Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Musings: Conquistadors in the Archipelago -- a first look

Die, Spanish-speaking, armored symbol
of colonialism and oppression. Crom!
As I said, I'm not going for all out historical accuracy, but historical research does turn up interesting information that can improve your setting's verisimilitude.

Now, one major element of a Philippine fantasy setting -- assuming you're planning on dealing with that period of history anyway -- are the Spaniards.

Despite this wonderfully patriotic, nationalist pride-stirring image, we eventually succumbed to the colonization efforts of Spain (and the reasons are manifold and the subject of heated academic debate). But some research on conquistadors elsewhere reveals some surprising information.

According to About.com, the mental image we have of the conquistadors (who weren't called that in their lifetimes) is very different from the reality:
There were two sorts of Spanish conquistadors: horsemen or cavalry and foot soldiers or infantry... Cavalrymen received a much higher share of the treasure than foot soldiers when the spoils were divided.
The Spanish horsemen generally had two sorts of weapons: lances and swords. Their lances were long wooden spears with iron or steel points on the ends, used to devastating effect on masses of native foot soldiers. In closer combat, a rider would use his sword. Steel Spanish swords of the conquest were about three feet long and relatively narrow, sharp on both sides.
Spanish footsoldiers could use a variety of weapons. Many people incorrectly think that it was firearms that doomed the New World natives, but that’s not the case. Some Spanish soldiers used a harquebus, a sort of early musket. The harquebus was undeniably effective against any one opponent, but they are slow to load, heavy, and firing one is a complicated process involving the use of a wick which must be kept lit.
Furthermore, according to the Cabrillo National Monument site under npr.gov...
...this was not a nationally subsidized army. There was no such thing as a uniform, no two Spanish soldiers looked the same, nor did they want to. These were disciplined soldiers but they were also rugged individualists. Each man provided his own equipment and except for the nobility and very wealthy it was usually a mixed bag of whatever the soldier could find and afford.
Sounds a lot like the traditional D&D fighters buying and upgrading their weapons and armor as they came into money. And speaking of quality weapons, here's what's said about that Toledo steel:
The Spanish city of Toledo was known as one of the best places in the world for making arms and armor and a fine Toledo sword was a valuable weapon indeed: the finely made weapons did not pass inspection until they could bend in a half-circle and survive a full-force impact with a metal helmet. The fine Spanish steel sword was such an advantage that for some time after the conquest, it was illegal for natives to have one.
Could be an equivalent of the +1 swords in D&D being restricted to ownership by the occupying forces, yes?


  1. Inspirational and interesting facts you provide in this post. The picture reminds me of another drawing of Lapu Lapu and Magellan by Francisco Coching:

    Last year, I started an adventure with a player by showing him that image, asking "Which of these guys are you?"

    He choose the conquistador. I say, "Ok, your name is El Grande Loco". He then entered an abandoned gold mine guarded and booby-trapped by a deranged japanese WW2 soldier. Good times.

    The native hero character in my jungle setting is named Ceptaar, and is also a combination of Lapu Lapu and Conan. Crom! :)

  2. I find it interesting that the Wargames Research Groups Army List for this period actually gives the breakdown for missile troops in a "typical" Conquistador Army as being 50% Arqueguses and 50% Crossbows (and they make up only a small portion of a typical Army).

  3. @fireinthejungle: Francisco Coching! Yes I've seen his art before -- not through Gerry (Alanguilan), but through some of the other local comic artists.

    @Underminer: That's interesting -- D&D of course taught me crossbows are slow, but the arquebuses I only learned about by reading about the time period of Arturo Perez y Reverte's Captain Alatriste series.

  4. Love your caption on the Battle of Mactan pic! Wa ha ha ha!


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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