In Episode 6 I talked about the inclusion of animals in Egyptian mythology, how by looking at Mother Nature we could come up with ideas for characters, their backgrounds, meaning and abilities. This week I wanted to step away from characters and start thinking about the objects and weapons that might be a core part of your game designs. What better to look at for this than the Celtic mythologies, a wide range of myths that included Irish, Scottish, and Welsh stories.
A lot of the mythology from that time period may have been lost due to the Romans destruction of most of the Celtic writings, but there was still a lot of very interesting stories that survived in secret forms hidden from the Romans, or handed down generation to generation. When people are asked about myths and magical objects, the first things that come to mind are King Arthur’s Sword in the stone, the Stone of Scone (aka Stone of Destiny) from Scotland, and the infamous and lipstick covered Blarney stone in Ireland… but there is a lot more to Celtic mythology than a bunch of rocks.
From Ireland comes the tales of Tuatha Dé Danann, the gods that brought four magical items that each had their own powers…
The Dagda’s Cauldron – This medium sized bowl had a very unique power, when food was placed in it, the food never ran out as long as there was people to eat. The food eaten from the cauldron also healed and provided energy to those who ate from it. This sounds like how a lot of video game replenishment works.
The Sword of Light of Nuada – This magic sword was a true double threat, once it was removed from its sheath, it’s glow attracted whoever was within sight of it to come closer, and no one survived its attack.
The Spear of Lugh – This spear was known as the Gáe Assail or “Lightning Spear”. Once thrown it would always return to the hands of the thrower. Just before being thrown, if the word “ibar” was spoke, it ensured the death of the person on the other end of the pointy bit. With this type of power, no battle ever lasted against the holder of the spear.
The Stone of Fal – Much like the Scottish Stone of Destiny, this rock was an important element in the royalty of Ireland. When the rightful King placed his feet on the stone it would roar in approval. It was also told that once it had approved of a new king, that it would rejuvenate and guarantee a long reign. One of the gods names Cúchulainn attempted to place a protégé on the throne, but when it didn’t roar it’s approval, he split the stone in half. Sore loser.
There was a lot of other interesting objects that are scattered in the mythology throughout the Celtic empire, most of them seemed to be weapons for battle. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting ones…
Fragarach sword – This sword was known as the ‘Answerer’, because if it was held to the throat of someone, they could not lie. It was told, that it had additional powers including the ability to cut through walls and shields, and a wound from the sword would never heal.
Caladbolg - This two handed sword was so powerful that when swung in a circle could remove the tops from hills. If you see flat topped hills, that is why.
Gáe Dearg & Gáe Buide - The yellow and red spears used by Diarmuid, depending on the battle he was entering he would choose one spear and one sword to take. Gáe Dearg was known to cause wounds that no man or beast could recover from, and Gáe Buide would deflect all magic sent its way.
Lámthapad - This shield belonging to Conall Cernach was known as “Swift To Hand” because when it was needed it was immediately equipped and ready for battle.
Uaithne - It’s not often that a harp is considered a weapon, but Uaithne was a magical harp belonging to a god named Dagda. If he sang to the harp, it would fly back to him. This became very useful when a rival force known as the Fomorians stole his harp. Dagda sang out, and the harp flew back to him, killing the Fomorians in its path on its way back.
Borabu – This seashell shaped horn was found under a rock, and when it was blown, Fian warriors would travel and assemble from all over Ireland and be ready for battle.
Corrbolg – This magical bag also known as a Crane bag, was made from the skin of a woman who had been transformed into a crane. It was used to store magical items, special treasures, and money. The objects stored inside were only visible when the tide came in, when the tide was out it appeared empty. I picture it being similar to the bag Hermione Granger had in the Harry Potter movies.
Cauldron of Rebirth – This cauldron from Wales was given to the king of Ireland by Bran, “I will give you a cauldron, with the property that if one of your men is killed today, and be placed in the cauldron, then tomorrow he will be as well as he was at his best, except that he will not regain his speech.” ¹
I guess better dumb than dead.
You may recognize some of these names as they have been used as weapon names in many RPG’s. Each of these items brings a unique aspect that has a natural home inside of a game, but really it should spark many more ideas. What weapons, items and powers can you give to your characters to assist them on their quests and adventures? Is there a myth out there that is a great fit for your game idea, or can you use some of those myths to create your own unique elements for your games?
Tune in next time as we look into other cultures and their Mythologies.
Dave Warfield is the Head of Game Design at VFS
¹ Quote from the “Romance of Bronwen” by Lady Charlotte Guest
- Mythology 101: Episode 1 (Roman)
- Mythology 101: Episode 2 (Greek)
- Mythology 101: Episode 3 (Australian Aboriginal)
- Mythology 101: Episode 4 (Chinese)
- Mythology 101: Episode 5 (Dragons)
- Mythology 101: Episode 6 (Egyptian)