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What weapons and combat gear would suit a race of creatures with prehensile hands and feet?

I'm designing a high fantasy warrior who comes from a bipedal race of creatures with prehensile hands and feet, and I am debating what kind of weapons his kind would wield. What weapons would or could they wield with their feet? What would be most ideal for this anatomy? What kind of scabbards or other accessories would they need for them, and where would they wear them?

For context, I added the following descriptions about the character and his kind.

Anatomy

In addition to having long strong arms and legs, the character's race use their long tails and prehensile feet to balance themselves on thick branches and leap from tree to tree. Their feet are similar in anatomy to that of a macaque except they have digitigrade legs and do not walk on their heels.

Society

The character's race are tree dwellers that come from a dense jungle world whose trees grow enormously tall, partially due to the planet having about 70% to 80% of Earth's gravity. They have a largely non-industrialized society based on kinship that values harmony with nature.

Historically, they used weapons for hunting, defending themselves from apex predators that can climb or fly, and armed conflicts with rivaling tribes or clans.

On their home planet, they lived and fought almost exclusively in the trees. They instinctively prefer having a height advantage so much that they don't feel safe sleeping on a human bed unless it's suspended off the ground. When visiting a human dwelling, they tend to walk on furniture and avoid touching the floor when possible.

Technology

Technology is comparable to that of the early Renaissance.

I strongly considered the idea of the character wielding three melee weapons or a double-bladed polearm, but I'm unsure of the practicality of it and what melee weapons would work best. I could possibly take limited firearms into consideration, but they would definitely not be standard issue.

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    $\begingroup$ What shape are these feet? Are they shaped like those of a gorilla or a chimpanzee, are they shaped like the feet of a Xan-do-Xan from 'The Last StarFighter', are they shaped like the feet of the DirDir from the Vance book of the same name? Are they human-type-shaped feet? All have had historically had weapons successfully developed and deployed for and by each. It makes all of the difference what they're shaped like as to what type(s) of armor and weapons would be developed for them. Also, I find myself incredibly curious... $\endgroup$
    – LongFist
    Jul 8, 2023 at 2:35
  • $\begingroup$ 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
    Jul 8, 2023 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ @LongFist Good question! They have feet similar to that of a macaque except they do not stand on their "heel." $\endgroup$
    – Cyrad
    Jul 8, 2023 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think the science-based tag is a good fit for this question $\endgroup$
    – M S
    Jul 8, 2023 at 12:18

3 Answers 3

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It Depends

Okay, Cope-out answer - which is, in reality a Frame Challenge

Firstly - Where is your combat occurring? And by that I mean who are they fighting? If it's each other, then primarily in the trees, whereas if they are trying to conquer another group, it might primarily be on the ground (or somewhere that doesn't have a lot of tree cover).

Where you fight will determine a lot of choices. If we consider on the ground for the moment, we need feet to stand and move and although we can use weapons with them, this requirement will have implications for how the combat evolves.

Secondly - With the Apes that have this, their anatomy is such that due to the length of their arms, they can't swing their arm without over-balancing. This is something that Humans don't suffer from - This is important because Humans are capable of throwing projectiles (Stones, Rocks and later on spears) at Lethal velocities, whereas a Chimpanzees cannot. This is important because this ability to throw without over-balancing has implication for things like Swinging a Sword or other weighted weapon.

Thirdly- Reach - This is tangentially related to the second point - but unless the Limbs are equal length, then one set is going to have a longer reach than the other - this means that in most cases, these are going to be preferred for using a weapon (Greatest reach means greatest distance between you and the bad thing).

Fourthly - Again with Anatomy related stuff, but seriously a lot of fight-science comes down to how the body is made - How are the Hips/Core used and what sort of power can be generated for a strike.

That all said - I think the most interesting fight style would be a fast moving/swinging through the trees style, utilizing short stabbing weapons. Almost like Aircraft Dogfighting, with a lot of emphasis around offensive and defensive movement.

