Sometime in the early 1980’s my family got its first computer–the amazing Apple II. Although making bespoke cards for grandma on the daisywheel printer and struggling unsuccessfully with the grammar of DOS was exciting, nothing about the high-tech wonder was as thrilling as the promise of epic medieval adventure! Somehow, I obtained a pirate copy of Ultima II and soon I was off to save the minimally rendered realm!
Unfortunately, as a computer pirate, I lacked a map or any instructions, and my piteous little pixelated knight died naked and unarmed many a time before I finally figured out how to enter a town and haggle with a virtual arms dealer. Then, with my meager stock of gold, I was able to purchase a bargain level mace…but I had no idea what that was.
“What’s mace?” I asked my mother.
“It is a spice used for fancy cookies” she responded. However, after giving away my precious 3 GP for such a thing, I was entirely unsatisfied with the answer.
“No, it’s supposed to be a weapon. I want to know about mace the weapon!” I desperately begged.
“Hmm, I guess it’s also a sort of spray that women use to fend off muggers.”
The graphics of Ultima II relied heavily on the power of imagination: combat was rendered as a momentary glowing halo, but the finer details of carnage (and weaponry) were not pictured. As I imagined my fearless warrior spraying pepper spray in the eyes of marauding orcs, the joy of the game was greatly diminished. I nearly gave up on role-playing games altogether before I remembered the huge and fraying Webster’s unabridged dictionary (the ultimate vessel of human knowledge in those dim pre-internet days when we lived far from any library or bookstore).
Webster’s saved my faith in computerized role-playing games: it turns out a mace is a war club, typically with spikes or flanges (as well as also being a “rod of office”…and a spice…and a spray). In fact the primitive brutality of the concept has appealed to humankind for a long, long time. Some of the most ancient weapons from the palace-cities of Mesopotamia are maces, and, as our mastery of materials improved, so too did our spiked clubs.
Although it has been a long time since I saved the world from the wicked sorceress Minax (or even played any computer game at all), my love of all things gothic remains unabated. Here therefore is a gallery of fancy gothic maces which should satisfy any eldritch death knight or priggish paladin.
I must say they look quite formidable! My ten year old self would have been delighted to know how scary and pretty the mace could be. But the years have mellowed me greatly. Now I might be tempted to try baking some of those fancy spice cookies and offering them to the orcs first….