When More Than a Sword or Axe Will Do

The Glaive From Krull

First of all, my wife is the one who introduced me to this movie that we own, watched once, and I still can’t remember.  One of those really corny fantasy ones that involved finding a special weapon to save the world.  That’s why I’m bringing it up now in a post about unique weapons.  In Legends of Windemere, I only have Kira and her kusari-gama and Lord Highrider with his giant maul.  Yet, there is a long tradition of bizarre weapons in fiction.  Some of them truly exist like the previous example and others are entirely made up like the glaive above.

The most important thing to consider when creating or choosing a unique weapon is how it functions.  You have categories like range, melee, blunt, edged, piercing, slashing, heavy, light, and even the materials.  Weapons don’t have to stay in one category either.  For example, take Kira Grasdon’s kusari-gama:

  • There’s a little range due to the length of the change, but it is predominantly a melee weapon.
  • One end is a club that gives her a blunt attack.
  • The weapon is fairly light in weight and designed for speed, which makes it built more for speed.
  • The chain can wrap around her around to give her a defensive shift.
  • The sickle side can be swung at various lengths for lashing.

That’s a lot in one weapon, but that’s what happens when you work with something beyond the basics.  Yet, even a sword can have more than piercing/slashing if you remember that the flat side or hilt can be used for a blunt attack.  As you can imagine, this also means the character needs to be trained unless you attempt a prodigy, which increases the chance of criticism.  People don’t always like a character that is a natural at something, especially when it turns out to be an odd weapon.  Something beyond the standard swords, axes, and spears are hard to wrap one’s head around in terms of simplicity.  This is why you would also need to consider the tactics that stem from using such a weapon.  Although, one way around this is to go for a minimalist action method instead of describing more than stab, block, and hit.

No matter what, this requires a lot of research and thinking on the part of the author.  For many warriors, the weapon is what determines everything else.  Their armor needs to give them enough movement and flexibility to wield their weapon effectively.  Strategies require an understanding of strengths and weaknesses.  A great way to understand this is by comparing Luke Callindor with his sabers to Timoran Wrath with his great axe.  Both have minimal or no armor because one works with speed and the other requires a greater range of motion than he would get with platemail.  So, even their similarity stems from a crucial difference.  Luke will dart around a battlefield looking for openings while Timoran is more inclined to use his strength for a frontal assault.  These changes are fairly normal weapons too, so you can easily see how something more complicated would force various changes.

There are two ways to do research here and it really depends on the type of unique weapon that you choose:

  1. If it’s a weapon that actually exists then you can easily find resources such as videos and written explanations.  I’ve found that YouTube is a greater tool here because seeing it gives a better idea than reading about it.
  2. If this is a weapon that doesn’t really exist then you need to sit back and imagine how it would work.  One method is pretending to fight in slow motion against imaginary opponents to get a ‘feel’ for the weapon.  You might also be able to find a real world equivalent by considering those previously mentioned categories.  As nice as it is to be free with this, there is a higher risk of confusing the reader since they need you to explain the weapon more than if it was something they were familiar with.

Personally, I like the traditional weapons and the more unique real world ones.  Yet, there are times I like making alterations and designing something special.  The best example now is in War of Nytefall where Clyde occasionally uses a serrated sword connected to a gauntlet that fuses to his flesh.  It also vibrates quickly to give a ‘chainsaw’ effect.  I still haven’t settled on the full name of it. Right now, it’s being called a Gauntlet Sword and it really only works for someone like him.  Kind of like a slashing and piercing weapon that is used almost like a fist at times.

So, what are some of the oddest weapons that you’ve seen in fiction?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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27 Responses to When More Than a Sword or Axe Will Do

  1. I liked the little girl in Kill Bill who had this ball on a chain thing that was completely absurd. Personally, I prefer the 10 gauge shotgun.

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  2. L. Marie says:

    Another great post. Very practical. I can’t help thinking of the Bourne movies, where he used whatever was handy as weapons: a rolled up magazine or a pen. But I guess those wouldn’t be considered very unusual. But they go along with your point about training. A well-trained soldier can harm you with anything.

    Or an angry woman can. Ages ago, Al Green was seriously burned when a woman poured hot grits on him (https://www.biography.com/people/al-green-37614).

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    • Can’t beat Jackie Chan for makeshift weapons in the heat of the moment. I wouldn’t really put them in the category since it isn’t like they’re carried around or show up very often. They’d be their own category of ‘landscape/surroundings weaponry’ or something.

      I’ve never had hot grits, but I can imagine that pain.

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  3. The Klingon Bat’leth ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat%27leth ) and the Vulcan Lirpa ( http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Lirpa ) seemed pretty cool, although I’d have thought the Bat’leth impractical, if not impossible, to use effectively, Charles 😎

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  4. M.L.S.Weech says:

    Krul is honestly my favorite movie of all time. I saw it when I was maybe 8. Just really stole my imagination.

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  5. Don’t video games and anime come up with the most ridiculous weapons? I’m playing Dragon Age right now, and my character is running around with a giant hammer like Harley Quinn. It makes me smile. And then there are the anime with giant swords equal to the size of the person who allegedly wields them.

    I guess it’s kind of like the “magic armor” they always put on women characters, where the belly or upper chest are exposed. No way this would ever function as armor, but people like it for the look.

    Seriously, though. I think that weapons and armor can be another factor that really distinguishes cultural origins, whether you’re running a game or writing a sprawling epic fantasy. They do bring great flavor and unique character to a story.

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    • There are actually giant weapons in reality too, but fiction does take them to an extreme. There were swords designed to take out riders and horses in one shot too, but they were designed with length more than width.

      I got curious and looked up female armor for information. Interesting thing is that there are practically no pictures/paintings of them from the medieval era. Most commonly, they were described as either Amazons, wearing masculine armor, or using chainmail instead of platemail. Armor in general tends to be done incorrectly. Characters get into platemail too easily and can still move with grace when they should be weighed down.

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      • As I understand it, men who had trained all their lives could actually run, jump and get on horses without difficulty, while wearing armor. And a well made suit would not make noise, either.

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      • I’ve heard that chainmail and platemail do make some noise. Either a jingle of rings or a slight clunk. With mobility, I watched a few videos showing people in platemail moving around. The fact that it’s in pieces and the joints are open helps with all of that, but it does look like they don’t have the same range and speed as lighter armors. Makes some sense since it also said most armors weigh 110 pounds. Even with training, there’s bound to be some sacrifice.

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