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In medieval times, people possessed a muscular and flexible tail that is capable of manipulating objects. Everyone (regardless of race) is born with one such tail, and the tail can hold weight as heavy as 12kg for a short period of times - usually 5 minutes. A severed tail won't grow back and on average these tails is approximately 1.2m to 1.5m long with thickness roughly size of a thumb.

My questions are;

  • How would the medieval battles fought out if everyone have fully prehensile tail?
  • Will there be a set of weapons specifically tailored to tail?
  • Or is the tail in the way?

Comment below if you have any doubt.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are they otherwise identical to normal humans? A human has two hands but they can still only really effectively fight with one weapon at a time because of having to concentrate, it seems unlikely that a third appendix would really be very useful in anything other than accidentally stabbing yourself if their brains are not adapted to multitasking more. $\endgroup$ – Theik Aug 7 '15 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Theik all along human comes with the tail so since prehistory human learns to use the tail for balancing and hunting small agile animal. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Aug 7 '15 at 7:43
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    $\begingroup$ 1.5m long and as thick as your thumb, yet capable of holding ~26 lbs? I think the only way that would work is if the tail is as wide as my thumb is long (which may be what you meant). Our fingers have no muscles in them (just tendons and bone), and a prehensile tail would need significantly smaller bones and many more ligaments. To actually add the muscle mass capable of doing anything useful you'd need to add a lot of width. $\endgroup$ – Shollus Aug 7 '15 at 18:00
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Tail would cause some troubles: should the tail be armored or not? If yes, there should be a hole in the armor for it and the entrance should be well armored so it won't be easily cut off. This would decrease it's dexterity, as the armor has it's weight and is not flexible.

Because of a tail, humans would balance their body weight in a different way, probably using the tail itself, which also has it's weight, so sudden lost of a tail, or having some part of it cut off, wouldn't be something you wouldn't care of.

If we decided not to cover the tail, it becomes vulnerable and if you fall on your back, which happens pretty often during a fight, you may crush it or break it (your body + body armor + force of impact), as it's not very thick.

The most common use of the tail would be in hand-to-hand combat. Maybe it could be use by archers, but I can't really see how (passing the arrows?).

Since the tail is about 1,5m and starting from the top of our butt, it's potential reach while attacking an enemy in front of you would be slightly longer than your arms reach. Any slashes wouldn't be practical, because it's very light and not that strong + oppontents have armor. Since the tail would be used to balance the body, it should be used in brief, quick attacks, so attaching a blade and using the tail as a sting would be possible. Main problem would be how to attach the blade to the top of the tail (if it's armored it wouldn't be much problem though).

I'm not sure how your humans would use the tail for balance, but let's assume not using it would be difficult to move around. There isn't much space in the battlefield when two opposing armies clash, so this could cause balancing problems.

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(1) One use of an armed tail is to ward off people behind you. The problem is that you can't see them. If mirrors have been invented, I suppose you could have wing-mirrors but it would be difficult to focus in all directions at once. Maybe the best tactic would be to swish your weaponed tail back and forth rapidly. The problem with that is that you might slash a friend that was standing behind you. They would have to shout to alert you of their presence - not always audible in pitched battle.

(2) The main advantage would be in forested areas. You could hang from branches and slash at ground foes with your hands. This is fine if you are fighting a race that doesn't have tails but it's cancelled out if everyone does.

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This answer is going to focus mainly on fighting with the tail.

The first thing you need to realize is that while your tail can grasp objects, and seems to be pretty flexible, it's probably not the best extremity you have available to hold your weapon. It won't have as solid a grip like a hand, (probably can't even wear a glove), and probably doesn't have the leverage and strength of an arm.

Thus, the tail won't be holding a sword or shield, but it would be a mistake to give it nothing to do. I imagine using flail-like weapons to take full advantage of the tail's length. The soldier would wind up their tail, then swing it 'round as fast as they can, delivering a massive blow to the side of their foe. This tactic has some good points- it'll be unexpected since it comes from behind the soldier's body, and it may have the range to get around the enemy's shield- but it will also come with its downsides, mainly that if the enemy is expecting it, they can either cut off your tail, or worse, pull on your tail, swinging you around and opening up your back for a kill shot. That's why any attacks by the tail should be quick, and infrequent. They'll be used for surprise attacks, to make an opening for the main weapon.

Another benefit is balance. Normally, humans have two feet upon which to balance their weight; adding a tail into the mix will give them many more options. For instance, a soldier could lean further back using the tail for balance, and thus evade more attacks. Similarly, a soldier could use their tail to spring further forward, perhaps hitting an enemy that would have evaded them without this advantage. More general moves can be aided using the tail as a counterweight. The end result of this is that battles should involve more movement and agility, as soldiers dodge back and forth.

