In the interest of creating a traditional medieval setting, many authors decide not to use guns and other explosives in their works. Sometimes reasons are given for this, and sometimes not. In Real Life
, gunpowder and derivative inventions existed for most of the medieval era. This shows up most often in fantasy (hence the name), but can appear in any genre.
Expect lots of theories about technology suppression
and other Fan Wank
over why. If guns are present, but nerfed
— whether for Gameplay reasons or Rule of Cool
— it's Guns Are Worthless
Something to note is that this primarily applies to fantasy set in the typical medieval-ish setting
, with castles, swords, knights and so on. Urban Fantasy
tends to have no problem mixing guns and vampires, witches, wizards, etc., since this form of Fantasy
tends to use the modern world as we know it. The same goes for Science Fantasy
, where the intent is to Mix and Match
things like laser guns and spells. When it comes to Fairy Tales
, the trope is absent, although guns do tend to cross into the Deus ex Machina
See the Analysis page
for theories on why this trope is so prevalent.
No straight examples; otherwise we'd have every fantasy book in existence here.
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Anime & Manga
- Gunpowder exists in the Berserk universe, and at least two characters use steampunk-style cannons: Guts himself, who has one to replace his left arm, and the demonic Grunbeld, who has one built into his shield. Nethertheless, while conventional gunpowder weapons such as cannons are used for attack and defense in siege warfare, ordinary soldiers and peasants are never seen with guns and rarely seen with other ranged weapons. Giving background characters the ability to defend themselves at a distance would massively detract from the themes of the series.
There's also a long stretch in history where longbows were many times more effective than guns. Cannons, however, overcame other methods of siege warfare pretty early on, and were not entirely without use against certain military tactics. If nothing else, they were loud and intimidating. Also, a cannon would take out heavy cavalry soldiers far more efficiently than a gun would.
- The anime introduced gunpowder-based weapons as the arsenal of Jillas, a humanoid fox minion of the third season's Big Bad Valgaav. He has access to guns, bombs, and even built a primitive tank. This was given a certain justification in that Jillas came from a region with less magic; without magic, people had to come up with other ways to do things — and "other ways" include building a ballistic missile as powerful as a Dragon Slave.
- In REVOLUTION, it's revealed that Seyruun has at least adopted cannons, and it's hinted they're designed by Jillas.
- Averted in One Piece. Pirate crews typically have gunmen along with swordsmen, and neither are shown to be any less effective than the other. The only exception is the Straw Hat Pirates - the ranger of their team, Usopp, uses a slingshot instead, as it lets him use Abnormal Ammo.
- InuYasha is fully aware of the time period it is set in, where firearms are growing in popularity but haven't quite reached Japan yet. So when one of the Band of Seven has guns, they're just handwaved as being imported. Before the arc is over, he gets turned into a tank with missiles .
- Zero no Tsukaima:
- Guns make an appearance on occasion being essentially an equalizer between nobles who use magic and plebs who cannot though only a few well trained musketeers are ever seen using them.
- There's a Vietnam era rocket launcher and a WWII era Zero fighter aircraft appear in the first season. Being from Earth the natives don't know how they work. Colbert learns how to make gasoline for the plane and the fact that the Zero fighter still has ammunition in the second season suggests that SOMEONE learned to make bullets. A Howitzer appears in season 3.
Gunpowder weaponry are more prominent in the light novels, which isn't a surprise since they are based in magical 16th century Europe.
- During his time in the army Guiche was tasked with using magic to keep matchlocks dry in humid condition, and flying airships are armed with heavy cannons.
- The elves have even more advanced armaments.
- One of Pain's paths is basically a bio-mechanical weapon that can fire missiles.
- The normal Word of God prohibitions on guns is ignored in The Movies, when there are kunai turrets, artillery, muskets, and kunai machine guns. Also, the characters recognize the existence of guns.
- You have to pay attention, but during the Land of Waves arc, in one of the shops Sakura goes into, you can see the owner has a shotgun. Much later, in Part 2, Suigetsu jokingly threatens Sasuke by holding a finger-pistol to his head. Should be noted, though, most ninja possess enough Super Speed to render guns moot (at the very least, they are far too fast for most shooters, if not the bullets) and possess far greater destructive power, with the strongest capable of destroying Villages and mountains and and single-handily taking on entire countries in battle. In other words, they don't really need guns all that much.
- It can also be argued that the necessity of guns dropped due to the difference in how battles are fought; in the Naruto universe, combat tends to be more focused on speed and stealth rather than firepower. Guns are notorious for being loud, and take precious seconds to reload, seconds that your enemy could take to send a kunai down your throat. While guns may make small appearances here and there, guns in the Naruto universe are woefully outclassed in large scale warfare, and therefore are pretty rare to find being utilized in combat.
