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Weapons Locker – Melee weapons – Medium, common melee weapons


The caveats, the chapters listing and the technical discussion are in Chapter 0 of the Weapons Locker – Melee Weapons document.

This is a first draft, without research, to establish new style stats for some common weapons needed in character profiles.

And as a reminder it’s meant to model weapons *in fiction*. And whilst keeping things simple at that.


Table of content

Special purpose, medium-sized melee weapons are in another castle.

Short sword

For our purposes, a shortsword’s bigger than a big knife but shorter than a full sword. That usually means a 15-to-22 inches (40-55cm) blade.

In many cases, these swords are carried as a sidearm. They’re not a primary weapon, but get drawn when one’s long arm (perhaps a spear) can’t be deployed. Swords are easy to carry, well-balanced and fast, making for a good fallback weapon.

Folks using it as a primary include :

  • Light fighters in heroic fantasy, such as leather-clad “rogues”. Or skirmishers from shorter species (such as hobbits).
  • Roman legionaries once in melee. Their thrusting short sword, the gladius, likely is the most famous Western weapon in this category. But it was part of a specific martial art, and used a/ in formation and b/ in close coordination with a heavy shield.


DCH (Traditional) Short sword [BODY 04, EV 03].

DCH (WORG) Short sword [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 05), Descriptor: Slashing and/or piercing].

  • A gladius would have Piercing and Bludgeoning.
  • A cutlass would have Slashing and Bludgeoning (using the hand guard).
  • In most fantasy settings, short swords have both Slashing and Piercing Descriptors as they simply are a smaller sword.

Enhance’s cap is lowballed so as to better fit which types of characters stereotypically use knives, short swords and long swords in stories.

M&M Short sword [Strength-Based slashing Damage 2, Improved Critical 1].


A Roman gladius, though of course the exact design evolved over the decades.

Shortsword - Roman gladius - Replica

Affordable replica of a Roman gladius, from Weaponmasters.com  .

The cutlass used by stereotypical pirates is also considered a short sword.

But there too it tends to be a secondary. The pirate transitions to their cutlass once their pistols have been discharged, arr.

Piratical cutlass with thick handguard

Archetypal piratical cutlass, with a thick handguard.

The most common form of short sword isn’t primarily a weapon. It’s the machete, an important tool for working with tropical plants. That ranges from sugarcane to coconuts to clearing a path in a rainforest.

Many styles of machetes are longer than a short sword. Yet most work fine with short sword stats. Because the steel will either be poor, or selected for resilience to repeated impacts rather than for its ability to hold a keen edge.

Typical machete machette

A fairly typical machete. This specific one was forged by a French bladesmith  .

Bronze shortsword

This is mostly meant for early Classical weapons. But an early and none-too-expensive Iron Age blade might have similar stats.

Bronze is much softer than iron (never mind steel), but a shortsword is, well, short. Which makes it less vulnerable to breaking than a longer blade is.

Furthermore, these are thrusting (not slashing) weapons. And if you have a bronze blade, you’re probably not fighting people sporting iron or steel gear.


For bronze (and early iron) weapons we’re going to establish, for game purposes, a hardness hierarchy. Essentially, steel beats iron, iron beats bronze.

I’d imagine that things were more complicated in actual practice, but here we’re going with something simple and that make intuitive senses for storytelling purposes.

DCH (Traditional) Bronze shortsword [BODY 02, EV 03, R#04, Limitation: Limited Penetration, Limitation: Hitting or being hit by harder material permanently raises the R# by one].

DCH (WORG) Bronze shortsword [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 04), Descriptor: Piercing, R#04, Limitation: Limited Penetration, Limitation: Hitting or being hit by harder material permanently raises the R# by one].

M&M Bronze shortsword [Strength-Based slashing Damage 2]. Comes with three Complications :

  • More likely to bend or break than the stock heroic fantasy short sword.
  • Materials made of harder metal (say, an iron breastplate) are considered to have three additional Ranks of Protection against bronze weapons.
  • Will be damaged when striking iron weapons (say, when executing a non-ideal parry). A person wielding a hard metal melee weapon doing a Smash attack against a held bronze weapon receives a +3 Circumstances Bonus, reducing the penalty to -2.

Ancient Iranian bronze short sword

An ancient, thrusting, short short sword (short² sword ?) reportedly from what is now a region in the West of Iran. From a now-defunct web site, which in retrospect might mean it was less than legal.


A full-sized fighting sword.

Like the short sword this is a category. It encompasses many types of weapons from many cultures from many eras.

