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Imagine if by chance, a Lightsaber was transferred using a time machine to the middle ages.

At first it was found by a peasant. The poor fellow didn't know what to do with it, so he sold it for a few coins to an artifact collector who was obsessed by cleaning and shining his artifacts. After three years, one time while the collector was busy shining the Lightsaber he accidentally activated it while pointing it to his heart; he died immediately.

The son of the collector found the Lightsaber next to his father's corpse and immediately knew that the artifact was diabolic, so he ran to the town's priest and told him about his discovery. The priest had equipped himself with some religious tools (a bible, a cross and some holy water) and went along with the son to the collector 's house. Scared from the laser coming out of the artifact, he told the son that this was indeed the devil's work, but in order to maintain his credibility he had to do something holy about it, so he put the cross on top of the Lightsaber and accidentally deactivated it.

Now, the priest suggested to purify this artifact with fire (bad idea), so the next day, he gathered the people in the town's center where he prepared a huge fire. He grabbed the Lightsaber with his hand and while walking towards the fire he tripped, and while falling he accidentally activated the Lightsaber and killed himself. Shocked by this unholy scene, the town's people ran away screaming, except for one clever fellow who happened to be an engineer.

Out of curiosity he wanted to investigate this artifact, so he grabbed the Lightsaber and inspected it carefully,. After hours of deep inspection, he concluded that this artifact was nothing but a sword of some kind he never saw before. Then he decided to test its might and was amazed by the power of this thing, so he decided to give it as a gift to the King for a position in the king's court. The king called his Lightsaber 'The Sword of Power', claiming that God wanted him to have it because he is the true king that shall rule this Earth, and so ballads have spread across the Earth praising the Sword of Power and his king, and the eyes of everyone have turned towards this kingdom, which brings me to my question :

What implications will this Lightsaber have during the Middle Ages on :

1 - Society.

2 - Warfare.

3 - Technology.

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    $\begingroup$ Technically you don't need a time machine. The events of Star Wars happened "a long time ago". You just need a way to get it over here from "far far away." $\endgroup$ – Scott Whitlock Apr 6 '16 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Apr 7 '16 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ If it is a red saber, the KIng will turn evil. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Apr 8 '16 at 0:13
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    $\begingroup$ If it is a purple saber, the King is probably Samuel Jackson. $\endgroup$ – Question Marks Apr 8 '16 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ Here's something about warfare that wasn't covered in any of the answers. During the Middle Ages the array of weapons was somewhat basic, Swords, Spears, Bows, Crossbows and rocks. Sure there were polearms and such, but they were never really 'mainstream'. There was also a really important motive for having spears, it's that they can pierce some armor being relatively precise AND with range, unlike swords, who were only good against unarmored troops (Unless they were half-swording or bludgeoning, but in that case a spear or a club would do a better job). That's because... $\endgroup$ – Oak Jun 23 '16 at 13:39

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There's the preliminary question: How long does the light saber continue working? How long do the batteries last? Or how long before something breaks or wears out and it needs to be repaired? If it's like a cell phone and the batteries die in a week, then it quickly becomes a useless metal artifact, and the people who said it emitted a blue light that killed people are thought to be gullible and superstitious, or particularly inept con men trying to pull a lame hoax. But assuming that it works long enough for many people to see it in operation ...

I'd say the real implications in all three categories would be: Very little. Let me take them out of order.

Technology: I'd guess probably zero impact. The technology is so far beyond what the people possess that they are unlikely to be able to learn anything from it. If you took some piece of advanced technology from today back in time 10 or 20 years and showed it to a talented engineer, it's likely he'd figure out how it worked and leapfrog the technology. Take it back 50 years and it would probably take a genius to figure it out. But take it back 200 years or more? I doubt even the greatest genius could figure out all the steps that would lead to that technology. I'm not sure how a light saber is supposed to work, but it's beyond us. Suppose you took a cell phone or a computer to the Middle Ages. They don't understand electricity. How could they possibly figure out what integrated circuit chips are? They'd just look like funny little boxes. Maybe, possibly, they could play with the battery and wires and jump start understanding of electricity.

