Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

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Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Zixinus » 2017-03-30 10:39am

What alternative, non-fictional metals could you use for fantasy equipment?

Superior metals is a common thing in fantasy, especially games where it is a good way to give the player tiers to their gear. Without making up whole new elements, are there actual materials that would provide comparable performance to steel?

We use steel because a, that's the best and most economic metal, b, that's the best medieval-ish level tech can handle, c, it is relatively abundant material on Earth.

Here are some suggestions i gathered.

For the discussion's sake, here are assumptions for the argument:

  • No steel or iron, as that is the default material. Focus is on metals but feel free to mention non-metallic alternatives (that I didn't).
  • no restriction on elements, any (stable) element on the periodic table is available with no imposition on abundance. Alloys also count. Note that you can still suggest metals that may be used due to lack of availability of other materials.
  • there is no restrictoin on tools and machinery required. If necessary, vacuum chambers and such are available. Exotic methods of refining, hardening and welding are no issue.
  • primarily melee weapons and armor, although ranged weapons (both for bows and firearms) and weapons for things like underwater should also count.
  • equipment must stand to at least the regular attacks from with human opponents wielding simple iron weapons. Withstanding bullets (not necessarily of modern power), unusual materials (say, flint), extreme temperatures (fireballs, ice, electricity) is also bonus.
  • elements must be stable in Earth conditions and must not present danger to the user (ie, slow poisoning by inhalation of particles, poison by skin contact). Bonus for withstanding being in water (salt or regular) without rusting to uselessness.
  • metal does not necessarily have outperform steel or iron, it is enough if it offer comparable performence. Bonus if it offers advantages like corrosion resistence or non-magnetisim or being lighter for the same voloume nad strength.


Weapons: note that this isn't limited to edged weapons, blunt weapons can also count as well as anything that could be used in an arrowhead or polearm.

- Bronze: the most realistic alternative as it has been used in history, although inferior to steel but still serviceable.

- Titanium: can't take an edge but is very solid. Would be good for as foils or blunt weapons?

Non-metal alternatives:
- Wood, obviously. Some wood has enough density to simulate an edge well enough to cut. I am not talking swords for practice, but actually intended to be used in combat.
- Stones could be used by essentially arranging them on the edge of a flat club, such as the aztec Macuahuitl with obsidian blades.


Armor: Can include various arrangements mail and plates. Assume that all armor have appropriate padded under-armor. Under-armor is soft padding that absorbs the kinetic energy of hits.
A possibly useful measurement is ultimate tensile strength, with the unit of measurement being MPa (Mega Pascals). Note that this measures tearing resistance and does not tell important things like plasticity (bend rather than be broken, and you want something that bends rather than shatters).
For reference:
human skin = 20 MPa
Bone = 120 MPa
Copper 210 MPa
Iron 350 MPa
Brass 550 Mpa
Chromium-vanadium steel 940

Metals

- Titanium: sometimes suggested to be Tolkien's mithril. Lighter than steel and far more corrosive-resistant, although I'm confused whether its performance would be better or worse than steel for the same volume.

- Aluminium-magnesium alloy: is used in modern armor, but as vehicle armor. It would be great armor for more acrobatic characters who cannot be slowed down. Suggested MPa is around 450.

- Aluminium-zinc: another alloy in the same vein. Suggested tensile strength is 700 MPa (7068 alloy), comparable to some steels.

Non-metals
- Wood: Bamboo and paper have been historically used.
- Hardened and reinforced leather, both as under-armor and armor (although such leather is made to be hard as plastic).
- Various cloths have been used, such as silk that is resistant to cutting but I am unsure whether this refers to under-armor or top-worn armor. Padding materials, that can be anything from wool to straw, was always important to be worn.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby TheFeniX » 2017-03-30 11:20am

Carbon-fiber/nanotubes: while you'd need something to back it up, it's considerably strong for the weight. I recall reading somewhere they found instance of nanotubes in damascus steel. The issue is it's brittle, so you might be able to work out some kind of ablative system by just layering it hundreds of times. And this stuff is way stronger than kevlar.

Motorcycle body armor and/or sports padding (such as hockey and football) would be a good start. They've got plastics that are pliable at rest, and harden under impact. Wouldn't be the best for true cutting weapons, but a dense enough weave of kevlar is what's used to make stab-vests. The big advantage to all these modern materials is how light-weight and thin they are. Layering them wouldn't add much bulk at all. Your only problem is cost and manufacturing skill/time.

