As part of my Guest blog series for authors and fellow bloggers I am proud to present another guest blog spot. Alexis Radcliffbook one in the MYSTECH ARCANUM series
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Debunking Common Myths about Fantasy Weapons and Armor by Alexis Radcliff
You’ve seen the classic fantasy weapon and armor tropes a thousand times in books, films, and games: A heroically-muscled strongman in full plate armor locks blades in an epic swordfight with his opponent. A pair of unarmored duelists dash back and forth across the deck of a ship trading banter over an endless series of feints and ripostes. A lithe, slender woman peppers her less mobile, armored foes with arrows as she dances to safety, but struggles to lift a full-size sword.
The scenes are certainly exciting and dramatic. But unfortunately for Hollywood, none of those things are particularly realistic — at least not as far as real-world Earth history goes.
One of the nice things about fantasy is that in your world, things can work however you want. But if you’re going for an element of historical realism in your stories, you might do well to pay attention to these three, commonly-held misconceptions about medieval weaponry we’ll be debunking today.
Myth #1: Sword-wielding Fully-Armored Knights Go Toe to Toe in Battle
Let’s start with the biggest offender on the list: Knights in armor fighting with swords. Universal, right? The problem is that slashing weapons aren’t at all likely to cut through plate armor, or even mail for that matter. A sword was a secondary weapon at best, and more often a symbol of status than a primary weapon of war. If a knight did fight an opponent in plate while wielding a sword, his strategy would have been to use it more like a spear and to try to knock his opponent down and stab for the armor joints — not wild slashing and hacking of the sort you see in movies.
Polearms of all kinds and especially spears were far more common weapon choices. The reach and heft of a polearm provides a huge advantage in both 1v1 and group situations as compared to swords. If you know you’re going to be fighting a heavily armored opponent, a pollaxe is the weapon most likely to be effective in punching through his plate or getting him onto the ground for closer attacks.
Myth #2: Long, Flashy Duels with Lots of Swordplay are the Norm
When most people think of a duel with swords, something like the classic swordfight scene from the Princess Bride probably comes to mind. In this scene, Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts go back and forth for about 2 1/2 minutes before Inigo is finally disarmed, and they trade witty banter all along the way.
Most fantasy novels with fight scenes are guilty of these extended play by plays of feints and blows and stumbles and recoveries until one of the combatants emerges victorious. There’s just one problem with these dramatic exchanges: For unarmored combatants, the average swordfight is over in just 1 second. That’s not a typo. One. Second.
This video provides an excellent overview of what a fantasy battle with longswords might actually look like. If you watch carefully, usually a killing blow is struck on the second swing. Not much time for exchanging wit and repartee, is there?
Myth #3: Female Warriors Should Use Bows and Light Armor Because Platemail and Swords are too Heavy
You’ll often see women sticking to bows (or magic) in fantasy settings, because a commonly-held belief is that unless they’re super-powered or an unusually large powerhouse like Brienne in A Game Of Thrones, it’s just not realistic that women would be able to wear plate armor or wield heavy swords effectively. Right?
Wrong on several counts. For one thing, swords are actually very light. A longsword weighs less than 4 lbs. That’s lighter than the lightest weights on the weight rack at most gyms! As for armor, a suit of full plate armor usually weighs in at around 40-50 lbs. If it’s made smaller, like for an average woman, it would weigh even less. Remember that the weight is distributed across your whole body, too. For context, modern scuba equipment is between 40-80lbs, and firefighter gear is also about 45 pounds.
For professional warriors who’ve trained from a young age to fight and have had sufficient strength training (as any respectable warrior, male or female, would have), 45 pounds total would be very manageable. It certainly doesn’t require superhuman strength or an unusually large frame, so women of even average size should be able to go traipsing around in platemail if they’ve appropriately prepared for it.
On the flipside of this, if you think a bow is a good alternative for someone too slender and light to wield a sword and armor, think again! The draw strength required to pull a bow far enough back to shoot a long distance or piece armor, even mail armor, is substantial, and you’ll need a lot of endurance to keep shooting at a decent rate, too. You’d better have some serious muscles in your back, shoulders, and upper arms if you want to be a real archer in a fantasy setting, and that goes for men as well as women!
AzincourtHYPERLINK “https://www.reddit.com/r/fantasywriters/comments/2fx1bk/medieval_style_fighting_a_quick_myth_buster_guide/” on HYPERLINK “https://www.reddit.com/r/fantasywriters/comments/2fx1bk/medieval_style_fighting_a_quick_myth_buster_guide/”/HYPERLINK “https://www.reddit.com/r/fantasywriters/comments/2fx1bk/medieval_style_fighting_a_quick_myth_buster_guide/”r/HYPERLINK “https://www.reddit.com/r/fantasywriters/comments/2fx1bk/medieval_style_fighting_a_quick_myth_buster_guide/”fantasywriters
for the supporting data in this article. Be sure to check out their own posts on myths about medieval weaponry for even more interesting information about historical realism!
About the Author:
Alexis Radcliff is an author, gamer, unashamed geek, and history junkie who spent the better part of a decade working in tech before dedicating herself to her first love, literature. A VANISHING GLOW, her debut novel, is the opening book in her MYSTECH ARCANUM series, an exciting blend of steampunk and flintlock fantasy with mature themes.
Alexis lives and works in the Portland area with her adorable (if surly) cat and her equally adorable fiancé. When not writing, she spends her time reading, running, playing way too many videogames, and thinking too much about everything.
About the Book:
A VANISHING GLOW is the exciting opening to THE MYSTECH ARCANUM series, a deep and thrilling blend of steampunk and flintlock fantasy with mature themes.
It is an Age of Revolution, an Age of Industrialism. Constructs, living men who are as much brass and steel as they are flesh, man the factories and wage the wars of a ruling elite who gorge themselves on the fruits of the common man’s labor. Mystech, a brilliant fusion of magic and machine, gives rise to a new class of privileged inventors and merchants even as the country festers with wounds from decades of internal strife.
Only one man holds the promise of a brighter future: Nole Ryon, the crown prince. When his childhood friend Jason Tern answers his call for aid, the two of them set out to fight for the change their country needs in order to survive, even as shadowy foes frustrate their efforts. But soon, Jason and Nole’s idealistic mission of hope becomes a furious manhunt for a political murderer as the nation balances on the precipice of a country-wide civil war. Can they cut through the threads of intrigue to discover their true enemy before everything is lost?
Sweeping from the ancient cities at the heart of the nation to the dusty edges of the war-torn frontier, A Vanishing Glow tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and assassins, friends and lovers, who come together in a time of epic struggle. Here a brave officer risks everything to win back his estranged father’s respect; a brilliant young engineer attempts to atone for her sins; a war-weary commander tries to pick up the pieces of the life he lost; and a man touched by the gods struggles to prepare a nation for the coming of an ancient evil which only he can see. In the dying light of a once-prosperous society, amid twisting plots, suffering and betrayal, lost love and shattered dreams, all must fight for what they hold dear. Who will taste the fruits of victory and who will lie bloodied on the ground in the light of a vanishing glow?