Slice-and-Dice Swordsmanship

"Remember, child, this is not the iron dance of Westeros we are learning, the knight's dance, hacking and hammering, no. This is the Braavos dance, the water dance, swift and sudden."
Syrio Forel, A Song of Ice and Fire

Put a sword in the hands of an RPG hero, and he will use it to hack and slash at his enemies, even if he is given a thrusting weapon.

This is not limited to swords either. Daggers, stilettos, etc. will be used to slash at opponents even though these weapons were specifically designed to thrust.

Occasionally justified in Real Life. While rapiers were specialized for thrusting, and later smallswords, were specifically thrusting weapons, slashing to draw blood or distract was a valid disabling tactic. Spear wielders, with the right spear and outside of formation fighting, had to use their weapons to swing only seldomly stabbing.

A subtrope of Improbable Use of a Weapon.


Fan Fiction
  • In Discworld fics, Assassins' Guild School teacher Emmanuelle-Marie Lapoignard les Deux-Epées frequently makes this point to her students in sword-craft, bladed weapons and stabbing technique. The type of sword you use dictates the way you use it. Typical examples of her teaching would be in the fics Fresh Pair of Eyes and La Nuit du Pere Porcher.

  • In Musa The Warrior, a spear-wielding Korean warrior is frequently seen swinging his long-bladed spear in wide arcs, especially while facing multiple opponents, and hacks off more than a few limbs and heads in the process.

Live-Action TV
  • One episode of Highlander: The Series featured Duncan lopping off a head while using a spear. It was, however, a heavy-bladed spear with a leaf-shaped blade, and the decapitation required a full 360-degree spin for momentum, with the spear being held near the base of the shaft.
    • Another had him do the decapitation with a rapier, with almost no room to build up momentum, just a quick shift of the blade, which couldn't have moved it more than six inches. One gets the impression that not only is the neck an Immortal's only truly vulnerable spot, but that their necks are also Made of Plasticine.

Professional Wrestling

Tabletop RPG
  • GURPS actually distinguishes between swinging and thrusting damage for a given strength in melee, and any given weapon may be suitable for use in one way, the other, or both. Thrusting damage tends to be lower, but more primarily thrusting weapons will do "impaling" damage, which is more effective at both penetrating certain kinds of armor and inflicting actual injury to the body underneath; in addition, some weapons (such as polearms) recover faster from a thrust than from a swing.
  • Averted by Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, which specifically classed weapons as piercing, slashing or bludgeoning. This came into effect when you faced an enemy that had Damage Reduction against a certain type of attack. Ever tried to stab a skeleton? (4th Edition has no such classification, mainly as part of its campaign to make things simpler.)
    • Much Older Than They Think; this has been part of the game since its earliest days. Monster descriptions included resistances to particular weapon types and optional rules altered the effectiveness of armor based on the type of weapon used. For example, mail was less effective against bashing and more effective against cutting weapons.
  • Fiercely averted in Role Master (and, to a smaller extent, Middle-Earth RPG, which is based on a simplified version of the RM rules), where not only does every single weapon type have its own damage table, but the tables are cross-referenced with the target's armour (20 types, from naked skin to full gothic plate). Critical hits also varied from weapon to weapon AND armour to armour. E.g. an axe striking naked flesh would likely do Slashing crits, but use it on a very heavy hauberk and it becomes a crushing weapon - unless you strike really, really hard.