The movement could be using the Arms, legs or tail (and we are presuming 2 limbs are in contact at any one time) - and as such, the fighting style would utilize a lot of deception and feints - Imagine someone swinging towards you on a branch or vine, it looks like they are going to use their foot to grab the next grabby-bit, but instead, they pivot, use their arm to grab it instead, and slash at you with a short bladed weapon wielded by their leg.

In terms of power and the issue above, this fighting style would primarily utilize the momentum of the body to give power to the strikes and so the limitation of a chimpanzee's arms wouldn't be so much an issue.

I would suggest that for practical purposes, you would be unlikely to have a blade much longer than 1-2 feet in length, nothing bigger than a Roman Gladius - as it's speed of strike that's important and the ability to hide which limb the attack is going to come from (and therefore what angle needs to be defended against).

In terms of Scabbard - I'd suggest an evenly spaced one on the chest would makes some degree of sense, in sort of an 'X' pattern - It adds a bit of frontal armor and it makes the muscle memory of going to the same area with each limb a little easier.

That said, because of the emphasis on deception, shorter knives on the forearm/calves would probably be very common. I also have a feeling with the Jungle setting that Poisoned blades would be a thing too.

That's my answer - a bunch of Frame Challenge and then an aerial combat style, reminiscent of Fighter jets, but swinging through the trees to use shortish slashing and stabbing weapons with lots of feints.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a good answer and raised a lot of great questions. In response, I added more specifics about the race's anatomy, society, warfare foes, and technology. I love the idea of aerial combat. $\endgroup$
    – Cyrad
    Jul 9, 2023 at 15:08
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I'm not sure if they are the ideal weapons but I would love to see your bipeds wearing daggers in tight inverted sheaths on the back of their belt hanging down across their buttocks. If their knees bend the same way as ours, they could reach backwards with their feet to grab those weapons in mid-jump. If there were a few throwing stars and maybe a set of bagh-nakh hanging back there, it would provide a little variety.

I can't really make this into a science-based answer because of the fictional nature of your creatures, but mixing a variety of short range thrown weapons with some hand-to-hand blades, and factoring in that the bagh-nakh could also serve as climbing claws for scaling those enormous trees, I think this would be a good starting point for your swift and nimble creatures.

Keep in mind that their prehensile feet will probably be as nerve-rich as their hands, so flexible armor (leather or light chain) is also probably a good move.

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  • $\begingroup$ Removed the science-based tag on suggestion. These are great suggestions., especially the suggestion for flexible foot protection. $\endgroup$
    – Cyrad
    Jul 9, 2023 at 15:11
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I think I have an idea...

...tree dwellers that come from a dense jungle world whose trees grow enormously tall, partially due to the planet having about 70% to 80% of Earth's gravity. In addition to having long strong arms, they use their long tails and prehensile feet to balance themselves on thick branches and leap from tree to tree.

They have feet similar to that of a macaque except they do not stand on their "heel."

Based on this information I can only assume that their (incredible!) casual foot strength keeps them "on their toes" all the time - no pun intended. But imagining this style of stature can give you a lot with which to work. Follow me here and remember that nobody ever detailed how technically advanced they are or might be. I'm going to hedge my bets and start in the asian medieval ages: the shogunate wars I think, and move forward from there. Everything that follows is a complete work of fiction. But I think this might help spark your imagination[s] as well.

Shadow Operative 'Laughing Phantom' stood far away from the room's only window as he donned his cloth and leather "under-armor"; it not only kept him warm on these cruelly cold nights it also served as a cushion from direct blows, its fine steel-wire mesh that draws it together serving to turn even the sharpest blades for a time. "Quite the security blanket," 'Laughing Phantom' thinks as he finishes tying the final lashes that secure it to his body, allowing the upper fringe to wrap gently around the back of his neck. Over this he snaps the leather guide strips into place along the lengths of his arms to his elbows, down the center of his back, and down just past the bends of his knees. The leather is stiffer than most, but it serves as the "bones" to which the rest of the suit will attach. Along these ribs, these "bones", he snaps semi-flexible black-dyed belts/bars into place, each traced along the edge by a black steel chain, carefully anodized to prevent reflection and each sewn down to the leather using a similar steel thread. It takes a little while, but 'Laughing Phantom' meditates as he carefully dons his armor, so for him it takes only a minute. His armor, a nonreflective flat black rounded surface causes him to sink into the shadows of the room. He grins to himself as he notes the perfection of the flexible layered approach. Checking to make sure his tail armor is properly secured (it's an important part of their balance and perambulation!) and that the armor's root is properly covered and secure, he turns to the next task of preparation.

