Category Archives: Wargaming

Art & Craft of Writing: Using Maps And Games

(A prior, simpler version of this article appeared as a reply to a thread [on using maps in the writing / marketing process] in the writer’s forums on How To Think Sideways)

I’ve been a wargamer almost as long as I have been a writer, and have been creating scenarios or adapting published material to game systems pretty much since Day One. Ergo, I have quite a number of odd bits available when I want to haul in a working-space for my story characters — and have dealt with some really creative game rules for approximating 3-D line-of-sight using a 2-D map for the playing surface (the FASA BATTLETECH system has been my fall-back there, although the earlier methods of the Avalon Hill SQUAD LEADER game system appeal to others of my acquaintance). This can be a real help when checking LOS (line-of-sight) for story continuity and visualization.

I find that it helps some people to use hexagonal grids instead of the commonly-available square-grid graph paper when creating or interpreting maps, but that may be an anomalous personal bias of mine showing. With either of those aids, or several other possibilities, it can help to find or make a (semi-)transparent overlay that can be laid on top of any printed or created map. This provides an immediate visual scale that can be simpler to read than measurements acquired by repeatedly moving a ruler. Transparency sheets (like those used with overhead projectors) allow for marking up a map without damaging the original; with a little practice, this concept can be used to show damage effects, terrain additions (where DID that parking garage go up?), temporary structures / “placed” equipment, etc.

The concepts of Frontage, Depth-of-Ranks, and March Times I learned in gaming translated well to my own writing, and may help in “feeling” / visualizing the relationship of map to real- / created- world:

Frontage is not just how wide a person or vehicle or critter is, but how much width of passage they need to function at a given rate of effectiveness for a desired activity — movement, hold-the-line defense, active fighting, et cetera. Frex, that five-foot hallway can be run through if “empty”, but add just one console table and a big guy may have to slow and sidle past (or smash the furniture accidentally while fighting).

Depth-of-Ranks or alternately Formations:
People and objects are three-dimensional at the least, and that includes length as well as width! A covey of quail, a homecoming parade, or an army on the march all take an amount of time to pass by any given reference point. If for some reason the moving group stops, it still has an area-of-coverage greater than the sum of the individuals making up the group. Think for a moment about a marching band. Unless there are VERY careful rehearsals and practice involved, each band member is separated from all those nearest by a minimum of an arm’s-length, or (roughly) one pace.

To further complicate our writing and gaming lives, movement is required — both physically and in terms of position-over-time — to shift from normal marching into any selected formation, either for static (“motion-less”) position or relative to allies, enemies, and features yet still in motion.

One Special-Case class of examples in military formations is any infantry unit maximizing defense through use of shields. “Special” here also involves nomenclature: a Testudo is not a Schiltron, and neither of those is a simple Shield-Wall… and all three have cultural variations. These (and most other) formations require varying amounts of acreage depending upon current circumstances as well. Each has benefits, each has limitations, and each has failed spectacularly when faced with advances in tactics or technology. (Massed archery or gunnery, and area-effect weaponry, being the death of most close-quarter formations at one time or another…)

The classical Phalanx is a fourth often-used description for shield- and spear- / pike- intensive infantry formations, and is perhaps the one most often MIS-used or simply misunderstood. Any discussion of the phalanx is further complicated by placement in history: a phalanx in the army of Alexander the Great at the time of his death was different in composition from that of the Athenians a mere three or four generations earlier, and both were different still from the Greek phalanx that would face Roman legions a few generations afterward, and NONE of those really relate to any modern (20th-century or later) military unit, although usage might make us want to believe otherwise.

The basic phalanx CONCEPT was little changed for at least two millennia, however: a mass of men arranged in a rectangular formation, all carrying a spear or spear-like primary weapon and usually also armed with a secondary (dagger / knife / short sword / etc.). Later descriptions indicate some specialization in the ranks: first rank shield, spear, and short secondary weapon; second rank shield and medium-length weapons (or “choked-up” longer ones), third and fourth ranks pike or other long weapons, sometimes without shields. Additional ranks were usually added up to a depth of eight or more, and a minimum front of ten men, usually more. A “true” Phalanx was seldom less than a hundred soldiers in number, although the more common camp & march unit was based upon the file (column or sometimes pair of columns within the deployed phalanx). Some of my sources are loathe to give the title of Phalanx to any formation of less than five hundred or so…

A convoy of vehicles has a minimum-safe separation distance that increases with speed (if you have been through Driver’s Ed or similar learning experience, remember the discussions about reaction time required to brake to a complete stop?), but ALSO typically has a minimum separation distance when parked in a line. That separation should be enough for crew and passengers to move between convoy elements without crawling through / over / under. There may be special circumstances where the minimum separation is reduced or eliminated due to any of several factors. These include but are not limited to providing cover to dismounted forces (use of vehicles as a temporary fortification, a la “Circle The Wagons!”, whether stationary or on-the-move), reducing threat from dismounted opposition, temporary fencing for herds, etc.

March Times: individual or group, living or mechanical (or other), humans assume that it takes some amount of time to move from Point A to Destination B. (Even with teleportation, Glinda – havta at least think about destination / initiate the transfer, after all!) In the simplest cases, this is a straightforward calculation. At a slightly more complex level, add in meal-times / fuel stops / potty-breaks. For any journey requiring more than the normal amount of time between two meals, it is best to include deliberately-scheduled rest time(s) and other possible fatigue factors.

The astute writer also does a little research into the perils of forced-march and subsequent effects upon performance of not only people and animals but also machinery not given extra maintenance attention.

* = * = * = *

(YES, I do happen to also design or expand / correct the rules for games in an attempt to make the experience more realistic. There is a balancing act involved quite simple to exposition in a given story, where too much detail detracts from enjoyment of the experience. I also happen to sharpen knives, swords – and wits…)


“Roughing It In” – Weapons Theory & Descriptions: Part V “FANTASY”

“Roughing It In” – Weapons Theory & Descriptions: Part V “FANTASY”

Mike C. Baker


 (Caveat: I’m not only a writer, I’m an old-school wargamer… and the following is at best a SUMMARY of the field)


Whew. If ever there was a wide field to explore for weapons, here it is.

With or Without Magic?

Possibly heretical in the eyes of some, I must begin this segment of our study with two truisms / “laws”:

 Clarke’s Law (paraphrased)

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Magic.

Fantasy does not require magic to be fantasy.


Now, now, don’t send the villagers with pitchforks after me just yet, please. What I mean by this second observation is that to distinguish fantasy from science fiction (The future! OR is it necessarily?), I will make my distinction based upon whether or not the underlying universe follows the “laws” of science as generally expected for our own universe. This does introduce / incoporate the possibility of “science fantasy”: H.G. Wells’s “Cavorite”, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom, John Norman’s Gor all come immediately to mind in this light.

