Medieval Weapons

As a die hard Legend of Zelda fan and Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast, I’ve developed an extreme interest (some might say fetish) involving medieval weapons. In this article I hope to introduce you to the fascinating world of Dark Age war implements

God I love war hammers!

Just The Facts

  1. Medieval weapons were by definition in use at some time between the year 500 AD and the year 1500 AD, which is when dragons went extinct
  2. Relics were often carried into medieval battles to give armies a supernatural advantage. Having seen the Ark of the Covenant melt those Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I can totally understand the logic behind that tactic.
  3. Medieval weapons were difficult to master and becoming skilled in their use required years of practice, patience, and persistence. Knights typically spent over fourteen years in training. Thats eighty two in dog years!

Weapon Types


When most laypeople think of medieval weaponry, often the first thing that pops into their minds is the classic sword. What those inferior peons fail to realize is that there are many different types of sword. Swords fall into two families: those that require one hand to use and those that require two. There are shortswords, longswords, broadswords, claymores, cutlasses, rapiers, foils, sabers, and my personal favorite, the bastardsword. Like my sister's incredibly annoying delinquent son, the bastardsword doesn't fit into either family. Swords have three basic parts, the scabbard, the blade, and the hilt. The blade is the sharp part, scabbard is the sheath that protects the blade when it's not in use, and the hilt is everything else.

Katanas, I forgot Katanas


This pocket sized version of the sword was most often used by sneaky women and small effeminate men. Despite looking like something that would get you laughed off the battlefield, daggers were actually quite useful as a close range weapon for stabbing in between an opponent's pieces of armor.

Hobbits Prefer Daggers


One of the oldest weapons created by man, the bow is essentially a curvy stick with a string tied to both ends. This string made of animal sinew, plant fibers, or an unholy combination thereof, delivers force to an arrow via Hooke's Law. The further back you pull the string, the more force the bow delivers to the arrow. Bows come in many varieties, but crossbows are arguably the most effective. Crossbows typically use mechanical means to draw the string, resulting in a greater projectile speed than any mere human could possibly produce. I like to think of them as the Dark Age version of the machine gun. They were so effective that church even outlawed their use at one point in history. Crossbows were often viewed as an unfair weapon because a dimwitted crossbowman with little training could easily dispatch a knight who had spent over eighty dog years honing his battle skills. Enormous crossbows were occasionally built to act as a kind of cannon. Insurgent peasants often preferred to use crossbows and weapons fashioned from farm tools to fight off plundering blaggards.

Unskilled Insurgent


As mentioned in the previous paragraph, many basic farm tools were fashioned into weapons by peasants attempting to avoid death and rape at the hands of marauding orc hordes. Despite having a name sounding like some sort of terrible 80's horror movie involving a psychotic pirate, polearms were effective weapons that were easily produced. Common polearms include spears, pikes, pitchforks, poleaxes, and a variety of other implements found in the Frankenstein monster's sadomasochistic wet dreams. Basically being hand tools tied to the end of a staff, polearms possessed the dual benefits of increased reach and greater angular swinging speed. If you wanted to knock a knightly noble off his surly stalwart steed, these were certainly the weapons of choice. For peasants that were too poor or primitive to own hand tools, the staff itself could still be used whack people over the head and annoy them slightly.

Not Polearms

Blunt Weapons

Maces, flails, morning stars, warhammers, and clubs all fit into this category. To clarify these terms for some of the ignorant laypeople reading this: morning stars are pretty much malformed medieval baseball bats with rusty nails jutting out from them, maces are heavy spiky things at the end of a short rod, warhammers are big hammers used to hit people, flails are spiky balls attached to a chain, and clubs are what you knuckle dragging savages use to find mates. Most of the weapons in this category weren't necessarily intended to pierce the armor of the victim, rather their primary objective was to shatter bones through blunt force trauma.

I also love flails

Hopefully you enjoyed this basic introduction to medieval weaponry. I'd mention a bit about seige weaponry, but its all basically different variations of the catapult and the trebuchet. If you want to learn more, check out the wikipedia link...theres some cool stuff about armor in there too.