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There's a trope in certain comedic series, such as Veggietales and Homestar Runner, to have characters that do not have limbs, and yet visibly carry things around anyway.

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The general rules seem to be that they have a sort of limited telekinesis that lets them carry up to two things at a time, extends as far as an actual arm would, can carry as much as human arms can, but can pass through solid objects (hence the nonexistent sleeves in Homestar's shirt as pictured above).

I have grown genuinely curious how a species with these characteristics would function in a setting where these "psychic arms" were used as more than just a gag to let armless characters do the exact same things that characters with arms can do. Specifically as it would relate to their melee weapons. Because even ignoring the possibility that they could use their powers to reach inside an opponent's body and crush their organs, this poses several unique advantages that people with actual arms do not enjoy:

1: They don't need to worry about grips. Nothing that can actually be cut or even feel discomfort makes physical contact with the thing they're carrying, meaning they don't need to concern themselves with things like making sure there's a part of the weapon that's actually safe to touch.

2: They have no arms to tangle, either with their own or with their opponent's. Were they to dual wield weapons, for instance, only the weapons themselves would actually pose any risk of bumping into each other when making quick movements, and they don't need to worry about things like leverage if their weapon were to maneuver behind an enemy shield.

So it seems to me that the weapons any fantasy race with this characteristic would develop for their own use might be radically different from the ones that races with actual limbs would make.

What would be the ideal design of a melee weapon that a species with limited telekinesis instead of arms would use?

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    $\begingroup$ Best always needs to be constrained within a context. Best melee weapon for my work from home job in the year 2022, is going to be different than the best melee weapon for a soldier fighting in the trenches of Verdun, or a Roman centurion, or the Gauls they were fighting against. Keep in mind that often additional non functional factors will often have an oversized impact on the best weapon for a given context. If a particular weapon is unaffordable, inaccessible, or illegal to carry then that's going to affect any determination of best. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jun 24 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ Larry Niven did this one. In his case, the melee weapon was first a lit cigarette, used on the protagonist's own eye ... then the villain's heart, inside his chest. (The mistaken persistence of social behaviors, even terrible ones, is the Achilles heel of science fiction) $\endgroup$ Jun 24 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ VTC because superlatives stink. What's ideal for a dark alley isn't for a crowd. What's ideal in an open field won't be inside a building. I could rationalize a spiked ball as "ideal" because it needn't be controlled with the precision of a knife, but I can also rationalize a half-dozen ball bearings because they won't get stuck in the body. It's too broad, too opinion-based, too story-based. I'm willing to retract, but only after you've completely specified the circumstances for judgment. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jun 24 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ the weapon is less affected than armor, without arms you can make much much more effective body armor. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 25 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ If your beings have telekinetic powers, why do they need physical weapons? They could use their telekinetic powers to choke their opponents, or cause other damage to their opponents such as a burst blood vessel in the brain, or the aorta to rupture, or their heart valves for malfunction. Darth Vader was an experienced practitioner of such methods in the early Star Wars movies. May the force be with you. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jun 25 at 7:43

8 Answers 8

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Multiple options

There isn't one good option available. Just like in real life, where we have everything from spears to bows to flails each has a function. Here are some picks for best weapon for 'arm telekinesis' for me.

Knife

It would be bad to call it a knife. Just a tiny piece of metal, either just a point or small blade on all sides. The size is specifically to evade as much of the opponent blocking as possible. Shields, swords or other can easily be circumvented to attack the weak points. It is a high risk strategy, but something that is very difficult to block can inspire a great deal of fear.

Clubs

Blunt weapons were found especially helpful against fully armoured targets. You don't need to pierce, slice or otherwise get through armour. Blunt weapons make use of simple physics. I hit something, the energy can travel through it. Getting hit by a hammer or club is very dangerous regardless of the amount of armour. It might still protect some, but not as well as against piercing or slicing weapons.

As you say, with telekinesis arms you can ignore leverage. More importantly, you can choose not to ignore it. Wield the weapon as efficiently as possible, making you much more quick and deadly. An example, you prepare to knock on a head. You swing up without leverage, making it a quick movement. On the down stroke you make full use of the leverage for maximum effect.

Spears

Spears have reach far beyond the telekinesis arms. Not only that, with telekinesis arms you can also hold them in more positions than normal soldiers can. Horseback riding is effective in part because you can swing down, using more power and more difficult to defend. Telekinesis arms can allow you to hold a spear incredibly high, yet still jab with great power. This can be done in rows as well, but the row behind can use an incredible low attack angle. Try attacking long spears, like spears that need to be carried by 3 people. Then needing to either defend your face or your feet, if you even realise you need to defend your feet.

What your opponents have

The question is in a way strange. If an opponent swings at you with a sword, there seems to be no harm in deflecting the sword. Of course there is risk, but at a battle where invisible arms can reach out and grab the blade, holding it still or deflecting it unexpectedly, it seems like they hardly need weapons to defend themselves. Though at such points the knife previously mentioned might be nice, a knife of the opponent is fine too.

