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This race lives underground in massive caverns/cave network. Hundreds of square miles large per cavern. Large/wide/tall enough that they have their own atmospheric conditions, essentially large enough that it doesn't really feel as if you're underground, save for the lack of a sky. Native-inspired culture with some small form of magic via crystals (somewhat of a combination of Na'vi from Avatar and Draenei from Warcraft). Very low-tech, or really no tech at all, though the crystals provide some functionality that tech normally would (similar to draenei tech but still not as advanced).

Due to their environment, rather than utilizing wood+leather for tools and clothing they specialize in metalwork. For their melee weapons I've landed on a sort of large gauntlet, though rather than being a glove it's a large, pointed weapon attached to the forearm, leaving the hands free (inspired as originally being devised as a digging tool, now morphed into a more ceremonial weapon rather than a tool). Here is a commission I've gotten showcasing it for reference.enter image description here

But when it comes to a ranged weapon I'm drawing a blank. I'd like it to be relatively unconventional, so a typical bow+arrow is out, along with throwing spear. I thought chakrams could work, especially with the focus on metallic materials, but still feel like plain old chakrams would come off as uninspired. I'm open to the idea of a tool that propels objects (like a bow+arrow/slingshot) but it would have to be distinctly different, in appearance, from those and still remain relatively low tech (no combustion like a gun).

Any ideas are greatly appreciated.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Jun 18, 2023 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ for your arm weapon look up a roman gladiatorial weapon called a scissor, the romans came up up with all kinds of weird weapons. for ranged weapons look at things like atlatl, slings, war darts, staff slings, blowguns, be warned a pure brainstorming question may get closed as off topic. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 18, 2023 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ 1. "Metalwork" and "low-tech or really no tech at all" are incompatible, unless the metal objects are being created using magic. 2. As with all questions about weapons, we cannot provide a good answer without knowing what the ranged weapon is being used against - small game, big game, armoured humanoids, unarmoured humanoids, some other weird alien monstrosity... Please specify what your aliens are fighting and confirm their body plan (looks to be basically humanoid from the view of one side of the body?) $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2023 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ We need more detail - I mean - do they have the ability to make springs or bi-metallic strips? What are the typical combat conditions and what are the typical combatants? Armored/Unarmored? $\endgroup$ Jun 19, 2023 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ This is probably O.T.,but: how do you plan to feed and provide oxygen to them if bound in caves? not to mention light; ranged weapons need aim of some sort. $\endgroup$
    – ZioByte
    Jun 19, 2023 at 18:45

15 Answers 15

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How about something simple - a cesta, used to play the sport Jai Alai: a cesta

By No machine-readable author provided. Harrieta171 assumed (based on copyright claims). - No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY 2.5

Due to the high speed of the ball thrown from the cesta, fatalities have been recorded in the sport. Note that the sport is played by bouncing the ball off of the wall in front of both players (and the floor) - which means that injuries and fatalities occur even despite the energy lost from the (potentially multiple) bounce.

This is a throwing-arm device using leverage, in essence an equivalent to an atlatl (or spear-thrower). Obviously a notch or similar could be added to also enable throwing spears, but as it is you can use this device to throw all sorts of things, from simple rocks to grenades or similar devices.

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    $\begingroup$ from the shape of it, I reckon it would be most effective at throwing things that roll well, as that will give maximum leverage and the longest time under acceleration. River pebbles might work well. rough rocks would be slower and less accurate, spheres (metal, clay...) best of all - and if manufactured they could be filled for extra interest $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Jun 19, 2023 at 9:06
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    $\begingroup$ This would work well for things that ricochet off cave walls $\endgroup$
    – Scirpus
    Jun 19, 2023 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ This is phonetically satisfying because the melee weapons is a Cestus. $\endgroup$
    – Toddleson
    Jun 21, 2023 at 20:43
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Here are a few off Wikipedia's List of Medieval Weapons:

  • Greek Fire / Byzantine Flamethrower - I think this may have different performance in an underground environment with limited oxygen. It could be devastating in small spaces.
  • Kestros - This is basically a sling that flings darts. Maybe you could come up with a unique projectile based on your environment/culture. Maybe geodes that explode on impact?
  • Shuriken / Throwing Star - Classic ninja tech, super portable

Update:

I'm going to combine some of those examples into something new I call the

Dwarven Crabapple

Basically, you take a geode, drill a small hole in it, fill it with naphtha and some small flint shards, and then sling it. It breaks on impact, ignites, and releases crystal shards that are coated in burning fuel. Bad times ensue.

