Sword Shaped Object
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Basic Information

The "Sword shaped object" (or SSO) is (mostly) a modern phenomenon designed around fantasy merchandising. Broadly, an SSO is, as described, something made to look like a sword but with little or none of the functionality. Often a replica of a cinema prop-sword from a sucessful film, the SSO is intended for display only and will generally be made of a large block of stainless steel for reasons of economy, appearance and ease of maintenance - even if the original prop weapon paid some attention to metallurgical qualities, mass control and balance, the SSO will not. Also, cinematic fantasy blades are prone to extravagant design features and an excess of decoration which will, perforce, be replicated in the display piece. As noted, these pieces are for display only in most cases (even if the manufacturer is foolish enough not to specifically state this), will be hard, if not impossible to sharpen effectively and will be impractical trending towards dangerous if used for cutting practice, let alone sparring. If used for combat, they will prove improvised weapons at best - probably roughly as effective as any other semi-sharp metallic object of the same mass (such as a spade), but may be of some use in intimidating the ignorant.

Historically, there are some examples of blades being made for display only which would seem to be impractical as weapons - and these too might qualify as SSOs, although they would at least have been made by a competent bladesmith, even if he worked them more for appearance than function.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • A decent way to make an attack on PCs less hazardous if their attacker is wielding an SSO - out of place in any setting where swords are a fact of life, but actually quite likely in a modern setting.
  • Likewise the idiot home invader who takes the fancy looking sword off the wall, leaving the homeowner to pick up the dull, unimpressive looking weapon that is actually the live blade he uses for cutting practice.
  • In sword wielding eras, the PCs may have to babysit some effete noble with a beautiful and utterly useless costume sword that he paid a fortune for and is convinced must be an excellent blade due to a misguided belief in effect based pricing.
    • These are also the only things likely to be carried in a noble's court - precisely because they're useless in a fight. PCs will be asked to check their steel at the door.
  • In the modern era, these things are popular with delusional fanbois of various stripes - the last thing you need in a zombie apocalypse is the "help" of some fool who is not only a katana-boi but is living it out with a katana like SSO.
  • Might be useful in a Last Crusade style "pick a sword" challenge - the real Excalibur/Joyeuse/Durandal/Cortana is actually the battered, dirty looking thing with incipient oversharpening that just happens to be magically good at cutting things and killing people.
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