Warfare: One light saber will not seriously change the power structure. Sure, the man who has it has a distinct advantage over opponents armed with swords and spears. But even one-on-one he's not invincible. If he faces someone much more skilled in melee combat, the guy with the primitive weapon might well duck and dodge the light saber and get in a killing thrust. Someone with a bow and arrows could take him out long before he's in range to use the light saber. Even assuming he uses it effectively, so in a battle he kills dozens or a hundred or more of the enemy. Good for him, he's a hero. In a close case, that might make the difference between victory and defeat. But if his army has 1,000 men and the enemy have 10,000 men, it's unlikely he can win the battle purely because of the power of the light saber.

Society: Here it gets very speculative. Maybe people would say, "Wow, here is technology far beyond anything we have. We must devote greater effort and resources to scientific research and engineering, so that we can eventually build things like this." In the most optimistic scenario, a few very intelligent people are inspired and go on to found some great movement.

Or maybe, as you suppose in your scene, they think it's magic or demons.

I think the most likely scenario is that it's put on a shelf and remembered as a curious oddity. Eventually it quits working and/or is lost in a fire or flood or war or whatever, and it becomes a legend. Many say the legend is a silly myth, some absolutely believe it. It then has the same sort of impact on society as legends we talk about have on us. Think of Atlantis, Bigfoot, King Arthur, the Holy Grail, etc. Whether these and similar stories are total fiction or absolute truth, I don't think they have any great influence on society. They inspire some people. Maybe you could trace some important events to belief in these stories. But it's not like people think of them every day and this changes what they do in some direct way.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Apr 8 '16 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ I've never seen someone in any of the Star Wars movies to change the battery or go to a lightsaber charging station, so I guess we can assume the batteries last - for all practical purposes - forever. $\endgroup$ – Tom Oct 10 '18 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ @tom Wellll.... I've seen plenty of cop shows where there was never a scene where the police car stopped at a gas station. I don't conclude from that that police cars don't need gas. Just that they don't clutter up the movie with boring scenes of people doing mundane tasks. $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 10 '18 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay - I have seen at least one such movie. And people running out of ammo is a regular plot point in movies. You'd think in 8+ movies, they'd have come up with the idea at least once if it were a thing. $\endgroup$ – Tom Oct 10 '18 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Tom (shrug) There's little point debating what might have been in the heads of script writers that neither of us have ever met. More productive would be to discuss what is physically possible. But even there we're rather stuck: How much power does a light saber use? And what will battery technology be like hundreds of years from now? Are there inherent limits? Even if there are, who says they use batteries per se, and not, say, fuel cells or a small fusion generator or who knows what? $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 11 '18 at 19:07
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So, a king has a magical sword that makes him exceptionally powerful in combat. It's seen as a sign of his divine right to rule. Supporting him is a wise man who understands, to a certain degree at least, how the magic works.

Congratulations, you've just re-invented the Arthur mythos!

What would be the implications? Well, how did things turn out for King Arthur? He built up a great and powerful empire, but he spent so much time establishing and administering it that he neglected his wife, who ended up getting seduced by one of Arthur's strongest supporters, an act which, when it was discovered, ended up tearing the kingdom apart. He lived by the sword, and in the end died by the sword, or may as well have since he's not still around after that point. For all his prowess at being a warrior and a king, his much more basic failings as a man brought him down, and today, centuries later, most people consider his story a myth and openly doubt whether he and his marvelous sword ever actually existed in the first place. In the end, he and his sword accomplished nothing of lasting value except inspiring some really cool stories.

As much of a downer as it is, without the technology in place to reverse-engineer the lightsaber, some variation on the Arthur story is realistically the best that's likely to happen.

