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(#11, Version 5.0)
The Priest-Kings have promulgated certain Weapon Laws on Gor. These laws limit the type of arms and armor that Goreans may use or invent. Except for the shield and helmet, no other forms of armor are permitted. There is no chain mail, plate armor or even leather armor on Gor. The leathers worn by tarnsmen and others is not a form of armor. It is more akin to heavy clothing than actual armor and is meant to protect your body from your mount. No weapon more powerful than the lance and crossbow is permitted. Firearms, gunpowder and explosives are forbidden on Gor. Other weapons, like tasers and stun guns are technically possible on Gor but do not exist as weapons. The various types of goads, including the tarn, kailla and slave goads, possess technological principles similar to tasers and stun guns but they are generally not used as weapons. The tarn and kailla goads only cause pain without injury. The slave goad though can kill a person, if its dial is set to the killing point.
The Priest-Kings have numerous space ships that constantly scan the surface of Gor seeking violations of the Weapon Laws. They also have numerous human agents who keep them informed about what is happening. A violation of the Weapon Laws is a capital offense. The Priest-Kings use Flame Death as their method of execution. In the Flame Death, an offender is suddenly vaporized in a flash of blue fire. The Flame Death mechanism is located on a space ship as well. It might take up to a year before you are caught in violation of these laws, but eventually they will get you. The Priest-Kings do not listen to excuses from violators. They simply observe a violator and then execute him.
The Kurii do smuggle some forbidden weaponry to Gor. In general, Kurii on Gor are bound by the same weapon restrictions as all other Goreans. But, the Kurii are willing to risk the Flame Death at times to use certain weapons and they have also be known to supply Goreans with forbidden weapons. For example, in Assassins of Gor, a shipment of firearms is delivered to the House of Cernus. Their ultimate fate is never detailed in that book. Such items would be rare though as the Priest-Kings will eventually locate it and destroy the possessor. You should use such weapons sparingly in your role-play. Even a Kur would be subject to the Flame Death if he was observed using forbidden weaponry.
Shields: The most common Gorean shield is a round shield like those used by the ancient Greeks. The shield is made of concentric, overlapping layers, usually seven, of hardened leather riveted together and bound with hoops of brass. It is fitted with a double sling for carrying on the left arm. It is usually painted boldly with a device to identify your city. Only exiles and outlaws have no shield markings. A shield requires skill to use it properly and this is likely one reason why the Priest-Kings permit their use.
Some of the lands of Gor carry shields of different styles. Wagon Peoples use small, round leather shields that are commonly glossy and lacquered. Turian and Alars shields tend to be oval shaped. Rencers use small shields of rence wicker. The shields of the natives of the jungles near Schendi tend to be long and oval. In the Ukungu region of the jungle, there is commonly a tuft of feathers fastened to one point of the shield. If it is placed at the bottom of the shield it means that you hunt animals. If it is placed at the top, then it means that you hunt humans. The shields of the Red Savages are small, round shields made of the hide of the kailiauk. They are inscribed with medicine signs. It is believed that if they are unworthy or lie, their shields will fail to protect them. The shields of Torvaldsland are circular and wooden.
Helmet: The common Gorean helmet is also like an ancient Greek helmet. It is made of a nearly solid metal, with a "Y" shaped slot for eyes, nose and mouth. Many helmets are cushioned with leather. They may be crested with sleen hair. Most helmets also have a crest plate on the front to affix your crest or symbol. A strike to the head with a sword or other weapon is often fatal. A helmet protects this very vulnerable area and makes the combatants rely more on skill than simply a lucky blow to the head. This is also the same reason why many gladiators in the days of ancient Rome were permitted helmets though often little other armor. The Romans wanted the battles to be tests of skill, not just luck. The Priest-Kings also want Gorean matters to be decided more by skill than luck.
Many of the less civilized lands do not use helmets or have helmets of different styles. The men of Torvaldsland have helmets that are commonly conical with a nose guard that can slip up and down. At the neck and sides, attached by rings, usually hangs a mantle of linked chain. Some of their helmets may also be horned. The Wagon People have conical, fur-rimmed helmets with a net of colored chains over the face. There are only holes in the chains for their eyes.
