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In my current fictional fantasy-ish endeavor, I have a world with a great war. This war is vast and encompasses all of the known land. Due to magical means, soldiers for the war are 'summoned' from other worlds and times, thus negating the drain on population which would otherwise occur due to the war. However, there are difficulties:

These soldiers do not return to their worlds or times, but remain in my fantasy world, using up its valuable resources with everyone else. To make matters worse, through magical means there are no permanent casualties of war (Think WoW-style resurrections). The per capita consumption of resources will outweigh the per capita natural production of resources by the world. (Aka, too many people, not enough food.)

I can't have this happen. I need a world with infinite resources, or at least a world where the resources are replenished faster than they can be used up. Is such a world possible? If so, how? Details are below:

  • Technology level is that of Ancient Rome. Battles are fought with swords, shield, arrows, and the like. Farming and other resource harvesting also have this technology level.
  • 'Resources' refer mainly to food, both grown and animal. However, lumber for housing and metal for warfare should also be considered.
  • 'Infinite' resources simply means that the rate at which the resources are supplied per capita outpaces the rate at which they are used per capita. If a man requires X amount of grain in one year, X amount of grain needs to have been regrown and ready for consumption by the next year.
  • Magic should not be considered.
  • That being said, due to magic, only people can be 'summoned'. Resources cannot.

Working along the assumption that everyone has sufficient resources (not starving, but not necessarily getting in three square meals a day either), is it possible for a world to have infinite resources, and if so, how?

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    $\begingroup$ "Technology level of ancient Rome" and "a vast war which encompasses all of the known land" are not possible at the same time. While the ancient Romans had a highly advanced and sophisticated civilization, including highly advanced and sophisticated political and military systems, those were highly advanced and sophisticated for their time. For example, they did not have the technology to supply an army of more than a few thousand men on campaign for more than a few weeks at best; there simply was no technology available to carry large amounts of food and materials overland. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 12 '18 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Thomas Myron if population is allowed to grow infinitely, there is no scientific way resources can grow infinitely as well. You may need a way to limit your wars. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Dec 12 '18 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ @ThomasMyron Why do you need to summon soldiers to stop population drain if " there are no permanent casualties of war"? Seems kind of counter intuitive. Eventually there won't be any space on battle fronts for any more people to fit in, and you have constant reinforcements from the resurrected dead. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Dec 13 '18 at 3:40
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    $\begingroup$ I really dislike the premise of this question. You can use powerful magic to summon additional warriors, prevent death, but can't use it to increase the food supply? "The Plot demands it" as a justificative for those issues is a symptom of a rather larger worldbuilding issue. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Dec 13 '18 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ What happens if the soldiers starve? Can they just be resurrected again and are fine? If so that might be a solution. Otherwise not enough food in general means starvation happens and balance will be found through lowering the number of people or increasing the food supply. If increasing food is not possible the amount of people have to lower. Cannabilism might be another option? $\endgroup$ – Jester Dec 13 '18 at 10:18

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There are a couple ways you could handwave this away.

The most obvious is the simple "Magic". How does food production keep up? Druids. How do we keep making swords? Transfiguration. Whenever you are met with some kind of deficiency get a corresponding magic form. This makes pretty much every resource entirely magic produced.

Another good magic one is to say they come from the same place as the soldiers. When fresh soldiers are summoned so is food iron and whatever else you need. With this kind of setting you can make a theme around the perpetual consumption of more and more worlds to fuel this forever war.

One that is a bit less magical would be constant asteroid strikes delivering fresh war materials. Either naturally for whatever reason or summoned. You would still need to explain food production with "its magic" but this could be fresh building materials and metals.

Finally you could use the worlds metaphysics to explain it. Your world simply creates and eats land in a treadmill like way. Let's say your world is a circular disk where the outer edge is a "creation line where new land pushes in towards the middle. The center is a "destruction line" where a black hole like structure eats everything.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the inventiveness of the disk-world. That's the kind of thinking I need. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 12 '18 at 22:50
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    $\begingroup$ If you can summon people, you can summon stuff. $\endgroup$ – Willk Dec 12 '18 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk No, only people can be summoned, due to a magic-based reason. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 12 '18 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ “Food comes from the same place the soldiers do” - Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 13 '18 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ If only people can be summoned, and not food, that implies people can't be food. $\endgroup$ – Martijn Dec 14 '18 at 10:17
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You have created a horrible problem. There does not exist a way within known physics to make an infinite amount of something from a finite amount of it. Unless your people are smart enough to limit their summoning to fit within resources (hint hint hint), they can always summon more mouths to feed than there are food.

