Taken from my post at my blog
(The blog version has pictures too)
Weapons tend to be a big part of an RPGs battle system, and usually there are plenty items out there to collect. However, I have seen some people say "I can't think of names for weapons", and then make a forum topic for it. Well, it's not other peoples responsibility to do the research FOR you. I will not give you a big list of weapon names, but rather some approaches on how you can get weapon names to use. It applies well to Armor as well.
First off, what setting does your game take place in? Simply by having an idea of what setting you're working in, you will likely have a collection of weapons to use. Not every game is directly inspired by a real world culture, but even then it should give you an idea of what weapons people would generally use. If your game takes a good bit of asian influence, you'll want to take a look at the types of weapons they used there. If you're working in a more medieval setting, there's weapons like Long Swords, Rapiers, Crossbows, even legendary ones like Durendal and Almace (From the Song of Roland). Doing research and you can find more than just the simple "Sword, Axe, Staff", but also various types of polearms, armor and all that. People who were poor could use simple farming equipment, which is why the "peasants with pitchforks" imagery is common. Your weapons and items can have entirely normal names and descriptions, and it wouldn't be bad for you to do so. Be careful to keep your weapons all in the same setting however. Putting Katanas in your game when there is no Japanese culture to be found is not a good idea.
Here are various naming methods you can use:
* You can name a weapon off what weapon it is. Examples: Partisan, Flamberge, Gladius
*You can name a weapon off of what material it is made of. Examples: Iron Blade, Copper Spear, Baobab Wood Staff. *Look at the paragraph below this list for more on materials.*
*It can be named off of the weapons quality. Examples: Rusted long sword, Broken long sword, Dull long sword, Sharpened long sword, Melted long sword. This is a pretty good system if weapons get dull/worn out after various uses.
*It can be named off of who owned, forged it, or made the weapon famous. Examples: Princess Triana's Scepter, Watts' forging hammer, Longinus' Spear
*It can be named off of the location where they make it. Examples: Lorimar Iron Hammer, Pedan Stone Axe, Wendel Iron Staff.
*It can be named after any magical effects it may contain. Examples: Obsidian blade of Fire, Voltage Mace, Staff of Hail, Hammer of bunnymaking. The "weapon of effect" format is common for WRPGs and while the "effect weapon" is more common for JRPGs. Such as "Long Sword of Flame" compared to "Flame Blade". The 1st one allows for more standardization and works well with variations of a same type of weapon, while the 2nd can potentially produce more creative names. You should be consistant with your naming with whatever you decide to use.
*Rarer or legendary weapons/magic/items can be named by whatever you feel like calling the weapon. Usually their name has some significance, either from the language (It may be their native word for "Strong" and "King" combined for example), or it may have a religious significance.
*You can use materials unique to your world, in which you may want to explain in game how good it is for materials. Mithril is a common fantasy material. There are materials such as Gold and Diamond which are pretty poor for weapon making. They more describe how ornate it is, or maybe it's simply not a practical weapon and more for religious/decoration/ritual uses. Realistically, an alloyed Steel sword would be one of the best ones available. There are many factors to take into account when making a sword, and I am no forger or have much knowledge on the subject. Again, independant research here is very useful.
Talking about strictly swords for a moment, there isn't really a "strongest" or "best" sword. You may run into debates such as comparing Katanas to 2 Handed swords or whatever, but many times it's simply different in their use. Katanas are NOT an "Ultimate weapon", and effectiveness may be more due to sword style and what it's being used against rather than a weapon simply being sharp or "indestructable" (which no weapon is). Try using some swords incorrectly and it'll be bad news for the user. Draw-cutting, what Katanas are best for, aren't very effective when the opponent is armored. Very deadly if they aren't though. This quote is amusing:
"Not only are Japanese blades exalted by such folks to the point of sheer absurdity, but European blades are downgraded until they become mere bars of iron, incapable of cutting hot butter. This just isn't true."
You can see in medieval history that the types of swords they use come about due to changes in development in fighting, and due to costs too. If you see a lot of people use "x" type of armor, then maybe their sword (ignoring the various types of weapons right now) will need to focus more on "x" property rather than "y" property. Perhaps all you need to do is hook the enemies shield so you can pull them forward and hit them with a secondary weapon. Maybe slashes are bad against their armor but piercing works good because of how it's designed. But now, not ignoring other types of weapons, some weapons like ones that bash or longer range weapons work even better. Polearms were used quite often. Swords by the Plate Armor time simply couldn't penetrate. Axes, Maces and Hammers work far better at this task.
Continuing on, people who make and play RPGs (to simplify, as this is a common issue) tend to usually have a big favoritism for swords than any other weapon, with the except of perhaps guns (or rocket launchers). What does this mean for the developer? Well, weapon balance needs to be done. It is quite alright to ignore the differences from reality for the sake of balancing and gameplay, in the interest of fun. However, seeing as how people will generally favor the sword, balancing that in your game may mean you may need to lower their effectiveness a little bit. Other weapons should be seen as attractive as well if you want people to at least try them. Usually I see swords as being "The reliable weapon, and the category where most legendary weapons are in". Axes are "May cause slightly more damage but are unreliable and miss too often". Maces are generally "Lower tier weapons that clerics use if they want to do a little more damage than a staff".
I was playing Oblivion, and there are 2 weapon skills (3 including the bow, but I will focus on melee only). Blunt and Blade. Amusingly enough, Axes are Blunt. So you have Maces, Axes, and Hammers in that category (I understand the reasoning at least), and Knives, Katanas 2 handed Swords, and Regular Swords in the other. You increase these skills most by using them. But what do you start the game out with? A Sword. When you loot one of the allies, you find another sword, which is a nice named katana AND has the highest attack power at that time. When you get a blunt weapon such as a hammer, you find it's very heavy to carry, has a low sell rate, slow to strike, and not much more powerful (and maybe less so) than the swords you were using. Perhaps only an Orc character would see an improvement. When you get to the end game, you have quests were you can get 3 legendary swords, whereas there are only 2 legendary blunt weapons. One of them is bugged and therefore not even very useful, while the swords have great effects and can deal objectively the most damage of a weapon in the game. As you see, in this way, there isn't much incentive for the player to choose the other weapons unless they REALLY want to use them (some may be tempted but feel stat-wise it's not worth it). In general, the majority of the weapons you find in that game are bladed weapons.
If you want to make multiple weapon types, you should encourage the players to use them, at least one time where you get a different weapon type that is the best the player can get at the moment so they feel tempted to try it out, and balance it by ways other than "Swords=Reliable, everything else=Unreliable or weak". Strong but hits 60% of the time is NOT a good way to balance it. And we should stop and remember that there are other weapons out there. There are also other cultures out there, who don't use the same materials and processes as Medieval Europe did. Some get along fine using materials such as rocks. Properly done, a knife made from a rock (see stone tools) can be very sharp, and fairly quickly made by an expert. I've seen an in class demonstration, my teacher was into flintknapping and researching ancient cultures/stone tools. Areas with volcanic activity can provide materials such as Obsidian to be used.
"Gold is for the mistress, silver for the maid,
Copper for the craftsman, cunning at his trade.
Good! Said the baron, while sitting in his hall,
But Iron, Cold Iron, is master of them all." - Kipling