Tag Archives: writing advice

Q&A: Training Your Mage for Martial Combat

Let’s say I have a mage character who wants to “expand” their combat tactics, would it be easier/more efficient to learn to move in armor or learn to use weapons?

If you’ll give a moment to express my bias, I’d say learning armor would be easier.

Okay, let me explain that. I have a little bit of training with a sword. Not enough to say, “oh, I’m an expert on fighting with swords,” but enough to understand that there’s a lot of things to learn, and a lot I don’t know. Training to be effective with a sword will take a lot of time.

So, as someone with no armor training, that much be much easier right?

Kinda, not really. Training for heavy armor requires a lot of conditioning. So, theoretically, it’s easier to learn, but when you get to the physical training, that could take longer, and would require a serious commitment.

So, when you say, “which is easier?” That’s going to depend on the individual.

“Which is more efficient?” Is going to be more relevant to the specifics of your world, and your character.

There’s a lot of potential factors for how magic works in your setting that may heavily influence your character’s choice. An example we’ve talked about in the past is D&D’s arcane spell failure rules. These meant that wizards (and most arcane casters) could not wear armor, without it impairing their ability to cast magic. In turn, there were ways where a wizard could train to use a sword or other melee weapon setup. So, effectively, armor was (usually) not a viable option at all.

Warhammer 40k’s setting offers the opposite option, where psykers (mages), in some cases, can ignore fatal wounds for days. Meaning, weapons are far more valuable than armor.

While 40k trends into absurd power creep, it can be worth considering that mages in your world might not be particularly worried about physical threats. It’s also worth remembering that 40k has a special class of melee weapons (force weapons) that can only be wielded by trained psykers.

Much like your world, the kinds of magic your character practices can have a huge effect on whether they want weapons or armor. An example from D&D is a low level wizard spell called Mage Armor. This will provide the castor with a fairly significant defensive boost (roughly equivalent to wearing some decent armor), and will last for hours. They also have a spell called Shield which can be added on top of Mage Armor, and offers some additional protection, though only for a few minutes per use. When you put these two together, you can end up with a few minutes of armor, without penalty, that rivals full plate.

If your mage has access to those kinds of defenses, then why would they need armor? There may be situations where they would need them. Both D&D and 40k operate with variations of magic canceling fields, and if your mage is dependent on conjured armor to protect themselves, or worse, prevent bleeding out, getting hit by one of those would be a very bad thing. By the same measure, if your mage is dependent on their spells for offense, and they end up in an anti-magic field, they’re not going to be able to do much.

In rereading Mage Armor’s description, I’m reminded of one of the quirks of that spell. The armor itself is, technically, an ethereal field, rather than a physically conjured (and visible) object. This means it actually protects the caster against ethereal foes who can pass straight through conventional armor. This sets up interesting, potential, interactions, and it is the kind of intricacy that can help “sell the reality” of your magic system.

If your character expects to deal with foes who can bypass magical defenses, then physical armor is going to be something they need. Similarly, if they’re dealing with foes who have magical immunity, then resorting to physical attacks may be necessary. Either directly, or by ensuring they have soldiers or mercenaries to do the stabbing.

Another consideration is what your character’s magic can interact with. I mentioned 40k’s force swords a minute ago, but if your character has the ability to temporarily enchant their weapons or armor, that might be a significant consideration in their choice of which to learn. Or, if your setting supports it, you could easily see a battlemage who specifically focuses on channeling magic through their gear. If your mage can empower their weapons and armor to superhuman levels, the correct answer of, “which should I choose,” may be both.

So, which is easier? I’m not sure. It could go either way, though as I said at the beginning, my biases lean towards believing armor is easier to learn.

Which is more efficient? That’s going to depend on what’s possible with magic in your world, and what powers your character has developed.

If you had to pick one, I’d lean on the sword. Not because it’s easier to train, or because it’s more efficient to learn, but because there’s more utility in it.

If your character is under threat, having access to a weapon (especially one that doesn’t reveal they’re a mage), is going to be more useful than having armor. You don’t want to go into combat without armor, but you really don’t want to go unarmed.

This also going to be useful if your character can conjure weapons. In that situation, their martial training will continue to serve them while they’re using magic, and if they do lose access to their magic (for whatever reason) they’re not immediately defenseless.

So, if you have to pick, take the sword. If you don’t, maybe both. It kind of depends on what your character is doing.

-Starke

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Q&A: Symptoms and Combat Implications of Hemophilia

I’m writing a character that has to engage in hand-to-hand combat but she has haemophilia. So, fighting face to face would be the last thing she’d want to do. Is there any fighting styles/techniques that she would learn that would decrease her chance of getting a wound?

For those unfamiliar, Hemophilia is a genetic mutation that impairs clotting. Specifically, the mutation prevents the production of specific proteins responsible for coagulation of blood. This usually gets presented as the patient having difficulty managing injuries suffered, and that part is true; a hemophilic needs to be careful of any injury (including bruising) as it can potentially become life threatening.) However, it goes beyond that.

The reduced clotting factors do mean that injuries, particularly severe ones, will result in difficult to control bleeding. This is also an issue with post-surgery. Spontaneous bleeding can also result in joint stiffness or pain (from internal hemorrhaging around the joints), bleeding into the soft tissue, (which can manifest as bruising or hematomas), chronic, and persistent nosebleeds. A bleed, including a spontaneous one, in a vital organ can kill you.

The defect that produces hemophilia is carried on the X chromosome. This means that, while women can be hemophilic it’s quite rare. Their father would need to be hemophilic, and their mother would either need to hemophilic or a carrier (meaning one of their chromosomes had the mutation, and as a result were not symptomatic.) If their mother was non-symptomatic, there’d still only be 50% chance of their daughters being hemophilic.

Because it’s extremely unlikely to occur in girls, it’s rarely tested for unless symptoms have been identified. (With boys, it’s common to test for hemophilia at birth if there’s any family history of it.) In particular, two major symptoms for women that are tracked are extremely heavy menstrual bleeding, and menorrhagia (where mensuration lasts for more than 7 days.) As a result, it’s uncommon for (mild cases of) hemophilia to be diagnosed in girls before puberty.

Treatment is usually handled by administering concentrated clotting factor proteins to the patient. Keep in mind, this is, “treatment,” not a cure. With sufficient technology, it may be possible to use an implant to administer clotting factor proteins on a regular basis. Of course, it might also be possible to use a retrovirus (such as crisper) to modify and remove the genetic defect. If you’re in a less technologically advanced setting (alternately a disaster scenario that extends over multiple months, or a post-apocalyptic setting), prepackaged protein infusions probably aren’t an option.

When it comes to violence, hemophiliacs really can’t afford to get into a fight. Under normal circumstances, you’re going to end up with minor bruising from hand to hand combat. Add in hemophilia, and that bruising is going to be significantly more dangerous. You’re looking at an internal hemorrhaging risk that someone without the mutation wouldn’t need to worry about. At the upper end of the spectrum, this includes a real risk of seizure from blows to the head, even with a relatively mild cases of hemophilia. Relatively minor trauma can be life threatening for a hemophiliac.