Softening the impact would be the biggest worry: you still need bulk for that, but memory foam is probably really good here. Has great cushioning ability and rebounds back to it's original shape easily. Plus, I bet it'd be really comfortable to wear.

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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby TheFeniX » 2017-03-30 11:51am

As for weapons, I've only got knife/short-blade reading to go off here, but you could handle issues with sharpness with the use of tungsten carbide treatments or sandwich it between two other more plastic materials.

Though, in this world: I would think armor technology would outpace weapon technology without steel. When molded into barrels, the steel alloys we have are just really good at handling multiple high-powered and high-heat rounds being fired out of them at thousands of FPS. Titanium would fail here. Though, ceramic guns are becoming more and more a thing and I know certain grades of aluminum can get the job done, but might be prone to deformation under heavy load.

Steel is just better and cheaper to use. But humans have already moved past steel in certain areas for consumer "wow" factor and specialized tasks. It's just, there's no point in worrying about making fancy body armor to ward off medieval knights. And we don't use melee weapons for combat much these days.

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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Zixinus » 2017-03-30 01:16pm

Non-newtonian fluids and deratives would be great for under-armor material due to how they absorb kinetic energy. Some, like D3o is already used in motorcycle gear and laptop cases. Of course you'd still need some clothing that would help make it comfortable to the wearer.

When molded into barrels, the steel alloys we have are just really good at handling multiple high-powered and high-heat rounds being fired out of them at thousands of FPS. Titanium would fail here.


What about brass?

But humans have already moved past steel in certain areas for consumer "wow" factor and specialized tasks.


Of course, marketing often overstates or outright misleads about this. For example, you can make various coatings for a regular steel knife, such as titanium-nitride that is often used for stuff like drills to increase durability. Or due silly things like make the clip out of titanium. You can't make a knife out of titanium because it can't hold an edge.

It's just, there's no point in worrying about making fancy body armor to ward off medieval knights. And we don't use melee weapons for combat much these days.


That is a given for the topic, hence why I posted this in fantasy.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2017-03-30 01:21pm

Bug or sea creature carapaces.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Formless » 2017-03-30 02:21pm

Well, Stellite and other Cobalt-Chromium alloys can make decent (and corrosion resistant) blades, but the issue is that they are hard without the flexibility and springiness of steel. So for spearheads, daggers, axes (maybe) it could work. But for swords and armor it probably wouldn't work very well. Steel is the metal of choice for more reasons than economy-- its properties are almost ideal for the task of making bladed weapons. The entire fantasy trope actually comes from the late iron age when new steel technologies were just appearing like pattern welding, Damascus, and anomalies like the crucible steel Ulfbert swords, making older hand-me-down iron or crude steel swords look like junk in comparison; its especially compelling when those steels were imports as has been suggested for the origins of the Ulfbert steel, meaning that the locals would have no idea at all how the material was made. So for the fantasy writer who knows the history of metalworking, its not necessary to invent metals like adamantine, because until the modern age there was always better steel, and better blacksmiths who made better steel. Sorry if that sounds off topic, but its a worthwhile alternative to think about.

Of course, if you must use something other than steel, the best you are going to get is titanium (imo) for armor, and blades that are composites of a hard metal like stellite and a core of something completely different like carbon fiber that has the springiness you are after. I can't find it right now, but a while ago Skallagrim had a livestream with one of his viewers who was getting an engineering degree in materials science where they talked about how you might make a futuristic non-steel sword and they essentially designed something like that. Kind of like the stone age sword-clubs used by the Aztecs and Hawaiians; Aztec weapons were wood core with obsidian blades set in the edge, while the Hawaiians and a few other Polynesian cultures used shark teeth for slashing weapons and spears (although it is recorded by European explorers that the Hawaiians were only ones to use true daggers and sword-like implements) and sometimes also the bill of the swordfish for stabbing daggers or spearheads.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby General Zod » 2017-03-30 02:47pm

Bamboo was a common element in Japanese armor until modern technologies made it obsolete.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2017-03-30 02:55pm

Zixinus wrote:What alternative, non-fictional metals could you use for fantasy equipment?

Superior metals is a common thing in fantasy, especially games where it is a good way to give the player tiers to their gear. Without making up whole new elements, are there actual materials that would provide comparable performance to steel?


With modern technology yes.


Weapons: note that this isn't limited to edged weapons, blunt weapons can also count as well as anything that could be used in an arrowhead or polearm.


