Tag Archives: polearms

Q&A: Amnesia is Autopilot

Hey! Are individual fighting styles recognizable? I’ve got a character who is a master with the glaive and before the story she has an encounter with another character who sees her fight. Neither recognize each other when they meet up again because he couldn’t see her face due to her armor and she lost her memory. However I don’t know how common the glaive was during its use or how recognizable an individual’s fighting style is so is it possible that he might recognize her by watching her fight?

Style requires there be more than one version of the weapon discipline. This is likely. Mastery requires an individual style that has been practiced long enough that it has been formally recognized by whichever group is the decider, and has taken on students or linked to a martial school or the single individual who created it. So, you wouldn’t have a “master of the glaive” but instead a “master of the Black Rose style, specializing in the glaive, recognized by the Seven Sisters.”  Unless the whole style itself revolved singularly around the glaive and even then it’s, “trained in Master Ferro’s glaive style.” or “the western reaches glaive style” or “farmhand glaive” or whatever. Beyond that “glaive” is just one term for the weapon and weapon family, there are others. It could be called something completely different in a different country. The naginata, for example, is a glaive. The Russians called it a sovnya. Usage of the weapon varied based on country and culture with a variety of styles surrounding its use. The most unrealistic thing in Protector of the Small series regarding Kel’s glaive/naginata is that the contemporary European Tortall didn’t have an easily recognizable version of its own.

It’s possible to identify what style a person has been trained in, but less likely to identify the individual unless they’re famous or practice a unique style. If the onlooker is familiar with the style or the style is incredibly unique as in its passed on specifically from master to apprentice and only two people in the world know it. That would require your female character killed her master as a graduation test, like Kenshin was supposed to when he finally completed the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu. That or the weapon just doesn’t exist in the part of the world where she’s traveling or uses a style wholly alien. Even then, the other character would have to know the singular individual who practices it and, like with Himura Kenshin, that opens her up to being recognized by everyone. Even if she is the progenitor of her own style like Bruce Lee and has taught it to others, she won’t be recognized on style alone due to being an amnesiac. That’s a severe hit to skill level, and she won’t be anywhere near at the level she’d need to be in order to be recognized as a famous warrior or master. (That is the point of an amnesia plot.)

The people who can identify a personal style are:

Your Master. (This is the person who raised you, they are your martial art parent. They know you, possibly better than your own parents do and they’ll recognize you anywhere.)

Your Training Partners. (This is not trained with them once, this is trained with them for years, as good as family, and are sworn brothers. People the character has spent a lot of time fighting with.)

Your Students. (Like with a master, students can recognize their teacher. Like a child recognizes their parent. They spend a lot of time watching them.)

Your Sworn Enemies. (These are the people you’ve spent a lot of time fighting. If someone spends a lot of time trying to kill you and you trying to kill them, they can usually recognize the threat at a distance without help.)

So, unless this other character is one of the above, him recognizing her by watching her fight is unlikely. He’d need to be someone who saw her when she wasn’t at her best, when she struggled in the beginning, or what she looks like when she’s either at her worst or on a bad day. If his only experience is he saw her once at a tournament or on the battlefield in passing then he’s not going to associate the current article with the distant memory. He’d be more likely to recognize her by fighting her, if he’s fought her in the past. The likeliest outcome is he’d recognize her as a talented beginner or at an intermediate level who is worth training further, which leads him to seek her out. That, or, they share the same style and had the same trainer so he feels comfortable going to talk to her. This outcome requires their civilization have some sort of training and patronage system.

I’d abandon the idea she still fights as well as she used to, and roll reacquiring of her skills into her character arc. Otherwise, you’ll end up with the same problem lots of writers run into when they make a character too good. If the character doesn’t struggle, the fight sequences suffer and lose their tension. If you apply the term “master” to a character they will be expected to win. Tension is challenge based.

