Everyone Loves Handaxes!

While I have rarely been a player over the last 35 years, when I do get a chance I build a character more on my aesthetic than taking a min/max approach. In fact, I typically play a Monk so I don’t have to worry about equipment, magic items or loot–a carryover from my early D&D days.

As a Warrior Monk or my second choice, a Rogue, I invariably chose hand-axes as my primary weapon. I’m not sure I’ve looked at the hand-axe attack chart in years, but again, I don’t worry about the efficacy of the table; I’m more interested in the how it fits my character role. So why are hand-axes so great?

  1. They are cheap and ubiquitous. As a functional tool, hand-axes will be found in virtually any society or setting so acquiring the weapon won’t be too difficult.
  2. They can be thrown. What is better than having a solid melee weapon that can be used for a ranged attack? 2 skill development costs but only 1 inventory item.
  3. I use my Weapon Specific Modifiers instead of Rolemaster’s general combat modifiers, so hand-axes are small with lower penalties for most actions.
  4. They are light, so you can carry more than 1-2. Very helpful when you end up throwing one at a target!
  5. They are a tool, so they can be used to chop and cut things, knock people over the head etc.
  6. Damage is respectable, about the same as a mace or other smaller 1h weapons.
  7. They can look very cool. There are tons of fantasy images of hand axes as well as real historic weapons that are have a visual impact.

For my Warrior Monk Caylis (featured on pg 62 RMU Character Law!), dual wield hand-axes were the go to weapons when MA Strikes weren’t viable.

Does anyone else choose weapons that might not be the most potent or is just an interesting character bit?

Styles types of viking axes and their history(2020 updated)

3 thoughts on “Everyone Loves Handaxes!”

  1. I too love the handaxe. And at least here in Canada, axe-throwing seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance (at least, there’s a place in town where you can go to throw them!). I am looking forward to that.

  2. Was it the “Three Muskateers” that one of the three was chastised for finding a way of simultaneously killing a foe while disarming himself?

    I too like a handaxe for the weight saving. Then again I like dwarves with warhammers but that’s much harder to keep a spare with all the weight.

  3. The first RM2 game I played in saw everyone carrying falcions because they thought they had the best attack table. I tried that for a time, but quickly reverted to what I’d always done with characters: I picked the weapon I felt best suited the way I viewed the character. I’ve had characters who carried halberds, a dwarf who took a liking to a morning star and wouldn’t use anything else, and an elf who used a rapier and main gauche because he felt it made him look sophisticated.

    I also think the dagger fits in well with the hand-axe. Throwable? Check. Common enough to escape notice? Check. Widely available? Check. Light so you can carry a ton of them? Check. It may not have the Viking appeal, but if you’re playing an urban assassin type the humble dagger is hard to beat.

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