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Weapons of Their Trade

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A specific style of Improvised Weapon when a tradesperson uses the tools of their trade as combat weaponry. Iconic tools are preferred, because they demonstrate the character's proficiency with the tool, despite the current use as a weapon. It serves the dual purpose of making the combatant's style unique and reminding the audience what career they're from.

In the real world, most occupations have tools of the trade that are used entirely for utilitarian purposes. In the fictional world, these master craftspeople can wield these tools with deadly force. The firefighter who normally only uses the axe to bash in doors now bashes in skulls. The painter's brush spills blood with every stroke. The mechanic's wrench now breaks ribs. A farmer using their tools such as a pitchfork or scythe to impale enemies rather than pitch hay and reap lives rather than hay, respectively. A construction or demolition worker making use of a handy nearby sledgehammer to hammer in heads. A miner using their pickaxes to pierce bodies rather than stone.

This can be Truth in Television, and in some cases, the use of a tool as a weapon is so well known that common perception of it is reversed - most classic "weapons" in eastern martial arts are actually minor modifications of tools that the typical peasant would be permitted to own in a society where there are strict rules about weapon ownership based on social class. Historical examples include Scandinavian farmers using their ax as an improvised home defense weapon against raiders and Asian farmers using agricultural flails as weapons.

Note that for this trope, "tools" are distinct from "weapons"; a weapon's primary purpose is to hurt people, while a tool intends some mechanical effect. A police club is a weapon, while the handcuffs are tools to restrain. Characters using these tools also count as an Improbable Weapon User.

Inversions (weapons used as tools) would be Improbable Use of a Weapon or Mundane Utility. When characters grab everyday tools (but not tools of their career) to fight with, it's simply Improvised Weapon. For skill with tools acquired as part of a character's backstory, see Chekhov's Hobby and Workplace-Acquired Abilities.

This is a Super-Trope to:

  • Deadly Doctor: doctors/nurses who use medical instruments to hurt instead of heal.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: where athletes (usually the non-combat sports kind) use their sports equipment to fight.
  • Musical Assassin: where musicians use their instruments of death.

Overlaps with Chef of Iron, a trope about cooks being fighters, even if they don't use their cooking implements to fight.

Compare Superpowered Robot Meter Maids, for when robots who are supposed to be workers are equipped with weapons-grade equipment or have super-powered specs that they can theoretically be used to hurt others easily.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Winry (who is a mechanic) wields her wrench like a club.
  • Made in Abyss: Riko's mother Lyza's weapon is Blaze Reap, a pickaxe designed for excavation and digging. While it's useful for helping her dig her way down into the Abyss, it's an equally powerful weapon when loaded with the Everlasting Gunpowder, making her a One-Woman Army revered and feared as Lyza the Annihilator.
  • One Piece: The shipwrights of Galley-La Company primarily wield saws, wooden logs, and other woodworking/shipbuilding tools to defend themselves from pirates.
  • Speed Grapher: Tatsumi Saiga is a former war photographer who now worked in a gossip magazine, but always being loyal to his camera. When he got powers from the Euphoria virus, his camera now becomes his Weapon of Mass Destruction, blowing up the whole place where he shoots a picture.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: the Lagann and various other mechs that our heroes use are normally digging machines, as they're diggers who work to create spaces beneath the earth to be used as living spaces for the people. They would end up becoming weapons to fight the Beastmen and, later, the Anti-Spiral.
  • In To Love Ru's "Trouble Quest" arc, Rito gets Florist and his assigned weapon is the Watering Can he is seen with in previous chapters.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: Every Gaul fights with his instruments: Fulliautomatix the smith with hammers, Cacofonix the bard with horns, Unhygienix the fishmonger with a fish, Obelix the menhir carver with menhirs...
  • Dial H: In one issue of the China Miéville run, Nelson, a former industrial worker, has to rescue a friend from villains while his Hero Dial is non-functional, and cobbles together a "Rescue Jack" costumed identity with a Cheap Costume and a pipe wrench as a weapon.
  • Green Lantern: Butcher, the embodiment of the Red Lantern Corps, may use an axe most of the time but true to his profession, he also has a belt full of cutlery tools, including a rather menacing cleaver.

