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Is there a plausible makeup for a lifeform which is highly resistant to even very advanced firearms (or any ranged weaponry for that matter), but can be injured more readily (albeit still a major feat) by close-ranged machinery/arms?

This could be a result of the materials the lifeforms consists of, the internal organisation, or whatever you can think of.

Another possibility would be to solve this from the perspective of weapon technology, i.e. melee weapons can do something which ranged ones cannot.

Further information: I am still not finished with my new alien race :) For added bonus they wouldn't use oxygen.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are we specifically saying that GUNS don't work? Or that ANY projectile is useless? Would bombs help? $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 26 '15 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ Well it should be a concept to justify post-ftl-humans to fight with melee weapons against a certain race :) Maybe with the exception with very heavy spaceship-weapons, ranged weapons should be next to useless. $\endgroup$ – openend Mar 26 '15 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ Does the vulnerability to melee have to comprise all forms of melee damage or may it be lmited to crushing, cutting or piercing respectively? $\endgroup$ – Wrzlprmft Mar 26 '15 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ Does it have to be biological? Maybe they use technology to neutralize firearms and fight in melee with an honor code. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 26 '15 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ Somewhat reminiscent of Holtzman shields in Dune dune.wikia.com/wiki/Shield $\endgroup$ – Dancrumb Mar 26 '15 at 18:35

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Natural materials can be unbelievably tough--spider silk, of course, mantis shrimp claws, and other things as well, I'm sure. Take a crustacean, scale it up (non-oxygen-breathing helps here to keep your clever clogs readers/players from complaining about spiracles), cover it in super-mantis-claw stuff. The creature's skin becomes fantastically tough and effectively impossible to penetrate with small arms. Make it an excellent conductor of heat if durability against energy weapons is desired. That covers protection.

To address vulnerability, perhaps structure the skin in overlapping bands. An attacker who was very lucky or skilled could slip a blade between bands, reaching the creature's insides. Then it probably dies very quickly, having evolved to rely on its skin to prevent all injury. For example, it may have no clotting ability.

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  • $\begingroup$ Might be worth noting that it would more likely develop in a very high pressure environment. $\endgroup$ – agweber Mar 26 '15 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking along the same lines, but you did not mention scales. $\endgroup$ – hildred Mar 27 '15 at 3:33
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    $\begingroup$ Nice answer, not having any clotting ability is highly unlikely but once the armour is breached it would be much more vulnerable anyway. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 27 '15 at 8:52
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    $\begingroup$ I like the lack of clotting. It has lots of hooks for interesting things, and it sort of makes sense. And most importantly IMO, it makes these guys weird. Aliens that conform to Earthling preconceptions are really boring. $\endgroup$ – Steve McKay Mar 27 '15 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Aron - because the gunfire will always come from one and the same angle - horizontal. What if the only weak point is stabbing it from below? Ricochet a bullet off the floor? $\endgroup$ – Davor Mar 30 '15 at 9:33
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The thing is, bullets don't actually do that much damage. They punch a small hole through things.

That's bad for humans (and most other animals) because:

  1. We start leaking bodily fluids (primarily blood).
  2. We have vital organs that even a small hole renders useless.

So if your hypothetical life form either did not have the same sort of circulatory system (either no blood at all or self sealing and re-routing blood vessels) and no vital organs then you could pump them full of bullets and they would just keep coming.

Ever tried to shoot down a tree? You can put a few holes in it but you need a stupendous number of bullets to cut one down.

On the other hand hacking weapons such as chainsaws, axes, and even swords at a pinch, will take off large sections of the creature, incapacitating it much more quickly than even a hail of bullets.

Of course this doesn't stop the use of explosives such as RPGs, so something else would be needed to prevent that. That could be as simple as an environment that makes such weapons incredibly dangerous for both sides such as a flammable atmosphere or being set in a space station.

