Combat Roleplay: Types of Combat Situations, Part One.
A Guide Discussing the Finer Points of Different Fighting Scenarios.
Hello, and welcome to, what is likely no surprise, a new guide regarding Combat within Roleplay!
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So, if you're tuning in again from last time, we discussed what factors make great fighters. We discussed how some traits were merely equivalent manifestations simply taken to one polar extreme or another (raging fury versus calm focus). We also discussed how equipment plays a part in the activity you're trying to do, some equipment being better suited for certain challenging scenarios. We also quantify how certain physiological aspects of a fighter may (or more likely - may not), come into play in a fighting situation. If you haven't read the prior guide, worry not, there is no prior reading for this lecture! Though, I might encourage giving it a glance.
Well, all of that is great. We know how to build our characters so they'll be great fighting folk, that are balanced and fun to play, right? Well, sort of. We talked about the positive qualities that capable fighters will possess. But, we only really started talking about why they possess these, with specific examples doing the most to highlight these cases. We talked about physical height being only more and more advantageous as the weapons decrease in size, down to bare hands and feet giving the most advantage to someone taller than you (unless they're a LOT taller than you.)
So, in this guide, we'll be talking about the different fighting situations different fighters will enter, and how they specialize towards these tasks. The heavily armored front-line soldier, and the more lightly-armored, travelling explorer will not be suited to the same situations. They also may compliment each other, be advantageous to another in certain ways, or disadvantageous to others in their own methods.
We'll work towards establishing a strong line of functioning types of fighter! I do apologize if this guide becomes painfully long. Specifically here in Part One, we'll deal with your standard combatant type that's going into combat directly. We'll have beginners, everyday self-defense, light infantry, moderate infantry, heavy infantry, and super-heavy infantry
A Meet for Tea, Over Battleaxes: Discussing the Primary Features of Fighting Situations.
“It's no more than swordplay on a larger scale. You draw his guard, then... stab! Slash! And either his head is off, or yours.” - Conan, The Black Colossus (Robert E. Howard)
Perhaps no truer words have been spoken with regards to battle, yes?
Well, could be, in some contexts, but this one isn't perhaps the most accurate. I chose the quote I did from the Black Colossus, as it perhaps oversimplifies massed combat, but the Black Colossus has a fair bit of Howard's later attempts at recreating military strategy, weapon use, and armor effectiveness correctly. It's a great story, in my opinion, to showcase the depth and breadth of the Hyborian world.
Suffice to say in brief summary, no two fights are exactly the same, but there are some ways that we can look at broad samples of fighting encounters, and make judgments about them. We'll go over a few of those categories briefly before beginning this section:
1: Are you alone, or in a group?
This is a serious concern when it comes to dealing with combat. Numbers are an immediate, and extremely weighty factor in a combat. As more people are added to the situation, the less necessary it is being able to fight really well individually. Suddenly, being cohesive, communicating, being aware of your surroundings, and enabling your own people around you to use their skill to neutralize opposition becomes much more important. If you're focusing intently on dueling one person across from you in a battle, the fellows beside him will take your lack of awareness as their advantage.
2: How necessary is fighting, in terms of what you want to achieve?
In war, the primary goal is establishing superiority over an opposing force, largely using force. This does not necessarily mean that a fight has to be the primary focus. Same with a rogue looking to rob a person as efficiently as possible. In comparing the two, a knight mounted on horseback is much more focused on being effective in (a form of) fighting than the rogue, who is more worried about being efficient in garnishing funds illicitly. An adventurer may need to climb around, carry equipment, be able to negotiate hostile terrain, while a fully armored man-at-arms is decidedly focused on being a terror in battle. That being said, even that fully armored man-at-arms is focused on being an effective soldier, which means more than being completely safe in all situations. In order to be completely safe in all situations, they'd have to take the roll of Coward McCraven hiding back in his fortress.
3: What equipment is being used?
Armor works, we've gone over this before, but we'll restate it. Armor does what it is supposed to do, and that is protect you. Wearing armor makes you more difficult to kill, and makes you more likely to be less seriously wounded in cases where you are harmed. That being said, armor can make everyday activities more difficult, and it can make some arduous activities perilous. Swimming in plate harness is a really bad idea, so adventurers may choose to avoid it when situations call for watery abodes. For a soldier in the midst of a forested skirmish, armor would be perfectly fine.
4: In what environment are you fighting?