If we have unlimited modern technology to replace steel then you can just make tungsten forgings and place them around aluminum cores to make whatever melee weapon or bowhead you want that actually works better then steel, as one direct option. The limitations of human strength vs purity of materials and heat treatment and forging processes available today evaporate most historical problems. We still use steel so much because it remains cheap and very durable long term, but if you just want a sword and not a 3000F operating temperature turbine engine then we can make that all kinds of ways now.


- Bronze: the most realistic alternative as it has been used in history, although inferior to steel but still serviceable.


FYI but Damascus steel had carbon nanotubes pounded into it by an unknown process using plant material; my suspicion is with enough 'whatever' to figure it out, you could probably do this to seriously upgrade the durability of Bronze and all other structural metals. It just makes everything cost way more and would take tremendous amounts of experimentation.

Interestingly many very old Bronze items contained fairly advanced alloying, but its thought most of this was incidental and linked to specific sources of ores, rather then deliberate process. The smelters knew what certain ores were good for, but not why. Today we don't have that problem, we can count on our materials standards. So we'd be less better today on Bronze then we would be uniform in performance. IN ye olden days people were lucky to be able to use their metal at all because it had so much literal dirt in it. That's why they had to strip weld together blades, this is not a good way to make anything, but it let them pound more dirt out of each piece before assembling a large mass.


- Titanium: can't take an edge but is very solid. Would be good for as foils or blunt weapons?


You can totally get titanium to take an edge, certainly more then enough edge for killing people, you just need a specific alloy and heat treatment for it. Titanium forgings would also make excellent armor, and remember if you allow modern technology you could do all kinds of crazy ribbed reinforcement forged pieces that would be impossible to to pull off by hand pounding. This would let thin plates be much stiffer.

Also if money and supply was no issue huge amounts of natural silk armor will work pretty well as inner armor, and provide an advantage over other forms of soft armor of history. No reason exists not to use it except cost and durability, which is a long term and not short term problem, thus just moree cost, that I can determine. The real life spider silk armor has never worked to date because spider silk is only chemically stable for a couple months, and resists all attempts to usefully extend that.

- Titanium: sometimes suggested to be Tolkien's mithril. Lighter than steel and far more corrosive-resistant, although I'm confused whether its performance would be better or worse than steel for the same volume.


Performance will depend on the job, but if your talking about a sword the titanium one at the same volume should be somewhat higher strength by some measures, at less weight, but its going to be more vulnerable to cracking from heavy blows. With modern materials I don't think that's actually going to matter too much, but it might require preemptively scrapping blades to be safe.


- Aluminium-magnesium alloy: is used in modern armor, but as vehicle armor. It would be great armor for more acrobatic characters who cannot be slowed down. Suggested MPa is around 450.


No doubt you could make an aluminum sword, but its not going to be very durable and stress corrosion can become a problem if you want really high hardness. Steel hits on the aluminum are going to chew it up.

Hardened uranium would be another option, just keep it in a metal scabbard to shield you from the radiation most of the time and the hell with bothering to make it depleted first!
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2017-03-30 03:45pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:Hardened uranium would be another option, just keep it in a metal scabbard to shield you from the radiation most of the time and the hell with bothering to make it depleted first!


In my sci-fi setting armored spec ops cyborg communist space bears' melee weapons were sharpened fuel rod katanas or fuel rod clubs. And when being boarded by not-Necrons conscript sailors boobytrapped the corridors with plutonium punji pits.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Zixinus » 2017-03-31 06:21pm

I kind of wish this thread to be a resource for alternative metals you can use. Plus, you know, stuff that won't corrode.

An interesting thing is intermetallic alloys which are not just different metals mixed together but different metals that form molecules together. Such metals have interesting properties and not found in nature, such as niobium-tin which is a superconductor.

Another thing suggested for mithril is yttrium-silver that are in equal propertions (although yttrium is highly toxic, but I cna't find much information about the properties of yttrium-silver) other than it is a ductile (non-brittle) intermetallic metal.

Yet another one is nickel-titanium or nitriol that has another interesting property: it remembers its own ship and (within a specific temperature range) pops back into its made shape. Would this be a good property for armor?
It too has a yield strength ranging from 195-650 MPa.

[quote=Formless]Sorry if that sounds off topic, but its a worthwhile alternative to think about.[/quote]

I'm actually aware of this massive difference different varieties of steel can present. When I read forum topics that dealt with fantasy-use of real metals, this answer is actually quite common: we use steel because that's the best.

