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In a medieval-like setting, I want to design a few melee weapons (from non-medieval settings) with the following premises :

Each weapon has 2 states : Blank, Wielded. (with a known surface color for each state)

  • Blank = currently waiting for a worthy wielder.
  • Wielded = a chosen is currently wielding its weapon. The color change is significantly different.

Revealing a chosen :

In its Blank state, a weapon is waiting for a worthy wielder.
If the wielder is a chosen when he takes the grip of the weapon with his naked hands, the weapon will change its color.

Characteristics of a weapon :

Aside from the change of color, the weapons have nothing that makes them immensely better than others weapons. We could say that they are made of a very refined metal (or carbon fibers, why not), but they won't last forever.
The weapon can be a little worn out and still keep its color thingy, but past a certain limit of deterioration, it returns to its Blank state forever.

Perks of being chosen :

It has been stated in the most famous legends (in some way) that the weapons exist and each chosen wielder have to take the lead of some important group that worship the weapon. Their name will stay in the history of the group, and the whole scope of the group.
Said group can either be known to the public or not, but everyone should know about the concept of being chosen.
For the people inside that group, the weapon is the tool that will supposedly lead them to fulfillment through the decisions of its wielder, so it's a lot about executive responsibility.

By the way, 1 out of 100 000 persons are chosen, and there exists approximately 10 weapons in total, so you have a 99.99% chance of being not chosen at all (and zero chance of being chosen by 2 different weapons)

If 2 chosen ones are found for one weapon :

When this happens, It's up to the cult to set up a duel between the two potential leaders, nothing else happen around the weapon. It just says to the wielder if he's chosen to lead the group or not.

But how ?

Now is the time to fill in the gaps. No magic, only technology (from our time if possible) :

  • the conditions : What conditions are required to be chosen ? could be a combination of digital prints, DNA sample, added randomness, etc ... but it has to be not too slow while determining the result (~5-10 second)
  • the color : What material can change its color when wielded, given some sort of input ? (grip, electric pulse ?)
  • bonus : the legends Could they persist in history, given that the weapons in themselves aren't that special besides what has been told ?
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  • $\begingroup$ We already have guns that only shot if the finger in the trigger fits a prerrecorded fingerprint $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 May 20 '16 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ For this idea/process you need a decision to be made but you have no entity/consciousness available to make said decision if you don't have either A) Magic, B) an intelligent weapon, or C) Supertech. (A and B are roughly the same, the difference being the weapon has a personality, opinions etc in B) $\endgroup$ – James May 20 '16 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you all for your feedback, I understand now that I left for all of you nothing to work with... So I'll alter the question to make it much less "impossible" $\endgroup$ – Anton May 20 '16 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ As a side note, I just want to point out that editing a question to the point that current answers are invalid is not good practice - please don't do that. $\endgroup$ – Aify May 20 '16 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know about morality judgements, but we could make weapons only work for the owner through biometrics. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B May 21 '16 at 0:35
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I'm confused, Anton. You want the sword to be intelligent, perform some sort of DNA/moral analysis on the hero handling it, keep track of that user's well-being even across vast distances ... but refuse to consider technology and magic. I mean, really?

I'd also like to point out that you tagged your question as both AND !

There's only 2 ways to do this sort of thing: pure magic, or super advanced tech (the kind that we don't even have), both of which break your constraints.

How would a sword left in an armory for 10 years know that its user has died on another continent, for example? Some sort of super crazy nano-technology/AI, or magic. Those are the only two ways.

What you're basically describing is a network on which all these weapons and their users can constantly communicate (maybe unknown to the user). How the heck would you accomplish this? The weapon would have to send nannites into the user's system, somehow asses his DNA/thoughts/whatever, decide that (s)he is worthy, then register him as a user and create a permanent link between them!

Think of modern wireless communications and how much infrastructure it takes to keep it going (satellites, cell-towers, etc.). Now extrapolate on that, because even our networks don't allow for communication in regions which are not covered - yet you want your weapon to always be aware of your user's well-being.

Frankly this is easier explained by magic than a gigantic nano-network spanning the whole planet.

