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Men of Harlech, lie ye dreaming?
See ye not their falchions gleaming
While their pennons gaily streaming
Flutter in the breeze?

(from) Men of Harlech Welsh Trad.

Basic Information


Regarded by some as variety of sword, the Falchion represents a significant sub-type of slashing weapons, one handed and characterised by a heavy blade with a single curved cutting edge. Most of the weapons in this class also lack a stabbing point, although this is not universal and again the presence of hand-guards, although common on a military weapon, was not certain.

The classic medieval falchion appears to have been surprisingly popular - although a far less sophisticated weapon than a sword, and probably far less effective against anyone in armour, it is depicted fairly frequently in medieval art in the hands of warriors from all classes. It can probably be assumed that the base weapon was a lot cheaper than a sword and often of lower quality - although there is a surviving example which is as highly decorated as any dress sword from the same era. The design focuses almost exclusively on a fairly unsubtle heavy cutting stroke and might well be the sort of weapon favoured by a fighter who relied more on strength and aggression than technique. There are also suggestions of "great falchions" and the like, designed to be used two handed, but these may or may not have existed historically.

There are some suggestions that the falchion - or at least some falchions - may have served as pioneer tools outside combat, but that is mainly conjecture. Generally the falchion seems to be a midway between sword and axe for many purposes.

International relatives might include the Chinese niuweidao (and possibly the "butterfly sword" as well), the Nepali khukri, the Iberian falcata, the Greek kopis and machira, the Indonesian golok and the Malay parang. Although the machete is primarily a tool, the design of the blade is similar and one of the more militarised varieties would also count. Into the early modern period the cutlass shows clear signs of descent from the falchion.

1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • In a campaign with realistic weapons pricing, these should be a lot more common than swords.
  • In some places, sumptuary laws might restrict who can bear a sword … this may be an acceptable alternative for those permitted arms but forbidden a sword.
  • Note the issues on style and armour penetration - a knight might well use one of these to slash his way into a group of lightly armoured levies, but might switch to a true sword against a well armoured equal.
  • More generally, you may be able to make deductions about someone's fighting style if they prefer a falchion.
  • These also make good primitve blades for things like orcs as they require a lower level of metallurgy to produce.
  • Where you have rules for weapon breakage and/or attacking inanimate objects a falchion should probably outperform a sword of the same quality.
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