One common trope of RPGs are the "bane weapons". Say, there's this axe that deals more damage to elves, or an arrow that's better at killing dragons. I won't go into detail why in a world, where one item can only have one enchantment, is this a bad idea, so I'll just quote one of my OCs:

Oh, a weapon that's tailored to kill those "pointy-eared bastards", sure it was of much use when the zombies were gnawing away your legs. You must have looked like Rajk László when he saw the ones putting the rope around his neck were of the very same organization he helped to build. Rest in Pepperoni, you racist piece of (beep).

-A protagonist (who happens to be an elf) reviewing the Whoostrad (which is totally not a copyright-free Wuuthrad)

Anyway, the key problem is that a dragon's armor isn't made of dragon, it's made of an organic short-fiber composite, a material that isn't always associated with a dragon. And similarly, a pissed of elf's plate armor is made of plate armor and not elf; so the weapon that only deals extra damage against elves, even though it has to bust through a distinctively not-elf-but-steel plate armor; makes zero sense, or even less.

Yet the Whoostrad does just that, extra damage against elves. On top of that, everything (even the naruto-running titan zombies) have a scientific (though bizarre) explanation here. So, how can this bane weapon be explained with science?

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    $\begingroup$ Depends on how different are your races. Most insecticides are deadly to insects while only moderately irritant to humans. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ Um... Science based? $\endgroup$
    – puppetsock
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ Metal allergies? Works for werewolves. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ We do have such weapons. A small calibre gun suitable for killing small vermin won't be suitable for hunting bears, a bear gun is pretty much useless when hunting water-fowl etc. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ Minor point regarding the examples in the question - both of them seem to say "X's armor isn't unique to X, therefore anit-X weapons don't make sense". Note that this statement narrows a weapon's effectiveness into a single aspect of effectiveness - penetration. It's very possible e.g. that even if an elf and an orc wear identical metal plate armors, a lighter spear will be more effective against the nimble but fragile elf while a heavier one will be a be better against the bulky but slower orc - the first makes it easier to hit the enemy, the second ensures a hit deals enough damage. $\endgroup$
    – G0BLiN
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 20:38

5 Answers 5


Biological warfare

There's kind of a misunderstanding here that needs to be cleared up first. Racial weapons (not racist) weapons originated from tabletop RPGs, where the concept of defense was less 'damage reduction' and more 'evading stuff'. In other words, the slayer property only kicks in when the weapons comes into direct contact with the target. An arrow of dragon slaying only has the magic kick in when it comes into contact with the dragon, it doesn't actually give you a bonus to attack. Bonuses to attack against other races where more of a racial thing, i.e. Dwarves has a bonus against Orcs because Dwarves hate Orcs. That's not to say that there aren't weapons which also give bonuses to hit or armor penetration or whatnot, but because that's the base version, and the one that makes the most sense, I'm going to deal with that.

So we're dealing with a weapon that inflict extra damage against contact. And that means that this was designed specifically against the opponent, which is more or less a case-by-case basis. Elves, for instance, might be thwarted by weapons made out of bronze. Such cheap metals would offend the elves sensibilities. Joking. I meant, of course, a tailored disease on the weapon. Stab the elf, and a disease gets unleashed on them which is tailored against them, or a chemical cocktail specifically designed against their biochemistry. (Poison, basically.)

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    $\begingroup$ Depending what fairy tales your Elves are based on (e.g. the same source as Pratchett's Discworld), iron / steel hurt Elves just by mere proximity or contact, let alone being hit hard with the pointy end. (That wasn't your point at all, and is a specific weakness that doesn't need any special weapon shape to exploit; it's like Enrique's answer about silver against werewolves :P) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ The "defense = avoiding hits" thing is a feature of D&D, but it's by no means universal. There are many other RPGs, both old and new, where armour does provide damage reduction when hit. Even in some versions of D&D, "bane" weapons provide a to-hit bonus as well as a damage bonus against a specified type of enemy. $\endgroup$
    – G_B
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ -1 because your categorization of the "base version" in tabletop RPGs is flawed. E.g.: The earliest version of D&D (1974) has swords that are mostly of the type "Sword +1, +2 vs. Lycanthropes", "Sword +1, +2 vs. Magic-Users and Enchanted Monsters", "Sword +1, +3 vs. Trolls", etc., with the bonus applying to both attack and damage (Monsters and Treasure, p. 23 and 30). The arrow of slaying did not appear until the later Greyhawk supplement (1976; p. 47). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ Suppose I deserve that for misquoting early D&D. I still think my answer works though. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 4:35

Protection doesn't make a weapon senseless it just makes it less efficient.

