Swords and Spears

With a bit of a break from GMing, I’ve had some time to consider the rules for my new fantasy setting. Most of the effort is going into a new magic system for YAGS, but I’m also tweaking my combat rules. Most of the tweaks are based on what I’ve picked up from other systems, and also from various YouTube channels (such as Scholagladiatora, Skallagrim and Lindybeige). Given that I have no first hand knowledge, don’t expect anything too realistic. This post is really just an attempt for me to capture some of my ideas down in writing.

I don’t want the combat rules to be too complicated, but I do want there to be a reason for the different types of weapons and armour. Not all of these reason are due to the weapon itself – some weapons had limitations due to needing extensive training for example.

In YAGS, weapons have three basic statistics – Attack, Defence and Damage. The first two are bonuses which add to the user’s skill + 1d20, the latter adds to the user’s Strength + 1d20.

Skills are kept reasonably broad in YAGS. There are two skills for hand to hand combat – Brawl and Melee. The former can be used with weapons, but with reduced weapon statistics and no special bonuses from techniques. Melee covers all forms of melee weapons.

There is a Throw skill for throwing things, and a Bow skill for all forms of bows, so again skills are broad for ranged combat.

Techniques are special tricks that can be learned for particular skills. The difference between someone who has picked things up naturally and someone who has had proper training is often that the latter knows more techniques.


Spears are a simple weapon, but were also quite effective. Not only are they easy to learn (keep pointy end at the enemy), but their long reach and leverage makes it easy to both keep the enemy at bay, and cover a wide area (sweeping the point up and down, and left and right).

The spear then will be a very effective weapon, better indeed that other weapons such as the common sword. However, a spear is two handed, so can’t be easily used with a shield.

Sword and Shield

The sword is commonly the standard weapon of a fantasy setting, and was also often the standard weapon of knights and men-at-arms. One big advantage of the sword compared to the spear was that it could be easily carried. A long spear is bulky and needs to be carried over the shoulder, whilst a sword can be worn in a scabbard. Many people might carry a sword when not in combat, even if they intend to use a different weapon in combat. I’m not sure how I’m going to represent that in YAGS yet, but I’d like to.

The other advantage of a sword is that it’s really convenient when used in conjunction with a shield. A spear, even a shorter one handed spear, is not so easy to use with a shield compared to a sword. So whilst a spear will be ‘better’ than a sword, a shield + sword will be a superior combination.

I intend for shields to be pretty good – not only will they provide a high Defence value, but also provide a bit of Attack as well (they allow you to take greater risks when attacking). Another benefit, is that normally defending against more than one opponent will generate big penalties – using a shield will allow you to defend against a second opponent without penalty.

Two Handed Swords

Two handed weapons such as Longswords (the two handed English longsword, not the misnamed one handed D&D version) and Dopplehanders big advantage is that they allow the user to do a lot of damage. Not only will they have a bigger Damage bonus, but when used two handed by a trained wielder, they will add twice the user’s Strength to damage.

They will have a better attack and defence bonus than a one handed sword, though won’t be as good as a sword + shield combination. Given that they will need training to get the full damage bonus, they won’t be the favoured weapon of a typical peasant.

They were also difficult to carry. In reality, hanging a large sword off your back wasn’t practical, and like a long spear need to be carried over your shoulder. For long travel, they were sometimes put on carts rather than carried. Carrying a huge sword around with you in a dungeon may be an inconvenience that isn’t worth bothering with, but again I’m not sure yet how to model that in the game beyond roleplaying it out.

However, their damage makes them good weapons against heavy armour. A knight in heavy armour is less concerned by those carrying swords and shields since their armour will protect them from serious harm, so the lower Defence bonus will be acceptable. But if they are fighting other knights in heavy armour, they’ll be in need of the extra damage.

Maces and Axes

These are one handed weapons which are short compared to a sword, and have a low Attack and Defence scores. They were effective against armour though, so useful against opponents in heavy armour. They count as heavy weapons, halving the protection afforded by light armour.

Blunt weapons like maces and warhammers also count as crushing, and can cause non-lethal damage even if they don’t penetrate armour. They become useful if the sort of enemy you are going up against wears heavy armour, but their advantages don’t help against other targets.


In all respects but one, the longbow will be better than a crossbow. They will have longer range, be more accurate, having a significantly higher rate of fire and have greater penetrating power. However, their greatest downside will be the need for extensive training.

Both will use the Bow skill, but whilst the crossbow can pretty much be used as-is with a basic skill, the longbow will have a high strength requirement, and actually lower statistics. There will be a number of techniques that can be purchased that increase the user’s effective strength when using a longbow, and also provide bonuses to their stats.

A person specialised in the longbow will be really good, but they won’t be a weapon that just anyone can pick up and use effectively without training.


Knives aren’t really designed for melee, and will actually only do mixed damage (half lethal, half non-lethal). You can kill someone with a knife, but you’re better off using a longer blade which is more likely to hit vitals. In the hands of a trained assassin though, they can be more effective.

Samuel Penn