Tag Archives: weapons

Q&A: Large Swordbreakers

Would a swordbreaker that is scaled up to the size of a one or two handed sword be useful, or too situational?

I’m unsure if it would even be possible, or at the very least, useful.

The entire idea behind a swordbreaker is to have a parrying tool you can use to catch and lock up your opponent’s blade. So, you’d carry a sidearm in your main hand, this could be a sword, an axe, whatever, and you’d use the swordbreaker in your off hand, to parry with. These wouldn’t necessarily break the blade, but they would allow the user to torque it and keep hold of the blade, while retaliating with their own primary weapon.

A longer, sword sized, swordbreaker would much harder to produce, and much more fragile, which starts to undermine its intended use. The two designs that come to mind off hand were comb style blades, which could hook and catch a blade between the teeth, and two pronged, “forks.” (I’m including trident daggers under this, if anyone is wondering.) I suspect making a sword length comb would result in an unreasonably fragile item. Too fragile for use as a swordbreaker.

Extending a fork to sword lengths would be similarly pointless, because you’d still only be using the six inches near the grip, and the extended tines would just get in the way and slow you down. Someone could make one, but I doubt it could be used, at least not as a swordbreaker. I’m also not even considering the structural stability on a long fork, because, really, it wouldn’t be able to work as a swordbreaker.

There are examples of existing swords that include sword breaker features, such as tines designed to trap the opponent’s blade near the guard, though these features are more common on parrying daggers. You will also, sometimes, see heavier piercing blades, like the estoc described as swordbreakers. This is technically incorrect, as those weapons were designed to deal with armor, but the term is used that way sometimes.

So, no. It’s not even a situational consideration, just a practical use problem.


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Q&A: God of War

How physically (in)feasible would weapons like the Blades of Chaos from God of War be in real life (the in-game nonsense about attachment aside)? The blades themselves are too big to be accurate thrown weapons, which I’m assuming the chains are supposed to compensate for, but I don’t quite understand the aerodynamics and weights versus a meteor hammer (or other, slightly more conventional weapon of that sort).

The short answer is, they’re not. For the exact reason you mentioned, the Blades of Chaos are far too heavy to use, this is before you even consider throwing them. Man at Arms built one back in 2013. To make the thing work, they actually used a lighter steel alloy, scaled it down, and ported it to get the weight of the blade under 10lbs. Even ignoring the part where Kratos is throwing them, these are stupidly big blades.

So the overall size isn’t an option. You can chalk this up to art design, or superpowers, if you want, but the swords are simply oversized to the point that they’re unusable. If you want to say, “that’s art design,” sure. That’s fine. It’s not authentic to the real world, but you’re talking about a steroid junkie who was resurrected from the dead hunting down and killing the Greek Gods, so, there’s not a lot of point to arguing if his swords are too large for a human to wield them. Just, you know, keep in mind, that’s part of the material’s visual aesthetic.

As with using them, they’re too heavy to throw at someone. That said, sticking a blade on the end of a length of rope or chain was a real weapon that saw use in China. We’ve talked about rope darts or kunai before. These are, basically, a small throwing dagger that is controlled by the user via the attached chain or chord. These are pretty popular in martial arts films, and they are a real option. There’s also a number of blunt variants, including the meteor hammer you mentioned. In those cases, you’re less worried about aerodynamics, and more interested in using the chain to control where and how the weapon spins. Sort of like a yo-yo, of horrific death and dismemberment.

There are practical points for both the Blades of Chaos and the rope dart, but they’re fundamentally different contexts.

Rope darts, and similar weapons are incredibly hard to deal with defensively. Against a trained user, they’re nearly impossible to block or parry.  Beyond that, they can be incredibly hard to predict. They’re also very difficult to use. It takes a lot of training and practice to actually put the blade where you want it. This means that a skilled practitioner can give these some very idiosyncratic strike arcs.

The Blades of Chaos are designed to do something you usually don’t want in a weapon: They’re designed to telegraph the user’s actions, and it is incredibly important that they do so.

