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I am creating a world which is mainly full of intelligent humanoid type characters who have direct control over the rapid grow of hair/fur which covers their body.

Technology level is ~Victorian England level but with steam-powered machines, robots and flying vehicles. The humanoids generally wear clothes during the day, though at night time (e.g. going to a bar or pub) it is very common to only wear underpants and shoes.

These animals can very quickly (~60 seconds or so) grow hair anywhere on their body to a length of approximately a meter or so. One can train to grow the hair longer and faster; generally people can grow 100 mm or so in a minute but those who have trained can rapidly grow a meter of hair in a couple of seconds.

I am looking for a relatively "realistic" solution. The animals have extremely dense blood vessels in the skin, hence supporting growth. The anagen phase is extended greatly - beyond the normal two or seven years to the creature's entire life. The catagen and telogen phase are greatly reduced. Unlike humans, the creatures are able to store great amounts of protein in their body - excess protein is not converted into amino acids.

My questions is: How could this hair-growing ability be weaponized? Would it have caused a difference in how other weapons were developed?

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  • $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to Worldbuilding.se. As an advise, you're asking multiple questions at a time, which leads to too many different answers. Please only one question at a time. E.g. First about weapons, second about clothing and so on. $\endgroup$ – Alexander von Wernherr Jan 26 '17 at 11:04
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    $\begingroup$ And there is a problem of how much hand waving is accepted. Can they control where the fur is growing? How much does that hair weigh; what kind of fur it is? The animal would need to have a lot of protein to grow the fur. Anatomy will become a problem, because capacity to produce that fur requires protein storages, and probably an extremely thick skin to have space for the production. In a story it does not necessarily need to be that rigor, but for a question it is good to state are you looking a realistic answer or just ideas how such thing could be utilized. $\endgroup$ – user3644640 Jan 26 '17 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexandervonWernherr thanks. I will drill down to one question. $\endgroup$ – cyuut Jan 26 '17 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ I'll take this one step farther from the box...Porcupines, hedgehogs and some other mammals have adapted "hair" into "quills" , certainly not rapid-growth, or possessed of anything special-weapon like, but they are very sharp, very real, and if you can get past the 'handwavium' growth issue, quills could work... just my $0.02 $\endgroup$ – Joe Jan 26 '17 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Joe. My thoughts exactly. Quills makes better sense than hair -- unless the hair is venom-tipped or has something else which is deadly. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 27 '17 at 0:43
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How would this have been weaponised

There are lots of different kinds of hair, and a plethora of hair like objects.

Hair

Normal human hair: Not as interesting but it has many potential uses

  • Rope. Made famous by Rapunzel of course
  • Sling. Small patch of leather around a long braid and bam. Goliath is down
  • Garrote. Strangling people is a great way to be sneaky
  • Disguise. Grow it, dye it, use it to obscure features

Other mammalian hair: Have you ever looked at elephant hair or bear hair?

  • Defense. Maybe enemies throw beehives...who knows. If you could grow the super thick hair of an elephant it would be a great way to keep insects at bay if you can make it thick enough
  • Survival. While this could be done with human hair as well there are better more specialized versions. Sea Otter fur for example is so dense and thick that even though they live almost completely in the water their skin doesn't get wet. This variety could help soldiers survive in cold and wet climates much more easily.

Specialized Hair

Quills and spines: These are awesome and an amazing method of melee defense and nothing more than specialized hair. Quills generally require a specialized sub-dermal muscle. This both holds them in place and allows them to move. Its not practical to have them sticking out all the time so it has to be possible to lay them down

  • Defense. Obviously for fist fights there isn't a much better natural defense
  • Small piercing weapons. Otherwise known as a dagger. This would be a great skill for an assassin to have. Metal detectors are now virtually useless.
  • Projectiles. Its always fun to consider them shooting out ala Hydralisks of StarCraft fame...that would require a whole other conversation about propulsion systems.

Hair-like parts

Horns, talons and claws and antlers...so many options! If you want to stick with hair that's fine but its not a distant jump from hair to specialized finger nails so its worth some consideration.

  • Natural Weapons. Pretty obvious. Talons and claws are sharp, they are after all designed to grip/pierce flesh. A couple considerations: Can your humanoids simply grow them? Can they also absorb them back into themselves after use or...what. Talons are great for a fight but uh...that bathroom thing would be a tad dangerous if you had six inch needle sharp talons.

