The sword of sharpness is an exceptionally lethal magic weapon with the ability to slice off the limbs of its opponents.
The sword of sharpness is highly coveted, and dozens if not hundreds are wielded and hidden in dungeons across multiple worlds. Its users range from thieves to deities.
Appearance[edit | edit source]
A sword of sharpness can be found in the form of any slashing sword, such as a longsword, scimitar or greatsword. In some rare cases it has been applied to other slashing blades such as axes (sometimes called an axe of cutting), treasure chest traps and even razor blades for shaving.
It often appears as a sword with a leather hilt, its pommel and handguard decorated with curved talon-like spikes, and a unique serrated fuller. The single cutting edge of the blade is itself often serrated, though it is magic rather than design which grants the sword its supernatural sharpness.
This is not the only possible appearance of the weapon. For example, the Sword of Arak in Ravenloft is a sword of sharpness made of black mithral with an ivory hilt, while the Jade Warrior of Kara-Tur wields one crafted from bamboo. Tearulai, a sentient sword of sharpness crafted centuries ago by the elves of Myth Drannor, has a blade carved from emerald.
A short sword and knife of sharpness have been said to exist, sometimes wielded by truly superhuman or deific beings such as arch-thieves. They appear to be more common on Toril than other worlds. At least one such rare weapon was wielded by the Faerûnian halfling Calcitro Burrow, who called it a dagger of severing.
Swords of sharpness have been crafted in various sizes to fit wielders. At least one example was known to be only two inches long.
Powers[edit | edit source]
The most feared property of the sword of sharpness is to slice off the limbs of an opponent. In this regard it is similar to the vorpal sword, which chops off heads.
Many such swords have the ability, on speaking a command word, to shed light.
Drawbacks[edit | edit source]
A few rare deities are immune to the sharpness property. They include Heironeous, god of valor in the World of Greyhawk; and Ravanna, deity of rakshasas. It is also ineffective against the recipient of a stoneskin spell known to the dwarves.
Notable examples[edit | edit source]
Forseti, god of justice in the Norse pantheon, wields a unique sword of sharpness called Forseti's sword. It is of supreme magical enhancement and has the additional quality that it cannot miss a target who has spoken a lie in the past week.
Chung Kuel of the Chinese pantheon carries a sword of sharpness. An exceptionally heavt two-handed sword of sharpness is carried by Hachiman, Japanese god of war. Sumerian moon god Nanna-Sin wields a jet-black axe of sharpness.
The avatar of Tyr in the Forgotten Realms is said to carry a longsword of sharpness crafted by Mystra, while his Norse incarnation carries one which allows him to see invisible. The demon lord Graz'zt is known to own at least on sword of sharpness, and Malglubyet's axe also has the property. Ferrante, antiprophet of Heironeous, was buried with a powerful two-handed sword of sharpness.
Some swords of sharpness are given names to represent their status. Courtain, used by a paladin of Charlemagne, has the powers of a sword of sharpness, a vorpal sword, and a holy avenger. Durandan, Sword of Roland, is both a vorpal sword and a sword of sharpnesss. The Emperor's Sword acts as a sword of dancing and life stealing and sharpness, but only in the hands of a member of the imperial family. The flying scimitar of Tusmit has this property when thrown. The fragile Glorius has the sharpness property. One sword of sharpness was simply named Piercer; another Balisarda. The bizarre three-bladed sword of sharpness named Tri-Entity possesses a ridiculous number of special abilities.
The legendary sword Excalibur is a sword of sharpness of supreme enchantment. The artifact axe of the dwarvish lords has the sharpness property. A deceptively rusty sword of sharpness was also kept in the templar barracks of Heironeous.
Lemminkainen, hero of the Finnish mythos, of the wields a flaming sword of sharpness of supreme magical enchantment. The Finnish hero Vainamoinen wields an antelligent sword of sharpness, while Kullervo wields an axe of sharpness. The human Yamamoto Date wields a dragon slaying blade with the sword of sharpness ability.
In Ravenloft, the black mithral Sword of Arak is an exceptionally powerful artifact blade composed partially of shadowstuff, with many unique powers. In Al-Qadim, the soul-consuming Drinker of a Thousand Lives has this property, but only against undead or necromancers. Scorcher, a red-bladed artifact of Athas, holds this property against chaotic creatures. Shadow warriors of Birthright sometimes carry such a weapon.
Swords of sharpness are also wielded by an aquatic ogre in the lair of the red dragon Ancagaling, Lord Kuldak Maurancz of Cragmyr Keep in Faerûn, Filarion Filvendorson, the grey slaad Zdronvas, the human paladin Prince Corin, Lord Dorag of the Boneshadow,, Jasmar'n Shadewidow, Ashenford Torinbow, the king's lord Myrmeen Lhal, Puppetmaster Brenna, the legendary Melf, and Pashenden of Trithereon. One appears in the Tower of Zagig; another in Holden Manor in the small village of Three Forks.