Video Games
  • Characters in Neverwinter Nights 2 will happily slash away with rapiers.
    • As will they if they use the monkey grip feat to wield a spear one handed
  • Soma in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow averts this. Rapiers thrust, short swords slash, etc and both are considered different kind of damage (others including bludgeon and light). The same went for the earlier Aria of Sorrow, prequel to Dawn.
  • Charlotte from the Samurai Shodown games would often stab with her rapier, but her heavy slashes featured her swinging it..sort of. It's generally shown as slashing in a very distinct triangle pattern which is still a lethal hit if the enemy walks into the bit she drew.
  • Ryu Hayabusa in the Xbox remake of Ninja Gaiden both stabs and slashes with katanas, broadsword-styled BFSes and a staff-that-gains-pointy-bits.
  • Inverted by Fire Emblem. Any sword, in the hands of a character like Roy or Eirika, is wielded like a rapier.
    • However, once Eliwood gains his mount he begins to start slashing, despite his sprite still carrying a thin rapier.
    • Also inverted in Monshou No Nazo (FE3: Mystery of the Emblem). Marth will stab enemies when wielding his rapier, but will slash normally if given any other sword. Same with his trademark Falchion.
    • Played Straight in FE5 Thracia 776 though, sword users will eagerly slash opponents with rapiers. Even Leaf.
    • In Radiant Dawn, Halberdiers will wield their lances much like myrmidons wield swords, which makes for some strange looking critical hits. In addition, horse-mounted lance users will deliver a "whack" of their spear if doubling an opponent.
  • An egregious example is Raphael from Soul Calibur 2 and 3. Whilst his rapier is clearly fully edged, he usually swings his as if the bit on the end weren't quite as important.
    • Nevertheless he does possess a number of heinously vicious thrusting and impaling attacks in his moveset.
    • Raphael also uses his 'rapier' very much like a 'sabre' which is a primarily cutting weapon even though it can also be used for thrusts.
    • They make up for it in Soul Calibur 3, where the generic 'Lance' users are fond of swinging their oversized spears.
      • Amy, Raphael's adoptive daughter, gets a unique move set in Soul Calibur 4 to replace her generic style in the prequel. Many of her attacks actually do focus on thrusting and stabbing, though she too has quite a few "slash attacks". Her swords are fully edged though.
  • The Tales Series has been averting this for years: Tales of Phantasia introduced a system of giving each weapon a separate "slash" and "thrust" statistic. Normally, this applies only to the main lead, even if other characters use similar weapons. Tales of Destiny gave the slash and thrust stats to anyone who could use a sword, which was most of the cast. Tales of Eternia went further, giving main character Rid separate experience for slashing and thrusting as well, which partly determined when he would learn his techs. Farah in the same game had separate stats and experience for her fists and her feet, but no one else in Eternia used swords.
    • However, despite being technically averted, the attack patterns don't change, meaning that your hero will usually still be slashing about with his rapier anyway—it just won't do as much damaage as stabbing.
    • Tales of Hearts and Tales of Destiny remake use slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning as "elements", so enemies can be strong or weak against them. Basic attacks naturally have at least one of these attached, as well.
  • Persona 3 has three physical damage types: slashing, piercing, and strike damage. Mitsuru uses rapiers but the rapiers deal slash damage, not piercing damage. Somewhat subverted, though, in that most of Mitsuru's attack animations are thrusts. However, the nameless protagonist can use her weapons too, and he tends to play the trope straight.
    • the one handed sword class of weapon does include some slashing type swords, but the animations never change. Two handed swords (Dai-katanas) always slash, though.
  • Morrowind averts this by giving the weapons a Thrust, Hack and Slash damage. Halberds, for example, have almost no slash damage but a lot of thrust damage (which makes little sense, shouldn't they be equal?), while claymores have a lot of slash damage, some hack damage, and almost no thrust damage. Also, you can choose between manually pressing a certain key to select the attack type, or letting the computer do the job for you.
    • Halberds were given poor slash damage since all polearms in the game were classified as "spears".
    • Oblivion, on the other hand, only allows hacking and slashing, even with daggers. Stabbing is a power attack only available at higher skill levels, and can be done with all blade weapons regardless of type.
    • In Daggerfall thrust (upward mouse movement) is accurate but weak while hacks and chops are more powerful/less accurate the closer they get to down mouse movments. This is the same for all weapons (so you can thrust with a axe).
    • Skyrim plays this straight most of the time, but finishing moves often end with impaling someone on a sword. Sneak attacks with a dagger may also end up being back-stabs instead of slashes.
  • Homard the air pirate from La Pucelle: Tactics fights with two rapiers. These are primarily thrusting weapons, but more often than not he uses them to slash.
    • Most other Nippon Ichi games like to play this one straight. Makai Kingdom subverts this somewhat by having swords and rapiers as separate weapon classes. Swords and katanas are used for slashing, while rapiers stick primarily with thrusting attacks. Though in Disgaea, ridiculous special attacks aside, weapons were actually used properly.