Cavalry is an incredible force on open plains, in the barren wastes or grasslands. The charge can be used uninhibited, out maneuvering has no restrictions, and other such things. But, in a forest, or in a mountain pass, the circumstances change. Additionally, horses aren't very good at getting into confined spaces, or enabling soldiers to fight very well packed very close together, standing still. Infantry are vastly useful for holding and taking positions, let alone being able to stick into tight formations.
5: What threats will you be facing?
Are you a peasant with a dagger, or a nobleman with a longsword? Do you have a fricken gun? How does all of this make combat work? It's all different, to be sure. It's easy to carry around a dagger, it's harder to carry around a ten-foot tall spear. Doorways are only so tall, so are roofs, and people all around you don't want to get poked. It's hard to carry a stick on your back, let alone a ten-foot spear. A sword can defend you from people when they strike at you. A gun can only really defend you by neutralizing people before they harm you, it's not very efficient at parrying. Perhaps more important than just a general knowledge of fighting and expertise, is your character's specific familiarity with threats. Perhaps you're a noble who is well suited to cavalry fighting, and armored tournaments. Would you have much inclination of what to do if someone rushed you with a dagger from five-feet away while you're in your fancy clothes?
Though there are obviously many more, countless more, factors in determining the effectiveness of certain fighter characteristics in a given situation, these five bullet points are a good starting point. Consider these as they come up repeatedly in the future sections of this guide.
The First Situation Fighters Face: The Beginners.
The most broad, and perhaps most numerous, type of fighter there is.
So, what do all the best fighters have in common? Well, they all started from somewhere. They were all beginners at some point.
And, obviously, that isn't meant as an insult in any way. Beginners are beginners for a reason. Whether they are just beginning to learn how to develop fighting skills for confrontation and have no real experience, or they have some basic experience but no real understanding of the science behind their actions, or some admixture between the two, you'll find beginners of all types. Whether this is your peasant levy who is being raised into an army only really having done drills against a wooden post, never having really fought another person seriously aside from some stray fistfights. This may also be your local mugger who is knowledgeable in how to rob people at knifepoint, but out in an open and fair fight might only be able to swing an stab incoherently.
Additionally, beginners likely have the worst time dealing with equipment. While at the upper end of this spectrum, a sufficient amount of this inability should be gone, for those starting it will be the worst. Some will be unaccustomed to the weight of a sword in their hands - particularly heavy swords like a falchion, a rapier (NOT A LIGHT SWORD), a cutting-oriented longsword, etc. While I would say most weapon familiarity could be mastered by a beginner, their hands and limbs no longer getting tired from use - armor is a separate concern. Armor takes awhile to get used to, and demands an overall fitness from its wielder, in addition to inspiring muscle growth in the wearer to accommodate the extra load spread about the body. The ability to wear armor, while not a skill, is a definite physical capability. No matter your fitness level, it will fatigue you faster than not wearing armor to begin with, and most of the heaviest armors available will be uncomfortable, and impeding to the wearer at first. So, a beginner learning to wear armor will likely experience the worst of the trouble of it, progressing through to a level of competency with the specific armor that they're wearing.
Additionally, while a beginner may have some other skills to integrate towards their fighting, they may not cooperate as well as first thought. A lumberjack may have the upper-body strength to deal with the felling of trees, but people are softer and squishier than trees. They also move faster than trees. An over-reliance on attempting to split a man like a log may open them up to dangerous situations. More so than a fighter with more skill, who integrates others into his fighting.
Suffice to say, being a beginner is rough. But again, it is where the best of all fighters begin! Sadly though, there isn't really too many situations beginners can flourish in, save perhaps the chance to be utterly unpredictable. Most situations put a beginner at a disadvantage, the most level playing field being against other beginners.
The Everyman and Everyday: Fighting in Everyday Self-Defense.
"Welcome to Holiday Inn, madam! May we help you with your pike? It appears to be thrice the clearance of our doorway."
We all go about our daily lives, we like having things go well for us, a nice easy day, walking down the street nice and comfortably. But, we may someday be faced with some blotchy-faced toad of a man, wielding some kind of club perhaps, demanding that we surrender our property and dignity to them. Now, complying may be in our best interest for some of us. But for others, we might be ready to act in defense of ourselves, and our Magic the Gathering cards that this brigand so wants to seize!
