Weapons: An Advanced Guide
Weapons: An Advanced Guide
Hello, and welcome to my guide on weapons. If you're looking to take your RP to the next level in detail and realism, you've come to the right place. I will be providing a more advanced run-down of every single weapon type common to the Redwall universe, with a detailed discussion of the different parts of the weapon, materials it would have been made from, and what kind of uses it is suitable for.
No discussion of Redwall weapons would be complete without bogging down on the sword for a good length of time, so we'll do this one first. It's the most common, most popular weapon on the Muck.
It's not hard to see why, either. Everyone sees the hero of this sort of story with a sword, with few (but notable) exceptions.
- Bastard (Hand-a-half) Sword
- Claymore/Great Sword
Among all these terms there is debate among scholars as to what exactly constitutes what, but for our usage we will run with what is generally accepted and what is referenced in the previous help guide on weapons. The basic parts of a sword are the blade and the hilt. The hilt consists of the crossguard, the handle, and the pommel, in that order. Most of these could be made of iron or steel, with iron being cheaper but steel far more durable. Both are vulnerable to rusting and require extensive care.
Designed for use with one hand, this is a long, straight double-edged blade, often with a groove running down the middle (called a fuller). There is almost always a crossguard, which could be anything from a plain piece of metal a little wider than the blade to an ornate bar over six inches long. The longsword ranges in length from around 35"-45", and would start with a width somewhere over an inch and taper to a point. These are sharp, and despite what you may heard about being mostly clubs, their cutting power is significant. A slash from one of these will easily cut through unarmored flesh, to the bone, and possibly break the bone. If you’re using both hands (paws) by gripping the pommel and it’s a small limb, you may even chop it clean off. They also have significant thrusting penetration, able to pierce plate armor and burst the rings of chainmail. What they are not outstanding at is blocking other weapons. An edge-on-edge hit is very likely to chip an iron or steel blade, the first more than the second. Taking the hit on the flat is the only option to preserve the blade. If you’ve seen the Lord of the Rings, pretty much everyone not-Aragorn was using one of these.
This is a modern term for the type of sword that falls in between a longsword and a claymore/great sword. It is probably the most common sword type in the Redwall novels. It can be used with one hand, but its length is such that it is more manageable with two, and there is space for about a hand and a half on the handle, hence the name. Bastard swords range in length from around 45”-55”. It’s basically a size up of the longsword, with more cutting power, more crushing power, and more stabbing power. A technique known as half-blading, gripping the blade halfway down while stabbing, could be used to prevent the blade from flexing and allow it to penetrate farther. The general usage is basically the same as the longsword, with the second hand added in. If you’ve seen the Lord of the Rings, Aragorn was using one of these.
The rapier is a completely different weapon. The blade is very thin, straight, and about the length of a longsword. Steel is the only option for this weapon, because of the slight blade. The crossguard forms a basket which protects the entire hand. These came into popular use when gunpowder had all but eliminated the usefulness of armor, and so are primarily useful against unarmored opponents. They are flexible and light, designed for stabbing rather than cutting or crushing. They will cut, though not as deeply, but they will not crush because of their size and weight. You will never sever a limb with a rapier. If you’ve seen the movie The Princess Bride, Wesley and Inigo were using these.
The scimitar is a single-edged, curved blade, with a handle that generally curves back the opposite direction. It is almost always designed to be used with one hand, and is best used as a cutting weapon. The blade sometimes widens toward the cutting end before narrowing to its tip for additional weight on the business end. It can be used to stab, but its curved shape makes precision a little more difficult. Its chief use is cutting, and with a thick, heavy blade, it can possibly shear through limbs. As with all cutting weapons, the bone will decide that. If you’ve seen the Prince of Persia, the Prince was using these.
This is basically a thinner version of the scimitar, with a smooth curve from one end of the blade to the other. As such, it is used in the same way, but will not offer as much power. The tradeoff is made as a result of the lighter weight, which allows greater maneuverability but less chopping force. Because of this, it can be used in fencing, like a rapier, and like a rapier, the crossguard includes extra protection for the fingers. It’s less ornate, generally just a curved extension from the crossguard to the pommel. It is unlikely that you would be able to sever a limb with a saber without repeated and dedicated efforts. You would be able to cut and stab someone quite nicely, though. If you’ve seen the Marines, enlisted members carry these.
This is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a shorter version of the longsword, and shares most of the same qualities. It is really only meant for use with one hand, although obviously two could be used in a pinch; however, the advantage of actually doing this is questionable just because of how small this weapon is. Shortswords range in length from around 25”-35”. You would still be able to cut to the bone and inflict some crushing trauma to the bone as well, possibly breaking smaller bones. It is plausible that you would be able to sever a smaller limb, but it would probably take more than one hack. If you’ve seen the Lord of the Rings, all the little hobbits were using these.
