Last October I posted up some of my work with “Special Armor“: cultural armor that utilizes special materials that is specific to various Shadow World cultures or groups. Since then, I’ve been building on this idea with weapons, and specifically weapons made of bone.
While bone may seem too fragile or may splinter too easily to make good weapons, there are historical precedents. The picture at the top are human bone daggers utilized by tribes in New Guinea. Not only is the idea of human bones cool/grim, the “Runes” carved into the daggers lends itself to a fantasy RPG setting. The tribes also made daggers from bones of the Cassowary, a large flightless bird similar to an Ostrich. For inspiration, check out this article on real weapons made from animal components. Some of these are quite intimidating!
While scientists have concluded that the human thigh bone has excellent properties for use as a piercing weapon, a fantasy game setting opens up the opportunities for bone weapons made from magical creatures: Dragons, Shards etc. So let’s take it one further: combining magical bone with Weapon Runes. These become totemic cultural weapons that can help define a unique culture. Special bone weapons are common in other game systems and fantasy computer games, but not really represented in Shadow World. I added a tribe for my Shadow World campaign:
Igata – Triangle Glyph. Outer islands. The Igata are a reclusive tribe living on the long island south of the Demon Gap. They will trade with passing ships but their isolation from the mainland makes them cautious of strangers. The Igata consider themselves caretakers of the waters of the Ssoei’dawass and the Sea Serpents that travel to the sheltered bay to spawn, and eventually, die. The Igata collect shell fragments and bones from the bay and carve them with powerful runes and fashion them into potent weapons. Their main hall is framed with the rib bones of an enormous serpent.
The Igata skills combining Sea Serpent bones with ritual and inscribed magic (Runes and such) to make charms, weapons, staves, rods and other powerful items that are sought after. The magically infused and unnaturally strong Sea Serpent bone lends itself to enchantment. (see my post and chart on enchantment and material strength; I use a single number for both material strength and enchantment capacity). While bone items may be better for Crushing or Piercing weapons, I also allow the magical properties of special bone to be used for Slashing as well–or alternatively by utilizing an “Edging” Weapon Rune.
With so many cool magical metals and alloys in Shadow World, it probably doesn’t seem necessary to add enchanted bone weapons, but I think it adds a lot of cultural flavor to the game. Have you used Bone Weapons? What SW or RM creature would have “good bones” for use in these weapons?
6 thoughts on “Bone Weapons in Rolemaster & Shadow World”
I don’t think I will use bones as melee weapons. However I think using them as wands is a great idea. I still consider if they make good bows…
I think using bones of a mich it something would be really cool.
It should spell “lich“.
Are you familiar with the Elder Scrolls games. In Morrowind and Skyrim, there’s an armour called “Bonemold” which is formed out of bones. There are other unusual armour types as well, such as Glass, Chitin and Ebony.
I would definitely use bone weapons, in fact one PC is carrying around an enchanted human thigh bone that hits on the Mace Attack table except he doesn’t know it yet. He hasn’t gone about trying to figure out any properties about it other than it hit really hard and broke his arm.
Apart from this magical thigh bone, petrified bones can be as hard as stone through some sort of curing process. Undead are fairly common in my gaming world so there could be any argument made for the bones of undead being stronger than normal bones.
Bones from mythical creatures are definitely rare and wonderful as are the horns of said creatures. Dragon horn or dragon tooth weapons tend to be of the slaying type. Rhino horns are extremely strong and can be useful as a weapon.
re: Undead bones. Christian commented earlier about Lich bones as well. I like the idea that some undead bones might be special due to their undead nature, necromancy or the enchantment that made them. OTOH, thinking Skeletons specifically, they could be ruined and extra brittle once the binding is severed or creature destroyed.