Rob’s look at fantasy weapons reminded me of something in Tunnels & Trolls. There is an image in the back of my copy (5th Edition, 1980) that always summed up the how weapons should look in fantasy games. (See image right). As a teenager, looking at this image I had two reactions. Firstly “That looks cool!” and secondly “That looks impossible to use without cutting your own head off!”.
Years later I learnt that this fantasy weapon was not taken from some bad Hollywood movie but is in fact a real weapon. And it’s not one of those made-once-but-never-used type weapons. It was quite widespread through Africa. If you would like to know more, I suggest you start with Flying African Blades Of DOOM! on the Realm of the Dark Blade blog about unique and unusual weapons, both real and fictional.
This is the trouble with fantasy weapons. During the thousands of years of history of humans making weapons to kill each other with, we have come out with some bloody strange ideas. Anything vaguely usable will have been tried by someone, somewhere in the world. That leaves only the truly fantastical left as possibilities if you want to get inventive. The true masters of this are manga and Japanese computer RPGs. The king of this heap is the Final Fantasy series where swords just get bigger and yet the game is fantastic. The FF series of games contains lots of good lesson for GMs from storytelling, to NPCs and, how fantastic weapons can lift a game from its medieval, feudal roots. Of course this mention of Final Fantasy gives me a chance to plug this t-shirt design for all fans of Final Fantasy XII.