Seax
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Basic Information

A seax is one of a broad category of bladed weapons, especially associated with the Germanic peoples of the Migration Period and Early Medieval Era (or Dark Ages) - notably the Saxons, who appear to be named specifically for the weapon. The heyday of the seax seems to have been around 400-800AD, but the same basic design can still be found occupying the cheap end of the blade market at least into the Renaissance and arguably to the present day.

Seaxes tend to be utility weapons - with a few decorated exceptions - and often of poor metallurgical quality whatever their presentation, although a few pattern-welded examples have been found. Size varies from knife to sword sized but key features are a single edged blade and a centre tang - many had a "broken backed" design consisting of a tip cut back at an acute angle. It is suggested that cheap examples may have been made by forging a tang onto both ends of a metal bar, making a 45' cut across the bar at the centre and then grinding edges onto the two seaxes thus created. It also appears that the majority of seaxes lacked features such as a guard or pommel, being dressed only with a wood or horn grip fixed onto the tang. Presumably this impeded both balancing the blade (an important function of the pommel) and protecting the user's hand (for which the guard is considered useful), but when used as a tool or utility blade this would matter less than when used as a weapon.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Unless you are in the front end of the Dark Ages, these are probably entry tier weapons, found in the hands of rebelling peasants, bandits and other low-end combatants. Possibly as a poor cousin of the falchion.
    • However, as a cheap utility knife for daily use - or even a larger example for cutting brush - such things might crop up in all sorts of places.
    • It should also be well within the capabilities of your average blacksmith - no need for a professional swordsmith to turn out an entry level seax.
    • May also appear as a sidearm or backup weapon for someone who is planning to use something else - polearm operators, archers and crossbowmen for example, not to mention those who aren't expecting a fight at all such as sappers, logistics personnel and artillery operators.
  • Finding a highly decorated and/or pattern welded seax might well be a surprise - and it might well turn out to be stolen from amongst the grave goods of some ancient barrow.
    • Always assuming that you are not robbing the barrow yourself and having the occupant present it to you blade first…
  • Also a good choice of weapon for more primitive civilisations, possibly including orcs.
  • Possibly the well made and decorated seax may be more the result of a swordsmith making a good blade in a familiar shape rather than any conscious evolution of the base weapon or a consideration of what might be the best design for a sword…
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