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What happened to bastard swords in Glorantha?


Bren

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I'm curious why is the bastard sword missing from Runequest in Glorantha? It was present in both my RQ2 and RQ3 weapon lists. Bronze greatswords exist, so the issue can't be one of metallurgy. Why the deletion?

My Sword of Humakt PC keeps asking me this question and I don't know what to tell him.

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So, when taking into account the RQ3+ change in the roll for SIZ...

I don't have to worry about generating a RQ:RiG character similar to one of my RQ2 ones... 4.5ft, swinging a 4ft sword one handed (STR 18). We used to joke that he push upwards on horses to walk under them.

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10 hours ago, Bren said:

I'm curious why is the bastard sword missing from Runequest in Glorantha?

Someone decoded they were not Bronze Age enough.

10 hours ago, Bren said:

My Sword of Humakt PC keeps asking me this question and I don't know what to tell him.

Tell him to use the RQ3 version of the Bastard Sword. 

If you want to keep them special, make them a cult secret of Humakt.

Personally, I'd just have them as a bigger sword.

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the answers. Pretty much as I expected. There aren't AFAIK, a lot of intact Bronze Age swords, but it seems a bit odd to have broadswords and 2H swords, but no lengths in between. The idea that the Cult of Humakt includes the knowledge for making and using longer swords is interesting. I may do that.

I'm also curious why spears were similarly changed. Removing one-handed long spears doesn't seem to fit a Bronze Age ethos or epic descriptions of the heroes and their weapons. It also complicates the weapon choices for some Yelmalions since they can't use their long spear with one hand and an active shield nor can they throw a 2H spear.

Examples of epic spears:

Quote

BkXXI: The death of Lycaon

 

“So he mused and waited, while Lycaon came to him, eager to clasp Achilles’ knees, and cheat vile death and dark destiny. Noble Achilles raised his long spear, ready to strike him down, but Lycaon stooped beneath the shaft, stumbled in and clasped the warrior’s knees, so the spear, though eager to glut itself on human flesh, slid over his back, and fixed itself in the ground.”

BkXXI: The death of Asteropaeus

Achilles carries a shield and his “long-shadowed spear.”

Asteropaeus, who leads “the long-speared Paeonians,” wields a spear in each hand.

BkXXII: The Death of Hector

 

“Achilles approached, brandishing his great spear, and the flashing of his arms was like fire or the sun when it rises.”

 

Edited by Bren
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Bastard swords are a comparatively Late Medieval development.  It is not a type of sword that is compatible with a bronze-age setting, or with bronze as a material.  The bastard sword is also predominantly a cavalry weapon in Medieval Europe, and bronze bastard swords are likely to be too heavy and thus too cumbersome, as well as being anachronistic.  A spear is simply a better all-round weapon for mounted troops than any sword, even a purpose built one like the bastard sword.  While most of my characters in RQ2 used bronze bastard swords back in the day, I am actually glad to see them gone from RQG.

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1 hour ago, Darius West said:

Bastard swords are a comparatively Late Medieval development.  It is not a type of sword that is compatible with a bronze-age setting, or with bronze as a material.  The bastard sword is also predominantly a cavalry weapon in Medieval Europe, and bronze bastard swords are likely to be too heavy and thus too cumbersome, as well as being anachronistic.  A spear is simply a better all-round weapon for mounted troops than any sword, even a purpose built one like the bastard sword.  While most of my characters in RQ2 used bronze bastard swords back in the day, I am actually glad to see them gone from RQG.

Whilst I agree with you, I do feel that it is necessary to point out that Gloranthan Bronze is not RW Bronze, and therefore might be capable of being bastardised, particularly if made with runic bronze.

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1 hour ago, Darius West said:

Bastard swords are a comparatively Late Medieval development.  It is not a type of sword that is compatible with a bronze-age setting, or with bronze as a material.  The bastard sword is also predominantly a cavalry weapon in Medieval Europe, and bronze bastard swords are likely to be too heavy and thus too cumbersome, as well as being anachronistic.  A spear is simply a better all-round weapon for mounted troops than any sword, even a purpose built one like the bastard sword.  While most of my characters in RQ2 used bronze bastard swords back in the day, I am actually glad to see them gone from RQG.

China had bronze greatswords at the end of the Bronze Age/early Iron Age, so why not have Bastard Swords?

I refer you to flying machines and flintlocks, if we can have those then why not Bastard Swords?

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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As far as I am concerned, a small person's bastard sword is a tall person's spatha, and a tall person's bastard sword is a small person's greatsword. Your typical viking long sword has a pommel which allows two-handed use once your shield has been hacked into kindling.

 

 

 

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Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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8 hours ago, Darius West said:

Bastard swords are a comparatively Late Medieval development.  It is not a type of sword that is compatible with a bronze-age setting, or with bronze as a material.

But two-handed swords still exist in Glorantha, e.g. greatsword, rhomphaia, and sickle-sword are each listed as 2H weapons on the Swords and Daggers table on page 208 of RQG. So I don't see how the material can be an issue.