Even if he lives a full and fulfilling life and dies of old age, still in possession of the sword, what happens to it then? To own this weapon is to own a kingdom, either by virtue of the legend that goes with it making you be seen as the rightful ruler or, failing that, because having it makes you capable of conquering your way onto the throne. That makes it worth plotting, scheming, and killing for to a great many people, particularly if the king does not have a single clearly-defined heir who is ready and capable of stepping in at the time of the king's death. Can we say "succession wars"? (And even if that doesn't happen the first time, it will eventually, probably within a very few generations. If historical averages hold, that's a virtual certainty.)

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    $\begingroup$ Bah. Everyone knows 'King' Arthur was really a woman, and did not begrudge her friend/beard Guinevere her chance at love, but had to oppose it publicly for the sake of her image. $\endgroup$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Apr 7 '16 at 3:19
  • $\begingroup$ Well, Arthur didn't really build a great empire. More like he maintained a small kingdom against the Saxon invasion for a few decades. Though I'd say Arthur did have a long-term effect on history: He held off the Saxons from conquering Britain until the Saxons had converted to Christianity, thus causing Britain for centuries afterward to be Christian instead of pagan. Given all the possible what-if's. $\endgroup$ – Jay Apr 7 '16 at 6:13
  • $\begingroup$ But yes. Whether there was anything magical about Excalibur (or Caliburn, as I believe the earlier stories call it) or if it was just a particularly well-made sword, or a total myth invented later ... One weapon on that scale could make someone a legendary hero, but wouldn't likely change the outcome of a war except in a very close case. The most dramatic impact it would be likely to have is to inspire people to follow the great hero who wields it, as opposed to directly killing many of the enemy. $\endgroup$ – Jay Apr 7 '16 at 6:15
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I am assuming an infinite self-recharging power supply on the basis that we never see a lightsabre run out of juice in the movies and hey why not it's already a magically advanced technology.

1 - Society

Will largely depend on how it is used and the story told around it. Could go many ways. Any significantly beneficial use however is likely to be hard to keep quiet.

2 - Warfare

In melee it will be quickly irrelevant (irony of ironies).

It will be very intimidating at first but after the first few wielders are easily killed by better skilled melee fighters or ranged weapons it will lose its potency.

Once people realise how good it is at quick and clean amputations it will have a big impact in survival rates for field injuries.

Where it will really shine is against fortifications and similar enemy structural targets. Nothing except a moat will even slow it down. Your opponents castles are useless now whereas yours are still good. Just make sure never to lose it!

3 - Technology

I am assuming the lightsabers can only be disassembled by a force user or very advanced technology.

No one will have a hope of reverse engineering any aspect of it. However it may inspire increased interest in actual science.

It may be very useful as a standard power/light/etc source in experiments.

4 - Production

Its biggest long-term impact however may simply be as a production tool.

Imagine how fast you can quarry rock, fell trees, forge metal, dig tunnels through rock, mine ore compared to the normal methods?

A single person could level a wood in a day.(assuming some skill and risk obviously).

It can be put to these uses 24/7. It will likely be surrounded constantly by a small army to keep it safe from theft. Structures previously considered economically impractical suddenly become easy allowing fantastic tunnels, fortresses etc to be quickly constructed.

