We live in a jungle that is devoid of metal and stone. A giant vine forest hanging high above everything. We’re totally reliant upon the plant life to supply to our every need. Which isn’t all bad, there’s a large variety and it’s all around us. We’re seeking ways though to improve our ability to hunt…and perhaps do something about those troublesome neighbors on a neighboring vine cluster.

Available Resources

  • Vines, we got a ton of them! Of basically any size you want!
  • Mosses, Ferns, Small fibrous bushy plants
  • Various berries and roots that are poisonous. We’re pretty good at making things to assist in hunting, but we can also make some nasty toxins.
  • A few pitted fruits. They make decent sling material.
  • We lack much in the way of hardwoods. Those that exist don’t get much thicker than arrows, which is a great use for ones we personally have tended to make sure they don’t get knotted up.

Special World Resources

  1. Heart Vines

    • These amazing vines grow to dozens of meters thick and are filled with streams of super-hot water. Punching holes risks burns and newly cut vines take up to 2 hours to die, splinters from newly cut vines may start trying to grow into the unfortunate person’s body. We only gather the outer most layers, destroying the whole vine is a taboo against nature and will cause widespread devastation to the region.
    • Once they’ve died, if soaked in water the become easy to shape and mold. Then with the addition of heat and drying they’ll become the most sturdy and solid substance known to our people! It’s very difficult to get a sharp edge on them but they can make good spears, a bit too rigid for bow shafts.

    • Disadvantage that it’s a very thirsty material and must be protected from water or they lose their shape quickly.

  2. Cinder Moss

    • This strange moss sparkles and glows red and green in the dark and is nearly immune to fire. A necessity for any tribe to shield fires. Also, decent illumination on its own.

    • Great for retaining heat for long travels that don’t allow fire. Can keep a person warm for 3-4 days.

    • Must be kept moist and warm or it will die. When dead it turns into a powder and loses its previous properties. We soak it in boiling water every few weeks.

    • The powder causes itching but is good for hiding scents.

Assumptions in place

  • We are very slowly building up supplies from the local areas, but it will be a long time before we can have enough material for our own people.
  • Animal bones are also available, but living high in the canopy many are hollow or very lightweight. They're not particularly robust in general.

  • We're ok with chemical warfare if needed, but it's hard to control just how much damage it does. It can also be bad to use on something you want to eat.

The predators in this region have an armored shell, vastly reducing our ability to hunt them and protect ourselves. The local tribe has taken advantage of this adaptation and has armor themselves.
We have slings, bows, spears, and axes. They're all fairly dull, and our poisons are useless unless we get lucky and bypass armor. Also a huge downside that a simple pouch of water exploding over us weakens both our weapons and armor quickly.

With only plant materials available how do we improve our ability to hunt and wage war? Especially the latter.

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    $\begingroup$ How does cutting the vine cause "widespread devastation to the region?" These vines seem to be the most easily weaponized. $\endgroup$ – overlord Nov 7 '19 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ These vines are the heart of the jungle regions. They're both the primary supplier of water to an area and the largest, most sturdy, support structure. The death of a heart vine will cause an entire area to go into decline and possibly collapse. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 7 '19 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ @79037662 I hadn't actually thought that through. For this scenario lets assume size of a large forest cat like a jaguar. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 7 '19 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ @overlord They'd still need to be flexible and mobile enough that can survive in a canopy region. So figure it's more like pangolin shell with many tiny plates, or scales. There's gaps and things like eyes are vulnerable. We are able to hunt them, it's just very difficult and dangerous with our current technology. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 7 '19 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ An observation, any weapon made from the heart vine would essentially be a one use item, depending on how long it takes to absorb moisture. The blood from the victim would be absorbed and ruin the weapon. $\endgroup$ – Umbra Nov 7 '19 at 16:08

Many kinds of plant provide oils and waxes that might help waterproof your heartvine equipment. It'll be awkward to make stuff like pitch or tar without access to suitable materials for the cooking containers, but you might be able to use the shells from some of the local animal species for this purpose. There may also be animal sources of waxes, oils and fats that will help... rendering tallow is probably a bit difficult, but harvesting beeswax and honey, if it or some equivalent is available, should be practical.

Bones and shells make for reasonable tools, weapons and arrowheads, in the absence of better materials. You might also make armour from them. It might look good, but I couldn't tell you if it will be much better than heartvine, and it might be harder to get good coverage with.

Cuirboilli should be practical to make. There's a trick where you coat it with ground minerals mixed with glue to help protect against arrows, apparently... you might not have many minerals available, but bone and shell will do as alternatives.

Composite bows might be workable here, depending on the types of shell and horn that can be harvested from local critters. In the highly three-dimensional environment you live in, short composite bows would be more desirable than longbows and throwing spears (or spear throwers) as they'd be easier to carry whilst climbing, and easier to fit through narrow spaces.

