The Adventurer's Guide: Weapons

A central place to talk about weapons and armour, as it relates to your kit. This is where you show it of or talk about making it. Discussing the relative merits of types of weapons goes in the WMA section.

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The Adventurer's Guide: Weapons

Post by screenaholic »

The following is an excerpt from the book that I am currently writing, The Adventurer's Guide. It is meant to be a setting-ambiguous guide for your typical fantasy adventurer to learn all about the equipment and techniques they'll need on their adventures. While not Middle Earth or ranger specific, I hope that this is relevant enough for me to share here, as I would love some feedback on anything I've got wrong or overlooked. If this is not relevant enough, then please let me know and I will more closely stick on the topic of Middle Earth in the future.

The excerpt is what I have so far on my section on weapons. In addition to this, I intend to add sections on axes, daggers, and shields.
Primary Weapons
A key part to any adventurer’s job is to fight, and therefore a key part of their equipment is their primary weapon. For spellcasters, this will be your arcane focus of your choice (I’m not cut out to even begin to tell you mystic types how to sling your spells.) For those of you who choose to rely on your own fists, you monks and brawlers out there, you’re obviously all set on this account. But those of you who fight with physical weapons, this is where you start to define your role in a fight. We’ll break this down into two categories: melee and ranged.


Melee fighters are the core of any adventuring party. When the enemy closes the range and bares their blades and fangs at you, your party is going to want some people with solid sticks and blades to beat them back.

Now, I need you all to repeat after me: “Sidearms are not primary weapons!” The amount of greenfoots I see going off on an adventure with nothing more than a sword on their hip boggles my mind. Sidearms are great, sidearms are important, we will get to sidearms shortly, but they are not primary weapons. If you’re setting off on an adventure where you’re expecting trouble, bring the best weapon you can for fighting, not the one that’s most convenient for you to carry. Yes, I know that carrying around a long shaft can get annoying when you’re hacking your way through brush, but you’ll thank me when that minotaur is charging down on you.

Spears: Sometimes called the king of weapons, and for good reasons. Simple, cheap, not too cumbersome, but OH so effective. You don’t need to cut a bandit's head off when you can poke them full of holes from 6 or more feet away. Honestly, if you aren’t sure what primary weapon you want to use, just use a spear. I recommend one that is of a balanced enough length that you can effectively use it both two handed and one handed (we’ll be getting to shields soon enough.) If you really want to have some cutting capabilities, you can spend a little more and get a nice hewing spear or partizan, but you will most likely be fine with just a thrusting spear.

Polearms: Halberds, glaives, bills, poleaxes, fochards, etc. All of them are great, all of them are valid options. They cost a little more than your typical spear, but polearms give you more tools at your disposal and let you hit harder, at the sacrifice of being able to effectively use a shield. Which one should you pick? Honestly, I don’t really care. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but they all average out to be relatively equally beneficial choices. Pick your poison, and have at it.

Greatswords: The ONLY type of sword that is a valid pick for a primary weapon. Expensive, cumbersome, and deceptively tricky to use, greatswords aren’t for everyone. But if you’re willing to take the time to learn how to use one, you may become one of the most valuable melee assets in your party.
Most people think that you use greatswords as giant slabs of steel. You wind up, give a big heaving blow, then wind up for your next blow. If you do this, you better hope you kill your enemy with your first attack, because if you don’t they’ll easily stab you with a pointy stick before you have a chance for a second.
In general, there are two PROPER ways to use a greatsword. The first method is where these beauties really shine. I like to call this method “The Hurricane of Death.” Instead of stopping and rechambering your greatsword after every swing, you instead use the momentum of your attack to keep the blade moving, constantly spinning it and moving it all around your body, attacking this way and that, and making anyone with a survival instinct think twice before even trying to get close to you. Combine this with good footwork, and a greatswordsman can effectively keep multiple enemies back and control a large amount of space. If you’re with other party members, this will keep the enemy occupied while they start to pick them off. If you’re protecting a citizen or benefactor, you can give them the chance to turn tail and run. And even if you’re alone, you can pick your moments to actually strike at your opponents, and let you stand your ground even when outnumbered.
The second way to fight with a greatsword is more suited for facing a single opponent, where the constant, wide attacks aren’t needed to keep multiple threats at bay. It’s a method of fighting that fans of the longsword should be quite familiar with, halfswording. Essentially, you keep one hand on the grip, and use the other hand to grab your own blade. This effectively lets you use your sword as a spear. Not as flashy as the Hurricane of Death, but highly effective.
Greatswords are also highly effective against pike formations and colossal sized monsters, but I will write on those topics later.


