Monday, March 18, 2013

Disastrously Creative

Long ago...
No one tore the ground with ploughshares
or parcelled out the land
or swept the sea with dipping oars -
the shore was the world’s end.
Clever human nature, victim of your inventions,
disastrously creative,
why cordon cities with towered walls?
Why arm for war?

Ovid, Amores, Book 3

I am endlessly fascinated by this ingeniously destructive thing we do. The manifestations in material culture of our inherited aggressive territoriality are some of the most gorgeous and dire and cunning tools in existence.

I love early gunpowder weapons. I think D&D deserves handgonnes and arquebuses not just because they correspond historically to the period when polearms and plate armour and two-handed swords were prevalent but because they were all about the roar and the smoke and the terrible accuracy and disastrous backfiring, and in situations where one doesn't have a hundred other Harquebusiers all shooting together the likelihood of hitting anything is small.

Some handgonnes also have the issue of making you look right twerpy, what with their being small and fiddly. This bloke doesn't look so dangerous with his little tube on a stick and his little wick.

Until his shot punches right through your expensive armour
 Henry the Eighth, renowned fuckwit, famously had a device made that combined three handgonne barrels into the head of a morning star. Then he'd just go wandering around with it, apparently. It goes by the name of Henry VIII's Walking Staff. I'm not sure he got the whole clever concealed weapon bit properly because if I saw a hulking great bloke pointing this thing at me and messing about with a burning wick I'd suspect something was up.


It is, however, a thing of beauty and ingenuity, allowing precisely the sort of combination of functions I'd like to have in a tool I was using to clear out demon-infested catacombs. It was not the only such combo-weapon, there is actually a bunch of 'em as I shall demonstrate.

Combination axe/flintlock pistol with lovely armour piercing spike
Somewhat ornate flintlock pistol/flanged mace

Flintlock pistol/halberd

Flintlock pistol/nice choppy axe

German hunting knife/wheel-lock pistol with etched calendar on blade

Hanger/flintlock pistol

Indian katar (punch dagger) with two flintlock pistols. Imagine what kind of crazy badass would use this monstrosity. It's beautiful.

If I had to go into a dark monster-hole with 16th century technology I'd want one of these

I don't know for sure, but it looks like this dagger can shoot its end off. Preferably after you've stabbed. Edit: It's a removable point and the pistol's inside.

What the fuck kind of brigands did they have in them days?

This looks Indian too, wheel-lock/axe

Another, very pretty eh?

This last is a matchlock gun/axe combination, a bit more primitive

 Potentially devices like this could replace some magic items or other treasure in some settings. They were uncommon even in the historical period in which they were made (probably 16th-18th century) and tended to be curiosities made for wealthy aristocrats. This article at the excellent My Armoury page has a bunch of information about various combination weapons, including other kinds of weird devices and especially the combination sword/gauntlet/lantern/shield/serrated wolverine claws devices from the Kunsthistoriches museum in Vienna and which every adventurer worth his salt should possess.


  1. That dual pistol katar is almost to ridiculous to exist. It' like something out of a Hollywood wuxia-inspired action film.

  2. I like to think there was some dangerously stubbled Bollywood villain-type rogue dual-wielding them in the back streets of old Calcutta.

  3. Some officers of the Mexican wars used to have some nice saber-revolver combos!

  4. You've misidentified several wheellocks as flintlocks (2-4). Wheellocks, although fiddly and expensive to make, had the advantage of covering the priming pan until the trigger was pulled. Lose your priming charge, and your gun has suddenly become a decorative element.

    There are many pistol katars out there--it seems to have been a popular item.