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I am developing a race of generic "barbarians", but I'm looking to see what weapons they can develop that pose a great risk to others.

I have not decided what kind of conditions they live in, and I will decide that after I see what is possible.

Assuming that forging of metal is off limits, but raw materials are limitless, what is the most dangerous weapon a barbarian could develop against bronze/iron-age foes?

An example that comes to mind is an obsidian blade. Simple, sharp, but rare due to the resources needed. For this question, ignore any limitations on what's available.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by L.Dutch, Aify, Marshall Tigerus, bendl, dot_Sp0T Jul 11 '18 at 17:51

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ "best" is a fuzzy definition, if you don't define the application limit. What is best, a F1 car or a truck? Well, try carrying furniture with a F1 and tell me... Or try racing in Montecarlo with a truck... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jul 11 '18 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ This depends too much on what you're going up against. Furthermore, how can you have bronze/iron age foes if metal forging is off limits? The most effective tactic I see here is to ambush their enemies who clearly have superior equipment and take it for themselves. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jul 11 '18 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ We prefer questions which can be objectively answered. We are not a forum to debate on opinions. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jul 11 '18 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, this site is generally way too upvote-trigger happy. For questions related to fantasy/scifi, we require that the person asking the question do 1) research, 2) define the requirements of the question very well (For example, "bronze age/iron age" is actually too large of a spread IMO (Note that I don't think having this requirement helps the question become more answerable)), 3) define criteria within which we can answer the question and answers can be judged objectively, 4) not be asking for discussion/opinion. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jul 11 '18 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ Quite obviously, the "most dangerous weapon a barbarian could develop against bronze/iron-age foes" is their mind. The foes have iron swords? Fine, this means that iron swords are available on the market. Buy some. The foes accept auxiliaries in their army? Great, have a few young men enroll. Remember the disaster of the Teutoburg Forest, when the Romans lost two legions? Arminius, the leader of the victorius Germans, had spent several years in the Roman army, had become an officer, and then came back to lead the barbarians. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 11 '18 at 16:52
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There are many ways barbarians can prevail by using superior tactics, but I'm going to focus on weapons here.

First, edged weapons are out of question. While stone, like obsidian, can have a very sharp edge, it won't last in a battle, and will be much less convenient than iron or bronze swords. Stone axes will fare better, but more for their blunt crushing power. So, blunt weapons, like clubs and stone-headed maces is an obvious alternative. Barbarians can employ obsidian or bone knives, but they won't be their primary weapons.

Stone-tipped spears can get almost as good as iron-headed ones, so a stone-age phalanx can, potentially, stand up against a proper Greek one.

Ranged weapons would likely be the best choice. Stone-aged barbarians don't need metal for constructing a bow, so if they are skilled with composite bows, even stone-tipped arrows will be devastating for their ostensibly more advanced opponents.

And finally, barbarians can domesticate horses and use stirrups (a bit of anachronism, but why not?). A horde of mounted barbarians armed with composite bows... that can make any opponent tremble.

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Obsidian weapons and other primitive blades were often more for ceremonial purposes or status symbols. obsidian blades are wicked sharp but brittle, so they're often made into short daggers. Not to mention it takes a LONG time to make an obsidian blade.

Don't rule out clubs. They come in a lot of different varieties (not just the baseball bat looking things you see in some high fantasy illustrations). They can have spikes on them, have rocks on the end, or you could even attach a small obsidian blade to one (which won't be as brittle as a full-on obsidian sword or dagger). They can be ornate or simple. They can be flat, like blades, or blunt right on the end so you can generate a lot of force without it slowing you down much.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for describing a macuahuitl. They had their fair share of problems, but I'm not going to disagree with anything that can decapitate a horse. Also, they're pretty easy to make - I made one back in the day for a school project, and somebody experienced could probably do a couple a day $\endgroup$ – Punintended Jul 11 '18 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Charlene! Interesting take on the question. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jul 11 '18 at 18:13
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You could always have them make weapons from bone.

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Humans have been using land mammals’ bones for their weapons before they started using metal, so you can always research it.

There’s also stone and wood. You can have them use hand axes, knives and spearpoints with sharpened stone. You would have to do research on the Stone Age if you want more information about the creation of these weapons(though I doubt it will take too much of your time unless you want intense details).

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    $\begingroup$ bone and wood against bronze... no wonder stone age populations got extincted when fighting against bronze age/ iron age ones... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jul 11 '18 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ Bone isn't especially dense. While this will favor weaker fighters and work just fine for piercing weapons, things like clubs, axes and broadswords won't have nearly as much momentum as a metal or wooden equivalent, and therefore won't be as lethal in the hands of a stronger individual $\endgroup$ – Punintended Jul 11 '18 at 17:16

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