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Enhanced Archaic Weapon

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"Guns. So primitive."
Okoye (who prefers the use of an enhanced spear), Black Panther (2018)

This trope covers archaic weapons that have been upgraded in some way to make them more effective. To qualify as this trope a weapon must have been invented before gunpowder weapons became dominantnote  and enhanced in a way that they were not at the time (although they can still appear before that point) through magic or technology. Contemporary weapons being subjected to this in the distant future also count (as long as the enhancement isn't contemporary or older too).

"Why bother with them?", you ask? Let's not mince words; older weapons are cool and can say a lot more about characters (especially since they tended to be unique to some degree). It's a lot more exciting to have characters fighting up close and personal than it is for them to fling metal and fire at one another from half a mile away. Similarly, traditional projectile weapons (bows, slings, etc) give the impression that the user needs skill to use them. Making these weapons more powerful (or just look that way to the audience) not only makes it even more exciting, but can give a plausible reason why they're using them (instead of the aforementioned metal and fire flinging devices).

Subtropes include:

This trope often overlaps with Retro Upgrade (which might be used to justify why the enhancement hasn't simply been applied to more advanced weapons), Living Weapon/Empathic Weapon and Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age. It can count as a Magical Weapon if the enhancement is magical. Compare Older Is Better and Guns Are Worthless.

Examples (single examples which fit into an existing subtrope belong on that page):

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    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: Astro City's premiere detective, the Black Rapier, battles foes with an electric rapier.
  • Batman: In Batman: The Widening Gyre, new vigilante Baphomet holds Deadshot at bay by pointing a medieval crossbow at him. Deadshot points out how archaic the weapon is. Baphomet however points out that the crossbow has a 21st century firing pin, making it fully capable of sending a bolt through Deadshot's skull.
  • Critter: Lasso Lass, a member of the superhero team The In Crowd, uses a high-tech lasso as her weapon of choice.
  • Robin (1993): Tim Drake modifies his Telescoping Staff to double as an EMP with the addition of a simple twist on add on.
  • Silverblade: One member of the Carnival of Killers Vermillion hires to kill Milestone wields an electrified sword.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Knives of Vulcan are a set of throwing knives that are not only Absurdly Sharp but are also magically enhanced so that they will return to the thrower's hand when directed and cannot be removed from any living thing they've been stabbed into by anyone but the one who did the stabbing. This becomes a problem when Nikos Aegeus gets hold of them and managed to lodge one in Steve Trevor's shoulder.