I'm sure with more creativity it can be expanded, but these are my top choices. They would be a hell of an adversary to fight, especially if they start to work together in regiments.

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It appears their telekinesis is fairly limited in both range and complexity:

  • The effective range is around arm's length; it would be reasonable to assume an inverse square strength to distance ratio

  • There is no indication that large numbers of items can be manipulated

I'll also assume the use of the word "melee" rules out ambushes/sneak attacks, as that's an entirely different scenario.

The effective range limitation can be seen to limit the direct "heart crushing" approach, since the victim in that scenario could easily overpower the attacker, being the closest to the effect and therefore being able to exert a greater countereffort with far less effort.

That brings up an interesting complication--blocking. One blocks a sword with a shield to avoid getting one's hands cut--but the TK doesn't have to worry about injury when blocking with TK, and the closer the blade gets, the more it improves both your power over it and your leverage. Most blades would become useless at that point. In fact, nearly any weapon we would be able to block with an armored hand would be easily fended off.

The best weapons in that fight would be stored energy weapons. A mace, for instance, wouldn't even need a handle, and the more speed you can put on it before it crosses to the adversary's sphere of influence, the more work they have to do in a short time to stop it. A dumbbell configuration could be even more effective, giving you a chance to spin it up before the thrust. The thrust, though, still has to give it enough speed that your adversary can't stop it quickly enough to avoid contact.

Another approach would be a spear, which could remain partly in your sphere of TK influence while entering the adversary's. If the TK "grip" is based on mass, you can beef up the handle while keeping the edge light and harder to hold, but deflection is still an issue due to leverage.

I think the best bet would be a boleadora (bola). Spin and fling that, and there's a fair chance it'll hit without the weights even coming within TK range. There's a nearly sure chance it'll hit without more than one weight getting in, and even if it does, that's three massive objects to be defended against at once. Your adversary could grab the center rope, but that leaves a lot of kinetic energy in the weights to handle. It would probably be easy enough to get it spinning after some practice, accelerating and lifting one weight at a time like a juggler, but the adversary would have only a split second to get it under control for defense.

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The telekinetic arms are...

  • invisible: when facing a human, you can see how they hold their weapon. That means one can determine possible angles of attack.
  • without mass: a human arm can only be moved up to a certain speed. This limits how quickly the possible angles of attack can change.
  • equally strong in all directions: human arms depend on muscles and joints, which are stronger for some part of their range of motion then others. This limits possible angles of attack even more.
  • invulnerable: a human's arms are quite vulnerable during a fight and without them a human is mostly harmless.

From these, I think a light and quick weapon is better suited then something heavy.

A staff or spear in human hands is already a somewhat unpredictable weapon since it is so easy and quick to change one's grip on it, which changes the possible angles of attack. The invisible and thought-quick telekinetic arms would make it practically impossible to predict how the staff will be moved.

If a long weapon is impractical (or lost during combat), the backup weapon of choice is a small blade, like a knife but without a handle. The lighter the better - maybe around the size and weight of knitting needles. The tactic would be to catch or deflect the opponents weapon with one telekinetic arm and attack with the other. A knife is already extremely difficult to defend against since it can be moved as quickly as one can move their arm. A telekinetic has even more speed since the "arms" have no mass and the blade's movement is not limited by the range of motion of the various joints.

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It Depends On How The Leverage Works:

If we assume the limbs have similar properties to human limbs, except they are invisible, invulnerable, and only semi-substantial, It lends itself to martial arts-style weapons.

  • NAGINATA: A long pole with a heavy cleaving blade that can also thrust allows the telekinetic arms to hold one end and still use leverage to chop or stab. Since the arms are not vulnerable, it may be a double-ended pole arm with different functional heads for different jobs - a naginata or poleaxe head and one with a thin piercing tip to penetrate armor. A double-ended naginata could be spun like a giant mower blade, with no need to reposition hands or keep fingers out of the way.

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  • CHAIN/WHIP WEAPONS: A staple of martial arts, chain weapons need a highly trained user to not injure themselves. The risk drops dramatically when the flailing chains can't get tangled up in one's own arms. These would be likely much more spiked than the originals, since they don't need to worry about grabbing a spiked handle. A really simple version can be extremely concealable and light, yet with speed can achieve great force.

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  • SHURIKEN: These throwing weapons are usually limited by their portability and risk when throwing. All that goes out the window with telekinesis. They can be easily launched as missiles, but since they are small, hard to see, and sharp in multiple directions, they can be used as melee weapons as well. Imagine a handful of caltrops flung at the face, with spikes in all directions. Or a razor-thin shuriken flung through a throat sideways (or silently lifted up, then stabbed in the carotid...)

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  • SAW BLADE: My favorite anti-zombie tool for Half-Life, a saw blade is an awkward weapon in real hands, but if the physics are right you can spin it up faster and faster. Fling it, and it's a really big shuriken. Or just batter the thing against someone until they're a bloody mess. A big one is essentially a shield.

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  • A BIG NAIL: Take a long, thin spike and sharpen it on one end. Small, concealable, throwable, easily obtained. Also available in the sharpened stick version for ease of use in nature.

