T. Woolley wrote a lengthy post on the poleaxe with some cool ideas for modular magic weapons down towards the bottom. T. Woolley is also noteworthy as someone with some experience with medieval weapons; something of a rarity in RPG circles!
And JB wrote this great post, to which the rest of this post addressed. I was going to post this as a comment, but it got rather long. He provides some interesting historical perspective on poleaxes in RPGs, and the absence of the polearm from Gygax's radar - I didn't realize that they were omitted from AD&D 1e (I only have the DMG)! I figured since Gygax was obsessed with polearms, they would be front and centre, so I was interested to learn he was completely ignorant of them!
My response to JB:
Glad to see the poleaxe getting some love!
While interesting for historical reasons, I would take basically everything Gygax said or wrote about weapons and armour and throw it in the trash. It's unfortunate (for a medieval weapons buff such as myself) that he's been so influential in defining the discourse on these matters since the game's beginnings, as he really didn't have the faintest idea what he was talking about.
I also wouldn't put much stock in stuff written before WWII, especially Victorian and Edwardian stuff (i.e. the sources Gygax used). Useful for descriptions of artifacts, mostly. Their interpretation is largely bunk. It is from them that we get such execrable ideas as "banded mail", whatever the hell that was supposed to be.
He's not *entirely* to blame for his ignorance, as AFAIK there were very few historical fighting manuals available in English in the seventies. I think Fiore's work was first translated in the eighties, for instance. George Silver's work would have been available to him, as it is in English (well, the kind of English Shakespeare wrote, so not the clearest to a modern audience, but totally intelligible). There were also some important historical works out, perhaps most notably European Armour, by Claude Blaire. So there's really not any good reason why he relied so heavily on that old stuff.
I would also point out that the defining feature of the poleaxe is not the axe head or the hammer head or the beak, but the langets and the fashion of attaching the implements to the head. Whereas a halberd is superficially similar, a halberd head is forged out of a single piece, with a cone that fits over the shaft to attach it.
A poleaxe, on the other hand, has each piece forged separately, and held down by langets - metal plates - that also serve to strengthen the end. This makes the poleaxe much tougher and heavier duty, and better suited to attacking armour. The tip generally lacks an edge, and is typically square in cross-section, which again, makes it much tougher than a spearhead or halberd tip.
Bec de corbin, lucern hammer, etc. are all really just poleaxes - poleaxe is definitely not reserved only for weapons with an axe head. In fact, the reference for the Bec de Corbin and Lucern Hammer wiki pages is the MyArmoury page on poleaxes!
Fiore, in his 15th century manual, uses the term