Wyverns in this world are intelligent creatures (similar to humans), capable of communicating among themselves.

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They are reptilians, cold blood, with hands capable of manipulating, and wings that, at most, let them glide.

They coevolved with humans, and have a similar diet to them. That led to several fights and wars for territory and remaining the apex predator of an area.

Wyverns are also good swimmers and a good way to go near human encampments is through water.

Given that, which kind of weapons and armors would Wyverns develop? I'm mostly interested in the weapons they'd use in a medieval age technology where gunpowder hasn't been discovered.

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    $\begingroup$ if they're already the apex predators in their region what pressures would they have to develop weapons and armor? Weapons and armor choices are largely based on what the opposition uses $\endgroup$
    – BKlassen
    Jan 17, 2019 at 17:00

6 Answers 6


I'm relying heavily on the posted image, because the answer really depends on your wyern's physical characteristics. We seem to be dealing with a bulky wyvern: strong, with a nasty-looking club for a tail and nice wide wings with clawed hands at the ends. Your spiked ridge along the spine is unfortunate for any idea of riders, but not insurmountable if you get creative. Not that I can see how these could fly at all (not with the pesky square-cube law being the bane of dragons everywhere), but you concede that they won't be doing more than gliding; I'll assume they can leap high enough to glide for at least a couple of seconds on level ground, even if they can't actively gain altitude without very favourable wind patterns and a good launching point.

Given their general build, close formation fighting would be absurdity. You won't be getting any good shield walls here: their bodies just won't be able to make a tight formation effectively (what with the wings and tail doomed to stick out everywhere, which will likely move on instinct as well as on command), never mind that they don't look like they could hold a suitably oversized shield very well. However, you do have a promising basis for individual juggernauts, or cavalry squads if they can move quickly enough (I'll assume they can, or they would make lousy hunters in nature). If the terrain is favourable, you'll also have a sound basis for hit-and-run tactics with bows or diving strikes from above.


For a juggernaut, you'd want nice solid armor. Full plate would be extremely expensive and difficult to make in a way that would be effective, so I'd suggest chain mail instead as the baseline, and plate armor only for critical points. A nice thick layer of that, and the dragon's body will be pretty close to impervious: armoring the wings with that isn't practical unless they can fold in enough to let the body armor pin them against the body (which would be problematic for other reasons), but punctures in the wings shouldn't lead to fatal blood loss. More practical would be a protective lining along the wing edges to deter blades trying to cut into them. You could add a few spikes to that lining and make the wings into very nasty sweeping weapons, but that depends on if the wings could handle the force needed to cut through potentially several humans at once (or at least to rebound with minimal damage if they hit more than they can cut through); if they can't, trying to scythe through enemies would cause horrendous damage to the wings or even rip them off entirely.

Whether or not that knife-wing idea would be viable, your probable weapon would be an axe or sword. Their wing-hands look badly arranged for effective use of a spear, and those are mostly anti-cavalry in any case (I'm assuming your wyverns are at least the match of a horse in size and strength, rendering anti-cavalry weaponry unnecessary). A sword gives you more maneuverability, and you'd last longer in a fight before tiring, but the weight of an axe-head could let you chop through multiple foes in one heavy swing if your wyverns can put enough force behind it. The tail would make an excellent bludgeon, although if you're using it you'd better keep a little distance from your allies. Add some sharp edges if you like, to make sure it can cut through things instead of just breaking bones, but that tail doesn't seem to have the maneuverability to focus on using the tip: it's a blunt instrument, so wield (and ideally armor) it accordingly.

These would be individual fighters: certainly with more than one on the field at a time, but as I pointed out earlier these wyverns won't do well in formations. They'd be vulnerable to being surrounded and dying of a thousand cuts, but a few of these would smash a shield wall to pieces by sheer force. I think it goes without saying that these guys will be lucky to glide anywhere without hitting the ground hard enough to break bones, so they will be firmly grounded.

