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In the world, I'm designing goblins are described as follows:

  • 100-150cm tall
  • Skinny
  • Hairless
  • About as strong as humans
  • Devoid of any natural weapon (like teeth or claws)
  • Skin similar to high quality leather jacket
  • Highly intelligent and creative
  • Short-sighted, but excellent sense of smell and hearing
  • Impatient, with attention span measured in seconds
  • Their three greatest pleasures are tinkering, novelties and gadgets
  • Their three greatest fears are boredom, routine and order
  • They mostly live in caves, abandoned dwarven mines, and other dark, confined places

But the most important part of their physiognomy are their arms.

They are as long as the whole body, even longer (compared to the overall height) than orangutans and have two elbows instead of one: in third and two-thirds of arms length. I have not yet decided, which direction they would bend (although all others restrictions of an elbow remain the same).

Each arm ends with six-fingered hand - the sixth finger is another opposable thumb, next to the pinky.

Now I wonder what would be a perfect weapon for such creatures.

At first I was going to go with a rapier, since long arms and small frame alone would make them excellent fencers, and additional elbow would allow them to execute many surprising attacks against elbowly-challenged opponents.

The problem is, that a rapier is essentially just a piece of metal with a pointy end. Maybe with sharp edges, if you're lucky. That doesn't really go well with goblin's character.

Ideal weapon for my goblins would have following characteristics:

  • Allow a lot of customization by the owner, both in terms of looks and effectiveness (the former has higher priority than the latter, but not to the point when the weapon becomes dead weight)
  • Small to medium sized (polearms or huge battle axes would not be practical in their habitat)
  • Allow them to leverage the fact, that they have two elbows

Assume late Middle-Ages/early Renaissance level of technology, although manufacturing local equivalent of gunpowder requires a spell-caster and goblin have no access to magic. Other resources (most importantly ore and skilled labour) are provided in abundance by their allies, who use the goblins to fight a proxy war with dwarves.

EDIT:

Answers to several good points posted by Cort Ammon:

what purposes do the longer double-elbowed limbs provide to warrant the extra complexity of a joint? Is there a prey they need, or a difficult environment to traverse?

They can reach into tight spots to acquire food or precious materials. Goblins aren't predators, but opportunists. They eat fungus, mushrooms and half-rotten meat. Usually those things don't lie or grow in easily accessible places.

Such limbs allow also easier climbing and checking what is in front of you in a dark cave.

Understanding better how the goblins think about their double-elbowed arm is helpful in studying how they would apply it.

Those which have limited contact with other species just think of it as their arm. The rest sees is a sign of superiority to others, even in environments where it's not in the least beneficial.

Also important is pure psychology: a patient race will use a different style of weapon from an impatient one. Also look at how much training

No formal training (as in practising the same moves over and over again) is possible, but they never make the same mistake twice and they are masters of thinking out of the box, even under pressure. Their biggest weakness is they like theatrics a little too much for their own good.

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    $\begingroup$ Musculature will also play a part. Taking a step back from the anatomy, what purposes do the longer double-elbowed limbs provide to warrant the extra complexity of a joint? Is there a prey they need, or a difficult environment to traverse? The ideal weapon not only fits the physiology of the wielder, but the psychology as well. Understanding better how the goblins think about their double-elbowed arm is helpful in studying how they would apply it. (Also important is pure psychology: a patient race will use a different style of weapon from an impatient one. Also look at how much training) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Aug 13 '15 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ How exactly would a species with an attention span measured in seconds be capable of the focus needed for tinkering with non-trivial gadgets? $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Aug 13 '15 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ @MasonWheeler you beat me to it! Thinking about my attention span and complications with 'tinkering' as it is. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Aug 13 '15 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ "attention span measured in seconds" and "Their three greatest pleasures are tinkering" - these two qualities are pretty much opposite. Tinkering requires attention span in hours at least. In seconds you can't even trim a stick properly. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Aug 14 '15 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ @DarthHunterix From what I've seen in people with real mental problems no, you can't. Maybe in some theory someone can, but my experience says otherwise. After some time kid simply forgets what he meant to do and he didn't make any notes, and all he gets is a lot of useless barely started parts. Your mileage may vary. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Aug 14 '15 at 13:52

13 Answers 13

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First, lets do away with the usual concept of a melee weapon. Short sightedness tends to make conventional weapons inaccurate and bad to use. So lets get up close and personal.

Your description of the elbow placement and arm structure reminds me very much of the praying mantis. enter image description here

When in doubt, look at nature. The mantis is often considered natures "Perfect Predator". But that's less important for this question - what's more important is its arm structure.