A character who is at pinnacle skill level must fight characters at a similar or greater skill level while taking into account all that skill and experience implies. With hyper competent characters, we get more out of challenging them where their skills are lacking like Geralt from The Witcher dealing with politicians or solving puzzles where violence is the worst possible choice. This is why you should always be careful when metering out between beginner, intermediate, skilled, very skilled, and exceptional. The trade off for characters at the top of their game is they’re limited. There’s less about them to make them interesting, and new growth is required outside their attained skill set. Unless amnesia sends them back to start and they’re regaining skills faster than they can handle, it won’t be enough to change that.

Most of what makes a style unique to an individual happens cognitively in the choices they make and the skills they choose to utilize rather than what’s based in their muscle memory. A character fighting on autopilot (which is what’s happening here) is going to be very different from a character who is actively making choices based on past experiences and prior knowledge. Unless she’s working with Jason Bourne type amnesia (and even if she is), the amnesiac character is going to be missing key pieces that bring her style up to a master’s level. (I’d also rethink mastery if she’s anywhere under thirty-five, especially if you’ve never spent time around martial arts masters.)

A martial arts master is not a character who is very good, exceptional, or at the top of their martial art.  You can be all those things and not be a master of a particular style. Mastery is, ironically, not skill level. Technical skill is one part of it, the other half is esoteric and very difficult to explain. Mastery is more than just the all-encompassing technical understanding. It is all-encompassing understanding. You’re unlikely to find one under the age of forty, even if they’ve attained the belt rank because it is a state of being that requires enlightenment born from personal experiences. That enlightenment is developed through rigorous training and difficult tests of character.

More than that, one cannot be a master if they have not taken on students even if it is just a single disciple. A master is not just someone who is at the top, they are the head of and entrusted with carrying on the traditions of their particular style. Their time on the battlefield is, for the most part, done, and they have retired to instruct the next generation. Only the most extreme threats will force a master out of hiding because they don’t have the patience for that crap. Teaching others is required. Sifu, Sensei, Sabumnim all are just terms for teacher. It’s like calling your professor a professor. They teach. That’s their job.

In literary terms, a master is a mentor. They serve the same purpose in fiction that they do in real life. They’re there to facilitate the growth of the next generation and guide them on their path to becoming masters themselves. They are parent, teacher, and spiritual advisor. Unless you know how to work with them and the tropes surrounding them, they will kill your narrative even as an amnesiac. There is nowhere for them to go as characters within conventional arcs. A master’s character development and narrative arcs are entirely spiritual. Their best use comes from the teacher/student dynamic like the kind seen in The Karate Kid. Or as a character struggling to reach that state. They are one of the most difficult character types to write, especially if you have no prior experience. They are impossible to write if you lack an understanding of the martial style they practice. If they’re not your protagonist, you can fudge it like with Yoda or Master Li or any number of other quasi-masters seen in fiction. If the master is your protagonist then you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is, all the time and in every scene. Even then, their job will still be facilitating the growth of the characters who surround them rather than growing themselves.

Without their memory, this character is no longer a master and if they never took on the responsibility of training others then they aren’t one anyway. Renown for their skill at arms and a master are two very separate characters, and it is best not to get them confused. For example, Inigo Montoya is not a master swordsman. Goku, Kenshin Himura, Yuusuke Urameshi, and other shounen characters of similar power are also not masters. Meanwhile, Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi are both Jedi Masters.  They’ve reached a point where they’ve taken on students, and while they may still have adventures those adventures still revolve around their position as teacher. We have the some of surviving training manuals of some the master swordsmen who came out of Europe, and they had students. You can find them on Wikitenauer.

“Master” sounds good, but you’re going to want a full understanding of what the term means before you apply it.  The terminology has a long history of use in fiction, especially now as we’re getting more media from China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Your readers are going to know what it means in concept, even if that wasn’t what you intended. So, you want to be sure of what you want from your character before you start applying it.

A master is literally one of the worst characters to have as a protagonist, unless you know the story you want and their purpose fits with those needs. They’re like an admiral. If you want to write a story around an admiral being an admiral, then that’s great. However, the admiral cannot just take off for parts unknown or lead a battlefield charge. Well, they can but there’s going to be fallout for that failure of leadership. They’ve reached a point where they can delegate and they’re far better at facilitating growth in others than they are at being the main event. Masters are perfect for telling stories about teachers, a teacher struggling with their inner demons as they grow in a new skill set.

