Piercing weapons rely on a sharp, narrow point to punch into the target.
All but useless against inanimate objects, a piercing weapon relies on penetrating and destroying vital organs inside the target - properly used they can kill faster and more effectively than any other kind of weapon and even if they fail to incapacitate they can leave internal wounds that are hard to fix, even in the modern era. Badly aimed they inflict superficial wounds on non-vital tissue and annoy as much as injure - although many designs are fitted with barbs so that they can inflict damage leaving as well as arriving. Barbed or not, piercing weapons are also prone to getting stuck in the target and needing substantial force to free1.
Piercing weapons are also a good choice for piercing armour - swung with a good dose of leverage and mass behind them, as in the war hammer and military pick or carefully aimed at weak points and punched through as in spears and some of the stabbing swords.
An indicative list of piercing weapons includes:
…and in addition almost all ranged weapons are piercing in effect and many other types of weapon have an additional 'piercing mode' - a knife or sword for example will often have a stabbing point as well as a cutting edge.
Piercing weapons include some of the cheapest available and can be manufactured from cheap, naturally occurring materials - although like everything else they benefit from better ones.
Game and Story Use
- Note the point above about most ranged weapons being piercing only - if you're fighting something that's immune to piercing damage because it has little or no internal structure and/or isn't really alive then ranged weapons are not your friend. Some people may die before being persuaded of this.
- Also note the 'quick to kill, slow to incapacitate'- many RPGs fail to model this well but a target who is loaded with the appropriate drugs or otherwise tolerant of pain and shock may take a lethal piercing wound and fail to drop, perhaps taking hours to stop fighting. Conversely, this may mean that your berserker ally may not still be with you after the end of the battle, even if he's still hacking when the last of the enemy goes down.
- That they are mostly useless against things without internal structure bears repeating: something that is immune to critical hits is going to be largely immune to piercing damage.
- Getting your weapon stuck in an opponent may be a good 'botch' roll - or just a point of dramatic tension. Novices panic, veterans put a foot on their opponent, twist and wrench and the 'rule of cool' grab their opponent's weapon and keep going. Which is your character?