What Does and Doesn’t Make a Signature Weapon Cool

Hela stopping Mjolnir in midair.

Speculative fiction loves to give its heroes signature weapons, some of which become as memorable as the heroes themselves. This is most common in high fantasy, but it also crops up in urban fantasy, superhero stories, space opera, and cyberpunk. From swords and axes to revolvers and EMP cannons, these signature weapons make themselves known in all kinds of stories. While they’re most often swords, they don’t have to be! The trick is to make sure they’re cool. There are a lot of ways to do that, but today we look at some of the most common, and, for some fun, what common methods don’t make a weapon cool and memorable. 

Not Cool: Being a Katana

Cover art of Kvothe with his swordiest sword.

Look, the katana is as good a sword as any other. It can get the job done in its intended role, and like most slashing swords, it does better against unarmored opponents. But the katana isn’t a supersword. It’s not faster or more agile than other swords of similar size, and it certainly can’t cut through metal armor.

Despite all this, white fantasy authors have a habit of making their heroes’ signature weapons katanas. Wheel of Time does it, Name of the Wind does it, as does just about the entire cyberpunk genre. This is a bad plan, and it will generally have the opposite effect of what you want.

For one thing, katanas are so overused that they’ve become cliché. Any sword-literate readers will recognize that a katana is just another sword, and they’ll be irritated that you tried to slip this trope past them. Even readers who know nothing about weapons will probably notice that katanas are awfully common.

For another, katanas don’t actually make sense in most spec fic settings. Unless your fantasy story is set in Japan, a katana won’t match the setting’s other weapons, so it’ll just seem out of place. Scifi settings can more easily justify why the protagonist would have a katana, but that will raise the question of why katanas specifically and not any other type of melee weapon.

This brings us to the final reason that this is a bad idea: it reeks of exoticism and Orientalism. The katana is treated as a supersword because it comes from the mysterious Far East, where everyone is so damned wise and mystical. This trope isn’t quite as racist as assuming that Europeans are inherently smarter than everyone else, but it’s not too far off.

Cool: Noncombat Properties

A partially drawn Sting glowing blue.

In The Lord of the Rings, Sting glows when orcs are near. In Arthurian tales, Excalibur is stuck in a stone. In the anime Inuyasha, major antagonist Sesshomaru has a sword that heals any who are struck by it. These weapons are all cool and memorable, and it has nothing to do with how well they stab things.

Giving your weapon a special ability or property unrelated to combat creates instant contrast. Weapons are tools for killing, so a weapon that does something else sticks out in the audience’s mind. We’ve all seen weapons that hack and slash, but a spear that sniffs out the blood of your enemies? Now that’s something you don’t see every day.

If you go with a special ability, make sure it’s useful to your hero. A flail that always knows where the nearest submarine is might be memorable, but only because it’s hilariously useless in most settings. Fortunately, most adventure stories offer a lot of options for noncombat abilities. Your hero could have a bow that grants them a bird’s eye view of the area when they send an arrow arcing overhead or a mace that can sense the footfalls of approaching creatures when pressed to the earth.

The more relevant a weapon’s special property is to the plot, the more memorable that weapon will be. Arthur’s sword is actually far more interesting before he pulls it from the stone, since afterwards it’s mostly just a sword. Similarly, the MCU’s Mjölnir can only be picked up by someone who is sufficiently worthy, but this is only important a handful of times across the hammer’s many appearances, so it doesn’t stick out as much in viewers’ minds.

Not Cool: +1 to Attack and Damage

Thor carrying Stormbreaker

An extremely common mistake even among professional storytellers is that doing more damage makes a weapon cooler. This is so common, it even shows up in Infinity War and Endgame, two of the highest grossing films of all time. You might remember that in a previous MCU film, Thor loses Mjölnir as part of a character arc where he realizes he didn’t need a weapon to be worthy.

