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Real Steel: Fantasy Metals

IridiumRecently, Wolfgang and I were exchanging emails, chasing down a few ideas for some Real Steel. One of the things we discussed was fantasy metals, and then he said this: “Or maybe elven chain is really titanium?”

This is something I’ve often thought about, so I knew right away fantasy metals were going to find their way into Real Steel.

Could Mithril be Titanium?

Let’s start by talking about titanium. A question that is often asked at bladesmithing events, and usually by those with a new interest in the craft, is “why not make knives/swords/blades out of titanium, since it’s better than steel?”

The question is always answered by an accomplished smith with a solid background in blade metallurgy and/or blade history, and always goes something like this:

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Real Steel: Throwing Knives

Throwing KnivesDaggers, darts, and staffs. That was your choice of weapons when you rolled that level 1 mage with 1 hit point and one sleep spell way back when. Many of us chose the dagger or darts (more on darts and spikes another time) because they can be thrown and keep that single hit point out of melee.

The Bad News

Unfortunately, in the real world, throwing knives aren’t very effective. It’s hard to get enough force behind the point to get any real penetration, and it’s very hard to get it to hit point first without knowing the distance to the target. I’m not a physicist (maybe a physicist or an engineer can pipe in?), but it seems that too much energy is lost to angular momentum. And the spin works against you at every turn.

The good news is that gamers don’t care. We’ll make it work.

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Real Steel: Spiked Targe

Targe 001-001Whether called target, targa, targo, or targe, it’s a round shield ranging from approximately 18”–21” in diameter, used by infantry forces in various European armies from the 13th through the 16th centuries. Constructed of wood and usually wrapped with leather or rawhide, it was designed for close quarters combat and offered good protection for its size.

Scottish, and Spiked

The Scots developed a unique style of this type of shield, and the Scottish variety is called a targe. Although most did not have a spike, spikes were not uncommon. They were traditionally made from two or three layers of hardwood laminated with glue and wrapped with leather, using decorative nails of studs holding the leather in place. If there was a spike, it was affixed by threading into a “puddle” of lead that was poured into a boss or “umbo” in the center of the shield.

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Real Steel: Cutlass

Seax cutlass hybrid 010 - 001The cutlass is a short sword in the saber family, usually having a broad, curved blade. It was commonly seen in naval service, most likely due to its ability to cut, thrust, and brawl in close quarters. It was also no doubt used to cut rope, canvas, and even brush when carried as a side arm by landing parties.

This One Is a Hybrid

This is a custom piece that evolved over time as my client and I discussed what he was looking for. We talked about seax, langseax, WWI trench knives, classic Viking swords (but shorter), and D-guard Bowies. What we arrived at was an interesting seax/cutlass hybrid with a steel D-guard. At no point did either of us say the word “cutlass,” but that’s what this mostly resembles.

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Real Steel: Mammen Axe

PathfinderThe Mammen axe is known from a single example found in a grave at Mammen, Denmark, and it dates from about 970-971 CE. The axe is very well made and inlaid with silver, and it was probably ceremonial and purpose-made to be buried with its rich and powerful owner, likely a Viking Jarl.

OK, Not Exactly…

The client for this commission wanted a Mammen-like axe, but wanted to be able to use it for camp chores. Inlay is easily torn out and is usually reserved for ceremonial or art pieces. After some discussion we decided on the design and even included an etching based on art provided by the client. We also decided that I’d use an antique axe head that I already had on hand.

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