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When some humans, humanoids and mythical creatures have an incredibly powerful magical regeneration it seems quite obvious that in times of need and growth some countries would try to capture them and use them as ''basic resources''.

This is not really a spoiler because it's on the first 2 pages of the book but one example is Fire Punch, in order to survive a kid is using his magical regeneration to create food and burning fuel by chopping his limbs continuously.

One real world example is Culling, basically creatures bred and tortured for the only purpose of creating easily accessible resources, whether such creature dies or lives is based on their ability to produce such resources and being spared and surviving might actually be considered a destiny worse than death.

I believe it is historically accurate to assume many kings, queens and people of power would have indeed enslaved such ''people'' and used them for things likes experimentation, food or flesh-shields ... or for pretty much anything actually ...

There are different means of getting the magical regenerative abilities, some of them are either training to become a magical healer or simply being born in a magical forest or being born from parents who had this ability, so it is quite common and they are spread across a world with many far apart isles, almost like if our world had been broken into small pieces distanced by water. Technology is mostly pre-victorian and a few empires and nation have powerful artifacts created with a mixture of engineering and magic, those artifacts can be used to create portals, transform lead into gold and other things... but they are incredibly rare. The rest of the world is made by mostly tribes and villages.

What is the best way to protect self-healing creatures from being turned into slaves?

Religion is excluded because in my setting deities do actually exist but everyone knows they have no say on the subject. A powerful cleric could simply ask a god or goddess if she or he have anything against it and they would respond that they don't care.

Yes, the energy and materials needed for regeneration are infinite and come from magic.

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    $\begingroup$ Can we asume that the energy needed for regrowing limbs (to pick up your example) comes from magic? Otherwise conservation of energy would be a problem. $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Oct 23 '18 at 7:52
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    $\begingroup$ The regenerative people being the ruling class is out of the question? How common are they? What kind of society do they live in? Holy Roman empire = very different from ancient India Btw, it's hard to picture any historic society without religion. Certainly it would be different from anything I know. Please elaborate. I also say it's not reasonable to assume that a merovingian king would've experimented with people. You see that stuff on game of thrones, but not so much before imperialism and science. The issue with the entire statement is that you can argue either way, I'd disagree $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Oct 23 '18 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ Related OotS all you can eat hydra hut $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 23 '18 at 8:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Eries Take into account, most large empires usually became so through war. So did the transfer of monarchial power. And the best warriors usually ended up high in the pecking order. If you have a small militia of unkillable (or at least really difficult to kill) regenerators, who's going to stop them from taking a ruling position in the to-be-formed kingdom/empire/etc.? So unless the regenerative ability only started to appear after the big societies were already in place, chances are that those with it would probably have a higher place in society than those without it. $\endgroup$ – Suthek Oct 23 '18 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ I think a key factor that is missing from the question, as posted at the time of this comment, is the limitations of this regeneration. It's stated that it is "incredibly powerful" and that the "energy and materials" are infinite. But what about time frame, and proportionate size of the amputated material? Would a finger regrow in a second? an hour? a day? Would an entire leg grow back as fast as the finger did? Can a head be regrown at all? What about bifurcation, do you end up with two copies/people (would the top half of darth maul regrow the bottom, and the bottom half regrow the top)? $\endgroup$ – Dalila Oct 24 '18 at 18:12

13 Answers 13

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Perfect regenerators are much more useful as a warrior caste than as a slave caste

Nobles want to win. In pre-victorian era, that's tied pretty directly to the ability of your armies to win on the battlefield, and in one-on-one fights, and regenerators have a huge advantage there. If you have only a small percentage of your populace as regenerators, you're a lot better off training them as warriors and ensuring their loyalty than trying to turn them into some sort of horrific food source. The real trick is going to be preventing them from taking over the nobility entirely (as entrance into the nobility was also generally based on prowess in battle)

Admittedly, there might be kingdoms where they turn their regenerators into food sources... but the kingdoms where the regenerators are warriors should be able to pretty trivially overwhelm them using regenerator armies, free the food-source regenerators, and thus add to the size of their armies while improving morale. (Things like "desperate gratitude" and "freeing kin kept in horrific bondage" will do that for you.)

