Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

I was reading on the forums today people complaining that even in a post-civilization world (one where people are basically getting together from the ruins) that they would “know” how to do all kinds of things like make bows, swords, etc.

I have a lot of friends who are active in the Renaissance and Medieval communities out there who always laugh at this kind of thing. The conversation goes something like this:

“Really, you think you can make a spear? Ok. Let’s see you do it. Let’s see you actually make a weapons-grade spear. In fact, tell me how you would do it. Do you really think you can just get a stick and sharpen it?”

Some is true about agriculture. It’s amazing that people who can’t manage to keep their house plants alive think that farming is technologically trivial. Gardening isn’t that hard but unless you’ve actually farmed some real acreage, involving a plow and doing a real harvest, it’s not something one just inherently knows how to do.

Or how about making bows and arrows. Not the kind for shooting a bird or something but a weapons-grade bow, one that could kill a soldier.  It requires a level of knowledge that the average lay person, even a medieval peasant, would have no idea how to do. 

As someone into this stuff, I can tell you the mechanics of how to make a bow (lots of ash trees around here). But could I make one that would be actually useful in a battle – i.e. where I’d use it over a good club?  I don’t know.

And that’s before we even talk about metallurgy…


Comments (Page 4)
on Mar 18, 2012

My point is not that it is trivial to rediscover former techs, it is more that several clans/villages/tribes would have no reason to have lost that much in the first place (nomad tribes for instance would have no reason to have lost that much knowledge aftet the cataclysm, as they were already more or less self sufficient, and each of their members pretty generalist, same for mountain people, foresters... The only ones to be hit real hard would be the citizens. Even a town smith would have little reason to "forget" its craft, as desperate people would be waiting in line with what little pieces of metal they could have found to ask him to turn that into something useful for survival).

 

Rediscovering former tech is not trivial indeed, granted, but the ones who cannot do that would be the ones wiped out. There is just no way 7 generations of humans could have survived without basic knowledge of hunting, and weapon crafting in such a hostile world. Are they supposed to have brawled bears with their bare hands? We were "allowed" to evolve into our current wimpy form because we first had mastered tool crafting. If it is supposed that we have lost that knowledge for 150 years, then mankind must have been wiped out and there is no story.

 

The bottom line is not that it is the way things must have happened (it is very possible that all mankind should have been wiped out, or that the few survivors were warriors decked in magical armors that they would have no way to duplicate, but that would be good enough to allow them to survive, or whatever). It is just a believable asumption that would make the beginning for the game much better (because the unit designer would have some purpose), so we could as well roll with it  

on Mar 18, 2012

I think all this stuff is hard for computer geeks like us, but not everyone in this world are that.  My brother is very mechanically inclined.  He could probably build a sword out of grass if he had to.

on Mar 18, 2012

Ad topic - in a post-apocalyptic world, sword would be IMO redundant - sharpened sticks and stone axe-hammer would suffice at first against animals, etc. A sword is a highly specialized tool of war that makes sense only with a specialized training (there is a lot of counter-intuitive tricks that were developed over long centuries of military tradition). I believe I could make a sharpened stick just fine (with bamboo, you can have a combat-ready pointed stick with just one cut). Primitive bow can be hand-made too, but what is tricky are the arrows. It's quite difficult to make an arrow that flies straight (I tried).

To make a true sword with longer blade, you need to be able to produce steel, which requires a furnace and is far from trivial. That's why the ancient swords were short like gladius - longer blades are just not doable without steel.

on Mar 18, 2012

I tend to think of it this way:   have you ever had a disk crash on you, or you lost your USB stick, or some moron deleted all your critical files your entire project depended on?   And you yelled and screamed and banged the computer, but in the end you just had to redo the entire project?   But you get it done the second time around much faster, and it ends up being better than the first time around.  In fact, it may be so much better than you look back and think the disk crash was a good thing.   Kinda like that. 