Here’s a problem, martial arts training will include a lot of, “relatively minor trauma.” You’re going to end up with bruises on your arms, on your thighs, on your hands. You’re going to end up with bruises in places you can explain, and bruises in places you can’t. You’re going to get banged up. That’s normal. That’s not accidents. That’s not sparring. That comes from the training itself. You will do it to yourself, and not even be aware of it at the time. Accidents, when they happen, are much worse, and you can easily see broken bones or soft tissue injuries. For a hemophiliac, the normal wear and tear of marital arts training comes with a very real risk of death. This doesn’t mean a hemophiliac can’t train in martial arts (many do), but, it does preclude combat training (and full contact training of any kind.) Hemophilia even precludes joint manipulation, both applying and receiving. It’s stereotyped as the “gentle” form of martial arts, but the strain it puts on your body is actively hazardous to someone with hemophilia. It’s the kind of physical disability a dojo needs to know about, and needs to plan around.

To put this in context, I’m currently looking at a case where a middle aged man fell 3 meters (roughly 10 feet), and was hospitalized from hemorrhagic shock. Meaning, a relatively mild accident, which you or I would probably just complain about, but go on with our day, nearly killed him from blood loss, due to his body’s inability to clot. He was in the hospital for 10 days and had to undergo surgery to survive.

So, while someone with hemophilia can live a full life, mild trauma is life threatening to them. Engaging in violence will kill them. Barring significant medical treatment, they need to live carefully. Additionally, hemophilia among women is real, but is also quite rare, because the mutation needs to occur on both of their X chromosomes.

I’m inclined to say, “no,” there really isn’t this character could be getting into fights (and surviving), unless their clotting factors have been brought up to line with non-hemophiliac blood levels.

-Starke

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Q&A: Fight Like A Girl Or, Don’t

Anonymous said to howtofightwrite:

What do you think about Aiki Flinthart’s book on “Fight Like a Girl”? Like on the subject of girls fighting differently and I quote from an interview with Aiki.

“Women do fight differently to men, and anyone who says they don’t is making stuff up because women are physiologically, psychologically, emotionally and biologically different from men, and to pretend they aren’t is ridiculous.”

The reason why I ask this is that given it is hard to find a site or writer that has some experience in martial Arts and not invalidate female fighters. But the quote from an interview with a woman who has experience with martial art and survivor of assault throws me off and I wanted to ask this blog’s opinion on this book. Also this is one few books that directly tackles the subject on writing female fighters. I see this book alongside with this blog with seemingly contradicting statements.

So, what I will say as a female martial artist who started training at the age of five, who was trained by individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, including female instructors, who earned three black belts before they were twenty, and who also taught martial arts is — we don’t train women differently.

Ignoring the fact that Aiki Flinthart’s statement has two redundancies, (Physiologically and biologically are the same, and psychologically and emotionally are also the same) the fact of the matter is the reason why you can’t find a lot of writing that focuses on female fighters is because most martial arts advice isn’t written with the gender divide in mind. The gender divide is irrelevant to technique and training. Everyone, regardless of age, is trained the same way, they learn the same techniques. They’re tested on the same skills. They largely express the same philosophies if trained in the same martial system. The reason why I say that men and women aren’t fundamentally different as fighters is because both use the same fundamentals. We fight the way we’re trained to fight.

Reality, ultimately, doesn’t support her argument.

The follow-up argument of, “well, there just aren’t enough female martial artists to know” is also patently false. There are hundreds of thousands of female martial artists all across the world, probably millions. There are enough for the Olympics to have women’s divisions in multiple categories per accepted martial art per country. There are martial arts like Wing Chun which were created by women, and those martial arts are practiced by men. Pick up any martial arts instructional book. The philosophy and/or techniques there all apply to you. Male or female, you could learn these techniques if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

The irony is you actually do yourself a disservice by chasing for girls when looking to create a female warrior. It’ll lead you to feeling like you’re being excluded when you’re not. It’ll lead you to exclude perfectly viable combat options, attitudes, and learned behaviors because you assume they’re men only. Most importantly, you’ll start from a false position of “how does a woman solve this problem with violence” when the important question you should be asking is, “how does my character choose to solve this problem with violence.”

The one major component Flinthart doesn’t include, because it doesn’t support her argument, is the social differences between men and women. From birth, boys and girls are socialized differently due to cultural gender expectations for their societal role. Now, socialization is very real, but socialization varies heavily by individual cultures. What is socially acceptable for a woman in one society may be completely different from the expectations of another. 

For example, you may go, “there’s no real history of women warriors on film and tv.” (False, but let’s roll with it.) And my response is, “on who’s television?” Then, I direct you to Hong Kong and Chinese cinema where there’s a well established history of female martial artists because, culturally, there’s a well established history of female martial artists. You’ll often see multiple female practitioners per film on both the protagonist and antagonist’s side. Sometimes, they’re the protagonists. There’s television shows where the male characters have female masters who train them in the martial arts. (Seriously, go to Viki. Learn to love subtitles, and, if you need a place to start, Michelle Yeoh’s filmography is a good one. Girls with Guns is/was a major subgenre in Hong Kong action cinema.)

We can move the goalposts here at this point and argue, “but, Michi, male and female warriors aren’t treated as equals in Hong Kong and Chinese cinema!”

The answer is, of course, that many societies are still patriarchal and societal expectations for women still exist. However, male and female warriors still use the same techniques, so there’s clearly nothing biological going on there. Also, every one of those films needs female stunt doubles and the actresses are either trained martial artists going in or also trained by martial arts choreographers. This isn’t some small subset, this is an entire industry.

The problem for Flinthart is that socialization for both men and women is socially conditioned behavior, it’s no different than teaching your dog not to bark at strangers, to sit, or go outside to pee. Most of what you believe about the gender divide is social and not biological, and these behaviors are socially enforced by society at large. This is in the way they look at you, the way they treat you, the way they respond to you, and what they say to you. A lot of young women are afraid to learn martial arts due to socially conditioned fears that training for violence (or even sports) will make them less desirable, because these are “men’s things.” That’s complete bullshit.

A) A lot of the behaviors ascribed as men only are actually for everyone.

B) The vice versa is also true, many behaviors ascribed to women are also for everyone.

The sexualization of female warriors in cinema is, again, about retaining and reinforcing societal expectations for women. It has nothing to do with biology. As a woman, you may even be inclined to chase that sexualized presentation because it is safer and more culturally acceptable. If you need an example of sexualized presentation, take a look at Black Widow in Iron Man 2, Avengers, and (especially) Avengers 2 versus the portrayal of Black Widow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

 Women are trained to believe objectification is desirable, we’re shown this relentlessly and constantly throughout our lives; starting at a very young age. Everything about sexual objectification is designed to take personhood, personal power, and the associated danger away.

Why should you describe a woman as fighting like she’s dancing? 

This is a really common one, a lot of writers describe female warriors as fighting like they’re dancing. Why? Because dancing implies beauty, and society says a good female protagonist must be beautiful, what is beautiful is desirable, and a woman’s first priority is to attract a mate.

