Copyright (C) 2013 by Kevin L. O'Brien
Armaments are a type of tool, designed to inflict injury on living beings or damage to artificial structures (henceforth referred to as harm). Most armaments derive from other types of tools, which are not designed to inflict harm but can be adapted to do so; for example, daggers derive from knives, which serve as all-purpose cutting and slicing tools. However, four types of tools were designed from the start to inflict harm and so were intended to be armaments; these are the spear, the bow, the sword, and the firearm. Of these, two were designed as hunting tools before they were adapted for use in war—the spear and the bow—whereas two were designed for war from the moment of their conception—the sword and the firearm. There are many different kinds of armaments in the Dreamlands. In fact, with the exception of firearms and modern military equipment, any armament that was invented in the Waking World exists in the Dreamlands, along with a few that never existed in the Waking World.
The following essay is a survey of the types of armament found in the Dreamworld. They are divided into categories, with examples described for most. This is not meant to be a complete list of all armaments that exist; it merely describes the kinds of armament anyone can expect to encounter. It should also be noted that many varieties of each type exist, most of which vary only by name rather than physical characteristics. In other words, many armaments are virtually identical despite the fact that they are all called something different.
Finally, the term ‘armament’ herein refers to the whole tool, whereas the term ‘weapon’ herein refers only to the that part of the tool that inflicts harm. For example, when referring to a battle axe, the armament is the whole object, including the handle and any decorative features, whereas the weapon is the axe head by itself. ‘Melee’ refers to close-quarters combat using arms, often where participants fight as individuals instead of an organized unit, and a ‘melee weapon’ is an armament used in a melee. ‘Hand-to-hand combat’ (in this context) refers to close-quarters combat using no arms, just the participants’ body parts (though one category of arms can be used to enhance harm caused as part of hand-to-hand combat). ‘Small unit tactics’ and ‘massed attack’ refer to combat involving a group of persons working as an organized coherent unit. To avoid confusion, ‘object’ refers to non-tools and pseudotools as well as true tools, whereas ‘implement’ refers to true tools and pseudotools both. (A ‘pseudotool’ is an object used to do work or make work easier, but in and of itself does not perform a specific task. For example, a hammer is a tool, because it performs the specific task of driving fasteners into wood, but a nail is a pseudotool because its purpose of acting as a fastening is not its only task, nor is it the only kind of fastener available. Wooden dowels used to be used before nails were developed, and in many places are still used instead of nails. Work gloves are another example of a pseudotool.)
This is an armament that consists of a pole with a weapon attached to one end, often more than one. Except for the spear, which began as a hunting weapon, it derives from agricultural implements meant to make harvesting and pruning trees easier. It is primarily used for small unit tactics as a defense against cavalry, or to aid in cavalry or infantry massed attacks, but it can be used as a heavy melee weapon. Its advantage is its reach, but its disadvantage is that it can be unwieldy and requires both hands to use properly.
Pole arms, in the form of spears, may be the oldest armaments in existence. (The stone hand axe, which may be just as old or older, was an all-purpose breaking, chopping, and cutting tool rather than an armament.) Archaeological and anthropological evidence suggests that the first spears were wooden poles sharpened to a point and hardened in a fire. It was only later that small hand axes and later still flake points were attached to make a cutting/stabbing weapon instead of merely an impaling one. Two innovations that made the spear more effective and powerful were attaching the spearheads to hollow tubes that fitted onto the front end of the spear pole, and the atlatl or spear thrower, a stick with a notch at one end meant to hurl a spear with greater force. Combined, these two innovations allowed a single hunter to bring down large or multiple prey. The atlatl allowed him to drive the spearhead deeper into the prey, while the force of the blow dislodged the pole from the head. The hunter could then retrieve the pole, fit another head, and throw it again, almost without pause.
Dagger-tipped — These arms use a dagger-like blade as their weapon. Spears are of intermediate length with leaf-shaped blades. They are one of four tools designed to be arms, but were adapted for war from hunting. The Greek dory is a prime example. At least seven feet long, it also has a butt-spike to counterbalance the weight of the blade and to serve as a secondary weapon. It is meant to be a stabbing armament used against infantry and is rarely if ever thrown, but it can be swung about the head. Pikes are longer, at least twelve feet and often as much as twice as long. They are meant to be impaling armaments used against cavalry and infantry charges.
Spike-tipped — These arms either have a sharply point end or are fixed with a needle-point weapon. Lances are long armaments used by cavalry to impale infantry or other cavalry during a charge. Their target can be horse as well as man. They can range from six to twelve feet long. Javelins are shorter, lighter armaments meant to be thrown. They were originally developed for use by infantry to impale chariot horses, but are equally effective against infantry and cavalry. They are usually around six feet long. The Roman pilum is a prime example. It is thrown first before engaging with the sword, either to kill or incapacitate an opponent or render his shield useless.