  • Seventh Endmost Vision: in this AU, Sephiroth is a Farm Boy, raised by Elmyra in Sector Five, and so he fights with a scythe. Tifa specifically notes that he probably only even has a scythe due to this trope. But it doesn't stop there: his self-taught fighting style reflects this trope as well since Sephiroth based it on a harvest dance. Even his favored materia, Poison, is used by him in his work since it functions as a pesticide... and it also helps with his second job, since he can use it as a general antibiotic in small amounts.
  • The Eventide Verse: Kisu is a zebra with a cutie mark for knife-handling, which she uses both as a chef and as a Crown agent. While she does have a set of Orichalcum throwing knives, she doesn't have a problem with raiding the kitchen for a large knife when time comes to interrogate a captured Mook, and she proceeds to hurl it at the hedgehog-like creature and cut off some of his quills as an intimidation tactic.

    Films — Animation 
  • Tack, the cobbler in The Thief and the Cobbler, uses one of his tacks to defeat the One-Eyes, shooting it using his thread as a slingshot.
  • In the first three Toy Story films, Bo Peep is a porcelain doll patterned after the nursery rhyme, so she has a shepherd's hook that she uses when tending to her three sheep. In Toy Story 4, she has become more adventurous and competent in a fight and uses the hook as a weapon among other things.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dr. Giggles: In this horror film, the title character commits several murders using medical equipment such as scalpels and blood-pressure cuffs.
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer antagonist "the fisherman" uses a longshoreman's hook as a weapon. note 
  • Kung Fu Hustle The Tailor and The Baker both utilize the tools of their respective trade - the rings used to hold up clothes and the sticks used to manipulate the fried dough - as part of their martial arts.
  • Mystery Men: Eddy is a sewer excavator who moonlights as "The Shoveler", a D-list superhero who wields, well, guess. He also carries a trowel as an Emergency Weapon.
    Eddy: God gave me a gift. I shovel well. I shovel very well.

  • Robert A. Heinlein's Between Planets: When the Federation invades Venus in an attempt to re-conquer it, a cook named Charlie prepares to resist them by sharpening the cleaver he uses in his work and practicing throwing it. When a squad of Federation soldiers tries to burn down his restaurant, he throws the cleaver and kills the soldier commanding the squad.
  • In The Blasted Lands Series, former apprentice blacksmith Andover Lashk uses a modified blacksmith's hammer as his weapon.
  • Discworld:
    • Thief of Time: Lu-Tze the Sweeper, a man who spends his days being the literal Almighty Janitor of an order of monks, comments that since no one notices weird little monks who are just sweeping up the place to begin with, he's far more stealthy and better equipped than the most highly trained of ninja. Not least because, in addition to being able to seriously inconvenience someone about twenty-seven different ways with a broom, if the floor gets dirty you can take care of that too.
    • Thud!: The butler for the Vimes household, Wilikins, is caught unawares by an assailant while cutting ice in the basement with an ice saw. He apologizes for being unable to avoid killing them.
    • Snuff: In one scene, Vimes passes the time at a rural pub by watching the regulars trickle in and mentally cataloguing all the farm implements they're carrying that could be used as weapons if necessary.
    • During the barricade arc in Night Watch Discworld, various laborers help defend the barricade with various items that were not confiscated by the Patrician's no weapons policy despite being nastier than swords because they were technically work tools. A soldier tasked with taking the barricade later notes that "unarmed" isn't the term he would use to describe a 200-pound slaughterhouse worker with a meat hook in one hand and a flensing knife in the other.
  • Hack Alley Doctor: Derrick Yu, a mod-doctor by trade, uses a scalpel attachment as an improvised weapon when answering the door late at night.
  • The Wheel of Time: The Blacksmith-turned-Lord Perrin Aybara fights with both a forging hammer and an axe. His conflict over the choice of weapon is an ongoing theme; he throws the axe away when he realizes he's become too comfortable with killing, has a minor crisis when reminded that he's killed a lot of people with the hammer as well, but settles on the hammer as a weapon because it has the ability to create as well as destroy.
  • The Wizard of Oz: One way the Tin Woodsman is identified as a woodcutter is his axe, which appears to be made out of tin like he is. He uses it to fight off flying monkeys.
  • X-Wing Series: At the beginning of Iron Fist the Wraiths get into a fight where Ton Phanan, the squad's medic, winds up killing someone with a scalpel. When it comes up during their debriefing, he's asked if he surrendered this weapon, to which Phanan matter-of-factly explains that it's not a weapon, it's one of his medical tools. So are his bandages and bacta packs, but under the right circumstances he can kill a man with any of them. The debriefing officer can only shoot a bemused look at Wedge, who just shrugs.