I understand how one might argue that they don't fit what we know from the artifacts we have from earth's bronze age. However, I don't think there are a lot of intact bronze age weapons. (I could be wrong, I'm not a military historian or archaeologist.) So absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In addition, bastard swords have been part of Gloranthan culture and present in published materials about Glorantha until this most recent addition, RQG.

I've been playing RPGs for a long time (1974) and I still have my original RQ2 and RQ3 rules so I'm perfectly capable of including bastard swords if I want them, YGMV etc. etc.

And I'm not arguing about whether bastard swords (or any other weapon) should or shouldn't be included.

What I'd like is to understand is what went into the design decision to remove a weapon long present in the setting. What factors were part of the decision e.g. strict extrapolation from Mediterranean Bronze Age cultures, fidelity to available Bronze Age art work, new ideas about Gloranthan culture, mechanical reasons for balancing weapon choices (bastard swords were arguably the hands-down best 1H weapon for most adventurers in RQ2 and RQ3), or something else?

 

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1 hour ago, Joerg said:

As far as I am concerned, a small person's bastard sword is a tall person's spatha, and a tall person's bastard sword is a small person's greatsword. Your typical viking long sword has a pommel which allows two-handed use once your shield has been hacked into kindling.

 

Don’t forget the Great Sword Wielding Great Trolls from the TrollPak days!

... remember, with a TARDIS, one is never late for breakfast!

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28 minutes ago, Bren said:

In addition, bastard swords have been part of Gloranthan culture and present in published materials about Glorantha until this most recent addition, RQG.

I think we can blame D&D for that specific subject.

 

29 minutes ago, Bren said:

I've been playing RPGs for a long time (1974) and I still have my original RQ2 and RQ3 rules so I'm perfectly capable of including bastard swords if I want them, YGMV etc. etc.

 

Think I mentioned that early on, and I still say go for it. You paid for the game, it’s yours!

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... remember, with a TARDIS, one is never late for breakfast!

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4 hours ago, Bill the barbarian said:

I think we can blame D&D for that specific subject.

I don't think we can, really. The equipment list in my OD&D (1974) rules simply lists "sword" and the Player's Handbook for Advanced D&D and 1st edition Runequest were both published in 1978.

Quote

Think I mentioned that early on, and I still say go for it. You paid for the game, it’s yours!

Indeed you did. Always good advice.

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47 minutes ago, Bren said:

I don't think we can, really. The equipment list in my OD&D (1974) rules simply lists "sword" and the Player's Handbook for Advanced D&D and 1st edition Runequest were both published in 1978.

Quote

Is that so, I came to D&D in the eighties so.. I suppose that would make sense.

... remember, with a TARDIS, one is never late for breakfast!

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16 hours ago, Bren said:

But two-handed swords still exist in Glorantha, e.g. greatsword, rhomphaia, and sickle-sword are each listed as 2H weapons on the Swords and Daggers table on page 208 of RQG. So I don't see how the material can be an issue.

Just to clarify, materials are an issue because it is easier to lift a 2h sword than to use the same weapon 1h.  The issue is to lighten the blade so that a strong warrior can still use what is essentially a 2h sword with 1h.  That means necessarily using less bronze to keep the weight down, and quite probably weakening the blade as a result.  The fact is you can certainly lift a 2h sword with 1h, but you won't be able to fight with it effectively 1h for long, if at all, and a bastard sword has to do both jobs which means compromises will be made.  Bronze is not steel, and the bastard swords we are familiar with irl are all steel.  In the ancient world, there simply were no bronze bastard swords, while there were 2h rhomphaia, khopeshes, and leaf blades made in bronze.

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23 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

Whilst I agree with you, I do feel that it is necessary to point out that Gloranthan Bronze is not RW Bronze, and therefore might be capable of being bastardised, particularly if made with runic bronze.

Agreed, but more's the pity imo.  I would much rather use a more real world model of bronze, otherwise why even bother to say that RQG is set in a bronze age society at all?  There is already a notable disconnect in terms of rules writers thinking that redsmiths of Gustbran are the same as blacksmiths, and use the same methods.  Not enough people seem to understand that bronze is poured into a cast and filed down, not heated in a forge then worked on an anvil like iron.  All our modern tropes about smithing are entirely iron-centric, and one of the things that makes RQG unique is the bronze age imo, so we need to highlight that, and do it properly, running the risk of potentially educating people about metallurgy a little.

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I dropped Bastard Swords - as far as I am concerned they are pretty much a rules construct. 1D10+1 damage instead of 1D8+1. Greg was never particularly happy with them. Originally we were going to drop greatswords (or two-handed swords), but they were far more popular with players and writers (and much easier to justify). So that's fine - at some point in the Second Age, the Shadowlands had their human bronze workers make two-handed swords for their great troll slaves. Some humans use the weapon, although it is nobody's cultural weapon.

But hand-a-half swords? Nope.

