Mordecai

Question on fantasy weapons; What would you like to see?

17 posts in this topic

So, I hear a lot on fantasy forums and in discussions with friends that they are kind of bored with the constant use of swords throughout fantasy. This also applies to (though less so) axes, hammers, and bows. What are your suggestions for medieval weapons that are underrepresented in fantasy or are just cool that I could use in my books and short stories?

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Posted (edited)

Cast iron pans

rolling pins

garote 

poison

blow darts

sex, including things hidden inside orifices that screw up other things entering them

thumbscrews

tar and feathering (like you could very easily carry around both and just dump it on people)

In all honesty the best weapon in this era was disease, especially sexually transmitted disease.

Edited by kais
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Spears.

There are so many uses.  Lever, weapon, quarterstaff, walking stick, if you have enough you could make a tent frame, a canopy pole, a roasting spit, a fishing tool...

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As an alternative, think about different types of swords. Fantasy is full of "He drew his blade," which is incredibly generic. What if katanas are prevalent in your world? You'd have to think about specific sword practices related to katanas. How they're cleaned, made, even sheathed. Suddenly you don't have something generic. You have something which adds to your world.

Just a thought.

Also note that it's fantasy. If you find conventional weapons boring, make one up. This will probably require the liberal application of magic or advanced technology, though. There's a reason we have conventional weapons - it's because they're the ones which work.

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I dont mind Swords, but I hate when there is only ever a single Ascendant sword style or design, which historically was rarely the case.  Shardbaldes are unique enough to be interesting, and they spend time discussing how their size and spiritual damage is not always the best tactical choice (rather than being a 100% I Win button).  So I guess Idlike a fantasy setting that took advantage of the historic variety that exist with Swords (or Spears/polearm weapons, for that matter) rather than such a culturally and functionally homogeneous "blade".

 

The early mechanical ranged weapons, crossbows and various sling designs, etc, were always very interesting to me. Traps that are a combination of mechanical and magic system would be cool, but you'd probably need a hard magic system to make it worth it.  Honestly I wish we'd seen more overt Magic Guns in Mistborn Era2, though the system wasnt really flexible enough to make it work before medallions and/or ettmetal.  I DESPERATELY want a Type 4 Awakened object that has moving parts of come kind, though I would accept anything from a nerdy abacus to a proto-motorcycle with authority issues.  

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My bestie would shout "SPEARS!!!"

I personally would look into different cultures and societies over time. For instance, what were traditional Hawaiian weapons? Looking at different sources may give you inspiration for new weapons, or novel ways to spin traditional weapons. 

Don't forget animals as weapons!

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There's also always unarmed combat, or some of farming-based weaponry used to defend against swords by Okinawan peasants (nuchaku, tonfa, staff, sai, etc...). Gives it a nice twist to be fighting with weapons specifically designed to be used against swords.

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Posted (edited)

Three more practical weapons followed by three slightly cooler looking ones, followed by a rant on swords.

 

Quarterstaff

You could also call them bo staffs it you want, but the humble quarterstaff is one of the best medieval weapons around. It's incredibly easy to make - just a length of wood, really, and add some iron bands to the ends for added weight. It's got more reach than a sword does and is better at close-quarters than a sword as well. The fact that its equally dangerous at both ends, unlike a spear, means that there's greater flexibility for wielding it. They can also be wielded one handed (albeit very poorly), so a skilled fighter can go staff-and-sword if they feel like.

Bill

A halberd was a cross between an axe and a spear, arguably taking the best from both, and the bill was a cross between a halberd and a fishhook. A long haft with a hooked and curved blade at the end. It's unsuited for infantry combat, but its very good for fighting against an opponent with significant size advantage, such as a mounted opponent or a dragon. Spears are overrated compared to what other weapons can take their spot; and I'd argue for bills.

Scythes

This does show up from time to time in fantasy, traditionally in the form of impractically large scythes wielded by the smallest girl in the cast, I'm not sure why that is. That said, there's no reason why you can't arm entire mobs with scythes, contrary to the belief that it must be an impractical weapon. It's common enough to arm peasant mobs, sharp enough to kill, and the awkward attack angles from the scythe give it a significant advantage when wielded against soldiers who are trained against normal weapons like spears, swords, or lances.

Meteor Hammer

It's a length of chain with metal balls on both ends. It's kind of like a flail when it comes to offensive attack, except its a bit more flexible and because of the length of chain, its an incredibly powerful weapon. It also comes with a drawback, namely that its a two-handed weapon (it takes two hands to use properly) and it can't be used to defend at all. Not a very practical weapon, certainly, but the nice trade off of power against defense makes it appealing from a writing standpoint.

