Author Topic: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)  (Read 4855 times)

ryos

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2010, 01:58:54 AM »
At several points in the book, the point is made that the Parshendi are not sophisticated warriors. Honorable, yes. Sophisticated, no. The answer you might be looking for is that they simply haven't thought to use fire in battle.

And indeed, the fact that they aren't good tacticians is the main reason they don't completely mop the floor with the Alethi. They have every physical advantage over them, but the Alethi can keep up because of their superior tactics.
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Inkthinker

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2010, 03:33:34 AM »

Then why doesn't someone other than Sadeas try smaller bridges that armored and armed men carry to the chasms?  A ten-man team could carry a 30' walkway-type bridge while a few other warriors hold shields to deflect arrows.  Lay the bridge and the small group of men cross to create a staging area for more bridges and men.  Slower, larger bridges arrive later.  The smaller bridges could even interlock to make a larger bridge for more men.  That would be faster than a large bridge.

I don't know.  I guess I'm just having trouble comprehending how the bridges and bridgemen survive even ONE assault when in every other piece of fantasy I've ever read and assault like that would fail spectacularly.  As I said before, this is the one thing about the book that is causing me to pull my hair out in frustration.

Many bridge crews don't survive, a good concentrated volley of arrows is sufficient to wipe out a crew (or at least stop them from placing their bridge). This is why Sadeas attacks with as many as 20 bridges in a single assault, and while Brandon doesn't call out numbers I would guess that maybe half those bridges are actually laid (he only says that enough bridges are laid to effect a cavalry charge).

You're right in that the tactics you describe would be more effective in saving lives, but as Kaladin comes to realize, bridgemen are supposed to die. They're moving targets, cannon-fodder who's apparent purpose is to lay bridges, but their actual purpose is to draw fire from the fighting troops, because the Parshendi don't appear to very discriminating in terms of target acquisition. I'm surprised that Sadeas doesn't make all his bridgemen wear giant bulls-eye targets on their tunics.

Parshendi appear to run out of arrows before too long, this is noted in a couple engagements (most notably Kaladin's final). And it really isn't clear how well-supplied either army actually is with arrows... archery isn't mentioned a lot, wood is in short supply, and I don't even know what they use for fletching (no birds on Roshar, remember?). So while they do fire arrows at each other in the initial stages of each battle, that seems to end pretty quickly and it gets down to the choppy work.

On the topic of "fire arrows", I'd point out that flaming arrows are very cool in Hollywood, but less so in reality.

Adding an additional weight (usually a tow made of pitch-soaked string or cloth which is then set on fire) to an arrowhead is a certain way to screw up its ability to fly true, because you've just messed up the balance. There are cases of them being used in warfare, but in all the examples I've heard (with the possible exception of  naval warfare) it's usually employed for "plunging fire", where the archers release at a high angle and precise aim is not the point, but rather blanket coverage in the hopes of starting a blaze.

The exchanges of arrows in Plains battles are, I think, almost always "directed fire", with archers firing in low arcs directly at the enemy. While it's sort of easy to hit targets that are bunched together, I'm sure there's plenty of misses too (more so if they're shooting back), and I don't see the need for either army to waste a limited supply of ammunition on a tactic of questionable benefit. As Kaladin learns, in the Alethi army innovation is not rewarded. And it doesn't seem to be part of the Parshendi strategy at all.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2010, 03:46:59 AM by Inkthinker »

wolverinehokie

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2010, 03:51:55 AM »
I don't know.  I guess I'm just having trouble comprehending how the bridges and bridgemen survive even ONE assault when in every other piece of fantasy I've ever read and assault like that would fail spectacularly.  As I said before, this is the one thing about the book that is causing me to pull my hair out in frustration.