This category brings a little more confusion because of the name ‘claymore’. Some people refer to the next sword as a claymore too, but for our purposes we’re going to go with the majority use and lump the claymore and great sword together. These are the true two-handed weapons of this type and era. These massive swords range from 55”-65” and can weigh as much as 7 or 8 pounds. Because of their size and weight, these can inflict catastrophic damage in the right hands. These are harder to maneuver for the same reason, but in capable hands you would expect to be able to cut through a torso, cleave through most of a skull, sever limbs, and impale just about anything. One large warrior with a great sword could keep crowds at bay with his large, sweeping, extremely dangerous swings. If you’ve seen Braveheart, William Wallace was using one of these.
I’m really only including this one because of Rakkety Tam. A broadsword (sometimes referred to as a claymore; see above) is a lot like a longsword, but a little shorter, a little wider, and with a distinctive basket hilt much like a rapier’s. It can only be used with one hand. It would inflict similar damage to and be used much like a longsword.
The cutlass is like the red-headed stepchild of the saber. It’s a short, usually curved blade with a basket or otherwise protected hilt. It originated as a naval weapon, since use on a ship made longer weapons difficult. It’s possible the earliest cutlasses were literally sabers that were shortened by their seafaring wielders. Like all these weapons, on bare flesh these can inflict significant cutting damage, as well as stabbing damage against bare flesh and armor as well. If you’ve seen Pirates of the Caribbean, just about everyone was using these.
This is probably the most available and abundant weapon type. It can be made easily just by sharpening a stick, and with rocks as well as metal. Essentially, a polearm is any pole (usually wood, although it could be a different material if it was light and rigid) with any sort of pointed or bladed attachment on one or both ends.
This is the granddaddy of all weapons, really. Its simplicity is its greatest strength. This could be as simple as a sharpened pole. Most spears have a head of some sort, a piece of rock or metal which typically takes the shape of two edges and a point. Spears are primarily used for stabbing, and with both hands, you can stab through a lot. A bladed steel tip would definitely penetrate further than a sharpened wooden stake, so adjust accordingly. The tip is capable of bursting the rings of chainmail, but would be less effective against plate armor. Alternatively, spears can also be used with sweeping movements to knock weapons aside, trip opponents, or just smack them on the head. If you swung it hard enough, you could easily knock an opponent unconscious or dead with the blunt trauma alone.
These are basically lighter spears, often longer, designed to be thrown. Just like the spear, it may be tipped or as simple as a sharpened stick. If you’ve seen any Olympic accidents, you know that these can go clean through someone without protection, and even plate armor might be pierced (but not deeply) by a good close-range throw.
These are basically longer, heavier spears. They serve much the same purpose as a spear, while being longer and heavier. This makes them more suited for a group than an individual, effective at stopping a charge by keeping individual attackers at a distance with their incredible reach. These are generally found in the armories of actual armies, not wielded by lone warriors, because of their size. It would be difficult to maneuver the pike effectively as a single fighter.
A sort of spear/pike combo, these are distinguished by a crossguard of sorts at the base of the head, usually with additional sharpened edges. You can imagine how these would be used to hook and cut.
A halberd is a long polearm that resembles a spear, but with a more developed blade. One side is generally a straight, elongated blade, and the other is a bladed hook. These were primarily used for unhorsing mounted opponents, but as you can imagine, it could still do significant damage if it made contact with someone on foot. They are top-heavy, however, and again, are unlikely to be found wielded by lone warriors. These are more suited for a large force, for the same reasons as pikes.
These two weapons are essentially the same. It’s another long polearm, but this time instead of a spearhead, a long, thick blade was attached to the end of the pole. This could either run along the pole itself or stick up from the top. Essentially, it’s a cleaver on a stick. These are capable of inflicting remarkable damage due to the high speeds achievable by the blade as a result of the leverage of the pole. It is definitely possible to sever a limb with one of these.
The trident is essentially a spear with three points. There are a number of ways this can be achieved, but the most common and effective was simply to make a three-pronged head for the spear. They are used in much the same way as a spear and do much the same damage, but obviously the potential exists to do up to three times as much harm in the same amount of time.
The axe is a simple polearm which began its life as a tool for chopping down trees, trimming branches, and other similar tasks. It is a sharpened head with either one face or two, and it is mounted on a pole. The business area of the head is called the bit, and it may be either single or double. Double-edged axes were extremely uncommon in combat, despite the illustrations and pop culture icons you may have seen. The extra edge was not that useful and would slow you down, as well as making it that much easier to hurt yourself or unintended targets. Axes designed for cutting wood are generally only a few inches wide at the bit, but battleaxes are frequently much wider at the edge, while narrowing towards the pole to save on weight. A heavy battleaxe is capable of severing limbs, and is indeed among the most capable at doing so, making them the tool of choice for executioners in many places. The smaller, single-hand use variant is called a hatchet, and those designed for throwing are generally called tomahawks (though the large battleaxes can even be thrown as well).