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    $\begingroup$ A third thing that's bad about bullets are even if you don't leak fluids or hit a vital organ is the shock wave the bullet creates. In slowmo it looks like a pebble hitting water sending waves through the flesh turning the texture to hamburger meat en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrostatic_shock $\endgroup$ – Mikey Mouse Mar 26 '15 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ The tree thing reminded me of a video of FPSRussia, where he shot down a tree with a minigun. Sure, stupendous number of bullets, but quicker than a chainsaw. $\endgroup$ – SBoss Mar 26 '15 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ Swords are also really bad at chopping trees. See youtu.be/ngjMtzJ6xgQ?t=3m50s $\endgroup$ – PipperChip Mar 26 '15 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeyMouse I am reminded of the Mythbusters where the tested how easy it is to shoot a fish in a barrel. For a fish swimming in a barrel of water, you don't need to hit the fish at all. As long as you hit the water, the shockwave will kill the fish. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Mar 26 '15 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeyMouse - That's how SF and EOD guys chop down trees. Wrap it in primacord, lay sandbags on top and ignite. The concussion wave cuts the tree like a laser had done it. $\endgroup$ – JohnP Mar 26 '15 at 22:20
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Shear-thickening blood or sub-dermal layer.

The viscosity of a shear thickening fluid, or dilatant fluid, appears to increase when the shear rate increases. Corn starch dissolved in water [...] is a common example: when stirred slowly it looks milky, when stirred vigorously it feels like a very viscous liquid.

Here's a video of a pool of corn starch with people running across it.

In your case, a very fast projectile would bounce off, the layer behaving as a very springy surface. A quick hit of a blade would also bounce off, like hitting a very hard rubber, leaving only a shallow notch. But pushing the blade against the body and applying constant pressure would sink it and get it to organs deeper in the body.

Probably the race would be limited by their own shields, requiring slow (lumbering) movement, since fast movement would cause "springy" resistance. The origin of this might be a natural adaptation of a slow race as defense against fast-moving small predators/insects, or natural projectile-shooting ones (say, plants or animals that shoot needles as their defense).

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    $\begingroup$ On the contrary, naturally springing feet would be a distinct advantage! youtube.com/watch?v=LlEo5MbcaX0 youtube.com/watch?v=6md1wgyo3Ik here's your bullet-proof liquid armor. But it's also resistant to stabbing blades, so swords aren't really going to help. You would be slashing too slowly to do any real damage. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 26 '15 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @IsaacKotlicky: Rapid slashing or thrusting, yes. What about driving a blade slowly into it, applying constant pressure? $\endgroup$ – SF. Mar 26 '15 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ you would need the creature restrained to keep them from simply moving away/with the force of the "slow slash." If they're THAT slow, then why are they any threat to humans? $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 26 '15 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ A quick slash could still cut what holds in the liquid, making it leak. Maybe its just too viscous for a bullethole to be big enough for this. Also, they're a threat because they just keep on coming, right through your base, which has to be immobile to have a spaceport because of how your star drives work. Still needs to account for non bullet ranged weapons, but this is a good start. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Najmon Mar 26 '15 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ @IsaacKotlicky: Your opinions tend to switch between "It's too strong, unbeatable" and "It's too weak, vulnerable". Just by adjusting thickness and density of the "shell" you can move it anywhere in the range between a big helpless snail and an unbeatable troll no man can touch. The shear-thickening liquid is the practical solution to "slow blade can pass, fast bullet can't". Just how fast or how slow is a matter of fine-tuning it, and seriously, quadratic proportion allows the difference between the two to be enormous. $\endgroup$ – SF. Mar 26 '15 at 15:55
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A very porous being might work. I picture the flesh configured like the picture below, only with holes that are bigger than a typical bullet.

enter image description here

In most cases, bullets would nudge the "flesh" out of the way and pass through the holes between the flesh. Any damage done would be a tiny fraction of the damage done to a solid, non-porous terrestrial animal. The damage would be even less if the creature had a slippery coating like a slug or wet fish.