    Live-Action TV 
  • John Adams: Following the Boston Massacre, the British authorities claim that the rope makers had been looking for trouble because they had all been carrying batons. It is then pointed that out that the baton is a tool of the rope maker's trade—being used to beat the strands in the huge hawsers into position—and that every single man in the rope factory carried one.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Cloud Minders" has the mining culture (called Troglytes in the episode) use their mining tools in a rebellion against the ruling class that oppresses them.

  • Doctor Steel: Before becoming a Mad Scientist bent on taking over the world, Doctor Steel was a toy manufacturer. In "Lament for a Toy Factory", Dr Steel tells how he was fired and turned his toys into an army to take revenge against his employers. And now his army of toy soldiers continue to march...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Arkham Horror 3rd Edition: The mechanic Daniela Reyes' Starter Equipment includes a hefty wrench that she can wield as a one- or two-handed weapon.
  • Dragon Age: In the free module "The Dalish Curse", the village smith Coalan fights with his smithing hammer.
  • Warhammer: All dwarf hand weapons double as tools. One of their cultural hang-ups is that any hand weapon that has no use in civilian life is a waste of resources, which is why the dwarfs go to war with pick-axes, hammers, and axes instead of swords and spears. Ranged weapons (like crossbows and handguns) are excused by being used in hunting, and war-machines like cannon are entirely exempt.

