You’ve discussed the problems with mismatched technology a few times, such as when people use devices that were created centuries apart.
But, I want to do a story where everyone has flintlock pistols and laser swords.
Is that possible?
Thank you,Dave L
Hey Dave, great to hear from you again!
The snarky answer is that, yes, it’s possible – in the same way it’s possible to do most things in a story because there’s no law against them.* Now, if you want to combine flintlocks and laser swords in a way that isn’t heavily contrived, that’s a different matter.
One option is to use a highly niche scenario that would allow the two technologies to exist side by side, at least for a little while. Perhaps your hero is a space knight who crash lands on a planet where flintlocks are state of the art. Now, your stranded scifi protagonist can hand out a few laser swords to their friends, but since no other technology survived the crash, they have to use flintlocks if they want a ranged weapon.
Or, you could reverse it. Maybe you have a postapocalyptic world, and before the big cataclysmic event, technology was advanced enough to include laser swords. It’s now been long enough for the survivors to develop flintlock firearms, and then they discover a big crate of laser swords that still work.
I’m sure you can think of other possibilities. The problem is that they’re all very specific and likely wouldn’t last for long before the laser swords either stopped working or the flintlocks were outmoded by more advanced weapons.
If you want a setting that works more generally and doesn’t feel incredibly contrived, your best bet is something that replicates the feel of one or both of these technologies, rather than including the technology itself. For example, the Shardblades from The Way of Kings are nearly identical to lightsabers in function, but are thoroughly high fantasy in form. It wouldn’t be too difficult to do something similar in a flintlock setting.
Maybe the magic system in this setting allows mages to shape their soul-stuff into physical tools, and some of them craft swords for battle. These soul-blades would have similar qualities to a lightsaber, but be made from magic rather than technology. Such a world could then have flintlock firearms as well, and it wouldn’t seem like a bizarre mismatch.
Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your writing!
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Comments on Can I Have Both Lightsabers and Flintlocks?
Hard to comment on the laser swords since I don’t know your setting or how they work, but the combination in a scarcity or post apocalyptic setting might actually make sense. The Mythcreants article critiquing the Planet of the Hats in Star Trek OS had me thinking about diversity in technology levels in one setting, so I talked with a gun expert about this question. He pointed out that there are still flintlocks being manufactured today and states such as Pennsylvania hold flintlock rifle-only hunting seasons. He also said that flintlocks are ideal if you aren’t able to purchase or source manufactured materials (you can more easily craft gunpowder, cast lead balls and find flint on the ground versus the equipment needed for casting your own bullets). A traveler or someone who can’t rely on their local hunting shop for ammo could conceivably carry both.
Just because a piece of technology is more modern, it doesn’t make it better or more efficient. This person is a farmer who also owns a scythe they bought new and a sickle bar mower. Both pieces of equipment have pluses and minuses and there are still instances when a scythe is more efficient.
There’s also the possibility of the laser-swords being captured technology.
Alien invaders arrive on a planet at a lower technological level than the locals, bringing their laser-swords with them. However, the locals are not as easily intimidated as the invaders hoped, and have developed gunpowder weapons since the invaders surveyed the planet. They overrun the aliens’ base, capturing many laser-swords in the process.
Alternatively, a setting where the characters, though basically humanoid, have their eyes set on the sides of their head, like birds. Because they have little binocular vision, their depth perception is poor, and so, instead of weaponry following the path from thrown rocks and spears to sub-machine guns, with hand-to-hand weapons not so developed, the opposite is the case – hand-to hand weapons, such as laser-swords, are common, but missile weapons are still at the flintlock stage.
Fwiw this would require quite a bit of justification considering the disparity. Medieval people had access to gunpowder. Having said that, depending on the laser sword in question one does not necessarily need to be that advanced to make them.
Since the development path for both are so different i don’t see a problem on having both at once. I bet lightsabers don’t need to have nitrocelulose to work, which was the point when the guns really stood apart from flintlocks (even the leap from early revolvers to modern ones is huge thanks to smokeless gunpowder). Meybe the technology that makes the lightsaver viable can’t be used at range (the design of star wars blasters hint that they are related to lightsabers, as they use the same FX, but they don’t mention it adn even state that lightsabers are scarce and each jedi must make their own). All in all, blasters are efectivelly flintlocks: poor accuracy, bad spread, slow firerate, big and cumbersome.
As someone who has read up a lot on Star Wars lore recently, I don’t quite agree with you.
