Created By: Jonti on October 29, 2011 Last Edited By: Arivne on April 30, 2017

Racial Weapon Affinity

Certain fantasy races tend to favor certain weaponry.

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Page Type:
Trope
Needs a Better Description

Simply put, this trope is about the tendency in fiction for certain races to use certain weapons. Most of this probably goes back to Tolkien, and is now endemic across fantasy literature as a minimum. Dwarf, Elves and Humans are the most likely to meet these archetypes. Mostly because the other races vary more in depiction. Compare Tolkien's Trolls with Blizzard's for example.

This stems from how different races have different kind of cultures and viewpoints, including in deciding what kind of weapon they choose. Maybe it's out of pragmatism - races who labors themselves every day would like to use axes or hammers, as they're also tools for working. Maybe it's part of a symbolism that the race believes in - their god, or high leader, likes spears, so they use spears. Although for the most part, it tends to go unexplained, or is only explained in an out-of-universe way.


Examples

Literature
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's Tolkien's Legendarium, in particular The Lord of the Rings. Elves (e.g. Legolas) use bows and dwarves (e.g. Gimli) use axes.
    • Dwarves use axes because they're functional (cutting power with all the force that can pierce armor too). Dwarves are a force, capable of good in the Tolkien universe, yet they don't value beauty and are stubborn enough that they don't get along well enough with the other races. Dwarves have probably developed a martial art that doesn't rely on grace - in other words, if they don't defeat an opponent on the first swing, they've lost. Because an axe is slow and not particularly great for parrying.
    • Humans use swords because they're both beautiful and functional, and suited to a very specific purpose (dueling and clean and highly efficient killing of opponents that wear minimal armor in a medieval setting). Mankind is also greedy enough to take into consideration the skill of the wielder and what can be done with a sword. In man's typical pride, every man carries a sword in order to tell others that they're skilled enough to go beyond the sword's normal design constraints in killing an armored opponent; even though they're lying 99% of the time.
    • Elves use bows, because bows are incredibly tactically useful, able to kill an opponent from range. To make full use of a bow though, requires exorbitant skill (not to mentional physical strength). Since in Tolkien, Elves are supreme - Elf soldiers are thus very good with bows.
  • Deverry. Katherine Kerr's 15 book epic matches the Dwarf, Elf and Human standards. - Zero-Context Example
  • Raymond E. Feist's The Riftwar Cycle series matches up the Dwarf, Elf and Humans again. - Zero-Context Example
  • Discworld
    • Dwarves
      • It's justified dwarves use axes because they're miners who traditionally used dual purpose picks (a pick on one side for prospecting and an axe on the other in case someone disputed your claim) and they're important to the point that Vimes (a textbook Knight in Sour Armour) feels guilty about asking a group of them to leave them outside his office after some dwarves had just tried to kill his family. The traditional bodyguards for religious figures also wield flamethrowers, derived from mining equipment intended to clear away flammable gas.
      • Averted with the dwarf Casanunda, who basically consciously acts the opposite of the stereotypical dwarf is a dashing Lovable Rogue and fights with a Royal Rapier rather than an axe.
    • Trolls have clubs as their cultural weapon (although Detritus, a member of the watch, uses a ballista).
    • Werewolves normally just attack in their wolf form (Angua is mentioned as reluctantly accepting a dagger in a Lock and Load Montage).
    • Humans mostly seem to use swords.
  • In the Dragonlance world, Kenders use their Hoopaks (think of a pointy staff with a slingshot on the top), Minotaurs are proud of using weapons like katars and shatangs (a type of one-handed spear), Nerakian warriors (evil humans) prefers scimitars.
  • Drizzt Do'Urden, a Drow warrior of Forgotten Realms (in)famously fights with twin scimitars and since a lot of people like to play as characters who are basically Drizzt, that weapon selection is associated with the Drow.

Live-Action TV
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • Klingons use the Batleth in personal combat. They are proficient in other kinds of bladed weapons, but they're mainly seen with Batleth.
    • Ferengi mainly uses plasma whips.

Tabletop RPG
  • Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition
    • In the 1E Monster Manual, 45% of NPC dwarves are armed with axes, and several illustrations in the 1E Player's Handbook show dwarves with axes.
    • In the 1E Monster Manual and Player's Handbook, both NPC and PC elves receive a +1 racial bonus with bows.
  • In Pathfinder, non-human races get free proficiencies with weapons associated with their race, such as elves automatically knowing how to use longbows and long swords (technically, martial weapons that need specialized warrior training). Additionally, there are exotic weapons with racial monikers in their names, such as the "elven curve blade" or the "orc double axe": specified races are automatically proficient with them, while all others have to take entire feats to learn how to use them.

