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I'm building a world in a nation role-play community. I recently have begun to use ftl technologies (ftl information transfer and travel) while the majority of the community has had ftl technologies for dozens of millenia. My world does not employ the use of physical violence or employ weapons. The interstellar ships used are not built with weapons and weapons have not and will not be developed. I do wish to aid in potentially physically violent happenings and not become a target whenever my nation appears. In fact I would like almost the opposite to occur. How does one impose a sense of intimidation without the use of physical violence or weapons?

I would like the reaction to the appearance of one of my nations navies to elicit a feeling of dread or fear for whatever reason you, the answerer generates.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 7 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ Not enough to make a full answer, but idea: The species are extremely potent empaths, and hurting them results in the offenders experiencing the pain they inflicted visited back on them, but because the empaths have a wider range of feelings than most life forms this can drive other species insane. While not unbeatable, it is a powerful and scary defense mechanism, and also explains why they are pacifists. $\endgroup$ – trevorKirkby Apr 15 at 7:29

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I would like the reaction to the appearance of one of my nations navies to elicit a feeling of dread or fear

Some answers have suggested sanctions and other such "pacifistic" approaches. I don't like these approaches, but you can try them. Just remember that Germany was France's #1 trading partner before WWI.

My approach would be to be harmless but still being able to signal genuine, extreme danger. Be a harbinger of doom.

My first idea for how to do this is to have super-awesome, super-fast ftl drives that actually increase the speed of travel behind them, like some sort of cosmic drifting effect. These drives require a ton of power, so you couldn't have weapons systems on your ship anyway if you want these drives. Now, when one of your ships arrives in an enemy system, that means that a mega-fleet of your military allies is showing up in T+15 minutes. Oh, they'll be afraid.

If Option#1 is too overtly violent for your tastes, then have Option #2. Develop really good sensors for the build-up of catastrophic events, and then go there right beforehand so you will be first to collect the rare materials that such events generate. If seeing one of your ships means that their entire solar system is about to get wiped out by a supernova, then your ships will inspire dread.

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    $\begingroup$ I think Traveller had a nation that noted that a star was about to go super nova at a specific date despite everybody thinking it is absolutely stable. So they sent all their neighbours a notification of the demonstration of their new star killer super weapon at that star at that time. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Apr 7 at 18:00
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Not all threats are for violence. Countries often threaten one another with sanctions without going to war. To intimidate another group you just need the threat of an action which is detrimental to them, not necessarily violent. Use your technological superiority to take their resources right out of their hands, consume a nearby plant with your mining, or even syphon hydrogen away from their local star. If you can preform such an action without the other side being able to stop you, they will fear you.

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    $\begingroup$ Basically what I was going to suggest. If you control something everyone else needs, like their economy's source of important goods, or their real estate, etc., then the threat of taking that away is sufficient in and of itself. Of course, there also needs to be the understanding that you can KEEP control, so there's that... $\endgroup$ – MarielS Apr 5 at 5:30
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    $\begingroup$ Good answer, but hinges on the definition of violence OP wants to run with. $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Apr 5 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ Sanctions only work if you have the power (= violence) to enforce them. Even when the sanctions are economical, like the ones imposed on Iran, they are backed, in the end, by the military might of the United States. $\endgroup$ – Geronimo Apr 5 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ Look up ‘Vogon poetry’ $\endgroup$ – Tonny Apr 5 at 13:44
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    $\begingroup$ Not all violence is physical violence. Violence, in general, can be defined as any extreme forceful action that are intended to hurt someone/something. And in that case sanctioning with intent to hurt other party economy is violent act. $\endgroup$ – user28434 Apr 5 at 14:59
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Big Scary Ships

If you can't make it, fake it. enter image description here

Enemies will leave you alone if they think you're a threat. Some animals make themselves appear larger and more threatening to scare off potential threats.

Alternative, threats don't need to be violent. The right allies or the threat of loss of trade or the threat of secrets being released can be just as powerful as the threat of violence.

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Trade, economy, political power, WiFi password or defensive system

1) Trade. It does not only cover imposing simple embargo. It also covers informing all other powers, that they are fully free to choose whether they want to trade with you or with that rogue state, but regrettably have to pick one. (US did something like that with Cuba)

2) Political power. Being a nice, peaceful civilisation should bring plenty of friends. Even if not true "friends" that at least other powers are fine with them and may have some kind of defensive alliance system. Sure no guns...

