5E The D&D rapier: What is it?
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  1. #1
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    The D&D rapier: What is it?

    Hello

    (Please note: this is a history/fluff threat, not a thread to debate if a rapier should do 1d6 dmg or if dex is too powerful. If that is what you are looking for, please head over here: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthr...rapiers-Do-you )

    So. D&D has rapiers, and it's a pretty good weapon in 5e. But what *is* the D&D rapier?

    First let's clear up what rapiers aren't. Rapiers aren't what's used in Olympic fencing - it's not a foil or an epee


    Rapiers aren't smallswords either - they are the smallsword's predecessor, same way the small sword became the olympic fencing weapon. Smallswords are far shorter, lighter and have a simpler hilt


    So what is a rapier. A rapier is a long bladed sword, with a very narrow blade, complex hilt and devoted to the thrust. It was carried by civilians and frequently used in duels. Something a bit like this:


    This particular example (Arms and Armor reproduction of a Spanish blade) has a blade that is almost 42 (!) inches long and 0.75 inches wide. This is *very* long (and some were longer). I have a bastard sword at home and the blade is 34 inches, for comparison. So yes, this is a "proper" rapier, and most of you would recognize it as such.

    ... but is it a *D&D* rapier? ... Probably not. See the rapier evolved for a very narrow use-case scenario - civilian combats and duels vs unarmored humans. Rapiers did poorly vs armor (a way to "cheat" in a duel was to wear a fine shirt of mail underneath your clothes as extra protection), were poor cutters and were often slow to kill - a stab in the gut, pre modern medicine, was lethal, *but* it would take you hours or days even to die. Even a penetrating wound to the chest, unless it hit the hear or aorta, could take minutes to kill. The long blade, while it provided superb reach, could also be cumbersome.

    D&D adventurers aren't quite sure what they are going to face. Monday it's brigands but Tuesday it's Ogres and thursday Ankhegs. A sword designed for such a precise use - and it was very good at that use! - is just not suited for the wild variety of challenges the D&D adventurer will face. So that rapier, that super long pointy thing, not good. It's not the D&D rapier

    So what is? Well people, historically, recognized that the rapier had these limitations, and "scaled back" the design, using something more akin to a "trust and cut" sword. Some were called "war rapiers", to distinguish them - the blade was shorter and wider. This example had a blade 37 inches long and slightly over an inch wide, making it more maneuverable and able to deliver better cuts. It also happened to the the sword of a warlike king.

    https://myarmoury.com/feature_vasa.html


    Some went even further - this reproduction (called the "cavalier rapier", based on a 1660 piece) was was over 1.5 inch wide and 34 inches long, and it's becoming closer to being an arming sword with a fancy hilt:



    While doing research for this post, I also stumbled upon the "bilbo sword" (nothing to do with Tolkien), a short, wide bladed rapier that was popular in America and on board ships for some time:

    Doesn't that look like what a ne'er-do-well would carry around?

    So in conclusion, rapiers *do* have a place in the arsenal of the D&D adventurer, but only certain types. I hope that this was interesting, and will help those who are having an issue with the "mental picture" of the thin rapier poking holes into an ogre imagine something a bit more palatable - and realistic.

    cheers,
    Last edited by Ancalagon; Wednesday, 13th September, 2017 at 03:36 AM. Reason: moar sword photos
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  2. #2
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    To me, the D&D rapier is a knightly sword, nicely filling the space between the long and short swords, or what some D&D editions have simply called "sword".
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  3. #3
    For my table the Rapier is a heavy broad sword made for piercing through armor and the long sword is a bastard or a hand and a half sword meant for slashing.
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  4. #4
    It is an out-of-place technology in a world where people still use plate armour and shields.

    But seriously, weapons in D&D aren't actually specific weapons they are just sticks with numbers on the end. A rapier is "martial, one-handed, 1d8 piercing, finesse". You can call them whatever you want, since the names don't mean much (and are often misleading, like "scimitar" for "machete").
    Last edited by Greenstone.Walker; Wednesday, 13th September, 2017 at 03:09 AM.
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    The D&D rapier is two pounds. Weapons considered "rapiers" have a fairly wide range of weights, but two pounds is on the lighter side. King Gustav's sword (above) was a three pounder, which is as heavy as a D&D longsword. Given this and the fact that even weaklings can master the D&D rapier, it seems likely that they actually intended the D&D rapier to be the light, thin dueling weapon of the type depicted in your third image.

    That this would be an effective weapon for adventurers makes little sense, of course, and I suspect some players prefer to imagine their Str 8 character wielding a less dainty blade. Treating them as sticks with numbers is probably best for our suspension of disbelief, dignity and self-esteem.
    Last edited by Greg Benage; Wednesday, 13th September, 2017 at 04:06 AM.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Steven Bell View Post
    For my table the Rapier is a heavy broad sword made for piercing through armor and the long sword is a bastard or a hand and a half sword meant for slashing.
    You are of course free to do what you want at your table...

    ... but a broadsword is a *broad* blade, and a slashing one to boot (by broad do you mean wide, or thick?). It doesn't seem like a great fit... is it still a dex weapon? I feel like I'm missing something...

    That being said, it's a shame that the broadsword isn't in the game anymore.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greenstone.Walker View Post
    It is an out-of-place technology in a world where people still use plate armour and shields.
    Agreed - this is why a cut-and-trust sword makes a lot more sense to me.

    But seriously, weapons in D&D aren't actually specific weapons they are just sticks with numbers on the end. A rapier is "martial, one-handed, 1d8 piercing, finesse". You can call them whatever you want, since the names don't mean much (and are often misleading, like "scimitar" for "machete").
    Well, I'm not sure I like that mental image at all. "I cast magic missile - 3 pyramids of energy hit my opponent". I agree with you that there is definitely room for variation - that greatsword could be a large claymore, a zweehander or a no-dashi, and that's great! - but I like them to be *something*. It's a roleplaying game, not combat accounting.
    Last edited by Ancalagon; Wednesday, 13th September, 2017 at 04:03 AM. Reason: precision

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    Well, as far as numbers go, D&D isn't going to win any "believability" awards. I mean, bare hands do SO much damage. Never minding the Monk or the damage monsters do. Think about it, a Mastiff, while certainly capable of killing a person, deals a whopping D6+1 points of damage. While I accept that dogs can be dangerous, I'm not sure that a single dog bite averages the same damage as a hit from a longsword (or a rapier for that matter).

    Numbers on a stick is probably the best way to keep your sanity.

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    Remember folks, if you want to debate the numbers around the rapier, there is a fine thread about it here: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthr...rapiers-Do-you

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    Oh and @lowkey13 , I hope this thread will cool off your hate. Because hate leads to suffering, and you don't deserve that!

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    Something like the 3rd or last photo is generally what I think of when thinking of a rapier.

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