But, he has a club! He's dangerous! Yes, but if we were appropriately prepared, either by anticipation or just outright regularity, we might be on a more even playing field.
The premise behind weapons and armor for self-defense is that it's largely carried, not often used. It may be said this for effectively all forms of arms, but I would argue this one specifically. As, when you go out to Wal-Mart to pick up the chicken, you're not preparing to be the most effective cavalry-person you possibly can be, lancing down other heavy-horse on a field of battle. Not quite. Taking your spear out to go deposit your paycheck might be comforting, but it might also be a pain in the ass. Whereas, the modern handgun, or a medieval sword and buckler, or just a medieval sword, or even just a medieval dagger would largely all be a better fit. A lot easier than carrying an assault rifle down to your local ATM; both socially and physically.
So, what's the deal with your typical self-defense situations? Largely, convenience. Human-beings like convenience, and this is no exception. Wearing harness and carrying war weapons everyday is exhausting, and socially obtuse. It's like the modern open-carry argument. If you're carrying a rifle out in public, for everyone to see, blatantly, you're sending a message. Even if it's not intended, or it's intended to be positive (separate issue), it's a message that other people will notice - especially considering that it's relatively easy in the modern day to conceal your weapon, as opposed to a sword or shield. So, both physical and social convenience are major concerns.
Some might say perhaps that symbology and status become ingrained in these as well, as a part of your image, as humans also enjoy being fashionable. Yeah, perhaps. Though I might wager that a number of these ideal images of status and prestige come from their use. The longsword as a privileged self-defense weapon for nobles, the weapon being legislated against the common layman from use. The use of the longsword dictated its function, primarily being that of armored men against other armored men. That function presented the image, and the fact that more knife-constructed swords (created as to avoid these weapon laws) tend to be one-handed than two-handed suggest to me that the everyday carrying of a one-handed Grosse Messer was more common in the everyday, and perhaps the two-handed was more reserved to those armored battlefield situations.
So, suffice to say, I tend to argue function influences form, but that isn't always the case.
But anyways, going easy tends to be the go-ahead. So, what do we see in everyday self-defense. Well, we went through most of them. The one-handed sword, the two-handed sword (that isn't enormously large), the buckler paired with a sword, the dagger, a sword paired with a dagger (typically one designed for parrying), the baton (any kind of stick really), sometimes a sword paired with a sword, and such of the like. Armor often isn't taken into consideration, as armor takes time and a physical toll on the wearer. Someone wearing armor every day would effectively be dealing with the loads of a highly trained, professional soldier, and wouldn't go to the trouble unless it was warranted - effectively making the persona professional soldier. But even those highly trained, professional soldiers shed certain layers of protection when so able.
So, what does this mean for the effectiveness of a person out-and-about in a self-defense situation? Actually, pretty good.
While they are certainly not ready for a battlefield situation, for simply being on their own, for being a fighting man with equivalent skill to the person they're fending off. They are not prepared, in most situations, to deal with armor. But, they are lightly enough equipped to go about their daily activities, and even activities that are of high demand. If they would need to climb out of a burning building, they would likely be hardly impeded - if at all. Similarly if they were to need to swim across a stream. If they had to pick up and run away from - or after - some threat, they wouldn't have much, if anything, slowing them down. Somebody pick your pocket, or feel up your lady / guy? Chase them down and punch them if you're able.
THAT being said, I will say, unarmored combat can be very dangerous. Even skilled opponents can die from small missteps, the slightest hesitation, or slightly impeded judgement. That being said, clothing that a person wears could be more serious and prepared for self defense. The historical doublet is a good example, so too are officer's coats. It's not a major difference, but it will help some. Though, these could offset some of those earlier advantages - at times.
So, if you're out and about, consider defending yourself appropriately! It'll do you a lot of good, even if you just run away from the heavily armored goon!
Going in Light: Fighting as Lightly Equipped Infantry Soldiers
"After fixing up some supper for our section, Jenkins was scared he lost his helmet. I waited fifteen minutes to point out we was cookin' out of it."
So, warfare. The image of tens of thousands of armored knights charging in on horseback to lance each other down, and fight one-on-one until one side cedes to victory.
Not really. Those numbers are pretty gross in exaggeration. Knights are expensive units, demanding upkeep, compensation, and long training. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands, could happen in your serious battles, but often, they are outnumbered by the other forms of troops under command. By their very nature, troops that require more resources and more time to develop are less numerous in military endeavors.
