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In my low-fantasy setting there is a civilization of completely blind humanoid creatures. Their ability to perceive the world is directly related to the other senses (hearing, smell and touch), which are slightly more heightened than ours. Aside from that, they have no other special ability.

If I think of them as a completely peaceful civilization I have no issue imagining one of their towns. Most aspects of everyday life that usually require sight can be done even without it, if society is organized around non-visual sources of information. But the world outside is not always peaceful, so I suppose that even these blind people would need some kind of fighting skills, even if just for defense purposes. But how could they fight on the same level of sight-owning creatures?

I don't know how much the stereotype of the blind martial artist can be used in this situation...the more I read about enhanced senses (in a realistic way), the more I feel that they cannot have at close range the same precision and detail of sight. So I'm seeing two possible directions for an hypothetical military equipment of this blind civilization:

  • Heavy armored melee fighters, with armors designed to absorb the hit with minimal damage and convey the vibration enough to reveal the exact position of the attacker. Maybe even made of an highly reflective metal, to impair the vision of the opponent and bring down its level of perception.
  • Polearm-like weapons that allow to keep some distance from the attacker, like spears or halberds (maybe with bells attached near the tip to use their sound for a little bit of echolocation, or holes in the shaft that allow to read the sound of the air through it).

But these two directions seem quite in conflict, since most pole weapons need to be used with a certain degree of agility. Is there any way they can work together, or some other ways to fight at close range without being at disadvantage?

As for long range weapons instead, I suppose that anyone of them can be useful alongside an enhanced perception of the environment, especially during night warfare. Is there any that could provide a special advantage for blind people? If going with the polearm approach I was thinking about javelins, just to have a sort of mixed weapon useful both at close range and long range. Maybe, given the ability of blind people to read the wind a bit better through skin-perception and smell, some sort of winged javelin that allows for curved throws by taking advantage of the wind? Does something like that exist?

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  • $\begingroup$ You might want to give them echolocation or similar abilities, since that's what most troglodytes (blind creatures who lost their eyes while evolving within dark caves) ando other creatures who need to navigate in the dark use. $\endgroup$ Aug 10 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ They should have Toph's Seismic Sense $\endgroup$
    – Firestryke
    Aug 10 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Soel If you go with reflective material, you need to explain how the blind know it's reflective at some point $\endgroup$
    – TCooper
    Aug 11 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ Some blind people user echolocation. $\endgroup$
    – Tony Ennis
    Aug 11 at 20:34

14 Answers 14

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Eyes.

eagle.

https://www.dinglefalconry.com/

When fighting in the open and the light, your blind creatures cooperate with creatures that can see and communicate. We use dogs in this way - putting to use their superior senses and ability to communicate with us.

The sighted creatures call out and signify what they see. I like the idea of a blind archer listening to its falcons calling, then firing the arrow to the place they have designated.

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Blind creatures are gonna be at a massive disadvantage in a fight in the open in light.

There's a reason that light is the main sense we use on the surface. It's very easy to follow, very direct, and very fast. Even so, there are visual illusions and people often make mistakes with sight.

With sound, smell, and the chaos of a battle? They would have massive disadvantages and be very erratic. People could dodge their spears, block them with shields, and then bombard enemies from afar.

Blind creatures tend to dominate underground.

Underground where you can't see other senses are dominant. You can ambush enemies easily, so a lack of quick vision is less of an issue. The greatest weapon is a shovel.

As such, they should fight underground. They can train with bows to shoot at particular range, and then pop out from underground and pepper enemies with bow or spear shots, and use short ranged swords that work well in a cramped underground environment.

They can rip the ground out from under enemy formations and drag them into the earth to drown them in dirt. They can sneak to supply convoys and wreck them, or release plagued animals inside enemy camps.

If they try to fight at extended melee range enemies can exploit their lack of sight. Stay at the edge of their smell and echolocation range, make lots of noise, and bombard them with spears and arrows, dart into to pick off isolated people. An enemy that does catch them above ground will have a massive advantage, and be able to kill them at a very favorable kill to death ratio.

That's why you don't fight fair.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, fighting fair means losing. This would work very well in a low-tech environment. $\endgroup$
    – Firestryke
    Aug 10 at 23:04
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Tucker's Kobolds:

Rather than have blind folks trying to slug it out with sighted opponents, I would suggest that your people are experts at ambushes, poisons, booby traps, and surprise. It will help greatly if there is a poison that is relatively harmless to these folks but incapacitating/lethal to others.

