Pawniard is a small, bipedal Pokémon with a vaguely beetle-like appearance. It has a rounded red and black head with a silvery blade extending from the front. Its face is gray with yellow eyes. Two pairs of steel blades protrude from either side of its black torso, connected by steel ribs. It has red arms that end with knife-like blades instead of hands. It also has red legs with two white toes located on both sides of each feet.
When hunting, Pawniard immobilizes prey by repeated stabbing with its blades after clinging on to them. It then clangs its arm blades together afterwards. Any chips in Pawniard's blades would prove fatal for it; thus, Pawniard regularly sharpens its blades with its favorite sharpening stones found by rivers. Pawniard is noted to be an especially courageous fighter. In the wild, Pawniard lives in packs governed by Bisharp. The Pawniard will attack when commanded by Bisharp and will continue to do so even if they are injured. Each member of the pack trains diligently, hoping to one day take the lead. Tinkatuff is a natural predator of Pawniard.
Of all Pokémon who are the first stage in a three-stage evolutionary line, Pawniard evolves starting at the highest level, that being level 52.
Pawniard looks and acts similar to a traditional Japanese bandit—specifically a lackey or lower member—with features resembling ashigaru armor. It may also originate from samurai, due to its armor and blades; and kaijin, humanoid villains found in Japanese kaiju movies. Pawniard also has some traits of a pawn chess piece.
According to art director Ken Sugimori, Pawniard and Bisharp were created when the design team received orders for an urban Pokémon with a Dark/Steel typing, and that they are both designed to have humanoid and insectoid qualities. The insectoid elements may reference the fact that Japanese rhinoceros beetles are called 甲虫 kabutomushi in Japanese, literally "Kabuto insect", where Kabuto is a type of samurai helmet.
Pawniard may be a combination of pawn (the most basic piece in chess or a low-level operative in an organization) and poignard or poniard (a lightweight dagger). It may also involve palliard (beggar or thief).
Komatana may be a combination of 駒 koma (a piece in the board game Shogi), 細切れ komagire (small pieces), and 刀 katana (sword) or 小刀 kogatana (knife).