The most rare part of a lightsaber is the crystal needed to bundle the energy and create the blade – all other components are flexible and not that hard to get on most planets, basic technology by Star Wars standards. Modern lore says the crystal must be a very specific one – a kyber crystal which changes its colour when in first contact with the Jedi/Sith who wants to use it (the red blade of a Sith is not a natural colour, but happens when the crystal is ‘bled’ with rage and Dark Side energy – if you bleed it again through the light side, you get a pure-white blade, as demonstrated by the one Ahsoka Thano uses). In older lore, crystals still had to fit with specific requirements to be able to withstand the energy they had to channel, but getting something fitting was easier. It’s also not correct that every Jedi must make their own. Luke inheriting his father’s was perfectly valid and the Jedi Sentinel have been handing theirs down from master to student for a long time. Rarely does a Sentinel make their own lightsaber.
Blasters produce an energy bullet, not a beam, but using energy very much seemes to be the only thing both weapons have in common. I can’t remember any situation in which it was hinted at that there was any other relationship between them and lightsabers. Keep in mind technology in the galaxy far far away is old. Lightsabers, blasters, starships, droids, etc. have all been around for millennia. The Jedi and Sith have been at it for as long as that.
My bad, I read somewhere that making their own lightsaber was part of the process to become a Jedi. But if lightsabers were common they would be widely used, not just by the Jedi/Sith. It is shown that anyone can use them, so they must be scarce (and if a single part of it is hard to find, the whole item is; there is no use on having a Ferrari without an engine) because i didn’t heard of Empire squads armed with lightsabers (that are an extremely handy tool to open doors and neutralize artillery pieces).
That was my point about Lightsabers and Blasters, if they are not related, it means that the technology to make blasters and the technology to make lightsabers are independent and you can develop one or another or neither in any other setting, allowing for lightsabers+flintlocks or blasters+metal swords.
Lightsabers not really being used by people who are not Force sensitive has two reasons: you really need the higher reaction speed the Force can give you to master the lightsaber – and owning them actually is forbidden by threat of death unless you’re a Jedi (or a Sith, obviously).
Making your own lightsaber can be part of the training process, but that doesn’t mean you can only use your own.
Yes, you can theoretically have lightsabers and flintlocks, but given a lot more people in the galaxy far far away use blasters (military, criminals, explorers, oodles of other groups) suggests that as soon as an easy way to kill from afar exists, people will be getting into making it better. Just as on our world where people decided that having better guns would be great instead of relying on longbows (around until WWII in England).
Lightsabers, as other bladed weapons, are mostly used in close-quarter situations (and I doubt anyone not a Jedi or Sith could use them to deflect blaster bolts) and are less practical for more modern forms of warfare. You could probably arm Imperial soldiers with lightsabers (just as 19th-century officers in the British army were armed with sabres), but what would really be the point? They’re mostly engaging in ranged combat where lightsabers won’t help. They don’t need lightsabers and it would be an additional skill to train them in. Jedi, on the other hand, rarely use blasters (Mara Jade and Kyle Katarn from the Legends continuity are exceptions, not the rule) and focus much more on training with the Force and lightsaber.
Yeah SW is bafflingly stagnant. One of the reasons I have no real attachment or love for it.
In the Locked Tomb series, which is pretty dang popular right now, people fight with swords on spaceships. Not laser swords, just regular ones. Don’t worry too much about justifying everything to the readers, they’ll go with you pretty far, as long as it feels okay.
The question I’d ask is why do you want to use lightsabers and flintlocks? If it’s because it’s cool, then the priority shouldn’t be justifying it logically, it should be making the audience agree it’s cool.
Is it the general aesthetic of the flintlock pistol that is the appeal or the limit of the single shot firearm?
If it’s the latter you could make up a more futuristic single shot laser gun. Maybe it could need charging so the user couldn’t fire more than once between charges.
The easiest way to combine it might be a time travel story where some characters are from the past and use flintlocks and some characters are from the future and use lightsabers and they all time travel to wherever deadliest warrior is set :p
Your idea reminds me of the hand-cranked laser muskets the Minutemen use in Fallout 4.
You could have flintlocks and laser swords in the same story through a very easy solution. Time travel! The cleanest, least contrived, and plot-holeless literary device ever! You can’t go wrong. In all seriousness, though. It might actually work if there are different time periods colliding into each other. I’m wanting to try that out sometime.
While this has technically been said before, in my opinion, the question is not what you do, but how you do.
In other words, execution weighs more than a premise. Any premise can succeed with a proper execution, and fail with an improper one.