Video Games
  • In the Drakensangseries, Dwarves are associated with axes and hammers (they count as the same weapon type ingame) but also spears and crossbows. Curiously enough, the Goblins use distinctive axes most of the time.

Web Original

Community Feedback Replies: 51
  • October 29, 2011
    Bisected8
    • In Discworld;
      • It's justified dwarves use axes because they're miners who traditionally used dual purpose picks (a pick on one side for prospecting and an axe on the other in case someone disputed your claim) and they're important to the point that Vimes (a textbook Knight In Sour Armour) feels guilty about asking a group of them to leave them outside his office after some dwarves had just tried to kill his family. The traditional bodyguards for religious figures also wield flamethrowers, derived from mining equipment intended to clear away flamable gas.
      • Trolls have clubs as their cultural weapon (although Detritus, a member of the watch, uses a ballista).
      • Werewolves normally just attack in their wolf form (Angua is mentioned as reluctantly accepting a dagger in a Lock And Load Montage).
      • Humans mostly seem to use swords.
  • October 29, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Star Trek: Klingons use the Batleth in personal combat.
  • October 30, 2011
    SolidSamurai
    If you want to feel complete about this, then this needs to be said: - Dwarves use axes, why? Because they're functional (cutting power with all the force that can pierce armor too). Dwarves are a force, capable of good in the Tolkien universe, yet they don't value beauty and are stubborn enough that they don't get along well enough with the other races. Dwarves have probably developed a martial art that doesn't rely on grace - more, every way to axe somebody. In other words, if they don't defeat an opponent on the first swing, they've lost. Because an axe is slow and not particularly great for parrying.

    - Man uses swords because they're both beautiful and functional, and suited to a very specific purpose (dueling and clean and highly efficient killing of opponents that wear minimal armor in a medieval setting). Mankind is also greedy enough to take into consideration the skill of the wielder and what can be done with a sword. In man's typical pride, every man carries a sword in order to tell others that they're skilled enough to go beyond the sword's normal design constraints in killing an armored opponent; even though they're lying 99% of the time.

    - Hobbits are soft and cute. If they're feeling plucky, they'll use a staff - because it typically has great reach and it will subdue an opponent, so that their bigger human friend can finish it off with his sword. Without a staff, a typical hobbit wouldn't have much of a chance against taller folk (why does Frodo use a sword? obviously, Gandalf, a valar who thought like men, wanted to honor him).

    - Elves use bows, because bows are incredibly tactically useful. Kill an opponent from range? To make full use of a bow though, requires exhorbitant skill (not to mentional physical strength). Since in Tolkien, Elves are supreme - Elf soldiers are thus very good with bows.
  • October 30, 2011
    Ryuuma
    • In the Dragon Lance world, Kenders use their Hoopaks (think of a pointy staff with a slingshot on the top), Minotaurs are proud of using weapons like katars and shatangs (a type of one-handed spear), Nerakian warriors (evil humans) prefers scimitars.
    • Furthermore, if a whole race generally prefers scimitars, then they'll probably be evil.
    • In the Drakensangseries, Dwarves are associated with axes and hammers (they count as the same weapon type ingame) but also spears and crossbows. Curiously enough, the Goblins use distinctive axes most of the time.
  • October 30, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG : 1008. Texans do not get revolvers as a racial weapon proficiency.
  • October 30, 2011
    Ghilz
    Klingons would be blades in general. They carry both daggers and guns as side arms, and tend to favor using the former. Klingons have a bunch of blades beside the Bat'leth.
  • October 30, 2011
    ClockStopping
    Couple more from Things Mr Welch Is No Longer Allowed To Do In An RPG:
    • 151. Halflings do not have a racial proficiency with the flamethrower.
    • 890. Dwarves do not get Roto-Rooters as racial weapons.