In martial arts, teacher is the next step on the road to mastery. Teaching is a method of self-discovery and gaining greater understanding of your martial art. In teaching others, we attain a greater technical understanding of our skills than we did before. We approach our old skills in a new way and with new eyes, learning from our students as they learn from us.

“Those who can’t do, teach” is a faulty statement. A good teacher may be less renown than singularly focused professionals but is often the most skilled person in the room. They’re the ones who can translate what they know into new contexts so they can be understood by beginners. When one focuses on themselves alone, they reach a skill ceiling they can’t break through and at which point they no longer grow. It is through reevaluation of those skills through new eyes that they discover new ways they can be applied. Martial artists often develop their best techniques through teaching. In the process, they build communities.

Think for a moment about all your favorite teachers and those you’ve loved in your life. What would happen if they suddenly vanished without explanation? How would you feel?

This character is a master of the glaive, so where are all the people who went looking for her after she disappeared? A master martial artist isn’t like a spy, they don’t usually travel alone and even when they do someone is going to go looking for them when they disappear. The amnesiac martial arts master is a trope in Hong Kong and Chinese cinema, but by the time we reach the third act (or even the second) their students have come barreling in and found them. If it wasn’t one of their disciples who located them to begin. “Master went missing (again), we need to find them” is an actual narrative arc. This is also, usually, kickstarts a traditional master/student narrative with whomever takes the roving amnesiac in hand and helps them recover their memory.

A character who is an amnesiac takes an extreme hit to their skills, so this character is not going to be fighting on the level she was before if she can at all. Autopilot is still autopilot, and autopilot will screw you over against anyone who knows what they’re doing. It is entirely likely she will have an entirely different style, if she can fight at all. Muscle memory is one part of the equation, experience and the knowledge necessary to use learned skills is another. She won’t be able to strategize, for instance, or have any tactical awareness. Her pattern recognition will probably be shot, which means that while she can block and counter she’ll be reacting instead of acting. Reaction may be good, but she’ll be at the whim of a more experienced actor. In a tournament setup, she’s going to end up middling at best and low tier at worst. She’ll make most of the same mistakes beginners will, but she’ll have the skills to get herself into deeper trouble and lack the necessary experience to get herself out.

High level martial skill is experience, not technique. Being good at dueling is based in experience, understanding how to react and counter is experience. Decision making is experience, as is understanding the full range of techniques available. Your female character’s technique may look fantastic due to her muscle memory and her reaction time may be flawless, but understanding feints and tactics requires a level of experience she either no longer possesses or what she’s gained in new experience up to this point. Those new experiences will have changed the look and feel of her martial style, as she is ultimately a new person. This character is in the process of uncovering and rediscovering her skill set, but she cannot and may never use them the same way she used to. It’s pretty common that when some of that experience goes, it is gone forever.

Outside of that, she’ll still need to practice those skills she can remember on the regular to keep them up to snuff. Failing at either, she’ll fall behind. This means she’s likely working off a limited number of techniques rather than the full scope  she previously possessed. If she has been trained by someone else, it will likely be in another style using the glaive and that will change her style as a result. If all she’s done up to this point is rely on her own muscle memory to provide her techniques, then she’ll only have control over those she’s remembered and practiced. The new ones she remembers in battle will occur on autopilot. Autopilot is outside her control, and that is exceedingly dangerous both to herself and whomever she’s fighting. This means she could kill someone in a friendly bout or end up using a controlling technique when she needs to kill. Blind technique is blind technique, the body moves according to its own will. Trained reflex is the same as instinct, it cares nothing for situation or circumstance. Her body will act in accordance with what its been trained to do with no guiding input from the head. The head is where the morals and contextual understanding are, the head understands the importance of limitation and behavioral changes depending on circumstance. The body doesn’t. Use of force is cognitive. The body just responds, and what it responds with will be what it is most used to using. These are usually the basics, and while basics are foundational, most people from beginner to intermediary levels understand how to counter them. Advanced fighters know how to take advantage of them. Advanced combat happens entirely with the head, utilizing controlling and changing circumstances.