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    $\begingroup$ Any kind of technology is allowed, with a preference from our present time. if the current technology isn't sufficient, could you further describe a way to make the link of life possible ? $\endgroup$ – Anton May 20 '16 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Anton: "Any kind of technology is allowed" You tagged your question "medieval". That's supposed to limit your tech options to what would be available in that general era. $\endgroup$ – Nicol Bolas May 20 '16 at 15:42
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The trick to making the weapon loyal to its current worthy owner (in the absence of a globe-spanning network) is to physically lock the weapon into its owner.

Imagine a suit of combat armor with suitable built-in blades and armaments so that it can itself be considered a weapon...

In BLANK mode, the armor would be empty, but its clasps and fasteners would be closed, making it impossible to enter the armor without opening them. The candidate would need to submit a blood sample to a port on the suit to open the clasps and fasteners.

Once the suit is open, the candidate (or anyone) can climb into the suit and close the clasps and fasteners. At this point, the suit take another blood sample of its occupants and if that occupant is not the same person who opened it, kills them and returns to BLANK mode.

Assuming the occupant survives the second blood test, the suit repeats that blood test periodically to confirm that the occupant is still alive. While the occupant is alive, the suit is in WIELDED mode and the clasps cannot be opened.

The occupants then spends the remainder of their life inside the weaponized suit until they eventually die. Upon the death of its current occupant, the suit returns to BLANK mode and is hopefully found by another worthy candidate before its previous owner rots inside.

There is no LOCKED mode because as AndreiROM has mentioned, that would require a massive communications network and a method for distant health monitoring. In theory, the suit could implement an "ALIVE UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE" policy, in which it lets its owner take it off, but will not accept a new owner until it has been reattached to its owner's corpse or until some maximum life expectancy timespan has been exceeded. These options complicate matters considerably and don't provide the suit with any value. Assuming it is a weapon, it will have been designed to do a particular and lethal job. Giving its wielder time off is not part of that job. LOCKED mode is expensive and non-productive. Skip it.

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  • $\begingroup$ It wouldn't even have to be a full set of armor. Some kind of symbiotic or mechanical bond that attaches to the user and doesn't let go until the user dies. Something like The Blade of Grass from Adventure Time or the Skrill from Earth: Final Conflict. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 May 20 '16 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ I went with a full suit of armor to avoid the inevitable comment that an arm mounted weapon could be cut off at the elbow, leaving a dead arm which would put the weapon back in Blank mode even though its now one-armed former owner was still alive. If however, the weapon took the form of a Skrill wrapped around its owner's throat, that might work. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor May 20 '16 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ That's a good point. It could also work the other way, modify the host so that if the weapon is removed, the wielder dies. This could be by replacing the function of some existing organ like a liver, or by sending roots along the nerves, which decay if the weapon is removed and poison the host. This could actually work for a non attached weapon too. A sword that somehow boosts the wielder, and if they aren't in contact with it on a regular basis then they die. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 May 20 '16 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyD273, That is a great seed for an answer. You should develop it up into a full answer and post it. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor May 20 '16 at 18:43
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The thing about science is that you can always fool it. You want the unworthy to be unable to wield it, and you want the weapon to be unwieldable (properly) without being linked. That is more or less impossible.

Your weapon needs to have some means to detect the worthiness of the potential wielder. If this is done via genetics, that means that all you need to do to fake being "chosen" is to get the DNA of an actual chosen person and put it on there. For example, by killing the last wielder and keeping their blood or whatever around.

A more secure detection of worthiness would be a brain test. That is, direct-neural-interface to the weapon in question. But that can be problematic, since people change. Unless you want "worthiness" to be something which can be gained and lost, it's a problem. Also, whatever DNI technology you're using could be fooled by taking a scan of a "worthy" person and simply playing it back through the interface. If the DNI is part of wielding the weapon (powered armor, for example), then you would simply combine the normal signal from your brain and modulate it to appear "worthy", while still relaying commands.

Similarly, weapon locking to a person is some form of security. And all security is crackable.

You could try to implant something in the person that the weapon would later detect. But all you need to is remove it from that person and implant it within yourself. You could some some advanced nano-tech or something, but again, you can harvest some of that from the person's blood. DNI-based locking would again be forge-able.

