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This question already has an answer here:

Elemental weapons are quite common in video games, and I'm interested in writing those types of weapons in a setting of realistic consequences. However, I am having troubles justifying the existence of "freezing" weapons.

While lightning infused weapons can stop a heart even with a glancing blow and fire infused weapons increases the likelihood of painful and fatal infections, making an enemy very very cold seems underwhelming compared to simply lacerating their muscles, breaking their bones, and having them bleed to death. At the moment, having a frost-infused weapon seems more frivolous than practical.

Assuming that magically infusing a weapon with the ability to absorb heat or stop the ambient motion of molecules (aka destroying the heat) requires an additional investment of either time or materials, why would a freezing weapon be a worthwhile investment for a combatant?

For the sake of simplicity, I am specifically referring to weapons (and, to a lesser extent, tools) of a feudal era civilization. Also, this question is a blatant rewording of this one, which seems to have been put on an indefinite hold for the time being.

Specifying a particularly effective type/shape for a freezing weapon would be appreciated, but I realize that is difficult without specific rules in place.

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marked as duplicate by Aify, ShadoCat, sphennings, Community Jun 1 '18 at 18:41

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure how exactly this breaks the rules, but I'm fairly sure it does... I know having your question on hold sucks, especially since it's dead by the time a verdict is reached, but I don't think reposting is the correct response. $\endgroup$ – Josh Jun 1 '18 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to point out that the rationalization against a freezing weapon is a rationalization against all elemental weapons. So, why does Earth have legends about flaming swords? Possibly because they're scarey and, being unobtainable, suggest unobtainable (and therefore unstoppable) power. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 1 '18 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Josh While I don't think this is against the rules, I do feel like its against the spirit of the rules, so to speak. In retrospect, I should've at least waited a week or so before trying again. I apologize for my hastiness and will try and be more tactful in the future. If you think I should delete this, I will most defiantly consider doing so. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 1 '18 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ @PinionMinion I haven't been here long enough to have the experience to make that kind of call, and I'm not a moderator or anything like that. If you don't hear from anyone else, I'd say you're okay to leave it. For what it's worth, I like the ideas behind your question - I even posted an answer on the first one. I don't think it's too opinion-based. (At least no more than any magic question HAS to be) $\endgroup$ – Josh Jun 1 '18 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ I can think of hundreds of reasons why a freezing weapon would be used, all of which are equally valid. The biggest issue with "why would someone use this" as a question is that it is almost always completely opinion based, and too broad at the same time. I don't think this series of questions is salvageable, but i'm a poor person to ask since I only ask questions here when I am completely stuck. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 1 '18 at 18:10
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No one designs their protective equipment to be resistant against temperatures lower than they naturally find in the environment they are designed to fight in (unless a significant portion of the enemy is equipped with a freeze ray obviously), however they will design protective equipment to withstand more conventional weapons that are heat based or simply have more kenetic energy. this effectively means that low-temperatures are effectively 'work arounds' for most defences in a world where fire and steel have been around a while and so most defences are built to withstand them.

as for what damage it can do well cold temperatures are significantly lethal, firstly they cause brittleness in most iron or steel as well as in many polymers so a "blade of frost" with fast enough heat transfer could turn the opponents nice protective steel plate into lethal metal shards as it hits.

Ice burns (https://www.healthline.com/health/ice-burn) are also a thing, not a very nice one either. a suitably frosty weapon can even kill with them but they are more likely to do superficial surface level damage which will add a bit to "getting shot/stabbed".

If you can reduce someones core temperature (even by a few degrees) either with an ice dagger to the heart or some kind of cold spell then not only can you kill them, but you're also much more likely to temporarily debilitate them. Ever tried running around and fighting after sitting naked in snow for half an hour? its very difficult.

on the flipside of that less intense cold magic could be used to cool off in a battle and avoid overheating (which is a major problem especially for many classic fantasy creature like giants that should really according to the square cube law be exploding and for magically enhanced super metabolisms).