The sword of sharpness is not always a longsword. A two-handed sword of sharpness hang in the study of the giant chief Fracto-Nimbuli, protected by a Nystul's magic aura to disguise its power. the ranger Jezz of Northwood wielded a scimitar of sharpness, Ren o' the Star of Greyhawk wielded a bastard sword of sharpness, and the Jade Warrior of Kara-Tur carried a bamboo scimitar of sharpness. Silveredge, royal weapon of Cormyr, is a bastard sword of sharpness.
An extremely rare short sword of sharpness was carried by the legendary human thief Kazerine. At least two more were known to exist in the ruins of Undermountain, one in the horde of the blue dragon Aragauthos.
The wizard Baltron possessed a magically sharp razor for shaving, enchanted with the same property as a sword of sharpness. At least one treasure chest has been guarded with a swinging blade enchanted with the sword of sharpness property, designed to slice off the lower legs of thieves.
The purple dragon is capable of focusing its energy breath weapon into a blade, which can sever limbs as a sword of sharpness; a 5th-level spell, chromatic blade, also confers this power. King Crocodile of Ravenloft has teeth which operate as a sword of sharpness; a 5th-level draconic spell, razorfangs, also confers this power. The shiere eladrin favor swords of sharpness.
The tulani eladrin, highest of the faerie lords, can conjure a blade of fiery light which severs limbs as a sword of sharpness. Solars, the highest ranking celestials, were once similarly said to wield two-handed swords of sharpness, although recently it is believed that their radiant blades are merely extremely lethal.
Publication history[edit | edit source]
Original D&D[edit | edit source]
The sword of sharpness first appeared in Greyhawk (Supplement 1) (1975), p.47. It is a holy sword with the ability to sever a limb or behead the opponent on a roll of 19 or 20, or on any attack which exceeds the required to-hit number by 4 or more. It only has this power in the hands of a paladin.
Several Finnish characters in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976) are described as wielding a sword of sharpness, without the requirement of being a paladin (which would not be maintained by D&D going forward). Vainamoinen has a knife of sharpness and sword of sharpness, "Lemmikainen" [sic] has a +5 flaming sword of sharpness, and Kullervo has an Axe of Cutting which acts as having sharpness.
AD&D 1st edition[edit | edit source]
The sword of sharpness appears in the Dungeon Masters Guide (1e) (1979), p.166. It is a +1 weapon which severs an extremity on a natural roll of 18-20 (19-21 including the +1 bonus), or 19-20 against giants, or 20 against creatures made of stone.
Page 165 asserts that all swords of sharpness have chaotic alignment. Notably, unlike its original appearance in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, the sword of sharpness is no longer a holy sword, and does not require a paladin to use it. The demilich in S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (1982) is specifically described as vulnerable to a ranger or paladin with a sword of sharpness.
Unlike most swords in this edition, it does not automatically shed light, but can do so if the wielder wills it.
AD&D 2nd edition[edit | edit source]
The sword of sharpness appears in the Dungeon Master Guide (2e) (1989), p.186 and Dungeon Master Guide (2e revised) (1995), p.246, where it is identical to its AD&D 1e version, except that it is no longer chaotic.
D&D 3rd edition[edit | edit source]
The sword of sharpness does not appear in the D&D third edition Dungeon Master's Guide, although the vorpal sword does. As a result, the Norse god Forseti now wields a vorpal sword rather than a sword of sharpness.
A sword of sharpness does appear in the free web adventure Matters of Vengeance (2003), but no game statistics for the weapon appear in that module.
D&D 4th edition[edit | edit source]
The sword of sharpness does not appear in D&D 4th edition, although the vorpal sword does. Owing to 4e's focus on game balance, even the vorpal weapon no longer possesses its decapitation ability.
D&D 5th edition[edit | edit source]
The sword of sharpness once again appears in the Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014), p.206. D&D 5th edition embraced the game's tradition more than 4th edition did, resulting in the inclusion of this popular item. However, 5th edition's focus on game balance and elimination of hitpoint-bypassing instant-kill effects reduced the deadliness of the sword of sharpness.
On a natural 20, the sword of sharpness deals an additional 14 damage. The player then rolls another d20, and if that is also a 20, it severs a limb.
The sword also deals maximized damage against objects, an effect perhaps somehow absorbed from the adamantine weapon.
References[edit | edit source]
- Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014), p.206.
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- The Ruins of Undermountain II: The Deep Levels (1994), p.39.
- Encyclopedia Magica Volume One (1994), p.366.
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- City of Splendors, Campaign Guide (1994), p.112.
- S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, Booklet 2 (1982), p.5.
- AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic (1985), p.75.
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