Given the availability of reasonable quality armour, and the total lack of decent arrowhead material, the weapons on choice are probably going to be clubs (they'll hurt even through armour, potentially, can knock you off balance and damage hard-to-armour areas like hands and joints), hooks (for pulling people off the edge) and wrestling (for throwing them off the edge). The latter is quite a lot more dangerous than it is in real life, given the ready availability of a very long, very terminal drop for anyone who gets thrown in anything but a very safe environment. Free climbing judo seems like it might be a suitable style for your warriors to train in...


The use of short, sturdy wooden hooks in the manner of an ice axe as a climbing aid, and as a combination of a club and a hook for grappling with enemies might be an excellent general purpose tool and weapon.

Using vines as climbing ropes is probably not recommended as they'll probably be insufficiently stretchy (making falls very dangerous or even fatal if they arrest you when you're travelling fast enough) but carrying a small numer of little hooks and spikes and slender cords and nets for use as climbing aids might help protect the climber a little and add to the options available for grappling with and entangling an opponent.

It may be that you have access to rubber, which opens up a whole new range of possibilities. It is another way to potentially help waterproof your heartvine equipment, and perhaps a way to add some safety stretch into your climbing ropes (though I wouldn't necessarily want to trust my life to such a thing!).

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    $\begingroup$ I like your idea of using oils and waxes. But how do you use the plants to make weapons? You don't address that in the answer. $\endgroup$ – overlord Nov 7 '19 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ Free climbing judo sounds like a terrifyingly thrilling sport. The waxes, oils, and possibly a sealant type material would be great additions that we can get from plants. Leathers themselves could also perhaps be hardened and molded to fit over heat vine clubs protected them from most moisture. I agree, composite bows are probably workable, if we can figure out a way to manufacture a feasible strong string and spools from what we have. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 7 '19 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @overlord there's precious little to say. I make passing reference to hooks and clubs, which can be made out of whatever material seems most useful, and composite bows. Nothing is likely to be very effective, given the absense of decent armour-penetrating materials. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Nov 7 '19 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Nymn I'd expect something would provide a suitable bowstring material; the environment encourages thin vines with long breaking lengths after all. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Nov 7 '19 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ Seconding hooks. They don't necessarily need to be sturdy enough to do damage on their own, just enough to manipulate the target (though the stronger the better). Since vines with high tensile strength are abundant, these could be used more like grappling hooks. If the hook itself is made from hardvine, and it should get caught in something, wait for it to soften then reel it in for a drink. If you can swap out hooks, you can use the same line repeatedly while a thirsty hook recovers. $\endgroup$ – CAE Jones Nov 7 '19 at 16:54

Vine splinter slingshots

Using some form of hand protection, vine splinters can be made into a ball shape and then wrapped in leaves. These can then be shot from slingshots. Upon hitting a person, the ball breaks apart and cuts into them, where they begin to grow inside of them dangerously.

Poisoned cinder moss

You have stated that cinder moss causes itching. If you add poison to the moss and use it on weapons, people will scratch at it like a mosquito bite, and the poison will enter the newly formed rashes and cuts.

Vine splinter melee weapons

Consider a small container with holes in it. The main vines and dirt would be within the container, and the vines would eventually grow out through the holes to get to water and sunlight. The container could be attached to the top of spears or other weapons.

They could either be:

  • Single-use, with the container breaking upon impact but causing more overall damage.
  • Multiple-use, where the container does not break easily, allowing one to repeatedly 'scrape' the vines against their enemies.

Here's my bad Microsoft Paint attempt for a visualization (yes, I know they look like worms rather than vines):

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ @Nymn Consider the possibility of taking a newly-planted vine with you in a pot-like container. It will last much longer. $\endgroup$ – overlord Nov 7 '19 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say that it's possible. In a well planned attack we could definitely something up that may take them into use. I won't totally discount their strategic use! Probably a better weapon for small scale assassinations than all out war. Carrying containers and pots to hold plants I'm thinking would be fairly troublesome compared to many other weapons. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 7 '19 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ Addition is maybe there would be a way a pot could be designed to actually be weapon. Not so much as a sling but just an object that would shatter and splinter the vine when thrown. I'm not 100% how I'd do this right now, but it's a thought. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 7 '19 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ The vines are pretty sturdy and difficult to harvest material from them as is, I doubt we'd get much effect hitting them against people. The specially engineered vine bomb could have potential but at that point throwing it would probably still be your best best, then having a one use melee weapon. I'm still not 100% sure on the entire lifecycle of the vines yet either, but like many living things young small versions will probably be quite different from the large elder vines. For this I'm happy to humor the idea that they'd still work though! I like the concept. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 7 '19 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ An infectious holy-water-sprinkler! $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Nov 8 '19 at 2:04

So, sweet treepeople... you need a way past that pesky armor eh?

We have a warrior in our myths we call the "Spider-Man." He often fought foes more experienced, better armored and equipped than he. Perhaps your warriors have heard similar myths and wish to fight as the cunning spider.

Your best advantage (given your light gear) is your mobility, and your best strategy is to destroy the mobility of your opponent. Thrown weapons such as Nets and Bolas can be very effective, especially en masse. Not so tough to slip that fine heartvine stiletto through the crack in a suit of armor or a weak joint when they're tied up, is it?

