Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

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Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Korto » 2017-09-02 08:37am

I'm going to try sticking this here, because despite it being for creating a new RPG setting, it IS a straight history question.

What were the weapons and armour in use in Western Europe (particularly the British Isles and France) at around the time 1400 to 1420? What were the advantages and disadvantages of each? Anything I should know about them?

I have heard that full plate armour was just coming in, which would suggest to me that therefore it was only among the rich, and the mainstay may have been mail and plate--pure mail may have been out of use at that time, although maybe there were old, handed-down sets, and I suppose padded jacks are always around, but really I'm just guessing here.
There were apparently hand-cannon, there were longbows and crossbows, but were there still javelins? And if so, why? What do you get from javelins that you can't get from bows and crossbows?
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by LaCroix » 2017-09-02 11:24am

In the 1400-1420, you certainly will find full plate. Earlier, with maille peeking out at the joints (inside of elbow and knee, back of the thigh, armpits), and maille coif showing , and most likely a bascinet helmet. Later, the armor will fully encompass these areas, as well.

Maile and Coat of plates/brigandine for poorer combatants, or partial plate (breast plate and helmet over maille).

Swords (one and hand and a half size), warhammers, spear, lance. Due to the armor, and need to breach it, pollaxe was invented early, we have mentions in a 1410 fencing manual.

Pike and halberd are more late 1400s, so they would be rare or non-existant by early 1400.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2017-11-29 05:03pm

Is this still an open need, because I could send you a couple things a bit big to put in a forum post.

But as far as javelins go specifically, those were pretty well obsolete by the end of the Roman Empire, except perhaps for the defense of walls. The point of them was that they could be carried and used by troops otherwise equipped as melee infantry, and were a good way to breakup enemy shield walls by disabling the shields. Steady improvements in bows, which could have much greater range and much greater ammo loads negated the advantages of this. The rise of heavier cavalry better able to use the lance (ideal for smashing footmens shields) was also a factor.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Korto » 2017-12-01 09:02am

It's still very much an open need, and whatever information you have sounds great.

I picked the place and time period not out of any particular like or dislike for it, but because I've seen too many questions about the "middle ages" get bogged down in questions about whether the person meant Hungary in the 5th century or France in the 15th, and people pointing out how they're completely different animals (at least, I assume those are. I just grabbed them as hypothetical examples). From what I could find out, the early 1400's was a time of transition, with full plate and hand gonnes just starting to come out, but weapons such as bows still viable, so it seemed like a good time for an RPG.

The question about javelins was, I think (trying to remember), largely because of Medieval Total War, where they are a viable weapon. But a computer game is hardly a legitimate source, so I decided to ask.

I've decided since to use a fantasy world, and I'm trying to work out about its people from what would make sense given where they live. One thing is, there's no large expanses of grassy plains, it's all rough and mountainous, so I suspect that horses may not exist. No camels either, only jungle elephants from over the sea.
If I decide to go that way, I would think it would create significant differences in warfare.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by LaCroix » 2017-12-01 11:18am

Javellins are still kind of viable in 14xx, especially due to their weight&inertia, which makes it easier for them to punch through armor than for arrows. Maille, at least. Plate is a different kind of beast, but even there, a slow, heavy penetrator might have a better chance than a small&fast one. Like how a Warhammer/halberd will make a hole in the plate when an arrow fails.

Even in medieval duel depictions, they always throw the spear at the enemy. Wonder if someone tested this?
(yes, someone did... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NipyfOpJXn8)
So yes, it makes a small hole. So, thowing a spear at someone is kinda ok, it might topple him when it sticks in the plate (if he wears plate), and if you have a lucky hit at a gap or he wears mostly mail, it certainly will do damage.

Problem, you will be lugging one or more huge sticks around that are only useful once you are within like 20-30 feet of the enemy.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2017-12-01 04:39pm

That's kinda the difference between a spear and a javelin right there too. A spear robust enough to use as a melee weapon can probably be thrown 20-30 feet. A proper javelin could be thrown more like 30 meters, but it will quickly break if used hand to hand and it's probably going to do even worse then the spear in that video does against a breastplate. It's niche is incredibly limited, which would seem to be exactly why they fell out of favor once bows and arrows got much cheaper to make as well as generally more powerful.