Turns out he very much does need a weapon for merchandising though, so in Infinity War, he gets a shiny new axe. This axe also returns to his hand after being thrown, and he can jump really high by swinging it. No word yet about if only the worthy can wield it. So how is this axe different from the old hammer? It’s not, except that it does more damage in some undefinable way. Everything Thor does with his new axe could have been accomplished with Mjölnir. The only change is that now his character arc from the previous film is void. I’ll always remember the name Mjölnir, but I had to google that the axe is named Stormbreaker.

Audiences cannot see the math that drives your world. Even if you have a very robust system for calculating exactly how much damage each weapon does, it’s unlikely to come across in a meaningful way. Audiences aren’t particularly interested in watching imaginary DPS numbers go up; they want to see how a signature weapon affects the story.

If you want to make your signature weapon cooler by enhancing its base characteristics, then your best option is to follow the example of the subtle knife from His Dark Materials. This blade is so sharp that it can cut through literally any material, including the barriers between worlds. This has a major effect on the plot, and it also makes the knife something of a liability, as a minor mistake can be deadly when wielding it.

It’s also important to note that the subtle knife’s wielder doesn’t actually get into a lot of melee fights. If he did, a knife that can cut through anything would probably be overpowered, so keep that in mind when turning a weapon’s destructive power up to eleven. It can be distinctive, but it only works in very specific plots.

Cool: Unusual Combat Properties

Yondu whistling to control his arrow in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Making a weapon that’s extra good in a fight works better when it does more than just hit harder or more accurately. If you want your weapon to stand out, then its combat powers need to fundamentally change the way its wielder fights. The weapon should provide new options that alter the path of a battle; otherwise, it will quickly fade from memory.

While Mjölnir’s being picky about its wielder isn’t particularly interesting, what it does in a fight is great. First, Mjölnir returns whenever Thor throws it, which is a strong ability even if it doesn’t directly lead to skulls being crushed. Captain America’s shield works the same way,* which is way more interesting than whatever being made of vibranium is supposed to do. Cap also gets bonus points simply for using a shield, which is quite rare as far as signature weapons go.

Thor’s hammer also gives him a limited form of flight, or at least very long jumps. Also in the MCU, the sometimes villain sometimes hero Yondu controls his enchanted arrow through whistling, allowing him to engage opponents without ever moving.

Like noncombat abilities, your options here are near uncountable. You might craft a hammer that causes earthquakes when it strikes the ground or a dagger that opens small portals to stab enemies through. Movement related powers are always a good bet, as a fight will be very different if the hero can dart around the battlefield by shooting a crossbow bolt at wherever they want to go.

Not Cool: Unimportant Flavor

Aragorn with the broken pieces of his sword.

When it comes to flavor, authors have a bad habit of assuming more description will make a weapon more memorable. Tolkien in particular loved to give every major character’s sword a name and a backstory. Meanwhile, when we first see Kvothe’s sword in The Name of the Wind, Rothfuss describes it as being the pure essence of a sword, somehow more swordlike than any other sword.

None of that actually helps. Most of Tolkien’s sword backstory is just unnecessary exposition with nothing to do with the plot, far more than is necessary to give Middle-earth a sense of history. Aragorn does use Andúril to prove his identity a few times, but otherwise it’s just a sword. Sting is far more memorable because it actually has unique properties. And to be honest, I have no idea what Rothfuss was trying to do. I guess it is memorable, but only for being unintentionally funny.

You’ll get the same result from spending paragraphs describing how the moonlight reflects off your weapon’s edge or pouring over the facets of every gem in the pommel. It’s good to describe what a weapon looks like, but piling on more flavor doesn’t make it more memorable. If the weapon functions like a mundane weapon, then it will stay a mundane weapon as far as your audience is concerned.

Cool: Important Flavor

Sokka wielding his space sword.

As a final option, it’s also possible to make your signature weapon cool without any magic or fancy tech whatsoever. This is the most challenging option, not nearly as popular as lightning bolts and proximity-activated nightlights, but it can be done. You just have to find a way to make your weapon matter in the plot.

