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efreysson
10-14-2008, 12:25 AM
I'm looking for ways to make special weapons for my world's monster-slayers to use. Silver has long been the material of choice for killing supernatural beasties, in many, many different fictional settings and seems like the obvious choice. BUT, I'm big on making everything in my setting as logic-based as I can make it, so when someone asks a scholar on the otherworldly "But why does silver/copper/redwood/pineapple harm them more than ordinary steel", I need to have an answer ready.

DOES silver have some unique quality to it among metals? And if not, is there some metal or alloy that does?

Smiling Ted
10-14-2008, 12:34 AM
Silver became popular in antiquity for its ornamental properties. That is, it's shiny and pretty; it's easy to "work" - shape into jewelry - because it is soft and easy to heat; and it doesn't oxidize much, so silver jewelry doesn't develop rust or verdigris, and its tarnish can be easily cleaned.

Why it acquired supernatural properties...
The best guess is that because silver and gold didn't rust or corrode, people assumed they were resistant to evil.
Alchemists assumed they were "perfect" metals for that reason.

But these are not the properties you need when you want to kill something.
The US Army uses depleted uranium in its heavy ammunition. It's very dense, penetrates most armor, and is highly poisonous. Those seem like good properties to have in a weapon.
Of course, if you have a medieval world, all your smiths would probably die before they could forge you enough useful uranium weapons...

efreysson
10-14-2008, 01:47 AM
Of course, if you have a medieval world, all your smiths would probably die before they could forge you enough useful uranium weapons...

Yes, it's a low-tech world. Thanks for the history lesson though. :)

Mr Flibble
10-14-2008, 01:52 AM
Ok, so put it like this.

In the bronze age, an iron sword was a 'magic' weapon because it was better
In the iron age, the steel sword was 'magic' because it was so much better.

Depending on your tech level, a new alloy could do the trick ( being more powerful than previous weapons).

Or it could just be that the molecular compound of silver is toxic to that particular beast. In the same way that everyone in my mum's family is allergic to plasters. :)

efreysson
10-14-2008, 02:17 AM
Or it could just be that the molecular compound of silver is toxic to that particular beast. In the same way that everyone in my mum's family is allergic to plasters. :)

Hmm. So, theoretically, could any type of metal or substance be poisonous to a fictional entity? The same way arsenic is poisonous to life on earth? If so, maybe I could diversify: Make, for example, redwood deadly to vampires, silver deadly to shapeshifters, bronze deadly to otherdimensional beings, and so on.

Deb Kinnard
10-14-2008, 03:37 AM
Sure. Whatever poisons your particular fictitious creature is whatever you deem it. If you have multiple sentient beings, by all means: one's sensitive to silver, another to iron, another to titanium. I just hope none of them's allergic to oxygen, otherwise you'll end up with flashfic...

:e2sven:

MagicMan
10-14-2008, 03:38 AM
Hi,

I agree with your last post. You could even weave that into the plot. The MC keeps the denizens alive to test his array of herbs, metals, and liquids on them. In that way, he discovers the material that slays that type of beast. He carries the appropriate weapons, but that can quickly become a burden, not only in having to carry say 10 different weapons, but also remembering which to use.

E.G. The werewolf approaches at an alarming speed, he pulls the crossbow, fires; Oh No; it was the sliver dagger.

The werewolf is upon him, he franticly reaches for the bag, that confound dagger. The teeth clasp his neck, this is a fine end after all his work. The werewolf slumps: he pushes the great weight from his chest to see the flash of silver wobbling in the werewolf's back.

willfulone
10-14-2008, 03:52 AM
Well, in fiction we can create the reality. So, yeah you could make anything work on any beast you need to slay. Alchemy was practiced in many centuries. Your guy could do so and come up with the effects he needs from what he creates. Maybe he makes ONE standard killing thing with his Alchemy weapon he created. It may kill all beasts. Although, I suppose that would be a bit boring in some cases. Although, he could go through levels of weaponery created and as one is successful - you introduce a new being that cannot be killed and he must go back to the drawing board to find the "right" combo to kill all the rest plus the new one. And so on, and so on, etc.

