Fantasy Skills


by Raymond M. Coulombe

You’ve seen this Fantasy character before, the one who’s good with knives. They go by many names and guises, but their big claim to fame is knives. It’s not just that they are knife fighters; they are skilled with throwing knives. From books and movies we get the impression that a thrown knife is a really effective weapon.

In reality, not so much. There are a couple of problems with throwing knives. The first thing is that you’ve just thrown away your weapon. A knife is a perfectly good weapon, why throw it away? You are much more likely to actually accomplish something by stabbing someone than throwing a knife at them.

It’s hard to throw a knife. I know, I’m pretty good at it. One of the problems is getting the knife to flip properly so it hits the target blade first. Professional knife throwers throw from the same distance over and over again. They learn the best distance to get the flip right and stick with it.

Once they have the flip right, they can concentrate on accuracy. It takes a lot of practice to hit a target with any accuracy. That’s practicing from a known distance. Then you need a knife that is heavy enough and can be thrown with enough force to actually do some damage.

My dad and uncle taught me how to throw knives. It’s a skill they developed from childhood. It’s a fun sport, but not a practical way to kill something. However, my uncle, while hunting, once killed a rabbit with a thrown knife. It was an amazing throw that hit the animal right in the head. My uncle got the flip wrong and the rabbit was killed by the heavy handle of the hunting knife. Rabbits aren’t particularly durable -unlike Orcs.

Our Fantasy hero picks up random knives, throws them from various distances, and consistently causes mortal wounds. That’s not skill. That’s magic.

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1 Comment

  1. Eh.

    I don’t mind it as a trope. If you’ve established the character as an expert with it, and you don’t have them punching through plate armor with thrown knives, I can suspend my disbelief. It wouldn’t be Fafhrd and the Mouser without some thrown daggers.

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