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Fantasy writer asking for advice (Read 4422 times)
captive1princess
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Fantasy writer asking for advice
Nov 26th, 2010 at 9:09pm
 
I'm a fantasy writer (I say this even though my stories never contain magic), and I'm looking for advice about slings, bows, staff slings, staffs, and quarterstaffs.

First, I'll give you some background. My main character is female, and aged twenty-four. She is a healer, and lives in a culture where slings are a woman's weapon. She has been practicing almost daily with a sling since she was about seven, and is also proficient in the use of staff slings, and staff fighting. She is not unusually muscular, and she prefers only to fight in defense - her tribe's philosophy is that healers are supposed to save lives, and not kill.

So far so good. The problem is, up till recently (thanks to this site), all I know about slinging comes from David and Goliath, and from the Ranger's Apprentice series, which I noticed has been discussed on this forum as being massively inaccurate.

So my first questions are:

1. If my heroine has been practising with slings for seventeen years, how accurate is she likely to be? Bearing in mind that she is not a warrior, but a healer, and assuming that her main goal is accuracy and speed when she practices.

2. How devastating could she be on a battlefield? The enemies she faces are usually clad in leather armour. It's one thing to aim at a target which is stationary, but if it is a bloke running towards her with a big lance, would she have the skill to plant a stone between his eyes? Or would she be safer if she turned and ran?

3. What exactly was wrong and inaccurate about the Ranger's Apprentice series? I've read all the books, so I fear I might be heavily influenced by them when it comes to writing. If you could please explain what the problem is, I might be able to avoid such mistakes.

That's all for the moment; I've more questions, but they can wait.
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #1 - Nov 26th, 2010 at 10:10pm
 
To answer your first question, I believe another user by the name of Tucson-John  told us about young children in his area being able to consistently  hit coke bottles from forty meters, so i would not think headshots at 75 meters would be too big of a exaggeration.  To your second question, it would depend on the battle being fought. In a small fight or battle ( like, around under twenty combatants_ she would be devastating, even against leather armor. I assume she would be able to hit a  moving target well enough with seventeen years of practice.   As far as the Ranger's Apprentice series goes, they made the sling much easier to use than it actually is, made it under-powered, e.x,couldn't even effectively kill a rabbit, and got the form and style of throw wrong.
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Redbeard
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #2 - Nov 26th, 2010 at 11:36pm
 
1. Quote:
how accurate is she likely to be?


A reasonable guess would be "very".  Probably able to hit small targets as well as somewhat larger-sized moving ones.  Ok, say, maybe a stationary rabbit and a moving coyote.  

2. Quote:
How devastating could she be on a battlefield?


Hmmm, lotta factors to consider.  Up close, like in a bloody great melee?  Your young missy is in a lot of trouble, methinks. Reloading is, or can be, a bit of a problem as one dodges lances and other sharp things.  Also, her wind-up with the sling can pretty easily get fouled up by darned near anything in her immediate vicinity.  Of course, if she uses the Comanche (or Figure 8?) style of slinging, maybe that mightn't be too bad... If she has a vantage point of some remove, then she might make some hay.  Also, is it just her alone or will there be a largish group of slingers?  I think that might make a difference, as one slinger, however dead-on accurate, might easily be routed by a full on crush of bad guys, but a big group of them may prove a bit more like irresistible.  As for breaking thru the leather faceguard of a bad guy: not actually necessary, I should think.  A good, well-placed bonk on the noggin can render an opponent immobile, and thence -with a quick choppity-chop -dead.  


3. Quote:
What exactly was wrong and inaccurate about the Ranger's Apprentice series?

Sorry, haven't read that.  


Anyway: all the above is based on my limited knowledge, both bookish and practical, of slinging.  YMMV, some restrictions apply, etc.  
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« Last Edit: Nov 27th, 2010 at 9:38am by Redbeard »  
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #3 - Nov 26th, 2010 at 11:42pm
 
1. Like all sports you get to a point of reasonable proficiency fairly quickly and then further improvements come more slowly. After about 5 or so years of training it's unlikely you'll get much better. Natural talent plays a big part; lots of kids learn tennis but Roger Federers are far and few between.