Again, that’s bullshit. In combat, your first priority is to kill the enemy. However, that’s aggressive. We’re told being aggressive is a masculine tendency, and therefore undesirable. So, many women writers will shy away from aggression for their female fighters when they should run towards it. Women martial artists in the real world? They do.

I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you this, but female warriors are very aggressive. On average, they are more aggressive combatants than men. Not because they need to be, just because they are. It’s a side effect of what happens when you’re trained to be passive your whole life and the shackles come off. Take the sexist definition of a cat fight, now apply that to women fully trained to kill each other. It hurts.

If you haven’t realized it yet, women can be sexist. They can be misogynists. They can buy in, even female martial artists. The myth of the gender divide feels so good, it gives the people who believe it such a fantastic sense of superiority. You get to say, “I’m different from them” then “I’m different than” becomes “I’m better than.” If you’ve ever been hurt by the opposite sex, your next step gets to be, “I’ve got nothing in common with them.”

On this blog, we have never said and never will say that martial arts training is a guarantee against sexual assault. It can act as a deterrent, it may provide you with the skills you need to identify and exit a situation, but, ultimately, a sexual predator is a social predator. The belief society instills in you and insists on is that sexual assault involves being physically overpowered, but that’s only one potential aspect. A sexual predator overpowers you with fear, fear of social consequences if you say no. Fear of getting kicked from your sports team, a failing grade, a poor report to your parents, fear of reprisals if anyone finds out, fear of your word not mattering over theirs, even fear of the predator filing a police report for assault and battery. Sexual predators don’t exist in a vacuum and you don’t either. Violence in the real world has real world consequences, both legal and social. Sexual predators know society’s rules protect them, they strike from a position of power, and their gamble is on their victim being more willing to submit in the moment than face the long term consequences of fighting back. The situation is intentionally engineered to be a lose/lose. It’s all about social power. 

The fault is never with the victim, only the perpetrator.

The sad truth is those instincts are in all of us, male or female. We also all have the same capacity for evil. The high which comes from taking power from and exerting control over others is very real. I don’t blame Flinthart for her perspective, but the claim “martial artist and sexual assault surivivor” has a lot less validity in making her a source of authority than she realizes.

The truth is that if there were a fundamental physical difference between men and women when it came to martial arts, we’d have two separate training sets for both. You’d be able to find more of a focus in the martial arts community on it if it existed because women and women’s self-defense are a huge part of the market. (We’re talking millions upon millions of dollars.) Women are, in fact, so common within the martial arts community that most members of said community genuinely forget gender parity in training isn’t a well known fact. (I forget this all the time.) Rather, most people outside the martial arts community assume a masculine default when there isn’t one.

The economics aren’t there. The training isn’t there. The philosophy isn’t there. We can’t lie to ourselves by saying there aren’t enough women for it to be an oversight. I mean, you could, a lot of people do, but that doesn’t make it true.

Don’t make me drag out all the videos from that time the whole HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) online community had a collective conniption when right wing personalities/misogynists said women couldn’t lift a sword or wear plate armor. It was bullshit then and it’s bullshit now.

What’s uncomfortable for a lot of female writers when working with female warriors and looking for references is the sensation, “but, if I do this, my character is behaving like a man.” That’s natural, these behaviors (which are necessary to be effective combatants) have been designated by society as masculine. They aren’t though. They’re normal behaviors for someone who has been trained in this style to fight. The appropriate answer is, “my character is behaving like a warrior.”

Listen to the wise words of martial arts masters in instructional manuals and on YouTube. They’re as much for you as they are the men in your life. Take it from a kid raised in martial arts, I’ve often found I have more in common with male action heroes than female ones (unless they’re from Hong Kong.) There’s a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with the limitations of sex or gender.

-Michi

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Q&A: The (Limited) Implications of Left Hand Dominance in Combat

Does being right or left handed of any importance in a fight? This is probably broad but let’s keep it with weapons like swords, daggers, mace, clubs and the like??

Somewhat. When we’re just talking about using the weapon in a vacuum, it doesn’t matter that much. Similarly, when you’re talking about a duel, where both combatants have a sword, and nothing off hand, it’s not a huge deal.

Being a lefty becomes important in combat in some specific situations.

If you have an off hand tool, such as a parrying dagger, things can get nasty. Parrying works by redirecting the attack away from your body, usually by pushing the attack out. When someone parries with an item in their right hand, they’ll push the attack to their right (their opponent’s left.) Normally, with two right handed users with parrying tools in their off hands, this will allow them to parry each other’s weapon. However, when a left handed user parries a right handed opponent, they will redirect their foe’s weapon arm across, blocking any potential parry.

Worth noting that this goes both ways, and that a combatant facing a foe with the same dominant hand can choose to parry with their primary weapon to strike with their parrying tool, if it can be used that way. (Not all parrying tools can be used to stab your opponent. This is especially true with some varieties of swordbreakers.) Also, if you are parrying with your weapon, to shank someone with your off-hand, you’re going to close the distance.

None of this should really come as a surprise to an experienced soldier. Fighting a left-handed user isn’t as common, but it’s not unheard of.

Also, worth knowing that some duelists will specifically train to fight with their off-hand. It’s intended for showing off. A sort of, “I’m so good, I don’t even need to use my dominant hand.” I’d say it’s not a good idea, except it does have applications, such as if you cannot use your dominant hand for whatever reason. So, it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s not practiced with a practical goal in mind, however it can be useful in rare situations.

Most real castle architecture was designed to favor a right handed, defender. I’m going to use a specific example here, but many spiral stairways are designed so a defender, fighting from an elevated position, will have more room on their right side, giving them more options from which to strike. A right handed attacker will be close to the stone, and have limited options for striking. However, a left handed attacker will be able to exploit some of those architectural designs during the assault. A lefty climbing up the stairs will be able to strike with their less restrained arm.

This can also be seen with some external stairways, where the defender’s right arm will be out over open space, and free to move, while a right handed assaulter will have their weapon arm pressed up against the stonework.

While it’s not relevant to specifically melee weapons, hand dominance can be a major factor with modern firearms, to the point that some guns simply cannot be used with the wrong hand. The big offender are the controls. Safeties, slide releases, and mag ejects, can be ambidextrous, but it’s common to see those designed for a right handed user. Most firearms will eject their shell casings out the right side of the gun. This can be especially awkward if you are left handed. Some rifles (especially bullpups) cannot be operated off-hand, as they will gleefully pelt the user with spent shellcasings. Some grip contours will be uncomfortable, or unusable, if you attempt to hold it with the wrong hand.

This leaves the user with some very specific options. Some firearms can be reconfigured for left-handed use. (This can sometimes be achieved through configuring the weapon itself, though in other cases, you’ll need to replace specific components.) You can simply cope, and adapt your grip. Or, you can learn to operate the weapon off-hand. In my case, my experience with operating rifles right handed is simply because modifying the offending rifles wasn’t an option.

Many left-handed shooters will learn to operate firearms right handed, simply out of necessity. But it’s always nice when you’ve got the option to use a gun with your preferred hand, but, for a lefty, it’s not always an option.

