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So I've got a medieval fantasy world where humanity has been forced to live exclusively in fortified towns and city states because of attacks by monsters. These monsters are not kaiju level in size so smaller and more populous, think Grimm from RWBY. They do not actively seek to annihilate humanity but will hunt humans as a food source if there is an opportunity. The monsters will also attack livestock. The monsters can be eaten themselves but hunting them is dangerous for obvious reasons.

Trade with other towns is possible but that would require a large amount of protection.

My question is how would these societies manage to get enough food to survive since the more land they use to grow food the more guards they will need to protect this farmland from monster attacks. What methods could they use to get enough food and survive the monsters?


First edit:

The types of monsters will be extremely varied, big, small, fast, slow, carnivorous, herbivorous etc. Most will be modified versions of real world fauna but some will be taken from mythology or created from scratch. Most are still dangerous.


Second edit:

Getting a lot of requests for clarification and some answers treating it just like real world so here's some new info.

On the monsters: The monster population is massive and many of them are apex predators. They drastically out power humanity so simply wiping them out or leaving a shepherd boy in the fields with a sling is not a possibility. It's safe to say they've overrun the earth even though that's technically not correct as they were always there. Humans are much lower in the food chain than on earth.

The monsters have always been there and did not just turn up one day, they evolved naturally alongside other creatures including us. Species of monsters have evolved everywhere on earth that can support life, so seas, deserts, islands, polar regions, you name it. No environment is completely safe.

While intelligence varies greatly just like the real world, many species have displayed decent intelligence and problem solving, sometimes even use of makeshift tools.

Domestication is a possibility but would be very limited. There is a really good reason the real world doesn't have your friendly neighbourhood tiger. Most monsters are simply too dangerous and/or smart to be bossed about by the obviously inferior humans.

Monsters have their own stable food chain and so are not completely dependent on eating us and won't die out if we somehow successfully manage to stay away from or fend them off for a sufficiently long period. They are not exempt from this food chain and monsters will attack and eat other species of monsters.

The Herbivorous and Omnivorous monsters who would eat crops are no less of a threat. Many would attack humans if approached and would not take kindly to humans trying to get rid of it (you try telling a monstrous bull or herd of monster buffalo to piss off, see how it goes).

On alternate methods of transport: Several people have suggested alternate methods of transporting goods between different places.

Hot Air balloons: This could conceivably work but that has its own problems, there are plenty of airborne monsters that are more than capable of attacking these, also, the technology is several hundred years past my medieval setting, it's possible that the limitations I'm placing on these people with the monsters would result in their invention early though.

Tunnels: Tunnels are expensive and difficult to create in modern day. My medieval societies with their limited resources and economies would be completely unable to do this. Maybe if there were dwarves, but there aren't.

Sailing: This would very likely happen but there are aquatic monsters that can attack and do serious damage to ships.

So basically all forms of transport must be done with extreme caution.

On different methods of stopping them:

Fences: These wouldn't work. There are so many ways to get past fences, especially if determined, burrowing under, flying or jumping over, if big enough or with sharp claws possibly just going straight through it. If used, fences would be used to keep in ordinary livestock or as a deterrent/method of slowing monsters down.

Attack on Titan style walls: This has been suggested and it wouldn't work. If you've gotten far enough into AOT (I won't spoil it) you'd know that the walls were not created by conventional means. There is no way for my people to manage this feat.

Game of Thrones style The Wall. Just like the AOT walls, this isn't a possibility. Remember that that wall took 8 thousand years to build, is only possible in that climate with the extreme cold and they're barely able to manage it against the more mundane attackers.

Ordinary walls: Could work if done properly

Traps: Would work but more measures would be required on top of that.

Deterrents (thorns, poisons, foul-smelling plants): These would work on the smaller monsters but not all. Some would be big and strong enough to not care or smart enough to figure out deceptions and ways round. So can be used partially but other measures will be needed.

Natural obstacles: My people would most definitely make use of these to avoid extra work to make fortifications. Islands are a great idea if they're small enough that they can occupy the entire island and there isn't any wild space for monsters to take hold.

To that one guy who suggested time travelers bringing advanced technology as the plot demands, I have no words.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 22 '18 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ Side note: Many of these answers ignore.... human intelligence. We learn and adapt extremely quickly. So instead of hunting the monsters, we'll hunt their babies. If fences don't work, we'll build different types until they do. If loud noises scare them away, we'll build noise makers. You can be almost 100% certain that after a few thousand years of humans living in the same world as monsters, the monsters will be an endangered species. It would be an interesting setting for a story: just after the last monster was killed. $\endgroup$ – sdfgeoff Mar 4 '18 at 18:17

24 Answers 24

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Fungiculture

Below the buildings and streets of your beset cities, farmers cultivate fungi in tunnels, basements, catacombs, and mines. Organic scraps and other biological waste is sent here to feed the 'shrooms.

Hunter-gatherer

Small teams of hunters and gatherers risk life and limb beyond the walls, spending a few hours each day hunting game and harvesting fruit, herbs, and such found in the area.

