In certain stories, especially epic fantasy, there is a correlation between the weapon style characters or groups use
, and how they are portrayed in the work.
Heroes' weapons generally have clean lines, such as longbows, broadswords, katana, a musket, Colt revolver, Winchester, etc. Unarmed combat
is also a heroic trait. Although the rules change when zombies are involved
. (don't ask why)
Villain armies typically have more oddly-shaped weapons, weapons with spikes
, etc. While not a hard-and-fast rule (see the exception for hammers, below) blunt weapons, especially ridged maces, tend to be evil, possibly due to their lethal practicality, as a crushed shoulder, knee, or skull tends to be more complicated to heal than a clean cut.
An easy way to tell which Mook
is just a Mook
, is to look at their weapons: light blaster rifle, polearm? Standard Mook. Massive sword or really scary-looking gun? This is at least an Elite Mook
, if not a member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad
. Weapon that looks suspiciously like the hero's? Uh, oh...
Truth in Television
to some extent: The Geneva Convention frowns on the use of certain weapons and certain kinds of melee weapons (such as knives with odd-shaped blades) that do not leave clean wounds.
- Multiple Swords: Badass but generally evil or Anti-Hero.
- Hookswords: Run away. Now. Do not, under any circumstances, trust.
- However, a dual-hooksword-wielding Michelle Yeoh happens to be doubly trustworthy.
- Flame Patterned Sword (flamberge): Unless sufficiently elegant, run. Stylish enough swords may serve a positive character, but the flamberge simply looks meaner, and for a good reason as it may leave much nastier wounds. Serpentine daggers mark most users as evil.
- Similarly, stay the hell away from anyone wielding a serrated blade.
- Single Weapon That Splits Into Multiple: Good. Although that is changing as recent works have seen more badguys using this tactic in their weapons.
- Katana and Rapiers: Either way, but a favorite weapon of the Wicked Cultured, the Rival, or the Sixth Ranger. They're too cool for most Mooks in any case.
- Shamshir, Tulwar, Scimitar: Can go either way, If there's a single scimitar-wielder, he's probably a good guy. An entire society that favors scimitars is usually evil. Staple weapon of palace guards in Qurac and Sim Sim Salabim.
- Dirk, Longsword, Etc: Sign of a Knight in Shining Armor. Heroic. If used by a villain, it will generally be a BFS.
- Speaking of the BFS. Massive swords are usually a villainous weapon (used often by evil warlords or by The Brute), but quite a few heroes crop up wielding them as well. A heroic BFS wielder is often a Barbarian Hero, often an Anti-Hero, and just about always a Bad Ass. Since they typically look like no normal person could wield them, the use of such a weapon emphasizes a character's raw strength.
- Axes: Evil, unless used by dwarves or heroic barbarians.
- Hammers: More likely to be good than axes due to not overtly spilling blood, and normally used by The Big Guy or dwarves. Sometimes shows up in the hands of brutish bad guys, though. Regular tool-style hammers being used as a Weapon of Choice is usually the sign of Ax-Crazy.
- Club: Either way; bad guys like to add spikes. Generally a sign of brutish, unintelligent characters.
- Blunt, club-like found objects: Rarely used by good guys, except in a non-lethal manner. Totally reversed if zombies are in play.
- Mace (metal club, often with ridges): Evil. Typically used by the Big Bad or The Dragon as maces were traditionally symbols of power and authority, only to be used by royalty or those in command. However, if the wielder is a priest, it has a much higher chance of being good (but can still be evil).
- In settings with lots of undead, much more likely to veer towards good.
- Flail: Evil. Always (except in Gundam). Nunchaku can go either way.
- Handguns: If guns are a mainstay, good. If not, dishonorable and evil with exception to dwarves.
- Assault Rifles: Evil if it's a Communist AK-47, good if it's an American M-16. Either way, usually not a main character. Unless it is an Ace Custom Assault Rifle which have laser sights and an under slung launcher.