  • Just it's likely that the allies may also have a grudge against the offending rogue state and "accidentally" the benevolent power may provide them with war loans on highly favourable conditions.
  • Being part of some defensive system. Just paying hefty membership fees. Any hostile action would trigger some superpowers.

3) WiFi password

  • Does FTL require for effective use some kind of navigation system? Sorry, access denied.
  • Does galactic trade require some banking system? Sorry, access denied. (In RL tried with Iran and SWIFT system)
  • Does galactic use some kind of FTL data transfer? Sorry, access denied. It requires building the galactic infrastructure and then allow other parties to use it cheaply.

4) Defensive systems

  • Having ultra fast or well shielded ships makes attacking them somewhat pointless. Just in case somewhat would scratch your ship paint, while the ship would be escaping to hyperspace.
  • We're using high tech anti-matter drive. Yes, we know it's expensive. Yes, we know other civilisations considered it as good idea on paper, but a nightmare to maintain. We beg not to shoot to us, as failure of magnetic containment would cause a supernova size explosion that would kill both of us.
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding #3, the question states: "I recently have begun to use ftl technologies (ftl information transfer and travel) while the majority of the community has had ftl technologies for dozens of millenia." - I like the idea, but you might want to explain how the newcomers have taken over the entire system. $\endgroup$ – Ruther Rendommeleigh Apr 5 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ I quite like the idea of including antimatter inside my ships. It could also double as a conflict decider, if one of my nations ships appeared the idea of shrapnel flying around everywhere and potentially completely destroying an entire solar system does not seem like something that's worth the trouble. $\endgroup$ – SlothsAndMe Apr 5 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ Points #1 and #3 only make sense if you are not targeted by a violent civilization, else all they have to do is take what they want by force. $\endgroup$ – Gnudiff Apr 5 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ @RutherRendommeleigh There is no easy winning solution, when being both ultra peaceful and somewhat lagging behind. I simply assume which potential advantage the civilisation may use to compensate their ideology. $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Apr 6 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Gnudiff Depends on size of civilisation, geopolitics and general dependence on trade. A violent civilisations would tend to have plenty of enemies and if someone managed to choke their military-industrial complex through economic sanctions, then their rivals may try to exploit such chance. $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Apr 6 at 7:35
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Batesian mimicry.

Batesian mimicry is a form of mimicry where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species directed at a predator of them both.

You have probably heard of the coral snake and the milk snake:

”Red on yellow kills a fellow. Red on black venom lack”

Due to the many colors of the eastern milk snake (L. t. triangulum), it can resemble the coral snake, corn snake, fox snake, scarlet snake, and most importantly, the venomous snake genera Agkistrodon and Sistrurus.

Disguise like a well known dangerous group, like the milk snake does, resembling the coral snake, or some fly does showing yellow and black stripes typical of wasps.

Most of those spotting you would prefer to move away rather then checking if you are really a menace or not.

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    $\begingroup$ While i can see that working dor a short while, wouldn't the the mimicreed species take offence and throw a fit (after all, that is why we mimicry them: They do not suffer a fool)? Also, if they were ok with that, for a truly peaceful species would that not be just second-hand violence? $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Apr 5 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ @bukwyrm, I don't think a truly peaceful species can exist: even chewing grass is an act of violence to the grass, since it kills it. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 5 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, i have asked OP to clarify the notion of violence. Especially the frame of reference will be important, i.e. doe they need to feel non-violent to 'us', to Buddhist monks, or to 'them'. $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Apr 5 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ What about non-poisonous autotrophs? They're completely non-violent. $\endgroup$ – SealBoi Apr 6 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ @SealBoi, their roots still have to invade the ground $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 6 at 14:09
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1) You have a way to cut off entire systems from the rest of the universe

Through pocket dimensions/FTL scrambling/Very big shields... It's completely pacifist but very scary.

2) A sect of crazy murderous priests consider you are gods and will exterminate anyone that dares to attack you

You don't like it at all but they wouldn't listen to your complaints.

3) Once, one of the most powerful and dangerous fleet in the universe was anihilated when they got to your systems.