Ranged weapon users can be incredibly useful for weakening a charging enemy force before they can clash with the party, or for fighting enemies that the melee fighters can’t reach. They’re also incredibly useful for hunting wild game during long treks. I always like to have at least one in my party with me.
Generally speaking, there are three kinds of primary ranged weapons for an adventurer to consider: bows, crossbows, and arquebuses. For the purposes of comparing strengths and weaknesses, you can think of these three weapons as being on a spectrum. On one end; bows are the cheapest, simplest to use, and fastest to loose. However, they also require the most skill and physical fitness to effectively use. On the other end; arquebuses are the most powerful, and require the least skill and physical fitness to use effectively. However, they’re expensive, most complicated to operate, and slowest to fire. They’re also bloody loud. Crossbows are a middle ground between the two.
They’re all valid options though, pick the one that best suits how you want to fight.

Side Arms
Every adventurer should have at least one side arm. Some towns or buildings may not allow you to carry around your primary weapon. Inside of buildings or caves, you might find yourself too cramped to fight how you prefer. When your spear haft breaks, when you loose your last arrow, or when your mana is completely drained, you will be glad you have a trusty sidearm on hand.
The sword is the iconic side arm of any profession of arms. While not cheap, they are arguably the most well-rounded sidearm available. And while you might prefer something with a little more power behind it like a hand axe, or the anti-armor properties of a mace or warhammer, for most people the noble sword is the best choice for a side arm.
But which sword?
Swords come in a wide range of varieties, and many swords don’t fit neatly into any one category. It would take the entire length of this book to list every kind of sword and rattle off their merits and draw backs. Instead, I have decided to discuss various aspects of swords in opposing qualities, to help guide you to what kind of sword you want. Afterall, no sword can be exceptional at everything, and in order to strengthen a sword in one way, you must weaken it in another.

One Hand vs Two Hands
Most swords are going to be designed to be used either one or two handed. While so called “hand-and-a-half” swords do exist, they often smallish two handed swords that are SLIGHTLY easier to to use one-handed than others, but you’re still better off using two handed.
One handed swords are more common and more varied. They are smaller, and therefore are not as powerful or as long, but are easier to carry and less of a nuisance while on your belt. Using a one handed sword also leaves you a hand free for a shield, second weapon, or to strike or grapple your enemy. And while they might not be as physically long as a two handed sword, using a sword one handed allows you to turn your shoulder more directly towards your target, and straighten your arm directly at them. This means that a one handed sword can often reach about as far (or sometimes further) than a longer two handed sword can.
Two handed swords, while larger and more cumbersome, allow you to put more power into them. This not only lets you hit harder, but gives you much more control in the bind, letting you easily push your opponent’s weapon this way or that way, as you so choose.

Cut vs Thrust
While most swords are what are called “cut and thrust,” meaning they are quite good at both, many sword designs choose instead to specialize more towards one or the other, sometimes abandoning the ability to do the other entirely.
Many people find cutting motions more natural than thrusting, and often find themselves defaulting to them in intense stress. The wide, sweeping motions of cuts allows you to present a threat to multiple opponents at once, which can buy you time to find your opportunity to attack.
Thrusting, however, is often more deadly. Thrusts can more easily penetrate deep enough to reach vital organs. A thrust-centric fighting style also is more tight and controlled, which lets you keep your weapon in front of you, ready to defend yourself. However, thrusting can only ever threaten a single opponent at once, which can give their friends the chance to swarm you.

Simple Hilts vs Complex Hilts
A simple hilt refers to a sword with little to no hand protection built in. As more and more hand protection is added to it, the hilt becomes more complex.
Simple hilts are lighter, and less likely to get caught on something or dig into your side while wearing them. They are generally cheaper, as they are easier to make. They also don’t impede your wrist, allowing you to use them more nimbly and quickly.
Complex hilts are more cumbersome though. They can easily get caught or dig into you, they’re more expensive, and sometimes impede your wrist, making them less nimble. However, the protection they offer can make it much harder for an opponent to strike your hand and wrist, and can even be used to impede attacks to the body or head.