The topic is really more sharing of a thought excercise for fantasy purpouses. The primarily thing that came is that I have a character that truly relies on speed and acrobatics to fight. Or rather, she uses magic to fight and uses high speed to not get hit and die. She freqvently fights opponents larger than herself.

Yet she needs SOME metal armor (head, knees and elbows, some lighter alloy of something covering her chest) as she learned , so I wondered: can you give her some armor that is lighter and thus not cripple her fighting (assuming she does additional training)?

[quote=Formless]Of course, if you must use something other than steel, the best you are going to get is titanium (imo) for armor, and blades that are composites of a hard metal like stellite and a core of something completely different like carbon fiber that has the springiness you are after.[/quote]

Note that I am talking about other things than just swords, but also other types of weapons as well like blunt weapons, arrows and armor (which require different characteristics than a sword or other weapons).

Would it make any sense to sandwhich hard-but-brittle and ductile-but-weak metals, like some Scandanavian knives, such as Mora or Fallkniven?

I actually had an idea roughtly on similar lines: an impact-sword with laminated, artificial-made, diamond blade. The center of the sword would have a tank of smart-fluid (that can be made solid with electricty when precision is required). The blade would be in a frame, with different blade sections. The idea was that they were custom-made (at own cost), backup weapons for elite soldiers battling zerg-like aliens. The diamond was to cut trough protetive carapce, the fluid to give additional force to the impact (above what the armor itself would give).

If we have unlimited modern technology to replace steel then you can just make tungsten forgings and place them around aluminum cores to make whatever melee weapon or bowhead you want that actually works better then steel, as one direct option.


Probably. The aluminium would be a weak point though, as it would deform from contact with iron weapons. Unless we can alloy and treat it enough to withstand that kind of abuse?

A question: would using a tungsten edge on a iron/steel sword have dramatic effect when still wielded by human strength? Would the greater hardness and density penetrate deeper trough various materials (wood, flesh or iron) for the same strength? Or does it not matter after a certain point?
Because, yeah, we use tungsten tools to cut and machine steel, but with human power you still can't cut trough other metals.

What I'm picturing is that if I have my uber(ish)-sword and protect myself from someone with a iron/steel sword, I'd defend myself with the edge (a matter of debate whether you should or shouldn't, plus depends on the sword/stlye). Which is harder than the steel and thus would greatly damage the sword attacking me. If its weakly-enough constructed, maybe even brake the very sword that means you harm.

Hardened uranium would be another option, just keep it in a metal scabbard to shield you from the radiation most of the time and the hell with bothering to make it depleted first!


Yeah, it would be almost three times as heavy, toxic and possibly flammable. Knight with flaming swords!

Tounge-in-cheekness aside, now I am wondering whether it would make the perfect dragon-killer. It would certainly work as a joke ("Is it mithril as enchanted by the elven mistress of the woods?" "Nah, its depleted uranium because fuck that thing!"). Steel arrows won't penetrate no matter how powerful ballistas you use? Would its greater density provide any bonus to penetration against hard materials in an arrowhead?
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Jub » 2017-03-31 06:51pm

Zixinus wrote:Yet she needs SOME metal armor (head, knees and elbows, some lighter alloy of something covering her chest) as she learned , so I wondered: can you give her some armor that is lighter and thus not cripple her fighting (assuming she does additional training)?


Properly fitted armor really doesn't slow a person down or restrict their movement. Even a set of full harness (full-plate) doesn't really limit mobility, speed, or range of motion. If it did people wouldn't have been able to fight in it effectively. It's also far less loud than people assume it is, so it's not going to be a huge detriment to stealth so long as it's covered so as not to reflect light.

The only major issue with heavier suits of armor are long term wear, visibility while wearing a full face helm, and cost. None of these issues, bar visibility, can be solved by changing your armor material. So the question is why not just use steel?

What I'm picturing is that if I have my uber(ish)-sword and protect myself from someone with a iron/steel sword, I'd defend myself with the edge (a matter of debate whether you should or shouldn't, plus depends on the sword/stlye). Which is harder than the steel and thus would greatly damage the sword attacking me. If its weakly-enough constructed, maybe even brake the very sword that means you harm.


Just no. This is all entirely wrong.

