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Subject: Anyone know anything about swords? rss

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Taylor Liss
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So I've been looking through dungeon master guides for role-playing games and many list different types of swords. I don't quite understand what the physical difference is between all of them and why they each do different damage. Wikipedia hasn't been much of a help as it states that most of the swords are actually similar.

Can anyone help explain the difference between the following swords:

Shortsword
Longsword
Greatsword
Bastardsword
Broadsword
Claymore
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Not that long
A bit longer
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Kent Reuber
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I'd suggest that you invest in the Palladium book of Weapons and Armor. Each weapon is drawn, with lengths and weights.

http://www.palladiumbooks.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=...
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Types_of_swords
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Paul DeStefano
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I collect swords.

The problem with general terms like these is in different cultures they mean different things. So the meaurements are also real fuzzy.

However, here's a basic guide. This is blade length, not including any hilt:
Shortsword: Smaller than the distance from your elbow to your fingertip plus another hand. Under this size would be a dirk or stiletto or some such.
Longsword: Longer than a short, but shorter than your top of head to knee when standing.
Greatsword: Bigger.
Bastardsword: Meant to be held with either 1 or 2 hands, the blade size can be Longsword or longer, but the hilt must allow for two hands to hold it - a "hand and a half" sword.
Broadsword - The base of the blade is wider than three fingers (fold your pinky and thumb in) the length is longsword or greater
Claymore - Traditionally Scottish in make, it is usually wielded two handed.

Note that due to this type of measuing, what is a shortsword to some is a longsword to others. This is correct.
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Eric Hinrichs
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Shortsword: Short enough to force the user to stab verses hack/slice. Deep wounds (even 1" deep) were, after infections, deadly, while shallow wounds could be cleaned properly and heal. Romans used shortswords for this reason.

Longsword: Two handed

Greatsword: a really big two-haned

Bastardsword: half way between a one-handed and two-handed, hense "unclaimed" or a bastard

Broadsword: wider blade for needed to compensate for weaker metal. Somewhat shorter.

Claymore: 2 handed; used to stab boars from horse (also known as a Boarspear)

Also, don't forget...

Stilletto: long tapered cone used to poke in the armpits and groin of plated knights.

Rapier: a light sword that is MUCH quicker than any bigger sword. Thin light blade required stabbing only, but a trained fencer can stick an enemy several times before he can swing a claymore.

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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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Part of the problem is that these are not 'definite' terms, and usage can and has varied over time or by context. In general I would assume the following in probably intended:

Shortsword - clearly shorter than the others, used more often for stabbing / thrusting than the others, although also designed for slashing.

Longsword - a 'long' straight bladed, two edged two-handed sword used almost exclusively for 'slashing'.

Greatsword - a particularly heavy bladed version of above, designed to penetrate armour.

Bastardsword - sometimes called a hand-and-a-half, a somewhat 'shorter' version of the longsword with a handle large enough to allow the use of two hands, but designed for one handed use.

Broadsword - a one-handed version of the longsword (although a quite 'generic' term that can on occasion be used for two-handed swords as well).

Claymore - a Scottish 'version' of longsword (although, again, also used for one handed swords).
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Donald
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Not to be knit picky but Long swords are one handed, with a blade in the area of 36". They were made to be used on horseback so the guys on foot had a harder time ducking out of harms way.

Geo has it nailed pretty well.
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Barney Bustoffson
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Cautionary Tales of Swords.... everything you need to know:

http://www.channel101.com/shows/show.php?show_id=258
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Marshall Miller
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Geosphere's descriptions are quite good.

I tend to think of them according to how I would use them.
Shortsword - getting in close for some hacking and stabing
Longsword - On horseback or on foot, blade as long as your arm, handle for one hand, all around good sword
Greatsword - I tend to think of this a bigger longsword for a bigger or stronger guy, or for someone who wishes they were
Bastard sword - my personal favorite (in RPGs and real life) for fighting, only slightly less versitile than a longsword, but room enough on the handle to use both hands for added power/control or for going from 2 hands to either one in a versitile way
Broadsword - flatter and slightly longer short sword, I associate them (as stated above) with weaker metals/earlier periods
Claymore - Longer than a bastard sword with great reach but you need some room to swing it
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I always like having a point of reference. Here's some that might give you a mental picture.

Short sword - Like the swords used by the Spartans in 300 or the gladiators in...Gladiator.

Long sword - Pretty much any Robin Hood movie including the Mel Brooks one.

Great sword - The sword used by Robin Hood's father and later the Sheriff of Nottingham in Kevin Costner's Robin Hood.

