Monday, February 6, 2017

The 10 Trials of The Master Bladesmith

When we think of master bladesmiths, we tend to imagine old men forgotten in the woods, or sequestered in a monastery. Men with heavily-muscled arms and thick beards, who have solved the riddle of steel. The sorts of people adventurers and warriors seek out, begging them to forge weapons that can slay dragons, or cleave through enemy armor like it was made of paper.

How sharp can you make it?
What a lot of us tend to forget, though, is that in this age of mechanization there are still real master bladesmiths. And while they might not be able to wield magic, the blades they create are astonishing. Works of art, unmatched pieces of craftsmanship, and deadly weapons, they are truly something to behold.

Not just anyone can call themselves a master bladesmith, though. They have to undergo the 10 trials.

The 10 Trials of The Master Bladesmith

There are, according to Atlas Obscura, fewer than 200 people in the world who hold the title of master bladesmith. This title is granted by the American Bladesmith Society (which, to be fair, has only been around since the 1970s), and it was designed as a way to recognize and encourage mastery of a trade in a world where traditional bladesmithing was quickly going extinct.

So what does it take to become a master?

Well, first someone has to join the organization. This officially makes them an apprentice (in the sense that they're new, not in the sense that they're actually working for another smith, though that can happen if members decide to join forces). After three years of membership, or two for those who complete a course offered by the Society, an apprentice can take their first test. The apprentice forges a blade, and then that blade has to cut a rope in a single swing (the rope is unsecured, and the cut must be roughly 6 inches from the bottom). The same knife must then chop through two 2 x 4 pieces of wood, and immediately after must be proven keen enough to still shave hair from someone's skin. Lastly, the blade is bent at a 90-degree angle to prove it was forged with skill. If the blade shatters, even if it's passed all the other tests, the apprentice fails.

Once the performance test is done, the apprentice must bring five carbon steel blades of their own to be examined by master smiths. If those on the panel decide the individual displays the proper skill, then they advance to the rank of journeyman.

Gaining two craft feats, and one spell-like ability.
That's tough enough, but it's nowhere near as grueling as what comes later. Journeymen must train apprentices by sharing wisdom and skill with them, and it takes another 2 to 3 years of work and refinement before they can attempt to be named a master. They have to undergo the same performance test on a blade, but this time the blade must be Damascus steel, and have a hidden tang.

If the journeyman passes the performance test, they must again come before the masters with five new blades. At least one of those blades must be made of Damascus steel, and there must be a Damascus steel quillion dagger, which is considered one of the most difficult pieces to make by the Society. If the journeyman's work passes muster, they are bestowed the rank of master by those who earned it before them.

6 Years to Earn, A Lifetime to Master

Those are some pretty rigorous standards, and the results are beautiful blades. But ask yourself, what is the standard of a master bladesmith in your game? What difficult weapons must they make to prove their mastery over steel, and what tests must their weapons pass before they are deemed sufficient enough to earn the title for their maker?

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday post. Thanks for stopping in, and I hope it's provided you with a bit of food for thought. If you'd like to support Improved Initiative so I can keep bringing you content just like this, stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. For as little as $1 a month, you get some sweet swag, as well as my undying gratitude. Lastly, if you haven't followed me on Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter yet, why not start today?

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant post! I'd say that such a master would probably have 15 ranks of Craft: weapons skill. Excellent post as usual.