09 August 2017

Why A Sword?

I've been getting excited about the eminent release of GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy.

It's got me looking at my old characters and I've discovered that I should not have wasted my money on swords.

The basic broadsword is $500 and 3 lb., takes a ST 10 to use and has a Reach of 1 with a Parry penalty of 0.

It does sw+1 cut or thr+1 cr.  For a ST 10 wielder, those give 1d cut and 1d-1 cr.

1-6 (3 avg) cut becomes 1-9 (5 avg) in bare torso.  1-5 cr becomes 1-5 (2 avg).

A thrusting broadsword is $600 and 3 lb., takes a ST 10 to use and has a Reach of 1 with a Parry penalty of 0.

It does sw+1 cut or thr+2 imp.  For a ST 10 wielder, those give 1d cut and 1d imp.

1-6 (3 avg) cut becomes 1-9 (5 avg) in bare torso.  1-6 imp becomes 2-10 (7 avg).

The basic spear is $40 and 4 lb., takes a ST 10 to use and has a Reach of 1 with a Parry penalty of 0.

It does thr+2 imp.  For a ST 10 wielder, that gives 1d imp.

1-6 imp becomes 2-10 (7 avg).

Additionally, a spear can be wielded two-handed for an extra point of damage and Reach 1, 2.

2-7 imp becomes 4-14 (9 avg).

It appears that I've been saving a pound by spending a lot more money on a sword.

By taking a spear and shield it looks like I can save points that would have been going to wealth and put them someplace that actually improves combat ability.


  1. I thought you hated fantasy settings?

    1. It's not so much that I hate fantasy settings. I'm just sick of playing the same setting over and over and over and over.

      Most of my attempts to liven things up failed epically because of player intransigence about the livening not being the same setting over and over and over and over.

      Something as simple as making languages national rather than racial caused massive kick-back.

  2. There are a couple things with swords to consider. The first of those is that swords, based on my experience with longsword, sidesword, messer and dussack, should get +1 parry if Parry 0 is baseline. Having trained with tomahawk, long knife (long enough to escape the parry penalty), and quarterstaff, the sword is closer to the quarterstaff in ease and ability to parry with. Even shortswords have a great deal of parrying surface, usually with guards tailored to enable them to catch, trap, or deflect the blades of an opponent. In fact, Low Tech Companion 2 allows you to add a guard to a weapon that lacks one for +1 parry (but swords are exempt from benefit for no adequately explained reason).

    Second, is that it's a sidearm; at the end of the day, any long pole weapon is likely to be superior in cost-effectiveness and utility in battle. The problem comes with traveling with them. A polearm (including greatswords) must be held, carried, or set on a wagon to travel, while a sword can be left hanging comfortably at the hip. A lot of troops who normally fought with various polearms or ranged weapons would have at least a cheap sword at the hip, usually something like a falchion/messer/hanger/cutlass as era appropriate, because cost. Worn by a civilian or off duty soldier, it was an adequate and serviceable weapon that could be carried without hampering all other tasks.

    That said, for pure combat on the individual/adventuring party scale, Dueling Polearms and medium spears are by far the best value for money. I also tend to give most weapons the Brawling damage bonus progression, because technique has a significant impact on the quality of a cut or thrust.

    A particularly DF style weapon I've been considering is a thrusting bastard sword with a bayonet lug and reinforced sheath, able to be carried as on the hip but provide the reach of a short ahlspiess when assembled into a spear/glaive, or be used on its own with the sheath used as a baton or parrying stick in closer confines.

    1. I'm trying ever so hard to not bring reality into this.

      If I were to do so, then every sword becomes an unbalanced weapon after a swing because you're just not in position to defend.

      The purpose of this case study is, using Low-Tech, what is the cheapest set of adventuring gear I can get away with and still be a viable fighter.

      FuzzyGeff points out that the broadsword comes into its own past ST 12, because swing damage advances faster than thrust.

    2. Fair enough, with regards to Low-Tech and price and things. I meant less as "NEEDS MORE REALISM" and more along the lines of swords having more benefit than GURPS gives credit for to justify a small portion of the additional cost. A lot of polearms still give the same bonus for way cheaper though, you're right. Spear/polearm is much better for the murderhobo or munchkin on a budget!

      Most swords don't become unbalanced, so much as there's a brief period a split second behind the cut where you're vulnerable, but every cut and thrust should start and end in a guard, ready to defend. Much different compared to really heavy weapons like big hammers that really do become too unbalanced to defend with on a swing.

      Worth noting is that I'm speaking from the HEMA perspective, following the old manuals people lived and died by (as best as we can figure out, anyway). We cover all the throws and low blows and generally ungentlemanly behavior expected in a fight for one's life!

    3. Playing in the SCA I was murder on a stick (literally) with a halberd. Oh, to be young and fit again... I am thinking that the reason I had no speed problems with the halberd was I'd gotten past the ST limitations on unbalanced. It was very amusing watching someone discover that. I'm the body type that doesn't get bulkier as I get stronger.

      "unbalanced" is an inertia/time thing with heavier, front weighted, weapons getting the penalty. I find that most Euro swords when used full swing have as much recovery time as an ax. The trick, of course, is to not use them that way! My experience could be biased by most of it being with fairly late period swords where fencing weapons were taking over. A Scottish basket hilt or English back-sword, I think, are more tip balanced than an earlier arming sword.

    4. The most bladeheavy sword I've used is the messer, which DOES come the furthest away from ready. This is where there's a case for bonuses to proper technique (Maybe any parry bonus is skill-blocked?), because once you know how to use it right you can swing it all the way around right back into a defense. Also, a lot of modern reproduction swords are also SUPER bladeheavy to help people who don't know how to use a sword as well to cut with them more easily, except for the more expensive ones you're unlikely to find except for big time HEMA folks, on top of later swords tending to be either extra bladeheavy or extra point focused.

    5. Considering you can get one of those monster two-handed things back around to guard in less time than most people think...

      I'm thinking, though, that sword people are underestimating how fast and balanced a spear can be used one-handed. It's got me wanting to get one to play around some. Except for that aged and infirm thing... ;)


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