(This is a common thread in the martial artist amnesia plot, the amnesiac formerly skilled martial artist can fight off the untrained and beginners by rote muscle memory.  They struggle against the intermediary usually to the point where they either lose or almost lose, and are demolished by advanced combatants. This is often before they hit their final antagonist, which prompts them to realize they need to train and meditate to recover themselves. Then, their past catches up with them.)

Limited experience with specific weapon types will probably mean her body doesn’t know how to react to them at all, because it didn’t have enough time to get them down by rote. That is what her muscle memory is. Rote. The techniques she didn’t regularly practice will be gone, the techniques she used but rarely will return later to last, and her ability to change her fighting style depending on situation is entirely beyond her control and entirely reliant on what her body remembers how to do. This isn’t a magic switch.

If she recalls some of the experience with the technique in fragments of memory, then she’ll inevitably create openings. An experienced fighter will take advantage of those. It may happen in a fraction of a second, but that fraction is the difference between a block and a killing blow.

This other character may look at her and see something in her style reminiscent to someone he once knew, but the level is so below what it once was that he dismisses it. Maybe he seeks her out wondering if she’s a student of a friend or copying a style she saw in passing, only to discover she’s the master and an amnesiac but that would require her having a school with students. The same would apply if he was impressed by her talent, but working under the assumption she needed more training.

Skill without knowledge or experience necessary to use it is a recipe for disaster.  An amnesiac has to learn all over again, and what they re-learn will never be exactly what it was before. The shades of the other self are there, the muscle memory is there, the skills are there in part, but they aren’t the same person in total and they can’t be used to the same degree of finesse. The technical aptitude is missing. There is a vast difference between being able to recall or copy a sonnet you wrote versus being able to compose one that is entirely new.

Basically, if you’ve got one character going through the motions and the other character looking at them but to recognize them they’d need to be going full throttle.

The solution is probably going to be he seeks her out on the basis of her talent, only to be surprised to discover she’s the master he planned to send her to and now in need of his help. (Not that she wins, she may lose and probably should but that this mystery warrior is talented enough to warrant the offer of training.) He’s more likely to overlook her if she’s exceptional. The middling to intermediate are the ones who get sought out at tournaments by more skilled instructors. There’s not much reason for a skilled warrior to seek out a skilled warrior if they weren’t planning to in the beginning, they’re more likely to ask around about the mystery person.

Tournament social groups break down by skill level, previous experience, and likelihood of consistent attendance. New people usually keep to themselves or are introduced to a group by more experienced attendees, while those who frequent the circuit gather together. There are the social butterflies who hang with each other until they’re called and watch the matches. The ones who linger alone on the sidelines, watching. The serious ones won’t spend time with anyone else, who limber up and practice alone. To immediately get attention from a stranger at your skill level, you need to be exceptional. One punch or single hit exceptional, and over in less than five seconds. Otherwise its slowburn.

She’s probably been killing a lot of people just off rote muscle memory. It’s going to be worse in a tournament where similarly skilled martial combatants will be in attendance and quite likely more familiar with dueling than she is or was in her previous life. (Master doesn’t mean master of everything or can handle everything.) If she’s not knocked out early, the end likelihood is her killing another participant entirely by accident after they’ve pushed her body past the limit of what its comfortable with and it begins responding outside her control. Again, muscle memory does not mean your body will do your fighting for you. It isn’t an out to give your characters high skill levels when you the author doesn’t know what those skills mean or how they appear. Reflexes and muscle memory mean the body will do what they’ve been trained to do regardless of circumstance and if the head doesn’t know what that is then the head can’t control it.

Basically, an amnesiac participating in a tournament in order to quickly regain their skills sounds like a great idea but the problem is the character is not in control of what’s going to happen. This happened in The Bourne Identity, Bourne wakes up with no memory, is attacked, and then kills his attackers. This may have been for the best, but he had no control over what he did or how he did it and it took him awhile to recall how to do the same thing intentionally. The Long Kiss Goodnight is another good one, but she’s still fighting mostly on memory and her memory is getting mixed up with her cover identity.

