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In my world (based on D&D) orcs are a pre-metalworking society that clash with various agricultural humanoid civilizations. However, I would also like them to have metal weapons so they are a plausible threat to metallurgic civilizations, and I don't think that 'theft' is a good explanation.

Then, I realized I might be able to solve this problem in a way that ties in to other pre-established traits (high mortality rates, orc resistance to injury). What if the structural component of their bones isn't carbonated hydroxyapatite, but something different? I read a post which suggested that the issues of bone are that it doesn't hold an edge and tends to fracture easily: are there alternative molecules that don't have this problem?

Basically: is there a mineral that could plausibly be produced by biological processes, that'd serve as a structural component for bones, and that orcs could turn into workable spear tips and axe blades after extracting it from the fallen?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you'll struggle. Even fibre reinforced composites (if you could make them as biomaterials) won't go head to head with steel very well. The issue is toughness and density; ceramic biomaterials can't beat steel's combination of toughness and weight. Maybe instead the orcs pee out huge amounts of nitrates and thus can make crude gunpowder bombs? Or they can use their huge strength to make siege weapons? Alternatively, could they have metal, but only e.g. arsenic bronze (the first type of bronze)? Make them immune to heavy metal poisoning and give them lead blunt weapons? $\endgroup$ Oct 4, 2022 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ They could get iron from a large iron meteorite that has fallen on your world recently (in geological timescales), just as the Inuit in Canada did in our world. In the stone age meteorites were the only source of iron and people used it when they stumbled upon it. $\endgroup$
    – Avun Jahei
    Oct 4, 2022 at 9:13
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    $\begingroup$ @AvunJahei You still need some form of metalworking to turn the iron from a meteorite into a weapon. But the question says the orcs are pre-metalworking, so they don't have that knowledge. $\endgroup$
    – Abigail
    Oct 4, 2022 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Abigail As I already said, the Eskimos made weapons out of meteoric iron, so it is possible even for a stone age society. When you can work with stone you can work with iron too if it occurs natively. $\endgroup$
    – Avun Jahei
    Oct 11, 2022 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget unarmed combat as well. Pins and throws still work well against armored targets, and orcs being naturally bigger and stronger, they would have an immense advantage if it came to hand-to-hand. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Nov 5, 2022 at 20:49

2 Answers 2

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It has been already done by humans: allow me to introduce you the leiomano

enter image description here

The leiomano is a shark-toothed club used by various Polynesian cultures, but mostly by the native Hawaiians.

Leiomano is a word in the Hawaiian language and may have been derived from lei o manō, which means "a shark's lei."

The weapon resembles a thick ping-pong paddle inset with shark teeth. The tiger shark is the preferred source. These teeth are placed into grooves in the club and sewn into place. The tip of the handle also may utilize a marlin bill as a dagger. The weapon functions as a bladed club similar to the obsidian-studded macuahuitl of the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you may have inadvertently stumbled upon a more insightful answer. Hydroxyapatite (HP) is the mineral that makes tooth enamel and bone so strong. However, tooth enamel is 70-80% HP while bone is 65-70% by weight (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513314). Orcs could just have bones with higher concentrations of HP, giving them the strength of enamel. $\endgroup$
    – E Tam
    Nov 5, 2022 at 22:57
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Fecalith

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecalith

A fecalith is a stone made of feces. It is a hardening of feces into lumps of varying size and may occur anywhere in the intestinal tract but is typically found in the colon... It can possibly form secondary to fecal impaction. A fecaloma is a more severe form of fecal impaction, and a hardened fecaloma may be considered to be a giant fecalith. The term is from Greek líthos=stone

Fecaliths are extracted from the fallen. These stony masses are then crafted and polished by fecalithsmiths into deadly weapons. Among your people, it is typical for warriors to eat colored material and glitter so that they produce formidable fecaliths, in hopes that their spirits will endure after their own deaths, inhabiting the weapons they birthed. Or would have birthed eventually (and painfully (but they endure the pain being warriors)) if they had not fallen. A sort of warriorly post-mortem Caesarian birth; yes.

Fecalith Causing Mechanical Bowel Obstruction Managed with Intracorporeal Lithotripsy

fecalith fragments

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  • $\begingroup$ The only thing worse than giving birth to 190g of poopstone is getting killed by a weapon made out of it. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Nov 6, 2022 at 1:07

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