Archery in Vikingr
A look at the problems & possible solutions to the bugbear of Vikingr
Authors; Eiríkr Rauði, rapier17
1. Outline problem(s)
2. Repercussion(s) of problem(s)
3. Archery in the Period
Good afternoon, chaps!
Before you turn and run from this topic with your hands over your ears, I wholly wish you all
to consider the following points with reason. Put away any emotional connection you may feel to the class, hide those tears and buckle down those trousers. This will hurt a little but I promise
I'll be gentle. The Problem
It seems, not only to myself but also many others, that archery is a bit of a sore problem. Actually, I'll back step a little - archery has always been a sore problem. Taleworlds have done no good in their implementation of archery mechanics. In itself, throughout Native and other mods, the bowman has always
ruled supreme. From the Vaegir warbow to the Khergit short bow, every man has fear of the archer, of his pin-point accuracy, of his near endless supply of arrows and of his none-so-gimped ability in melee. Thankfully, the more frustrating points of Native arrowplay are not present in Vikingr. Infact, I believe the previous developement team, whom laid the groundwork, and the current team have done a superb job in providing some sense of balance to the most base of all classes. Arrows a scant few, bows are somewhat
inaccurate and archers have little choice for melee protection. However
this does not mean that we should stop looking at the class, push it under the rug, dust off our hands and call it a day. There is a very real problem with archery, one that many have felt and few would openly admit. In simple terms; the class interferes far too heavily with the core basis of Vikingr - melee
. From the onset, Vikingr has only ever been about melee
and the close pushing fights of the early medieval period. Every mechanic, every weapon, every piece of armour and every adjustment has been made to emphasise the crunching melee fights that we come here for. No other mod, nor Native, provides the same exhilaration as a tough scrum over a shallow riverbed. Why must we continually gimp the selling point of Vikingr in favour of maintaining a relic of Native?
The problems that stem from archery, essentially are these; archers have a large impact on the small skirmishes, larger at times than melee, and in small numbers they can decimate shield walls. Arrows, from a left-over Native bug, still go through the top parts of shields into the heads behind, as though the shield was not there. Melee warriors can run right up to an archer, drop their shield to strike and recieve an arrow in their head instantly. The alternative to keep the shield up all the way in does not hold much water as holding a shield up makes you run at a slower speed, so an archer can turn and run, fleeing from the warrior with ease to put distance between them and then put a shaft into the warriors legs - in reality a warrior would keep their shield up all the way in and attack around the shield - not something M&B can handle.Repercussion of 'The Problem'
It's very easy to isolate and identify the repercussions of the above problems. We simply cannot lock down a shield-wall, the key mechanic of the tactical game in Vikingr, with one, two or even three archers picking men off at will. There is still a recurring bug in Vikingr, a left-over from Native, where the arrow passes through the top of the shield - everyone
whom has played Vikingr for a considerable length of time will have suffered its cruel laughter. It is entirely impossible to hold the advantage and play for melee advantage when the enemy negates all defensive bonuses through archery. Why push for the selling point of Vikingr when it is being trampled on by the most beguiling of classes? For those whom were present at the Battle of Fulford
event; how many men were lost due to 22nd_Harlequin picking off men in the shield-wall before
the damn fighting had started? Why spend minutes organising, defending and moving when men are picked out at will by the long-finger of death?
Whilst bows have always been a means of picking off the enemy at long-range historically, it ruins the fun of the majority, the melee fighters, around whom the mod is based. We're there for the melee fighting not for the ranged side of things and having a single archer able to decimate half a team on his own, from range whilst not being touched, threatens the core 'fun' of Vikingr, the melee.Archery in the Period
Historically, for the period, the bow was quite popular from the sources we have. The poem 'Battle of Maldon' tells how Æesferth looses shaft after shaft whilst he can still hold his bow. From Beowulf we have the following passage;... Now flames, the blazing fire, must devour the lord of warriors who often endured the iron-tipped arrow shower, when the dark cloud loosed by bow strings broke above the shield wall, quivering; when the eager shaft, with its feather garb, discharged its duty to the barb.'
and Aldhelm makes mention of them in his works;Just as the warlike bowman in the midst of battle is hemmed in by a dense formation of enemy legions, then, when his bow is tensed by his powerful hands and arms and arrows are drawn from the quiver,... the throng, swollen with the arrogance of pride, their shieldwall having been shattered, turn their backs and flee headlong.'
