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🎨 Creative Optimal Melee Weapons for Shorter Persons

Killer300

Registered User
Validated User
That's a good point, in regards to speed.

So okay, it looks like Hobbits/Halflings defending a Shire equivalent requires guerrilla warfare tactics, which, fair enough. Goblins... differ enough from human physiology that I cannot answer that either way, although I have them develop more advanced firearms in my own fantasy setting for a reason. Dwarves seem to often be depicted as on the taller end(like, 4 feet), and being really well built. Kobolds are a low tier enemy for a reason, barring them using molotov cocktails or other similar weapons.
 
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neOmega

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One thing that you never really see in med-fantasy settings, is the shorter races building castles and designing them optimized against human-sized and taller foes. Making all the doorways and corridors just barely spacious for themselves, too tight for the invaders to squeeze through.
 

Thanaeon

Mostly simulationist
Validated User
Outside of that, I could see short spears, but I wonder if spears have any advantages without their length compared to say, machete type implements.
Other than the aforementioned cost, I can think of at least two others: simplicity of use (important if you want to rely on conscripts, militia or similiar non-professional warriors or soldiers) and tightness of formation - the spear doesn't need space to swing, so you can pack formations tightly, giving you the advantage of numbers at point of contact compared to opponents that are bigger and/or use weapons that require mode lateral space to use effectively.

Oh, another advantage comes to mind: ability to deploy from second rank; you can get people in the second rank of the battle line to thrust from behind the ones in the first rank at the enemies, further enhancing that advantage of numbers at point of contact against enemies wielding shorter weapons. Granted, this only works if your opponents don't have longer weapons and your first rankers wield something shorter (where "shorter" may include the same spear wielded differently). Still, a potential force enhancer.
 

Ophidimancer

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If I were in command of a military force consisting of halflings/gnomes this is how I would do it.

For infantry I would outfit them with reinforced pitchforks and shields. This would give them the reach to compete with larger opponents and, more importantly, give them defensive measures as well. The pitchfork can be used to catch the legs and trip taller folk and can also be raised and set in the ground in something like a 'hedgehog' formation where the tines can catch weapons coming in for overhead chops, which is how many taller folk will have to swing at shorter troops, while the shields can catch incoming thrusts.

The infantry would be followed by engineers with stakes that can be formed into comfortable tunnels for short folk which are impenetrable, waist high hedges for tall folk. Short folk do have to take advantage of terrain to fight tall folk, but there's nothing saying they can't make their own terrain.
 

Killer300

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Other than the aforementioned cost, I can think of at least two others: simplicity of use (important if you want to rely on conscripts, militia or similiar non-professional warriors or soldiers) and tightness of formation - the spear doesn't need space to swing, so you can pack formations tightly, giving you the advantage of numbers at point of contact compared to opponents that are bigger and/or use weapons that require mode lateral space to use effectively.

Oh, another advantage comes to mind: ability to deploy from second rank; you can get people in the second rank of the battle line to thrust from behind the ones in the first rank at the enemies, further enhancing that advantage of numbers at point of contact against enemies wielding shorter weapons. Granted, this only works if your opponents don't have longer weapons and your first rankers wield something shorter (where "shorter" may include the same spear wielded differently). Still, a potential force enhancer.
Fair, however, that advantage seems... well, diminished, in the case of tightness of formation. Also, I predict most taller folks having longer weapons, whether they be Orcs, Humans, ect.

Although as stated later, this sounds like a great time to be using stakes in the ground, which from what I understand, aren't too hard to build, and would get around the mass problems they'd have using proper pikes. In fact...
If I were in command of a military force consisting of halflings/gnomes this is how I would do it.

For infantry I would outfit them with reinforced pitchforks and shields. This would give them the reach to compete with larger opponents and, more importantly, give them defensive measures as well. The pitchfork can be used to catch the legs and trip taller folk and can also be raised and set in the ground in something like a 'hedgehog' formation where the tines can catch weapons coming in for overhead chops, which is how many taller folk will have to swing at shorter troops, while the shields can catch incoming thrusts.

