Rising Sun: Issue 5 August 2000

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The Weaponry of the Kai

A brief summary on the favoured weapons of the Kai Lords of Sommerlund

By Taylor Ellis.
Edited by Lawrence Ritchie

I'd like to thank Bjorn Hellqvist for all his help. So Bjorn, if your reading this, thanks heaps mate! - Skarn


The generic sword in the game books is basically a 12th century Norman sword. This type of blade was the weapon of choice of the Knights of the First Crusade. They were in fact descended from Viking Blades, and were usually about 36-40 inches long, with a fullered(a ground out strip down the middle, used to lighten the blade without sacrificing strength) blade that was sharp on both sides. They weighed about 2-3 pounds.

Almost exclusively used in combination with a shield, the sword was used with a "hacking" blow, with power generated from the shoulder. A strike from a sword such as this would pierce mail armour if struck squarely, but would almost always fail to penetrate plate armour.

A common misunderstanding of the use of the sword is how it was used to parry. In nearly all films, parries are made with the edge, but this would quickly demolish a blade. Parrying was more of a deflection than a static block, made with the flat of the blade. This was the same for all swords, including the perhaps over-hyped Japanese Katana. In fact, the katana was more susceptible to edge damage because of its harder temper.

Another point of interest is the cost of the sword. The price varied, and you certainly got what you paid for. In mid-1400's Sweden for example, a simple sword cost about the same as 40 gallons of beer!

Short Sword

Another name for the short-bladed sword of the 12th to the 15th centuries was the "Riding Sword". With the development of larger "War Swords", Knights, especially mounted ones, often also chose to carry a shorter and lighter back-up weapon, as their main sword was usually slung from the saddle. They were about 36 inches long, and weighed around 2 pounds. Because of the reduced costs of such a blade, they were much more common than their larger cousins.


The term "Broadsword" is actually incorrect. Swords of this type were commonly referred to as "War Swords", "Great Swords" or "Bastard Swords". With the arrival of plate armour in the 13th century, a new type of sword was needed to combat it. The most significant feature of the Bastard Sword was the longer grip, which enabled it to be wielded with one hand, such as both the swords above, or with two hands for a much more forceful strike as well as improved control. This is why the swords were referred to as "Bastard Swords"(i.e. they belonged neither to the single or double-handed family of weapons). An average weight of such a blade would be 3-4 pounds, and usually 48 inches long.

Even the power that these swords could generate was by no means certain to defeat plate armour. Later examples show Bastard Swords, more specifically known as Estocs or "Tucks" with very acute tapering (starting wide and getting very thin) and almost no edge. These were used like big Rondel daggers; i.e. beat the armour up a bit and go for the thrust.

All in all, with its great array of techniques and design, I personally think the War Sword was the all-round best sword ever, and yes, that includes the legendary Katana. This is only my personal opinion though, so take it with a pinch of salt!


In my humble opinion, the dagger in the Lone Wolf series most closely resembles the "Rondel" dagger. These were in a sense "last resort" weapons, thick and stiff, and almost edgeless so they could pierce the joints in plate armour. The length of such daggers varies from 10-20 inches, whilst they weighed around a pound.


Aah, the longbow, that most English of weapons. It was actually Welsh. Sommerlund, just like England, was famed for its archery. This was the weapon that effectively ended the dominance of the mounted Knight. The English used the longbow to devastating effect against the French on several occasions, most notably the Battles of Agincourt and Crecy. Where the common longbows of Europe and the English one differed was the poundage. The higher the poundage, the harder it is to draw, but the greater penetration it will have (the English bows averaged at about 80 pounds). 5 feet long and firing 3 foot arrows (up to 10 per minute!), this was the "machine gun" of the middle ages. There were several different arrow heads used, most usually the bodkin, which was very narrow so as to pierce plate, and the broadheads, which were used against either unarmoured or lightly armoured targets, where the broad head would cause greater blood loss.


In Europe the spear was used in many different ways: as a lance for mounted knights, as a throwing javelin such as used by the Teutonic and Celtic warriors, or as a Pike, made famous by the Swiss Mercenaries of the 15th century. The Vikings were also fond of the spear, and it is their style of use that I think most closely resembles how the Kai would use them.

In general, a Viking Spear was 5-7 feet long, balanced enough to throw, but also suited to single combat that the Vikings were so fond of.

There are examples of spears with "cross bars", a straight horizontal bar that prevented the weapon from stabbing so deep that it would be hard to pull out.

Despite its somewhat jaded reputation the spear was a deadly weapon (and not the inferior pointed stick in all too many RPGs), which was held in high regard in most warrior societies.

A note on spear fighting: An effective tactic, much used by the Vikings, was for a spearman to team up with a warrior armed with an axe and shield. The axe guy hooks the foe's shield, and the spearman plunges the spear home.


Whilst the axe may not carry the same prestige as the sword, they were nevertheless brutally effective weapons. In fact, the axe was the preferred weapon of Robert the Bruce, the legendary warrior king of Scotland.

Especially popular with the poorer elements of the army who could not afford a sword, axes ranged in size from single handed pieces that were relatively light and easy to handle, right up to monstrous two-handed weapons that made a mockery of armour. They almost always had only single-bladed heads, rather than the double-bladed style that Lone Wolf carries around. Apart from the obvious chop, axes are good for hooking (shields, feet, etc).


Whilst the warhammer had been around in one form or another for hundreds of years, it's ability to concentrate a huge amount of force into one area became most useful with the arrival of plate armour. When the art of making plate armour was perfected in the 15th century, the wearer was all but invincible to sword strikes. His biggest worry was heat exhaustion. The warhammer could literally punch its way through armour, no matter how thick. As with the axe, the warhammer varied tremendously in shape, size and weight, depending on the armour it faced at the time. Generally it looked much an ordinary hammer, but it also sported a vicious spike.


Technically, the Quarterstaff is simply called a staff. "Quarterstaff" refers to a method of use, literally grasping the last quarter of the staff. The method that most movies seem to use, such as Darth Maul in Star Wars, is called "half-staff".

Whilst the staff is the oldest and widespread of all hand weapons, in Europe, England was the only country that actively continued it's use right up until the 18th century. Several well documented reports have been made of its superiority when pitted against the sword in direct combat. For example, in the 17th century, the Englishman John Peeke fought three Spanish rapier and dagger men, and defeated them all. An English staff was usually 6 feet long and was wielded against unarmoured opponents. The staff is also great for tackling multiple opponents.


The most common use of the mace was as a tournament weapon, used by a Knight to simply beat his opponent into submission. Usually 3 feet long with a weighted head (and usually spiked, knobbly or flanged) the mace was an utterly devastating weapon. The mace was also a sign of nobility (a ceremonial mace is called a sceptre), and most parliaments around the world still make use of it, though not in the same way of course!

Anybody who would like to further research weaponry, European and otherwise, should go to www.SwordForum.com. They have an excellent forum, where the total newbie can learn without being intimidated or overwhelmed.

Also, if anyone is interested in just discussing weaponry, of any culture, feel free to e-mail me at skarn@mac.com

Contact: TheRisingSun@bigfoot.com

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