Greenspace

All rooftops and unused outdoor spaces within the city walls have been converted to garden plots and pens for (small) livestock. High-yield shade vegetables grow in the streets and alleys, while plants that need more sun grow on rooftops and trellises in public squares.

Perimeter planting

A clear line of sight is needed for the safety of the city, but there's no reason that safety perimeter needs to be barren: grains can be sown here, as well as concentric lines of thorny berry-laden bushes to discourage the smaller monsters.

As the city grows crowded this perimeter space can be walled off for more housing, and a new space cleared beyond.

Farm the monsters

All livestock is dangerous if underestimated or mishandled, but that didn't stop our ancestors from seeing the nutritional value of horned bison or towering mammoths. Trapped in pits, a breeding pair of smaller monsters could produce a reliable stream of giant eggs or other edible offspring and provide a semi-controlled environment for your society to study their behaviour.

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    $\begingroup$ Ha ha I was going to say eat the monsters themselves. Go on the offensive. Hunt them and kill them. $\endgroup$ – Len Feb 19 '18 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ @SPavel You'll notice there are four other means of food production listed. H-G could only ever supplement what is grown. $\endgroup$ – rek Feb 20 '18 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ @rek the other strategies will feed a handful of people at best. people severely underestimate the caloric needs of a human compared ot the land needed to provide it. Remember this is prior to human created high yield crops and advanced farming techniques. If feeding people was this easy medieval cities would already do it to protect from sieges. each person needs about 3-4 acres of farmland to support them, poorly. the first two don't produce significant quantities of food, green spacing does not add significant amounts of farmland (cities are not that big)... $\endgroup$ – John Feb 21 '18 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ @r41n in medieval times wheat was smaller than it is now $\endgroup$ – Nuloen The Seeker Feb 22 '18 at 8:42
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    $\begingroup$ Fungi are heterotrophs. They might be usable to recycle some energy, but they will never generate a net surplus of energy. The same is true of the smaller monsters. To get them to generate 100 calories of meat, you have to feed them 200 calories of something else. Land for plants is the bottleneck. $\endgroup$ – Richard Smith Apr 9 at 13:53
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[T]he more land they use to grow food then the more guards they will need to protect this farmland from monster attacks

That is true if your monsters are elephants, and will attack your farmland and eat the corn. If these are carnivorous monsters then they will not eat grain and vegetable crops. Farmers will reside within the city walls. When the farms need tending they will go as armed groups to each farm and take care of things. Likewise the harvest – they will harvest each farm as an armed group.

Vegetable crops do not need to be watched at all times. Livestock seems like a risky venture in this scenario. Most of the time the farms and surrounding land will be empty of humans. When the farmers visit, it will be in force.

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    $\begingroup$ "Vegetable crops do not need to be watched at all times." Weeds. And herbivores. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 19 '18 at 7:32
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn Monsters should eat the herbivores at least.. weeds would still be an issue. $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Feb 19 '18 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ @adaliabooks when wolves and mountain lions were the top predators, they ate deer, and yet deer survived. Thus, there will still be herbivores from which the gardens need protection. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 19 '18 at 8:52
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn True, but in the real world despite predators it was/is still safe to farm and live in the countryside, in this world it sounds like everywhere outside the towns is overrun with monsters, which would be a slightly different situation I think. $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Feb 19 '18 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ @adaliabooks "it sounds like everywhere outside the towns is overrun with monsters" :) I left a question comment on that very impossibility... $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 19 '18 at 9:08
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The same way we stop dangerous animals right now. Fences.

Surround your farmland with strong fences and grow your food. You can go out in parties for trade or hunting, and when your population expands you expand your fences.

You need walls, gates and defenders to stop humans, but fences stop animals.

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    $\begingroup$ I love a good commonsense answer to what seems like an obtuse question to which the answer is simpler than otherwise would be expected. Plus one. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 19 '18 at 8:38
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    $\begingroup$ Live on an island that has the monsters removed. Sort of like the UK with no lions. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP Feb 19 '18 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ Depends on the monster. Elephants can break through most fences unless they are very solidly built, and can even pull down electric fences because their tusks are non conductive. Foxes can tunnel under fences. Eagles can fly over fences. $\endgroup$ – James Hollis Feb 19 '18 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ Fences is the right answer. They may just need to be more robust fences. And if they protect from x% of the monsters, guards can deal with the rest. $\endgroup$ – Jammin4CO Feb 19 '18 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ The whole World used to be populated with dangerous monsters and small groups of humans trying to survive, now they're mostly extinct, we protect an area to live on and then just expand into their domain killing them as we go, either directly or by disrupting their habitat. Those that view us as a danger and run survive longer, those who view us as a food source get exterminated over time. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Feb 20 '18 at 10:16
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In my answer, I've tried to think more along the lines of insects than humans. Since we have proven to be dominant and wiped out every other predator species for the most part, I believe this line of thinking is more true to your story, keeping us lower on the food chain. I'm assuming we developed side by side with these monsters always in our world, and they didn't just spring out of the ground one day through a hell-portal. Even without a high tech or magical solution, for us to have developed to a medieval level of culture necessitates us having survived Stone Age, Bronze Age, etc... and have organically developed agriculture and animal husbandry, cities, all that. It also assumes that these creatures have NOT evolved, you mentioned no real intelligence, tool-usage, adaptation, or problem solving, and they have no innate malice towards us, only hunger. So I focused on an evolutionary answer that doesn't involve us stabbing them many times with sharp pointy things, something we excel at (well, at least until #4)