Do you wish one weapon? Do you have the ability to carry multiple weapons throughout and not have it be unbelievable that he would be able to do so?

Good luck!

Christine

hammerklavier
10-14-2008, 04:35 AM
Various elements tended to get mixed into the iron in the process of forging, most commonly carbon and arsenic or nickel. Carbon in the iron is what makes it steel -- makes it hard enough to be useful. Too little carbon and iron is not even as strong as bronze, too much and it is very sharp, but also very brittle. Most sword makers used one of several techniques to get higher carbon content on the outside of the sword with the lower content on the inside.

Nickel would make the sword a little harder and also give it some "stainless" properties. Arsenic didn't have any great intrinsic value in our world, but perhaps in yours.

The Damascus steel, coming from their special forging process had little carbon fibers running all along the blade. What we've come to call carbon nanotubes.

What else would make a good sword besides, brass, bronze, or steel? Titanium would probably be good but it's very hard to forge.

Phoebe H
10-14-2008, 05:02 AM
Silver is the best real-world conductor of electricity. In my fantasy novel, it is also the best conductor of mana...which lends it to all sorts of uses.

benbradley
10-14-2008, 05:02 AM
Hmm. So, theoretically, could any type of metal or substance be poisonous to a fictional entity? The same way arsenic is poisonous to life on earth? If so, maybe I could diversify: Make, for example, redwood deadly to vampires, silver deadly to shapeshifters, bronze deadly to otherdimensional beings, and so on.
I think "logically" something that's toxic to one species is likely to be toxic to another. That's true to a first approximation for most non-biological things. Lead and other "heavy metals" are poisonous. The "Mad Hatter" was mad because felt hats were made using quicksilver (the liquid-at-room-temperature havey metal element Mercury), which is poisonous, and at less-than-deadly doses it affects the nervous system and makes one crazy. That's also how lead kills you, and also depleted uranium if its residual radioactive uranium atoms don't cause cancer first.

For redwoood, how about "dry redwood sawdust blown in a vampire's face kills it." Breathing sawdust is always bad for the lungs for any air-breathing person or beast, but the dust from some wood (I think various hardwoods) is much worse than from others (such as pine). So there could a man at a sawmill milling redwoods, looks over his shoulder and sees a vampire coming up on him, he grabs a handful of sawdust and throws it in the vampire's face who promptly starts coughing and dies. Thus a legend is born.

"Otherdimensional beings" provide an interesting logical conundrum, so there's no telling what could kill them. Perhaps toenail clippings.

RainyDayNinja
10-14-2008, 05:05 AM
Lots of the platinum group metals (ruthenium, osmium, iridium) are very hard and used in alloys for things like pen nibs. They can be found in platinum ore, and are in the insoluble residue left when dissolving platinum in aqua regia (something that would be known to alchemists). Also, iridium is found in much higher concentrations in meteorites, so you could have that angle going for it. You could conceivably forge some very durable weapons from them (although they are notoriously hard to work).

ideagirl
10-14-2008, 05:06 AM
DOES silver have some unique quality to it among metals?

I think it actually has some kind of antiseptic qualities. Google "colloidal silver" to see. Bad things can happen if you use/ingest too much colloidal silver, but my "aunt-in-law" used it to heal a nasty wound on her hand (she almost cut her thumb off by accident), and it healed up incredibly well.

But maybe this is not a quality you want in a "magic weapon" metal! :-)

Maybe you could use something that has magnetic or slightly radioactive qualities...

L M Ashton
10-14-2008, 06:29 AM
My mother, my niece, and I are all allergic to gold. Other people are allergic to nickel or other metals. You could have your monster of choice being severely allergic to whatever metal you choose.

Same with the sawdust thing. I get severe hospitalize-me-now asthma attacks from sawdust. Who's to say that monster of choice doesn't have that happen? And it would be fun to read. :)

StephanieFox
10-14-2008, 06:50 AM
It has to do with free-floating ions that allows it to oxodize in a particular manner, one of the reason that people are allergic to silver more than some other metals. It's considered 'active' rather than 'inert'.