So, does your dominant hand have any importance? Yes, some, but in the vast majority of situations it’s not going to matter that much. Being left handed isn’t that exceptional or unusual. It can affect combat, but it’s not a major consideration.

-Starke

Q&A Followup: Storm Warning

If you included this and I just missed it, really heavy rain affects your visibility and even your ability to breathe normally, especially if it’s cold or windy. Keeping the water out of your eyes/nose/mouth can be a pain even if you’re just walking or standing there. If you have long loose hair it’ll get plastered to your face and get in your mouth or eyes.

Sort of. I intended for for this kind of context to get bundled in under, “it’s rain.” In fairness, that was already a fairly long post, because it was split between talking about adapting spectacle fighters to prose and the weather.

A lot of your suggestions ended up under the general header of, “conditions.” So, let’s talk about that for a moment.

When you’re writing, “conditions,” are an abstract concept.

Things like the weather, time of day, time of year, can all be described as, “conditions.” These modify the scene. However, as a writer, you only need to actually write about them when the have an effect on your characters’ actions or events.

If it’s a clear day, that establishes both the time of day, and the weather. So, clear weather basically means the weather doesn’t matter, while day tells you that everything outside is well lit.

If you have a heavy thunderstorm outside, that will have a lot of effects. It will darken the environment. Light from artificial sources will fall off far faster. It will add significant noise pollution (from the rainfall itself), and also from thunder. The rain will further reduce visibility. Natural surfaces (like dirt or grass) will become soaked and soft, while smooth artificial surfaces (like metal) can become slick (this is less likely with concrete or pavement, but it can happen there as well.)

It’s rain, and if you’ve lived anyplace that experiences heavy storms, most of this should be fairly second nature.

As for hair getting slicked down over your face, that’s never been my experience. Granted, I almost never wear my hair down in public, the single exception of if I’m out during a snowstorm. However, I’ve always found that my hair gets slicked down out of my face when it’s raining heavily enough for that to be a factor. Now, granted, I don’t generally get into fights in heavy rain to see what my hair will do, but even engaging in strenuous physical activity in the rain has never offered this experience.

Similarly, with the mouth and nose. Yeah, if you stand with your mouth open in the rain, you’re going to end up with rain water in your mouth (which is actually a minor health risk, as rain water is not safe to drink), however talking or breathing (even, heavily) isn’t going to fill your mouth with water. With your eyes and nose, the natural contours of your face should shield you from the worst of the downpour. (I’m actually not sure how you’d end up with rainwater up your nose, unless you were prone, or suspended upside down.)

The one time this would become a major consideration is if the rain water is so toxic as to be directly harmful. This is possible, and examples of things like acid rain are real. Needless to say, if this is severe enough to be a consideration, your characters should probably avoid skin exposure to the contaminated rainfall entirely.

Now, as a related concept, rain can be an absolute pain if you wear glasses. Your forehead doesn’t protect your glasses, and this can result in rainwater splattered across your lenses.

Part of the reason I didn’t go too into depth is because there are other potential weather conditions, and I was trying to make the post as generally useful as possible. I may have failed that one. So with that in mind:

Winter storms are a little different. If we’re talking about snow, the initial snowfall has a similar effect to rain, it will muffle noises (though this is different from how rainfall will create overwhelming background noise.) It will reduce visibility, however, it won’t cause light sources to drop off. In fact, snow can sometimes amplify artificial light, bouncing it around. Meaning, you can still see in a snowy environment, when it would be too dark under other circumstances. This is especially true if you’re in an urban environment with ambient light pollution. However active snowfall still obscures vision. Someone in the snow can still see an artificial light source, but they won’t be able to determine what’s going on around it, because that will be obscured.

Snow creates mobility issues, similar to rain. It takes considerably more effort to move through it as it accumulates, and you’re having to break through a layer of snow. However, it applies uniformly, regardless the surface. It can also conceal sudden drops in the terrain, as the accumulation will have a roughly uniform surface. If the snow has been getting compacted down over time, and this isn’t the first storm, you can end up with a layer of ice under the snow. This isn’t immediately apparent, but, of course, it will be very slipery.

Snow has two very specific side problems. Being out in the snow will cause it to accumulate on you, but your own body heat will cause it to melt, leaving you wet, in the cold. Second, if you wear glasses, your glasses will fog up, either as a result of your own breath, or if you move out of the cold and into a warmer space.

As I mentioned earlier, this is one of the only times I wear my hair down, as hair provides excellent insulation. The downside is, of course, when the snow melts, it will you with soaked hair.

It’s important to remember the conditions your characters are in while writing a scene. So, on one hand, the descriptions above may sound overly systemic, it’s almost more important to keep in mind the sensations they’d experience, than sitting there and thinking, “well, it’s raining, so the character’s vision is cut by 20%. This is also where you may want to tweak conditions to create the situation you’re looking for.

If you want the rain to be ominous, then an approaching storm which may be several hours away, with possibly some light drizzle may be all you want. This won’t affect your characters in any systematic way, but it may offer the tone you’re looking for.

If you want your characters to be at a serious disadvantage, then semi-frequent lighting strikes, rain pouring down, possibly even power outages from downed lines, can all provide that. As the writer you have control over the exact nature of what’s happening.

Best of all, those both exist in a continuum. As your characters are working ahead of the storm, you’ll have the first droplets of rain, the sky getting darker. Maybe the early lightning strikes that come well in advance of their thunderclaps. But, as the storm moves in, and the weather worsens, you gradually transition towards what you want from the weather. You’re the writer, you control this.

Tracking conditions isn’t something you need to do as a writer, but if you’re struggling it can help. You can even sketch out little cards or notes describing the conditions for a scene (sort of like stage directions), if it helps you. Just, remember to take that out during rewrites, once you’ve internalized the scene.

You can even extend this idea further, if it is helpful. Such as writing up condition reminders for character injuries, or the consequences of character’s prior actions. So long it helps you. If you don’t feel you need to write up any conditions, don’t worry about it, you don’t have to, and no one will judge you for that. However, if you’re struggling, this may be a helpful system to consider.

-Starke

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Q&A: A preventable Tragedy (Children and Firearms)

There seems to be a trope that when a child plays with a gun they end up shooting themselves or someone else. But how about writing when they do so, can they hurt themselves because of recoil or got their fingers caught in the slide? That never tends to happen, but that is totally possible right? Or at least combined with shooting themselves/someone else? Though I can get recoil/slide injuries being ignored and waysided by the seriousness of getting shot.

That’s not a trope, that happens. Roughly thirteen hundred children die from gunshot wounds in the United States each year. Somewhere just under six thousand are treated for (and survive) gunshot wounds. Now, only about 6% of those deaths (and, I assume the injuries as well) are accidental (the rest are a mix of homicides, suicides, and assaults.)

There are a non-trivial number of non-self inflicted, accidental firearms injuries and deaths where the shooter is a younger child.

If I seem hostile, here’s my problem, this isn’t “a trope,” this isn’t, “a plot contrivance.” This is something actually happens in the real world. Much like drunk driving, it is something where it tends to be more lethal in fiction than reality, and I’m fine with that.

Much like drunk driving, these shootings occur, more often than not, from adults being irresponsible, and there is a serious possibility that someone will end up dead.

