In my setting, there is an alien world known as Totaria and an alien race known as the Totarians, who possess a special cell that lets them develop whatever organs, limbs, and creatures they want, somewhat like a super-stem cell.

With the super-stem cell, they built tools analogous to ours, from living creatures used as cars and public transportation, telescopes that utilize eyes and optic nerves to see long distances, and computers operating on neural tissue.

In fighting or war however, I'm having problems with certain aspects of their infantry equipment.

The issue I have is right now is that their primary firearm- a parasite shooting biological firearm known as a grub gun- is severely outclassed by 5.56 NATO and 7.62 NATO firearms, as seen here.


The Totarians use either muscle spasms or tightly wound muscles (like a crossbow) to launch a 9 ounce parasite at roughly 1000 fps to smash into someone. But as seen on the chart, it both lacks the energy to punch or severely deform body armor and the range necessary to get to the target in the first place.

In a gunfight, unless they're going door-to-door, they will be outgunned by common human infantrymen. It also means they lack snipers, so they cannot target exposed but far-away enemy troops or commanders. Also, because they rely on muscles to shoot, they need time to set them back into position or rewind them, making it so that they lack machine guns and thus are vulnerable to being suppressed by MG fire without counter-suppression fire available to them.

What routes could I go for in biotechnology (with living guns, living ammo, or guns/ammo made from once-living creatures) to make long-ranged weapons designed to fight 5.56 NATO and 7.62 NATO at the average distances of 25-300 meters? What should I be looking at that will let me have a machine gun and/or sniper rifle analog in biotechnology?

Thank you for reading this and helping me,



5 Answers 5


They rely on drone warfare.

Metal and manufacturing is inherently better suited towards moving an object at immense speed. You're never gonna match steel for sheer durability towards rapid movement.

As such, they don't try to do that. They have guns that shoot swarms of insect or bird like creatures. These creatures will look for any chinks in the armor of enemies to sting them with deadly poisons. Special variants will explode, releasing acid to melt holes in the armor of their enemies, or just explode and shoot sharp.

For when snipers are directly needed, they have sniper birds. These will fly to find a target, and use a bone rifle on their body to fire a powerful shell at their enemy. This often cracks their bones and leads to death, but this is a sacrifice they are willing to make.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2022 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ What would this bone rifle shoot and how would it be fired in your conception of a sniper bird? $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2022 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ Explosives are just fast burning chemicals. There's no particular reason an organism can't produce these if they have absurd self modification, they would just crack most biological materials. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Sep 12, 2022 at 22:29

When you want biological firearms, bombardier beetle is the answer.

How the bombardier beetle works:

The spray is produced from a reaction between two chemical compounds, hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide, which are stored in two reservoirs in the beetle's abdomen. When the aqueous solution of hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide reaches the vestibule, catalysts facilitate the decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide and the oxidation of the hydroquinone. Heat from the reaction brings the mixture to near the boiling point of water and produces gas that drives the ejection. The damage caused can be fatal to attacking insects. Some bombardier beetles can direct the spray over a wide range of directions.

Now that you have a way to biologically produce boiling water, you can start from there and increase the pressure of the "steam explosion" do propel your bullets.

Alternatively, you can also look at the squirting cucumber

Ecballium is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cucurbitaceae containing a single species, Ecballium elaterium, also called the squirting cucumber or exploding cucumber (but not to be confused with Cyclanthera brachystachya). It gets its unusual name from the fact that, when ripe, it squirts a stream of mucilaginous liquid containing its seeds, which can be seen with the naked eye. It is thus considered to have rapid plant movement.

The tissue in the fruit of the Ecballium elaterium that surrounds the seed is thin walled. The pressure to release the seed is created by the increased concentration of glucoside and elaterinidin in low volumes of cytoplasm. This creates an osmotic pressure of up to 27 atms. The pressure building method also seems to rely on the phloem sieve tubes. This also means that the shooting mechanism can be decreased in water stressed conditions.

The fruit also utilizes hygroscopic movement in order to shoot the seeds out of the fruit. This method is done passively where the fruit changes its structure when it dies and tension is relieved in the dead tissue, causing movement. This movement can be due to coiling, bending, or twisting cells that increases its morphological shape as the cell dries. Because dying cells are mostly made up of cell wall, the shape will be determined by the shape of the cell wall. This is a method of self-dispersal.

  • $\begingroup$ What kind of projectile would be best suited for long distances? Is my current .50 cal-analog parasite workable for that, or should I go with an actual lead or metal projectile? $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2022 at 5:13
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe they have bombadier beetle explosions and naturally have sharp bone shards; but these days they get their shard juice sac removed and feed in artificial ammunition? $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Sep 12, 2022 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ So like a type of biological cartridge in a way? $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2022 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ So Starship Troopers? $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2022 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by that Mad Physicist? $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2022 at 18:53

Don't try to beat the humans at their own game. Play to your own strengths. You are a biotech species. Engage in biotech warfare.