If you wanted a low end ranged weapon carrying several throwing axes probably makes the most sense over a Javelin or throwing your only spear. Very limited effect against heavy armor, but very high wounding potential anywhere it does manage to bite, useful against those constant 15th century peasant revolts I reckon. Which reminds me...an ax throwing establishment now exists near me I have been meaning to visit. They have a bar, this can't fail! Bastards require reservations though.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Korto » 2017-12-02 09:54am

I've put a world building topic up in games. I did think of adding the maps and stuff to this thread, but it's not really history, and Thanas might get made at me, but I figured I'd at least stick a link here.

The main thing about it, in relation to this, was wondering if you had 1400AD western europe military tech, but horses didn't exist (in fact, the only mounts were elephants, from the southern jungle 3000km away. You have a Northern France climate), what difference would that make, and what would they have instead? For instance, would they have lightly armed and armoured runners to chase down routing enemy?

I'm not sold on the "No horses" idea, but I thought I might explore it to see if it creates anything interesting.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Zixinus » 2017-12-02 01:35pm

Horses were an integral part of European warfare, both in logistics (okay, they also used mules and asses and soforth there too) and battles (where you could use them at any rate). The titular knight was a horse-mounted warrior. Horses changed warfare. You can't replace them with just guys running around because a guy can't run around with the endurance and overall speed of a horse. Plus there is the physical strength factor involved: the end of a knight's lance was one of the most powerful attacks possible, short of an individual being on the receiving end of a siege weapon.

Remember jousting? Imagine someone standing on the recieving end of that knob. But instead of a knob, imagine a spear. Jousting was practice for war. A knight charging at someone in full armor (with the horse armored!) was very difficult to stop and could penetrate through defensive lines. No horses radically alters things.

You may need to think through what kinds of combat you will be depicting in your story. WIll you be depicting battles? What kind? Full-scale battles, sieges (horses do not come into play), skirmishes, etc. Will you be depicting civilian life? Duals?
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Elheru Aran » 2017-12-02 02:51pm

Not having horses will make warfare slower, frankly. Elephants are useful for cargo and for shock attacks, but they're slow. If you can domesticate something like a zebra though that might be useful for, say, chariots. But without horses, the heavy attack role is more likely going to be done by armoured soldiers charging across the battlefield; the obvious counter to this is things like shield-walls and pikes, and trying to keep them at a distance with archery.

Consider horses' roles in society overall, not just battle. They're a broad role cargo and riding animal; if a load is too heavy for them to carry on their back, they can still pull it in a wagon or sled. Societies without animals like this tend to either replace them (see camels, oxen, reindeer) or simply do without (think Africa, majority of work is done by humans). You may see domesticated animals that might not exist IRL; for example, there was a fairly successful experiment in domesticating moose in Russia not too long ago, and I see no reason you couldn't do this with other large animals like elk.

Javelins remained common in cultures where body armour was light and there was a lot of fast moving warfare; the Arabs and Indo-Persians had them, for example, often making them of solid steel (since they were quite thin and not very long, this was less heavy than you'd think, but the solid metal shaft gave them a lot more punch). They were also often used in mounted hunting, excellent for running down antelope and other light animals. During the chariot era of warfare in the Middle East, they were a good alternative weapon to the bow and arrow.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Elheru Aran » 2017-12-02 03:41pm

Ghetto Edit: Horses are fairly unique in that they're capable of carrying a pretty heavy load on their backs; there's not many animals that can carry 200+ lbs of man and armour (plus harness and saddle) for hours on end. This is after a few hundred generations of breeding, granted, but part of it is inherent to their anatomy (IIRC). Most other non-equine quadrapeds aren't going to be able to do this nearly as well, and as such will be restricted to either light riders or pulling wagons/chariots. This is still useful in its own way, of course, but won't be nearly the revolution that the mounted horse was to the battlefield.