Bastard sword - Don't have a good one for this, but the descriptions above are good.

Broadsword - Can't think of a good visual example for this one either.

Claymore - Braveheart.
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Taylor Liss
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For arguments sake, here are the images given in the DnD 4th edition players handbook:



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Mark Luta
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A generalization, all the weapons in the original post are battlefield weapons, not duelling weapons. As was alluded to in a post above, the Claymore in later times is sort of a Scottish version of the Sabre. So it grew smaller and quicker over time.

Also, a Rapier is indeed a swift-moving sword whem compared with the longsword-type weapons of the fully armoured knights era, but it is very much a battlefield weapon--though it is light enough to wield one in each hand, called a 'case' of Rapiers. However, compared with a duelling weapon such as an Epee, or the much more modern Sabre (or as mentioned above, later versions of the Claymore), or an Eastern sword such as a Katana, the Rapier is quite slow and unwieldy--it is only a fair duelling weapon, and if not used as part of a case, the swordsman usually carried a shorter weapon, or a small shield called a 'Buckler' (hence the term 'Swashbuckler') in the off hand for a duel.
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Marshall Miller
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Glaive = a sword on a stick (for ribbons that you wouldn't cut with a 9' pole)
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Taylor Liss
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Ok, tell me if this sounds correct:

Shortsword---- smallest -- 1 handed
Broadsword---- small ----- 1 handed (thicker than shortsword)
Longsword----- big ------- 1 or 2 handed
Bastardsword-- bigger ---- 1 or 2 handed
Greatsword---- biggest --- 2 handed
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Wind Lane
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markluta wrote:
A generalization, all the weapons in the original post are battlefield weapons, not duelling weapons. As was alluded to in a post above, the Claymore in later times is sort of a Scottish version of the Sabre. So it grew smaller and quicker over time.

Also, a Rapier is indeed a swift-moving sword whem compared with the longsword-type weapons of the fully armoured knights era, but it is very much a battlefield weapon--though it is light enough to wield one in each hand, called a 'case' of Rapiers. However, compared with a duelling weapon such as an Epee, or the much more modern Sabre (or as mentioned above, later versions of the Claymore), or an Eastern sword such as a Katana, the Rapier is quite slow and unwieldy--it is only a fair duelling weapon, and if not used as part of a case, the swordsman usually carried a shorter weapon, or a small shield called a 'Buckler' (hence the term 'Swashbuckler') in the off hand for a duel.


An epee and sabre are both types of rapier or "children" of it. The olympics would be a good place for further information on this. There's three classes of fencing in the olympics: foil, sabre, and epee.

The epee is specific to sport fencing, i.e. it was never a battle weapon. It's a triangular blade with the side that would face the floor when held in a conventional position being the widest. The epee is popular among fencing purists because it simulates traditional fencing the most closely: the blade is straight, all points on the opponent are valid targets, and the blade isn't whip-able (a foil blade can be moved in a violent motion, like cast on a fishing rod, so that it can hit the back of the opponent with the tip).
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Patrick McInally
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Not trying to be a buzzkill or anything, but wouldn't rpggeek be a better spot for this? You could even spark a debate on whether varying damage for weapons is an accurate portrayal of reality! (And whether any of us give a hooey about "reality"!) Yay geeks!

Valid question, though, and you've got lots of good answers from the nice folks here!
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Taylor Liss
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Sobriquet wrote:
Not trying to be a buzzkill or anything, but wouldn't rpggeek be a better spot for this? You could even spark a debate on whether varying damage for weapons is an accurate portrayal of reality! (And whether any of us give a hooey about "reality"!) Yay geeks!

Valid question, though, and you've got lots of good answers from the nice folks here!


Well, I originally thought to post there, but I know that BGG is alot more active then RPGG. Also, there are alot of big history buffs in BGG - probably more so than RPGG (or so I assume).
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The Tak
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Geo's definition is pretty spot on, especially his caveat that they are different for different cultures. If you were to show a Roman's sword say a 10th century conscript, they'd probably laugh at your small sword. If you showed a Roman a 10th century longsword, they'd a) probably wonder at how the metal was made that strong at length and b) be completely confused as to why you'd need such a thing. Show either to a samurai in their heyday, and they'd laugh at your single-purposed and clumsy blade because they have their own 'short' and 'long' and 'bastard' swords.

It's a great big world of sliceydiceypokey fun, though, no matter which way you slice it! (sorry, couldn't resist the pun! )
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The difference is essentially cultural.

