One thing that I've been thinking about, for one of my sci-fi worlds, is the main race that inhabits it. They’re a small mammalian species, about three and a half feet tall on average, evolving on an ocean planet, with islands containing diverse ecosystems upon rich, high altitude mountain ranges. The dominant species itself, the Setani, strikes a balance between sea and island, as they appear as like a hybrid between an otter and a canine.

However agile they are in both water and land, it’s their mind that brought them to be the dominant, sapient race on their homeworld. Creating tribes, and taming predators.

The importance of weapons is, the fact that they are a highly martial society, when this book is set, early interstellar colonization and FTL travel. What would be a good, futuristic weapon for such a small species to use? Conventional ballistics, at least in higher calibers, would have recoil too high for the organized unit, not to mention high fire rates would be problematic too. Their enemies, are mostly monsters, and alien militaries much larger and stronger than them. What kind of weapons would allow such a small species to equal a technologically similar, yet stronger and larger species, as well as hostile monsters?

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    $\begingroup$ Correct me if I am wrong. Canine/otter hybrids don't have hands as dexterous as ours do they? Just trying to imagine the tech development of a species that sucks at manipulating objects with precision is difficult for me. All the tech we developed had to do with our hands. Probably is an insignificant factor at FTL tech level though. $\endgroup$
    – Lonha
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ Bipods can take a lot of the strain out of the recoil. Since these are smaller creatures they suffer less from the square cube law they could "simply" have large "bipods" like these: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/17/…. With these they can handle much more recoil and use their size to avoid enemies. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ Relevant: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/137968/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ I always imagine quadrapeds as having back mounted weapons. Maybe starting early in their development with spears strapped to their back. Later.. guns on swivels etc. Missiles.. torpedoes.. mines.. $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 0:25

8 Answers 8


At the specified tech level, there would be little difference compared to us

Humans mounted bigger-than-we-can-hold projectile weapons on the ground (cannon). Your species would do the same, just at a lower caliber. Today we use drones. They would, too. Probably with more enthusiasm than we humans do.

Further, it is the nature of all intelligent species to discover the "path of least resistance." Whether we're waging war or watching Gilligan's Island, we want the most we can get for the least effort possible. In short, your canine/otters would divest themselves of any weapon style that put them at a disadvantage.

So, FTL/Interstellar. Their warfare would look little different from our warfare at the same time: remote battles. That's because the path of least resistance is to not put a living being on the battlefield without a darn good reason.

  • $\begingroup$ The advent of recoilless rifles/launchers has made it so that we don't even need to fixed-mount some high-caliber weapons! Plenty of options for the little guys to use big guns. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ This is generally correct but I think there is some nuance around the differences in how their weaponry would evolve over time. High recoil weapons were a stage in human development of guns, a stage which these creatures probably didn't progress down. So what did they develop at this stage instead? And how did that influence their high tech weaponry? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 4:38

Small Species - What weapons would make sense?

  • Stealth. If you're big and strong and resistant to weapons fire, you want to display that you're coming from a distance, sow dread and panic among your enemy. Small, however, stealth attacks are your friend. Whilst the Enemy/hunters are searching for you (following false trails and diversions), you can be laying boobytraps, infiltrating the enemy stronghold, sabotaging equipment (those teeth come in handy) and generaly having a great time creating havock.

  • Blow Darts. These have the virtue of being almost silent (fitting in with the stealth idea), they can carry soporifics, tranquilisers, halucinogens, truth serums, love potions or outright deadly toxins - how versatile is that.

  • Bolas. (also found in the form of Eskimo Yo-Yo) These can be light and easy to use, and quickley bring a charging (or fleeing) enemy to the ground, so he can be disabled/interrogated whatever.

  • Small Sticky High-Explosive Grenades. They stick to anything (monsters not excepted) and do severe damage in a small sphere of pehaps 25 cm (10 1/2 inches) diameter, thrown accuratley, incapacitating anything smaller than a modest size Elephant.

  • Technical knowhow and adaptability. If you can use/sabotage/or otherwise reprogram any enemy equipment and repurpose it to your needs that could be a tremendous help in any campaign or confrontation. (And fits in with the inteligence factor that makes yours the dominant species)


Edited Feb 1 2019 with some additional fun stuff.

Welcome, Knight Owl!

Part of the answer may come from the ecological niche they evolved from. Otter-canines might be carnivore chasers; therefore, their military structure may be pack-based, relying on many jaws and claws to take down larger animals -- even larger predators. This psychology might stay with them into interstellar travel, so that when they attack, they attack with tightly coordinated maneuvers designed to exploit weak points in larger enemies.

That said, nothing beats energy. Kinetics are generally the best way to stop someone, so one high-tech kinetic weapon would be one where the projectile has additional propellant that ignites after being launched from a gun barrel. So imagine a slightly bulky launcher that launches at a relatively low speed, but the bullet is like a tiny rocket or missile that picks up speed.