Cavalry Squads

There are various kinds of cavalry: shock, light, lancer, and probably a dozen more that I can't recall. Covering shock cavalry here would probably get you some minor variation on the juggernauts, so let's try light cavalry instead. Chain mail is going to be too heavy to allow a high speed; it might be added to reinforce key weak points, but leather is your probable choice for armor. The knife-wings I mentioned earlier, if viable, would be an excellent idea here: cavalry wyverns won't be charging head-on into tight formations unless they have a death wish, but those would do horrific damage if they flanked a group successfully.

For weapons, you probably want a good long sword. A standard spear would be ill-advised, but lances with their reach would be useful for a devastating charge as long as you remember that they were a liability in close combat. You would either charge-retreat-charge-retreat in a cycle, or charge once and discard the lances in favor of swords for the ensuing fight in close quarters; the latter would recommend heavier armor, because at that point you basically have shock cavalry.


Little to no armor would be advisable here, since you need to maximize speed and agility. If you have lightweight silk available in great quantities to stop arrows, great, but that would be hideously expensive. Wing protection would only weigh them down, and these guys will want the option to glide away.

Bows will be your weapon of choice here. If they have the strength and training, I would advise the longbow or a similar weapon, but those were not mastered quickly: the famed English longbow often required years to build the necessary muscle strength and stamina to use it effectively, to the point where it was at one time a royal decree that all men had to train with bows regularly. Still, it would fit their stature (I'm assuming that your wyverns are at least the size of a horse), and that weapon did not gain its fame without good reason. If you doubt your wyverns would on average be capable of using the thing, crossbows have the firepower to make a good second pick; slow to reload, but if you are harassing a slower enemy that doesn't matter much.

Tactics would be straightforward: your wyverns would be using their greater speed to fire and withdraw, picking away at the enemy's strength over the course of an advance. If your wyverns can manage greater draw-weights for bows than humans, all the better: you'll have more range. If the terrain is suitable (the enemy is marching through a narrow valley, ideally, but in general anything with high hills or mountains will be useful), gliding down and firing from above would cause tremendous disruption without any real risk; bonus points if your wyverns have some equivalent to Greek fire or napalm together with a few fire arrows.

  • $\begingroup$ I can't see how they would wield conventional weapons like swords and especially bows? $\endgroup$ Jan 24, 2019 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ @DarrenRogers If we think of bat-like wings, those talons on the wings are fingers just like the wing spines are (which would require this wyvern to have more than five fingers, but that's another question). I will grant you that any sword requiring both hands on the hilt is probably not viable due to poor maneuverability, but a bow could be done with just two or three fingers to a hand if those fingers have enough strength. A lance might be doable in a charge, but using a spear or pike to counter a charge, I think, is invalidated by their stance: they wouldn't be able to brace effectively. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Jan 25, 2019 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ Yep @Palarran I recognise they have some kind of fingers but they seem ill-suited to firmly gripping a sword hilt or bow? There doesn't appear to be a thumb-like appendage, but even if there was it seems like they would still have an awkward and unnatural grip on items designed for human hands. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2019 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ @DarrenRogers True, they probably wouldn't have the same flexibility as a human hand: if nothing else, they look to have fewer fingers, so these won't be master duelists. But then, soldiers are not expected to have that level of skill. Also, it's a basic premise in the question that the talons have sufficient flexibility: notice that the OP specifies the wyverns possess "hands capable of manipulating". In the apparent absence of human-style hands and arms, those talons are the closest thing they have. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Jan 25, 2019 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ @DarrenRogers For clarification: I'm picturing this wyvern's wings as being comparable to those of a bat in terms of structure (albeit likely much tougher). It might help if you recognize that those talons are coming from what, in a human, would be the wrist: those talons are fingers, with the thumb farthest from the wing tip. The ribs of the wing, the spines that give it flexibility and control? Those are the other fingers. Having one finger plus thumb for the "hand" and the other three for managing the wing is plausible, and that's enough to wield a bow if the fingers are strong enough. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Jan 25, 2019 at 1:50

Lightweight ones.

