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Many video games and movies set in a medieval-like fantasy setting feature implausibly huge weapons, which would be completely impractical in real combat.

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Sometimes people defend the realism of such huge weapons by stating that the characters wielding them have superhuman strength. However, when real physics come into play, having superhuman strength still doesn't make these weapons practical. No matter how strong you are, swinging such a weapon would throw you off balance, unless you were bolted to the floor or you were so heavy that you would sink into the ground. Also, swords were very quick and nimble weapons, there is not much use in a sword which you can swing exactly once before needing to regain your balance (or get up again after you fell because of the inertia throwing you off your feet).

This led me to the following question: what would be the ideal melee weapon for someone with superhuman strength in an otherwise realistic medieval to early modern setting? Let's assume our hero is 5 to 10 times stronger than an athletic human, with no other superhuman qualities (except those required by this increase of strength to not break his bones or rip his joints apart)

It seems he would be much better off with a standard-issue sword, mace, or other historical weapon than with a huge and super-heavy contraption. As swords were used to cut or thrust (and not to chop, as mistakenly depicted in movies where knights hack slooowly at each other), where superhuman strength would not bring many additional benefits compared to an already athletic normal human, I would guess a common regular-sized mace or war hammer would be the best choice to make use of his strength.

Could there be a better choice than that? Given enough money and the best smiths he can find, could one design a weapon which would be better suited to utilize his strength, than a regular, standard-issue hand weapon?

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    $\begingroup$ Many years ago, Brandon Sanderson looked at these unrealistically huge fantasy artwork weapons and asked the question: "what kind of conditions would make weapons like this practical and necessary?" The answer he developed from taking this seemingly-ridiculous premise completely seriously is The Stormlight Archive, one of the masterpieces of contemporary fantasy. If you can stand to read very large novels, I'd recommend picking up the first book, The Way of Kings, to anyone. $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Aug 7 '15 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ Does he have access to super or magically strong materials as well, or is his weapon limited to modern technology? $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Aug 7 '15 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ @TimB : "very heavy very blunt swords" - where did you get this idea from? Would you care to post any references to your claim? There were no such things as very heavy very blunt swords, even the largest and heaviest swords were lighter than 4 kg, most of them even below 2 kg, and they were sharp. Indeed, against full-plate armor, piercing weapons were more practical than swords, but swords were also used. Look up half-swording for examples. Fencing manuals depict various tactics for swords against plate armor, none of which involve hacking motions with dull swords. $\endgroup$ – vsz Aug 7 '15 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ Ok, blunt was the wrong choice of words. The swords were not blunt (at least not until the hacking started) but their sharpness was irrelevant in a fight against a fully armoured foe. This page (thearma.org/essays/2HGS.html#.VcUwIPlVhBc) lists a lot of information on 2H swords and you are right that most are around 2 to 4kg, which is pretty heavy for a sword. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Aug 7 '15 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ #18 only claims that cutting was ineffective against armor, which I never contested. However, the rest of that link actually disproves your claims of heavy, slow and clumsy hacking. Against armor, if you only had a sword, you would either thrust, hit with the crossguard/pommel, or wrestle. No hacking at each other with "very heavy swords". $\endgroup$ – vsz Aug 7 '15 at 22:45

14 Answers 14

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Make him an Ace by giving him a Mace.

You're right that the mace would be the most effective in terms of standard weaponry.

Since you didn't give him super speed to go with his super strength, a mace is the best weapon. The mace is just a big hunk of metal. It won't break, and its primary use was to bash through armor and weaponry - which is exactly what you want to use brute force for.

By giving him a mace, he gains the ability to bash through enemy fortifications, weapons, and armor more effectively than any other soldier - all without the fear of needing to replace his weapon.

If you give him a sword, and he misses a target and strikes a shield or a structure, it's possible for his sword to break.

If you give him a spear, that's wasted on thrusting into a point (which is very effective, don't get me wrong here), but has limited usage compared to the mace.

