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I am building a world where the modern day has collided with fantasy, and I want a situation where firearms are useful against humans and technology, but not against magic and fantastical creatures. I like the idea of knights in kevlared plate with swords fighting these creatures, rather than with firearms.

However, I have a problem. Guns are good. Very good. Compared to melee weapons, a firearm is orders of magnitude better in every context. A single man with an assault rifle can mow down waves of swordsmen. So, what is the reason why firearms can't be used against these creatures?

Parameters:

  1. Magic functionally does not exist for humans, only magical creatures. Some of these creatures may be inherently magical or able to enchant items that humans can use, but humans cannot learn magic.

  2. The fantastical creatures are wide and varied in size, ability and temperament, and are from mythology, fantasy stories, and other sources.

  3. Fantasy materials and general statements about the nature of these creatures are fine, such as "All creatures are weak to ...".

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    $\begingroup$ the classic reason is you need iron or silver weapons. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 14 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ Could do with more info on what the Collision between Modern and Fantasy does. $\endgroup$
    – Malady
    Aug 14 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ bullets do damage by having applying pressure at a point at such a degree that the target's outer shell (skin) punctures, allowing the projectile in to tumble and damage the soft things under the shell. It is like an arrow or a sword thrust. If you can run something through with your Excaliber then you must be able to put a hole through him with your AKM. Because bullet carries more momentum. If you need magic you can just engrave runes on your bullet or rifling. Machine engravement is much more precise and miniature, and much faster than hand engraving. $\endgroup$
    – Faito Dayo
    Aug 14 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ If there's magic, is there a higher deity that perhaps hate humans understanding the world around them and making use of more advanced technology? $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 14 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ @John say hello to silver and iron bullets. $\endgroup$
    – Bartors
    Aug 15 at 7:45

16 Answers 16

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Monsters have a magical aura that makes them extraordinarily durable.

Monsters use magic to make themselves tougher. Chopping through monsters is like chopping through steel. You can do it with very heavy weaponry, but simple bullets tend to just bounce off.

Their claws will also rip through armor like paper, due to the magical enhancements to their sharpness and ripping power.

This is due to their legend. More powerful magical creatures are more powerful due to their long life and many great deeds, which empowers them. New monsters are much easier to slay, unless they have a very great parent which empowered them.

Very old weapons have their own legend and magic.

Older weapons have a magical aura which can pierce monster flesh and resist their strikes. The older and more famous an object the greater the magic it has. Swords, armor, spears and other old weapons can be taken from museums and be used to slay monsters and resist their terrible weapons. Each monster they slay bolsters them, reducing any ancient damage and repairing them.

Monsters are very adaptive to modern architecture.

Monsters have a tendency to hide near humans, using our buildings as nests. This makes using artillery an extremely expensive and extended method to slay them. Knights are a much more effective and humane solution, and the knights themselves tend to build a legend in their items by slaying monsters, and get more able to fight monsters.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like the way this makes over-confidence into a strength. $\endgroup$
    – Jontia
    Aug 15 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ Its a lot easier to shoot through a steel plate than cut through it with a sword. most rifle rounds will penetrate rather thick steel. And its not like 200 year old firearms don't exist. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 15 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ An inch of mild steel will stop most rifle rounds, and a monster could have more than an inch in between anything vital and bullets, and could have tougher than mild steel skin. You might dent their skin, but you won't nick an artery. And op can decide if 200 years is old enough for a legend to form. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Aug 15 at 23:14
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This is a slightly meta interpretation.

A 'collision with fantasy' implies that two separate planes of existence somehow merged (partially). We call that other plane 'fantastical' for a reason, and our physics and those of the other plane, while similar, are not identical. This can have consequences for the behaviour of metals.

For example, for metals to interact with entities of the other plane, they need to be grounded; that is, they need to be directly connected to our plane, through the body of a knight (be it symbolically, or physically, by means of an electrical current).
Bullets simply lack this continuation of our plane.