  1. Satiation as a survival strategy. Since livestock exist in this world, they must have been domesticated from a base animal that survived long enough in the wild to be tamed by humans. Your humans simply feed the monsters a portion of their animals on a regular basis until their stomachs are full. your question made them out to be much more obligate carnivores than chaotic evil killing machines. The bonus here is after awhile the monsters may not even view humans as a food source, and start wishing to not bite the hand that feeds, start coming closer to our villages, and become themselves domesticated, a la Wolves! Domestication. Now we have our own loyal, friendly monsters that can defend us (I'm picturing a deathclaw shephard) In any case, many of ancient cultures provided their gods regular sacrifices of animals, meat, food. Even more recently the church was tithed a portion of your produce. Think of it like a tax, except with tangible benefit. Feed the birds, tuppence a day..

  2. Every villager in the fields wears a bright orange and red frock, that is dipped in the crushed up alkaloid of a poisonous plant, lethal when ingested but safe for skin contact. We go about our regular business and lives, after a few generations, natural selection has every monster avoiding eating anything brightly colored like the plague. Eventually we don't even need to poison everyone's clothes (mimicry). This even fits in with the variation of monster, since most every predator has evolved to shun bright color, equating it with poison

  3. Extremophile societies would doubtless spring up, tribes of people living in the cold north or regions like the hot deserts that the monsters avoid or can't survive in. You would see a dominance of island cultures, even the use of easily defensible peninsulas, and the making use of natural formations. Think the Puebla cities, the Jewish fortress of Masada, or Machu Pichu.. At the very minimum most places would not build their castles and strongholds with an eye toward human-on-human warfare or controlling strategic points, but rather on choke points in the sense of where can the walls be tall and thick, but not too wide. Why build a fence on four sides when you can have three sides bounded by ocean and one good wall? And if all else fails, all the good spots are taken, put your back to the oceans or mountainside and let them taste our spears!

  4. Specialization, one of the hallmarks of civilization. Every farmer and potter and craftsman need not be an expert monster hunter, looking over his shoulder with a hoe in one hand and a spear in the other. Instead, certain humans would take up the trade. Guilds would be established, weapons and tactics honed and perfected, and bounties placed on every monster. Like Saint George the dragonslayer, Van Helsing, or the Jager pilots of fiction- they would be heroes, well paid, greatly respected and honored, and deadly. Lone bounty hunters would take down the merely bothersome sheepstealers and creeping chupacabras, a small posse of deputized locals can deal with a few pesky calla-wolves, and great phalanxes of professionals could take on the legendary maneaters. For story purposes, as long as there is balance, you can make it so the humans haven't completely wiped out the threat. Perhaps our worse angels still surface, and we still war with one another, waste resources on folly, and haven't quite banded together as one might hope in a world of monsters? Or perhaps there are areas where they breed, and are so well defended, so deeply hidden, or utterly infested that we can't manage to competely wipe them out? To the point where it isn't worth the risk of lives to do so, or maybe the guilds could, but like the steady paycheck and interesting work instead of total victory, followed by a big parade, and then shortly after, a trip down to the unemployment office...

  5. You'll notice i didn't really cover the problem of the herbivore monsters eating/trampling crops. Somewhat because it didn't seem to be the true direction of your question, but mainly because this is still a problem today, I've had mice eat every seed in my greenhouse and seen a deer jump an 8ft fence. This is something you can't do much about except by the usual methods we use today on small to medium sized nuisance animals - poisons, weapons, traps, and... well, see answer #1 (im thinking komodo dragon barn cats...)
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    $\begingroup$ This is an excellent answer as it adds an explanation for various cultural elements to be adopted as well. Different areas have different monster populations that lead to different coping patterns and cultures. $\endgroup$ – Stephen Ruhl Feb 21 '18 at 20:36
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They could eat the monsters. I'm sure that medieval men at arms would vie for opportunities to demonstrate their prowess making a sport out of monster hunting and trapping. Its not exactly a far fetched idea, stone age man hunted mega fauna like the saber toothed tiger, cave bear, and woolly mammoth with stone tools so why wouldn't iron age warriors do the same?

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    $\begingroup$ When I read the question, I thought "just kill the monsters". Humans normally kill off any dangerous (big) animals to the point of extiction. It was done with Mammoth, sabre tigers in stone age, and many many other animals later. This should be even more realistic beacuse these monsters are edible. So the dont hunt mammoth, but monsters. $\endgroup$ – Julian Egner Feb 20 '18 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ Well, if those beasts are going to actively attack fortified human settlement... It sounds like a free meal to me.. $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Apr 11 at 10:34
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Peninsula

Looking at @Len post, I got an idea.

Your people should first find a peninsula with very high cliffs, like the Bonifacio town that you can visit in Corsica (France).

enter image description here

(Credits : https://www.specialsailingcharter.com/2016/02/14/sailing-mediterranean-last-minute-yacht-charter-deals/)

By the way, you can take a look at it just here.