Give him a staff? The good thing about a staff is that it's great against unarmored opponents. It has fast moving ends, and is versatile for blocking. However, if the opponent is wearing armor, the staff is unable to impart enough force to be effective, because the staff strikes using a larger area than most weapons. We cannot assume that the opponent isn't fast enough to get close to the staff user - staff users typically suffer when it comes to close range combat, because of an inability to generate speed. The staff becomes detrimental to the users movements as his hands get locked up. Because this person isn't faster than normal, only stronger than normal, something like a staff, which doesn't guarantee damage through hits, isn't ideal. Also, a staff requires two hands to use properly - leaving him open to arrows.

A shield + a mace would be ideal to provide some cover from arrows.

Is range an issue? Wrong - enemy shoots arrows? Use the shield. Enemy swings an axe or a guan dao, or even a polearm at you? No problem. Just bash the weapon with your mace, and watch it break or bend. Proceed to step forwards and destroy.

If you need to break down a gate, given enough money and the best smiths we can find, give him two maces. With super strength, he may be able to wield both maces at the same time, especially since maces don't require the same finesse and control as other weapons - all you do is crush, and it doesn't matter which hand you use to swing that big metal chunk.

Alternative option, for dueling instead of war: Gauntlets

If you give him properly (or specially) designed gauntlets for both hands, his super strength (Which I assume translates into super grip by default) would allow him to catch the enemies weapon(s) and rip it away from them. After that, raw power behind those gauntlets would allow him to decimate any enemy duelist, given that you properly train your guy for CQC.

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    $\begingroup$ The problem is still that super strength does not mean more mass, so even a mace would have the problem of swords where the center of gravity would move to the end of the mace when swung with super strength. Gauntlets is the only answer. $\endgroup$ – Frank Cedeno Aug 7 '15 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ @FrankCedeno There's no problem with using maces even without super strength - why is it a problem now? Maces aren't meant to be swung at the same enemy twice. You use it once, and it plows through whatever defenses they have, maiming them in the process. As long as he has enough strength, his mace usage could be as fluid as a sword (an upside), and he would be able to change its direction even mid strike due to that strength increase. There is literally no downside for him. $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 7 '15 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ I could be wrong but imagine a normal person swinging any levered weapon (any weapon that extends the reach), you will see that they naturally lean a bit back because the center of gravity moves towards the force of the swing. Not much but enough so that the center is over the toes of your front foot. With super strength, and same mass, the center will move past the toes easily or you can compensate by using less force but then why have super strength. $\endgroup$ – Frank Cedeno Aug 7 '15 at 20:35
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    $\begingroup$ @FrankCedeno As a martial artist, I can tell you that you're most certainly wrong. What you're describing is what happens during the hammer throw in the olympics. When swinging a weapon, you often lean into the blow in order to provide more force and to close the distance. Typically, with maces, you don't rely on actually trying to stop the swing yourself - you rely on hitting your target in order to stop your mace. $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 7 '15 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Aify I see your point, but my point is that forces are far more potent when focused on a point. People chop wood with an axe, not a club. If you use two maces, maybe you'll get the whole gate down at once, but if it's a big thing I bet one mace has a better chance of breaking through. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Aug 7 '15 at 21:11
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A heavy spiked shield used as a battering ram. The shield could be as tall as the warrior, providing full-body defensive coverage, constructed from depleted uranium, and the sheer mass of it wouldn't matter because the warrior's super-human strength would enable him to hoist it anyway. Our superhuman warrior would also have the leg strength to be able to change directions at will, so there would be absolutely no way the enemy could escape being battered and crushed. Picture a modern-day freight train smashing a car at a crossroads, where instead of a cattle guard the train has nasty spikes mounted in front and is running cross-country directly at you.

