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Lars: So let’s run Blackened…

James: How does it go?

Lars: That’s the gallopy one.

James: They’re both gallopy! THEY’RE ALL GALLOPY!

Rob: That’s the problem…

Lars: It’s the one with the note in it.

Kirk: The one that has the guitar!

I present to you- one of the biggest bands in the world…

Medieval Wargear Masterpost

I’ve seen a few of these sorts of things bouncing around Tumblr - mostly for the benefit of writers, i imagine - but they seem to mostly be made by other writers, or other people with only a passing knowledge of such things. 

Either way, they could be better, and i hope the following is more comprehensive, even if i keep it fairly brief.

This will be divided into two categories - weapons and armour - with four general subcategories in each. It’s difficult to cram centuries of warfare and thousands of weapon/armour variants into eight broad “boxes”, so bear with me.
Note: This list does not contain ranged/missile weapons, shields, etc. I can do a further post about those if this one proves popular.

~~~WEAPONS OVERVIEW~~~

Swords:

  • Double- or single-edged, long, bladed weapons.
  • Can be many lengths, weights, and styles, each with a different fighting style and role.
  • Were very expensive and hard to make throughout most of history; were wielded only by the wealthy. As such, they became status symbols.
  • Generally bad at getting through armour. Better against cloth and flesh.
  • An all-round weapon; usually used as a backup to a specialist weapon more than being a main weapon in its own right.
  • Baby swords are called daggers. These are used differently to swords, and weren’t often battlefield weapons (though they were definitely used).
  • Katanas are awful swords. Just putting that out there.

Axes:

(Note: diagram is of a wood-cutting axe, which is slightly different to a war axe, but general components are the same).

  • Haft of wood with a short hacking blade on one end.
  • As with the sword, can be many lengths and styles, each with a different role.
  • War axe heads/blades (unless wood-axes) are not wedge-shaped! They are very flat to reduce the weight, and are also much sharper.
  • Hits harder and penetrates armour better than a sword, but is much more unwieldy. It is nearly impossible to block or parry with an axe.
  • As such, axes are very aggressive, close-range weapons; the easiest way to not die is to kill the enemy before he kills you.
  • Note: You will find it very hard to cut an axe haft with another weapon. Axes didn’t break very often on the battlefield (the most common breakage was the head coming off).
  • Some axes were dedicated throwing weapons, but these were exceptionally rare.

Bludgeons (Hammers, Maces, etc.):

(Sorry about the lack of labels)

  • Metal or wooden haft with a heavy, blunt metal head on one end.
  • As ever, can be various lengths and styles, each with a different role.
  • The head of the weapon can vary considerably; can be a metal orb, a spiked/studded orb, a flanged metal head, a hammer head, a hammer head with a spike, and so on.
  • Despite their differences, each weapon performs much the same; they are used to deal blunt-force trauma to an enemy.
  • Are excellent against heavily-armoured opponents, who get stunned or incapacitated by such blows. Long spikes can also puncture armour (like a nail through a tin can).
  • Unarmoured opponents are less affected (a broken bone is less severe than a stab wound). Better to use a blade against them.
  • Like axes, these are very unwieldy and short-ranged.

Polearms (Spears, Pikes, Halberds, Billhooks, etc):

  • Most diverse category; there are many kinds of polearm.
  • They were the most common weapons on medieval battlefields (used mostly by poor foot soldiers), because they were cheap and usually made by modifying agricultural tools (of which there were no shortage).
  • Consists of a long pole with a blade on the end.
  • Usually wielded defensively by large bodies of men; they were able to keep the enemy at arm’s length (poor foot soldiers weren’t known for their bravery).
  • Excellent against cavalry, since most spears are longer than lances, and horses will avoid running into a wall of spears (they’re not stupid). Variants with “hooks” are also good, as they could pull men off their horses.
  • Mostly used for stabbing, but some had the ability to hack and chop.
  • Note: It is very, very hard to cut a polearm’s pole in half - even with a big axe. It’s easier to snap them, but it’s still extremely hard to do.
  • If an enemy gets “inside” your weapon, you’re dead (unless you’re quick to pull out a backup weapon).

~~~ARMOUR OVERVIEW~~~

(This will stick to a brief overview of general armour types; an overview of armour components can be found here)

Leather/Padding:

  • Light, relatively flexible, comfortable, no sharp edges.
  • Most common armour, with padded cloth armour often worn under heavier armour (for comfort/cushioning).
  • NOT the same as a leather jacket - that kind of leather is far too soft. Leather armour was made of boiled leather or rawhide, both of which are very tough (like a cross between flattened cardboard and overcooked steak).
  • Cheaper than steel, and easier to work with.
  • Provided minimal protection, and extremely vulnerable to thrusting attacks.

Mail (or Chainmail):

  • Ubiquitous, comfortable, flexible as cloth.
  • Easy to make, but very time-consuming.
  • However, it was exceptionally heavy, and soaked up sunlight (so it was very hot in hot weather).
  • Consists of thousands of interlocking metal rings.
  • Can resist slashing or glancing attacks easily, but strong thrusting attacks would often penetrate.

Scale/Segment Armour (e.g. Lamellar, Brigandine):

  • Transitional armour; somewhere between mail and plate.
  • Consists of small metal plates held together in close sequence.
  • Less flexible than chainmail, and less comfortable. Just as hot and nearly as heavy.
  • Less vulnerable to thrusting attacks; the individual plates are stronger than mail rings.

Plate:

  • Most protective form of armour; all but impervious to slashing attacks, and highly resistant to thrusts. 
  • Also cushioned blows by redistributing impact force over an entire plate.
  • Least comfortable; inflexible, hot, somewhat restricts and slows movement.
  • Slightly lighter than chainmail.
  • Was not (re)invented until the later medieval era, as steelworking techniques weren’t good enough.
  • To make a single piece of metal this big was difficult and expensive. For most of the medieval era (when it was available at all), only the rich could afford it.
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