So, it should surprise no one that the most common form of soldier throughout most of history has been the light infantry unit.
These were typically soldiers of conscripted or enlisted men, locally trained, drilled some under a sergeant perhaps, equipped with whatever they could provide for themselves, and assigned thusly. It was one of the least paid roles of military service, and perhaps the most likely to suffer casualties. They do, however, serve a number of important functions, and feature as a standard unit in almost all military organizations throughout history, which few other troop types could boast.
Light infantry has its greatest asset perhaps in its numbers. Having a large amount of light infantry can give a numerical superiority over a more well-equipped, well-drilled enemy, given the proper circumstances. Additionally, they are rather versatile, and can be made to suit the given structure of the army rather well. Sometimes they can be thought of as the buffer that holds most of the military's key formations in place. A humorous advantage to the nature of light infantry is in that very fact that they are not your desirable, prestigious troops that you anticipate to defeat those of the enemy in up front combat. As such, you have troops to disperse as a trap against foes you would not want to engage directly. You also have standing units that can freely occupy objectives or defensible structures while reserving your strongest bodies of men, and they can also be used to reinforce any other units you have on the field. That's not even getting into the less benign strategies of warfare, in acknowledging that these units are - perhaps - expendable. The time it takes to replace a dozen light infantry is liable to be less than time taken to replace a knight.
That being said, there are drawbacks to being within the light infantry, even those that aren't inexperienced levies. Among them, unarmored combat in itself is particularly dangerous, making confrontation more likely to be fatal than otherwise. This pairs with the second factor that due to their numerical superiority, it is likely that at least some of them will end up in some front-line action, putting some at significant risk. Additionally, they do not move faster in-action than cavalry does, so escape from mounted units in the short term will be drastically inconvenient. The variety of situations they may be asked to perform may be less beneficial to their morale, men who haven't become familiar with their lot not having a pattern of action to rely upon. So, summarily, the dangers are rather frequent, and opportunities to advance in performance are perhaps less numerous than for others. Perhaps it is to say that the role of light infantry is less forgiving than some others can be.
That being said, their equipment is typically limited, and varies based upon time in history. Often, the weapon is something inexpensive, a spear, a basic sword (or similar counterpart - mace, axe, warhammer, etc) bought second-hand in the middle ages paired with a simple shield, and a robust knife of some sort. A more enabled light-infantry soldier may have a spear, sword (or equivalent), and shield, with a dagger for back-up. Most often they wear little to no armor. The first and most important piece of armor they would acquire would most likely be a helmet, with head injuries being highly dangerous. These helmets typically would be open-faced, to allow easy communication and breathing. After that, torso armor would follow suit, with some sort of padded garment being used, and later on taking some chainmail as it continued to reduce in price. Later into the renaissance and further on, armor would start to fall progressively out of use. But, for those who saw regular sword-fighting, some amounts of armor may still be use.
So, if your character is a bit on the broke side, or just got summoned to war by his feudal lord, consider your role in the army as an equally valid one to all others!
Between a Rock and a Hard Plate: Classifying and Fighting as a Moderate Infantry Soldier
"Not possible, everything is entirely delineated between yes or no, black or white, one or zero. There's no such thing as a 'grey area.'"
That is a quote from many-an armchair historians, scientists, and such of the like on the internet, yes? Well, I'm sure as you have found in a number of these cases, these claims are not so quite easily defended as they seem. Some are, in fact, actually quite wrong. And this is where we will begin in our conversation of a moderately equipped infantry soldier.
Did they exist? Well, the short answer is yes. But, I am sure this is an unsatisfactory answer for many. A more exact answer might be that the original question is too broad. One can argue the existence of certain infantry types in specific armies, in specific periods of history, in specific parts of the world, and get different answers. As an immediate result, we must accept that certain types of infantry did not exist in certain places, and may have existed in a different form than in other situations.
A more specific answer to the question of moderately equipped infantry's existence, the answer would have to be that soldiers armed to that extent certainly existed in history. Compromise between heavily armed and lightly armed troops has existed throughout mankind's invention of conventional warfare, and definitions of those two have changed significantly over time and place. So, by the very crass definitions at our disposal, a moderately equipped company of soldiers could've been the standard of a military. But, this is where it gets more complicated. How were they treated, or regarded? Even more so, how often was it for a military to field Light infantry, Heavy infantry, and then field in addition to them a Moderate Infantry? I expect this is where I can expect the smiles of my detractors. I don't have any references in history to any militaries having a reserved force of Moderate Infantry, saying that they existed separately to their Heavy or Light counterparts.