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  • $\begingroup$ Fun! Really, the imagery at the end makes this a neat answer. If their weight was the same as a normal warrior would they need some kind of counterweight to keep the shield from making them unbalanced? If it was held over their center of mass they might be able to move, but shields work best when held in front of their user. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Aug 8 '15 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ With enough forwards acceleration the warrior would be able to maintain dynamic balance despite his center of gravity being shifted forwards. The other solution would be to add counterweights on cantilevers, or simply extend the shield to wrap all the way behind the warrior. Then he becomes a literal tank. $\endgroup$ – glyphin Aug 9 '15 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ +1 Because this puts the superstrength to good use and shores up their defense. $\endgroup$ – ApproachingDarknessFish Jun 7 '16 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ Tower Shield Captain America - UNSTOPPABLE $\endgroup$ – Ethan The Brave Aug 26 '16 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ I think Spikes are a bad idea. If there is something (or someone) stuck on the spikes, the shield becomes so imbalanced, I don't know if it's even useful anymore. It's a great fear factor though $\endgroup$ – Doomed Mind Sep 1 '16 at 15:32
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Since this warrior is long on offense but short on defense, it seems wiser to focus on shoring up his or her defense. Since shields seem to be off the table here, I would equip this warrior with a stout steel staff.

The problem with blades is that they'll get dull and break, or maybe get stuck in the carcass of an enemy, problems that will likely be even worse with superhuman strength behind the strike. The trouble with maces is that you need to get too close to the enemy, and if the enemy manages to hit you first, you're just as likely to go down as a far lesser combatant. Spears are good for range, but the point is likely to have the same short lifetime as a blade, so why not leave it off entirely?

A warrior with a staff can take down enemies at a longer range, thereby staying out of harm's way. The length of it means that the free end will be swinging at a high velocity, and superhuman strength will make that a very high velocity indeed. No mere mortal struck with the business end will remain standing. A super-strong wielder could even (with the proper kung-fu training) spin it around very rapidly like a propeller, perhaps using it to block incoming missile attacks or to clear enemies on all sides.

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    $\begingroup$ Super strength does not necessarily equate to faster strikes. Just because someone is "stronger" doesn't give them super speed. You also assume that the opponent isn't fast enough to get close to the staff user - staff users typically suffer when it comes to close range combat, because of an inability to generate speed. The staff becomes detrimental to the users movements as his hands get locked up. Because this person isn't faster than normal, only stronger than normal, something like a staff, which doesn't guarantee a hit, isn't ideal. $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 7 '15 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Aify The speed at which a staff can be swung is indeed largely determined by the wielder's strength. The heavier or longer the stick, the slower it is--try it yourself. A superbeing would be able to swing a superstick at the same rapid speed an ordinary fighter could swing a bamboo rod. $\endgroup$ – Doug Warren Aug 7 '15 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ What I'm trying to get at is that there's a limit to how much faster you can get swinging a stick. Weight is only one of the factors, but not the only factor affecting the use a staff. The human body can only move his hands and rotate his wrists so fast, no matter how strong he is, which puts a cap on how fast he can swing his staff no matter how much force he puts into it. $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 7 '15 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Aify Well, sure, there are limits. But the ends of the staff will be moving faster than the wielder's hands, proportional to their relative distances from the center or rotation. So a long enough staff has the potential for terrifying speed. $\endgroup$ – Doug Warren Aug 7 '15 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry everyone, I honestly never intended to start an argument about length and diameter here. : ) $\endgroup$ – Doug Warren Aug 7 '15 at 21:56
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Doomhammer Wanted

Equipping this super-strength warrior with a sufficiently large warhammer will look something like this little battle with some old guy named Sauron.

Similar to Aify, I think that large, heavy blunt trauma weapons are the best bet. The Mace is already taken so I'll suggest the Warhammer. This weapon will cause impressive concussion damage to even heavily armored foes (this could include early WW1 or WW2 tanks though that's not part of the question. Internal spalling would be devastating from the steel armor plate to a tank crew). If the hammer's strike area is too small, it may become permanently wedged into an enemies armor.