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Primitive ranged weapon? Subterranean? No tech at all? Natural answer is a rock... To add some nuance though, how about something like Mica minerals?

enter image description here Simply harvest the mineral from natural formations, and shape into uniform disks, useful for the intended purpose.

Mica itself is fairly brittle, creating your own cristiline mineral that forms in sheets in fantasy settings would be easy. crystalline metals that can be enticed to grow in sheets that could be harvested and modified as a primitive Chakram. Though throwing a flat sheet would not fly straight, but in more of a spiral line of flight. With practice and consistent projectile characteristics some accuracy could be attained, and add some flavor to the weapon.

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Underground means there is going to be very little room. Narrow corridors and low ceilings. Slings are out. So are longbows. Even thrown rocks might need too much of a ballistic arc.

Underground also means there might be short lines of sight. Perhaps not in the great royal hall or the temple, but in many other places. So ranges may be a bit shorter than on the surface, but not too short because there are those great halls and corridors.

You wanted metal and not wood where feasible.

  • A crossbow, with a metal (ideally steel) bow and possibly compound pulleys and a steel string. It is more compact than a normal bow of the same strength, it has a relatively flat trajectory at short ranges, it can fire through narrow firing slits.
  • To add variety, some crossbows may be of the stone-throwing variety. That means no wooden part in the (expendable) bolt, and it gives people the option to raise different troops and argue in taverns about the benefits.
  • Hand-thrown shuriken or darts for skirmishers.
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  • $\begingroup$ Shuriken crossbow $\endgroup$
    – Atog
    Jun 18, 2023 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Atog, what would be the advantage of a not-pointed projectile? $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Jun 19, 2023 at 4:24
  • $\begingroup$ Its a very large cavern so quite a good line of site. But up and down and height might well come into it and dropping/throwing pretty much anything from a high terrace or cave is clearly a good option...... $\endgroup$
    – Scirpus
    Jun 19, 2023 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ You can make crossbow bolts entirely from metal. They're heavier and hit like throwing axes, or you make them smaller for pistol bows. Oh, and shuriken traditionally have plenty of points 😋 $\endgroup$
    – Corey
    Jun 22, 2023 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Corey, yes, but I'm assuming metal is somewhat expensive, and sharp edges even more so. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Jun 22, 2023 at 20:08
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There's nothing wrong with using existing weapons. People used them because they work. Instead, try to think about what you want your weapons to say about your society. Your gauntlet makes the culture feel very primitive and uncreative, and also resource constained, even to a slightly wacky extent - why don't they use shovels? They seem easier than arm gauntlets for digging. They also suggest a very close-range combat.

If you want to lean into that, maybe they fight by throwing handfuls of sparkly (but worthless/cheap) dust at their attackers, to distract them, because that's the type of weapon that would be lying around in a mine.

Otherwise, I can easily imagine them getting really good at throwing rocks (maybe carved to be held easily) to drive off vermin, or maybe using crystal-powered flash-bang grenades for a similar purpose and to disorient big, bulky melee attackers.

As an alternative, maybe they have some kind of naphtha fountain they can throw, which squirts out a flammable liquid to keep people out of an area for maybe 30 seconds? These people seem hardy, and unlikely to fight at range, but they might want that kind of zone control to give them time to gather the rest of a group into a fighting team.

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How clearly do you need to show or describe this weapon? A crossbow-like device that fires chakrams is probably fairly difficult to build, but if you don't have to show how it works, you can just assert its presence.

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    $\begingroup$ This is ultimately for an art commission so my goal in this was to try and devise a visually interesting weapon that still fits (generally) within the setting. A chakram crossbow is an interesting concept! Though I'm afraid a crossbow still doesn't "fit" with this setting, imo. Thanks for the suggestion though, it has me thinking. $\endgroup$
    – Bastion
    Jun 19, 2023 at 22:24
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Humans have likely invented every possible ranged weapon including Thrown Projectiles, Spear Thrower (atlatl), Sling, Blowgun, Bow and Arrow, Falcons, Catapults, Trebuchets, Guns, Rockets. So how about animals? There's a fish that spits at its prey, and then there's the Mantis Shrimp. The Mantis Shrimp punches with a force that has been compared to a fired bullet. Perhaps a larger animal could evolve the same mechanism, which could then be employed to fire projectiles.