Short sword: The most common weapon of the Warrior is the gladius, a type of short sword. The gladius is derived from the Earth sword of the same name. The gladius is of Spanish origin and was widely used by the ancient Romans. It is about twenty to twenty-two inches long, double-edged, and well balanced. Its blade is so sharp that it will slice a piece of silk dropped down on it. The gladius is heavy enough to have a considerable striking force in saberlike trajectories but light enough to have some of the swiftness and play of a foil. The gladius is maneuverable enough to work its way behind the guard of a longer, heavier weapon. There are other benefits of a short sword over a longer blade as well. A gladius can clear the scabbard a fraction earlier and that can be vitally important. The short blade can also be moved with greater swiftness than a long blade. It allows you to work close to your opponent. If a swordsman with a longer weapon can not finish a battle in the first thrust or two, he will generally lose the battle. The gladius though is very ineffective, due to its smaller size, when used from the back of a mount such as a tharlarion, tarn or Kaiila.
The speed with which one can draw a sword is especially crucial in many battles. In many combats, the first warrior to draw is often the winner. Warriors learn the habit of drawing their sword each day, ensuring that it comes out smoothly and without incident. This helps work on your speed. It is also done to test the scabbard to ensure that it has not swelled or such. An enemy might also have tightened or fastened your blade in the scabbard by a tiny wooden plug, shim or bit of wire. A quarter of an inch, where hundredths of an Ihn are involved, can be a considerable advantage. Some Warriors may partially draw their blade if they feel combat is imminent. Usually the scabbard strap is hung over the left shoulder so it may be easily discarded in battle. The scabbard is at the left hip to ease the swift across the body draw. In some situations, the scabbard is discarded to prevent it being a hindrance. Warriors also take care of their own swords, not relying on others to do so. They will be the only ones to hone and oil their blades.
Other swords: Some different Gorean cultures use other types of swords those these weapons are much less common in the northern cities. The Alar use the spatha, a long and heavy, double-bladed sword. This is more effective from the back of a tharlarion, a common mount of the Alars. The Alars do use a short sword as well, called the sacramasax. This is similar to the gladius. The men of the Torvaldsland also use a long sword. The scimitar is commonly used in the Tahari. It is a long, curved blade that is effective from the back of a kaiila. There is even a two-handed variety called the scimitarus that is effective from tharlarion back. The saber is almost unknown on Gor as it is regarded as too long and clumsy for the close, sharp combat common to Gorean warriors. The Wagon Peoples rarely use swords.
Non-Existent Swords: A number of Earth swords do not exist in the Gorean novels. Rapiers, epees and foils do not exist. Such fencing is not a normal part of Gorean combat. Katanas and other such oriental swords also do not exist. Though there are Orientals on Gor, there is no evidence that there is a specific oriental culture that would create such weapons. Other types of European weapons such as broadswords, claymores and main-gauches also are foreign to Gor.
Now, it is possible that an Earth person could have a Metal Worker design one of these blades. It would be a rarity. It is also possible that these weapons exist on Gor though they have yet to be mentioned in the books. But, why do you need or want such a blade? Such a blade is against the traditions of Gor. If you wish to role-play like a Gorean, it makes more sense to use their weapons. Why set yourself apart so? Also remember that making such a unique weapon would be very costly. Metal Workers on Gor would be unfamiliar with the weapon so it would take them longer to do so. Would your character be able to afford such a blade?
Crossbow: This is primarily an infantry weapon. It can shoots iron bolts with an initial velocity of about a pasang per second. It has a considerable striking power and can penetrate most shields. It is easier to fire at short ranges but does has a slower rate of fire. It is the Assassin's weapon of choice. There is a calvary crossbow. It has an iron stirrup in which the rider, without dismounting, may insert his foot to gain the leverage to draw the cable back. This is done with the right foot if you are right handed. It is still a slow weapon though. Most Gorean warriors receive training in this weapon. It is a common weapon used on tarn back. Most crossbows are of either the draw or windlass varieties, referring to the method used of drawing back the cable.
