Societal and Technological Differences for Species Without Arms/Hands

I was playing Spore earlier, and got to the end of creature stage when I realized I haven’t given my species arms. While Spore basically ignores this and simply puts the tools in the creatures mouth, it made me wonder how a species would develop their society and technology without arms.

Would this be even possible without the assistance of another species, and if it is possible how do you think tools we use would look to them?

1 Like

Hawaii Crows (if i recall right) can make tools without any arm.
So i can say its very possible by using they beaks as arm.


Using a beak it will be much harder to make early throwing weapons and various other things. So if we model that kind of detail I’d imagine not having proper grasping appendages, that would give you a very heavy penalty in terms of what technologies your species could use properly.

1 Like

Not just throwing, also delicate metoric crafting will be hard to mouth like movement, like making a clover point will be very hard to do with only one part. soo they have to invent something like an anvil to ground the stone to shape him into a useful tool.

Get yourself a telekinesis plasmid today! Made by Ryan Industries!


I think the best way to integrate the idea is to scale weapon effectiveness with the limb. Mathematically alter the damage from an unarmed slap and test muscle groups so if a 600 pound gorilla uses a polearm it’ll dismember an armored opponent wit ease, but if it uses a bow it’ll be all shaky and miss. Edit: sorta like gurps. You have your damage dice (one set for without leverage, one for with), throwing range, and your lifting strength. all based on one stat, but you can get advantages and disadvantages to change them, or just buy buffs to these secondary stats. additionally weapons have ranges based on throwing distance (slings are accurate to double your throwing distance, but can go to tripple it unreliably), and damage based on unarmed strikes (knife is damage without leverage plus one except large piecing, chainsaw is damage with leverage plus 1d6 except cutting), i think a system like that would really allow freedom of creature design and weapon design and a dynamic change to combat based on your creature without being a pipe dream.


I don’t think the mouth is inherently a poor manipulator; it’s just got certain limitations on its use that might vary by species.

Firstly, there’s the problem of not being able to see your tool use. I think this is more a human problem than an inherent one! If you look at the vast majority of binocular-view species that use their mouth as a primary manipulator, such as crocodiles, birds, monitor lizards, pufferfish, archerfish, tool-using wrasse and so on, the eyes are aligned such that they can look down their snout (in the same way that a human can line their eyes up with the barrel of a gun or a pool cue to aim them). Mammals’ centralised eyes and sightline-blocking noses are more the exception than the rule, most likely due to developing muscular lips as an alternate sensory apparatus. Sharks are a similar case, having a suite of close-range sensors in the snout that let them forego the need to see what they have in their mouths.

Secondly, there’s the problem of rapid acceleration being difficult with the brain case. I also don’t believe that this is a major problem. Animals such as woodpeckers, goats and gannets show that there’s adaptations for massive acceleration in the head that can be taken, and we’ve seen mouth-based tool users such as the aforementioned wrasse utilising objects such as anvils via their mouths. And throwing isn’t a prerequisite for complex technology and food processing- the fire, and the mortar and pestle, are much more important as predecessors to forging technology. Both of those can be used with jaw-based manipulators.

The third issue, and probably the most significant one, is the limitations in flexibility. Assuming a vertebrate mouth, then the large thickness, proximity to the eyes (goggles are a more complex invention than gloves), and the lack of auxiliary digits might pose issues for tasks such as weaving, using forceps e.g scissors, making pots, and so on. I think this level of problems is reasonable, since I think forging and circuit boards would still be possible; if you want to use a mouth that doesn’t have auxiliary digits (e.g maxillipeds, tentacles, multi-hinge jaws like a sea urchin), then that’s a reasonable self-imposed challenge rather than a game-breaking issue, I think.


Hmm, so we’ll have to factor that in. unlike spore, in thrive advancing to the next stage isn’t tied to score, but to advancements, so if we introduce difficulty in making tools without manipulators that does the trick on its own to prevent spaceship driving blobs.