The main purpose of bullets is to rip apart skin and drive through every single organ that it finds in its way. Now, wearing a kevlar vest doesn't make a gun useless because a rifle can easily destroy that kevlar.

Now, scientifically speaking, those "racial weapons" can totally work even with those examples.

Silver against werewolves / garlic against vampires = Allergic reaction + bleeding.

You can say that the weapon's material causes some sort of weird/unexpected reaction against an specific body/chemical composition.


There may also be a magical aspect to it. Magic is pretty flexible, so there's no need to be science-based here.

However, it strikes me that we already have anti-X weapons in real life, and have for a long time. It is, of course, mostly the fact that our war weapons are anti-human, or anti-horse, or anti-vehicle (where there are many 'subspecies' of vehicle). An M16 is an anti-human weapon. It is based on the observation that previous rifles used a larger bullet than is really necessary. So, they reduced the size of the bullet as far as they could while retaining the capability to reliably kill humans. This means soldiers can carry more bullets, the bullets are cheaper, there's less recoil so subsequent shots are easier, etc etc. Of course, an anti-vehicle 50 caliber rifle works against a human too, and is quite devastating, but your fire rate is going to be significantly lower than an M16, so if you armed all your dudes with those, your army would be less effective.

Everything in an RPG is abstracted, so these little details are accounted for with a damage or to-hit bonus. But it makes total sense that, in a universe with mostly conventional orcs (a bit tougher than humans, not quite as bright) your anti-orc spear would be slightly heavier than your anti-human spear. Elves are quick and nimble but thin skinned, so you probably want a lighter sword for them. Wuuthrad appears to have a great chunk of material missing, presumably to make it lighter.

  • $\begingroup$ This is Skyrim, everything is a ducking paddle! Not as offensive as Monster Hunter, but still... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles Huntin' a great beastie wit'out a big ol' weapon? tha's a paddlin' $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ @ITAlex I hope you get your head bashed in with a mallet in the Battle of Agincourt, that is if cardiac arrest doesn't claim you first. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 20:27

This is less science based and more magic based question. From what you said, you wanted to know "logic of", not "science of" such weapon. I mean, you mentioned ENCHANTMENTS.

As per Dračí Doupě, 1.6 rulebook, at least as far as I remember (can't really find my rulebook now), all the +x weapons, including +2x against ycreatures weapons are weapons possesed by the spirits of the Astral Spheres. Apart from the Spirits of the First Astral Sphere, which have animal-like intelligence, they are sentient entities, with intelligence equal to the level of the Astral Sphere they belong to. However, most of those less intelligent ones (intelligence below 11) are just completely uninterested in mortal beings, so they don't communicate with their wielders. Only the more intelligent ones will be bored/curious enough to eventually reveal themselves to their wielder and strike up conversation.

Thing with the spirits of Astral Spheres is, they come in literally all shapes and sizes. These spirits are existences of infinite possibilities, so even finding spirit with hatred against dragons, or even garden gnomes, if theurmagician is crazy enough to want such spirit, is possible. Some of these spirits simply just are racists. They might just really really hate elves, and thus not only be +5(general), +4 more (+9 total) against elves, but also -7 when used by elf, or they might just really enjoy making elves die and simply not care if one who helps them fulfill their desire to slaughter elves is an elf himself.

Theurmagician who makes a spirit possess a weapon is able to choose which spirit does he want it to be possessed by (unless the dice roll is total failure and he gets his own brain possessed by an parasite spirit larva). As per my previous example, weapon possessed by spirit with effect +5 (general)/ +9 vs elves belongs to 7th (5/1 + 4/2 = 7) astral sphere and thus has intelligence of an average orc or a borderline unintelligent human, but being a spirit creature, it doesn't really care enough to communicate with mortals who swing his weapon around. After all, it only has to possess this weapon for some 1-10 years and then its obligation is fulfilled and it can go back to the Astral Spheres.


The weapons are complex magippowered machines

Magical tiny cameras and machine vision (powered by magic & computed on magical microcontols) spot whoever the flying arrow is about to hit and control how sharp the tip is in the second before it hits it's target (by casting a automatic magic spell).

That elvish slaying axe you mentioned? it has a microphone embedded in it that whenever it detects the target speaking elvish creates a lightning spell that makes it's impact extra painful.

The possibilities are endless, you just need a sensor that's able to detect to a resonable degree what race the target is (vision, smell, sound, magic, etc), and have a magical microcontroller that can cast a spell that affect the weapon

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    $\begingroup$ Such dumb mechanisms could so easily be exploited, "I know where Billy is". If you've played Kindergarten, you know what happens next. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 23:14

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