Where does that leave us? Fantastical weaponry that exists without magic as well as all manner of weapons that have been enhanced or created by magic.

We’re gonna have some fun now, ubetcha! 

Except … as before, I will have to define some additional terms as we go along.


Materials Science:

  • Glass / Ceramics – tempered or otherwise treated, glass-bladed weapons have been postulated for years. At least one sub-group relies upon a glass blade to introduce poison / venom into a wound (as part of the shards created when broken, via ducts within or grooves upon the surface of a more durable weapon, etc.)
  •  “impossible” Metals / Alloys – collapsium, neutronium, ur-metal, ultron, adamantium, silver-steel are some notable possible examples (while the first two are more likely associated with future based science fiction, their attributed properties usually cross the border into science fantasy in the opinion of many purists; anti matter can fall upon either side of the description boundary as well…)
  • Invented Materials – includes materials with properties different than those known to “real world” science: “lifting wood”, “uhl”, unobtainium, radioactively stabilized uranium, Barsoomian “radium” explosive projectiles ({Edgar Rice Burroughs}from which the “radium” explodes when the shell is broken open and the contents are exposed to sunlight)
  •  Mundane materials granted special properties by the milieu – silver bullets or blades for attacking lycanthropes or certain undead; mirrors used to reflect and weaponize natural light sources.; laminated fish scales built up to form a buckler, etc.

 Weapon Forms:

  • Culturally-modified Weaponry – examples that come immediately to my mind are the Yuetshi knife with the saw-toothed back edge {Robert E. Howard}, the Karjixian yggdraxel two-handed claw-on-a-stick alternative to the sword favored by the Tigermen {Lin Carter}, and the four-handed sword carried by the Thark (Green Men) of Barsoom {Edgar Rice Burroughs}.
  •  Culturally “Dissonant” Weaponry – the “boom stick” Ashe carries against the medievals, and his chainsaw (Army of Darkness movie franchise)
  •  Complete fabrications / inventions – odd patterns for the blades on polearms, new names for rarely seen items from real world cultures (Star Trek was particularly productive in this arena, with both the Klingon and Vulcan / Romulan cultures: for example, the batleth is essentially a bardiche with the pole removed, and the ahn woon is a variation combining a simple sling and the usually knotted strangler’s cloth); the so called “glaive” from the movie Krull (debatable science in that piece of fiction tips the scale to fantasy on my tally-sheet); the floating/levitating “death sphere” in Phantasm / Phantasm II
  • Gladiatorial Weapons – particularly those never in general use outside of an arena, but still notable for their use inside… the ancient Roman impresarios became fairly inventive in trying to maintain interest in their audiences.
  •  Adapted Tools of the Fantasy Setting – the tarn-stick and the tharlarion goad of Gor {at least in John Norman’s book series} or similar handling equipment in other settings; thuribles and censers “borrowed” from Church rituals and now used to thrown acid or distribute soporific smoke across a group of opponents; shoppo diggo {H.Beam Piper, Little Fuzzy}
  •  Defensive Items – a fish skull helmet, split dinosaur bones for greaves or vambraces, turtle shells for paldrons (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books, et al.), etc. 


Considerable underlying theory must be filled in for a “compleat” understanding of magical weapons. This includes particularly and especially an examination of just what magick is, and some consideration of how it produces tangible results.

 Forms of “Magic”

Writers are a marvelously inventive lot. Game designers, a sub-set of writers after all is said and done, tend to be even moreso even when they limit themselves to the existing body of myth, legend, and folklore. Nowhere is this as apparent as in the basis of magick.

 Therein is also a root distinction to be made: one occasional but sometimes necessary distinction is between “real” magick and “stage” magic, also known as prestidigitation or “theatrical illusion”. There is no clear preference out there in the “REAL” world, but the addition of the terminal “k” was popularized by P.E.I. Bonewitz (among others) when attempting to lay the groundwork for serious modern study of the Artes Magickal.

Principles Underlying the “Laws” of Magick

  1. Contagion – two things near to one another begin to share similar properties, and those shared properties can be manipulated to affect either or both things
  2. Similarity – two things which are similar are linked by that similarity, and the link so established can be manipulated to affect either or both things
  3. Substitution – one thing can be substituted for another to create an effect that affects another thing (related to the thing being manipulated by reason of Contagion or Simularity)
  4. Energetics – All forms of energy are permanent, although they can be manipulated into behaving like other forms – or converted into other forms by some means. An extension of this principle was formulated and popularized by A. Einstein in the e=mc-squared formula, the distinction being that mass is merely stored energy (in a semi-fixed form) and light is only the most visible of the energies by which mass can be converted / converted into.
  5. Will-force (Intelligence and Self-Awareness – the use of or imposition of a magickal effect ultimately requires the intervention of a self-aware being, which in turn implies an intellect. However, every magickal effect may have unintended consequences (As observed in the ABC-TV series “Once Upon A Time”, all magick comes at a price, and the practitioner / user does NOT always know the full extent of the price required at the time the effect is triggered or invoked.)


  • PRIMAL (“UR-” magics) – The energies associated with the original creation of the universe, in their pure & original unused form, are generally accounted as being more effective than any other to achieve a given desired outcome. With greater power or effect also come greater potential side effects / total degree of effects: burning down the whole castle instead of simply blasting through a door is typically a Bad-Thing…
  • ELEMENTAL – manipulation of the basic alchemical materials and their directly-associated energies
  • ILLUSION – as one of the primary Artes Arcane, deals with appearance and affect more than physicality and effect. Associated most often with but not limited to visual imagery.
  • EVOCATION – direct effects created by direct transfer of energies to a target. The classical example is the mage’s fireball or lightning-stroke
  • TRANSFORMATION – a form of magery focused primarily upon substitutions. Most alchemy involves transformations as well as elementalism.
  • NECROMANCY – generally associated with manipulation of or creation of the undead; may involve any of the energies related to death, life, and the transitions in between
  • ENCHANTMENT – creation of effect by instilling energy into a target item or person
  • SORCERY – the Sorcerer or Sorceress derives magick from a source outside themselves, often after a bargain has been made according to some descriptions but conceivable due to ancestry or association by other means. (SEE ALSO: Theurgy)
  • INVOCATION – deals in the transference of energy by the imposition of the mage’s will
  • THAUMATURGY – magery driven by rote and ritual; often touches upon the borders of theurgy. Important subschools include numerology and astrology; most divinations make use of thaumaturgical means.
  • DIVINATION – although often exercised through other source means, divinatory Arte is typically considered a separate major school dealing in revealing information, particularly information about the a subject person, thing, or place. Sub-schools deal in psychometry (the history of an object, place, or person), interpretation of omens / cards / astrological charts / etc., and dowsing (locating a substance, person, or object by any of several means: includes but is not limited to the forked-stick dower’s rod, pendulums, paired rods or wands, etc.)
  • THEURGY – magick accomplished through the intervention of Powers (gods, goddesses, angels, or their direct messengers); generally differs from Sorcery in that Theurgists are receiving a gift while Sorcerists are drawing directly upon a source through some channel. If you will, Sorcerers “pull” while the Powers “push” to their supplicants.
  • ABJURATION – the Arte of barriers, and of the denial of another’s will
  • PSYONIC / PSYCHIC – Effects achieved by direct impositionof the practitioner’s will-force upon energy & matter. Sometimes referred to as “mind-magic”, often considered as completely separate from Arcane or Theurgic magics

