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Whenever I play a fighter or barbarian wielding a greatsword, I imagine them wielding a sword like this:

Cloud Strife

Later I discovered that a greatsword is not that big, but it's more like a longer sword.

The image, however, is already stuck in my head. Whenever I build a melee fighter wielding a greatsword, this is what I got. As of now, I'm planning to do a solo game with more realism than fantasy.

Can a human realistically wield and attack effectively using this kind of sword?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This question seems to be more about physics than about role playing games. I am not a physicist, but I’d guess a sword this size and shape when made out of steel or comparable materials would have its center of mass too far in front of your body for you to swing it at all, let alone effectively, even if you had the massive forearms you’d need to do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Jan 22, 2020 at 10:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this doesn't really seem to be a question that requires the expertise of an RPG community. Also this, this, and this. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2020 at 10:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this question would be more suited to a network like WorldBuilding.SE. It's about being "realistic" where a lot of systems just do not care about realism. If you ask if it's coherent with human physiology, you'd be best served at WB - where this has been abundantly debated and discarded \$\endgroup\$
    – Nyakouai
    Jan 22, 2020 at 10:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Meta discussion regarding this question: Was this question closed because it was about realism/verisimiltude? \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Jan 22, 2020 at 18:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could try taking this to the Martial Arts SE, but I don't think the answer would vary from AlienAtSystem's. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 2, 2020 at 17:18

1 Answer 1

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No

The sword shown, assuming the character is 1,90 meters big, has an area of 150x30 cm². If we assume it's only 0,5 cm thick (which is far too thin to actually give it any stability. It would wobble around like a sheet of paper), we get a volume of around 2000 cm³ and thus a weight of 15 kg.

This is far beyond any kind of useful weapon weight. The heaviest known Zweihänder of history weighed 6.6 kg, and that was a personalized show-off piece for an abnormally large man. Historical greatswords rarely went above 4 kg of weight, and anything above 2 was not used like a sword, but more like a polearm, as part of pike formations.

I do HEMA fighting, and my longsword weighs about 1.5 kg, and just swinging that around during training for 1.5 hours tires me out. A weapon that weighs ten times as much is basically impossible to lift or swing for any length of time.

It's also utterly useless. The killing power of a sword comes from its point and its edge, not its weight. To be able to effectively cut and thrust, the sword has to be as light as possible while remaining capable of taking a blow from an opponent's weapon (which, should be noted, depends more on the sword's stiffness than its weight: The wielder's arms are the ones actually resisting the blow). The metal that isn't part of the edge is to some extend "dead": It has no function beyond being there because otherwise the swords gets too fragile. Which is why many swords have a so-called fuller: A groove in the middle of the blade to get it even lighter.

Even weapon types which did use the momentum of the weapon for damage, like axes and maces, did not exceed a weight of 3 kg at max, and most were in the 0.5 - 1.5 kg range, because that is basically the heaviest object a normal human can swing around for longer times without being a) utterly tired way too quickly and b) loosing complete control over the swing once it started. It should be noted that in fact, an axe of same weight as a sword will tire you out a lot quicker, because the centre of mass for the axe is considerably farther up the handle: Thus, for rotations of the weapon (which are part of basically every attack except straight thrusts), you need to accelerate that center of mass more, meaning you need more force.

Even assuming you'd have some miracle alloy which has only 5% of the weight of steel and can keep that block of metal from wobbling, this shape and size of sword would still be sub-optimal compared to giving it a ordinary sword shape.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good answer. I'd probably add that a historic 'longsword' is a 2-handed weapon and not the thing which is called longsword on most RPG weapon merchants lists... \$\endgroup\$
    – fgysin
    Jan 22, 2020 at 11:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is assuming it is made of some sort of steel, correct? \$\endgroup\$
    – Luck
    Jan 22, 2020 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Luck Correct. Density of 7700 kg per m³ \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2020 at 18:34

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