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  • $\begingroup$ The defenders of a castle can't drop flammable oil on the lightsaber wielder? You don't cut through castle walls too well when you're on fire... $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Apr 7 '16 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, it would be a great tool. But there's only one. How much more efficient would it be than bashing away with the primitive tools of the time? Ten times? A hundred times? Even if a thousand times as good: If two kingdoms both have, say, 100,000 citizens, and kingdom A has this one magic tool that does the work of 1,000 people, while B has slightly better versions of conventional tools that make each worker 10% more productive, B has the equivalent of 10,000 extra people. $\endgroup$ – Jay Apr 7 '16 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Monty Wild flaming oil is not the ultimate weapon in siege warfare. There are many strategies and counter strategies for both above and below ground. A light-sabre would simply be a very powerful cutting tool to use in conjunction with those strategies. For example If 1000's approach from every angle do you have enough oil to pour it over every section of the wall ? how many times ? If not it many take only seconds for the hidden wielder to cut a new doorway or collapse a section of wall inward. I'm sure experts would come up much better plans. $\endgroup$ – John McNamara Apr 8 '16 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay, you have point, but the math is likely a bit more complex, how many workers are engaged in the effected trade-skills?, only a tiny percentage I suspect. In any case a 10% production increase would quickly be stolen and used as well by the light-sabre kingdom. Even a small difference can be hugely important in economics and international trade. If you were a 3rd Kingdom who would you buy goods from ? the light-sable Kingdom with 2% lower prices or the other ? $\endgroup$ – John McNamara Apr 8 '16 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ As an additional point, going from raw ore in ground to workable heated steel takes weeks of effort due to mining, making charcoal, refining, smelting etc. I suspect a light-sabre could shorten that to minutes. $\endgroup$ – John McNamara Apr 8 '16 at 21:05
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Open Warfare

One skilled fencer would be devastating on the field of battle with a light saber. S/He could become a hero of legends. However, light sabers do not instil force powers. One cross bow bolt will still kill them. If someone disarms them, they are lost. A knife in the back still ends a life.

One singular unit could become significantly more effective in combat. However, if the unit is outnumbered, or out-manoeuvred one light saber will not save them.

In even battles this Kingdom shall do better. They are likely to grow and be successful (unless the light saber finds its way into the hands of a force adept swordsman).

Technology

None

Society

The "Sword of Power" would become a symbol much like Excalibur. Passed down as a symbol of the right to rule. It would instil both awe and envy. Wise rulers would draw even more followers. Foolish rulers would draw even more enemies.

Guerilla Warfare

One skilled swordsman with a light saber could take down 5-10 heavily armored warriors (speed difference due to armor. Leading small strikes against the enemy, you could inflict significant casualties with few losses of your own). Most of your unit fights defensively until you have a chance to slice through their armor.

Economy

Put the sword to work.

Mining, masonry, fortifications. You could quickly dig out amazing fortifications out of rock formations, above and below ground.

Once the fortifications are built, put it to work in your most valuable resource mine. I'm tempted to say you just made it 100 to 1000 times more productive.

Dig through mountains to make profitable trade routes.

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  • $\begingroup$ How could you say that this Lightsaber will have no implications on technology ? if this sword finds its way into the hands of someone like Leonardo Da Vinci, we can expect many great things to happen. $\endgroup$ – Javert Apr 6 '16 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ Leonardo does not have the tools to understand a light saber's production. He can not replicate any of its components. He could use it as a tool. But I can imagine no technological advancement that would persist outside the presence of the light saber. Increased mining rates is not a technological advancement. $\endgroup$ – PCSgtL Apr 6 '16 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ Implications on Economy : I am thinking about money coming from pilgrimages, if the Lightsaber has a religious meaning, then people will travel from all over the world just to get blessed. $\endgroup$ – Javert Apr 6 '16 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ If the light saber was venerated as some sort of religious icon and pilgrims come to see it, it could make the owner personally rich or famous. But I doubt it would change power structures or the course of history. There have been many religious icons throughout history: fragments of Jesus's cross, Buddha's ashes, etc. People paid money to see them. But it's not like this made the people who owned them the rulers of the world. Yes, the light saber actually does something instead of just being a relic of a past event, but so what? ... $\endgroup$ – Jay Apr 7 '16 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ ... If a live atom bomb was put on display at a museum somewhere, would more people go to see that than go to museums to see the Mona Lisa or King Tut's sarcophagus, just because it "does something"? $\endgroup$ – Jay Apr 7 '16 at 6:04
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Society - the item might be seen as magic or having religious significance (as you touched on in your question). It may generate some excitement, and people may travel long distnaces just to get a glimpse of it.

