LESSON More Accurate Weapon Choices For Races

  • Welcome back, Iwaku! While we are still working on the site to get it back into shape, we've come back online so you can get back to doing what you love. Check out this announcement for more details.


Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced, Prestige, Adaptable
Genders You Prefer Playing
Primarily Prefer Male
I've been watching Shadiversity's series where he talks about what medieval fantasy races would use what weapons based on their physical characteristics, this will be much dryer than resources like the very creatively made blood loss resource. I will apologize for this in advance, but without further ado, let's get into it. These are going to be wide generalizations based on types. If there are more races you would like me to include that I did not include, then put in a response to this thread or PM me about it, however, this will be primarily widely used races.

Centaurs: Most commonly what people suggest is that a centaur would use whatever weapons a mounted warrior would wear on horseback. This is wrong for a few reasons. Weapons like lances get couched while in use, causing the brunt of the force to be exerted on the body of the rider. This is ok for humans because they can move about in the saddle, and while a dehorsed man is very likely to die, it is not a 100% sure thing. No matter what you would say about where the organs are on a centaur, their human parts are unavoidably attached to their horse parts. This means not only would they have less ability to move their upper body than a rider in the saddle, but it also means that if they suffer a blow that would dismount a horseman, it would almost definitely kill the centaur. So a lance is out of the picture.

Centaurs are often seen using large swords. However, swords tended to be used as sidearms in a medieval context for when the primary weapon was no longer useful for whatever reason (The enemy disarmed them, got too close for their primary to work properly when bows were used, etc.) And swords were used as the sidearm because they were fairly common in normal life and because it was simple to carry, small and light. They were also used because most soldiers used shields and so needed a hand free and a sword was a perfect weapon to do it. However a centaur has little business using a shield because no matter what you say about it's organs, it cannot move around in the saddle, and it still has a horse body that would be out of range of protection from its arms. So with a shield out of the way, a centaur would have both arms open for weapons.

Polearms were more widely used on the battlefield, and while a small human would have trouble keeping multiple polearms about them, a centaur has no such problem. They could use a wide variety of pole-arms, however, warhammers would be less likely to be used than axe-headed pole-arms, as warhammers were made to batter through armor and a centaur has superior maneurverability and speed to allow it to do a fast charge and batter through a person's defenses with simply an axe. Polearms were rarely used on horseback because of the aforementioned shield problem, and because it's kind of hard to swing one around with a horse head in the way, a centaur would have neither problem. They could use a two handed sword as well, however, they would be more likely to go for a large slashing sword like a messer or falchion, and one problem with thrusting swords is they sometimes get stuck, and we have the saddle problem again there, unable to have greater maneuverability in response to the horse body, any stuck sword would have to be released much more quickly.

Bows are kind of debatable with a centaur. They would certainly be able to use a full warbow unlike the mongols who used a smaller bow by necessity, however, riders are better able to steady themselves while a horse is galloping by standing in the stirrups and using their legs to cushion the ride. This allows riders to have accurate aim, whereas the attached horsebody would have considerably less ability to steady themselves for aiming. It certainly could be done, but this is a challange one would have to consider.

Finally, there is a rarity for centaurs as to what they would use as a weapon, and that would be a person. Most people say a centaur wouldn't let a person ride because they are proud, not beasts of burden, however the person wouldn't be riding for their benefit, it would be for the centaur's benefit. The person could have the shield to protect a centaur in a way it could not protect itself. The person could wield a bow and arrow to shoot any enemies the centaur would miss, the person could have a lance to help the centaur with the charge. This would be a highly effective tactic, and thus, would likely be commonly used so long as they could find a person who would be ok with the turning of the tables.

Elves: Elves are usually humans with slighter builds, sometimes they're shorter than humans, sometimes they're the same height, but any which way, the size different is usually pretty negligible. They tend to have the same strength level as humans despite their slighter builds, that can be explained away in any variety of measures, but this together means they would simply use whatever weapon a normal human would use.

They tend to have enhanced eyesight, which is usually explained for why they favor bows, however, since the bow would be the same as a human bow with the same effective range because they are depicted on average with the same average strength as a human. Bows have a heavy draw on them at any size, so they would be unable to utilize a bow that could work with their superior eyesight. However, they would be able to use arrows in the dark, their grace would allow them to draw faster, and they would be able to spot their targets more easily, so they would have those minor advantages.

And finally, elves in fantasy tend to be more graceful than humans, having greater dexterity. This would allow them to do a rarely seen feat, dual wielding. The troubles with humans dual wielding is the swords would tend to tangle together, and a shield would almost always be better because a human would always have one weapon attacking and one defending, and this would severely impact technique. However with the grace of an elf, one would be able to fluidly use two weapons at once. This wouldn't be used all the time, obviously as situations change, but it could be used whereas with a human it would be nearly impossible.

Dwarves: Dwarves tend to be dhort and stocky, but no weaker than a human, and so they would have no trouble lifting anything a human would have no trouble lifting. However the depiction of dwarves primarily using axes and short swords is wrong because they simply do not have the reach to allow them to use small weaponry.

