Saturday, March 9, 2013

Designing the Wailing Sword

This is a copy of my post in a fanart thread over at the Project Eternity forums. PE is an RPG being made by Obsidian Entertainment.


(Background: During the last hours of the Kickstarter video stream, Chris Avellone expressed a certain opinion on swords. To quote (from memory), it was "Swords are boring!". When I protested in the chat, he continued to say that "If you like swords, there's something seriously wrong with you."

I should probably mention that I absolutely love swords. Swords, to me, are super interesting, I could read about their evolution, design, decoration and other aspects for hours and hours. And not only are they very cool as tools with a certain purpose, their role throughout history (other than "you poke people with the pointy end") is fascinating as well.

I decided I would attempt to prove Chris Avellone wrong.

The next day after the stream, I was sitting on an early morning bus, heading to the city where I went to school at the time. It was dark, the engine's humming made me sleepy, but all of a sudden, an idea for a sword struck me. I kept thinking about it the whole time and quickly typed it all in my phone, so that I didn't forget any of the brilliant ideas. (:D)

Then I got really busy with school and illustration work, so the sword didn't get painted until today. I found myself with a free evening and having backed the Torment Kickstarter, it reminded me of the sword design in my desk's drawer.)

Last note: I had NOT yet played Planescape: Torment when I came up with the idea, I was actually bringing my old CD of PT with me on the bus! I played it about a month later and when I got to Dak'kon and read the description of his sword, I thought: "Oh."  
I have to wonder, it seems like the only sword there is in that game. Did Avellone write it? That'd make me SO mad. :D

Wailing Sword of Eír Glanfath

Lore: This ancient elven short sword is made of obsidian, inlaid with copper, the copper handle decorated with opal. Powerful yet unknown magic has been used for its making - the obsidian blade does not shatter on impact, if it's wielded by a warrior of strong will. Mages speculate that the copper inlay transfers the impact and vibrations into the handle, where the opal heads with tongues stuck out connect it to the soul of the user. This puts the mind under pressure, similarly to how ciphers use their gift sometimes.
The stronger the warrior's soul and will are, the more powerful the sword becomes. However, one moment of weakness, one break in concentration and the user may end up blank eyed and babbling, wiggling on the floor in a pool of urine. As a reflected wave, this energy flows back into sword and comes out of the opal heads on the pommel, transformed into sound. It's form and intensity range from subtle humming to blood-curdling wailing.
It is rumored that if an especially weak minded person draws the sword, it'll break in the slightest breeze. Or it may even shatter and kill its bearer with an explosion of burning obsidian shards.

Design ideas: As far as I know, the ancient elves of Eír Glanfath are described as quite primitive, technology-wise, yet with impressive knowledge of astronomy and so on. I went with a very simple, yet ellegant bronze age design - a short leaf blade and a cone pommel. The sword is vaguely reminiscent of celtic weapons, but I didn't stick too close to any historical style. It's magical after all, so it's longer than any obsidian weapon we could reasonably imagine. Beside obsidian I chose the most primitive metal I could think of - copper. No idea if the elves actually used metal or not, this one has that ancient look for sure. Opal is just cool, I really liked the idea of it being a magical transformer for soul energy. ;)
Obsidian I chose for obvious reasons, but also because it's supposed to (perhaps as an urban legend) hold an edge one molecule wide and thus able to cut anything. (if only it wasn't fragile! hey, magic solves that problem! ;))
The copper inlay all revolves around sound. The blade decoration looks a bit like a signal, a sine wave and a snake (Ouroboros? I know they got rid of that, it's an old idea). The guard ended up looking a lot like pointy elven ears, but that was NOT intentional. Maybe it was subconscious. The arms holding the "signal" symbolize the user's soul grip on things being the only thing keeping the sword intact.
The opal faces are pretty self explanatory - the handle ones dig into your palm, make it slightly uncomfortable to use, reminding you of the responsibility you have when you draw the sword. 

Possible system uses: 

- obviously more damage or armour piercing if the user's willpower or soul power (uh, whatever stat you choose :D) is higher
- regular roll checks if the sword breaks and hurts you?
- maybe there's a chance the wailing (if you do a critical?) scares some of your opponents and breaks their morale?
- maybe you can do sonic attacks by waving it wildly? Or if you hit the ground?

So, that's that. It'd be kind of cool if I could mod it into the game one day, but who knows how that turns out. (2017 edit: It didn't. Boo! :D Obsidian, we want mods!) 

Let me know what you guys think. ;)

1 comment:

  1. I share your interst in swords. Do not listen to the staff like "Swords are boring!". Their history and design may uncover really interesting and worthful facts! Especially I pay attention to any references and facts about fantasy swords, those used in movies and games!