So, what does this mean? I believe it suggests that the likelihood of finding an opening in your local organized military with a Moderate Infantry unit is surprisingly slim. BUT, this does not mean they did not exist. But, you might ask how this could be? The best answer I could give is that often they were incorporated into another staple of unit, as to streamline military strategy, and avoid dividing the men too few between specific formations.
An example: if you have a number of men-at-arms who are very well off, equipped with halberds, a warhammer on backup, open-faced helmets, breastplates or some coat-of-plates variant overtop chainmail, you'll have a reasonably well armored fellow. With enough of these gents, you might have enough to create a solid regiment. But, you've also got your heavy cavalry, that may very well need to dismount for tactical reasons during the battle. These are guys with heavy plate armor, big boy visored helmets, primarily armed with a poleax when they're on the ground, with a longsword as backup, and every gap in the plate covered by chainmail. You might not have enough of these guys to constitute your own heavy infantry on their own, perhaps. BUT, if you merge these two types of troops together, not only do you bolster their numbers, but you gain the effective bonus of having two types of units within one formation, making them more versatile at the expense of being slightly less uniform / cohesive.
So, what we can see is that maybe a moderate infantry unit might not be likely to exist, there are places for units who may fit such a bill to be incorporated into the armies of those powers that be.
So, how might these troops be armed? Well, suffice to say, it can vary quite a deal! They may be somewhat lightly armed, perhaps with some armor, and some variety of dedicated fighting weapons. They could also be perched on the further end of the spectrum, very heavily armed, nigh on walking tanks on the battlefield. Having the effective nature of being flexible means it's hard to highlight at the point where it starts or ends, but before we indicted that typically these moderate soldiers filter into either heavy or light infantry. So, they may exist in the same armament, with some differentiation as these soldiers, or may exist in the continuum between the established Heavy or Light units, and then filtered between them.
I would say a good estimation is a sufficient degree of armor, ranging from padded armor, to maille, even further to some forms of plated armor. I would wager that these armors should lean on the side of being efficient, functional for use on the field, and perhaps less protective in the face of more dedicated armaments. An open faced bascinet is very effective, but one with a side-pivoting visor can be much more defensive, but requires the added investment / maintenance. Weapons could vary all over the place, but should focus on having a primary weapon fit for combat, and suitable weapons on backup to defense one's life. Spear, shield, and sword. Halberd, crossbow and pavise, warhammer, and what have you.
So, our focus on a moderately armed soldiery is perhaps an important one to having a more holistic understanding of infantry formation through historical militaries. Don't be afraid to draw outside the lines!
Trampling the Foe Underfoot: Fighting as a Heavy Infantry Soldier
"You sure got a lot of armor on!" - Agathan Archer, from Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
That is the truth, it can be said, for we're getting into the tough of our soldier meat. As it stands, we're prepared to talk about heavy infantry. Those troops who are seriously armed and armored, prepared to take battle to their enemies with serious intent!
Quite the subject.
One of the primary things to mention about these fighters that they are most certainly armored to some degree, and well armed. This is perhaps the best dividing line between light infantry and the heavy infantry. These soldiers are prepared to engage in serious combat, and their equipment reflects this. Armor works, it protects your life, and significantly reduces the catastrophic lethality of unarmored combat. Having specialized weapons for combat makes these units professionally effective at their duties, and often derive long periods of training to dedicate themselves to the art. These troops are prized, valuable, and highly capable. They can run the most vital functions of your military, and do so effectively. They fight well, and are less likely to sustain serious casualties in battle. They also are likely to be more disciplined, and mentally prepared for the stresses of these situations than other troopers. Suffice to say these units may be like to scatter entire ranks of inferior troops before them when tactically poised to shine.
Though, this may mean that they aren't quite so numerous as your other soldiery. Maybe, maybe not. It depends on your civilization. But typically they are less numerous than your general soldiery, but the degree to this disparity varies.
The drawbacks to these units is perhaps the more obvious notion that they are typically specialized units that are less numerous than your general soldiery. As such, they can be tactically met, or naturally overwhelmed if not used appropriately. Large scale conflicts and small scale conflicts are quite different. While most often skill wins the day in small confrontations, this cannot be said for massed battle. In large such confrontations, tactics, cohesion and overall probability are the deciding elements of the conflict more than an individual soldier's fighting skills. So, perhaps the larger and more dangerous the conflict, the less return you'll get out of simply thrusting your heavy-infantry forward. Just ask Ancient Rome.