- Hand Cannons: Anti-Hero. Common in Film Noir, detective stories and cyberpunk.
- Submachine Guns: Mainly used by mooks, antiheroes or villains.
- Sawed Off Shotguns: Evil, or at least Anti Heroic, except when facing zombies.
- Sniper Rifles: Sign of a villainous Professional Killer, Villain Protagonist, or Psycho for Hire. Hero characters using one of these are usually in the role of the Friendly Sniper, the guy whose role is to shut down bad guys trying to ambush another hero.
- Machine Guns: Evil.
- Exception made for soldiers in war movies who sometimes use them, although they are generally not the hero.
- Gatling Guns: Badass (again, Arnold or his friend)
- Dagger: Sign of the thief or traitor; generally evil. Often the necessary utensil for Black Magic rituals involving Human Sacrifice.
- Hooked/Curved Dagger: Usually the above, but sometimes treated the same as the scimitar.
- Knife: Unless the hero is trying a last ditch effort to fight off a villain, wielding a knife is very, very evil.
- Subverted in Dune, in which body shields stop anything moving above a few cm per second and mutually detonate (with kiloton force) on contact by lasers; knife fighting is the dominant form of close combat.
- Any Poisoned Weapons: Always evil, save for some tranquilizer darts.
- Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons made their use an evil act. While this was probably a game balance issue (since poison in 1st edition was almost always fatal), it was strange that hacking or bashing an enemy to death over the course of several rounds of combat was considered less evil than a quick death.
- Well, it can be considered very dishonorable in that it doesn't give the opponent a fair fight. (You know... the opponent who's casting petrification and disintegration spells at you!)
- Chainsaws: Almost always criminally insane, except when fighting zombies or Deadites.
- If the weapons glow or are painted different colors, Color-Coded for Your Convenience comes into play.
- Similarly, the decorations on a weapon can tell you call you need to know about the wielder's personality. If you come across someone whose sword is engraved with skulls and bones, you should probably start running.
- Whip: Generally evil, with rare exceptions. The exceptions tend to be Adventurer Archaeologists, masked swashbucklers or vampire hunters. In Forgotten Realms it's also the signature weapon of the (good) goddess of love and the Rashemi Hathran sect. Whips are not known for being lethal, so most wielders tend to be people who refuse to kill (on the heroic side), while on the villainous side it tends to be used by slavedrivers as well as dominatrixes and other types who love to savor the pain of the enemy.
- Whip Sword: Variable, it's hard to pin due to its rare usage, but most characters tend to be some variant of The Vamp, who may or may not be evil. note
- Bows: Good for main characters, evil for Mooks.
- Crossbows: Either way unless the user is a dwarf. Generally evil is differentiated by poison here.
- Longbows: Generally good and usually wielded by elves or The Stoic but when evil in the hands of a Cold Sniper. Often seen in The Kingdom's armies.
- Staves: Usually good, unless topped by a skull or jewel from which magical/laser beams are shot. Unless Nanoha.
- Especially evil if topped by a snake.
- Spears: Good if used by named characters, evil if used by mooks. Non-named non-evil characters with spears will usually be Red Shirts.
- Polearms: You don't see many of these outside of mooks, though more sophisticated warriors such as the Lady of War might use them.
- Another exemption is any Chinese action film set in the Three Kingdoms period, as at least one of the main Generals favors a polearm.
- Wrist blades / claws: Definitely well into dark Badass or antihero territory, if not outright Ax-Crazy evil.
- If they resemble animal claws more than artificial weapons, you're probably dealing with some sort of shaman or druid.
- Torches: Mainly the preserve of antagonistic mobs, and villains. May also be used opportunistically by good guys in a pinch.
- Flamethrowers: Usually in the hands of a villain who loves burning things a little too much. Again, more heroic if used against zombies. Or Nazis or Imperial Japanese in old war movies.
