Urban fantasy has its fun points, but it can also get a little bit annoying to balance magic and technology. Questions often come up on: “Why use magic when you can use tech?” and such like that. I’ve been told that’s why cyberpunk + fantasy might not work as well, however I personally disagree with all of my heart. There’s been so many ways magic and technology have been written together, something I find intriguing.
Today I’d like to discuss a specific subject–weapons. Now, as a disclaimer, I’m not a weapons expert, nor have I ever been in combat before. I’m approaching this from the view of an average reader & writer in the fantasy genre, which will be most folks reading this. I do recommend, if you’re going to deep dive into weaponry, speaking with an expert or doing a massive amount of research before implementing them in great detail.
This article will be giving some ideas on how you could implement weaponry in a general sense that doesn’t completely make either melee weapons or magic useless. I now have two urban fantasy worlds I’ve written, but I approached it differently in both. In my Vampire Wars universe, I make it so that guns don’t do much damage to vamps, who eventually become dominant species. They’d slowly been taking over anyhow, meaning most guns wouldn’t be available to the general public once all-out war broke out. The few powerful guns in circulation might be able to kill a few vampires, but that’s also not taking their magic into account.
In my books, the magic is simply too powerful for regular guns. There’s also forcefields that magic is much more effective at piercing than actual weaponry. Once you pierce that shield, you’re better off using melee weapons at that point. Especially if that weapon is silver, which slows healing for my vampires. Here’s the ideas for you–overpowering your magic, reducing the amount of modern weapons that would be available (typically for dystopic stories, granted), and making forcefields best pierced by magic as opposed to guns.
As of now, I have an unpublished manuscript that I also needed to consider modern weapons for. I used forcefields in a more complex manner–that is, metals that commonly make bullets typically can’t pierce them easily at all (or be enchanted to do so), but more rare metals technically could. As such, again, melee weapons and spells are far more common, and high-power ranged stuff is rare. Also, you’ll be targeted by those with strong magic if you have an ‘overpowered weapon’, some of which have more powerful magic than the weapon itself, due to the culture of favoring magic or melee combat. (Bows & arrows are fine too, you can enchant those more easily than bullets to pierce shields.)
There’s plenty of ways to inject lore into your urban fantasy to make guns less useful or even completely useless. There’s cool ways to make guns magical and interesting in urban fantasy works, but I think the best way to go about that is to ‘level up’ your weapon. That is, making long-term additions that allow them to be able to face off against magic users without being useless. Your ‘nerfs’ to guns might only apply to the baseline weapons at that point, but enchantments could make a lot of difference and take a lot of work.
Good luck with your writing, and I hope this was enlightening as to how you might be able to not push aside melee weapons or magic in modern combat!