Monday, May 7, 2012

A Brief, But Hopefully Informative, Rant

Dear Artists and Art Directors:

Far be it from me to tell you your work.  I myself struggled through six hours of college level art classes before I decided my aspirations far outstripped my talent.  I've messed around enough with art and layout and the associated subjects to know that I lack all but the most rudimentary chops in that regard.

However, I do know quite a bit about the use of Renaissance weaponry, the rapier in particular.  I've been fencing in a period style for over twenty years, and while I'm no expert among my peers, I think I know more about this subject than 9/10ths of the gaming/fantasy reading public.  So please, I ask you, take the following under advisement.

This is NOT how you hold a rapier:

You see all the ironworks up there ahead of the quillons (the cross of the hilt)?  That's to protect your finger or fingers when you do this:

Or this:

You might not think moving the hand up all of an inch or so and wrapping a finger or two around the quillons would make much difference, but in terms of balance, weight management (period rapiers are fairly hefty), and accuracy, it is simply EVERYTHING.

And while we're on the subject, this:

Is not only wrong, it's actively painful after less than a minute.

So when depicting someone using a rapier, please do a few minutes' research and get the grip right.  To my eyes, there's nothing worse than looking an illustration of an alleged master swordsman and seeing him holding the sword like the lever on a slot machine.

And while we're generally on the subject, here's how you hold the dagger when fighting rapier and dagger:

You put the point out toward your opponent.  If the dagger has any sort of hand protection, it should cover the BACK of the hand.  There's a natural inclination to put it over the fingers.  They're actually pretty well protected by the blade itself and the positioning of same.  The back of the hand and the lower arm are much more vulnerable, hence the ring/shell/other blocking thingie.

Here's the same grip, viewed from the other side (palm up):

Thus endeth the ranting.


  1. Cool - that's good to know. Thanks.

    - Ark

  2. Interesting. It's pretty much the same thing with using a chef's knife. People want to wrap their whole hand around the handle but it works best when you grip the blade between the thumb and forefinger. Using the death grip gives you almost no control over where the point goes (as you are trying to control a lever from almost as far to one side as you can go), which makes it hard to do a variety of slices and cuts.

  3. Thanks! Good to know!


  4. I would not have suspected that about the correct way to hold a dagger!

  5. @Tyler: The one exception with daggers is if you're using the classic "Main Gauche," which has a triangular guard from the cross of the hilt to the pommel. In that case, the dagger is actually held with the blade more upright and the whole of the hand behind the guard. Parries with the main gauche are made in a sweeping "Wax on - Wax off!" fashion, like a windshield wiper.