Assuming that the elbows bend the same ways as the mantis elbows do, with joints at 1/3 and 2/3 down the arm, we can apply a specific weapon for maximum efficiency, taking into account natures design.

I propose the following weapon:

---------O---------O---------[]>
          V V V V V  V V V V

Or alternatively, following the same concept (Version 2)

---------o---------o---------[]>
          \_______/  \______/

This is meant to be a "harness" (but can be easily adapted to have protection in the form of metal plates or whatnot).

  • []> represents a handheld spike
  • o represents a joint
  • --------- represents the sections of the arm that it is attached to, either via straps or locking mechanism, or whatever you want.
  • V represents spikes
  • \____/ represents blades

How does this weapon work?

Let's tackle this weapon one spot at a time, starting with the hand held spike. Consider the fully retracted arm - it looks something like this:

\/\

This is a position from which we can easily extend forwards into this:

─ ─ ─ 

By providing a spike for the hand to hold, the user can "palm thrust" the spikes into the enemy quickly and with precision. Generally, stabbing is easily forseen as us single elbow users have to pull back and then thrust forwards. In this case, the double elbow user doesn't have the "pulling back" motion, since the retracted motion is likely the "default" position in order to keep the arms off the floor (especially since the arms are longer than the body).

Note: the palm spike can easily be interchanged with a large amount of options, such as palm bucklers or normal weaponry. Highly customizable.

What about the spikes and blades?

Spikes and blades are interchangeable. I picked the spikes for version 1 because the mantis has spikes. It makes for a good gripping mechanism. You can grip with the following arm motion:

         __
\/| -> \/    -> \/|
start   extend   retract and grip

and the spikes will help keep your gripped target in place while you thrust into them with the spike in your other hand.

The blades, however, are not for gripping. If we offset the front and back blades a little bit, we can use them as a pair of scissors. Using the same motion as above, we can slice off limbs easily using the arm-slicers.

Alternatively, with the blades, you don't have to cut like a scissor. When throw outwards with the same initial motion as the cut, as long as the user aims higher than the target, he can get a "cutting" like a knife motion with the blade, and achieve "slashing" by simply swinging the arm instead of retracting it.

This weapon isn't only for offense. If we design the arm sections with plating, we now effectively have weaponized gauntlets, and the user can use the protected arms (especially since they're so long) as shields to block attacks.

You mention that it should be customizable per user for looks and usability - easily done, as you can change out parts of the harness for thicker metal plates for protection, or sharper cutting appendages, etc etc, anything the user wants, and it can be easily painted and whatnot for decoration.

There you have it - the perfect melee weapon for a two elbowed creature.

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    $\begingroup$ While there are many wonderful answers and I wish I could mark more as "accepted", but this one takes the cake, because the question was about "perfect weapon" and I believe this is it. Others are "only" great :) I've already attempted to fit it into the story, and I it seems it's going to work out well. Thank you very much :) $\endgroup$ – Darth Hunterix Aug 16 '15 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @DarthHunterix No problem!~ $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 17 '15 at 4:28
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Arm Blades

The weakness for such a creature would be in those long exposed arms from getting chopped. A blade mounted to the arm will offer protection and offense for their extended arms.

enter image description here

The blades can be used extended in times where extra reach is required or brought in close when in tight spaces. The retracted blades would mesh well with their natural proprioception, which will significantly reduce training required and chance of slicing oneself.

They can be further customized by dual wielding, blade length, serrations, backward pointing spikes, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ This is quite similar to my proposal, except yours actually exists O.o..... $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 13 '15 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ Those look scary. Like illegally scary. $\endgroup$ – ryanyuyu Aug 13 '15 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ What advantages does this thing have compared with a normal sword? It has the serious drawback of having very strict limits on the movement options, and not being able to be used to parry. The only advantage is that you can drop a sword if you lose your grip on it, but this seems too little to offset the versatility lost by removing the freedom of your wrist movements. $\endgroup$ – vsz Aug 14 '15 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz these can absolutely be used to parry it just looks very different, though your point about wrist movement being lost is relevant and a drawback. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 14 '15 at 14:37
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I'm going with a bullwhip. You can add things at either end. A cat-o-nine tales is a whip with little bits of metal in the ends. The handle could have different items as well, a spike, or mace type end. with double elbows the whip would be an incredibly nimble weapon. On top of that with the thumbs they could have parts of the 'cat-o-nine' that would lengthen and shorten different ends allowing for them to poison one person, inject someone else with a sleeping potion and just plain whip a third, all accurately and with the same weapon!