Most swords in this category will weigh about three pounds (1.5kg). Most people routinely overestimate the weight of low-tech melee weapons – they have a to be light-ish to be wielded by not-Conan folks.

Swords that are larger than this category are treated as Heavy (rather than Medium) weapons. Since they do not allow for a shield or offhand weapon.


DCH (Traditional) Broadsword [BODY 04, EV 04].

DCH (WORG) Broadsword [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 06), Descriptor: Slashing, piercing].

With a sufficiently heavy pommel, the Bludgeoning Descriptor can be added to the list. This is important when facing chainmail and similar body armour.

By contrast, a cavalry sabre would have the Slashing and Bludgeoning Descriptors (the later using the handguard).

M&M Broadsword [Strength-Based slashing Damage 3, Improved Critical 1].


The default for a Western countries fantasy story is an European-style dual-edged, pointed, straight blade.

Archetypal broadsword

Archetypal-looking European broadsword. This shot is from a Canadian swords and knives store  .

Many curved designs, such as sabres and scimitars, exist.

These have advantages and drawbacks. Curved blades are seen as better for ride-by blows, but straight blades can he “half-sworded” (used with the second hand holding the lower, non-sharp part of the blade) to deliver specialised attacks. Such differences aren’t significant in game terms, though.

Bedouin sabre sword model

A bedouin-style sabre is the first thing that comes to mind, so here’s an example. This one isn’t a physical object, but a HD 3D asset sold  for video games and the like.

In most cases, katana will have broadsword stats. Especially if paired with another weapon.

But empirically, katana in stories are more likely to have a higher BODY than types of sword without their mystique.

In stories where katana are considered super-weapons with exaggerated slicing capabilities, they are usually used two-handed. This is covered in the Heavy, Common Melee Weapons article.

Katana replica paul chen

Let’s just go with a Paul Chen replica sword, as found on various sword-selling online stores. We’re statting up broad categories for TTRPG purposes, so what we need are archetypal-looking weapons.

Iron sword

An Iron Age or late Bronze Age broadsword. This is cruder that a medieval steel sword.

If you need a specific word, langseax (“long knife” in Old English) or scramasax are suitable. But they’re not technically correct in all cases.

This category is primarily inspired by the sagas that describe swords bending during combat, due to poor metallurgy. But one can straighten them and heroically return to the fray. Standing on the blade and stomping or hammering seems a common technique, at least in stories.

In Western countries stories these will usually be found in the hands of early Norsemen, Celtic, Germanic, Russian, etc. warriors. As soon as adequate steel is available, iron swords are only wielded by impoverished fighters.

People with such swords may carry a big knife (or maybe a hatchet) as a backup.


DCH (Traditional) Iron broadsword [BODY 02, EV 03, R#06, Limitation: Limited Penetration].

DCH (WORG) Iron broadsword [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 05), Descriptor: Slashing, Piercing, R#06, Limitation: Limited Penetration].

If the R# is met, roll 2d10. On a 7 or less, the blade is ruined. On a 8 or more, it is unusable for now but can be straightened. To do that, roll STR/STR against a 03/03 OV/RV. One RAP is sufficient to bring the weapon back online. But its R#, and the target number for the second dice roll, both permanently go up by one.

Cheap examples of this category won’t be able to do Piercing damage, only Slashing.

M&M Iron broadsword [Strength-Based slashing Damage 3]. It comes with such Complications as :

  • More likely to bend or break than the stock heroic fantasy broadsword. Straightening an iron sword is a Tough Strength Check, each Check taking one round.
  • Materials made of harder metal (say, a steel breastplate) are considered to have three additional Ranks of Protection against iron weapons.
  • Will be damaged when striking steel or harder weapons (say, when executing a non-ideal parry). A person wielding a harder metal melee weapon doing a Smash attack against a held iron weapon receives a +3 Circumstances Bonus, reducing the penalty to -2.

Langseax sword - emilianocarrillo.com

A langseax forged by Mr. Emiliano Carrillo  .


A rapier is a slim, long thrusting sword. These are chiefly associated with XVIth and XVIIth Europe. However, roughly similar blades (particularly in China) are associated with roughly comparable styles of fencing.

A rapier is typically one yard long.

Speed and precision are the names of the game. Rapiers are used at a point where full body armour isn’t a thing, and ramming a steel point into a body tends to be harmful.

Thus, a lot of fencing is about controlling range and space, and reading an opponent. It’s about striking right whilst staying safe, rather than pounding the crap out of the opposition.