The Place of (small) Rituals In Considering Weapon Enchantments

A recurring theme in the lore of magic weapons involves the need for an activation phrase or other “trigger” action. Items that store spells for later discharge are particularly likely to need the wielder to speak or at least think a phrase or magickal word, or make a series of particular motions to invoke, evoke, or call forth an effect. Indeed, in the wizard and muggle world created for Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, wands generally require both prescribed movements and associated incantations to create spell effects – and unintended effects can occur if a mistake is made in repeating either element of a casting.

Other fantastical settings have differing rules to be followed, different expectations of the witch, wizard, druid, sorceror, or muscular fighting man presented with a shiny new glaive or ancestral battle axe. “My strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure” just doesn’t ring quite as true for the villain as it does for a noble hearted Prince; likewise, a classic Hero doesn’t get as much mileage pronouncing an ancient curse upon his foes as his buddy the not-so-pure wizard will get…

Creation of magick, especially magickal weapons, very seldom fails to involve some form of ritual. Likewise with their later destruction. (Just would NOT be the same if the One Ring as envisioned by J.R.R. Tolkien were vulnerable to a common blacksmith forge, now would it?)


Enhancement of Existing Weapons

In the literature to date, swords are generally the most likely magick weapons to receive individual names.

  • Enchanted Swords – Excalibur, Durandal, Glamdring, Sting, etc:  Swords tend to be the most-often recognized magick weapons. Common changes include unbreakable blades, incredibly sharp blades, resistance to corrosion, stored magick spells, personalities, usage restrictions (e.g. the Sword in the Stone that could only be drawn forth by the true heir to the throne), emitting light, acting as a direction finder or detector, innate telepathy, etc. Less-common are properties like disguise or invisibility (for the weapon, the user, or both), flight, singing, ability to ignore / completely penetrate armor, non-lethal damage inflicted, regeneration or other healing of the wielder (or others), etc.
  •  Enchanted Bows, Crossbows, Slings:  Increased rate of fire, improved range, enhanced targeting, resistant to damage (the weapon, the user, both), keyed to specific user, uses energy bolts in the shape of arrows, always supplied with the “best” arrow to use against an intended target, etc.
  •  Enchanted Axes and Warhammers (plus related “tools”):  An axe that fells any (normal) tree in a single blow; Hammers that strike with the force of a thunderbolt; Hammers that when thrown strike with force that is somehow multiplied / duplicates the attack of a larger assailant (e.g. damages like a giant thrown boulder)
  •  Enchanted Spears, Javelins, and the like:  Javelins that transform into lightning bolts or beams of fire when thrown; Spears that also function as banners (extend the effects of the leader’s presence, communicate commands to forces out of immediate normal earshot, etc.); Halberds that provide “perfect” defense if the user chooses to defend instead of attack
  •  Other Enchanted Blades:  Daggers that return to the owner if thrown (and/or if stolen); Stiletto blades that act a bit like fish spines / hooks (and do more damage coming out than they did going in); Knives that “multiply” / separate to inflict more possible strikes against a target than the single weapon would otherwise deliver
  • Enchanted Arrows, Sling Stones, Quorls/Bolts:  general-purpose enhancements to hit or damage, envenomed missiles; missiles as the method of delivery for other spell induced effects; specially prepared missiles intended for specific targets (individuals or broader type classifications)
  • Animated Objects (weapons that fire / wield themselves)
  • Enchanted Firearms / Enchanted Ammunition


Purpose-Built Magickal Weapons

  • Wands – of Fireballs, of Negation, of Thunder & Lightning:  Depending upon the origin, wands may be general-purpose tools in the mage’s repetoire or may be storage devices with prepared spells loaded which one only needs to activate (by will-force, key word, mechanical manipulation, or other method)
  • Rods:  Differs from the Wand primarily in mode of construction, may be more common in items prepared by Theurges.
  • Staves:  Wizard’s staff, Druid’s staff, or other similar forms have long been associated with magery, while theurges (priests and the like) are far more likely to enchant staves than wands, and seldom go to the rod for “positive” / “good”-related purposes UNLESS associated specifically with healing / recovery.
  • Other Storage Devices / Means of Invoking or Enlisting Aid:  Rings, Amulets, Talismans, Bracelets, Necklaces, Other Jewelry
  • Golems and Other Constructs – The Golem, Minoton:  Statuary or Clockwork or other material depiction to be animated and (preferably to most!) controlled.


Heroes, Demi-Gods, and even the Powers themselves have need of more than just weapons to succeed in their quests and other endeavors.

  • Armor and Shield: the Aegis, the hide of the Nemean lion:  defensive items worn on the person
  • Mobility Aids: Hermes’ Sandals, Arthur’s Ship, ARGO:  winged boots or sandals, chariots, boats / ships, animated objects
  • Hats, Robes, Cloaks: the Tarnhelm, Cloak of Invisibility, Wizard’s Robes:  invisibility, invulnerability, spell enhancement / transport of spell components or prepared objects
  • Belts, Girdles, Baldrics, and Bags / Purses: the Portable Hole, the Bag of Holding:  damage resistance or quick repair (healing), other protective qualities, strength, increased carrying capacity, safe transport of dangerous substances, invisibility, disguise,etc.
  • Cauldrons, Kettles, Spoons, Other Kitchenware: the Kalevala, Arthur’s Cauldron: Food, shelter, potion creation, other creations,
  • Other Oddments: unicorn horn, the root of the mandrake, feathers of the Stymphalian birds, Gorgon’s Blood, Medusa’s Head water from a particular source, poison/venom neutralizaton, poison/venom, creature summoning, direct attacks, indirect attacks; knowledge / wisdom, invulnerability, increased vulnerability, transformation(s)


“Roughing It In” Weapons Theory & Description: Part IV “FUTURISTIC”

“Roughing It In” Part IV “FUTURISTIC”

Mike C. Baker

(Caveat: I’m not only a writer, I’m an old-school wargamer… and the following is at best a SUMMARY of the field)

The Future!