A poleaxe is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a pike. It’s a polearm generally about the height of the wielder or a bit longer, developed mostly as a reaction to plate armor. One face of the head is either an axe or a hammer, and the other face is either a curved spike, several spikes, or a hammer. At the top is a dagger-like spearhead. These are more versatile than halberds because of their more convenient size, and it’s possible a good swing with the axe face would sever a limb. The spike could punch through plate armor, and the spearhead on top is dangerous as well. If a hammer variant is used, it could crush a skull or plate armor.
The hammer was always a valid weapon for the battlefield, and easily attained, as, like the axe, it began life as a tool. A simple blunt head mounted on a pole, it’s an evolution of the basic club. These take on various sizes and shapes, and could be used either single or double handed, depending on their size. Sometimes a sharp spike is added to the reverse. These are particularly effective against plate armor, as the hammerhead can crush it and the spike can pierce it. They will never sever a limb, but they can do serious blunt force trauma and piercing damage, with the potential increasing as the hammer gets larger. As always, the bigger the hammer, the slower and harder it is to wield.
As simple as it gets, the staff is literally just a pole. It can be any length, though it is usually at least as tall as its wielder. Despite its simplicity, it can still be a deadly weapon, and swung with enough force can knock an enemy unconscious or dead.
The ranged weapon is a special and enviable class; it enables the user to do damage to his enemy without putting himself in range of a melee weapon. As such, skilled users were coveted members of any force. Accuracy and range with these weapons is very dependent on the skill of the user, however; a beginner cannot pick up a bow and simply hit the target. They require much more practice to be effective than the melee weapons.
The cheapest of the ranged weapons, the sling is a long piece of some material with a pocket for a projectile. That is all. It could be as simple as a very long piece of fabric or a string with a square of material in the middle. It is used by placing a projectile in the pocket, holding the ends of the sling, spinning it until significant speed is achieved (just once for skilled users), then releasing one end so that the projectile flies at its target. Depending on the projectile, speed of the throw, and skill of the user, these can actually do significant damage, injuring or even killing unarmored opponents outright. Even armored opponents are at danger from the wrath of the sling, which could chuck large rocks or small lead bullets at speeds of 60 mph. In the books, these are a favorite of the woodlander species, and while underrepresented on the MUCK, these are very valid as weapons. Their range is generally about 200 meters, but experts can extend that range up to around 400 meters. The longbow is really the only ranged weapon that can match the reach of the sling. Sling projectiles could break bones, cause internal bleeding, and massive brain trauma, all without breaking the skin. For medical treatment at the time, that poses a serious problem. For a light, mobile weapon with nearly unlimited cheap ammunition, the sling is hard to beat.
Much more expensive than a sling, the bow is the premier ranged weapon of the medieval period. There are a lot of variances here: length, type of wood, type of string, length, draw-weight. All of these factors work together to influence the final weapon and what sort of damage it can do. Bows are most easily divided into two categories: short bows and longbows. There are other historical types of bows, but the Redwall universe sticks to medieval European, and specifically English, technology for the vast, vast majority of cases, so we will too.
The longbow is, as you might expect, a long bow. Specifically, this bow would be about six feet tall with a three foot arrow. Generally the bow itself would be made from yew, although ash or elm could also be used, while the arrow would be made of any number of woods, with ash and poplar being the most common. The best bows were made from one piece of wood carved into the shape of the bow, while others were made by gluing several pieces together. The string was commonly made of hemp or flax. The draw-weight, or how much force is required to pull back the string, varies somewhere between 60-120 pounds. This requires significant strength and is very tiring to perform repeatedly. The skeletons of medieval archers reveal bone spurs on the left arm and right fingers from the stress of shooting, owing to the large amounts of strain from the bow itself and the extensive practice required to achieve a rapid, accurate fire rate. Shooting a longbow is hard work. The range of these bows is generally regarded to have been around 200m for the average, with record ranges using lighter arrows recorded towards the 400m mark, but the range of a shooter will decrease as he gets tired. Heavier arrows will also travel less far, but potentially penetrate more deeply, depending on the shape of the arrowhead.
Short Bow (Bow)
I’m not going to talk about the short bow too much, because for our purposes it’s basically the same as a longbow but shorter (duh) and less powerful. Short bows are any bows smaller than longbows, from around five feet on down. While being less powerful, they’re still effective in much the same way, while being lighter, more portable, and easier to use. Because they’re not as powerful, regular bows are not as hard to draw, which means you could use one without getting as tired as you would with a longbow.