  • In Shadow Hearts, Keith merrily wields a rapier, without ever stabbing anyone with it. At least his Infinity+1 Sword is an actual sword, rather than a rapier, thus justifying his attack-type somewhat...
  • Gwendolyn from Odin Sphere wields a spear, and while she DOES stab on occasion, she's mostly slashing with it.
  • This happens with the Rapiers in The Last Remnant, even if they appear to be useless as a slashing weapon.
  • Justified with Lancer in Fate/stay night. The game goes out of its way to point out that swinging a spear actually is a perfectly valid and effective technique.
    • Also averted to hell and back in general, since carefully exploiting every weapon's weaknesses is the only way relatively-normal Shirou can survive more than a femtosecond against most of his enemies. In a separate case, Saber calls Assassin a coward when the latter duels from the edge of his longer Katana's range and refuses to engage her directly; Assassin apologizes and points out Saber's heavier European broadsword with cut through his weapon effortlessly and waiting to exploit a weakness is the only way he can fight.
  • Did you notice Marth's Shield Breaker attack changed from a Slash to a Thrust between Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl? That's because his weapon is primarily a thrusting weapon. His moveset still has plenty of slashes to it, though.
  • In Avalon Code rapier is one of your weapon. You use it to slash enemies, just like any other sword.
  • Soulbringer averts this. The game uses "piercing, slashing, and bludgeoning" damage types like D&D below, with certain types doing better against certain kinds of armor; bashing works against non-human creatures like skeletons or rock beasts, slashing against unarmored enemies, piercing against humans wearing metal armor. Unlike D&D, some weapons do more than one type, depending on the attack, and attack positioning can overcome type weaknesses. Greatswords, for example, do slashing damage...but attacking the legs or bringing it down hard on the head of a helmeted foe still hurts like hell (your weapon, too).
    • Actually, some D&D weapons did more than one type of damage (Shortswords could be used to either slash or pierce for example). The attack positioning is still unique though.
  • Ragnarok Online Plays this rather straight in a few ways. Rapiers are available as a one-handed sword, yet it carries the same slashing animation that every sword uses in the game. Knights are also able to use an AoE skill called Brandish Spear, which involves swinging a spear to knock away nearby enemies (although the attack animation doesn't change).
  • Each game in the Quest for Glory series averts this trope either partially or completely. Most often, daggers are used exclusively as thrusting weapons, while swords are either used to thrust only or a mix of thrusting and slashing.
  • The earliest Final Fantasy games show all melee weapons as making over-the-shoulder slashes, rather like axes. This gets somewhat comical when Kain does it in the fourth game with spears that were clearly designed to pierce rather than cut. By the sixth game, however, spears get a special thrusting animation, and later games give each weapon and/or character a different attack animation (though they all do the same damage.)
    • In Final Fantasy XII, the characters attack with spears with a variety of stab and slash movements.
    • Averted in Final Fantasy Tactics. Rapiers (which are a different class than swords) have a unique animation, as do spears. There's no 'damage type' though.
    • Kimahri in Final Fantasy X only ever uses his spear to stab when using a jump overderive. The rest of the time he swings it pointy end first. Then again, many of Kimahri's "spears" are actually halberds or other pole arms designed for slashing as well as stabbing, so it makes a certain amount of sense.
  • Averted in Mitsumete Knight, the resident rapier user, Salishuan the Spy of Valpha-Valaharian's Eight Generals, battles with thrusting animations only.
  • City of Heroes' sword sets (Katana, Broadsword, Dual Blades) let the player customize what kind of weapon(s) their character uses. The animation stays the same no matter what weapon is chosen (katana, rapier, sai...).
  • Averted in Dwarf Fortress, where stabbing and slashing are separated by a different contact area and penetration power which both vary by the weapon. You cannot slash with a spear or pike, or thrust with a ax, you can only do a shaft bash and a flat slap respectively.
  • Completely averted with Demon's Souls. While the normal short sword-type weapons can both slash and thrust (and indeed, the unique Awesome, but Impractical Penetrator Sword has bonus damage on thrusting and has a very wide slash range due to its long blade), slash weapons like Falchion, Kilij and Uchigatana can only slash while straight swords like Rapier and Estoc can only thrust. Same goes with thrust-only spears, while weapons like Halberd primarily slash. The thrusting weapons are very efficient against armor (as it pierces) and can be used while blocking; slash weapons inflict Bleeding status effect, which is basically a weapon-induced Poison effect, with reduced healing capability thrown in.
    • Also averted with its Spiritual Successor Dark Souls. The Balder Side Sword, for example, averts this trope due to the fact that the weapon it is based on, the side sword/arming sword, is sharpened along its edges, allowing for slashing attacks as well as a piercing attack (like the in-game strong attack portrays).
    • The Estoc is a straight example, being effectively the opposite of the Side Sword (thrust with R1, slash with R2). Its in-game item description in Dark Souls mentions that the blade has been sharpened to allow for slicing.