If I were to build a sword from scratch, anyway, I wouldn't be using steel at all:  I'd be using obsidian.  Obsidian is some seriously mean stuff.  But no one in the Old World thought of it:  it's the natives in the New World who did.

on Mar 18, 2012

Frogboy
The issue in FE 0.86 is that when you start out, you research the exact. same. path. every game.  Standing Army. Training. Logistics.

But it has nothing to do with whether w should start out with swords vs. spears.  That wouldn't solve the underlying problem.

Bang on the mark.

Arguing about clubs vs swords is a complete smoke screen from a gameplay point of view. They are just labels - they could equally be buzzsaws and lightsabre's for all the gameplay difference it makes (bit of a flavour difference though I agree!).

The key points are:

1. Should you be able to improve your weapons during the game by researching technology? (I think so)

2. Should it be viable in different games to take wildly different paths through the early technology tree? (I think so within reason, your research should always be tailored to your situation and it should make a difference if you tailor it right or wrong - going heavy civics when you start beside two hostile civilizations that declare war on you early should result in quick death...)

 

Stepping back from gameplay and looking from a flavour point of view I can see maybe it is more heroic to start with sword technology so maybe that is what people are arguing about. If so then I understand but think they should chill a bit, the flavour is up to Stardock and if their view of the world is that decent metallurgy has been lost than so be it. It's pretty easy to lampshade too, we're talking a cataclysm, it could have been a hundred years since then, the population may be less than a thousandth what it was and the few survivors might be continually on the run from monsters and relying on eating moss and killing the occasional bird/rabbit/etc for food. (Personally I'm quite happy starting out with a club).

on Mar 18, 2012

How I think of tech in E:FE:

It's not about losing the knowing of something, it's about having lost the doing of it.

 

To get more food from farms, things gotta change.  Mod the box, to fit  the new card. A society in Elemental needs time to build and modify what needs changing. Time to incorporate a new system into the old. Time to get stuff done before it can begin paying off.

  Tech in E:FE is the time it takes to make empire wide use of a recently re-introduced technology.

In E:FE, the survivors who've banded to form what we call a Size 1 City, clearly know how to farm. But to grow much more, they must start doing things a different way. Some people already have the knowing of how this can be done. But the knowing and the doing are different things.

  Tech'ing is the doing.

 

 

on Mar 18, 2012

tetleytea
I tend to think of it this way:   have you ever had a disk crash on you, or you lost your USB stick, or some moron deleted all your critical files your entire project depended on?   And you yelled and screamed and banged the computer, but in the end you just had to redo the entire project?   But you get it done the second time around much faster, and it ends up being better than the first time around.  In fact, it may be so much better than you look back and think the disk crash was a good thing.   Kinda like that. 

If I were to build a sword from scratch, anyway, I wouldn't be using steel at all:  I'd be using obsidian.  Obsidian is some seriously mean stuff.  But no one in the Old World thought of it:  it's the natives in the New World who did.

 

Could you throw down some pros and cons on swords of Obsidian vs Swords of Steel?

(you can include availability of materials, ease of creation, amount of time needed in creation, etc)

and of course combat effectivness, and repair/maintenance/combat readiness

on Mar 18, 2012

I have a feeling that the people in the old world thought of it and moved to copper about 15,000 years ago.

on Mar 19, 2012

Obsidian is useless.  Sharp?  Sure.  Durable?  Not even slightly.  It's glass.

 

You can kill someone by stabbing them or slashing soft tissue, but a guy with a night stick can beat your ass into the ground after shattering it in your hand.  You can't even safely stab someone in the chest, odds are good that it will break on their rib cage.

 

The only effective weaponized usage for Obsidian is as an arrow head, or some other form of ballistic penetration.  Small, razor sharp wedges will do plenty of damage at high speed with force behind them.  Unless of course, your target is wearing sufficiently hardened armor.  In which case it shatters on impact and all they get is the shaft.