100% of resources (meaning "things you and I might possibly consider to be resources") have energy to them. Conservation of energy along will ruin this plot.

But all is not lost. Consider that you haven't answered the question I'd ask immediately: what happens if these newly summoned warriors don't consume food?

What if, after your WoW style resurrection, we simply push them all into a pit, where they aren't given food or water or resources of any kind? Eventually the pit might fill up, which would be a problem, but it'd be a start.

The real problem is resurrection. When life itself has limited value due to the implicit guarantees of resurrection, pretty much everything else shifts around to fit. The summoning isn't actually the problem. It could even be a solution: summoning people and stripping them of their resources may be a valid solution, but if they resurrect as a new mouth to feed, there's still a problem.

Myself, if I were a warring leader in your world, I would invest tremendous resources into understanding the specifics of this ressurection mechanism. You mention that they can only die of natural deaths... let's explore what "natural death" actually means. Really really means. Like if you say "a heart attack is a natural death," I'm going to start with a snake venom which coagulates your blood, and see if you ressurect.

The leader who understands this mechanism will have a virtually boundless advantage over all other leaders who don't. Anyone worthy of leading a great war should be trying to game your system almost instantly... probably even before the war starts. Assume that every leader in your war is your enemy, and by that I mean you as a worldbuilder. Assume they are actively trying to exploit every tiny little crack in your world, because that's exactly what leaders of warring nations do.

We exploited a corner case in the stability of an atomic nucleus to end WWII. That exploit has caused considerable consternation since then.

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    $\begingroup$ When I read this at first about exploiting resurrection.. "Uhh.. cannibalism?". Good thing I re-read what you mean. $\endgroup$ – Basher Dec 12 '18 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ *grins* You'd make a great war leader, @Basher. You've got the intuition for it =) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Dec 12 '18 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ What if the soldiers could resurrect after only a clinical death, and then the "body" brought back to life... either an army of clones, or a zombie horde! $\endgroup$ – IMil Dec 13 '18 at 3:06
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Your world is a simulation. Just that world in particular though. It could exist as a planet sized super computer, an old arcade in the future, or even within the dreams of an android. The why of it poses a rather interesting question.

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To access infinite resources, you merely need an infinite world! As @Willk mentioned, that was the practical situation for a decent chunk of our own history, before the world was fully mapped. But in your world, it won't just be temporarily effectively infinite, but really, truly infinite.

First, suppose that the world is an infinite flat plane. You'll have to figure out how, e.g., the sun works in such a radically different cosmology, but hey, magic (and there are plenty of existing questions & answers on related topics). If you run out of grain here, where the war is going on, you just have to travel into the as-yet-unexplored regions beyond your borders to find an unending supply of more fields.

Of course, that doesn't completely solve your problem. If you have to travel prohibitively far to get those infinite resources, the fact that infinite resources exist is academic. For practical purposes, you only have the finite resources within your finite sphere of influence, and your ability to bring in new resources is limited by a border length for your civilization that grows more slowly than the people-holding area.

In order to solve the geometry problem, we'll simply change your world's geometry. It's not an infinite Euclidean plane--it's a hyperbolic plane, which can fit a lot more area within the same small travel radius than a spherical planet or even a Euclidean plane can! Just pick your curvature parameter so that things remain normal-enough looking on whatever scale you need. If, e.g., you merely need things to be close-to-Euclidean within the scale of a single city at a time, you could still easily fit a whole Earth's worth of area into a radius of only a few hundred miles. Now, your border still grows more slowly that your area in such a scenario, if you expand everywhere equally... but would you expand everywhere equally? Probably not--in such a world, people are likely to occupy a network of individually-close-to-Euclidean communities, with huge unexplored expanses sitting in between population centers that are nevertheless still a mere day's walk or less in shortest-path distance from each other, leaving plenty of space to be explored for additional resource extraction well within the nominal extreme radius of your civilization.

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Casualties are not resurrected immediately. Rather, you are put on the back of a FIFO log of people to resurrect, maintaining a more or less constant pool of "alive" people.

Sure, it might take hundreds (and it will take longer and longer as more people join the world) of years before you resurrect; but it will happen eventually.

