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Let’s face the facts; weapons are a key (if not THE key) component to every RPG, whether it's a video game or tabletop. Of course, we’ve all had the swords, the axes, the bows, the staves and all of the other classic weapons. These have all existed, and honestly, at this point, feel a little mundane. “God,” I hear you saying through time and space. “Things that exist are so boorrrrring.”
Well, hypothetical speaker, I think that you will find quite the opposite to be true. You seem to forget all the hilarious, fascinating, and borderline impossible things that happen here in our little piece of existence, as well as some of the absolutely incredible weaponry that the mind of man has whipped up over the years. But seeing as you’ve (probably) never heard of the ones I’m about to describe, it would be very difficult for you to remember them, let alone forget them. However, seeing as I’ve already heard you complaining about existence while writing this, I suppose time and space is already a little hazy.
1) The Kpinga (The Hunga Munga)
Originating in an awkward place between present-day Sudan and Egypt, the Azande tribe whipped up a most interesting concoction. The Kpinga (pictured above) is a throwing knife with a rather… unique shape. At around 22 inches in length, it almost would feel like it shouldn’t be thrown, especially considering the fact that it had three blades. One near the handle in the shape of a… I’m not allowed to use that word? We’re kid friendly? But that’s actually how it's supposed to look… lets just say it's in the shape of a different sword that specifically male warriors would use. Further down, near the end weapon, the second blade protrudes from the opposite side of the first. This blade appears to be for hacking primarily, as it tapers out towards its end. The final blade is rather difficult to describe and appears at the very end of the weapon, where the point of a sword would be. It’s almost as if someone removed the head of an axe and placed it at the end.
Now, one may take one look at this thing and think that it was not only completely useless, but almost hazardous to the user. However a closer inspection reveals that it’s probably one of the most versatile weapons that ever hit the battlefield. The first blade would act as a good crossguard and close range striking weapon. The second would be a very potent hacking weapon, and the same could be said for the last blade, with the addition that it could most likely hook the opponent's weapon. Now, attaching stats to this guy may seem a little monolithic, however just take the first blade and give it 1d4 damage. I would say, when missed with a melee weapon attack, the wielder could use their reaction to make a melee weapon attack (without their bonuses) against the creature that missed. The other two blades would do 1d6 each, and you could include the ability to hook an enemy’s weapon. Of course, that would be up to the DM. Also, seeing as it was thrown, give it a range of 30/60.
With all those added properties, this weapon may seem very overpowered, and you’d be right. However, my suggestion to balance this out would be to make it so they have to take the Weapon Master feat, or make it the equivalent of learning two weapons in game time. Also, the crafting for this weapon could be known to only a select group of warriors (personally, I would use the Tabaxi from Volos guide. Probably because in my head I just kinda associate them with African and Amazonian tribes. Maybe because they’re big cats.) and in order to have one made and to receive the training the party must go on a perilous side quest.
2) The Lantern Shield
Now at first, the name “Lantern Shield” doesn’t really scream “beware my power.” (Well…) Until you consider the fact that the Lantern Shield was about the size of a buckler and had three ways to kill people. That's right. A shield that has a retractable sword at one end, two spikes where the built in gauntlet protrudes and another spike in center of the shield. Not to mention its namesake: the lantern built in behind the shield, which shines out front due to the hatch up front. This may be a little… unruly to wield, however if it's not flavourful I’ll be damned.
A character with this could have a very prominent “sentinel” vibe. Between the lantern and the fact that all of this is attached to a shield, it almost seems like a perfect fit for that kind of character. The design for these shields almost always look a little eccentric, however it's unclear on whether or not that was because of the fact that the earliest renditions of this are dated to the Renaissance or if it was primarily nobility that wielded this weapon.
Attaching stats to this is going to be significantly easier than with the Kpinga. The sword (when protruding) could do 1d6 slashing damage, while the the protrusions would do 2d4 (1d4 if only one of them sticks). Obviously there's a lantern attached that would function as a bullseye lantern. Feel free to add a percent chance to have it break when the shield is hit, and have fire damage come into account if it's on. Something like 5% seems fair; maybe less because this is probably super expensive to repair and might need a special artisan to do it. Hell, the simple fact that this is so outlandish makes it even more difficult to find. Perhaps you could make it payment from a bored noble after completing a task for him.
3) Spring Loaded Triple Dagger
Despite being a mouthful, the name of this weapon is rather self explanatory. Used by European fencers in the Middle Ages (probably closer to the Renaissance) this dagger was extremely effective at parrying and capturing the opponent's weapon, which anyone who does HEMA or the like will tell you is a rather useful little trick (or anyone with a brain). Obviously, there was a trigger for the two little blades that popped out of the side of the blade, typically a button, so there was a “surprise” moment for anyone the fighter dueled. In case you missed it, this was literally made for people who dueled often enough to warrant such a sneaky tactic. In historical combat, having a second weapon, particularly a dagger, along with your rapier or foil meant that the dagger was primarily for parrying. The Florentine style of fighting raised this to an art form.
Now, changing this to a tabletop setting: this dagger would work well with a one-on-one or CQC specialist kind of character. However, for stats, if you already have something for a sai I would use that. Otherwise I’d say that as a reaction to being hit by an attack you could add 1 to your AC and if that caused the attack to miss, and if the opposing weapon had the finesse or light property you could attempt to disarm them. You make a DEX saving throw and the opponent makes a STR saving throw. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the last two options. But sometimes just a little flavour is all you need.
4) The Dueling Shield
The dueling shield may sound like a small and agile form of protection that is very maneuverable, but a quick Google search shows you that a dueling shield is large, unwieldy and dangerous looking. These shields were still used along with a sword in some cases, as they still functioned as something similar to a tower shield in a lot of ways. But, thanks to the curved shape of the shield itself and the sharp protrusions at the ends, this shield functions perfectly fine by itself, having a long end to end bar as a handle for easy two handed use. Note that there is some speculation on whether or not the dueling shield was ever used outside of judicial duels. So if you’re not going to use this regularly it could make for an interesting trial by ordeal section where none of the party is particularly proficient with it.
Now obviously, this is a shield, so it should provide the standard +2 to AC. However, give it the versatile property, where if used two handed it provides another +1 (or 2) to AC and does 1d8 piercing damage. Also, considering the construction of the weapon and the fact that both ends have a point, the Polearm Master feat could also apply to this particular weapon. Another mentioned use of the shield is planting it in the ground and rotating it to face an opponent, always keeping a protected front.
There are honestly so many other weapons that have been created throughout history that are just as outlandish as these are. Really, you could have characters based around some of these considering their moxie. History is a baffling and important topic, but probably the most interesting part is finding all this weird stuff. Maybe weird enough for a land with giant fire breathing lizards and demons.
Jarod Lalonde is a young role-player and writer whose passion for both lead him here. He’s often sarcastic and has a +5 to insult. Dungeons and Dragons is his favorite platform. Although he’s not quite sure if it’s Cthulhu whispering to him in the small hours of the night, or just persistent flashbacks to the Far Realm.
Picture Reference: https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/deadliestwarrior/images/c/ce/Kpinga.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20100616220547
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.