  • October 30, 2011
    dyson88
    Ferengi used plasma whips in some episodes of Star Trek
  • October 30, 2011
    Hadashi
    Frodo uses a sword because Bilbo gave it to him - its name is Sting. If I remember rightly a more common racial weapon of hobbits is the slingshot (though mostly in D&D). This is obviously a David and Goliath reference, but it is also immensely practical, though, in one very memorable occurrence a Tolken hobbit, Farmer Giles of Ham, takes on a dragon with a home-made blunderbus. I think it's mentioned in the hobbit when Bilbo says "There's no dragons round these parts, not since...."
  • November 1, 2011
    Tambov333
    Gandlaf isn't a Vala. He's one of the Mayar, which are lower on the power scale. And Giles of Ham isn't a hobbit at all, but a human. In fact, his story explicitly takes place in Britain around 4th-5th century CE.
  • November 1, 2011
    Queequeg
    District9. Humans can only use regular weapons while aliens use their cool techno-weapons.
  • January 11, 2016
    henke37
  • January 11, 2016
    DAN004
    Who's managing this?
  • January 11, 2016
    shimaspawn
    Congrats, Dan. Have a YKTTW. It's yours now.
  • January 12, 2016
    Arivne
    • De-capitalized (Axes, Bows, Swords, Staves, Clubs, The).
    • Added #'s to auto-number a list.
    • Corrected spelling (thugish, ammendments).
    • Examples section

    The other OP examples are Zero Context Examples. They need more specific information about how they fit the trope.
  • January 12, 2016
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons 1st Edition
      • In the 1E Monster Manual 45% of NPC dwarves are armed with axes, and several illustrations in the 1E Player's Handbook show dwarves with axes.
      • In the 1E Monster Manual and Player's Handbook, both NPC and PC elves receive a plus one racial bonus with bows.
  • January 12, 2016
    DAN004
    Well if you're telling me to take over... I don't mind. (I was asking for anybody else to take it first)
  • January 12, 2016
    Koveras
    • In Pathfinder, non-human races get free proficiencies with weapons associated with their race, such as elves automatically knowing how to use longbows and longswords (technically, martial weapons that need specialized warrior training). Additionally, there are exotic weapons with racial monikers in their names, such as the "elven curve blade" or the "orc double axe": specified races are automatically proficient with them, while all others have to take entire feats to learn how to use them.
  • January 12, 2016
    DAN004
    I'm expecting a Star Craft example.
  • January 13, 2016
    Snicka
    Hobbit types may also use daggers, since they are small enough for their size.
  • January 13, 2016
    Hodor2
    Drizzt Do'Urden, a Drow warrior of Forgotten Realms (in)famously fights with twin scimitars and since a lot of people like to play as characters who are basically Drizzt, that weapon selection is associated with the Drow.

    In relation to this, the The Order Of The Stick character Zz'dtri, a parody of Drizzt, has the requisite twin scimitars, although being a Squishy Wizard, he exclusively uses them to channel spells through.

    Re the Discworld example, thought worth noting that the dwarf Casanunda, who basically consciously acts the opposite of the stereotypical dwarf is a dashing Lovable Rogue and fights with a Royal Rapier rather than an axe.
  • January 13, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ the last one is a subversion then?
  • January 13, 2016
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Hat>

    This trope is not just "Someone of X race happened to use this weapon. The trope is that characters of a race are stereotyped to use a certain type of weapon within the work. No one character is an example of this trope.
  • January 13, 2016
    Shirokurou
    The name keeps bugging me... I'd personally go for "Dwarf uses axe, Elf uses bow" as it really outlines the stereotype and races. I found myself also expanding this to classes, as well as races, but that maybe a separate trope.

    Also, real life in fiction examples? Ancient Greeks using spears as if they were all hoplites Everyone in Japan using a katana, even though, spears were the go-to footman weapon. And apparently some armies were measured in bows.
  • January 13, 2016
    Hodor2
    @DAN 004- Yeah, Cassanunda is a subversion.

    I'd say that Zz'dtri is Playing With A Trope. He still has the requisite racial weapon, but uses it in a completely different way (I'm not really versed in Dungeons And Dragons, but I think Dual Wielding is a class-feature of Rangers, which is what Drizzt is; but it makes no sense for Zz'dtri to have twin scimitars, since he's in a completely different character class).
  • January 13, 2016
    DAN004
    So... In Order Of The Stick, do Drows use scimitars too?