For those of you unfamiliar with the God of War franchise, it’s a character action game where you control Kratos, an undead, Spartan warrior. Gameplay is (primarily) presented from an isometric perspective, where Kratos takes up somewhere around 2%-5% of the screen at any given moment. Part of this is to provide a sense of scale, and the series has a frequent sub-theme of sticking him next to incomprehensibly massive enemies. So, making him visually small is thematically important. It’s also important from a gameplay perspective. The player needs to be able to see the entire arena they’re currently fighting in, so that they can track enemy movement, and avoid attacks.

The chains attached to the Blades of Chaos provide two critical functions. They provide several medium range attacks for the player, and they offer the player feedback. That’s the telegraphing thing I mentioned earlier.

Given the way combat flows in the franchise, the ranged attack options are critical. The idea is that they player will be involved in melee combat, and continue to engage in it immediately after killing an opponent. There’s a number of ways to deal with this design goal, including lunge attacks or medium range options. As far as I know, God of War does both. The blades are also used as traversal tools, both in a chain pull to move the player around the battlefield (that’s a lunge move), and as climbing aids for some of those massive boss fights. (And some miniboss fights.)

In a character action game, telegraphing your attacks is actually fairly important. It runs contrary to actual combat doctrine for the exact reason that you’d never want to do this in a fight. In a game, you need to know exactly what your character is doing at all times. You also need to know what your enemies are doing. Because, as a genre, character action games tend to ramp up the speed of combat significantly, and maintain a high tempo, this means you’re not going to have the time to take a measured look at your opponent and evaluate their movements. So, for it to be playable, everything needs to be telegraphed. If you don’t, the combat will become nearly unplayable or, worse, feel unresponsive and inconsistent.

The cartoonist proportions of the blades are (I suspect) largely because you need to convey information to the player, in game, quickly. They’re comically oversized, but that’s because you need to be able to track them on your TV, from the couch, when Kratos is smaller than an action figure. The part where they ignite when used just gives you clear information on what you just did, where that hit landed and, (most importantly), when you’ll be able to do something else.

That last part is a huge component behind why all of this is so important for a game like God of War. (Not just a video game in general, but this specific genre.) When you’re designing a game, it’s important to understand what aesthetic elements communicate to the player. There’s a lot of parts to this, and it’s not always as simple as just the art style.

This is also why you don’t want to take stuff straight out of a video game without seriously considering what it was doing there in the first place. In this case, it’s telegraphing.

That said, if you’re drawing art, the whole oversized weapon aesthetic can serve (roughly) the same purpose: to communicate the progress of combat clearly. It also gives you more space for fine detail work on the weapons, which may work into your overall aesthetic as well. It’s not realistic, but there are artistic merits to the style.

When you’re in a real fight, the last thing you want is your opponent to know what you’re doing. This is one of the things the rope dart excels at, and part of why a lot of martial arts focus on keeping your movements inside the body’s profile. Humans process objects by identifying the outlines, and it will (usually) lump a person together as a single object, or a small collection of objects, meaning tracking motion inside that outline is actually harder. It’s not that you can’t see it, just that there’s a momentary lag of your brain going, “wait, what was that? I wasn’t paying attention.” In a fight, that can be fatal.

When you see stuff like this actually play out in video games, it tends to result in feeling like you couldn’t tell what was happening, or attacks came out of nowhere. In short, it’s not fun.

Television and films often use large exaggerated movements for the same reason, to convey what’s happening. It’s part of why the roundhouse punch is so prominent on screen (particularly up into the late 60s), when attempting the actual move in a fight is borderline suicidal. (The other reason this persisted is, it’s a very easy attack to whiff for the camera. Meaning it makes life much easier on the actors. Additionally, the long windup means the other actor has plenty of warning to cue their reaction. Again, the opposite of what you’d want in a real fight.)


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Q&A: Mismatched Weapons

Hey I’m trying to write a scene where one character is fighting using hook swords while the other is simply using a mace. I want for the fight to end in the mace user winning, however I’m having issues figuring out some weaknesses to using hook swords online and I’d rather have them win the fight in a more creative way than just brute forcing it since even though physically the mace user is stronger, they’re effectively on the same level as far as actual fighting goes. Any suggestions?

