Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vampires and Werewolves: How Much of the Weapon Needs to be Silver/Wood?

Basically what the title says. :)

Some examples:

Does the whole blade of a sword have to be silver/silvered, or just the edges/point?

What about an arrow? Does the whole thing have to be solid silver, just the head, or the shaft coated?

Speaking of arrows, do thy work as stakes? Does the whole the thing have to be wood? What if it's completely covered in metal, but a wooden core?


  1. A lot depends on the kind of world you're imagining, which actual legends, literature, or films you're following, and how/why these things work the way they do.

    Many people work from a "rationalist fantasy" perspective: silver is some kind of poison to werewolves, and wood is a poison to vampires. In that interpretation, it might make sense to say that a two-layered item only has the effect of the outer layer, shielding the victim from the inner layer. So, a silver coating on a weapon makes it dangerous to werewolves, but a silver-coated wooden stake won't harm a vampire.

    On the other hand, the original legends were more symbolic or mythic than rationalist. I opt for that approach: the act of making a silver weapon is a ritual act, and that's why the weapon harms a werewolf; natural silver nuggets thrown from a sling would do nothing except insult the werewolf.

    Originally, the wooden stake used to kill a vampire was again part of a ritual; it had to specifically be carved with the intent of driving it into a vampire's heart. A random stick does nothing except annoy the vamp.

  2. I think I more or less stand with Talysman on this one. I'd tend to think an item of silver needed to be forged with killing werewolves in mind. Similar with a stake.

  3. Talysman & Trey have it covered nicely, but one other thing to consider is that if silver is magically toxic to a lycanthrope, then those silver nuggets lobbed at them up above ought to have done some damage--unless you need to use that particular substance (for its Lunar Correspondence) and work it into a weapon (act of will/ritual) in order to fashion the means to damage/destroy the lycanthrope.

    Just slathering on a coat of silver paint might work for Kolchak in a post-modern horror tale, but it leaves a lot to be desired in a fantasy rpg setting...unless you're playing in an old abandoned play house and the creature is a suitably tragic victim 9in the highest Shatner-esque sense of over-acting) and you take it from there--though I'd still insist that the weapon be some significant prop from the monster/victim/angst-magnet's most famous performance, etc. It's all about correspondences and context. You can make just about anything work once, the second time around, maybe not so much...

  4. I usually look at lycanthropy as a blood and body fluids-borne contagion, and the action of silver against it as a consequence of the anti-microbial actions of the substance itself, in which case the silver actually needs to be in contact with the infected individual, but intent or magical working is not required for the silver to have an effect. The same idea applies to garlic (anti-microbial as well as a blood thinner) with vampirism.

    Vampires derive their power from blood, so it makes sense that the only thing that would kill them would be physically stopping the circulation of blood, by staking the heart, immobilizing it and ruining it as a pump. There has been some discussion of vampiric immortality as a demonic corruption or mockery of the Christian sacrament of Communion, and the stake through the heart being symbolic of this being destroyed through the power of the crucifixion, the stake, like the cross, being made of wood, and symbolizing the power of self-sacrifice demonstrated on the cross defeating the selfishness of the vampire's sacrifice of others. The vampire sacrifices others in order to conquer death himself, while the Christ, who would have otherwise never experienced death, sacrifices himself to conquer death for others.

    As an interesting side note, there are some interesting parallels between classical descriptions of vampirism and a group of genetic illnesses called porphyria, although porphyria is not transmissible, and its victims don't seek out the blood of others.

    Great questions.