Instrument Of Murder
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I remember everything little thing, as if it happened yesterday
I was barely seventeen, and I once killed a boy with a Fender Guitar

I don't remember if it was a Telecaster or a Stratocaster
But I do remember that it wasn't at all easy

It required the perfect combination of the right power chords
And the precise angle from which to strike!

Meatloaf Wasted Youth

Basic Information

An Instrument of Murder is a musical instrument which has been weaponised for some purpose - actual murder or otherwise. This can be through the pure application of sound, through mystical means or through something as prosaic as using the instrument as a hitting thing (although simply using a regular instrument as an improvised weapon is a bit classless for this context).

In many cases, the effect will be a combination of mysticism and noise - since we are all aware that music has an extremely limited ability to inflict acute damage to humans - for example the Van Zahn violin from the Laundryverse takes advantage of the complicated mathematical patterns inherent in music to work that setting's equivalent of magic and Meatloaf's Fender guitar from the flavour text clearly has "something of the night" about it, based on the subsequent "feeding" that it requires (and its subsequent ability to play notes that he had "never even heard before"). fRPGs also abound with magic-working instruments (especially horns) that can blast, burn and generally wreak havoc. The most common version of the Pied Piper also seems to work magic with - or through - a flute… how much of that is his own ability and how much the flute is unknown. Presumably the ability to play a brown note or similar would also count.

Where the target is non-human, of course, things alter and something that is purely mundane music to humans may be harmful or at least painful - Angel plays up (and for laughs) the effects of music on the inhabitants of Lorne's home dimension and dogs and similar things could also easily be deterred by the right kinds of noise. Gaseous or other non-coherent creatures would also seem prime candidates for noise weapons.

Fantastic settings may also include instruments which simply enhance already magical music related powers - for example, where magic is performed though ritual song, accompanying it on an instrument may focus, enhance or augment it much as a wand is sometimes depicted as a focusing device. Drums, used to drive the rhythm of a ritual dance, might serve as a good example - very thematic for a Vodou like animistic theurgy for example.

Less complicated techniques involve instruments with built in blades, guns or other conventional weapons or even using the bow of a stringed instrument as an actual bow - degrees of credibility may vary.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Ideal for fRPG bards and similar critters.
    • "Spellsingers" like Alan Dean Foster's Jon-Tom also spring to mind.
    • The firehorn of the original Bard's Tale roguelike probably qualifies as well.
  • Useful for any setting in which music and magic are linked - for example any mythos like the Australian Aboriginee where music is the underlying force of creation or the Laundryverse where musical harmonics and advanced mathematics are at the root of magic.
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