Note: This is for a game. However, players can't directly control the creatures I'm talking about. They have their own AIs that fight, and I'd like to make it look realistic.

I've seen the idea in several places (I can't remember them all) of having a creature with a tail that is sharp or has some other weapon on it. However, I'm wondering, how would a creature like this keep its balance?

Most (real) animals use their tails for balance, if they have a long tail. However, if a creature is swinging its tail around at an enemy, especially a tail with a heavy weapon on the end, wouldn't that knock it off balance?

Having said that, here is what I'm wondering: Is it feasible to use a tail as a weapon? What would need to happen to make it feasible?

Some extra notes:

  • They also have a good tech level (better than modern humans) and with that, a good weapon level.
  • They are sentinent, like humans. They can do a lot on their own, like the actual fighting, but the player is their commander and can tell them to train/practice/go smash those enemies over there etc.
  • I'm not really interested in how they would evolve, just how they would exist.
  • The weapon on the tail can be technology, but the tail is the creature's natural tail.
  • The game isn't all about fighting. The species must be able to do a very wide range of other tasks, equal to or better than humans. They are also about human-sized and will probably walk upright.
  • The fighting is mostly defensive, against pirates and such.
  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prehensile_tail $\endgroup$ – apaul May 20 '15 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ imagine creature evolved a powerful massive tail that can hit the ground very hard and generate earthquakes and powerful sound waves to stun any people nearby (hulk smash) $\endgroup$ – user6760 May 20 '15 at 4:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So... You are describing an andalite from animorphs. $\endgroup$ – Caleb Woodman Nov 10 '15 at 18:04

Feasible? How about the Ankylosaurus?

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Granted, they all died. But, that was likely not because they kept getting knocked off balance when using their tails.

Humans sometimes use their outstretched arms for balance, but that doesn't mean we can't also use them for swinging heavy things to hit stuff. If the animal has sure footing, and is not currently using the tail for balance, then it's fair game for swinging.

I once owned an iguana when I was a child. They have tails which are primarily used for balance, however they will also use them to savagely whip children who just want to hold them nicely. If the demon iguana was on a smooth countertop its whole body would slide around while whipping, significantly decreasing its power. If the demon iguana was sitting on carpet or clinging to a log though, it was able to get traction and apply full power to the child whipping.

  • $\begingroup$ Your last paragraph is intriguing. I could give the species long claws or something to keep its foothold while it fights with its tail. I also like that players would need to handle changing the fighting style on different terrain (smooth terrain = no fighting with tail.) $\endgroup$ – FlyingPiMonster May 19 '15 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ @kittycat3141 Yes, that reminds me of another example. I've edited my answer to include it. $\endgroup$ – Samuel May 20 '15 at 0:00

"However, if a creature is swinging its tail around at an enemy, especially a tail with a heavy weapon on the end, wouldn't that knock it off balance?"

Tell that to the scorpion! scorpion

Obviously, scorpions aren't human-sized, but there's nothing intrinsically limiting about their body geometry to make their offensive tail ineffective at human scale. And this is a piercing attack rather than a blunt force attack, but again, I don't see anything which would prevent it from using it as a club instead (other than the fact that whatever weight is used to give it heft would be useless drag outside of combat).

You might say that the scorpion is cheating because it's using 6 legs for balance, but I'm pretty sure it would be fairly effective with just 4 as well. Bees and wasps not only use their "tails" offensively, they can do it while flying! How awesome is that??

A bipedal human-sized creature with arms and a prehensile tail like a monkey could simply use the tail like a 3rd arm, although, one would wonder why it doesn't just use its arms. If the tail were stronger than the arms, that would be one reason (maybe it has T-rex arms). If the tail is longer, it can create a greater moment swinging a mace or hammer, but only if it is correspondingly stronger. This could be another reason for using the tail instead of an arm. Of course, technology can make a hammer really long too, so if I were such a creature, I would use the tail in addition to my arms. Say, two swords and a dagger/spear/mallet/buckler/use-your-imagination. That could make for some very interesting techniques.


Quadrupeds generally use their tails for balance only when in a bipedal stance, usually as part of a tripod with their hind legs. Such an animal would have no trouble using a weaponized tail, since the quadrupedal stance is inherently stable. I would expect a fighting style from such a creature to consist of bracing itself on all fours facing away from the enemy and flailing away.

A biped constantly uses its tail for balance, shifting the tail to keep the animal's center of gravity over its base of support. Because of this, I'd expect the fighting style to be far more dynamic, with fancy footwork and body shifts used to maintain balance and add to the momentum of the tail (think: some of the fancier movie martial-arts styles, only justified by the need to keep your balance while on the move).


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