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Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age
A character uses a weapon that should be obsolete by the setting's tech, but is treated as just as effective, if not more so, than modern weapons.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-03-05 13:47:09 sponsor: ccoa edited by: StarSword (last reply: 2013-06-21 15:44:46)

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"I mean Jedi, as I've always said before, well they've chosen a sword in a time of, you know, laser guns, so they'd better be damn good with it."
-- Nick Gillard, stunt coordinator for the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones DVD featurette

There's a certain amount of cultural and symbolic weight to most historical weapons, accurate or not. They invoke a feeling of the Good Old Ways, and may be seen as more honorable, elegant, interesting, or simply cool. They're also traditional in many settings, especially for those that have roots in Medieval European Fantasy, such as Role-Playing Games.

However, even in settings where these weapons should be obsolete and out of place, they often show up and are shown to be just as effective, if not more so, than weapons that are modern to the setting.

This occurs with extreme frequency in Eastern RPGs, probably due to genre's origins in Dungeons & Dragons. Even in Steampunk and Urban Fantasy settings, you will find swords, axes, spears, katanas, and all other manner of anachronistic weaponry. It also appears in settings with Schizo Tech. It's even possible the character uses this because s/he Doesn't Like Guns.

It's also Truth in Television to an extent. While it's true that the modern battlefield is dominated by guns, hand-to-hand and melee weapon combat training will likely always be a part of military curricula: guns can be cumbersome in close combat and melee weapons are much quieter, so the humble dagger and its modern derivatives will never go out of style.

The Straight and Arrow Path and Anachronistic Swordsman (note: still in YKTTW at this time) are subtropes. Compare Rock Beats Laser, Older Is Better, and some forms of Improperly Placed Firearms.


Examples:

