Sometimes derisively referred to as a “Machete with a cross guard,” the Falchion is a wickedly curved blade weighted to cleave, cut, and chop.
Largely thought to originate in France during the 13th century, the Falchion was designed to be wielded on horseback or on foot. They could range from crude hewing weapons, little better than just a sharpened piece of steel, to ornate badges of office for warriors and their families.
Though that is just in the real world.
In Pathfinder, the Falchion is more codified and narrowed down.
- Damage: 1d6 (small), 2d4 (medium) Critical 18–20/x2 Type slashing
- Category: two-handed Proficiency martial
- Weapon Group: heavy blades
This sword has one curved, sharp edge like a scimitar, with the back edge unsharpened and either flat or slightly curved. Its weight is greater toward the end, making it better for chopping rather than stabbing.
Why Choose a Falchion?
First off, let’s look at that Stat line and what it offers.
2d4 damage out of the starting gate is nothing to sneer at. If you hit, your minimum rolled damage is 2 + Any Damage bonuses, while your maximum is 8 + Any Damage bonuses. Just on the rolled damage, that is enough to knock out most low-level enemies.
In addition to that, we have an often overlooked rule for two-handed weapons: “When you deal damage with a weapon that you are wielding two-handed, you add 1-1/2 times your Strength bonus (Strength penalties are not multiplied).” Combat
Now add that lovely Crit range as sprinkles on top, and you have a great start for any melee weapon wielder depending on how much you trust your dice to roll and confirm those crits.
Aeden is a Fighter wielding a Falchion His party is tangling with a mob of goblins attempting to loot a farming village. Aeden rolls and hits a goblin hard with his Falchion.
He’s rolling damage with a +3 Strength bonus, so Aeden’s player rolls 2d4+4 (Strength bonus of 3 X 1.5 rounded down). That gives Aeden a minimum damage of 6 and a maximum of 12!
The Next Round Aeden gets his next attack and this time he rolls a Crit and Confirms! What does that mean for Damage? TONS! Now instead of just the 2d4+4, Aeden is rolling 4d4+8! His minimum damage is now 12, and his max is 20! RIP that Goblin.
Keithra is a Rogue with a sneak attack ready for this foolishly unaware guard about to come around the corner. He holds up her Falchion to bring it down right on his head!
When that gormless hireling walks around the corner, she slices down and scores her sneak attack! Keithra has a +2 Strength bonus so she rolls her damage: 2d4+3+1d6 sneak attack damage! If she had rolled a crit it would be 4d4+6+1d6 Sneak Attack!
A Falchion can also be a long term investment for a character as they build to capitalize on the benefits of the weapon.
The best of which would be moving to take advantage of the increased Critical Hit Range by investing into Critical Feats, with Improved Critical and Critical Focus being stand out choices.
Also if you can make sure to pick up Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization if you are a fighter, and Power Attack for clearing out enemies you know you can hit easily.
Finally. One cannot deny how a Falchion feels just better than most other weapons. It’s more unique and singular than just an old longsword, and offers much more in making your character stand out.
If you don’t believe me, stop reading now and go watch the 13th Warrior. As of this writing it is free to watch on Youtube with ads. I’ll wait…
Falchion vs Greatsword
- Damage 1d10 (small), 2d6 (medium) Critical 19-20/x2 Type slashing
- Category two-handed Proficiency martial
- Weapon Group heavy blades
This immense two-handed sword is about 5 feet in length. A greatsword may have a dulled lower blade that can be gripped.
Classic Disney vs Modern Pixar! Angel vs Spike! Pepsi vs Coke! Right Twix vs Left Twix!
These great debates of modern history pale in comparison to the one which rages over the Falchion or the Greatsword!
It is easy to “see on the tin” where the man issues fall on this.
Look at the numbers:
- Falchion: 2d4 (medium) Critical 18–20/x2
- Greatsword: 2d6 (medium) Critical 19-20/x2
The Falchion damage range is 2-8 and the Greatsword’s Range is 2-12. Which seems to be a cut-and-dry improvement right?
That Critical Range comes in. On average, the player wielding the Falchion is going to roll more Criticals than the player wielding a Greatsword.
The math and crunch are in-depth on this one. Enough to keep the Arithromancers busy for a while.
On average it does come down to the dice rolls though. Static Damage from any other damage bonus will scale and be different with each character (provided you aren’t following the META to the letter like the old School RPGA and Pathfinder Society). It will also depend on the specific Curse that has afflicted their dice that week, but that is neither here nor there.
As characters grow and build into combat feats, magical items, and multiclasses, the math will get more and more diverse and deeper. Overall the power of either weapon is not going to fall into the raw math and more based on how the character is developed over time.
To sum up in a thesis statement, the Falchion’s damage power is going to come from its ability to hit the Critical Range reliably, while the Greatsword is more often going to peak with raw damage.
Falchion vs Scimitar
- Damage: 1d4 (small), 1d6 (medium) Critical 18–20/x2 Type slashing
- Category: one-handed Proficiency martial
- Weapon Group: heavy blades
This curved sword is shorter than a longsword and longer than a shortsword. Only the outer edge is sharp, and the back is flat, giving the blade a triangular cross-section.
From an in-universe perspective, the Falchion is to the Scimitar as a Greatsword is to a Shortsword. It is the smaller cousin who can do some of the same things but is much better off taken in its own direction.
Most of the time, a Scimitar is characterized by having a much thinner blade, and maybe a more pronounced curve. Much more suited to the draw cut or to bring down on an enemy while riding on horseback.
From a mechanical perspective, the major difference is the obvious Damage roll and the fact that it is a one-handed weapon. Unlike the Falchion, the Scimitar allows for something in the off-hand such as a Shield, a Torch, a Wand, or another weapon.
What it shares though is that sweet sweet Crit range!
Typically if a Melee class is going for a build involving a Scimitar, the decision is to go into Damage or Protection (i.e. Second Weapon or Shield Fighting; DPS or Tanking).
For shield fighting, there is a suite of Feats built for this under Shield Mastery on the SRD to customize your fighting style.
If going down the Two-Weapon fighting route, a double Scimitar wielder with the Critical Feats to take advantage of the improved crit range. That is if you can deal with the teasing about a resemblance to a certain surface Drow ranger.
Falchion vs Great Falchion
- Damage: 1d8 (small), Damage 1d12 (medium) Critical: 18-20×2
- Type: Slashing
- Category: two-handed Proficiency exotic
This heavy executioner’s sword has the same basic profile as a falchion, albeit with a much greater blade surface. Because it is an executioner’s weapon, it is often crafted as a masterwork weapon, marked with a royal seal, and created with one or more gems in the hilt.
Introduced in the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 sourcebook Sandstorm, the Great Falchion is a larger more prestigious cousin to the workhorse standard Falchion.
On the surface, it looks almost inferior to the regular Falchion, but when you look at the numbers, you can see a slight improvement in possible damage.
A Great Falchion is pushing out a damage range of 1-12 + Damage modifiers, whereas the standard Falchion is more like 2-8 + Damage Modifiers. Then you add in the same crit range the weapon already has, opening up even more damage potential.
The only limitation of this weapon is the needed Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat which could limit choices later on, as feat choice can be limited in shorter campaigns.
Also, why didn’t they just call it the Ram-dao? That’s what it is. Great Falchion just sounds weird flowing off the tongue. Which is weird for a weapon traditionally from France.
May the odds be in your favor, Pathfinder!