OSR Experiments #22: Not all Weapons are Equal

Ok, I'm still watching the videos, but here's a few thoughts I'd like to share. TrentB alerted me to the ARMA medieval fencing masters, who study the real thing. Not the stats, the number crunching, the Great Shield debates, or the abstract hit point related simulation systems called chainmail or D&D. They do the real swordfighting, live.

And on this swordfighting lesson video the teacher (I'm not sure if it's John Clements, but could be) explains the difference between a longsword vs a side sword. The latter, he explains, is rather effective on the battlefield, but the former is much more effective in the street - vs. a single opponent.

That's because the reach of a longsword is greater, even if just a bit. And one hand is kept free, to parry with for example. So, the longsword is excellent to carry around "on the street", because you can quickly take down an opponent with the longer reach. But in the battlefield a side sword (broadsword?) is more useful, because you can create a swooshing barrier to keep enemies from all sides away from you.

I'm not too sure if the difference between a battlefield situation and a one to one situation is at all reflected in D&D (or other) game rules. I know of no example. But I figure it should be, or at least it would add to my enjoyment and feel for the game if that were the case.


  1. Combat minutia is exactly what I don't want in an RPG. Actually having to track exactly how long each weapon is, how fast it is, etc, doesn't add much to the game in my opinion, but certainly adds to the work. Also, if you get to the point that 6" of extra weapon reach makes a significant mechanical difference in play, then you have to account for how much the weapon wielder's personal reach affects things. I've done my share of sword training, and there's nothing more frustrating than fighting someone who has a foot of extra arm reach and stride compared to you.

  2. @Dyson: Very much agree that IF there's extra work in an RPG system, it should pay off. I've seen both examples that an extra rule adds tremendously to the enjoyment, and of scores of extra tables that did nothing but stall the game.

    I think though that the extra foot of reach should make a difference - because you can vary your opponents this way, and make the game more interesting. How to put this into system as elegantly an unobtrusively as possible is another thing.

  3. I, for one, would love to see the difference between a longsword and a sidesword/broadsword reflected in a game. Yet how to do that without cluttering up the works, I wouldn't know either. D&D 3rd edition and its successors did introduce weapon reach, even tying it into the size of the opponent. Hence we were suddenly facing ogres armed with spiked chains. It was all too ham-handed. The reach mechanic didn't add THAT much more work, but D&D3+ as a system was cumbersome to begin with. So, not a success there. Just maybe a Lite version of Shadowrun 4th Edition could pull it off?