Sansetsukon

A bit further in the 'impractical but awesome looking' field then the meteor hammer is the sansetsuon,a three-section staff which are kind of like nunchaku except there are three sections instead of two. It's horribly impractical, to be sure, but in terms of flavor and appearance - it's amazing. A skilled practitioner can have the sections whirling around them using them for both offense and defense and it folds nicely to make for easy carrying. Definitely something you can give to the 'old master' character.

Swordbreaker

The perfect weapon for a subversive protagonist. While the ordinary protagonist might wield a sword, your protagonist will wield a swordbreaker, a specially made dagger that resembles a comb on a hilt. The weapon is designed to catch and lock blades with the teeth of the swordbreaker, which disarms the opponents and allows the protagonist free reign to fight the rest of the battle sword-less. Traditionally an off-hand weapon, similar to a main gauche, but there's no reason why your protagonist can't dual wield them just to show off how much they hate swords.

 

Why Swords Are Awesome

If you've read Wheel of Time, you'd know of the Aiel, who will wield every weapon but a sword, the stated reason being that the only purpose of a sword is to harm other humans - any other weapon (dagger, spear, hammer, etc.) has other purposes as well. I think that sentiment is part of why swords are such a storied component of fantasy - it represents war in a way no other weapon does, and that symbolism can be tied into other things as well. Take Link's Master Sword, for instance - the sword represent the ultimate embodiment of the fight against evil, and it just has more weight to me as a sword than if it were, say, the Master Hammer.

Swords are also versatile, not in the sense of the weapon itself (they aren't), but there are dozens upon dozens of swords, each with its own individual brand of expressiveness that you can't get with other weapons. If someone wields an axe or a spear, that's fine - but that doesn't tell us much about the character aside from a few stereotypes and most readers won't be able to discern the difference between a broad axe or a bearded axe. Swords, on the other hand, are much more expressive - readers will have a different reaction to a katana-wielding protagonist than a gladius-wielding one. Even with similar swords, they can be incredibly expressive - the zwiehander suggests a mercenary background, the greatsword suggests a noble one, and the executioner's sword suggests a far darker backstory. There's a lot of storytelling you can get from such a little blade.

It's also (generally) more difficult to forge a sword than most other weapons, making them more expensive, not to mention that there's generally a greater heritage or attacked value to it. Spear heads are easy to make, axes are slightly more difficult, but a masterfully forged sword is very much in a class of its own, making it easier for a protagonist to go through better and better weapons. There's not much room for improvement with a spear, at least in the range of normal weapons excluding magic, but there's so much room for growth with a sword.

Am I saying that protagonists should only use swords? Not really; though I wouldn't necessarily mind it. What I am saying is to not reject a sword-wielding main character just because its a sword. There's nothing wrong with using tropes. But if you feel like you don't need a sword, and an alternate weapon would serve your character better, by all means, use other weapons.

Edited by aeromancer
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21 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

 

This does show up from time to time in fantasy, traditionally in the form of impractically large scythes wielded by the smallest girl in the cast

>looks at pfp

Hmmm I wonder who it is you're referring to. 

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Posted (edited)

baspg6zg4ja21.pngSwords are fine, just use a non-generic sword once in a while

 

Edited by Honorless
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The Dragon's Fist is probably my favorite (also known as a meteor hammer but that just doesn't sound as cool), especially when flaming.

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Posted (edited)

Lighting a weapon on fire is generally more hazardous to the user than anyone else, though. Especially when the weapon in question is an unwieldy chain.

Edited by aeromancer
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Posted (edited)

Hi @Mordecai

I don't think the problem is with the use of swords--although I totally support those who have said be specific about the type of blade, which will open up more possibilities to diverge from the standard tropes and language--I think the problem is that most fight scenes are not well written. They are boring.

Switching to another weapon might help a bit, but it is not in itself the solution to writing a good fight scene. You need to give the reader something they have never read before, surprising them with a move they've never imagined or seen on a screen. Maybe our hero trips on the carpet. Maybe they're cleaning their sword and their hand it all oiled, the hilt slippery; maybe the blade breaks during the fight; the opponent manoeuvres them so they're blinded by sunlight. Maybe they're fighting knee deep in a flowing river, or in mud. Or, they're fighting in a darkened room, on a rooftop.

There are dozens and dozens of things you can do to make sword fighting interesting and novel, that's the challenge of being a writer.

Edited by Robinski
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I've always been partial to a flame-whip a la Castlevania.

 

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