New weapon/shield: Hackenschild

Combining a shield with a weapon is a recurring idea in the history of arms & armor. There’s the lantern shield, and various spiked shields. Da Vinci sketched a combination bow/shield that looks impractical but cool.

If you look at old fechtbuchs (Fechtbücher?) you’re sure to come across strange shields with hooks, blades, and spikes on them. They are usually rather large, and the wielders will either be using a small club or short sword with it, or else they will have discarded their weapon and wield the shield in both hands. These are apparently called “Hackenschilder” in German; “Hackenshild” is translated variously as a “hewing shield” or a “hooked shield.” It certainly sounds like an Oinkendeutsch word, come to think of it — a hacking shield!

Here are some examples I found relatively quickly on the web:

One might think this is purely a dueling weapon, but there is at least one image of what looks like a battlefield use of a hackenschild:

This unlikely character is is carrying a large axe too. Either weapon could be two-handed.

So, how would these work in a game?

In GURPS terms, I’d make it large shield (PD 4, -1 to attack with main weapon) that can be used as a weapon. In one hand, it should probably do about thrust+1 impaling (a little better than shortsword because of the shield’s mass but not as much as a spear or broadsword). It would require a turn to ready after being used to attack, during which time it could not be used to block, and is so unwieldy in one hand that all attacks should be at a -2. In two hands, it would do thrust+2 cutting or thrust+3 impaling, depending on whether the blades are used to rip or stab. The user would not get the -1 to hit normally afforded by a large shield, since it is the weapon. If used to impale, it may get stuck like a pick. Minimum ST to use, 12 one handed or 11 two-handed. Used two-handed, it does not require an extra turn to ready. It’s reach is 1 and it uses the Shield skill for blocking or striking in one hand; in two hands it would strike with the Staff skill and block with the Shield skill or parry at 2/3 Staff skill.

In D&D, I’d treat it as a large shield that can be used to attack for d6 in one hand (as a spiked shield) or d8 in two hands. If used in two hands, the improved maneuverability would give it an extra +1 to AC. (Newer edition rules also have “tower shields,” which at least some of these shields could be too.)

I’m thinking this thing must weigh around 20 or 25 pounds, but I have no real data to support that.  <Update due to comments: 10 to fifteen pounds probably.  I’m not convinced that you’d be able to attack effectively with it in one hand, but this is fantasy!

I can’t really picture a heroic fighter using one of these, but they’d make great weapons for minions and hirelings. I can see a chaotic wizard with a corps of ten or so thugs carrying tower-shield sized hackenschilds in Testudo formation, shielding him from arrows and attacks.

Published in: on July 14, 2010 at 11:03 am  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. 20-25 pounds… yeesh. I can’t imagine fighting with anything that heavy for any length of time. Or fighting effectively with it one handed. Then again I probably have a strength of 10 or 11.

    • Realistically I don’t think you could attack with it in one hand (apart from a shield bash with the front of it, like you would with any shield). In two hands, I think the weight would be more manageable, but still exhausting if the fight drags on or its an actual battle. I’ll have to see how much a Roman scutum weighs. That’s about the biggest a sheild can probably be without being strapped on like a Greek hoplon, I think.

    • Here’s an interesting thread on shield weights. Apparently there is quite a range. A Roman scutum could be as much as 10 kilograms (22 lbs) or as little as 10 lbs. I imagine they were made appropriate to the user’s height, which explains some of the variation.
      I’d guesstimate that if a hackenschild is made of plywoodo r similar and has metal rims/blades, 20 or 25 lbs. is possible for the wide models; maybe the more narrow ones with just one hook on the ends could be 10-15lbs.? Still pretty heavy for us weak-ass moderns.

  2. Hmm 25 lbs seems too high to me too. The weight of Shield, like weapons, are grossly over estimated. Shield much over 10 lbs were ussally not “boss” grip. Like the shield pictured above. Striking shield (buckler and such) are ussally 5-10 lbs. The When the shield is straped to the arm it can get much heavier and still managable. (like the kite shield which did weigh 15+ lbs)

    IN C&C I am making them do 1d10 damage in two hands (the same as a 2handed spear).

    • That sounds reaosnable. Let’s say 10 to 15 lbs for a hackenschild. Also, I forgot to add that there are couple of nice pics of full-armored knights fighting with these, and the blades are more obviously metal, in my

        fechtbuchs post.


  3. […] Those are some far out spiked shields. But I’ve seen this sort of thing in many, many places. Hackenschild. […]

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