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I'm currently trying to come up with various different Melee weapon "load outs" for the creatures in my world, and have come up with a few different ones for certain situations already. The warriors in question are hexapodal and arboreal, meaning that they have four available hands for holding weapons and are really mobile in trees. Technically they have six hands since their feet are opposable, but that doesn't sound very practical: think chimps, but with six limbs. So far I've come up with [2 handed sword, 1 handed spear, shield] which is great for ground-based situation, but doesn't leave much, if any, room for arboreal mobility.

What would be the best weapon/ weapon combination that allows for high arboreal mobility, but also isn't way too weak against armed opponents? I'm thinking that it should allow for quickly climbing and dropping down to the ground, and quad-wielding probably won't be the best idea for this specific situation. Keep in mind that the opponents in question are of the same species, and are therefore just as capable. And no gunpowder, as it hasn't been invented yet.

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    $\begingroup$ What’s the aim of the weapon? Weapons are like kitchen utensils. You really should use a different one to dice meat than you do to open tin cans. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Feb 3 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs if you have to use different things, then either your weapon isn't awesome enough, or you're not awesome enough. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Feb 3 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime: You sound like the kind of person that uses a cleaver for everything. I approve. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Feb 3 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Some information on the mentality of your creatures might be helpful. And also the types of creatures they generally fight. Chimps in real life rely mostly on, I think, intimidation followed by grappling (although I don't know much about chimp warfare). If I were equipping a chimp army to fight iron/bronze age humans, I'd probably at least start at heavy, but well articulated armor, an rely on the fact that they can carry armor heavier than the vast majority of human-appropriate weapons could split. I'd give up on mobility and focus on enhancing the advantage and playing to their instincts. $\endgroup$ – Zwuwdz Feb 3 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Zwuwdz You bring up a good point here, I said chimps as a physical reference frame, but I think their mentality would be more similar to humans, just since it's easier to use what we already know than come up with a brand new alien mentality. They would be fighting members of their own species, as fighting animals doesn't really get more complicated than "Sit in a tree with a bow" or "Stab with a sharp stick" and humans don't exist in this story (Or maybe they do in a different part of the galaxy, haven't decided) I did take into account the fact that they have more or less twice the...... $\endgroup$ – Foosic17 Feb 3 at 21:50

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When I think about climbing and melee weapons, I think of ice axes.

DMM Apex

(DMM Apex)

Real-world ones are of course not designed for hitting people with, but lightweight one-handed axes and picks have existed as hand weapons for thousands of years (bronze aksines, pick axes, were used by the ancient Greeks and their neighbours, and were described by Homer). They certainly fulfill your "useful against armoured opponents" requirement; indeed, that's the main use of "war pick" type weapons, with a spike that can be driven through mail or even through plate if the weapon is stout enough and the wielder suitably enthusiastic.

The hook of the Apex is a bit aggressive for use on people (or trees, for that matter)... you don't want it getting snagged on fibrous materials, after all. A smoother hook would be useful for climbing with or grappling with opponents combined with a small hatchet or hammer on the back of the hook for use as a tool or weapon.

You'll need a certain amount of engineering ability to make something strong enough for you to swing from without fear of it breaking at a crucial moment, but you don't necessarily need to make it from metal. Antler may also work, and wood certainly does though you'd need to use some kind of auxiliary cutting or impacting surface to use it for much more than grappling, especially against armoured opponents.