Take, for example, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Everything Everywhere All at Once. The premises of these two movies are virtually the same: Superheroes and supervillains fight each other across the multiverse. However, only the latter had the execution to bring it seven Oscars and miscellaneous other awards (not that Oscars matter much these days).
It’s not a question of whether or not lightsabers and flintlocks can exist together, but whether or not you can make lightsabers and flintlocks exist together.
It’s worth remembering that historical anachronism is not always as uncommon as we think. If I told you that cavalrymen carried lances into battle and the first casualty between two clashing forces was killed with a sword, you might not think I was referring to the First World War.
Another way to make the illogical logical is to make the impractical fashionable. If I recall correctly, the street gangs in the cyberpunk novel The Supernaturalist use antique guns because of their association with late-1980s gangsta culture.
Fwiw most cyberpunk stories don’t have guns that are much more advanced than nowadays anyways. Depending on other aspects is a thing too though.
I’m not completely agreeing with the second part. Impractial fashion is only available to those who do not need to do anything dangerous in it. For instance a sabre as part of a gala uniform (in which you usually don’t go into battle) is fine. Yet, relying on an out-dated weapon just for fashion reasons gets you killed and makes no sense.
Impractical fashion is absolutely available to those who need to do dangerous things in it. For another WWI example, the French Army’s Zouave regiments wore colorful, eye-catching uniforms for the first year with complete disregard for the benefits of camouflage and, unsurprisingly, suffered from that choice.
Making life-or-death decisions based on fashion is indeed not sensible, but it is a things that humans have been known to do.
Just for the record, the reason the French army was slower in adopting khaki uniforms was because French military leaders largely believed that the spirit and morale of French soldiers was more important than how visible they were to the enemy. They were very much wrong, but it wasn’t a situation where they knew how devastating their choice would be, but decided to wear blue and red anyway because it looked so cool.
Why should “everyone” have flintlock guns and Star Wars style lightsabers?
If it’s because you plan to have combat action with low-performance guns and high-performance swords, or because you want the analogues of the respective typical users (infantry troops, snipers, Jedi, expert fighters likely using both, etc.), maybe the technology could be less dissonant and less problematic.
– Low-tech with traditional fantasy magically enhanced swords but relatively primitive, mundane guns
– High-tech with advanced forcefields etc. that allow making lightsabers but don’t help with guns and beam weapons
– Just weird with, say, realistic weapons of any kind plus a new, limited magical opportunity to make energy blades from body parts of supernatural creatures.
If it’s because you want a mixture of contrasting technology, you probably want to design a larger scale contrast between different cultures: technology is only an aspect of culture, and flintlocks vs lightsabers is a specific instance of applied technology.
A meeting of flintlocks and lightsabers is unlikely to be intrinsically important enough to deserve a large budget of contrived explanations, preparation, consequences and plot constraints, etc..
You can have wildly different levels of tech if there is a sustained pressure in your world for such a disparity to come about and remain in place.
I’m involved in playtesting a tabletop RPG which takes place on an alternate Earth which had been invaded by aliens that can do things that appear to be magical through the use of their advanced tech.
The alien invasion was foiled, but not before they unleashed a nanite swarm which infects mammals in order to turn them into their footsoldiers.
These footsoldiers possess much of their original abilities, but are now driven to passing their nanites on, after their transformation is complete. The nanites turn the very skins of these Infected into a non-Newtonian fluid, which makes them immune to bullets and shrapnel.
They can only be wounded by slow moving weapons, such as blades and bows and arrows.
Because of all the above, humanity in this setting has developed plasma blades (akin to lightsabers) and uses them in conjunction with bows that shoot arrows with explosive tips. Once the tip of the arrow penetrates the bulletproof skin, the explosive it delivers under the skin is just as effective as usual.
So, not exactly lightsabers and flintlocks, but plasma swords and bows that shoot explosive arrows is pretty close, no?
There’s also the fact that the initial invasion brought all nations together and destroyed much of civilization, so conventional firearms are not much in use.
The nanite swarm cannot be destroyed, only contained if the infected being is killed and then burried without contact to any living creature. Otherwise, once an Infected has been completely… well, infected, the nanites are passed on to another being through touch and thus the ranks of Infected grow in number with each passing day, until all the nanoswarm gets burried. This means there’s a constant pressure in the game’s world to keep hunting the Infected and spare no expense in developing and mass producing the weapons needed.
For those who don’t know, non-Newtonian fluids are fluids and gels which turn to rock hard solids once they’re hit by something moving at close to and above supersonic speeds, like bullets.