Multi-prong — These are armaments with more than one weapon at the tip. The trident is a prime example. It has three spike-tipped weapon prongs attached to the pole used to stab and impale targets. It is usually about six feet long, but it can be longer or shorter as needed.
Sword-tipped — Both the glaive and the naginata have a single-edged sword blade as a weapon, but the glaive’s is broad and heavy, while the naginata’s is thin and slightly curved. The glaive tends to be eight feet long, whereas the naginata can be from five to ten feet long. They are meant to slash and cut.
Cleaver-tipped — The voulge has a broad, squat, cleaver-shaped weapon, almost like a machete. It is generally eight feet long. It is meant to hack and chop. Some designs have a spike at the top for stabbing.
Scythe-tipped — The fauchard has a long, narrow, sword-like weapon similar to a naginata, except the inside edge is sharpened rather the outside. As such, it is used like a scythe to cut and slash. It is generally about eight feet long.
Axe-tipped — The poleaxe has an axe head for a weapon, usually with a spike on the opposite side and a spear head at the top. It is generally about eight feet long. It is primarily used to hack and chop, but the spike can also penetrate heavy armour, and the spear point can be used for stabbing.
Impact — The Lucerne hammer has a hammer head for a weapon with a spike on the opposite side and a spike at the top. It is generally about eight feet long. The hammer has three or four prongs attached to its face. It is primarily used to break and crush and inflict other forms of blunt-force trauma, but the back spike can also penetrate heavy armour, and the top spike can be used for stabbing.
This armament is a long-shaft, two-handed device used in stick fighting. It is derived from poles used as walking aides over rough terrain. It is primarily used for self-defense, but it can be weaponized, generally with blades, for offensive use. Its advantages are its ubiquity, its ease of use, and the fact that it can be constructed from available material, but its disadvantage is that it tends to incapacitate rather than kill, unless weaponized.
Quarterstaff — The quintessential battle staff. It can be anywhere from six to nine feet long. It can have a metal tip or spike at one end to make travel easier. It is used to inflict blunt-force trauma.
Monk’s Spade — A battle staff modified with two bladed weapons at either end: a flat spade-like blade and a crescent shaped blade. It is used to slash and cut. It is generally about six feet long.
Man Catcher — A battle staff modified with a non-lethal two-pronged head. Each prong is semi-circular in shape, has sharpened studs attached to the inner surface, and possesses a spring-loaded catch attached to its end. It can fit around the neck of an armoured opponent, and the catches will lock, securing it in place. It can then be used to pull that opponent off his horse, subdue him, and restrain him.
Hafted Arm, One-handed
This armament consists of a weapon attached to a short handle. It is balanced for use with one hand. It is derived from various construction tools, such as the hand axe or the nail hammer. It is generally used for self-defense or as a light melee weapon. Its advantage is that it is relatively light and easy to wield, but its disadvantage is that it is ineffective against heavily armoured opponents.
Throwing Axe — A one-handed hafted arm with an axe head for a weapon. It is balanced for throwing and inflicts harm through cutting and blunt-force trauma. The francisca is a primary example. It has a head some six inches long with a four-inch cutting edge mounted on a shaft some 18 inches long. It is thrown before engaging in hand-to-hand combat, to break a wooden shield and possibly injure or kill an opponent. It is often deliberately thrown against the ground to bounce in a random direction to confuse and dismay the enemy.
War Hammer — A one-handed hafted arm with a hammer head for a weapon. Often a spike is attached behind the hammer. It causes harm by breaking and blunt-force trauma. It is generally about two feet long.
Mace — A one-handed hafted arm with a heavy round head. It causes harm by crushing, breaking, and blunt-force trauma. The head is often shaped with flanges or knobs to allow greater damage. One type is called a morning star. It has a head studded with spikes to cause stabbing damage. It is generally about two feet long.
Hafted Arm, Two-handed
This armament consists of a weapon attached to a long handle. It is balanced for use with two hands. It is derived from felling or excavation tools, such as the tree axe or the digging pick. It is generally used as a heavy melee weapon. Its advantage is that it is more effective against heavily armoured opponents, but its disadvantage is that it precludes the use of a shield or a second weapon.
Battle Axe — A two-handed version of the throwing axe, with a larger, heavier head. It inflicts harm by chopping, hacking, and breaking. It is generally about three feet long.
Horseman’s Pick — A two-handed version of the war hammer, with a larger, heavier head and a back spike that curves down like a miner’s pickaxe. It inflicts harm by breaking and blunt-force trauma, while the spike can penetrate armour and be used to pull an opponent off his horse. It is generally about three feet long.
