Seems like these days, nobody can be leavin’ home without strapping at least six different varieties of blades, clubs, long sticks, pointy shards of metal, and horridly spiky abominations to themselves. You see it in touhou: Miko has a chokutō, Flandre has an iron face-smashing-stick, and Tenshi has a shapeshifting whatthefuck; You see it in Kancolle: Hyuuga, Ise, and Tenryuu all have swords, while Tatsuta has some kind of blade-on-a-stick; and you certainly see it in EoP’s original content, where it seems that every other character is lugging around some manner of sword or polearm (not too many folks seem to tote maces or axes, though. Someone should fix that.).
So yeah... we’ve got weapons.
Now me, I don’t really need a weapon. I’m basically a walking magical nuke already. When I do need a weapon, I opt for an atlatl that also happens to be a mesoamerican volcano deity, because hurling thousands of tons of burning rock at someone’s face is what I do when I feel like holding back ( :3 ). But y’all might want something with more stabby or choppy to it, so’s I’m’a ‘splain some stuff here.
Weapons: Why have ‘em?
Now, before you run off and tape all manner of “totes cool ninja swords” to all of your characters, please consider that there has to be some reason your dudes are going around armed to the figurative tooth, and also that THERE AIN’T NO SUCH THING AS A NINJA SWORD >:E
Fortunately, there’s plenty of reasons someone might want to be armed, and knowin’ what your character’s reason is will provide the first bit of clue-like as to what they’ll be toting. Most basically, weapons is for fightin’, so if you do a lot of fightin’, whether part o’ yer job or part o’ yer lifestyle, you’re probably going to be packaging metaphorical warmth. Aside from that, weapons can also be carried or owned in a more ceremonial context - lots of bigwigs might have a weapon as a sort of badge of office, and many families might have the ol’ ancestral killin’ tool up on the mantlepiece.
‘S also worth notin’ here that the reasons for totin’ also factor in to what you’d tote: Guy on the battlefield’s gonna want different stuff for different situations, and also as backups in case somethin’ gets lost or damaged, so they might have a spear, a sword, and some kind of dagger or knife; while some Largehat McImportantbloke probably can’t be attending important meetings and stuff decked out like a small armory, and so probably just has a good blade hangin’ from their belt.
I wanna weapons, but what weapons do I?
There’s both a short and long answer to this one.
Short answer: Type $country $weapon into the internet search engine of your choice and pick from the results. So if your character is from Japan, and you want to sword, type “japanese sword” into google, and there you go.
The reason we generally urge people to do this is because, by pickin’ an already existing type of weapon, you basically get to have tens of thousands of people and hundreds of years of practical study do a lot of the work for you. You don’t need to wonder if a katana is workable as a weapon, because it has already been proven as such. Since we don’t expect a solid background in martial arts as a prerequisite for RPing here (and you would probably need at least several years’ practice to even begin considering the feasability of some nonstandard weapon), it’s just easier for us to advise picking an already existing type of weapon for your character.
Now, I already hears the folks’ complainin’: “But normal weapons is too boring! I wanna speshul an cool like!” - ever seen a kpinga? What about a shotel, a bec de corbin, or a plançon a picot? And this isn’t even going into the thousand and one bizarre killing tools to have come out of east and south asia (maybe bug cxl for more information on this ;3 ).
Yes, that was the short answer. Now for the long answer, because there’s a lot to consider when it comes to what what you’re gonna be swingin’ ‘round. I’m’a break discussion on this subject down into three main points, them’s bein’: Context, Purpose, and Study.
On the subject of context, refer back to what I said about the differences between bein’ on the battlefield and bein’ some bigshot, and bein’ differently armed as a result. It goes further than this, though: You’d need different equipment if you’re gonna be fightin’ in a formation with dozens of other chaps, than if you’re some wandering mercenary, a military officer’s prob’ly gonna carry a different weapon than a civilian noble. Think about where you are, how people around you will be equippin’ themselves: Are they going to be armoured? Would it be a social clusterfuck to tote a warhammer in this situation? Do you have room to swing that guandao?
If you’re dealin’ with one of the factions in EoP’s setting, then talk to the admins and find out how things work there. If not, do some research on the geographical region in which you’ll be operatin’, how things are done over there, and fit yourself accordingly.
From here, I can segue all neat-like into my second point: Purpose. Now it may seem like a derpingly obvious question to be asking, but it’s a bit o’ in-character ponderin’, so do it anyway: Why’s you, the character, takin’ up a weapon? This also determines what you might end up usin’: If you joined some faction’s equivalent of a military, you’d probably end up wieldin’ what they wield in the same way they wield it; whereas the latest spawn of some old family’s prob’ly gonna learn the same school of fightin’ that their ancestors studied.