- Scythes: Either villains or an Anti-Hero. Depends on how intimidating the scythe looks. Always scary.
- Shields: Either supporting characters or Mooks, either way they're usually useless (because they are defense-oriented and as such, quite frankly not cool).
- On the occasion a shield is used by a major character, it is generally a sign of the Knight in Shining Armor.
- Because shields are very convenient for displaying a symbol, design is key here - a black shield with a skull painted on it is firmly villain material, while a golden or silver shield with a sun emblem is a good sign of some kind of paladin.
- Laser Blade: Always Bad Ass, specific alignment usually determined by blade color.
- Attack of the Clones subverts this, as there are enough Jedi in the field at once for the lesser among them to count as Redshirts.
- Martial Arts: Flowing styles and high acrobatics tend to be the domain of good guys and monks; Pressure point poking, open-palmed jabbing, and other "quick and to the point" styles are used by the Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy or Evil Overlord, but can be used by heroes with a no kill code in which case it's pragmatic. Unless Kenshiro. Good Old Fisticuffs are either way, unless the bad guy knows a style of any type, then it becomes the domain of the "everyman" good guy. She-Fu is neutral, as it lends to catfighting between two parties.
- Katars: Almost always Anti-Hero at best, usually the province of assassin or rogue characters, unless the assassin or rogue is Chaotic Good. Almost always subject to Dual Wielding, at least for rogues in World of Warcraft and Assassins and Assassin Crosses in Ragnarok Online.
- Unlikely Weapons: Good, if eccentric.
Compare Weapon of Choice
. See Good Guns, Bad Guns for the more detailed gun version
. Contrast Evil Weapon
, where the weapon doesn't just look evil, it is
Anime and Manga
- In Higurashi: When They Cry, Rena has a weapon◊ that has been described by fans intermittently as a billhook, a machete, a hatchet, a cleaver, or all of them at once. That's pretty much unprecedentedly evil, but the non- edged part of the blade is straight, which is significant.
- With all the Heel Face Turns in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the good guys end up not really following any rules on weapon alignment besides whatever looks cool. Undeniably evil characters like Precia and Jail however, stick with mainstay villain weapons like whips and claws.
- Fate/stay night has badass and morally ambiguous Archer dual wielding, Worthy Opponent Assassin with a
katana nodachi which is close enough, heroic Saber with long swords, barbaric Berserker with an axe-sword-club (it's a giant piece of flint, basically), traitorous Caster using a special dagger and Lancer who is, at least, good-natured even if he'll eventually have to stab you to death with his spear.
- King Fahn and Lord Ashram of the first Record of Lodoss War anime wield swords of good and evil, respectively, that grow stronger the closer they are to each other.
- Most incarnations of Gundam have this, with the protagonists' faction using simple, clean-looking weapons like boxy plasma guns and unassuming white cylinders that project a Laser Blade while the antagonists use nastier-looking ones like large, noisy, belt or pan-fed machine guns, whips, curved swords and axes. The biggest exception to this is Gundam Wing where the protagonists have extremely flashy, mean-looking weapons while the bad guys have scads of simplistic, mass-produced Mecha-Mooks whose weapons wouldn't look out of place in a modern army.
- X-men: Gambit with a Staff? Good. Gambit with a knife? Bad. Warpath, Multiple Knives. Good. Spiral, Multiple Swords? Bad. Katana? Evil Samurai, unless it's Wolverine in one of his Japanese adventures. Dual Wielded Katana? Deadpool.
- The crazy Japanese girl Gogo Yubari wields a meteor hammer in Kill Bill.
- In The Lord of the Rings Elves use light curved blades and Alliance humans prefer medieval broadswords while Orcs sport crude, angular slabs, and Easterlings are armed with polearms. There's also the curved dagger wielded by Evil Chancellor Wormtongue.
- In the 1980 Flash Gordon film, Vultan, King of the Hawkmen, carries an evil-looking mace. However, he is one of the hero's closest allies.