Short-pole Mounted Arms
This armament consists of a weapon attached to a short pole. As such, it stands halfway between a two-handed hafted weapon and a pole arm. It is balanced for use with two hands while providing greater reach. It is derived from smaller armaments of a similar design and function. It is generally used as a heavy melee weapon. Its advantage is that its extra length produces greater power and it allows one to reach opponents from a safer distance, but its disadvantage is that it can be unwieldy.
Bardiche — A short-pole version of the battle axe, with a larger, heavier head that is long and narrow. It inflicts harm by chopping, hacking, and breaking, but the extreme end is often sharpened into a spike for thrusting. It is generally about six feet long.
Dane axe — A short-pole version of the throwing axe, with a larger head. Nonetheless, the head is fairly light, very thin, and wide, between 8 and 12 inches, with pronounced horns at the both the toe and heel of the cutting edge. It inflicts harm by cutting, chopping, and hacking, and it is designed to be a lively and quick arm, often swung around the head. It is generally about five feet long and weighs 2 to 4 pounds.
This type of armament consists of a blade attached to a handle called a hilt. Unlike hafted arms, however, in which the handle is little better than a stick, a hilt consists of a grip with a guard to protect the hand and a pommel to counterbalance the blade. It is derived from the knife, which itself derived from prehistoric handaxes and flake tools. It is used primarily for stabbing and cutting, but depending upon the size and weight of the blade it can also slash or chop or even crush. It has the advantages of penetrating weak points or joints in armour and allowing finesse in combat, but it has the disadvantage of being less powerful than arms of equal size and weight.
Knife — Knives have short blades with a single sharpened edge. Beyond that, blade design can vary considerably. The Bowie knife is a famous example, though it is just one design among many. It has a broad, thin blade, similar to a butcher knife. The back is straight, but it has a clip point. The top edge of the clip is usually beveled to produce a sharp point, and is often sharpened to cut on a back swing. The blade can vary from 6 to 24 inches (8 to 12 is usual) and be anywhere from 1.5 to 2 inches wide. It should be noted that switchblades and folding knives are fairly common, but are generally used as tools rather than arms.
Dagger — Daggers are knives with dual sharpened edges. Beyond that, blade design can vary considerably, though not as much as knives. The poignard is a good basic example. It consists of a light, thin, triangular blade with a needle point, at least 12 inches long. When combined with a sword it is used to help parry incoming blows and deliver fatal strikes, but when wielded alone it is used for thrusting and cutting.
Spike — A spike weapon is a special variety of dagger that has a sharpened needle point but no sharpened edges, similar to an ice pick. A rondel is a typical example. It can have a cross section that is round, triangular, square, cruciform, lenticular, or rhomboid, but it tends to be thicker than a typical dagger to withstand the force of a strong thrust. It is used as a backup weapon for a swordsman, to penetrate chain mail or the joints of plate armour, or as a method of self-defense for a civilian. The blade measures at least 12 inches, but the whole dagger rarely exceeds 20 inches in length.
Long Knife (shortsword) — These are weapons that are longer than conventional daggers (over 12 inches), but shorter than conventional swords (under 2.5 feet). The difference between a dagger, a “long knife”, and a sword is subjective, but a sword blade tends to be at least two feet long, whereas for the others this tends to be the maximum length. See the essay on Swords for more details and various examples.
Cleaver — These are long-bladed weapons with single cutting edges that are designed to chop and slash, though nearly all have spear or ogival points for thrusting. Though some have straight blades, many use a recurve design in which the inner edge is sharpened, while others are curved backswords with sharpened outer edges like the sabre. See the essay on Swords for more details and various examples.
Sword — The sword is the quintessential hilted arm. It is one of four tools intended to inflict harm, and one of two originally designed for war. It is the classical melee weapon, with various designs targeting light to heavy infantry as well as light to heavy cavalry. See the essay on Swords for more details and various examples.
This type of armament enhances the strength and power of the human hand. Each design derives from different sources: some are inspired by nature, some are redesigns of existing arms, some are weaponized versions of everyday objects or tools, and some are simply stronger and more elaborate versions of costume accessories. They can be used for self-defense or to inflict greater harm during hand-to-hand combat. They have the advantages of being concealable and portable, but the disadvantage that they are only effective in hand-to-hand combat against an unarmoured or lightly armoured opponent.