    Video Games 
  • Apex Legends:
    • The entire concept of Caustic's character is that he's a former chemical engineer (specifically someone who worked on pesticides) who's weaponized the chemicals he worked with to better test them on live subjects.
    • Lifeline mostly uses her equipment as intended in her role as a Combat Medic, but one of her finishers involves hooking up her healing drone and having it deliver a lethal shock. Another involves stabbing them with the same syringes used for reviving downed teammates.
  • Assassin's Creed III: Stephane, who works as a butcher, very predictably, grabs his cleaver to deal with the redcoats harassing him. That's also the weapon he keeps on using once you recruit him as an assassin.
  • Bioshock 2: Fall of Rapture: Barbara Johnson, aka The Housewife, uses her frying pan to attack enemies.
  • In Borderlands 2, Gaige is a Teen Genius engineer who uses her hammer as a melee weapon (the robotic arm she holds it in can apparently smash through concrete on its own, but this tends to damage the fingers).
  • One survivor you can rescue in Dead Rising 2 is a professional golfer who is using one of her clubs to fend off zombies when you find her. She doesn't seem fazed by the ordeal and says it's good practice for her swing.
  • The whole premise of Citizens of Earth is that instead of traditional RPG classes, you're recruiting people with mundane jobs like a barista or plumber, who, thanks to Rule of Cool and Rule of Funny, can all use their job skills to fight against monsters.
  • Dead Space: The premise of the series is that Isaac, an engineer, must modify the tools of his trade (which have safety mechanisms and the like) into effective weapons against the Necromorph enemies (which have to be dismembered to kill them properly).
  • Dwarf Fortress: The mining skill governs both the use of pickaxes as tools and its use in combat, so a skilled miner will also have a head start on knowing how to use it to cave heads in. Useful if they run into something nasty while digging. Woodcutters also use battle axes as the fort's main woodcutting tool and can defend themselves with it in a pinch. Unlike with miners, woodcutting and axe combat train two separate skills, so a woodcutter that gets jumped while out chopping trees won't have any natural experience using it as a weapon. Hunters also use crossbows just like a fort's military can, and gain experience in combat skills as a result once they get in range of their quarry.
  • Final Fantasy X's Wakka is a professional Blitzball player. In combat, he throws a Blitzball as his weapon.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: The scythes used by the Reaper Job introduced in the Endwalker expansion date back to the origin of the Job. The original Reapers were humble Garlean farmers who were forced to use their farming tools to protect themselves from invaders who targeted the Garleans because of their inability to manipulate aether. In desperation, the Garleans formed covenants with demonic voidsent to gain power by absorbing the aether of their slain enemies' souls. With the pacts made, the Reapers continued to use their scythes for the metaphorical harvesting of their enemies.
  • Mega Man (Classic): Dr. Light's original Robot Masters were all designed for industrial work.
    • Elec Man could channel and monitor power plants while Cut Man is in charge of lumbering. But they're so much more advanced than any other robot at the time that they easily wreak havoc with those same industrial tools when they're reprogrammed by Dr. Wily.
    • Rock, a.k.a. Mega Man, is also an example, as his Power Copying ability is derived from his original power to imitate any household tool he touches, such as a handheld drill or a nail gun.
  • Melty Blood: Hisui, a maid, uses house implements such as frying pans, watering cans, and dust cleaners to beat up her foes.
  • In Ratchet & Clank, the former is (initially) an engineer by trade and uses a wrench as his melee weapon. He still uses it to screw in bolts for some puzzles.
  • In Resident Evil: Outbreak, David has a toolbox he uses as a plumber. He has wrenches that he can throw at zombies to stun them.
  • Rival Schools: Ran Hibiki is the photographer of Taiyo High School and she joins the fights to get a good picture of the scheme of the abducted students. Her main weapon is her camera, which works as her "projectile shooter", making damage to opponents and even negate other projectiles.
  • The eponymous protagonist of Sakuna Of Rice And Ruin is the daughter of the god of War and the goddess of Harvest; as a result, she shows downright impressive fighting abilities using various farming and fishing tools.
  • Spyro: Year of the Dragon: In Enchanted Towers, the Rhynoc mooks are builder workers; some of them chase after you with a pogo jackhammer while some others wield sledgehammers.
  • Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Roll (from Mega Man (Classic)) stays true to her primary use as a house-cleaning robot by using a broomstick to fight.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Engineer constructs buildings with a large wrench. He also clubs people with it.
  • Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3:
    • Phoenix Wright (from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) uses the evidence he finds on the ground, his briefcase, legal documents, and papers to fight his opponents. Of course, he's also a Fighting Clown who's not actually trying to fight.
    • Frank West (from Dead Rising) is a war photographer who uses his camera as a weapon. However, it is also used to raise the level of the character, so in higher levels, his Improvised Weapons are more powerful and with more effects on the enemies.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Gotham Girls episode "Scout's Dis-Honor", Batgirl and Harley advise two competing groups of girls, the Mandy Scouts and the Harley Scouts. When they fight, they use the skills from their merit badges as techniques, calling out the name of said merit badge as they do so:
    Knot-tying badge! (lassoing)
    Fire prevention badge! (spraying a fire extinguisher)
    Rappelling badge! (sliding down a rope and drop-kicking)

  • Waitress Lizzie Cooper from Dead Winter is surprisingly attached to the mop she has used for quite some time during her work in Frank's Diner. The cleaning tool ends up being her weapon as she tries to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. The weapon also neatly fits in with her Technical Pacifist tendencies due to being mostly used as a blunt instrument and also saves her life when her germaphobic and murderous former boss tries to decapitate her. Because well, there's nothing more filthy than a mop that's been used to not only clean the dirty floors of a diner for quite a long time, but has also been used to whack the undead. Strangely enough, even when it gets wrecked she chooses another mop she found, to replace the one she lost.

    Western Animation 
  • The Flintstones: In "A Haunted House Is Not A Home", Fred and Barney are menaced by a trio of sinister servants. Creepers, the butler, carries a large carving knife (one of a butler's traditional duties to carve the meat); the cook Potrock carries a meat cleaver bigger than he is; and the gardener Wormstone carries a pair of jagged hedge clippers that can snip through stone.