‘N that’s how I hit my last point: Study. No matter who you are, or where you come from, you gon’ need someone to teach you the arts o’ fightin’. If the only person in your village who can teach you happens to be a master of the urumi, well... y’all gonna be learnin’ to urumi, most likely. Put some thinkin’ into who taught you, and what they might’ve been likely to teach; if you learned from another character in the RP, then talk about this with the person who plays that character - they’d probably be able to point you in the right direction.
Basically: Do the research, ask the questions, win the points and impress your peers. Try not to lop off your own feet during training. Hurts like hell and it’s a bugger to sew them back on.
The Lioncow in the Room: But I really wanna cool and <all the reasons I want a nonstandard weapon>
Prob’ly the biggest o’ bugbears right here, seein’ as a good few of the staff here have either some personal experience with weapons, or else have an interest in the things, and we’ve all seen far too many horribly oversized or awkwardly shaped weapons that the thought sometimes makes us go crosseyed and fall over.
But today must be yer lucky day, because I’m cool with pretty much anythin’, so long as you don’t call it a ninja sword (bad memories, m’kay? M’kay.), so I’m willin’ to consider pretty much anythin’ so long as it’s backed by a bit of thought and doesn’t cross into the blatantly silly territory.
Let’s start by layin’ some groundwork:
- Chances are good that if your weapon needs its entire own fightin’ art in order to be workable, then you’ve done yourself a bad an it ain’t gonna work. Tryin’ to figure out a way to wield somethin’ from scratch is HARD, man! (Believe me, I try. An’ even with 15+ years of martial arts under my belt, it’s a confusing, often frustratin’ process, involvin’ lots of mockups, and plenty o’ bruises.)
- Every weapon, an’ indeed every type of weapon, operates within a certain performance envelope and straying too far into another weapon’s realm o’ practicality begs the question of why don’t ya just switch.
- The fundamental limitation of weapons almost always ends up bein’ body mechanics. There’s only so far joints move, and only so many ways to be manoeuvring the hurty parts round oneself without it comin’ back to bite ya in the arse, (potentially) literally.
Now, to demonstrate a situation, lemme ascend this hyperbolic curve an’ throw an example at ye:
I am the Bai Ze: my magic is maximum. There’s literally nothing stopping me from summoning a mile-long orichalcum sword outta nowhere and smashing someone’s face, and their entire hometown, right outta existence with it. However, callin’ the resultant weapon a sword is a bit of a wrong: First-like, it’d need to be levitated and swung magically, since the point of balance is probably hundreds of meters from the hilt; Second-like, ain’t no way I can fence with it - bat a dude over the horizon like a baseball, sure, but it’s just too fackin’ big to move around in melee range; an’ Third-like, most of the “swordy” parts, like crossguards and a handle, are completely redunant on my mile-long orichalcum townslayer, so why’d I even bother puttin’ ‘em there? All I need’s a great big cutting edge.
Now lemme relate this example to my points above:
On the first point: My hypothetical townslayer is wielded entirely by magic. It spins around and hits stuff because I think it into motion. Not only is this heavy wizardry, but it lets me bypass one of the big problems with many exotic weapons, which is that simply wavin’ em about presents all sorts of physical challenges. Ordinarily, wavin’ somethin’ this big around ends up with wavin’ yourself about while the weapon stays stationary.
On the second point: Tactically, this weapon fills the same kind of role as a catapult - it’s a theater-scale weapon, used for bashin’ villages and fortifications an’ shit. Sure, I could use it for wreckin’ guys, but I can do so just as well with an ordinary-sized sword, and that can be moved around in melee range to parry and counter the other guy’s attacks, which the townslayer can’t do. Consider that the biggest of swords already approach the size of smaller polearms, and you might be startin’ to see how each type of weapon fills a given role and if you mess with their design arbitrarily you end up with somethin’ that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.
An’ on the last point: The only way I could use the townslayer in any kind of swordish context to begin with, is to be flyin’ at least a mile off the ground when I summon the thing. Otherwise, simply swingin’ it about is going to end up with it diggin’ into the ground and either gettin’ stuck, or at least causin’ lots of pointless collateral damage. Fact is, best thing I could do with such a freakish weapon is to fly up real high like, and toss it at someone like a great big fuck-you-and-the-borough-you-live-in sorta spear, an at that point, well... I did mention that atlatl I got, yeah?
Now the reason I went with this specific example is ‘cause it’s an over the top exaggeration of the “overly big sword” cliche. The same problems, however, plague all oversized weapons, even if the scale isn’t quite “Lioncow’s Showing Off Again”.
