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Since the dragon lives in a forest, he limits the use of his acidic breath weapon on home ground to hit 'n run, supply destruction, and a way to deter his enemies and give him a chance to escape.

There is also the potential of a severe heartburn if he overused it. Consequently, dragons should have a secondary weapon, they can rely upon when fighting.

Thanks to their armor and size (190 cm at the withers), dragons would be apex predators if it wasn't for humans, more precisely, knights. Though HCl and HNO3 are capable of destroying a knight's armor they usually wear chainmail AND a gambeson underneath, leaving the rather significant fumes of the acids as the most imminent threat.

Still, I hate taking chances, so my dragons will have more "traditional" natural weapons, the problem with that is their limit on muscle-mass, imposed by their flight muscles (which has to be 25% of the TOTAL bodymass).

But dragons would need to hit hard, since the best way to defeat armored opponents is with bike locks or sheer force.

It'd be preferable if they didn't leave themselves wide-open when attacking, like stretching the neck to the point where it begs to be cut. Dragons hate putting their lives in danger when not necessary, and are rather squirmy and jumpy.

A suitable natural weapon:

  • Is able to effectively harm even human knights
  • Needs little muscle mass, but produces significant forces
  • When attacking with it, the dragon doesn't leave himself open to an attack, either from the same or other opponents.

Three additional notes:

  1. Dragons are able to perfectly recover from any injury (that isn't brain damage), as long as they're alive (so they're just as good at it as axolotls)
  2. Dragons have six limbs (four legs (the front legs are for climbing) and a pair of wings)
  3. Skallagrim did a video on why it's important to be wide as well as having logs for arms. Though this applies to humans, I wonder if there's something similar with animals. After all, you use a lot of muscles when attacking.

Considering the above, what's the most suitable physical (so whacking, hacking and thrusting) natural weapon for dragons? You're allowed to redesign the limbs, as long as they fulfill their intended purpose.

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    $\begingroup$ A Dragonlance wielded by its rider. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Feb 8 at 1:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Mazura That's not natural. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Feb 8 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ What's a natural weapon? De-root a tree and wack 'em with it? DnD dragons can 'scare' you, bite, claw, tail wack, breathe, and wing attack. - Basically every answer here is in the rule book. What are we looking for here, horns, spider silk? What would make an answer better than another, besides upvotes for swearing? $\endgroup$ – Mazura Feb 9 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Mazura a natural weapon is a part of your body. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Feb 9 at 8:05
  • $\begingroup$ so, a natural Narwhal-horn-like dragonlance? It'll have the advantage of allowing the dragon to use its wings (extra 25% of muscle mass) to boost the strike force, and the image of a unidraghorn spiking its victims has that extra cool effect $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz Feb 9 at 13:15

14 Answers 14

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Tail whip. (It won't lower defense tho)

The tail can act like a whip, snapping at opponents. If sufficiently long and flexible it could be used to target opponents from lots of different angles. This combined with spikes or a bony/hard top of the tail would make it able to inflict horrible injuries and death on those unfortunate enough to be stricken by this weapon of evolution.

With a whip one only needs to apply little force for the very tip to "snap" while it breaks the sound barrier. Plus, in case the tail does get damaged, even reality contains examples of (mostly reptiles) regrowing their tails after they lose it in a fight. But a strike similar to a leguaan's tail strike is a good alternative. Injury to the tail doesn't immediately cause loss of mobility like damage to other appendages like its legs, arms or wings would cause.

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    $\begingroup$ livescience.com/52538-supersonic-sauropods.html "Dinosaurs tail whips could have cracked the sound barrier" Just so that OP has a good model for his dragons tail physics. The advantage of such high tip speeds is that you don't need a club-like end if you go fast enough, thereby making is even easier to move $\endgroup$ – Hobbamok Feb 7 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ That's exactly what I was thinking writing my answer. But yea, tails can be absolute bad ass weapons. $\endgroup$ – Hyfnae Feb 7 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ Also for context, many larger species of monitor lizard can seriously maim human hunters with its tail. If a 30 lb lizard can do this, then a much larger dragon will not have an issue with a knight. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki - Reinstate Monica Feb 7 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki-ReinstateMonica Even against plate armor, a comparable tail as that dino had would shred through plate armor. And the consequent lacerations to its tail regenerated by the regenerative ability as mentioned in the post. $\endgroup$ – Hyfnae Feb 7 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ Tail whip, teeth, claws, hip-check, fall over on you, jug your head with their fist, etc. Dragons ARE the weapon. - This is what it looks like when one ton worth of tail wacks you: Dinosaur! $\endgroup$ – Mazura Feb 8 at 1:32
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WINGS

Since most of the dragon's muscles are wing muscles, it makes sense to use the wings as weapons. The main wing bones must also be very strong to carry it during flight.