However, a single "magic" object of unknown origin and implications probably won't have much lasting impact. It would be different if the object caused some fundamental assumption of society to be re-thought, but in your scenario, the light saber is simply a complete mystery.

Warfare - The impact in warfare will be quite limited, simply because there is only one.

In combat, the light saber is basically a glorified sword. It is better than any medieval sword by far, but that only gets you so much. Maybe whoever is wielding it could fight off two or three soldiers, but more than a few soldiers with conventional swords (or a few archers) could defeat one person with a light saber easily enough.

The ability to deflect projectiles would be of limited use, given the primitive projectiles at the time.

The most interesting ability would be the ability to cut through any surface. This may allow for quite an effective surprise attack, such as sneaking up to a castle and cutting through its walls at night. However, once this ability was discovered, it would be less useful.

The weakness is that you have to get right next to an object to cut through it. This can usually be prevented fairly easily. This also places the light saber at high risk of being captured by the enemy, and most likely whoever owns it will be risk-averse in this regard.

Overall, the saber might turn the tide of a couple battles through a surprise attack, but it is unlikely to be significant enough to make much of a difference in a sustained war.

Technology - Probably no difference. Medieval technology is not sophisticated enough to understand it. It might even harm progress, if resources are directed away from actual achievable goals to study it.

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    $\begingroup$ So the light the lightsaber gives off wouldn't be noticed at night by the sentries? $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Apr 7 '16 at 0:41
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild Indeed, a Lightsaber is not effective when it comes to stealth. $\endgroup$ – Javert Apr 7 '16 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild good point. This decreases its suitability for a surprise attack. It would still probably work once or twice, as it could easily cut a hole before the enemy knows what's going on. $\endgroup$ – user16107 Apr 8 '16 at 6:09
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I think his question is actually rather similar to this one.

In the end a single lightsaber wont make much difference. Yes it will be great for morale boosting, and it will be hands down the most effective fighter on the field, but be able to beat armies. It wont be able to stop 1000 arrows flying towards it. The users wont have the force so they wont be able to sense that guy sneaking up behind them.

Ultimately if it was really used in combat it would probably change hands a lot. if it wasn't used in combat it would be basically like a relic of some saint (though would be the most awesome relic ever), used for morale boosting and such but no tangible effect on battle day.

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I think that the lightsaber would be subject of enough legends about the mysterious deaths of its owners to make every new owner more afraid of losing the artifact. This instilled fear makes the wearer increasingly paranoid of all around him. I think the end result is that the artifact is denounced as a tool for evil and must be destroyed, similar to the One Ring from Lord of the Rings.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not that you are wrong, but you barely answer the question about implications on society. And absolutely nothing about warfare or technology. Could you expand a bit your answer? $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Apr 6 '16 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin Yeah, I ran short on time. I'll expand upon it later. $\endgroup$ – mbomb007 Apr 6 '16 at 18:49
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There's one other aspect not addressed so far (who would have guessed that for a question five hours old...): the need to recharge the thing after heavy use. It would seem that it is canon that light sabers do need recharging (see here), which is a feat I assume not that easily solved in medieval times and without proper understanding of the device itself. Luckily it is claimed that lightsabers use very little power only when switched on and more when cutting through matter. So putting it to productive use, e.g. level a wood as suggested by John McNamara's answers, might leave you with a nice and shiny artifact formerly known as a lightsaber in no time.

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All of the posts here seem to focus on the point that there is only one so that it would not have much bearing on warfare. Given examples over history where one particular fighter or tactic changed the course of a battle, one light sabre could change course of history.

Not to mention that many battles were settled by a fight of champions, troop morale was a vital factor. Most battles were never even fought, a parley would happen instead after lining up the armies in battle array.

Having a great warrior with mundane weapons were enough to cause terror in an enemy army and caused leaders to submit because they felt their troops would defect during battle.

Also take into account that leaders were afraid to do battle as even a battle won took a toll on the winning army. Eventually you run out of men.