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  • A ROCK: Or a brick, log, or any other smallish, heavy, possibly spikey object. Transposed between the enemy, it's a shield. Launched forward, it's a club. The range is kind of short for arms, but you don't need to worry about getting your fingers smashed when parrying, or if it's slippery, or jagged. You'll never be disarmed (pardon the pun). Even dirt and sand can be lifted up and flung about, and it's impossible to restrain immaterial hands.

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  • YOUR ENEMIES WEAPON: The best defense is a good offense. Telekinetically grab your enemy sword and fling the blade into their face. Why are you hitting yourself, why are you hitting yourself?
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The psychic arms may be immune to harm, but let's assume the body is not. Then, you'll need a shield!

If the psychic arms can pass through the shield to hold the weapon, then you'll have much better reach than the opponent. The weapon can be a one-handed blade.

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Now, thinking about this, if the psychic arms can pass through materials, this would make any kind of armor much simpler, because it wouldn't need any joints. So, let's upgrade this to steel plate armor.

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Oh yes! What a scary sight. However, if the question is about what weapons they would use to fight each other, and if the other guy wears the same kind of armor, then there's no point in dual wielding small blades. And since their armor doesn't need any joints, it will be very cheap, which means it will be a lot more common than in human medieval times.

Now the easiest way to counter this would be to use the psychic arms to reach through the other guy's armor and smush his brain. But if you can reach him, he can reach you too! So I guess melee fights would happen with long weapons to keep the fighter out of the opponent's psychic reach.

So we get a setting quite similar to medieval knights: if you get too close, the other guy pulls a dagger and sticks it in a joint in your armor. Similar solutions would evolve, in the form of polearms able to pierce thin armor, or just bash the head through blunt force, or grab the feet to make the opponent fall, then stab them.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Oh yes! What a scary sight." The best part of this is that I have literally no idea whether that was a joke or serious, because it looks absolutely ridiculous but would be a nightmare to fight against. $\endgroup$ Jun 25 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ @CyrusDrake it was both, this little armless guy is quite overpowered, lol. Kinda like diclonius in Elfen Lied... $\endgroup$
    – bobflux
    Jun 25 at 18:15
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spiky ball

Just a ball with sharp spikes. For regular armed people the ball needs to be connected to a stick trough a chain, but the armless creature doesn't need that. Just bash it against the enemy.

Or, to be really nasty:

flaming fabric

Pick a piece of clothing, soak it in gasoline and set it alight (a small pocket lighter will do). You can now hold a fireball in the air, and burninate your foes with it.

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    $\begingroup$ Change the burning fabric to acid and I feel it's close to perfect. Can be held at any time, made into many shapes and doesn't burn, so only 'active' when touching something to prevent wasting it. Damage is more direct than fire and potentially more dangerous. Especially if it clings to the target. Downsides is the low killing potential, stopping power and refill requirements. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Jun 24 at 21:53
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A character that controls weapons with intangible arms could be absolutely brutal with daggers.

  • Daggers are small, and hard for an opponent to track visually when there's no arm to watch. It's even harder when there are two daggers to keep track of that are coming from different directions.
  • You can make very quick movements since you don't have arm mass to drag around. Use sharp, lightweight daggers and focus on slicing motions.
  • If you can get close enough to your enemy, you can raise the weapon while keeping it outside their peripheral vision. They'll never see it coming when you stab them in the back while standing face to face with them.
  • Intangible arms can move in ways that are prohibited by the biomechanics of a normal arm. Stab your opponent and twist the dagger in a full circle or two to inflict maximum damage.
  • A small blade (think razor blade size) could be slipped up behind an opponent's shield, injuring their hand or cutting the leather strap they use to hold it.
  • An offhand weapon like a sai would pair well with a dagger. Parry your enemy's attack and entrap their weapon, then twist it in whichever direction their arm cannot naturally turn (yours has no such limitation). They'll either lose their grip on the weapon or expose their wrist for slashing. Opponents won't be able to trap your weapons the same way since you can freely move and rotate them in any direction without limitation.
  • To take this concept to the extreme, attacks with a poisoned needle would be almost impossible to see if you managed to keep the needle pointed directly at the target. Needles are risky weapons since you can easily poke yourself, but that's not an issue if your arms are intangible.

I feel like you lose many of your advantages as your weapons get larger. You won't have much of a speed advantage when the weapon's mass significantly outweighs what you're saving by not having arms. Large weapons can also be easily seen and visually tracked on their own, so cloaking your arm movements doesn't help a lot. You can still do some interesting things with a longsword-sized weapon (see Darth Traya for example) but your biggest advantage will be small weapons where you can maximize your added agility.

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Depending on your character, if they can't feel pain from touching a spike with their "hands", then a good weapon could be something that the opponent cannot grab, like a literal double-edged sword. Having an advantage like that can help them win, especially if their opponent cannot use it back. If the other opponent has psychic hands too, then that is a completely different story. Despite this, the user can constantly attack and wield it well.

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