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  • $\begingroup$ Came here to say this. A shoulder-strapped subterranean animal that spits or otherwise expels a caustic or sticky substance would be pretty unconventional. $\endgroup$
    – admcfajn
    Jun 20, 2023 at 20:39
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The gauntlet is the ranged weapon.

From the image provided the the gauntlet seems to have a hollow long curved blade, so an object could be placed on the inner side of the gauntlet and thrown with high speed using leverage from the blade. The principle is the similar to Spear-thrower but the projectile could be a metal ball or a dart.

It's hard to make something good in everything, so there could be gauntlets more specialized for ranged and others that are better suited for melee. In the picture the blade seems to be going up the arm towards the shoulder, but the ranged would need to be the other way around to be usable. Maybe you've already thought that the gauntlets are rotated backwards when out of combat to show that you are not about to attack.

As the tool was originally used for digging, the people could had noticed that you can throw rocks and sand further away using the leverage from the gauntlet and built the ranged weapon based on that perception.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure the actual blade is at the bottom. That spike on the top seems purely decorative, maybe a brace for the arm (as originally intended, even if it isn't good for that purpose here) $\endgroup$
    – No Name
    Jun 20, 2023 at 16:12
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A lot of the weapons listed here are primitive wooden or woven devices, with very simple mechanisms: using a long stick to add momentum to a throw. But if they are skilled metalworkers, why not use springs?

The first option isn't particularly powerful, but it could allow for a multi-shot weapon: individual springs are cranked down and a latch is hooked to keep them from expanding, then the whole thing is placed into a gun-like tube with a trigger. The trigger interfaces with the latch, releasing the spring, which propels a dart or something similar forward. Since the springs are pre-compressed, it's possible to have a two-person team for rapid firing; one person using a mechanism to compress the springs and latch them, and a second person firing projectiles. Again, it wouldn't be a huge amount of force, but a handful of shooters could lay down a withering hail of darts.

The second option is a spring-based crossbow; unlike a regular crossbow, the spring or springs could be wrapped or stacked around the crossbow bolt, making it more of a very large gun shape than a traditional T-shaped crossbow.

Either way, the weapons would be very different from other weapons, and the springs could have a myriad of uses in mining or tunnel-work.

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For something different, how about a bolo, three weights connected by a cord to a central point. When thrown they rotate about that center point and when they hit a person or animal the cords wrap them up. If they hit the legs, they effectively tie the legs together bring the person, or animal down, but relatively uninjured. If they hit a persons chest, they can wrap the arms up pinning them against the torso. if they hit the head, the spinning weights impact the skull which is often fatal.

Primitive versions used stone weights and thin rope. Used for hunting, herding, and warfare. Your higher tech versions can have metal weights and steel cords. traditional thrown by hand, twirling them around and releasing them, you could design a projector to shoot them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why not use chains instead of steel cords? $\endgroup$
    – The_spider
    Jun 20, 2023 at 19:40
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You'll want something with a reasonably flat line (since it's underground and there's not much room). This means you need a lot of speed ─ it's hard to get something far without having much vertical space. So something like a crossbow would work reasonably well, but since you want something different, and it's a fairly primitive underground species, I suggest some form of sling: a cup on the end of a whip, for example, that holds a rock. If you have a brittle enough rock, you could even get shrapnel.

But it doesn't have to be driven by ammunition: it could just be thrown. A simple rock could be effective, especially if it was carved into an easily throwable, sharp shape ─ maybe it could be serrated, or have a metal blade inset to combine the sharpness of a throwing star or chakram with the easy and intuitive throwing of a rock.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just to give back, obviously rocks aren't hard to find in caves, but limestone ones (which are generally the types of caves that naturally make the big twitsty underground passages everyone thinks about when they think "underground caverns") are also great natural sources of things like cement, gravel, shells (for use as cement aggregate), etc. I was thinking about fighting on the surface, but yes underground slings could be a real nasty weapon. You might have trouble getting room to swing, but if you can walk there's some room, and if its enclosed the ricochets will be nasty. $\endgroup$
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 20, 2023 at 20:18
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My favorite unconventional Fantasy MMO weapon ever was the Asheron's Call II Tumerok Hive Keeper. They would use slings to chuck beehives from distance.

Historically slings had a great range (1,300 feet or so), so that much makes sense. Bees do like building their hives in the mouths of caves and overhangs, so they'd be available to your cavern-dwellers. Keeping entire hives in the numbers required to use as missile weapons, and carrying them around, for me that will take more work. Going to have to dig into your world's toolkit.

