The former is not such a big deal: though I can now tell you the differences between bascinets and pot helms and sallets and armets and barbutas and...well, everything from the 12th century to the 15th...mechanically they don't need much distinct modeling. It is nice to finally figure out what a "great helm" actually is after all these years.
You can blame Charles Taylor's great blog post on the subject of the poleaxe for my week-long obsession with that weapon. It's led me to videos, blog posts, medieval weapon forums, and downloading all those weapon texts Gary Gygax cites in the bibliography of his Unearthed Arcana: Armour and Weapons in the Middle Ages by Charles Henry Ashdown, Armour & Weapons by Charles Ffoulkes, A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages by Charles Oman.
[just by the way...what is it that leads people named "Charles" to put so much time and effort into the study of medieval Europe's martial arts? That's kind of weird, don't you think?]
The poleaxe (no, I am not going to call it a "pollaxe" like the entry in wikipedia...I don't care if some folks believe that it is etymologically derived from the word poll - the Oxford English dictionary has no such word as "pollaxe," but there IS a word "poleaxe." Whatever the etymology, the word is now spelled poleaxe. Deal with it)...
The poleaxe or poleax (as my blogger auto-correct keeps wanting to write) gets incredibly short shrift in AD&D which is pretty surprising given A) its importance to knightly combat and B) Gary's love of pole arms and the attention he places on their distinct differences. There is, in fact, no poleaxe in AD&D...nothing on the equipment list to buy, nothing in the extensive weapon charts detailing its length and weight and space required. Nada. The only place you find it is in the Unearthed Arcana's appendix on pole arms wherein Gygax writes:
"Strictly speaking, a pole axe is nothing more than an axe head of any sort set upon a long haft in order to deliver an earlier and more forceful blow. It can be double-bitted, backed by a spike, and/or topped off with a dagger (spear) point, but is still recognizable as an axe."It appears that Gygax considers the poleaxe to be pretty much the same thing as a "battle axe" (of the two-handed variety) even though this isn't really the case. In fact, the weight and lengths for axes in the PHB are a pretty good representation for those distinct weapons (even if the space required might be disputed). A hand axe (1.5' long) is a good representation of the one-handed axe that's good for throwing (think tomahawk) while the battle axe ("circa 4'") can represent everything up to the Danish long axe (which appears to only have exceeded this length for "ceremonial" examples). The poleaxe by definition exceeds 4' and are depicted in medieval art and combat manuals as being close to the same height as the the person wielding 'em (in other words, pretty close to 6').
|This is a very short poleaxe.|
At least, not in the English sense of the phrase. The books Gygax uses for his bibliography are pretty clear in their descriptions and illustrations. They're getting their information from the Tower of London Armouries and from private collections both within England and without. However, more recent (Gygax's books are from the early 20th century) articles found on the internet (see here and here) seem to equate "poleaxe" with long-handled war hammers. They appear to be drawing their info from non-English weapon treatises (that I can't read). And, yes, I'd agree the fighting style is the same...but the way the weapon delivers killing damage to an opponent is quite different. Neither a crow-beak nor a hammer are going to sever limbs like an actual axe will.
|So many possibilities.|
"The War-hammer and Battle-axe need but little description. They were generally used by horsemen, and their general form only varies in detail from implements in use at the present day. The Pole-axe was a weapon in great request for jousting on foot, in the 'champ clos'. The blade is much like the halbard, but at the back is a hammer-shaped projection with a roughened surface."(from Armour & Weapons by Charles Ffoulkes, 1909)
This is the weapon that knights wanted to use when they were in champ clos (combat on foot). Not sword and board. Give me the longest axe you can find; back it with a hammer, top it with a hard spike. Now that's knightly combat, folks. Dig it.
|Who says cavaliers won't use pole arms? Crap on that!|