Note that I did not say the victim’s parents are responsible. In the US, roughly 40% accidental firearms deaths occur at a friend’s house. (Strictly speaking, I’m being a little more general with this, the exact statistic is 40% of unintentional shooting deaths in the 11-14 age bracket.)

So, what do you do? Secure the gun. Do not “just” hide it. Hiding is insufficient, as roughly 3:4 children know where those firearms are concealed in their house.

Securing a gun means, get a gun safe. It doesn’t matter if you have a handgun, or a full arsenal. Get a safe. This goes beyond just the risk of a child getting their hands on the gun, as it also protects the firearm from theft.

Get and use a trigger lock. Yes, this is a belt and suspenders kind of situation, but it doesn’t hurt to do both. Especially if your safe is combination locked.

Store the ammunition separately from the gun, and keep that secure as well. This is just basic gun safety, but still. Also keep your ammo in a cool, dry location, as cartridges tend to degrade over time if subjected to humidity and temperature extremes.

Go by what the TSA says: If it fires a projectile, it is not a toy. That includes 6mm airsoft, 4.5mm air guns (including BB guns) and paintball. These are not toys, and there is a real danger of permanent injury from mishandling. (Fun trivia, I have actually checked an airsoft pistol through airport security. It was treated like a live firearm. I had to fill out all the paperwork, and storage had to comply with TSA regulations.)

Do not assume that a child will not play with a gun, or that they, “know better.” They will play with it. Guns are mistaken for toys in roughly 16% of accidental shootings where the victim is a child.

I said, I’m okay with shootings like this being presented as more lethal than they are in fiction. What I’m less okay with is the disproportionate representation of this as, “accidental shootings.” Most of the time, when a child is shot, they either did it to themselves intentionally, or were intentionally shot by someone else. As I mentioned earlier, only about 6% of firearms deaths among children arise from accidents. The scenario where a kid is playing with a gun, and doesn’t realize it’s not a toy is vanishingly rare. More often, and horrifyingly, they use the gun as designed.

Stepping away from kids entirely, there are a number of minor ways you can injure yourself while operating firearms.

The firearms community has the wonderful term, “Beretta bites,” which refer to injuries on the thumb, resulting from having the slide recoil into that digit during firing. (This will happen with most semi-auto handguns if you try to keep your thumb on the hammer while firing.) Usually, this refers to a specific pair of chunks taken out of each side of the thumb, and it’s immediately recognizable.

In most cases, these are going to be minor injuries. The kind of cuts you’d either allow to clot on their own, or throw a bandaid over. However, in some cases, these can be deep enough to requires stitches.

I’ve never seen anyone get scuffed from having their hand up by the slide during firing. Generally speaking, you’re not going to put your thumb up next to the ejection port simply because of the ergonomics. The way most handguns are designed, it’s more comfortable to put your thumb in line with your index finger. (If you do pull it back, you’ll end up behind the hammer and we have Beretta bites.) Your index finger and the side of your hand shouldn’t be near the slide, because your index finger would be on the trigger. (Technically, you could pull the trigger with your middle finger, but I doubt many inexperienced users would preferentially do this.)

It is possible to injure your offhand if you hold the gun incorrectly. There’s a lot of potential grips here, where, someone who didn’t know what they should hold onto could be hurt. Weaver and Teacup are the most likely grips, but those are pretty safe. Someone trying to emulate what they saw from John Wick could actually mess up their stabilizing hand by wrapping it around the slide. (Don’t do this.)

It’s also possible to snip your fingertips when the action is closing on some firearms. Dismantling some firearms can be hazardous if you’re don’t know what you’re doing, and I can think of a few handguns that can open up your fingers during reassembly, if you don’t where to put them. (Though, these are all pretty rare, and most of these are associated with disassembling the gun for maintenance, something that an inexperienced user is unlikely to attempt.)

Beyond that, it’s quite easy to burn yourself on a recently used firearm, if you don’t know which parts are safe to touch. (The severity of the burn will scale based on how hot the gun got, and how long contact persisted. This isn’t a serious medical issue in most cases, but you can easily suffer minor burns without much effort.)

It wouldn’t happen to a child, but you can pinch your fingers when you’re loading a magazine into some models of firearms. If the mag’s floorplate sits flush with the base of the grip, be careful. (The SIG Pro 2022 is on my shit list for the sheer number of times has clipped my pinky during reload. I eventually learned to either point my pinky straight away from the gun during a mag change, or completely shift my grip on the pistol during a reload.) The P99, and USP are both guilty of this as well. Oddly I’ve never had an issue with a Glock doing this to me. Even the 33, which uses the floorplate to add additional grip length (the exact same thing the SP2022 does.) Worth noting, every pistol mentioned in this paragraph has a polymer frame. It can hurt, it can raise a blood blister, but I’ve never had them draw blood from a fast mag change. (Also, for the record, I put an unnecessary amount of power into my reloads, I blame the 1911 I learned on. This is entirely a function of how much force the shooter uses when inserting a fresh mag.)

Shell casings can end up in unpleasant places. Again, you’re not likely to suffer serious injury this way, but you can end up with burns if it becomes wedged in your clothing, especially if the gun was under heavy use. (It’s the same thing, the risk of a serious burn is almost non-existent, but it can happen.) The only incident of scarring I’ve ever heard of from shell casings came from a service member who ended up with spent brass wedged under their armor in combat. That said, I have had a Ruger M9 knockoff throw casings at my eyes with enough force to damage my glasses. Eye protection is important.

One final consideration of injuries that absolutely can be sustained is hearing loss. Even under ideal circumstances, if you’re not using any ear protection around firearms, you will suffer some damage, and experience symptoms like ringing and headaches from prolonged gunfights. Again, if you’re going out on the range, wear ear protection.

One final danger can be easily overstated, but is worth remembering. Failure to control recoil on fully automatic firearms. There was a famous incident on August 25, 2014, where a 9 year old girl, at a Nevada shooting range lost control of a 9mm Uzi killing Charles Vacca, her shooting instructor. I’ve run across a handful of other similar stories over the years, including a military instructor in a former Soviet state, where one of his recruits had been messing around with his AK, lost control of the recoil and put a round through his head. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, seriously, full-auto is not a toy. It can be fun, but it’s not something you should ever hand to an inexperienced shooter. The risk something going wrong (however minor) is significantly higher.

If you get shot, triage isn’t going to care if you’ve got some minor bruising on your hand. That won’t kill you. There’s a lot of minor injuries that you can sustain from operating firearms, in most cases these don’t even rise to the level of complaining about it in the moment. If you’re bleeding it, clean it and throw something (sterile) on to stop the bleeding. You don’t want the chemical residues getting into the wound (even if it isn’t particularly dangerous.)

Of course, if you’re shooting recreationally and injured, stop and deal with it. Don’t just ignore it.

If you have kids, and you have firearms in your life, you need to take steps to ensure that you keep them separate, and the kids do not get access to the guns except under your direct supervision. It is your job to educate them.

At the same time, it is also vitally important for you to know if your children’s friends have access to firearms. Like I said, roughly 40% of children who are killed, die at a friends house. With that in mind, it is reasonable to require those weapons are properly secured and stored.