Nobody really knows how it happened (accident, cosmic event, unknown entity passing by..?) but somehow everyone assume it was you and that your pacifism is a front.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for #3. On reading the question I remembered the "ATM scene" from breaking bad, where Jesse was owed money, the person who owed him died in an accident but word got round that Jesse murdered him and everyone feared Jesse from that point on. $\endgroup$ – Darren H Apr 6 at 8:12
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People fear what they don't understand

Your species - whether naturally or through the use of advanced technology - possesses a vast and unusual intelligence, or senses that no other civilization understands. Their motives and culture are so complex that they'll appear alien and incomprehensible to anyone who attempts to peek beneath the surface.

Even worse, they understand how alien they are to everyone and make good use of it. When they communicate with others, it is in short, yet precise statements that more often than not hint at a piece of information that they should not reasonably be able to know.

Negotiating with your nation, while occasionally worthwhile, feels like playing 4D chess against a notorious cheater. Whatever move you try to make, they somehow have a piece in place to counter it, but you could have sworn it wasn't there a minute ago. In the end, they may or may not let you win, but it's always on their terms.

Information is power

It is said that if you break a contract with these strangers, very soon a swarm of amorphous dark vessels will silently appear above your planet or habitat. Comm systems will randomly break down and if they work, people will complain about weird, barely audible background noises. Instruments will show impossible readings, data will get corrupted, it's like your entire network was slowly corroding. After a while, they disappear without a warning, leaving nothing but afterimages and the realization that your latest and greatest technologies inexaplicably ceased to function, and your most well hidden secrets have somehow made their way into the hands of your enemies.

Attacking these vessels, even if you eventually manage to drive them off, is always a headache-inducing waste of resources. Their ships are never where you expect them, there is no rhyme or reason to their defenses, they only ever take minor, calculated losses. Best case, you maintain this frustrating dance until they leave. You have no idea what their objective was, or whether they achieved it, all you know is that you desperately need to refuel and rearm, and that you're so far out of position that any aggressive third party would have a field day if they knew about it. Oh my, I hope no one will tell them. That would be terrifying.

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    $\begingroup$ This gives me chills! Several of my enemies have defenses that are extremely difficult to penetrate however and unfortunately employing the use of interdimensional travel (one way one might be able to enter their systems) is universally forbidden by a law of nature. $\endgroup$ – SlothsAndMe Apr 5 at 18:20
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Your species has no weapons, but is naturally toxic to most other sentient life. Or their stress-released pheromones are toxic.

This could be a chemical toxin, or that they emit radiation, or that they live at several thousand degrees hotter than any other species, ...

Or if you really want to be nasty, they're made of antimatter...

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for antimatter. $\endgroup$ – hidefromkgb Apr 7 at 17:36
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I would suggest either psychological warfare or technological denial tactics.

Why psychological warfare, if you make any potential enemy shutter in their boots before ever seeing one of your ships, they may jump to FTL before a full threat assessment is made on your Navy's ships.

You can also possess a form that just irks others. Taking a spectral form, or some "ghost" like appearance that others just get nervous about may deter others from wanting to interact with you.

Use of tactics or technologies that would make approaching your ships a detriment. If you emit some kind of energy field that effects technology, such as FLT denial, gravimetric distortions or significantly effects power generation. If someone gets too close and, let say, their anti-matter containment for their warp core just up and quit, they may think twice before approaching weapons range.

Another thought, if the field just altered one aspect of how physics work, such as electrons reverse their spin for some reason, it would definitely cause some issues with potential attackers.

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Your nation could have reputation as being full of a bunch of disaster prone idiots (either deserved or undeserved). Whenever your nation's ships show up, people would dread whatever problems that will come up. For example, maybe your ships will leak space oil everywhere, or docking with them will cause an outbreak of space rats. Your ships could cause any number of very annoying problems that don't involve violence.

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Reflective Shields

Borrowing from Lois McMaster Bujold, you don't necessarily need to have weapons of your own if you can use an aggressor's weapons against them. Your people have a special kind of force field shielding on their ships that perfectly reflects energy and projectiles back to their origin**. If someone decides to attack them, they blow themselves up. Moreover, given the ranges involved in space combat, most would-be aggressors don't even realize that your ships are unarmed--every time they try to attack, they get blown to smithereens, with no indication why.

Given the pacifist character of your world, it could be that this system wasn't even designed for defense against warfare--it was just supposed to be a really efficient shielding against space debris and cosmic radiation. Once they encountered the rest of the galactic community, it turned out that their shields were also a perfect defense against aggression.