For a given type of weapon, upping the size may bring some advantages, but in accordance with my second point above, eventually you hit a point where a different weapon starts making more sense. If you look at a sword, for instance, a sensible limiting factor might be the distance you can step back while remaining in a combat stance - if you cannot step back and bring the point of the weapon towards your opponent, then you’re probably in polearm country already (Sayin’ this, some of the biggest of swords do live in polearm country, but you’d find their usage shares their postcode).
Now if you look at a polearm, you get the same situation: Expand Pollaxe might give you some advantages at first, but ‘ventually you end up in the realm of pikes, and you don’t so much fight with a pike as you carry it to the field and deploy it - it’s less of a weapon and more of a portable fortification.
I guess you could go through the same song and dance for pikes, and if you did, you’d probably end up discovering that a bow or crossbow works better and easier for puncturing fellows at a distance than a bigass stick that you just need to drop once someone gets past the pointy end all sneaky-beaky like.
So we’ve established some limitations of scale, now let’s consider limitations of form. There’s two big sins of form I often see in made up weapons - either its spikes, spinities, or other gubbins in dangerous places, or business-ends in a decidedly non business-end location.
Now it ain’t difficult to find examples of over-spiky weapons. Go and google “fantasy sword”, I’ll wait.
Back? Yeah, you probably saw a couple of examples of what I’m talking about. For some reason, instead of putting the prickly bits in sensible places, most fantasy weapon designers go completely off the cliff in the other direction and put spiky bits everywhere. Not that spiky bits are in and of themselves bad - in the right places, they may deter an opponent from trying to grab your weapon, or provide a means of catching an attack on a parry, which can lead to disarming, but too often they’re put in places where they’re either liable to get stuck in the other guy’s face when you hit him with it, or they’re placed such like they’d poke the poor chap who picked the thing up full of holes and send him to the incredibly dirty battlefield medic and then he’d get gangrene and they’d have to remove his hands.
When it comes to business-ends in the wrong place, the first thing I think of is the “double sword”, or “double-bladed sword”, or whatever the butts people are calling it nowadays. It’s basically two swords welded together at their ass-end, okay? Okay. Now the problem I have with this thing is that it doesn’t seem to want to know what it wants to be when it grows up. Is it a sword? If it is, then when you’re swording with it, the other blade is either going to be in the way at best, or stab you in the gut at worst. Is it some kind of staff? Then why does it have such a tiny handle and so much business-end? A double-ended spear would make far more sense, and indeed there are some polearms from china (If I am of the correctly recalling) that have a business-end at either side.
However, if this is leading one to be of the thinks that weapons have to be “plain”, then I’d point you to look at the hunga-munga (which is an actual weapon. It’s also very fun to say. Hunga-Munga. :3 HUNGA MUNGA! :333 ), which is basically bladed blades with blades on them attached to a handle. However, it’s meant to be thrown, and the cutting edges are placed in such a way that you can do so without lacerating yourself to hell and back.
So in knowin’ all o’ this, what’s a lad to do when he wants to get into the fight with an oddly-shaped murdertool in hand? I’d say it depends a bit on how oddly-shaped said murdertool was going to be - a zhanmadao with a rapier-esque crossguard on it works the same as an ordinary zhanmadao, for the most part. Something more bizarre, like the bill bec-de-bardiche glaive-guisarme you came up with that one time you were tripping hard on shrooms, though, will require some more work.
First of all, if you can, make a reasonable replica out of... something. I use wood. Handle it a bit. Swing it around. Can you reasonably move the thing about without hurting yourself? Can you attack and defend in a meaningful way? If it fails any basic test, then it’s back to the drawing board with that bastard.
Even better: Get a hold of someone who knows a bit about fightin’, go through some drills with them. Does your weapon concept work against another weapon of the same type? Does it work against weapons of a different type? If it underperforms in any context, does it make up for it somewhere else? Basically: Why use this instead of a $other_thing?
If you can’t do either of these things, then perhaps hold off on trying to create a whole new weapon until you can. Maybe go take some martial arts classes. Do some fencing. Remember that the many and varied weapons that we know of today have all come about through a result of ingenuity, practice, and thousands upon thousands of hours of refinement, and it’s incredibly unlikely that you’re going to do better just because of a totally cool idea you saw in an anime once. Not to say that it’s impossible - just that in order to be workable, a weapon needs to exist in the context of the types of weapons and armour that it’s likely to face off against, and that the manner in which it is used should be sufficiently developed in order to exploit its strengths.
Oh, and ninja swords aren’t real.