Weapon Characteristics

May 26th, 2009

This is an overview of weapon characteristics, and explains what they are, the logic and design concepts behind them, what I am trying to achieve. Weapon characteristics are used to describe the parameters of a weapon, and what they can be used for. Weapons are defined by three core characteristics derived from the length of the weapon and the type of impact it delivers. These characteristics are Reach, Method, and Type.

  • Reach Augment: This is the maximum reach of the weapon when making a specific attack, and is given as a bonus to natural reach as defined by the Stature Attribute. It is derived from the length of the blade or shaft of the weapon from the lead hand. Each point of reach is equivalent to 6 inches. A man with Stature:6 has a natural reach of 6. A 3’6″ Sword making a thrust attack would give a reach bonus of +5, to yield a total reach of 11.
  • Grip: This is how the weapon is held whether with one hand or two, and where the weapon is gripped. Some weapon can be used with multiple grips.
  • Method: A weapon can be Swung or Thrust when used to strike. This is called the ‘method’. Swinging a weapon increases impact force through leverage, and therefore increases the effective strength of the attack. The value of this bonus to strength is equal to the weapon’s reach bonus (as above). This increases the the natural strength of the wielder as defined by their Stature Attribute. A 3’6″ sword would have an effective hewing edge about 2′ up the blade, so would yield a reach bonus of +4 and strength bonus of +4. If wielded by a man of Stature:6, would yield a Reach:10 Strength:10 when making a hewing attack.
  • Type: This is the shape of the part of the weapon that makes contact with the target and determines how the energy is transferred to the target. It is basically comes in three forms: Face, Edge, and Point. The ‘Face’ type covers bludgeon type weapons that cause blunt trauma. The ‘Edge’ type covers slashing and hew weapons like swords and axes. The last type is ‘Point’ and covers piecing weapons. These are given short hand designators: 3P: face, 2P: Edge, and 1P: Point. The ‘P’ stands for ‘point’

These defining characteristics of the weapon along with combat techniques go hand in hand. One augmenting the other. The techniques making the most of the weapon, and the weapon tailored to match the most effective techniques. It is this combination of technique and weapon characteristics that yields an effective attack or defence. This means that a fighter may have multiple attack choices with a weapons depending on their repertoire of techniques in regard to that weapon.


In close combat Reach determines which Troopers will get to strike first in a confrontation. Longer weapons give the wielder the opportunity to strike down those with shorter weapons before they can properly engage. This confers a huge advantage to the wielders of longer weapons. It is a daunting prospect for a Trooper to take on opponents who wield weapons with a longer reach.

Working it out: Each point of Reach is calculated as one quarter the average length of the humans human’s arm or 15cm. This value is derived from the distance between the hand and head when in mid bare hand parry (point of contact), which works out around half the arm length, combined with reaction time distance and power, and a further reduction for safety margin. Most blades fall into this 15 cm increments (with +5cm tacked on – see notes).

Natural Reach: The base reach of a Trooper is equal to their Stature. For most human warriors of Stature:6 this works are a reach 6. This is roughly 3 feet measured from the centre of the body line to the tip of the finger of an outstretched strike while in a side stance. This may sound over stretched, but is works out as a similar distance for a punch when combined with a smaller forward step. (If in a ‘face on’ stance then the reach is reduced by 2 (some boxing styles, Sword and Buckler), and if reversed it is reduced by 4 (such as a shield bearer leading with the shield)).

The basic armament of a human is their natural weapons, these are fists and are considered to have a reach equal to their Stature. There is no enhancement of reach for natural weapons, and a fist as a weapon is considered ‘+0’.

In most games of historical battles where most humans in each army average out to Stature:6, this natural reach can often be effectively ignored. However it is important to remember is is there, because if the Troopers of Stature:6 engage Troopers with a higher or lower stature is will affect the reach band.

Enhancement of Natural Reach: A short dagger, which does add a bit of length, is considered to be band 1; as an opponent can still parry the arm of the dagger wielder rather than the dagger itself (parry). A Dirk (over 20cm) is much harder to deal with, as the are over the average distance of the bent human arm, and the human has to move in order to evade with parry (parry+dodge), such weapons are considered to have a reach of ‘2’. Early Baselards have a blade length of up to 40 cm and an unarmed human can no longer practically parry the arm of the Baselard wielder (as it is too long) or adequately evade and parry them in close combat. This means they are long enough to be considered well outside arm range, and count as reach of ‘3’ (no parry, only dodge).

The bonus a weapon confers to its wielder is derived from the length of the weapons blade or shaft as measured from the lead hand. Each full 6″ or 15cm past the first 5cm confers a +1 bonus. The following table lists various weapons found thought out history and their corresponding bonus to the wielder’s natural reach value as defined by their Stature.