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    $\begingroup$ And there's the real life example of Leon Trotsky that shows how deadly an ice pick can be (although given that he survived for more than a day, the effectiveness might be a bit dubious).\ $\endgroup$ – Voo Feb 3 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Voo pedantry note: an ice axe is a bit more of a substantial tool than an ice pick ;-) And you can probably botch killing someone with pretty much any weapon, if you try. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Feb 3 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ Woha in all these years I always thought we were talking about an ice axe and not that. In German we use the same name for both. Thanks for correcting me, yeah those two things are very different. $\endgroup$ – Voo Feb 3 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Voo the phrase they were reaching for was "correctly called an ice axe" ;-) $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Feb 3 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime To add to the confusion the "ice axe" contains a pick that can fairly be called an "ice pick" because ice is what it is used on. And it is possible that is what Trotsky was hit with. It is the head I would pick if trying to kill someone because it looks scarier but also the one that is harder to use with eyes closed. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Feb 4 at 0:43
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Daggers & Throwing knives

When clambering up and down trees, rushing through the foilage and clinging to trunks, you don't want anything to snag on some twigs. You have to be sleek and slender. So, keep your weapons close to your body. A dagger on each hip, strapped to your thigh. One, or even two closely fitted belts with throwing knives, or maybe a bracer holding three to four knives.

Blowdarts

Because bows are too clumbersome and the arrows for them are too large, too. And your usual enemies don't wear that much armor, and you are more apt at silent, ambush-like attacks anyway. Plus, a blowpipe can be about half a meter long - and if it needs to be longer, you have these fancy pipes which can be unscrewed in the middle and strapped to your arm then, not barring any movement and providing no possibility to snag somewhere.

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    $\begingroup$ To be honest, I kind of forgot all about them, but I like the blowdart idea, I could imagine it being useful along with poison (I could probably come up with some type of poisonous bug/animal really easily) against enemies who are unarmored, or possibly against chain mail, if you're lucky enough. Although wearing a thick enough Gambeson might nullify any damage it could do. Plate armor would undoubtedly counter it but whether or not that would be at all viable in treetops is another story $\endgroup$ – Foosic17 Feb 3 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ Heavy plate armour is great at blocking blowpipe darts, but not so good for cushioning your fall when that branch you're on snaps under your weight and you fall a dozen meters... $\endgroup$ – Shadur Feb 4 at 10:41
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Since your species is highly mobile on trees, that means they have some quite good upper body strength. Their arms are probably quite strong, and so are their hands and fingers - when holding on a branch is a matter of life or death, a good grasp is essential. Let's capitalize on that!

Those things enable us to make a very silly fantasy weapon actually viable for a change.

Let me introduce you to...

Dragon Claws!

enter image description here

Those things go over the fingers. They serve both as armor for the hands - an essential part of your tree-dwelling people - and as slashing weapons, in the manner of the big cats. They also have a very neat plus of serving as an extra tool for climbing, giving them more options for holding onto the bark of the trees.

enter image description here

Ideally, your creatures would have those on every finger except the thumbs. They can even wield them on their toes!

Sure, they don't give you that much range, but for a highly mobile tree-species, combat becomes more about pouncing at an enemy at the right moment than anything else. A weapon that not only doesn't hinder your mobility but also enhances it is nothing but a plus.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a really good suggestion, since they're tree-people, I would assume some kind of durable glove would be standard issue in general, but adding claws to it would actually put them to use in a battlefield. (battle...-forest???) In terms of combat, grabbing someone by a limb or shoulder with the claws would work pretty well, but for mobility, I think inward-facing spikes would be extremely useful. Not too large or sharp, but having extra grip means less of a chance to experience gravity, in the bad way $\endgroup$ – Foosic17 Feb 3 at 22:27
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    $\begingroup$ I would suggest the vambrace variant to distribute the force across your whole forearm so that you don't break your fingers when the enemy blocks you with the thrust of a bucker. Their not as fancy, but they do sport much larger blades. :3 $\endgroup$ – Tezra Feb 4 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Foosic17, I think you are suggesting "ninja hand claws". i.ebayimg.com/images/g/E-4AAOSwg8taC0pm/s-l400.jpg This would be a great way to help keep the finger claws on the hand, by giving them an anchor point. $\endgroup$ – computercarguy Feb 4 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ @computercarguy Yes, pretty much. Although I would assume they would have to be slightly modified to account for their rapid grabbing and sliding-off of branches. Since they would likely be using momentum to their advantage when swinging on branches, their palms would likely be sliding "downwards," against the grain of the spikes. Having it much shorter parallel to the palm, or just having it perpendicular to it would probably allow for more sliding, while still increasing their grip $\endgroup$ – Foosic17 Feb 5 at 6:17
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    $\begingroup$ @computercarguy I had something more like this in mind... images.app.goo.gl/fApLcsV56Vj5BN6u5 With a bit more reach and striking power. The shredder bracers would also work though since it is distributing the force of your attack across your arm instead of fingers.. $\endgroup$ – Tezra Feb 5 at 13:38
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Different Weapons for different classes of Infantry