  • Make gratuitous use of chemical and biological weapons. Did you know that humans are so afraid of them that they outlawed them in their internal wars? Use that fear to your advantage. Show them just how terrifying those can be if developed and utilized by a species who knows what they are doing.
  • Use stealth. Your adaptability makes it easy to hide among the local fauna and flora.
  • For close-quarter combat, rely on ambush attacks using grappling tentacles, claws and teeth. All of them venomous, if feasible.
  • For mid-distance combat: If you launch things at humans, don't rely on impact damage. Launch a sticky, caustic, poisonous goo at them. First it immobilizes them, then it dissolves their armor, and then it poisons their bodies.
  • For long-distance combat: Create small creatures which fly or run to the enemy and attack them.
  • Attack their logistics. Due to their lack of super stem-cells, humans need to produce all of their tools and supplies in factories and transport them over long distances to the battlefield. That's a critical weakness you can exploit! I am talking:
    • Fungal spores which block the air intakes and exhaust pipes of their machines.
    • Bacteria which process their fuel into sticky gel or chew through their plastic containers.
    • Small animals which eat their food and contaminate it with poisonous feces.
    • Fast-growing plants which block their roads, destroy their railways and crush their provisional shelters.
    • Tiny bugs with conductive carapaces which cause shorts in their electric devices
  • $\begingroup$ This is the smartest anwer $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2022 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ Oh shit that's a good idea. Would the fact they're biotech focused allow them to sustain themselves on the front lines by scavenging local biomaterial and friendly/enemy dead? $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2022 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ I do have that 5th point as a thing! They're known as swarm launchers and launch small or big flying creatures to attack and crew through enemy squads. They can kill, but the main purpose is to suppress through harassment. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2022 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ @HelterSkeletor It's your world. You decide what they can and can't do. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Sep 13, 2022 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ @HelterSkeletor I was just about to add swarms as an answer but I see you already have them. This would be their main weapon, I think. You can't machine gun a swarm and having your squad writhing around screaming in agony covered in wasps is bad for morale $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2022 at 13:33

This race generally seems like the type not to fight for themselves? If they've spawned critters to do everything else for them I'd expect spawned critters for fighting as well, most likely Starship Troopers style if you wanted something fairly primitive.

Additionally, if they're able to manufacture viruses/diseases, I would think they'd fight via biological warfare. Grow some mushrooms, release some spores, collect the corpses...

...or use organs to manufacture chemical weapons components that could be stored in sacs and ejected or sprayed at enemies. Skin grenades. Or mortars.

If you are a walking biochemistry lab, attempting to fight solely via explosion propelled projectiles seems like a self-defeating endeavor.

The flip side of this ability to rein it in a bit would likely be massive energy use to quickly generate these weapons along with a requirement to ingest/consume the ingredients for what they're making.

They fund this resource usage by being the universe's leader in designer drugs for all purposes - recreation, life saving and life ending. They're also great at targeted terraforming for removing unwanted indigenous species.

Given this potential these dudes seem like pretty awful enemies, can we reconcile?

If you really want projectiles, some sort of railgun might be practical to eject bits of metal while using bioelectricity to power it. Not sure where they'd get the technology (since they've grown everything else they wanted to use) but...yeah.

There's an older book titled 'Sentenced to Prism' where there were lifeforms that grew themselves into individual forms to fulfill a limited range of functions, you might give that a read if you're so inclined to see if any of that would align with what you're looking for.

  • $\begingroup$ The technology for the railgun or the technology for the metal? They have metalworking technology, it's just not used as much because they grow everything they need, so it's an immature science relatively speaking. They don't hate metal either, they just don't view it as too useful since it's harder to make biomorphs with it, and it takes a bit of effort for them to realize "No, get the hammer and a furnace, we're doing this the hard way." $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2022 at 6:34
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    $\begingroup$ More along the lines of why would they ever think to do that. In this case there doesn't seem to be much reason for them to have thought about using magnets in this specific way (or possibly for much at all). Hand waving to say they saw another species use it first would be plausible, assuming either humans are not the first/only aliens or humans use railguns. $\endgroup$
    – Pork
    Sep 12, 2022 at 6:47
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    $\begingroup$ They still studied electromagnetism and its principles for use in biotechnology, mainly magnetic field navigation system. Weaponizing it was mainly used in EMP technology (since many Totarians use electromagnetic sensory organs, this would feel like a flashbang to them), but railguns were considered impossible until other species in their system did it. After which, they studied it to learn its advantages and weaknesses. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2022 at 6:55

This is easy.

The raw materials for black powder are charcoal (cellulose that is anaerobically reduced to mostly carbon), nitrates (urea is the common one), and sulphur (animal manures). The more advanced smokeless powders, based on gun cotton, are created by soaking cotton (cellulose fibers) in nitric acid to create nitro-cellulose.

Totarians can easily synthesize any gunpowder because they are natural chemical factories, by your own definition.

Creating a projectile is likewise a solvable problem. Dense bone may never be as effective as cast metal, however there is an alternative. There are living things on earth that concentrate iron as a part of their metabolism. Totarians are able to build and support the cells that concentrate and precipitate iron into pellets. A pairing of cell types analogous to osteoclasts and osteoblasts work together to create and shape the pellets, 100% organically.

The problem lies in containing the propellant during combustion. It is a far different scale of problem to grow pellets and gunpowder than to grow a gun barrel. While the former can be grown easily, a gun barrel could to be grown over a period of time with hte same process, and cannot be used until the surrounding tissue has been resorbed and/or or cleared from the appendage.

A more reparable but slightly less durable appendage could be grown from hyper dense bone, built around dense silk webbing, similar to how rebar reinforces concrete. In this case the appendage could be used as soon as the "barrel" matures and the center clears. The enclosing tissue would remain intact to maintain a blood supply for self-repair (like real bones). Someone will need to do the math to figure out how many shots the Totarians could take before having to recuperate.


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