You’ve got a serious problem and that problem is mismatched weaponry.

A mace is twenty six inches long.

A hook sword is roughly thirty three and a quarter.

That’s an almost eight inch difference in length, and it’s only the first issue.

The hook swords are faster with a longer reach, lighter, and there’s two of them. The blades on the hilt and the pommel mean they can still be deadly in close range, even potentially switching into a reverse grip.

The second point is these weapons were considered difficult to master, and due to Chinese traditions with martial combat come with the experience of an entire martial art behind them. That’s one of the northern styles like Northern Shaolin. The one aspect to ground yourself with about Asian martial arts tradition is: the more advanced the weapon, the later it’s learned.

For the purposes of these traditions your basic weapons serve similarly to the basic hand to hand techniques learned when we begin training in any style, and these weapons form the foundational understanding of all weapon types. We cannot battle the sword if we do not understand it, we cannot battle the staff if it is unknown. The technique used when wielding a basic staff are the foundation for those utilized with the three-sectional and so on.

European training systems don’t really work this way and were far less formalized, though it’s much more difficult to know what their training looked like. Either way, the mace has a much lower entry level in terms of skill.

Add to that, dual wielding weapons is extremely difficult and the longer the weapon the more difficult it becomes. Your hands and arms need to be able to perform complex techniques simultaneously, together and separately, with a balanced body. Your mind must track both weapons, and utilize both tactically against your opponent or the one you’re not using becomes a liability. A well rounded dual wield system will utilize one weapon (or in this case both) as a means of defense, to block, deflect, or disarm incoming strikes while the other attacks. Or, they attack together. Two weapons can blitzkrieg on a multitude of angles, strike one after the other, left and right, high and low, forcibly keeping their opponent on the defensive.

It is a very aggressive form of combat and difficult to master. When it is, (with workable weaponry designed for dual wielding) you’ve got a very dangerous fighter.

So, we have a the wielder of a complicated, unusual, difficult weapon designed for speedy, unarmored civilian combat and from a system requiring significant time investment against a guy with a mace.

Unless the one with the mace has armor and a shield, the hook swords have the advantage. They are also designed to be used in unarmored combat, and function in that role far better than a mace. The mace is a specific weapon with a very limited battlefield role as it’s meant to use blunt force to crack open tin cans.

There’s the additional point that dual wielding effectively in battle also requires a fairly high level of training, as there’s much higher risk of the blades catching on each other. Also, given one weapon is European (assuming we’re discussing the European variants of the mace) and the other is Chinese (including the information that the hook sword was a fairly rare weapon to see in use) the idea that they’re on the same level so far as training is unlikely.

Two people from two different styles are unlikely to ever be “equally matched” due to stylistic differences and training approaches. This is part of why two different people trained in two different styles are so exciting when they’re fighting because “equally matched” is thrown out the window into the unknown. And anything so far as versus with these two is merely supposition anyway as the two cultures were at very different technological points when they encountered each other.

In fairness, the hook swords would be similarly mismatched against the rapier due to its length and might be cut to pieces about as quickly. What advantages the hook swords have versus, say, a spear, are out against longer bladed weapons.

Chinese weaponry like the hook swords tend to favor circular motion, the whole weapon is bladed, and falls towards cutting as opposed to striking with the tip. The dual hooks allows them to hook weapons for a disarm, or stop them midstrike. It can also hook arms, legs, or around the back of the neck, with blades on the pommel and handguard meant to keep it’s use in range transitions.

The mace is a weapon that also moves in circles because of how it gains force, the problem is it’s slower. The heavier head on the mace is means by which it generates force, creating greater momentum as it swings. It’s not a matter of strength, but physics and not entirely dissimilar in concept to a baseball bat. However, the heavy head means it will be slower compared to a light blade like a rapier or an epee which are closer in type to the jian and also designed around the idea of unarmored combat.

