Ulfberht Sword
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Basic Information

A true Ulfberht Sword is a masterpiece weapon, 35 inches in length, made of the finest crucible steel, with keen point and double-edged cutting surfaces. It's signed by the master swordsmith who made it, with an inscription reading either +VLFBERH+T or +VLFBERHT+, depending on the sword. Some of the earlier Ulfberht blades are of lower grade steel, or pattern-welded steel with better crucible-quality cutting edges welded on like some metallurgical chimera. They were produced from the 9th Century to the 11th Century, so most likely it was a family business that was taught and handed down across the years. They are prized weapons, worthy of being individually named and cherished.

Such a weapon is meant to be wielded in one-hand, paired with a viking shield.

170 of these blades have survived to the modern era (and a number of fakes and knock-offs as well). The largest numbers have been found in Norway and Finland, and others throughout Scandinavia and Germany, and some as far afield as Bulgaria. It is also entirely possible that at least some of the crucible steel used may have been imported from central Asia.

The next-most prolific or prestigious sword of the era are the Ingelrii Swords, which were made from the 10th Century to the 12th Century, Only about 20 of those have survived.



Game and Story Use

  • If a viking Jarl, chieftain, captain or ulfhednar has a fancy sword with a pedigree and a name, it's probably an Ulfberht.
    • Several of these weapons appear in Bernard Cornwell's Last Kingdom cycle, although the protagonist rejects at least one opportunity to replace his own sword Serpent Breath (a pattern-welded blade) with one for a variety of reasons.
  • Ulfberht swords are good candidates to be a magic sword, or at least a mastercraft weapon. They make a great treasure that practical as well as valuable.
  • "Ulf" is the old norse word for "Wolf", so it would make a lot of sense for a Ulfhednar or a werewolf to be armed with one. It may have some sort of wolf-ish property, such as a morale bonus for pack tactics, or just an unusually sharp blade.
    • Or, perhaps it's really a lycanthrope-hunting weapon, with magic and materials designed to be bitter poison to wolfmen. The blade may be a strange alloy that just looks like crucible steel, but is actually a rare steel-silver blend. The name isn't a maker's mark, it's a warning that this thing eats wolves for breakfast.
  • Generally, it is blades like these and their equivalents that sow the seeds of the prestigious sword meme in European cultures - by the medieval period where the legends mature, the sword is already fast becoming a sidearm. Recall that most of the great sword-legends - Arthur, the Peers of Charlemagne, Beowulf - belong to the early medieval period (sometimes called the Dark Ages). The Ulfberht's and Ingelrii's come at the end of this period, whilst earlier legends probably reflect high quality swords surviving from the fall of the Roman Empire and any of them would have been superior to anything made with the contemporary tech base.
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