My experience of hitting coke cans at 40 m is that, sure it happens, but selective memory is a wonderful thing, you remember the one hit and forget the ten misses. Anyone who could count on a killing shot at that distance would be really good.

2. In reality for an unarmed slinger to despatch a warrior who is ready for battle would be difficult but not impossible. Have a look at the controversy over David v Goliath. The slinger has the advantage of speed and may well be safe if he/she keeps out of the way.

3. Sorry, never read those books so can't comment.

HOWEVER

You're writing a fantasy. She can do anything she sets her mind to. Like Queen Susan in Narnia whose arrows never miss and her quiver never runs out.
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #4 - Nov 27th, 2010 at 3:48am
 
captive1princess wrote on Nov 26th, 2010 at 9:09pm:
1. If my heroine has been practising with slings for seventeen years, how accurate is she likely to be? Bearing in mind that she is not a warrior, but a healer, and assuming that her main goal is accuracy and speed when she practices.

2. How devastating could she be on a battlefield? The enemies she faces are usually clad in leather armour. It's one thing to aim at a target which is stationary, but if it is a bloke running towards her with a big lance, would she have the skill to plant a stone between his eyes? Or would she be safer if she turned and ran?

3. What exactly was wrong and inaccurate about the Ranger's Apprentice series? I've read all the books, so I fear I might be heavily influenced by them when it comes to writing. If you could please explain what the problem is, I might be able to avoid such mistakes.

1. Potentially devastatingly accurate. 17 years of daily practice is extreme, the examples of pegging coke cans at 75 meters are all reasonable, even higher would be acceptable. That doesn't mean she will make every shot, or should try to rely on that.

2. Aiming for head shots is usually not the best idea, but her aim is potentially good enough. The big thing however, is how well she can keep her cool in a combat situation, particularly when she is actually under attack. Until she has some experience, she's probably just about screwed realistically.

3. This might take a while. For one thing, slings are not easy to use, you can't use one a couple of times and just have exceptional aim. The learning curve is at least that of a bow, particularly for precision shooting. Furthermore, filling a pouch with two rocks and hoping they double the chance of hitting a distant rabbit is completely and utterly inane, your accuracy will go down. The logic behind it makes sense, but it is a classic example of the author needing more research in regards to weapons. Anything relating to arms in that series can pretty much be ignored, with the possible exception of archery.

Thanks for coming to research by the way, all of us have our stories of people who obviously didn't. However, you can't do better than practice, and slings are easy to come by around here. Among forum members, Aussie and Ratman are currently giving slings away, the Aussie sling is very modern but the styles are all fairly old.
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #5 - Nov 27th, 2010 at 10:53am
 
A fantasy heroine should be at least as good as Grandfather in L W Forsyths Apache article in the Guides and Articles section.
She is rather effective on a battlefield with a sling, and several of us has shown that a slinger can have a rather high rate of fire, but if rushed (by more than one enemy, at least), she runs and keep her distance or use a hand held weapon (staff) for close combat.

Do NOT let her whirl her sling around her head untill she has buildt up enough speed to throw!
Smiley
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #6 - Nov 27th, 2010 at 12:23pm
 
Edited:
the examples of pegging coke cans at 75 meters are all reasonable,

Not to put too fine a point on it - but that would be amost impossible. Hell even wth my glasses on I'd barely even see a coke can at 75 METRES. 75 feet - would me more realistic. and I suspect that's just a misprint.

so my pennyworth:

1) you would need to qualify the practice. If you want her to be extremely good she would need to practice for an hour a day - minimum. However if you make the slinging part of a therapeitic or meditative process, it would fit quite nicely.
slinging practice is very repetitive, also a good general body workput - so would fit as part of her daily routine.
She would also need to have a particular affinity for the sling. Some do some don't. As wit everything else in life there are always going to be those who are just better at some things than others. So given those conditions she could realistically be very very good indeed

2) leather armour usually only covers the torso and part of the head. this leaves arms and legs as much better targets than either the torso or the head.
A tremendous amount will depend on her ammunition. If she uses cast lead bullets or glandes, then she could be very dangerous out to about 200-250 yards. If she's just using picked rocks, you'd have to knock that down to 150 yards maximum.
Bear in mind that small darts can also be used from a sling. And wth medical knowlege they could be poison tipped - which would increase her deadliness 10 fold. A well slung dart will penetrate leather armour and a fast actin poison would make each hit a kill.
Even without poison a barb ended dart will leave a bloody and potentially debilitating wound.

