Slashing with Short Swords


Combat & Magic


I think there's an "error" with the short sword in 3.5e: When you can both pierce and slash with a dagger and slash with a longsword, you should surly be able to slash with a short sword and not just pierce with it.

Think that should be inclueded in the final weapon list.


Neithan wrote:

I think there's an "error" with the short sword in 3.5e: When you can both pierce and slash with a dagger and slash with a longsword, you should surly be able to slash with a short sword and not just pierce with it.

Think that should be inclueded in the final weapon list.

You're misunderstanding. The short sword is not a bridge between dagger and longsword (that would be the broadsword, which no longer exists in D+D). The shortsword is a particular weapon type from the 18th century that is a shortening of the rapier, and is a dueling weapon. It doesn't have an especially effective edge (hence not slashing), and is a thrusting weapon (hence piercing).

Now, a valid criticism of the shortsword is its not really period appropriate for your general D+D campaign, as it postdates not only gunpowder weapons, but *effective* gun powder weapons.


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I always envisioned a D&D short sword as a gladius, which can both cut and thrust.

Edit: Squirelloid, it looks you may be talking about what Wikipedia calls a smallsword.

There's not really a standard stabby-thing and smacky-thing nomenclature, but at least we aren't talking about polearms.


While yes, I think you can slash with a shortsword, they were always most effective when stabbing because they didn't have the weight of a longsword to aid in slashing.


A Shortsword, however, is surely more effective in slashing than a dagger. (Which is mainly meant for piercing, anyways.)

I've never seen this rule stuck to in a tabletop game, DM's always let people slash with them anyways.

Also, in every D&D video game, even if the damage for the sword is piercing, the animation is always slashing.

I agree it's silly, why not make it so it can slash too? It's not like it's a rapier, with no real weight.


Jesse Vindiola wrote:

A Shortsword, however, is surely more effective in slashing than a dagger. (Which is mainly meant for piercing, anyways.)

I've never seen this rule stuck to in a tabletop game, DM's always let people slash with them anyways.

Also, in every D&D video game, even if the damage for the sword is piercing, the animation is always slashing.

I agree it's silly, why not make it so it can slash too? It's not like it's a rapier, with no real weight.

A rapier actually is a slashing and piercing weapon (think 3 musketeers). The D+D rules seem to think the rapier is a foil, which while also a fencing weapon, is otherwise a totally different beast.


Though I guess you could make a slashing move with a rapier, it wouldn't much damage of note. You could hold it to an arm and draw the edge along it, which would make a nasty gash, but unless you slice a major artery or hamstrings, I guess it shouldn't be life threatening.
At least not when compared to the slashing damage a battle axe or greatsword does. ^^

Using real world technical terms for D&D weapons is always a bad idea: Not only is a short sword not a short sword (but a gladius), also the longsword is not a longsword (but an arming sword). "True" Longswords appear in D&D as Greatswords or Bastard Swords. Though real world bastard swords would also fit much better into the greatsword category of D&D weaponry. ^^

Sovereign Court Contributor

I agree with everything Neithan said.

Furthermore, the only historical reference that I know of to a "short sword" is made by George Silver ~1600, and what he is describing is basically a basket hilted broadsword or backsword, neither a gladius nor a smallsword.

But I've always considered a D&D short sword to be most like a gladius, which was believed to be primarily used for thrusting, but is quite effective for cutting.

Whether that reality has any bearing on in-game weaponry is debatable at best, since there is really little correlation between D&D weapons and their real world counterparts.

Liberty's Edge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

*nods*

I've always thought of the short sword more like the roman swords.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I have always been annoyed by this contradiction. It is listed as piercing but in the Arms and Equipment Guide (3.0) on page 13 they list the short sword as equivalent to a gladius, drusus, and a barong. These are all definitely slashing as well as stabbing weapons. Don't have 3.5 info of this nature on hand.


Without a picture provided, I and all those that I have played D&D with, always took the shortsword to a Roman sword and added slashing to it's ability.

The name is so simplistic and generic that is could represent a number of swords that serve for different purposes.


Really, the problem is that D+D 3e didn't design their weapons table with simulationists in mind. They designed it to force trade-offs at particular 'levels' of weapons, without regard to any real-world equivalents. So short swords are piercing because they are simple - if they were martial they could be P + S. There's a reason 3.x gets accused of being a gamist system, and its certainly more of one than its predecessors.


Or the weapon tables list the most common way of damaging an opponent with the weapon: you can stab (pierce) with a longsword, and you can slash with a shortsword, or dagger. A warhammer usually had a spike or claw on the secondary end that was used to pierce a foes vitals and chinks after the foe was knocked down.

While a few weapons--halberd, for example--list two kinds of damage, the system would be overly complex if every weapon had multiple damage types. Instead, a DM is able to easily adjudicate variant uses of a weapon. I recommend following the "Improvising Weapon" rule, but might be tempted to lessen the penalty to -2 becuase the weapon is not entirely improvised, just being used outside of its normal range of use.


