Simon Belmont and his whip. King Arthur and Excalibur. Doom and the BFG 9000. Samus Aran and the Power Suit. All of these are characters that can be identified by their weapons. You see them holding it or not even their whole body, but you just know who is holding it. I’m sure everyone can think of one right away even they don’t watch or read a lot of action stories.
I think the concept of a weapon or item that identifies a character has been around longer than fiction. Mythology is filled with it like Zeus’s lightning bolt and Perseus’s shield. If I mentioned the jawbone of an ass, you would think of Samson. Although, I guess it doesn’t work if you don’t know the story. So, the exposure of these objects don’t come immediately, but they do become universal among fans and as the story itself becomes more popular. This is also why you might see people use ancient weapons in newer stories. Pull out Excalibur or Gungnir and you get some attention right away. Readers will expect great things from whoever holds these famous weapons. They will even expect those characters to reveal themselves to be connected to the original owners, which is a downside to using an established signature weapon.
As a fantasy author, I think a lot about the weapons that my characters wield because it’s a core part of their existence. Even the lack of a weapon can be an identifier like with Dariana and Gregorio. One fights with her fists and the other doesn’t fight at all. Yet, most of my characters do have the signature weapon. I didn’t even realize I did this until I wrote Clyde, which I’ll admit is a bit silly. Considering I had Luke Callindor with his sabers since Beginning of a Hero, one would assume I’d already thought long and hard about this subject. A reason I didn’t is because this felt like a natural part of character creation. As I said, these weapons are a part of their core, so it was on the same level as eye and hair color.
The reason I began thinking about this is because I ran into a big problem with Clyde’s signature weapon. Originally, this was a chainsaw that had various incarnations. One was enchanted by a mage to have a fire blade and fit in his pocket. Another connected to his wrist and was powered by his blood. Then there was the regular one that he had strapped to his hip like a sword. All these were fun to think about when it came to fight scenes, but I had a problem once I moved Clyde to Windemere. That would be the existence of a chainsaw making absolutely no sense. Gnomes could have made it, but technology hadn’t come far enough along for the time period I put War of Nytefall in. The idea that anyone would make this thing for a single vampire was ridiculous too and I didn’t see the species carrying them around. For one thing, why wouldn’t you see chainsaws in other societies since a mortal would have found one at some point? Sadly, this meant things were looking bleak for the signature weapon.
The answer was one of these babies:
I forgot how I stumbled onto these weapons, but they’re swords and clubs that are edged with shark teeth. This gave me the idea of a metal sword that had teeth and I mimicked the chainsaw motion with a vibration spell. To make it more unique, I attached it to a gauntlet that has needles inside. They drink Clyde’s blood to power the magic and he wields it similar to a gauntlet dagger. Given his strength, I could make it fairly large and storage ended up by an enchanted pocket that can only hold the weapon. This is why I consider this the toughest signature weapon that I’ve had to make so far.
In comparison, Ichabod Brooks using a longbow came out of nowhere. I gave him one in his first story along with daggers, but it wasn’t going to be his main weapon until I gave him a second adventure. I noticed how often he used the longbow and it just stuck, but would have a variety of ammunition and enchantments. Too bad they can’t all be that easy.
So, what are some of your favorite signature weapons? Have you ever made one in your stories?