Sometimes you end up with undeniably cool gear like Bayonetta’s gun high heels and Thor’s Mjolnir. Sometimes, however, not so much.

During my viewing of the latest Suicide Squad film I had veeeery mixed feelings about Bloodsport’s ‘guns’/ gun things/ modular polly pocket blasters.

You see, I think weapons are much like other central aspects important for character design in that they need context.

The reason why Luke brandishing the lightsaber is so undeniably cool is that it has gravitas and build up. It’s not just a random item he found along his way or a plot convenience that has been in his employ prior to the start of the films. It is a moment and a massive part of his trajectory to becoming the Jedi master we now know him as.

Bloodsport, on the other hand, just has his… toys. There’s no explanation why he possesses these incredibly advanced guns that would make even Tony Stark envious. He just has them.

So that got me thinking about what makes a good weapon and how you can go about making sure your character has one that fits their vibe and characterisation without being cliche or overly fussed about. A tall order, I know.

Here goes!

COMBAT

If you’re writing a genre story chances are some level of combat will actor into it. According to the first source, there are three rules of combat:

  • Skill
  • Strength
  • Stealth

These rules have been used widely over centuries of storytelling, so readers automatically group weapons into these categories too. While skill is needed to wield any weapon, skill can also assume the form of arcane art or magical ability. Try defining which of these aspects your character most closely aligns with to start narrowing down what their weapon could be.

WORLDBUILDING

Weapons are a great way to further develop and flesh out the worlds your characters live in. Say you have a dark and gloomy futuristic world rife with crime and bloodshed. Chances are that your protagonist wielding an archaic elven greatsword would be more than a little incongruous EXCEPT if perhaps that is what puts the story in motion and by finding this weapon in the sullen and acid rain-soaked streets they have stumbled upon a conspiracy to erase the history of magic and must now fight to save it.

Think of your weapons as extensions of your story and your character’s journey or building and you should have a solid story aspect in tow.

ATTACK OF THE NERFS

There’s nothing that causes the suspension of disbelief to jump the shark like an OP weapon. Bloodsport I’m looking at you. Captain Marvel’s blasty powers too come to think of it. And Wonder Woman’s infallible hair. For real that woman can get hit by a truck and her curls unfurl like gossamer strands.

Make sure your weapon has limitations and vulnerabilities that ensure your character is challenged consistently in using it. It should not be a cakewalk, as cakewalks tend to have little to no stakes and no stakes means completely apathy from the reader or viewer.

You have to make them care for your character and what they’re going through and then you have to stress them the hell out that their fate could not turn out all so good. A strategically nerf’d weapon or skill set is the perfect way to do this.

RESEARCH AND SIMPLIFY

This is the cool part. The best way to get a handle (pun intended) on your weapon creation is to go out and try to find something like it to play around with. The best way to illustrate an idea is with a clear reference after all.

Then, once you have some knowledge of the real world variant of your fantasy weapon and you have chosen features or aspects to its design to exaggerate in the name of the genre, SIMPLIFY it!

Your celestial rocket cannon probably doesn’t need a Siri-esque voice bot too and your gun blade probably shouldn’t also be throwing mini shuriken no matter how fun both of these things would be and how badly I want to see them in a weapon.

Hope this helps! Now get slicing and dicing :D

P.S. I trawled the internet for some gooood info on this topic and stumbled upon some extremely fun reads which I recommend you take a look at too:

- Dante Ludolf