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Sean99

Bronze vs. Iron Weapons

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The rpg I am working on is going to be set in a world similar to the ancient middle-east, roughly during the time humanity was making the transition from the bronze age to the iron age. So I got to thinking that it could make for some interesting possibilities if some cultures had access to iron while others were still stuck with bronze. (I chose this setting for the religious systems associated with that point in history, not because of the shift in technology, that was just a coincidence.) I don''t know anything about metallurgy or weapons or warfare, but I do know that bronze weapons were not as sharp as iron weapons and lost their edge much more quickly. Does anyone have any ideas on what else I would need to take into consideration when equipping characters with bronze weapons (and armor)? Also, just how fast would you expect a bronze blade to dull and how much less damage than iron should it inflict? I''m hoping some of you war-gamers have played games which have addressed the use of bronze-age technology and can help me out. Sean

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I think you''re onto a winner here. These two metals could make the two forces extremely diverse.

Consider:

How hard the raw materials are to get (depth of mines, etc.)
How hard the metals are to extract from their ores.
How much manpower and skill is needed to work the metals.
All the above, but with time taken and amount of fuel needed to perform each.
Also:
Strength/weight ratio, and room for expansion and development in each technology.
Resistance to wear, use and environment

EG

Iron is an element, bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. This means that bronze is more complex to make (you need two seperate mines for the ores, then two works to extract the metals from their ores, then you need to combine them in correct ratios), but you''d need to look up whether it actually needs more energy to make or not. Bronze technology cannot really be improved much, but iron can be reacted with other metals to produce various grades of steel.

Iron rusts, badly, so bronze is better suited to wet climates.

I don''t know which is lighter off the top of my head, but whichever has a higher strength to weight ratio could make better hand weapons, but not armour.

Armour DOES need to be heavy, the mass absorbs more momentum from strikes and so less force is felt by the wearer.
There''s an old parlour trick that works like this: a man lies on the floor with a heavy paving slab on his chest. The slab is struck with a sledgehammer, and shatters. The man himself sustains no permanent damage, because the heavy rock absorbs it.

NOTE: I advise that you don''t try this for yourself. If you don''t believe me, ask your neighbourhood physicist.

Gunmetal is a very similar alloy to bronze, so bronze can be made into (guess what!) superior firearms as well as blades.

For gunpowder, you need carbon(charcoal), sulphur(brimstone if you''re feeling archaic today), and potassium nitrate(saltpetre, which I think can be obtained from a certain organic decomposition, but I don''t know which. It might from decomposing plant matter, but don''t quote me on that)

Come to think of it, I don''t know whether you CAN make cannons out of iron. It''s too brittle, and would probably shatter and explode, killing the gunners. You might be able to do it, but your gun barrels would have to be enormous. You might also be able to make projectiles out of it.

Cannon and musket balls are more traditionally made from lead, being dense and so harder hitting, but also soft and self lubricating inside gun barrels, and it''s melting point is so low it can be quickly worked in the field. Blades and guns, on the other hand, need weeks of painstaking labour in factories in your home country, before being shipped to the battlefield. It is not usually practical, or safe, to set up arms factories close to the front line, in case the enemy advance and capture them. Also, you''ve got lots more workers back home.

Iron is magnetic, bronze is not. This may come in useful under a somewhat unusual set of circumstances. Build a huge magnet and suck up all your enemies weapons, heh heh.

If you feel like expanding your timescale a bit, remember that the technology for boring gun barrels allows you to make high quality mechanical parts, eg axle bearings for war vehicles, steam engine cylinders, etc.

Goodbye, and good luck.

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Whoa man... i guess someone had his
ears open in chem class...

no mean to diss here, otherwise,
finally someone is doing a theral
background check.

Salute!

Gil

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I''m no expert, but I thought the principle advantage of iron was that it is common and readily available. So instead of there being much of a qualitive difference between iron and bronze it was a matter of being able to outfit more men with iron weapons.

Jack

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If iron was more common than bronze, wouldn''t the iron age have come first?

In fact, I think it''s the fact that iron armour is stronger and iron weapons keep their edges better that made much of the difference.

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Thanks Captain Insanity, I like the points you made about the strength/weight ratio and bronze being better suited to wet climates.

But what I''m looking for is if anyone has actually reduced the properties of the different metals to game mechanics. Say a typical(steel) long sword does 1d8 points of damage. How should I modify the damage roll if that same sword is made of bronze? I know I could just choose arbitrary numbers, but I am hoping somebody else has already implemented, or at least researched, a bronze vs. iron system that I can use as a model. I''ll do the research on my own if need be, but I don''t have a great interest in arms and armor and I prefer to spend my research time on other aspects of of the cultures I''m basing my world on.

BTW, iron is more common, but you need a much higher temperature to extract it from the ore (and I think it''s more difficult to forge), which is why the bronze age preceded the iron age.

Sean

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Something you really should take into consideration, is that bronze isn''t very hard and thus you can''t make it very sharp. But there is a way to make the bronze real hard - you had to hammer it very thoroughly. Now you were able to grind your sword very sharp, but it broke very easily, espacially, but not only, when fighting angainst iron swords.
So, a bronze sword doen''t have to be that weaker than an iron sword, but bronze dulls much faster, breaks a lot easier and is less effective against most types of armour.

I know this isn''t a modell you can implement directly, but how about letting the player decide how hard his bronze swords should be and thus increasing/decreasing both damage points and the danger of breakig?

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Thanks Vaporisator. If I end up designing the battle mechanics from scratch that is definitely information I can use.

Sean

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