So, the short answer is, yes, adult or child, you can suffer minor injuries from operating a gun as intended. You can also hurt yourself in a multitude of ways that have nothing to do with being struck by a bullet.

-Starke

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Q&A: The Perils in Writing Spy Fiction

I’m writing a James Bond-esque spy (excluding the misogynism). I know full well that real spies aren’t as chic and cool as the percieved image of them are, so how do I write a spy that is more realistic but still retains the cool spy image? She (yes it’s a woman) works for the MI6.

What is, “cool?” I don’t need an answer, I need you to ask that question of yourself.

The problem with Bond isn’t that he’s a misogynist, it’s that he has a casual disregard for everyone around him. James Bond is not a good person. He’s vicious and vindictive. Some adaptations try to soothe the edges, but at the character’s core, Bond is a sneering imperialist. (Ironically, the 2006 adaptation of Casino Royale even comments on this in passing.)

My intro to American Politics instructor started her 100 level course with the comment that, “everything is politics.” James Bond is a character that carries a very potent, and political, statement baked right into the core of Ian Flemming’s power fantasy. Bond is the last gasp of the British Empire insisting that it, alone is suited to rule the world. Bond’s anglocentrism isn’t cartoonish, but it’s always there, and it informs a lot about how he behaves.

The worst part about Bond is how the fantastical elements further this. It’s easier to couch the semi-fictional SMERSH (СМЕРШ) as simple cold war posturing. However, in an effort to make the novels, “apolitical,” Flemming transitioned to SPECTRE, an organization that was patterned heavily off the Italian mob.

Anyone else see the problem here?

By making Bond’s foes into cartoonish supervillains, it endorses his worldview.

How do you deal with this? By necessity, spies need to have a functional understanding of international politics. If you’re wanting to work around a real place, take some time, and read up on the background. Some of that is the basic demographics, and culture, but also get conversant in the history, and current events. It’s what a real spy needs to do before operating there, and as a writer, something you need to do as well. Ironically, the CIA Factbook is still an excellent overview. and can be a starting point before digging into more specialized sources.

Stepping back, James Bond, as a character, isn’t the problem, it’s the genre that Flemming created. I would actually argue that, in spite of being a detestable piece of shit, Bond is actually a fairly well written character (mostly.) (There are some details that don’t work, or are downright comedic, such as the sheer amount of alcohol he consumes on a daily basis, or comparing his daily athletic regimen with how much he smokes.) The real danger (and this has plagued the film adaptations) is lifting the character without really ripping him apart to figure out what’s going on under the surface.

If you’ve never read Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country, it is an excellent spy comic. Granted, it’s about as far as you can get from a James Bond superspy series. Worth noting that series protagonist Tara Chace is a Special Operations Officer for MI6.

Beyond that, the early seasons of Burn Notice do an excellent job of blending practical tradecraft into a fairly slick spy series. It rarely trends into international man of mystery territory, but there are some discussions on the subject. Really, if you want an easily digestible spy primer, you can learn a lot from Burn Notice.

Finally, John le Carré is another easy recommendation. Usually, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, is people’s introduction, but that’s actually halfway through a much longer series.

It may occur to you that none of those series are even in the same genre as Bond. There’s a reason, if you want to write a spy, you need to understand who they are as a character. The problem with Bond is that he almost never breaks from his cover identities. You can’t get an honest answer out of him about, basically, anything. Most of the superspy genre (and a depressing number of the Bond films) run with that, and accept the cover at face value. So you’re left with a character who only makes sense as a complete sociopath.

So, what you probably want to do is come to grips with the kind of person your character really is, and then you get them to pretend to be someone else on top of that.

Spies are difficult characters to pin down. The superspy genre tends to gloss over the surface read and leave you with superheroes and unfortunate implications. There’s isn’t a quick route into the mindset of a spy, but, stepping back from Bond, and looking at more grounded spy fiction, before continue will help you find that mindset.

-Starke

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Q&A: Battles in the Rain and Writing Character Action Games

Hello! I’m not sure if this was already asked, but do you have any tips for combat in the rain? I’m writing a monster hunting/fight scene DMC/Devil May Cry style. However I don’t want to make the character mow through enemies in this scene like they’re butter lol

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that pretty much the combat of tempo of the Devil May Cry series? Individual enemies may be able to take a few hits, but the entire score system is built around smearing through them efficiently. Like most character action games, you’re going to kill a lot of things as you go. The only enemies who should stay on screen for any significant time are mini-bosses and the actual boss fights, which are a bit spongy.

It’s also worth keeping mind that the entire DMC series are spectacle fighters. This puts them in line with titles like (the original) God of War series, Nier (sort of), Bayonetta… actually, nearly everything from PlatinumGames, excluding Vanquish, come to think of it. The genre is characterized by flashy, visually engaging, combat.

When you’re wanting to adapt combat from that genre, the medium you’re working with becomes an important consideration. The key word there is, “visual.” Comics and animation can easily capture the kinetic quality to the genre. In prose, the genre struggles, because those visual flourishes slow down the reader. Most readers will mentally vocalize the text they’re reading, and this means when you take time to describe what your character is doing in detail, that will slow your reader down. The visually rich, high tempo combat style of games like DMC demands both detail and speed, meaning you’ll need to make some very difficult choices.

This is also an issue for comics. The more panels you use to detail what’s happening, the more that will slow your reader down. This is why things like motion lines can be very useful to imply action, without resorting to a storyboard structure (with step-by-step thumbnails), because that would slow the sequence down.

In prose, you’re usually interested in the results, and getting there as efficiently as possible. I’m going to use God of War for a moment. The Blades of Chaos are fairly dull from a prose perspective. Kratos swings them, and if he’s in the same zip code as his target, he’s going to connect. What makes them interesting is the animation behind the chains themselves. The way they spin. This can be conveyed in comic panels (though, the exact stylizing would be different), but as a potential weapon in a written work, they’re surprisingly uninteresting. In contrast, his Leviathan Axe (from the reboot) is a much better weapon choice for prose. It allows direct strikes with consideration for things like range, it has a built in limitation (it causes frost damage, making it useless against foes who are immune to the cold), and it has a distinct power with easily articulatable rules, (it can be thrown and recalled.)

This, sort of, brings me back to one of my reservations with “DMC style combat.” I’m not wild about the idea of having to write the air combos. Now, that’s me, I’m not writing your story, and if this really excites you, go ahead. From a gameplay perspective, extended air juggling is a skill based reward. If you’re good enough with the timing, you can juggle enemies and continue combat in the air. From a written perspective it’s ridiculous, and making it feel, “earned,” without being gratuitous would be quite difficult.

As for writing fights in the rain… it’s rain.

In prose, writing environmental conditions is a lot easier than it sounds. You establish the condition, and then you only need to reference it after that point when it becomes relevant, or the conditions change.

So, if it’s raining, you only really need to say that. Depending on perspective, you probably want to be able to describe the experience of being in the rain. Including details like how heavily it’s raining and the temperature, along with whatever steps (if any) your character may be taking to avoid getting wet. Though, at some point, the fighters will probably be out in the rain.