Impact — These arms are designed to cause harm through blunt force trauma, but they can be weaponized with blades and spikes. The cestus is a leather glove that covers the palm and the back of the hand, the wrist, and part of the lower arm, while leaving the fingers bare. It is made of leather strips, but it can have iron plates or studs attached to it, as well as spike or blades. A set of brass knuckles (which are in fact made of steel) fit over the fingers to concentrate the force of a punch into a smaller, harder contact area. The palm grip in turn distributes the force of the blow across the attacker’s palm, thereby protecting his fingers. They can also have studs, spikes, or blades attached to the exposed edge above the fingers. Both are examples of stronger versions of costume accessories.
Bladed — These arms have blades attached to handles that are gripped with hands. They cause harm through cutting and slashing, with some designed for stabbing or thrusting as well. Tiger claws, more properly ‘bagh nakh’, are an example of a design inspired by nature. It consists of a crossbar with 4 or 5 curved blades attached, with holes or loops for fingers. It resembles the armature of a tiger, hence the name. A push dirk is an example of a redesign of an existing arm. It consists of a triangular double-edged rhomboid blade with a spear point about 2 inches long and an inch wide, attached to a T-shaped handle. It is gripped in the palm with the blade protruding from the front of the fist between the second and third fingers.
Tessen — Known as the “war fan”, this arm is an example of a weaponized version of an everyday object. It consists of a folding fan with heavy lacquered paper supported by iron ribs. Primarily a defensive arm, it causes harm by blunt force trauma, but it can also be used like an ice pick to attack the eyes or other vulnerable places on the body, and it can be thrown.
This armament consists of a tool constructed from a single piece of solid material; usually wood, but stone or metal are often used, and any convenient hard, strong organic or inorganic material can substitute. It derives from natural objects, such as tree branches or stones, or non-armament tools improvised as arms, which can be used to pummel targets, causing harm through crushing, breaking, and blunt-force trauma. It can also be weaponized with blades. It can be used for self-defense or as a light to heavy melee weapon. It has the advantages of being easy to make, carry, and wield, but the disadvantage that it is ineffective against heavy armour.
Short Stick — This is a slender rod that can be used with one hand. It tends to be used like a sword rather than a cudgel. A typical example is the singlestick, which is a wooden rod around 3 feet long and an inch in diameter, with a cross guard or a basket hilt. Sticks can be weaponized, such as the maquahuitl. This is a wooden rod 3 to 4 feet long and 3 inches wide with a square or oval cross section. At least two channels are carved into its length, into which are inserted flint or obsidian blades. It can be used as either a bludgeon or a slashing sword depending upon which face strikes the target.
Long Stick — This is a slender rod that is used with both hands. It tends to be used like staff rather than a cudgel. A typical example is the kanabō. This is a wooden rod sheathed in iron, or a rod of pure iron, 5 to 6 feet in length and at least 2 inches in diameter, with studs or spikes covering one end.
Club — This is a thick rod that can be used with one hand. The truncheon is a typical example. It consists of a wooden rod 12 inches long and 2 to 2.5 inches in diameter. It often has a lanyard attached to one end that can be wrapped around the wrist.
Bat — This is a thick rod that is used with two hands. A good example is the shillelagh. Though technically a walking stick, it has traditionally been used as an arm for self-defense. It is made from a knotty branch with a large knob on top, and is generally 3 to 4 feet long and an inch thick.
The term “soft” in this case means a type of armament made from flexible material rather than rigid, and does not refer to the nature of the material itself. It tends to derive from weaponized versions of agricultural implements; however, some designs are improvised while others are novel extrapolations from existing armaments. Depending upon design, it can be used for self-defense, as a light to heavy melee weapon, for a sneak attack, or as a form of punishment. It mostly causes harm through blunt force trauma derived from kinetic energy as it is swung or whipped, but it may cut flesh depending upon the nature of the material and it can be weaponized. It has the advantages of being relatively easy to make, having a relatively long reach, and capable of generating a fair amount of power, as well as being able to entangle and restrain an opponent, but the disadvantages of being ineffective against heavy armour and requiring a fair amount of skill to use properly.
Scourge — This soft arm consists of multiple thongs attached to a short handle. The thongs can be made of any material, but leather or rope is the most common. In turn the thongs can be plain, or they can be knotted or have studs, spikes, or small blades attached to them, to increase the amount of harm done.
Long Lash — This arm is similar to the scourge in that it consists of a single long thong attached to a handle. The bullwhip is constructed of braided leather. Its handle is some 8 to 12 inches long and the thong can be 3 to 20 feet in length. Attached to the end of the thong is a single piece of leather called the “fall” some 10 to 30 inches long. This takes the wear and tear of the whipping action and is meant to be replaceable. Finally, a “cracker” is tied to the end of the fall. This consists of a cord made from hair, twine, silk, or some other very flexible material. It is meant to disperse the noise created as the tip of the whip exceeds the speed of sound and creates a sonic boom, thereby making it heard more easily. A chain whip consists of 7 to 13 metal rods joined end-to-end by rings, attached to a handle with a metal dart at the opposite end for slashing or stabbing. A cloth flag is attached to the base of the dart, to stabilize the whip and create a rushing sound that helps the wielder to keep track of the position of the dart. The overall length varies from 3 to 6 feet, but longer whips are known.
