Why would a "modern" fantasy world with firearms still have swords and plate mail?





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  1. #1

    Why would a "modern" fantasy world with firearms still have swords and plate mail?

    I've been thinking about this one for a while, and I kept coming back to that common element in myth: that iron is disruptive to magic. And therein lies a possible answer. Assuming we have a relatively high-magic world, one where it's possible, though not necessarily likely, for anyone with enough cash or the right connections to have some arcane firepower on their side, and furthermore assume that we come up with a system whereby iron is disruptive to magic, and we have a rationale. Metal armor might not be much good against guns, but soldiers in the field still wear it so the other side's mages can't fireball the whole army and be done with it. To get a bit ridiculous, beat cops might very well be issued chain mail so the local street gangs' pet adepts can't magic missile 'em in the back - assuming manufacturing facilities were in place, a chain shirt couldn't be that much more expensive to produce than a kevlar vest, right?

    On the flip side, this also covers the sword angle. Since iron disrupts magic, the obvious "mundane" solution to taking down magical threats (or humans protected by magic) is to use steel weapons. Maybe the mass of iron present has something to do with it - a steel-jacketed bullet might not do squat to nullify a mage armor spell, but a steel sword will cut through it like a hot knife through butter. Reinforce this with a lot of magical "vermin"-type creatures that have DR 15/iron or something like that - they may eat bullets like popcorn, but one good whack with a steel melee weapon and they curl up and die.

    Thoughts?

    - Sir Bob.

  2. #2
    By "modern" I'm assuming you mean near contemporary tech-level. Even in colonial America, with firearms there were also melee weapons. Cavalry sabers, bayonets and so forth made it into the Civil War and the Wild West era.

    For a modern/fantasy genre, which is what I think you are looking for, especially with references to monsters, adding to your ideas:

    - Stealth: swords are quiet, guns make noise.
    - Frequency: guns run out of ammo; swords last until the wielder tires
    - gunpowder might not work at all too close to certain extra-planar creatures.
    - Firebreathing dragons tend to ignite gunpowder.
    - warped space may form around outsiders, so all ranged attacks suffer huge penalties-- a ranged attack might even rebound on the attacker.
    - guns may be too high-tech to be enchanted. An off-the-rack longsword isn't as good as an Uzi, but a +5 longsword is better.

    Hope that helps,
    Greg
    "What kind of monster are you!?!"
    "The worst kind... righteous and pure."

  3. #3
    Ahhh, the easy kind of question I can answer just before going to bed - DUELING CULTRE!!!

    -Alla
    The Gods may forgive - I'm not so helpful...

  4. #4
    Originally posted by The Allamistako
    Ahhh, the easy kind of question I can answer just before going to bed - DUELING CULTRE!!!
    That's a bit of a copout - and an overexploited one at that. Anything that relies on the assumption that everybody on the entire planet plays by the same socially-enforced set of "rules" is a touch hard to swallow.

    - Sir Bob.

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    In my campaign guns are no harder to enchant than swords -- but armor stays around because elvish mythrill and dwarf adamant just aren't as easily penetrated with bullets!
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    The same reason as Dark Sun: The designers couldn't be bothered to change things or think things through.

    The 'iron disrupts magic' is a good idea, though armour heavier than a light breastplate would be quite rare (speed is quite important), though heavy plate armour would still be useful against bullets (and extremely expensive).

    Geoff.

  7. #7
    To follow up on Zhure's answer(s).

    On contemporary Earth, melee weapons and hand-to-hand combat are still very popular. Most military people are issued a knife and trained how to use it. Studies in hand-to-hand are very popular, even outside the military, be it karate, kung-fu, judo, etc...

    Historically, once someone gets a hold of you (i.e. melee combat) a firearm isn't of much use. The Highland Charge was a serious pain to the British army. The solution? They turned their muskets into spears via bayonet (they may have been rifled at the time, can't recall). The d20 system supports this with AoO for using a missle weapon in melee. What better way to follow up on that AoO then with a sword, preferably a magical, flaming vorpal one.

    Walter

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    How about because in all the print products set in a modern world or a world with guns armor provides the exact same benefit against bullets it does against swords :rolleyes: even leather amor provides +2 AC vs bullets. Moreover, you don't get to add your +6 strength bonus to damage with a gun...
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  9. #9
    Originally posted by 2WS-Steve
    How about because in all the print products set in a modern world or a world with guns armor provides the exact same benefit against bullets it does against swords :rolleyes: even leather amor provides +2 AC vs bullets. Moreover, you don't get to add your +6 strength bonus to damage with a gun...
    Okay, house rule: the next person who drags an argument based on existing game-mechanical considerations into a thread that explicity discusses potentially modifying aspects of the game rules gets slapped.

    - Sir Bob.
    Last edited by PenguinKing; Monday, 22nd April, 2002 at 02:39 AM.

  10. #10
    When firearms first appeared, soldiers still wore armor, though lighter armor. See the standard breastplate of the British Civil War era soldiers.

    (Note that the biggest danger to modern bullet proof vest and helmet wearing SWAT-style police is not firarms, but bladed weapons. They are almost totally vulnerable to this sort of melee attack (their armor "cushions", it doesn't deflect sharps). And they do a lot of fighting in close quarters like houses...)

    I think the way it worked was that armor was increasigly useless agains firearms but still very effective against melee weapons. However, the presence of armor also tended to make mobility more important. Thus the balance in the eternal protection/mobility trade-off with armor was changed - armor was suddenly less protective and mobility was suddenly more important, hence the move to lighter armor.

    Note, however, that armor is probably of *some* use against pre-modern firearms. That's why, IMC, firearms *halve* (round down) the AC bonus of armor.

    So, imagine a world with late renaissance firarms tech and DnD magic. Firearms are simple weapons that do somewhat better than crossbow damage (say, 1d12/19-20(x3) for muskets and 1d10/19-20 for pistols), have a somewhat smaller range increment than the longbow (until the invention of rifling) and a heavy crossbow's rate of fire; but halve all armor bonuses to AC.

    Now, remember that the firearms only halve the *armor* bonus, not deflection bonuses. Thus while full plate only gives you a +4 AC bonus, +5 full plate will give you +9. Magic armor is still worth it.

    In my view, in this imaginary world, there would be a move towards lighter armors, but still, people would wear armor.

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