Probably 3 general use cases:

  • Skirmisher
  • Heavy
  • Specialist

Your skirmishers should be armed with ranged weapons - probably darts, as they are small, intuitive, and use gravity to increase their lethality. The skirmishers use light melee weapons - think short sword and buckler. This is the most mobile part of your force, and they should only use melee as a last resort. They will not be effective at all against heavily armored enemies.

Your heavy infantry are the real killers. Think pole arms - they swing from the tree branches like a pendulum of doom. Two hands hold the halberd, while the other four limbs are for movement and swinging. The long length of the pole arms let them engage from a distance, and the wide arc of the swing lets them control large areas on the ground. The heavy infantry kills the enemies armor, and holds the rest of the enemy in place so the skirmishers can finish them off. They don't move as quickly as the others, but that's the nature of heavy infantry.

The specialists work on the hard problems. You'll need to keep your enemies on the ground - so the specialists will use long spears to protect the tree trunks from climbers. Fire could be a problem in a forest environment, so your specialists will work out methods to combat that threat - perhaps leather cloth for beating the flames out. There aren't that many specialists, but they shine when their niche is needed.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you bring up a very good point with the specialist class infantry. Since they're arboreal, it's a 3 dimensional battlefield, so whichever side has greater access to the 3rd dimension would have a huge advantage. Originally, I would have thought that something as large as a halberd would be impractical in a canopy, but the description you give is pretty convincing. Also, I think standing on the ground with a large shield and weapons might be another viable strategy along with these, as the enemy would be forced to fight on the ground too, like the Treetop Heavy class, but with a shield $\endgroup$ – Foosic17 Feb 3 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ and less swinging, they would trade mobility for heavy hitting and heavy defense $\endgroup$ – Foosic17 Feb 3 at 22:22
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As with all weapons questions, make the weapon fit the fighting style and terrain.

Since your critters are aboreal, that means they are going to be in trees. Unless it's a redwood forest, there is not going to be room for big swinging weapons. Anything too large or long is not going to be great because you need room to swing the weapon. How do you get lethality without a big swing of something heavy? Make it small and sharp, or even poisonous! Think mostly about thrusting weapons.

For weapons, I would think anything longer than a Roman Gladius is going to get tied up in surrounding foliage. The Gladius has a great tip for stabbing. Long Daggers and spikes, that sort of thing. Cutting edges are fine, but should be a secondary consideration. The answer with Dragon Claws is another great idea. You could probably work the Kama or a similar weapon in as well. It would have to be a short handled version though.

Your weapons should also allow for gripping while still having a weapon in hand. As your critters are hexapodal, this should give you some leeway. Wolverine like claws, spiked brass knuckles, WWI trench knife designs all come to mind.

For Ranged weaponry, as mentioned elsewhere, blowguns and shortbows. Close trees means longshots are more or less impossible, so longbows are out. Crossbows are also less likely, as they are too slow. Jungle fighting is going to be a fast affair. The time it takes to cock and load a crossbow is just too long.

Armor and shields are likely not going to be a big thing. Your creatures need to move and that is hampered by excess mass. The shield takes at least one hand to hold, and that hand may be better used to grab a branch. Armor has weight, and it will make climbing and moving slower. I have a feeling in combat, slower will mean more likely to die.

This brings us to poisons. Fast acting poisons are going to be favored. The blowgun has served some indigenous peoples for thousands of years. You can adjust to account for poison dart frogs either being in your world or not.