I don't think there would be enough time for the fire thing to work.  The Parshendi get off 1-2 volleys before the bridge is laid down I think.  So even if they were hit, I don't think they'd easily catch on fire.  They don't have sails or anything easily flammable.  It's thick wood.  I would guess it would be easy to put out a fire on the bridge.  Also, in the "bad" runs, they lost 5 out of 20 bridges, which is probably around 150 bridgemen or something which is at least 300 arrows fired (guessing here) and they only have 1-2 tries (I think).  So it seems like bridgemen should be able to survive imo.


2 thoughts I have though:  
We know the Parshendi provoked the Alethi but we have no idea why.  They seemed to have planned the fight on the plains.  It could be that they are just giving the Alethi enough resistance so that the Alethi keep fighting, but for whatever reason they don't actually want to win.  Breaking the treaty makes no sense with all the information we've been given.  I feel like the Parshendi wanted this long drawn out war for some reason.  They want the Alethi where they are.  If it was too hard for the Alethi, they might not keep fighting, but they could get suspicious if it was too easy.  I think the Parshedi are giving just enough resistance to keep going.  Although they really don't want to lose the tower, ever, which is why they always bring more people there.  Also, once Dalinar and Sadeas joined up, they brought more men to even the match. It really doesn't seem like the Parshendi are trying to "win", just stall.

Has anyone seen the Parshendi burn the bridges? Or do they just assume it was them?  Could something else want it to not be super easy for the Alethi so they burn just enough bridges to make them work building new ones?  With all the scouts searching for the chasmfiends, which we know they still do at night, how has no one seen the Parshendi burning the bridges (or have they and I missed that?)

GeekMan

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2010, 04:00:55 AM »
Inkthinker:
The supply theory actually seems to make the most sense to me and helps me to comprehend how the bridge runs can make sense.  With a very limited supply of arrows it WOULD make a gruesome amount of sense to send in cannon fodder to soak up the enemy supply.  It might not be the best (or even correct) answer, but if we take it as fact that arrows are in short supply then it would make enough sense that I'm willing to let it go.  And now, thinking about it carefully, if the Parshendi run and jump to get to the plateaus then perhaps they can only bring the weapons they can carry themselves, which would mean limited arrows per engagement and not necessarily a limited supply of arrows.

But truthfully, all of this still leaves me (and Dalinar) feeling that there is something truly odd about the entire "war".  Both sides don't act or react like any army I've ever read about which leads me to think that either:
1) Mr. Sanderson has a reason why the tactics of both sides work as they do and will explain why things were done this way in a later book, or;
2) He wrote something that seemed "cool" in his head and went with it without fully thinking it through.

Now, having read every one of Mr. Sanderson's books, I believe wholeheartedly that the answer is #1 because I cannot for the life of me believe he would ever do #2.
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Morsker

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2010, 05:56:30 AM »
(no birds on Roshar, remember?)

Wow, I didn't realize that. It makes sense though.

Shinovar has at least chickens and doves though. I wonder why they don't sell fetching as much as they do horses. Maybe there's a Roshar plant that makes good enough fletching that no one's ever seen the need to use feathers.

Tasslehoof

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #20 on: October 01, 2010, 06:18:42 AM »
I still think fire arrows wouldn't be as effective as you think they might be.  Its pretty difficult to light a big log on fire, without drenching it in oil, or some other flammable liquid..  Clearly the Parshendi aren't the smartest (although smarter than the average Parshman) fighters in the world, they have the advantage of size, raw power, and agility.  The fact that Alethi teams are getting ANY gemhearts is what should astonish you.

The Parshendi fail miserably in open combat because they don't know how to employ new tactics.  The only things they ever changed in the entire novel were:
- Bringing more forces when Sadeas and Dalinar started working together, probably because they saw more enemies, and just thought they should have the same number.
- Focusing fire on Kaladin because he was wearing their dead as armor.  But really, I don't think this was "tactical" considering how badly it hurt their chances of winning the battles.
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ReverendSin

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #21 on: October 01, 2010, 09:31:23 AM »
To answer part of your question, keep in mind that Wood is not something that's readily available on the Shattered Plains. Most of it is Soulcast, which leaves me with no other conclusion than that is is an extremely dense type of wood since they're likely casting it from readily available Stone. From this we can also conclude that they don't have anything resembling pitch, and it's unlikely they have a source of Oil either.