Other weapons that are larger than the holes, such as a sword, club, or larger projectile, wouldn't be able to pass through the holes, and would inflict damage.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very creative! A good addition to the answers above! $\endgroup$ – PipperChip Mar 26 '15 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @PipperChip! Not sure how I came up with that. It just sort of popped into my mind's eye. $\endgroup$ – BrettFromLA Mar 26 '15 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ Why is it that the image looks moving to me?! What kind of sorcery is this. $\endgroup$ – Cary Bondoc Sep 23 '15 at 7:57
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If you want a specific example of a monster that would be invulnerable (or very resistant to) bullet-damage, rather than a list of traits that would make it invulnerable, might I suggest the humble Blob Monster (warning: TV Tropes link).

They have a number of anti-bullet attributes going for them:

  • They have no internal fluids to leak (essentially a collection of 'cells')
  • They have no internal organs to damage
  • They're soft and viscous, so certain blob monsters would just 'absorb' the blow.
  • They don't necessarily feel pain

As for your melee attacks, you might run into the same problem with fists and bludgeoning weapons if they're outright resistant to impact damage or ungraspable, but if not, a strong enough fighter could tear it apart more easily than bullets. Additionally, slashing weapons or other more brutal melee weapons would do more physical damage to the slime being.

It doesn't have to be completely amorphous either - any being with enough of a 'viscous' quality could have these immunities, and would still be quite difficult to harm in melee (though, as you said, not impossible). It seems like an ideal candidate for what you're looking for.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice. But wouldn't an RPG work? $\endgroup$ – Robert Grant Mar 30 '15 at 6:45
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertGrant Possibly. $\endgroup$ – Zibbobz Mar 30 '15 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ I guess it could have electromagnetic or acidic properties that would instantly render an explosive device inert, or something. $\endgroup$ – Robert Grant Mar 30 '15 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertGrant Or it could be highly heat-resistant, or absorb and dissolve any projectiles aimed at it. Heck, it could even grow off of thermal energy and become more of a threat. $\endgroup$ – Zibbobz Mar 30 '15 at 13:30
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How about an advanced alien race which has grown beyond a need for melee weapons?

They have created repulsor shields which disperses laser-fire and can slow bullets to a standstill (and, if the being behind the shield is moving swiftly towards the gunman, flings them back a bit), which become less useful the closer they are to the gunman. So small arms might stand a chance at punching through, but a stab from a bayonet or sword would penetrate clean through?

I suppose the shield would begin affecting the projectile from a long range, slowing it down over a (comparatively) long period of time. But when a bayonet thrust begins from three feet away, the field cannot arrest the stab in time for the damaging potential to be removed. It would have some effect, like stabbing through syrup, but even then a stab would be significantly better than anything like a rifle.

The reason they need to have developed beyond a need for melee is because otherwise they would plan for it. A race designs its armour by standards of the tools it has to crack it, for the most part. So when a desperate human charges them with what, to these technologically advanced beings, seems to be an eating utensil, they would be terrified. More so as said knife guts their commander- without the need for physical plate, their warriors and vehicles might be too lightly defended against melee to stand up to it.

Of course, as time goes on, they'd learn. Whether this means an emphasis on more armour themselves, simply arming everyone with flamethrowers, or a more esoteric solution, that's for you to decide.

Their non-dependence on oxygen could play into the makeup of the shields. Maybe they use the local air/gases as fuel and output breathable gases into the inside of the shields- a grave surprise to the humans who tried to reverse engineer a shield and were left sucking down carbon monoxide for the rest of their brief existence.

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    $\begingroup$ So the shields from Dune. $\endgroup$ – Steve McKay Mar 26 '15 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ Haven't read or seen it, so it wasn't in my mind when I came up with this. $\endgroup$ – 4oursword Mar 26 '15 at 20:29
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I would recommend re-framing the problem to better map to the physics of weapons. The line between melee and ranged is an artificial one fraught with difficult definitions. How about the case of a Chinese Chain Whip which strikes like a ranged weapon but is on a chain to be retrieved. Or the nunchuck which is one step more melee, having a single chain link between the sections instead of many. Or what about simply blowing sand in the enemy's eyes. Is that ranged?