First, the dragon could flap its wings for a strong wind blast that could knock horses and knights over, making them vulnerable to follow-up attacks. This is actually a standard attack for dragons in Dungeons & Dragons.

Second, as for a bat, dragon wings may have a nail claw where the wings bend (editor's note: something like this?). This would easily be the size of a sword and able to penetrate weak spots in armor, like the neck, or slash open a horse's side.

Third, it can make blunt attacks with its wing bones. Swans sometimes attack with their wings and are allegedly able to break a grown man's arm this way. Now scale up to dragon size, and you will have a formidable weapon.

Fourth, which is only indirectly linked to wings, it can do a dive and hit somebody with its breastbone. This is how many birds of prey kill their targets. The main wing muscles are attached to this bone, so it is surrounded by solid muscle and won't take damage very easily.

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  • $\begingroup$ A very good and thorough answer; I hope the OP accepts this. $\endgroup$ – Marvin the Paranoid Android Feb 8 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ Also see 'Kutonase' (cutters on leading edge). $\endgroup$ – amI Feb 8 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ Wings are typically relatively fragile, since they need to be light. So I wouldn't recommend that dragons break their wing bones by bashing them against their opponents. Swans breaking people's bones with their wings seems to be a myth. $\endgroup$ – Peter Shor Feb 9 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterShor Don't have a good source, but I have been told to paddle far enough around swans so I don't risk broken bones by people who ought to know. $\endgroup$ – Nobody Feb 9 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Nobody: that's the thing about urban myths ... lots of people believe in them. But if you Google, you'll find lots of sites saying that it's a myth, and there don't seem to be any documented cases. (There do seem to be documented cases of swans killing people by preventing them from swimming to shore so they drown; it seems like very good advice to paddle far enough around swans.) $\endgroup$ – Peter Shor Feb 9 at 18:45
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Kill Them Like Aeschylus

Or: How I Learned To Stop Melee And Love The Bomb

You have an intelligent flying animal, with multiple gripping limbs, that is massive enough to carry some not-inconsiderable weight. Also, they

hate putting their lives in danger when not necessary, and are rather squirmy and jumpy.

So... why are they getting into melee range? I’d argue that their melee weapon is their acid breath, which blinds, chokes, and burns opponents. Their primary weapon is dropping shit on people from above. Depending on how intelligent/capable they are, your dragons gather up either individual stones, or a bundle of stones, (Or iron rods if they have metallurgy), fly overhead of their enemies, and drop the rocks from a sufficient height to be lethal, say, a few hundred feet.

This takes care of all your requirements:

Is able to effectively harm even human knights

Blunt force trauma is very effective against armor, and falling rocks are great at causing it!

Needs little muscle mass, but produces significant forces

You exploit the muscle mass you already have the most of, the wings.

When attacking with it, the dragon doesn't leave himself open to an attack, either from the same or other opponents.

Unless the knights have learned to fly, they have no way to attack the rock-dropping dragons.

(Author’s note: the Greek playwright Aeschylus was allegedly killed when a bird dropped a turtle on his bald head, mistaking it for a smooth rock akin to the ones it would crack turtle shells on)

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  • $\begingroup$ The subtitle made me upvote. And when you say 'dropping shit on people' do you mean random stuff, or like the bird people of Brontitall? $\endgroup$ – DJClayworth Feb 7 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ Both, naturally. Imagine how atrociously foul the feces of an acid-breathing dragon would be. $\endgroup$ – Daniel B Feb 7 at 22:54
  • $\begingroup$ If you can catch it by its feet, the thing you drop could be the knight. $\endgroup$ – senderle Feb 10 at 15:50
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I'd like to expand on Klaus' answer. Practically speaking, all melee weapons ever designed in the history of combat have been designed to leverage muscles that already existed. In particular, if you look at how we are trained to use weapons (and our fists), the goal is not to get a little momentum into the blade or stick or knuckle. The goal is to get the force of entire body's musculature behind it. This is why you are trained to throw a punch from the hips. It seems like a punch should involve shoulder and arm muscles, but a correctly thrown punch uses the entire body to do the damage.