Now comes the fun part. Take a wooden match. Light it. Hold it against a piece of Oak. Or even a common 2x4 of any kind. How much of it would you expect to ignite? I can tell you that unlike what you see in movies, real wood (or even Soulcast wood) isn't made from 6 parts gasoline and 3 parts gunpowder. It doesn't just ignite and get all explodey.

On top of the fact that wood (especially large, dense pieces of wood as would be necessary to hold the weight of an entire mobile army including Cavalry) is difficult to ignite in the first place, you have to consider the arrows themselves. They're thin bits of wood, out of necessity they can't carry too heavy of a payload before the whole idea becomes pointless. Ever try shooting an arrow with an incredibly heavy payload on front? It doesn't work. There's a reason real arrowheads aren't giant metal monstrosities.

So, we've got this thin piece of wood, and out of necessity a rather small flaming object stuck to it. Now, we have an additional problem. What happens to fire when you add lots of oxygen? Such as you might get when it's flying through the air! It burns hotter. Guess what happens to that arrow then? It burns up and becomes weak and breaks on impact if it even makes it there and generally becomes useless. Have you ever tried building a fire in the woods? Or even in a wood stove? There's a reason you don't use just a few very tiny sticks. Like wood matches, they burn out relatively fast and even if you do have large chunks of wood, it's just scorched and not really in danger of igniting. In Historical battles, you couldn't use a very strong bow to launch a flaming arrow because swift flight would actually put it out entirely. Which means the Parshendi would have to HAVE these special bows AND be relatively close AND have some manner of fuel. This means they have to stay closer and face devastating volleys from the Alethi archers who can likely shoot from a much greater distance.

So, if you add all of these together. Large, incredibly dense pieces of wood. Relatively small (if numerous) flaming bits stuck to arrows. Lots of air to burn up the limited fuel they already have. Lack of pitch or oil. Physics, even in a world of magic. It's just not a feasible means of accomplishing any kind of  worthwhile end result. The Parshendi can accomplish pretty much the same thing just by focus firing the Bridgemen who sustain incredibly heavy losses anyway.

Also, like someone already said. Historically flaming arrows were so effective against wooden structures because an incredibly huge amount of pitch was used back in the day to seal cracks etc. It wasn't the wood itself that was flammable, it was the tar that was used as a waterproofing agent that helped everything burn so nicely.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2010, 09:35:36 AM by ReverendSin »

nomti

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #22 on: October 01, 2010, 03:50:57 PM »
The Parshendi could use caltrops on the likely Alethi approaches which would disable the bridgemen, or at least slow them considerably.  They could use fire arrows on the bridges, and even if most of the bridges themselves didn't catch fire immediately, the arrows would still kill bridgemen and might set fire to other nearby bridgemen or even the bridges themselves causing them to collapse during the assault.  They could set up a simple spearwall on the opposite edge of the chasm (the attacker side) to slow the assault giving them more time to shoot arrows.  Lastly, and most simply, they could wait for the bridges to be placed and then push them into the chasm.  They are mobile after all.

I think other people have addressed the issue of burning the bridges pretty thoroughly, but there is a point that's been touched on that I'd like to flesh out a bit.  You ask why they don't use caltrops, or set up a spear wall.  Besides possibly not having caltrops, the way they fight precludes them.  The Parshendi do not fight on more than one plateau at a time.  If you attack them, lose, and retreat, they let you go.  They don't have to.  They could jump chasms and harry you and bleed you white.  But they don't.  Similarly, they bring one one force to any given fight.  Chasmfiend shows up, you get your army, they get their army, they meet you at the designated combat zone, and they fight you until one of you wins.  That's it.  We don't know exactly why they do this, but it clearly has to do with their beliefs about how combat is conducted.

I think the same thing explains why they don't use advanced troop formations.  They fight in pairs, and each pair picks a guy, and takes him on.  If they get beat, another pair might step up.  And then another.  But they don't do formations.

