A longsword, also written long sword, is a one-handed melee slashing weapon. It has a straight blade, and is typically around 3½ feet in length.
The longsword is a traditional weapon of knighthood and valor. Paladins most commonly wield this weapon.
In many worlds, the longsword was historically forbidden to clerics, whose orders required them to take an oath against the shedding of blood. However, it is the favored weapon of numerous deities, and clerics of those deities often consider it a point of pride to wield that weapon, especially deities of war. Deities who favor the longsword include Corellon Larethian, Cyric, Heironeous, Hades, Hathor, Heimdall, Sif, and Tyr.
Elves in particular train with the longsword. Even wizards and commoners of that race are expected to be proficient in its use.
The longsword is one of the most popular weapons in the multiverse, and a list of unique, magical, or historically important longswords would be too long to compile. However, some weapons particularly stand out.
- The vorpal sword and sword of sharpness are among the most popular and deadly blades, and are usually found as longswords
- The legendary cursed sword Tyrfing, crafted by dwarves, cuts through metal as if it were cloth
- The Norse deity Frey's gave his legendary blade, known simply as Frey's magic sword, to his shield-man Skirnir as a reward; but as a result will one day fight the fire giants bare-handed at Ragnarok
The bastard sword is a particularly long variant of the longsword, which requires training to wield effectively in one hand. The greatsword is an even longer variant, requiring two hands to wield effectively. An even longer sword, fully 18 inches longer than a typical greatsword, is known as the fullblade, and is extremely difficult for a human to wield.
The katana is a similar weapon to the longsword or bastard sword, but with a curved blade. It is popular in certain cultures.
The broadsword is roughly equivalent to the longsword in terms of efficacy and fighting style.
The mercurial longsword is a peculiar variant which contains a bulb in the hilt which is filled with quicksilver. The sword has a narrow channel inside the blade into which this quicksilver flows when the sword is swung. The result is to make the sword more difficult to wield, but more deadly on a solid hit.
The gyrspike is a longsword with a flail on the other end. The two-bladed sword is a similar double weapon, but with a longsword at both ends.
Men & Magic (1974) defines only two swords: the sword and two-handed sword. Since all weapons deal 1d6 damage, there is no difference except that in price and carry weight. The exception is if the player is using the Chainmail man-to-man melee table, in which case the two-handed sword is more deadly.
Greyhawk (Supplement 1) (1975) gives the sword a damage value of 1-8 points, or 1-12 vs larger than man-size opponents.
The Rules Cyclopedia (1991), p.66 refers to a "normal sword", "the classic weapon of fantasy", consisting of a hilt attached to a long cutting or thrusting blade. It is normally between 2½ and 3½ long. It deals 1d8 damage and costs 10 gp, like the "sword" of OD&D. It can be thrown by characters with Expert level weapon mastery.
AD&D 1st edition
The Players Handbook (1e) (1978), p.38 now defines the "long sword", around 3½ feet in length. It needs around three feet of space to use effectively. It has a speed factor of 5 and deals 1-8 damage, or 1-12 against large creatures. AD&D distinguishes the longsword from the short sword, which is a pointed cutting/thrusting weapon with a blade length between 15 and 24 inches.
AD&D 2nd edition
In the Player's Handbook (2e revised) (1995), the longsword is referred to as the "long sword". It takes 30 days and 10 sp to craft one, or 15 gp to buy. They deal 1d8 damage to small or medium sized creatures, or 1d12 to large creatures. It has a speed factor of 5, and weighs 4 lbs. Elves gain a +1 bonus when using the weapon.
D&D 3rd edition
In the Player's Handbook (3.5) (2003), the longsword (now all one word) is a one-handed martial weapon dealing 1d8 slashing damage, or 1d6 if sized for a Small creature. It has a critical threat range of 19-20 and weighs 4 lbs. Elves are proficient with the longsword regardless of character class.
D&D 4th edition
In the Player's Handbook (4e) (2008), the longsword is a one-handed military melee weapon in the heavy blade group. It deals 1d8 damage, costs 15 gp, and weighs 4 lbs. It is a versatile weapon, meaning that it deals an additional point of damage if wielded two-handed.
D&D 5th edition
In the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014), the longsword retains its traditional qualities of a one-handed martial weapon dealing 1d8 slashing damage and costing 15 gp, but now weighs only 3 lbs. It is a versatile weapon, meaning that its damage increases to 1d10 if wielded two-handed.
The exact definition of a real-world "longsword" varies considerably in historic, academic and common usage. In modern usage, it very generally refers to a category of straight-bladed sword with a straight cross-guard, wielded by warriors in medieval and late mediaeval Europe.
The Oakeshott typology, a system created to classify historic examples of mediaeval European swords, covers weapons from the late Viking era to the 1500s. A good example is the Oakeshott type XIII, a Crusades-era one-handed knightly sword with a longer grip which allows for occasional two-handed use.
In other uses, the term "longsword" refers to a weapon intended to be wielded in two hands. Dungeons & Dragons consistently uses it to refer to a sword intended to be wielded in one hand.
D&D has used various spelling to refer to this weapon, including "long sword", "long-sword", and "longsword".
The two-word usage "long sword" appears in D&D at least as far back as Swords & Spells (1976), and was thereafter used in the Players Handbook (1e) (1978). Soon after, however, the one-word spelling "longsword" appeared in Dungeon Masters Guide (1e) (1979). The one-word form was used in many AD&D sourcebooks and adventure modules, including R-1 To the Aid of Falx (1982) and N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God (1982).
The D&D third edition core rulebooks, published 2000, standardized on the one-word spelling "longsword", which was used throughout first-party D&D products in D&D 3rd, 4th and 5th edition. Despite this, a few uses of "long sword" still appeared in later works, such as the Book of Vile Darkness (3e), Web enhancement (2002), Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (2006), p.218, and D&D 4e's H1 Keep on the Shadowfell (2008).