    Fan Works 
  • "Shakedown Shenanigans": By the USS Bajor's launch in 2409 the Galaxy-class is fifty years old. The Bajor's construction series is mentioned to be a limited run of upgraded hulls to replace combat losses from the ongoing Federation-Klingon War, until the newer Odyssey-class can enter full production. Ablative armor has been added, the superstructure has been technobabble-reinforced, the firepower, range, and speed have been increased, and the ship carries quantum torpedoes instead of photons.
  • DNMC: Much like every other weapon in its canon counterpart, quite a few weapons qualify for this trope. D'Arg's swords, Fire, Ready, Aim, are a pair of BFSs that double as shotguns that he can light on fire using his blood. There's also Cyena's bow, Nilesblood, which she combos with Dust-infused arrows and that doubles as a kusarigama with a kama on both ends.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Deepstar Six the crew's first attempt to fight off the monster involves spear versions of the "wasp knife" (see below)
  • In Serenity Inara wields a bow that has lights on it. The RPG explains that her weapon is more properly termed a "bolt-thrower", a bow upgraded with Alliance technology to where it fires arrows with nearly the force of a bullet.
  • In Star Wars, Wookiee bowcasters are enhanced versions of crossbows that increase the force and accuracy with which they fire quarrels via magnetic fields and are capable of firing explosive rounds. Some are further modified in other ways. For example, Chewie's has an automatic re-cocking system. Some Wookiees prefer a bowcaster with a blaster rifle barrel underneath, allowing both projectile and energy weaponry depending on which is better for the situation at hand.
  • In Elysium, Max wonders why he's being given an antique AK to use and is promptly shown the futuristic explosive rounds that allow it to remain viable.
  • The Ravager Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) uses an arrow as his only weapon. Not even a bow and arrows, but a single arrow. However, said arrow is a Yaka Arrow whose movements he can control via a cybernetic implant and whistling. In the first movie he uses it to effortlessly take out a bunch of Kree warriors surrounding him. The arrow and Yondu both get a lot more action in the sequel. The Stinger has Kraglin inherit the Yaka Arrow. His clumsy attempts to get it to work highlight just how hard it is to actually pull off the same tricks Yondu performed with it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI: NY featured the "Wasp Knife," which injects air into the target to cause them to burst, as a murder weapon.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit featured a similar weapon to the CSI example, which works by injecting the victim with air.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Field of Fire" has a Serial Killer modify a chemical-propelled firearm, a Starfleet prototype called the TR-116, with a short-range transporter that let it fire through walls. Meanwhile the basic model TR-116 fires rounds made of tritanium. It was originally developed for situations where technobabble fields made conventional energy weaponry useless.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eclipse Phase has monofilament swords and garrottes, diamond-edged axes, vibroswords, swords made of memory polymer that becomes stiff or flexible with an electric charge and wasp knives among others.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • In addition to Chainsaw Good and Sharpened to a Single Atom examples being commonplace, also has much rarer "Power Weapons". These are enhanced by a hazy blue "power field" (produced by a generator on what would otherwise be a normal melee weapon) which weakens the molecular bonds of whatever they strike. Also the ubiquitous bolter is essentially an upgraded version of Gyrojet firearms, fitted with armor-piercing explosive heads, capable of firing full-auto, and far more effective at point-blank range.
    • The Grey Knights are a dedicated anti-daemon force of Space Marines who wield psychically-charged halberds in one hand (and a double-barreled wrist-mounted bolter on the other arm).
    • In the Dark Heresy RPG, close-combat weapons marked as "primitive" are less effective against non-primitive armor, but can be given the "mono" upgrade to remove this trait and gain some added armor penetration.
  • Exalted has artifact weapons, which, besides being overall better than their mundane versions, are often enchanted to have unique power. However, you need to be able to channel Essence to use most of them, restricting artifact weapons to the Exalted, supernatural beings like gods and demons, and the occasional enlightened mortal.
  • Legend of the Five Rings:
    • The nemuranai are items that have had the kami within them awakened, usually through prayer and supplication (though sometimes they awaken through use). Such items tend to bestow good luck on their users, and the more powerful ones also grant unique abilities, such as a sword that deals more damage each time it hits an opponent.
    • On a more mundane level, the sacred weapons of the Great Clans also count. For example, the Scorpion's Shosuro blade is extremely effective at delivering poison to one's opponents, while the Inquisitor's Strike of the Phoenix deals increased damage to those with Shadowlands Taint. And, of course, there's the Kaiu blade of the Crab Clan, which cannot be broken by any known means, and which are said to be able to cut solid stones in half.
