Bludgeoning Time!

Metal Bat from One Punch Man

Typically, there are three styles of melee weapons.  You have slashing where you swing and cut like edged swords and axes.  Then there is piercing/stabbing, which include your non-edged swords and spears. Finally, you have the third one that doesn’t get as much attention as you would think:


For those who don’t know, these are your blunt weapons.  They have no edges or sharp tips, so they are not designed for cutting skin.  Instead, a bludgeoning weapon is for breaking bones and pulping all the soft parts of an enemy.  They are purely strength weapons since you need force along with their solid structure.  So, you tend to see  them wielded by barbarians, orcs, ogres, and other muscle-based archetypes.  They are also given to priests and paladins a lot for the sole purpose of destroying the undead, which tend to be immune to stabbing and slashing.  It’s a classic weakness to destroy the head and brain of a zombie, which is where a blunt weapon comes into play.  All of this is probably why you rarely see a central protagonist specialize in these weapons.

That has changed a little bit, but not by much.  Blunt weapons include clubs, maces, flails, and hammers.  It’s that last one that shifted some popularity to this category because it’s what Thor uses.  Of course, this really only helped hammers and most people copied the small, one-handed style.  You didn’t see a sudden surge of maces and morning stars being used in fiction.  That is a shame though because it would have made things rather interesting for a while.

Now, I do prefer swords because they’re what I’m more used to.  They are flashy and can be used in a variety of styles.  You have power fighters, agile fighters, counter fighters, speed fighters, and the list goes on.  This isn’t how it goes with blunt weapons because they require power.  Someone being agile and nimble with a mace won’t be delivering blows with the force one expects from the weapon.  A quick flick with a sword cuts flesh, but doing it with a mace will not guarantee a broken bone.  They really need to have some period of gathering force.  Think of how much it hurts to stub your toe compared to kicking a brick wall.  The latter usually hurts more because you have more momentum and power behind the move.

Another reason that I don’t think you see many protagonists with blunt weapons is because they can be really brutal.  Getting stabbed or slashed with a sword has blood and torn flesh, but somehow it isn’t as visceral as blunt weapons for people.  A character getting hit in the face with a club ends up having more than blood flowing.  Teeth are knocked out, bruises appear, jaw can be broken, and there are other levels of disfigurement.  That could be another aspect since people can imagine a sword wound being stitched up, but it’s harder to believe that a warrior will get his shattered skull put back together.  You end up feeling like those blows hurt more, so they don’t fit the hero style outside of family-friendly stories that don’t show such things.

This is kind of a shame, especially for maces.  They were fairly common because soldiers who couldn’t afford a sword would get a mace.  Knights on horseback would favor them as well.  A reason maces and hammers were used more often than many think is because they could work against armor.  Swords don’t slash through metal and spears would need to strike a weak point.  A mace or hammer would hit with enough force to dent the armor and damage the flesh beneath.  Be even worse if the person was charging on a horse and delivered a blow to even a helmeted head.  So, these blunt weapons had some advantages and uses that medieval warriors noted.  Again, they aren’t as flashy as swords and don’t lend themselves to parry/ripostes very easily, so modern audiences prefer the former.

I really should start using more blunt weapons in my stories.  It’s a category that I always put on supporting cast because that’s what I’m used to.  I never really think about it, which is why I tend to go with swords and axes.  I have to consciously change what I’m doing when it comes to arming my heroes.  Really should take a look through what I have and see if I can do that now.

So, what do you think of blunt weapons?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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15 Responses to Bludgeoning Time!

  1. L. Marie says:

    Wow, thanks for this list and tips. I haven’t dealt with blunt weapons. My characters wound or kill with blades. But I can see how a blunt weapon would add variety, especially to a group of characters traveling together. Kind of like how the Avengers have members with different skillsets, Hulk being the “blunt weapon” of the group. 😊


  2. I always think of a blunt weapon as something opportunistically available, like a rock or a piece of wood. I also have a clandestine feeling about a blunt weapon. The action, in this case, is to sneak up and bash someone from behind. I haven’t really thought (until now) about a hero wielding a mace in combat. Might be interesting.


  3. Maces and the like are useful in more ways than one might think. You can strike the hand or wrist and make your foe drop their weapon. You can strike the knee or hip to slow them down if you’re trying to make a getaway. Or you can try to knock out a foe that you need to question later.


  4. V.M.Sang says:

    You make some very good points, Charles. Especially the bit about describing the damage. Such graphic description might put some readers off.
    I haven’t thought much about using blunt weapons, either. I’ll have to give it some thought.


  5. I think it’s a great idea. They seem to be showing up more with Harley Quinn or The Walking Dead coming to mind. Seems like Hercules used a club, so they’ve been around forever. Anything with some length can block if you use two hands, and I even like Bo type sticks.


  6. noelleg44 says:

    I hope I never meet one!


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