Considering that the future of weapons as we can forsee / foretell relies strongly upon what we’ve already seen, much of what falls into this category consists of speculation into the possible improvements upon existing weapons OR speculation into the weaponized effects of other technologies.


What? Didn’t you expect hand-to-hand combat ranges to still be important? Foolish mortal, haven’t you seen Star Wars, Blade Runner, and Escape From New York often enough already (not to mention Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and a good many other post-Apocalyptic offerings…)

Note on Edged Weapons

For those who do not know, conventional edged weapons actually cut by means of tearing – at a microscopic level, even the sharpest steel or alloy edge has a series of notches that make up the active cutting surface. It is the combination of a weapon’s mass and the action of the edge against a target that produces a cut – and part of why a slash is typicaly more effective than a straight chopping motion for a sword or knife. (An axe or other relatively massive weapon produces a cut more on the chisel principle than that of a knife…)

Consider this, too: a saw works most efficiently when the teeth are allowed to fully remove material from the kerf (the track of the saw blade inthe material being cut). A serrated or notched blade takes advantage of essentially the same mechanics, and also the “bumpity effect”: as a series of smaller edges make their track through the target, as long as force still remains behind the blow each new mini-edge receives an impact bonus (small, perhaps, but rapidly accumulative).

Why aren’t all weapons serrated or saw-edge, then? Multiple factors apply, but two of the most important over the centuries have been the tendency of the saw-edge to snag or bind in the target AND the weakening of the blade introduced by cutting or molding notches into it. The smooth edge has greater utility in non-combat uses as well.

Improved Materials / Construction

  • [*]Monomolecular Edges – The sharpest imaginable blade with permanent materials is postulated to be precisely one molecule in width. The challenge, from a material sciences standpoint, is how to make such an edge that can be actually used: how does one hold, swing, and maintain structural integrity for such a construct?
  • Advanced Ceramics / Improved Plastic – What are the ideal shapes, physical properties, and other expectations for a weapon that must be able to escape “normal” detection yet remain useful / functions as well as a metallic blade? Advanced ceramics and polymers already provide some of these characteristics in the late Modern era and there is every reason to believe that even more capable versions will exist going forward.
  • Vibro-blades – Ever since the first edged knife was created (or found after natural fracturing of a stone), humans have sought to improve upon the concept. One common postulated form considers what would be the impact of vibrating the cutting edge of an engineered blade at very high frequencies, producing a sawing effect at the near-molecular level – the vibrobladed knife or sword has been described as acting something like a chainsaw…without the need for a moving chain.
  • Punch/Slap Enhancers – the “slug ‘gun'” postulates use of explosively released compressed gas to create more damage from a swung fist than the fist alone could produce;
  • Muscular / Skeletal Enhancement – from the science fiction of the Golden Age, and the comic books, to the battlefields of the future, a vast number of speculative means have been used to enhance the physical capabilities of the individual soldier. Surgically-implanted solutions gave Marvel Comics’ Wolverine not only his signature claws but also adamantium-plated bones, while geneto-chemical enhancement provided extra muscular strength. Exoskeletal suits, with or without armor, also serve as mobile weapons platforms (cf. Avatar, Starship Troopers, Aliens, Armageddon: 2419).

Composite Materials / Construction

  • Advanced Alloys
  • “Stabilized” Mateials
  • “Sandwiched” Materials
  • Adaptive Striking Surfaces
  • Electrical-discharge Stunning / Other Non-Lethal Effects

“Energy” Weapons (Very Short Range)

  • Force-blades – going beyond the principles of monomolecular edges or vibroweapons, forceblades conceivably act by slicing between the atoms of a target
  • Laser Swords – in perhaps their most recognizable form, the lightsabers of Star Wars fame. Highly speculative as to workable science, may be a more primitive OR a more advanced development of the forcesword
  • Sonic Grenades – primarily expected as “technically” non-lethal; differs from the late-Modern flash-bang in that these do not require explosives and just may be rechargable/reusable…
  • Sonic Stunner Baton – a postulated “early” development of the research that leads to longer-ranged sonic-based weapons; precision use narrows target to the individual struck (and direct contact enhances effect of the applied sonic energy via musculoskeletal transmission)
  • Neuro-whips / Neutralizers – any of a broad class of weapons that deliver damage as directly as possible to the target’s nervous system (or circuitry). In the most primitive form, electroshock effects are a precursor.
  • Electro-stunners – Taser and “stun ‘gun'” have become important elements of the non-lethal personal defense arsenal here in the late-Modern era


Weapons that act against a target by the delivery of a projectile are going to be with us for a long time to come for a variety of reasons: the sheer numbers already in existence, their underlying simplicity, their economies of production, etc. For the human race, their immediate sense of destructive potential can make their display something of a deterrent where an equivalent energy weapon might ony be seen as a threat after it had been witnessed in use. (A missile sitting in the launcher still can convey a sense of threat through size and sense of mass if one has ever witnessed a gun fired or even a small fireworks rocket launched.)

  • Improved Targetting Systems – automated target recognition, enhanced optics
  • Improved Active Terminal Guidance / Target Homing – target recognition by multiple means (optical, sonic, radio-frequency, chemicl signatures);
  • Improved Survivability / Resistance to Counter-measures
  • Enhanced Warheads
  • Miniaturization / Scalability of warhead effects
  • Mass Driver – the “new” railgun model, with vehicular application in the Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) principles being developed in the late-Modern era for high-speed rail transportation
  • Other non-explosive propellants – pressurized gases, simple orbital mechanics (cf. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress for a combined-effect example of mass drivers and falling rocks)


In general, energy weapons discharge their effects as Pulse, Stream, Bolt, Beam,or Field (Area / Volume)

  • Lasers / Masers – Masers are in essence Lasers operating in the microwave energy ranges
  • Particle Beams – Proton, Neutron, Electron, Ion: Beam weapons in this category emit some amount of physical material in addition to the direct energies they are being used to transmit to the target.
  • Disruptors – postulated to function by temporary suppression of one of more of the basic forces in the universe: strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, gravitation, or electromagnetic
  • Phased-Energy – Star Trek Phaser: functions by tuning to and then destabilizing the vibratory phase of a target. With a little skill, can be used for multiple non-lethal purposes (stunning effects, generating heat from otherwise inert materials, etc.)
  • Sonics – unfocused, focused; containing/directing the emitted sound without also affecting the weapon’s user is a common concern. Primitive/early examples with unfocused emitters are speculated to need some form of “sonic armor” / sound-reduction equipment for the gunner
  • Plasma – another hybrid form, where the confined energy stream creates a highly energized gas-plasma either from a carried source of material or from the available atmosphere
  • Fusion – postulated enhancement of the Plasma weapons where the constriction of the energy field at the surface of the target generates a microminiature fusion reaction (visualize bringing the surface of a star into contact with the target for a picosecond or slightly longer…)
  • Graviton Beams / Gravitic Manipulation – if it isn’t enough to inflict the results of gravity upon a target by means of a kinetically-accelerated ballistic object, consider the application of gravity directly to a target (and/or the contents thereof). Now start shaking the beam up and down. Nasty!
  • Disintegrators – nastier still, disintegration effects may be seen in several of the other energy weapons noted above (phasers in particular, but at higher frequencies of pulsation gravition beams should do the job as well). In some early “science fantasy” / “scientific romances”, the speculation was for disintegration effects that could be tuned in some manner (e.g. Armageddon: 2419, the original Buck Rogers novel, where “r-rays” disintegrated only flesh but “t-rays” disintegrated everything not specifically proof against them)
  • “Packeted” – the “pulse-popper” in stories by Alan Dean Foster is one example where the primary weapon damage is energy-based, but the effects when in use are somewhat similar to those produced by a grenade launcher firing HE rounds