Conceivably, you might be able to see Hussite style wagon-forts using oxen for the pulling; when battle ensues, the wagons are circled, oxen are protected in the middle, wagons are heavily built with thick wood sides, perhaps even reinforced with metal, and hold supplies, arms and ammunition. Not a very mobile form of warfare, but perhaps useful for protecting supplies in hostile territory.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Elheru Aran » 2017-12-02 03:57pm

Second Ghetto Edit: The downside of non-equine quadrapeds is that many of them aren't nearly as well suited to domestication. Giraffes for example have a very long gestation period (15 months), stay with the mother for another year after birth, and take a few years to develop sexual maturity after that... plus they require ~75 lbs of food a day and eat mainly stuff found in tree tops like leaves and fruit, not nearly as easily farmed as grain or grass/hay. Moose prefer to forage rather than staying on a farm, though they can be trained to eat stuff like oats. The question is whether it's a matter of *taming* or *domestication*.

It's not that it can't be done-- zebras have been tamed enough to saddle, for example-- but it would be much more of a long term project. Horses were simply well suited and well placed for domestication.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by LaCroix » 2017-12-02 04:00pm

No horses? Goat chariots!
A single goat was often used as a beast of burden to pull carts or a buggy. You might need to help by pushing on steep inclines, but they are almost as strong as a donkey.

Two goats are quite capable of pulling a light chariot with a driver, and maybe even a fighter/archer if you don't need top speed. A quadriga definitely can do everything you want it to.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Elheru Aran » 2017-12-02 04:07pm

Ooh, not bad. Plus goats are already reasonably domesticated.

One has to wonder if you could train them to go into battle, however. There was apparently an abortive attempt at training moose cavalry in Sweden (pulling sleds rather than riding IIRC) sometime in the early 1800s; abortive because of feeding requirements (moose prefer to forage, as noted) and they were too smart to go into battle. Horses on the other hand are trainable enough that you can make them go into danger, though they have limits (pikes being one such).
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by LaCroix » 2017-12-02 04:36pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2017-12-02 04:07pm
Ooh, not bad. Plus goats are already reasonably domesticated.

One has to wonder if you could train them to go into battle, however. There was apparently an abortive attempt at training moose cavalry in Sweden (pulling sleds rather than riding IIRC) sometime in the early 1800s; abortive because of feeding requirements (moose prefer to forage, as noted) and they were too smart to go into battle. Horses on the other hand are trainable enough that you can make them go into danger, though they have limits (pikes being one such).
Goats in battle? Get it on. Same for sheep - get an agressive ram, and get it on. We do selective breed them for docility, but they are still vicious buggers if you meet them in a bad mood. Some less docile breeds show that they do not know fear when they get angry. Breed them for the new role, and you have a perfect warbeast.

See how that fucker simply does not stop, but only tries harder with each failed attempt? A horse would have given up long ago.

You can train both, goats and sheep, pretty well, so there should not be a problem to train them, if you start young.

Sheep even have a natural armor - just add some leather, the padding is already provided...

Oh, and other than horses - who are natural evaders of obstacles - they do not fear to ram a target. These fuckers love to ram their heads into something. And have weapons mounted on their heads.

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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Zixinus » 2017-12-03 06:40am

The problem with utilizing sheep (or any other animal) as weapons is control: even if they were as large and armoured as hippos, that doesn't mean squat if you can't make them obey their rider (or reign-holder). That is a fairly critical point. Even as berserker-units meant to brake defenses, you need some way to ensure that they will attack the enemy and not your own side.

The horse and camel needed a specific level of intelligence/obedience/loyalty for this. You want them smart enough to be able to follow direction but "stupid" enough that when they see an enemy of cavalry charging at them they don't think "nope, fuck the guy holding the reigns, i'm outta here".
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Korto » 2017-12-03 09:03am

The background for the place this is for is they did have horses, once, but they all got wiped out a few centuries ago. So they know what they were, and what could be done with them. Stories, at least.

The main area of interest is very rough, mountainous, and forested, so the goat idea is interesting. Even just pulling carts, they'll be useful, but goat-pulled chariots are...are...indescribable.
And possibly hilarious.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Bedlam » 2017-12-03 01:04pm

Korto wrote:
2017-12-03 09:03am
The background for the place this is for is they did have horses, once, but they all got wiped out a few centuries ago. So they know what they were, and what could be done with them. Stories, at least.