Weighted Lash — These arms attach a weight to at least one end of a chain. The meteor hammer uses a solid spherical head as heavy as 7 pounds at the end of a 15-foot rope or metal chain. An alternative design attaches two lighter heads to either end of a 6 to 9 foot chain. This is a versatile arm that can be used to attack, defend, or ensnare an opponent. A kyoketsu shoge uses a straight 12-inch double-edged blade with a spear point attached to a 12 to 18 foot length of rope, chain, or cord. The other end of the rope typically has a ring tied to it, and the blade has an attached smaller curved blade pointing backwards at a 45 to 60 degree angle. This arm is even more versatile than the meteor hammer in that it can be used as a tool as well as a weapon, and the blade can be wielded like a dagger to slash and stab.
Flail — This is essentially a flexible bludgeon. The war flail consists of a striking head attached to a handle by a piece of rope, a leather strap, or a short metal chain. The head is invariably covered with studs or spikes to do additional harm. There are two major variants. The first is derived from an agricultural implement used to thresh wheat. The handle is generally 2 to 3 times longer than the head, and it is designed to be used by two hands. The second consists of a shorter handle with the head being a spiked ball attached with a longer length of chain. There is no standardization to the length of the handle or chain, or the size of the ball, but it is generally meant to be used by one hand. Similar to this arm is the nunchuku, except the head is the same length as the handle and is attached by a longer connection. As well, both sections can be used as handles or striking heads. A slapjack, also known as a blackjack, consists of a bag filled with some kind of solid material to give it weight. The bag can be made out of any soft material; socks are popular. But more durable materials such as leather are often used. Similarly, the filler can be just about anything, such as sand or a cake of hard soap, but lead is popular because of its density. A related design, called a “Millwall brick”, is several sheets of newspaper rolled and folded to create a handle and a rounded head at the fold. The paper can be wetted to add weight and wrapped in leather to protect it. It can even be weaponized with a large nail pushed through the fold.
This is an armament that is designed to inflict harm when thrown (though some may be used as hand-held implements). Each design appears to be novel, in that there is no tool or other object that mimics its form and function, or it is already an implement adapted for use as an arm, though the dart may be based on a toy. They can be used for self-defense, as a light melee weapon, or for a sneak attack. It has the advantages of range and deriving its power from kinetic energy, but the disadvantages of inflicting only relatively minor harm and being effective against unarmoured of lightly armoured opponents.
Stick — Throwing sticks are simply bludgeons that tend to be thrown at targets rather than held in the hand. They are derived from hunting implements, and while they may not be the oldest hunting tool — rocks and stones almost certainly came first — they are older than slings and possibly older than spears as well. They tend to be smaller than handheld bludgeons and are often curved or shaped. They can be made from wood, bone, or ivory, possibly even antler or horn. They cause harm by breaking and crushing through blunt force trauma. A boomerang is a specialized form of throwing stick in that it can be crafted to be aerodynamic and thus return to the wielder if thrown right. However, its elliptical flight path requires greater skill to successfully aim for a target.
Edged — These arms have sharpened edges and cause harm by cutting or impaling. A classical example is the shaken, or “throwing stars”. They are erroneously referred to as shuriken, but while their official name is hira-shuriken, ‘shuriken’ actually refers to a whole class of concealed weapons, many of which bear no resemblance to “throwing stars”. Shaken come in a huge variety of shapes and forms, and can have any number of points, though 3 to 8 is fairly standard. As such, size and weight also varies, but virtually all are roughly palm or hand size, and are made fairly light for throwing. Some have only sharpened points while others have sharpened edges and still others have both. Related to the shaken is the chakram. It is essentially a flat metal ring with a sharp outer edge, some 5 to 12 inches in diameter. It can be thrown like a discus, but the standard method is to twirl the ring on an index finger and throw it with a flick of the wrist.
Spike — This type of arm is essentially a dart. The bo-shuriken is an example of the simplest form. It is a straight iron or steel spike 5 to 9 inches long and weighing 1 to 6 ounces, sharpened to a point with a round, square, or octagonal cross section. They are not thrown like game darts, with a flick of the wrist, but in such a way that they slide out of the hand through the fingers in a smooth, controlled fashion. They may or may not be spun when thrown, and most designs provide no method to stabilize the flight, but some add a tuft of linen at the butt end for this purpose. In contrast, the plumbata is perhaps the most elaborate form of dart. It consists of an iron or steel barbed dart inserted into one end of a wooden rod. The dart is secured with sinew or twine, coated with wax, and then sheathed in lead to add weight. Fletching, as with an arrow, is added to the opposite end of the rod. It is thrown like a javelin, and when an atlatl or some other kind of spear-thrower is used, the range and impact force is enhanced.