Perhaps there are some crystals that have a resonance frequency that puts bees in hibernation? So stick a couple of those in your hive bag and you can carry a dozen or more compressed hibernating hives around. Just in case.

Or perhaps there's cave mineral pool the hives can be dipped into that will have the same effect, but also encase the hive in a hard shell that will keep it intact until the shell strikes something at the end of its trajectory from the sling. All the stuff you need for cement is found in abundance in limestone caves. Limestone Stalactites and Stalagmites are essentially made from natural cement (although very slowly). Presumably those super-handy crystals abound there as well. That way you'd get traditional sling damage from the hard impact, plus the damage over time and havoc of mad bees.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not sure if "handwaving" is a good solution to any problem...if it's the only solution, change one of the parameters. $\endgroup$ Jun 20, 2023 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ @nearsighted - At some level its All handwaving. The question stipulation flat out says there are quasi-magic crystals. However, if just coming out and saying that is verboten here, I'll just remove that part and leave the possible explanation to stand on its own. $\endgroup$
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 20, 2023 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ Leaving something unjustified is always the worst option. When you say it's all handwaving at some level, surely you're not insinuating that no one ever scientifically explains anything in their fantasy worldbuilding? $\endgroup$ Jun 20, 2023 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @nearsighted - Noone ever scientifically explains everything. Even real-world scientists don't, because there's a limit to our knowledge (and always will be). There's a reason elementary schoolkids are taught Newtonian physics before relativity. The former hand-waves a lot away, but is a better foundation for explaining most real-world behavior a schoolkid can observe. And Relativity can't explain everything either. $\endgroup$
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 20, 2023 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ I do think I see your point here; however, if you can realistically explain something, you probably should. $\endgroup$ Jun 20, 2023 at 18:54
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Just combining a few of ideas here for the "rule of cool". How about a cesta-like implement that throws stone-based chakrams?

The cesta could be built into the gauntlet (as others have suggested about an atlatl-like spear thrower or the spring-loaded shooters) -- maybe it even sits folded back against the forearm normally, and then can be flipped or unfolded out for deployment and use.

And the chakrams could have metal hubs, but edges/rims made of different kinds of stone: flint or mica or obsidian for sharpness, mica or chalk or sandstone for a "shatter and scatter" effect, or just plain old basalt or granite (or marble if you want to get fancy) for some heft and a nice blunt strike. They could even use these "magic" crystals instead of normal rocks for some special effects (blinding light, or explosions, or electric shocks, or whatever -- it's magic, after all).

The chakrams would likely be small, closer to the size of a shuriken, but would be spinning at high rotational speed due to how they roll out of the cesta's curve, so their flight would be stabilized, similar to how rifling spins a bullet and provides better accuracy and longer flight. That spin would also allow advanced users to pulling off stunts like bouncing it off walls, ceilings or floors, or even to have it skip across the floor, like a skipped rock or a trick frisbee throw.

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Knifes/Hooks on Chains

So you can go out and find some videos on this, but its essentially a knife, or hook on a chain/rope

A quickly google returned the Japanese style weapon Kusarigama, which is a sickle on a chain with a counter weight. Or a Rope Dart, which is a knife attached to a rope. Its usually used by spinning the blade with the chain, and then throwing out the weapon, or kicking/hitting the chain with your foot to cause the weapon to accelerate in a straight line incredibly fast.

So main points

  1. Weapon can be made from mostly metal. Metal weapon. Metal chain. Metal counter weight
  2. The Weapon can be wrapped around the Gauntlets to help reinforce them, maybe even inserted into the Gauntlet, or worn around the waist or hung off a belt so it doesn't consume a huge amount of space
  3. Can be thrown faster than a conventional handheld projectile since you can spin the weapon to build up speed
  4. You don't need a huge amount of space to use it. You can lengthen and shorten the chain to increase the throwing speed, and there are some tricks when you can kick it or wrap it around objects to help build tension and launch the weapon.
  5. Can be used as a grappling hook when climbing or exploring the caves
  6. Can also be used as a melee weapon or a daily tool (e.g. A knife to carve food, a pick to help climb)
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Howabout the crystals can harmonise with the rock strata of the cavern ceiling and cause stalactites and other minerals to drop from a vast whistling height? With varying skill and power you might get anything from a light dandruff of quartzite on your own head to a football field-sized fall of stalactites?

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