The main area of interest is very rough, mountainous, and forested, so the goat idea is interesting. Even just pulling carts, they'll be useful, but goat-pulled chariots are...are...indescribable.
And possibly hilarious.
They were good enough for Thor, if I remember correctly.

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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Zixinus » 2017-12-03 04:03pm

Yeah, but he was a god. And the goats were magic.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Isolder74 » 2017-12-03 04:42pm

Cloth armor was nothing to poke fun at and was much more effective then most people seem to think equating it to general clothing. A good set of gambersen armor would stop most arrows fired at long to medium ranges and adding a mail shirt over the top of that meant that a cheaply outfitted soldier was fairly well protected in combat and meant that even before plate became largely generally available killing an opponent was still a task requiring much effort. This is why taking enemy troops for ransom during war was such a big thing during that time. It was a fairly lucrative means of financing your post war gains/losses.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by LaCroix » 2017-12-03 08:28pm

Zixinus wrote:
2017-12-03 06:40am
The problem with utilizing sheep (or any other animal) as weapons is control: even if they were as large and armoured as hippos, that doesn't mean squat if you can't make them obey their rider (or reign-holder). That is a fairly critical point. Even as berserker-units meant to brake defenses, you need some way to ensure that they will attack the enemy and not your own side.

The horse and camel needed a specific level of intelligence/obedience/loyalty for this. You want them smart enough to be able to follow direction but "stupid" enough that when they see an enemy of cavalry charging at them they don't think "nope, fuck the guy holding the reigns, i'm outta here".
If only they could be trained to say, the level of horses or dogs are... :D :D :D


As I said, they were used as horse replacements, and still are... With some selective breeding, they can fill most of the roles of horses, except for being a mount.
And there are some fairly big ones around, already...
http://www.teninsider.com/top-10-most-d ... at-breeds/
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Lord Revan » 2017-12-03 10:35pm

Isolder74 wrote:
2017-12-03 04:42pm
Cloth armor was nothing to poke fun at and was much more effective then most people seem to think equating it to general clothing. A good set of gambersen armor would stop most arrows fired at long to medium ranges and adding a mail shirt over the top of that meant that a cheaply outfitted soldier was fairly well protected in combat and meant that even before plate became largely generally available killing an opponent was still a task requiring much effort. This is why taking enemy troops for ransom during war was such a big thing during that time. It was a fairly lucrative means of financing your post war gains/losses.
correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't "padded cloth" be the true middle ground in armors between mail and (working) clothes instead of leather, with armors made of actual leather being quite rare.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Isolder74 » 2017-12-03 11:47pm

In most cases mail was almost always used with padded cloth armor worn on underneath it. Even plat armor would still have cloth armor worn under it. When it came to medieval armor it was sort of the entry level equipment to get because it was generally used under almost everything else. Yes leather armor wasn't really as prevalent as rpg's would lead you to think.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Formless » 2017-12-04 12:28am

Although leather armor isn't unheard of. Lamelar armor could be made of it, and during the Pike and Shot era you see leather buff coats come into fashion as both something to wear under breastplate and standalone. The main problem with leather armor is really the economics of producing the material, but it can be made to work.

Arguably, the true entry level piece of armor is a helmet. Even if you didn't have a cloth armor of some kind (say for instance in a time and place where shields are still the main protective gear), people still needed head protection.

If you want to see something that literally qualifies as a hybrid of a gambeson and a chainmail shirt, there is something called a coat of eyelets which were mostly worn by archers (although there are also some really cool surviving examples made for someone's hunting dogs). You take a coat or a gambeson, then sew hundreds and hundreds of eyelets into it. The eyelets usually also had metal rings of either iron or brass sewn into them like grommets to give it chainmail-like properties, but its not a mesh like true chainmail. But even without the metal rings, the thick stitching increases the armor's resistance to cuts. Obviously these took quite a bit of effort to make and maintain, but then again chainmail has the same issue, and a coat of eyelets might have been considered better than mere gambeson since properly sharpened falchions can destroy cloth armors with ease. Some of the hype for gambeson came from Skallagrim doing testing on cloth, but when he tested a falchion he obtained (from a viewer IIRC) he found that it cut cloth WAAAY better than his other swords. Its possibly because falchions have really thin blades, but he also started to suspect that tatami-cutting sharp might be insufficient for combat and that might effect his results. Also, don't expect gambeson to hold up to thrusts and stabs, even from a dull blade.
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by Zixinus » 2017-12-04 10:51am

