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Weapons Locker – Melee weapons – Medium, common melee weapons


Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

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.


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Short sword

A category for a blade bigger than a knife, but shorter than a full sword. Shortswords usually have 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 of some description) can’t be deployed. Swords are easy to carry, well-balanced and fast, so that’s 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.

Shortsword - Roman gladius - Replica

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

Cutlass

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.

Piratical cutlass with thick handguard

Archetypal piratical cutlass, with a thick handguard.

Machetes

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. This is in good part because the steel will either be poor, or selected for resilience to repeated impacts rather than for its ability to hold an edge.

Stats

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 (3rd)

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


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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.

Stats

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 (3rd)

XXXXX


Broadsword

A full-sized fighting sword. Like the short sword this is a category. It encompasses many types of weapons from many cultures.

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

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

Most swords in this category will weigh about three pounds (1.5kg).

Larger swords are treated as Heavy (rather than Medium) weapons, since they do not allow for a shield or offhand weapon.

Archetypal broadsword

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

Katana

In most cases, katana will have broadsword stats, especially if paired with another weapon. 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 will thus be covered in the Heavy, Common Melee Weapons article.

Stats

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 (3rd)

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


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.

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.

Stats

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 (3rd)

XXXXX

Langseax sword - emilianocarrillo.com

A langseax forged by Mr. Emiliano Carrillo .


Rapier

A rapier is a slim, long thrusting sword. These are chiefly associated with XVIth and XVIIth Europe. However, other blades (particularly in China) are associated with 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 opponent.

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 good 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.

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. The stats below thus assume a more foil-like, high “flashing blades” combat tempo for rapiers.

Stats

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 (3rd)

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

Archetypal rapier

Archetypal XVIIth century rapier.

Video

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


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. All this, and it can be thrown as well !

A spear is especially useful against larger animals. Even where a 60kg 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.

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

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 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 (3rd)

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)].


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 .

Stats

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 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 (3rd)

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


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.

Stats

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 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 (3rd)

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


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

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 (3rd)

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 🙂 .


Battle axe

Unlike the hand axe, the battle axe is heavy and clearly meant for war. It has a longer and heavier head. Some may even have two heads, like the iconic Ancient Greek labrys. In fantasy art, these often reach unwieldy weights and proportions.

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.

Stats

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 (3rd)

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 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), metal-shod truncheons with big spikes, hammers, “hammers” whose head is more like a claw-like spike, 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.

Stats

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 (3rd)

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 .


Flails

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 weapons (XVth century or so). It would appear that they are far more common in stories than they were in reality. Except on Thanagar, presumably.

Stats

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 (3rd)

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

Medieval war flail

Vintage one-ball flail.


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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.

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