Example: You are armed with a longsword. You are facing a monster with DR 5/bludgeoning. Clearly a weapon that deals slashing damage is not the best choice against such a monster. But there is hope.

In historical swordsmanship there is a technique called the Mordhau, the murder strike. It involves flipping your sword around and holding it in such a way that won't cut your fingers off when you hit someone with your pommel or crossguard, effectively turning your slashing weapon into a bludgeoning weapon. But would such an attack make your weapon an improvised weapon, and hence suffer the -4 penalty on an attack roll, or will it not suffer this penalty and allow you to attack normally?

I would prefer a RAW answer if it exists.


3 Answers 3


It would be an improvised weapon.

A special attack such as that would exist in a feat, whether it be core, supplemental, or third party (or a class feature). An example of a feat would be:

Haft Strike

Prerequisite: Two-Weapon Fighting.

Benefit: When wielding a polearm two-handed you may choose to attack with the haft of the weapon. You may only perform this attack as part of a full-attack action. This additional attack is at your highest attack bonus and deals damage like a club of the same size as the pole arm. Although the haft does not possess any of the bonuses associated with the weapon (such as flaming), it does count as magic for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction if the weapon is enchanted. When using this feat, each attack you make in that round (the extra one and the normal ones) suffers a -2 penalty. You only receive half your Strength bonus on damage rolls with this attack. This feat cannot be used with a double weapon.

Normal: The haft of a non-double weapon is considered an improvised weapon and cannot be used as part of a full-attack action.

What you have done, is essentially turned your sword into a metallic club, and would deal damage as a club of its size as an improvised weapon. You are indeed, improvising, in using your sword in such a manner. If a sword was literally designed for such an attack, it would have a pommel on the end of the blade.

DM Ruling

Speak with your DM. He may be agree to lessen the penalty by half or so depending on the role-playing aspects, weapon focus style feats, and etc. Paizo also has Improvised Weapon Feats that can remove the penalty altogether no matter what you want to use as what kind of weapon. He may allow those feats into his campaign.

Key Point

The sword was not designed for such an attack. Just because the wielder improvises, adapts, and overcomes is merely a testament to his knowledge as a martial artist. Doing the best with what you have and making more with less is the improvisational and technological mantras that helped make us who and what we are.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Depending on the design of sword (and the typically envisioned arming sword certainly qualifies on this), they were designed to strike with the hilt. It was how one was expected to fight a opponent wearing plate armor (that and half-swording). Anyone proficient in using the sword would be well aware of striking with the crossguard and pommel as well as the blade. This isn't an issue with the weapon not being designed for it, just the rules over-simplifying weapons - just like how it is somehow impossible to stab with the sword. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 21:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Half-swording is a trained technique. Not every sword style of fighting utilizes that. Backet-hilt swords, and other swords without crossguards, still utilize the basic "thrust and slash" design all swords share. There seems to be a lot of confusing of tool vs. technique going on. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruut
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 0:13

Improvised Weapons:

Sometimes objects not crafted to be weapons nonetheless see use in combat. Because such objects are not designed for this use, any creature that uses one in combat is considered to be nonproficient with it and takes a –4 penalty on attack rolls made with that object. To determine the size category and appropriate damage for an improvised weapon, compare its relative size and damage potential to the weapon list to find a reasonable match. An improvised weapon scores a threat on a natural roll of 20 and deals double damage on a critical hit. An improvised thrown weapon has a range increment of 10 feet.

This is close to what you want, but does not quite work, RAW, because longswords (and other weapons) are not "not crafted to be weapons". You could, however, do this by the RAW with an actual improvised weapon, like a Giant's letter opener, since that meets the requirements needed to be used as an improvised weapon and thus can be compared to different actual weapons when employed differently. Allowing actual weapons to be used as improvised ones seems extremely reasonable and a good way of dealing with the situation most of the time. Anyone using this method would (and should!) indeed acquire a -4 non-proficiency penalty. I would recommend the following feats if you want to avoid such penalties or make regular use of such tactics (none of these except possibly the last one are appropriate for high-op play):

[Improvised Weapons](Net Book of Feats feat)1 Lower the non-proficiency penalty of weapons. Prerequisite: Base attack bonus +2 Benefit: When you use a weapon that you are not proficient with, or an improvised weapon for which no proficiency is possible, you suffer only a -2 penalty to hit. Normal: The normal penalty in this situation is -4.

Combat Options (homebrew feat): Gain additional options in combat when wielding a weapon you are skilled in. Prerequisite: Weapon Focus Benefit: Choose two of the following. When you use a weapon you have Weapon Focus with, you may gain these benefits at your option. Invoking or ending a benefit is a free action that can only be done during your turn and only once per turn per benefit.

  • the weapon deals bludgeoning damage instead of the weapon's normal damage type(s)
  • the weapon deals piercing damage instead of the weapon's normal damage type(s)
  • the weapon deals slashing damage instead of the weapon's normal damage type(s)
  • you gain a +1 bonus to hit but take a -1 penalty to AC
  • you gain a +1 bonus to AC but take a -1 penalty to hit
  • you gain a +1 bonus to damage but take a -2 penalty to AC
  • you gain a +1 bonus on Reflex saves but take a -5 ft. penalty to speed
  • (etc as appropriate in your campaign. We basically run this like Equipment Trick, below, but with different scaling)

Special: You can take this feat multiple times (but see Improved Combat Options). Its effects stack.

Equipment Trick (Pathfinder feat) You understand how to use equipment in combat.

Prerequisite: Base attack bonus +1.

Choose: a piece of equipment, such as an anvil, boots, a cloak, a heavy blade scabbard, a rope, a shield, or a sunrod.

Benefit(s): You understand how to use the chosen item in combat. You may use any equipment tricks relating to the item if you meet the appropriate trick requirements. If the item would normally be considered an improvised weapon, you may treat it as a normal weapon or an improvised weapon, whichever is more beneficial for you.

Special: You can gain Equipment Trick multiple times. Each time you take the feat, it applies to a new type of equipment.

Of these Equipment Trick is the best by far (both in terms of optimization and in terms of fun) but requires the most work on the part of the GM as there needs to exist a body of tricks with suitable prerequisites for each chosen equipment item.


Personally speaking as a DM I would consider this to be rather straight forward.

In my eyes, a user of a long sword would know how to make a strike with the flat of the blade. In this case you are using the sword as intended, so there wouldn't be a penalty to the attack roll. I would instead apply the penalty to the damage say 1d6 as opposed to 1d8.

The damage is reduced as a way for balance, obviously the flat of the blade will not do the same damage as the edge. This would effectively act as a large chunk of metal being swung at the opponent, very much like a mace (hence the 1d6 damage)

Now if the user was trying to strike with the pommel while holding the blade, I would giving them -2 on attack but they could retain the 1d8 damage.

The reasoning behind allowing them to keep the the 1d8 damage when striking with the pommel or hilt stems from the fact that this is in fact a swing that requires little to no adjustment to how you are swinging the blade, just the way you are gripping it. Obviously the -2 on attack is based off of the fact you are holding a blade and swinging it, in a method so as not to cut yourself.


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