The best description I ever heard of turning a battle on its head was that of Tucker's Kobolds. Arguably the lowest and weakest intelligent creature in the AD&D universe, kobolds are universally despised. Yet a dungeon master decided he would take all their disadvantages and flip them on their head. They were small, so all hallways were tiny. Any big hallway was lined with smaller ones and murder holes everywhere. The floors were lined with manually operated pits, and every weapon was poisoned.

Make special kill zones and "fun houses" where your blind folks retreat to when attacked. They listen for every floor creaking and trigger the appropriate trap to kill the unwary. Every hall is short and twisty, filled with hidden niches for attackers to lunge out of with poisoned weapons (and a nice multi-dart needle shooter turns a whole area into a lethal kill zone). A spring-loaded crossbow with a tripwire kills without seeing, but your blind folk feel the tension of the string in time to avoid the trigger. Obviously limit light sources. Train attack dogs to bark at approaching enemies. Every floor is a nightingale floor, creaking at the slightest motion.

Strategy will be key here. Leave out spoiled food for enemies to capture — your folks can smell it's bad, but your rivals can't. Captured folks will serve enemies, then poison their food or stab them with poison needles. A blind individual will seek to lure an enemy in, then kill them with the first blow. Flash grenades would be VERY useful, blinding enemies even temporarily, evening up the odds of a close fight. Smells from food or perfume or just body odor will cling to your people, giving the ability to distinguish friend from foe. Bells that ring in frequencies unheard by normal races alert the blind without being detected by others.

And don't forget the value of peaceful people having allies. Besides trained pets, friendly races can do all the tasks the sighted are best at, but also act as missile troops and scouts in time of war. Good people can have good friends. But remember, war is hell and there are no rules when someone's trying to kill you.

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1. Mercenaries

Hire mercs to do your fighting.

2. Assistants

Use animals to locate opponents and direct attacks.

3. Area of Effect (aoe) Attacks

Use weapons that don't require pinpoint accuracy. A maul instead of a knife, a shotgun instead of a pistol, a group of archers firing together instead of individuals taking shots, boiling oil from the castle ramparts and not catapults launching at range, grapeshot from a cannon instead of a cannon ball, a blunderbuss instead of a musket, etc.

4. Traps

It would be interesting, designing a trap which isn't obvious to see when you yourself cannot see, but given enough real-world experience or assistance from someone with sight, it could be done. Or the trap can have such a wide area of effect it doesn't matter if your enemies can see it or not.

Some types of traps would still be easy enough to make and remain effective. Tripwires come to mind. If a segment of cobblestone floor activates a trap, the nature of cobblestone helps disguise the trigger, even if the trap maker can't see. Etc.

5. Blind Everyone

Living underground in darkness becomes a natural solution. Your first target is whichever enemy holds the torch, as identified by the sound of the flame or perhaps the smell of smoke. Conversely, bright lights can blind, so highly-reflective surfaces may be of use if you have assistance in designing and quality-checking such measures.

Underwater also becomes a preferred habitat for your society. Water obscures vision, eliminates the possibility of enemies attacking at extreme range, and prevents most forms of light (such as fire and even sunlight). Assuming the blind folks can't breathe underwater, they can still occupy caves, natural or otherwise, which are only accessible by water.

Smoke and fog become your friend. Perhaps this society lives in the mists of a deep forest or swamp.

Use poison grenades that irritate your opponents' eyes. Not having eyes, you are unaffected (or if you have sightless eyes, a simple cloth wrap protects you).

6. Extra Senses

Some animals are very sensitive to heat, can detect electrical signals, can detect vibrations in the ground, can detect slight changes in air flow, or utilize echolocation. If your blind folks have senses beyond humans, these would obviously be of use.

7. Environmental Hazards

Live deep in the woods where natural predators keep your foes at bay. Live in the desert or in extreme cold, where the weather itself defends you. Make your home an island and build a wall around the entire thing so your opponents can't reach you.

8. Smart Fortifications

Build fortifications to minimize your weaknesses. Hang thick fabric from the ceiling of your castle hallways every 5 feet; this can be secured to the ceiling when at peace, and lowered to drastically reduce sight lines. Soak the fabric in flame-resistant oils.

Use scent bombs to identify friend from foe. Anyone who walks in smelling like fertilizer must have walked through the poop moat, so you can smell them out.

Place string or wire all over the place like spider webs, then track your enemies as they cause vibrations in your network, using arrows to kill them without cutting your own string.

Fill a hallway with glass fragments, then attack wherever you hear noise as a foe walks towards you.