Mixed with a wall-shapped-city

Then, I thought about announcement that a mexican urbanist group called Estudio 3.14 made in response to Donald Trump's Wall project.

They said that the best way to construct such a big wall would be to design it in a way people could live or shop in it ! Or to make it "usefull" by integrating directly a prison in it (in that special case...).

enter image description here

(Credits : https://today.uconn.edu/2016/12/what-might-wall-with-mexico-look-like/)

With that kind of construction, you don't need to spend time and ressources building a wall to protect your city anymore : your city is the wall !

If you place it smartly on your peninsula, you can now block monsters to come spoiling your cultivated lands.

I think this slightly better than fortifying an island as you still have the opportunity to raid on monster-lands if needed.

A terrible drawing :

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, thats pretty much what I meant, except you added the peninsula idea. Good stuff. $\endgroup$ – Len Feb 22 '18 at 2:59
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Clearly, the only way this works is stone walls.

Medieval people did this all the time.

A single person can easily stack bricks, and mortar layer upon layer and start with 3 widths of a modern brick.

Is that enough? Yes stop, if not expand it.

Use field stones, and whatever, to form a castle wall if necessary. These things are like 30 to 50 feet high, and easily 10 foot thick or more.

They were built in medieval times all the time.

Now after you build the initial perimeter, place guards on the top with bow and arrows and other ranged weapons. Beat the animals back till they don't relentlessly attack near the wall.

Then start building a second wall far enough forward to call it progress, but no so far that the previous guards can't defend them from the top of the wall. Expand one or two segments of the wall at a time until you have a usable amount of land.

Clearly, according to the OP, these animals are as plentiful as tribbles (Star Trek) and are going to have to be mass slaughtered for food.

Banks of archers on the wall tops killing them by the hundreds. Then hauling them up, cooking, and eating them.

As soon as you are old enough to hold a bow and arrow, up on the wall shoot at the unending hoards of monsters.


The only way to start a town is hundred of ranged weapon people protecting the wall builders until the walls are big and strong enough to do the defending.

Either that or finding plains that are seasonal, and you can build a wall while the hoards are attacking someone else.


The simple fact, is that almost no animal is battle ready at birth. Needs time to mature, and therefore can't endless attack humanity. Eventually we have to kill enough of them to gain a foothold on the land, or they will kill us all and we won't be alive to need food.

Archers from tree tops to help guard the initial wall builders.

Personally, I would eat well, with 100 arches making a kill every couple minutes 24 hours a day. 30 per hour* 100 =3000 *24 =72000 and if each one only has 2 pounds of usable meat thats 144,000lbs of meat per day.

To heck with farming!!!!


update:

Additionally your going to need a pit, wide enough so no creature can jump it, and deep enough so the creatures are at least permanently trapped. Even better if they die from impact with the bottom.

This is necessary to prevent being swarmed, and provides an additional layer of passive defense.

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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apex_predator

That might help you understand something about predators. Basically if too many predators live in one area they will eat off all the prey in that area. Nature makes it so that the predators spread themselves out over wider areas so that each predator has enough prey.

In short your area will not have SO many predators that humans have to run from them all the time.

But... I get that you want monsters killing people, so how about this: they build their towns and farms on fields abutted by natural cliffs. enter image description here This protects them from many sides depending on the shapes of the cliff and coastlines, so they only have to watch out for whats in front of them.

There they could build thick walls (some walls were so thick they could withstand cannon fire), moats, and fields with spikes; As well as arrows and spears and harpoons.

I wanted to come back and add these:

Your wall could look like this from the outside:

enter image description here

And like this from the inside:

enter image description here

More than enough strength for even the toughest monster (you did mention they weren't Kaiju sized). So unless they can fly you should be ok. If any of them can fly... harpoon the suckers!

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent point with too many predators resulting in their own population dropping. Guess I'll have to drop the number of apex predators in order for it to be a viable ecosystem $\endgroup$ – ArcWraith Feb 19 '18 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ @ArcWraith You can also have an ecosystem on overdrive, producing so many animals and plants on the lower steps of the food chain that they can sustain a fair number of apex predators. Not sure a city could be built in that kind of ecosystem without being overwhelmed by the jungle immediately, though. $\endgroup$ – Eth Feb 21 '18 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ @ArcWraith It's been quite a while since this question saw any significant activity, but related to your old comment above: What efficiencies make a realistic food chain? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 9 at 19:12
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Rooftop farming.

Every single roof will be a small green garden to produce food for the population.

Cows are absolutely out of question, but chickens and goats can live around the people. Maybe pigs depending on how much food is being produced.

If they need even more food, then it's time to start vertical farms.

Alternatively, start growing mushrooms in underground tunnels.