A good example of this is Rand’s heron-marked sword in the early Wheel of Time books. The heron is the mark of a blademaster, but Rand definitely isn’t a blademaster when he gets the sword from his father. While the mark provides some intimidation value, it also draws unwanted attention from bravos looking to make a name for themselves. This even creates a small subplot, where Rand is motivated to learn sword fighting so he can be worthy of his father’s weapon.

This is super memorable, and it far overshadows the fact that the sword is actually magical as well. It’s enchanted so it never rusts or needs sharpening, and it isn’t damaged by clashing with other weapons. While that would probably be very useful to an actual soldier, in most fiction it means nothing. Unless rust and battle damage are a major part of the story, being immune to them doesn’t change anything.

So if you’re counting flavor to make your signature weapon cool, remember that it needs to affect the plot in a major way. Perhaps earning their new weapon finally allows the character to hold their own in a fight, like Avatar’s Sokka and his space sword. Alternatively, your hero might be the only character in the story who uses a specific kind of weapon, changing the way they fight against their opponents.

Everyone wants their signature weapon to be cool, and that’s part of the reason why doing so is difficult. Audiences are inured to flaming swords and silver bows because special weapons show up in nearly every story. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make yours stand out, just that you’ll need to take special care and always pay attention to the fundamentals. You can add special flourishes after making sure your magic sword matters.

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  1. Dave L

    >subtle knife from His Dark Materials

    And if you lost your concentration while cutting between worlds the blade broke

    So using it was always tense, because ABSOLUTE concentration was required

  2. SunlessNick

    Everything Thor does with his new axe could have been accomplished with Mjölnir.

    Not quite everything: Stormbreaker can summon the Bifrost, so Thor no longer needs help from someone like Heimdall to go from world to world. But even in the films Thor doesn’t show the kind of attachment to Stormbreaker that he does when he’s in the past and Mjölnir comes when he summons it.

    Another comparison: The picture with Hela reminded me of the trailer for Ragnarok, where I was left thinking “Holy shit, did she just blow up Mjölnir?” I’m never going to think “Holy shit, did that just happen?” about the sight of someone blowing up Stormbreaker.

    There *could* have been something interesting about Stormbreaker, but they didn’t pursue it. Both it and the Infinity Gauntlet were made by Eytri, and Stormbreaker punched through a shield powered by all six stones. So what if Thor had recognised the Gauntlet as being made from Uru and gone to Nidavellir based on the hope that the Dwarves might know of some weakness in it, and Eytri revealed that Stormbreaker had been designed as a “back door” – the Gauntlet would always lose against Stormbreaker, no matter what power it contained. That gives Thor a reason to use it in Infinity War without undoing the arc about Mjölnir in future Thor films.

    I have no idea what Rothfuss was trying to do.

    Give candy to Kvothe. Speaking of which:

    While Mjölnir’s being picky about its wielder isn’t particularly interesting

    How interesting that ability is depends on the interest factor of the person being judged worthy. Leaving aside the plot of the first Thor film, we have the party scene and Vision in Age of Ultron, and Thor and Captain America in Endgame. The last is just more candy for Captain America. Vision lifting it it at least proves his bona fides, but I also don’t care that much about him, except when he’s interacting with Ultron. Thor being able to summon it in Endgame is a great moment, because it shows that even at his most beaten and depressed, he’s still worthy.

    The party scene sets up Captain America being able to wield it, but more subtly it also sets up Black Widow being able to (since she’s the only Avenger who doesn’t bother trying to lift it) – and if she’d been the one to wield it later, that would have been much more interesting than Captain America – she has a much murkier past, and her brand of heroism is still more shady than his – which makes her wielding it *also* a statement about worth and heroism.