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    $\begingroup$ This assumes, I think, that regeneration is essentially instantaneous. If a wounded warrior is out of action for, as an example, a week, that's not going to help much. "Classical" battles (pre-firearm) typically had much higher casualties on the losing side, inflicted during the collapse. In this case, the losing wounded would not be able to get back to their army and regenerate, so I don't see much long-term benefit. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Oct 23 '18 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast - week-long regen is a lot less useful from a "lets carve off their limbs for meat" perspective, and wouldn't seem to fit the "tremendously powerful" description. Even without that, though, any sort of regen worthy of the name would help in combat time in dealing with relatively minor injuries (like being hit by an arrow, or stabbed) that a normal person might take weeks or months to recover from. Likewise, a regenerator is going to have a lot less reason to fear battle than someone who can be maimed, and that extra source of courage would be significant. $\endgroup$ – Ben Barden Oct 23 '18 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ Still beats a soldier that might survive after a battle. If the enemy forces are perishable (as in non-regenerators), then regenerators can have consistent engagements and cause the enemy to slowly lose forces. It also works into breaking enemy morale - after months, mortals can flee if they think that the only thing they could do is die - the enemies never end. Getting new people in the army to replenish it would be harder, as they wouldn't want to face the immortal enemies. Even forced recruitment isn't good - an unwilling soldier is not much worth and could lead to sabotage. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Oct 24 '18 at 6:57
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    $\begingroup$ Even with a year long regeneration, from a logistical point of view it is completely utterly overpowered. 1 year is still a lot shorter a time than it would be to retrain a foot soldier upto elite shock trooper, even when allowing for unlimited able bodied adults, as opposed to raising children upto age... $\endgroup$ – Aron Oct 24 '18 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ @nullpointer "meat-slavery" is a bizarre and extreme societal response, assuming a world where cannibalism is not otherwise commonplace... and as previously noted, countries who press their regenerators into particularly horrific forms of slavery are likely to be overwhelmed by those who do not. If anything, I'd expect the "declare them anathema and try to wipe them out" answer. Regardless, I do think that eventually having a nobility class of regenerators is likely if only because the existing nobility will seek to co-opt or acquire that power for themselves one way or the other. $\endgroup$ – Ben Barden Oct 24 '18 at 13:12
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If they can choose whether to use their powers or not, they could simply refuse to regenerate when being enslaved and die instead. Edit: As you changed your question to what you could do if it was an automatic process.

You could have the cut off limbs magically disappear so they couldn't be harvested.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry but I added more details while you where responding, please edit your answer. $\endgroup$ – user56555 Oct 23 '18 at 8:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Eries edits that invalidate already posted answers are generally not allowed here. If answer was valid when written, it's you who should edit your question to make it valid again. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 23 '18 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Eries perhaps this automatic regeneration has a willpower component. So long as the regenerator has the will to live, the regeneration is automatic and takes no thought, action, or effort on their part, it just happens... but if they lose the will to live (like a labor slave or one being used for feedstock might), the ability starts faltering, commensurate with their loss of will to live. When they're so broken that every waking thought is "I want to die"... regeneration stops. It's not just them "choosing" to not regenerate, but is still tied to their will to live. $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Oct 24 '18 at 19:43
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Consuming pieces of the regenerators is known to cause undesirable side effects such as uncontrolled growth or mutation of ones own cells otherwise known as mancer the magical form of cancer.

While slavery is frowned upon by most nations it still occurs in many forms and will not be completely eradicated until a global shift in consciousness occurs. The regenerators are seen by some organizations as a valuable resource and those organizations will use any means necessary to protect their resources slave or not. Generally strong willed and fearless, it is difficult to force or coerce adult regenerators into slavery. It only works by psychological manipulation from childhood such that they do not even realize that they are a slave. For smaller organizations with limited resources it is not worth the time and effort and for large organizations it is nearly impossible to keep it a secret. Still, the majority seeks to protect everyone from slavery so laws have been enacted and enforced when possible.

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  • $\begingroup$ This addresses using them as feedstock, but doesn't handle forced servitude (for example, being used for dangerous physical labor where they regularly have half-ton bricks fall on them or whatever). Thoughts on that? $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Oct 24 '18 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ @DoktorJ - Updated to sort of handle slavery. $\endgroup$ – Soenhay Oct 24 '18 at 20:47
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There isn't much historical precedent to suggest that [intelligent, humanoid] creatures would be used as anything "worse" than a slave. Regenerative abilities don't change this.

I'm normally pretty cynical, but there were not a lot of cultures which regularly engaged in cannibalism - even of foreigners. This was true even of when it was an explicitly held belief that the natives were natively / culturally superior. I doubt it would make a difference that the foreigners would have their limbs grow back.