The death part is also crackable. When the weapon locks to a user, it must have some way to monitor their life signs. And monitors can be fooled. Implants can be damaged, removed, or destroyed. "Secure" communication methods can be cracked. And so forth.

There is no way to make the system you want, using technology, in a way that is foolproof. The "unworthy" will always find a way to wield it.

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If the weapon had a symbiotic or mechanical bond that could attach to the wearer, then it would be locked to them.

A couple examples of this would be The Blade of Grass from Adventure Time or the Skrill from Earth: Final Conflict.

In order to keep the weapon from being removed, it could also have an effect on the wielder. Say the weapon replaces a biological function, like a mechanical/symbiotic kidney, so that if the weapon (or the limb the weapon is attached to) is removed, then the wielder dies.
Or for a biologically based weapon, it could send roots down the nerves throughout the body, possibly to boost response times, but if the weapon is removed those roots degrade and poison the user.

This could possibly work for a non attached weapon too. A sword that somehow boosts the wielder, and if they aren't in contact with it on a regular basis then they die. Perhaps a toxin/drug that in low doses has beneficial effects, but if withdrawl was sudden then the effects would cause death.

The hard part is how the weapon decides that the bearer is worthy. Without using magic or psychic or things like that, is if it only worked for people of a certain blood line. Say a gene that reacts to the toxin by enhancing strength, instead of causing your lungs to seize.

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The only way to have a 'locked' mode would be if there could be some sort of manual reset. You say each of the weapons represents an important group. Perhaps these groups have found a way to 'cleanse' the weapons of their previous owners, once they have learned of their death, and then hold the weapon until someone else who is worthy comes along.

Alternatively, the lock could simply persist for a year or so without being touched by its wielder (or even if it is touched). This could mean that the wielder would need to remain worthy, and has a new check every year, to ensure their ideals (if it's based on morality) or their physical stature (if it's based on strength) haven't changed since they first picked up the weapon, at which point it will return to a blank state.

Perhaps to explain the existence of such weapons, they could have come from the future, at a point when the weapons could only be wielded by true humans, as opposed to say mutants from a radioactive wasteland, to make sure the weapons are not used by the mutants against humans.

This could then be hand-waved a little to say that only certain humans from the medieval era would be recognized by the weapons from their DNA as humans, as they are further evolved to what the future recognizes as a 'true' human. This would then support it only being wielded by those who are worthy, as they would likely be the strongest, tallest, more evolved humans.

This could also support the fact that they would only come into use more recently, as they could be sent back in time to any era, but earlier mankind would not yet have evolved enough to be recognized by the weapons as humans of the future.

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Most of what you've said is just a game based on names, so the only real powers we have to be aware of is the ability to "not be held by a non-wielder." This is a terribly open ended concept You could use a radiothermal generator to generate power for a long duration (since nobody is going to plug the sword into an outlet at night). You could use DNA or fingerprint testing to identify the owner, and a taser like device to shock those who are "not worthy."

The link to life is a tricky one, because "life" is not a trivial concept for science and technology to try to work with. I'd stick to only detecting whether the wielder is alive or dead when holding the weapon. If it has to happen at a distance, you'd need something like an RF link, which would complicate things (because the power requirements go up dramatically with distance, and all you have is low output radiothermal generators to work wtih).

As for whether they can persist... consider that we aren't even positive Excalibur existed, and yet the name of that famed sword has survived the generations. The mere existence of such a sword would make it even easier.

However, I do have a suggestion: use a dog instead. A well trained dog meets all of your requirements quite nicely, and does so without any technology at all

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  • $\begingroup$ The color-changing is also relevant, not just a game based on names. That's the main power I got from the original post. Maybe it wasn't phrased clearly enough, but this is what I thought was meant by "nobody else can wield the weapon": another person might be able to hold, or even use the weapon, but it would stay blank-colored, and it has no particularly noteworthy qualities as a weapon. The important part is that it can identify "chosen ones" by changing color when they hold it. $\endgroup$ – sumelic May 21 '16 at 3:01
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I find it unfortunate that this question is so downvoted, because it is a very intriguing question. Looking at the revisions, it seems that many people answering have gotten hung up on the "locked" part that used to exist in the question. But to be honest, even that part isn't that complicated.