  • Medical Advances – non-lethal effects (tranquilizers, temporary physical enhancements, other drug-induced bioreactions), varying Poison effects
  • Maglev – see Mass Drivers, above; also of import in considering logistics trail and ad hoc / unintended uses (deliberately derailing a train moving in excess of 100mph will create a LOT of damage)
  • General-purpose Gravitics –
  • Energy Screens / Force Fields – a plane-restricted energy field makes one fine blade for slicing between atoms…
  • Weapon Effects of Star-drives

Roughing It In: Weapons Classification & Theory (Part III: “MODERN”)

Roughing It In Part III – “MODERN”

(Caveat: I’m not only a writer, I’m an old-school wargamer… and the following is at best a SUMMARY of the field)

The Modern era of weapons will be defined for purposes of this summarization as beginning with the end of the Medieval period and ending anywhere in the next ten minutes. It is generally characterized by firearms of increasing lethality and complexity, but also includes an increasing array of ranged yet non-lethal alternatives. Of necessity, sections covering underlying and auxillary technologies are also needed.

Perhaps the single most important thing to note about both the modern and future epochs of weaponry is that they are still ultimately vulnerable to the ancient and medieval. One rock delivered to just the right location at just the right time can as easily destroy a war machine as a single life. That said, onward!

Is it a weapon or ammunition: With the exception of the Naval Weapons section, the majority of the following listings after the AMMUNITION section are for durable weapons and not the associated expendable ammunition. Some categorization is purely arbitrary, and certain weapons may be shown in more than one category.

Solid shot: ball / sphere / roundshot, cone, cylinder / slug, flechettes / needles, “rubble”, chains, chainshot, hollowpoints, shaped (Minie ball, boattail, wadcutter, etc.); frangible

Explosive projectiles (shells, bombs, warheads, grenades): fused explosives, contact explosives, timed explosives

“Specialty” / “chemical”: Incendiary, tracer, “dispersal”, poisoned, marker/tagger, gas‑dispersal

Modern Artillery Warheads: AP (armor piercing), APDS (AP Discarding Sabot); HE (high explosive), HESH (HE Squash Head); Case / Cannister / Beehive (in essence, turns an artillery piece into a very large shotgun expelling small projectiles in a spreading cone, typically used to defend gun position against infantry or to disable “soft” targets); nuclear warhead

Bombs: “iron”, typically HE with casing that produces shrapnel; concussion; fire / inciendiary, FAE (thermobaric); chemical (typically gas: irritants, contact toxins, neurotoxins); radiation-enhanced (any other classification to which radioactive materials have been added BUT which are not intended to produce a nuclear reaction – in other words, a “dirty” bomb); biological agents (powders or mists usually dispersed by a small HE charge); nuclear explosive (fission, fusion, neutron, etc.); propaganda dispersal / other non-lethal delivery

self-propelled (rockets, missiles, cruise missiles, remotely-piloted-vehicle drones) Rockets are unguided once launched, missiles are rockets with on-board course correction capability of some type (steerig vanes, movable canards, steering / attitudinal “jets” {small controllable secondary exhaust nozzles}, cruise missiles use aerodynamic surfaces to maintain altitude and maneuverability, RPV drones commonly are used as weapon delivery platforms intended to be recovered and reused)

Propellants: pneumatic, tension/torsion, or explosive chemical
(Examples of each being respectively: blowgun / “paintball” marker; elastic band or compressed spring speargun / spring-launcher such as a Piat; firearms / rockets)

loose powder, packeted powder, “soft” cartridge, “hard” cartridge, “caseless”

Muzzle-loading, breech-loading, “external” loading (e.g. speargun or catapult or sling)

Loading style: single-shot, repeating (manual or autoloading/semiautomatic), automatic, internal magazine, revolving magazine, multi-barrel, clip-fed, drum-fed, belt-fed, cassete-fed

Sighting aids / sensor systems: none (“sightless”), bead (“shotgun-style”), post-and-ramp / open (“iron”) sights, closed (“peep” / aperture) sights, optically enhanced: telescopic, infrared, Starlyte, laser-designated, laser-guided

RADAR, SONAR, LIDAR, Magnetic, pressure-differential

Guidance: direct-fire / indirect-fire; unguided / ballistic, ATG (active terminal guidance), wire-guided, radio-guided, actively piloted (suicide pilot / kamikaze), homing (laser “painted”, IR signature, RADAR signature, SONAR signature, other), GPS-designated coordinates; combined

Weapon mounts: hand-held, sling, suspended / hanging, monopod, bipod, tripod, “fixed”, semi-fixed, pintle, wheeled carriage, tracked carriage, skid / ski carriage, sponson, turret, railcar; anti-aircraft, anti-ship, anti-submarine, air-to-air, surface-to-air, air-to-surface, surface-to-surface, “universal”



  • Handguns: Hold-out Pistol, Pistol, Revolver, Auto-Pistol
  • Longarms: Musket, Musketoon, Rifled Musket, Rifle, Carbine
  • Smoothbores: Blunderbuss, Shotgun, Grenade-launcher
  • Military: Submachine Gun, Light Machine Gun (see following, under Machine-Guns), Assault Rifle; grenades, “anarchist”/terrorist bombs, booby traps
  • Specialty: Gyrojet Pistol (and Rifle); Taser, Speargun, duckfoot, riot gun

“Heavy” / “Squad-Support”

  • Swivel Gun
    originally a light cannon or carronade mounted atop a post or ship’s rail, often loaded with small-shot for use in boarding actions. Loaded with chain or “debris”, also effective in attacking an opponent’s rigging and sails. Possibly one direct ancestor of the modern breech-loaded grenade launcher.