If you're writing a fantasy story, magic can often handle this fuzzy line well. However, if you are looking for a harder form of fiction, magic may not be available to you.

My recommendation would be shifting from ontology to epistemology: change from worrying about "what kind of weapon is it" to "how does the weapon behave." It is much easier to define a clear way to stop behaviors of weapons than to stop weapons by name. Can you imagine a lifeforms which is resistant to Halberds but not Axes? It's hard. However, imagining a lifeforms which is resistant to stabbing but weak to crushing is not so hard to imagine (in many games, skeletons are weak to crushing, but virtually impervious to stabbing).

In fact, consider: in the last moments before impact, a bullet actually acts like a melee weapon, striking the body directly with enough force to tear tissue. Clearly we will need to define some behaviors

What are characteristics of ranged weapons that we might use:

  • Distance from "wielder" to target.
  • Usually relies on faster smaller projectiles
  • Usually strikes a point, rather than a line (sword) or area (club). However, this behavior is identical to how a knife strikes a point (almost exactly identical), so we have to be careful with that.
  • Beam weapons exist in many science fiction worlds. If they do, they either need to be handled separately, or in concert with any energy based melee weapons (lightsabers!)

Many have mentioned the Dune force shields. They work along this behavioral process. Fast moving objects larger than a few molecules cause the shield to raise up and repel everything until the fast moving object goes away. It relies on two behaviors I listed: distance to target and speed. If an object is close enough to be within the shield, it does nothing. If an object is moving slow enough to fool the shield (such as a well wielded knife), it does nothing. Herbert made this system of combat feel "alive" by intentionally sticking to behaviors the shield could do and then relying on the human element to fill in the combat styles needed to work with such a tool.

Another common lifeforms which is resilient to gunfire is the zombie. They tend to be resilient to gunfire because they have no small vulnerable areas like hearts or arteries to hit. However, their resiliency is limited: start tearing at them (such as removing the head) and very soon we find their limit.

And this is an important point: all immunities should have a limit. If they don't, they start to act funny fast. A zombie is STILL affected by a 20mm machine gun in many mythos' because the raw amount of trauma that round can put out is extraordinary. Even though they are "ranged," they strike with such ferocity that they act more like bludgeoning weapons to the zombies.

One approach to making the creatures more resilient to gunfire would be redundancy. Most living creatures are remarkably thrifty: most parts of our body are fed by one artery, and most muscles are innervated by one nerve. A creature which was more mesh-like in its structure would be much harder to kill with gunfire because it could rapidly adapt to those wounds. However, if you have a blade you can slice large swaths of mesh, dramatically increasing the chance of doing permanent damage. With a hammer you can ignore the weak points entirely and just bash on the musculature until it stops working.

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Ghosts. Well, not literal ghosts, but this might become a nickname for the creatures.

What I'm talking about are creatures that are incorporeal but are, for lack of a better term, "allergic" to solid objects. Weapons of all kinds pass right through a ghost, but they "stain" parts of the ghost's body as they pass through it, injuring it roughly in proportion to the amount of space that has been stained.

Ranged weapons generally travel in straight lines, with a very low profile along axes that aren't parallel to the shot. They have to; aerodynamics makes this the only practical way for weapons like this to get much range. But this also means that they cannot stain very much space: a ghost would not be completely immune to gunfire, but it would take a great deal of firepower to hurt it significantly.

Most melee attacks, by contrast, swing through a wide arc, with a profile perpendicular to the direction of movement (or very nearly so). This lets them stain much more space than a bullet could, and so they hurt ghosts much more effectively.

