Thought Exercise: Fantasy World Weapon Control

Most cities in fantasy worlds have a vested interest in people not getting into fights to the death at the drop of a hat. It isn’t that different from the real world in that respect, after all. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to limit access to weapons. So that got me thinking—what would people have to keep in mind when attempting to implement weapon control in a fantasy world?

One of the things they’d need to look at is who the city expects the danger to be coming from. If it’s outsiders, the rule might be “check your weapons at the door”, or “I’m going to peace-bond this thing/put a spell of bluntness on it/setting-compatible equivalent, I’m going to put my seal on it, and that seal had better be exactly how I left it when you leave, or we’re going to have a long talk in a small cold room, get my drift?”, while locals just get used to the fact that they have to use in-city weaponsmiths, and outsiders buying weapons get their purchases sent to the guardhouses for safekeeping or do the peace-bonding thing. If it’s the poor, it might be that a person only gets challenged for having a weapon if he or she doesn’t show other signs of being well-to-do and therefore unlikely to actually use it against the established order. If it’s people who aren’t trained, there may be a rule about the condition that weapons in the hands of anyone who isn’t in the guard/militia/equivalent are permitted to be in (“I’m going to test this ancestral pigsticker of yours, and it had better not actually cut what I’m using it on”). A city might require that all weapons by carried openly, be below a certain size—I remember once joking, in response to a Washington state law I saw referenced regarding the maximum size of concealed weapons, that I figured if someone could conceal a weapon more than six feet long without looking silly they probably deserved to be able to carry it.

Another thing to look into is the kind of magic available, both to the guards and to the people trying to haul weapons in. For instance, if there’s weapon detection magic, that’s going to make it a lot harder to sneak anything in, regardless of size. If hammerspace (or temporospatial claudications, or Elsewhere, or whatever it’s generally referred to as) exists, that’s going to make concealment near impossible to penetrate, and discovery prohibitively difficult.

How does the system account for people who are sufficiently scary in unarmed combat that their entire body might as well be a weapon? They’re pretty much impossible to disarm, and impeding their physical function will often lead to issues (at the very least, from a public relations standpoint).

Then there’s the question of whether the setting includes Powerful Things—in this context, anyone with sufficiently superhuman abilities that it is unlikely any city guard would have a chance against them—and how thoroughly these Powerful Things blend in with everyone else, at least at first glance. This is particularly important given the strong correlation between that kind of power and being easily offended and/or prone to disproportionate retribution. Do you challenge everyone and take the chance of ticking off a Powerful Thing? Err on the side of caution and risk letting normal people with weapons they probably shouldn’t have go by?

It’s an interesting thought, and something it might be enjoyable to try to implement in some game—not my current one, probably, but later.


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