Longbow: This is also known as the great bow or peasant bow. It is mostly a peasant weapon and few others, including most warriors, will use it. They look down on the weapon because it is used by the lowly peasant. Yet, it is due to the power of the longbow that many villages are able to successfully defend their Home Stones. It is not well known in Port Kar or Ar but is well known in Thentis and Ko-ro-ba. The Rencers, since the events of Raiders of Gor, have also begun to use the longbow. The longbow is usually made of supple Ka-la-na wood, tipped with notched bosk horn at each end, and loosely strung with hemp whipped with silk. It is the height of a tall man, about six feet or higher. Its back is flat and its belly is half rounded. The bow is about one and a half inches wide and from one and a quarter to one and a twelfth inches thick at its center.
It requires considerable strength to wield and women cannot commonly draw the bow. Many warriors even do no possess the strength to wield it successfully. There is a peasant saying that "…he who can bend the longbow cannot be slave…" (Slave Girl of Gor, p.112) As women cannot do so, it is additional evidence for some that women are meant to be slaves. The longbow has a fast rate of fire. It can fire nineteen arrows in an Ehn, about eighty seconds. Nine arrows can be fired aloft before the first one falls to the ground. It also has a powerful penetrating force. At point blank range, it can be fired completely through a four-inch wooden beam. At two hundred yards, it can pin a man to a wall. At four hundred yards, it can kill a bosk. A typical skilled bowman, not even an expert, is expected to be able to fire nineteen arrows, within an Ehn, into a man-sized target at a range of 250 yards. Each of the arrows must also make what would be a mortal hit.
The longbow does has its disadvantages though. It generally must be used while standing or at least kneeling. This tends to expose the archer more as a potential target. It is very difficult to use from a saddle and impractical in close combat. You cannot keep it loaded like a crossbow. In fact, it is painful to hold the bow drawn for more than an Ehn or two.
Many other varieties of bows exist. Small straight bows are commonly used for hunting qualae, tabuk and slaves. Horn bows are used by the Wagon People, Red Hunters and Torvaldslanders. A hornbow is formed of pieces of split tabuk or bosk horn, bound with sinew. Such bows lack the range and power of the longbow and crossbow. But, at close range, they are very effective. They are also more manageable in close quarters or from the back of a mount. In Torvaldsland, such bows are often used on ships as they can be fired through oar ports. The Wagon Peoples most often use their bows from the saddle. A Wagon Person can fire twenty arrows in half an Ehn. The Red Savages use a small bow and there is no other bow that can match its rate of fire. It is very maneuverable and can be easily concealed.
There are a variety of different arrows used in bows. The sheaf arrow is slightly over a yard long while the flight arrow is about forty inches long. Both are fletched with three half feathers from Vosk gulls. A hunting arrow has a long tapering point that is firmly fastened to the shaft and thus easier to withdraw from the target. A war arrow has an arrowhead base that is angled backwards, forming barbs, or cut straight across, making it more difficult to extract. The head is less firmly attached to the shaft. There are also a variety of arrowhead types. These include such as broad heads, Tuchuk barbed arrowheads and simple pile heads.
Lance: The common lance is about eleven feet long and has a very narrow, lanceolate-shaped blade. The shaft is usually tem wood that is black, supple and strong. There are several varieties of lances. The Wagon Peoples use a kaiila lance, which was designed for kaiilaback and used in hunting and war. The kaiila lance is not couched, but carried in the right fist. It is flexible and light. It is used for thrusting, unlike the battering ram effect of European lances. It can almost be as delicate and swift as a saber. It may even have a rider hook under the point to help dismount opponents. Hunting lances are longer, heavier and thicker than a war lance. Hunting lances are usually undecorated, except for maybe a knot of prairie fleer feathers. Its point is longer and narrower as it must strike deeply to pierce the heart of a kailiauk. Tharlarion lances, are longer and heavier, and used primarily in war. Due to their size, they may be used with a lance rest. Alars often use such lances and use them couched due to their size. Stabbing lances, which are smaller and thicker, are used by some pedestrian nomads. The tarn lances used by the red savages are very similar to the Kaiila lance, though it is longer and more slender. Even the red hunters use hunting lances.
