Friday, October 21, 2016

European Maces of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (With TFT/D&D Game Notes)

Here is a group of European maces from my collection, covering the 11th to 16th centuries A.D. All are modern reproductions, some of which I assembled or modified.




From right to left:
1. An early mace from the 11th-12th century with a bronze head
2. A somewhat later mace from the 14th century, based on an example found in the Thames River
3 & 4. Gothic maces based to varying degrees on A978 in the Wallace Collection, along with one in the Royal Scottish Museum.
5. A spiked mace from the Renaissance.

The head of the first mace was obtained from Tod's Stuff; I made the haft out of birch turning stock from Rocklers.

The No. 2 mace I was able to get second hand off of SwordForum, International. It is an older, long discontinued Arms & Armor piece. It came in pristine condition and I have not made any modifications to it, finding it perfect "out of the box" as it were. This is a great reproduction, and its sad that it is no longer available.

The remaining three maces are all Arms & Armor production, as well. The two Gothic maces are long discontinued, and represent fairly early A&A work. Indeed, mace No. 3 is the second item I ever bought from A&A back in 1987 (the first was a dagger). The only change made to this piece is to rewrap the grip; however, I am thinking of making further changes.

The fourth mace was more or less identical to the previously described one, though I believe a slightly earlier piece. It has been extensively reworked for greater historical accuracy as described in detail in this blogpost.

The last mace I got for a song off of eBay, along with a discontinued A&A warhammer and an odd sort of "one-off" A&A sword. This type of mace (an "M3" following the typology introduced by Ewert Oakeshott in European Weapons and Armor - From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution) is very rare in Western Europe, but fairly common in Persia and India. This particular example seems to be based upon one in the Musee d' l'Armee in Paris, though that is unconfirmed (I can't seem to find a photo anywhere, unfortunately). A line drawing of this example is found in Oakeshott's book, however. This particular mace would be dated to c. 1550 or so.

***

In game terms, whether TFT or D&D, an important point to note about maces (and also to some extent morning stars) is that they are very easy to use by even untrained people. Unlike most other weapons which require precise alignment of, say, the edge of a sword or axe, or the backspike of a war hammer or poll arm, etc., no such precision is demanded of a mace. Anyway it lands it causes great hurt. Further, the method of use, simply swinging the arm, comes most naturally to any hominid - indeed, chimpanzees in the wild have been known to swing clubs in an identical manner.

While for the most part the mace is simply a very fancy club, the concentration of mass at the end of the weapon significantly enhances its striking power, making it noticeably superior to a mere cudgel of wood. And the flanged maces of the later Middle Ages focus the striking power of the weapon onto a fairly small area on the target, greatly increasing the chances of transmitting the force of the blow through armour, breaking bones, etc. Thus, a mace is objectively superior to a simple club in melee combat; don't let any vapid "d6 only Old Schooler" try to tell you otherwise - it's simple irrefutable physics, folks.

Given the ease of use of the mace, the D&D restrictions that forbid Clerics from using most melee weapons apart from the mace have at least a little basis in fact - since the mace is a simple weapon to use it makes a bit of sense that figures who lack the specialized melee training of a Fighting Man might end up with a mace/morning star as a primary weapon. Of course, this theory does not account for why Magic Users cannot wield a mace (or a club, for that matter)... Still, it is food for thought. As an aside, I might allow Fighting Men to have a +1 to hit and/or damage with a mace, to give a bit more incentive to use this weapon. Or maybe not; it depends on the combat rules (official and homebrew) one is using. A good set of rules, however crafted, must take into account the enhanced striking power of a mace, and its ease of use.

For TFT the situation is more straightforward since that ruleset uses a skill system. As originally written the rules lump clubs, maces, and axes together under one talent (Axe/Mace). This does not really make sense, so I propose the following new IQ 6(!) talent:

IQ 6
CLUB (0). Ability to use any weapon on CLUBS table. Note that there is no IQ cost associated with this talent, thus everyone “knows” it, but it is listed here because at least a low human-like intelligence is required to use.
SPEAR (1). Ability to use any weapon listed on the SPEARS table (q.v.). Also allows figure to throw the weapon, if permitted.

