Hi, I know that scythes have probably been done to death on this blog, but I was wondering if there was a way that could make them (at least plausibly) usable weapons. I keep thinking of characters like Death from Darksiders II and Bloodborne when I try to write. I’m writing a story where a character uses scythes like those, and I was wondering if it was anatomically possible or if I should just choose a new weapon for him to use.

You should probably choose a new weapon. Scythes only make sense for characters as a very stylistic design choice. This is true for both Death (in Darksiders) and Gehrman (from Bloodborne).

The scythe itself doesn’t make a good weapon. Because of the way it operates, it’s impossible to get a strike in without telegraphing the attack, giving anyone facing a scythe wielder plenty of time to deal with it. This is actually visible with the Burial Blade’s transformed moveset in Bloodborne, if you want to see exactly what I’m talking about.

Actual scythes also lacked a sharpened outer blade. They were designed to hook and draw grain towards the wielder. In combat this means you end up with your opponent (and their weapon) between you and the cutting edge of yours. This is, to put it mildly, a very bad thing.

What Death is using most often in Darksiders II are a pair of kama like mini-scythes. These are one handed weapons, with a short, curved blade, sharpened on the inner edge, and are used in several Asian styles, particularly in Japan.

Because the kama is a much smaller tool, it adapted to use as a weapon fairly easily. The biggest difference, pun not intended, is the size. Because a kama can be used with one hand, the practitioner can hook their opponent and still strike or defend with their other hand (or another kama). The size also allows kama to be used as effective parrying tools.

In fairness, the kama is more analogous to the European sickle, which according to surviving manuscripts, also saw some martial use.

Somewhat obviously, none of this is apparent in Darksiders II. It uses Death’s scythes as a purely visual motif. Because when Vigil Games decided their second Horseman protagonist would be Death, their weapon decisions were (mostly) made for them.

The scythe has a lot of metaphorical and thematic meaning, but the design doesn’t make for a good weapon. Medieval (and possibly early modern) Peasants pressed into service as shock troops would modify their scythes to function as improvised polearms. This involved removing the blade and mounting it in line with the shaft (or along the shaft). The resulting weapon is referred to as a war scythe, and functions similarly to a glave or bardiche. Eventually the war scythe evolved into it’s own distinct weapon. Though, I’m not sure, exactly, when that happened.


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