By your way of thinking it should be impossible to block or parry a steel sword with something like a polearm or staff. The difference between wood and steel is going to be far greater than any difference between something like tungsten and steel. So if wood wasn't facing these issues, what makes you think that they're likely to come up in metal on metal combat?

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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2017-03-31 07:21pm

I think fixating on the gigajoules and terrawatts of your armor assuming it is a spherical mass of iron QED neutrino heatsink radiators is a shit way to make some fantasy story, if one IS making a fantasy story.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-03-31 08:15pm

Zixinus wrote:
Formless wrote:Sorry if that sounds off topic, but its a worthwhile alternative to think about.
...The topic is really more sharing of a thought excercise for fantasy purpouses. The primarily thing that came is that I have a character that truly relies on speed and acrobatics to fight. Or rather, she uses magic to fight and uses high speed to not get hit and die. She freqvently fights opponents larger than herself.

Yet she needs SOME metal armor (head, knees and elbows, some lighter alloy of something covering her chest) as she learned , so I wondered: can you give her some armor that is lighter and thus not cripple her fighting (assuming she does additional training)?
Why does she need extra-strong armor covering her knees and elbows but not, for example, her back?

[quote=Formless]I actually had an idea roughtly on similar lines: an impact-sword with laminated, artificial-made, diamond blade. The center of the sword would have a tank of smart-fluid (that can be made solid with electricty when precision is required). The blade would be in a frame, with different blade sections. The idea was that they were custom-made (at own cost), backup weapons for elite soldiers battling zerg-like aliens. The diamond was to cut trough protetive carapce, the fluid to give additional force to the impact (above what the armor itself would give).[/quote]If the operators are using power armor (which it sounds like they are), then honestly this sounds like more trouble than it's worth because of durability issues. A solid hunk of metal is a lot less likely to fail and lose effectiveness.

If we have unlimited modern technology to replace steel then you can just make tungsten forgings and place them around aluminum cores to make whatever melee weapon or bowhead you want that actually works better then steel, as one direct option.

Probably. The aluminium would be a weak point though, as it would deform from contact with iron weapons. Unless we can alloy and treat it enough to withstand that kind of abuse?
It depends on the amount of force being used. I mean, you can bang an aluminum bar against a steel bar without banging the aluminum, unless you're banging it really hard, at which point sooner or later you have to accept that with modern technology weapons are replaceable. They can be manufactured in batches of a dozen; if one starts picking up cumulative damage after a hard fight, you use another.

Your typical fantasy Valyrian steel sword or whatever is irreplaceable and it's unacceptable for it to be designed in a way that lets it become damaged in a fight. But there's no reason to stress that way over your aluminum-cored tungsten-bladed sword or whatever. If you can afford to get such a weird customized weapon made in the first place, you can probably afford a replacement. As long as it doesn't straight-up break it's okay.

What I'm picturing is that if I have my uber(ish)-sword and protect myself from someone with a iron/steel sword, I'd defend myself with the edge (a matter of debate whether you should or shouldn't, plus depends on the sword/stlye). Which is harder than the steel and thus would greatly damage the sword attacking me. If its weakly-enough constructed, maybe even brake the very sword that means you harm.
As noted, it's debatable how well this would actually work.

I think you really do need to slow down and specify what this is for. If you want a plausible UBERLEET NON-STEEL 'traditional weapon,' you need to specify which kind(s) you mean. Do you want a sword? If so, for what purpose. Armor? How much body coverage and flexibility are required? Is this about designing ballista bolts that can pierce the scales of an enormous dragon that normally laughs at swords and bows?

State the mission, and then we can talk about the tools intended to accomplish it.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Zixinus » 2017-04-01 05:25pm

Okay, I'm kind of misleading the discussion, so let's here's an idea: I'm going to list scenarios and see whether people have any ideas or comments to it. These two have absolutely nothing to do with any story I'm currently writing. I'm just making them for the sake of discussion.

Steampunk fairy-elves: for circumstances both comical and convoluted, the whole of human-fairy kingdom has found themselves away from homeworld, stripped of their magical homeland they could control, stripped of their magic in general and in need of industrialization for survival in a new world. They come to a new world with mostly medieval-ish tech. They have a few humans and others with whole libraries of science books (modern and better) to give them ideas and a strange but resourceful world around them that has everything they need. And they need to industrialize for long-term survival and because magic has left them.
Only problem: they have a ridiculous aversion and allergy to iron. Doesn't matter what form, what alloy, skin contact causes deadly rashes, inhalation of dust causes potentially fatal breathing problems, you don't even want to know what the mess is when ingested, they can't even be near the stuff and even having it is a mayor cultural taboo in their whole society. Microscopic amounts their bodies can deal with but not highly elevated amounts. Even daredevils will sooner play around with balloons of nitroglycerin and mercury than carry a bag of the stuff. Otherwise they are mostly human. The only people that even remotely would touch it are scientists and possibly miners who would have to deal with iron ore.
How would their technology adopt? How crippling is the lack of iron?