There are basically two kinds of swords: the chopping ones and the piercing ones. The actual differences in weight, shape and length are more a matter of artisanal custom than anything else.
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If you want reality: Don't use swords. They were too expansive. Most people fought with spears. Easier to produce, cheaper, easier to use, as deadly.

The only use of two handed swords I have ever "seen" (like in museums and the stories there) is during executions. Which idiot would bring a two handed sword to a fight? No one who wants to survive.
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Harlekin wrote:
If you want reality: Don't use swords. They were too expansive. Most people fought with spears. Easier to produce, cheaper, easier to use, as deadly.

The only use of two handed swords I have ever "seen" (like in museums and the stories there) is during executions. Which idiot would bring a two handed sword to a fight? No one who wants to survive.


You take a pike, I'll take a 'two-handed sword' and we'll see what happens.
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HeinzGuderian wrote:
The difference is essentially cultural.

There are basically two kinds of swords: the chopping ones and the piercing ones. The actual differences in weight, shape and length are more a matter of artisanal custom than anything else.

I would say "customary" rather than "cultural", since the customary weapon in a culture can change. Gladius -> ... -> rapier.

As you say, weapons can be cutting or piercing, but they can also be a compromise, trying to do both. Scimitars are strongly designed to swing, not stab; rapiers. stab not swing; a saber is more of a compromise.

A question is what the sword is trying to defeat. If the opponent is armored, the sword needs to be heavy to concentrate enough energy to get through the armor, or at least concuss its wearer. Alternatively, the sword needs to be thin and fast enough to enter weak points while the armored, half-blinded (by his helm), knight is stumbling around trying not to fall over. (Exaggerating: the weight of a suit of armor is similar to a combat load for troops today--but, special forces often dump much of that weight when they judge speed is more important than armor.)

A critical question is whether the sword is used for one-on-one fighting, including dueling; melee (many against many); formation fighting, like the Roman legions' gladius; or as a mounted weapon, like a cavalry saber. A one-on-one weapon can be relatively fragile, because against one opponent, a good swordsman can ensure his forte (strong part of his sword) takes a blow, not his foible (weak part of the sword). A melee weapon must be relatively strong overall. A mounted swordsman needs a long, rugged weapon, like a bastard sword. Durability sacrifices speed; modern fencing is all about speed, and foils (in the general sense) break far too often to be practical weapons (as opposed to sports equipment).

A warrior in a forlorn hope assault of a fortress might want an unusual weapon, as might a boarder in a naval action.

Another critical question is the stance of the swordsman and what is in his off hand. A Roman Legionnaire had a large shield to go with his gladius, so he stood facing his enemy, defending with his large shield and mostly stabbing (little room to swing) with his gladius. Someone wielding a rapier and fighting one-on-one would present his on-hand (usually right) side to the enemy, lessening the area the enemy could hit and extending his reach in a lunge--anything more than a last-ditch knife in his off hand would slow him, fatally.

Finally (at least that comes to my mind late at night), is the technical level of the civilization. A 19th century saber or a katana is a great weapon for all around use. However, they would be fatally fragile made with lesser technology. Lower tech solutions are less versatile, like the scimitar or bastard sword.
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HeinzGuderian wrote:
The difference is essentially cultural.

There are basically two kinds of swords: the chopping ones and the piercing ones. The actual differences in weight, shape and length are more a matter of artisanal custom than anything else.


It's more than cultural. The terms were used differently over time, even within the same cultural group (e.g. 'claymore' used to describe two different types of Scottish weapons at different points in time).

Some swords were designed, and very much intended to both 'chop' and 'pierce' (by the latter I assume you mean 'stab' or 'thrust' with the point). The weight, shape and length had much to do with the intended use, not 'artisanal custom'. Metalurgical technology also imposed its own limitations.
 
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Samort7 wrote:
Ok, tell me if this sounds correct:

Shortsword---- smallest -- 1 handed
Broadsword---- small ----- 1 handed (thicker than shortsword)
Longsword----- big ------- 1 or 2 handed
Bastardsword-- bigger ---- 1 or 2 handed
Greatsword---- biggest --- 2 handed


Other than Shortsword and Greatsword, I would say this is certainly not true in general, although specific instances could be found that fit. To make a distinction, the Bastardsword was designed to be used either one or two-handed, whereas with the Longsword, some instances were clearly designed to be used two-handed, whereas other weapons called 'Longsword' were designed to be used one-handed. Contrary to an earlier comment, I do not believe that the term 'Longsword' was used exclusively for a one-handed weapon, nor do I believe that usage was clearly the more common one for the term.
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