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    $\begingroup$ Huh, freezing could be valuable due to preventative measures being uncommon. That's a nice idea. Ice burns look unpleasant as well, and I imagine getting an ice burn on a internal organ would be problematic to say the least. Do you think cold-infused blade would be more prone to getting stuck in people than ordinary sharp weapons? $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 1 '18 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Ummdustry Assuming your target alloy even is susceptible to low temperature (which is not a given, implied medieval tech level means there is no standardisation), you would have to keep contact between your magical weapon and armour for a long while. Just hitting armour with cold weapon will be the same as hitting with normal or hot one (unless hot one is at million degrees, as those will have enough heat transfer to cause damage by heat, however convection will simply much sooner kill the bearer). $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jun 1 '18 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Miech In the question I said that I was okay with the weapon destroying energy in order to lower temperature, which kinda throws physics out the window. Still, I appreciate the point about prolonged contact. Maybe something like a mancatcher spear would be a logical frost-enchanted device. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 1 '18 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @PinionMinion even with magic, you won't drop below absolute zero, which has about 300 degrees difference against room temperature, which on a split second contact won't do much. Frost "weapon" would be an excellent torture device, but no matter how you slice it, it's little or no improvement over regular weapon. However, if you have "cold stone" which stays cool and has infinite heat capacity, you don't make weapons out of it, that would be dumb. You combine cold stone, hot stone and Carnot engine making infinite source of mechanical energy and go for industrialisation early. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jun 1 '18 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ @PinionMinion I agree with two most upvoted (as of now) answers. It's not a weapon. It's something way, way cooler. A tool. You can create refrigerators to preserve food, easing supply and logistics problems. If can sew shards of it into fabric, creating cool coat worn under armour, vastly improving stamina of your soldiers (if it's a cold day for battle, just leave cool coats in the camp). You could make ice bridges with enough of it (and enough time). You can freeze water soaked wood wedges to break apart stone blocks for construction (bit like it was done with just water and wood). $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jun 1 '18 at 23:49
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As a magic tool, it would be useful to preserve food! In the middle age, the only way they had to preserve food was dehydration using either salt or cold wind. Only where it was really cold they (on top of mountains or close to the poles) they could have used cold. Having a tool that can keep your food frozen would have been very helpful not to die of starvation during winter.

As a weapon, it can be useful to block prays and prisoners from escaping captivity with a reduced chance of killing them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding, ingframin! Nice first answer! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox (both of which require 5 rep to post on) useful. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental Jun 1 '18 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, yeah! I forgot how big the ice trade used to be before refrigeration was invented. Maybe I could justify a weapon as something improvised from a ice house, like a farmer using a pitchfork as a spear. I also like the idea of predators using frost magic instead of poisons that attack the nervous system. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 1 '18 at 15:22
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Burning Damage and the Elements

It's worth noting that the primary damage that comes from Freezing, setting fire to, and arcing electricity to, (and yes, also acid!) is to burn the individual.

In magic settings using the method of burning the individual that they are least resistant to makes sense.

Makeshift Gear

Similar to "summoned" weapons and "summoned" armor Ice could also make for make-shift melee weapons. While it won't stand up to Steel very well, an ice blade can make for a quick advantage in an unarmed fight or a knife fight. Similarly, it could make for a mediocre shield. If it's really hard ice it may even stand up to a couple of blows.

The best of these would be an Ice-Hammer built out of a wood/iron shaft, because even if the ice can't survive due to it's durability, the weight of the ice on the shaft will still make a very effective mace for blunt-force-trauma; except you don't have to carry a heavy mace/hammer all the time, only the shaft.

As a tool

Finally, cold happens to be very useful as a tool for preserving food. You use it every day extensively via your refrigerator and freezer. Given this, old civilizations could more easily stockpile food for various occasions and probably increase their health by having better access to a variety of foods that won't spoil.

EDIT: It can be used in a few other "defensive" applications as well:

  • blocking a bridge/choke-point with an ice wall

  • Patching a ship that has a hole in it. Not only will the ice plug the hole, but also has the property of being less-dense than water (like the wood near it); and the water to be used to patch the ship is coming through the hole right now! How convenient

  • People using Siege Towers or Ladders can simply be blocked by freezing the siege tower shut or walling off the position the ladder was place on

  • Freeze the mechanism of a ballista or catapult to keep it from firing (though this would require accurate "ranged cold" attacks.

  • Patch/Close a door being broken down to hold your defensive fortification longer.

I'm sure dozens of other things could be figured out as well, but this shows it has general uses that are fairly utilitarian. Even if these have overlap with other elements, that just helps to how that they each have viability.

EDIT2:

  • Interestingly, because of the ability to add weight to things, you could make someone else's shield, weapon, etc extremely heavy by adding lots of ice to it. Because of that you could easily disarm opponents or reduce their ability to defend themselves.

  • Similar to the above, freezing their feet in place is pretty alright (assuming they're not so strong to lift their feet anyway.

  • Freezing their helmet closed and fusing it to their armor could quite possibly suffocate them.