After that, the only times you need to worry about the rain is when it either adds texture to the moment, such as the character getting wet, their clothes getting heavier as they’re soaked, water on their weapons (or the weapons’ grips.) Possibly washing away grime. Dirt deteriorating to mud, making the ground less stable. Blood getting washed away by rainwater.

As the writer, you want to keep in mind things like how long and heavily it’s been raining, and then evaluate how that affects the environment, but you don’t need to include that except when it’s relevant. Simply saying that it’s been raining heavily all day, can help set the scene for the audience. On the other hand, you can have a fight in the cold front before the rain starts coming down, and fight through the storm arriving.

In the latter case, you’d want to note things like when the rain starts, and if it starts pouring. It’s important to remember that most fights don’t last very long, so this is unlikely to happen mid-combat, though if your characters are fighting in a series of skirmishes broken up by downtime (such as one trying to escape), then this can extend the sequence to the point where you would see significant changes in the weather.

One storm related event that might be worth noting are lightning strikes. These will break up the sequence, and slow the pace down, but they can be useful to subtly suggest how far away the storm is. There’s a seven second per mile delay between seeing the lightning strike and hearing the thunder. Closing the gap between these two can allow you to communicate to the reader that the storm it getting closer, without having to be heavy handed about it.

-Starke

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Q&A: Scuttling your own Argument

So, before we get started today, we don’t usually respond to every misogynistic shitpost that hits our inbox. So, let’s turn this garbage into a teachable moment.

Women have a lower reaction time than men, this has been proven. How would this affect combat?

There’s a couple problems with this. I mean, there are many flaws with this question, but I’m going to focus on two.

The first: As we’ve said many times, “bold claims require strong and convincing evidence.” This may come as a shock, but, “this has been proven,” does not count as a citation.

We live in a world where people actually argue that the planet is flat because they cannot physically see the curvature of the earth. Keep in mind, we’ve been to space.

We live in a world where people are more inclined to believe in ancient aliens than accept the idea that the non-European civilizations were able to construct great architectural works.

This is before we get into examples like Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield falsified his research on MMR vaccines in the late 90s. He claimed he’d found a link between the MMR Vaccine in common use, and incidents of autism. Except, his entire goal was to capitalize on the resulting vaccine scare, making money off of a new market for diagnostic kits, and a “replacement MMR vaccine.”

“This has been proven,” doesn’t mean a thing without a citation.

Now, what has been proven is that the author of this question is an idiot, and the evidence is in their text.

Women fight all the time. You only need to look as far as your local police blotter to see evidence of that, in case you’ve somehow never observed this personally.

Beyond that, many armed services include women, including in combat roles. The most famous example is the IDF, but Germany, France, Australia, the UK and US all train and deploy women in combat roles. Russia is often also held up as an example, and during the Second World War, they fielded female snipers, though, as far as I know, they don’t currently allow women in combat roles. In the case of the US, there are women in the SEALs and Rangers, which seriously undermines the idea that they’re somehow unfit for combat. Seriously there are female Special Forces Operators. (There may also be some women in the British SAS, I’m not 100% sure, though the Service is not gender restricted.)

Also, those militaries conducted extensive testing to determine if they found women eligible to serve, and before you hop on an unfounded argument of, “political correctness skewed the results,” it’s worth remembering that military testing often skews hard to support the status quo. If your claim had any merit, you could be assured that various militaries would have been proclaiming it from the rooftops as the reason they couldn’t accept women into combat roles (or, why they should be blocked from military service entirely.)

So, I said the author was an idiot, and I’m not basing that on their unfamiliarity with military service demographics. When you’re writing an argument it is very important to chose your words carefully. The way you phrase things can shape, or undermine, your argument.

In this case, it’s his question: “How would this affect combat?”

The choice of, “would,” assumes a false variable. When you’re asking a question where all of the components of an argument are true, you ask, “how does this affect combat?”

For example, after a technical discussion of the internal workings of the AK47, you would not ask, “how would this affect the rifle’s performance in combat?” You would ask, “how does it affect the rifle’s performance?” If you were speculating on changes to the design, then, “would,” would become the correct term.

(Also, “would,” is the correct term in the previous paragraph, because you are not asking those questions.)

The two variables in the author’s question are their reflexes assertion, and whether women fight. They probably assumed women do not fight. (I can only assume this is because they didn’t do any research, and apparently, have never met a member of the opposite sex.) However, once you establish that women do fight, “would,” dictates that the other variable must be false. Meaning, they have just unintentionally stated that their reflexes assertion is untrue.

What I can’t prove is that they’re misreading early neuroplasticity studies. If you’ve never looked into it, neuroplasticity is a fascinating subject. Your brain is a remarkably adaptive organ, and this can result in significant neurological differences between individuals based on their experiences. Neuroplasticity can affect reflex time, and it is probably why martial artists who get their start as children have significantly faster reflexes than those who start as adults. Your brain is far more plastic (meaning adaptive) during childhood. Plasticity does remain in adulthood, but your brain loses adaptability as you age. However, if that is the case, it’s important to understand that these differences are the result of experiences and activities, not gender.

-Starke

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Followup: Firearms for Monster Hunting in the Roaring Twenties

Meteor hammer anon again! First off thank you for all the info, it’s deeply appreciated (and yeah, sapient is actually the word I should’ve used haha).

But I feel the need to refine my question a bit, if that’s ok. First, my story is actually going to be drawn web comic style, so the limitations of prose aren’t really an issue for me. Second, I suppose the crux of why I was sending that ask is because I’m having a hard time coming up with useful weapons that small species (like humans) could use agains larger ones, especially in a stealth environment. I thought of the meteor hammer cause it’s easy to hide and can deal a lot of damage – but that’s really it. (I’m not very well versed on weapons ^^’). Guns ARE an option, so long as they are from around the roaring twenties (the character in question is actually already carrying a pistol – a C96 to be exact, though I’m not sure if it’s the best choice). And finally one last comment – it is worth noting that most of my ‘dragons’ are so derived from the original concept the term almost doesn’t apply anymore – the point being that most don’t actually have the hard shells of typical dragons.

Thank you again for all the help you give writers, and I’ll look forward to any response you give me if you decide to! (You guys are awesome!!)

Okay, so, first off, visual media is where the meteor hammer shines. It’s a very visually dynamic weapon. The only hitch is, that this is the weapon of a martial arts master. Your characters can’t just pick them up and roll with it.

So, basing your setting off the 1920s immediately, and dramatically changes your weapon options. If you need to take down something significantly larger than you, firearms are the first solution.

The C96 is a legitimate option, but it might not be the best choice. It was chambered in either .30 Mauser or 9x19mm. There were Chinese manufactured .45 variants, though I’m not sure on the production dates for those. Also, there are C96s chambered in 9x25mm, but those are a rarity. The biggest problem is simply reloading. The C96 loads 10 rounds from a stripper clip. (There were 20 round variants produced before World War 1.) Individual rounds can be loaded at a time. However, the box magazine is not detachable. (There are variants, including ones manufactured by Mauser with detachable box magazines, however most of these date from the 1930s or later. As far as I know, the only ones from the 20s were Spanish bootlegs shipped to China, starting in 1928.) There were also select-fire variants, though the earliest examples I’m aware of date to the mid-30s.