Reach Comparison table
Length Example of Blade (sword classifications)
+1 0-20 cm Stiletto, Misericorde (12th+), F&S fighting knife (20th) , U.S. Marine Raider Stiletto, Shield
+2 21-35 cm Long knife, Cinquedea, Dirk, Bowie knife, Buckler
+3 36-50 cm Baselard (early 15th), Cinquedea, main-gauche,
+4 51-65 cm Baselard (late 15th), Gladius (early)
+5 66-80 cm Gladius (late), Viking Sword, Arming sword, Spatha, Great Knife, Falchion, Sabre, Kopis,
+6 81-95 cm Longsword (13-17th), Schiavona (16-17th), Great Sword (13th), Black Bill min (5′ 14-16th),
+7 96-110 cm Estoc/ Tuck, Longsword (Great Sword 13-17th), Rapier, Highland Claymore (16-17th)
+8 111-125 cm Bastard Sword, Rapier, Black Bill max (6′ 14-16th),
+9 126-140 cm Zweihänder (16th), Flammenschwert (flaming sword),
+10 141-155 cm
+12 156-170 cm
+13 171-185 cm Forest Bill* min (8′ 14016th)
+14 186-200 cm
+15 201-215 cm Forest Bill* max (9′ 14-16th),
+16 186-230 cm
+17 186-245 cm Pike* min (up to 1700)

As we can see from the table there is a concentration of swords around the +5 to +6 bonus table. This is because such weapons are used with a shield, and in a shield on shield clash you have to be able to strike at your opponent and a weapon longer than this would make that impossible (as they would be passed the sword’s point and you would be unable to pull back far enough to bring the point into play, unless you stepped back). Therefore the maximum length of the sword wielded by one hand is not constrained by technology, but by practical considerations considering the role of the wielder.


This describes how the weapon is held.

  • 1-H: Grip the weapon’s handle with one hand. A good grip, but lacks leverage.
  • 2-H: Grip the weapon’s handle with two hands, with the second hand tucked in behind the first. Impart greater swing strength and more powerful deflections. Lacks leverage.
  • 2-HW: The ‘W’ stands for ‘Wide’. Grip the handle with one hand, and grip the middle of the blade (half-sword) or shaft (pole-arm) with the other. Used in grappling, this greatly increases binding power and leverage. Used primarily with staff and half-sword techniques, both longsword and sword and buckler.

Some weapons can have multiple grips, such as a longsword, which can employ all the grips. with 1-H is can have great range and sweep, with 2-H is can increase the power of cleaving strikes and trusts, and with 2-HW it can be used to defeat armoured opponents with half-swording to more accurate placement of piecing strikes to weak points, or morte-striking to punch through armour with the cross guard.

Combined with method, it yields the type of strikes and techniques a weapon is capable.


The length of a weapons also provides another benefit, that of leverage. This can only be taken advantage off when a Trooper takes a swing at their opponent. It is the swing that allows the wielder to make use of a weapons leverage in order to increase the power of the impact. Thrusts with a weapon do not gain any benefit from leverage as all the power is in the push, and a Trooper can only push so hard (roughly equivalent to, and no more than, a punch).

At first this makes weapons based on the principles of leverage and the swing attack to be all powerful. While it is true a good hewing (a swing with an edged weapon) attack can cleave through flesh with ease, decapitating and disembowelling with one fluid motion, there are disadvantages. The greatest vulnerability of the swing is that it is slower than a thrust and much easier to see coming and parry. Thrusting weapons also have the advantage of reach, as it is the very tip that is the business end, whereas a sword’s strike area for a swing is about two thirds the blade length (and maces and warhammer are often shorter than an arming sword) Thrusting weapons may lack impact power but they are often piecing weapons and while they do not benefit from leverage, a piecing weapon is still highly effective.

Like all techniques in combat, it is knowing when to use them. In general terms, hewing is great for mowing down lightly armoured troops, whereas piecing is good for overcoming armour (longsword and the half-swording technique).

All weapons share common concepts, and when it comes to applying force there are two methods, Swing and Thrust (there are variants half-swording=thrust, morte striking=swing, and setting (spear), but more on that later.). Each has advantages and disadvantages.

  • Swing: means the Reach bonus used to augment Reach and Strength
  • Thrust: means the Reach bonus is applied only to Reach, and not to Strength.
  • Slice (draw): This ignores reach and is used from binds, and part of ‘grapple from the sword’

The methods used with a weapon can be defined by a short hand code of ‘Swing’ or ‘Thrust’. This is sufficient to denote whether it gains a strength bonus or not. A weapon can have more than one method (swords can trust and be swung).

