I’ve just got a little bit to say about medieval weapons, as I’ve seen a fair number of fantasy movies and books include cringe-worthy use of weaponry. Medieval warfare is one of the few topics I excel in (because that’s definitely far more useful than math), so I figured I could give a little advice for other writers out there.
Large blocks of sword infantry were, uh, worthless. In the medieval rock paper scissors (archers beat spearmen, spearmen beat cavalry, and cavalry beat archers), swordsmen were an outcast.
Swords, for the most part, suck at breaking through armour. They can’t pierce plate, and they’d usually struggle with even lighter armour.
Now, while units of swordsmen were useless, this isn’t to say swords were useless.
Units of archers and spearmen often had arming swords as side-arms, in case enemies closed to melee, or the spears broke, and throughout several points in history, cavalry sabers were shown to be devastating.
Many swords were mostly just used by the nobility, or in tournaments.
When you’ve got a thousand soldiers, and little money, you give the bastards spears. They’re cheap, easy to make, and they can be truly devastating. Spearmen and archers made up the bulk of most armies. Even a heavily armoured knight charging a spearmean could wind up screwed if the spearman hits properly.
Note that many spears would break easily, though. The solution to this was to give spearmen sidearms, or if you’re rich enough, give them halberds or pikes, which were even more devastating.
Cavalry also frequently wielded spears and other polearms, but I’m not going to go into that right now.
That scrawny archer in every movie that never misses? Well, his arrows are probably about as effective as nerf darts, because for an arrow to have any force, you need to be strong enough to pull back an incredibly tight string. I’ve had some experience with archery, and it can require drawing back over two hundred pounds of force at a time.
Bows, however, were highly effective. Arrows usually actually could not pierce plate armour, though depending on the poundage of the bow, and the quality of the armour, there were exceptions. However, a storm of arrows is usually easily enough to shatter morale, and deal heavy casualties. Not to mention flaming arrows, wrapped in wool and oil, could cause heavy structural damage.
There are also a number of different kinds of bow, which unlike swords and polearms, seems to surprise a lot of people. There are longbows, which are harder to draw back, but hit far harder; there are short bows; compound bows; and a long list of others.
I cringe every time I see a crossbow that’s basically a gun with wings. There are several different types of crossbow, all of which hit even harder than a bow. They’ll got right through plate armour, and sometimes even out the other side of a person. However, you can’t just draw the string back and shoot again.
Those strings are pulled and twisted tighter than you can imagine. It would take one hell of a person to draw that string back.
Most crossbows will have a winch that you turn to draw the string back, but this can take a few minutes. Alternatively, there’s usually a cocking tool to pull it back, but that still requires a hell of a lot of strength.
Now, this is just a basic list. If you really want to get into tools of medieval warfare, I advise researching somewhere other than Tumblr. But these basics should be enough for a basic medieval-themed world.
Keep in mind that there are millions of different types of weapons, used by different cultures. These are just the most common ones I’ve seen misused in fiction.
Also, please keep in mind that if you don’t clean your weapons after stabbing someone, it will usually ruin the weapon over time.
I should also point out that a lot of weapons were used because people didn’t have access to other weapons, usually due to expenses.
I hope this helps!