  • Flatly averted again by Mount & Blade, where melee weapons can have a thrust or swing attack style. Some weapons are exclusively one or the other. Sabers, for instance, are limited to swings (slashes), and long spears are limited to simply thrusting. Some weapons, such as shorter spears or larger straight swords, may have both thrust and swing options, but these will usually be inferior to a dedicated swing/thrust weapon in damage or range. Notable due to the fact that the game is set in a Low Fantasy world full of factions designed to mirror real medieval powers.
    • In fact, different weapons deal different kinds of damage when they are used for slashing of thrusting: your run-of-the-mill sword will inflict cutting damage when slashed, and piercing damage whe being thrusted. A pick, however, will deal piercing damage when slashing. And a spear deals piercing when thrusting, and blunt damage when used for swinging.
  • Can be played straight in Runescape. Each weapon has several attack styles, and for a given weapon most will be either stabbing, slashing, or crushing-type attacks, each of which has a separate defense bonus provided by the target's armour that it has to penetrate. However, most weapons offer an attack style that allows the player to deal a secondary damage type (for example, crushing damage with a battleaxe instead of the usual slashing damage) in order to exploit the weaknesses of the target's defenses, at the cost of the weapon having a lower accuracy bonus with its secondary attack type. However, the trope is usually averted as people often ignore attack styles altogether in favour of simply choosing to use magic attacks against melee armour, melee attacks against ranged armour and ranged (or melee) attacks against magic "armour" for maximum armour bypass.
  • In Betrayal at Krondor, all swords can be used to slash or stab — normally, a stab is accurate, while a slash sacrifices accuracy for more power (and tires you out). However, one of the swords is a rapier, where the slash is appropriately less accurate and less damaging.
  • Subverted, inverted and played stright in Arx Fatalis, where type of melee attack depends upon your movement at the moment you start charging the attack (if you are backpedaling, you will prepare to a thrust, if strafing - a side swing, and if running forward - an overhead slam; if standing still, you make a hacking move). This, however, doesn't save you neither from slashing with the rapier-like sword nor from much more interesting things like stabbing a full-plated foe with a hammer. Or with HUGE one-handed machete thing with long side-pointed spike on its already blunt tip.
  • Because of sprite limits in the Baldur's Gate series, all characters have one stabbing motion and two-three slashing motions for one-handed weapons and an equal amount for two-handed weapons. They mix these attack animations freely without regards to weapon type, leading to such gems like doing overhead swings with spears and stilettos and stabbing motions with greatswords and quarterstaffs. There exist unofficial Game Mods that correct this.
  • Lampshaded in Epic Battle Fantasy: Matt yells at a sword using enemy using Slice-and-Dice Swordsmanship that he's holding a thrusting weapon.
  • This trope zigzags in Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors by Koei, depending on character, franchise, and sequel number. Sometimes characters will use their weapons appropriately.
    • For instance, the mystic character Nu Wa from Dynasty Warriors 3 carries a rapier (never you mind the Anachronism Stew involved). Most of her attacks involves precise thrusts. Contrarily, Huang Zhong from 4 carries a kan dao, a kind of squared-off sword with a single edged chopping blade. While he does slash people with it, he also stabs them as part of his moves. Given how the tip is clearly blunted, it's a wonder he can damage enemies that way.
    • Samurai Warriors is somewhat better about this, largely thanks to weapon design and not cloning move sets. Yukimura Sanada will thrust and slash with his spear, but as it has three blades set in a cross shape, this is forgiven. Tadakatsu Honda has a spear with no thrusting attacks, but given how it looks like this that may also be forgiven. More questionable is Nagamasa Azai. While using a lance, he does thrust with it, but many of his moves are wide, sweeping blows with the blunt length of the lance.
    • On a related note, the less said about both series' numerous Improbable Weapon Users, the better.
  • Chivalry: Medieval Warfare assigns specific damage values and attack speeds to each weapon type. Swords are generally great for slashing and stabbing, spears are best for stabbing, polearms are best for overhead slashes, et cetera. Specialized weapons like the saber deal pathetic damage outside of slashes, whereas others like the thrusting dagger are great for shanking players. However, the game allows you to attack in almost any fashion, so someone wielding a spear can swing it in a slashing motion to swipe away an obnoxious man-at-arms, though some weapons (like javelins and flails) cannot perform certain attacks.
  • Monster Hunter:
    • Averted with the Lance. It has exactly one attack that isn't a thrust, a wide sweep that is amongs its least-damaging and least-flexible moves. However, it covers a broad area and knocks smaller monsters away, meaning it remains useful.
    • Zig-zagged with the Gunlance, which adds a few heavy slams to the moveset. Emphasis is on "heavy", though; Gunlances have enough weight to make these strikes count, and they're used to set up highly-damaging shots.
    • Inverted with the Great Sword. Their sheer size makes for an effective shield, but they're not designed for this and doing so quickly dulls the edge. Likewise, the Charge Blade's shield forms the axe head in greataxe stance and so blocking will cost sharpness, but since it's designed to be used as such it decays slower than a Great Sword block.