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    $\begingroup$ Growing animals is generally a waste of energy and resources (they run around so they need shelter, and they will eat more of your food than will produce). If you're going to be limited to rooftops, then stick to grains and beans which can be dried and eated year-round fairly easily, besides vegetables. Trees should grow fine on the ground as long as the monsters don't destroy them $\endgroup$ – ecc Feb 19 '18 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ Animals can be useful for eating certain scraps, produce fertilizer and can even offer certain psichological benefits as people will have a greater variety of food types. They are already living under indefinite siege, having a chicken around for some religious hollyday or celebration can help a lot with the moral. $\endgroup$ – Sasha Feb 19 '18 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ Fair enough. But having a few animals is not farming animals and I wouldn't count them as a food source if you'll eat them only for Easter. $\endgroup$ – ecc Feb 20 '18 at 8:06
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The first question you have to ask yourself is how did people get to the point of walled cities and medieval technology to begin with? Both require a pretty significant food surplus to allow enough people ability to find and mine rocks and build walls and buildings and such as well as develop technology in general without worrying about tending to the farm.

So clearly these humans already lived for thousands of years alongside the monsters and managed to have more than enough food well before they even developed walls and medieval weapons. So how did the ancient humans, with nothing but sharpened sticks managed to not only survive the monsters in the first place, but make enough extra food for their builders? Whatever they did the medieval humans can continue doing, but much more effectively.

One also has to wonder how did humans evolve in this world in the first place? How did the precursor monkey survive? Was it safe in the trees? If so, humans could build their villages and towns in thees and farm tree grown food. If not, how did it survive? Was it strong enough to fight off the monsters? If so humans that came from it would be as well.

Bottom line is that humans would have had to have handled their monster problem back when they weren't even humans yet, in the world where they co-evolved; by the time they actually reach medieval level tech monsters should not be a big problem anymore

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    $\begingroup$ This is the most commonsense answer. If monsters are still a problem after all this time then they have to have evolved to a greater degree than OP has said in the question. $\endgroup$ – Taha Attari Feb 21 '18 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ This is true; some situations would never develop in a logical setting. You're going to have to have a situation where the monsters were kept accessible by distant until relatively recently, like on a nearby continent that's only become connected because of an ice age that caused sea levels to drop (as happened with the Bering Landbridge: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beringia). $\endgroup$ – jeffronicus Feb 21 '18 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ @jeffronicus Yeah, you could go that route but that will heavily affect the answers, because that would mean that people only have to defend landbridges (or whatever) rather then all the cities $\endgroup$ – Maxim Feb 21 '18 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Maxim Reviewing the Bering bridge, it appears to have been up to 620 miles wide and allowed for quite extensive migration by a variety of species. So my thought is that you could have a human civilization develop or spread across one landmass, which later becomes connected to another landmass. With medieval technology, the humans might not even have known about the connection until the monsters appeared across the wastelands, gradually increasing in number and variety, forcing settlements to adapt and fortify. $\endgroup$ – jeffronicus Feb 21 '18 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ @jeffronicus The OP sort of implied that they evolved together, naturally if they didn't then things would be different and would depend on how quickly they migrate, what motivates them to wonder over. The bridge didn't grow to 620 miles wide over night, you'd see a few monsters first, get a warning etc etc. $\endgroup$ – Maxim Feb 21 '18 at 23:15
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Just make the monsters less powerful

I've seen post-apocalyptic TV shows where, for reasons of plot and their contracted number of episodes, it's preordained that any time the characters are safe, a new threat will arise.

The characters have holed up in an impenetrable underground bunker? The monster of the week can teleport.

My point being: It's easy to construct a world where it's impossible for any humans to survive. If you want humans to survive, you have to not do that. You can change your world so it doesn't have tunnelling, flying, wall-destroying, swimming, rock-climbing, too-smart-to-poision monsters.

Transport is irrelevant if nowhere has a surplus of food

It's all very well to get food by trade - but a city will only export food if they have more than they need. For trade to make sense, there have to be some areas of your planet that can produce more food than they need.

And if there's a place that can produce enough food, why would a settlement form in an area that can't produce enough food? People who are starving either move or die. Seems to me such a settlement would only form if they could do something valuable that couldn't be done elsewhere, such as natural resource extraction.

If you're a mining outpost, why would you waste workers running an unproductive farm when those guys could be mining while the farming is done elsewhere?

Get strong at calorie density

Give your world something like 'lembas' or the food bars from Firefly, so places like mining colonies only need a single heavily guarded shipment every few months.

Carrion / Get strong at preserving

I'm sure some of these monsters die of natural causes, or from fights with other monsters. A hog the weight of a person is enough to feed 100 people - so if some of your monsters are edible and elephant-sized, that could keep a small settlement in food for a long time.

Your society will have to be good at preserving, of course.

Form a symbiotic relationship

There are birds that eat ticks in other animals' fur - and the animals just let them. Humans could either provide some service to certain monsters, or could domesticate or semi-domesticate monsters into acting as "guard dogs".

The neighbours have nicer stuff

Humans don't need to make their settlements impenetrable - they just have to make sure there's easier pickings elsewhere.

For example, if monsters have to walk through a forest full of wild sheep and hogs to reach the humans, and the humans will put up a fight, they'd just eat the sheep and hogs.