The infantry would be followed by engineers with stakes that can be formed into comfortable tunnels for short folk which are impenetrable, waist high hedges for tall folk. Short folk do have to take advantage of terrain to fight tall folk, but there's nothing saying they can't make their own terrain.
The more I think about it, the more it makes sense for short folk to be really emphasizing engineering if they have to fight any sort of open field battle, so as to make it less open field. Stakes in the ground are the most obvious, as are tunnels, but other things would be, well, proper walls, or maybe even small trenches in the ground that expose taller folks to strikes from below.

Hmm. Now I wonder what sort of improvised fortifications farmers have built in history, as I now really like the idea of Hobbits using guerrilla warfare and agricultural weapons to defend their home from a roving band of Orcs.
 

Fortinbras

Agent of Dream
Validated User
It's not a direct answer to the question, but there are some interesting possibilities in mixed units from different races. If you've seen the bit from the Battle of Rocroi in Alatriste, there's a bit where the pike units are pressing on each other, and people duck under the pikes to start cutting the legs and guts of the enemies. Imagine having a group of halflings or goblins to do that, when paired with a group of humans as the main infantry unit.
 

apOweyn

Just talkin bout ap
Validated User
Personally, I think you nailed the advantage of shorter combatants in your second analysis, where your first one was the far more common. People reason that reach will keep an opponent off of you, so that if there's a way to get a reach advantage, you should naturally gravitate toward it. In my experience, the value of that is dramatically overestimated.

I practiced martial arts for well over 30 years, including empty hand and weapons styles. (RPG regular Spartan has a pretty good sense of my training background from our time on another forum.) I was a 6'1" taekwondoka who, for many years, subsisted on the idea that I could use my reach to keep an opponent off of me. Now, watch some MMA matches and what do you notice? At some point, the fight will go to whatever the closest range is allowed by the ruleset. It's why you see a fair amount of grappling even in Western sword manuals. It's why Mike Tyson was one of the most successful heavy weights in boxing history (despite being one of the shortest). It's why the Gracies initially cleaned the floor with kickboxers and karate experts. It doesn't matter how fast you reset your kicks, withdraw your spear, or retract your cross. A determined opponent will find the gaps and get inside.

Now a qualifier. In Olympic fencing or karate point fighting, reach is often an advantage. But remember that the win condition in both cases is often a "touch." (I've done both, so I mean no disrespect in either case.) And there's a focus on very linear movement. It's built right into the assumptions of competitive fencing. And it was at least the tendency in point fighting.

Most of my experience was in weapons-based systems. Primarily Filipino martial arts (eskrima, kali, arnis, etc.). In our mixed weapon matches, we often did spear versus knife. Now, the spear is a great battlefield equalizer. If you're facing a wall of them and you have a shorter weapon, that's a real problem. But in one-on-one, if you're able to evade long enough and advance aggressively enough into closer range, the spear is suddenly at a serious disadvantage. The knife has free reign.

I used to box a bit with a guy who was significantly bigger than me. (Recall I'm 6'1", but this bloke was 6'4" and faster than anyone that size has any right to be.) My strategy was literally to think about putting my forehead on his chest and use hooks to the body and uppercuts. Initially, my impulse was to fight "out" more. But when your opponent's boxing jab is longer than your leg, that's the worst place in the world to hang about.

I'd say that the advantage is as you identified. Get inside to a range where the taller opponent's limbs are in their way and use your shorter, more mobile weapons (or techniques) to wreak havoc.

That said, someone mentioned a tunnel scenario. That's actually a case where I can see a spear being handle. It's a linear delivery system in a scenario that precludes lateral movement. In that case, I think the spear is a win. At least initially. But be ready with the shorter weapon after that because, eventually (armies aside), it will go to the person most intent on closing range and shutting down movement.

So there's my perspective, for whatever it's worth. Cheers.


