My Sword Is A Mosin-Nagant
I had a conversation with a friend of mine about fantasy combat and how “dynamic” it should be and whether certain weapons just can’t be in it because they’re not “dynamic.” It was a bad conversation and I will avoid having it in the future. This friend of mine is kind of an insufferable grognard with Bad Fantasy Opinions™. He seemed to settle on that fantasy games and stories must stick to swords and clubs in melee and everything else would be boring or overpowered and not sufficiently “skillful” to provide thrilling combat. I brought up arrows, and then I brought up guns, and the latter is what he took umbrage at. Fantasy, you see, is about goofy metal clubs in various shapes, and the banging of such clubs on surfaces. Guns can’t be dynamic, as in for whatever reason we can’t imagine that shooting a ball or cap into someone’s shoulder won’t cause them to immediately collapse into a vortex that renders them instantly, irrevocably dead, but we can imagine being bashed by a vertical length of metal repeatedly is doing jack all shit, because your arms can hold a shield indefinitely I guess.
This conversation reminded me of my youth. When I was little I used to be really, really, really into fantasy stuff and couldn’t foresee anything that wasn’t swinging melee weapons at things. There was no combat cooler than swingan. I would balk at arguments that cannons were fairly contemporaneous with the societies a lot of fantasy games and books attempt to emulate, and get way mad at the thought that guns could get anywhere near my precious fantasy. Guns just like, kill dudes, right? You can’t have skill or tactics with guns, you can’t have exchanges or complications in such battles, right? They’re not metal clubs.
Except of course you can. Guns are hella dramatic, and potentially lend themselves to some incredibly interesting situations. There is a vast history of firearms combat that can potentially be tapped to provide for your fakefights, and it can be as clean and elegant or as gritty as you want it, because boy has gun history been weird. What’s funny is that I’m so incredibly distant from my friend’s line of thought right now, and sword swingan no longer has the same attraction to me that it once did. Now even all the fantasy I write has rifles or rifle analogues, because rifles are rad, and the height of radness was when someone coined the term “enfilade.” Cannons are also pretty rad, and cannons on wheels are the absolute raddest thing. Plus if you want a sword you can still have it: stick a bayo or a masterkey shotgun on your rails.
Fantasy is pretty foundationally ridiculous, and most of it is so steeped in goofytown that I’m not sure why any effort is expended to defend its institutions as somehow precise or immutable, as though there would be no enjoyment in dragging it out of the house and making it kick a different kind of ball that it’s used to kicking. Oh man, not the guns, what will I write about without elfin longsword fights in there.