    @shimaspawn: If I get you right, example should be when it's a certain whole (or almost whole) race who generally use a particular weapon, right?
  • January 13, 2016
    shimaspawn
    ^ That would be correct, Dan. Hobbits for instance are stereotypes as peaceful farmers in The Lord Of The Rings so they wouldn't have any weapon stereotyped to them, despite Frodo having a short sword.
  • January 14, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    In War Craft, most of the Human soldiers use swords, while the Orc grunts use axes. Palladins and Shamans wield warhammers.
  • January 14, 2016
    DAN004
    ^^ I believe the fact that hobbits are peaceful and thus shouldn't have weapons assigned to them... I would agree, at least as far as LOTR goes. But how about other works where "hobbits/halflings" exist?
  • January 14, 2016
    shimaspawn
    ^ Universe by universe issue. Just because a race has a representation in a universe, doesn't mean they have a stereotypical weapon. In general, it's only Dwarves and Elves that have set stereotypes spanning more than one work. The Always Chaotic Evil using scimitars thing is only in works based off of D&D after the late ninties, so it's pretty narrow in scope. The clubs thing is just as likely to be axes, or hammers depending on the universe. Anything crude. The comic relief thing is just... no.
  • January 14, 2016
    silveraith
    Many water-based races tend to use harpoons and tridents.
  • January 14, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ Perhaps you'd like to mention one example of it.
  • January 14, 2016
    shimaspawn
    ^ Yeah, that's the thing, I think we should ditch the race assignments from the opening. It just seems to be getting us speculation rather than examples.
  • January 18, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    Star Craft in my broadest understanding:

    I have a War Craft example. For all I know, I only played WC 3... I don't know much about the other races...
  • January 18, 2016
    DAN004
    Generic examples removed as per shimaspawn's suggestion.
  • November 5, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    bump.
  • November 5, 2016
    Astaroth
    • The Elder Scrolls:
      • Elves, Dwarves and Orcs have entire tiers of weapons and armor associated with their races. Orcish weapons are made of orichalcum, elven weapons are made of moonstone, while dwarvish weapons are made from so-called 'dwarven alloy'.
      • Dwarves are also famed for being the most technologically advanced race on Tamriel, and perfected the use of steam-powered Golems as weapons, something no other race has been able to do.
      • Races from the continent of Akavir are associated with katanas, as a result of their homeland being Wutai.
      • Khajiit, a race of Cat People, will fight with weapons, but also produce some of the finest Bare Fisted Monks in Tamriel, as their claws give them an edge over the over races when fighting bare-handed.
      • Redguards, a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Arabs and North African Moors, are noted for their use of scimitars.
      • Nords have axes as a major element of their culture. If a Nord sends you an axe, it means they have business to discuss with you.
      • Wood Elves favor the bow, and are said to be the finest archers in all of Tamriel

    • Dark Elves in Might and Magic: Heroes VI favor the Chakram as their ranged weapon of choice, as the bows used by their surface-dwelling cousins are impractical in the caverns where they dwell.

    • The Drushocka in the Space Empires series have a particular fondness for energy-depleting weapons. Apparently their homeworld is prone to intense lightning and plasma-storms, which inspires their scientists with the desire to create weapons that manipulate energy in its purest forms.

    • The White Legs tribe in Fallout New Vegas DLC Honest Hearts adopted the .45 Auto submachine gun as their signature weapon, after a courier named Ulysses helped them uncover a stockpile of the weapons from an abandoned armory at Spanish Fork. They refer to them as "storm-drums" due to they noise they make when fired.
  • November 5, 2016
    Chabal2
    • Warhammer 40 K:
      • The chainsword is the iconic weapon of the Ecclesiarchy, wielded by its priests ond the Sisters Repentia. Space Marines wield slightly shorter versions.
      • Chainaxes, on the other hand, are more common among Berserkers of Khorne and other Chaos lunatics.
      • Bolters are reserved for Space Marines, as a normal human would get a hernia just lifting it and break both arms firing it.
      • Similarly, Ripper shotguns are specially designed to be used as clubs, and are entrusted to the moronic but incredibly resilient ogryns.
      • Orks use just about any weapon they can loot (and have their own industrial-looking version of a chainaxe), but their basic choppa is a big chunk of sharp metal with a handle.
      • Flak armor and lasguns (aka T-shirts and flashlights) are the hallmarks of the Imperial Guard, along with really, really big tanks. Lots of 'em.
      • The Grey Knights use psychic force halberds and arm-mounted storm bolters (the latter is normally seen only on Terminators).
      • The Tau are the only faction to use plasma weapons as their equipment for their standard troops, while their Kroot allies use long rifles that double as quarterstaves.
      • Necron weaponry is based on flaying the target alive molecule by molecule.
    • Redwall: Averted for the most part, as every species will use whatever weapon they can get their hands on, but some show up more often than others.
      • Otters use slings and javelins, as they're ranged weapons guaranteed to work when wet.
      • Salamandastron hares use sabres (as befitting the Officer And A Gentleman image), slings and javelins.
      • Squirrels tend to favor ranged weapons like bows and slings, making good use of their tree-climbing ability.
      • Averted by badgers: the only thing Badger Lords' weapons have in common is their outlandish size, having been seen wielding swords (Brocktree), axes (Orlando), maces (Sunflash), axpikes (Lady Cregga), and even a bow (Lonna Bowstripe).
  • November 5, 2016
    WildKatGirl
    The title doesn't make it clear that this is about fantasy races rather than real races at the moment. Not sure if this is necessary though.
  • November 5, 2016
    shoruke
    The Dungeons & Dragons example shouldn't be limited to first edition; I'm only familiar with 3.5 and 5, but I know your race also grants proficiency in those editions.