Note that the CLUBS table will include the mace and morningstar. Also, I included the SPEAR talent as contrast to show a slightly less intuitive/instinctual (though still very simple) skill that does cost 1 IQ. These talents, by the by, are part of a more comprehensive rewrite I am doing of the TFT Talents - fodder for a future post.

Certainly very interesting weapons that pack quite a wallop! And I will leave off with this wonderful Filk Song, that I had first heard many years ago but only recently managed to find the lyrics for:

A GRAZING MACE

(verses 1-5 by Skald-Brandr Toralfsson
verse 6 is the original anonymous creation
verse 7 from the HOPSFA Hymnal 3rd Edition)

A grazing mace, how sweet the sound, that felled my foe for me
I bashed his head, he struck the ground, and thus came victory

My mace has taught my foes to fear, that mace my fear relieved
How precious did my mace appear, when I my mace received

Through many tourneys wars and fairs, I have already come
My mace has brought me safe thus far, my mace will bring me home

The King has promised good to me, his word my hope secures
I will his shield and weapon be, when he gives me my spurs

And when my mace my foeman nails, that mortal strife shall cease
And we'll possess within our pale, a life of joy and peace

A grazing mace, how sweet the sound that flattened a wretch like thee!
Whose head is flat, that once was round; done in by my mace....and me!

A grazing mace, how sweet the sound that smites a foe like thee
You're left there lying on the ground, you've left the field to me!

tune: "Amazing Grace"
@parody @SCA @filk

Gothic Mace Project

I apologise for the long delay in posts. I've been very busy over the last several months and just haven't had time. While I have in fact several draft posts that are 80% or even 90% ready, I just haven't been able to push one past the finish line for awhile, until now.

I actually completed this one awhile back, but am only just getting around to discussing it. Below are a pair of maces, the bottom one being in the "original" configuration (except the grip which was re-wrapped) and the top one heavily reworked to be more historically correct. The modified one was bought used off of e-Bay and was in need of significant TLC. These are both very early Arms & Armor examples of this type (c. 1986), and have since been replaced with a more accurate model based more closely off of A978 in the Wallace Collection.


Indeed, when I received it, I discovered that the weld bead that held the head (which was screwed on to the end of the shaft) had failed at some point, and been glued (!?) in place. I was stunned to see that! I have no real explanation as to how this happened - the previous owner professed no knowledge of it, and I tend to believe him. Weird. However, it made my rework much easier, since I was able to simply unscrew the head and get to business!

For the project I made several changes to the original mace. In outline, I reworked the head to make it look more like Wallace A978, grinding and filing decorative cutouts onto the flanges, and generally polishing and cleaning up the detail. The haft was rather crude and in rough shape; it was bent, had an uneven twist, and was marred with unsightly grind marks that had not been properly cleaned up. A fair amount of effort went into straightening and polishing it. Worst of all, the guard and pommel discs were simply tack welded to the hexagonal shaft, as opposed to forging/grinding down the grip area of the shaft to make a period correct tang for the weapon. I corrected all of these faults before reassembling and having the head professionally rewelded back onto the haft.

Step by step, the first work was on the head, which involved mostly grinding, but also a lot of hand filing to get all of the little "flourish" details put in, as seen in these pictures:




There was also a fair amount of clean up to remove unsightly grind marks and other work to crisp up some features that were not executed as well as they could have been. Then, I reworked the grip/hilt area, removing the guard disks and creating two copper alloy bits, one for the divider between the haft and the guard, and a peen block in the form of a thick six-petaled "flower." The grip area was ground down to make more of a tang as one would find on a sword - there is a battle axe shown in one of Oakeshott's books that features this method of construction, complete with a wheel pommel.

The grip was done in two halves, glued in place, bound with a leather thong, and then covered in thin leather dyed in an oxblood shade. The following pictures show the hilt both in progress and after completion:








So there you have it! A very ambitious project, that came out pretty well. Were I to do it over again I would make a few minor changes, the most significant being a slimming down and reshaping of the grip, with a goal of making it hexagonal in cross-section, a detail I noted in close up photos of A978 that I have seen subsequent to completing this project. Otherwise, this is an excellent example of the grim yet beautiful arms of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. One can certainly smite with great authority with this mace! Couple more pix of the finished weapon:




By the by, this mace is for sale - $450 shipped anywhere in the Continental U.S. (other locations we would need to discuss). Any interested parties feel free to contact me in the comments section.