Bows, being one of mankinds simplest weapons, have always been present in our history - from the neolithic periods up to the Tudor period, bows have been quite dominant in our history. However there is a large difference between the organised groups of bowmen of the Roman Auxiliary Legions and the individuals who wielded these weapons during the c6-c11 - the Transitional Period to the Norman Conquest.
The people who would use the bow would be quite limited. Apart from Kings or warriors who wished to prove their prowess with the weapon, the vast majority of bows would be in the hands of those who would use them as part of their daily work - hunters & poachers, trappers and even fishermen - barbed arrowheads have been found that would have been used for shooting fish. The other common ranged weapon of the time would have been the sling, a handy little weapon that a cow or sheep herder, or even a farmer, could use to keep predators/vermin at bay - for them a bow would have been too cumbersome to carry for potentialy seldom use.
We know it takes years to 'create' an archer - training & practical use becoming instinct until the archer and his body use the bow as though it were an extention of their limbs. Whilst the poundage of bows may not be the equivilant of the English war bow of c13-c16, it would still take years for an archers body to form the strength, endurance & co-ordination to use a bow effectively. Thus those who could effectively use a bow would be few in number in comparison to those who can be equipped for a close-quarter melee.
When looking at the documents of the period that describe an 'iron-tipped arrow shower' it is worth remembering that the authors may not have seen a battlefield or, if they had, overestimated the number of archers loosing shafts. From personal experience of re-enacting with Regia Anglorum it is an easy thing to do. As purely anecdotal evidence with regards to this, during the 2006 re-enactment of the Battle, at Battle Abbey near Hastings, the Saxon/Englisc divisions had to shelter under several arrow storms from the Norman archers. I know now there were only about 150-200 archers loosing at us, but at the time it felt like a thousand men were shooting at us - point is it's easy to overestimate. Importantly, what sounds more impressive when writing? Talking about a couple of archers or a whole storm of shafts, blacking out the sun, turning day into night, hammering down on men like hail. So we have to take it with a pinch of salt - archers were present but not in large numbers and certainly not, until the militarised army of Normandy, as a unified mass. Gameplay
I am most certainly not
asking for archery to be removed entirely*. I know it would piss off quite a few people** What I am asking is that we reconsider the class, that we take a step back and look at what Vikingr is
and how best to capitalise on that. The current limit is tolerable for the few players we had
- now the server is running on full most nights and has space for 50 players - that's what, three archers per side? Each equipped with a minimum of eight arrows, each capable of slaying anywhere between nil and twenty four players. Three possible ways to change archers & archeryFirst proposition;
We propose that the class itself is not touched, although minor tweaking in terms of weapon choice and so on would be appreciated. What we would rather see is that the class becomes as unique as the leaders, a singular archer for a group of twenty men. Vikingr must maintain its position and reputation as the premier Warband module for melee. Keep it so and keep archery to an absolute minimum.Second proposition;
An excellent way to adjust the way archery works would be, if it were possible with coding or scripts, for arrows/throwing weapons to suffer from M&Bs glancing system as melee weapons do - arrows would skim off of maille armour and steel helmets at 'bad angles', not causing large damage each and every time regardless of where and what angle they strike.Third proposition;
Archers, like crossbowmen, are rooted to the spot when drawing & loosing. This way they can not back-peddle with an arrow nocked and must choose whether to stand their ground with an arrow ready or flee. Possibly also increase the 'bump' radius for an archer with an arrow nocked to simulate nerves as a heavily armed warrior comes pounding towards the archer.
This could lead to a reversal of the negatives currently in place on archers - they could be allowed more shafts & greater accuracy.
* In my deepest, darkest desire I would see it destroyed ... Like Godzilla trampling on some puny Japanese men.
** Despite being a melee-orientated module, some people seem to play exclusively archer and nothing else.