TL;DR Just make it a (an unwitting) combination lock!

Re-writing the question a little bit

I work in IT, so this might be why I jumped to this initially, but the real question is one of authentication. For anyone but the "authorized," the weapon does nothing, but if the person registers somehow, then the weapon changes a little bit. (Color, power, whatever)

The most commonly come-across authentication method is the password. Anyone who has the password can access the device, and anyone who does not cannot. Passwords can be guessed and cracked, but for the most part are secure. This really only works with electronic devices or a human gate-keeper.

Another version of authentication (this may be the wrong word to use here, but I like its connotations) is the keyed lock. The lock doesn't open unless the proper key is put in, then it opens. Simple enough. And you don't really have to have the actual key persay, just something that fits in the lock properly enough. (like a lockpick)

We are getting closer to what I would imagine a physical device to use. Similar to the keyed lock is the combinational lock. These come in all shapes and sizes, and many can actually have the combination changed. I will try not to post too many pictures, but there are several types of these locks:

  • The circle lock (turn right to a number, left to another number, right to the last number).
  • The "separate digits" lock- most non-keyed luggage and bike locks- the lock has 3-5 rows of numbers or letters, and you turn each of those individually so that the right code lines up.
  • On this one you just move the button on the front up, down, left, and right in the proper order to unlock it. I recently bought one of these, and you can change it to any arbitrary combination of your choosing. It claims to not even have a length limit! (Which seems like magic to me) enter image description here
  • I have seen a version of this one on gates as well: you push the buttons in the proper order. enter image description here

Here's the crux:

Why not add some of the features from these combination locks into your weapon? Tiny buttons that record the way the person grips the weapon, (varying pressures of each finger, where on the grip, etc) little gyroscopes that detect which direction they pick it up, or even motions they make with the weapon within the first few seconds of picking it up are all definitely well-within modern (or even a long time ago) technology. The wielder doesn't even have to know the sword is looking for a combination! These things are all semi-unique to every individual, and the weapon's sensors could definitely have an accuracy such that only 1/100000 (or whatever probability of) people "unlock" the weapon with their natural demeanor.

The downside here is that the way I have worded it here, the people the weapon "selects" would be more-or-less random, which wouldn't work if you wanted it to select certain types of people. Unless it were to select people that carried their bodies and movements in certain ways because they believed in certain things, possibly instilled in their culture by Bene Gesserit missionaries? Haha

It also gives your story a way for a current wielder to select their successor: all they have to do is discover (or be told) that the weapon is looking for a combination, figure out what it is, and tell it to their chosen person!


I was so taken by the authentication part of the question that I have not given much thought to how it would change color, but I thought of both mechanical and chemical. The surface of the weapon could be slightly transparent, and tiny parts inside of it could move out of the way to "unshutter" the color beneath. Or in the same way, a chemical could be released when the weapon is unlocked to change the color of the weapon throughout, but then the reaction would need to be reversed somehow when the weapon is locked - unwielded - again. Needs some more thought, but definitely feasible.

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I think of a solution that could still be possible in medieval times without forcefully modern/futuristic technology: the material the weapons are made of contain a symbiotic organism (let's say the material fell from the sky in a meteorite with the living organism within it).

Being a symbiote, it requires a host to survive, thought it can live a long time by its own with "limited functions", state in wich the symbiote is "blank". When someone touches the weapon, the symbiote checks if the organism fulfills its requirements to survive at full potential, wich is when changes its color. After a while separated from its chosen host, the symbiote has to re-enter its "passive mode". If too much time passes withouth a new host that fulfills its needs, the organism finally dies, staying blank forever.

Now, when the symbiote is at full functions, it can boost the wielder's mental or psychological skills, giving him the wisdom the chosen one needs to take its people to fulfillment.

As for the legends, you can say that whoever made these weapons discovered that the material reacted when it was touched by someone special, thus creating the legend that these weapons help identify "special" people.

Now, if modern technology is a must, this can be covered if the material can only be molded using modern tools (lasers, radiowaves, plasma cutters...), wich was discovered after a long time of studies and tests over this material.

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