  • 1001 Science Fiction Weapons for OGL, has whole sections of these, organised by subtrope and various versions thereof, with each covering various kinds of weapon which use the technological concept covered by that section, usually meaning various blades, from quatars to scythes, but sometimes including nunchaku, hammers etc. These include:
    • merely simple weapons made with advanced materials
    • monofilament weapons
    • vibro-weapons
    • a combination of monofilament and vibro bladesnote 
    • powered saw-type weapons
    • modern bows, crossbows and dart launchers which fire a variety of trick projectiles, including poisons, electronic disruption and less-lethal options
    • bows which inexplicably fire energy bolts with no visible string
    • blades made of hot energy or forcefields
    • blunt objects made of hyperdense matter with little gravity motors inside to allow them to be lifted and swung, as they weigh as much as a van
    • radioactive weapons (sometimes little more than a bar of spent fuel rod, though the better ones will at least do more damage to the target than the user)
    • heated blades
    • supercooled blades
    • blades made of ice
    • organic blades which can dose the target with a wide variety of toxins and pathogens.
    • Add spear, harpoon and spike-throwing guns, and the rather ludicrous-sounding chapter on yo-yo-based weapons, and some oddities in the super-advanced weapons section, and you have one big, bloody mess of D20-based fun!
  • Rifts includes some, mostly vibro-blades, and spells are available to enhance weapons and render them into magical or enchanted weapons, but the most impressive are the techno-wizard and rune weapons. The rune weapons are some form of alive, the highest-level weapons are sentient, and have magical abilities that made them the Palladium Fantasy worlds' equivalent of a tac-nuke. The techno-wizard weapons are equipped with mechanisms to allow them to cast spells, as well as being heavily enhanced; one techno-wizard sword introduced in Federation of Magic did so much mega-damage per strike as it was, while it had only 3 spells: one to multiply an attack, one to fire a particle beam, and one that made the wielder (but not their clothing) invulnerable, to a certain extent. Someone who knew how to use it could potentially take out whole sections of enemy powered armour.
  • The Star Wars d20 tabletop game had options for "modern fitting" ships, weapons, and droids for the current time period - most often used for bringing the shockingly good Old Republic era weaponry and vehicles into the Galactic Civil War and beyond without Fridge Logic getting in the way (i.e. how does this medical droid still use kolto when kolto has long been replaced by bacta as the main medical fluid in the galaxy?). Considering that the Old Republic era also provided some of the most varied, specialized, and detailed lightsaber construction in any expanded universe time period, most of those old lightsabers also made for tempting finds for prospective Jedi.
  • La Capitan's crew in Sentinels of the Multiverse is made up of people from multiple time periods equipped with these: L'Epeeist, a 17th-century French duellist, has an energy rapier, Battle-Forged the Viking warrior has a heat axe, Siege-Breaker the knight uses a power halberd, Final Breath the ronin has a sword imbued with poison somehow, and Trueshot the Amazon archer fires energised arrows from her bow, and La Capitan herself is shown in some card art using a lightning cutlass.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • The omni-blade uses your omni-tool's micro-factory to flash-fabricate a short dagger blade that is then suspended above your fist in a mass effect field. Depending on your class, it may have other effects such as (in Infiltrators) an electric charge.
    • Multiple weapons can be fitted with bayonets for close combat. Some are simple metal blades slung under the barrel, but others use the same technology as Shepard's omni-blade.
    • The multiplayer features futuristic versions of shields, warhammers, and even crossbows deployed in a 22nd century Robot War. Lampshaded in the "Citadel" DLC:
    Veteran engineer: It's 2186. Who uses a whip?
  • Several examples have arisen in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura following the continent's industrial revolution. Compound bows that can be ugraded to fire either poisoned or burning arrows, knives and hammers fitted with clockwork mechanisms, axes and swords that inflict electric shocks, pyrotechnic damage or are permanently envenomed, and tesla-staffs that shock the enemy with jolts of electricity are all available to technologically-savvy characters.
  • Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has clockwork axes and swords that shred enemies with spinning gears, and hammers fitted with steam-powered boosters.
  • Snake's melee weapon of choice in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is a shock-knife that can be used for both lethal stabs and non-lethal stuns.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, due to the rising prevalence of nearly bulletproof cyborgs on the battlefield, High-Frequency Blades have become the weapon of choice for standard combat. That said, most of them are mass-produced pieces of crap, and guns still see use because cyborgs aren't completely bulletproof, you just need a lot of bullets to take one down (and anti-tank weapons are fairly respectable options for ranged cyborg to cyborg combat).
    • Sam's Murasama blade takes the trope to its logical conclusion: being a retrofitted 16th century katana that totally eclipses even the best modern HF-Blades.