Doomhammer

Just hit them with a tree

The World of Warcraft race, the Tauren, have a giant weapon called the Tauren Totem that is basically a giant tree trunk. They are well known for being able to clear plenty of enemies with their totems. In the WoW universe, the Tauren are the only race large enough, strong enough to wield a weapon of that size and mass. Granted, a weapon like this would need to be scaled appropriate to the hands and body mass of the super-strength warrior. But the totem retains the blunt trauma requirements as well as ability to make the ground shake, an ability while not immediately useful may have powerful morale effects.

Totem

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Under these circumstances I would say that heavy armor would be the best starting point for a combat style based on super strength. One of the limiting factors on armor is how much you can carry while still being able to move effectively, and with that issue largely out of the way, the benefits of heavy armor provide a greater advantage to our super warrior than they would under normal circumstances. With enough training in unarmed combat the Warrior might not even need to use melee weapons beyond fists, feet, and other unarmed strikes augmented by heavy armor.

That said, there are many other ways that super strength could compliment specific weapon and fighting styles. Blunt weapons and chopping weapons would be made much more effective, while stabbing and slashing weapons would have some drawbacks associated with their increased effectiveness. Weapon size and weight could be increased somewhat, but the cost in balance would put an upper limit on both factors.

Dual wielding heavy two handed axes with reinforced metal handles would be my choice, but there are many options that would be just as good depending on the fighting style of the individual.

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First, off topic: His best weapon would be a recurve bow. With a strength so many times better than that of an average human, he could kill from effectively 5x the distance of a normal archer.

On topic: I agree with the statements that shield would be the way to go, but if we are stating that the strength can be translated to speed I would say something long and heavy. The kanabo, a japanese weapon mostly associated with oni, would be something that could maximize his reach, speed, and destructive output. Additionally, another good weapon for him might be a spiked chain of some sort, since his increased strength could make up for the shortcomings of distance that long range melee weapons suffer from, and could be used to deal with large groups of people.

The final truly medieval weapon I would recommend would be an axe. The size and weight of the weapon would accentuate the destructive power of the superhuman's swing, while the sharp point focuses the force, allowing for dealing with shields or armor quite effectively.

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In a world with muscle-powered weapons, our super-strong warrior would be best advised to follow one or two paths, namely Melee and Missile. In both, armour would feature heavily (pun intended). We should be considering not a single weapon, but an entire weapon system.

Armour

The best defence allows the best offence. Wearing heavy plate armour means that our fighter can act with impunity despite enemies trying to stop him. It's no good relying on an active defence to intercept weapons; he's not super-fast after all. Just wear super-thick, overlapping steel plates that no mere mortal could bash through or punch an arrow through, and that will allow you to use your strength freely. All that mass - and spiked shoes - will allow you to use your strength to impart the greatest amount of energy to your melee weapons.

Melee weapons

Since our super-strong individual wouldn't be significantly faster unarmoured with a light weapon than a regular guy, but would be just as fast wielding a heavy weapon while wearing siege-plate, there's not much point wielding something light and fragile. Neither is there any point relying on a weapon with a fine edge that will just get blunted.

Hence, it would be best to go with something like a mace or a flail with a heavy head - the flail wielded by the Witch-King/Head Nazgul in the Return of the King movie would be a good example:

Witch-King's Mace from RotK

The flail has the advantage of being able to wrap around shields for whatever they're worth, which might be of use if they're super-thick and wielded by another super-strong individual. You've got the strength to give that mass some momentum, so make the most of it. You don't need finesse against a regular opponent, just smash their defences, and then their bodies.

Sure, that's a lot of mass to get moving (and stop), and giving yourself some ballast in the form of heavy armour - and more traction in the form of spiked soles on your boots - is just what is called for to deal with the problems of inertia. You're strong enough to carry it, after all.

Missile Weapons

A bow allows you to translate your super-strength into speed. While you can't fire more arrows per minute than the next man, you can shoot heavier arrows from a more powerful bow over a greater distance. You could carry a bow as powerful as a small ballista, and punch arrows clear through a thick shield that is bristling with the arrows of lesser men, as well as the plate armour of the merely mortal man wielding it.