The one with the mace needs a shield. They needs some way to get close enough to their opponent to bring their weapon into play, otherwise they’re just sitting there with their thumb up their ass as they’re being carved to pieces.

The big issue with weapons is if the other guy can hit you before you can hit him then you’re in serious trouble. I’d worry less about brute force. If you want the wielder with the mace to win, they need a way to get close enough to hit before any other consideration comes up. Then there’s the hook swords’ and their ability to create an escrima stick like defense with blades. Blades whose design intent is to be wielded together.

There’s nothing equal about it, the character with the mace is at a serious disadvantage. One which will get him killed in a straight fight.This isn’t the kind of disadvantage which can be brute forced through, your hero is going to need to be clever. That cleverness begins with utilizing his environment in order to limit the hook swords utility and ability to move.

The answer to dealing with the katana in a modern environment is a tight hallway, preferentially with furniture. Best case, they unsheath it and it ends up in a wall. Worst case, they’re stuck with thrusts. The katana doesn’t thrust that well compared to other swords.

Figuring out potential ways to defeat a weapon in combat begins with understanding how the weapon moves and what you plan to bring against it. It’s not statistics. It’s not physical strength. It’s not equal levels of training. Or anything outside what’s happening in the moment. You have the person and you have the weapon, and it starts by figuring out how both work together (and separately).

Any “here are two cultures who never encountered each other, who had better weapons?” question invites fanboy infighting that usually benefits no one. Besides that, while there’s more available information on Eastern martial cultures than there used to be, the Chinese martial traditions are still insular. To really understand the weapon you’d need to have a conversation with those who practice with them, preferable the masters. Cross-referencing history for when the hook swords were in use and what kind of combat they saw would also be helpful. Fortunately, Chinese cinema and Hong Kong action films will provide you with lots of choreography to chew through.

The Chinese did have a mace variant called the
Chuí, which eventually lost it’s head and moved on to beating people with two metal shafts.

I have no idea if any of this helps, but hopefully it gives you some grounding to work from.


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RPGs normally introduce a weapon triangle in order to balance out gameplay. Do these weapon advantages really exist or is that just a game mechanic? I’m writing a story and I want one of my main characters to use a lance/spear, how would they do against swords?

Sort of, but not in the way you’re thinking. The
smooth “rock/paper/scissors” style trinities don’t usually exist, but weapons
will effectively negate others. For example, don’t bring a knife to a gunfight,
sword fight, or if the other guy’s got a spear, or a baseball bat, or a broken

It’s more accurate to say that weapons are
situational. When they’re being used appropriately, they’ll excel. When used
inappropriately, or kludged into a situation where they don’t really work, they’re
at a disadvantage.

Polearms work best in large open spaces, where
bringing the weapon around to face a foe is easier, and the size serves to keep
someone with a short hand weapon at range. If a swordsman is coming at you,
just poke ‘em a few times, and leave them to bleed to death. Problem solved.
This is much easier if you’re talking about infantry employing a phalanx
formation. Where each combatant has their own spear, pointed in the general
direction of a future pincushion.

Usually, the weapon priority systems you see are an
abstraction of reach. Weapons have both a maximum range you can use them at,
and a minimum range where they’re effective. If you’re armed with a
shorter range weapon, your goal is (frequently) to get close enough that your
opponent cannot use their weapon against you. Spears kinda screw this up a bit, in that they can be used at very short ranges, by migrating your grip across the shaft, while still having a longer maximum range than most swords.

If a foe manages to negate the spear (by grabbing it, or by hacking through the shaft), then your
character would, probably, fall back to their own sidearm, rather than trying
to use the spear ineffectually. (Normally, this isn’t going to be an issue, because poking someone with a spear will put an end to the fight long before they can do anything with their sword.) This is the other side that weapon priority
systems often skip over, if you’re planning for a heavy combat, you’re going to
want to bring multiple weapons with you, for use at different ranges and in
different situations that you might encounter.