    • Iksander

      My main problem with being worthy or not is its vagueness. It’s about heroism, being a good person, courage, earning Mjölnir points…? Why Captain America is not able to lift it in the Age of Ultron but is worthy in Endgame (I have heard theories about keeping the secret about Winter Soldier, but it doesn’t make much sense). And previous to that, what makes Thor worthier than the other Avengers? Because he seems as flawed as most of them (even more flawed than other like Rogers or Banner).

      • Jason Duncan

        In the comics (which I know is different) the worthiness is a major aspect of mjolnir, Thor, and often the fate of the universe/galaxy. Odin’s “version” of worthy is very very different than an average American’s, and for the most part, for instance, people that would “never kill” aren’t worthy, as part of Asgardian duty is protection. There is an unspoken soldier mentality that is necessary, so Cap is worthy, but others may not be. Also, frankly, I just think plopping Mjolnir on people and walking away is cool, regardless of whether it breaks plots.

  3. Morgan Lefay

    And what are your thoughts on Dragnipur?

  4. Justin Wou

    While it didn’t cover any examples from Chinese fantasy stories, after reading through this I feel like it’s a pretty helpful guide nonetheless for anyone looking to write wuxia, xianxia or xuanhuan stories; or to roleplay characters inspired by said genres – seeing how Signature Weapon is like a staple trope of these stories. (Wuxia to a lesser extent compared to xianxia and xuanhuan – but it still shows up from time to time)

  5. Tony

    I wonder if a katana would be more fitting if a Japanese character from the appropriate era used it. Even if the story doesn’t take place in pre-industrial Japan, a katana might be suitable if the character wielding it IS from pre-industrial Japan (say, if they’re immortal, or if time travel or suspended animation is involved). It’d also help avoid clichés if the katana appears alongside other weapons (like a European rapier or an Egyptian khopesh) and isn’t depicted as somehow better or more mystical.

    • Cay Reet

      That would make sense … they wield what they’re used to.

    • LeeEsq

      The katana has the best advertising and public relations team of all weapons.

    • Dinwar

      World War Z (the book, not the movie) did this. Katanas currently exist, and a sword isn’t a horrible weapon against zombies (especially if you have some armor). Sure you can be overwhelmed, but as long as you’re facing off against a small number of zombies you’re going to win. Plus a sword doesn’t make as much noise as a gun, so it wouldn’t attract more zombies. The character in question was Japanese, so he grabbed a katana and trained with a martial arts instructor.

      The book also had some nation (Israel, maybe? Been a long time since I’ve read it) developing anti-zombie martial arts, and most armies went with single-shot rifles by the end of the book, so it was clear that the katana was convenient, not magical.

  6. LeeEsq

    MacGuffin Giver: It’s the sword of the one true monarch, can opener, cork screw, nail file, and tailor’s scissors.

    Our Protagonist: It was made in a Swiss factory, wasn’t it?

    MacGuffin Giver: How did you know?

  7. Dinwar

    This is more of an accessory, but Indiana Jones’ hat comes to mind. Mostly this is because of the tie-in to the real world. Every archaeologist, paleontologist, and geologist has a hat. Every one of us has gone to stupid, nearly suicidal lengths to retrieve that hat. Seeing that little touch of realism (likely totally unintentional but greatly appreciated) helps us identify with that character.

    In a similar vein, King Arthur’s sword is interesting, sure–but in at least some of the myths it’s the scabbard that’s important. The scabbard keeps the wearer from being killed in combat. This was useful in his fight against Pelanore, who cut the top of Athur’s skull off his head! “Mists of Avalon” lampshades this, with the Lady of the Lake gently picking on Arthur for his focus on the weapon.

    With regard to weapons: Where would you put a ship of war? Say, the Surprise from the Aubrey/Maturine stories? It’s part setting, part vehicle, sure–but its primary purpose is as a floating battery.