Starving the monsters of some resource

You could make the monsters need some Whatever to recharge their mutant power crystals, or whatever. Humans could have used their superior intelligence to figure this out and wreck up all the Whatever sources near their city. Now the monsters don't come around much for the same reason humans don't walk around deserts much.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 For giving life (the humans) a chance. Your stories would likely suspend my disbelief the longest as you have covered all the obvious bases that make the zombie films such a pain to watch, I cannot believe any ex-human body will still operate with a hole in it allowing all the hydraulic fluid to leak out yet this is the most popular zombie hallmark. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP Feb 21 '18 at 22:44
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Compost everything and use crops that can grow close together.

Many small islands in the Pacific, like Anuta, have been farmed for centuries despite only being a few square kilometers or less in diameter. The villages are very compact and most of the island is used for agriculture. All the scraps, feces, weeds, etc, get turned into compost and put back in the soil.

By keeping the fields as close to the village as possible, keeping kitchen gardens inside the walls, setting up traps and poisons for the monster, and having guards go out to thin them out every few months, these compact fields would be a smelly but productive area to farm.

City states would be harder to do, but with the larger population you can have more guards so the fields can go further out. Having muck collectors will be essential in these cities, letting waste just flow into the sea or river is not an option.

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Build walls.

Basic agricultural fences don't work. They're designed to stop domesticated animals from wandering off when there are no real pressures on the animals to get away. A "motivated" domesticated animal can easily jump a fence, or break it down, but usually they aren't given a reason to do so.

Fences to keep non-domesticated animals out are certainly possible, but they're big and expensive. More than that though, they don't give much defensive benefits if the animals are considering crossing the fence to eat you. The situation is much closer to defending against a human army (minus ranged weaponry) than fencing a farm. If you've got bows and arrows, and the monsters don't, what you really need is something to slow down them getting to you, and the advantage of height.

Note that these don't have to be expensive stone walls. A wooden palisade would be reasonably effective, especially if backed with earthworks. Some animal (e.g. tigers) could probably climb wooden structures, but you've still slowed them down, and you've minimised the number of attackers that can get to you.

Some animals may still get through. Perhaps carnivorous rabbits are a thing. Assuming they don't need a Holy Hand Grenade to kill them, farmers will need to put in appropriate protection for their livestock, and go on regular patrols to clear them up, in the same way as they currently do for any other vermin. But at least you've kept out the larger animals, so that what's left can be reasonably tackled by individuals.

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  • $\begingroup$ Even 30 to 50 feet tall walls were managed by castle builders using stone. Then weaponize the wall and kill off all approaching wild life. $\endgroup$ – cybernard Feb 19 '18 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ @cybernard That'd be the plan. You may not need such high walls, but you will need to cover a longer expanse of wall than a typical castle if you want to enclose your farmland. $\endgroup$ – Graham Feb 21 '18 at 12:46
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Like many others have said, build your walls to encompass your fields as well, instead of just the town proper.

Thanks to Volume to Surface ratio (or in this case, Surface to Edge), a larger town will have a larger perimeter to defend, but comparatively more soldiers per section to defend with. Imagine a small homestead a kilometre in diameter. It has π/4 km squared area and π km of perimeter to defend. But, a settlement of 100km diameter would have 2,500π km squared of area and only 100π km of perimeter.

Assuming the same population density for both settlements, the larger one has 10x as many men available to defend any given section. Thus society will tend towards a few large cities, with walls encircling the required fields. The only challenge would be in slowly expanding safe area into the wilderness, and building additional sections of wall as they go.

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After all the clarification I see why the how to get food-question is so important!

The people in this world would be very tough and their entire life would revolve around killing monsters and growing food. They would also tend to form larger groups rather then smaller ones. There is strength in numbers and the early tribes would not waste time killing each other. So I am excluding the motte and bailey model as a defense structure as I believe it is too small to sustain itself.

With regard to movement on the map one thing that comes to mind is the ancient Roman army. In the sense it was organized to survive against all odds. A Roman army would build forts each night it went to sleep! Which is how any movement between villages would happen in you world.

A direct consequence is that you will not have cities as there is no reliable trade that you can do, so the size of settlements is limited.

This leaves the village!

Placement

A village in your world is basically a fortified farming village so it would have to be placed strategically next to a body of fresh water and also have large enough plains for planting crops. It also has to be of a decent size in order to have enough people to defend it.

General shape

It should have a wall tall enough to stop any animal from jumping on it. Predators are not that good of jumpers. A tiger, for example can only jump around 3-4 meters. Walls of 8-10 m should be sufficient for them, even in your world (because physics), to ensure proper defense (and another 2 m underground)!

One advantage is that you should not need to man the walls and so are easier to build because they will not be that thick. Instead use layers of ditches with spikes and towers with a balista on top and arrow slits!

The wall should have a zig-zag pattern, like a star fort, so as to allow the creation of a defensible grid around the settlement where you can plant grains and protect them from within a fortified position.

Inside layout

The farmland outside the village would not manage to provide enough food. What I am thinking of is gardens built in the middle of the village and all along the walls you would have the houses and other buildings.

At the base of each tower you would have a storage bunker. This allows for tall strong towers and saves space.

Food

Hunting is a must. The animals that wonder in range must be killed and the meat stored for the winter or eaten. Although I am not sure you could call it hunting. Baiting animals might be a way to increase food supply and decrease threat levels in the area!