Web Comics

Real Life

  • Some forms of unarmored fencing are based on cutting more than thrusting:
    • Kenjutsu
    • Sabre fencing
    • European Longsword
      • Note that Medieval and Renaissance swordsmanship was nowhere near as clunky and slow as is usually depicted. There was a wealth of techniques that were both well-considered and well-tested, directly comparable to their Eastern equivalents.
      • Conversely, ARMOURED longsword fencing inverts the trope...unless you are half-swording, and are using your sword's guard and hilt to bash in your enemy's armor.
    • English and Scottish Backsword
  • Several Chinese martial arts teach sweeps and overhead slashes for spears. Many of these are carried over from staff routines and the shaft of a spear can bludgeon opponents as well as a staff.
    • Likewise with European spear fighting. Though spears are primarily used for thrusting, the European schools of martial arts still included strikes with the shaft and cuts with the edge of the spearhead.
  • Played straight with sword bayonets. While they are intended for thrusting, they are extremely suitable for slashing as well, effectively turning the rifle into a halberd. Many bayonet fighting techniques include slashes.
  • The only way to kill an opponent in full rigid plate armor with a sword is to thrust at the gaps and joints — basically everywhere the plate wasn't — as plate armor was designed to deflect the blow away from the body, and a sword wasn't capable of cutting through it. A heavy enough blow may have caused blunt-force trauma, but a mace (or better yet a hammer), was by far superior at this due to distribution of mass.
    • Picks became an effective weapon for this sort of combat because they did a great job of converting the massive angular momentum of a swinging blow into a piercing thrust concentrated on a single point. Most war hammers actually featured both a flat hammer head and a sharpened pick head; the flat head could smash helmets and the pick could puncture thinner armor. One of the results from this style of either pick or mace was that even if you caused little damage to the person, you would cause heavy damage to the armor. Think it's hard to move in full plate? Try it with a few crushed-in joint plates.