will usually cut through an arm, severing the bone and possibly lopping it off altogether. A two-handed cut will do the same to a leg. Armour helps a lot here - he said he'd tried to chop at a helmet, but couldn't penetrate (IIRC with one hand, dunno about two). Maille will reduce the effects of a good hit, but won't stop it flat. Plate will, which is why you usually go for the gaps against plate-armoured opponents. It becomes a whole other fighting style, frankly - wielding your sword half-handed style, trying to slide along the armour into the gaps and joints. Lots of strange stuff - I haven't tried it.

    About bows: D&D ranged rules are just odd, though, especially about rates of fire. A *good* archer might loose 12 arrows a minute and reach 200 yards. I'm not too sure about crossbows, but I think they'd be lucky to achieve even half that rate, and the bolts also lose too much accuracy to be much use beyond 100 yards or so. The crank-operated kind is more powerful but also more complicated, and would probably take about a minute to reload. They're dead easy to use, though, so light crossbows really should be simple weapons rather than martial.

    And using a ranged weapon in anything resembling a melee situation is just demented - at 10' range, not only won't you hit, but your opponent will probably bitch-slap you before you can loose. (Note to Hollyweird: You loose an arrow. You might fire it beforehand, but that's not the same as when you fire a gun)

    The problem with archery is again that maille (the riveted kind, not the cheap butted kind you can buy today) will stop an arrow, though you might get a bruise. There are stories from the crusades about the mailled knights looking like hedgehogs from all the arrows stuck in their maille, and modern-day tests verify this. Bodkin arrows will do more penetration, but are easier to pull out than broadhead arrows. And crossbow bolts will penetrate even maille.

    Spoken like someone who mostly dabbles in this, so feel free to correct me...

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    Default Re: RL combat

    Halfswording: freakin' weird, but the kind of thing you do when armor tech is better than weapon tech.

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    Psssst

    *Points everybody to the Real-World-Weapons-and-Armour thread stickied above*

    *Also points out that reading that thread and it's predecessors should yield tons of information*


    Edit: *notices that all points here have been covered, discussed and rediscussed too*
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raum View Post
    The manriki gusari is the only chain weapon I can think of off the top of my head and it's certainly not spiked. It's used as a combination flail and entangling weapon. It's also fairly short, the one I own is 36" long.

    I've never heard of any "spiked chain" in real life. And the one shown in the D&D books would be unusable. Frankly, I don't see any chain weapon giving you a 10' reach...you'd have to pull it back and recoil it any time you threw it out that far. It's far too heavy to be usable as a whip.

    Getting past the use of barbs I've never seen, chain weapons rely on momentum for damage. In other words, you have to spin them in circles and keep them going. The worst issue (and why they're a lousy combat weapon) is you have to regain your momentum after every hit. In the time it takes you to whirl the chain back up to speed, the sword wielder is going to hit you at least once.

    While its not really comparative to the Spiked chain, the kau sin ke (chain whip/iron whip) is both beuatiful and freaking scary to see in use. It was my former kung fu instructor's weapon of choice. Good for offense or defense. But incredibly difficult to master. i earned my black belt in his school, and never got comfortable with the danged thing.

    A little more on topic, I've foound that the simple staff and spear get very little respect in rpg's, but are very versatile and competent weapons in the real world.

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    RL Combat vs RPG Combat

    There are conventions in RPG combat that come about because of the abstraction necessary to make it a fun game. If you had a completely realistic RPG combat & weapon system, the game would bog down to the point of being unplayable.

    Because RPG combat is abstracted, weird effects are going to show up that wouldn't happen in RL. It's the compexity of RL that causes these 'corner cases' like spiked chains to work completely differently from the way they are portrayed in the game.

    Things I find that don't work in RPG Combat as they do in RL:

    Polearms: In RL, I find there are two different categories of polearms.

    Long polearms like spetums, ranseurs, pikes, etc. can only be effective in formations because they are 'facing' weapons. Due to their length, they tend to point in one direction (hopefully towards the enemy), and are slow to move to point towards another direction. If you can come at them from the side, it is very likely you will get within their reach before the weapon can be swung to threaten you.

    Short polearms like bardiches, halberds, quarterstaves, spears, have 'reach', being able to attack farther out than other weapons, but still can't get out to the range that long polearms can, and can be used in one-on-one fighting. You can use the butt end as a secondary bludgeoning attack (unless it has a butt spike, in which case you can get a secondary thrust on occasion), as they are all just quarterstaves with a blade on one end in effect.

