Would a standard farmer’s scythe be a good (read: dangerous) weapon to wield by an expert? Obviously a newcomer would have difficulty, but if given time, could the scythe be used as a deadly weapon or is it just another exotic-looking paperweight?

We’ve talked about scythes before. The basic thing to understand about them is that they’re a farming implement, not a weapon. That part is crucial. They’re designed for farming, not for fighting. War scythes look nothing like the average farming scythe, they’ve been reforged into a standard issue pole arm. Unless you’re writing fantasy or the scythe is mystical in some way (like the Grim Reaper scythe is symbolic for reaping), it’s not really a good weapon choice.

Even if one did try to use it, you’d constantly have to bring the blade back toward you. If you want to look at the awkward movement pattern of the scythe as a weapon, the end battle of Bloodborne is actually a good one. Once you get past the part that he can float in the air and shoot energy beams out of it, you’ll realize how limited it’s movement set actually is. Of course, Bloodborne didn’t pick the scythe because it was practical. I’m fairly certain they picked it for the symbolism.

Again, it’s designed for efficiently reaping grain. Not people.

It’s in the Scythes tag.

The Catch 22 is that an expert is normally going to pick a weapon that’s designed for combat because they understand the nuts and bolts of why they’re designed that way. The newcomer is more likely to think that it’s a legitimate option or be blindsided by it’s coolness. You could probably use it as an improvised weapon for a short period, but there are also better farming implements for that like a pitchfork or a shovel. You can stab forward with it, driving an opponent back rather than reaching past them and pulling them toward you. You’d ultimately be better at using the back end, but traditional farming scythes have a squiggly one or an attachment there.

Now, there are some downright odd or interesting polearms out there. Just like there are odd and interesting weapons out there. And you do have a fair number of weapons throughout history that were converted from farming implements. The hand scythe or the kama is one of those.

If the standard issue European farming scythe actually worked effectively as a weapon, you wouldn’t have seen the farmers rushing off to get them reforged when the time came to rebel against their lords. You’d have a war scythe that looked like a scythe, rather than a glaive.

In fiction, the farming scythe serves as symbolism to the Grim Reaper, death, and the changing seasons. It’s like Poseidon’s trident. It’s a symbol of the office. If you’re going to embrace it for fantasy, then embrace it. But, you can’t also turn around and say “it’s so realistic!”. This is one of those states where you actually have to choose between the fantasy and the reality, rather than incorporating reality into the fantasy. You’re also going to then have to do the legwork to develop an idea for how it works, how it can be effective, and how it gets used in combat within the confines of your setting.

With the way the blade is situated, facing inward, you’ll need to do some kind of leg work and study up on polearms. Once you understand how that form of combat works and what it was used for on both the large and small scale, you might have a better clue for why it doesn’t translate well.

That is the thing about these kinds of weapons, they need to be useable in formation and have a place in mass melee as well as single combat. Experts also are trained in and carry more than one weapon. They may have one that they specialize in but, like every professional, they have enough understanding to bring the right tool for the right job. Or several, as the case may be.

-Michi

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