RJK
10-14-2008, 09:10 PM
I think all of the affects you are describing are long term. Yes heavy metals, mercury, sliver, lead, and others will kill you but it may take months or years depending on the dosage. A projectile point, may deliver an ounce or two. This will eventually bring down the beast in a month or so. Meanwhile he's had you for dinner, wrecked the village, captured the maiden, and generally had his way.

You're going to need some magic to bring down the dragon in a one on one fight.

GeorgeK
10-14-2008, 09:35 PM
High velocity lead poisoning will kill most things...oh yeah, low tech world. A ceramic arrowpoint made from pulverized dinosaur bones?

StephanieFox
10-14-2008, 10:20 PM
Make sure that you're not killing off any endangered supernatural beasts.

AZ_Dawn
10-14-2008, 11:28 PM
I think it actually has some kind of antiseptic qualities. Google "colloidal silver" to see. Bad things can happen if you use/ingest too much colloidal silver, but my "aunt-in-law" used it to heal a nasty wound on her hand (she almost cut her thumb off by accident), and it healed up incredibly well.
Specifically, you can get argyria (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argyria). It's not a pretty sight:
Rosemary's Story (http://rosemaryjacobs.com/rose2.html)
Photo of Stan Jones, former senator (http://www.billingsgazette.com/rednews/2002/10/03/build/local/72-candidate_large.inc)
Blue Man Seeks Acceptance (http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=5843725)

Sorry to creepy out you guys.

Mike Martyn
10-15-2008, 02:19 AM
I think it actually has some kind of antiseptic qualities.




snip, snip..

Which is where the phrase "born with a silver spoon in the mouth" came from.

2Wheels
10-16-2008, 05:35 AM
Which is where the phrase "born with a silver spoon in the mouth" came from.

There are silver impregnated wound dressings on the market today--useful against multi-drug resistant organisms. Silver nitrate used to be dropped into the eyes of newborn babies to counter possible infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The romans reportedly kept a silver coin or disc in their drinking water to keep it "fresh" (and keep the bacterial count down). And so on and so on.

Rabe
10-16-2008, 09:35 AM
I never really thought about the silver/supernatural beastie connection. I just sort of figured that because silver is a metal assosciated with the moon or goddess and the supernatural beasties it worked on were also creatures of the moon and/or night that the connection there was obvious.

Perhaps less so. I wonder, though, does silver have any particular affect on mosquitos?

When a person thinks of the vampire legends and what repels them, it turns out that the same substances also seem to repel mosquitos.

Rabe...

Dommo
10-16-2008, 10:01 AM
I'd say uranium would be pretty cool. Depleted uranium is abundant, it's pretty much mixed in with lead wherever lead deposits are. Especially, if it was used for arrowheads or something. It's something that's easily attainable for middle ages as uranium was used to color glass, and with it's penetrative properties, and high density could make for nasty arrows. Unfortunately it's radioactivity is exaggerated, and it really isn't much worse for you than lead is if it's ingested.

As far as other metals, titanium has poor properties as far as blades go. Could make for some good armor though if you could figure out how to process it due to it's strength and light weight. Also, because it's neutral in the body, its not what you'd want to use for arrows, because if the wound is clean, the fragments of titanium won't cause a lethal infection.

If you could ever isolate polonium, THAT would be a nasty weapon edge, especially if used in arrowheads designed to fragment. It's a strong enough alpha particle emitter that it would kill a person within a few days if every little speck wasn't removed from the body. This would be almost impossible with middle ages tech. It'd also be a nasty poison.

Radium could be cool if it was laced into a sword. The sword would glow in the dark for one(a cool shade of yellowish green), maybe the radiation emmited from the blade because of how strong of an emitter radium is, could be deadly to certain kinds of monsters(the medieval people thinking the "light" was what killed them). Plus the weapon would be safe to use as long as it was kept sheathed until you wanted to use it(it's a strong alpha emitter, which should be safe assuming you don't lick the sword).

Mr Flibble
10-16-2008, 04:49 PM
Which is where the phrase "born with a silver spoon in the mouth" came from.

I thought it was because rich people were the only ones who could afford silver spoons, and they were often given as christening presents among the wealthy. ( esp as it means 'rich bugger')