Because of a question about short-sightedness. Most bullwhips are in the 7-10ft. range. I'm very near-sighted and I can see 10ft. away with the accuracy to use a whip. On top of that, with their excellent hearing they may use echolocation type techniques to help pin down more accurately a targets location. Some blind people can ride their bikes down a busy street with it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Dangit bowl...i was going to say the exact same thing. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 13 '15 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @James great minds and all that. who has the fastest fingers! ;) $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Aug 13 '15 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ Can you elaborate a bit on why the bullwhip is such a great weapon for the two elbowed creature? I would think that the short sightedness would make it tougher to use. $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 13 '15 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify added more. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Aug 13 '15 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify I just can aggree to bowlturner since your shortsightness on that range has to be close to blindess if you can't even detect shapes at that range anymore. And if you have developed a feeling for the whipes moves you dont need to see its moves mandatoryly. And the moves you could let it make by just the option of another whip move in the same flow would make its moves unpredictable for your enemys. I really like his idea! $\endgroup$ – Zaibis Aug 14 '15 at 9:06
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Most races are not confined to a single weapon.

So I'll suggest a few that would be immensely strong, based on their physique.

Daggers

Because of the traits (small areas/ enclosed spaces)(like trinkets and gadgets)(opportunists) they inherently have, Daggers synergize very well with them. Small weapons work well in tight areas, and daggers excel in this category.

Due to their opportunistic nature, daggers would be useful for them to quickly deal massive amounts of damage/pain to their enemies. Their size facilitates this by being lighter. Curving the blade can also help this, since their additional joint gives them another angle to slice from.

Trinket and gadgets play on the small nature a bit, however this comes into play with the mechanical side of the dagger. Hidden in the handle, spring loaded, extremely shiny as a blinding mechanism, these intelligent creatures use every facet of the dagger to their advantage.

Darts

Taking on a "ranged dagger" approach, darts can be slathered in poisons made from foliage taken from the very caves they live in. Since they're also small, they fit the physique of the creatures as well as the trinket-style attraction. Their thick skins also make holding 5 of these between their six fingers without pricking themselves easy.

Slings

Depending on how you structure the secondary elbow, slings can be incredibly powerful, or average. Cheap to make, slings require a bit of cloth and a stone, so for those living in caves, these would be common. Shortsightedness isn't an issue with slings, as they can be used in melee situations as a club to a much lesser degree.

Unconventional Weapons

Dirty fighting tactics, such as a "dust bomb" that impairs enemy vision, giving them the advantage in close combat.

Their size gives them an advantage against taller opponents when using ranged weapons.

Chains, alone or with weapons attached. If a goblin is fast enough, he can use the chain to trip his enemies, finishing them off with the weapon attached to the tip. Think Scorpion's kunai.

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Assuming that arms are like levers - the farther from the pivot, the weaker and faster they are. So, the goblins need weapons that benefit from speed and do not require too much strength.

I guess, you could take a look at the meteor hammer:
meteor hammer
+ Longer arms make faster strikes
+ Two elbows allow strikes at various angles
+ Two opposable thumbs give more presicion
+ The weapon has a lot of potential usages (listed below)
± To some extent, allows to block incoming attacks
- Require training.


The usages of this hammer include:
- Throw one of the heads to hit the opponent (upfront, or from above, or from a side), pull the head back
- Throw the meteor to wrap itself around a weapon, object or an opponent's limb, pull the head back to get the object / disarm or trip the opponent
- Block an attack using the chain

Small daggers and spiked knuckles seem like a good backup options. Due to their dexterity, goblins may have good chances of blinding the opponent.

(Also, your goblins remind me of these hellish kobolds a bit. Very promising creatures and really dangerous opponents :)

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How about the baguazhang rooster claw ... The long arm and hook can extend up to the first elbow and protect the extended limbs:

enter image description here (Source)

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I love the preying mantis analysis, but my first thought when I saw the question was nunchucks! I can imagine all kinds of deadly, spinning mayhem perpetrated by a multi-jointed wielder.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was actually thinking something very similar, except instead of wielding nunchuks (adding a third joint to the equation), they would simply wield a solid, blunt weapon and their second elbow would function as the chain of a nunchuk. While the elbow would only have one axis, unlike the nunchuk's chain, all it would take is for the two-bone twisting ability, which humans have in the forearm, to exist in the middle segment of the goblins' arms. $\endgroup$ – Dan Henderson Aug 15 '15 at 18:39
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Hammers.