Realistically, your character might be carrying a polearm
(a spear, lance, halberd, bardiche, voulge, billhook, and any of the thousands
of other varieties) with a sidearm, (some variety of sword, an axe, warhammer,
or mace), and a backup or two (depending on the era, this could be anything
from a dagger to pistols). Depending on what they were doing (and when they
lived), they might be carrying a bow or crossbow instead of a polearm. In more recent eras, the
polearm began to be replaced with a handgun (remembering this is not a pistol, but
was named to differentiate it from a cannon), and later with muskets and
rifles. The sidearm transitioned from the sword to single shot pistols, then
the revolver and, eventually, modern pistols. The backup really hasn’t changed,
it’s still a choice between knives and guns, though the exact style of both has

The differences between polearms are somewhat
idiosyncratic. Poleaxes, like the halberd, voulge, bardiche, (and many others)
allowed you to attack with a chopping or slashing movement. Piercing polearms,
like the spear, pike, lance (and again, many others) were better suited for
poking someone. These came in a wide variety of lengths, and the designs
seriously effect exactly how they can be used. It’s not that there’s one “best”
polearm. There were a lot of people trying to develop one.

It’s probably also worth noting that the spear,
lance, and pike aren’t universal terms. Pikes are usually the long ones, clocking in at up to twenty five feet.
Spears are usually the short ones, at
six to eight feet. Depending on exactly when you’re talking about, the lance
could be anything from a javelin (designed to be thrown) up to a twenty foot spear,
intended for cavalry use. But, these terms do get misused a lot. They’re not
the same weapons, but the terms also aren’t consistent.

A lot of games will step back and say that polearms
in general are anti-cavalry. That’s kinda true, but it’s not universal.
Polearms do give infantry more reach, and allow them to attack mounted foes (more
effectively), but they were designed to be used against opposing infantry.
There’s nothing unusual about someone with a halberd squaring off against a foe
armed with a sidesword. If your character is fielding a pike, then they’re
going to want to switch to a blade, if they can’t stop their attacker on the
pointy end first. Usually, the pointy end will reliably stop the swordsman.

There’s also this post, with a video from Matt Easton on the subject.


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I’ve seen, and played games where the characters dive under water and their weapons are still in order. Is this accurate? Are bow and arrows more functional wet?

No. In fact, historically, compound bows were frequently
made with water soluble glues, meaning if you tossed it in water, the bow would
come apart in thin strips. Some modern bows can (probably) survive the
experience, but it’s still something you’re cautioned against doing. Off hand,
I’m not sure what water would do to a sinew bowstring, but I’m fairly confidant
the results wouldn’t be pretty.

I’m not sure, exactly, how a waterlogged modern bow handles.
The advice is, usually, to dry the bow, or allow it to dry off naturally rather
than continuing to use it. Then, with mechanical bows, re-oil it if necessary.

With most melee weapons, you don’t really want to get them
wet, but it won’t do much damage to them. Depending on the grip, it may make
them harder to hold. There are some edge cases, if you have a melee weapon that
can absorb water, and become waterlogged, then that will affect its use. I’m
thinking of an untreated wooden club, but there’s probably some other
possibilities that haven’t come to mind.

Firearms are a little more complicated. Black powder does
not burn when wet. Hence the idiom, “keep your powder dry.” A musket with wet
powder is worthless. This is compounded by the fact that early firearms needed
to have some means to access the powder (up into the 19th century), so dropping
one in water would ruin the load, and make the gun inoperable.

Once dried out, black powder is good to go again. Usually
you’d do this by spreading it out over a clean surface and allowing it to sun
dry. Normally this should only take a couple hours. Waiting for a loaded charge
to dry out could take a while. (I’m guessing a couple days, but it honestly
could be longer.)

Modern firearms (using a sealed cartridge) will fire
underwater. The ballistics are wonky. As, I recall, the bullet will lose almost
all velocity within five or six feet (this applies to both pistols and rifles).
In most cases, a modern firearm that’s just been submerged will be good to go
as soon as it gets above the surface. There are probably a few rifles that don’t
take well to water getting into their gas return system, but none come to mind.