One of the key advantages that Wyverns have over Humans is that they can fly. Another that you have states is their swimming capabilities - allowing them to approach Human settlements underwater (to counter which, humans would build pillars in the river upstream and downstream the river - forcing the wyverns to surface at those points, or break the pillar, both of which the Human guards can see from a distance)

Any heavy, bulky armour or weapons will inhibit both of these advantages, and potentially allow Humans to usurp Wyverns as the Apex Predator.

Another consideration - as Wyverns are cold-blooded, they may emphasise warmth over protection, allowing them to operate on cold nights. Fluffy jumpers, yes. Plate armour, no.

  • $\begingroup$ Relevant: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/404/… $\endgroup$
    – Bewilderer
    Jan 17, 2019 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ The Mongols wore silk shirts which would trap barbed arrows and allow them to be removed without damage. Fashionable wyverns could wear the same for the same reason without affecting their flying. $\endgroup$
    – Thorne
    Jan 18, 2019 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think weight is a defining characteristic, it would be situational the same as humans. Flyers (actually gliders, which is impacted much less by weight) and swimmers would be equipped appropriately but unless they only ever engage in guerilla tactics then frontline combat is inevitable, where heavy equipment is a considerable advantage. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2019 at 5:25
  • $\begingroup$ Looking at the wyvern in the picture, it looks to me like their natural armor is at least comparable to the plate that the man is wearing $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    Jan 19, 2019 at 3:54

Bombing Runs

The best fliers could drop those around human's troops to make it hard for the humans to move around, similarly they could drop incendiary devices or even infected animal corpses.


Their hands and body position would make it hard to use bows, but maybe something similar to crossbows could be used, with the weapon mounted on their backs with special harnesses.


Using swords or lances wouldn't be pratical because of their body shape, instead of fighting with their hands they would prefer to use their mouths and legs, probably with something similar to the Cock's spur they use in chicken fights.

In fact their ground fighting would resemble a lot the moves of a chicken.

Metal Spur used in cockfighting

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    $\begingroup$ Note that OP said they can "at most, glide" rather than use true flight, so the bombing runs may be highly situational, i.e. require nearby high ground to launch from. This probably means that Wyverns would prefer to populate areas with this kind of terrain (cliffs, etc) where they can make use of this ability. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2019 at 5:31
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the cock blade (sorry, I don't know how else to describe that :P) $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2019 at 6:45
  • $\begingroup$ In hand to hand combat, don't forget that long heavily muscled tail. $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    Jan 19, 2019 at 3:53


Blades protruding around the edges of the wings could give a wyvern essentially a massive fan of knives. Flaring the wings from folded to spread would flick with the blades at their opponent with a long reach and coverage all around the wyverns body. Something kind of like this (but with blades on): https://makeagif.com/gif/victorias-riflebird-bird-of-paradise-dance-XGjD5y . The wings whirling and flicking would also be visually confusing and difficult to follow, similar to how some kung-fu movies have female fighters swirl their dress in front of their opponents to conceal attacks. This weapon could also potentially be used in gliding attacks, slashing enemies as the wyvern glides past. But viability for something like this is dependent on how much fine control they have over their wings and how strong they are, and may require some kind of struts or something along the wing spines to give additional strength and support to the wing bones.


The tail seems like a natural weapon with huge reach. But again it depends on how strong and finely controlled it is to determine how it can be used. If it is strong enough to mount a decent sized spike on the end it could make a powerful piercing weapon for use against heavy armour, or the whole tail and end could be armoured and used like a mace (like an ankylosaurus). Also, in many traditional depictions of wyverns they have a venomous barb on their tail; this might be something that could be incorporated to provide a nice synergy with traditional lore. A poison spike is more suited to fast, light attacks rather than heavy armour penetrating ones.


See the cock fighting blades in Sasha's answer, something like that would be devastating for use if opponents get up close where it's difficult to use the wings and tail.