Frangible — This type of arm takes advantage of the breakable nature of a container to release a weapon over a relatively wide area. The grenade is a classical example, but in the Dreamlands it consists of a ceramic or glass pot that breaks on impact. These contain two basic types of fillers: flammable and non-flammable. A flammable filler is some form of incendiary material ignited by a burning wick. This material can release foul smelling or toxic vapours, or dense smoke, or it can be an inflammatory liquid such as petroleum or Greek fire. It can also be gunpowder or a volatile liquid to create an explosion. A non-flammable filler is anything that causes harm without having to be burned. This can include toxic volatile liquids such as ammonium, human waste such as urine and diarrhea, or stinging or biting insects such as bees and wasps.
Chain — Though similar to soft arms in design, these are meant to be thrown rather than held by hand. The bolas is a good example. They consist of weights attached to the ends of interconnected cords. When thrown, they can entangle an opponent. The number of weights and the length of the cords can vary considerably depending upon the intended use. Though designed to be a non-lethal arm, they can break bones or even strangle a target.
This type of armament is designed to inflict harm over a distance. Unlike a throwing arm, it is fired from a device rather than thrown by hand, so as to provide more force than simple manual physical effort can. It consists of two components: a tool with a firing mechanism and a projectile. However, the mechanism operates using physical or mechanical energy only. Each design appears to be novel, with no known precursor, through most were used as hunting tools before adapted for war. It is primarily used for small unit tactics or massed attacks, but it can be used as a light to heavy melee weapon or for sneak attacks. It has the advantages of having the longest range of any armament except firearms while still delivering a lethal punch, but the disadvantages that it takes a fair amount of skill to use properly and in most cases is fairly complicated to craft.
Lever — This kind of armament increases the length of a wielder’s throwing arm. In doing so, it also increases the momentum of the weapon, which increases the force applied to the weapon, which increases its energy upon release, allowing it to go farther and hit with greater force than would be possible without the extender arm. The atlatl, or spear-thrower, is a simple example. It consists of a stick with a notch at one end. A spear, javelin, or dart is fitted against the notch and thrown as normal, except the wielder holds on to the thrower instead of the projectile. In essence, it acts to give the projectile an added push. A sling is a more elaborate example. It consists of a cradle or pouch attached to two lengths of cord, one of which has a finger loop and the other a tab for grasping. A projectile, such as a smooth round stone or a lead ball, is placed in the pouch, the loop is placed around the middle finger, and the tab is grasped between the thumb and forefinger. The sling is then swung around and the tab released, allowing the projectile to fly free. The design also acts to give an added push, but is able to take advantage of even greater momentum to impart still greater energy to the projectile. While it is difficult to know when the sling was first invented, it was probably the third hunting implement to be commonly used, after the throwing stick and the spear. In fact, its acceptance probably led to the stick being abandoned as a hunting tool. Slings tend to be made out of flax, hemp, or wool, though other materials can be used, and the cords are usually braided. Ammunition can vary from 1 ounce to 1 pound, and can be any conceivable shape, but most resemble footballs or almonds. Though the overall length can vary, 2 to 3 feet is typical. Performance varies with design, but it is not unusual for an expert to hurl a 2 ounce stone using a 4 foot sling some 1400 feet.
Elastic — This kind of armament takes advantage of a flexible material to impart greater energy to a projectile than throwing it would be able to, even with the help of a lever. The bow is a classical example. It is essentially a stick with a string tied to either end in such a manner that the stick is bent; the overall effect is that of a shallow “D” shape. When the string is drawn (pulled back) the stick bends more, building up energy; when the string is released, the stick snaps back into the resting “D” shape, and the energy is transferred to the projectile. A bow can be made from any material that can bend without breaking or deforming, provided it can be bent manually. Bows can be handheld or mounted horizontally on a stock; the latter is known as a crossbow. It works the same way as a hand bow, except that the string can be drawn manually or mechanically, depending upon the design. The bow can also be made of stronger material, like steel, that cannot be bent by hand. As such, it has a greater range and power than a hand bow, but it is slower to reload. A hand bow’s projectiles are called “arrows”. These are wooden shafts with one end sharpened and the other end fletched, to stabilize their flight and provide lift. The sharp end is usually a stone or metal tip attached to the arrow. Crossbows use arrow-like projectiles called “bolts” or “quarrels”. Though shaped similarly, they are usually made of metal and don’t use fletching since they have a straighter, faster flight. See the essays on Archery and Arbalisty for more details and various examples.