** Note, "reflected back to the origin" may need to be refined further depending on how "hard sci-fi" the setting is. In a more Star Wars space-opera-ish kind of setting this is straight forward. In a more realistic setting, this gets more complicated. A projectile or beam weapon that literally is bounced back along the trajectory it came from would probably miss since the attacking ship would have moved (and projectiles might or might not have traveled in a straight line to begin with), unless there's some handwavium involved.

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I'll assume a truly peaceful species (not vegetarians, peaceful towards everything they believe to be sentient) . No violence. No threats to sentient species. No posturing (implicit threats). They will FTL into any meteoroid-storm to rescue fellow sentients, brave any gamma ray excursion to bring help to fellow sentients. Their point defenses are just that good.

There was this one time where fellow sentients were in danger of being annihilated by a particularly insidious meteoroid swarm. A sequence of complex biochemical reactions had given rise to concentrations of fissile material, that had subsequently been carried, by an unfortunate, but really unavoidable sequence of events, towards the home planet of their fellow sentients. They stopped the radioactive meteoroids, and stopped the biochemical reactions giving rise to them (it would have a high possibility of happening again, they concluded after some sampling. Sad. Someday this primordial soup might have given rise to sentients) by supernovaeing the star of the system in which the biochemical reactions were taking place. The star was called Sol. Don't be like Sol. Be sentient.

(Some of the sentients they know happen into localized gamma ray excursions quite often. It's a mystery. They are investigating)

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Mutally Assured Destruction

Whilst this nation will not threaten you with violence, their technology and cities are built to ensure that an attacker would also be destroyed if they attacked your nation. For example, their ships may contain nuclear reactors which means that, if that ship were to be destroyed, the reactor would go critical and create a large explosion, likely killing the attacker.

This would discourage anyone from attacking these ships for fear of destroying themselves in the process. This could apply to other technology, such as a fuel tank releasing fuel everywhere if it was blown up or an air purifier releasing contaminated air if sabotaged. For normal people, this would not be much of an issue, they would see the warning signs (similar to signs in our own world) and leave well alone. For attackers, they risk destroying themselves by destroying your technology, discouraging them from doing so.

This could lead to far more severe accidents if failsafes were not in place. However, it is very likely they would be and fail safes might be turned off or bypassed in case of an attack. You could intimidate someone like so:

We must inform you that we have turned off the fail safes for our nuclear reactor. If your ship fires upon us, it will likely go critical and create an exlosion that would wipe out 4/5ths of your fleet. We urge you to reconsider your attack or you will be destroyed.

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Well, the core of a starship is its FTL drive. Most aliens have sane, mature, and reliable FTL with good efficiency and high performance. Your aliens have drives so bad that just thinking about them can make those sane FTL drives melt down.

Actually attacking one of those "ships" or being anywhere near one of them when the spineless cowards in it get spooked and try to do emergency FTL... Yeah, how about NO!

The question makes no mention what the limits of FTL technology in the setting are but by their nature FTL drives twist the normal rules of space and time. Really weird things usually happen if an FTL drive malfunctions. A drive that simply does not function properly to begin with would routinely cause really weird effects around it. And the things that it leaves behind when it emergency FTLs out would be genuinely scary.

I mean, why was that pirate ship filled with corpses with their heads and only heads vaporized with no signs of combat? Why did that battleship warp straight into a planet when that drive should not even work near a planetary mass? Why was that one ship full of people who died of old age in fifteen seconds? Why did the crew of that cruiser turn into cannibalistic zombies? Why was that space fortress cut in half and where did the other half go?

Kind of makes the normal side effects of just your power plants, computers, and space drives glitching and shutting down feel nice. Apart from those times the power plant explodes or drive melts down and takes half the ship with it or the computer shuts down life support and cannot be rebooted.

Besides it is not like you could even hit those buggers or board their ships with the weird way the ship flickers and randomly jumps thousands of kilometers for no reason.

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    $\begingroup$ This was my thought too. Make your FTL technology so primitive and dangerous that other FTL civilizations fear being anywhere around it. You can even tweak it to the point where it is not excessively dangerous for you, but it is bad for them. $\endgroup$ – Dúthomhas Apr 5 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ They don't even have to be unstable, other people just have to believe they are... $\endgroup$ – TemporalWolf Apr 5 at 23:00
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An interstellar craft is a potential weapon. If your society has FTL travel it has the power to inflict tremendous damage on other societies, and if those other societies also have FTL travel they will have also calculated the potential destructiveness of FTL ships.