Even so being, there is something that must be said. Even for these highly professional soldiers, it is noting that there is a continuum on which their armor functions. Typically from a moderate level of armor, to a certain extent of heavy armor. THAT BEING SAID, there is a point beyond which there can be said to be TOO MUCH ARMOR. For a soldier to be effective on the battlefield, they need to be able to move, pass obstacles, fight, breathe, communicate, and operate efficiently as a unit in a larger military. If a man was to be perfectly safe, he wouldn't step onto a medieval battlefield, he or she would be tucked away in a castle keep somewhere far, far away. Being a soldier involves taking the necessary risks as to be functional on the battlefield.
That being said, the level of acceptable armor changes through period and place. Some heavy infantry, who were predominantly cavalry, such as late medieval / renaissance knights, adopted extreme levels of armor in later period. Other knights may favor such lighter equipment, as a brigandine, which accomplishes a similar level of armor with greater mobility. The weapons of your equipment may vary, but typically may be explained as a dedicated battlefield weapon, and those in reserve should the primary fail. Whether this is a fighter with a large shield, a mace, and a warhammer on backup. Or perhaps an English billman with a large polearm intended for use against cavalry and other armored troops, with a sword of some sort (if not a paired object with it) to fall back on. More weapons may be owned by such a soldier, but they will only be able to carry so many with them at a given time, during a fight. So, just because your heavy infantry is heavy, doesn't mean that there's no limit on how heavy they can be.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that some varieties of heavy kit are not suitable for one man to wield on his own. Certain pieces of equipment, such as a full cuirass, helm and great bascinet, fully enclosed leg-armor and arm-armor, let alone having to cart all of that along with you, it a tremendous effort to maintain and place upon yourself. While it could be done by one person, if designed to be, it would not be an immediate process. Let alone the necessary task again of storing it, maintaining it, and perhaps even having to repair it while on campaign. These may very well be beyond some individual soldiers. It may be worth examining which pieces of equipment that it is possible for a heavy soldier to have easy access to, and easy use out of. It may also be worth noting that while armor is not some horribly restricting cage that you thrust yourself in to lumber about, it will tax your stamina, and make you move more slowly than you would move out of it. An athletic person can mitigate these downsides, but it is worth noting; especially when comparing the travelling speed over-land of your war party.
It's also worth noting at this point. While you can swim with considerable difficulty in chainmail, maybe with your helmet tied to you (highly advised it not be on your head), you can cross some distance over water if the currents aren't going to get you. But, with anything beyond that. Anything with sufficient plates as a weight will begin to really demonstrate how bad of an idea it would be to fall into water wearing heavy armor. From lamellar, to coats of plates, to breastplates and more. Swimming would be incredibly dangerous if you can't drag yourself to shore in a relatively short time. Being out on a river, out at sea, or other such watery environs could invite a terrible fate.
Though swimming isn't such a bad idea, climbing can still be done in most of the armors of this level. Its weight will be a challenge, and it will be exhausting, but physically overcoming the challenge could be done by those athletic enough. Range of motion and distribution of weight should allow for minimal technical complications.
So, for your serious warfare needs, remember that your heavy infantry are a serious asset to your campaign, but not a cure-all to any on-the-ground issue you encounter.
Man of Steel, Hold the Kryptonite: Identifying and Fighting as a Super Heavy Infantry Unit
"Hah, was that a lance, or a dry pool noodle? A PINK, dry pool noodle!"
So, you may remember that in the Heavy Infantry section, we mentioned that there was a limit to how heavy armored or equipped a heavy infantry soldier could be while retaining effectiveness. So, if this is a case, and there's a point in which there's no real return for armoring up any further... why the hell am I talking about a section beyond that talking about Super Heavy Infantry units?
An excellent question.
Suffice to say, I don't think I know of any soldier units that were ever classified specifically as super-heavy. Not even video games go so far, going at their best often to a Light, Medium, Heavy trichotomy. But, again, at times things fall outside the realm of our best-laid efforts to apply magical categorization for all things. It's almost as if we're being too arbitrary. Har har.