- In All Quiet on the Western Front, the sergeant finds a private who has cut serrations into his bayonet, and explains that the opposition will not like this and do particularly nasty things to him if they catch him. The sergeant then goes on to explain that in hand-to-hand trench warfare, the best thing is to lop the opponent's head off with a short handled shovel.
- Especially present in the film adaptations of Harry Potter, when wands used by the death eaters have more elaborate and menacing designs than those of the good wizards and witches.
- In Star Wars, the light side Jedi use lightsabers with blades that are colored blue, green, purple, yellow, etc... seemingly every color of the rainbow except red, which is the exclusive province of the evil Sith. Along similar lines, the Galactic Empire's weapons are all clean, utlitiarian, and mass-produced, whereas the the Rebel Alliance's all appear to be heavily customized and well-used.
- In Disney/Tangled, the Frying Pan of Doom is only ever used by heroic characters.
- The high spirits of Adam R. Brown's Astral Dawn utilize a wide variety of astral weapons created from their centers. Caspian's weapon of choice is a silver-bladed katana sword.
- A rare exception to "Only villains poison weapons": Sadi, a eunuch on the side of the heroes in the Mallorean, uses a poisoned dagger as his primary weapon.
- Justified in that one of the two defining characteristics of the Nyissans is an extensive knowledge and ... creative ... use of pharmaceuticals. (The other one is a positively astounding ability at being devious and conniving.)
- While Sadi is a good guy, Nyssians in general try to stay out of the fighting and may be seen as amoral.
- And from the same series, there's the Ulgo knife, which is generally described as one of the most unpleasantly mutilat-y weapons in the world. The Ulgos are good guys. (The knife is never described in detail. It does, however, posses both a serrated edge and a hook "for pulling things out" and is said to have been disgned to "hurt more coming out than going in, so...)
- A partial exception to Poisoned Weapons is The Demon Princes: the hero uses them and is better than most of the villains.
- In The Lord of the Rings Sauron is depicted using a mace, and his lieutenant, the Witch-king, swings an Epic Flail. His ancient teacher, Morgoth, fought with a warhammer.
- A partial exception to Poisoned Weapons is Oberyn Martell in A Song of Ice and Fire. While he's not that nice of a guy (it's still ASOIAF), he has sympathetic motives and is mostly a case of Shoo Out the New Guy or A Death in the Limelight anyway. His poisoned weapon at least took out one of the characters who was much, much worse than he was.
- Interestingly PlayedWith in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy:
- The supremely evil Steel Inquisitors favor axes as their signature weapon.
- Contrary to the usual rule on daggers, both good and evil Mistborn, including two of the three main protagonists, use daggers as primary weapons.
- The orc-like Koloss use an enormous BFS as their signature weapon, to the point where the size of a koloss population can be crudely controlled by increasing or decreasing the number of swords they possess. (If they have too few swords, the koloss will kill each other off in brawls over swords, whereas if they have too many, they make more koloss.
- The swords of Masamune and Muramasa, two legendary Japanese swordsmiths. In general, Masamune's swords are considered to have qualities of good and peace, while Muramasa's blades are considered bloodthirsty. The legend has it that the two had a contest to see who could craft a better sword. Each one made a sword and sent it floating down a river. Masamune's sword peacefully avoided everything, while Muramasa's sword cut everything in its path. Another legend says that a Muramasa sword, once unsheathed, will refuse to leave the user's hand until it draws blood.
- Space 1889 the spear-polearm, fork and scythe-resembling weapons the High Martian carry in their prehensile feet sure look nasty.