Drawbacks

You might not want to try this at sea. All that armour would make you sink like a stone if you went into the water. At sea, instead of armour you might want a big wooden shield like a Roman tower shield that you could drop if you found yourself in the drink, and a heavy axe could be used to cut masts, spars, rigging and men with equal facility. There's still no substitute for a bow, though.

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A hybrid weapon, a staff with a mace head at the end of it. The moment arm would make it impractical for someone with normal strength, but someone impossibly strong could use it to collapse armor at joints or to break elbows and knees on padded armor or unarmored opponents. Used as a stabbing weapon, the extra reach would allow him to put opponents off balance as they entered his weapon's radius, which would be significantly greater than most other melee weapons (with the possible exception of the halbred and pike).

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  • $\begingroup$ So basically, a lucerne hammer or lucerne mace... $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Aug 9 '15 at 6:30
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I didn't see this answer anywhere, and the accepted answer gave me the idea:

Your best weapon is your ennemy

First of all, with the strenght OP mentionned, any blunt weapon he use would be deadly, even with an armor. If he uses his fist he lose the advantage of range (that his enemies will still have on him), but this might be an advantage in specific situation like tight corridors. Mastering shield would be a good bet to approach his ennemies (and with that strenght, he can have a good one).

He would kill people by punching them in either the face or the torso (with an armor). Of course he would need a little bit of practice ( more than using a mace and swing it around I guess). So he would need to dodge ennemies, and get quick at fist-range.

Now, this doesn't really have any advantage on a mace or other weapon though. However, if he is against multiple ennemies, it does. Using martial art to catch one target quickly, and throw it against other people at full force. This might not kill everyone, but you'll get some time reduce the number of people against you and get them one by one. You can also take someone by the foot, and swing them around in a tornado, and released them like in a weight-throwing contest.

The good thing is, you won't depend on any weapon (except if you need special gauntlets) so you can keep this technique if you're ever captured or need to get multiple people at the same time.

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Whatever he wants as long as it is designed intelligently. There is no such thing as an ideal melee weapon it all depends on the skill and style of the user and the type of enemy. A mace is great against armor but a poor choice against spears or nimble enemies. Sword, mace, axe, halberd all can be made to work it depends on what the character wants and how they fight, their strength is more or less irrelevant to this.

The big problem with the above sword is that it is not much stronger than a normal sword but it is a lot heavier, the diameter of the the grip is determines how strong you can make the weapon becasue it is the weakest point you can't make it any thicker and still have the person hold it so that is the limiting factor since strength is generally determined by the cross section of the steel. so really the size of your characters hands determines how strong you can make their weapon. So you have to ask how strong your character is, Imagine they took the steel pole used to put lifting weights on and started swinging it around, if the rod is going to be a bent and twisted mess by the time they are done then nothing you give him will survive, then you just want to give them something cheap and replaceable.

Not let's consider if they are not quite that strong (the rod gets only a slightly bent after a little use) or if you have access to much stronger materials.

If they can swing a normal sword twice as fast they will do more damage than swinging a sword that is twice the mass at the same speed.

http://astronomyonline.org/Science/Images/Mathematics/KineticEnergy.gif

So basically they want their weapon to be as strong as possible not as big and heavy as possible. This applies for any melee weapon from a hammer to a sword. You real issue is making the weapon withstand the force behind the blow, not increasing the force, your character will do that no matter what they use. And the lighter the weapon the more kinetic energy they will generate. With inhuman force you could stab a sword through armor, you have to worry about the sword surviving it, but you have the same problem with a mace, the shaft will just bend under inhuman swings. So again you goal is strength of the weapon not size or mass.

This sword of clouds is not a bad design enter image description here they have reinforced an normal sword as much as they can and still have it useable, adding a second point of attachment makes the grip much stronger. Still looks a little too thick and wide for maximum force but not impossibly so. streamline this down and you get what you want. You can apply the same principle to any weapon, if you make a hammer/mace-head many times bigger but the handle is still the same size it's just going to bend and eventually fail.

So really it comes down to how your character fights, then designing the weapon around that.

