This is an article about designing and creating new weapons and armaments that are nonetheless realistic. If you’ve ever wanted to make your own unique medieval weapon for a campaign, this will hopefully come in handy.
Step 1: Materials
Historically, swords have been manufactured from iron and steel, as well as bronze. This is usually because of the fact that iron is relatively easy to find, and is durable. The amount of iron available to a particular civilization usually dictated the quality and rarity of swords- in Medieval Europe, it was common enough that swords were mass-produced. In Japan, it was rare enough that every sword had to be an excellent example of the weapon- hence, the birth of the katana. Other materials, however, can also be suitable in an exotic campaign. Some examples are-
- Flint- Flint blades tend to be very sharp and very easy to make. They also break easier than iron or steel, but can cause very nasty wounds.
- Rock- Simple, effective. Very difficult to sharpen though.
- Obsidian- Sharp but brittle. Similar to flint in this respect.
- Quartz- Very rare in realistic settings. A quartz blade would be incredibly difficult to make, but would last for a long time. It would also have to be placed on a small weapon, due to the fact that it’s difficult to find quartz 3 feet long.
- Bark- Wood transfers little shock from impact to the arm, making a wooden weapon superb at parrying. Unfortunately, it does not keep an edge well, and can be sliced in two with a powerful enough blow.
Step 2: Size and Shape
How big is your weapon? Chances are, if it’s a sword longer than five feet, or an axe with a head that’s longer than 6 inches, you’re stepping into the boundaries of unrealistic usage. There are obviously examples of weapons this large (the claymore, for example) but these also tend to be inferior when faced with standard weaponry.
The shape of the weapon matters as well. A curved sword has better slashing capabilities, the ability for more heft, and allows for feared drawcuts. A straight sword is simpler to make, better for defensive purposes, and allows thrusting attacks. Making a curved sword makes little sense in a society that uses plate mail regularly makes little sense.
Step 3: Purpose
What’s the point of the weapon? To hinder? To use from a horse? To terrify the enemy? A quick, razor-like blade can be just as dangerous as a massive bastard sword is used correctly. Remember, a weapon should compliment the user. A weapon based for a mounted knight should capitalize on his momentum and strength (lance) and be specifically designed so as not to harm his steed (Japanese war bow).
Step 4: Aesthetics over Purpose
Making a gold-chased saber is very pleasing to the eye, but often decreases the overall power of sword itself. Similarly, a typical war axe looks unassuming, but is fully capable of removing someone’s face with a swing.
If a sword is designed to look good, it should only be used by someone who can afford either the artistic cost (aristocracy) or who intends to use the weapon as a badge of office as opposed to a deadly tool (aristocracy). Generally, only the very rich can afford weapons that are as beautiful as they are deadly.
Step 5: Stuff Breaks
In real life, swords, bows, and other weapons break all the time. Welsh longbowmen could go through several longbows in the course of a battle, due to the fact that the bows were constructed quickly in large numbers. After a few blows, a sword should begin to acquire notches where it has struck other edges. An axe may become loosely attatched to the haft. A bow may begin to show fracture lines along its body.