Inside View: Weapons and Character Design

Bargain has been released (have you picked up your copy yet?) and so we're going to talk a little about it on the blog.

Fair warning - spoilers may be abound. Read at your own risk.

There’s a lot of important details to consider when you’re designing a character.

For fantasy, especially fantasy in the vein of Sword and Sorcery, a major part of the character to consider is their weapon of choice. The biggest contributor to that is audience perception, and popular tropes have created a kind of shorthand for what certain weapons signify, and what they evoke from the audience.

One thing of note for Heroes by Necessity is the difference between capacity and preference.

Both Elise and Ermolt have significant training in a wide variety of weapons: Elise from her time as a Conscript, and Ermolt from his more extensive study at Celnaer Hold. As a result, their choice of weapon is just that - a choice.

We might have decided that Ermolt had only trained in heavy two-handed weapons as a result of his barbarian heritage, or that conscripts of Ydia only train using maces. This would have made their weapon choices - and the choices of others in the world - representative of their background and culture.

But instead, their training was more comprehensive, and the weapons they choose can be representative of their character.

Regardless, in Ancients, they use these weapons anyway. Ermolt uses a giant warhammer, and later, an enormous club. Elise uses a mace and shield.


Because this is your introduction to these characters, and those are the weapons that most evoke their characters. Popular tropes always put giant weapons in the hands of the tough-guy barbarian, and gaming has long associated maces with clerics.

When you meet Elise, you can easily identify her as a more supportive character with a religious connection, without needing to pop out a character sheet. And when Ermolt bellows his rage and starts flailing around with a weapon the size of one of his companions, you don’t need to be told that you could crash a sedan into him and the car would likely come out the worse for the deal.

Even for side characters, weapon choice can be telling.

In Ancients, Detlev wielded daggers with ruthless efficiency, marking him obviously as a duplicitous assassin even before he starts talking about alter-egos and disguises, or shows off the trail of corpses he left in his wake.

In Bargain, you meet Merylle Callac, who wields a sword and dagger like a duelist. Combined with her ties to illegal activities in Jalova, it makes her seem less like a sneaky thief pulling the strings from the shadows and more like a charismatic swashbuckler leading from the front.

But once you know the characters, it’s important for them to grow.

Throughout the series, both Elise and Ermolt explore their options for weaponry. It’s valuable to the characters that they mix it up, and once that first impression has been made, equipment changes can show underlying elements of the character, or express valuable growth as the story progresses.

In Bargain, Ermolt and Athala brainstorm what weapons would be useful in fighting a dragon. The result is Ermolt wielding some more unconventional weaponry, highlighting his training, and showing that he isn’t just a meathead who has to smash everything with brute force.

There are definitely other weapon changes over the course of the series, and each one is intentionally made to reveal yet another facet of the character. I would absolutely love to share these details with you! But most of the particulars don’t come to light for a few more books, and I would hate to spoil them for you.

With that, Heroes, we end the seventh edition of Inside View! Check by on the 15th of every month for new posts that give a glance into the hows, whys, and whats of whys of Riley's Heroes by Necessity series!

Until next month!



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© 2017 by Riley S. Keene