LaCroix wrote:
2017-12-03 08:28pm
Zixinus wrote:
2017-12-03 06:40am
The problem with utilizing sheep (or any other animal) as weapons is control: even if they were as large and armoured as hippos, that doesn't mean squat if you can't make them obey their rider (or reign-holder). That is a fairly critical point. Even as berserker-units meant to brake defenses, you need some way to ensure that they will attack the enemy and not your own side.

The horse and camel needed a specific level of intelligence/obedience/loyalty for this. You want them smart enough to be able to follow direction but "stupid" enough that when they see an enemy of cavalry charging at them they don't think "nope, fuck the guy holding the reigns, i'm outta here".
If only they could be trained to say, the level of horses or dogs are... :D :D :D

As I said, they were used as horse replacements, and still are... With some selective breeding, they can fill most of the roles of horses, except for being a mount.
And there are some fairly big ones around, already...
http://www.teninsider.com/top-10-most-d ... at-breeds/
Allow me to both clarify and provide a counterpoint:
I'll concede that for carrying stuff, even people, that might work. But I'm talking about using them in combat.

You can train a bunny to do tricks too. It would still make them terrible at fighting because the rabbit's hardwired instinct is to sensibly run away, dodge rather than fight back (they will only do so when hiding or absolutely cornered).

The same is true for any other animal, whether you ride on them or have them pull chariots. I was talking about intelligence, but what I should have mentioned was a specific level of aggression, nervous disposition along with the right set of instincts. Even then it required a lot of training and breeding to make them work.
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LaCroix
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Re: Weapons and Armour of Early 1400's

Post by LaCroix » 2017-12-04 12:09pm

Zixinus wrote:
2017-12-04 10:51am

Allow me to both clarify and provide a counterpoint:
I'll concede that for carrying stuff, even people, that might work. But I'm talking about using them in combat.

You can train a bunny to do tricks too. It would still make them terrible at fighting because the rabbit's hardwired instinct is to sensibly run away, dodge rather than fight back (they will only do so when hiding or absolutely cornered).

The same is true for any other animal, whether you ride on them or have them pull chariots. I was talking about intelligence, but what I should have mentioned was a specific level of aggression, nervous disposition along with the right set of instincts. Even then it required a lot of training and breeding to make them work.
I train&work with horses, for a living. I own a riding farm and am a certified riding instructor.

A horse is an absolute coward. There are few animals with a flight instinct stronger than horses. I'd even say that there are a lot of bunnies that are more valiant than the average horse. :D

Training a horse to even walk through a puddle can be a nervewracking exercise in futility. That's why a war horse was so expensive. The amount of training needed to make a horse run into a crowd of shouting people is astronomical. A bunny can send a herd of horses into a panicked flight. And a shouting&waving person will make them stop and turn around.

They are cowards, and have the innate desire to always go around any obstacle. Even jumping over things is something they don't like to do. Running into something is the _worst_ you can demand of them. Short - apart from being big enough to carry a person, they are the worst war mount, ever.

Any goat or ram is just as intelligent, and easier to train to attack something, than a horse is.

The only point is size. But then, horses have started out as something the size of a shetland pony (about sheep size) and have been bred to their current size. Historical horses have rarely been more than 15 hands in size - roman war horses have been about 13 to 14 hands. The breeds you are most likely to think of and to identify as "horse" (16-17hands tall, huge and muscular) are a product of breeding for size and uniformity that started in the early 1600, and was done very quickly.

AN ibex is 10 hands tall, so breeding a goat or sheep to the size of say, 4-5 (12 to 15 hands) feet should be possible if there is an effort to do so.
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