Sword of Ages: before they left their home for the newcoming humans, the Ancients gifted an unique sword to the founder of a human kingdom as a symbol of their approval of the founder's ideals. The sword was given so they would fight the leftover monsters the Ancients made and not-quite-intentionally released into the wild. There were other gifts, but let's stick with the sword: it's a Oakeshott Type 19 (or XIX for those that insist on still using a clumsier and outdated form of numbering) blade, with an unusually-elaborate ringed crossguard and holes in the material for hilt (the Ancients supplied their own, luxurious version but allowed space for replacement) plus a wedged section for its pommel. It is not meant to do anything but be a good sword that is very, very, very durable, meant to serve all of the kings of the kingdom while it lasts. And that's it.
It doesn't need to do anything but last mostly-functionally for a very long time. The Ancients did other stuff and gave other stuff, but with the sword they figured the kingdom will last a few centuries or get lost. Their secret intention is that this grand gesture will impress the humans and the sword will gather enough of a history so the humans would remember the Ancients for a long time, which appeals to the Ancients' ego.
How would you build it?

I think fixating on the gigajoules and terrawatts of your armor assuming it is a spherical mass of iron QED neutrino heatsink radiators is a shit way to make some fantasy story, if one IS making a fantasy story.


For the story I've writing, I already made all the decisions I wanted about armor (and really, they were minor decisions*) before making the thread. In a way, the thread is sharing what I found and asking for comment. A lot of the responses are well-meaning repetition of what I've already read on other forums while looking into this question and what has been told to me.

*For context: there is a character that needs armor and other equipment. I've gone with spider silk (suggested to me by someone else than Sea Skimmer but yeah, as always, he's a man that knows what he's talking about) with protective gel (scavanged from dead but advanced civilization) woven in. The metal armor on top for not just more protection but additional aggressive use (imagine kneeing or elbowing someone with soft versus hard stuff). And this is made by a character that not only has all the resources he needs, with machines and metal literaly lying around but is intimately familiar with super-strong non-steel alternatives because he builds submarine vehicles.

Properly fitted armor really doesn't slow a person down or restrict their movement. Even a set of full harness (full-plate) doesn't really limit mobility, speed, or range of motion.


I actually know all this and didn't give clear enough context:

Don't think "has to get on a horse and maybe a few vaults" kinda of acrobatics. Think "if Prince of Persia character had a athletic lovechild with Mirror's Edge Faith" kind of acrobatics that does regular Assassin's Creed stlye parkour to boot.

Full plate is a marvelous technology that allows full range of motion for battle. But not for what I had in mind, so I shouldn't have brought it up.

Just no. This is all entirely wrong.

By your way of thinking it should be impossible to block or parry a steel sword with something like a polearm or staff. The difference between wood and steel is going to be far greater than any difference between something like tungsten and steel. So if wood wasn't facing these issues, what makes you think that they're likely to come up in metal on metal combat?


Yeah, reading back it does read stupid (I actually feel rather stupid right now and I feel I look stupid in this whole thread).

What I should have asked: say you make a sword out of tungsten blade held by an aluminum core as Sea Skimmer mentions. Would the difference between be as great or similar to the difference between an iron sword and a (good) steel sword?

By the way: I kind of realize that regardless of material, there can be no "uber sword". In the end, even if the sword was made out of indestructible diamond-sharp Unobtanium, you will only get marginal improvements due to the limitations of human strength. Maybe enough to give minor advantage over enemies wielding more regular weapons, but not one that really decides a fight. Even if the sword was diamond-sharp, human strength can't cut trough metal bars in one swing or even decent wooden ones.

For an uber-sword, it needs to DO something mostly on its own, its blade-analog to actively cut and destroy somehow like a lightsabre or even a chainsaw-sword. That is the kind of advantage where there is a point of having it. That's what a magic sword does: it does something that an ordinary sword doesn't. Cut when other swords don't cut, tell you the truth, guide you or just give you a heads-up if there are orcs around.