Unlike many medieval techniques, a good chunk of the fencing body of knowledge, with illustrated manuals, memoirs of master fencers, etc. has survived intact. So modern people can get a sense of the depth of the arts.

There were many categories of schools, often considered part of a national style such as Spanish-style, French-style or Italian-style fencing. These may prefer different styles and lengths of rapier.


DCH (Traditional) Rapier [BODY 02, EV 04].

DCH (WORG) Rapier [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 05), Descriptor: Piercing].

Rapiers with sharp edges certainly exist. But their EV will be one AP lower when inflicting Slashing damage.

M&M Rapier [Strength-Based slashing Damage 2, Improved Critical 2].


Archetypal rapier

Archetypal XVIIth century rapier.

A rapier is slower and heavier than later fencing weapons, such as foils. But many, many movies of the 1960s, 1970s, etc. used anachronic foil fencing techniques and tempo for fight choreography.

This scene from Captain Blood is archetypal of old-school swashbuckler movie fight choreographies.


Like many terms for categories of melee weapons, “side sword” appears after the fact, to distinguish this sort of sword from earlier and later models. Contemporary fighters would likely just call it a sword.

The hindsight aspect is especially true in this case. Sideswords are mostly a late 1500s-to-1700-ish design in Europe, and mark a transition between the mediaeval approaches (embodied by what retroactively got called a broadsword) and the reign of the rapier.

Essentially, they’re thicker and heavier rapiers… or lighter and more thrust-centric broadswords.

They’re sometimes called a sword-rapier, or transitionally, a cut-and-thrust rapier. Or an épée de côté, or a spada da lato, etc..


Them’s the produce of evolutions that mostly started in Italy :

  • Emphasising thrusting attacks over slashing attacks. In no small part due to deescalation in body armour usage as firearms changed the battlefields.
  • Using more trusts — through sidesword manuals still have a lot of slashing strikes — meant different, more defensive stances. You use sideways, narrower stances – and the blows stem more from the wrist and elbow. This shifts less body weight, leaves you less open, and is harder to read.
  • But this also means that you need a lighter blade, and with a better handguard for more reactive spot defense.
  • Off-hand pairing with a small buckler, a rolled-up cape, a dagger, a main-gauche defensive dagger, etc. also appears during the sidesword era.

In DCH terms, there’s little difference between a sidesword and a later rapier. And unless punctilious, demanding fencing historians are on-set a movie with sidesword fighting scenes will likely use later fending styles.

But heh, it’s still nice to understand the differences. That’s half the battle, innit ?

Stats and picture

DCH (Traditional) Sidesword [BODY 03, EV 04].

DCH (WORG) Sidesword [BODY 03, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 05), Descriptor: Slashing, Piercing].

M&M Sidesword [Strength-Based slashing Damage 2, Improved Critical 1].

Archetypal side sword

For visuals, let’s have this Wargear  prop. It’s a bit slim, but it has a suitably elaborate handguard. And since rapiers tends to have foil-like proportions in stories, it’s not absurd to have a fictional sidesword that’s close to the rapier end of things.

Spear – stone-tipped spear

The spear is the signature human weapon. It’s comparatively simple to build, it gives a crucial reach advantage, and it concentrates the force of the blow (which can be your entire body weight) into a sharp point.

It can also be thrown. This is not normally done in combat, but spears double as a hunting weapon.

A spear is especially useful against larger animals. Even where a 60kg (130 lbs.) humanoid can’t expect to strike a telling blow against a big beast, the spear penetrates enough to sever veins or even arteries. From there you just follow until the blood loss wins the fight for you.

Since forever

Spears remained the dominant low-tech weapon for… well, quite possibly millions of years. If the other guy fields a spear, coming to the fight with a shorter melee weapon puts you at a disadvantage.

Other weapons, such as a shortsword, were usually fielded as a sidearm in case something went wrong with the spear. And some cultures, such as many Celtic warriors, tended to go into battle with a spear in each hand plus a sidearm.

The earliest spears will just be a pointy stick – with the tip hardened over a fire if the tech allows for it.

But what usually show up in stories for “cavemen” is the worked wooden stick with a stone blade at the end. Producing such blades is its own field of engineering, from selecting the material to the various knapping, percussive, etc. techniques.

Stats and picture

DCH (Traditional) Stone-tipped spear [BODY 02, EV 03, R#05, Limitation: Limited penetration].

DCH (WORG) Stone-tipped spear [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Descriptor: Bludgeoning, Piercing, R#05, Limitation: Limited penetration].