A starship doesn't need ray guns and missiles to devastate a planet. The crew can just program the navigational computer, leave in lifeboats, and let the ship ram into the planet at high speed.

Or maybe they could program the ship to ram into the planet's star at high speed and disrupt the star, dooming all life on the planets of that star.

Or a starship could match orbits with and attach itself to an asteroid or comet or change the course of that asteroid or comet, then go to another asteroid or comet and change its course, and do it again and again and again until tens or hundreds of asteroids and comets, each large enough to devastate the planet, are headed on collision courses with the planet.

I remember an article in which a scientist who thought the idea of interstellar travel was silly calculated that if a slower than light interstellar rocket ship launched from Earth using full power the energy in its rocket exhaust would be enough to kill all life on Earth.

You may have heard of the theoretical Alcubierre warp drive. I have read that a ship using that warp drive would accumulate matter and energy as it traveled, and when it turned off the warp drive that matter and energy would be discharged in a blast that would devastate any planet it hit.

If so, a starship using that warp drive would have to stop to discharge energy in interstellar space and restart several times during an interstellar voyage in order to preserve the destination. But a warship headed to another planet to destroy it would leave the Alcubierre drive on for the entire trip to built up energy for a blast to destroy the target planet at the end of the voyage.

So societies which have interstellar travel will no doubt know how dangerous starships can be, and they will react to such knowledge. Perhaps they will have laws and regulations requiring all ships which approach their system to travel at specific courses and speeds.

in the Star trek: The Next Generation episode "Haven", an unidentified spaceship approaches the planet Haven from interstellar space, and the ruler, First Electorine Valeda Innes, asks help from Captain Picard of the Enterprise:

VALEDA [on viewscreen]: An incoming vessel has bypassed our stargate, violating our law. It has refused any attempt at communication.

PICARD: Are you saying you believe it to be hostile?

VALEDA [on viewscreen]: Failure to communicate is inherently hostile. We have no defensive capabilities here and our treaty with the Federation specifies your obligations in that matter.

I don't know what the stargate was, nor exactly what bypassing it means, but obviously Valeda Innes considers approaching in an unusual manner to be extremely threatening.

I don't know whether Tracy Torme and Lan O'Kun, the writers of "Haven", were thinking of the real life danger potential of starships when writing those lines, but they might have been.

Another way interstellar civilizations might react to the potential dangers of starships would be with massive planetary defensive systems for every important planet. They would have gigantic ground based ray guns and missile launchers and force field generators, and gigantic ray guns and missile launchers and force field generators in low orbit around the planet, and gigantic ray guns and missile launchers and force field generators in high orbit around the planet, and gigantic ray guns and missile launchers and force field generators in orbit around the entire solar system, and so on.

In Second Stage Lensman in E.E. Smith's Lensman series, the space fleets of two entire galaxies fight a battle. One fleet destroys the millions of space battleships in the other fleet. But the victorious fleet with millions of space battleships doesn't dare to attack the planet Onlo with the super powerful defense system of Onlo.

And if interstellar travel ever becomes a reality, it is probable that most societies with interstellar capabilities will build defense systems as powerful as Onlo's to protect their important planets and solar systems against attacks by foreign space navies or by terrorists using hijacked civilian starships.

So if your planet knows about interstellar travel and doesn't build a super defense system against interstellar war and terrorism your neighbors are likely to think that they have a short window of opportunity to invade and conquer your planet before you wise up and start building a super powerful planetary defense system.

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Make Allies to Guarantee your Independence

Ideally, be so useful to three or more Great Powers that none of them will allow any of the others to take you over. Get them to agree that, if anyone tries, everyone else will team up to stop them.

Your pacifist ethics might or might allow loopholes such as mercenaries, although if you're not going to waste any resources on defense because you're so outmatched that it's hopeless, presumably that also applies to hiring aliens to fight for you.

In the real world, Belgium and Switzerland had armies of their own too. Depending on how FTL works in this universe, you have to be very careful of a quick strike turning into a fait accompli. If another empire can reach your entire territory immediately, they could alpha strike all your important resources before any ally could respond. If it takes time to cross your territory, they could get pretty far given a head start. Several nations historically have been created as cordons sanitaires, but only a small handful have had no army whatsoever, and they haven't tried to "threaten" anybody.