Spear: The spear is a common weapon of the Gorean warrior. The spear is about seven feet long, with a bronze-head about eighteen to twenty inches long. The blade is double-edged. The shaft, commonly made of Ka-la-na wood, is about two inches wide. It is a heavy, stout weapon. It is able to pierce a shield at close quarters or even strike a foot deep into a wooden beam. A couple varieties of spear exist including the pronged urt spear and the marsh spear, also known as the trident. Javelins are also used though the spear is more popular.
Axes: There are a few variety of axes on Gor. The axe of the north areas, like Torvaldslands, is a large, broad ax, with a single curved blade. It has a hammer-like back, of hardened iron. They are quite skilled in its uses. There are many tricks in the use of the ax such as feints, short strokes, using the handle to jab and punch, etc. In the north, it is regarded as clumsiness to have to strike a foe more than twice. The Alars are also wide and known for their skill with the axe. They use the francisca, a heavy, single-bladed war axe.
Other weapons: There are a wide variety of other weapons used on Gor. Many of these weapons are cultural weapons, known to few outsiders. Most common warriors of Gor would not be proficient in the use of these weapons.
Knives: The Hook knife, with its small, thick curved blade, is used in some gladitorial combats. The Sleen knife is a common weapon of the panther girls. There is a type of throwing knife, used in Ar, which is tapered on one side. It is designed for killing. All Tarn Keepers carry such a knife. The panga is a two-foot long, heavy, curve-bladed bush knife. The whip knife is a delicate weapon, unique to Port Kar. It is a whip but set into its final eighteen inches, arranged in sets of four, are twenty thin, narrow blades. Their tips vary. Some have a double-edged blade of seven to eight inches at the tip while others have a stunning lead. Other similar weapons include the curved dagger of Schendi and the Turian dagger. Some people use a sheath to hide a dagger in their sleeve.
Quiva: The quiva is a balanced saddle knife of the Wagon Peoples of the prairies. It is about a foot in length, double edged, and tapers to a daggerlike point. The quiva is used more as a missile weapon than a hand-to-hand weapon. It is not necessary to throw it hard as its sharpness and weight do the work for you. Most quivas are made in Ar and sold in sets of seven, as there are seven sheaths in the kaiila saddles of the Wagon Peoples. The quivas are almost always kept in their saddle sheaths. The quivas are also made differently for each tribe of the Wagon Peoples. Despite the fact that they are manufactured in Ar, the quiva is almost exclusively a weapon of the Wagon People. In the novels, Tarl Cabot is the only non-Wagon Person who ever used a quiva. Tarl even creates a carnival act out of the use of the mysterious quivas, a weapon known to few. The use of quivas outside of the Wagon Peoples should be rare.
Rope: The rope is a weapon commonly used by Gorean warriors. Its primary use is in the capture of slaves and other peoples. These ropes are usually braided leather. The Tuchuks are skilled with the use of the rope.
Cestus: These are spiked leather gauntlets, used primarily in gladiatorial combat. There are also knife gauntlets, which are a bit more deadly, such as the four-bladed dagger cestus of Anango. There is also the hatchet gauntlet of eastern Skjern.
Bola: This is a primary weapon of the Wagon Peoples. It consists of three long straps of leather, about five feet long each, terminating in a leather sack which contains a heavy, round metal weight. If it is thrown low, with its ten foot sweep, it is almost impossible to evade. It can entangle or even break one's legs. If it is thrown higher it can lock your arms to your body. Thrown even higher, it can strangle a man around his neck. The most difficult cast is to the head but a successful hit could crush someone's skull. The Wagon Peoples usually entangle a foe and then kill him with a quiva. Bolas are also used to hunt tumits. There is also a bladed bola used more to kill than to capture.
Staff: This is also primarily a peasant weapon. It is commonly about six feet long and two inches wide. A skilled combatant with a staff can hold his own against most warriors with a sword. Such a staff can be quite agile and nimble in skilled hands. The staff also has practical uses such as an aid in traversing unsteady terrain or to carry suspended baskets. Thus a peasant will often have this weapon handy.