  8. Lexy

    Cool and interesting article, as always! Would you count a character using a generally harmless item as a weapon “cool”? In the Chinese book/drama The Untamed, Wei Wuxian’s signature weapon becomes a bamboo flute that, when he plays it, can control deceased evil spirits and a powerful talisman called Yin Iron, which he uses to attack and/or kill people on occasion. And I’ll never forget it, because I’ve never known another story to feature characters using musical instruments as weapons. It is kinda more funny than threatening though, to watch someone play the flute aggressively as opposed to physically fighting. XD

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Hmm. I feel like in that example, the fact that the flute controls evil spirits is more important than it being a flute. But a fighting style that uses music is certainly cool and memorable, which is one of the reasons I put Yondu’s arrow on the list.

    • Sedivak

      One charcter in the Revelation Space novels uses a kind of Japanese flute (the type was named but I forgot) to fight. As a blunt instrument to hit unsuspecting oponents. It was quite memorable – even more so for a high-tech space opera setting.

  9. Ikke Spør

    I studied krav maga for about half a year, still doing classes off and on, but it gave me a different perspective on weapons. My instructor just taught us that anything with a mostly pointy end or some decent weight to it can be a weapon, even if it’s just a plastic fork, or a brick or something. My main character in my current book has a special sword, but it’s only really special because of its value as a status symbol. When it comes to actual fighting, swords can be pretty impractical, especially two-handed ones, so my character doesn’t like to use it unless the odds are stacked on her side. It doesn’t have any magical properties or anything (I write historical fiction, as accurate as possible, so not much magic (unless it has to do with archaeo-ethnobotany)), it’s just a sword, but as a symbol, it carries a lot of weight in her society, which makes it more important. Not sure how that is as a signature weapon, but it works in the story, I guess….

    • Erynus

      Any kind of weapon, from a little knife to a sniper rifle is a multiplier on a fight. If your character can’t fight with a sword it don’t make sense to carry it around. Anyone else could take advantage of it against her (like it usually happen on USA when a gun owner is killed with his own gun).
      Historically it was expected for a sword carrier to know how to use the sword, a inept swordman would be mocked no matter what status he has (he could defy the ofender to a duel, but, well… he would lose).

      • Dinwar

        “If your character can’t fight with a sword it don’t make sense to carry it around.”

        Not true. There are several reasons why one may carry around a sword one can’t use.

        1) The sword may be an important status symbol. A general can’t fight with his stars, but you’ll never convince him to leave them at home when he’s on a battle field. They are a part of the command and control structure–they let the listener know that the orders have to be obeyed–and that’s more important than weaponry in a battle most of the time. This allows the sword to continue to act as a force multiplier by adding weight to the orders. The same thing was done with heraldry in the past (that’s why heraldry existed), and weapons historically were part of that.

        The sword may also convey information to people outside of combat. A heraldic sword let people know who you were–an important consideration in a society where mass communication was impossible.

        2) The sword may not be useful RIGHT NOW. A two-handed sword in a close hallway is usually not going to do you much good. But if you exit that hallway into an open courtyard, it may suddenly become useful. (Unless you know half-sword techniques, but that’s another issue.) Similarly in a close-quarters fight a sword may not be ideal; once you break away the sword’s reach can offer an advantage. It makes sense to carry weapons for different situations, provided you can do so practically. For example: having a sword and a dagger makes sense, because it allows you to switch to more effective weapons depending on range.

        3) You may be holding it for someone who can use it. Or as a historic artifact. Illiterate people carried books from place to place, and currently a lot of truckers drive dangerous materials around–materials they can’t possibly use, but which are vital to our economy. Probably not applicable here, but useful to bear in mind: seeing someone CARRYING a thing isn’t the same as someone USING the thing.

        There are probably other reasons as well, but those spring to mind.

        Swords are weird weapons in fiction. They’re either the Best Weapon Ever!!! or, if the author is going for “realism”, they’re the Worst Weapon Ever!! (In scare quotes not to attack Ikke, but because the idea of realism has been corrupted to mean gritty, harsh, and bleak.) The reality is that swords did their jobs well. There’s a reason why they lasted for thousands of years. But people misunderstand the job of a sword. You can’t use a gun to shovel a trench, but that doesn’t mean a shovel is more useful in combat than a gun. Use a weapon for the wrong thing and it’ll always let you down. And it takes a long, long time to really understand what a sword is good for.