    Later developments place very large caliber shotguns, grenade launchers, and even small rocket launchers into this role prior to the broad availability of machine-guns (See Also: Trap Gun)

  • Grenade Launcher (man-portable)
    As a distinct and separate weapon, found in single-shot and pump-action (auto-loading variations tend to be crew-served and emplaced or field-mounted or vehicular-mounted)
  • Volley Gun
    Consisting of multiple barrels capable of being fired simultaneously, volley guns fell into disfavor as machine-guns gained a reputation on the field of battle. Some examples of the type allowed for only partial firing of volleys, giving extended threat / coverage to a lane of approach while other guns in the battery were being reloaded.

    Removable pre-loaded breech-blocks holding fifty or more cartridges appeared in later models, increasing the effective ROF for as long as the supply of loaded blocks held out. In at least one variation, these blocks provided all of the barrel the weapon had and the firing action plus large clamps to hold the block in place made up the “gun”. Another variation on the theme figures prominently in alternate-universe fiction as part of the 1632 universe (created and edited by Eric Flint)

  • Trap Gun
    A gun intended to be used as part of a trap, often fired by a trip wire or some other unattended method. Also used to describe very large bore shotguns used for harvesting migratory birds, in which mode the gun is mounted upon a tripod or other mount allowing pre-aiming at a baited / decoy-populated area. (Such shotguns were never intended for firing from the shoulder, and were almost invariably single-shot and required re-setting the aim after firing.)
  • Light Mortars
    the general designation includes tubes of no more than 81 millimeters diameter; in the World War II era, “knee mortars” provided an alternative to grenade launchers in the squad-support role. Modern light mortar bombs consist of a warhead attached to the top of a propellant charge, most often fired by simply dropping the prepared round into an open tube which has a firing pin at the base. Individual bombs typically have two separate “safeties”, one for the warhead and one for the propellant.
  • Anti-Tank Rifle (man- or semi- portable)
  • Flame Throwers
    1. LIGHT MACHINE-GUN a.k.a. Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW)

      The M249 SAW/LMG in 5.56mm caliber has been the standard LMG in USArmy deployments since 1984CE. Although rated at a Cyclic ROF of 775RPM, it is considered to have a sustained ROF of 50 RPM and a “rapid” ROF of 100 RPM (the typical content of a single belt of ammunition).

      Although the USMC is now opting for the M27 in the SAW role, they too used the M249 for most of 25 years (1984ce through 2009ce, with some remaining in use afterward).

      During World War II, German machine-guns deployed in the “light” role (models MG34 and MG42) had cyclic fire rates in excess of 1300 rpm. The German design decision was biased in favor of high volume bursts in the belief that defenders would only be exposed to the machine-gunner’s fire for very limited amounts of time before going to cover.

    2. Medium Machine Gun
      In some armed service deployments, substantially similar to the deployed LMG except for mount(s) and ammunition supply.
    3. Heavy Machine Gun
      Generally deployed in a larger caliber than the LMG or MMG, with some notable exceptions


  • Land Mines:
    anti-armor (AKA anti-tank),
    “Rommel asparagus”
    (SEE ALSO booby-traps, above)
  • Foxhole
    a simple pit providing cover against incoming fire
  • Trench
    an excavated ditch typically no wider than it is deep, providing relatively hard cover against incoming small arms fire and varying degrees of protection against indirect weapons. A firing step is a raised platform or ledge along the side of the trench nearest the enemy which allows a soldier to use his ranged weapon in direct‑fire aimed mode while maintaining 90% or greater hard cover
  • Bunker
    sense 1 – a field fortification which includes a substantial roof to protect occupants / contents from indirect‑fire weapons and aerial bombardment. The classic bunker includes openings facing the enemy that allow for observation and use of weapons from under cover. Bunkers often serve as emplacements for heavy weapons

    sense 2 – fuel storage areas on a ship, esp. the [u]coal bunkers[/u] on steamships

    sense 3 – a protected storage area, usually roofed / enclosed, for the materiel used in warfare, including particularly such categories as fuel and ammunition

  • Revetments
    raised areas of hard cover used to provide field fortifications; most often include few specific accommodations for active defense (beyond possibly firing steps
  • “Nest”
    a defensive position used by a single weapon or weapon crew. The most commonly seen specific forms are the machine-gun nest and the sniper’s nest
  • Blockhouse
    primarily a thick-walled building with provisions for defensive weapons‑fire through firing ports (a.k.a. Loopholes) or from positions on the roof. On the American frontier, often of roughly equivalent length and width, and often with nearly matching height.
  • Stockade
    sense 1 – (as associated with the American frontier) a fortified enclosure where the exterior walls are made up of log palisades, often with one or more blockhouses included as part of the outer defensive wall

    sense 2 – a military jail

  • Redoubt
    in field fortifications, an area providing hard cover in advance of the main body of troops in a given force. In fixed fortifications, may more often be a fall‑back position outside the primary works / compound
  • Fire Base
    a field fortification intended for long term use, most often associated with artillery in battery or greater strength but usually including a significant infantry presence. Most often has near‑complete encircling cover provided by revetments, ramparts, trenches, etc.
  • Compound, Post, Fort, Fortress
    increasingly larger fortifications
  • Tank trap
  • Fougasse
    an incendiary positional defensive area trap / general‑purpose “installation” producing effects similar to a thermobaric bomb (a.k.a. FAE) by the engineered detonation of a semi-contained flammable gas such as propane or butane; gasoline vapors or a deliberate mist of other flammable liquids may also be used to create the effect. Particularly effective against infantry, cavalry, and “soft” vehicles. Distinctive in that a well‑built fougasse can conceivably be reused multiple times as long as the feed tubes and ignition method are undamaged, repaired, or replaced AND additional tanks of gas are available (as opposed to most explosive‑based mines).


  • Artillery – Heavy Mortar, Spigot Mortar
  • Artillery – Cannon
  • Artillery – Guns: Anti-Tank Gun, Infantry Gun, Multi-Purpose Gun
  • Artillery – Howitzer
  • Artillery – Anti-Aircraft / Area Suppression:
    1. Flak cannon
    2. Rocketry
    3. Missiles
    4. Phalanx
    5. Minigun, Gatling


  • Ram
  • Spar Torpedoes
  • Torpedoes
  • Depth Charges
  • Naval Mines:
    1. Limpet
    2. Magnetic
    3. Tethered
    4. Drift (free-floating)
  • Chains / Booms
  • Anti-Submarine Nets
  • Fireship
  • Q-ship

With a relatively narrow range of exceptions, vehicles CARRY weapons and are not specifically weapons themselves — although “field expedient” usage may still be lethal. (Rolling an AFV track over someone can be fairly darn lethal – cf. Tianamien Square…)

Land Vehicles
Note that the generic types of propulsion are used here, and given greater detail under the Naval Vehicle topics. An exception is for vehicles dependent upon a prepared roadbed / fixed route: trolleys, trains, canal barges being the most-common examples coming to mind.