Ejector — This category is a catchall for firing mechanisms that don’t use a lever or a flexible material. One such arm is the blowgun. It consists of a tube through which light projectiles such as darts are discharged. The wielder blows into one end of the tube to push the projectile out the opposite end. The performance of the arm is limited to the wielder’s lung power. Though lengths and diameters can vary, a typical arm is 4 feet long and has a diameter of .40 caliber (0.4 inches). However, arms as long as 6 to 9 feet with a .50 caliber diameter are prevalent. Dart length can vary from 6 to 22 inches depending upon tube length, and they tend to be fletched with feather or vegetable down, or animal fur. Though the effective range is typically 50 feet, darts can be hurled as far as 80 feet.
Firearm (matchlock, wheellock)
This is a special type of ranged arm that uses chemical energy to hurl the projectile rather than physical or mechanical energy. The basic design, of a hollow smoothbore barrel closed at one end, is novel with no known precursor. Firearms are not yet widespread in the Dreamlands, and because of this their primary or general purpose has not yet been established, but they have been mostly used for small unit tactics and massed attacks, though some have been used for self-defense or as melee weapons. Its advantages are that it is the most powerful armament extant, it requires less skill to learn properly, it doesn’t require a physically strong wielder to give it the power it needs, and one can carry more ammunition than an archer or arbalist. However, its disadvantages are its inaccuracy, its limited range, and the fact that it can be as dangerous to its wielder as an opponent. Typical projectiles used are ball ammunition, lead shot, and the “buck and ball” that combines a ball with 3 or 4 “buck” shot.
Hand Cannon — This is essentially a short wide bore barrel attached to the end of a stick. As the name indicates, for all practical purposes, it is a cannon that can be held by hand. Its primary target is heavily armoured knights and their warhorses. See the essay on Firearms for more details and various examples.
Long Barrel — These arms use long narrow bore barrels set into stocks; they are the Dream equivalent of rifles (except that “rifle” implies a rifled barrel, and these arms have smooth barrels). They are fired from the shoulder, but because of their size require a support to keep the barrel steady. Their primary target is massed cavalry and infantry. See the essay on Firearms for more details and various examples.
Short Barrel — These arms use short narrow bore barrels set into stocks, that are small enough to be fired from the hand. They are the Dream equivalent of pistols, though they tend to be larger than Waking World pistols. Their primary target is individual opponents at close range, or massed cavalry and infantry at longer distances. See the essay on Firearms for more details and various examples.
Wide Barrel — These arms use medium-length wide bore barrels set into stocks; they are the Dream equivalent of shotguns. They are fired from the shoulder, but do not require a stand to support the barrel. Their primary use is as a short range antipersonnel arm. See the essay on Firearms for more details and various examples.
All previous armaments are wielded by one person against another individual or a massed enemy. This type of armament, however, is indiscriminant. Rather than being directed at a specific target, it is simply placed in the enemy’s path for use against targets of opportunity. Each design is improvised from existing materials, with or without modification. They are primarily used as antipersonnel arms or for area denial. Their advantages are that they are easy to make or otherwise readily available, and easy to deploy over a large area, but their disadvantages are that using them is wasteful, and it is sometimes difficult to know whether they are an effective deterrent.
Physical — These arms cause injuries through stabbing, impaling, or cutting. Caltrops are antipersonnel devices made of two or more sharp spikes arranged so that one of them always points up from a stable base. A typical design is four spikes arranged in a pyramid shape. Historically, they were used primarily against cavalry, but they are effective against any target with soft feet. Punji spikes are even simpler, being sharpened stakes set upright in the ground. Though these arms can be used offensively to hamper a massed charge, or defensively to slow pursuit, they are most often used as an area denial weapon. They serve the same purpose as landmines, especially the punji spikes. They can be set in a pit to impale the feet of anyone who steps in it, and if they are set in the walls at a downward angle, they can grip the leg and prevent extraction without further damage. These arms are not meant to immediately kill, just to incapacitate a soldier and halt or slow his unit as he was extracted and evacuated to the rear. However, they cause wounds that are difficult to heal and easily infected, which can lead to eventual death. The sudes are effectively just big stakes. They are typically 5 to 6 feet long, 2 to 4 inches thick, and square in cross section. They are rough hewn so they can be quickly created, they are sharpened at both ends, and the center spot is waisted (narrowed) so they are thinner there than the rest of the length. The waist can serve as a handle for carrying, but its primary use is as a convenient location to lash then together or to a cross pole. Though they can be used to form a temporary wall or fence, they are primarily used for camp defense. They can be inserted into ramparts at an angle, two can be lashed together in an “X” configuration to a cross beam to form a cheval de fries, or three can be lashed together to form a Czech hedgehog, essentially a giant caltrop. These act as barriers to slow down and break up infantry and cavalry attacks. They are also often combined with regular caltrops or punji spikes to make penetration even more difficult and hazardous.
