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I'm working on building a world inspired by Rayman. In particular, I'm using the idea of a humanoid whose normal state is to have its limbs and head detached from its torso, hovering nearby. However, these humanoids with detached parts will encounter other humanoids whose bodies are fully attached. What advantages does either type of humanoid have over the other, and what history could explain the existence of the detached varieties?

My thought so far would be something like the devil fruit from One Piece

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    $\begingroup$ Rayman is not exactly a physically realizable character. Are you asking for worldbuilding on how such a character might exist? Are you asking what possible answers there are to the question? Or are you asking how to write a story? $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ Reasoning on why the character is different from another (doesn't have to follow real life reasoning) $\endgroup$
    – Sniffle6
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ well there are definitely disadvantages $\endgroup$
    – Keltari
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ There would be lots of advantages also, such as the ability to move your body parts further away. harder to tie up. $\endgroup$
    – Sniffle6
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ One minor point just occurred to me: the original Rayman has feet, but strictly speaking they're only good for keeping shoe manufacturers in meals. If every other piece of him floats, ground support is unnecessary. A naturalistic history probably rules out feet entirely, and a history of intentional design makes them a purely aesthetic feature. I'd lose them, if I were you. It also provides a wedge between your world and the existing Rayman, you can build up other differences making your world a distinct IP in case you ever wanted to publish something set in it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 18:05

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Real-world Basis

Check out the real-world example of the Portuguese man o' war. While most people think it's a jellyfish, it's actually what's called a siphonophore; it's a colony of a bunch of specialized creatures (called zooids) that each have their own responsibilities. It's like a very tight-knit symbiotic relationship that cannot be broken (or else the zooids die).

Your Creature

I think you could use this as a basis to create a new organism in one of two ways:

  1. Each limb is a zooid, or
  2. Each limb is a colony of zooids, and the whole organism is actually the sum interaction of multiple zooids.

Personally, I think (2) makes more sense, since each limb would likely need to consist of multiple parts to be useful (finger zooid, biceps zooid, etc). However, at least one commenter finds (1) more logical of a choice. This part is up to you, OP!

In general, this type of animal would not be "intelligent"; I don't think a single brain exists, but rather the zooids naturally cooperate with each other. (This is how it works with the man o' war, I believe.)

For you, though, I think we can make it work. Perhaps your humanoid's head can communicate with the limbs and torso through electromagnetic signals, which could be detected and interpreted in much the same way some animals have magnetoreception. (This would almost be like a short-range telepathy, but only to one's own body parts.)

I can't help you much with the hovering. You either have to explain some connection between the limbs, or else your readers will wonder why your telekinetic creature doesn't use its powers for inanimate objects.

Benefits

The benefits of such a creature could be many! I don't have a ton of ideas off the top of my head, but it could probably reach further than an attached-limb creature, and maybe fit into smaller spaces by bringing its limbs in closer than a regular humanoid could. And it would never have to get up from the couch to get the remote!

Disadvantages

As for disadvantages, perhaps your creature suffers if the limbs become too far detached? Or the limb could die if separated too far from the head or torso or something. And I'm not sure how a floating arm would be able to exert much power without the leverage of a body behind it, without some really incredible mechanism you choose to use to float it... (Maybe somakinesis? I made that up, but soma is the Latin root for "body", so it'd be like "body-kinesis".)

Additionally, such a creature would need to consume a lot of energy to keep those limbs floating. Our limbs just sort of rest, but if this creature were to rest then it's limbs would fall to the ground!

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    $\begingroup$ I love this answer, but I think you dismiss the possibility of a single-colony raymanoid too quickly. Taking the concept of colony-zooid complexes, it's no problem to replace the very simple zooids we see in nature by more complex ones (say, as complex as an arm and hand) and get a single-colony raymanoid. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ @SudoSedWinifred I guess that's true! It just seems a little easier to explain with known science if it's a hierarchical colony. Like yes, what you propose is equally as "possible" (I guess? I don't see why not!), but it seems a bit less of a jump for the readers (in my opinion) to go the route I suggested. Just my thoughts! I think I'll update my answer a bit to show your support for that choice, though. :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ Coloring inside the lines is great, but I think you've already performed a Herculean labor on that front in bringing us the colony-zooid idea to begin with. Without that, all the ideas depended on either magic or supertechnology. You already dragged it from the realm of the utterly fantastic to at least medium-firm sci fi. ;) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, what a compliment! Thanks, @SudoSedWinifred ! :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, and here's a way to explain why raymanoids don't use their telekinesis on other objects: it's actually more like a power of personal propulsion. If you want you could go full Asimov and say they drive themselves around by filling and expelling gas from bladders positions on every side of them (this, of course, leaves them so weak a hand could barely function as such), or you could say they have a kind of telekinetic motor. (Just like a motor on a boat, it can move the boat around but it's no help if you want to summon your keys from the bottom of the pier.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 18:27
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You'll need to make your species either magical or artificially created by a very advanced race.

To make it work, you need some form of teleportation and telekinesis working on the cellular level.

Matter teleportation would be used to transfer various fluids back and forth (or only one way, if each limb has an individual bladder) between the core and the periphery.

Energy teleportation would transmit nervous signals, both orders to the limbs and feedback to the brain.

Telekinesis (working both way, like teleportation) would allow the brain to make the limbs float around and the limbs to support the body without being in direct contact to it.

The main advantages of this anatomy would be a longer reach, the ability to make yourself taller (to see further, to appear more threatening, etc.) or smaller (to hide in tall grasses, to walk in caves, etc.).

Also if the magic is cheap energy-wise, it would be an advantage to have less body mass, which makes the species need less nutrients to survive and give predators less stuff to grab when attacking.

If such magic is abundant in your world and can be used by all life forms, such Rayman-like morphology could be common. But not every life-form evolves the same way.

Your world could have humanoids with detached limbs and a separate species with attached limbs whose bodies use cellular teleportation in other ways. For example, to inject venom in prey or to breathe with no nose (lungs without any opening to the outside).

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  • $\begingroup$ English isn't my first language (I only ever use it on the Interwebz), please let me know if my answer is poorly-worded or poorly-phrased $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ A well thought out and worded question. Only language problem I see is that "specie" should be "species". That's one of the wonderful quirky words in the English language in which the plural and singular are the same. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 14:20
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Another way to achieve something that looks like this at first glance would be to have several separate creatures that live in symbiosis and co-operate closely. An SF example of this is Keith Laumer's novel Retief's Ransom.

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  • $\begingroup$ my thought too but not sure if achievable $\endgroup$
    – user22398
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know. Evolution can do some very weird things under the right pressures, and Laumer's novel is humorous. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ The seeming separateness in <i>Retief's Ransom</i> reminds me somewhat of the Pandronians of ST:TAS S2E2 "Bem", as described in Alan Dean Foster's novelization thereof. (The novels give somewhat expanded versions, which is key here.) I think that the descriptions felt as if the Pandronians weren't colony creatures on a cellular level, but rather more like macro-units that assembled to different patterns (not necessarily with the same groups, either). Perhaps someone can lend better detail, if this reference is of any help. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 17:34
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You can't really have detached limbs, you'd need some way to transfer nutrients and nervous signals between the two parts. Even if you use some form of magic it'd be hard to get around the problem of an object coming inbetween the two parts (though that could also be considered a feature).

As for advantages, longer reach plays an important role in combat, so in a fight they've already won. There's also the inability to dismember them, what with them having already been dismembered to a degree.

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