On a similar note, the Luger P08 went into production in 1898. These were chambered in 7.65mm and 9x19mm. They use a more familiar, detachable box magazine loaded into the grip. They have an 8 round capacity, and the top of the slide is articulated strangely (it folds vertically when ejecting rounds, instead of traveling straight back.)

The British Webley Revolver was a break open revolver chambered in .455, and .38. The Mk 4 .455 entered military service in 1915, and the .38 caliber Webleys saw police use in the early 1920s.

While it’s archaic, today, the Colt Single Action Army entered production in the 1870s. These were chambered in .45 Long Colt (though, the gun can be found in an incredibly wide range of calibers today, and it can be a little difficult to determine when a given cartridge first popped up. Even in the 20s, this was a remarkably accurate and reliable revolver. The biggest downsides are that you have to manually load each shell separately, and it is single action, meaning you need to manually recock after each shot. The gun is over 150 years old today, and it still holds up as an excellent sporting pistol, a century ago, it would have been a viable combat weapon.

Also, worth noting that magnum cartridge was developed by Elmer Keith in the 1950s. So, while I’m listing revolvers, and you can get a Colt SAA in .44 magnum today, those would not have existed in the 1920s.

In the spirit of the Magnum, there is one unusual example worth listing off. The Mars Automatic Pistol developed in 1900. Forgotten Weapons did a video on the pistol a few years back.

Finally, the elephant in the room is the Colt 1911. These were adopted by the US Military in 1911, and were revised in 1926 (this would be the M1911A1.) The original 1911s had some reliability issues if they were loaded with anything other than ball ammunition, but this would become one of the most widely adopted handguns in the 20th century.

I’m probably forgetting a lot of revolvers that would be contemporary. The Smith & Wesson Model 30 was in production from 1903 to 1976, for example. This is also not a complete list of handguns, off hand I know the Smith & Wesson 1913 was in production throughout the decade. So, you might be able to find some other more obscure options.

One weapon that I expected would fit, but doesn’t, is the Browning Hi-Power. I remembered these as entering production in the mid-20s, but they didn’t actually hit the market until 1935. In the 20’s FN was still producing the Browning M1903, and M1910/M1922.

For larger weapons, there were bolt action rifles. The Mauser 98 (or Kar98, with Kar being short for Karabiner, meaning Carbine) was the standard Germany infantry rifle in World War I. The M1903 was the American equivalent. While you’d be hard pressed to hide these unless you were wearing an overcoat, both are excellent, accurate rifles. Winchester produced a lever action rifle (the Model 1895), which would have still been commercially available in the 1920s.

The Thompson Sub-Machine Gun entered commercial production in 1921, and would see military adoption in 1928. (These had 20 and 30 rounds “stick” magazines, or the 50 and 100 round drum mags.)

The BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) entered commercial production in 1917, and military use in 1918. This is a fully automatic rifle chambered in .30-06, with a detachable 20 round box mag. It’s heavy (at nearly 16lbs), but it is a lot of portable firepower. There was a lighter, semi-automatic version, called the Colt Monitor which was marketed to police, but also ended up on the commercial market, however that didn’t enter production until 1931.

Thanks in large part to Terminator 2, we’re probably all familiar with the Winchester 1887, it’s a lever action shotgun, though there were iterations, including the Winchester Model 1901. The 1887 is notable for how much you can cut the gun down and still have a functional weapon. The nickname for sawed off 1887s is a “Mare’s Leg.” So let’s look at some shotguns you didn’t expect.

The Winchester Model 12 was an early pump action shotgun. While the pumps you’re used to seeing, like the Winchester 1200, the Mossberg 590, and the Remington 870 would be 40 years away from your setting, the Model 12 was already there, and saw use during World War 1. The Model 12 is, for the most part, the pump action shotgun, you’re familiar with today. The design hasn’t changed that much in over a century. There’s also the Winchester 1897, which is another early pump action shotgun. The 1897 notable for its external hammer spur, which would become unusual in later pump action shotgun designs.

The Browning Automatic 5 was a five round semi automatic shotgun developed by John Browning. Remington produced a variant called the Model 11. The Browning Auto 5 was the first semi-auto shotgun dating back to the final years of the 19th century. This had a 4+1 magazine capacity.

If you absolutely need to take something out silently, the crossbow is probably your best option. Alternately a bow is viable. These are harder to conceal, though I wouldn’t count them out entirely.

The first firearms silencers entered the market in 1909, and regulation wouldn’t catch up until 1934. So, the 1920s were an odd era when you could purchase silencers as mail order items. Of course, silencers do not fully silence a gunshot, but they were commercially available in the 20s, and they can drastically reduce the amount of sound a firearm produces.

As we’ve said before, getting into melee with something considerably larger than yourself is a recipe for disaster. Spears and lances might be effective options, but they don’t exactly qualify as stealthy. Granted, most firearms only fit that definition in the sense of getting into position undetected, and you would need a trench coat to conceal anything larger than a handgun. However it is much safer dealing with a dragon at three hundred yards through the scope of a bolt action rifle, than trying to hit it with a rock while standing in claw distance.

A few things worth remembering:

The M79 Grenade Launcher entered development in the 1950s. Before that the US military relied on either throwing hand grenades or mortar strikes. The Bazooka dates to 1942.

In World War 1, tanks were neutralized using, what we’d now call anti-material rifles. Anti-Tank rifles are in their own category of firearm. They’re not stealthy, they don’t have the accuracy of something like a TAC-50 or M82, but they are period appropriate and would absolutely put down whatever they hit.

World War 1 saw extensive use of chemical weapons on the battlefield, and while this would eventually see the use of such weapons curtailed by the Geneva Protocol in 1925 (this is different from the Geneva Convention, there were a number of distinct international treaties negotiated in Geneva in the 20s regulating warfare.) It’s not hard to imagine a world where these protections wouldn’t extend to “monsters.” (There’s a lot more political history here, I’m not going to get into.)

Additionally, while I can’t find hard data on the first White Phosphorous small arms munitions, white phosphorous grenades first saw battlefield usage in 1915. This is a very vicious weapon that would make a mess out of anything caught in the blast, as white phosphorous burns on contact with open atmosphere (technically, it’s reacting to the moisture in the air), and will continue burning in the victim’s body. Worth noting, phosphorous munitions will leave particulate matter in the air after use, and this can cause injury to anyone moving through the area immediately after bombardment, if they’re not using gas masks and covering their exposed skin.

Production of chemical agents like Phosgene or chlorine gas are depressingly easy, and I’m not going to be going into further details on these, but they’d probably be just as effective.

So, yeah, you have options. There were a wide range of commercial and military firearms on the market in the 1920s. World War 1 had just ended, and depending on where you were in the world, there were a lot of weapons still in circulation. There were also a lot of people who’d been in a military conflict and still had the training to use them. It’s a very complex moment in history, and worth digging into if you’re going to set your story in it.

-Starke

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