So often in our favourite fantasy books, we see medieval weapons, or unique fantasy weapons inspired by medieval history.
Think back to some of your favourite fantasy stories, or fantasy films or TV shows like Game of Thrones. Did weapons, like swords and bows, play a major part?
Game of Thrones, in particular, is well known for its weapons of dragonglass/obsidian and those fabled fantasy swords forged with Valyrian steel.
Lord of the Rings is another fantasy book and fantasy film in which weapons feature prominently. Legolas and his bow and arrows, Gimli with his fantasy axe, and Aragorn with the fabled Andúril, are all eponymous images with the story.
Weapons almost become extensions of our characters. Nicholas Eames’s Kings of the Wyld explores that aspect of weapons well. Each character has a weapon they’re very much bound to.
For the fantasy writer, it can sometimes feel a little daunting having to create the ideal weapons for our characters. Should we go for a fantasy greatsword or maybe a katana, or what about a magical fantasy bow or a Viking axe?
Perhaps you’re sick and tired of all of these common weapons. You might want something different, something more original and unique? Well, if that’s the case, then this guest post from Jack Shannon will get your creative juices bubbling.
Over to Jack for an interesting look at some unique fantasy weapons inspired by medieval times.
5 Lesser-Known Medieval Weapons For Your Fantasy Stories
Realism in fantasy is important. By making your world as realistic as possible, the fantastic elements (dragons and demons) are all the more engaging.
Or, to put it bluntly: make sure your world makes sense or your book will be naff.
This brings me to my other point: make your protagonist stand out. The market is FULL of heroes with swords, axes and cliched bows. Give the warriors in your writing something to help them stand out from the crowd. But, that doesn’t mean fighting with some anime-style contraption. Give them something historic that will stand out, but that still gives your writing the depth it deserves.
Below, we’ll take a look at 5 weapons that you may not have heard of before and that hopefully can inspire your fantasy stories.
What is it? Cinquedea means “five fingers”, because the blade is five fingers wide, tapering to a point. It is a short sword, only around 2 feet long with a fancy knobbly handle.
How does it work? Although it can both thrust and slash, the weird shape of the blade makes it quite a clumsy weapon. It’s mainly for show. The very wide blade gives more room for craftsmen to engrave stuff on it.
Cool idea: Perfect for urban fantasy! A flashy sword for showing off or a night on the town. Or, perhaps the wide blade gives more room for runes and enchantments.
What is it? Imagine a big axe. But shaped like a crescent moon. On a long stick. That’s about it with a bardiche.
How does it work? A Bardiche is a deceptively clever weapon. Yes, you can hack with it like an axe, but the gap between the wooden shaft and the metal head means you can also use it at close quarters, or thrust with the point on the end.
Cool idea: An impressive-looking axe-like weapon that you can swing around OR use in cramped tunnels? Sounds like something a dwarf should have!
What is it? Ok, everyone knows what a hammer is. But this isn’t a Mighty Thor-style affair. This is a proper weapon for smashing apart plate armour. The head of a warhammer is small to concentrate the force of the blow and there is a spike on the revere for puncturing through armour.
How does it work? Swing it. That’s it. The head batters armoured opponents, especially around the head where a solid blow will stun or concuss someone wearing even a thick helmet (no helmet and their head will look like raspberry jam). Then, use the pointy end on the back of the head to pierce through the armour to the squidgy bits beneath.
Cool idea: You can use a warhammer on horseback. The momentum of a charging horse means you can rip someone’s head off. Pretty cool, huh?
What is it? A langseax means “long knife”. It’s a single-edged weapon, far too big for a knife but shorter than most swords. The edge is straight, with a broken back tapering to a vicious point.
How does it work? The thick back means it is perfect for heavy, downward blows to smash enemy shields. Or for stabbing in gaps in formations. Which is exactly how the Vikings and Saxons used it!
Cool idea: This blade is perfect for an assassin. Small enough to hide under a cloak and heavy enough to inflict some serious damage. Or, for ship to ship fighting, look at the Norwegian Langseax which was used often.
What is it? A tulwar is a single-handed sword with a heavy, disk-shaped pommel with a small spike. The blade curves back like a sabre, although it is sharp on both sides.
How does it work? The tulwar is a fearsome weapon, great for single combat or skirmish fighting. It is swung about with heavy, brutal slashes that can easily lop off limbs. The back edge can be used in a similar way to a kukri – a slower, but deadly decapitating blow. In close quarters, the pommel is smashed down on your enemy’s skull.
Cool idea: A tulwar takes a lot of strength to use well. Give it to a big, brutal character and watch the bodies stack up!
Making Unique Fantasy Weapons
Crafting unique weapons for a fantasy story can add depth and excitement to your narrative. Here are some tips to help you create something distinctive and memorable:
- Consider the Culture and World – Think about the world your story is set in and the cultures that inhabit it. A weapon’s design and materials should reflect the available resources and the aesthetic preferences of the people who use it.
- Incorporate Mythology or Lore – Integrate elements of mythology or local lore into the weapon’s backstory. Perhaps it was forged from a rare metal found only in a specific region, or it has a connection to a legendary figure or event in your world.
- Unique Materials – Experiment with unconventional materials for weapon crafting. Perhaps a blade is made from the scales of a mythical creature, or the hilt is carved from the heartwood of a sentient tree. Unusual materials can give the weapon special properties.
- Functional Design – Consider the function of the weapon and design it accordingly. A weapon used for stealth might have a retractable blade, while one for heavy combat could incorporate defensive features. Make the design serve a purpose in the story.
- Enchantments and Magical Properties – Introduce magical elements by giving the weapon enchantments or special abilities. Maybe it can channel elemental forces, absorb the powers of defeated foes, or transform in specific conditions.
- Unique Smithing Techniques – Explore innovative or lost smithing techniques within your world. The process of forging the weapon can be as important as the final product. Perhaps there’s only one remaining blacksmith who knows the ancient method.
- Personalization – Connect the weapon to a specific character or group. Whether it’s a family heirloom passed down through generations or a weapon crafted for a particular hero, personalizing the weapon adds emotional weight to the story.
- Cultural Symbols – Infuse the weapon with cultural symbols or motifs that hold significance in the world you’ve created. This not only adds visual interest but also ties the weapon to a broader cultural context. You could also attach religious significance to a weapon too as part of your wider world building.
- Evolution and Upgrades – Allow the weapon to evolve or be upgraded over the course of the story. This could be through the addition of new components, magical enhancements, or even the weapon gaining sentience
- Flaws and Limitations – No weapon should be perfect. Consider adding flaws or limitations to your unique weapons. Maybe it’s highly effective but requires a rare resource to maintain, or it has a weakness that can be exploited.
Remember, the key is to integrate these elements seamlessly into your world and narrative, creating weapons that feel organic and essential to the story you’re telling.
About Jack Shannon
Jack Shannon is a writer, currently looking for a publisher for Brigandine, a grim and bloody fantasy with a generous pinch of Lovecraft. Why not follow him on Twitter? @Jack_Shannon.
More Resources on Unique Fantasy Weapons
Thank you so much for checking out this guide on some of the lesser-known medieval weapons. Hopefully, you’ve found some inspiration for your own fantasy swords, axes and bows! Below, you can find some more of my fantasy guides, and for more content like this, why not join my Community of Writers?
Archery and Fantasy: A Guide
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