In my world, there's a tentacled race of amphibious creatures. They evolved in water, but can also survive on land. They're roughly human sized, but they're boneless and they move around on six flexible tentacles. They use their tentacles both to carry themselves and grip any objects.

So what would be the best weapon for these creatures to use - i.e. if there was an army of them on land, what would be the default type of weapon employed?

Some details about their tentacles:

Fully extended, their tentacles can reach up to twelve foot long, but they lose all leverage at that length.

In general, the tentacles are very good at pulling, but very poor at pushing. The tentacles contract. They have muscles designed for dragging prey towards them, but not for pushing or thrusting with a blade.

Their tentacles have suckers, granting them an incredibly strong grip.

They move over land by dragging their torsos with their tentacles. If they are using all six tentacles to hold something, they become effectively immobile.

They have no fingers or digits; their tentacles are very flexible, but not very dexterous. They cannot handle any equipment that requires fine operation (so no bows).

Their bodies could be outfitted in armour, but their tentacles can't be - simply because you can't properly fit any sort of sheathing around them. In battle, it means that the tentacles could be very exposed and vulnerable.

Against unarmed prey, they'd hunt by ensnaring the prey in tentacles and squeezing the life out of them. However, as part of an army facing steel weaponry and amour, relying on that tactic would go very poorly. They'd need some sort of weapon instead.

I originally imagined that they'd wield spears to take advantage of their reach, but boneless tentacles just wouldn't be very good at thrusting a spear. In human weaponry, generally it's designed so that all of the strength comes from the elbow and shoulder, but these creatures have neither. They have a completely different bone structure from humans, so I have to imagine that their weapons would look completely different.

Assume low fantasy / medieval technology level.


You ask about an army of such creatures, so realistically their weapons will be determined by the tactical and strategic doctrine of the army. How one of these creatures might fight individually is not going to be the same as how a group would fight, and how a group would fight is not the same as how a professional army would fight.

For example- see the Phalanx formations (Google it). Rows of men would stand five or six deep, tightly bunched together and with shields in front, while those behind held spears of between 5 and 6 meters in length stuck out in front. The result was a literal wall of spears that would catch any attacker three or four meters before they got close enough. Excellent for deterring disorganized individuals and cavalry.

The Roman army used soldiers called Hastati as the bulk of their front-line units. These were lighter armed and armored swordsmen who also carried two javelins called pila. They would throw their javelins as they advanced on the enemy, shocking them, and then engage in sword combat with the short sword called the gladius. Being lightly armed and armored, these Hastati could then maneuver or disengage as needed to bring the more heavily armed and armored second and third lines of Principles or Triarii to bear on the enemy after they had already winded themselves.

My reactions to your scenario are that:

  1. Your octopus creatures have a long reach but are not particularly quick, so the only thing that reaching out twelve feet does is give your enemy the chance to cut off a tentacle.

  2. No matter how long their arms are, the laws of physics and the mechanics of leverage mean that they're not holding anything particularly heavy that far away from their body. (Try holding anything at arm's length for 30 seconds.)

  3. They cannot use crossbows or bows, but that does not prohibit them from using simpler ranged weapons like javelins.

One idea would be to give each creature two or three shields that they use to defend aggressively, and dart out quick jabs with a dagger or short sword to exploit enemy mistakes or weaknesses. Assuming they need something like six tentacles to move around, they could hold two or three large shields close to their bodies and then hold a short sword and a javelin ready to strike out. The Javelin can also be used as a short spear.

Another novel idea would be to have a line of shields in the front row, and then have the creatures in the second row exploit their long tentacles to raise themselves six or eight feet above the front row just long enough to throw down spears at unsuspecting or vulnerable enemy heads.

