The basic question being how can I get a society in the medieval era of technology co-exist with a society closer to the stone age of technology? I have two distinct cultures I am trying to flesh out and a third one on the way for this planet I am working on. But I want slightly more dynamic societies and am having trouble justifying them both being on the same planet and not being in line with each-others advancements.

One society is like Gothic medieval Europe, with knights and castles and a church based system all generally situated in the mountainous areas. The other is more tribal, living in nature and worshiping a number of spirit/deities with tribal tattoos and rudimentary weapons situated in the forests and more densely fauna areas.

I am considering race differences or slight species-based gaps, or maybe they are at odds as cultures ( preferably not full-blown war but I'm not entirely against the idea).

This is my first question on this forum/page so If the question is too broad or doesn't sit in the guidelines just let me know. Thanks for looking/answering!


3 Answers 3


All you have to do is look at, well, Earth. To pick a date at random, say 1920, you had, on this planet:

  • people with advanced technology, radio communications, aircraft, and the first thoughts about going into space;
  • people living essentially at a 19th century level in the more frontier areas;
  • people living hunter-gatherer lifestyles with, if they were lucky, access to trade for some upgraded things like firearms, cloth, and some raw metal material but otherwise lived in much the same manner as their ancestors centuries prior;
  • isolated tribes who had a completely pre-industrial Neolithic culture with rare to no contact with the outside world; and
  • a few tribes who make the preceding tribes look highly advanced (like the North Sentinel people who appear barely Paleolithic).

So it's not difficult whatsoever to image a medieval level of technology co-existing on the same world with a stone age culture...because that really happened.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is the correct answer. Even 2018 Earth has multiple distinct societies at various levels of development, sometimes within the same country (e.g. Brazil's Yanomami). $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ You can even find people who work in one culture, but mostly live in another. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 6:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ One thing I'd try to keep in mind about an constructed cultures though is why the more technologically-advanced ones wouldn't bother the less advanced ones. A lot of the time, invasions are motivated by a control of resources (land, food, metals, etc.) so it might be worthwhile to ensure that either the dominant culture will not invade based on principle alone or that their neighbors truly have nothing of interest which would otherwise create conflict. Food for thought, I guess. $\endgroup$
    – Pleiades
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 5:02
  • $\begingroup$ Again, real history. There have been many occasions where more technologically advanced people want some resource in an area where more technologically primitive people live, and the two sides rarely interact, especially if the second culture actively avoids the first. Until the last few decades, the !Kung had no problem maintaining a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle right next to South Africa, which was technologically advanced as any other modern nation and well beyond the medieval level. Canadian Inuit largely maintained a traditional lifestyle well into the 20th century. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 7:13

As to how to actually get them co-existing on the same planet at the same time, there are many solutions.

Religious: 1) Maybe the medieval people's religion warns them against interacting with "savages" so they just mostly adopt a live and let live strategy. Tons of opportunity for character interactions crossing societal lines there. 2) Maybe one of the more primitive cultures is set against giving up their culture and becoming "soft" or losing touch with their inner spirits or something.

Military: Maybe the numbers of the medieval folks are low due to poor nutrition and sanitation, and there are just tons and tons of the druid-like folk. So even if there was a full-scale war between them, it would cost both sides dearly and as a result, even though there are occasional skirmishes, both sides don't want a full-blown fight. Then there's plot possibilities with schemers trying to drag one side or the other into a war.

Geographic:They could simply live far away from each other, or maybe there are natural barriers preventing them from interacting often (like mountain passes that become impassible during the winter) or one of the more "primitive" cultures is nomadic and lives on horseback in these giant empty-seeming plains that have no resources for any of the medieval-types to exploit.

Economic: The medieval types could totally be capturing the druid types and using them as some form of Helot or slave and they take advantage of their connection with nature to help make crops grow and pregnancies easier. Then it would be in their best interests to keep them dominated and with technology out of their hands.

For other ideas, I think it would be good to look at the time period when the explorer's first came to the New World. Especially the ones that weren't Jesuit's coming for new knowledge, but instead to set up little demesne's for their various rulers back in the Old World


Power. When Europeans met natives they had the power because of their greater technology - guns, horses, ships, etc. So one of your two societies will always have a greater advantage than the other because of their technology.

But you can have the less advanced technological society have greater advantages in biology. What if your less advanced race multiplies at a much faster pace? What if they are much faster and stronger? What if they have a specific ability that allows them an advantage the other doesn't have- like they can camouflage in the jungle?

Give them different advantages over the other that then bring them back to an equal playing field. Think Orcs and humans. Orcs - dumb, but strong. Humans - smart, but weak.


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