A dragon will have weapons which leverage their strengths. If they need most of their musculature to fly, they will use flying muscles to strike. I think there are two primary sets of muscles that would be used: * Upward shoulder rotation - Wings need to be able to spill air while they are being moved up into position to flap again. Some of this is handled by the shape of the wing membranes, but animals that fly have control of their wing angles during this step. This is done by a rotation in the shoulder blades. In the human body, this is the movement which one would use to bring a great axe down on an opponent's head. These will be muscles that don't fatigue quickly. They will be important because you didn't want the dragon to expose itself during the attack. An attack with the wing must be able to rotate the wing bones and musculature into position, as opposed to relying on the dragon to rear up to orient them. * Shoulder abduction - This is the flying motion. Hold your arms straight out and bend your elbows so that you are in a "don't shoot" position. Now bring your elbows together to meet in front of you. While humans may emulate flapping with an up and down motion, that's only because we are vertical creatures. A flying creature's body is horizontal. The muscles I just had you use at are the muscles a real flying creature would use to fly. These are the muscles which will permit a connection to the rest of the body, and thus let one start deriving a punch from any other muscles (the torso muscles are amazingly interconnected and multi-purpose). The damage will be done while these muscles are under tension.

As such, the strike of such a creature would look like more of a slap than a punch or a swing. It would have the feel of a tiger clawing.

Now what kind of weapons work for this. The obvious answer is a tiger's claw. However, there are other weapons which are interesting. For example, consider the ball club weapons, like this one from the Iroquois nation:

Iroquois club

What I find interesting about this class of weapons is its asymmetry. If you are trained to fight against symmetric weapons, this can cause major problems. You can believe you have blocked the blow, when you actually need to block it 6 inches further away because the ball of the club is not in line with the handle. This is the same thing which made scythes a dangerous weapon. This also fits well with the musculature of a tiger clawing.

The other interesting thing is that the handle can flex. This sort of dynamics is very popular in kung fu weapons. It permits a different kind of weapon handling which they find effective. One can line up the elastic forces with the strike in order to create a penetrating force which can crack bones while supported by the hand, arm, torso hips, and legs. (always strike with the full body). Being a natural weapon, this dragon weapon would be tuned to the dragon's body, and they'd use it their entire life. They would be very skilled at making this weapon do what they want.

So don't waste muscles on attack. Use what you already have. Waste not want not. Get a weapon that uses the muscles of flying, and then leverage a shape which maximizes the power transmitted to the opponent.

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  • $\begingroup$ So, what Skal said, i.e: you need core strength, not just arm strength? $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Feb 7 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles Absolutely. 5 seconds in the ring with a good boxer will show you that. A really good boxer barely moves his arms for 2 of the most devastating blows, Hooks and Uppercuts. The power comes from the motion that literally starts at the balls of the feet and goes up through the trunk, using all the major muscle groups along the way. Watch some youtube clips of Mike Tyson and you can see what I mean. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI -Monica come Home Feb 7 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles Yep. There's a mechanical advantage game to be played. For any mass of muscle, it can move something a long distance weakly, or move a short distance strongly. The arms, by their nature, are designed for range of motion. However, there's one really neat quirk that I forgot to include. Muscles are actually 3x better at restraining motion than causing it. It's a quirk of the way the proteins interlock. So an arm muscle which is just trying to survive the forces applied to it by a core muscle can transmit 3x more force than if it was trying to cause it on its own. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Feb 8 at 1:26
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Let's look to nature

Your headline, with a very small substitution:

Dragons Eagles have a constraint on muscle mass that isn't dedicated to flight. What's the best natural physical weapon for them?

The answer then becomes obvious: beak and claws. Sharp claw points generate enormous pressure from very little muscle mass. (Pressure is the key element for puncturing.) The beak (or jaws for your dragon) snaps quickly forward to bite, but most damage is inflicted by immediately pulling back, ripping flesh and entrails. This motion makes use of the strong breast muscles used for flight, and the attack sequence leaves the dragon exposed for a minimum time.

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They roll 20s on Intelligence.

Since the dragon lives in a forest, humans give that forest a wide berth. But it knows to live close enough that when they loudly hack up spittle in the middle of the night, the humans are reminded of its presence.

This keeps the humans from forgetting to send a cow with their villages' brand on it that says, Here you go. Thanks for not melting our entire country. Specifically THIS village.

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  • $\begingroup$ "hacking" weapon: social engineering. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Feb 9 at 1:00
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Talons. Since dragons have already invested all this effort in flight muscles, it makes sense for them to emphasize air-to-ground combat. Talons serve two purposes: first, by focusing the kinetic energy of your dive in a small area, they can gouge flesh or break bones. Second, by grabbing your prey just as you pull out of the dive, you can use your momentum to carry them off the ground. This is a position that land-borne foes do not like at all, and they'll like it even less when you find a nice high spot to drop them from.