Net and trident: This combination of weapons is the traditional weapon of fishermen of the western shore and islands. The trident may be two or three pronged and is also known as a marsh spear. These are also common weapons in gladiatorial combat. During the days of ancient Rome, these were also common used in their gladiatorial combats.
Red Savages: They use two weapons not common elsewhere on Gor. One is the canphi, a long-handled, stone-bladed tomahawk. The other is the war club, which may have nails or blades in it.
Garrote: This is usually armed with wire to cut a throat. There are two wooden handles at the ends so you can hold it safely. There is also a version without the wire that can be used to capture people without injuring them. One such variety is the girl-capture chain. It has a narrow golden chain that will choke someone without cutting their throat. You can adjust the chain by spinning one of the wooden handles.
Poison: Poison is prohibited by the Warrior and Assassin Codes. It is most commonly a woman's weapon. Some methods of holding poison include fang rings and poison teeth. With a fang ring, you fold your hand into a fist and use your thumb to press a switch. That activates a fang of hollow steel to spring up, the fang holding some type of poison. The teeth are most common in Turia and usually contains ost venom. Ost venom and kanda paste are two of the most commonly used poisons. Ost venom can be made into a powder to poison a drink. Kanda paste can be applied to a weapon. It can also be added to liquids and has been used to poison reservoirs. Free women often conceal poisoned daggers or needles in their clothing. This can make it dangerous to try to collar a free woman.
Gorean poisons are quite deadly and little is said in the novels about antidotes or preventative measures. For example, the bite of an ost leads to death within seconds. That gives one little time to prevent one's death. It is likely that the potency of the poison is lessened to some degree when it is removed from the ost and used as a powder or in a fang ring. You are likely getting a smaller dose of the poison or a more diluted form than from an actual bite. Antidotes could potentially exist though they are not explicit in the books.
Animals: Certain Gorean animals are trained to hunt or attack. The sleen and tarn are two of the more common such animals. There are two less commonly used animals as well, the urt and the vart, similar to the rat and bat of Earth.
Several varieties of the rodent known as the urt exist. The typical urt is sleek and white with three rows of needlelike teeth. They also have tusks that curve up form their jaws and two horns that stick out over their eyes. Most urts are small and could be held in the palm of your hand. Others can range as large as a pony. Some of the varieties include the gliding, ground, leaf, tree, brush, canal and forest urts. Some of the larger urts can be trained to attack and kill.
A vart is a blind, bat-like flying rodent. They are generally small but some get as large as a small dog. They are carnivorous and can strip a carcass in minutes. Another potential danger is that some varts are rabid. On the island of Tyros, there are numerous caves inhabited by varts. The men of Tyros have trained some of these varts to be used as weapons. This appears to be restricted to this island.
Practice Sheathes: Leather practice sheathes, that cover swords, are often used for nonlethal combat and practice. Obviously, these weapons will cause bruises when they hit but they will not cut your skin.
Gunni: These are normally training devices though they may be used in some gladitorial contests. They are curved weights of lead, weighing several pounds, with handles. They are cushioned with cloth. They are capable of breaking through walls or bending iron. They are like boxing gloves filled with lead. The gunnis help to strengthen the muscles of the shoulders, back and arms. When you fight without them, your fists seem to move with blinding speed.
Harpoon: This is a hunting weapon used primarily by the Red Hunters. It is commonly about eight feet long and two and a half inches in diameter. Though most of the shaft is wood the foreshaft is made of bone. The head is set in the foreshaft, drilled by a point of sharpened slate. It is used to hunt sea creatures such as see sleen and whales.
Pike: This pole-arm is sometimes used as a weapon aboard ships.
Whip: Whips are generally not used as weapons but more often as a form of punishment. The normal five-bladed Gorean whip is most often used on female slaves as it has the advantage of leaving a girl's body unmarked. The snake is a more dangerous whip. It is a single-bladed whip of braided leather. It is about eight feet long and half an inch to one inch thick. It may sometimes be set with tiny particles of metal. Such a whip can easily strip the flesh from one's back and could kill its victim. The previously mentioned whip knife of Port Kar is the primary whip used as a weapon.