I'm currently just starting development on a scifi world for a game, in which I want to focus on swordplay and melee combat rather than gunplay. I was inspired by seeing the combat system of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and I really want to make something with that style of gameplay. In my world, shield systems have been developed that are extremely advanced. They can stop any projectile/ attack that has enough energy to injure someone from entering, and I'm handwaving that requirement into existence by saying that they redirect the energy- somehow. Some bullets can penetrate shields- anything about 20 mm and up has too much power for a personal shield to handle. Additonally, laser based weapons haven't really been made practical. There are antishield technologies developed, which work by having an anti-shield generator project a field over a weapon. However, antishield technology is newer, and less advanced than shield technology- the generator is about the size of a roll of quarters, and it has to project the shield over a certain area to avoid "power flow issues". This means that any bullet smaller than a 30 mm round is unable to - and bullets of that size are already able to overload shields. This effectively means that swords, daggers, and axes that have been antishield treated are now the weapons of choice. This is especially true due to the nature of antishield fields- they are conducted by the material of the blade, and will arc out of any sharpened edge, making even a butterknife capable of chopping off your toe if you drop it. Sharper edges conduct the field more effectively, so armor is effectively useless. However, that doesn't mean a stick covered in razorblades would be effective- the more edges there are, the weaker the field focusing effect is.

So, what would we see in terms of weapon advancement, now that melee weapons are the weapons of choice once more? I feel like there would be significant differences in terms of modern technology being applied to swords which are being used in a military context. Suggestions as to styles of sword that would benefit from the aforementioned benefits are welcome. Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

Edit: A few things I wanted to clarify- The people in my world are humans, living in a sci-fi environment. They followed the standard history, but at some point developed shield technology very quickly. Now, anti-shield technology is struggling to catch up. That's why guns aren't currently effective- it's a virtual certainty that somebody is going to develop a gun that can counter shields while still being able to be carried by one person, but not in the time scale of the game. As for the combat element, the main combat wouldn't be military, but more focused on fighting against gangs/hired muscle.

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    $\begingroup$ Swords? No, a battle between two armies is not a sum of one-on-one duels. Only in the Roman army did most soldiers carry swords, and the sword was in addition to a lance or spear; and even the Roman army moved away from swords after the 4th century or thereabouts. Almost everywhere else swords were either showy sidearms for officers, or else specialized weapons (for example, for sailors and for some types of cavalry). An army armed with swords will be crushed by a more reasonable army armed with shields and spears. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 15, 2021 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ What is stopping low velocity HE rounds which would allow handheld guns to fire larger calibers to basically lob the round past the shield that then detonate when past the shield? Similar to the way many man-portable anti-tank weapons work, either upon arrival at target or to get the projectile to clear the tube without burning the face off the person shooting it? Shorter range than firearms as we know it but would still outrange any spear. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 15, 2021 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ I would start firing crossbow bolts and arrows with a generator attached or with a wire. Similarly a decently sized shotgun gauge with solid slugs would let people pierce shields. Although decently futuristic armor could catch the slug and make it a ranged blunt force weapon, hence the arrows technique. Although I suspect some people might invest a bit more in grenade launcher systems and deploying 20+mm auto-canons. We used to bring canons to the battlefield, which were more unwieldly than these weapons. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Aug 15, 2021 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ smbc-comics.com/comic/2005-03-29 $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Aug 15, 2021 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ if a roll of quarters sized device will work you can just make guns that work. keep in mind te contact area of a sword is tiny, if you make a sword work you can make a metal arrow that will work. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 16, 2021 at 1:57

5 Answers 5


All advanced tech items are gifts from an advanced species.

Your sword toting he-men are of an Iliad-level bronze age society. That is their native tech. All the fancy shields and batteries are produced and gifted by alien visitors, who dig the bulging biceps and sweaty sheen that hand to hand combat produces. Your people use the tech the same way people in our world use cell phones, with little understanding of how the devices do what they do and no ability whatsoever to duplicate the tech themselves, even in theory.

The aliens would have liked to block weapons altogether and limit your warriors and warrioresses to wrestling. If you meet one (and they are around) it will talk about how great that would be. Alien scientists are working on tech to that end. In the meantime they have provided tech to prevent bullets and ensure battle stays up close and personal.

As regards native tech and weapons advancement might I suggest a huge shield, like that of Ajax, "made of seven cow-hides with a layer of bronze"? Or Goliath with his brass - a "helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders." Maybe Cu Chulaind's barbed spear the Gae Bulg? I read that making such a spear requires sea monster bone, and a witch. Gilgamesh has some sweet weaponry as well including stone tipped arrows, and the Norse gods all had weaponry from that era. There is no shortage of mythological inspiration for bronze aged weapon advancement.