And you're right, BTW, that this isn't very smart.   They know where these battles are going to take place.  They don't need bridges to cross most chasms.  They could send one force to a gemheart fight, and then have two more show up halfway through, attack the staging plateau, cut off the Alethi escape, and then overwhelm them.

But instead, they fight fair.  One army of yours, one army of mine.  Two armies of yours, two armies of mine.  Each of your warriors gets to challenge a warpair, even if your warriors fight as a unit.

We don't know exactly what their code of honor is, but I think their way of conducting war is tied up in it, and that's why they fight the way they do.

GeekMan

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #23 on: October 01, 2010, 04:46:50 PM »
The Parshendi could use caltrops on the likely Alethi approaches which would disable the bridgemen, or at least slow them considerably.  They could use fire arrows on the bridges, and even if most of the bridges themselves didn't catch fire immediately, the arrows would still kill bridgemen and might set fire to other nearby bridgemen or even the bridges themselves causing them to collapse during the assault.  They could set up a simple spearwall on the opposite edge of the chasm (the attacker side) to slow the assault giving them more time to shoot arrows.  Lastly, and most simply, they could wait for the bridges to be placed and then push them into the chasm.  They are mobile after all.

I think other people have addressed the issue of burning the bridges pretty thoroughly, but there is a point that's been touched on that I'd like to flesh out a bit.  You ask why they don't use caltrops, or set up a spear wall.  Besides possibly not having caltrops, the way they fight precludes them.  The Parshendi do not fight on more than one plateau at a time.  If you attack them, lose, and retreat, they let you go.  They don't have to.  They could jump chasms and harry you and bleed you white.  But they don't.  Similarly, they bring one one force to any given fight.  Chasmfiend shows up, you get your army, they get their army, they meet you at the designated combat zone, and they fight you until one of you wins.  That's it.  We don't know exactly why they do this, but it clearly has to do with their beliefs about how combat is conducted.

I think the same thing explains why they don't use advanced troop formations.  They fight in pairs, and each pair picks a guy, and takes him on.  If they get beat, another pair might step up.  And then another.  But they don't do formations.

And you're right, BTW, that this isn't very smart.   They know where these battles are going to take place.  They don't need bridges to cross most chasms.  They could send one force to a gemheart fight, and then have two more show up halfway through, attack the staging plateau, cut off the Alethi escape, and then overwhelm them.

But instead, they fight fair.  One army of yours, one army of mine.  Two armies of yours, two armies of mine.  Each of your warriors gets to challenge a warpair, even if your warriors fight as a unit.

We don't know exactly what their code of honor is, but I think their way of conducting war is tied up in it, and that's why they fight the way they do.

This actually makes the most sense to me.  It almost seems as if the Parshendi are either teaching or learning how to fight with some sort of honor code.  Now I feel the individual fights make sense and maybe I can stop pulling out my hair and let it all grow back... if it can.   ;D
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Erunion

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #24 on: October 01, 2010, 05:49:34 PM »
As has been said already, the Parshendi aren't soldiers. They are warriors. They are brave, skilled fighters, but they seem to lack leadership. As far as I can tell, the Parshendi don't have any military officers, everyone is of the same rank. Each warpair fights as an individual unit with some buddies, not as a military unit supported by an army. Because of this disorganized system,  it took them six years to try and stop a cavalry charge with a spearwall, and they only used it because it gave them a chance of capturing a shardbearer! They just don't think militarily, they don't innovate, they don't use tactics.
One more thing, keep in mind that there are ten highprinces, each with their own unique tactics. We've only seen two highprinces tactics. It's possible (if unlikely for reasons listed earlier in the thread) for one of these eight to use siege weapons or oil.

Pechvarry

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #25 on: October 01, 2010, 06:45:50 PM »
I like the caltrops idea, if they can create them somehow (pretty easy to send 10 guys to a neighbor plateau you expect the Alethi to come from).