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[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
  • In Gintama, aliens have conquered samurai-age Japan and brought over many of their technological advancement. Most of the main cast sticks with katanas.
  • Justified with the Gunmen in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. In the second half of the story Gunmen were being decommissioned in favor of the Gunparls. When the Anti-Spirals attacked however, the Gunman fared far better, because while the Gunparls were the more advanced machine, the Gunmen had been designed specifically to fight that particular enemy.
  • In Sword Art Online, there is a game where guns are the primary weapon. There is a sword available, but it is largely regarded as a joke weapon. Kirito, being the hero, picks it and manages to slice bullets in half.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Justified considering the usage of history as artifacts. We have Curtana, Durandal, and Hrunting. Whether Saint Peter's Cross counts as a weapon In-Universe is up for debate.
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[[folder:Film]]
  • Star Wars has always had the lightsaber as the primary weapon of the Jedi and Sith in an era where Frickin' Laser Beams normally rule the day, and they get away with it because the wielder has limited precognition and the blade reflects blaster fire and goes through nearly anything without slowing down. However almost nobody else uses them and for good reason, as it really does require superhuman reflexes to avoid turning cutting oneself into pieces, never mind blocking blaster fire. Melee weapons are more commonly vibroweapons and may even be alloyed with cortosis to fight lightsaber-wielding Force users.
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[[folder:Literature]]
  • In Animorphs, Ax notes at one point that human firearms are no match for the energy weapons of the Yeerk and Andalites, but still do a good job of blowing large, messy holes in you.
  • In Dune personal shields block projectile weapons and lasers trigger nuclear explosions when they hit them, but a slow-moving blade can slip through.
  • In The Forever War the first stasis fields slow down anything faster than 16.3 m/s, forcing people fighting within them to use melee weapons or bows and arrows.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • Subverted in Star Trek. The Klingons love their Cool Swords like the bat'leth, but Deep Space Nine makes a point of mentioning that an old lady with a phaser is worth a dozen Klingons with melee weapons.
  • Stargate SG-1 plays a little with this with Goa'uld personal deflector shields. Energy weapons and bullets have no effect on them but they can be penetrated by slower-moving objects, a fact exploited by SG-1 on two occasions (for instance, Jack O'Neill throwing a rifle bayonet through Heru'ur's shield and through his hand in "Secrets"). In most other cases though, guns, regardless of form, rule the day.
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[[folder:Real Life]]
  • World War II:
    • Owing to short-sighted defense cuts between the wars, the Royal Navy entered WWII with only obsolete biplane fighter-bombers to equip its aircraft carriers. Yet the Swordfish, a biplane more suited to the previous world war, managed to catch most of the Italian Navy in its home port of Taranto, causing widespread destruction in an attack the Japanese studied and emulated at Pearl Harbor. A year or so later, it was a carrier-launched Swordfish biplane which fired the torpedo that crippled the Bismarck, leaving Germany's most modern battleship wide open for the surface fleet to catch up with her.
    • Both Great Britain and Russia had obsolete heavy machine guns left over from World War I. The Russian Maxim and the British Vickers were effectively the same weapon, but one which required two or three men to transport, emplace and fire. It was also water-cooled, so if no water was available the weapon would overheat and become unworkable. The German MG42 was air-cooled, had a faster rate of fire, could be emplaced in seconds as opposed to fifteen minutes, and used by one man. Both Britain and Russia eventually hit on massing these weapons together to minimize these weaknesses and to provide saturation firepower, effectively using them almost as emplaced artillery and not as tactical infantry MG. British machine-gun battalions proved destructively efficient in Italy, where multiples of 64 Vickers MGs fired together at one section of German front to soften it up for an attack, allowing the attacking infantry to get as close as they could whilst returning fire was suppressed.
    • Close combat in the Burmese jungle often pitted Japanese officers and noncoms armed with swords against machete-armed British soldiers. Or kukri-armed Gurkhas. Or Sikhs with the traditional tulwar sword. Or African troops with native swords from Nigeria, Kenya, etc. Bladed weapons could be silent, deadly and ultra-effective in close quarters jungle fighting and ambushes, and sword fighting in combat happened even in 1942-45. Also, tribal units and natives fighting alongside British Fourteenth Army and on Borneo used native weapons, such as blowpipes and bows and arrow, to deadly effect in close-quarters jungle fighting.
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[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
  • In the MechWarrior RPG, swords are described as still being a preferred weapon aboard starships because combat will invariably be close quarters and the blade won't rupture the ship's hull as opposed to firearms.
  • Warhammer 40,000 gleefully mixes melee weapons like swords and warhammers up with Frickin' Laser Beams, Tank Goodness, and dueling starships among other things. Of course, the old-school weapons are almost invariably updated with current technology (it's not just a sword, it's a chainsword or power sword).
  • The Imperial Marines of Traveller have a things for cutlasses, as they don't ricochet in cramped spaceship corridors and hit sensitive equipment like bullets.
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[[folder:Video Games]]
  • The Final Fantasy series loves this trope since VII, with guns often being weaker than melee weapons like swords and spears.
  • In Makai Kingdom, there are loads and loads of weapon types. There are modern weapons like rifles, bazookas, or flamethrowers available, but also classical weapons like swords and spears. Or silly weapons like UFOs, Pies, Syringes, or Paper Fans. Heck, there are even giant mechs available to ride. Being one of the creations of Nippon Ichi somewhat justifies it; they love their Widget Series.
  • In the Metal Gear series (and even more so, Metal Gear Rising), most of the elite cyborgs favour swords and other melee weapons over guns (in Rising, Mooks use guns, but the Elite Mooks use giant hammers and most of the UGs have some form of melee weapon or other). It's justified by explaining that bullets don't have the energy to get through cyborg armour, while HF Blades and other advanced weapons do.
  • The Persona series frequently displays this trope, having gun-wielding characters fighting alongside those with swords, spears, boxing gloves, fans, and folding chairs.
  • The Star Ocean series really likes this trope:
    • In the first and second games, this is justified by the protagonists being on planets protected by an Alien Non-Interference Clause.
    • The third game has the same justification, but halfway through the game you return to "civilized" space, and yet many of the protagonists continue to use anachronistic weapons.
  • In Team Fortress 2, one of the Sniper's weapons, alongside a host of various rifles, is a bow-and-arrow set called "The Huntsman". It can be very effectively. Also, the various melee weapons, from the Spy's butterfly knife, the Pyro's "axetinguisher" or the Demo's huge host of broken bottles and swords call all be very useful.
  • In World of Warcraft, Hunters and Warriors can choose among rifles or bows. The competence and damage difference is negligible. That's of course, when they aren't using axes, swords or hammers...
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 had the Beam Katanas, a special ability for the basic infantry for the Empire of the Rising Sun that changed their rifles into beam katanas. The Red Alert series runs almost entirely on Rule of Cool, and in the scenario the sword is an old idea but still scores one hit kills (assuming they get near enough for it and clear garrisoned buildings to boot).
  • Lampshaded in Mass Effect 2 with the M-96 Mattock semiautomatic rifle, which has the highest base damage of any assault rifle in the game despite being relatively outdated in-universe. The "Firepower Pack" DLC that adds it to your inventory in 2 comes with an e-mail from the Illusive Man saying that EDI had told him "we may be overlooking older, proven technologies in an effort to provide you with the state of art."
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
  • In Terra, set in the 24th century, Catella Myrha dual wields a pair of scimitars against people armed with assault rifles. It helps that her armor contains a deflector shield generator that No Sells small arms fire. Melee attacks can penetrate it but she's good enough that this usually isn't an issue.
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Indices: Speculative Fiction Tropes, Weapons and Wielding Tropes

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