So I do believe that seeing a truly magical, god-like weapon used by a skilled warrior in a moderately sized army would start a living legend and give the appearance of an undefeatable enemy.

Enemy military leaders, troops and civilians would likely become subjects and vassels of this unstoppable army.

A leader with such an army / champion could take over the world with little actual fighting.

Look into history from biblical times up to the most recent wars and you will find that psycological factors had a much greater impact than physical ones.

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    $\begingroup$ Obviously one tactic can change the course of history, but that is because tactics can be replicated. Do you have actual examples of where one great warrior changed the tide of battles? $\endgroup$ – user16107 Apr 8 '16 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe Welcome to Worldbuilding. I like your idea, a "divine" sword will give a morale boost to the troops during the war. $\endgroup$ – Javert Apr 8 '16 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ @dan1111 There is some historical evidence of figures such as Achilies. Governments / armies based decisions on where to go or if they should battle / submit based on that persons presence. Romans were afraid to fight Hannibal albiet it was his ability to command mostly but also because he became a legend. An artifact such as the arc of the covenant is an example based on an object. $\endgroup$ – Joe Apr 8 '16 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ continued - After one successful fight where a warrior chops 20 or 100 armored men in half could cause such an effect in medieval times. Dont think in terms of battles fought and casualties, for every battle fought there might be 100 that were not fought based on religious or mystical or legendary circumstances. There were powerful barons in old england who could overthrow a king but they did not because they believed him to be an extension of God. $\endgroup$ – Joe Apr 8 '16 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ @joe Hannibal was at least 700 years before the middle ages and was a brilliant commander of armies, not a swordsman. He would not have been foolish enough to go near the front lines and crossbows had not been invented yet. Amazing what us folks can find out in a history book. $\endgroup$ – John McNamara Apr 11 '16 at 13:26
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Society: Criminals would try to replicate it; make it a strong or not strong weapon. They may trick peasants around the world at this age that it is real 'sword' (as they didn't have detectives or social networks back in the Middle Ages) The legend would be told in stories about the original people who found it. People would wonder about the origin and if God may reveal in "centuries to come", it's purpose.

Warfare: Knights would envy or still love their King. New recruits would have the intentions of having the chance to claim the sword, see the sword often for the families or intend to destroy it.

Technology: Kingdoms and blacksmiths would do their upmost to replicate or figure out how to make another.

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Unlike other answers, I do believe that the lightsaber would make a big difference in battles.

Knights were the tanks of their time. They were trained since childhood, equipped with horses and armour that took the taxes of entire villages to pay for and were as close to invulnerable as you could get with medieval technology. It depends on the exact time period, of course, but before the invention of the longbow and the crossbow, there was no handheld ranged weapon that could kill a knight, except by extreme luck.

A fighter who can finish off a knight in one single blow, and can do that again and again, could easily cause a panic among the enemy ranks, turning the battle. Do not forget that morale and psychology are often more important in battles than weapons and armor.

Yes, in theory 100 men will always defeat 1 man by sheer numbers. In reality, however, if that one man can kill you and both the people to your left and right with a single swing - are you really going to rush him first?

Taking down the heavily armored knights with an ease that seems magical will have an effect on the battle that goes well beyond the purely mechanical.

The same goes for the other effects. The king already set the stage with the godly wish and the "sword of power" thing. You have here a genuinely magical artifact that no wisdom of the medieval world can even begin to explain. I would not underestimate the effect that it could have, provided someone plays his cards right.

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  • $\begingroup$ This. It's already hard enough to go through plate armor in a battle, if the guy can kill everyone in front of him just by moving his wrist, the only limit is his exhaustion. But then, someone else can take his place and continue the carnage. You can't sneak on him, as he'd have a guard surrounding him on the sides. You can't shoot arrows at him. It doesn't go through plate and anyway, he just has to wait until the melee start before going in. Usually people stop shooting arrow to avoid the risk of killing their own soldiers. $\endgroup$ – Echox Oct 10 '18 at 16:16

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