2 thoughts I have though:  
We know the Parshendi provoked the Alethi but we have no idea why.  They seemed to have planned the fight on the plains.  It could be that they are just giving the Alethi enough resistance so that the Alethi keep fighting, but for whatever reason they don't actually want to win.  Breaking the treaty makes no sense with all the information we've been given.  I feel like the Parshendi wanted this long drawn out war for some reason.  They want the Alethi where they are.  If it was too hard for the Alethi, they might not keep fighting, but they could get suspicious if it was too easy.  I think the Parshedi are giving just enough resistance to keep going.  Although they really don't want to lose the tower, ever, which is why they always bring more people there.  Also, once Dalinar and Sadeas joined up, they brought more men to even the match. It really doesn't seem like the Parshendi are trying to "win", just stall.

Has anyone seen the Parshendi burn the bridges? Or do they just assume it was them?  Could something else want it to not be super easy for the Alethi so they burn just enough bridges to make them work building new ones?  With all the scouts searching for the chasmfiends, which we know they still do at night, how has no one seen the Parshendi burning the bridges (or have they and I missed that?)

Perhaps the Parshendi want the Alethi to help them take the gemhearts (lending credence to the idea that it's not good if the chasmfiends complete their pupation).

Czanos

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #26 on: October 02, 2010, 06:04:08 PM »
Just going to point out here that it's pretty easy for anyone with access to soulcasters to get oil, as it's one of the ten essences. Doesn't help much with the flaming arrows idea, but it could be how the Parshendi or other force burn the bridges. Just soulcast the top half of it into oil and set it ablaze.
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Salkara

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #27 on: October 02, 2010, 07:00:04 PM »
So far, there have been a number of holes poked in the fire-arrow idea. Here's another. The Highstorms. Try leaving a piece of wood out in the rain and then try to light it on fire. Wet wood doesn't burn.

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #28 on: October 03, 2010, 02:07:57 AM »
I can let the fire-arrow thing go now, after everyone here has spoken of all these fabulous reasons why it wouldn't work I'm man enough to admit I didn't think that particular point all the way through. 

However, after re-reading the book again I do have a another question about the bridge runs. I'm sure there's a reason that I'm overlooking, but I can't seem to figure it out. Here's my question; why is it that as soon as the crew reaches the chasm with the bridge that the arrows stop?  Put another way, why don't the Parshendi simply wait to fire their arrows until the bridge crews were at the chasms?

It's been discussed in another thread on this board that the width of the chasms probably isn't more than 25 feet, and is most likely closer to 15' or 20'.  If that's the case, how could the Parshendi fail to kill most the bridgemen on each run as soon as they put the bridge down?   In the book it's mentioned that after reaching the chasms the bridgemen put the bridge down and then push it across.  Wouldn't that leave them completely exposed to arrows?

And no matter how "unsophisticated" they may be with tactics, a Parshendi who survives the first battle after seeing the bridgemen would have HAD to realize that holding back even ONE arrow until they got to the chasm would mean an almost certain kill.

Am I, once again, missing something obvious here?
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VegasDev

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Re: Shattered Plain War Questions (Possible Spoilers)
« Reply #29 on: October 03, 2010, 03:16:52 AM »
Yeah, I think you are. Felling them sooner means Sadeas forces have to try to come across fewer bridges. If they waited until the bridgemen got there, it just means that there are 20+ bridges ready to go at the same time, arrows pretty much still already spent and the soldiers pushing the bridges across would be heavily armored. Think about defending ground against 8 bridges or 20 bridges.

I think you are getting too caught up in the limited exposure you have to the battles, it is a 6 year war after all. Perhaps they attempted fire arrows but they failed. Perhaps Alethi troops tried to sneak behind once and it worked but now any troops that try it are ambushed and killed. Perhaps they tried to wait until the bridges got to the chasms but then had to defend against many more troops at a time coming across. Perhaps it is strategy of Parshendi to lull the Alethi (and you, lol) into thinking that winning the battle is more important than winning the war.
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