DEVS: Expert literature on Medieval and Renaissance swords and sword-usage

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I found the website for the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts, and I've been reading their essays and articles. Brilliant, actually, and it really gives some insights into historical uses for swords and why swords were made they way they were, what the different types of swords were used for, how their different designs necessitated different ways of using them, etc.

Take this excerpt from one of the books one of their members wrote:

http://www.thearma.org/medsword2.htm wrote:
The Medieval long-sword is not wielded in the standard "hack and slash" style so familiar from movies and TV. It has a different center of balance and is used in a tighter, closer manner that employs its hilt, utilizes thrusts, and emphases its length offensively and defensively. When swung with both hands long-swords are capable of delivering tremendous and devastating wounds. Used in this manner they have a well-rounded and symmetrical offense and defence. Parries are made with the flat of the blade and its cross-guard can be used to block, bind, or trap an opposing weapon. Its pommel can be grabbed to give power to thrusts or it can be used to strike with when close in. Those lighter more rigid blades with narrower tips can also make use of numerous thrusts and maneuvers allowing the armored second hand to be employed in helping guide the weapon or in grabbing the adversary. Such anti-armor blades are also further distinct in their handling from broader slashing blades. The brutal style of the Medieval long-sword is one of power and practical efficiency, but one with an artistry all its own.

In contrast to the slicing slash of a curved, single-edged, Japanese katana, Medieval long-swords were made for hacking, shearing cuts delivered primarily from the elbow and shoulder. It is a mistake to think a straight, double-edged sword with a cross-guard and pommel is handled liked a samurai’s katana. Instead it strikes more with the first 8-10 inches of blade and has two edges to work with (it can "reverse cut" upwards or back). Also, a medieval sword’s simple cross-guard (or "cruciform hilt") is intended not so much to protect the hand from incoming blows, but to allow the blade to bind and lock up another weapon then quickly slip off (it does also offer some protection from hitting into an opposing blade). It also protects the hand from slamming into an opponent’s shield which is moved to greet and to smack attacks not left just hanging (contrary to myth, a medieval shield was far too strong to simply cut through with a few blows).

Or this, about the weight and agility of swords:
http://www.thearma.org/essays/weights.htm wrote:
Despite frequent claims to the contrary, Medieval swords were indeed light, manageable, and on average weighed less than four pounds. As leading sword expert Ewart Oakeshott unequivocally stated: "Medieval Swords are neither unwieldably heavy nor all alike - the average weight of any one of normal size is between 2.5 lb. and 3.5 lbs. Even the big hand-and-a-half 'war' swords rarely weigh more than 4.5 lbs. Such weights, to men who were trained to use the sword from the age of seven (and who had to be tough specimens to survive that age) , were by no means too great to be practical."(Oakeshott, Sword in Hand, p. 13)

And finally, this is a page on longsword and greatsword stances--check out the pictures, it seems Star Wars lightsaber "forms" drew some inspiration from Medieval European swordfighting stances: http://www.thearma.org/essays/StancesIntro.htm

Basically, I just hope 4E designers do a bit of research, maybe consult this guy, John Clements, who seems to be a leading expert in this field. If you read through the rest of the website, one of the points he stresses is that Medieval European combat, whether with swords, spears, axes, polearms, shields, no shields, whatever, was highly technical and highly developed. As a whole, we ought to think of it as systematic traditions of martial arts rather than random barbaric whacking, which is how it's presented in popular media and, yes, RPGs.

Hopefully this quells a bit of the anti-fanboi reactions against Tome of Battle maneuvers and martial disciplines.

Edit: Here's a great piece on armor:

http://www.thearma.org/essays/TopMyths.htm wrote:
4. Knights in full plate armor were clumsy and slow.

False. The popular belief in untutored knights clumsily swinging crude swords while awkwardly lumbering around in heavy armor is inaccurate and uninformed. Mistaken claims that Medieval armored horsemen had become clanking tanks or that unhorsed a knight was at his foe's mercy have become common even among some medieval historians. A warrior in plate armor was far from being the sluggish lobster so frequently mischaracterized by military writers. While an armored man was not as agile as an unarmored one, plate armor overall was well balanced and ingeniously designed to permit considerable maneuverability and nimbleness. This fact is clearly expressed in the fighting literature on armored combat and born out by modern experiments in both antique armor specimens and historically accurate reproductions. Unlike what has been notoriously misrepresented in popular culture, a well-trained and physically conditioned man fighting in full harness was typically a formidable opponent (and there were many different kinds of armor for foot or mounted combat). But this is not to say that fighting in full plate armor was not tiresome or stifling. Armor restricted breathing and ability to ventilate body heat, as well as limited vision and hearing. If armor did not work well it would not have been around for so long in so many different forms. (For more on this see: "Medieval Armor: Plated Perfection" in Military History, July 2005).

And ... ?

D&D is not realistic, it does not need to replicate real world physics or fighting styles. As far as 'mindless hacking' or 'stylistic swinging', that's the flavor you put when you describe how your character does what he does.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
My god did we have some long, pointless discussions about this kind of thing on the Equipment board...

As someone trained in both Korean saber (people tell me Japanese katana is so very different but I'm yet to see why) and European cut and thrust sword/longsword I often found myself trying to mediate between people making some pretty absurd claims about one side or the other which was especially pointless.

Really, I think D&D does far better taking its ideas from movies and books than real martial arts. Real people are pretty limited in what they can do. Even a 1st level D&D character is capable of things the greatest real life warriors were not, and, well, that's kind of what it's all about. Sigurd and Beowulf were superheroes to real warriors and D&D characters are based on them, not real warriors.

Much like the Jedi who's fighting styles are based loosely on real martial arts, your D&D characters fight with the same weapons and the same physics they have abilities far beyond any real person and are, IMO, better represented in movies.
This thread's purpose is just to offer this website as a resource for inspiration for the 4E game designers on weapon techniques and things of that nature.

For example, I learned about the actual differences between longswords, greatswords, and two-handed swords. I already mentioned the weight issue (can you believe that even two-handed swords were around five or six pounds?), and I didn't even know of techniques like half-swording or mordhau.

These can all be incorporated into the new fighter weapon-techniques-trees or whatever.
If you're genuinely interested in this kind of thing you might want to consider actually joining ARMA. There's probably a local study group in your area and as long as you're dedicated and not an ******* I'm sure they'd love to have you. I don't remember precisely what the yearly membership fee is, but yes, it's yearly and it's less than a single splatbook.

It's loads of fun, will keep you in shape, and is very historically enlightening
If you're genuinely interested in this kind of thing you might want to consider actually joining ARMA. There's probably a local study group in your area and as long as you're dedicated and not an ******* I'm sure they'd love to have you. I don't remember precisely what the yearly membership fee is, but yes, it's yearly and it's less than a single splatbook.

It's loads of fun, will keep you in shape, and is very historically enlightening

I might, who knows.