So, to be able to fight an invasion off, when you yourself have no defenses whatsoever, you'd need someone else pre-positioned to defend you, like the Empire of Alice having bases deployed along the border with the Confederacy of Bob, and vice versa.

You could also just give up on ever being able to actually defend against an invasion, and turn yourself into a tripwire. If the Great War had just been fought in Serbia, the Central Powers would have won easily, but the Entente turned it into a war of attrition on many fronts. You just have to make sure that nobody can end the war and get the other powers to accept the result before your defenders could mobilize.

Make it Not Worth Their While

Your valuable resources might be bits, not quarks. Your credible threat might be to destroy or hide or evacuate or encrypt them. Anyone attacking you would have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

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Your aliens are actually too friendly. They are pacifists so attacking them would not only be rude, but quite frowned upon in the galactic community, but at the same time hosting them is a nightmare.

Each of their ambassadors insist on meeting with all of your homeworld leaders when they visit, and each meeting involves a 3 hour ceremonial exchange of greetings before discussing the purpose of the visit.

When they join you for a meal, they perform an elaborate 20 minute ritual before anyone is allowed to eat, and they eat 6 remarkably small meals a day.

They never speak impolitely, and yet everything they say seems somehow judgemental.

Their engineers insist on droning on in detail about all of the finer implementation details of their FTL engines and proper modern maintenance routines when all you want is for them to either install the engines on your ship or repair the existing engines.

They dress in distracting color-changing outfits. They listen to quiet, but disturbing music and insist that your own music and festivities are too loud and upsetting.

They are nice and willing to share their technology,,, but they kind of give off a mildly unpleasant odor and make squishy sounds when they talk.

I mean... they're a fine race and all... and yet every time their ships arrive in another system it always seems like the current occupants of that system are temporarily away.

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The best form of attack is defense

How nonviolent are these people? Sure, they might not attack anyone, but if they themselves were attacked by a dangerous enemy would they roll over, or defend themselves in some way? For them to even still exist in the harsh intergalactic climate (let alone, thrive and intimidate others), I posit three scenarios:

  • They are utterly pacifist. Dangerous enemies exist, but none has ever attacked them. No-one realises that a single-occupant fighter ship could take over their entire empire. This is barely believable; there are always chancers and lunatics about, regardless of how much power they may project.
  • They are utterly pacifist, and dangerous enemies do not exist. Your species is so advanced that no other race could even think of hurting them. To attack would be like blowing bubbles at a battleship.
  • They are non-aggressive, but will act in self-defense. This is the easy one; everyone is too scared to attack them after that one fleet that picked a fight and got disintegrated.
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There are other avenues of conflict besides warfare.

Going back to the Traveller RPG, the Hivers, a race of starfish like aliens won a war with the K'Kree, a race of militant vegetarians centaurs who were on a crusade to rid the universe of carnivores. They won by showing how they could manipulate K'Kree society to convert them into meat eaters. The K'Kree were so horrified with the possibility they ceased fighting the war and abandon their crusade.

Few societies want to see their way of life threatened by radical change.

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Knowledge is power

You world has somehow obtained secrets that could cause irreversible damage to the reputation of rival worlds or seriously compromise their defenses.

How you have obtained this knowledge is for you to decide (or keep a closely guarded secret).

The possibilities for it's use are vast though.

You could use it to blackmail worlds with powerful fleets into protecting your own interests, with ftl communications the secret can be shared long before they can launch an effective attack.

You could barter the information and gain great wealth. With enough money you can essentially pay the citizens of another world to destroy it from the inside.

Even just having the information without a plan to use it may be enough to deter an attack and create a sense of dread in your enemies.

An interesting example of this would be the Shadow Broker in the Mass Effect game series https://masseffect.fandom.com/wiki/Shadow_Broker

In this case the Shadow Broker continuously sells secrets to different rival parties, ensuring that they remain in control and feared whilst simultaneously maintaining the status quo.

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Invincibility is a prerequisite to nonviolent intimidation; otherwise the stronger folks will eventually figure it out, and all is lost.

The best bet for your pacifist species is to be like the Organians in Star Trek TOS ("Errand of Mercy," season 1, ep 27) -- invulnerable to physical harm, virtually omnipotent, and able to inflict non-harmful discomfort on inferior species, i.e., the humans and the Klingons.