Dwarves would more likely use a polearm as a primary weapon, perhaps a halberd if you are married to the axe or mace concept. Or even a proper warhammer. To go with their weighty aesthetic, as a sidearm, they would be likely to use a large falchion or messer. Shields would be a powerful tool for dwarves because they could use the same size shield as a full man, but still have their smaller form, so they could protect more of themselves with the shield. Additionally, they would benefit immensely from armor because of their smaller size but equivalent strength, allowing them to have lighter armor than

With shorter arms, they would be unable to use a bow effectively as draw strength would have to be increased too greatly to compensate for draw length. With these limitations, a likely ranged weapon would be the crossbow, it compensates for all those problems with a winch or other alternative method to draw.

Orcs: For the purpose of this, Tolkien's Uruk-Hai will be used as his example as an orc as it fits more the standard version of an orc in the colloquial sense. Big meaty warriors and so on, while his orcs and goblins are nearly interchangeable (and I'm pretty sure at a few points they literally are, it's been a while since I read the hobbit and silmarillion, please don't murder me).

Orcs in general are bigger and stronger than humans, they are typically depicted as dumber, but while this would effect their tactics, it wouldn't stop them from determining which end of the stick is the pointy one. They are also depicted as more aggressive and warlike. As I mentioned earlier, the sword is so common because it was a just in case weapon. It was a sidearm, commonly worn in everyday life, and thus more commonly used on the battlefield along with a spear because people are comfortable with using them. However, with orc's more aggressive culture, they would be more readily suited for battle at any point in time and thus would be less likely to use a normal sword. They would be likely to use pole-arms, with a greatsword possibly as a sidearm. Because of their typically warlike culture, they would always have battle arms, possibly even carry armor with them.

One point I have mentioned above repeatedly is the importance of strength with bows, and due to not only the orcs larger size, but their strength, they would be a force to be reckoned with, with a bow and arrow. They would be able to use more powerful bows, allowing them to penetrate armor at close range. They would have further range than the puny humans and elves, most tactical issues with bow and arrow is you typically move into your enemy's range of attack when you get in range yourself, not so with orcs. A smart tactician would be able to skillfully guide them to stay out of the range of their enemies while repeatedly unleashing a rain of deadly arrows.

As they are large creatures, they wouldn't be as fast as anyone who was smaller and had a mount because they cannot ride any of the mounts that carry humans and others as fast as they can into battle. One must keep this in mind when making a character because typically horses can't really carry heavy amounts of weight, and even when they do, they cannot move as fast as they would with a lighter rider. If one wants to have them riding into battle on something, one must use or create a fantasy creature that compensates.

Weaker Races/Characters: In media, weaker characters are often depicted as using a rapier and/or a bow. Seems to make sense, rapier looks smaller than a normal sword, and a bow would be able to be used to keep people at bay so there need not be a direct confrontation. However, historically rapiers tended to be about the same weight of any other one handed sword, and as I have repeatedly stated, bows require a lot of strength.

Counterintuitively, what would be most likely to be used for weaker characters would be a two handed sword. They could have a one-handed sword as a side-arm, but a two handed sword is better balanced, doesn't weigh much more than a one handed sword (it tends to be 1.5 times heavier than a one handed sword rather than two times heavier), and since you're using an extra hand, it would be easier to maneurver, and easier to hold as you would have twice the strength using two hands as one. For ranged use, like with the dwarf, I would say that a crossbow would be best as it cancels out the need for strength.

Smaller races (Hobbits, gnomes, etc):
Hobbits and gnomes have a disadvantage that dwarves do not, and that is that their strength is proportional to their size. They would not be able to wield a polearm as effectively as a dwarf or any other race would and so would have problems in a direct fight on the field of battle. Their diminutive stature along with their lesser abilty to wield weapons means that they would always have a disadvantage against a race that is human sized or greater. They wouldn't be able to compensate for their poor reach so the best option for them would be to get a big friend and run away from any real fight, trying to lead their opponent to an ambush.

They would invariably have to always fight dirty, and would want to sneak up and backstab. Which is good because their smaller size means less weight, means less noise, and also means they are less noticeable. For this a dagger would be best because they are easy to conceal, light and the small size would make it more easy to take out and stow.

However, if pressed, a shield and full armor would be vital because they would be less maneuverable with their smaller limbs, and since their opponent would have superior reach, they would be vulnerable. Even with full armor, a blow to the head or two from a much larger opponent would easily jar them and cause them damage, so a shield is definitely necessary. They do have one advantage though, with their shield and armor, they would make a small target even normally and would be difficult to hit. They could with skill press their way through an attack, and go for the legs of their opponent. When opponents of equal height face each other, to attack the legs would make them leave their upper body unguarded, and it would also be fairly easy to pull your own legs out of the way of your foe. A smaller race would however be able to go for the legs with a shortsword or maybe even a scaled down mace, and be able to keep themselves defended. If they could manage to topple their opponent with superior skill, they would even the playing field for the height issue.

A normal bow would be nearly unusable due to the reduced strength and size, and a small bow would be ineffective. For ranged combat it would be best to use a crossbow as it cancels out the strength factor. However reloading it would be difficult and tiresome so using a crossbow wouldn't be nearly as effective for the other races, it would still be invaluable as ranged combat is definitely vital.