There are a few melee attacks that would have to be adapted to this kind of fighting, or else become outright impractical. There's not much you can do about the rapier, though most other swords would be fine. Punches can be adapted to haymakers and chops, and side-kicks can be swapped out for roundhouse styles. A pickaxe becomes a club with a funny piece of metal at the end, and spears similarly become staves. It's hard to grapple a ghost, though you could try to dive through it.

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  • $\begingroup$ It may take a great deal of gunfire to take them down, but a few baseballs and a good pitching arm would do some serious damage at a decent range, and still have a lot of tactical advantage over a sword or even a club. Swords, especially, tend to have pretty much the same problems here that bullets have, though to a lesser degree. Still a good starting point, so +1. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Najmon Mar 26 '15 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ How about the damage is kumulative in time also? Then, any airborne objects would not inflict enough damage, because they leave the ghosts soon after impact. But a handheld object could be held inside the ghost for much longer, wearing the ghost down minute by minute. $\endgroup$ – M.Herzkamp Mar 27 '15 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ I think this works even better in combination with insane reaction speed. The beasties exist in both this dimension and another, and they can briefly (for a couple seconds) withdraw from this one completely. So they completely "dodge" gunfire just by fading out. But they can't move while phased out, and if an object is occupying their location when they phase back in, severe damage. To increase the effect, if phasing back in causes a particular organ to spatially overlap a certain chemical, it causes a massive explosion in the other dimension. $\endgroup$ – Ben Voigt Mar 28 '15 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like these creatures would be vulnerable to water guns. $\endgroup$ – Brilliand Mar 30 '15 at 16:56
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The problem with fighting these beastees is that they are fast! I don't mean fast as in run across a field in the blink of an eye fast; I mean they can dodge bullets! It is like they see reality in slow motion and just get out of the way.

Fortunately for us, they're heavy and their arms aren't very strong. They don't carry armor or weapons and they don't jump around the field like kangaroos. They just have these little blades that extend from their claws like daggers. When they close with you in combat, those blades scrape across your armor like sand in a sand storm. You've got maybe 10 seconds before the steelcloth starts to shred. Then your done! It's like the death of a thousand small cuts, they just whittle away at you while you scream and bleed.

-- edited to cover issues from the comments --

Our greatest weapon in the battle against them are the combat-stimulants in your medpack. Ignore the normal dosage instructions. Use all of them at once. That will get you up to a fraction of their speed. They will still be faster than you, but at least you will have a chance. The rest of your survival probability will come from the sword-craft training we've been focusing on for the last several months, especially the two-handed, figure-eight defense. If you don't have that perfected, you are doomed.

-- end of edit --

Here's how to kill em! Drop your gun and get your swords out while their approaching. Don't let em get in close. Keep your swords slashing as fast as you can in an overlapping figure-eight in front of you. Don't even try to hit them with the swords, you won't be able to, believe me, I tried and it took weeks to regrow the flesh on this arm after that mistake. So no, don't try to hit them, just push them back with a never stopping shield of spinning steal...

If you can back them into a corner, someplace where they are blocked in on both sides, then you've got em. Wait till their tail hits the wall and watch for panic in their eyes as they realize they are trapped. Then charge in and sink both blades in as deep as they will go. If you're very lucky, you'll still have enough armor covering your chest to keep them from gutting you as they die.

Good Luck Men! Go Get Em!

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    $\begingroup$ So... basically a chainsaw, router, or other similarly bladed object would be better than a sword? a creature that can move and react faster than bullets (read: faster than the speed of sound) will easily be capable of jumping over your head and tearing your spine out before you knew what was happening. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 26 '15 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ If they are fast enough to dodge a bullet, wouldn't they also be able to dodge your attacks, get inside your guard, and cut your throat? Human motion is a lot slower than a bullet's travel. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 26 '15 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ @IsaacKotlicky Beat me to it by seconds. :) $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 26 '15 at 12:47
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Another option would be a creature with a bullet-proof exterior, but chinks at the joints which require the ability to reach around.

Think of a robot: it's bullet-proof, but if you reach through a chink you can pull out some important wires. Bullets won't hit the wires, however, because you have to bend your fingers/wrist to reach them.

