Big Weapons Are Not Swung

The nigh-universal image of the fantasy warrior with a greatsword is of a brawny hulk swinging a gigantic piece of metal around his head, cleaving hapless foes in two.  The UO animation for halberds is of someone holding the head over his shoulder and swinging it into the target.  As a result, these weapons have traditionally been assigned very high damage ratings because of the momentum that must have been imparted by such herculean swings, and very low speed ratings because of the effort it must have taken to lob around a giant piece of metal.

Long weapons like the greatsword and polearms were used because they offered the same advantage as a spear:  that of reach.  The greatsword in particular often lacked cutting edges altogether, and was used as a stabbing weapon.  The proper techniques associated with the use of polearms typically involved extension toward the enemy and some sort of use of the head, with relatively little movement.  The halberd, arguably the most successful of the ornate polearms, had no less than 3 distinct functions, including stabbing like a spear, hamstringing enemies like a scythe, and dismounting knights like a bill hook.  Among its purposes was not to be swung like a giant battleaxe.

The only way to accurately reflect the advantage of proper large weapon technique in a game setting is the same as for the use of the spear:  defense bonuses for the wielder.  This can be somewhat balanced by the consideration that since the weapon is not being swung for horrific amounts of damage, the damage rating of these weapons can be reduced to a more appropriate level.

3 Responses to “Big Weapons Are Not Swung”
  1. Halberds most certainly were swung with the intent of cleaving skulls. This comes out abundantly in period military texts, martial arts manuals, and artwork. The same goes for two-handed swords. Your overall point about reach stands, but a properly timed stroke works wondrous effects in combat.

  2. Aerandir says:

    Greatswords where not swung? Tell those guys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohmLaZHStmI

  3. Aerandir says:

    And where I said “where”, I meant “were”. Apologies.

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