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Longsword vs Rapier

posted Tuesday, November 30th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

Even though D&D treats the longsword and rapier as similar weapons, they behave quite differently in practice. What would happen if a longsword wielder faced off against a fighter with a rapier? Would the longsword be out-manoevered by the rapier? Or would the rapier wielder be at a disadvantage, unable to effectively parry the heavier longsword?

There’s only one way to know for sure.

Comments

  1. AJ Butterwick

    November 30th, 2010

    I agree with the final thought in the clip — the better swordsman! It was interesting to see.

  2. Jed

    November 30th, 2010

    This was also explored in the climactic duel in Rob Roy, between Liam Neisson and Tim Roth.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27M5KWI_q50

  3. Anarkeith

    November 30th, 2010

    As a fencer, i’m biased. But, if the rapier weilder uses footwork and manages distance, he should be able to beat the longsword weilder, IMO.

    The video didn’t show that, in part because of the confines of the room, and in part because the raipier weilder seemed hesitant to lunge. The rapier will kill with it’s point, while the longsword seems like it’s going to rely on it’s edge. The point of the blade arrives first, and should win the day.

  4. Jack

    November 30th, 2010

    @Anarkeith

    That is true, but you neglect the flipside. The rapier will ONLY kill with its point, and once an aggressive enemy moves past the tip or grabs hold of it, the rapier becomes useless.

    For fencing purposes, an epee at least gives your opponent a deterrent to grabbing your sword, and draw cuts shouldn’t be made impossible for the sake of a little speed. But I’m a fan of versatility over specialization.

  5. David

    November 30th, 2010

    Easy Answer…

    ARCHERS! Kill them, kill them both!

    *pling**pling**pling**pling**pling**pling*

    done and done, now lets have tea!

    (of course this is if they aren’t jedi)

    -david

    http://www.d4d6d8d10d12d20.com – My Gaming Blog

  6. Sian

    November 30th, 2010

    http://www.thearma.org/essays.htm

    I think the main trick the rapierist needs is to somehow stop the swordsman without taking a fatal blow himself. The sword’s point is deadly, but not debilitating.

    The rapier is a very deadly weapon, but it’s not so good at stopping the intent of an angry man with 3 pounds of steel crashing down towards your head. It is easily a situation where both fighters could mutually lose.

  7. Anarkeith

    November 30th, 2010

    @jack

    Agreed on versatility over specialization. The rapier is certainly a specialized weapon. I did however qualify that the rapier weilder would have to use footwork and manage distance in order to prevail. I suppose this basically assumes the rapier weilder is the better swordsman (or depends on that.)

    I would think a simple cut-over, and a retaliatory lunge would be enough to dissuade an opponent from grabbing the blade. Footwork would have to be impeccable though.

  8. Phlod

    November 30th, 2010

    @Anarkeith : I believe the hesitance to lunge is based on that sword being a Schlager blade, and as such isn’t made to be used for lunges. They don’t bend like an epee blade, or even a double-wide epee blade. Schlager is a pretty sedentary way of fencing. It uses the point (sorta), but the fencers stay more or less still. I know I wouldn’t want to get poked by that thing, and I’ve fenced quite a bit.

    @Jack : Most rapiers have just as much blade as a long sword does, and a most longswords have a point. The differences mostly come down to balance, (with the Longsword being more tip heavy, to add force to slashing strikes), and the method / skill of the fencer. But an LS fencer will probably be wearing metal gauntlets, allowing him to more easily grab a blade. The Rapier fencer should probably have thought to use an offhand parry, or main gauche as well, or even a metal gauntlet on the off hand.

  9. Phlod

    November 30th, 2010

    The LS fencer switches hands in the second part of the video till the end. I wonder if this was done to simulate a ‘much better fencer’, or if it’s a different person. Either way, fencing a lefty is strange. Distance is different due to the way your front legs are both on the same side. Makes it hard to close distance without exposing your back.

  10. Sylvie

    December 1st, 2010

    The non-rapier in the video is actually a smallsword, not a longsword. They’re separated by a century or two, a pound or three of weight (which is a huge difference on what’s essentially a class 2 lever), and the popularity of the rapier.

  11. Anarkeith

    December 1st, 2010

    @Phlod

    Thanks for the insights. As a fencer I spent all my time facing identical weapons, so a matchup like this is pretty interesting. I assumed the rapier depicted was more similar to my epee.

    My wife is a lefty and she’s always a pain to fence with (apart from the fact she’s just plain better.)

  12. Paul Maddock

    December 1st, 2010

    Couldn’t you easily wield a shield with a one handed sword? What would happen then.

  13. dSavage

    December 1st, 2010

    This actually came up in the 1995 movie “Rob Roy” with Liam Neeson. Really good fencing scenes. (Highly recommended.)
    -D

  14. Chris

    December 2nd, 2010

    I feel the need to ask the all-important question:

    What armor are they wearing?

    In the video they’re all padded up but the different weapons work differently against different armor setups.

    Silver recommended the English backsword (like a cavalry saber) as more versatile. He thought the rapier was only good for duelling while other weapons could be used for war and street fighting as well. He also recommended the sideways stance and moving in and out quickly and it’s thought that his students trounced rapier fighters.

  15. Shorty

    December 2nd, 2010

    It’s a short-sword, you nincompoop.

  16. F

    December 2nd, 2010

    > What armor are they wearing?
    That’s one of the best answers.

    Against heavily armored warriors, probably the rapier is useless.
    And in a confused situation like war or street fight versatility is king: cut, pierce hit like a mace.

  17. Mannahnin

    December 4th, 2010

    Shorty, it’s an English Short Sword in precise historical terms, but it’s a longsword in D&D terms. The “longsword” D&D gives us isn’t a historical weapon, at least not by that name. The sword used here matches fine in length, the fact that it’s used one-handed, and that it has a tapered, double-edged blade with a point

    Anarkeith, have you ever looked into SCA fencing? Apart from their heavy listers (the guys in the heavy armor beating each other with rattan), they have a separate category of fencing. You can fence in a bunch of different historical styles, including single rapier, case (pair) of rapiers, rapier & cane, rapier & bucklet, rapier and main gauche, and rapier and cloak. And mixing one style against another is common. It’s a ton of fun, and something I definitely recommend checking out if you’re a fencer and into D&D or historical reenactment stuff at all.

  18. The Expert Rapierist in the vid

    December 8th, 2010

    @phlod: Bzzt, that’s not a schlager bladed sword. It’s a 42″ bated rapier blade from Darkwood (www.darkwoodarmory.com).

    The reason I’m hesitating on the lunge is because I couldn’t get a safe line that I wouldn’t get counter hit through.

  19. harry

    December 13th, 2010

    hey, interesting posts about mixed weapon combat- check this vid which shows a lot of mixed bouting. Most of the fencers are pretty good, but have a range of styles and expertises. Makes for an exciting fight for the participant, but not necessarily a good spectacle. Full speed bouting with metal weapons hurts, regardless of the padding an armour worn.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgUq8UTdqk8

  20. Phlod

    December 14th, 2010

    Well, I stand corrected then! :) Glad to know for the record. Also glad to see that replica weapons for sparring/training have come a long way in the last few years. I wasn’t aware of these.

    However, are the blades made to bend on lunges? Could be dangerous otherwise, so I’d suspect so, but I’m really interested to know for sure.

  21. Tourq

    January 10th, 2011

    Thank you. A very interesting video and good comments. I now know to watch Rob Roy.

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