If the spearwielder’s opposition is within a four feet (1.2m) range, the spearwielder gets a -1 to the final roll of their melee attacks while the opposition gets a +1 to the final roll of their melee attacks. If the range is greater, these are reversed.

M&M Stone-tipped spear [Strength-Based piercing Damage 2, Improved Critical 1, Reach 1, Quirk (more fragile than a higher-tech spear), Quirk (damage drops to 0 Ranks against metal)].

Archetypal stone spear caveman model

A somewhat cartoony 3D model of a stereotypical stone-age spear, made by zCyRAX  . It’s the sort of things you’d see in old comics in the hands of Anthro, so it’s just what we need here.

Spear – soft-metal-tipped spear

This likely means bronze, though a shoddy iron spearhead would also qualify.

These spears are *the* mainstay of Bronze Age melee and short-range combat. In particular, coordinated formation use of spears and shields was a famous “killer app” of Ancient tactics. Namely, the phalanx  .


DCH (Traditional) Bronze-tipped spear [BODY 02, EV 04, R#04, Limitation: Limited penetration].

DCH (WORG) Bronze-tipped spear [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 06), Descriptor: Bludgeoning, Piercing, R#04, Limitation: Limited penetration].

If the spearwielder’s opposition is within a four feet (1.2m) range, the spearwielder gets a -1 to the final roll of their melee attacks while the opposition gets a +1 to the final roll of their melee attacks. If the range is greater, these are reversed.

For the various spears, the Enhance (EV) cap is slightly highballed. A spear is realistically a good choice even for very strong warriors, but stories tend to instead showcase expensive upper-class weapons such as a sword.

The latter would lead to downplaying spears’ Enhance cap so epic warriors are more likely to use swords. Which I didn’t quite do in the series of spears stats, to keep some room for Homeric fighters and the like.

M&M Bronze-tipped spear [Strength-Based piercing Damage 3, Improved Critical 1, Reach 1, Quirk (Damage drops to 1 Rank against hard metal)].


Ancient Greek leaf shaped spear head

Replica of an Ancient Greek leaf-shaped spear head. It’s a remain from a defunct web site. Because unsupported web sites die, so support writeups.org.

Spear – hard-metal-tipped spear

Now we’re up to good quality iron, and steel. And yep, still the dominant weapon. They’re :

  • Cheap (not much metal is required).
  • Easy to maintain.
  • Can be used for hunting (whereas hunting with a sword or ax is less optimal).
  • Do not require much training if all you want to do is hold armed men at bay.
  • Can be used to break cavalry charges.
  • Etc.

What does replace spears for dedicated fighters is, well, better spears – the various designs of polearms. These’ll be addressed in the heavier weapons chapter.


DCH (Traditional) Steel-tipped spear [BODY 02, EV 04, R#03].

DCH (WORG) Steel-tipped spear [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 06), Descriptor: Bludgeoning, Piercing, R#3, Limitation: Bludgeoning has Limited penetration].

A custom-made spear with a metal-shod (or even fully metallic) haft would have markedly higher BODY and Enhance (EV) cap, though Recommended STR would likely appear (starting at 02) unless special lightweight alloys are used.

If the spearwielder’s opposition is within a four feet (1.2m) range, the spearwielder gets a -1 to the final roll of their melee attacks while the opposition gets a +1 to the final roll of their melee attacks. If the range is greater, these are reversed.

M&M Steel-tipped spear [Strength-Based piercing Damage 3, Improved Critical 1, Reach 1].


16th century decorative spear lance

A decorative replica of a XVIth century spear, from Tienda Medieval  . It’s more elaborate than a plain Jane medieval soldier’s spear, since those look boring.

Hand axe

The usual woodworking tool, although the axe’s head may be smaller than a forestry one if intended for war. It is larger than a hatchet, without being a long lumberjack’s axe.

In popular imagination these are associated with Northern Europe and North-Eastern Europe fighters, like Vikings and early Russians.

In reality these do not appear to have been in widespread use. But if you need a sidearm to supplement your spear and can’t afford a sword, and you live in a wooded area where everyone has an axe at home…

(Part of the confusion may stem from francisca-style throwing hatchets, used by various sorts of Vikings, Franks and the like.)

In combat such an axe will be more fragile, lighter yet less balanced, and more likely to get stuck than a broadsword.

Stats and example

DCH (Traditional) Hand axe [BODY 03, EV 03, Recommended STR 02, R#03].

DCH (WORG) Hand axe [BODY 03, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 05), Descriptor: Slashing, Recommended STR 02, R#03].

M&M Hand axe [Strength-Based slashing Damage 3, Improved Critical 1].