  • $\begingroup$ A shield wall compossed of squids with 3 or 4 shields EACH...... Would be all but inmune to arrows. $\endgroup$
    – Gustavo
    Feb 20 '20 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Gustavo And each squid could cover their front and above their head, so each would be a one-squid turtle. The Romans used the turtle formation (testudo) to shield against arrows from the sides and above. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Feb 20 '20 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ Nice - one more idea is to look at really long spears. OP has specified that tentacles are strong pulling but weak at pushing. So have a spear which is held over the "shoulder", with a considerable length going behind the creature. Then use a tentacle extended to the rear gripping the butt, contract that tentacle suddenly and the spearhead will stab out very swiftly. $\endgroup$ Feb 20 '20 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 You beat me to it, I was about to add an answer pointing out that option as it seems very effective to me. I'll leave you to write that answer if you like, and think up something else. $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Feb 20 '20 at 10:45
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder if a tentacle could be used as an effective submarine atlatl? $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Feb 20 '20 at 13:37

I think that two classes of weapons would work for your tentacled warriors.

The first would be things that attach to their tentacles and let them slash or pierce. So spiky cuffs, though I don't know how you make sure they stay in place. They could swing and grip targets, puncturing them with the spikes. Similarly, a knife with a slashing edge, pointed on both sides, gripped by a handle -- similar to a pastry knife. They could swing their tentacles around, slashing at their opponents. They could these weapons in as many free tentacles as they had -- those not needed for locomotion.

The second kind could be infantry flails.
enter image description here

They could grip them with two tentacles and attack by raising one tentacle and lower the other. They could also use the handle to defend themselves from some attacks.

I don't think other styles of flail like weapons would work for them --- like morning stars (the stick with a chain connecting it to spiked balls). I think they'd be as likely to smack their own tentacles as their opponents.


Spears can potentially be an effective weapon for them, but not as you imagine. They would hold the spears behind them, and hold them overhead. They could then contract their tentacles to thrust forward quite forcefully. Perhaps some slits in their armor could use with aim. The spears would be longer, but quite effective, especially when combined with shields in other tentacles.

Other than that, you would probably see an increase of (cart) mounted weapons. Large ballistae would be able to be operated by them, as well as smaller cart mounted bows or crossbows. Even tripod mounted (static) crossbow contraptions would work for them, if their dexterity wouldn't allow them to carry crossbows normally. Aiming could be done not by holding the weapon with a tentacle, but by resting it on one or two, and flexing/relaxing them to increase their thickness for a finer control.

Also if mounted combat is an option, a tentacle creature on horseback, flailing around daggers or swords at anyone coming in range would be a very painful encounter for anyone not sufficiently armoured. Optional spears strapped to the horses saddle.

I'm not sure if flinging anything would work well from them. If anything, this would be done from behind by contracting the tentacle while flailing the tip upwards. If perfected, they could use a range of small thrown weapons like throwing knifes, darts, or rocks. Even spiked objects like sea urchins (modified for grip) could work, to keep with their theme.

As for tactics, since they evolved in water, they would try to draw the battle to the sea as much as possible. Their defences would be significantly stronger in lakes or seas.

Guerrilla attacks would be useful for them as well, as they can infiltrate a settlement covertly through its water source, and I imagine they would be able to move and kill fairly silently.


Against Humans: Shields and Grappling.

When fighting an opposing army of humans, we use a variant of our natural strangling behaviour. The strategy is to isolate the enemy front line from the guys behind them, overwhelm that front line, and then repeat.

Every soldier has say four shields and four dagger-like weapons. They are attached to the tentacles such that those four tentacles can be used for locomotion. We stay low to the ground while shielding from above, and take advantage of our natural abilities to squeeze behind the front line.

enter image description here

Note to armorer: Make shields flexible.

This is effective because human weapons are usually designed to fight another human. Being low down actually makes us harder to hit from further away.

Once we have isolated the front line we rear up and keep the second line busy with our shields, while our second, third, and fourth line overwhelms their (now surrounded) first line.

They cannot swing a sword/spear at someone (or five someones) clinging to their chest and their armor is useless since our many nimble tentacles locate the neck and armpits and stab through there.

Note to armorer: Design shields so they can be moved up/down the tentacles as required, to prevent them getting in the way during grappling.


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