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    $\begingroup$ Or a soft, vulnerable underbelly that you have to get right up close to have the right angle on. $\endgroup$ – A E Mar 26 '15 at 22:40
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It may be worth noting that “bullet-proof vests” do not offer very much protection against knife stabs, simply because knives aren't fast enough for that.

Now, they don't really help very much against rifle shots, either, but you could extend the technology to the point where they do stop rifle shots, shrapnel, etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Came here just to point out the same thing. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Feb 26 '16 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ This, and the reverse is true too, stab vests that will stop a knife cold are no protection against bullets whatsoever. $\endgroup$ – Ash Jul 27 '17 at 12:11
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An enemy "soft" enough to let bullets/projectiles through sounds like it would do the trick.

If you have some sort of "hive entity" like the nano-bots in Big Hero 6, shooting isn't going to do a whole lot. Cleaving through a limb would sever it's connection to the rest of the hive, though. So guns and lasers are mostly useless. Bomb shrapnel would pass through them, though the force of the explosion might disperse them a bit. Swords and other bladed slashing weapons are the only real offense against such a creature.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking along these lines but I don't think it works. If they can reform around the passage of a bullet they can reform around the passage of a sword. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Mar 27 '15 at 2:48
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel Depending on the direction of the slice, that may require the pieces to move back together before reforming (because they were separated by the initial slice). That results in swords being stunning weapons, to pave the way for something more akin to a flamethrower. $\endgroup$ – Brilliand Mar 30 '15 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel It's not about "reforming" - the ballistic material just passes through. It's... kind of the opposite of a kevlar vest, which is intended to essentially netting to disperse the energy of the bullet and "catch" it to protect the thing behind the vest. Here, you just have a really loose mesh that doesn't care if bullets pass through. Yes, bullets may harm single members of the swarm, but the overall damage would be minimal - severing the "neural pathways" with a sword works in this case. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 30 '15 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel For another reference to this, see DnD's collection of slimes, jellies, and the fearsome gelatinous cube :). Most of those are pretty much immune to damage from projectiles, which pass through. Melee (typically blunt weapons) and magic are your only options. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 30 '15 at 17:38
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Simple enough: a creature with the intelligence and reaction time to dodge projectiles, but is strongly far-sighted. Such a creature would be able to see a distant attacker and react in time to dodge their ranged attacks, but would be unable to see a close attacker and therefore wouldn't know when to dodge a melee attack. If you don't like literal far-sightedness, then you could call it a "blind spot", for example.

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Some creature resembling (and extending the idea of) cephalopods like squids, or similar soft animals like a jellyfish or even a sponge. If they don't have complicated internal organs, a bullet will just pass through them, not doing much damage. However a melee weapon would be able to cut off its limbs and make the creature incapable of continuing combat. Even if the limbs would regenerate over time, a squid-like monster with all its limbs cut off would be helpless, and could be killed before the limbs regenerate (which realistically would take days or even weeks).

Similarly, an exploding bullet will pass through a soft enough tissue without triggering the sensors to make it explode.

This reminds me of a scene with Captain Nemo: The captain and his crew had to fight giant squids, and their guns were completely useless. They used air guns with shocking bullets. The kinetic energy of the bullets themselves would make them completely harmless even against a human target, but upon contact with the target, a strong electrical discharge would kill it. However, these bullets just passed through the squids and didn't trigger the electrical discharge. So they had to take up axes and chop at the limbs of the squids.

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How about some sort of creature that has one size dimension very small. Imagine a piece of paper. It can be super tall and have great depth, but if the width is near zero, hitting it with a bullet would be nearly impossible. If you cut out yet another size dimension like depth, even shrapnel would barely ever hit it. However, swinging a sword/axe horizontally at it would hit it just as easily as any other creature.