Fishing is something that might provide some food however it depends how advanced your people are!

There is no livestock because they require too much food and space.

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You say:

The monsters have always been there and did not just turn up one day, they evolved naturally alongside other creatures including us. Species of monsters have evolved everywhere on earth that can support life, so seas, deserts, islands, polar regions you name it. No environment is completely safe. While intelligence varies greatly just like the real world, many species have displayed decent intelligence and problem solving, sometimes even use of makeshift tools.

If humans evolved alongside of them, well...the ones that are left are the survivors. And the survivors will have characteristics that allow them to be more likely to survive. This means that you're going to have monster hunters.

You have basically built a world in which adventurers are key to survival. Not everyone will be one, but you're going to have to have a lot of badasses.

Your mistake here is thinking that the economy won't be based on monsters. Which, if I know humans, it will be. This is going to be completely different world--not our world with our ideas of agriculture and commerce.

Humans solve problems, and take risks. Sure the monsters might not like it, and sure the monsters are overpowered compared to us, but we've taken down large predators in the course of human history. In a world like this, knowing how to kill monsters and having people who do that will be a matter of survival. We cooperate and we build things that make us better at killing them.

You say:

The types of monsters will be extremely varied, big, small, fast, slow, carnivorous, herbivorous etc. Most will be modified versions of real world fauna but some will be taken from mythology or created from scratch. Most are still dangerous.

Evolution is about niches. Your monsters are more dangerous than our animals in the real world, but this will mean that your humans will be more dangerous as well. Even if they do have variation, certain areas will become accustomed to the most common types and take measures to stop those.

Further, these monsters have to eat something, and there has to be an abundance of those things (animals, plant life) to sustain them. Those things will either be things humans can eat, or in the case of a specialist, things that humans can destroy to starve out the monsters.

You keep saying that some things won't work because of the variation. And simpler solutions, like tunnels (which did exist in Medieval and ancient times) people would be highly motivated to build those. You're talking about expense to build those, but you might want to re-think that because the economy is going to be richer than you might think and based on monsters. Plus, with this problem to solve, the motivation WILL be there. There wasn't much motivation to build tunnels in Medieval times and ancient times but this world has it in spades. Anyone who builds tunnels like this will have a lock on trade, and that's enough to motivate a group to want to pour their resources into it.

You've already got a lot of answers that are really great, including the wall thing, and the roof top farming is brilliant. (I would bet some of your monsters fly or can climb, so you know, any defense can be defeated by your monsters given any thought at all.)

The question is really--given a world full of monsters with any characteristics how can humans eat.

As others have said--eat the monsters. I say that given this world full of monsters and that

Monsters have their own stable food chain and so are not completely dependent on eating us and won't die out if we somehow successfully manage to stay away from or fend them off for a sufficiently long period.

This means that there is an ample food supply of what monsters eat as well, so humans can eat that stuff too.

And, your humans will be diesel as heck. Your farmers will build all kinds of things and kill a lot of creatures, even if many places take advantage of natural features and build walls.

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Traps.

You would build traps to protect your crops and keep the monster population under control.

You can use poison bait, pit traps, snares right through to mechanical traps.

Humans are quite capable of hunting and trapping far more dangerous creatures than themselves to extinction. Just look at wolves, bears, tigers, lions or any large mammal for that matter.

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There could be something to do with the monsters themselves. Perhaps they only come out at night, or at certain seasons, so there might be several months of the year or hours of the day where it is safe to go out and farm your crops. The locals would of course know when it is and isn't safe and plan accordingly.

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It's probably not possible with the current setting.

You've basically ruled out all forms of communication with different settlements of humans. Transportation is extremely difficult and there's no effective way to defend a settlement; any sizeable attack on a settlement will wipe it out unless they already have an effective wall, which they can't get because some of the monster with either fly or crawl over the wall or burrow beneath it. Islands are not an option either, because of flying monsters.

Since humans can't effectively transport themselves they won't be able to found new settlements -- if they try, they will either be wiped out on the way or fairly quickly after they decided on a spot to live in. Without new settlements and since the old settlements won't survive, humanity probably won't survive for more than a single generation.

How might it be possible?

Have fewer monsters or reduce their relative power to humans. You could have dragons that will eat hundreds of people as long as they are rare and only do so once every ten years or so (maybe even as often as every year), but a constant onslaught of monsters will be impossible for humans to handle with a medieval level of technology.

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Peaceful Tunneling Monsters

that have already helped create the environment your people need to survive.

You mentioned tunneling was too expensive, but having tunnels from city to city would work. What if tunnels already existed from large monsters that already created a tunnel system and your cities were scattered throughout the world using these tunnels? To get from city to city a group could move underground, even accompanied by a guard or two 'just in case'. There are many existing animals that already create tunnels, you could even use some that are nocturnal so your traveling group just needs to quietly walk by them as they sleep.

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    $\begingroup$ good idea, humans could use leavings from various monsters to help themselves $\endgroup$ – ArcWraith Feb 21 '18 at 23:06
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Islands

You didn't mention whether the monsters cover all land everywhere on the planet, but if there is an island that has managed to either exterminate their local monster population or just never had them to begin with, that could be a safe place to build farmland.