 

The Macauhuitl is the only thing you could be mistaking for a "sword" and it was nothing of the sort.  It was essentially a club.  A wood stick inset with jagged rocks or obsidian, the ancient equivalent of the modern day baseball bat set with nails.  Nothing like a sword, and vastly inferior to contemporary weaponry.  The America's were backwards.

on Mar 19, 2012

psychoak
The Macauhuitl is the only thing you could be mistaking for a "sword" and it was nothing of the sort.  It was essentially a club.  A wood stick inset with jagged rocks or obsidian, the ancient equivalent of the modern day baseball bat set with nails.  Nothing like a sword, and vastly inferior to contemporary weaponry.  The America's were backwards.
Do some research. Macahuitls weren't any more similar to clubs than they were to swords. They were not directly analogous to any modern weapon, and certainly not the same as nailbats. Also, you're correct that they were not durable, but they were still devastating weapons on the first attack. A macahuitl would be a cool weapon to see in Elemental, really.

However they're not strictly superior to metal swords. The sword is almost as sharp and far more durable.

on Mar 19, 2012

It's easy to survive in a post-civilization world, weapon-wise....simply call McGyver.....he can make an FN rifle in the garage out of a piece of string and an old oil can.....

on Mar 19, 2012

Could you throw down some pros and cons on swords of Obsidian vs Swords of Steel?

Mostly just ease of manufacturing.  Knowing where to look for obsidian in the ground and spotting it is pretty easy.  Knowing where to get iron ore is hard.  I'm sure in ancient civs iron ore just lay on the ground at places, but not now.  And then as you know there's the smelting process.  With obsidian, you take another rock and carve it.  That simple.   And I see no reason you can't just sharpen the end of the shaft to give you some thrusting action; much like a halberd.  The difference with both a halberd and a sword, though, is it's possible to strike the enemy with the flat of the sword.  With this, there is no flat.  So it's lighter, easier to wield, easier to reconstruct.  I do, however, see the disadvantage if someone went up against a swordsman who was able to parry--that's pretty much going to destroy the obsidian, which is going to leave you with a flat.  And bear in mind I'm not necessarily advocating reproducing exactly what the Aztecs did:  I think we can add some smarts to build some manufacturing tools which will enable some much bigger, more regular cuts to the obsidian, and I don't think there's any need to sharpen the other edge to insert it into the shaft.  If you've got a really big honking rock and someone parries it, all they're going to do is shatter some rock and leave a more jagged (but still sharp) edge.  That's just how obsidian is. 

 

As for whether it's a sword or a club, I consider that irrelevant.  If it has the same use, it's the same thing.  You're talking about a post-civ world where terminology is immaterial.

 

 

on Mar 19, 2012

I'm sure after 5 or more generations past the titan apocalypse, people have found ways to create armor and weapons to survive the waste before I create a city. Whether it being through stone use, like obsidian, through scavenging and created crude metal weapons and tools, whatever.  I am sure it would be better than small wooden stick and long wooden stick.  Most people who were forced to fight in ages created their own spears out of farming tools.  I'm sure that is more representative of the first spear that is in the game than a true military grade spear, as a person trained in a military spear would use it in one hand with a shield.  

 

And many people who where conscripted or low ranking soldiers had armor made from layers of cloth or linen.  Maybe early armors should be made from that instead of going from nothing to leather.

on Mar 19, 2012

One thing I never understood about ancient battles that I think would hold only more true in a post-civ:   make the summer heat your armor.   At the Battle of Monmouth, more British and American soldiers were incapacitated from heat stroke than from bullets.  And they weren't even wearing armor--that's just their uniforms.  Why can't the officers not be morons:  take off your bloody shirts and let your underwear be your uniform.  If you're in the heat of summer and you're fighting heavily armored strong men, let them wear their silly armor.  Their plate mail will turn them into human frying pans.

on Mar 19, 2012

The penalty for being caught out of uniform is a worse infraction than the penalty of catching heat stroke. I guess sometimes we are just as dumb as the AI.