    For instance, in 3.5, Dwarves treat Dwarven Waraxes as martial weapons rather than exotic, and all Elves are proficient with longswords and bows.
  • November 5, 2016
    zarpaulus
    ^ From what I recall, Elves are proficient with bows, longswords, and rapiers. Drow change the proficiencies to rapier, shortsword, and hand crossbow (an exotic weapon). In addition every deity has a favored weapon that their clerics prefer to use and there's a preponderance of Ethnic Gods in most settings.

    @Chabal 2: There's other boltguns meant for non-superhumans, they're kind of the standard weapon for Sisters of Battle and Commissars. Incidentally, the Adeptas Sororitas rather like Flamers.
  • November 5, 2016
    Generality
    As a matter of interest, Tolkien's elves don't necessarily prefer bows as a rule, especially in open battle. They prefer swords in melee, which is why all of the most famous blades in the franchise are of Elven make, but make good use of bows, particularly in defense of their home ground where the trees give them a significant height advantage. Legolas himself uses a bow as his primary weapon, and this led to the association in popular culture. The same may be true of the Dwarves; Thorin has no problem using a sword in The Hobbit, though it's one of such supreme quality that he'd have to be a fool to pass it up.
  • November 6, 2016
    aradia22
    I agree with Wild Kat Girl that maybe the trope should be renamed to clarify that it's about fantasy "races."
  • April 22, 2017
    Getta
  • April 22, 2017
    Malady
    State preffered weapins for each race, like how Elemental Hair and stuff do it for elements and colors?

  • April 22, 2017
    marcoasalazarm
  • April 23, 2017
    Getta
    ^^ Some guy up above is against it.
  • April 23, 2017
    Malady
    ^ You mean Shimaspawn. ... Well, is this a thing that applies to fantasy races in general, or that in-universe, same races are at the very least, thought to have an affinity for certain weapons?
  • April 27, 2017
    intastiel
    • In The Order Of The Stick:
      • Soberly downplayed and discussed when the elf wizard Vaarsuvius runs out of spell slots in the middle of a battle and is left useless. The RPG Mechanics of the setting give elves proficiency in bows, but:
        Vaarsuvius: There is a vast gulf between being proficient with a weapon and being good with a weapon.
      • In a parody, the sociopathic halfling Belkar exploits halflings' well-known proficiency with slings to terrorize people with a pebble.
        Human: He's a halfling. With a PEBBLE ... Do you know how many bonuses he could have with a thrown rock?
        Lizardfolk: I heard a halfling once poked out both of a guy's eyes with the same sling stone!
  • April 24, 2017
    Arivne
  • April 29, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    I'm going to have to dispute the bit about beauty in the description of the dwarves for The Lord of the Rings. The dwarves were created in-universe specifically as a race of craftsmen, and put an enormous value on beauty and their ability to make it — beautiful jewels, beautiful goblets, beautiful buildings, beautiful cities etc. They also appreciate the natural beauty of stone and earth — there's a bit in the books where Gimli falls in love with some caves with especially beautiful cave formations, and it's mentioned that these caves eventually became a place of pilgrimage for dwarves, just to look at them. They're just not very big on the beauty of trees and nature, which is what the elves focus on. Also, a lot of the The Lord of the Rings example feels highly speculative, and I'm not sure how much of it is based on Tolkien's canon.

    Anyway. I thought of an example:
    • Warhammer:
      • The dwarves prefer to fight with axes and hammers.
      • The infantry of the elves — high elves, dark elves and wood elves alike — usually favors long-bladed spears, often paired with large tower shields.
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