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Magical creatures cannot be seen at a significant distance. The masquerade veil can only be pierced by the non magical humans once a fantastical creature is within a few feet. This removes the main advantage of a gun, which is accuracy and killing power at a distance. Sure you can blast away at short range but up close the combined attack/defence potential of a bladed weapon means you have a greater chance of avoiding Mutal kill.

TVTropes link: Never bring a gun to a knife fight

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Magical creatures evolved because the core of their magic is a field that acts against kinetic energy

Let's have some outrageous fun with your magic system. Fun I say! Because it comes with a consequence, and that's the best kind.

Your fantasy creatures exist at all because they evolved to enjoy a passive benefit of magic: an aura or field that resists kinetic energy. This makes them susceptible to swords... but not to firearms... and especially not to really big firearms. The heavier or faster something is moving toward them the greater the resistance of the magical field against that object. Try to fire a Howitzer directly at it and the round will stop dead in the air a foot from the beast, then drop harmlessly to the ground. (Well, not so harmless to the dandelion beneath it... but you get my drift.)

But there's a consequence! Your creatures live inside this field which means that in a sand storm the sand blown against them piles up next to them. Yes, it's hard to see in a sand storm. But your fantasy creatures can't see at all because the sand is constantly layering up against that magical field. Your creatures could stand calmly in an F5 tornado... but they'd be blind as bats to everything around them. Until... and here's the fun part, the kinetic energy is reduced and the wall of material built up against the field falls over on them.

Which is a long way of saying your creatures have some pros and cons in battle! They can use this against their enemies by picking up some speed (a giant eagle is a great example) such that they have a temporary impenetrable shield! But it also means they would have trouble (for example) playing a game of baseball because the ball would bounce away or be deflected by the shield. It protects them and gives you the condition you want — guns can't be used against them — but they also can't do what normal terrestrial creatures do. Imagine a magic hart charging through the forest constantly being bounced around as the implied force of the trees due to the speed of the charge activate the field. Which is cool! Because the trees of the world they came from also have magic and, combined, it causes everything to be much more normal. Hah!

You can have a lot of fun with something like this!

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Shooting always turns out like the machine gun scene in Pulp Fiction

It's not that a bullet wouldn't kill a fantasy creature, it's just that you get statistically completely implausible amounts of wobbles, misfires, tumbles, jerks, etc, and a bullet is only likely to strike true 1 in 500 times.

It's presumably due to narrative imperative, Discworld style; storytelling is built into the natural laws of the fantasy world, and hitting unicorns with machine guns is like a small particle quantum tunnelling through some huge potential barrier, or a very high energy chemical species resulting from a multiproduct chemical reaction; it can happen, it's just highly unlikely.

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  • $\begingroup$ huh? I might be remembering the wrong "machine gun" scene. $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Aug 15 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ When Marvin ambushes Jules and Vincent after Vincent eats the drug dealer's burger and shoots him. (Do I have the gun type wrong?) $\endgroup$ Aug 15 at 22:46
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Misalignment

The mundane and fantasy worlds have collided, but they are not perfectly fused. This could be explained to the reader graphically, by someone standing at a table covered with puzzle pieces, some made from thin wood, some from thick styrofoam. If they abruptly jostle some of the pieces together, the smaller pieces of styrofoam will be kicked right up off the surface of the table.

The net result is that any object (cohesive physical force matters!) which is:

  • Of Earthly origin (nonmagical)
  • Small
  • Very rapidly striking an object of magical nature

will be knocked sideways from any impact into the fourth dimension.

Note that this does not seem to protect against ballista bolts, missiles, vehicle ramming attacks, chemical weapons, etc. ... mostly just bullets.

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Option A: Dune-style magic shields which block fast projectiles.

Option B: For some magic reason you need “contact” with the creatures to kill them. Wielding a metal weapon bare handed works, but throw something and it harmlessly glances off the creature.

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Some things came across. Some things didn't.