Amnesia with combat skills is rolling the dice. You don’t know what will set them off or what’s going to happen when they do. They could disarm the guy, they could crush his throat. Amnesia with weapon is the fast track to accidental death and dismemberment. There’s a lot more at stake and many more opportunities for the situation to go wrong. The basic attack patterns and combinations are going to revolve around killing. That’s the purpose a weapon like the glaive. Meanwhile, they have no ability to defend themselves while fighting on autopilot and completely cede control of the field to someone else because again, how their body behaves is outside their control. The most skilled character fighting on autopilot will end up at the mercy of any character marginally able to hold their own and function on all cylinders. Advanced skills and their application are beyond what muscle memory can provide. They can retrain but they will never fight the exact same way they did before they lost their memory, and, unless they are very lucky, will never be the same person.

New people make new choices and therefore fight in new ways, and the person is the one who creates stylistic identifiers. The act of recovering her fighting ability will change her fighting style in minute ways, enough to ensure its no longer personally identifiable.

-Michi

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron. Every contribution helps keep us online, and writing. If you already are a Patron, thank you.

Do ya’ll have any input on weapons (Maybe a polearm type) against beasts? (Nothing that would be larger than a XL Draft Horse, so no house-sized dragons or bus-long wyrms) I’ve been considering a halberd for my MC, and he’s going to be faced with various types of beasts on foot.

That is one of the uses of polearms. Not fighting monsters,
but dealing with potentially dangerous animals. Within that context, the
halberd probably isn’t the best option.

The only thing that I’d
be concerned about is that the halberd is a variety of poleaxe. Usually, they
had a spike or piercing blade on the end, which would allow you to poke
something, but the primary blade was used in chopping strikes. So your
character wouldn’t be getting much use out of that. In turn this adds more
weight out on the end of the weapon, making it harder to maneuver. I don’t want
to say, “more ponderous,” because it should still work, and is a legitimate selection,
it’s just that there are better options out there.

Specifically, weapons like the boar spear or spetum would
probably do the job slightly better than a halberd. Possibly with an axe as his
sidearm. Though, nearly any polearm will allow him to attack without being
disemboweled, which is the important part, and why polearms were historically
used as hunting tools.

Some of this is speculative, and would depend on exactly
what he’s facing. I’m sitting here thinking of something like a bear or
werewolf, but if he’s fighting some kind of cephalopod,

and needs to lop off pieces,

then a halberd may make
more sense.

-Starke

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron. Every contribution helps keep us online, and writing. If you already are a Patron, thank you.

How effective would a halberd be in infantry combat instead of anti-calvary?

While I could be mistaken here, I’m pretty sure the halberd family of polearms were specifically designed for infantry combat.

Most medieval polearms were basic infantry weapons. You could use them to deal with opposing infantry or cavalry depending on the situation. It was not, just, a counter to deal with cavalry. It was an easy to produce weapon you could afford to issue to all your soldiers, and was easy to drill them on.

There were polearms specifically adapted to deal with cavalry, the billhook is one such example. So far as it goes, the halberd was a weapon which could be used against cavalry. But, the basic design was intended for dealing with opposing infantry.

-Starke

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron.

How exactly would one fight with a triple glaive blade? Is it realistic or even ideal?

So, a glaive is a polearm. It’s a chunk of wood with a long blade on the end, sort of like a warscythe, bardiche or billhook. It normally has one edge on the blade, though a blade on the reverse side isn’t unheard of (though that may technically be a different polearm, I’m not certain.)

The triple blade polearms are all descended from the Spetum. These were all (or almost all) bladed spears, with two protruding (sometimes sharpened) tines, called wings to prevent migration up the blade. I think the Ranseur is an example, where the wings were sharpened.

That said, the spetum and it’s descendants were in the “poke it until it stops squirming and screaming” family of polearms, the glaive was in the “whack it a couple times” family. So, I’m not sure what you’re looking for.