All arrows are dangerous to unarmored opponents, and potentially lethal. Broadheads could do more damage to exposed flesh, but would not be able to penetrate steel plate armor. Bodkins, needle-pointed arrows, of a heavy weight could penetrate steel plate, but not very deeply. Mail could also be penetrated by these arrows. Iron and cheaper metals, as well as softer materials like leather, are all susceptible to penetration by arrows of any kind, to varying degrees depending on the style and weight of the arrow, and the hardness and shape of the armor.
Crossbows show up for a hot minute in a single Redwall book, Rogue Crew, after which they are confiscated by the Long Patrol and burned for being a menace to society (or something of the sort). I present them here to you in this guide mostly for the purpose of explaining why they should be extremely rare and why even if you do choose to give one to your character, it may be a poor choice.
For one thing, crossbows are difficult to make. The engineering and craftsmanship, as well as the expensive materials, required to make a crossbow that isn’t simply a sideways bow are extensive. It goes well beyond the skill involved in making a good bow, and even that is a highly technical task. Because of this, a crossbow in the Redwall universe would be inordinately expensive to obtain and highly prized as a novelty or status good more than anything else.
The other problem with crossbows in the Redwall universe is the way they were used, especially in the time period we’re dealing with. The draw-weight on most crossbows is well over 300 pounds, up to around 1000 pounds for siege-class weapons. The weapon itself weighs around 15 pounds. Absolutely you cannot draw one of these without some sort of assisting device. On the lighter end, that may be a rope with hooks that you use to pull the string instead of your fingers, or something as elaborate as a cranked windlass for the heavier weights. These take time to load. Time is not something you have a lot of during the sort of one-on-one and small-group engagements common in Mossflower. The fastest possible reloading for a crossbow involves you stopping, putting your foot through a ring on the front, hooking your loading aid onto the string, pulling it back, then loading your bolt, and now it’s ready to loose. This weapon was designed and intended for use either from the top of a wall, or as part of a large group of other crossbow users in an army. Reloading was such a problem that crossbowmen needed special shields, essentially portable walls, stuck into the ground for them to stand behind while they got their next bolt ready to loose. Modern crossbows are significantly easier to load and still require a strong user and some time to operate. Because of the weight of the bolts, there is an advantage against armored troops in comparison to the other bows, and while the loading aids could make it accessible to weaker users, they still required a lot of time to use. The crossbow was a low-skill, highly time-intensive weapon meant for all-out war. If you’re still not convinced, too bad. These aren’t allowed in general, I just wanted you to know why having one wouldn’t be as cool as you think.
Probably most famous for their use by Slagar the Cruel, bolas are relatively simple throwing weapons made of cords tied together with some sort of weight at the end. This weight could be stones, wooden balls, metal balls, pouches filled with weights, you name it. Most bolas have two or three balls, but more could be employed; of course, at some point, this would become ungainly. The weapon is used by spinning the weights rapidly on their cords from a central point, similar to a sling, except that instead of launching a projectile, the entire weapon is thrown. The weapon then flies through the air, and when it reaches its target, the weights strike and wrap the cords around it. Depending on how heavy the weights are, this could be more or less painful, or even lethal, if struck to the head hard enough. While the usage is similar to a sling, the range is much less, around 35m. However, bolas are often used as a sort of modified lasso, more intended to entangle the target than to kill it outright.
Another primitive weapon, the blowgun could be as basic as a hollow reed cut from a streambank with a hedgehog's quill inside it. All that is required is a tube of some kind and a projectile to launch. Quieter than a bow (bows make a noisy snap when loosed), a blowgun launches a small projectile, often pointed, using a puff of air from the user's mouth. Size and materials varies widely, with the "best" material probably being hardwood at this time period, although any hollow tube would work. The width and length could be just about anything, depending on the desired use and the size of the user's mouth, and projectiles could be fashioned from anything that would fit inside. Sharp darts or needles are the most lethal option, but something like a rock or seed could be used just as easily. Darts require some fluff of some sort, whether some cotton or feathers or just a bit of rag, tied to the back end. This keeps air from escaping around the needle too quickly so that it can be propelled forward. As far as poisoned weapons go, blowguns are a great and popular choice, due to their versatile size, concealability, the use of darts, and covert, silent operation. While it would be difficult to kill an opponent with a dart straight-up, poison would greatly increase the efficacy of this approach. However, it's unlikely that the blowgun would be much use in pitched combat, as the dart's point of impact is just too small to kill quickly. The other downside to the blowgun comes in its accuracy and range. A stiff wind precludes any sort of accuracy. In good conditions, the accuracy is greatly impacted by the length of the blowgun, with five feet considered to be about the minimum for accurate shooting past 10m. A blowgun this long has an effective range of about 20m, but could possibly hit a target as far away as 30 or 40m. Shorter blowguns are less accurate.
That’s all for now. If I missed anything, please comment below. The comments will be moderated and may be removed after your suggestion is added. I can think of a few more and I'll be adding those too.