[Runequest] Medieval Tech Levels

Bjørn Are Stølen stolenbjorn at hotmail.com
Thu Feb 11 07:41:04 EST 2010

If you want to have the english longbow to kick ass, you've picked the right time-period; it can pierce mail, and as mail is allmost exclusive metal armor (except for helmets) up till the 14th century, the longbow is having a ball.


As for weapons, swords are very good agains lightly armoured opponents. Even just some layers of textiles is enough to stop most cuts from swords, and in the maciowsky-bible (probably spelled wrong), many warriors are shown with textile-armor-coats only.


The "bastard-sword" is really the result of an interresting development (This is at least my theory):

The romans are known for their gladius-swords, less known, are the "Spatha"-swords(cavallery-swords). They were hilted like a gladius, but had a longer blade, so the reach from horseback was a little better. For all I know, the spartha is influenced by kelt-swords, but I don't know the origin of the Spartha. As opposed to the gladius, the spartha is both a cutting, chopping and a stabbing-sword. As the roman-iron-age came to a close, many germanic tribes came to know the spartha, and many tribes traded "germanified"(pimped) sparthas as royal gifts. In Norway, for instance, many roman sparthas with germanic grips, pommels and guards have been found, despite the fact that Norway was never part of the Roman empire. The Roman spartha is actually the model for the Frankish knights-swords(broadswords in RQ, I guess), that again became the standard the Vikings allways compared their "viking"-swords. The vikings loved the frankish-swords, and they even pirat-copied renowned frankish sword-smiths (Crappy swords have been found, with very expensive handles with the same signatures ingraved on the blades as found on high-quality frankish swords, something that have made archaeologists speculate about the pirate-copying-theory. This theory is enhanced by sagas, mentioning classy swords bending or breaking in battle.) Theese frankish broadswords were again used more extensively form horseback from year 700-onwards, when the stirrup entered the stage. The problem was that the limited reach was making it hard to hit people at the ground, so they started to lengthen the blades. This made the swords heavy and cumbersome to wield on the ground, and as armor was becoming more available (in comparison allmost 3000 swords from viking-age have been found in norway, but hardly any mail, and no helmets!), the need for a shield when fighting on the ground was becoming less important. So at some point, some brigth dude skipped the shield alltogeather when dismounting, and fielded a long-bladed 1h-swords with lengthened handles, so they could use both hands while fighting on foot. This was effectively the first bastard-sword; wielded in one hand on horseback, and two-handed on ground. The two-handed techniques are significally different from 1h-sword +  shield-techniques, as the blade have to do both parrying and attacking. 


IMO, two-hand sword fighting resembles shinto-ryu-kenjutsu(katana)-fencing, while 1h-sword + shield-fighting resembles Escreema/kali-shikaran/kadena-style-fighting.


So in your setting, I would make sure that there were different skills to use a broad-sword from using a 2h-sword(if you let them into your setting, they might be a little late for your setting). -And I would have two separate skills applied to the broadsword; 2h-sword-fighitng skill when using it as a 2h-sword, and 1h sword-skill when using it as a 1h sword. This way some knights in your playgroup that perhaps haven't really learned to become really good with the 2h-sword-techniques, can have a broadsword to use with their kite-shield (or buckler), when fighting on ground, and a bastard-sword to use 1-handed when fighting from horseback :)

> Date: Tue, 9 Feb 2010 17:12:38 -0800
> From: royce at efn.org
> To: runequest at rpgreview.net
> Subject: [Runequest] Medieval Tech Levels
> Greetings, All,
> I've been contemplating the weapons list and the year 1300 AD. It
> seems to make an a difference if I set a Europe-centered campaign prior
> to the Late Middle Ages -- or to a technologically equivalent fantasy
> realm. From the 1300's onwards, we get platemail -- and a variety of
> weapons that developed in parallel with it. (In response to
> platemail?)
> I recently read that the bastard sword (or something very like it)
> first appeared around 1250, and that the first records of English long
> bows in battle are from around the 1280's or 1290's. I am
> contemplating that era as a cut-off date; to keep those two weapons,
> yet exclude the Late Middle Ages.
> Any thoughts or reactions? Am I missing something significant? (Given
> my weak grasp of medieval history, I'm probably missing a great deal.) 
> Your thoughts & suggestions & observations would be most welcome.
> Sincerely,
> Asher
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