Straight vs Curved
Swords can come in a wide variety of curvatures, from entirely straight to nearly circular.
Straight swords are often simpler to make, and therefore cheaper. Since they go in a straight line from your hand to your target, this means you can get more reach out of them than a curved sword of the same length. They also are easier and more powerful to thrust with, as you can form a straight line from your shoulder to your tip.
Curved swords, however, tend to be better at cutting. The curvature aids in deeper cuts, and can help correct slight mistakes in edge alignment in your swings. In addition, while not usually as good at straight thrusts as straight swords, the curvature allows you to thrust at odd angles, and even around your opponent’s shield or weapon.

Effectiveness in Combat vs Ease of Carry
The bigger and longer your sword is, the more it weighs, and the more complex it’s hilt, the more effective it is in combat (to a point.) However, all of those things also make it more of an encumbrance to wear. You have to find the balance that fits you.

The humble sling, also known as a rock sling or shepherd’s sling, is in my opinion the most underrated weapon available to adventurers. At its simplest, it is a simple strip of cloth roughly twice the length of your arm. At its most complex, it is merely a few braided pieces of string, possibly with a few strips of leather cut to shape. For ammunition, the sling can use small bullets made of lead, or simple rocks. While such a simple thing may not sound imposing, this simplicity is its greatest advantage. It weighs nothing, takes up no space, ammunition can be literally picked up off the ground, and any adventurer can easily learn how to make one themself with pennies worth of material.
Despite this, however, a sling is still a deadly weapon in experienced hands. Slings work by acting as levers, essentially making your arm longer, and thus letting you throw bullets or stones with greater force. Experienced slingers have been known to be capable of piercing an enemy’s helmet with a stone, and some can even sling bullets nearly 500 meters! This unimposing piece of cloth or string can kill an enemy with a single well aimed throw at the head or chest, or disable limbs.
And to top it off, practicing with a sling can be fun! Sling practice is one of my favorite camp leisures, and I often will practice at least a few throws after dinner but before bed. It’s an excellent way to relax, while simultaneously adding a useful skill to your repertoire.
All in all, there’s really no reason to NOT carry at least one sling with you. Even if you prefer melee fighting, and never get as good with it as your primary weapon, having it gives you options in a fight. Maybe you need to attack a fleeing enemy that’s faster than you. Maybe you’re being attacked by enemies on high ground you can’t reach. Or maybe you have time to take a few pot-shots at charging enemies before you have to ready your primary weapon. In any of these situations (and more!) having a sling on hand can keep you in the fight when your sword or spear just won’t cut it.
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Peter Remling
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Re: The Adventurer's Guide: Weapons

Post by Peter Remling »

HI, the topic is relevant as there is a good deal of crossover between role play gaming and what we do.

If you're looking for feedback, I'm not known for being shy so here goes:

First, circumstances determine what weapons are best to use. A great sword pretty much sucks in a confined area like a cave or dungeon. Yes, you can use half-swording but it's very limiting under those circumstances.
Next, tactics are more important than the weapons. Emphasis should be placed on the parties' marching order. Plan out battle arrays for open and confined spaces.
While you mention approximate length of weapons, assume the reader knows nothing and put the length in feet/inches/centimeters.
Ranges for missle/thrown weapons should be listed in feet/meters. A greatbow will travel the farthest but requires heavier arrows so a quiver of arrows for a greatbow may take up as much space/weight as 20 normal arrows. List the weapons by their range: a thrown axe/knife will travel up to so many feet/meters. Most games have their own damage per weapon listed and if the reader wishes to use your reference book for their own writings, a damage list is unnecessary.
When describing the weapon choices, you might want to add in line drawing showing the weapons, maybe with a size scale underneath. That would take care of both picture of the weapon and it's comparable size to other weapons.

I like it so far and look forward to seeing how various equipment is handled. Most game systems give you suggestions on what to take and how much it may cost. They don't cover how it should be used or how it could be carried.
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Re: The Adventurer's Guide: Weapons

Post by ForgeCorvus »

As the Guide is supposed to be an In Character book, I'd try not to use meters as a unit.
Feet&Inches (or Yards) are better, but if it was me I'd use body measurements such as Paces, Arms-length, Handspan, Hands-breadth and Thumbs-width.
So for instance "A Greatbow/Longbow/Warbow is a Man's height plus a Hands-breadth in length and shoots heavy arrows that are over an arms-length long and weigh as much as three hens eggs. It has an effective range of 100 paces and skilled archers can hit man-sized targets at 250 to 300 paces often enough that cavalry show them respect and infantry loathe the sight of them."

Oh, and may I suggest "Recock" rather then "Rechamber" in the Greatsword entry...... I love the "Hurricane of Death" though
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