-Starke

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron.

In my story, there are clans of hunters. Most of their time is spent finding food or practicing weaponry, and just about all of the adults are skilled with a few. Later in the story, the clans are at war and fight with the same weapons they hunt with. Is there a difference between fighting against people and animals? (My MC uses knives and swords, if that helps.) Thank you!

Is there a difference fighting against people versus animals?

Yes. Yes, there is. For one thing, very few animals come with combat training. For another, a person cannot, for the most part, replicate the defensive attributes of most major predators or even most herbivores on their own.

Bows, spears, snares, traps, and slings are the historical methods with which people hunted. You need to keep a fairly significant amount of distance between yourself and the animal to avoid the teeth, hooves, claws, charging, and any number of other attributes which will leave your hunter very dead in fairly short order. Even with all the necessary precautions and use of appropriate weaponry/assistance of domesticated animals (horses, hunting dogs, whatever), there are no guarantees.

Herbivores like deer, buffalo, and other big game animals are exceedingly dangerous when put under threat. It’s best to get the Disneyfied idea that the only animals that will threaten your hunters are the big predators like lions and wolves. No, it’s the deer and the buffalo they should be looking out for. Herbivores can be very aggressive, they are also very large and very agile. After the mosquito and it’s good friend malaria, the most dangerous creature in Africa is the hippo. Knights used spears and lances when they hunted boar and even then many did die by getting gored on very sharp tusks.

If you’re really planning to write hunters than brushing up on your nature documentaries (and Animal Planet’s When Animals Attack) may not be a bad idea. You may also want to look into documentaries, studies, and other literature about the social structure/history of indigenous cultures around the world. You may also want to check with your local Fish and Wildlife Bureau (or corresponding group in your local country) to see what they suggest for more information on hunting and anthropology departments at your local college/museums to see if there are any suggestions for beginning good sources to brush up on. I also suggest checking with your local librarians to see if they have any suggestions for books similar to the one you’re planning. Lit reviews are always helpful when it comes to putting together a setting.

The business of hunting and the suggested methods change depending on the animal in question. I will say that your hunters will probably not be regularly chasing big game (lots of effort) if they predominately stay in the same place. They’ll subsist mostly on small game (like rabbits, turkey, etc) and foraged vegetation. Again, I don’t know your setting well enough to know what those would be. However, I do suggest looking into bushcraft and survival/camping manuals to start getting a grasp of how one goes about finding food.

There are a lot of excellent resources available if you are willing to look.

When it comes to combat weapons knives and swords are meant for humans, they were not used for hunting. (The knife is used to skin and clean the game after it’s been killed or kill the trapped animal.) Swords are weapons specialized for warfare and for killing other humans, hunter gatherer societies don’t really have a use for them. You can take a machete or a kukri, which are tools not weapons but within the short sword range, and maybe find a use for them in the clearing vegetation/butchering animals stage.

The problem here is that swords, especially the longsword, require a fairly advanced development of metallurgy. You need someone to make the weapons and the ability to find/mine the necessary materials. You also need a society where metal (be it bronze or iron), even if crude, has become common and necessary to the society. These are usually societies that have transitioned from hunter/gatherer into agricultural. Agricultural societies need blacksmiths to develop better tools for farming, stonemasons for houses, etc.

If those resources are minimal, then they will go toward those items that the culture needs more like knives, spearheads, and other tools than a weapon they have little use for (a sword) when they have other weapons available like bows and spears which work just as well.

You said it yourself, the clans aren’t initially at war and later they “go to war with the weapons they hunt with.” As we’ve said in the past, “You do not go hunting with the weapons you take to war.”

That said, there’s a lot of room to play with some very interesting weapons, tactics, and techniques from a vast number of indigenous cultures across the world that have nothing to do with swords. There’s a vast and very rich cultural history of varying kinds of warfare among the Native American/First Nations tribes, the Zulu and other tribes throughout the continent of Africa that have massive varying differences depending on region and climate, and a number of indigenous groups in many countries in South East Asia with a long and interesting history.