Build an aqueduct and pipe water into the ceiling above your fortifications, then let it fall in sheets periodically through your hallways. It drains away into the floor, but extinguishes torches and prevents many distance attacks. I imagine it could also be a vehicle for dispersing mist/fog or even contact poisons, which your forces would build up an immunity to.

9. Preparation is King

Above all, your blind society will need to prepare in advance, either through selective choice of domiciles, static defenses, or allies. Impromptu combat in unfamiliar terrain will heavily favor those with sight unless the blind have a 6th sense or mercs. Animal assistants help mitigate this somewhat, but not entirely.

This means your blind society will probably not attack often, relying instead on defense.

10. Magic

Of course, if magic is available, you just make it up however you want.

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Tear gas and smoke bombs

First you want to take away your sighted opponents’ advantage. @mathaddict’s idea of blinding lights is good, but short-lived and easily counteracted. Tear gas not only reduces your opponents’ vision, but also incapacitates them to some degree. The gas may also cause your enemies to cough or generally move less stealthily, making it easier to locate them by sound.

Protecting eyes from tear gas while maintaining sight requires relatively complex masks with eyepieces which are expensive, heavy and anyway reduce your field of vision. Protecting other irritable tissues like the mucosa of the nose (which your blind species would still need) is much more easily accomplished with a scarf or bandanna (I’m not sure if your humanoids have no eyes at all or are just sightless, but in the latter case, just wear a scarf or “war mask” over your whole face. Pretty cool aesthetic, potentially!) If your opponents have worked out a way to produce gas masks, add smoke bombs into the mix, so all they see is hazy, confusing and probably distorted by the small and imperfect “goggles” of their masks.

It also strikes me as a suitable strategy for a peaceful community, who would seek to avoid direct conflict and rely on causing confusion, dread and general disarray in their enemy while dispatching relatively few opponents (perhaps gruesomely for maximum effect) exposing themselves as little as possible. Traps and other ideas suggested by other answers may fit here.

Caveat: I’m not sure how they would know their tear gas works.

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In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

If you don't know where to aim your weapon, be it a sword, a spear or a javelin, it's pointless having it or being able to give it cool effects. Odor or sound detection can provide a clue on the direction from where a possible enemy is coming, a bit more difficult is to get a sense on the distance. And without distance information a weapon is useless.

The best defense for them is setting boobytraps and use animals (dogs, ducks, etc.) to warn them about intruders and possibly be the first reaction against them. Without that it just needs a silent archer to take out as many targets can be killed by the arrow he has on him.

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    $\begingroup$ You might want to read Country of the Blind by H.G.Wells. He doesn't specifically address weapons, but he does address many of the adaptations that a civilization makes after becoming blind. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Country_of_the_Blind $\endgroup$ Aug 10 at 10:21
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Have and use physical advantages that outweigh being blind, or don't fight creatures that see.

If these underground creatures are physically like humans, and they are fighting seeing humans in equal numbers, there is no possible armament that could give them the advantage. The blind warriors would find their attacks always intercepted by shields or armor they could not anticipate, while their seeing foes could easily get past their guard and stab them where they are unprotected. The underground creatures' best weapon in that case would be a white flag.

So if the blind creatures are to fight, we must assume they have some huge advantage that outweighs being blind.

Perhaps they are the size of Grizzly bears. In that case, they should go with full plate armor and massive maces that do not require any precision to wield, with blows too powerful for a man to block.

Perhaps they are the size of badgers and extremely numerous. In that case, they could rely on swarming the enemy and cutting them to pieces by feel with sharp knives.

Perhaps they can burrow very easily. In that case, they could rely on digging numerous layers of tunnels and traps, preparing the field, never engaging directly, trying to bury the enemies in a collapse.

Perhaps they are human-sized, but more numerous and organized than their foes. Then a pike formation might be effective, as it relies more on presenting a lot of deadly points and just marching in the general direction of the enemy, than on aiming the points too accurately.

It really depends on what advantage you want to give them to compensate for the blindness. Whatever their advantage, it's probably not recommended for them to fight at range because of the risk of friendly fire and the difficulty of hitting the enemy formation.

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The least precision-oriented weapons available. Perhaps something comparable to a war-scythe, or other curve-bladed polearms. Katana seem OK, in that they're forgiving on edge-alignment, and swords in general have the est edge ratio, but I would still be tempted to go for a longer handle.

Armor is more difficult than it would seem, because head protection screws with acoustics, foot and hand protection screw with haptics, etc. Armored units really would need to train a lot just to cope with the sensory impairement imposed by the armor.

