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 Post subject: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2009 10:34 am 
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I thought this'd be a good topic to discuss, one that I haven't seen around. A combat expert I talk to over forums has told me about shield breaking. Large weapons were generally useful for this purpose, and gave tactical advantages (along with cutting down horses). By his description, breaking a shield was more about one hard smash rather than chopping away at it.

Throwing weapons such as javelins also rendered the shield useless, but because of their weight making the shield too heavy more than smashing it.

So I come to the question, shouldn't there be an optional rule for shield breaking? It'd certainly be a welcome tactic for two-handed weapon fighters, who'd like to take away that pesky shield in the way of their swings. After hat is the question of how you do it. Well, probably like wounds.

You work out the armour value of the shields, something that's high so that one handed weapons don't smash them so good (unless you have Hercules using it). One point above their AV could smash the shield, or we could go as far as making it that hitting the full AV twice(?) smashes it.
So maybe...:

Wooden Buckler: AV 7
Small Wooden Shield: AV 8
Wooden Shield: AV 9
Large Wooden Shield: AV 10
Steel Buckler: AV 14
Steel Shield: AV 16

Or something like that...? I haven't had the fun of learning the arts of medieval weapons and armour, so this is just the guess of a rookie.


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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:29 am 
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Since you're not using shield AV's presented in TFOB p. 25 and optional shield/armour damage rule from TFOB p. 27, I'm guessing your issue is that those mechanics doesn't allow rendering the shield useless in a "one hard smash"?

Hehe, I really-really wouldn't want to reference a TV show as silly as Deadliest Warrior here, but one of their tests indicated that "one hard (two-handed war club) smash" is more likely to break the defender's arm rather than render the shield useless. Let's better wait until someone with related historical knowledge or hitting-with-iron experience lends us his opinion. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:40 am 
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Yo can’t generalize that easily. Shields were made from highly different materials, depending on the culture and the place in history.

Some shields, for instance Greek hoplite shields made of laminated wood and faced with bronze, were extremely resilient and would imo not break under any kind of force appliable with any kind of melee weapon. Other shields were built very lightly, in such a way that pieces could quite easily be chopped off them, but that could not be destroyed by a single hit, no matter how powerful – I am thinkin about shields of wickerwork or reeds covered with leather. And even wooden shields could be built very differently. Some cultures did regularly use as many as four layers of laminated wood, with the grain of every layer running at a right angle to the next layer’s; such a shield, especially if also rimmed with metal and faced with leather as the Roman legionary shield was, would be virtually indestructible by any kind of melee weapon. Other wooden shields, for instance some of the Viking ones, were built (deliberately?) flimsily and would get chopped into pieces rather quickly. And then there are of course also the rare but existing all-metal shields, and also all-leather ones…

Fact is that even one and the same culture did often use various techniques of shield construction at the same time. If you want any kind of rule to break shields with one powerful strike, and if realism is important for you, the difficulty of the feat should first and foremost depend on the material the shield is made of and only then on its size. And you can’t just reduce material to just catch-all wood and metal. There is single-layer wood (easily split along the grain), laminated wood, all-leather shields, all-metal shields, wickerwork shields, cane shields, and so on, much of this in varying degrees of thickness and also combined with either rims or a facing of either leather or metal.

And then higgins does point out rightly that a powerful blow to a shield will, wether it damages the shield or not, transmit a lot of blunt force to the arm holding the shield. Now I have no idea wether this can be enough to actually break the arm, especially as the arm will move with the force of the impact, but one definitely has to think about it.

And doing this, I think that it should be unlikely that a solidly constructed shield, held by a human, could be broken with one blow. I mean, the arm holding the shield would yield to the force of the blow. The question is wether a a human can hold a shield steadily enough that somebody else has any chance of breaking it with one blow, supposng that the shield is constructed solidly.

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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 10:37 am 
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@higgins: Hmm, forgot to consult TFoB... I'll have to look its rules over.

I asked about a defenders arm getting broken, but the guy I was talking to didn't reply too directly. The general answer was that it didn't happen so much, I think.


@Grettir: RPGs often generalize, because working out a hundred varieties of the same shield is a lot of work. Those were just a few examples I drummed up on the spot, of course.

Unbreakable by melee weapons of the time, or all melee weapons? The shields you're talking about sound expertly made--wouldn't they have been unheard of to many cultures and tribes who also used shields but couldn't make them so masterfully? If so, then it'd be more of a point that some shields were almost unbreakable, where as many could be done in.
Another point to consider is that if the setting is one with orcs and gnolls and powerful adventurers, wouldn't breaking a shield be more plausible?

I'm not certain as to difficulty of the feat myself, the numbers I put down were just a guess based off the RCM (Realistic Combat Model) someone developed for a game, which depicted shields as pretty impossible to slowly hack apart but possible to break or ruin with a very strong blow. He said at one point that he did tests on wood with weapons, and found that a heavy blow could split it but normal attacks did little. Maybe it was just the type of wood compared to the type you're talking about? Either way, I'd be surprised if he was wrong about the shield thing, he knows a lot about combat.

This subject is also confusing to me. Wouldn't it more likely knock you over/backward before it broke your arm?

It's possible that "broken" in this case means it is merely unusable for combat. Such as if you cut the arm-straps off a shield, it could be considered broken in this way. By the same use of the word, many swords have been broken in wars, their tips ruined or similar problems--the Scottish at one point used broken swords to make dirks (Scottish daggers), someone mentioned.


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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:15 pm 
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Conners wrote:
Unbreakable by melee weapons of the time, or all melee weapons?