For my answer a few extra rules:

  • both the shield and anti-shield generator dampen explosive combustion and other electrical fields. This prevents the use of scaled up lawnmowers designed against people.
  • an aimed version that disrupts combustion and electrical fields would also need to be present in order to prevent any armored vehicle from a technical to a tank to become the dominating factors on any field. Or bulldozers and reinforced cars for that matter. This would also work to limit things like auto-canon crews dominating the battlefield. Because I would think the skill to operate a 20+mm auto-canon would be far easier than learning to wield a blade properly.

If you want a good idea how difficult your question really is, have a look at how spear-like/polearm weapons evolved:


Each incarnation was designed to combat some tactic or to add one of their own. Like hooks so if your stab misses, you can pull an enemy out of balance and towards your lines into your friend's reach for them to stab. Similarly many weapons were designed for other things. Like the zweihander being designed to simultaneously cut and batter pole-arms out of the way before closing the distance, a job so dangerous that it paid double. Other pole-arms are designed to be dropped onto the enemy formation from up high like a long axe and each blade shape in that figure had its own special technique or use.

As Willk already answered, swords aren't that good. They mostly became known because they were a weapon of the elite who had the time and money to train with them. So in stories it was the sword that was elevated to the masses as the great weapon of the battlefield, while in reality various spear-like weapons have been the most universal weapons on any battlefield. They require much less training to be effective and have more reach. Swords would be a back-up for enemies that get passed your spear-head, which would mean short-swords.

How would your world change? It is supremely difficult to say. If you want that mano-a-mano combat, I suggest adding another rule that makes close-proximity of many shields a problem or something, which would also push spear/pole-arm formations to be less useful.


Why does the diameter of the bullet matter?

I mean, what would happen if I picked up a 90mm, 1kg rock and threw it at someone wearing a personal shield?

A shield that can be overloaded simply by throwing a rock at it would be pretty useless.

I think you'd be better off by basing the threshold on a bullet's kinetic energy, rather than on its diameter.

For reference, the Wikipedia page on shotgun slugs lists kinetic energies in the range of 2000-18000 J. This is probably about what you could expect from a large-caliber gun that can easily be carried and fired by one person. Meanwhile, the Anzio 20mm anti-materiel rifle fires a 20mm bullet with 65000 J of kinetic energy. This is probably close to the upper end of what a man-portable firearm can do. The Anzio is big and heavy, and probably takes two or three soldiers to operate efficiently; but it's not so massive that a lone soldier would be entirely unable to carry it around and use it if he had to.

I'd recommend setting maximum kinetic energy that a personal shield can block to somewhere between 30000-100000 J, depending on whether or not you want them to be able to block rounds from anti-materiel rifles like the Anzio.

With that frame challenge out of the way, let me move on to my actual answer:

Antishield flechettes.

Basically, take an antishield device (a cylinder 25mm in diameter and 70mm long), attach an arrowhead-like blade to the front and a small gunpowder charge to the back, and load it into a gun with a wide enough bore to accept it.

The flechette doesn't need to move very fast, since the antishield device is already capable of cutting through virtually anything. Thus, the flechette doesn't need a large powder charge, and because of that, the gun doesn't need to tolerate a particularly high chamber pressure. A construction similar to modern shotguns (but with a wider barrel) should suffice. If 25mm shotguns aren't already mass-produced in your setting, I'll wager that they will be soon.

But you're not asking what kind of gun would be preferred in your setting; you want to get rid of guns entirely.

To make this happen, you'll need to add a further restriction to your antishield technology.

Maybe the antishield generators are difficult to manufacture, such that using them as bullets would be prohibitively expensive. This won't stop snipers from using them to take out particularly important targets; but it'll at least force the common footsoldier to find another weapon.

Or, maybe antishield generators are fragile devices that would be completely destroyed if shot from a gun capable of launching it any reasonable distance. In this case, people might try using crossbows, which may (or may not- your choice) be able to accelerate the antishield device gently enough for it to survive.

Or, maybe the antishield generator requires a large amount of electricity to function. If your energy storage technology isn't up to snuff, it may not be possible to squeeze an antishield generator and a big enough battery into a package that can fit in a reasonably-sized gun.

In this case, I expect people will try unreasonably-sized guns. Or flechettes with a piezoelectric crystal between the blade and the antishield device, which would ideally convert the device's kinetic energy into electricity when it hits a shield, allowing it to penetrate.

If those don't work, the next best option will likely be the antishield harpoon: A spear with an antishield generator at the tip, launched by an explosive charge, and trailing an electric cable connected to a battery on the wielder's person.