So how can this be achieved? Angles of motion. The player will get to place muscles and tendons, and if the angle those pulling forces and can pull allow for a grip, a gripping point will be added. The number, and strength of a gripping point can be calculated from muscles. This is not unrealistic by any means, and allows for an incredibly dynamic design system. Of course this could result in knee joint of flexible species being classified as non-dexterous grippers, so any time the game senses a grasping set it should ask the player weather this is a limb joint or a grasper, and if a limb joint what limb it falls under, and if its a grasper both weather its a digit or a larger grasper and what keybind it needs. Of course other strategies may be more practical, i dont know C# or godot sadly, but i tend to think its bad form to come up with an idea and no practical method or incorporating it. This also allows for things other then vertebrate limbs to be used, like mouths or trunks, or tails or tentacles or any number of appendages.

Edit: the calculated effectiveness of the grasper will limit the detail of tools that can be created, the weight carried per trip, and are one of the stats that would be used in my previous idea on weapons, i for got to clarify that.

1 Like

Any time talk of alternatives to hands comes up, I think of the “mulefa” from The Amber Spyglass. The mulefa are most notable for riding around on wheels (!), but they also have a single elephantine trunk/snout that they use like a hand. They must cooperate on complex tasks like braiding rope and weaving baskets, but it works well enough for them to have a pretty nice stone-age society.

A while ago, I also dreamt up an intelligent, stout, quadrupedal creature that had a prehensile tongue. Over time I changed it to a prehensile upper lip and gave it thick neck muscles and facial horns to which it could fasten objects too heavy for its trunk-lip to carry… and then I realized that I had basically made an elephant. Still, I kinda like it.

None of this has anything to do with the game; only to say that armless aliens would face challenges when compared to humans, but they might be overcome with group cooperation or other, complimentary body parts.

(I don’t know about tools, but can you imagine how human dance would look like to such a creature? Such spindly animals as we are, looking like we can barely balance upright, jumping and spinning every which way with limbs flailing about in tight coordination. Must be quite a sight!)

one possible alternative to hands is telepathy via radio wave detection and production organs and another organism to act as it’s hands and as long as the other organism has a reason to follow the instructions it will likely do so (ex: it is an organism that it relies on to process things) to benefit itself and how this relationship would evolve is the organism trying to manipulate an object had ancestors that used radiowaves to communicate with each other and the organism being used to do the manipulating had ancestors that also used radiowaves to communicate but didn’t have the ability to see as radiowaves aren’t exactly the best for visual input and higher frequencies are much better but it didn’t have the ability to use higher frequencies and the organism trying to do the manipulating did so it was the one that is more intelligent but doesn’t have manipulators in it’s dna

Hawaiian crows (and many birds in general) don’t just use their beaks to hold tools, they use their feet as well.
Also, elephants are capable of fairly precise tool use with their trunks, and octopuses can hold and manipulate objects with their tentacles (which don’t count as hands). There’s also the possibility of using a tail or tongue to hold things.

This thread is implying without any fine manipulators not just hands.

the thread says no arms or hands not no fine manipulators. a beak is a fine manipulator if you are skilled enough. a mouth is a fine manipulator if you are skilled enough. tentacles are almost all fine manipulators.

The title says no arms or hands, but the thread implies no fine manipulators.

1 Like

the thread implies no hands as in no extremely fine manipulators with opposable thumbs, multiple digits, a flat surface connecting them, and 3 or more joints per digit with the exception of the thumb. that is the definition of a hand

No, it implies no fine manipulators in general or else tentacles and trunks would already have been mentioned.


But the thread’s title is no arms/hands. Trunks, feet, tentacles, and mouths aren’t feet or arms. I guess you could argue that tentacles are arms but that’s it. Another example of animals doing precise manipulation without using arms or hands is ants, which use their mandibles.

Also, If an animal’s tongue is capable of precise movement, mouths could be used for precise manipulation (assuming the species has a tongue in their mouth)

1 Like

Literally the reply you replied to.


The majority of this thread seems to be about manipulating things without hands. I don’t see how me giving examples of how a species could manipulate things without hands is irrelevant.

I have been repeating why it is irrelevant continuosly.