Speaking of which, refining your toxicology would be helpful. It sounds like most of your poisons use injection as their route, not great against armor unless you're very precise. Inhaled or contact poisons would be much more effective, any of your plants give off caustic fumes when you boil or burn them? Try to make something like tear gas or smoke bombs that can be used to separate or disorient your foes or cover an escape. Try to make something like pepper spray but as a grease or pitch: don't use that in combat use it to pretreat choke points and passes in the canopy where enemy troops will have to move through. They'll have to spend time cleaning all their gear or everything will burn.

Use hit 'n run tactics, and lead your targets into traps. If your targets are bigger and heavier, use pitfall traps and weakened bridges your people can run over and your foes can't follow. Use vines to create tripwires, deadfalls, net drops, even the classic old "noose that yokes someone up over a tree branch by their leg embarrassingly." Fight like an ewok. Prefer defense, prepare many battlegrounds. Make punji sticks or caltrops out of vine splinters, force them to move very slowly through the canopy and wear heavy armored boots and gloves not suited for fast climbing. Always hinder, always exhaust.

Hooks and ropes are optimal tools both for climbing and defense. Take all the suggestions other answers gave, there's really good ones. Here's some more:

Seen a snake-catching snare? It's on the end of a long stick. You get some folks hidden on high branches then lure the armor under them. Once the enemy's hooked you either tie em off or shove off a counterweight to pull them off an edge.

Take a heavy hammer or maul. Right in the middle of the head put a nice wide replaceable heartvine spike. Get all the force in one little spot to punch through the armor. Poison the spike.

Know what a bullroarer is? You swing it on a string and it's SUPER LOUD. Go out at night, set up your trap fields outside the enemy village. Raiding party gets the bullroarers going, either drawing the enemy into your traps or destroying their rest. Do this for several days/weeks before raids. Once they realize you're doing this, start using it as a diversion instead and hit soft targets when they reinforce loud areas.

If you're in open conflict with your neighbors and they have superior supplies, raid them. Get them disorganized with the above techniques. Don't fight, steal and run. Make them chase you into the traps yet again. If you are too outnumbered to steal, attack their supplies and destroy their supply lines, try to spread them out. Poison their water if the situation is dire enough, but don't foul a place you might be able to capture and hold later. After the first time you use poison anything suitably bitter in the water supply should make them seriously reconsider their options in holding an area. Don't outfight them, outthink and outclimb them.

  • $\begingroup$ Great ideas! Honestly with many of these techniques we don't even truly need to worry about them learning the tactic. We just have to utilize them to stop hunting parties as much as possible, treat it as a guerrilla siege to attack a village. The hunters with armor will be easier to track and ambush, while any normal hunter that get big game will be slowed down either while carrying the prize or trying to field prep it. Doesn't matter as much if we have superior supplies if we can keep hunting to a minimum we can pressure them well. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 11 '19 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ I'll check out bullroarer that sounds interesting. Additional potential use I already see of that is scaring away game so they have to travel further to find it exposing themselves. Toxicology wise : Fire would be very very dangerous to use in warfare, so we may want to avoid that, slippery and greasing things to hamper them would be great. Also may need to look into methods to make great to protect from gas'ing. Changes in wind would be dangerous, and it's also a good method they may use against us. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 11 '19 at 13:23

Use bones

I think bone is the best material for many kinds of weaponry because it's hard, can be sharpened, and will not be destroyed by water. Make spears and atlatls with them. Use human bones if animal bones are too small. Combine with heart vines to make them even more deadly.

Eating cooked bones, including small ones such as those from chickens, can seriously injure a dog and possibly these predators as well. If the predators can be baited into eating them, they should be easily dispatched once their digestive systems are shredded.

Further improved by poison, which will now have a fast way of entering the bloodstream.

  • $\begingroup$ The spear throwers are definitely an awesome concept for improving on what we already have. Bones are also a very good concept and one I was considering. I think the biggest disadvantage, especially for human bone, is scarcity of them. You wouldn't easily be able to replenish the supply and refurbishing damaged bone weapons would be questionable. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 7 '19 at 16:31

The simplest answer is that after skillfully (and possibly at the cost of one or more of your troupe's lives) dispatching one or more of your pangolin-like predators, you turn the armoured scales, claws and teeth of your now-dead adversary into the weapons which which you dispatch further such adversaries... which has the potential, depending upon their level of sentience and culture, to add a huge fear-factor to your attacks.

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    $\begingroup$ The title of the question is "Improving Weapons with only plant life" and the OP also states "With only plant materials available how do we improve our ability to hunt and wage war? Especially the latter." $\endgroup$ – overlord Nov 7 '19 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ One assumption stated is that we're already trying to do this, it's just a very slow process. The tribe that already lives in the region has had much longer to adapt and utilize this resource than us. We're wanting a way to quickly one up them. $\endgroup$ – Nymn Nov 7 '19 at 16:33

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