The elf leaned back in his chair, looking wistfully at his full glass of beer. “Ah, mirvoire,” he sighed. He strummed his lyre, a melancholy and poignant chord. “Had that only come across! If my lyre were left behind, I might make do with a guipar. But I so miss mirvoire.”

“Guitar,” said the human. She turned down the Coleman lantern until its flame was a low gutter; saving propane. Shadows danced over the three of them. “So tell me about mirvoire.”

“Alas, mirvoire!” moaned the elf. The lyre spoke – hope, dance, the green. “How can I tell you of that amazing drink?” The lyre spoke again – celebration and grief, the works of the Elves. The human was surprised to find a tear on her cheek.

The dwarf finished his Lucky Strike in a long drag, wiped his eyes and took the beer from in front of the elf. “I’ve had mirvore. Its pretty good.” He drank half the beer and set the glass back in front of the elf. “This is good too.” He leaned across the table towards the human. His eyes glittered. “Now - what I want to hear about is guns!”

In the merger some things came and some did not. The fantasy world lost things that it had, as did our world. The lacking things are apparently random and one of those things is guns. The people from both worlds make do.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice excerpt, but the OP says "I want a situation where firearms are useful against humans and technology, but not against magic and fantastical creatures". So firearms still need to be there in the world. $\endgroup$ Aug 15 at 10:38
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TVTropes: Guns vs. Swords

Perhaps guns do work, eventually, but swords are better because "Swords do more damage to people!".

Your magical monsters have some sorta regeneration / physical structure / lack of organs, that's good against relatively small volumes of damage, possibly even if dealt relatively quickly, but bad against giant gaps in their skins.

Sort of like an airplane, but smaller?

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  • $\begingroup$ the problem here is guns do a lot more damage, movie logic not withstanding. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 15 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ @John - The type of damage is different, though? Guns mostly deal internal wounds, not external ones? Or do they? My imagination is working, but not sure. $\endgroup$
    – Malady
    Aug 15 at 15:30
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Lead reacts badly in the presence of magical creatures. It fizzles and then falls to the ground, as if rendered magically heavy.

It can be picked up after, but there are obvious problems with trying this with the creature close.

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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately for this idea but fortunately for the environment, lead is becoming less and less common in small arms ammunition due to environmental concerns. Good idea for 20ish years ago though $\endgroup$ Aug 14 at 4:09
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I can't imagine any way to protect a creature against firearms but not swords. But I may suggest making magic creatures immune to any ranged attacks. In this case fighters will resemble knights (use melee weapons and some kind of armour); though not entirely - shotguns, mines and some other modern weapons will still do. You'll have a kind of schwarze reiters.

There're many ways to protect creatures from ranged attacks - it's already been suggested to make them visible at close distance only; you may give them a kind of anti-bullet sphere; some magical creatures may be full of holes (hence, hard to hit with a bullet but easy to swish with a sword).

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Fate magic auras

Magical creatures have fate-magic auras that protect them against attacks. If you shoot them from a distance, you're going to miss, because the wind wasn't right or someone bumped your elbow or an enemy snuck up on you or a hundred different reasons. It took a long time and a lot of lives for humanity to learn this lesson.

Humans have auras too, which don't do much for them normally, but wherever a human aura overlaps with a magical creature aura, the creature's aura gets pushed back. So you can hit them from melee range without bullshit fate magic interfering.

Why not just use a gun in melee range? Well, because it is necessary for your aura to include your weapon too. A human aura will extend over a melee weapon they are holding, if the human has enough affinity with that weapon. But it will not extend to a bullet fired from a gun, even in melee range.

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My personal favourite variation on this was a fantasy book called "Grunts" (by Mary Gentle) where the early interaction was easily failed by a simple spell called "Fail Weapons". Wizards solved it and we ended up with the Special Undead Services (Yo the Snipers!), but in the short term the guns were useless.

It would basically be a chaos type spell where the more moving parts, the more vulnerable a weapon is to being broken by the spell. Springs/strings/pins/tensors/etc break as if under stress.