Archetypal Viking hand axe

Archetypal “Viking” hand axe. This is actually a photo of a plastic children’s toy 😺. Because I’m determined not to go for more than four paragraphs without stating in some manner that this article is about stories.

Weapons - Celtic slot-and-tab hand axe

Historically, many hand axes used in war had a partially hollow iron, slotted onto a wooden tab jutting from the handle. Here’s a Celtic example. This is more robust (R#2 is a possibility in DCH), but the handle is more of a pain to make. These designs seem to have been most common in late Bronze and early Iron ages.
Photo source: Hycarius  .

Battle axe

Unlike the hand axe, the battle axe is heavy and clearly meant for war. It has a longer and heavier head.

This category is for “hand-and-a-half” weapons, that can still be used with one hand (for instance by cavalry, or by dual-wielding kung-fu heroes). The likes of Danish huscarl’s two-handed axes are closer to polearms, particularly in terms of manoeuvrability.

Two common exaggerated, fictional designs are :

  1. Having a huge head. In more realistic stories, axe heads will be *markedly* smaller so the weapon can be wielded quickly and efficiently.
  2. Having two heads – one on each side of the handle, and often symmetrical. The known historical designs (labrys, bipennis…) likely are symbolic and/or religious paraphernalia, rather than stuff you fight with. In more cinematic fantasy stories, they can be used hindrance as long as you look beefy enough.


DCH (Traditional) Battle axe [BODY 03, EV 04, Recommended STR 03].

DCH (WORG) Battle axe [BODY 03, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 06), Advantage: see below, Descriptor: Slashing, Recommended STR 03].

When attacking a shield, a battle axe receives a +1 to its final roll total. When attacking a person without body armour or a shield, the roll receives a -1 to its final roll.

M&M Battle axe [Strength-Based slashing Damage 3, Improved Critical 1].

Fantasy battle axe with a skull motif

Another toy, though this one seems to be intended for LARPs. I wanted an archetypal “heavy metal album cover fantasy” battle axe design (with a skull, obvs) and that one’s fine.

Maces and hammers

This category covers many types of one-handed, metal-reinforced, mostly-bludgeoning weapons.

That includes flanged maces, morgensterns (the spiked sphere sort of mace), hammers, etc..

Such weapons will not usually be as massive as what you see in fantasy art. In more realistic combat an unbalanced, front-loaded weapon could easily be a death sentence.

Maces and hammers tend to appear :

  • Very early on, when blades are difficult to make right and/or dauntingly expensive. For instance, a bronze mace wouldn’t be surprising in Ancient Egypt (like, really Ancient. Older than Hellenic Ancient.).
  • Much later on, when body armour has become too tough to be cut. At this point it becomes a better idea to go for blunt trauma, since that’s much harder to stop than a fine edge or point.
  • Or in the hands of priests, as per the hoary D&D tradition.


DCH (Traditional) Mace [BODY 04, EV 04].

DCH (WORG) Mace [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 07), Descriptor: Bludgeon].

A spike-shaped warhammer would be Piercing, though.

M&M Mace [Strength-Based blunt Damage 3].

Flanged medieval mace by Gerzi-3D-Art

An example of a flanged mace, since that one is easier to show than to explain. It is actually a 3D model sold by Gerzi-3D-Art  .


The kind of flail we are talking about here is much like a mace. But instead of a solid haft, there’s a chain between the handle and the head. That presumably allows the head to build up more kinetic energy when swung (and to look scarier).

The chain is also useful against small and medium shields, to strike around the edge.

Some designs use multiple smaller balls (each with its own chain) for… some reasons I should read about one day.

Flails seem to be late medieval era weapons (XVth century or so). But it seems that they are far more common in stories than they were in reality. Except on Thanagar, presumably.


DCH (Traditional) One-handed flail [BODY 03, EV 04].

DCH (WORG) One-handed flail [BODY 03, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 08), Descriptor: Bludgeon].

A flail receives a +1 to the final roll total when attacking a shield-wielding target. But melee opponents with a medium melee weapon get a +1 to *their* final roll against a flail-wielder who doesn’t have a shield.

M&M One-handed flail [Strength-Based blunt Damage 3].

Medieval war flail

Vintage one-ball flail. I once had a classmate bring a similar one at school to show me how it’s build, but the only conclusion I could draw back then was that it’s too heavy for a 13-year-old to wield. Still, science.

Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Life. Don’t talk to me about life.

Helper(s): Darci, Pawsplay.

Writeup completed on the 20th of January, 2018.