It isn't just the impracticality of cannibalism that makes it rare in a stable and cultured society. "Civilization" itself would prevent such a gross abuse. There have been terrible atrocities throughout history. Human beings are capable of incredible brutality against "people." But we notice the furthest extremes of that brutality precisely because it is exceptional. Dehumanizing others, working them to death, starving them? Historically not rare. Eating them? Only when society is objectively broken, even by standards much lower than are currently held.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree with this answer but with a caveat - it doesn't necessarily hold true for inter-species relations. Especially if the regenerator race is viewed as inferior in some fashion. If we had regenerating cows or pigs IRL, I'm sure we'd be harvesting their meat. Some may object on the basis of it being inhumane but overall the meat harvesting would be wide spread, might even be sanctioned and preferred by religion or government as the less inhumane way than killing multiple animals. There could be more problems with intelligent species but we eat dolphins... $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Oct 24 '18 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ You're right, vlaz - some people eat dolphins. I suspect that if we could hold conversations with dolphins, the number would plummet. $\endgroup$ – Jedediah Oct 24 '18 at 15:04
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Magic escape hatch!

Your "energy and materials needed for regeneration is infinite and comes from magic." So regenerators are tapped into a source of magic for their powers. If you want them to be unenslavable, have their power come with an escape hatch - they can physically go to the source when they choose, disappearing from their environs and appearing at some designated place corresponding with the source of their power. This could be some temple, or ancient cave; you mentioned enchanted forests so some power grove in the forest.

The retreat place might not be the same place for each individual with powers, but probably one source / place would supply multiple individuals. There might be reasons an individual would not want to go there - like it is a long walk back home from there, or they will have to serve the powers there for a time, or they will have to wear a silly hat and eat a bug. Maybe escaping thus is a one time thing and by making that escape they lose their regeneration powers permanently. Or maybe it is into the black - once they go they cant come back; a voluntary death equivalent for individuals that otherwise by virtue of their powers elude death. Whatever you want to dream up that will make this escape method something they don't do all the time but can do in a bad situation.

Regenerators could still be made to serve, and might still be slaves, but the people imposing conditions on them would have to be careful not to push an individual too hard, or that individual will disappear and be lost to them.

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It's also historically accurate to suggest the principles of serfdom meant that most of the population were barely better than slaves anyway. Even direct slavery itself was normal until relatively recently and still goes on in many places.

The modern concept that people should have freedom really is a very modern concept and any historical setting should include a fairly solid level of slavery and indentured servitude.

For your character to not be a slave you'd effectively need them to be a member of the nobility.

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This depends a lot on whether the rulers of this world act like real world medieval nobles did. If the gentry behave like history would suggest, they'd want to turn your regenerating creatures into literal meat for the machine and little short of the ability to resist their will would dissuade them. As such, your self-healing folk have but two realistic courses of action: exodus or rebellion

Of the two, exodus in the form of self-imposed exile would happen spontaneously all the time since that's just a matter of individuals choosing to hide where they think/hope they won't be persecuted. However, it's untenable in the long term unless they can find somewhere uninhabited by regular humans to settle in. Attempting to hide in lands ruled by the gentry makes it only a matter of time before discovery and capture.

Which brings me to the bloodier option: a rebellion of regenerating folk banding together to fight for their rights. This could easily become a popular uprising if they tap on the grievances of regular human peasants to convince them to join the cause. A clean victory for the rebels would most likely lead to a new nation being carved out, where the regenerating folk rule over their own kind. Otherwise semi-autonomy or power-sharing could be arranged, but these are definitely the less appealing options that would happen only with a win through compromise. In the long run, it's unlikely the regular human nobles will honour such a deal.

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  • $\begingroup$ It seems to me that once a rebellion by the regenerators gets far enough along, someone in-story will come up with Ben Barden's answer above and recruit the regenerators as their elite warrior corps. $\endgroup$ – Codes with Hammer Oct 25 '18 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ @CodeswithHammer That strikes me as odd. If their rebellion goes far enough their success will make them a lot less interested in working for or under an non-regenerator, at least until their rebellion has come to a conclusion. $\endgroup$ – nullpointer Oct 26 '18 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. If the rebellion does well enough, the regenerators have no need to hire out. $\endgroup$ – Codes with Hammer Oct 26 '18 at 15:58
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Have the regeneration slow down if overused.

Take a cue from video games. A character might have a bar that lets them use their ability. If this bar is full, they can use their ability many times in rapid succession—but if it empties, it could take a long time to fill up again.

By analogy, give your regenerators a regeneration rate, and a maximum amount of regenerative energy. If their regenerative energy stores are full, they might be able to heal from a thousand sword blows, but if they're depleted, it might take them days or weeks to heal.