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  • $\begingroup$ Then flanking would do the job - two people at 90 degrees apart from the alien, at least ONE of them would be presented with a hit-able target. Still, clever answer. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 26 '15 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ Or you could use a weapon like the Ripper and cut them in half... $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Mar 27 '15 at 15:11
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I have 2 suggestions.

The first is to use Frank Herbert's shield mechanism from Dune as a starting point. The shields had to be surpassed by something slowly in order to penetrate to their target- disallowing most projectile weapons but allowing melee attacks provided the players we trained in how to fight against such a defense. I think the speed was on the order of 6 inches per second. To make the mechanism biological, perhaps the creatures have a thin natural armor that acts as a non-neutonian fluid (As others have suggested). Once that thin layer is passed with the tip of a melee weapon, it can be shoved in at full speed, but this allows for a good defense against ballistic weapons which don't slow down.

Another option is to have creatures that bend space-time, in an effect which differs the closer you get to the creature. Perhaps the closer you get to the creature (and the more you're enveloped by it's space time effect) the more the creature slows down to your speed (the relative speed differences diminish to 0). So if you fire a bullet at the creature, it starts out moving slowly (easy to dodge) then speeds up as the relativity bending becomes less extreme. Get within that envelope of being "near speed" (IE in close combat), and the effect is negligible. This is just a rough outline- you'll have to think about how these things affect the ability of pc's to actually approach the creatures, etc.

Interesting premise. Good luck!

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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of a non-Newtonian fluid like skin of the creature. It isn't even that far fetched in our types of lifeforms here on earth. After all custard is possible to make from pure natural products. It will make the creature invulnerable to fast hits with swords as well, but a slow moving slicing motion with a knife will cut the creatures skin and the knife can reach the inner organs to kill the creature. Broadswords are no good but knives and épées are effective against the creatures. $\endgroup$ – BentNielsen Mar 27 '15 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ precisely. Any weapons that need force behind them when they strike their target (a slashing sword, axe, hammer) would not be effective, but most piercing weapons would work as long as the user can control how quickly the tip breaks through the fluid layer. $\endgroup$ – MANOVAboard Mar 31 '15 at 21:16
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I'm thinking of a fairly amorphous organism, such as a slime mold http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slime_mold

Obviously you'd have to do some work on the concept, but a creature made of a large number of "nodes" held together by some sort of strands (possible with moderate regenerative capabilities) would be able to absorb a large number of bullets. This is for the reason that if you shoot a hole in something fibrous, like a shirt, it still holds together well but if you cut it with something it falls apart.

Extra cool points for making it something that is able to assume many shapes.

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Lets take another look at the blob/hive/nanobot ideas above. I don't see how they are that much more vulnerable to swords than to bullets. However, swords aren't the only melee weapons.

Lets consider a creature whose individual components are small and very, very tough--bullets shove the bits aside but they're light enough they'll be pushed away rather than destroyed by any velocity you can reasonably bring to bear. (While you can build devices to throw projectiles at speeds exceeding the burn velocity of the propellant nobody's ever made a portable weapon that does this. The closest we have come is the still-being-engineered ship-mounted rail guns.) The pieces are not invulnerable, though. Imagine a weapon that's basically a scoop and a component that fits into it and squeezes the material out through pores smaller than the components of the creature. The pieces are trapped between two pieces and squashed--they can't use their small size to simply slip away from the threat.

(And in case it's of any use I'll mention the Lensman stories--a few infantry battles take place inside inertialess spaceships. No weapon that relies upon impact works in such an environment, the only way to kill your opponent is to crush them or at least a part of them somehow.)

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Why not just make the ranged weapons not work? If the alien's home turf is surf, then bullets would have a very limited range (see mythbusters for more info, but its pretty much limited to about 1 meter).

If your antagonists have a kill zone of greater than 1 meter, then your guns would pretty much be classed as a melee weapon.

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Anthills

In a question I asked a few days ago, an ideals of a collective group of small, ant-like creatures forming a larger species. If a creature like this existed, then shooting it would only kill a few of its millions of ants (so, like shooting an anthill, it is ineffective), but smashing it with, let's say, a baseball bat would cause a large amount of damage.