In general, you don’t want to get your weapons wet, but if
it happens, this isn’t the end of the world. Bows are an exception, though.


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My main characters are five 15 year old schoolgirls and I’m trying to think of medieval weapons that would fit them. All are reasonably fit, though one has a back issue, and two of the others are trained black belts in Tae Kwon Do. None have any formal weapons training and have minimal training time. Should I just give them all bows/arrows and be done with it or are there other options?

The funny thing about the bow, especially a medieval war bow, is that it takes a very long time to master. We’re talking years, here. It’s also heavily dependent on upper body strength, particularly in the back, arms, and shoulders. You need a heavier bow to deal with heavily armored targets which requires more strength and more practice drawing.

Here’s Matt Easton’s rant.

Basically, perceptions about the D&D Ranger along with Film/TV have caused a problem when looking at the body types or strength quota associated with archery. In particular, medieval war archery. The hunting bow and the war bow are different. While someone certainly could kill another human with the hunting bow, the draw weight is such that it will have a much more difficult time penetrating armor. This includes the padded armor made from cloth. War bows have a draw weight of around 60-70 pounds. The famous English or Welsh longbow was notorious for it’s difficulty and weighed in somewhere around 100-180 pounds.

TheMiddleAges.net’s entry on the Welsh longbow. The Wikipedia entry.

Besides that, bows (and all weapons) require a great deal of care. You can’t just hide a wooden bow unprotected in a log for six weeks, come back and expect it to be useable. It must be oiled regularly to maintain it’s flexibility. It must be unstrung between engagements and restrung before the next one, thus requiring a fair amount preparation time. The must also be carefully wrapped when traveling to protect it from the elements. This is before we get into the required type of arrows, (heavier with a heavier head), and the difficulty in acquiring them. Which, if your characters are schoolgirls, may have a problem convincing the local fletcher on why they need bodkins rather than broadheads.

Regardless of how they get presented in fiction, the bow is not any easier to master than a sword. Your characters are better off with crossbows. However, it should be noted that the crossbows fire much more slowly and take more time between shots. They can be learned quickly, within a few months, rather than the years. They’ll still need to learn how to care for it and shoot it though.

Taekwondo black belts come in a few flavors which heavily depends on the system employed by their school and who trained them. Given how young they are, I’d peg them at starting their training between 5 and 8 with their black belt testing between 12 and 14. The average recreational martial arts student takes about 4-5 years to reach their first black belt rank. Sometimes you get the outlier earlies between 8 and 10, but a lot of programs institute a specialty curriculum for the really littles. (Our school had a special class for “Little Turtles”, which were for kids between 4-6 that had their own belt ranks and camouflage belts with colored stripes to denote their rank in the system before they were introduced into the regular white belt class. I think it ran white to red.)

If they tested at 12 then they were probably preparing for their second degree test at 15, if they tested at thirteen then they were moving up on training crunch time, and if they tested at 14 then they’re still about a year off their second degree test.

Worth remembering that recreational martial arts are still recreational. They offer up some good skills and are helpful for self-defense, but they’re not on par with trained professionals and they’re still going to need to adjust to the psychological effects of combat. I’d give at least one of them the rudest awakening. You can probably get away with giving them the quarterstaff because they should’ve had some training on the bo staff. The two aren’t comparable, they’ll be used to training on the rattan staff. Quarterstaves are actually heavier, thicker, and made of oak rather than bamboo. They are very solid and can do a great deal of damage. The range will also lend an advantage over enemies wielding swords.

I’d think about daggers, crossbows, cudgels, quarterstaves, and other varieties of low end but easily acquired equipment that don’t take as much time to learn. If you’re willing to have them take the time to learn and depending on the time period/country/rules at play, then it’s possible one might find someone willing to teach them the sword and buckler. It wouldn’t be a weapon with a shorter hilt that was primarily wielded one handed like an arming sword rather than the longsword.



I’d go through Matt Easton’s Youtube Channel for ideas.