If you set these numbers carefully, you can make using these regenerators for food simply inefficient. For instance, if it takes two months for someone to acquire enough energy to restore their full body mass, then using them for food simply won't be worth it. They'll have much more value as hunters, for instance, who can bring in twice as much food because they can fight large animals by themselves. Or as soldiers, protecting your country from the unkillable soldiers that everyone else has. Or, depending on how your regeneration does things, as farmers who can work long days without tiring.

Culture

Sure, the gods don't care, but that doesn't mean human beings don't. Cultural customs separate from religion are widespread in the real world, and oftentimes just as strong as religion. Customs prohibiting the consumption of human flesh, or of regenerators, might not be enough by themselves, but they can push other reasons over the edge.

Put them in charge

Throughout the course of human history, people with power have, by and large, used that power to put themselves above others. It may be neither ethical nor inevitable, but it's a common trend. In particular, people who are good at fighting have often ended up with political power. And who's better at fighting than a soldier who can take absurd risks and fight multiple enemies without fear of death?

So it could well be these regenerators will end up as the rulers, not the slaves. And if that's the case, they might not take kindly to being eaten.

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There are old soldiers, and there are bold soldiers, but there are no old, bold soldiers. Except if you’re talking about old, bold, regenerating soldiers - they’re off at the pub, it’s happy hour.

The trouble with enslaving regenerators is that by the simple fact that they regenerate they become awfully good at surviving very dangerous jobs. And people who do jobs for a long time become quite good at them.

Regenerating Captain Ahab doesn’t just lose his leg to the White Whale, he loses it twice more and trades away his arm to get revenge before retiring at the top of his game for something safer, like bear punching.

Which is why capturing regenerators for food/experiments is a bit of an unhealthy idea.

See for the most part people don’t like getting tortured and eaten and enslaved. And people don’t like seeing other people getting enslaved when they share common ground with the enslaved. Like, say, regenerating. They might get funny ideas, like maybe one day you’ll look at them too and see a delicious long pork roast. And maybe they’ll decide to go work for someone else instead, like that king one realm over that’s been eyeing off that perfect pike to stick your head on.

And considering those regenerators seeking employment elsewhere are going to include a lot of those old, bold soldiers (to say nothing of the healers your setting has becoming regenerators!), that’s probably not conducive to your continued survival.

No, best not to enslave regenerators. At least not for being regenerators, anyway.

(Less roundabout: Don’t enslave regenerators because all the most seasoned warriors will be regenerators and they’ll run off to team up with your enemies if they think you’re targeting them)

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They all regenerate. There's no penalty for their fighting back other than pain.

Let's rephrase your question. Why would 10000 wolverines - from the x-men - allow themselves to be taken advantage of like that long term? They're going to hurt anyway. Why not hurt for freedom? It's not like kings/queens can actually do anything to these demigods anyway.

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  • $\begingroup$ deadpool has captured wolverine's clones and chained them to torture machines that burn them alive continuously. $\endgroup$ – user56555 Oct 24 '18 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Eries Eventually they'll get out, and boy will they be pissed after 1000 years of that. $\endgroup$ – user32463 Oct 24 '18 at 18:04
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Have their labor be an important piece of economics.

See Brazil for example, when Princess Isabel set the black slaves free it wasn't because she was ahead of her time all loving and caring for the poor slaves. It was because Brazil needed to have more people consuming manufactured goods and the money should flow more freely. A stale economy is a dead economy and slaves are limited, they don't create more technology, they don't consume luxury goods, they don't pay taxes.

Have them sell their meat, be the best mercenaries out there, the best healers the kingdom has ever seem. And collect taxes, let the society grow around them as they produce wealth and value. They'll be doing what a slave does, but much better since they're doing by their free will and receiving income from that.

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I've always enjoyed stories where the energy comes from somewhere. Often in anime, it's the consumption of large quantities of food.

If it's truly near instant with magic being the source, then I imagine you could use societal pressures in your story. The idea of abusing someone so gifted and blessed instead of using them for their much greater potential could be seen as outrageous, unheard of.

That also allows you the option to explore incidents where people attempted to cull regenerators and the responses when they were caught. Cults siphoning blood for rituals, serial killers holding people hostage, government treaties / alliances against those abuses, secret societies of gifted users protecting each other.

Instead of searching for limits, your story could explore people's responses and consequences when those ethical lines are crossed.

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They use magic for regeneration. Do they have any control over it at all? What if they stop flow of magic to their regeneration and allow it to build up "a little". When they can not keep flow any longer, all built up energy is released in big boom. Yes, regenerator is killed but people around him or her is also killed by magical explosion. They still can be made slaves but if they think they have nothing at all to loose - they just commit suicide this way and kill at least some captors.

Alternative: just make it possible for them to commit suicide by wish (without explosion).

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