Even ruling that slashing with a shortsword, or stabbing with a longsword, would be considered non-standard usage at -4, would make a huge difference in say, fighting a Raksasha with your blessed longsword :)

Squirrelloid wrote:
Really, the problem is that D+D 3e didn't design their weapons table with simulationists in mind. They designed it to force trade-offs at particular 'levels' of weapons, without regard to any real-world equivalents. So short swords are piercing because they are simple - if they were martial they could be P + S. There's a reason 3.x gets accused of being a gamist system, and its certainly more of one than its predecessors.

True this, comparing to 1st and 2nd edition where you had a complete table of armor vs. weapon types where you had to calculate each hit you made with any weapon against the type of armor that the opponent wore. We just went from one extreme to the other. I don't think I'd like to go back to the other extreme either though. :)


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Squirrelloid wrote:
So short swords are piercing because they are simple - if they were martial they could be P + S. There's a reason 3.x gets accused of being a gamist system, and its certainly more of one than its predecessors.

Short swords are martial weapons in both 3.0 and 3.5. In any circumstance you could slash with a generic dagger I fully expect you to be able to slash with the heavier and longer short sword.


Squirrelloid wrote:
Really, the problem is that D+D 3e didn't design their weapons table with simulationists in mind. They designed it to force trade-offs at particular 'levels' of weapons, without regard to any real-world equivalents. So short swords are piercing because they are simple - if they were martial they could be P + S. There's a reason 3.x gets accused of being a gamist system, and its certainly more of one than its predecessors.

For a role-playing game that is both story-driven and combat-driven, a bit of simulation goes a long way.

It would be nice if the weapons descriptions could be redone in Pathfinder with simulaton in mind.

Perhaps a bonus or penalty to confirm a critical threat based on whether you're using a weapon to pierce, slash, or bludgeon?

The short sword could become a p/s weapon with a confirming bonus when used to pierce or a penalty when used to slash.


Yea, a short sword is more of a foil-type weapon, or an epee. The OP is thinking of a broadsword. It wouldn't hurt to house rule a broadsword with identical statistics save it is a slashing weapon as opposed to a piercing weapon.


airwalkrr wrote:
Yea, a short sword is more of a foil-type weapon, or an epee. The OP is thinking of a broadsword. It wouldn't hurt to house rule a broadsword with identical statistics save it is a slashing weapon as opposed to a piercing weapon.

Wait, wait...a foil-type weapon, or an epee? Then why don't they CALL it that. I was under the impression the weapon you're talking about is a Rapier...

I doubt Rogues are sneaking around, stealthily wielding and dual wielding foils.

Also, house-rule? Seriously? Whenever something is done poorly in the main system, and someone suggests 'house rule' that most people will use, I die a little inside. :P


Michael Brisbois wrote:
A warhammer usually had a spike or claw on the secondary end that was used to pierce a foes vitals and chinks after the foe was knocked down.

No usually about it, a warhammer *is* a spike, and is a piercing weapon as its primary and generally only function. I don't know where D+D got this bizarre notion that a warhammer is a glorified mace, but there is zero historical evidence for that of which I am aware. A warhammer is a type of *axe* that has a point instead of a blade. I've got a book on historical axes which includes a chapter on them, and every warhammer i've seen has had a point (generally curved so a swing connects solidly) as its business end. There is sometimes a hammer-shaped end, but its much shorter and mostly there for counter-balancing the weapon's head, and at times its stylized to the point of uselessness.


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Squirrelloid wrote:
Michael Brisbois wrote:
A warhammer usually had a spike or claw on the secondary end that was used to pierce a foes vitals and chinks after the foe was knocked down.
No usually about it, a warhammer *is* a spike, and is a piercing weapon as its primary and generally only function. I don't know where D+D got this bizarre notion that a warhammer is a glorified mace, but there is zero historical evidence for that of which I am aware. A warhammer is a type of *axe* that has a point instead of a blade. I've got a book on historical axes which includes a chapter on them, and every warhammer i've seen has had a point (generally curved so a swing connects solidly) as its business end.

A warhammer has one flat bludgeoning side (the front) and a spike on the back side. Google it, using "medieval warhammer" (to avoid the game or D&D/fantasy motiffs) and you'll see plenty of them. The warhammer is an extension of the civilian smith's hammer. You don't hammer something on the anvil with a spike. The spike on the warhammer was added rather like all the extras on a swiss army knife. In short, God knows why. The blunt end was the business end. What you are describing (with the spike in front) is a military pick. Yes, they had them. Damn near every civilian implement you can imagine got "weaponized" at one time or another. It's why polearms are a nightmare to discuss. The D&D short sword, so far as I know, has always been described as similar to the gladius. A weapon with a total length of 2 feet or so with 3/4 of that being the double edged blade. I don't even want to imagine what a thread on polearms would look like here if there's that much confusion over swords amd warhammers...