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Working off the following ideas:

  • A tail is an extension of the vertebra, and not mounted in a socket. So it can't swivel very efficiently to protect your sides, or hit something to the side.
  • Whatever you hold in your tail, therefore, is not something you can employ in your field of vision the way you do with a sword.
  • The tail can actually be a massive liability. Someone can easily sneak up on you and hack into it without you noticing.

I would suggest that the tail would be well armored. So well, indeed, that it might use up the 12kg weight budget. If any is left over, it should probably be used to attach a shield. This lets you put an additional layer of armor about a meter away from your back, which should be handy to block arrows.

If the top of the shield is sharpened and strengthened, the warrior can, if necessary swing the tail over his head as an emergency melee weapon. If the opponent doesn't have a tail, the battle is suddenly no longer symmetrical.

If the warrior is fighting multiple people at once, from different directions, he can incorporate a swing with the tail into a quick turn, to keep everybody at a distance.

I can't think of many animals that use their tails defensively (the Ankylosaurus is the only one that comes to mind). This is probably because a the more mobile it is, the more vulnerable it is.

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A tail would be useful as a trip weapon. Grab your opponent around the ankle and pull. The problem is that they are trying to do the same to you - you may end up tail-wrestling at the same time that you are fighting conventionally.

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Maybe use a small spear weapon for lightly armored enemies or a short whip like thing. Chain mail would be ideal for protecting it. Battle would also be very confusing, because now you have three "arms" to fight with. Kevlar would also be very useful, although they did not develop that until the late twentieth century.

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    $\begingroup$ This isn't very much information, and doesn't add much as an answer. Would you like to flesh out this answer with more information? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 12 '17 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ You would also be able to trip enemies with it.Archers could also operate two bows at once.one would need to be more of a crossbow and have a hopper for arrow supply. $\endgroup$ – user34531 Mar 13 '17 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ It would have to be a really weak crossbow to be pulled back with the tail. Not much range. $\endgroup$ – Gryphon - Reinstate Monica Mar 18 '17 at 6:37
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Think of fighting a 3 armed opponent

This video shows a father and son fighting as the Vikings did. Their style is usually to attempt to get around the shield and armor. If they were fighting opponents with heavier armor, I would think the goal would be to stab through joints in the armor, such as under the arm.

I would argue that the ability to pull away your opponents arms from their body would be a great strategy to open their front for attack. A tail armored with chain mail could aid greatly in this, if it had appropriate strength.

  • When your opponent raises their arm to strike, anchor your tail to their neck and push against their inner arm.

  • Use your off hand to pry away their shield.

  • Stab through their open defenses.

This is only one way of course. You're introducing an entirely new fighting element to the human body, which is already capable of hundreds of fighting styles, and endless counters, and counters to those counters...

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Forget direct tail attacks - think about what it will mean for kicking.

A tail is not a very effective weapon for a biped. It's positioned behind you where you can't see it, and it isn't good at gripping compared to a hand. While you might be able to attach spiked or bladed armor to it and use it as a slashing weapon, you can't get very good leverage from it without exposing your back to the enemy, which is a big no-no in serious combat.

But that doesn't mean it's useless - a tail can be used for balancing and even brace the body against the ground. Depending on how strong and thick the tail is, it can even function as a "third leg" of sorts, which adds all kinds of possibilities for kicking. Kangaroos, for example, often spring up onto their tail to deliver a powerful kick with both feet at once. Maybe these prehensile tails are not strong enough to support the entire body in that way, but they can still be of use.

Kicking was an important part of medieval armored fighting. When both you and your enemy are basically heavy tin cans with a few tiny weak points (the eye-slit, generally), forcing your opponent to stumble and lower their guard or even knocking them onto their back is going to be a major part of claiming victory, and a kick is a good, solid way of delivering kinetic energy to a foe's body. Add a third leg to the mix, and you wind up with expanded options for both offense and defense. A tail on the ground can catch you when you stumble backwards or maintain balance when using a leg to attack. A tail might make more complex kicks and sweeps viable for heavy armored fighters - your knights might employ a sort of "3-legged judo" to try and knock opponents over in battle. An injured tail will represent a major handicap.

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warriors could grip knives, short spears, and even arrows in their tails.Could be used to finish off enemy after shield lock and sword lock.Weighted modules could be put on a solider's tail to be used as a club.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer just repeats information already found in other answers (for example, Wydmanski does a better job discussing using the knife in the tail). What was your goal in adding this answer? What were you trying to add that you did not see in the other answers? Whatever that thing was, highlight it and then elaborate on it. This is a very weak answer to any SE question, but particularly since there are already strong answers on this particular question. $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Mar 13 '17 at 2:13

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