But honestly if you are that strong a bow might be his best bet, a steel bow with an inhuman draw weight will do some serious damage, plus the weight of the weapon will not matter as much. Image an longbow with the power of a ballista but that can be fired as fast as a long bow. You may want to give him this and make the melee the backup weapon for when they run out of arrows. The same thing applies to a gun, imagine someone who can fire a pistol that fires 4 gauge shotgun rounds.

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Glyphin came close but I disagree.

The weapon of choice is not a spiked shield, it's two spiked shields! With his strength the spikes are a good weapon for him and since he's going to be facing a lot of battles defense is more important than offense--he has to live to fight the next battle. Thus spiked shields and heavy duty spiked armor should be his outfit of choice--he will still be a deadly opponent but he won't go down the first time he gets surrounded.

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This is actually a very simple question to answer. The answer being thus: Whatever melee weapons that exist today, but make it denser and heavier.

The explanation is quite more elaborate. Allow me:

Weapons are designed to serve a purpose. There's a specific mechanism in which weapons work and are employed. Pole weapons, for instance, are designed to keep your opponents at a distance (especially if your opponents are armed with shorter weapons like swords), and strike him at 'stand off' i.e you being able to hit him outside the range of his weapons. Pole weapons are also designed to counter people who are coming at you on horses to counter that mass/speed/height advantage.

Swords are light and agile, and are amazing at fighting unarmored people. Fighting people in plate armor with a sword then becomes very difficult and are done with 'half-swording' (holding both the hilt and the blade of the sword to better control the point and more accurately stab at the gaps of the other guy's armor - as armor is designed to defeat sword cuts and thrusts) or the 'murder stroke' which is grabbing the blade of the sword with two hands and using the hilt and crossguards as a blunt instrument/improvised mace.

Maces and morningstars are blunt weapons, and are balanced differently than a sword. With a sword, the balance is closer to the hilt, to lend it agility. With maces and the like, the balance is closer to the head, in order to maximize impact. Maces and morningstars are designed to fight people in armor as you don't necessarily have to pierce the armor to bludgeon your opponent to death.

So all of these things require strength. A stronger man (with training, of course) can wield the sword faster, with more agility and accuracy. Similarly he can hit harder with the mace or the spear. He can even throw that spear further, if you want to go Trojan War Greek style and start chucking spears at your opponents. People with super strength can also effectively use heavier swords and maces (made from much denser metal, for instance), that ordinary humans wouldn't be able to wield properly.

Note that I say 'heavier and denser', and not 'bigger'. This is because assuming the OP means that these super strong people are sized like average people (1.7-2.1 meters in height, for instance), bigger weapons are impractical to carry around and use. There's a certain limit to how big a sword can be while still being practical.

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It really depends on just how superhumanly strong this super human is. If they were as strong as say, Superman, the best melee weapon would be his own fists as any other known material would act as padding rather than a weapon compared to the forces his own body can withstand.

If our superhuman was only say, twice as strong as the strongest human, his strength won't matter much and your question instead of being "What's the best melee weapon for a super human?" just becomes "What's the best melee weapon?". And the answer to that question is just "it depends on the situation and your opponent.

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If you absolutely have to go big or go home, meaning oversized sword or mace, you do have to account for additional momentum imparted by swinging the oversized weapon which would unbalance a normal fighter. However, all is not necessarily lost. Look at some martial arts that are heavily dependent on using circular motions. Even a swinging kick imparts a lot of unbalancing force that needs to be accounted for, and some forms carry that momentum into the next strike, from the opposite arm while continuing in the direction of the initial kick. So, really big sword and really big shield with a really tough back plate and you have a super strong whirling dervish. Of course he needs room to move, so, just give him a bit of space.

For a bit more practicality, just give the guy some heavy gauntlets, or maybe a Maratha Pata (Gauntlet with a sword blade attached) and maybe some heavy armor. teach him how to box. I can imagine a horse and rider being knocked ass over teakettle by an uppercut.

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protected by Community Aug 8 '15 at 19:52

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