Swung weapons generate more power, but are easier to see coming and to judge the arc of their swing. Thrusting weapon are less powerful as they loose the leverage bonus but are quick direct, and harder to defend against. As technology advanced the lack of power of the thrusting type of weapons were offset but the development of piecing points. Piecing requires very little force to inflict fatal wounds. However if stopped by armour, then then once again suffer from the lack of leverage to break through.


There are three types of impact head, and each inflicts a different type of wound, and can have more that one method of application.

  • 3P – Blunt: known as bludgeoning weapons, inflict blunt trauma wounds. The impact is spread over an areas, and if enough force is applied it can break bones and rupture organs. Of the weapon types the 3P is the most robust, but it also takes more force to cause a lethal wound in most instances.
  • 2P – Edged: This includes swords and axes, and all the force of the impact is concentrated into an edge of the blade. This reduces the area the force is transferred to and therefore makes it much easier to destroy the flesh, and a strike it part the flesh causes lacerations and incisions. Sword also have a special ability to make drawing cuts, to run the blade along the flesh to make it far easier to slice into the meat. This is employed to rake from a ‘grapple-at-the-sword’. Hewing attacks can cause the most horrific wounds of all the type, and easy server limbs.
  • 1P – Point: These weapons concentrate all their force into a single point. The piece flesh with ease, and sink deep into flesh and organ. They take the least energy to cut, and for the same force as applied with blunt or edged, they will bury deep into the target. Piecing weapons are the most lethal of all the types if applied to the body or hit a major vessel, however there force is so concentrated that it is very precise and allows no room for error, and it is possible to bury a piecing weapon into a target’s arms, side or leg and not inflict a debilitating wound.

Note: There are special additional effect and rules for certain combinations, like ‘slice and edged’ that give extra options in combat. Slicing is very poor as an opener but once engaged is can be very effective.

Weight: The power of the impact is standardised to Stature (Strength) values. Swung weapons confer a strength bonus to the wielder this is the same as the Reach value. This assumes the weapon is constructed in such a way that reach and strength bonuses are the same value, and this value matches the Stature scale of values.

Example: A Man with Stature:6 and a weapon of reach +2 would have an effective Stature:8. This means the man has a reach and strength of ‘8’. Therefore the weapon is assumed to be weighted in such a way that it adds +2 strength (to match the reach value), and the man will strike as if he had Stature:8. A man of Stature:8 would strike with the same power in a ‘hammer punch’ and this Stature:6 man armed with this +2 weapon.

The basic assumption is that a weapon of a given Reach bonus will confers the same value of Strength bonus. As strength bonuses are match to the ‘Stature scale’ we can say that to gain a bonus to strength from a weapon: the wielder’s Stature must be elevated to the next value higher Stature value(or more). Normally this is assumed to match the reach value as it is optimised, not to heavy, not too light. But what if the weight of the impact head is not enough to match this bonus?

Light or Heavy: Some weapons are light and some heavier, and this means the characteristics of the weapon are being messed with. A lighter weapon will confer less of a bonus to strength, and a heavier one will confer a greater bonus to strength. That’s not to say heavier is ideal, as it will mess with the handling and parrying ability (that will be dealt with else where).

Example: A Club such as a Policeman’s truncheon is lighter and designed to be less powerful that a club used for war, but still confer a reach advantage when tackling a suspect. Therefore the truncheon a foot in length would confer +2 reach but +0 or at most +1 in strength bonus.

Most weapons on the battlefield are assumed to be optimised. An optimised weapon has matching reach and strength bonuses.

Effectiveness: All weapons for war are made for the job, and make any human an effective killer. Often in war games the damage element is overly focused on, slowing play and reducing the game to a crawl, instead in this game we focus of other aspects of combat to teach what warriors really aim for. To give a basics of combat tactics and technique. Therefore in the core rules is it assumed that all weapons are sufficient for the task and all will kill (i.e. stun and follow through or strike weak points).

No warrior would bother hacking through armour if their weapons are not up to the task, and would switch to other methods to get the job done (more than one way to skin a cat!). For example, with the advent of plate armour it was pointless to try and hew or slash with a Long Sword and technique like half-swording and morte-striking came it, where the long sword is also used in bind far more like a quarterstaff. Warriors are fighting men and it should be assumed that they are trained and clever. We will not be going by the hollywood version of combat (which is a joke). these rules have real combat in mind (and it’s dirty!).



Next: Weapon Details

Category: Prototype Rules Page

Comments: 2

Feedback is vital to the development of WarSpike. I would like to thank all those who have taken the time to critique and discuss the concepts and rules of WarSpike, and especially those who's comments are posted below. If you would like to chip in too, you are most welcome! To jump to the comment form at the bottom of the page click here, or browse other's comments and hit 'reply'.

  1. Stefmanovic says:

    Hey Philip!

    Maybe a bit off topic, and you most likely already know this stuff, but I ran into two articles today which might give you some more ideas regarding sword fighting:





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