The extra thumbs will give a firmer grip, extra elbows will give extra speed.

It can also be very theatrical too!

enter image description here

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I'd first like to point out that the second elbow might just be a modified wrist. Many animals walk on what humans use as fingers, whether it be dogs walking on the palm-side or primates on the knuckle-side. It's not too inconceivable to believe that evolution simply kept this pattern for goblins, and extended it to include opposable thumbs and more functional fingers, though I admit I don't think it'd happen with as many joints as humans' ancestors had.

Anyway, perhaps it's not the weapon that the goblins customize and tinker with, but the way it's used. With an extra elbow, these creatures are going to have superhuman dexterity and flexibility. It's very possible they'll be able to achieve a full 360-degree rotation of their hands, and put their hands in places humans can only dream of reaching. Thus, holding a knife or sword 'down' (slasher movie style) or 'up' (knife fighting style) might end up working about the same, or at least having the same level of effectiveness. This and many other different and perhaps laughable strategies will now be open for the goblins to try out and make their own.

To work with this idea, swords (because swords are great, you really should just stick with them) can be modified for different lengths (already a thing, longer for reach at the expense of weight and cumbersomeness, shorter for the opposite), different weights (also a thing, weighted in the pommel makes it move more quickly, weighted towards the tip makes it hit harder), different angles (straight swords are easier to understand and use, while curved or angled swords are more complex but can be twisted around some blocking manouvres), and different guards (depending on how it's held, you might want to protect your hand differently). All of these can be customized to work best with an individual's preferred fighting style.

Plus, they should carry a shield, because all these fighting styles means it's going to be very hard to know what your enemy is going to do. Shields can be modified for size, shape, material, and how it attaches to your arm. You really have a lot of options, even if everyone is running around with a sword and shield.

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I propose a boomerang as a throwing weapon. The first joint is used as the throwing lever and the second joint could impart a wicked-fast counterspin.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice idea, can you expand on the customization options as well as why this weapon works well in close quarters? $\endgroup$ – Samuel Aug 14 '15 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel I don't think close quarters was a restriction, though they would have to overcome their being near-sighted. Maybe they can heavily customize their goggles/glasses which help them see. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Aug 14 '15 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @DoubleDouble Well, since "They mostly live in caves, abandoned dwarven mines, and other dark, confined places" it seems that the weapon should work there. I suppose I generalized that to "close quarters" but I think that's fair. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Aug 14 '15 at 20:40
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One factor that seems to me to play a huge role here, but I don't see much mention of it, are the mechanics of a socket joint vs. a hinge joint. Humans benefit from a single hinge joint attached to a socket joint in both our arms and legs, because if our hand or foot gets "stuck" rotation around the socket joint protects the weak torsional strength (e.g. rotational strength) of a hinge joint. Hinge joints can break easily when twisted. An extremely long limb with two hinge joints would be very susceptible to torsional breaks.

Therefore, your goblins would be very concerned about twists to the joint that might cause it to break; and the longer a limb, the more likely this is. So, like the praying mantis (as mentioned in one answer), these creatures would likely hold their "hands" very close with one joint nearly always "closed" and pressed against their body - to reduce the odds of breaking one or the other hinge joint. They would likely appear to have much shorter arms than they actually do.

The addition of an opposable thumb does not present exceptional advantage for anything wider that the width of a hand (e.g. two triggers on a gun??). That, however, can create some interesting side effects that I will mention in a moment.

First, consider that nearly all weapons are developed from tools used to gather food or kill prey. As these goblins are not predators, gathering tools would become their weapons of choice due to the tools' familiarity, abundance and widespread use by the race.

Thus, to develop a weapon or weapons, it is probably best to start there. First, with such lengthy arms, a quick "stabbing" gesture is likely to be developed - they could gather their food more rapidly using such a skill and also surprise enemies more easily. I'm sure they would want to extend their limb for the shortest possible time in order to minimize the risk of it twisting and breaking.

I would assume a second thumb might make it possible to wield two daggers in one hand, creating something like "scissors" - which would be incredibly effective in both hunting and fighting. It might be possible to have nearly long enough daggers such that the goblin appears to wielding 4 small swords, two in each hand. Perhaps adding a hinge to each set of daggers would be another interesting twist on the concept, so that they essentially are scissors. Although, we humans add the hinge because we cannot control both blades with two opposable thumbs, so the goblins may not need the hinge on the two blades and it could, in fact, reduce their options (like tying chopsticks together...).