Wiketenaur is a library of European 0martial/weapon treatises collected by HEMA. It’s helpful if you know what you’re looking for and are willing to slog through Medieval and Renaissance language.

You can also check out Skallagrim’s page.

Two young (say, early 20s) female fighters square off against each other. One is fighting with a bo-staff, the other with a rapier. I understand that these two fighting styles couldn’t be more different, but is there any possible way for it to be a fair fight? Or would one style greatly/laughably overpower the other?

Oh, one of these is definitely going to laughably overpower the other. I’m just not sure which one it’d be. The staff has reach, the rapier has speed and has the advantage of stabby stabby over blunt force trauma. It’s really going to be a question of whether or not both fighters know how to use their weapon’s advantages to the fullest extent. What’s going to keep it a “fair” in the understanding that any non-same weapons used in a fight is never fair, then it’s going to come down a question of skill.

The staff wielder is going to have the advantage so long as she can keep the other woman with the rapier at a distance. The woman with the rapier will have the advantage if she can find a way to maneuver herself into striking range without taking too much debilitating damage from staff strikes. The rapier has to be aggressive in this situation, while the staff wielder is fighting a battle of attrition. All they need to do is wear their opponent down and keep giving them knocks until they can’t lift the sword anymore. They can also attack the legs and feet more readily and safely than the one with the rapier.

All I can say is whoever takes the initiative here is going to keep it and that’s not at all helpful, I know.

I’d look at Scholagladitoria’s Quarterstaff vs Sword, pt 2, pt 3.

Then, look at this video from EnglishMartialArts in response to those videos about the merits of the quarterstaff.

Now, these are about quaterstaffs versus sword because the quarterstaff is the standard European staff and the bo-staff is a Japanese staff.

When I’m responding in these videos, I’m basically assuming that these two women are training in the same style. It should go without saying that bojutsu and other styles are meant for combat against weapons from their same region. On some level, there’s going to be a lot of similarities with staff techniques (though looking at the wide variety of usages and developments of the weapon worldwide, that’s not necessarily true) but what a weapon style was designed to deal with will obviously massively effect the techniques used. There is no comparative sword to the rapier in Japanese martial arts. Whereas techniques with the European quarterstaff involve the skills and strategies for facing a wide variety of swords because there was a greater likelihood of facing one. So, the movement patterns one might use to fend off a katana won’t completely translate (at all) when faced with a rapier.

So, I’m just throwing that out there.

One of the trickiest aspects of writing with weapons is realizing that most of them, even if there is a similar version present in another culture, are limited by what their practitioners expected to face. If you’re using from a weapon that comes from a culture with a lot of cross-pollination and a lot of variance because it’s people were constantly dealing with different cultures or a lot of massively different styles of combat then it’s going to have an inherent advantage over a weapon and style that comes from a culture that doesn’t have that. (That weapon will probaby still have an advantage in it’s home environment though.) There’s more expectation of the unexpected, more variance, more likelihood you may be facing a kind of opposition or new tactic that you’ve never seen before.

I am, however, assuming that these two are from the same school and trained in the same style, they are just using different weapons.


I have a question & I apologize if it has been answered before but– I am writing a medieval/fantasy novel & my MC is a very hard working farm girl who ends up getting into a quest that will need her to use some kind of force/weaponry. I don’t want to do the clichéd “very natural with no training with a sword/bow” but I need her to be decent with some kind of weapon. I am thinking an axe would be the most realistic for her past, or possibly a flail/mace. Any help is greatly appreciated.

I’d give her three weapons: one ranged, two close combat. I’m basing my choices below on her background and I’ll explain why.




These three cover your basic necessities while giving you the ability to branch out over the course of the story. Let me explain each in detail:

The Sling – the sling is the weapon of the farm child, one children still use to defend their flock from attackers both animal and human. It’s a great weapon, easy to maintain and use with ammunition everywhere with the potential for deadly accuracy.

Like the sword, the sling comes with it’s own thematic history when found literature as it was the weapon of choice for David when he fought and killed Goliath. It is a literary flashcard that this person is an underdog meant for great things.