- In Warhammer 40,000, Chaos Space Marines typically wield weapons that look similar to their Loyalist counterparts with the addition of lots of spikes and studs and skulls. Their Terminators also use maces and axes in addition to the standard Power Fist (which they add spikes to anyway.) While both groups have melee-centric squads that favor chain weapons, note how the squads for Chaos Space Marines tend to use Chain Axes, while the squads for Loyalist Marines tend to use Chain Swords.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, Good-aligned Clerics traditionally wield maces or other blunt weapons. Evil clerics and fighters often carry flails or other spiky things. The game claimed this dated back to the Middle Ages where the Clergy were allowed to join in battle, but because they were forbidden to "spill blood" they were restricted to using blunt weapons. Because you can totally bash somebody's head in with a mace and not get blood everywhere. Though the idea that warrior priests used maces to not shed blood may have been a misunderstanding of the actual events, and were more likely symbols of authority.
- This trope most likely came from Bishop Odo of Bayeux, a kinsman of William the Conqueror, who was trying the game the system (at that time, clergy was not allowed to participate in combat — to this day, for obvious reasons, the Catholic Church frowns VERY HEAVILY on it, and "warrior monk" orders like the Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights no longer function as military religious orders)by wading into combat during the Battle of Hastings in 1066 with a weapon that was less likely to shed blood on the rationalization that that made it OK.
- Heironeous, the Greyhawk god of Chivalry and Justice, carries a battleaxe or longsword, as do his followers. His brother Hextor, god of Tyranny and War, is associated with the spiked flail.
- D&D has made exceptions for various gods with favored weapons (as with Heironeous and the battleaxe pre-3rd edition), but as of 3rd Edition opened up the range of favored weapons for clerics pretty widely - especially for gods of war and combat. Most fit this trope fairly well even so. In Eberron, for example, most of the good gods still favor traditionally "good" weapons or those that are derived from tools with a functional purpose (the goddess of feasts and abundance likes sickles, which are a farming tool), while the evil gods still favor "evil" weapons (the god of death likes the Sinister Scythe, whose evil connotations overcome its own use as a farming tool).
- In Warhammer, Priests of Sigmar tend to fight with two-handed battle hammers, and lead armies from the front. Since Sigmar is a god of war and his symbol is a hammer, this is all justified. Priests of Sigmar tend to be a bit overbearing and have Knight Templar tendencies, but are generally good guys.
- In Shakespeare's Othello, heroic Claudius uses a sword. Its implied that his attempted assassination may have been done with a knife.
- Fire Emblem Path of Radiance has Ashnard's Gurgurant, a black flame patterned sword with a more or less flat tip, evil.
- Soulcalibur: Ivy wields a sword that separates into multiple parts: good. It does turn into a whip, but that helps it with the Bifurcated Weapon bit. Astaroth wields axes: evil.
- Half subverted, half played straight in Resident Evil 4. Krauser uses a knife as his Weapon of Choice, is a mercenary working for the Big Bad, kidnapped the President's Daughter, and if he isn't outright evil, is at least very, very amoral. But Leon Kennedy also is a bit of a Knife Nut. Somewhat justified in that it's stated they worked together in the same military group before the events of the game.
- Ace Combat has a variant; It has been noted that in almost every game, the protagonist squadron and sometimes his allies usually fly Western Fighter Aircraft (usually American) while the antagonist ace squadron(s) usually use either high-tier Russian fighters (usually a variant of the Su-27 Flanker ). This is however subverted multiple times.
- In Ace Combat 2 the protagonist squadron (presumably, given the cover art) flies the Su-35 Super Flanker, while four of the ZOE aces use IRL-American jets.
- In the uncut Ace Combat 3, the only faction that flies Russian planes (a futuristic MiG and two upgraded Sukhois) is UPEO, which is the starting faction (you can later defect) and is as close as it comes to the Good Guys in this game.
- In Ace Combat 5 one of the enemy ace squadrons you fight flies the F-15S/MTD.
- In Ace Combat Zero, out of the 12 major ace squads you face in the game, only three (Gelb, Gault and Schwarze) play this trope straight.
- In Ace Combat X, some of the ally Redshirts use the Flanker.
- In Ace Combat: Joint Assault Varcolac uses both Russian and Western planes.