The advice I give everyone for world building is this: you have to learn how to marry what you want with what you’ve made available through your setting. Weapons are primarily developed based on need and available resources. A society primarily based on hunting is more likely to develop better traps, better bows, and better spears. If they are migratory (with a lot of open space like plains or steppes) then they may domesticate animals like horses for easier travel over long distances. Their homes may be lighter, easier to break down and carry with them or they may need to stay in one place but travel great distances because game in their region is sparse.

A group in a jungle may develop a machete or a kukri to clear vines, use boats for travel because they have rivers instead of horses because an enclosed environment doesn’t favor them. Goats, Llamas, and donkeys/burros are common beasts of burden in regions with more mountainous terrain.

There are a thousand reasons why, but what is key is finding the set pattern of development for your setting. Not all your societies necessarily developed the same way. They may use different weapons or different variations, different tactics based entirely around dealing with different threats from different regions.

This is why looking at historical cultures and modern ones is so important. Once you develop an understanding of how other people adapted to their environment and the different ways they did even within the same region, then you can backtrack to your characters, look at the world they live in and come to a better realization of understanding what they do and why it is that way.

-Michi

I’m planning out a shirt story set in a medieval alternate universe where a small troop of characters hunt down a mutant beast. Any tips on using swords and arrows and such against a creature similar to a mutant lion or tiger?

Yeah, don’t. A sword is a weapon designed to kill another human being, it’s not a hunting tool. As you may have noticed, people are not particularly adept at clawing your face off. When that’s a consideration, you’re better off looking at a lance, pike or some other polearm.

Those should keep the enraged, wounded, and (hopefully) dying animal far enough away that it can’t seek bloody retribution on members of the hunting party.

Other than that, the best advice is just, “poke it with sticks until it falls over.” This one isn’t that much more complicated.

If the critter requires a specific sword to kill it, your best bet would still be to skewer it, wait for it to wear down a bit, and then deal the killing blow with the required weapon.

Bow hunting is a completely different kind of approach that favors parties of two or three people. You take a shot and then follow the blood trail until the animal wears itself out and expires. Finding the animal is usually the hard part. At least that’s how it normally works. I’m not sure about bow hunting apex predators, but, I have a feeling that could get massively out of hand, fast.

-Starke

Awesome blog! I have a couple of questions considering a fantasy story I’m writing. a) What is the best weapon, when fighting a humanoid opponent that is much bigger than you (about three meters tall)? b) When fighting with a bow, what is the best place to aim for if you want the hit to be non-lethal?

Three meters isn’t a large enough size difference to really invalidate full sized weapons, like swords, axes, or polearms, though it will alter the tempo of a fight. As it gets larger, you’ll lose options though, by four or five meters, you’ll probably be restricted to polearms.

What’s the most non-lethal bow shot? One that doesn’t connect with your target. Arrow hits to the limbs can easily sever arteries, shots to the torso can rupture internal organs. Both of those are quick ways to bleed to death. If you could actually hit the hand or foot, that’s safe-ish. But, that kind of accuracy takes a kind of mastery that just doesn’t happen on the battlefield. Maybe if your character is a six-hundred year old elf/immortal/vampire/whatever, who’s been training for multiple human lifetimes… but not for a human character. In a non-combat situation, archers do exist who can make shots like that, even today. But, a bow is an incredibly lethal weapon, and as with guns, “shoot to wound” just isn’t a real thing.

-Starke

What kinds of wounds would a spear/metal rod (the weapon my character has is a bit interchangeable between the two) realistically be able to inflict on opponents? What would it most likely inflict? It’s easy to find references for sword-fighting, but as it turns out, spears aren’t too common in literature…

Spears can be used to inflict fairly deep cuts, but the primary, and lethal, injury is going to be deep penetrating strikes. If you want more detail, your best bet would be looking into industrial accidents involving impalement. Though, as we mentioned earlier; penetration is very lethal on a battlefield.

Beyond that, there were a lot of other polearms. Bladed ones like the halberd, voulge, bardiche, or glaive could carve up someone pretty badly, while keeping them at range.

-Starke