- Suigetsu's finger gun gesture gets explained much later; one of his clan's signature jutsus is to make the gesture in order to shoot a high-speed water bullet out of their pointer finger. Hell, it's even called the "Water Gun Technique".
- Drifters actually uses this as a plot point. The eponymous Drifters, being sucked from various ages and times in our world, range from those used to fighting with nothing but swords and arrows, to the Wild Bunch (with six-shooters and an early gatling gun) and a Japanese Zero pilot. The world they're dumped in, however, is roughly around the same era of advancement as 1100's Europe, with no real machinery and firearms being a near-complete unknown. One of Oda Nobunaga's first tasks is to get large supplies of sulphur and charcoal and to start the creation of a saltpeter pit for gunpowder, and practically creams himself when he sees how far ahead of muskets the Wild Bunch's firearms are. The Drifters are explicitly changing the rate of technological expansion at a breakneck pace every time they're brought in, and it's even stated directly by the guy who summons them that it's one of their primary purposes — to force the world to advance well beyond the pace it normally would.
- Attack on Titan applies this unevenly, as it tends to with its technology. Firearms are confined to basic muskets and considered all but useless outside of peacekeeping operations. On the other hand, cannons and artillery rounds are fairly advanced and considered vital for the defense of the Walls. Flare guns are standard equipment for the Survey Corps, with colored gunpowder being used as a major element of their communication system. Pistols do seem to exist, though don't seem to be very common outside the criminal elements. It turns out that the lack of advancement in firearms is intentional, with the Secret Police murdering inventors of newer firearms as a threat to the government. The members of the elite Anti-Human Suppression Squad use custom-made revolvers to hunt down and slaughter rebellious elements within the military.
- The Grimjack comic includes firearms ... but since the city of Cynosure exists in multiple dimensions, the natural laws of any given neighbourhood may not let them work.
- Similar to the Amber example below, guns are simply impractical in Necrophim because gunpowder spontaneously explodes when brought near a furnace. In prog 1665, one of Astaroth's lieutenants recruits five real-life firearms engineers to develops guns that will function correctly in Hell.
- Artesia is set in a fantasy world that looks to be at about 15th-century European technology levels. They have bombards, although they have not been seen on-page as of yet.
- Both justified and subverted in Fables. Since the Empire coexists with modern-day Earth, the Adversary could provide his army with modern firearms. He chooses not to, because he fears that introducing guns to commoners might lead to rebellion. The exiled Fables of Fabletown have no such inhibitions towards modern arms technology, which is one of the main reasons they win the war against the Empire.
- Averted in The Warlord, although in fairness Skartaris is simply a convenient fantasy-style setting that coexists with modern-day Earth. Guns brought in by outsiders work fine there as long as the bullets last, and it turns out that at least some (though definitely not all) of the "black magic" there is simply based on remnants of ancient high technology that most natives have long since forgotten how to use.
- Averted in Sluagh, as Seamus is equally adept with a firearm as with a wand, and the muggle militiamen stand their own against the onslaught of magicians during the battle of Druim Cett. As Seamus noted, waving around a machine pistol in wartorn Belfast attracts far less attention than brandishing a wooden stick that shoots red thunderbolts.
Films — Animation
- Inverted in the 1977 animated film Wizards where the protagonist Avatar uses benevolent magic while his evil twin Blackwolf relies on malevolent magic and Nazi technology. Ironically enough, Avatar uses a gun to kill his brother rather than engage in a magical battle. Furthermore, Word Of Gun has dismissed the film's stance as anti-technology and the movie being anti-propanganda
- Averted in Princess Mononoke, where the hand cannons and arquebuses used by Lady Eboshi and her men are central to the story. It does sort of explain the need for this trope in many works, as the guns completely tip the balance of power to the point that the humans dominate the nature gods and massacre those that attack directly.
Films — Live-Action
- In Krull, the evil mooks have laser rifles.
- In The Wizard of Oz, some of the munchkins are seen wielding muskets, and the Scarecrow has a revolver when he goes with Dorothy to find the Witch. None of them are actually used, however.
- The Lone Wolf series averts this with the Darklords' ironclad warships armed with cannons and the "primitive" Dwarven Bor Muskets. In this series, guns are NOT worthless; Lone Wolf will either die or face a chance of dying instantly if an enemy has one of these muskets. When the muskets are first seen in Book 5, the friendly dwarves who have them manage to drive off a flock of Kraan, flying beasts that always give Lone Wolf a good fight in hand-to-hand combat. Oddly enough, they are always referred to as "primitive"; nothing else (except the aforementioned ironclads) seems to be more advanced in Magnamund. Certainly nothing from Sommerlund.
- Once Upon a Time: About half of the series takes place in a fantasy world inhabited by classic fairytale characters. On Captain Hook's ship, cannons can be seen in the background. However, that is the only time gunpowder weapons make an appearance in the Enchanted Forest world. Also, guns are never seen being used in battle.