Keep in mind I only use the word 'anthill' as a comparison. The anthill is the collective and ants are the cells (but without all that natty bleeding)

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Anything is possible.

In general, melee weapons would actually allow more targeting than ranged one. If your shooting from 50 meters away at a moving target, you probably can't hit that one spot except by luck. On the other hand, if you're using a sword, you might be able to. Make your species have weaknesses in specific places that are either hard to see or heard to hit from a distance (for example in the armpit).

You could also create a fictional material only available to be created into swords. Maybe it can't stand high wind speeds, or reacts with a nitrogen when it moves quickly.

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    $\begingroup$ "In general, melee weapons would actually allow more targeting than ranged one." That may have been true 200 years ago, but I think quite a few snipers and sharpshooters would disagree with you. It's much easier to hit a target with a scope at range than to strike effectively in the heat of melee combat. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 26 '15 at 12:46
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Curved blades can turn corners, bullets can't

Bullets and shrapnel travel in a straight line, a curved blade can turn corners.

A massive exoskeleton with interlocking plates.

A heavily armoured enemy, perhaps a foot of reinforced steel armour with narrow cracks between the joints.

A creature with an exoskeleton, like a woodlouse or a beetle. The plates interlock and you need a shaped or flexible blade to slip between then.

Make a hole, then chuck in a grenade

Such a wound seems like it would not be fatal. The attacker could insert a shaped sword into a crack then twist the blade using a broadened T piece, opening up a larger crack into which a grenade could be dropped.

Dangers to the attacker

The main dangers would be losing one's grip on the sword, in which case the attacker would fall and be trampled. The creature would presumably attempt to violently dislodge the attacker.

The sword might also shatter, again causing the attacker to fall.

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The big danger from bullets over melee is electrical disruption. A bullet hits the brain or spinal column or even heart and the instant death is from electrical disruption which spreads a wave of dying tissue. We do suffer from major damage to the heart and major arteries which quickly leads to death from blood loss and loss of circulation.. If we were all like a guy I heard about who immune to significant currents and with quick seal to small punctures- hyper-clotting ability which exists in some people- then bullets would be nowhere near as dangerous as a sword. A sword can cause so much gross damage that the hyper-clotting would be joining the edges of the wound- not saving your life. Shotguns would still as hazardous a sword but leather-like skin would stop a great deal of that damage.

A jet of water or instant ooze of water pool reduces hypersonic bullets to dust. The creature could be mostly water to fend off fast projectiles and the connective tissues being vulnerable to melee weapons.

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  • $\begingroup$ Electrical disruption? Do you have a source for what you mean by that? $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 31 '15 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ CSI- the show- its accurate in its depiction of death. Its not direct electrical disruption- its parts of your brain/spinal column are pushed together causing a "short" and local dead cell lumps that give a cascade of death so that even small calibre bullets can potentially kill instantly. Naturally very large calibre or many hits can kill by total destruction of the brain or heart. $\endgroup$ – user2617804 Apr 1 '15 at 3:21
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The creature could have an extremely tough but kind of crumbly hide. A bullet is either absorbed like it was shot at a sandbag, or only managages to chip away a small piece of the armour. However, a serated melee weapon could be used to dislodge a large amount of it with a sort of patient sawing action

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Kevlar skin

Kevlar and other materials that are used in bullet-resistant armor work by distributing impact force over a wide area, lowering the damage a bullet can inflict. But these materials often have fairly low shear strength, a knife can cut them easily.

There's no reason why an organic creature couldn't have a similar material for skin (spider silk is even stronger), but it would need to have a plausible reason for evolving it in the first place. Perhaps one of its potential predators uses a fast, hard whip-like attack that inflicts a strong impact in a small space, but has low total energy, similar to a bullet.

Worth noting that bows or crossbows might be able to hurt this creature where bullets will not.

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protected by James Mar 27 '15 at 13:36

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