  • Wagons:
  • Trolleys:
  • Canal / River Barges:


  • Automobiles: Staff Cars, “soft” Scout Cars, etc.
  • Trucks / Lorries
  • Rail Trains
  • Specialty Vehicles: Jeep, HMMMV, “Universal Carrier”

SELF-PROPELLED – “hard” (Armored)

  • Armored Cars a.k.a. “Scout Cars”
  • Armored Personnel Carriers a.k.a. APC
  • Armored Fighting Vehicles a.k.a. “Tanks”
  • Armored Trucks incl. Half-Tracks, Payroll Trucks, etc.
  • Armored Trains / Armored Rail Cars
  • Other Armored Vehicles: Armored Engineering Vehicles, Hum-vee, Armored “Universal Carrier” (a.k.a. Bren carrier), etc.

Naval Vehicles
Sail-driven vessels ultimately span the full range of epochs in this study of weapon systems: under nearly all conceivable circumstances where a planetary surface can support life without major technical insulation (space / environmental / armored suits) – and a good many where Terran-origin life might not survive in the open but which could still be profitably inhabited – the winds will blow and can be harnessed to propel ships. Or other things…

By necessity, Age of Sail examinations should also mention some muscle-powered watercraft that remain of importance even into the Modern era…

  • Rowed/Poled Craft (MAY have sails in addition to oars / paddles / poles): raft, coracle, dugout, pirogue, keelboat, kayak / umiak, canoe, rowboat, liburnian, longboat
  • “Hybrid” Craft (use sails more often than oars, but both are relied upon for the full range of water conditions accessed): barge, galleas, longship (drakkar), galley (monoreme, bireme, trireme, quadrireme, quinquireme), dromund
  • Sailing ships (may occasionally still have long oars known as sweeps, but typically pulled by another oared vessel if the winds fail or the sails are destroyed): galleon, cog, sloop, barkentine, clipper, brigantine, man-o-war, frigate, cutter, etc.


  • Paddle-wheel
    1. Side-wheel
    2. Double Side-wheel
    3. Rear
  • Screw (propellor) drive


  • Direct Drive
  • Usually used to power a screw propeller, although some early or special-purpose vessels powered by IC engines used paddlewheels.

  • Electrical Motor Drives
  • Typically using DC current generated from an array of batteries, EM Drive is the basis for both Hybrid and Nuclear ship’s motive power

  • Hydro-jet Drive
  • The actual propulsion in these vessels is provided by using the engines to drive pumps, and the outflow of the pumps provides thrust.

  • Hybrid Drive
  • Common in pre-nuclear submarines, a combination of IC electrical generation, battery storage, and electric motors to drive the screws (or pumps, if a hydrojet design). In port, external electrical supplies can also be used to recharge the on-board batteries.

technically driven by electricity produced from steam generated by heating a fluid as far as is generally known…

(experimental) siphon drive: water drawn through filters from surrounding environment is flash-heated and expelled through nozzles to produce thrust. Due to environmental concerns, publically believed to have been abandoned as a viable alternative by USNavy.


  • Diving Bell
  • Bathyscape
  • Submarine

Air Vehicles: LTA

Air Vehicles: HTA

Amphibian Vehicles

Ground-Effect Vehicles

  • Hovercraft / GEM (ground-effect machines)
  • Hydrofoils
  • Maglev (fixed-track, “rail”-dependent)

Tri-Phibian Vehicles

Roughing It In (Part II: MEDIEVAL) Weapons Classification and Theory

See Part I for some relevant definitions as to materials and construction

Weaponry in the post-Ancient pre-Modern world increasingly takes advantage of stored energy, as opposed to immediate use of muscles, with a progressive shift towward mechanism and – most importantly – chemical storage/release.

At least in part, the divide between Ancient, Medieval, and Modern weapons follows the development of gunpowder and other explosives more than any single other substance. (Yes, crude black powder existed well before the generally-accepted start of the Medieval period.)

In another way, the progression may be summarized as

  • Ancient: “Fire good, fire pretty”
  • Medieval: “Cannon deliver fire to the masses at the command of kings and the Church”
  • Modern: “Fire may be delivered to the masses wholesale, but it may be more efficient to make retail delivery systems accessible”

Medeival weapons are, as a broad generality, all about being bigger, better, and more lethal. In the realm of gunpowder alone, the progression is from generally inefficient rockets through small inaccurate firearms like the “pot du feu” and thence up the scale to massive artillery pieces such as the bombard.

Polearms: Incresingly elaborate and often increasingly massive. The “ultimate” forms may not be the best-known, but the best-known beat out some of the more complex for various good reasons.

  • Awl Pike – the ultimate “knife on a stick”, in that it was cheap to produce in quantity, easily taught to mass numbers of conscript or other non-professional troops, and when deployed in sufficient numbers able to stand fast in the face of even numerically superior armored cavalry.
  • Halberd: the best known of the “hybrid” polearms, the better control offered by the halberd made it the preferred replacement to the pole-axe, the shorter pole made it more useful in cluttered terrain, and the incorporated spear-point made it a stand-in for pointy-ended offerings like the pike without the pike’s serious problem of becoming a handicap if opponents got past the hedge of points. The relative survival rates of lone pikement as opposed to lone halberdiers did not go unnoticed…
  • Other notable polearms: glaive (“sword-on-a-stick”, with the naginata and nagimaki being Japanese variations on the theme worth noting), guisarme, voulge, bardiche, partisan, bill / billhook, bec de corbin (crow’s beak), and the ever-notable “scythe-blade thingy” (any available agricultural sharpened blade mounted upon a pole, often after being straightened in relationship to the tang)

Axes specifically created for use in battle date to ancient times (survinvg Egyptian examples attest to their existence), but even the lowly wood-cutter’s blade-and stick found effective use in war.

  • Battle-Axe – often had handles reinforced or even replaced by metal.
  • Hand-Axe – usually differentiated from the battle-axe in that they were often expected to either be thrown or used in a parrying role similar to that of some daggers
  • Francisca – the Frankish axe, a multi-role weapon associated with the cavalry of the Franks. With a smallish head and longer handle, extended the reach of the mounted warrior while still allowing use as a thrown weapon. (Reported usage was to charge in, hurling a volley of francisca before drwing swords or ramming home with lances.

In general, a two-edged blade shorter than a sword, but may also include special-purpose items like the stiletto and misericorde (both with negligble edges but murderous points as originally constructed).

While in fact a very broad category of long blades ultimately derived from the knife, the most iconic of medieval swords typically had blades that were double-edged, between two and four feet in length when designed to be used in one hand, and as much as six feet or more when carried two-handed. As with many other forms of weapon, the various elements that make a sword recognizable as a sword varied over time and with intended purpose.