R_Chance wrote:
Squirrelloid wrote:
Michael Brisbois wrote:
A warhammer usually had a spike or claw on the secondary end that was used to pierce a foes vitals and chinks after the foe was knocked down.
No usually about it, a warhammer *is* a spike, and is a piercing weapon as its primary and generally only function. I don't know where D+D got this bizarre notion that a warhammer is a glorified mace, but there is zero historical evidence for that of which I am aware. A warhammer is a type of *axe* that has a point instead of a blade. I've got a book on historical axes which includes a chapter on them, and every warhammer i've seen has had a point (generally curved so a swing connects solidly) as its business end.
A warhammer has one flat bludgeoning side (the front) and a spike on the back side. Google it, using "medieval warhammer" (to avoid the game or D&D/fantasy motiffs) and you'll see plenty of them. The warhammer is an extension of the civilian smith's hammer. You don't hammer something on the anvil with a spike. The spike on the warhammer was added rather like all the extras on a swiss army knife. In short, God knows why. The blunt end was the business end. What you are describing (with the spike in front) is a military pick. Yes, they had them. Damn near every civilian implement you can imagine got "weaponized" at one time or another. It's why polearms are a nightmare to discuss. The D&D short sword, so far as I know, has always been described as similar to the gladius. A weapon with a total length of 2 feet or so with 3/4 of that being the double edged blade. I don't even want to imagine what a thread on polearms would look like here if there's that much confusion over swords amd warhammers...

I did a google image search and all i found were modern interpretations of what a war hammer should look like, no pictures of actual historical warhammers. As I own a book with multiple pictures of the real thing and that puts them in a proper military context as an axe variant, i'm more inclined to trust a scholar than the internet, thank you.


airwalkrr wrote:
Yea, a short sword is more of a foil-type weapon, or an epee. The OP is thinking of a broadsword. It wouldn't hurt to house rule a broadsword with identical statistics save it is a slashing weapon as opposed to a piercing weapon.

Folks, in (A)D&D, a shortsword is just `any pointed cutting or thrusting weapon with blade length between 15" and 24"'. If you're saying that only foils or epees meet that description, I'll eat my hat.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
hogarth wrote:
airwalkrr wrote:
Yea, a short sword is more of a foil-type weapon, or an epee. The OP is thinking of a broadsword. It wouldn't hurt to house rule a broadsword with identical statistics save it is a slashing weapon as opposed to a piercing weapon.
Folks, in (A)D&D, a shortsword is just `any pointed cutting or thrusting weapon with blade length between 15" and 24"'. If you're saying that only foils or epees meet that description, I'll eat my hat.

Agreed.

I think there are plenty of historic examples (from Europe and elsewhere) of weapons that one could consider to be a short sword.

This thread is particularly of interest to me because the short sword is one of my favorite D&D weapons. It is interesting, because shortly after 3.0 came out I saw that the short sword only did piercing and I assumed it was a mistake. (I happen to know a bit about historic melee weapons myself).

Anyway, changing the short sword to slashing/piercing was probably my first house rule and I'd like to see it changed in Pathfinder. I once played with a DM who I asked to implement this rule...he said "no." I think his rationale was (1) it is in the core books (which are infallible, I guess) and (2) he didn't like to give the players anything they actually wanted--too much fun could upset the delicately balanced ecosystem, after all.


I would readily caution folks from apply any sort of simulationist slant to the weapon selections, damage types, and relative historical accuracy to the weapons found in 3.5e. My understanding from the folks who originally came up with the weapons for 3e (Jonathan Tweet and company) is that they came up with the damage dice and statistics first and later applied names to them.

That is not a halberd your fighter has. It is a d10 two-handed piercing & slashing martial weapon with a x3 crit mod.

That is not a short sword. It is a d6 light melee piercing martial weapon with a 19-20 crit range.

Suspend your disbelief. There is no historical martial relevance and only a loose correlation between the actual historical weapon and the form and function of the weapon in the game.

Yes, this is annoying. I suppose you could change the one cog or gear in this machine that you find the most offensive. But I think having a piercing short sword is a pretty minor offense compared to a halberd that doesn't have effective reach (the Swiss Guards would be pretty surprised by that).

Oh, and those folks above that would equate a short sword to an epee or foil are going to make me cry. I believe you are confusing the small sword with the short sword. Big difference. I would lump the small sword with the bilbo and other little piercing weapons -- which I guess would pretty much fall into the d6 piercing category.


You know, there is a slashing "short" sword in 3.5, just not OGL. The "straight blade" from the Planar Handbook has the same stats as a short sword but is a slashing weapon instead of a piercing one.

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