By the way, that sort of gun also works well in zero-G combat, since its low launch velocity is less likely to cause the attacker to lose his balance due to recoil. In other words, Zero-G combat could be an equalizer for them... if Zero-G combat is a thing that is.

After that, I'd say you'd have to work in energy weapons, either plasma (which is slow but effective) or laser (which is fast and effective). Higher tech would include things like disruptors, which are slower but deadly.

Some of my assumptions are taken from my knowledge of the Traveller Role-Playing Game, of which I am a fan and contributor.


Thanks to Adrian's excellent suggestion below, I'm now reminded of a host of exotic weaponry that Traveller5 has opened up to role-playing, including the gravitic weaponry of which Adrian speaks. Other options, which also don't have to be bulky, include:

  • Poisons. The dart gun can simply get high-tech. How about a geneered DNA poison tailored for the target species?

  • Gases. Slightly less high-tech than poisons are simply ways to introduce gases inert to the Setani but debilitating or deadly to some of its enemies.

Very High Tech Stuff. Probably beyond the Setani, unless they have access to Ancient artifacts or very high tech trade partners, would include:

  • Stasis guns. Causes time to stop within a small bubble. Also good for shearing off pieces of your enemy :/

  • Inducers. Ship guns that force a target ship into an interstellar bubble -- a misjump gun, if you will.

  • Gauss guns. These fire tiny flechettes at absurd speeds. Very painful.

  • Neural guns. Again, higher tech, but if they know how to disrupt the enemies' brainwaves temporarily, they've got the upper hand.

  • EMP and Flash guns. For temporary stopping.

  • Freeze. Why cook 'em when you can freeze 'em?

  • Acid. Use chemistry to disable your target. Can be painful.

  • Rad. Irradiate your foe. This one can be painless, or it can be cruel.

  • Sonics. Deafen your target. Can cause quite a bit of pain too.

  • Shock. A combat taser.

  • Relativity. Very high tech. No idea what it does, but it can't be good.

Credit where it's due. All of these come from the Traveller Role Playing Game, Fifth Edition.


Well, if you were a Robotech/Macross fan, you could go full "Humans vs Zentraedi". In the anime, Zentraedi were humanoid that were about 8-9 meters tall, and humans fought against them piloting transformable robots. So, your small rodents could be able to pilot some 3 meters high humanoid (setanoid?) robots, which would place them on equal or superior terms with respect to enemy infantry.

Obviously, this is not a realistic option (it is ok if you want to follow the rule of cool).
Basically, at FTL tech level, your race is already advanced enough to use technology in a far less cool, but more effective way to odd the evens against bigger enemies. In futuristic warfare, the physic strenght will be rendered almost useless, because it will be fought using adcanced war machines, starships and - above all - the more likely winner will be the one who can achieve supremacy in the technology and/or logistic race.


If your civilization has achieved FTL travel, how about using gravity weapons? A rifle that, for example, fires a projectile which spins at near light speed, thus making a high gravity zone. This could be used to crush enemies instantly, gather them in one place to enable more advance warfare tactics, creating temporal wormholes to insta-travel from one place to another, etc. You could also make the projectile spin opposed to the planet's rotation, reducing gravity in the zone, allowing for a single Setani to lift huge loads by itself.

If the gravity control is superior enough, they could control it so that the whole gravity of their homeplanet shifts, provoking that its attracted or repelled by surrounding planets, and create a slingshot effect, thus virtually making their planet a traveling one.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, Adrian Rodriguez! If you have a moment, please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox useful. Here is a meta post on the culture and style of Worldbuilding.SE, just to help you understand our scope and methods, and how we do things here. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Gryphon
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ +1 Excellent suggestion, Adrian. I like the exotic-ness of gravitic weaponry, and in fact you've reminded me of a host of alternate weapons. Thanks!! $\endgroup$
    – rje
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 16:51

Tech Ninjas

For a martial species with opponents that are bigger and stronger, they need to be faster and sneakier.

Think mimetic polycarbon suits and monofilament blades. The smaller size and aquatic skill suddenly becomes an asset. Other races would, quite justifiably, be scared of them.

When it comes to war, you have exoskeletons, tanks, drones, fighter jets etc and suddenly size doesn't matter anymore.


If you're looking at projectile weapons, consider high-speed bullets with low mass. Recoil is momentum, and energy damages, so increasing muzzle velocity increases hitting power much more than it does recoil. For greater stopping power, the bullet might expand or fragment or something on hitting a target.


I really have no right to be answering this, but in a world with advanced technologies and FTL travel. I am very surprised no one has brought up Laser Weapons. No recoil but can be still devastating. Also surprised that sonic weapons haven't come up. Can't say I know much about sonic weapons, but they already being used.


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