(Added to Swords and Daggers Q&A)

Edited by Scotty
(Added to Swords and Daggers Q&A)
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21 hours ago, Joerg said:

As far as I am concerned, a small person's bastard sword is a tall person's spatha, and a tall person's bastard sword is a small person's greatsword.

If a great troll picks up my greatsword and hits me with it one handed, like a broadsword, it doesn't do broadsword damage.

But weapon sizes and damage in RQ are a bit weird beyond the human size range. Up to a certain point, damage scales up through dagger, shortsword, and broadsword. Super-sized adventurers can use a greatsword one-handed. But then it stops, we don't have base damage for a 6m giant sized one-handed sword. Anything bigger is just handled through the mechanism of damage modifier. Whatever a 6m giant hits you with, his damage bonus is what is going to kill you, the base weapon damage is rather immaterial.

And yes, I did once run a scenario where everyone played giants...

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5 hours ago, Jeff said:

I dropped Bastard Swords - as far as I am concerned they are pretty much a rules construct. 1D10+1 damage instead of 1D8+1. Greg was never particularly happy with them. Originally we were going to drop greatswords (or two-handed swords), but they were far more popular with players and writers (and much easier to justify).

And that answers my question. Thanks Jeff! 😃

Now I'm curious what happened to the one-handed longspear, which aside from the lance, has also disappeared from the weapons tables.

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22 hours ago, Joerg said:

Your typical viking long sword has a pommel which allows two-handed use once your shield has been hacked into kindling.

 

 

 

One could increase the damage when used 2H to 1D10+1.

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12 hours ago, Darius West said:

Agreed, but more's the pity imo.  I would much rather use a more real world model of bronze, otherwise why even bother to say that RQG is set in a bronze age society at all?  There is already a notable disconnect in terms of rules writers thinking that redsmiths of Gustbran are the same as blacksmiths, and use the same methods.  Not enough people seem to understand that bronze is poured into a cast and filed down, not heated in a forge then worked on an anvil like iron.  All our modern tropes about smithing are entirely iron-centric, and one of the things that makes RQG unique is the bronze age imo, so we need to highlight that, and do it properly, running the risk of potentially educating people about metallurgy a little.

Yeah, I am really tired of the concept "we never really meant it to be Bronze Age", when that is the only reason some of us found and cared about Glorantha.  Yeah, I am a grognard, a geek, a social anthropologist, a mythologian and theologian, and Greg called me to him with his vast levels of complexity and low-fantasy simulationism.  Yeah, I find the idea of "well it looks like a bison, charges like a bison, herds like a bison, but it isn't really a bison" both pointless and patronising.

Is this MGF or YGWV?  At times it is hard to tell.

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16 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

If a great troll picks up my greatsword and hits me with it one handed, like a broadsword, it doesn't do broadsword damage.

But weapon sizes and damage in RQ are a bit weird beyond the human size range. Up to a certain point, damage scales up through dagger, shortsword, and broadsword. Super-sized adventurers can use a greatsword one-handed. But then it stops, we don't have base damage for a 6m giant sized one-handed sword. Anything bigger is just handled through the mechanism of damage modifier. Whatever a 6m giant hits you with, his damage bonus is what is going to kill you, the base weapon damage is rather immaterial.

And yes, I did once run a scenario where everyone played giants...

In terms of games systems that address this, I think Aftermath was the most realistic.  In Aftermath, the muscle power of the person wielding the weapon is the basis for all damage they can inflict, and weapons are given a modifier to damage.  If we added to this a penetration modifier for armor types (including armor types for monsters and beasts) this would be a pretty optimal answer.

8 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

Yeah, I am really tired of the concept "we never really meant it to be Bronze Age", when that is the only reason some of us found and cared about Glorantha.  Yeah, I am a grognard, a geek, a social anthropologist, a mythologian and theologian, and Greg called me to him with his vast levels of complexity and low-fantasy simulationism.  Yeah, I find the idea of "well it looks like a bison, charges like a bison, herds like a bison, but it isn't really a bison" both pointless and patronising.

Is this MGF or YGWV?  At times it is hard to tell.

I think we agree.  I like to encourage a lot of immersion when I GM.  I want my players to smell the animal corrals of Prax, to hear dusty carpets being beaten on the roof gardens of Pavis, to taste the heated mead while they consider tribal politics in Jonstown, and to feel the impact of their blows, and the consequences of their actions.  We do this by making our game world the best simulation it can be imo, and while Glorantha is not Earth, Glorantha is a child of this world and is modeled upon it, so why not use the information we have about physical aspects of our world, so that players understand that things they could do in this world they can potentially do in Glorantha too?  Realism helps conjure a world that is physically familiar while often being culturally alien.

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On 6/5/2021 at 6:04 PM, soltakss said:

China had bronze greatswords at the end of the Bronze Age/early Iron Age, so why not have Bastard Swords?

I refer you to flying machines and flintlocks, if we can have those then why not Bastard Swords?

Yeah, agreed. If the world has greatswords, then what's stopping people from making a sword that's between great- and broadsword?

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