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Old 07-11-2016, 03:58 AM   #1
Gerrard of Titan Server
 
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Default Realism; Strength is not important for swordsmanship(?)

I have no first hand experience in historical weapon-based martial arts, but I have some second-hand appreciation and fascination for those who do, such as HEMA.

Some of the "experts" and actual experts in the community have said in several occasions that strength is not terribly important. Skill is much more important. Matt Easton of Scholagladiatoria has even stated that during his time of teaching historical European martial arts to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people, he hasn't yet seen someone that is too physically weak to effectively wield a longsword (aka a hand-and-a-half sword) with two hands. (He says that a little bit more strength is required for effective wielding of a sword in one hand, but still not that much.)

See:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3OIjpLSaYQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ip-_vEPotYo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cNO6uRqUcE

Is this true?

In terms of GURPS, a very strong person has a ST of 13, for a base Swing damage of 2d-1, which comes out to 2d+1 cut for two-handing a "bastard sword". A weak person has a ST of 7, for a base Swing damage of 1d-2, which comes out to 1d cut for two-handing a "bastard sword". Right? That's over twice the damage, which doesn't gel with my understanding of the above sources.

This is further informed by this one page that I found. It doesn't look terribly professional, but it's the only source that I've found. It claims to be measured impact force of a sword swing and mace swing with proper form and technique, vs "bad technique" aka hitting as hard as you can.

http://weaponsofchoice.com/extras/we...ort-and-force/

The numbers are quite interesting. According to this author, a mace swing with proper form has 10x less impact force than a full-out, "bad" technique swing, and a sword swing with proper form has 100x less impact force than a full-out, "bad" technique swing! Again, are these numbers accurate? It's incredibly difficult to find numbers on this. I lack all firsthand expertise in this, and it's hard for me to even sanity check these claims, and that's a big reason why I'm here.

If those force impact numbers are to be trusted, then it leads me to the conclusion that swords deal damage because they're sharp and because they hit vulnerable areas with proper edge alignment, etc., and generally not because of of the person's strength - except to the extent that is necessary to get the sword moving at speed.

I would guess that a relatively weak real world person can swing a sword about as fast as a very strong person, and thus the above numbers pass my initial, uneducated, "sniff" test.

If all of this is correct, this would mean that the entire framework and system in place for modeling damage with swords based on strength and swing damage is entirely broken.

Alternatively, maybe I'm coming from the wrong perspective. In a real fight, the first person to get get a cut generally wins, so maybe a very strong person would do substantially more damage with a sword cut with good form because of their strength, but it doesn't matter because the actual flesh wounds from a sword cut from a weaker than average person does more than enough to incapacitate a person most of the time.

I guess I'm just looking for comments, pointers, and general education. I'd like to understand reality before I decide if I want to ignore reality for being cinematic, and exactly what the difference would be.

Thanks for your time!

Last edited by Gerrard of Titan Server; 07-11-2016 at 04:02 AM.
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Old 07-11-2016, 04:06 AM   #2
Flyndaran
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Default Re: Realism; Strength is not important for swordsmanship(?)

Sticking a sharp pointy piece of metal into someone will kill any human, whether tiny or Lou Ferigno huge. It doesn't take "that" much force to push a sharpened blade through naked flesh.
But wielding any object fast takes strength. And if anything is in the way of that flesh, it will take more force to poke through it.
I'm sure swords experts will chime in soon enough, but this is what fellow layman I've gathered from reading their posts and other sources.
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Old 07-11-2016, 04:12 AM   #3
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Default Re: Realism; Strength is not important for swordsmanship(?)

GURPS uses DX as the primary stat for wielding swords, not ST. ST is simply for dealing damage and we have said for at least a decade that the damage of all muscle-powered weapons in GURPS is too high. The main problem with comparing HEMA with GURPS is that HEMA practitioners don't have to deal with things like fantasy creatures and magical armour. It is for these abnormal situations that swords and high ST become useful.
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Old 07-11-2016, 04:14 AM   #4
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Default Re: Realism; Strength is not important for swordsmanship(?)

Gamers want, and even expect, the ability to one-shot hack off limbs ala Monty Python's Black Knight, regardless of plausibility.
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Old 07-11-2016, 04:22 AM   #5
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Default Re: Realism; Strength is not important for swordsmanship(?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
But wielding any object fast takes strength.
Is that even true in a real and meaningful sense? For a heavy object, I can more easily buy that, but swords only weigh 2 to 4 lb. Historical one-handed maces weighed 2.5 lb or less. Etc. Real historical lowtech melee weapons are exceptionally light compared to modern expectations.

Consider an out-of-shape person, and take an Olympic athlete strength trainer of some sort, and compare how fast that they can swing a bat. Would the difference really be that large?

According to some random sources found via google, children in little league can swing a bat up to 60 mph (tip speed?), and adults who play baseball professionally only swing a bat up to 80 mph (tip speed?). That's not a big variation. The kinetic energy difference would be larger because kinetic energy is the square of speed, but IIRC GURPS damage is generally treated as the sqrt of kinetic energy, so we're back to about 60 vs 80. (And there's the whole problem of using kinetic energy or momentum as a baseline for determining damage.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
And if anything is in the way of that flesh, it will take more force to poke through it.
Here, my naive understanding has some sympathy, especially for lighter armors, like clothes, or leather, or something, but even then I don't really know, because I am grossly ignorant on the matter.