Reaching over to the battle chest, he carefully slides four double-ended daggers into their sheathes under his forearms. Their lengths are short enough to prevent them from interfering with his joints' natural movement while providing a stiff striking/defensive surface along those upper limbs. (Think arm bars on the inside of the forearm, just ending in super-sharp blades...) Nodding to himself while checking that they are secure enough to swing through the trees - or the rafters - with, which they are. He smiles, and again reaches into the battel chest, his hands re-emerging with a matched pair of broad-yet-short single-tanged swords (think: matching machetes) also anodized black - the only gleaming metal exposed is that of the cutting edges - these he flips casually and slides upward into two sheathes on his left and right ribs, the handles riding just above his pelvis. "That should keep things interesting," he imagines, "as long as I don't draw them too early." His hands reach again into the battle chest, lashing a quiver of dark-metal-shafted arrows to his back, followed closely by a short metal-bone-and-wood-composite bow that he quickly rolls onto his back. He rapidly ties off a gossamer black bandana over the bow, causing its outline to shimmer into his formless shadow and cleverly covering the quiver as well. Finally, he reaches down and lashes on his "kicking gloves", leather-bound serrated bars with holes allowing gripping above the lower knuckle of one's feet (...if you're thinking edged brass knuckles then you're on the right track...). He considers tying on a second set, but realizing that he's only intending to spy on the enemy, not defeat the entire stronghold, he decides against them. "Besides," he chides himself," they are heavy and they don't flex well. They might well give me away if and when they chime against the first set, as they often do every curst time!" Grinning, he picks up his mainblade and slinks stealthily toward the rope leading to the skylight, avoiding the window area the entire time.

'Laughing Phantom''s mainblade is an interesting work of art: the metal shaft is adorned by many different types of filligree; each carefully carved and scored over the multiple rainbow-tinted welds that make it whole, combine it into the singular shaft that holds everything together. One end of the weapon terminates in a four-foot-long flat sword blade, its metal composed of a careful alloy of many sundry and different metals and non-metals together. The other end terminates in a wicked double-hook, all of which have been carefully anodized or smoked into non-reflective perfection. The balance is perfect, and the multiple hand-holds wrapping various locations down the center shaft suggest the vastly different ways that this weapon might be employed... . . . ...while it would appear that it could be wielded single-handedly its utility and effectiveness really shine through if guided by hand and foot, at which times its lethality increased exponentially.

Editor's Notes: The rib-mounted blades are set such that they can be reached easily by hand or foot. By reaching down with one's forearms the forearm blades come into the easy reach of a "foot-hand", allowing the forearm blades to be snatched and deployed almost at any time when the forearms "cover" the same area as the shin-to-ankle area does. If the warrior decides to deploy the bow at range, he can easily roll to his back and hold the bow with his feet while drawing the bowstring with his hands giving the composite bow the pull of a man-and-a-half bow: the range and striking power would be magnified beyond what a normal English archer might achieve.

That's just an application of existing medieval asian armor, albeit ninja armor, not o-yorai (which would change the dynamic a bit) samurai armor. I think you can see where this is going. Since the operational zones (hands, feet) overlap for more than half of the body's distance you can apply just about any existing human/terran technlogy to them to an amazing advantage.

Come to think of it, I just realized what you're looking for! I'm an OLD gamer, and way back when, we used to play a game called Star Frontiers. The race you're paralleling there (if memory serves) were called the Yazirian: I can't remember if they didn't also fly, too - but they had an extra knuckle on each finger/toe joint, and opposable "thumbs" in their foot configuration. But these guys sound similar. I may have to look them up to make sure I didn't just steal some thunder from them...

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