All right, instead of my usual schtick of giving a descriptive piece of flavor text that uses the word in context, let’s start with a quiz.
If your DM tells you that you see a bunch of hardies, are you most likely hanging out with (a) Captain Jack Sparrow or (b) Will Turner. Tricky, eh? What if I remind you that Will “Legolas” Turner worked for a blacksmith before he pulled a Threepwood and became a mighty pirate? That piece of information should be a dead giveaway. Because, while you might hang out with your hearties on the deck of a pirate ship (or any ship, for that matter), if you’re looking over a set of hardies, you’re visiting a blacksmith.
Hearties is, of course, a slang term for shipmates. More generally, it refers to comrades or friends. It comes from the word “hearty” which means: full of heart. Spirited, loyal, brave, trustworthy, friendly, and courageous. It is tough to determine when “hearty” became associated with sailors and shipmates. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation dates back to the mid 1,800s. But, in the Tempest by William Shakespeare, a character on a ship gives orders to his shipmates, who he calls his “hearts.” Given how many phrases Shakespeare coined, it is not impossible that he’s the reason you call your friends “yer hearties” on Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Meanwhile, “hardies” comes from the word hardy. Which means tough, strong, and enduring. In game terms, hardy is about constitution. Hearty is about charisma. Or wisdom. It’s kind of tough to separate the two. But you’ve probably never heard the word “hardies” unless you misspelled your pirate-themed e-mail. In fact, my spell checker absolutely hates the word “hardies.” And if you’ve never heard the word “hardies,” that’s because don’t realize that an anvil is more than just a table made of iron for hitting things on.
Sure, an anvil includes a flat surface so that you can whack pieces of orange-hot iron (because red-hot isn’t quite hot enough most of the time) with a heavy hammer without breaking or scorching your work surface. But there’s a more to it than that. Like a cutting edge, a recessed edge where you can snap off a piece of metal. And like hardy holes. Where you stick your hardies.
Hardies are shaping tools. You mount them on your anvil (sticking them in the hardy hole) so that, when you beat a piece of hot metal over them, they shape the metal. For example, you’ve got your bicks, which are rounded pieces used to give the metal a curve or bend. You’ve got your swages, which force the metal into certain shapes like squares or triangles. And you’ve got your fullers, which dig grooves into the metal.
One of the most likely bits of metal that will have a groove in it is the blade of a sword. They often have one (or more) grooves running down the middle of the blade and these grooves are called fullers after the tool that is used to dig them. There’s a lot of reasons why blades have fullers, and almost all of them are wrong. Some people say they are there to provide a channel for blood and gore to flow out of stabbing wounds. Others think they prevent the blade from getting stuck inside a person by preventing suction or something.
But those folks are grog-addled landlubbers who wouldn’t know a gaff from a handspike. The reason fullers exist is because they strengthen the blade while making it lighter in exactly the same way an I-beam provides strength but is lighter than a solid hunk of iron.
So, we’ve covered fullers, hardies, swages, bicks, anvils, hearties, and I’ve mentioned three iconic pirates from two different bits of modern pop culture. I think that’s enough for one day. It’s just a shame I couldn’t do the pirate trifecta and work this fine fella in…