- In Halo, this shows up in the two warrior races of the Covenant: The characteristic weapon of the (ultimately) good Elites is the Energy Sword. The signature weapon of the Brutes is a big, well, brutish Gravity Hammer.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the Master Sword is shown at the very end of the game to have an Evil Counterpart wielded by the Demon King Demise, whose spirit and humanoid form is named Ghirahim.
- Averted in the Mass Effect series, where alignment is independent of weapon choice. Machine pistols are very common on both sides in the second game, Shepard can get Geth guns in all three games and Collector guns in the second, and gets access to large pistols, assault rifles, and wrist-mounted omni-blades regardless of Paragon / Renegade alignment.
- In Knights of the Old Republic there are sometimes weapons or objects (lightsaber crystals for example) that can only be used if one has the proper alignment.
- Partially averted in Warcraft I, where the human knights used flails despite being good guys. Aside from that, the Orcs use more savage-looking weapons than the humans.
- Frostmourne makes it amply clear that it's evil. Terrifyingly serrated blade? Check. Horrifying ornaments? Check. Emits a nasty aura of ice and cold? Check. The only way it could get any more Obviously Evil is if it was actually warning potential wielders that it's going to steal their soul... oh wait, it actually does that too! Shame Arthas had gone so far into the deep end at that point that he couldn't care less.
- The Command & Conquer: Generals mod Rise of the Reds completely and utterly flips the stereotype of western nations using "good" and "humane" weapons. The ECA uses all manner of horrifying weapons including lethal microwave weapons, cluster bombs, land mines, nerve gas and even nukes, all out of sheer desperation.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has one so evil that guards can freak out if you approach then with it.
- Web Animation/RWBY zigzags this trope like crazy:
- The main character, Ruby Rose, wields a sniper rifle that turns into a very large, imposing scythe, and she is one of the friendliest characters in the series.
- Blake Belladonna's sword can collapse into a bladed pistol, and can be swung like a flail. She's one of the good guys.
- On the other end of the scale, Cardin Winchester carries a gigantic flanged mace.
- In Homestuck, The Hero picked up a hammer for Mundane Utility and leveled up with it. The Axe Crazy pure evil psycopath is also the only one who wields a full sword (though another hero uses swords, what he actually wields are swords broken in half.) Later also demonstrated with the good and evil personalities of one character: the good wields a magic wand that can turn into a pistol (a precise weapon that cannot be fired multiple times in succession), while the evil wields a fully automatic assault rifle (a highly destructive weapon that will likely cause a ton of collateral damage).
- Zeetha in Girl Genius hass two katars as her weapon of choice. She is described as a "swordmistress", and is also quite unambiguously good.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender had a duel between Well-Intentioned Extremist Anti-Hero Jet and Anti-Villain Zuko. Jet has a pair of hookswords, while Zuko uses a set of dual swords. On that note, Aang uses a glider-staff, while Sokka starts with a club and boomerang, but later stops using the club and eventually gains a sword.
- The sequel series, The Legend of Korra, continues this trend. Police Chief Lin Beifong and her employees use whips controlled by Metalbending, but Amon and his Equalists provide more technologically advanced weapons, most notably taser prods and electric gloves. Amon's Lieutenant (who's only ever referred to as Lieutenant) uses two kali-sticks hooked up to a backpack generator for added Shock and Awe. He's terrifyingly proficient with them and something of an Ensemble Darkhorse.
- Transformers Animated has Lockdown, a Bounty Hunter who loves taking pieces off helpless targets. He has a chainsaw, and is decidedly evil and probably a little crazy too.
- Megatron from The Transformers is literally an Evil Weapon, his disguise form being a Walther P38.
- For the trifecta, Transformers Prime has the Star Saber, the sword of the original Primes' leader Prima, now in Optimus' possession as of late Season 2. Because of the threat this poses to his Decepticon legions, Megatron forges a counterpart out of Dark Energon for his own use: the Dark Star Saber.