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A story I am working on contains a species, that evolved as tree dwellers on a planet mostly covered by giant forests, but are now spacefareing. This species tries to avoid fire due to their home planet being almost entirely thick forest,with more oxygen in the atmosphere than Earth, leading to large fires being extremely destructive. They did develop metal working and limited explosives, but The first gunpowder based weapons were basically flame throwers, so I do not think that they would have made this development, nor the subsequent developments that led to firearms as we know them. I am trying to figure out an alternative to firearms that they could have developed in their place.

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    $\begingroup$ So, what you are saying is that they have just as much conflict between tribes/nation as humans, but for some reason they chanced upon something other than gunpowder to do the job? Gunpowder does not depend on atmospheric oxygen to work. Are you asking us to write your history of chemistry for you or to redesign your planet's chemistry given the heightened oxygen levels? Once you take the tour and read up in our help center about how we work especially how to How to Ask, then you'll get the gist of how we work. $\endgroup$ – We are Monica. Aug 20 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Cont.: At the moment your question is too broad to answer in any sense other than maybe-it depends. $\endgroup$ – We are Monica. Aug 20 at 23:13
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    $\begingroup$ The Road Not Taken by Harry Turtledove (1985). It turns out that FTL travel and manipulation of gravitational fields are easy, it's just that humanity never discovered how to do it. So when Earth is invaded by a bronze-age space-faring army arriving in wooden spacecraft both civilizations are in for shock. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 20 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ An alternative to a firearm is any other weapon. I don't see what you're trying to ask. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Aug 21 at 1:25
  • $\begingroup$ This question is far too broad and will lead to many opinion answers. As it depends on a host of unknown functions and conditions (such as the physiology of the aliens, the relative abundance of certain chemicals on the planet, the tactics and strategies and conflicts that have presented throughout this planets history, etc). If you could narrow those conditions and/or add criteria for determining a "good" answer - you will likely get better answers. $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Aug 21 at 12:07
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No

Spacefaring implies advanced rocketry. Rocketry implies a long history of tinkering with different propellants. If this race is not particularly peaceful, they would have a lot of military applications for combustive propellants before they achieve their first space flight.

They may not discover black powder the first, and weapons development may take a different route for them, but they would definitely have a full variety of firearms at 21st century human tech level.

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  • $\begingroup$ The Road Not Taken by Harry Turtledove (1985). $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 20 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ Assuming the alien species is humanoid and not more fluid or having outer skin pockets that work like sandbags (cause they fall out of trees a lot and that would be helpful) or .... any only physiology which would make firearms a sub-optimal weapon $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Aug 21 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP, The Road Not Taken depends on magic (ie, antigravity that has zero relation to any other natural force). $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 21 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, and much as I loved the story, it's far beyond my suspension of disbelief a bronze-age space dwelling civilization. Even if antigravity could propel them out to space they would have died there in a million ways before getting anywhere. Pressurized wooden hulls? Oxygen renewal? Temperature control? Navigation and positioning? $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Aug 22 at 9:10
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An aquatic species would be unlikely to develop firearms. Their notion of chemistry would likely evolve from much different needs. They could conceivably develop biological based knowledge sooner than humans did since the sea, like the rainforest is a fast bio reactor generating new genotypes at fantastic rates.

If they did need thermal energy to smelt metals — that is if there ships were metal based and not organic — they’d need to develop self-oxidizing fuels to generate heat, but they would tend to be slow burning and not useful for as propellants for slug throwers.

Given the relative high viscosity of water and the low visibility firearms wouldn’t be all that more useful than spearguns and domesticated sharks, barracudas, and moray eels.

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    $\begingroup$ By the way, underwater guns are superior to spearguns just like firearms in the air are superior to pneumatic guns and crossbows (but, admittedly, to a smaller extent). $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 21 at 7:35
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I am assuming a few things here,

As you said that the species became spacefaring, but you didn't explicitly mention that they developed the advance rocketry on their own.

Maybe some advanced spacefaring aliens came along their planet, saw them as allies and gave them the technology and made them a part of their covenant.

If you have read halo, the scenario perfectly fits with the unggoy species, they breathe methane instead of oxygen, so using fire was never an option, but then covenant came and made them their part.

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  • $\begingroup$ Read Halo? Are you sure that's what you meant? $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica NOW Aug 21 at 5:06
  • $\begingroup$ @DJSpicyDeluxe, Apart from the games, there are 30+ halo novels if I remember correctly, and many of these describe the unggoy habitat. $\endgroup$ – V.Aggarwal Aug 21 at 8:35
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I cannot remember the title of the story, but there was a story about a spaceship landing in the USA. We surrounded it with troops and when the doors opened out came soldiers with swords and spears on horses. The battle was short and one sided. The plot twist was that space travel involved a primitive technology that we never discovered, but most other races discovered early in their history. The galaxy was filled with race using primitive technology to travel between the stars.

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  • $\begingroup$ The Road Not Taken by Turtledove (mentioned above). The aliens came out with muskets and 17th Century linear battlefield tactics. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 21 at 16:24

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