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 The flail: real or fantasy weapon?

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SteveL
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PostSubject: The flail: real or fantasy weapon?   Wed Feb 11, 2009 3:43 pm

According to Paul B. Newman, author of Daily Life in the Middle Ages (p. 227), the ball-and-chain flail probably wasn't widely used during the Middle Ages, likely for these reasons:

  • the extra reach afforded by the chain can be matched by extending the length of the handle itself instead;
  • the flexibility of the chain reduces the force of the blow relative to the rigid handle of a a spiked club;
  • it was difficult to control in combat.

Some counterpoints of my own:

  • perhaps the chain is lighter than the equivalent length of handle, increasing the acceleration of the ball (then again, a chain might be heavier than the same length of wood);
  • perhaps the ball attains a greater velocity than a hafted weapon by being swung in a rapid circle, an effect similar to that of a sling (but then, who has time for a preparatory swing that would also broadcast a coming blow?).

Thoughts?

Also, in response to the notion that a flail can wrap around a defender's shield or parrying weapon, I would think that the defender would automatically allow for this by trying to block the ball itself, rather than the chain.
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kubera

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PostSubject: playing with fails   Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:04 pm

At one of our Rover thing we found out that flails had the ability to go over the shield and bonk the head if you aim it so the chain hit the top edge of the shield and then carried down

Now of course this was against people who knew no more than the person with the flail and there might be a perfectly simple defence against this.

I agree that unless you spin it around gaining momentum the fail would have less impact than a shafted weapon and would be ungainly and slow bringing back into swinging position. To spin it around to gain speed would just encourage a shield bash or a quick poke with a sword .
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PostSubject: Re: The flail: real or fantasy weapon?   Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:25 pm

I have the footman's flail as being a fairly potent weapon (mainly due to its length), but maybe I'll tone it down or eliminate it and the horseman's flail altogether. It's a shame, because I think it's a "picturesque" weapon. (Would it be missed? How many AD&D characters have ever used a flail?)

It's not that Mailed Fist is hard-core realistic, but I have to know in my mind that certain things make sense.

Maybe we can come up with a way to salvage the flail. I'd like to keep it, if possible. Maybe Newman is mistaken. The Wikipedia entry doesn't cite sources for the flail.
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PostSubject: A reprieve?   Wed Feb 11, 2009 5:08 pm

It seems to me that a combatant armed with a flail can get closer to his opponent, inhibiting the latter's efforts to parry or deflect the flail's blow. Thus, the chain (not the ball) comes into contact with the defender's shield, shoulder, or helmet (etc.) and the ball swings around and strikes him from behind. Also, it would seem that the ball might accelerate as it arcs into a smaller circle of motion.
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PostSubject: Re: The flail: real or fantasy weapon?   Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:20 am

This is pretty much what happened at the Rover event. Craig had a large ball of masking tape attached to a length of rope. This rope was in turn attached to a tent peg. (Hey-it was low tech, but it worked) I would think that even if you knew that your oppponent had a flail, you wouldn't be completly successful in blocking his attacks as you wouldn't know exactly where he was going to aim the flail. For this reason, some attacks would get through. One would assume that training in the use of shields would cover how to defend yourself against this sort of thing, and as you got better, fewer (but not all) attacks would get through.
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PostSubject: Re: The flail: real or fantasy weapon?   Sun Feb 15, 2009 2:40 pm

Every chain flail that i have seen has had only a few links. I think that the idea is not so much to have a long chain that extends the weapon but simple to provide a bendy part that can be used at any angle.

Was there any discussion of the physics behind having a bendy part to the flail? I think the idea is similar to that spear throwing stick thing.

I think a flail is a cool weapon. It would be a shame to lose it.
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