Stuart
 

Killer300

Registered User
Validated User
Personally, I think you nailed the advantage of shorter combatants in your second analysis, where your first one was the far more common. People reason that reach will keep an opponent off of you, so that if there's a way to get a reach advantage, you should naturally gravitate toward it. In my experience, the value of that is dramatically overestimated.

I practiced martial arts for well over 30 years, including empty hand and weapons styles. (RPG regular Spartan has a pretty good sense of my training background from our time on another forum.) I was a 6'1" taekwondoka who, for many years, subsisted on the idea that I could use my reach to keep an opponent off of me. Now, watch some MMA matches and what do you notice? At some point, the fight will go to whatever the closest range is allowed by the ruleset. It's why you see a fair amount of grappling even in Western sword manuals. It's why Mike Tyson was one of the most successful heavy weights in boxing history (despite being one of the shortest). It's why the Gracies initially cleaned the floor with kickboxers and karate experts. It doesn't matter how fast you reset your kicks, withdraw your spear, or retract your cross. A determined opponent will find the gaps and get inside.

Now a qualifier. In Olympic fencing or karate point fighting, reach is often an advantage. But remember that the win condition in both cases is often a "touch." (I've done both, so I mean no disrespect in either case.) And there's a focus on very linear movement. It's built right into the assumptions of competitive fencing. And it was at least the tendency in point fighting.

Most of my experience was in weapons-based systems. Primarily Filipino martial arts (eskrima, kali, arnis, etc.). In our mixed weapon matches, we often did spear versus knife. Now, the spear is a great battlefield equalizer. If you're facing a wall of them and you have a shorter weapon, that's a real problem. But in one-on-one, if you're able to evade long enough and advance aggressively enough into closer range, the spear is suddenly at a serious disadvantage. The knife has free reign.

I used to box a bit with a guy who was significantly bigger than me. (Recall I'm 6'1", but this bloke was 6'4" and faster than anyone that size has any right to be.) My strategy was literally to think about putting my forehead on his chest and use hooks to the body and uppercuts. Initially, my impulse was to fight "out" more. But when your opponent's boxing jab is longer than your leg, that's the worst place in the world to hang about.

I'd say that the advantage is as you identified. Get inside to a range where the taller opponent's limbs are in their way and use your shorter, more mobile weapons (or techniques) to wreak havoc.

That said, someone mentioned a tunnel scenario. That's actually a case where I can see a spear being handle. It's a linear delivery system in a scenario that precludes lateral movement. In that case, I think the spear is a win. At least initially. But be ready with the shorter weapon after that because, eventually (armies aside), it will go to the person most intent on closing range and shutting down movement.

So there's my perspective, for whatever it's worth. Cheers.


Stuart
Okay, that's really interesting. Notably, for the opposite scenario, a taller person fighting someone shorter, this makes me think you'd want end the fight rapidly through a long range strike but...

Well, for some reason, judging by out-fighters in boxing, that's not an available tactic at that range. Jabs are fast, but they can only hit so hard, and speed seems to be the priority with jabs. I don't know how this translates to kick-boxing, or stuff like karate, but judging by some of the hardest kicks are, well, knee kicks, the same may apply there.

But okay, this makes my thought about shorter folk using knives to rip open tendons and the like at leg level pretty plausible in a one on one, or near such, combat. However, this does depend on movement speed, so...

Throwing in something about say, Goblins being faster than they look is a good way to pump up their threat for using say, knives and the like, when they close range.
 

Dalillama

Registered User
Validated User
Picture hobbit villages surrounded by blackberries, roses, and greenbriars growing high and wide. There's 3' high trellis tunnels running through them, wide enough for a dog-cart. Some of them go upwards, the lattice being strong enough for small folk to climb like ladders. In peacetime, these are used to gather berries, flowers, and othe useful parts. If attackers come, vulnerable folk are boosted into rhe high trellises, where bigjobs will fall, probably trailing brambles to cushion their fall. Defenders with forks hold attackers at bay while billhooks lick out to cut at vulnerable limbs. Things fall on attackers from the verticals: rocks, tangles of thorn, possibly bee or wasp hives.
 
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