- Most civilians carry low-tech weapons like swords and crossbows even though cartridge firearms were invented before electricity was harnessed. This is explained as guns being illegal for civilians to own, which was graphically demonstrated on a rebel who got caught by the militia for illegally possessing guns in Episode 2. However, that doesn't explain why militia members, who are allowed to have guns, only use muskets. Could be explained by most of the modern ammunition being used up during the intervening 15 years. Musketballs are probably easier to manufacture with primitive technology. This theory is verified by Episode 3, with Jeremy mentioning that pre-blackout ammunition was a rare commodity and that copper jackets and smokeless powder were beyond at least the Monroe Republic's manufacturing capabilities.
- Although that too makes little sense; modern weapons can easily fire lead bullets without a copper jacket, smokeless powder can be replaced by conventional gunpowder (although at a lower efficiency), and brass casings are reusable. The hardest part would be replacing modern primers, but that's possible too.
- It could also be a control measure as well. Monroes guards are seen carrying automatic weapons, while most of the rank and file are carrying single shot muskets. Considering that it can take anywhere from 20-30 seconds to reload a musket of any type, they certainly wouldn't be able to match the fire power of those most loyal to Monroe, who would then proceed to waste every one of them with a single magazine in the time it takes any of them to get their next shot off.
- Later episodes did bring out modern weapons into the mix...
- BIONICLE only had throwing disks, explosive fruit and energy projectiles for half of its run, then introduced more gun-like weapons due to Executive Meddling (they sold better than close-combat weapons), the most notable being the Cordak Gatling guns whose projectiles weren't magical energy-blasts or Phlebotinum shells, but genuine explosives. The Zamor launchers, Midak Skyblasters, Nynrah Ghost blasters and Thornax launchers are more fantasy-esque, but resemble personal, hand-held firearms. Kopaka's Skyblaster is even outfitted with a bayonet, Gali's Nynrah Ghost gun has crosshairs attached, and both have laser-sights.
- The main character of 6 Gun Mage is a mage who weilds a revolver.
- In Endstone, one is introduced to deal with Anti-Magic.
- Averted in The Order of the Stick, of all places. The dwarven assassin who tries to kill Roy (believing that he's the King of Nowhere) wields a pistol and uses barrels of explosives to (unintentionally) destroy the inn where Roy is staying. Guns probably aren't widely utilized given the prevalence of magic in this setting and the fact that no weapon is particularly lethal due to Hit Points.
- Skullkickers has no practical guns EXCEPT for Baldy's surprisingly sophisticated revolver. eventually it is revealed that he has been displaced from another dimension with more advanced technology, in a wild west setting.
- The Dimension of Lame from Sluggy Freelance has this in place, though not for the usual reasons. It's not that they don't have the technological capacity to build guns, it's just that every single being in that universe is a die-hard pacifist. Even tapeworms are polite and friendly and inexplicably sapient. Their most advanced weapon is a NUKE (Notification of Unified Kindness' Envelopes), the "NUKE" blankets the area with thousands of polite yet stern letters. Their greatest psychopath, after months of training, manages to bring himself to hit a demon in the toe with a mallet before having a breakdown and apologizing.
- Firearms are present in Strays which is otherwise Medieval European Fantasy or thereabouts. The exact kind/"tech level" of firearms available is undetermined as only one has been seen, and even then not clearly.
- Partially averted in Tales of the Questor: The Racconans figured out not just gunpowder but rifling centuries ago — it's just that "Boomslangs" capable of killing a hardened target (such as croco-centaurs or thugs with lux-reinforced armor) are too big and heavy for most of them to carry, let alone fire, because their species is about 2 feet tall. Another problem is that Racconan lands are notoriously poor in metal, which makes using a kilo or two of precious steel for a single weapon prohibitively expensive. And beyond that, the entire race has a talent for magic.
- Twice Blessed has a kobold bounty hunter that uses a very large gun (or a small cannon) with a Chinese dragon motif.
- Averted in Amya, with multiple characters wielding flintlock pistols.
- True for the most part in At Arm's Length, as most of the magical beings prefer bladed or wooden weapons, or use magical-based spells and projectiles for attacks. Still averted in a few cases, such as Ginger, who packs a WWI-era Colt M1911, as well as an unseen minotaur who was mentioned by Sheila to have been carrying a .44 Magnum when they encountered him.
- Averted in The Grimorium Verum, which contains a spell for protecting the caster against firearms.
- More or less averted in history. The medieval formula for gunpowder had been written two centuries before the Catholic Church officially acknowledged the existence of witches. Furthermore, the use of the arquebus, the matchlock, and flintlock did nothing to stop occultists from penning grimoires well into the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. In the minds of many during these periods, both magic and firearms were a part of daily life.