Why does she need extra-strong armor covering her knees and elbows but not, for example, her back?


Read my response to Shroomy. She already has light protection there too. Elbows and knees are especially vulnerable while moving around.

It depends on the amount of force being used. I mean, you can bang an aluminum bar against a steel bar without banging the aluminum, unless you're banging it really hard, at which point sooner or later you have to accept that with modern technology weapons are replaceable.


All weapons are replaceable and in the end, but there is the question whether a good whack on the flat will destroy it. But I guess you could somehow have the aluminum core a reinforced framework (maybe have a solid core?) so it would fail partially.


Your typical fantasy Valyrian steel sword or whatever is irreplaceable and it's unacceptable for it to be designed in a way that lets it become damaged in a fight.


I think that if you have magic that you imbue a sword with for a grand purpouse (say, have something that easily kills those damn undead things that crop up now and then), you will use some of to give it supernatural durability. Your "The departing gods made it so mortals can fight evil" Holy Weapon has to last trough the ages. And make sure you don't have it used for anything else.

Otherwise, all weapons will brake during use and you end up your special-purpose holy weapon to be worn away. Weapon on weapon contact, even if you try to mitigate damage, will add up.

I think you really do need to slow down and specify what this is for. <snip>
State the mission, and then we can talk about the tools intended to accomplish it.


This thread isn't for anything I need. I'm just badly asking questions trying to give the topic some discussion, sharing some of my ideas that spark off from responses (the DU dragon-killer thing popped into my head while reading SKimmer's post) and making myself look stupid.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-04-01 10:31pm

Zixinus wrote:Okay, I'm kind of misleading the discussion, so let's here's an idea: I'm going to list scenarios and see whether people have any ideas or comments to it. These two have absolutely nothing to do with any story I'm currently writing. I'm just making them for the sake of discussion.

Steampunk fairy-elves: for circumstances both comical and convoluted, the whole of human-fairy kingdom has found themselves away from homeworld, stripped of their magical homeland they could control, stripped of their magic in general and in need of industrialization for survival in a new world. They come to a new world with mostly medieval-ish tech. They have a few humans and others with whole libraries of science books (modern and better) to give them ideas and a strange but resourceful world around them that has everything they need. And they need to industrialize for long-term survival and because magic has left them.
Only problem: they have a ridiculous aversion and allergy to iron. Doesn't matter what form, what alloy, skin contact causes deadly rashes, inhalation of dust causes potentially fatal breathing problems, you don't even want to know what the mess is when ingested, they can't even be near the stuff and even having it is a mayor cultural taboo in their whole society. Microscopic amounts their bodies can deal with but not highly elevated amounts. Even daredevils will sooner play around with balloons of nitroglycerin and mercury than carry a bag of the stuff. Otherwise they are mostly human. The only people that even remotely would touch it are scientists and possibly miners who would have to deal with iron ore.
How would their technology adopt? How crippling is the lack of iron?
That's a good scenario, yes. Although it presents problems because (for instance) a kilogram of meat contains ~100 milligrams of iron, things like that... But anyway, this one is interesting precisely because it isn't all about arms and armor. And indeed, it is primarily NOT about those things; weapons are among the least important things they need to worry about, assuming they're not surrounded by enemies you didn't mention. The "Sword of Ages" option is also an interesting scenario.

Properly fitted armor really doesn't slow a person down or restrict their movement. Even a set of full harness (full-plate) doesn't really limit mobility, speed, or range of motion.
I actually know all this and didn't give clear enough context:

Don't think "has to get on a horse and maybe a few vaults" kinda of acrobatics. Think "if Prince of Persia character had a athletic lovechild with Mirror's Edge Faith" kind of acrobatics that does regular Assassin's Creed stlye parkour to boot...
In that case, I suspect that ANY practical amount of armor is going to be a major handicap for this character. Armor that doesn't fully cover the torso is not, in any meaningful sense of the word, armor, and torso armor designed to repel same-tech-level weaponry with reasonable reliability tend to weigh something like 15-20 pounds. If you're talking about someone who constantly does extensive acrobatics and parkour, that extra weight could mean the difference between life and death because it's the difference between "missed the jump, fell off a building" and "didn't miss the jump, didn't fall off a building."

