The Art of Fighting Section 3: Hafted Weapons

Copyright Johs. Sondrup © 2011

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"One common feature of these weapons is they tend to have civilian counterparts, which can be used as weapons in a pinch."

Editor's Note: The following is the third in a series of 13 articles that enhance the combat rules for Rolemaster (RM2). It is our intention to publish another article in this series every month for the next year. This month's article describes hafted weapons (a category that replaces 1HC) from around the world. Next month's article will discuss pole arms in detail.

Hafted weapons

Hafted weapons are some of the oldest and most widely used of all weapons. In its most basic form, it's nothing but a rough stick or club, but as soon as people started adding a weighted head of a harder material, it became a mace or war hammer. Sharpening the head made it into an axe, while placing a chain or cord between the haft and the head, made it into a flail.

One common feature of these weapons is they tend to have civilian counterparts, which can be used as weapons in a pinch. If you have a hammer, you can use it as a mace; a woodman's axe can still be used as a weapon; and threshing flails are similar to military flails.

European Hafted Weapons

  • Baculus: A heavy, hardwood club with a knotty head used for striking. It was a popular weapon among conscripted soldiers because it was a relatively inexpensive weapon and easily obtained. It was common practice for soldiers using baculi to carve and engrave the wood with pictures and marks recounting battles in which they had fought.
  • Bearded War Axe: A smaller, one-handed version of the battle axe. It could be used while mounted or as a throwing weapon.
  • Bipennis Axe (Short): A double headed axe. It was used by many different people throughout the ages, most notably the Varangian Guard, who were Viking mercenaries working as bodyguards for the Byzantine emperor. As with many other axes, there were one-handed and two-handed versions.
  • Crowbill: The crowbill is a descendant of the pick. One side is a war hammer, while the other side is a spike or dagger-like blade set at a right angle to the haft, which makes it capable of both crushing and piercing attacks. It was very effective against heavy armors.
  • Dagger Mace: A mace and pick made entirely of steel. It was shaped to look like a hand holding a dagger.
  • Fist Mace: Exactly as the name implies, this iron or steel mace was shaped like a clenched fist.
  • Goupillon: The goupillon has three mace heads on three chains. The heads could be plain or spiked.
  • Horseman's Axe: A one handed axe designed to be used by horsemen. Normally they were equipped with a leather strap to be passed over the wrist, and the haft is slightly longer than the axes used by the infantry.
  • Horseman's Hammer: A European steel war hammer used by mounted fighters. Like the horseman's axe it was equipped with a leather strap to be passed over the wrist.
  • Martel de Fer: A French war hammer (the name means "hammer of iron") with a spike opposite the hammer head.
  • Massuelle: A small, all metal mace. It normally had four flanges on the head.
  • Mazule: A steel mace with a pear-shaped, multi-bladed head.
  • Pernat: A Russian mace consisting of an iron bead attached to a wooden handle.
  • Shestoper: An all-metal Russian mace with six flanges.
European Hafted Weapons Table
Name of weaponTypeWtLenFTableArmor modificationParry modSpecial
Bearded War Axe1HC3-424Hand Axe00000-5Can be thrown
Bipennis Axe1HC3-51-24Hand Axe-500+5+5-5
Crowbill1HC2-41-24War Hammer+10+5+0-5-10-5
Dagger Mace1HC2-41-24War Hammer+5000-5-5
Fist Mace1HC3-41-22Mace00000-5
Goupillon1HC3-528Morning Star+5+5+50-5-5
Horseman's Axe1HC334Hand Axe+5000-5-5
Horseman's Hammer1HC334War Hammer+5000-5-5
Martel de Fer1HC32War Hammer+5000-5-5

Oriental Hafted Weapons

  • Fu (Chinese) or Ono (Japanese): The axe was used in combat throughout the world and Asia is no different as they had both one- and two-handed versions of this weapon, as well as a long handled axe for use from horseback.
  • Jo: A shorter staff than the Bo that can be used with one and two hands. Normally a Jo is made of hard wood.
  • Sai, Tekpis, Chabang, or Tjabang: A hooked iron rod used for parrying. This is another farming tool turned into weapon as the sai was developed for planting rice or vegetable seeds. The basic form of the weapon is that of a pointed, dagger-shaped rod, with two curved quillions. The pommel (called the knuckle) balances the weapon and can be used for striking. Contrary to popular belief, the shaft of a traditional sai is not a blade. It is known throughout Asia from India to China. Sai is the Okinawan name for the weapon, but it is known as tekpis or tjabang in Malaysia, where it is used with the Silat martial arts style and in Indonesia it is known as a Chabang.
  • Kama: A deadly, razor sharp sickle that has a half-moon shaped blade and wooden handle. The kama was (and still is) used by farmers to cut rice and grass and is one of the many farming tools that has been used as weapons.
  • Nunchaku: Two pieces of hardwood with a rope between them. Originally this was a tool for threshing rice.
  • Tonfa: A club with a handle. Originally the tonfa was developed as a handle for a tool for grinding rice in Japan and soya beans in Okinawa.
Oriental Hafted Weapons Table
Name of weaponTypeWtLenFTableArmor modificationParry modSpecial
Fu or Ono1HC2-42-34Hand Axe000000
Kama1HC424Hand Axe-500+5+100
Nunchaku1HC1-22-36Morning Star-10-5-5-5-50Krush criticals only
Sai1HC2-31-22Mace-100-500+25+15 to disarm

Indo-Persian Hafted Weapons

  • Binnol: An Indian morning star.
  • Cumber-Jung: An Indian flail with two heads.
  • Dhara: A Mahrattan mace with six flanges.
  • Gargaz: An Indian Mace with up to ten flanges on the head. Made of steel, they included hand guards.
  • Lohar Pick: Somewhat similar to the Japanese kama, the lohar is an all-steel axe/pick used by Bannochi warriors from the Khyber Pass region of Afghanistan.
  • Shashpar: An all steel Indian mace with a guarded hilt in the same style as the khanda. Some shashpar were equipped with a spike atop the mace head.
  • Tabar Zin: An all-steel crescent-shaped axe with a spike. It was used by the Persians and Indians and was made in short and long forms.
  • Zaghnal: An Indian war hammer.
Indo-Persian Hafted Weapons Table
Name of weaponTypeWtLenFTableArmor modificationParry modSpecial
BinnolHaft3-428Morning Star00000-5
Cumber-JungHaft3-528Morning Star+5+50-5-5-5
Lohar PickHaft2-31-24Hand Axe-5000+5-5
SagarisHaft2-33-44Hand Axe0+50+50-5
Tabar ZinHaft3-534Hand Axe00000-5