        As for using the sword against the character…I mean, the odds of someone taking it out of the scabbard and attacking the character aren’t great. A more realistic option (shown in German fighting manuals) is for them to use the character’s moves against him. A lot of German swordplay involved responding to something you did–every attack leaves an opening, and a good swordsman uses that to kill his opponent. Of course good swordsmen know this, and there are counter moves and counter-counter moves. A bad swordsman? He’s going to over-commit, over-extend, and get run through in his first, maybe second move.

        • Erynus

          Whoever would attack the character, will do it taking the sword on consederation. If the character dont know how to fight she will face a worse situation. Its the same priciple on dont pick up a gun you don’t intend to use, people will use lethal force since you’re capable of doing it yourself. My point is that the status symbol derives from times when that status were demonstrated by using it. If in that world people don’t fight with swords anymore, then it doesn’t matter how bad swordman he is. But if sword fighting is a thing, it is a bad idea to be around showing off a sword. If she was “carrying for someone else” it wouldn’t be her sword, much less a “signature” anything.
          Here in Spain the main fencing school of the XV century had a move called a “manotada” (a slap move) that means to slap the blade with the hand (provided with a thick leather glove) and either push it away or grab it to disarm the oponent. One can use the very same oponent’s sword against him, even easier with single blade swords like katanas.

          • Cay Reet

            From what the original commenter wrote, the sword in question is a big one – two-hander or bastard sword. Both are impractical in a lot of situations and you don’t draw and use a weapon in a situation in which it’s of no use to you. Just as you don’t use a gun when the attacker is already close to you – by the time you have aimed, the attacker has reached you and, presumably, beaten you up. As mentioned by Dinwar, in a confined fighting space, you don’t use a sword, period. You can’t successfully use a sword. Even if you can use a sword and if you own a sword, there will be fights where you don’t use it.

            As for taking it from your body in a fight – yes, that is an option, but one which comes with quite some dangers for the one trying it. That the character isn’t using the sword doesn’t mean they’re not using a weapon. Approaching someone with a weapon from the front (if they have the sword’s scabbath strapped to a belt) means approaching the character from the side where they hold another weapon. It will be pretty difficult to draw a long and heavy sword from the side or the back. So it would be much easier, if you manage to approach from the rear, to hit the character over the head to end the fight – not as valiant, but just as valid in a ‘to the death’ fight. It’s actually much easier to disarm someone who is fighting with the weapon in question – as you pointed out, there are ways to take a sword from someone, provided you can do so without cutting your hands (thick gloves will provide that chance).

          • Dinwar

            “Its the same priciple on dont pick up a gun you don’t intend to use, people will use lethal force since you’re capable of doing it yourself.”

            Maybe the culture of your world is such where this is the case, but historically this simply wasn’t.

            In the Middle Ages there were, at various times, laws against peasants owning swords. When peasants went to war they used axes, maces, spears, polearms–modified farm equipment. If you saw a guy with a sword, you assumed nobility. And nobility, despite the modern attempts to portray it otherwise, carried with it certain social obligations, including basic manners. People weren’t going around attacking each other constantly; they’d chat first. And after five minutes they’d know if the person with the sword was nobility or not.

            Swords were weapons, sure–but their primary purpose was as a status symbol. They were a way of showing your rank in a caste society. This is VERY different from a gun. Many people in the Middle Ages carried swords they had no intention of using–even swords that could not be used (ceremonial ones). No one would have thought that someone carrying a sword intended to use it. They’d think the person COULD use it, but they were just part of society.

            Romans were a bit different. The legions used swords extensively, and didn’t much care about rank. But again, there were social norms associated with it. You DID NOT brawl with your fellow legion members, among other things.