That covers warfare while out and about. You towns may be a little different. If you have stable and secure platforms to stand on, you will see longer weapons appear. Spears, Hooks and the like. These will also be more for thrusting than swinging. Slightly longer bows and maybe even crossbows will be useful for defending a fortified position.

The Ultimate weapon would be fire. That is only for the most suicidal, but fire would be a threat for everyone. Another big weapon, in the place of medieval sapper, would be the guys who slash all the bark around the trunk of a tree. This would kill the tree over time, weakening the whole structure.

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    $\begingroup$ Fire is not suicidal if you control it to the point that the rising smoke suffocates your victims. Very effective siege weapon. It's hard to sleep when you're coughing up your lungs all night. $\endgroup$ – Muuski Feb 3 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ Also, some smoke is poisonous... $\endgroup$ – Muuski Feb 3 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Muuski I mention it being suicidal because it is hard to control outside of a hearth or burn pit or some small controlled method. A burn large enough to take out a fortified position in the middle of a forest is extremely risky. You're right about a smoke burn though, that could be controlled a bit easier, but there is still a risk. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Feb 3 at 18:31
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Your combat will be in trees; what does this mean?

  1. A fall might be just as, if not more, deadly than the opponents' weapons. Thus focus on keeping your, and disturbing their, balance. Blunt, possibly heavy weapons, so the enemy can be pushed, pulled or swept off.

  2. If you lose balance, you need to be able to catch yourself. Clawed gauntlets might do the trick and can be used as a melee weapon. If you actually fall, a grappling hook can safe your life.

  3. Unlike on the ground, you cannot be surrounded on all sides, instead, attackers are limited to branches. Mostly on the same branch in the front and back. Thus you need more reach so you can possibly attack from the side.

Which weapons should be picked?

Clawed gauntlets/boots that help you climb faster, prevent falls by letting you stick to trees better and help at melee combat range.

A heavy halibert, to push opponents at medium range, sweep their feet and keep yourself balanced (either through shifting the weight itself, by pushing against other branches or hooking into them). It can also be used to stab, slice, disarm by hooking weapons and hook enemies as well. It can also be used to axe off branches, either as a trap, or when the enemy is standing on it.

Finally a grappling hook or spiked ball on a chain. The hook can be thrown at enemies either to make them lose balance or even pull them off the branches they're standing on. The hook itself can injure by burying into the enemies' flesh. Unlike a rope, a chain can't be cut as easily and can be used as a weapon as well. Should you fall off a tree, the hook can be thrown to catch yourself and swing to safety before hitting the ground.

It's a three dimensional battlefield, unlike on the ground. Do not underestimate camouflage and hiding in the leaves of a tree. It should be even more effective.

Booby traps, e.g. a half axed or sawed off branch, should also be effective. Once the enemy jumps on it, the branch and the enemy fall off. Or you could just rock the branch that both of you are standing on.

Fire is also a strong weapon, but can be a very double edged sword.

Similar to city walls, forests should be cleared around a city, so that invaders will have to invade on the ground.

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War hooks

enter image description here

They can help arboreal mobility and serve as a weapon, can be made of metal or wood/stone.

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    $\begingroup$ that's a really interesting weapon tho $\endgroup$ – michael griffin Feb 3 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ The picture has me hearing The Rock sing "You're Welcome". Not bad as earworms go. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Feb 4 at 14:02
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Whips

Just for an alternative - a whip gives you far more range than most melee weapons, and yet can be stowed away at your hip for mobility. They can also double as a rope for climbing, and you can wrap an end around a tree branch and use it to swing down on your opponents for a good kick to the head. They can also serve as a trip wire to knock riders off their horses or trip up the horses or runners themselves. Basically, think of everything the Ewoks did in Return of the Jedi. Or Indiana Jones for that matter. (Granted he also carried a pistol, but whatever.)

