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I know this question has been asked on other forums, and I have heard some explanations, but I wondered if there was a source that could be cited (not the rule itself, rather an outside source that shows the historical connection) to show the origin of scimitar as a druid weapon in Dungeons and Dragons, and if, as I suspect, the scimitar was a substitute for a curved sword thought to be used by a historical druid.

I doubt this was an intended anachronistic effort to create an interesting player class, but any source that demonstrated that would also be helpful. (Since clearly 1st century Gallic druids wouldn't be wielding 9th century middle eastern weapons.)

I also can't find any direct connection between historical druids and what would later be known as a falcata. The timing appears right; with the Iberian curved sword being seen as early as the Punic Wars and druids declining some 200 years later under Roman prohibition, but again, I haven't found any information with a druid directly linked to a falcata.

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It Isn't Based in History

You won't find the answer to this element of your question in that form:

... rather an outside source that shows the historical connection) to show the origin of scimitar as a druid weapon in Dungeons and Dragons, and if, as I suspect, the scimitar was a substitute for a curved sword thought to be used by a historical druid.

That isn't how the scimitar arrived as a standard Druid weapon.

For Dungeons and Dragons, the original source of the druid and his weapons is in Supplement 3 to Original D&D, Eldritch Wizardry. On page 2, it limits Druids to the following weapons:

Daggers, sickles, or crescent shaped swords, spears, slings, and oil.

Most of us playing druids1 turned to the only curved sword we were familiar with, a scimitar. That bit of expediency was formalized in AD&D 1st edition PHB (p. 19, Table II, Permitted Weapons) and became an established trope/feature.

The relationship between the historical sickle2 used to harvest misteltoe and a curved sword was a stylistic point. From the man himself:(note:Gary was posting as Col_Pladoh)

Quote Originally Posted by Heathansson
Hello, Colonel! Hope you're feeling better!!! Just a question that stretches back down the eons to 1e.: why do druids use scimitars? It just seems curious with the Celtic connection.

Heh, It is because the scimitar is as close a sword weapon I could come up with to match the druids' mistletoe-harvesting sickle. Cheers, Gary

Druids as a character class were originally a sub-class of Cleric. At that point in the game's evolution, Clerics generally could not use edged weapons. The scimitar was a stark example of how different a Druid was from the garden variety Cleric. The "curved sword" theme related to the sickle was carried over in Unearthed Arcana (1985) when the khopesh sword for druids was added. (Historical evidence for relationships between Druids and Ancient Egypt: a topic for another question?)

Use of the scimitar / curved sword by Druids is not supported in history, per your point in the question (this squares with the modest reading/research I have done on the topic). Many of the OD&D rules, standards, and concepts came from short stories, books, movies, mythology and lore ... often at the expense of historical accuracy.

The Druid began as an encounter/monster in Greyhawk. He led uncivilized / barbarian / berserker soldiers. This comes off as a variation on how the Romans viewed the Celtic warrior bands, put into game form. It is worth remembering how Raw and Unpolished the OD&D material is, and to a certain extent AD&D 1e. A point made by Gary Gygax regarding Druids as a game feature ...

The primary appeal of the Druid class from a creative standpoint is that the Romans were so thorough in destroying them and their religion that we know virtually nothing about either


1 Personal note: I first played a druid in D&D in 1976 who was more inspired by Getafix, the Druid from Asterix and Obelix cartoons, than by any Celtic spiritual leader/wise man in Roman and pre-Roman Britain. I learned about that later.

2 Pliny recorded the use of using golden sickles to harvest mistletoe. Book 16: The Natural History of the Forest Trees. The Druids--for that is the name they give to their magicians -- held nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and the tree that bears it, supposing always that tree to be the robur. The mistletoe ... when found, is gathered ... fifth day of the moon ... Clad in a white robe ... cuts the mistletoe with a golden sickle.

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Symbolism of the curved moon. The sickle is of course also associated with druids for the same reason (real druids pre-dating sickles by a long way - Pliny did not use the word although translations often do) but they don't make for good weapons.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide some backup for your answer? \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Nov 6 '15 at 9:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide some pointers on where to find the references in Pliny? My library's got a copy of his complete works; I'd love to read what he's got to say about druids but don't know where to start. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 6 '15 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nitsua60 Pliny Book 16: The Natural History of the Forest Trees. I found it and cited it in my reply. Try this link \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 6 '15 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nagora I have to rely on translations, it is interesting to hear that Pliny referred to ... a different tool? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 6 '15 at 15:59
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It was simply the best way to differentiate the druid from the cleric in a martial sense. There is no secret/special/thematic message other than "this is not a cleric"- these guys have swords whereas clerics only had blunt weapons (eg it's a druid instead- a subclass of cleric). I don't believe there has been any mention of any serious basis in reality. If you need some sort of origin reference take a look at The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, by Michael Tresca. This book describes the origins of the game, and the various supplements. On reading the history of the game you will notice a distinct lack of attention to history in deference to fictional settings.

As an aside druids were not specifically allowed to use "scimitar" per se originally. Instead, Druids could use "daggers, sickle or crescent-shaped swords, spears, slings, and oil" per page 2 of Eldritch Wizardry. In AD&D 1e and 2e, the PHB listed the weapons as "club, sickle, dart, spear, dagger, scimitar, sling, and staff" which reflects what gamers had been doing already for years. In 2e druids became a priest subclass like clerics, rather than a sub class of clerics. It's also where the scimitar becomes a nature weapon usable by clerics of nature deities as well (reflecting the similarity to the curved swords of the original druids).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a quote from the source to support that assertion? \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Oct 31 '15 at 6:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ As to origin, you could also contact Tim Kask, who is still alive and not hard to find on the web, and ask how he remembers it. He was the editor for Eldritch Wizardry for TSR which is where Druids were introduced as a PC/subclass of cleric. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 31 '15 at 18:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I think it's in the book as well as the online reference that have been mentioned. I'll have to look for it in the section on eldritch wizardry, I do seem recall that it has an interview with Dave Sustare (the person that invented the class originally). but the entire DND section would make it apparent. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B Nov 5 '15 at 6:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok. If you can't find a pithy quote to cite, you might consider including statements about how such-and-such sections/pages paint a clear picture that the point of the curved swords was for differentiation. Then there would at least be something supporting the answer that readers can follow up on. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '15 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JimB felt the need to add the correction in re 1e PHB as where scimitar was first published ... so I did. +1 since your summary is accurate. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 27 '18 at 13:40

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