Resuming the point. Assume you're an elite knight of the early renaissance, wearing a great suit of steel designed to take massive strikes from strong lances. Goodness, that's some strong stuff. You're nearly skin-bound in steel with your great bascinet helmet, you're wearing a thicker-than-most breastplate to your cuirass, perhaps with a throat-plate that firmly secures everything in place - though you can't really turn your head at all. Now, say that your commander demands you dismount. You don't want to, as you're a cavalry guy! But, because you need to do infantry things, and you all have been so stubborn to dismount in the past that refusing to do so is now punishable by death under your king, so you comply.
Your armor isn't quite suited to being on the ground, but it'll keep you safe at least. You can try to understand the orders being shouted at your deafening helmet. You can stay in the fight and beat on people for awhile before becoming completely exhausted. You're not quite ineffective, but you're less effective than you could be by quite a bit. But hey, you're Lord Guy, you don't care about killing people for a living, it's just a part of the job before you get back to Chateau d'Guy and rule your lands. This is not so different than the likelihood that Roman Generals wore a heavy form of armor (Lorica Plumata) that would've been a bit much (economically, ergonomically, and functionally) for your typical Roman Legionnaire to add to their general safety - and the fact that these generals travelled on horseback. If they would dismount and fight, they too would be in a certain level above that of their heavy infantry fellows.
We also may want to take into our imagination non-warfare combatants. We may look at the prominent jousting armors of the late medieval / renaissance period, and how enormously well armored they are. These do not have a mirror on most battlefield armors. There are -some- depictions of people wearing jousting armor components (most frequently the Frog-Mouthed helmet) in period artwork, but to my knowledge there are no survivals to suggest this was done with frequency. These jousting armors were intended to keep people as safe as possible, to make certain that the sport could be performed; albeit, a combat sport. So, some of those things we were thinking about with a battlefield, or general combat situation now do not apply!
But, since we're roleplayers, we can take this a step even further! Imagine now you have a world full of monsters, actual monsters, not just scumbag humanoids and animals! Big bad dragons, giant snakes, giant spiders, cockatrices, big snappy turtles, what have you! If you need to go and kill one, it'll be dangerous! If you have a group, it can be done! But, someone might get really hurt, even if they're wearing normal armor. BUT, someone could be wearing armor like this, or super special 'monster dummy' armor to take a beating for the group! Maybe a couple of these guys to trade out the beating, while a few others do the killing. And, again even in our dismounted cavalry guy, we could probably drag him into the heavy infantry, and mix up the units, just like in our Moderately Armed Soldier example.
So, there's some examples about what they'd be doing, but how would they be doing it?
Well, in terms of weapons, really anything goes. Whatever they can get their hands on. Lances, polearms, sidearms, whatever. If your universe has guns, give them some guns too, sure. These guys would likely be well enough off to get whatever they're getting their hands on. As per armor, it'll be the biggest and heaviest they can get away with for their given station, before or after considering that they might end up on foot. The cavalryman didn't plan for going on foot, but knew that it could potentially happen. But, your monster-hunter abuse-junky might have an idea that he's going into a ground fight going in. This may influence some of their choices.
It may be worth noting that this armor is of particularly high maintenance, and particularly tedious attendance. Carrying it around, equipping it, trying to move around in it, all of these will be quite the pain. This is the armor that tends to lend the idea of knights being awkward and unwieldy. From a crotch full of plates, to a completely immobile neck, to armpits that have about as much range of motion as a vacuum cleaner, and a substantial amount of weight bearing down over the expanse of your body, you have some challenges. Going for a swim is likely going to result in rusty, metal tomb. Going for a climb will likely leave you little off the ground, or set up for a big fall. Hearing, feeling around, range of motion, and communicating through the armor, all big issues to compliment its heat ventilation issues. Couple that with the time it would take to get on and off, and you've got some kind of recipe for trouble in many dangerous situations.
All of the downsides being said, it really must be mentioned, that these armors protect against massive trauma, and provide the minimal likelihood of weapons getting past the surface. This is some A-Grade, save my life, but make me less functional attire. Slower, more awkward, much heavier, much more encumbered, but damn if the enemy won't have to work a bit to get you to die.
So, consider your armament wisely before deciding to put on a massive suit of carbon steel.
So ends here Part One of this guide! I hope to come back with part two, which will cover fighters of a different nature, those who come mounted atop beasts of battle! I hope to see you well.
Until then, have a good one!
Farewell, peers and masters!