            “If she was “carrying for someone else” it wouldn’t be her sword, much less a “signature” anything.”

            Depends on the story. There are many stories that include signature Xs that don’t belong to the person who holds it. It wasn’t Frodo’s ring. In the 3rd book of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles the king of the forest couldn’t, for various reasons, go after his stolen sword, so his wife did. The movie “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” is all about two weapons, the ownership of which was…dubious. In the Middle Ages travel was hard, but folks still carried relics, including weapons, from one place to another. I mean, I’ll admit I was being a bit silly, but from a story telling perspective the story “Warrior carries sword to X, drama ensues” is a perfectly viable one.

            I’ve seen that slap move. It’s amusing when you can pull it off, but there are a fair number of risks to it. DO NOT confuse modern fencing with Medieval combat. In the Middle Ages if you slapped my sword out of my hand I’d pull my dagger out and gut you. (I’ve seen people do it, with practice weapons but still.) Daggers were worn specifically to allow swift drawing, and if you’re close enough to use that move I’m close enough to close distance and bring a dagger into play (it’s all about dodging the sword and footwork). Or I’d punch you. Or kick you. There’s a LOT of options for someone in a fight that’s unarmed. The German longsword manuals devote some time to the concept, for example. I’ve also seen my wife (who studies Italian rapier combat) humiliate someone by facing him unarmed and winning (dude very much deserved it). My wife’s nowhere near the best sword fighters; she’s on the upper end of average. And if you take the time to pick up my blade? Unless you’ve sliced some tendons in my arm, I’m going to make you regret the decision. Picking up a blade breaks your stance and leaves you horribly exposed (not to mention that my blade may be weirdly balanced for you).

            Point is: Don’t assume that a sword is a trump card. Even a good swordsman can be taken out by someone without a sword.

        • Ikke Spør

          Just to clarify, about the “realism” thing, I’m an archaeologist in training, with a background in early medieval literature and languages, when I talk about realism, I usually mean pretty objective things about material culture. I get really annoyed when I see authors trying to use realism to justify just plain grittiness…. It just doesn’t work that way. In this particular case, my book takes place in western Sweden in the early 500s. Every location is an archaeological site known to date back to this period. My research on their weapons has shown that in the majority of cases, a spear and shield combination had high chances of winning against a two-handed sword like the one in question. (the spear being the sort of default weapon for an average warrior). I’ve also done my fair share of experimental sparring, which has proven this pretty well. Of course, it’s not always the case, everything depends on different people’s skill levels, and the types of swords, spears, and shields in question. In this particular case, I stand by my statement that the sword would not be extremely practical in plenty of combat situations.

          • Cay Reet

            By mechanics alone, a spear should beat a sword, since it gives the wielder a better reach. Give them a shield to deflect or block a hit with the sword and I can see the shield-and-spear wielder win most of the time. Especially given that a fighter with a two-handed sword can’t wield a shield in addition (hence TWO-handed sword).

      • Rakka

        Doesn’t say anywhere on the post that the character _can’t_ use it. She just prefers not to, i.e. to use other weapons instead.

        One of my characters absolutely could fight with a sword (he preferred a messer/falchion) but in most situations that came up in the story, it was all about reaction times against opponents who didn’t have swords, so he tended to go for the knives and dirty tricks.

        • SunlessNick

          It was also described as a “special sword,” so I’d assume its value as a symbol is down to its individual place in history rather than status granted to swords or sword-fighting in general.

  10. rodneyzalenka

    Liked this one a lot. It’s thought-provoking about what does, & doesn’t, make a unique weapon.

    It’s not limited to fantasy, either, I don’t think. Would Bolan have been quite as cool without Big Thunder? Or even the Belle? (Even that .460 Weatherby…)

    Nitpick alert: “pouring over”? No. _Poring_ .

  11. एकांत (Ekaant)

    Gintoki’s Bokuto(Wooden katana) from Gintama Anime is very unique. As despite being a wooden sword, it can cut or destroy almost anything.

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