The Art of Fighting Section 7: Two-handed Weapons

Copyright Johs. Sondrup © 2011

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"A notable feature of these swords was a long ricasso covered with leather, which protected the clothing when the sword was carried on the shoulder."

Editor's Note: The following is the seventh 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 a variety of two-handed weapons from Europe and Asia. Next month's article changes gears to consider armor.

Two-Handed Weapons

European two handed weapons

  • Bastard sword (Hand and a half): A straight bladed sword with a hilt that was long enough to be grasped with both hands, so that it could be used as a two handed weapon.
  • Bipennis Axe (Long): A double headed axe with narrow blades, designed to cut into mail armor. It was used by many different people throughout the ages, most notably the Varangian Guard, who were a Viking mercenary force working as bodyguards for the Byzantine emperor. As with many other axes, it existed in both a one handed and a two handed version.
  • Broad axe: A broad axe or Dane-axe is a large-headed two-handed axe used by the Vikings. The broad blades are designed to hack flesh apart, and the wooden haft is made of ash. It was adopted by the Franks, Gaels and the formerly Danish-occupied Saxons of England.
  • Claymore: The famous Scottish two handed sword. It had a straight, broad, double-edged blade with long, diamond-section quillions angling toward the blade.
  • Doloire axe: This type of axe is sometimes called a wagoner's axe, because axes of this type were carried with the wagon trains supporting medieval and Renaissance armies. It was probably used as both a tool and a weapon. It had a head that was pointed at the top and rounded at the bottom. The opposite side of the head was provided with a small blunt hammer.
  • Hungarian Axe: An axe with a single headed blade, which ends in a point. It was used mainly by the foot soldiers of Eastern Europe and was a very versatile weapon. The long edge and sharp point could be used to cut as well as thrust. Shorter and less cumbersome than a polearm, it still had the reach to counteract swords and other long-handled weapons.
  • Kriegsmesser: A Kriegsmesser is a large, curved, single-edged two-handed sword around the same length as the longsword or hand-and-a-half sword. The name literally translates from German as "War Knife," so named because the hilt resembles that of a knife handle, with two slabs of material on either side of the wide, flat tang. As with the Grosses Messer the pommel was usually curved towards one side, while the cross guard was frequently equipped with a ring, plate, or lug which offered superior hand protection.
  • Langschwert: Not to be confused with the longsword (though the name means exactly that), the Langschwert is a German two handed sword that was used when fighting on foot. Somewhat less massive that the Zweihander, it had a straight, double-edged blade and a hilt that had straight or slightly curved quillions. Unlike the Zweihander it did not have an extended ricasso. The Langschwert was the principal weapon in Kunst des Fechtens, or the "Art of Fighting," which was the German school of Fencing.
  • Zweihander: A large German two-handed sword with a double-edged blade and a hilt that had straight or slightly curved quillions. The grip was quite long, designed to accommodate both hands (Zweihander means two handed in German). The heavy pommel was triangular, faceted, or pearshaped, and invariably larger toward the top, designed to balance the weapon. A notable feature of these swords was a long ricasso covered with leather, which protected the clothing when the sword was carried on the shoulder and proved a more convenient grasp when the soldier had to move the hand forward for more powerful blows. To protect the hand on the ricasso, two strong parrying lugs were often forged on the blade just in front of the ricasso. It was used by foot soldiers from the mid-15th to late 16th century.
European two handed weapons table
Name of weapon Type Wt Len F Table Armor modification Parry mod Special
17-20 13-16 9-12 5-8 1-4
Bastard sword (Hand and a half) 1HS 3-4 3-4 4 Broadsword +5 0 0 -5 -10 0 Can be used with one or two hands.
2H 5 2H Sword -10 -15 -15 -15 -15 -5
Bipennis Axe (Long) 2H 3-4 4-5 5 Battleaxe +5 +5 0 -5 -5 0
Broad axe 2H 3-4 4-5 5 Battleaxe -5 -5 0 +5 +10 0
Claymore 2H 4-5 3-4 5 2H Sword -5 -5 0 +5 +5 0
Doloire axe 2H 4-5 5 5 Battleaxe 0 0 0 0 +5 0
Hungarian axe 2H 3-4 4-5 5 Battleaxe 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kriegsmesser 2H 3-4 3-4 5 2H Sword +5 +5 +5 +5 0 0
Langschwert 2H 4-5 4-5 5 2H Sword 0 0 0 0 0 0
Zweihander 2H 4-5 5-6 5 2H Sword +5 +5 0 -5 -5 0

Oriental two handed weapons

  • Dadao: A two handed single edged and broad-bladed sword. Despite its somewhat clumsy appearance it is a very well balanced and agile weapon with lots of slashing and chopping power. It is also relatively easy to make and, as such, has been a favorite of civilian militias.
  • Miaodao: A single edged sword that can be used with either one or two hands.
  • No-Dashi: A Japanese two-handed sword. These great swords were generally used on open battlefields as their length made their use indoors or at close quarters difficult. Hard to manufacture, they were not used very often because the sword required great strength to wield and polearms like the naginata were more effective and easier to use on the battlefield.
Oriental two handed weapons table
Name of weapon Type Wt Len F Table Armor modification Parry mod Special
17-20 13-16 9-12 5-8 1-4
Dadao 1HS 3-4 4-5 5 Falchion 0 0 0 +5 +10 0 Can be used with one or two hands.
2H 5 2H Sword -5 0 0 0 +5 -5
Niaodao 1HS 5 3-5 3 Broadsword 0 0 +5 +5 +5 -5 Can be used with one or two hands.
2H 4 2H Sword -5 -5 -5 0 0 -5
No-Dashi 2H 4-5 5-6 5 2H Sword +5 +5 +5 +5 +5 -5