The main reason we don't see crazy urban guerilla parkour runner types in real life is because if you screw up once you are dead. They make great video game characters because if you miss the tricky jump and go 'splat' you can just reload from a save, so that it doesn't really matter if the elaborate rooftop traverse takes you three tries to accomplish. In real life, that would correspond to having a 1/3 chance of surviving the experience without crippling injury, and you can't take on odds like that very many times before the odds of your survival drop to 'effectively nil.'

If anyone actually did fight/operate/behave that way, they'd have to ruthlessly minimize the weight and bulk of their equipment. And body armor would be one of the things that would have to go, beyond some minimal level intended to prevent any serious scrapes, lacerations, and so on from stuff like "rolled onto a gravel rooftop at 15 miles an hour." That would be less like 'armor' and more like 'very durable clothes,' though.

Why does she need extra-strong armor covering her knees and elbows but not, for example, her back?
Read my response to Shroomy. She already has light protection there too. Elbows and knees are especially vulnerable while moving around.
See, you're being kind of unclear on whether her "protection" takes the form of armor (that is, material that protects her body from wounds caused by enemies with weapons) or protective gear (that is, a type of clothing that is intended to protect her body from the routine injuries associated with her profession, that are NOT caused directly by enemies with weapons).

Motorcycle leathers are protective gear. They're designed to reduce the risk of injury if your motorcycle crashes- basically, to protect you from getting thrown against soft or hard 'ground' surfaces at speed up to umpty kilometers an hour. But they are not armor, they are not designed to stop a knife or a sword or a bullet, and it would be folly to rely on them to protect you against same.

Chain mail is armor. It is reasonably good at stopping you from getting hurt by swords and arrows and so on- but there are very few occupations in which it would be good protective gear, and "guy who jumps around on buildings doing parkour" is not one of them.

Given that your character runs around and slides and jumps and parkours and probably does things like take rolling dives onto gravel rooftops at fifteen miles an hour, she'll probably need protective gear just to not wind up looking like she's got whip scars all over her body from accumulated scrapes and abrasions. But that protective gear need not be, and probably should not be, armor.

Your typical fantasy Valyrian steel sword or whatever is irreplaceable and it's unacceptable for it to be designed in a way that lets it become damaged in a fight.
I think that if you have magic that you imbue a sword with for a grand purpouse (say, have something that easily kills those damn undead things that crop up now and then), you will use some of to give it supernatural durability. Your "The departing gods made it so mortals can fight evil" Holy Weapon has to last trough the ages. And make sure you don't have it used for anything else.

Otherwise, all weapons will brake during use and you end up your special-purpose holy weapon to be worn away. Weapon on weapon contact, even if you try to mitigate damage, will add up.
That's... pretty much what I said, yes.

I think you really do need to slow down and specify what this is for. <snip>
State the mission, and then we can talk about the tools intended to accomplish it.
This thread isn't for anything I need. I'm just badly asking questions trying to give the topic some discussion, sharing some of my ideas that spark off from responses (the DU dragon-killer thing popped into my head while reading SKimmer's post) and making myself look stupid.
Okay, well the thing is, you still need to be reasonably clear about what each specific thing is for, what the context is. Would aluminum swords work? Well gee, it depends on what purpose you use them for. What kind of non-steel armor does Parkour Lady need? Well gee, she probably doesn't need and can't afford to risk wearing much armor at all. And so on.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Esquire » 2017-04-01 11:21pm

Obvious answer; in a fantasy setting, real(istic) strength and durability are less important than facility of magical enhancement. Thus; silver, a terrible material for IRL weapon and armor manufacture, might well be an excellent one in [insert fantasy setting here], if it takes magical reinforcement better than steel.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-04-02 01:06am

It depends heavily on the setting.

In some fantasy settings, use of magic to enhance or reinforce blades is routine. So in terms of importance, magical properties of a material are right up there with real properties like ductility, hardness, and so on.

But in other settings, magical reinforcement of weapons is virtually unheard of and certainly nothing anyone would do on a regular basis outside of unique one-off items.
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Re: Realistic/non-magical steel alternatives for arms and armor

Postby Zaune » 2017-04-04 04:12pm

Obsidian, or even ordinary glass, can be knapped until it has one hell of a cutting edge. It doesn't keep that edge very well, and it doesn't work well against any form of mail let alone proper plate, but you could carve your way through poorly-equipped peasant levies with a macahuitil as well as with a cavalry sabre if you had enough practice. And arrowheads only have to work once.

And you can probably make a pretty serviceable mace out of copper or lead if you don't mind relying on blunt-force trauma.
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