I read about this new show, Deadliest Warrior, earlier today on Topless Robot and then watched it this evening. It’s on Spike TV, and it’s like Mythbusters meets the Military Channel. They take some historical warriors, do a bunch of tests on the weapons and moves they use, feed it into a computer, and run a simulation 1000 times to determine who would win.
This first episode was “Viking vs. Samurai.” They get both Viking combat experts and samurai guys to whack on sweet ballistics dummies (with skeletons and all, a step up from Mythbusters) with greataxes and katanas and all. Biggest revelation? The katana’s kind of a bitch weapon. I say this because it’s an RPG tradition to give katanas the biggest damage bonus because they’re so uber. But here, the longsword is the one that totally decapitated the dummy. They could cut through two pigs with the katana, but when pitted against a similar pig carcass in chainmail it did exactly jack crap.
There’s a lot of simulationist love to get out of their weapon trials [Obligatory 4e jab: unless you’re playing 4e, which has deliberately rejected all that historical trivia like real world weapons and armor (no really, they say that in Worlds & Monsters p.15)]. And just watching them cleanly shear off a thin segment of hair flesh, skull, and brain gave me a lot of new combat-description fodder.
It’s not perfect, they set up a kinda artificial round-by-round thing where the combatants exercise their long range weapons, then medium, then short. The Viking doesn’t employ his shield against the samurai’s yumi (bow), instead just sucking up a couple shots and leaving his shield for the “special weapons round,” but eh, it’s good fun.
The samurai won by a slight margin (522/1000 trials) but I think the Vikings got ripped off! They have a complete episode, “Apache vs. Gladiator,” up on their Web site. Check it out!
I admit to watching the show for the RPG weaponry angle. Maybe for a finale they will pit all the winners against each other? If anything, the slow motion cam proves that most people have about 4 HP.
In defence of 4E and their lack of simulationist weaponry and armour, most games have godawful systems for dealing with this sort of thing, since anything that actually represents the reality of armour and weaponry is either a) crazy complicated, or b) unsuitable for an RPG since the balance is all off. That being said, I like simulationist stuff like this show since I’m a scientist and mathematician and, like most people who play RPG, love history. Good recommendation.
I’m adding this to the ole DVR schedule, thanks for the heads up!
Darn it! OK, they took down Apache vs. Gladiator before I had a chance to see it; Viking vs. Samurai is up there now though. Can’t find it on hulu, if anyone sees it somewhere else let me know!
I especially liked the whiney smack-talk from the samurai guys.
Hey, thanks for the shout out! I’m glad you dug the show.
@MaxGeiger – Hey! Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Glad to see a geek getting screen time. 🙂 Is there somewhere you post about what software etc. you use for all that? I suspect the data acquisition software was LabVIEW, am I right? Is the battle sim software totally hand written?
For those that don’t know, Max is the programmer on the series – it’s him, an ER/UFC doc, and a remarkably ripped biomedical engineer who are the hosts.
What I would like to hear about is multiple trials tha are averaged. As it stands, one shoddy hit by one of their specialists and suddenly a sword/axe/chainsaw isn’t as deadly as it should be. Science is about lots of data, not extrapolation based on one hit. Definitely only SHOW one or two hits, but if they want the nay-sayers to jump on board, they should do that and give equal measure to both sides.
i.e. The katana was bad against chainmail, but we didn’t get to see the viking waraxe vs samurai banded mail. Sort of unfair. Similarly we didn’t get to see a katana vs a steel viking helmet.
Just my suggestions for Max 🙂
This sounds like a cool show. You might also want to check out Weapon Masters, on the Military channel. Each episode, they examine the historical use and effectiveness of a different weapon, and then apply modern engineering to try to improve on it. They have episodes on atlatls, chakrams, greek fire, katanas, and lots more.
Now playing: Ninja vs. Spartan!