Forging Montage
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Basic Information

A forging montage is a dramatically significant piece of crafting, wherein a weapon - usually a sword - is manufactured as the viewer watches. This is primarily a cinematic trope, being mostly visual, but can be implemented with slightly more effort in literature … RPGs will struggle even more. Key ingredients involve a forge lit mostly by the glow of firelight and glowing metal and brawny smiths sweating with hammers as the pound the blade into shape.

Badly researched examples will include the blade being cast into shape in a mould - although this is okay for a bronze blade since these were pretty much cast into shape - but with iron, this quite literally gives you cast iron … which is brittle and very poor stuff for blade making and casting steel is a very modern thing. Bonus hilarity is incurred if the casting includes the hilt. Things that look like swords being hammered on an anvil are also unlikely as most of the hammering tends to take place to get it into sword shape in the first place and as for sparks flying everywhere … in reality the sparks that fly from hammered iron tend to be bits of slag - impurities from the smelting process - being driven off. This should have happened long before the iron was selected for making a sword. Clouds of sparks should only be part of the forging process if the smith is working from extremely low grade material such as a bloom that he has smelted himself (not actually that unlikely in a really primitive setting, but would still occur a long time before anything started looking like a sword). Another myth is the slaking of swords in all sorts of bizarre things - especially living humans or their blood - which in reality would ruin the metal. Likewise, (re)making a sword by welding bits of a broken one back together (Professor Tolkien, please call the Faculty of Engineering) will not be good idea without excessive use of magic - the resulting mess might look like a sword but would be a metallurgical disaster and shatter easily along one of its many fault lines, if not on first use then soon thereafter. As above, in most cases melting the bits down and re-casting them will normally ruin the metal as well (Mr Martin, we have our doubts).

Bonus drama can be extracted from the montage if the forging is done by some supernatural character or process - craftsman gods, enslaved titans and similar things and/or not all of the materials that they use are mundane (hence weapons forged from moonlight, thunderbolts (Not to be confused with "thunderbolt iron" - or meteoric iron as it's better known - (although that could be behind at least some legends of weapons forged from thunderbolts) and similar things).

The montage can - and often does - include footage of the finishing and decorating of the weapon, including engraving and insetting of the hilt, binding the grip and frequently plenty of polishing and/or edging with a grinding wheel.

Even if the bizarre slaking meme isn't applied, suitably dark versions may include some kind of sacrifice being fed to the blade at the end of the process.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • For an RPG, a series of fetch quests may be an appropriate alternative - find a smith, find him a suitably impressive workplace and/or payment, fetch the special metal for the blade, fetch the special materials for the finishings, fetch power components for use during the enchantment process and … where necessary … fetch the sacrifice that will provide/pay/awaken the spirit of the blade1.
    • A campaign that pays attention to animistic issues may even have the blade spirit need "fetching" (bonus pun points if the shaman's spirit ally is referred to as a fetch in context). Tracking down an appropriately warlike spirit in the Otherworld might be an adventure in its own right.
      • In David Gemmell's Drenai saga the malevolent - but normally non-villainous - sorceress known mostly as "The Old Woman" - is after the demon resident in the axe Snaga for her own enchantment work, making her relatively helpful in freeing Druss from its influence.
      • Note, however, that a fetish is traditionally made of organic materials: binding a spirit to a metal blade might be harder than it appears.
  • Bernard Cornwell's Last Kingdom includes a montage type scene for the forging of the protagonist's sword Serpent Breath where the author does his traditional "technology briefing" on the process of pattern welding.
  • the cRPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance includes bits of forging montage during the opening tutorial as the McGuffin for a substantial chunk of the main quest is manufactured in front of your eyes.
  • The John Milius version of Conan the Barbarian opens with a forging montage … displaying a good few of the traditional clichés.
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