Ultimately, stealth, surprise, shock, and anything to help stay at ideal range. For warfare, I lean toward heavy chest protection and coordinated scythes. For individuals, I'd lean toward curved swords.

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Blinding Lights

A simple version of a flash grenade is going to be the most useful thing in this type of situation. Taking away the vision of your opponent is depriving them of their biggest advantage. After that, just fight them the same way that you would fight a fellow blind person, and since you have more practice at that sort of thing, you should win easily (provided the enemy does not regain their vision, so repeating the blinding tactics will be key).

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Preamble: Complex systems of fictional fungi spread and seek out subterranean reservoirs of water and other nutrients. Your poor-sighted civilisation has learned to exploit the fungi's ability to create efficient networks[1], and so use it for navigation.

[1]: "Intelligent Slime Mould" - It turns out, not really a fungus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physarum_polycephalum#Situational_behavior

Attunement with environment

Disturbances, from a creature passing by, may coax a fungus to release premature spores that have a particular quality. These spores, combined with your civilisation's peculiar heighted senses, make it quite straightforward to locate a creature moving around underground amongst the mould and hit them with a projectile.

Allergies

The members of your civilisation are covered in spores that induce allergic reactions in the surface dwellers. Being close to a spore carrier can be enough to trigger anaphylaxis. Fortunately, for those underground, they have adapted and suffer no adverse affects. This has the effect of diminishing the target's ability to defend themselves, and you attack the hardest when you hear a hacking cough.

Bio-Warfare

Because you cannot have a reliable advantage above ground, you resort to spreading certain toxins derived from underground fungi which destroy the enemy's crops.

Sometimes the fungal network has found surface farms from below. In which case the network only needs to be agitated to get it to release poisons into the surface soil.

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Lots of good answers. This might not be one of them :P

Human mythology and anecdote contains numerous examples of blind warriors who are capable of doing battle against sighted opponents without apparent difficulty. In most cases these blind individuals have trained their other senses to fill in for the lack of sight, hearing being the main focus of many. You can't taste an arrow that's coming straight at you, but you can hear the sound it makes as it moves through the air. Even silent opponents might be detected through smell (which is not normally a targeting sense) and body heat.

(For one reference, watch Blind Fury.)

The ideal weapon for a blind human warrior with blind-fighting training will depend a lot on their training, but it's almost always going to be a close melee weapon of some sort. Longsword, hanbo, kukri, yantok and the like. Ranged targeting without sight is a far more difficult proposition as the requisite accuracy over medium to long range is virtually impossible using hearing alone.

Unless your creatures have developed echolocation to any degree, of course. I assume we're not going with a Daredevil-style character though.

Beyond the actual implements of damage, the best weapon of a blind fighter is something that obscures the vision of sighted opponents. The Samurai had their metsubushi, the Ninja used the same name for blinding powders and something like a smoke grenade, even stage magicians obscure things with clouds of colored smoke from their flash powder. Modern soldiers use flash-bangs to blind and disorient their opponents and smoke grenades to obscure whole areas of a battle field. There are any number of chemical reactions that will do the trick, or you can use fine ash for a short-term solution. If you have access to magical abilities perhaps a darkness spell would be more appropriate.

And of course we can't ignore the two weapons that all successful fighting forces use: strategy and tactics. See the other very fine answers for more on those.

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Numbers

If your race of blind creatures are prolific breeders, they can simply outnumber their enemies. Sure, any adventurer worth their salt can handle a couple of blind kobolds or whatever. Can they handle a thousand of them? I think not. They wouldn't even need weapons - teeth and claws would suffice. You want to be in close melee range anyhow if you can't see, so grappling and wrestling moves would be ideal, along with whatever sharp appendages you might have, but if you have the advantage of just being a huge, swarming horde, you can simply wash over all opposition like a tidal wave with teeth and suffer minimal losses.

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I would go with stealth and blow-darts.

With their good hearing your warriors would also know how to move silently, since every mistake would be even more apparent to them than to us. Open confrontation in daylight with melee weapons would always put them at an disatvantage, but with sneaky blow-darts they could make full use of their surround awareness. As soon as the warrior hears something move, he quickly turns towards the noise and shoots a poisoned dart at the target. This requires no elaborate movement and is therefore quick and silent.

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We are blind, actually

We can not see enemy ship 400 km away, so we launch missile in direction where radar detected that vessel and missile detects its target itself.

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    $\begingroup$ You may have missed "In my low-fantasy setting". $\endgroup$
    – LukeN
    Aug 11 at 20:27

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