Aside from the stabbing, an extra hinge could give more momentum to a weapon that swings on a short rope or chain, or is attached to a short rod or resembles a bat or club. A long cable is more likely to get tangled and risk torsional damage (e.g. it "catches" on the enemy or an object as the goblin is swinging it and then the goblin must release it or risk getting injured). Similarly a long club or bat would be unwieldy for their already long arms.

However, it is the length of the arm that gives these weapons an advantage over shorter limbed, single hinged creatures since for these goblins, both hinges could extend simultaneously making the head of the weapon move very rapidly, with great force and momentum.

The danger here is in making such a weapon too heavy - it's momentum could build so rapidly that breaks the goblin's own grip, or worse, their arm. But momentum is mass times the velocity, so the faster it moves, the less heavy it needs to be for equal effectiveness compared to a similar weapon wielded by shorter limbed creatures. And the energy it accumulates (mass times velocity squared) is an advantage by a wide margin (the square of the speed vs. linear increase based on mass). Also, force is related to mass times acceleration - so it will strike with surprising force.

So a small bat or club would be much more deadly in the hands of these goblins than most humans would suspect. If a human encountered such a creature with a small club, the same weapon for a human would be ineffective in combat, while being very effective for the goblin. Anything with protruding blades or spikes could become lodged in the enemy, again risking a break in the arm or release of the weapon. I would expect something more like a spoon (for gathering) and a bat (for crushing foods or dislodging them).

They might wield tools or weapons that lodge or have long ropes or chains when one hinge is closed, but it would be extremely risky in situations where both hinge joints are "open" or extended. Their ability to learn and use such weapons would be based on the less frequently need to construct things or creative scavenging (twisting knobs, carving, tightening, loosening, etc.). With their passive role, these types of tools would unlikely turn into weapons, but it would be possible, and it would probably resemble the way a human would wield them.

Wielding a two-handed weapon would require the hinged joints be moved in parallel in order to reinforce the joints, otherwise the additional speed of wielding the objects would put the goblin at risk of breaking their limbs. However, moving in parallel is common with swords and clubs. It would allow longer and larger weapons to be wielded. (It might also be interesting to consider how they might develop bones that "interlock" and also allow them to "cross their arms" while still bending them...)

Also, with the second thumb on each hand, the addition of a second, hinged blade or even a small sword or adjustable shield would create a weapon that has incredible potential. A secondary small blade would be very useful in close quarters combat where the opponent blocks the fall of the larger blade with their weapon, leaving them defenseless against an attack on their hands or arms from the smaller weapon. A highly skilled goblin may also have the ability to hold 1 large blade and 2 small blades, making defense against the weapon incredibly difficult for those of us only able to wield a single blade with two hands. Or even the goblin may wield to "medium" swords, but with both hands still gripped together.

For gathering, since these should first be thought of as tools, I could imagine a larger blade for stabbing a food, while the smaller blades serve to severe the large piece from being attached to something. Perhaps as a way of severing a limb from a dead (or dying) animal, since they are not hunters. Basically to speed the gathering and retrieval of food the process is: stab, severe and run. Two medium blades could be used for rapidly cutting foliage to reach mushrooms, etc.

The adaptation of tools to weapons I think is critical in developing both believable and intriguing weapons, in your case. At first, it was hard for me to see a clear advantage of the two hinges (torsional breaks are too easy, even in humans), but it might be possible with the thoughtful construction of the goblin's habits and behaviors, and then the development of their tools leading to the development of interesting weapons. Protecting hinge joints is something that we all innately have as humans, it would be more so with a double hinge-jointed goblin. To me, this is key in keeping it "real" while also exploring intriguing options.

If nothing else, I hope you enjoyed reading another opinion. :)

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Throwing weapons. The extra elbow turns the arm into an atlatl, a device used to throw spears at greater speed and over longer distances than would otherwise be possible. A creature with two elbows on each arm would throw things like a cannon firing.

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The double elbow joints in the arms puts me in mind of the Fokrul Assail from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. They were truly dangerous enemies, but they also had a superhuman supply of strength in their wiry limbs (unlike the creatures you're proposing). The Fokrul Assail used mainly their hands and feet as weapons (having double joints just about everywhere) because they could slip around or past any defense with the greatly increased range of movement available.

You could give your goblins a gauntlet of kinds, heavily customizable for close quarters combat. It could have an endless amount of attachments; blades, spikes, large heavy chunks for a mace-like effect, small poisoned crossbows, claws for climbing rock faces in tunnels, or just about anything they could get their tinkering hands onto.

That would also give them something to constantly be changing or improving whenever their attention wavered

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