Thermal — These arms cause injuries through excessive heat. Fire has always been a weapon of war, going hand-in-hand with the sword. Attackers use it to burn towns and fortifications. It is often used as part of a sapping operation, in which tunnels dug under walls have bonfires built inside them to weaken and collapse the defenses. Defenders fire enemy siege engines and camps, or burn fields as part of a scorched earth policy. Fire is delivered by means such as thrown torches, incendiary missiles such as arrows and spears, flaming bombs hurled by siege engines, and rockets. Bundles of straw or flax soaked in animal fat can be lit and dropped from the top of defending walls or towers. Some truly novel techniques have been developed, such as capturing birds that roost in a city, trying burning tinder to their legs, and releasing them to return to their nests. Specialty troops trained to handle inflammatory arms are a part of nearly every army in the Dreamlands. But thermal armament goes beyond simply setting fires and includes the use of other methods to take advantage of extreme heat. Boiling water can be poured onto attackers, along with hot oil or sand. Containers full of burning pitch, resin, and naphtha, as well as other petroleum-based materials, are used as incendiary devices, often augmented with sulfur.
Yet the most famous inflammatory substance of all is Greek fire. Though many of its claimed features can be seen as legendary exaggerations, several have been confirmed in the Dreamlands, such as the ability to stick to wooden and stone structures, to burn on water, and to self-ignite. It is particularly infamous for being unable to be dosed by water (it must be smothered instead) and especially for the seeming contradictory result that water enhances its combustion rather than retards it. Contrary to popular belief, there have been many formulas developed throughout time and across numerous cultures, many of which were and still are secret. However, one mixture whose formula is known is fairly common in the Dreamlands. It uses naphtha as the fuel, to which is added wax and vegetable balm oil to thicken it and make it sticky enough to adhere to wooden and stone structures in a manner similar to napalm. Sulfur can be added to lower the temperature of ignition and to create toxic smoke, but it is not a usual ingredient. By itself this basic mixture can be ignited and hurled at targets using siege engines or a frangible throwing arm. However, it can also be mixed with quicklime, which reacts vigorously with water and produces a great deal of heat. This enhanced mixture is especially effective at sea, but it can also be used on land, either by taking advantage of defensive water barriers such as moats or local rainy conditions, or by moistening the mixture before its use.
Chemical — These arms cause injuries through chemical burns and toxic effects. There is no systematic classification in the Dreamlands since chemical warfare is severely restricted by the pre-1500 limitation on technology. However, there are three basic methods for use. One is to release a poison gas through smoke. For example, a mixture of pitch and sulfur will, when burned, put off a sulfur-based smoke that can be quite toxic at sufficient concentrations. Burning feathers will release ammonia from the amine groups on proteins. Arsenic added to firewood and hemp firebombs will release arsenic-laden smoke. Another method is to deliver a caustic substance against the enemy. For example, if the wind is blowing strongly enough in the right direction, powdered quicklime (also known as caustic lime) can be directed at enemy forces to blind them and burn their skin. Concentrated vinegar, essentially acetic acid, as well as ammonium and lye (also known as caustic soda or caustic potash), can be used for the same purpose (though being liquids they are easier to work with but do not disperse as readily). The final method is to deliver a poison, toxin, or venom directly into the enemy. This is usually done by applying the poison to the weapon of an arm, but for the toxin to be an arm itself the greater harm must be caused by it and not the weapon it is applied to. Typical choices include vegetable poisons such as curare, ricin, and toadstool secretions; animal toxins such as the secretions of so-called “dart frogs”, and pufferfish or shellfish paste; and snake or arachnid venom.
Biological — These arms cause harm through the spread of disease and infection. One method is to apply an infectious agent to the weapon of an arm, but, as with toxic chemical arms, it must do more harm on its own than the weapon itself. Typical choices are manure, diarrhea, or the juice of infected meat or fish. Another method is to use siege machines to hurl rotting or diseased carcasses, human as well as animal, into fortresses and walled towns, or place them in water sources used by an enemy camp, to encourage plagues. Still another method is to encourage disease-ridden people or animals to infiltrate marching columns or encampments to spread sickness among the troops. The effectiveness of such methods is disputed, but their psychological affect cannot be denied.