Another note on weapon skills…

(trigger warning for brief discussion of animal abuse and violence causing miscarriages)


So, this is just a short update (yes – Langobard RPG is still in progress, I promise!). I have a half a blog post written on wounds and injuries, that I will finalise and get online at some point soon. Hopefully. It’s been proving a complicated area, and may need to be broken down into a number of posts, before I can distil a viable mechanism for the game. We shall see.

What I want to talk about today is another clause of Rothair’s, No. 330. Somehow this one managed to slip my notice when I was hunting down hints and allusions to specific weapons for the previous discussion on combative skills. This clause outlines the situation where a man kills a dog in self-defence. It’s part of a longer, related set of clauses addressing killing and inflicting various injuries against animals, in particular dogs, cows and horses, running from Rothari No. 328 to No. 341. Interestingly, informatively, and sickeningly, in the middle of this collection of laws on violence against animals is a clause addressing violence against an enslaved woman which causes her to miscarry (No. 334). The enslaved woman is effectively discussed as another animal, and this is made explicit if we contrast the composition due for causing the miscarriage, 3 solidi, with that set for the same injury made against a freewoman in Rothari No. 75: half her praetium or worth, which is either half of 1200 solidi, if the composition for killing a freewoman in Rothari Nos 200 and 201 are followed, or if in this case she were to be judged as if she were one of her brothers or near male-relatives, and following the values outlined almost a century later by Liutprand, half of 150 solidi if un-landed, or half of 300 solidi if landed (per Liutprand No. 62). This is digressing wildly from my point, however. I’ll return to this theme in a future post, examining Lombard ‘social classes’, ‘gender’ and ‘age’ (and perhaps also the ‘ethnic’ division of ‘native Lombard’ vs ‘Roman’, which appears very occasionally in the laws), and then gamifying these as traits for the RPG. I originally thought I’d do one post for each, but I’m not actually sure that they can be meaningfully separated and an intersectional assessment of the ways in which they interact. I’m still digressing.

The actual point I want to make here in this blog post is that, as with the injuries, killing and violence discussed in the injury tariffs previously discussed, most of these clauses on injuring, mutilating and killing animals do not mention a specific weapon. It is the fact of the injury or killing that matters, not the means. Rothari No. 330 is the exception to this. The clause acknowledges that a dog might well attack a person, and in turn that person might injure or kill the animal in self-defence. Interestingly, the clause outlines the kind of weapons that might be used, a ‘staff’, ‘broad-sword’, or ‘any other weapon which is held in the hand’, per Katherine Fischer-Drew’s translation (The Lombard Laws, p. 116). The law then reiterates that the weapon must ‘simply’ be a ‘staff or medium-sized sword’, and that in such a case of self-defence the perpetrator owes no compensation. There is perhaps a hint in this that the use of a larger weapon might suggest the attack on the animal was pre-meditated, rather than self-defence. And the law then follows with an explicit statement that should the person claiming to be defending themselves have thrown their weapon and killed the dog, then they must replace the killed animal. A single-fold restitution. The law-givers are not explicit in their motivation here, but it seems, and I have written the above discussion with this assumption in mind, that they are trying to discern intent, perhaps from the type of weapon, but more definitely from the manner in which it was deployed. This makes for some interesting points to discuss and explore in story-telling sessions, and it also leads to potentially two or three more skills being added: staff, sword (or broadsword), and perhaps also throw.

Each of these possible skills as the situation currently stands is quietly assumed to be part of a broader umbrella skill: Throw is a part of Athletics, Staff of Brawling and Sword of Duelling. It seems to me that removing Sword from Duelling, would in turn leave the Duelling skill feeling very empty. I accept that other weapons might of course be used by a freeman in the camfio or some other hand to hand melee combat, but I can’t help but feel that sword is the main one. I feel that making Sword an independent skill would necessitate the removal of Duelling from the list of Skills. However, at the same time there is still no real justification in the laws for adding in other edged and pointed weapons, such as daggers into the game. An argument could, perhaps, be made for adding Axe as a skill, on account of laws addressing the felling of trees – whether generally felling a tree (Rothari Nos 300-02), because the tree was a boundary marker (Rothari Nos 238-39), or in the case when a person is killed by the falling tree (Rothari No. 138). Again, though, axes are not specifically mentioned in these clauses, so the excuse to add it to the laws is based on inference instead. Moreover, the axe as a direct weapon in its own right is not referred to even indirectly. My hunch then, is that sword (nor axe) should not be made explicit in the skills.

I think a similar argument may apply for not removing the Staff from the Brawling skill. In this instance, of course, the staff is not effectively defining brawling, as bludgeoning instruments have been seconded in alongside the various forms of unarmed combat. A staff is not, to my knowledge, a particularly distinctive Lombard form of weapon, and certainly doesn’t have the iconic, ritualised cultural significance of the lance. So far, then, this post is effectively arguing that although I have found passing but nevertheless direct mention of two more weapons in the Edictus Rothari, the arguments to include either do not feel quite compelling enough to outweigh the arguments against changing the already established mechanism and status quo. But is that prioritising the gamification that has already been done over the implications of the laws, which elsewhere I have opted at times to be a touch free with? This isn’t a question I can answer at this moment, but it is something I am reflecting on and will continue to reflect on. certainly ‘(broad)sword’ and ‘staff’ (along with ‘spear’ and ‘bow and arrow’, naturally) will definitely be added into the weaponry section of the game, when I get to that point. For now, though, they will remain quietly included within the scope of more general skills.

Throw, on the other hand, I think can now be justified as a separate Skill from Athletics. Previously I was already on the line of indecision and opted for including it within that broader skill. Adding this to the myriad other examples of throwing in the laws though, makes it seem to me that this activity is distinct enough to merit its very own trait. Marahworfin, or the crime of throwing a person from a horse, however, will still remain a part of Brawling!


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