I’d say pretty much all melee weapons. Look for instance at the Greek hoplite shield – it’s made from several layers of laminated wood, the grain of each layer perpendicular to the next layer’s, with a facing of bronze sheet that’s also wrapped around the edges. I can’t see any melee weapon cut through this shield from edge to edge. And if a melee weapon, maybe some massive axe or halberd head, hits the shield squarely in the centre, it might penetrate, and a layer of wood with the grain aligned with the penetration might break, but the layers with the grain at close to a right angle to the penetration won’t. And even if somehow all layers should break, the entire shield will still be held together by the bronze. So unless the shield is lying flat on the floor, I can’t see how any man-wielded implement might destroy it in one go.

Conners wrote:
The shields you're talking about sound expertly made--wouldn't they have been unheard of to many cultures and tribes who also used shields but couldn't make them so masterfully?

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the technical capabilities of ancient peoples. They didn’t fly to the moon, sure, but crafting wood does not require high technology, and as every single piece was hand-crafted, much more care went into the individual pice than with modern mass production, especially with implements on which somebody’s life might well depend. And then these peoples had centuries and centuries of fighting experience, a span of time in which their equipment evolved to fulfill its role ever better. Making wooden shields of multiple laminated layers reinforced with a rim or a facing of leather was standard for even “barbarian” peoples like Celts and Germans in already pre-Roman times. So the masterfully made shields would likely be standard for anybody save poorer warriors.

Conners wrote:
Another point to consider is that if the setting is one with orcs and gnolls and powerful adventurers, wouldn't breaking a shield be more plausible?

Probably, provided these beasties are much stronger than humans. Then again one must not overlook that these strong guys would themselves probably carry thicker shields that are harder to break than Earth’s human-issue shields…

Conners wrote:
I'm not certain as to difficulty of the feat myself, the numbers I put down were just a guess based off the RCM (Realistic Combat Model) someone developed for a game, which depicted shields as pretty impossible to slowly hack apart but possible to break or ruin with a very strong blow.

That’s a dangerous generalisation. Shields of leather-covered wickerwork were more common than most people realize, and such a shield should be next to impossible to destroy with one swing, but quite easy to hack apart with multiple ones. Still, I guess it should be true for a certain group of shields that they can be broken but are unlikely to be slowly hacked to pieces.

Conners wrote:
He said at one point that he did tests on wood with weapons, and found that a heavy blow could split it but normal attacks did little. Maybe it was just the type of wood compared to the type you're talking about? Either way, I'd be surprised if he was wrong about the shield thing, he knows a lot about combat.

Maybe he wasn’t aware that shields were more often than not made of laminated wood, and in such a way that the grain of one layer was always at an angle to a cut; he should have conducted his test cutting across the grain of the wood, not with it. Anybody who has ever chopped wood will know how easy the latter and how exceedingly hard the former is.

Conners wrote:
This subject is also confusing to me. Wouldn't it more likely knock you over/backward before it broke your arm?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Conners wrote:
It's possible that "broken" in this case means it is merely unusable for combat. Such as if you cut the arm-straps off a shield, it could be considered broken in this way.

Sure. But a system to cut arm straps or similar fittings would work completely independently from shield size and material.

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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:23 pm 
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Conners wrote:
Wouldn't it more likely knock you over/backward before it broke your arm?
Good point, but I'm sure some shields are more injury prone than the others. Compare Spartan hoplite shield and a viking center grip shield for example. In case of the spartan, the whole forearm takes the blow, but in case of the viking, there's only wrist behind the shield to absorb the hit.

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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 10:53 pm 
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An arm can be broken through a shield: I know a re-enactor who was part of a Viking group where a combatant's upper arm got broken in two places from an axe blow that hit his shield at the right/wrong angle.


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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:53 am 
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Guarding with just the wrist? What were they thinking!? If it were a buckler, then it could be accepted due to the more agile style of fighting.... but you'd think the weight of a shield alone would be stressful on your wrist without someone bashing it around.


Ouch! I hope he's all right now... Was he using one of those Viking shields held by the wrist?


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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 7:22 am 
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Just some cool trivia:
A point about shields
Another point about shields

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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 1:41 pm 
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Conners: I don't really know all the details - I wasn't there when it happened. This was at least 10 years ago, so I expect he's recovered.


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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 2:10 pm 
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higgins wrote:
Just some cool trivia:

I very much approve of these videos!
(Though I'm a bit wary of his theory. But in all fairness, he's honest enough to present it as one, not as irrefutable truth.

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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:14 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
I very much approve of these videos!
Here's the rest of his stuff:
A point about drawing swords
Another point about drawing swords
Yet another point about drawing swords
A point about sabres
Another point about sabres
A point about scimitars

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- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


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 Post subject: Re: Shield Breaking
PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:12 am 
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higgins wrote:
Hehe, I really-really wouldn't want to reference a TV show as silly as Deadliest Warrior here, but one of their tests indicated that "one hard (two-handed war club) smash" is more likely to break the defender's arm rather than render the shield useless. Let's better wait until someone with related historical knowledge or hitting-with-iron experience lends us his opinion. :)
higgins wrote:
Conners wrote:
Wouldn't it more likely knock you over/backward before it broke your arm?
Good point, but I'm sure some shields are more injury prone than the others. Compare Spartan hoplite shield and a viking center grip shield for example. In case of the spartan, the whole forearm takes the blow, but in case of the viking, there's only wrist behind the shield to absorb the hit.
Just debunking myself here. You can't really rely on anything in pseudo science show. Some viking nuts made their replies specifically for the DW show on the youtube and hit their center-grip shields with heavy planks right on the steel boss. No damage to the arm (unless they grit their teeth and lied about the effect, hehe).

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- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


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