Best yet, they can be made from materials readily available in the forest, unlike any of the metal weapons that have been suggested. Some good strong vines, possibly reinforced with leather from the hides of various woodland animals, it's basically all you need. Whips are also stealthier than shiny metal weapons, since they're made of the same stuff as the forest itself, and won't inadvertently glint in the sun, revealing your location.

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Spears

If you ever ask yourself what melee weapon is the best for X, odds are it’s some kind of spear or pole arm.

A mid length spear like an assegai or migration period spear was capable of being used in melee or being thrown, which gave it excellent range and close quarter options.

In an arboreal environment reach would be of considerable importance due to the three dimensional nature of the battle space, as you can have enemies above and below you, so you need to be able to extend your reach out to be able to strike them.

Spears would be much better than swords for this because they wouldn’t have the same range and wide swings could be very problematic in tree tops, you’d want to stab precisely.

Swords and axes would be better as sidearms. Keep those small and handy for when an enemy gets really close.

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    $\begingroup$ Spears would be very unwieldy when climbing through trees however. $\endgroup$ – GamerGypps Feb 3 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ @GamerGypps Even with two extra hands and feet that can grab? The issue for us with most weapons and climbing is that if we use a hand we only have one left and can't change holds when climbing. These critters can use a hand and have five left to climb with. Four with two handed grip. They should be able to climb and control a spear just fine. It just cannot be too long. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Feb 4 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ +1, I was going in the same direction from a different angle but you beat me to it. Only small addition I would have made is that the spear would probably have some sort of a hook so you can use it for extra reach when climbing. And to compensate for hands used to control it. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Feb 4 at 0:56
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Nets

If your enemy has 6 limbs and a long tail they have many more ways of getting tangled up in a thrown net to a human. If your enemy is fighting you in a canopy where you are both perched on branches then tangling them up is likely going to get them killed or injured. The extra arms will also move their centre of mass higher up their body (compared to a human) and make them less stable and easier to push over.

If you have 4 arms and thumbs on your feet then you can sit down and potentially weave a net with 6 limbs at once. So making nets is potentially very fast and easy for you.

Nets are lightweight. Who wants to jump between trees carrying a heavy metal sword or long spear? If you have a net and some kind of knife to finish people off you are still able to swing about like a crazy thing.


Fire

Monkey-people (I presume) live in treehouses. Give them a big dose of fire to destroy their towns. (See the "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves" film for inspiration). Not really a melee weapon but something I thought worth considering.


Weapons you do NOT want:

Maces, warhammers and other "big impact" things. These are heavy, and their main advantage (can build up some dangerously big momentum for a powerful strike) will not work if you are not well anchored to the ground. I suspect a monkey-thing in a tree cannot hold the ground with enough force to really get the mace going.

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Butterfly swords

Two pairs of butterfly swords allow for a great variety of attack/defense combinations, and they are easily stowed. They are also useful tools for cutting branches.

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Nunchucks

Nunchucks are foldable and easily transported. They can attack around shield edges and can block melee weapons.

enter image description here

Shortbows and light crossbows Shortbows, light crossbows and their arrows/bolts don't take up much space. With four hands, it might even be possible to shoot two bows at a time. In a forest, their short range doesn't matter.

enter image description here

enter image description here

Slingshots

Slingshots require even less space than shortbows, and you might be able to use readily available hard nuts for ammunition.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Nunchaku are what you use when you're not allowed to have access to real weapons. Using flappy things around a tree canopy or vines or thin branches seems like a poor choice. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Feb 3 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ Bows and slingshots are not "melee weapons" though... $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Feb 3 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime is dead right on nunchaku. They hurt, sure, but the only way to win a fight with them is to hit the opponent in the head. A helmet is pretty much 100% protection. They don't have much range - much less than a spear, and not much more than a sword at arm's length - and they won't block edged weapons. They're just an improvised weapon from what's on hand for a farmer, the same as there are also weapon forms for fighting with a bench seat. $\endgroup$ – Graham Feb 4 at 9:07

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