So I could imagine lighter wyvern troops that are armed with the wing blades and poison tails that are suited to skirmishing and ambushes, fighting other lightly armoured opponents and making use of gliding and swimming where possible.

Then heavy wyvern troops would probably use tails as their primary weapon, perhaps covering their wings with armoured plates to provide heavy protection for themselves and other troops.

Wyverns would need a fair amount of individual space to use their wings and tails like this so would probably fight in loose formations, although heavy troops with armoured wings may be able to close ranks to form a shield wall. Humans would probably want to fight them in tight formations to limit their sweeping movements and isolate them in 1 against many fights.


These wyverns you describe seem built for speed, chasing down prey using their wings as aids for running more than flying (I'm thinking something akin to prehistoric terror birds).

Scouts are likely going to be very lightly armoured (if it all) with weapons that wouldn't interfere with their speed, likely augmentations of their natural weapons like metal barbs attached to their tails and feet.

These creatures aren't built to fight in a shield wall, but they are built to break one. They don't look like they could bunch up behind a shield wall to give the necessary weight to push an enemy shield wall back or break though it. It's also likely that they are hollow boned, so light for their size.

But a couple of wyverns with rams or large spears tucked under their wings could probably do some damage running straight at a shield wall, of trying to jump over the front row of shields (humans would likely form shield turtles to try and combat this).

Armour for infantry type units would likely have armour around their chests and backs made of chain, plate, leather or whatever the individual can afford. Some may have additional protection for their wings and tails, more likely leather or cloth as to not overly restrict movement.

Their siege warfare tactics could use siege weapons where they are the payloads, being fired into the air to glide into enemy compounds.

Not being able to form an effective shield wall would put wyverns at a disadvantage when on the defense, so I envisage them concentrating on keeping attackers at a range (large spears and crossbows) and/or picking defensive positions where they could mount a good offence like large open spaces where they have the high ground.


Saddles. Stirrups. Flying cavalry.


The development of the solid saddle tree was significant; it raised the rider above the horse's back, and distributed the rider's weight on either side of the animal's spine instead of pinpointing pressure at the rider's seat bones, reducing the pressure (force per unit area) on any one part of the horse's back, thus greatly increasing the comfort of the horse and prolonging its useful life... The stirrup appeared to be in widespread use across China by 477 AD,[15] and later spread to Europe. This invention gave great support for the rider, and was essential in later warfare.

Your wyverns can fly but their hands are integral to their wings. While using their wings they will be less able or perhaps unable to do anything complicated with their hands.

But (I here assert) your wyverns are not all the same size. Maybe the females are a lot larger than the males, or maybe there are juveniles or youths who are smaller than the huge adults. A saddle will let a small wyvern ride a large wyvern. Now you have flying cavalry with intelligent mounts and that has awesome potential. A flying rider with a lance or slashing spear would be a formidable opponent against an earthbound human. A phalanx of these would be unstoppable by any human armed formations. There would be no real way for humans to combat archers gliding back and forth at 50 meters.

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    $\begingroup$ An interesting thought (if they have true flight), but at this point the wyverns are trying to fly with probably double their body weight (the wyvern itself, the smaller rider, plus equipment). Granted, we're already ignoring the square-cube law away or else they'd never get off the ground or function properly, but that's still a lot of weight. The wyverns serving as mounts are going to tire quickly: we're talking hit-and-run or guerrilla tactics, not prolonged pitched battles. Although if you work in relays with teams rotating in for tired fighters so they can rest... things get interesting. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Jan 19, 2019 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ It might be less arduous than you think. Flying adults that give parental care may be adapted for carrying their young. Bats do it. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 19, 2019 at 3:55
  • $\begingroup$ True to a point, which is why I didn't simply invalidate your idea. I was offering a probable concern, especially since you're also adding weaponry and probably some armor to the mix for both mount and rider. All else being equal, flying with more weight means you're most likely not going to be able to fly as long or as well, so it needs to be considered. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Jan 19, 2019 at 13:19

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