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    $\begingroup$ Heh, that makeshift gear seems like it would make a great reveal. "Sir, we spotted the wizard just mopping his porch. We are advancing now." "NO! It's a trap! He's expecting us!" Also, apparently I need to put refrigerators in my medieval town's houses. That's cool. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 1 '18 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @PinionMinion Added some more utilitarian/defensive use cases. Hope that provides some neat ideas for what you're doing! $\endgroup$ – blurry Jun 1 '18 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ Makeshift hammer is not as great idea as you may think. Hammers are made of solid pieces of metal for a reason: no shock absorption. Delivered force depends not on just weight. But also time of contact. Shattering ice will absorb part of the shock, because as parts shatter and splinter, they increase hammer deceleration time (which vastly decreases force) and carry off kinetic energy in all directions. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jun 1 '18 at 17:32
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Curse my enemy! He armored his helicopters!

But my usually good-for-nothing imagineers1 have come up with an interesting solution.

Behold the legacy of my reign! The FREEZE-CANNON!

Bullets no longer pierce the shell of my enemy's helicopters, but now I need only target that spawn-of-two-ugly-mules enemy of mine's helicopters and the fuel solidifies! It's satisfying to watch them drop from the sky like paper weights!

But that's not all! My imagineers have astonishingly outdone themselves this time! If I use two freeze-cannons the crossed-streams will defract to create a substantial area of effect!

That means I can not only make the air around that festering armpit's marching troops so cold they can't breathe, but I can also solidify the Strait of Chutzpah and march my troops right across it! JUSTICE!

BUT! My imagineers tell me if I order now the alignment of our planet with the Unbelievable Nebula will allow them to deliver with my canons the patented Vibratron Destabilizer!

This new and improved destabilizer, when used with the dual cannons, will shatter the cellular bonds within marching troops, causing them to slough off the mortal coil! Literally!

FERTILIZER FOR MY FIELDS!

I must remember to reward my imagineers!


1: A blatant violation of Disney's trademark.

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  • $\begingroup$ This isn't exactly what I was asking for, but boy is it fun to read. Gotta give props for that. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 1 '18 at 15:06
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Direct harm

Hypothermia makes you stupid, weak and lazy. These are ideal traits for an enemy, possibly even better than being in a lot of pain or spasming uncontrollably if you have to be within arms' reach.

Armor getting too cold isn't. Iron, cloth and leather lose a lot of their resilience and flexibility at very cold temperatures. Metal joints can become jammed easily by changing temperature. Fire or electricity on the outside of metal armor might not bother the person inside, but if cold stops him from moving his arms or legs he's out of the fight.

Utility

Frozen mud is a decent fast building material, if you need to do any temporary engineering having a source of cold could be very valuable. Damming rivers or building bridges becomes trivial. An ice fortress that you take the cold from when you leave is a deathtrap as it melts for whoever forced you out.

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  • $\begingroup$ Whoa, instant infrastructure would be absolutely beloved by an army on the move. Out of curiosity, do you think maces and warhammers would be the most likely weapon to enchant, since they already are highly effective against heavy amour? $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 1 '18 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ I would kinda assume the opposite; a hammer already is a solution to armor. Carrying less weight to get the same effect seems like a win, so a sword doing the job of a hammer while still being efficient against unarmored targets would be my guess. $\endgroup$ – user25818 Jun 1 '18 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ This seems like a specificity verses generalist situation, and I can get behind either. Besides, marching with a lightweight enchanted weapon to combat armor would be a lot easier on the shoulder than carrying a sledge a few miles to do the same thing. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 1 '18 at 17:15
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making an enemy very very cold seems underwhelming

It depends on the area of effect (a whole army of sluggish enemy soldiers will give you victory).

It doubles as a non-lethal weapon, if the effect can be modulated (this won't work with fire, and very little with lightning).

Also, the cold is good to stop fires and fire-based spells.

Due to its nature, cold will not trigger some defense spells at all.

And it is the only effective weapon against water elementals, as they are immune to fire unless really powerful, and lighting does not affect them at all.

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Since we are talking magic, we don't have to worry about the heat transfer of a metal weapon. In that case, cold just becomes another damage type. It also can cause specific side effects in certain settings.

In Chinese fantasy novels, it is common for cold to slow opponents down.

In some western novels and video games, it coats a person in ice/frost that must be broken out of.

Even without special effects, very strong localized cold (magical cold) can cause nasty effects. The area around the wound could freeze. The weapon isn't necessarily cold but there is a field around it that is and it freezes anything that passes through it. Since cells rupture when they freeze, this makes the wound track much bigger. Instead of a slice that some stitches can fix, you have a large area of meat slushy. That is much harder to heal.

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