It would also be a good idea to equip her with a hoopack - combined staff, utility stick and staffsling.
This could also be her close quarters combat weapon as well as a tool for delivering heavier missiles in battle or other circumstances.
A properly used quarterstaff - with the exception of a projectile weapon - is the most effective close quarters weapon there is. Not necessarily as lethal as a sword, but much more practical and effective.
Again you would need to make practice part of her daily routine.
It can't be stated too frequently or too firmly that proficiency with ANY weapon can only come with long practice and familiarity.

3) never heard of them - who wrote them ?

If the sling is going to feature to any great extent then your heroine must belong to a tribe that uses slings extensively. Otherwise it's unlikely she'd ever take one up.
On our plane of existence - for example - she'd have to be a balearic islander or member of another moniroty group known to use slings. Obviously the further back in history you go the more you'll have to choose from.

She would also most likely carry 2-3 slings or different length and - possibly - design.
A short sling -12-18 inches is short enough to be effective indoors and in confined quarters, as well as being effective to 100 yards.
A medium length sling always close to hand for general usage and a longer sling for distance bombardment. The advantage of the hoopack is that it is very easy to fit or change the sling attached to the forked head. So as long as she uses a sliding finger loop and a small fixed loop instead of a release knot,  each sling could also be attached to or removed from the hoopack in very short order.

IN case you were wondering, yes I've given some considerable thought to writing slingers into fiction - so all I'm going to tell you is the basic stuff Smiley
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #7 - Nov 27th, 2010 at 1:07pm
 
so lots of practice and a natural affinity for the weapon.

IF you look at the standards set by the ancient balearic slinging mercenaries (and aussie or ratman should know where the link to the article is). That is what your heroine would need to have as BASIC skill.

Like any elite athlete or warrior, almost anything is possible with sufficient skill and practice.

What you will find on this forum and the internet in general is a vast body of those who believe if they themselves cannot do a thing - then that thing can not be done by anyone.
It's total nonsense but a very popular form of nonsense. So ignore them Smiley
I know a short man with a basic sling and a rock picked up from the ground can sling that rock 440 yards.
Because I've met the man and seen him with a golf ball outsling a golf courses driving range.

With technique, practice and natural skill almost anything is possible. 

You can be good with any 2 of those attributes, but to be extraordinary you need all three.
So within those bounds your heroine can be as good a slinger as you want her to be.
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #8 - Nov 27th, 2010 at 1:50pm
 
Well said, Curious Aardvark -all of it.
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #9 - Nov 27th, 2010 at 2:23pm
 
I think I would do a search here and look at the UTube videos.  There are some excellant examples on staff slings, speed slinging, and the kestros.  Look at Jaegoor in period costume, notice how he doesnt carry a lot of stuff the sling can tangle on.  Also, there is a major difference in the size of your projectiles used for hunting small game and the much larger projectiles used in combat.  Also, you would carry a lot fewer for hunting or rambling than for combat.  For combat, you would have as many as you can carry, you can throw 15+ per minute, you would like to have somewhere where you can place reloads so you can replenish your ammunition.  Slingers were used as a scouting/screening force, as a supporting arm/artillery force and as a harrasing force.  Usually, if they got overrun , they ran or got slaughtered.  Bill
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #10 - Nov 27th, 2010 at 2:27pm
 
Ranger's Apprentice is innacurate simply because the sling is made really weak- 2 rocks barely able to kill a rabbit. also, it would be almost impossible to sling 2 rocks and make them go remotely in the same direction, though we're working on it Wink. i'm not a good slinger but with a reasonable toss i've dented thick wood. the worst thing you can do is follow deadliest warrior, which is well....just......****.

