Terrouge E-zine Archives
Wordsmith's Forge II: Polishing Your Character
By: Sean A.
If you've been following along, you've now forged your first character; congratulations, but you're not finished yet. A sword is useless until it's sharpened; a character useless until a few last details are decided and polished. Grab your pen and let's get started, shall we?
There are very few characters out there who don't have a weapon of some kind. Even the most mild-mannered of Redwallers, when forced to violence, will attack with a kitchen knife, walking stick, or other improvised weapon.
Now, I'm assuming the majority of those who read this article will not be writing all that many pacifists-- because, let's face it, pacifistic characters are, by and large, quite boring; most characters have some type of weapon, no matter how reluctant they are to use it and no matter how odd it may seem.
I'm further going to assume that your character will, through some set of circumstances or another, gain access to the weapon that you, the author, choose for them to wield. It's not likely to be a kitchen knife, either, although all things are possible.
Now, you've got pretty much a free reign where choosing a weapon is concerned, but the use of the Sword of Martin, Gullwhacker, Finnbarr's sabres, and other such legendary weapons is considered a bad thing; it's a minor, or, depending on the weapon, possibly major twink to give your character such a weapon.
There are, of course, a couple exceptions to this rule. If you're writing straight fiction, with no other authors, it's acceptable to give your character a legendary weapon, although it's still frowned upon by the community at large. Even in role-playing with multiple authors, legendary weapons have been given out on a few occasions- Daithi from Questors Bold, Makala from ROCS: 2, and Weston from Quest for the Emerald have all wielded the Sword of Martin. Take note, however, that in all three cases, it was people other than the character's author who bestowed the legendary weapon (In two cases the audience, in the third, the other authors). Also, these situations are extremely rare.
Since it'd be a short article otherwise, let's assume that you're not using a legendary weapon. The variety of weapons, 'real' and improvised, that you can use for your character is truly astounding. A chair-leg can be a weapon. A heavy candlestick. A rope. A branch. The question is this: what weapon would your character be best suited to? A squirrel isn't likely to be carrying around a four-foot claymore, nor a wildcat likely to carry only a dagger. By and large, weapons are divided into several categories, listed below, with examples of some weapons from that category and the type of creature that would be likely to carry such a weapon.
Cutting Blades: Knives, shortswords, rapiers, broadswords, claymores, and axes are a few of the traditional weapons. Want something more interesting? Variations include kitchen knives, saw blades, sharp pieces of rock-- basically, anything that can be given a sharp edge.
Anyone with the strength to swing it can carry a cutting blade-- just remember that you should match the size of the blade to the size of the wielder-- claymores are for badgers, not harvest mice. Also remember that a short blade, such as a dagger, has a considerable speed advantage over a large blade such as a double-handed battle-axe.
Stabbing Weapons: Rapiers, daggers, spears, pikes, javelins, knives and daggers. Variations on this theme include, well, just about anything that's got a convenient handle. Curtain rods, a key (if you could get close enough), a fork, even something like a chair (Don't laugh. I've fenced using a chair before).
Stabbing weapons, if they're sharp, don't require much strength to wield. Even if they're blunt, the small surface area of the point should cause a lot of damage. Stabbing weapons, also, are faster than all but the shortest cutting blades- that is, you can hit your enemy repeatedly in a given period of time, but the damage done might not be as extensive as another weapon.
Crushing Weapons/Polearms: Staves, spearhafts, clubs, maces, morningstars and other weapons which do damage from sheer impact are crushing weapons. Non-traditional weapons of this type include the aforementioned chair (If you swing it rather than stabbing with it), a metal lantern, a knotted rope, a large tail, a block of wood, or a large rock.
Crushing weapons should be wielded by those who have the strength to swing them really, really hard. Sunflash the badger lord, for example, wielded a mace. On the other hand, the lighter crushing weapons, such as a wooden staff or a knotted rope, can be wielded by almost anyone- the key in the case of light weapons is to swing them fast, rather than hard.
Projectile weapons: Bows, slings, javelins, and dirks are a few examples of a projectile weapon-- basically, if it's not in your hand when it hits the other guy, it's a projectile weapon. Improvised projectile weapons include, well, anything one can throw, really.
Anyone who can throw an item or draw a bowstring can use a projectile weapon. The amount of strength required varies on the distance to the target and the size of the projectile.
If you're paying close attention, you may have noticed that most weapons, to some extent, fall into two, three, or even all four categories-- you can stab someone with a sword, slash someone with a sword, whack them on the head with the flat of the blade and, in an emergency, throw your blade. The guidelines are there simply because most weapons aren't designed to be used in all four ways-- you'd run into trouble if you tried to throw a pike or cut someone open with a staff.
Example of Weaponry: (Can't forget Nightroarer, can we?) Nightroarer carries a spear; oak haft with a bronze blade, which he keeps razor-sharp and gleaming.
Exotics: This isn't really a category of weapons, it's just... well, things that haven't been tried much. A bola, for example, is a neat weapon-- but it's used only once in the Redwall books. A bagh nakh (Also known as a Tiger's Claw) is a very cool weapon but, to my knowledge, has never appeared in Redwall. For those who are curious, a bagh nakh consists of a piece of steel forged in the shape of a bar, and has holes at the end for pinky and forefinger. Extending from the bar like a tiger's claws are three to five sharpened, slightly curved blades. It's held in the palm and used to slap at your opponent-- it's very effective on an unarmored foe. Getting back to the point, though, even something like a boomerang will bring your character across as original.
Intangibles: Also not a category of weapons, this covers things that, while not weapons themselves, certainly qualify as a way of doing combat. For example, a character whose mind is sharp enough to fool the enemy into surrendering without violence.
Accessories and other such strange creatures...
It's been helpfully pointed out to me that there are (Or, at least, there should be) very few creatures who just wander around with a weapon. Most creatures have a profession other than 'Armed Wanderer' and carry tools that they'd use in their trade. An armorer, for example, would certainly carry a hammer. A scribe would carry a pen, some ink, and likely a supply of parchement. And most creatures who are going to be wandering around in the wilderness will carry something they can use to cook their food-- A pot strapped to their pack, for example. And just about every character carries a pack with the 'basics'; clothing, food, a blanket... You get the idea. (Come to think of it, it'd be a neat idea to try doing a character who didn't have the basics.)
Finally, there's one more thing that you should decide about your character-- Clothing! Now, it's entirely possible that you already picked this when you were working up an appearance. If you didn't, though, there are a couple things you might want to keep in mind. First, make the clothes your character has appropriate to their station in life; a beggar would not be wearing velvet. No 'Magic Clothing', either-- if your character's cloak gets ripped in half, they have to find a new one. Third, a character who makes a living as a jester would likely not wear black; keep your color appropriate to your job.
Right, that's it. Next month you learn how to use your character effectively. As always, if you have a comment, question, or just want to try out your newly-finished character, drop by Wordsmith's Army in the Terrouge Forums.