Your island farmers could then trade with coastal cities and even go farther inland using rivers. If your monsters aren't very intelligent it's also possible to start building highways between close cities where wealthy merchants can travel without fear of attacks on their caravans.

Hot air balloons are another method of travel that is low tech, could be only available to the wealthy and is safer than delivering packages by hand. Make the balloons dock with towers to reduce the cost of taking off and landing while making it even more exclusive.

Choke points

If you build farmland inside of peninsulas you can defend a small opening and have very large areas to take advantage of. It needs to be surrounded by freshwater though, I can't imagine ocean peninsulas would have much fertile land. The peninsula farmers could deliver goods the same way that the islanders could.

This line of thinking also works for sections of land where the only way to approach on foot is through a narrow pass up a cliff face, between mountains or over draw-bridges.

Repellent

Maybe there is a weed or a bush that monsters hate the smell of. They might avoid land where this plant grows but they're not so adverse that wearing some on a necklace is going to save your life. Farmers would know to line the outside of their land with this plant to make it significantly safer. Burning some in your campfires might be helpful, but I would still post a guard for the night.

Cities, castles and mansions will probably also have gardens of this plant around them. You do not want to work in these gardens, I can tell you that...

If this plant is an import from other lands it will make more sense why it isn't everywhere, why it doesn't grow along roads, and why it needs a lot of care from humans to survive.

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Fences provide part of an answer--they can keep out all the land predators. That reduces the problem to the fliers.

Fliers usually come in two varieties: Raptors (day hunters) and owls (night hunters). If the monsters do not include both classes you have a safe time behind your fence.

If not: A bird big enough to threaten a human is not going to be a highly maneuverable flier. Put posts all over your farmland.

Alternately: Break it up with barriers of some kind. Deny the birds the takeoff distance they need.

Also, do they recognize the threat posed by a bow? If so, they'll stay far away from any party with a few armed guards.

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Well, you can have underground travel routes and tunnels. My story is similar to RWBY and God Eater and Trade and Travel are both highly risky, even in a modern day like society that exist with monsters. Sea is especially the most dangerous considering storms, sea monsters and pirates. Land is just as risky with many monster traveling possibly the same route as you and unless you have transport systems capable of flight or moving at the slowest of 100 mphr, you have to travel underground or travel above ground and risk the chance of an attack.

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Drones with a highly powered sub laser attached, brought to the medieval people as a gift from time travelers. The drones are extremely easy to control via a neural implant into the medieval people's brains. They simply think of where they want the drone to go, and it goes.

The time travels would also give them a power generator machine powered by the rotation of the earth, allowing the medieval people to recharge the drones.

The drones would follow the ancient people of this village instantly vaporizing anything they desired, some other villages started regarding the newly equipped ancient people as "Gods"

The time traveler's used a proton collider to rip a hole into space and time, allowing them to travel to the ancient world, and others like it. It is set auto operate in intervals so the time traveler's can also get back to their time.

The time travelers would come back periodically with mechanics to make sure the drone and laser gun were running in good condition, as well as conduct studies and test new technology.

They would also send flight instructors to train the medieval people to fly the drone. Explain how the basics of N.V.C (neural vehicle control) work and then certify them to use. They also act as the installers of the N.V.C. by means of a chip injection gun to the back of the head.

The time travlers are from a future so advanced they have AI chips implanted in their brain, the AI chip knows how to pick up, analyze, and convert ancient dialect into a language they can understand and also allows them speak to speak it, all in real-time. This is all done to study the ancient people.

The whole purpose of the study is to see the effects on an ancient culture when they are introduced to advanced weaponry. How they will react and adapt. It is also a great way for the time travelers to use the ancient people as guinea pigs for tech they want to test out.

The Time Travelers are from another dimension and vector on the grid in space, so any thing they change, will not effect their future selfs.

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  • $\begingroup$ Out of idle curiosity, how would the medieval society maintain, refuel and produce new ammunition for these wondrous gifts? $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Feb 19 '18 at 5:44
  • $\begingroup$ The time travels would also give them a matter generator machine powered by the rotation of the earth, all the medieval people would have to do is hit a symbol for fuel or ammunition. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Feb 19 '18 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ (I suspect I'm going to regret asking this, but) Why? Seems like a lot of trouble to go to; just training the flight instructors in the ancient dialect they'll need to speak while back there seems excessive. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Feb 19 '18 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ There's nothing quite like a good left field answer. This one has a fundamental flaw, namely, training medieval people to fly helicopters. Helicopters are extremely difficult, non-intuitive aircraft to pilot and fly. One suggestion: if your time travellers have language chips, why not helicopter pilot & crew chips? That would solve your flaw. Good point about coming from a different timeline. A nice idea for an experiment in modifying history. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 19 '18 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ This is the absolute definition of filling in a plot hole by using more plot holes. How specifically did the time travellers get to this world in the first place, and why didn't OP just use a similar hand-wave to avoid worrying about the food situation in the first place? "Just use technology <x> that doesn't exist" is never a good answer. $\endgroup$ – Bilkokuya Feb 19 '18 at 11:13

protected by James Feb 22 '18 at 17:06

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