  • Impromptu antler weapons. Antlers vary in a significant way from horns. While horns are a permanent and ever growing features for those animals with them, antlers fall off every year. If you could replicate the growing process over a short time frame it could fall off and bam, insta-weapon. Better yet if you can control the shape of the growth you could make any range of moderately effective weapons, you could even make an antler boomerang!

  • Horns...how awesome are horns...sorry, I was just imagining being able to head butt a co-worker. Sorry. But actually that illustrates my point pretty well. Horns exist both to attract mates and offer protection when the super intelligent males smash their heads together to impress the ladies. Its a good thing humans don't do that...

Would it have caused a difference in how weapons were developed?

Undoubtedly it would have, at least for a time. These options are all still quite primitive compared to anything beyond stone age weaponry. Once you introduce metal into arms and armor the growth abilities become severely limited in their usefulness...I can see them making bar fights more interesting...but all in all hair and horns just can't compete with bronze, iron, steel and firearms in an appreciable way.

There is one refuge I can think of for the ability into essentially any era though and that is the spec ops/assassin world.

Being able to grow a dagger or razor sharp claws means never having to worry about a metal detector.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @James; really great thoughts to my two questions. I've chosen you as the answer and am thankful for your ideas. $\endgroup$ – cyuut Jan 28 '17 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ Happy to help @cyuut $\endgroup$ – James Jan 28 '17 at 19:09
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Weaponized? Maybe but not unless you alter the composition

Great uses? Tons!

  • Rapunzel! A ladder or rope is only hair growth away. Tie your hair to the bed, jump out the window, and slowly descend at the rate of hair growth
  • Rope replacement. Need a rope or simple tie? Grow and braid it into ropes.
  • Strangulation. Why arm yourself with a garrote when you can grow one?
  • Armour. Wouldn't do much vs stabbing/piercing but tightly wound hair would work as a decent padding vs blunt and slashing attacks
  • Where's my head? Obscuring where your head is located is a common tactic in nature today, these guys can take it a bit further. Mass grow hair unevenly in any and all directions and use it to obscure the location of you body. Gun fire could easily hit the mass of hair, but miss anything critical on the creature itself.
  • Stealth. Similar as above, enshrouding yourself in dark hair can make you difficult to see. Hair on the bottom of the foot could also dampen foot steps.

There is some more traits that depend on what you define as 'hair'. Claws/fingernails, Quills and spines, Horns, and a variety of other 'altered' hair exist. Little more traditional and gets away from this simply being 'fur'. Perhaps with training, your humanoids here can change the texture and general feel of the fur/hair they grow to include horns and spines. Your call as to how much they can control the growth.

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  • $\begingroup$ I really love your idea of "where's my head?" and "stealth"! $\endgroup$ – cyuut Jan 27 '17 at 10:12
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Claws spikes and horns seem obvious, they're keratin after all.
Also since growing hair seems to be a trainable skill, thick, dense packed hair as armour.
Those good at growing hair, but physically weak could grow customised hair as tools and weapons or thick hair for use in making armour.

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I think Jackie Chan has taught us that anything can be a weapon. But, more to the specifics.

How to weaponise hair?

  • Get a rock with a hole in the centre, tie the hair (from the palm for example) to it, and swing it around. Centrifugal force would be a major threat with this kind of weapon, and the longer the hair, the more dangerous. This could then be comparable to the manrikigusari if used correctly.

  • Another option is to use it as 'simple' rope. If you can control how much hair you produce, you can prepare as much rope as you need. More tool than weapon, but not impossible. Add in knot-tying skills, and you might have a badass trap laying tactic. Just channel your 'Home Alone' plotting types, and you'll go far.

  • Why not get creative? I mean, why not use what god gave these creatures of the night? Why not accentuate this with strong gels? Turn loose hair strands into one bunch, and then use that bunch as spikes?

  • Well, what folklore examples can I give? How about this one, the Japanese 'hair demon', the two mouthed woman. Or this one, the hair hooker -- looks good from behind, but shivers don't look at her face. Or take Jiraiya from the series Naruto, he uses his hair in very creative ways, but it requires significantly more handwavium to achieve this. With these three examples you either get some 'The Grudge' type creatures, but it all depends on what you're going for.

Get creative, see what gorgeous concoctions I've overlooked.

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