  • Half-Life 2 features a crossbow designed to fire superheated pieces of rebar (bonus points for apparently being constructed by the rebels using what resources they have). It's a one hit kill against most weak enemies.
  • Much of the high-end weaponry in Might and Magic VI to VIII is this. Either they date back to before the Silence (meaning a culture entirely capable of building energy weapons made them. At a minimum, they use futuristic materials beyond even the fantastical materials available in the 'modern day' of the setting, and it certainly isn't known how to make them anymore), or they are more modern (for the vaguely medieval-renaissance-y technological state of the setting) designs that used magic to sidestep limitations in construction (for instance, one description mentions the use of magic to make forges hotter).
  • Musya starts you off with your trusty, regular spear. Halfway into the game (after defeating the third boss), you realize you're fated to fight an awakening demon lord, so your spear gets blessed with a spell which turns it into a golden weapon, and a new Blade Spam attack.
  • The Predator bow in Crysis 3 is a compound bow designed specifically for use with nanosuits like the one the main character wears. Its draw strength is something like 500 pounds, perfect for the nanosuit's Maximum Strength. The arrows all have beacons that only the nanosuit can see (and you can tag those arrows with your GPS binoculars if you so choose, implying recon possibilities beyond the scope of the actual missions), and the special explosive arrows can airburst in proximity to a binocular-tagged enemy.
  • E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy features a pair of augmented melee weapons - the Damocles and the Arrancadora De Tripas. The Damocles (a 15 kilogram nodachi) has a handle made of distortion capacitors, allowing it to create a shockwave of fire and explosions when the blade contacts flesh or armor. The Arrancadora Warp Hammer is a massive war hammer that even the augmented soldiers of the Secreta have trouble swinging; The distortion engine inside the hammer's head can create a localized warp in reality and a huge display of lightning when it strikes a target, allowing it to One-Hit Kill almost anything. Early models of the Arrancadora worked by creating a nuclear fusion reaction, though it was phased out by the distortion hammer.
  • In Overwatch, Hanzo's bow boasts a number of Trick Arrow related abilities (such as the sonic arrow, and before it was patched out the scatter arrow), the standard arrows have some sort of homing ability and the bow itself is clearly made of far advanced materials than any existing bow.
  • XCOM 2: How does a flintlock firing plasma beams or a magnetically-accelerated crossbow sound to you?
  • In the Kirby series, Masked Dedede swaps out his normal hammer for a high-tech one which is electrified and contains a flamethrower and rocket launcher. In Super Smash Bros., both this and his normal hammer are also jet-powered.
  • All of The Federation's weapons in Next Jump SHMUP Tactics are power versions of the manufacturers traditional weapons. Elves have a laser bow, dwarves have a power hammer, and humans have a swift little energy dagger. The Crimson Knights have a ship built around a massive lightsaber, and one that can tennisball enemy bullets back at them by way of a directed energy shield pulse.
  • The pinnacle of ranged weapons in Dungeons of Dredmor is a crossbow with a magnetic accelerator coil mounted on it. This is due to the MegaCorp that manufactures arrows supressing the development of guns to keep bows from becoming obsolete. They can even launch nukes out of it (either Bolt of the WMD arrows or the Communist's Da Bomb craftable)!
  • In Fate/Grand Order, William Tell's crossbow has a laser sight and stock from a 21st-century assault rifle. He mentions that he wants to keep up with weapons technology from after his time, even though it's not necessary for him as a Heroic Spirit with perfect aim.
  • Most Predators in Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction make use of staffs and scythes, throwing chakrams, and spearguns, upgraded with stuff like plasma sheathing, vibroblades, and anticoagulant gel. These aren't their serious weaponry, just hunting stuff on par with someone using a bow-and-arrow to make things more fun. Their real wargear tends towards one-yautja Macross Missile Massacres and shoulder-mounted Death Ray lasers.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • In Genocide Man Caera has a Jian sword that has a reservoir of GM neurotoxin in the hilt, instant death to anyone but a Genocide Man. Though given that she can somehow decapitate someone with it, she may not need the poison.

    Real Life 
  • Compound bows and crossbows use a series of pulleys and cams to make them easier to draw and hold in place, as well as increase the overall power of the bow. They were developed primarily for hunting and for disabled archers to use in target shooting. They also often have other modern features, like scopes or sights to improve accuracy.
  • The Wasp knife, as mentioned in the CSI example above. It was developed for divers to use to fight off sharks by injecting them with air, so they float to the surface (and don't bleed as much, which might drive other sharks into a frenzy).
  • Swords were made in bronze long before they were made in carbonized iron.
  • The Shocknife is a training knife that emits an electric shock when it contacts skin. The idea is that it gives a sense of danger and fear that rubber training knives don't.
  • The humble shield has been given quite the upgrade from a piece of wood bound with leather to the modern transparent riot shield made of super-resistant and lightweight acryllic.