Direct talon strikes will be somewhat mitigated by armor but (given the size of a dragon) can easily have bone-crushing force. Being picked up and dropped is no respecter of armor, unless you have such an incredibly heavy suit that the dragon physically cannot pick you up, in which case I doubt your mobility on foot.

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Tusk-like Antlers

Taking inspiration from a certain dragon: Antharas enter image description here

You could add a pair of antlers that extend from behind the jaw which could serve as both protection for the neck—both as a shield and as a deterrence—and also a good natural weapons for blunt damage.

You can reshape them for a more natural design, and even have them as a way to tell individual dragons apart by the designs/shapes and sizes of the antlers.

It can work much like a Moose's antlers, an Elephant's tusks and a Rhino's horn.

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Neurotoxins. Plague causing bacteria in their bodies.

Extra weight needed: +/- 0g (though they may need 3-4kg of gut bacteria in the first place, it doesn't matter if some are subbed out with plague causing bacteria. animals already carried the plague IRL, and it only takes a few cells to get started in a populations.

Deadliness? 10/10. neurotoxins for close range insta-kills, plague for killing slowly and en masse.

Bonus points because this is a very strong motivation for knights to kill dragons in the first place.

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No need to squander muscles or fiddle around with horns and claws. It's all about that BITE, boy. A little bit of jaw muscle goes a long way, especially when your teeth are daggers.

Just look at the T-rex, whose arms were puny and useless, but whose jaws could exert 12,800 pounds of pressure--more than any other land animal ever since. (The Megalodon also packed a whopping 41,000-pound bite). That's more than enough power to pulverize bones, and that's exactly what the T-rex evolved to do, because bones are full of nutritious and delicious marrow, which you need when you're a hungry apex predator.

Tail swinging seems like a good way for the dragon to guard itself from behind, but I assume that its primary weapons will be its acid breath and its ferocious, man-swallowing bite.

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Give the dragon sharp, forward-facing claws, then let it drop on its enemies like a falcon. No extra muscles needed.

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Another thing that armour, specifically, doesn't protect very well against is joint pulling. An attack that somehow yanks an arm or a leg out its socket would be very effective against an armoured opponent.

Now, what kind of weaponry would do that? Well, imagine a beast that weighs somewhere north of a ton (hmmm, like a dragon, maybe). It already has one appendage that moves with a high degree of facility, fitted with a very effective grabbing mechanism: serpentine neck and fearsome jaws. So all it needs is something that could pin a knight's limb (most likely a leg) against the ground, and then it can take a bite on some other part of the knight and leverage its mass to rend the knight like they were made of noodles.

Since your dragons already have highly effective grabbers on their forelimbs (used for climbing), there's no reason why the foreclaws couldn't be repurposed for grabbing and pressing down a knight's armoured foot -- each claw is likely large enough to be able to penetrate the earth on either side of the foot causing extra impingement of the knight's movement.

So now we have a monkey wrapped in metal tubes, with one limb stuck in place on the ground, and another part of it clamped onto with crushing force likely over 1000 psi, and both parts of the attacking dragon anchored to the largest musculature in the beast's body, the breast. Some very simple movement on the part of the dragon would lead to dislocating, if not out-right dismembering, the poor hairless simian.

The bonus here is that the dragon doesn't need a lot of room to use this attack. No need to swing anything around. And up-close-and-personal has the extra usefulness of preventing the knight from getting a good swing with their lizard-sticker.

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For the classic dragon, it could stand on its hind legs, flapping its wings to "blow" the aggressor back or off a horse, or simply to gain distance. It could possess dew claws on its wings being used to grab or pull someone off a horse, behind a wall etc. Also using its forelimbs to pin an opponent down. It could use its sheer weight to force its victim to wherever it wanted. Overall the dragon's body would be its natural weapon, given humans use their fists to fight one another naturally.

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  • $\begingroup$ Using fists is a slightly risky exercise, as broken fingers and hands might seriously impair survival chances. Weapons aren't just better at smashing. slicing and impaling, they're also better for the wielder, too. Using wings as weapons against large or dangerous prey is probably inadvisable for similar reasons. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Feb 9 at 9:23
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Poisonous or acidic spit. It can be used from safe range, penetrates any medieval armor and is low energy. The dragon already seems to have acidic breath.

Also see projectile use by non-human organisms

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