Yes, it’s the weapon of the child but your character starts the story young. This is their coming of age. Besides that, it’s a great weapon and one you don’t have to worry too much about when it comes to logistics. The only downside is that its themes indicate someone who is intelligent, canny, and cunning, who performs the unexpected, and breaks the conventional rules to change to odds to their favor. (It also takes way less time to set up than the bow.)

The Staff – the staff is a basic, easy to use weapon that has an advantage over the sword in terms of reach and provides the base for training in more advanced polearms like the spear or the halberd. The learning curve is quick, it’s easy to practice, and it’s the weapon of the wizard/traveler.

If your character is going on a journey, she needs a walking stick. A walking stick that stealthily transitions into a beat down stick. She’s not professionally trained so taking on a city guard or knight early in the story is going to be a last resort, but she couldn’t have done that with an axe or a flail/mace anyway. If asked by the local city guard or lord, she has a convenient justification for carrying it and given that she is a peasant this is probably a good thing.

The Dagger – the dagger covers basic hand to hand, if she can’t get to the staff or the sling, then she can fall back to this. The dagger will give her the advantage in an unarmed/unarmored fight which she needs because she doesn’t know how. She may need someone to teach her how to hold it and strike with it, but it’s another weapon that is very easy to learn the basics of.

Other suggestions: a club, a cudgel, or a hand axe (like a hatchet)

On the mace/flail/morningstar: these are weapons meant for armored melee, specifically against enemies in plate. They won’t do your character a lot of good if you’re not planning on having her go after guys in mass melee wearing heavy plate. Since she hasn’t been trained to use it or fight them anyway, I’d suggest avoiding it.

Between the three, she has better odds than if you give her just the one. Also, the one weapon concept is really, really stupid. She’s going to face a variety of challenges over the course of her journey and there is no one weapon fits all. Different tools for different challenges. This is necessary to understand if you ever want to break out into more specialized weaponry because it’s important to remember that a highly specialized weapon only has an advantage under a very specific set of circumstances and combat variables. Any of the above weapons (ignoring the flail, the mace, and the morningstar) are weapons that would be ones she’s grown up with and make sense given her background.

There are some important things to remember: The weapons I’ve suggested won’t help her when it comes time to take on a professional warrior a la a knight but given your character’s background there’s no real helping that anyway. The axe won’t help her either. They will help with encountering bandits on the road during her travels and defending herself in tavern brawls, weapons that will provide her with the opportunity to fend someone off and give her time to adjust to her new surroundings. Some weapons like the sling are preemptive and can be used dangerously when at range to take out men in armor if they’re not wearing helmets. It won’t help her if they see her and catch her.

Combat is about skill and experience than it is about any physical qualities. Not all weapons are created equal and it’s best not to underestimate the training of the enemies she will be facing. It’s best to remember that these guys are dangerous to her and direct force like taking on a whole garrison full of guards to get to one single target may not be the wisest choice. (Is it ever?) Despite their lack of experience, your character has a unique perspective to apply when solving situations. Let them live in that place. Little John wasn’t a super fighter but he still managed to dump Robin Hood in a river.

A hero is made a hero by their brains, not their brawn. By understanding their limitations, you’ll be better able to work out how they might uniquely solve their problems. Fighting a better equipped enemy on the enemy’s terms is not cowardice, it’s stupid. Your character will never be able to “catch up” to other characters that have been training to become warriors since childhood, just like how during the Star Wars Original Trilogy Luke never really became Vader’s equal in martial skill. He matches him in other more important qualities and those qualities are what cement him as a hero.






Commonly confused medieval weapons, a powerpoint by me.

Now stop screwing them up, seriously, or I will put a medieval weapon in your head.

Tumblr is endearing me to being lectured at in Comic Sans

THIS is a WAR SCYTHE, a scythe actually used in combat. Notice it is not a useless piece of shit and is an actual functional weapon.

The only reason why death is pictured with a FARMING scythe is because he harvests souls.

now i can kill ppl and know what im killing them with thank you