What really complicates the issue for me is part of the above link, where it claims that proper form with a sword delivers like 100x less impact force than simply swinging it as hard as you can. My question also gets into the whole problem of chopping vs slashing aka draw cuts, and it might even be the same question.

This also gets to my understanding of the realism but not RAW of Balanced vs Unbalanced weapons. From my understanding, one can swing a sword very hard like one might swing a battleaxe, and then the sword would be out of position and unable to be used in parrying, but most sword strikes are not full out like that, which allows the sword to be quickly repositioned, which is why swords can be used for "simultaneous" attack and parry, but battleaxes cannot.
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Old 07-11-2016, 04:25 AM   #6
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Default Re: Realism; Strength is not important for swordsmanship(?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanHoward View Post
The main problem with comparing HEMA with GURPS is that HEMA practitioners don't have to deal with things like fantasy creatures and magical armour. It is for these abnormal situations that swords and high ST become useful.
I can definitely agree in part to this. I immediately think of many anime characters who use comically oversized swords, such as Guts from Berserk, and they use their supernaturally high strength in order to cleave a man in half who is in full plate. That's what supernaturally high strength can do.

I'm just rambling now, but let me get this out there.

However, when two equally skilled supernatural swordsmen fight each other, they don't cleave each other in half. Maybe because they're not swinging as hard as they might against a mook? I don't know the GURPS term for it, but in D&D 3.5 terms, maybe Guts is power attacking against the mook, aka swinging harder, sacrificing accuracy, in order for additional power and damage on the swing.

(But mostly Guts just cleaves through mooks and not through named villains, because that's what the plot calls for, aka plot armor.)
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Old 07-11-2016, 04:28 AM   #7
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Default Re: Realism; Strength is not important for swordsmanship(?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
Gamers want, and even expect, the ability to one-shot hack off limbs ala Monty Python's Black Knight, regardless of plausibility.
That's what cinematic rules are for. The basic mechanics should model verisimilitude as much as possible.
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Old 07-11-2016, 04:29 AM   #8
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Default Re: Realism; Strength is not important for swordsmanship(?)

People generally have a much lower threshold for acceptable wounds than PCs do. Bleeding to death or dying of gangrene can happen from pretty small wounds, and in real life you don't know about your HPs or whether you properly made a HT check. (Which is also why armor in the real world was a bit more "binary" than what fantasy adventurers wear)

So "sufficient" strength is probably quite low, especially if no armor is involved, although I'm quite wary of any differences that come in straight orders of magnitude.
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Old 07-11-2016, 04:35 AM   #9
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Default Re: Realism; Strength is not important for swordsmanship(?)

In Japan, in Tokyo if I remember well what explained my Senseď who visited it, there is a room, a very long hallway, in which the best kyudoka (bowmen) did bow competitions. Shooting the target in this hallway is very hard because it is far away and there is the ceiling. Modern bow competitors are not able to reach the target. But kyudoka did, with their old wooden bows. How did they do that?

Actually their training required a lot of arm muscle training. They arms were very strong, so strong that very few people can bent their bows. Despite of the fact that they could have been quite thin.

What say the guy in this video is true: the bulk doesn't really matter. Except if you strike like an oaf, putting all your weight in your attack ... But strength does still matter. The problem is that strength is very specific. The strength of a karateka isn't at all the same than the strength of a weightlifter which isn't at all the same as the strength of a rock climber ...

So, how to handle these different strengths in GURPS? With the right advantages. And with the skill level.

In reality, the skill is as important as the strength. Someone who isn't trained to use a sword don't know the right angle of attack to do maximum damage. He doesn't either know how to best put his feet and the perfect hip move to improve even more his strike ...

Try to cut wood with an axe and compare your effectiveness with the one of a professional woodcutter. Even if you are generally stronger than him, his blows will be stronger than yours because he is very used to do that. He did that thousands of time!

GURPS doesn't take the skill into account for damage. But it still allows to take it into account through advantages. A good swordsman may for instance have Striking strength and many other advantages that improves damage rather than a flat high basic strength.
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Old 07-11-2016, 04:46 AM   #10
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Default Re: Realism; Strength is not important for swordsmanship(?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gollum View Post
In Japan, in Tokyo if I remember well what explained my Senseď who visited it, there is a room, a very long hallway, in which the best kyudoka (bowmen) did bow competitions. Shooting the target in this hallway is very hard because it is far away and there is the ceiling. Modern bow competitors are not able to reach the target. But kyudoka did, with their old wooden bows. How did they do that?

Actually their training required a lot of arm muscle training. They arms were very strong, so strong that very few people can bent their bows. Despite of the fact that they could have been quite thin.
PS: As a historical fact, I find this particular fact to be absolutely fascinating. For example, when we dig up bones from European battlefields, we can tell who the English longbow archers were, because their back and arm bones were deformed in a very particular way, which was the result of very specific and extensive strength training for longbow use.
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