    Sheilds: Shields are considerably more effective than presented in D&D. 3.x makes them better than they were in previous editions, as previously they were simply a +1 to AC, at least 3.x has higher values for different shields.

    Specific Weapons vs Specific Armors: This is an optional rule in most editions of D&D, so technically this is covered but it's rarely used. In RL, some armors protect against some attack types better than others. Maille, for instance, is excelent against slashing, but not quite as good against bludgeoning (it does disperse the energy of the blow some, of course). This is a level of complexity that gets dropped from RPGs for ease of play.

    Flails: In this I count spiked chains, scourges, whips and other similar weapons. Flails are considerably harder to use properly than other weapon types and require more training. They are also not that impressive damage-wise relative to maces of the same weight because the loose connection (chain) means the head can't be 'pushed' harder once impact has been made. The head tends to bounce back. They are much more difficult to defend against though, which is why they are an effective weapon. They curl around shields and blocking weapons.

    Lethal vs Subdual damage: The idea that hitting someone with your fist is somehow less lethal than hitting someone with a stick is just odd. It's all bludgeoning impact. If you take enough damage, you can be incapacitated or simply die, but it doesn't matter what weapon did that damage. You could have your face battered in by a boxer, or have your legs broken with a baseball bat. Your body doesn't care what did the damage, just that damage was done.

    There's probably more, but nothing else comes to mind at the moment.
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  26. - Top - End - #26
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: RL combat

    Quote Originally Posted by storybookknight View Post
    Thrown Rocks.
    Back when i played W40K a lot, the general term we used for combat where those were behind the front line was that - its allways funny when the rocks do more than the normal weapons
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  27. - Top - End - #27
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: RL combat

    Hey, Hulking Hurlers throw rocks that hurt!

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: RL combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Fhaolan View Post
    Flails: In this I count spiked chains, scourges, whips and other similar weapons. Flails are considerably harder to use properly than other weapon types and require more training. They are also not that impressive damage-wise relative to maces of the same weight because the loose connection (chain) means the head can't be 'pushed' harder once impact has been made. The head tends to bounce back. They are much more difficult to defend against though, which is why they are an effective weapon. They curl around shields and blocking weapons.
    I agree with your other points Fhaolan, but i think flails need to be split into chain weapons and hinged (or a much shorter chain) weapons. When it comes to chain weapons, whether manriki gusari or morning star, you're correct chain weapons are difficult to use and require significant investment in training to be at all effective. In addition, gathering momentum for a strike and recovering after a strike both take time.

    Jan Zizka shows us what can be done with flails. He took Czech peasants and turned them into an army capable of defeating Teutonic knights...primarily with converted farm tools such as the flail. (Zizka did use innovative tactics and weapon mixes against a traditionally armed and led feudal army so the flail wasn't the only reason.)

    The flail used was long handled with a relatively short chain (compared to the handle length) which used the handle's leverage to impart momentum to the flail. Zizka's peasant army was so effective with the flail that the weapon was closely identified as a Bohemian weapon for years.

    As for sword & board effectiveness, I agree it will generally beat a two hander of equal skill. It's also more likely to keep you alive. However, sometimes SCA two handers will charge a shield wall in a "suicidal" attempt to break unit cohesiveness, and it's often effective though those charging the wall usually take one for the team. I do wonder how valid a tactic it would be with your life on the line though.
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  29. - Top - End - #29
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: RL combat

    I do have to ask how applicable SCA rules are to combat in full plate, which is what most fighters in D&D wear. As I understand it, the SCA combat rules assume the fighter is wearing maille and a helmet (even though lots of folks actually wear plate for safety reasons). The situation changes drastically if you assume the fighter is in plate.
    Last edited by Dausuul; 2007-04-01 at 12:28 PM.

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    Default Re: RL combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Yuki_Akuma View Post
    Two-handed weapons are vastly inferior to sword-and-board in real life. They're also inferior to dual wielding a pair of one-handed weapons.

    Except reach weapons. Reach weapons are good.
    That's not entirely true. using shields became less and less common as armor became better. Full suits of plate armor weren't worn to great degrees until the same time as other advents such as gunpowder.

    The problem is the relationship between all of the weapons, armor, and other factors is poorly modeled in D&D

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