to me some logical reasoning would be enough to realise a 3-4oz rock traveling at approximately 125mph is going to ruin someones day.

http://www.youtube.com/user/fonermenorqui#p/u/3/ELYea2UDfeY

a blurb on the current balearic champion slinger proving that David could be killed by Goliath.
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #11 - Nov 27th, 2010 at 3:28pm
 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2atj_FM0AjA


This is a good style for fighting. It is fast into action so your enemies have less time to duck or raise a shield. It needs very little clear space around you. You can sling on the run.

Ammo choices are:

Carefully selected smooth round stones about three fingerwidths across. Not as easy to find as you might think.  Rivers are a good place to look.

Quarried stone hammered into a rounded shape. Needs a lot of work, suitable for serfs/slaves than respectable young women. Could be found stockpiled at a garrison or walled town.

Clay bullets rolled by hand.  These can be air dried in one or two warm days but for serious use these should be fired hard. Takes time, is messy, but all the pottery infrastructure will be in place in any small village. Difficult to make on the road.

Almond shaped lead bullets cast in a fired clay mold. This is serious military ammo, as used by the Romans and Greeks. This is dense enough to penetrate an unarmoured body. Flies 50% further than stone ammo.  Would be easy to make for someone already melting and casting lead, like a fisherman.

The best choice for your heroine is the first option, maybe finding some of the lead ammo along the way if you need an upgrade. 

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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #12 - Nov 27th, 2010 at 3:44pm
 

Here are a few different throws strung together: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0bgqxnxUOg

You catch the pouch with your left hand and reload it with your right hand. A small bag on your right side can hold a lot of ammo.

Slings can be nearly silent or make a powerful whipcrack when used, it depends on whether or not you leave a hanging tail at the end of your release cord.

Speedwise, I have been timed at eight shots in thirty seconds. No fancy tricks like holding extra ammo ready in the hands, just reloading one shot at a time from a pile of ammo on the ground. From a pouch would be about the same. I beat two good archers when I did that, and they were using fancy speed techniques.

The staff sling is best for very heavy ammo, fist sized rocks that would knock a fully armoured man off a horse or smash a door down with a few shots.
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #13 - Nov 27th, 2010 at 5:22pm
 
Quote:
1. If my heroine has been practising with slings for seventeen years, how accurate is she likely to be? Bearing in mind that she is not a warrior, but a healer, and assuming that her main goal is accuracy and speed when she practices.


Very, most likely. Actual figures can vary, but Xenophon describes in his "Anabasis" that Cretan slingers with lead bullets could match the range of Persian Archers (and keep said archers at a respectful distance, because otherwise Xenophon wouldn't have made it home to write his book).

Quote:
2. How devastating could she be on a battlefield? The enemies she faces are usually clad in leather armour. It's one thing to aim at a target which is stationary, but if it is a bloke running towards her with a big lance, would she have the skill to plant a stone between his eyes? Or would she be safer if she turned and ran?


The effect on a battlefield depends not only on individual ability, but also on training as a soldier and tactical ability. A lone woman on a battlefield where thousands of men charge at each other is probably roadkill, no matter how good she is. A female soldier in a proper unit of slingers (trained to shoot on command with a hundred others and to retreat behind a screen of pikemen when the enemy attacks) could be effective.

She would probably be far more useful in a guerilla war on familiar territory. This would be small units fighting other small units, with lots of ambushes and hit-and-run attacks. Personal ability would count here far more that on a real battlefield.

Quote:
3. What exactly was wrong and inaccurate about the Ranger's Apprentice series? I've read all the books, so I fear I might be heavily influenced by them when it comes to writing. If you could please explain what the problem is, I might be able to avoid such mistakes.


I don't know that one.
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Re: Fantasy writer asking for advice
Reply #14 - Nov 28th, 2010 at 7:53am
 
How about you come to my place with an army of leather aromured soldier in 17 years and find out? Grin

I think she'd really good and a force to reckon with in battle.
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