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While there are many good reasons here, I thought I might add a few of my own. These are ideas I've used myself in more realistic story ideas, where magic meets the modern world.

1. They're too fast/durable

No one uses guns against superheros, and why is that? Because superhumans are too fast or too tough for bullets to work-sometimes, even both apply! Assuming monsters are magically enhanced, and that a weapon has to be of equal or greater magical power to wound a monster, guns just won't work.

Maybe the amount of magic containable in an item is limited by size; bullets are too small to hold the power needed for slaying a dragon, but can be used to kill the smallest kinds of magical vermin, like rat swarms or mutant bugs.

Or maybe magic can only activate and become useful when contacted by a living thing, which gives the magic purpose and direction. Without it, magic is like a hammer lying on the ground; useless until someone picks it up and makes a use for it. Bullets and other projectiles just can't 'hold on' to their given directive long enough after being activated to be useful.

2. Magic shields the monster

Magic is an extension of the creature who owns it, right? So that magical field will try to protect its owner, making every battle a literal grapple with supernatural force. Bullets and missiles simply can't tear through the flow and distortion of energy around the monster, anymore than a bullet can ignore winds between them and the target.

However, if one is up close and personal, with a weapon falling under one's personal influence, the Monster Field's influence is practically negated, as one can more effectively resist the efforts of the interfering magic. It's not magic per se, just physics!

3. Humans Have No Say in The Matter

Why did Irish respect the powers of the Fey, despite knowing they were weak to iron? Because the fairies were tricky and HAD POWER BEYOND THEIR OWN. Humans can't use magic, right? So, if magic is an extension of the user, and can be used to influence the world around them (turning heat in breath into fire for a dragon, or resisting gravity so an owlbear can fly), then the magic-users have a say in the way things work that WE DON'T HAVE.

It's like having no say in politics; the magical creatures are using their combined influence to manipulate physics to prevent the humans from overpowering them, much like how samurai once forbid the use of firearms so their swords and armor wouldn't become useless. They can't alter reality completely, but they can bend and twist and nudge enough to make guns useless against them.

But, this is good as well. Because what if humans have a similar influence? What if being from a nonmagical world allows us to somewhat negate magic around us? So just like we can find ways to work around or take advantage of natural laws, we can find ways to negate or twist magic? What if magical fields don't affect weapons within a human's small field of influence? What if glyphs and runes are still effective if broken, unless a human does the breaking?

Anyway, I hope these ideas help. Your idea is interesting, and I'm excited to see what you come up with!

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All living exist on two overlapping planes simultaneously: the physical and the spiritual.

Humans and natural creatures are primarily physical, but are visible on the spiritual plane and can manifest a spiritual presence with force of will or intense emotions. When doing so, this typically extends to their clothing and held gear.

Fantasy creatures are the mirror of this, so primarily spiritual, but visible on the physical plane and able to manifest physically with force of will or intense emotions.

Bullets, arrows, and other ranged weaponry is strictly in the physical plane after it leaves the presence of the attacker, so will typically pass right through it, or leave it uninjured in any case.

You can have fun with this idea, coming up with exceptions and special cases.

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The Intent to Harm is what actually does the damage.

In a literal sense, "Guns don't kill monsters, people do".

It's the intention of the weapon's wielder to inflict harm that makes it do so against magical creatures.
The sword is the instrument of its wielder's violence.

A gun is also an instrument of violence but a bullet, once dissociated from the one who fired it, lacks something ineffable.
Perhaps it's simply that the bullet and the gun are not the same weapon.
Perhaps the wielder of the gun cannot intuitively see the bullet as something damaging and so it doesn't do the damage it ought to.
Perhaps one needs to form an ontological connection between the two combatants to harm the monsters.

Maybe bullets just don't have the same visceral impact as stabbing a monster with a sword.

Whatever the case. A sword can cut a monster, and a bullet just doesn't do the job.

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