  • Two-edged:
    1. Broadsword
    2. Longsword
    3. Hand-and-a-half (AKA Bastard Sword, sometimes “War-Sword”)
    4. Two-Handed Sword (zweihander, flamberge)
    5. Shortsword
    6. Rapier
    7. Sword-Rapier
  • (primarily) Single-edged:
  • (To improve the point penetration – and removal after a successful thrust – single-edged blades often invlude an often unsharpened “false edge” on the tip portionof the back of the blade. False edges seldom extend more that one-third of the blade’s length.)

    1. Falchion
    2. Cutlass
    3. Saber
    4. Scimitar
    5. Tulwar
    6. Wakizashi
    7. Katana
    8. No-dachi

Non-firearm Artillery and Missile Weapons
The entirety of the Ancient artillery arsenal remained in at least occasional use even as guns were making more and more inroads. The form of catapult known as a trebuchet is often regarded as an advancement of the medieval era, but references to examples have recently been found dating well before 800ce.

The materials used tended to be those immediately available still, and some substances like “Greek fire” became unknown by the end of the medieval timeframe. As transportation systems re-developed in the wake of the Dark Ages in Europe, there were exceptions: naptha was a prized flammable for siege purposes, both in defense and offense.

Crossbows (AKA arbalest) were man-portable, efficient, and took less training time to train for individual soldiers. They also existed in some form since the time of Imperial Rome, although this was yet another area in which Europe “lost” the knowledge or will to produce more. Once re-introduced, religious edicts sought to govern the use of their (perceived) greater lethality. “Arms control” laws are considerably older than many people realize…

Personal Firearms
“Handgonnes” in the very early stages of development generally trailed after developments in artillery. While examples are certainly found prior to 1400ce, wide-scale use of smaller guns exploded over the following two centuries and can be considered largely responsible for much of European colonial expansion successes.


[B]Artillery Firearms[/B]
Beginning with the use of (very inaccurate) rocketry in ancient times. gunpowder artillery developments in many ways battered the medieval way of life into oblivion. With almost-negligible experimental models to the contrary, firearms of the Medieval timefrrame are muzzle-loaded and delivered solid non-explosive projectiles to their targets. Mortars and very early howitzers become the exceptions relatively later on.

For purposes of the current study, consider the Medieval period of firearms to close with the introduction of methods to fire a cannon that do not begin with open flame (the wheel-lock and flint-lock or similar igniters producing sparks, as opposed to the torch or slow-match). Note also that even though available, costs and battlefield expediencies left open-flame cannon-firing a standard up through the American Civil War (1861-65ce).

The improvements in artillery both drove and followed developments in materials science and various design matters throughout the timeframe. Construction methods and materials for the guns themselves spilled over and drew upon other areas where cast metals and alloys were important (bell foundry, cooking vessels; layout of defenses created new models for city planning (the whole notion of a PLANNED city in some ways follows from seeing a city as more than a walled enclosure).

Mortar (and Bomb)
(primitive) Howitzer


Roughing It In: Weapons Classification & Theory (Part I)

(Caveat: I’m not only a writer, I’m an old-school war-gamer… and the following is at best a SUMMARY of the field)

for sake of current argument, “Ancient” includes anything fund or producible prior to the Middle Ages; can also make this as prior to the introduction of the crossbow or gunpowder…(although crossbows may be a bit of a thorny issue with military history purists)

In the ancient category, it is often thought that all weapons are ultimately derived from physical strength and the ability to translate that strength indirectly over distance. (This leaves out fire, poisons/venoms, chemicals, and biological agents – which were also available, but IN GENERAL were still limited to muscle-powered delivery systems, and most often used to increase the damage delivered.)

Indirect in this context means something other than fist-meets-face or equivalent: a weapon is a tool used to apply damage to a target, generally for the ultimate purpose of killing / vanquishing said target, and which protects the attacker from self-damage. (Consider the bare-knuckle fighter and the condition of his own hands AFTER the fight is over. Now, put on the gloves – or cestii…)

Melee Weapons vs. Missile Weapons, and the ammunition concept:
consider the poor cave-man or Neanderthal. Spent a substantial amount of time working on that spear or club or whatever, and know the aurochs he just attacked doesn’t die but DOES carry off the weapon sticking in the hide or tangled with the horns. AND gave Our Caveman a broken rib with one well-placed hoof-kick in the bargain! Much skull-sweat has been expended to justify why it took so long to come up with throwing weapons, and flung weapons. (cf. CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR). A dart or javelin or arrow or slung stone/pellet could strike at range, was cheaper to produce (both in materials and in labor), and could also be carried in multiple numbers for the same weight penalty.

A potential confusion: some weapon-forms may be accomplished with different construction methods. I have indicate at least one such be placing an asterisk after cestus…

“Found” Weapons:
Sticks – club, throwing stick, staff, caber
Stones – rock, thrown rock
Bones & Teeth & Shells – club, “jawbone of an ass”
Vines & other “Flexibles” – snares, ropes

Modifications and Combinations:
shaped/hardened stick – spear, boomerang, cestus*
purposely-fractured stone – knife, other blade/point
Stick-plus-stone – hammer, axe, arrow, spear, war-club
Stick-plus-string – flail, bow
Stone-plus-string – bolas, war yo-yo
Stick-plus-bone/teeth/shells – machuitl, arrow, spear
Complex flexibles – net, bolas, weighted gloves / cestus*, staff-sling

knife-plus-stick – spear, proto-sword, arrow

Metal – naturally occurring lumps, used much like stones but with the advantage that bog-metal usually did not shatter when used as the point of impact

Baked/fired clay – uniform sling shot produced in this way was more consistently accurate than found stones (and if created as a hollow container could deliver liquids or powders to a target…)

Shaped metal – spear/arrow points, chains to replace more vulnerable strings, rivets to assemble a weapon instead of pegs or sinew, etc., cast-lead shot

Metal alloys (bronze, brass, high-carbon iron, etc.)

Forged shaped metal – “true” swords (khopesh, gladius, spatha, proto-scimitar)
(early examples of rapier date to 1800bce, with a thin long pointed blade held in a wooden “stiffener” by rivets / pegs)

Tempered metals – broadsword, longsword, etc.

Various shorter implements were given a greater range and potential for damage (and avoidance of damage!) by being placed at the end of a longer pole. Ancient examples:
Mounted Lance – Sarissa
Foot Lance
Javelin – (spear primarily intended to be thrown); Pilum
proto-Halberd / Pole-Axe

“Flingers” / ammunition delivery systems (typically, ranged weapons):
atl-atl (“spear” throwers)

Notable Other Weaponry / Military Developments

Fortifications – Wall, Gate, etc,

“Greek Fire”
Ship’s Ram
Naval Shearing Blades

purpose-built Warships

Battering Ram
Siege Tower