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If your ships can quickly travel interplanetary or interstellar distances, your ships are armed and dangerous. Your ships' drives, anti-meteor defenses, and inherent momentum can be used as weapons.

On a much lower energy scale, Larry Niven wrote a story called "Deadlier Weapon". The weapons involved could travel at speeds measured in meters per second, so they had energies measured in kJ or MJ. Your ships travel a thousand times faster, and have parts a thousand times more massive, so they are a billion times more dangerous than the "Deadlier Weapon".

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They don't dread you, they dread what will come after you.

You are hunted by a nemesis. Your ships are fast enough to always escape; every other civilisation isn't as fast, and the nemesis will simply eradicate every system they happen to visit. Either as collateral damage, or for target practice, or because the nemesis needs to pick up all mass in the system for their method of FTL.

Your presence has a nasty side effect. It may take days, months, or years, but maybe the star will die, or go supernova. Molecular bonds my start to mysteriously change. You might be an AI civilization, and some local AI will become SkyNet.
If you want dread instead of immediate panic, make this not a certainty but a small chance of happening.
Variatiations: your species is unaware of the effect, becomes aware during the story, is aware and sorry, is aware and doesn't care.

You are a prophet of doom. Your species is the messenger of some superpower that will eradicate systems. Or civilisations.
Maybe the superpower will usually punish, and sometimes reward; the sense of dread will come from "oh my god THEY have come, what will they bring?"
The dread will last until the message is handed over. There might be a protocol that takes weeks until that happens.
Being this kind of messenger is pretty storyworthy, actually: Some civilisations might decide to shoot the messenger if they're going to go down anyway. So your species may have created that kind of protocol so it (hopefully) can escape before the doomed civilisation knows what kind of doom is going to descend.

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Pour as many resources as you can afford into researching and improving defense systems. Depending on what your universe has to offer that may be shields, polarized armor plating or the likes. If a potential enemy cannot even dent your defenses, they will think twice about what your weapons(which they won't know you don't have) might do to theirs.

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I would imagine you need an 'edge' of some sort, which is basically what you are asking for in your question. How about telepathy? Or a unique set of technology which allows it? Your civilization maintains absolute adherence to 'no violence' allowed... but also none tolerated. A ship/person/empire starts to attack, they are given the 'more merciful' alternative to destruction; a mind wipe/reset where they now consider themselves loyal members of your civilization. Or just a wipe/reset of any hostile thoughts toward your civilization. Permanent or temporary. Whatever application would seem to fit in with the given collective's moral views. You view this as totally sane, normal, and compassionate versus killing them. Other races, having seen the result, fear/loathe you because of it and don't, for the most part, ever deem it worth the risk. Why? That is based on their culture. It is a basic violation of self awareness to highly intelligent races. It is considered 'emasculation' to the warrior societies. Etc. Maybe others even actively seek your metal take over or wipe as a form or worship/wonder of your power to bring mental peace and contentedness.

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  • $\begingroup$ Surprsingly, said species does have a genetic ability along the same lines! I'll definitely see about giving this idea a go! $\endgroup$ – SlothsAndMe Apr 5 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ Sweet. This is very vague, of course, so you can morph the idea pretty drastically. You could go very dark with it, or keep it light and simple like I did... Hostiles? Well, now you all think you are starving cannibals who can only eat your own kind...That would totally fit the 'dreaded' part. $\endgroup$ – Austin Rhymer Apr 5 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ Stupid StackOverflow and their alluring 'hot network questions' side bar... $\endgroup$ – Austin Rhymer Apr 5 at 19:32
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Information

If your race has access to FTL communication, and has some unique methods for gaining access to secrets (super quantum computing code cracking, seriously capable spies, hackers supreme, or even telepathic, precognitive, and/or psychometric snooping), then simply threatening to spill secrets across the galaxy in real time could prove a very effective deterrent.

Depending on the method in question, this could be tailored to individuals, specific ships, or groups and organizations, up through entire political structures, social groups, and cultures. Might not prevent them from getting killed more and again, but others of their race can sure make them regret it every time.

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Mount very powerful sublight reaction engines on your craft, even if they are no longer necessary because you have FTL. As Niven wrote in a short story, the efficiency of a drive is directly as a weapon related to the efficiency as a drive.

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    $\begingroup$ If the engines are not needed, they are armament. $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Apr 5 at 6:12

protected by James Apr 5 at 18:56

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