If you somehow do manage to nullify all forms of ranged weaponry, then the weapons of choice on the battlefield will almost certainly be antishield polearms. Many different kinds of polearms were used in Medieval Europe, and I suspect that scifi versions of many of them will be tested, if not mass-produced. The traditional wooden shafts may be replaced with aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber, or something more exotic; the steel blades may be replaced with something lighter, since they don't need to hold an edge, because the antishield effect will be doing all the cutting; and of course each one will be outfitted with an antishield generator.

I don't know exactly what styles of polearms will see the most use; that depends on the details of how your antishield technology works. If the antishield effect requires a sharp edge to focus it, then blunt surfaces (like the "hammer" side of a poleaxe) will be useless. So they'll probably lean toward blades and spikes. Antishield halberds, perhaps.

Soldiers will also carry antishield swords and daggers, but only as sidearms. These will be backup weapons that the soldier can fall back on if their polearm breaks, or is damaged by an enemy's polearm, or runs out of power, or if they drop it, or if an enemy soldier manages to get past the polearm's blade, or if an enemy gets knocked down and needs to be killed quickly before they can get back up.

If you really want people to fight using swords specifically, then take the fights off the battlefield. Swords and knives are great self-defense weapons when handguns are unavailable. If you get mugged in a dark alley, you'll hope that you have some kind of weapon on you that can penetrate the mugger's shield.

Or, perhaps your culture uses judicial duels to resolve disputes, and requires them to be carried out using swords or other melee weapons of a certain length.

This all assumes that antishield weapons are resistant, if not entirely immune, to being cut by other antishield weapons. If antishield weapons can cut each other just as easily as they cut everything else, then I think spears will be preferred over other melee weapons, since it'll be more difficult for your enemy to cut a spear that you're thrusting at them with their own antishield blade than it would be for them to cut a sword or axe that you're slashing at them.

To defend against antishield spears, people might try "shields" comprised of several spinning antishield blades, like a handheld lawnmower blade, perhaps with a non-sharpened ring around the edge to reduce the likelihood of shredding yourself or your allies by accident. The idea is to chop incoming spears to bits before they have a chance to touch you.

Perhaps this device could be mounted onto the spears, with the spinning blades orbiting around the shaft of the spear somewhere near the tip. This would get the dangerous lawnmower blade even farther away from the wielder, further reducing the likelihood of accidents.

  • $\begingroup$ Dont forget to add rules against electric/combustion devices. You dont want a car with an anti-shield blade and reinforced front to mow through your soldiers (images.app.goo.gl/otrJhXmDAYWW8hq5A), or an upsized lawnmower to become the most used weapon. If not any car with a 20+mm gun on top. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Aug 16, 2021 at 7:58

Spears, Halberds, and Shaolin Spades

Not only are spears the hand weapon of choice for all ancient fighting forces from stone age tribesmen to the pike&shotte era and beyond (a pike is just a long spear, a musket with bayonet is just a spear) but spears maximize "cutting edge" compared to a sword. At least, if a point counts as a "edge" which conducts your antishield ability. Not only is it better than a sword in terms of reach (helpful on defence and for overwhelming a person via making them deal with multiple attackers) but a spear can have a very small "cutting edge" compared to a sword. Since your antishield works on the inverse of edge, spears seem like the obvious winner.

If "point" doesn't have enough surface area or the blade needs to be a certain minimum width, my next suggestion would be halberd. Again, it gives you reach, though with less ability to "stack" combatants than the spear.

As a "sidearm" weapon axes might take precedence over swords because of your antishield working better the fewer/smaller the edge.

For more esoteric weaponry you might see things like a shaolin spade come into widespread use. That's assuming again that a point doesn't conduct the antishield coating well enough. So you'd want something with arbitrary width-of-edge that can still be "stabbed" at your opponent. A shaolin spade with a single blade-end (presumably the non-crescent one) would allow warriors thusly equipped to still function like spearmen.



Your description of the shields involve projectiles, and there's no mention of in-built oxygen supplies, so presumably gas molecules are allowed passage. So if you enter combat by dispersing an anesthetic (or neurotoxic) gas for which you've already taken the antidote, your opponents are going to be at immediate disadvantage, so you'd likely see an arms race of gas protections, antidotes, and more pervasive gases.

The Chechnyan theatre incident involved a chemical agent that incapacitated those who breathed it (or possibly even came in contact with it). VX, arguably the most famous nerve agent, doesn't even need to be inhaled. If major pressure was introduced (via the shields) to find more effective gases, you can bet a lot of things like the Green Hornet's gas gun would start appearing.


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