This has interesting side effects:

  • People can pay each other to die/stay dead longer in exchange of money
  • All policies/politics are extremely future oriented
  • Lots of Romeo and Juliet style love stories. Otherwise, suicide is seen as a "solution"
  • Banks are extremely important (you don't want to resurrect poor).
  • People try to cheat the system.
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    $\begingroup$ Another interesting side effect would be life losing all of its value. Warfare gets more aggressive - the more you attack, the more troops you get back. Generals would immediately kill anyone not fit for war, as weaklings are keeping their best warriors from coming back. Propaganda would be a key tool, as a deserter stays with you forever. Et cetera. If a more sane, less nightmare world is desirable, a "timeout" may be a better solution. With every being reincarnating e. g. one year after their death, a life will still lose much of its value... but at least not all of it. $\endgroup$ – Martin Grey Dec 13 '18 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ A good answer with a simple solution. However, assuming the summoners aren't smart enough to limit their summoning, wouldn't there eventually be too many people despite the waiting list? Then we're right back where we started. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 13 '18 at 16:20
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If only people can be summoned with magic, then you can make infinite amount of food from humans. Soylent Green Ancient Rome edition.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you expand a bit? $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Dec 13 '18 at 11:04
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    $\begingroup$ They are going to die from prion diseases and food unbalance. But who cares, you can resurrect them anyway! $\endgroup$ – Eth Dec 13 '18 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ I do not follow your answer. Could you please expand on it, and explain what you mean by your last line? $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 13 '18 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ You've said, "Think WoW-style resurrections", so soldiers wouldn't need food, they would starve to death, and then be resurrected. You can summon any number of people and they won't be a drain on your resources since you won't give them any of your resources, they will just starve and be resurrected. $\endgroup$ – ContextSwitch Dec 13 '18 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @ContextSwitch After thinking about this, I'm not sure if not feeding the soldiers would enhance their performance (they are starving and thus more motivated to fight) or be self-defeating (they won't or actually can't fight due to insufficient energy). $\endgroup$ – Michael Dec 13 '18 at 19:07
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As others mentioned, it's scientifically impossible to generate "infinite resources" for your "infinite troops". However, perhaps some world "quirks" could help alleviate said resources running out.

Space-time cracks: Your fantasy world has been summoning people from other worlds and times. This has caused the entire world's space-time to be unstable (Or could be the very reason why you can summon people in the world in the first place. These cracks appear randomly anywhere in the world, either spewing out random resources, or destroying whatever it contacts with.

"Broken evolution": With the ongoing war spanning for eons(?), creatures have evolved to rapidly reproduce and grow at astonishing rates. Even with limited resources, it can grow to an adult within days, ready to reproduce even more. This in turn, makes it very easy for an unlimited number of people to be fed.

White Hole: Theorized to be true, but never seen, it's basically an opposite of a black hole, spewing out matter and information. This is a similar concept of @Evelyn's Disk world, but instead the White hole would be the center of the planet.

As the war goes on, ravaging all lands, mining out resources underground extensively, the crust of the planet has been depleted already. However, the white hole in the center keeps spewing out more resources that can be dugged up years and years ahead. Though this questions physics as the planet will undoubtedly keep on growing and growing and everyone would probably die from the ever-increasing gravity or something..

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/This war is vast and encompasses all of the known land./

Your world is vaster, and almost all of it remains unknown.

When they are done fighting, persons so inclined (I hope they bring in male and female soldiers in equal proportion) go out to settle new lands. Yours is a hospitable world with pleasant weather, grassy fields, ample rainfall, and few dangerous creatures. The world is very big, and people are small. Like minded pioneers go out together into the wilds and find a place with running water and good sites for fields. They settle. They grow crops, raise animals, make things, have weddings, make babies, hold funerals and do all the things people do when no-one is making them fight.

This is how it worked in our world for a long, long time. For all intents and purposes, up until about 200 years ago the resources of the Earth were infinite.

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  • $\begingroup$ A vast world example might be good. For example, a Dyson Sphere, where you live on the inside. Or a Sphere built around a white dwarf of 1 solar mass so that the surface gravity is 10 m/s^2 would be 300,000x larger than Earth's surface area. Or a Ringworld; a Ringworld 10 earth-diameters in width at 1 AU is 200,000 Earth's. $\endgroup$ – Yakk Dec 13 '18 at 19:56
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Renewable resources such as food and wood can be explained by a good farming and replantation system, if the soldiers figting the war are from another world, you have an entire population to run the economy.

The bigger problem would be non-renewable resources like iron. You could re-smelt broken swords and armor from fallen soldiers, which would create some interesting situations, for example, you would be more concered about losing your equipment when you lose a fight, rather that losing your soldiers.

Of course you will still have nations that will summon more soldiers than they can feed, hoping that they can take some land with the advantage and therefore have enough resources to feed them after the victory, but that just adds another layer to the avaliable strategies.

Another option would be that the summoned soldiers come with armor and weapons already.

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    $\begingroup$ Most troops can do with spears, bows, wooden shields, leather armor, and other equipment from renewable sources. Metal would be probably reserved for elite units and nobility. $\endgroup$ – Martin Grey Dec 13 '18 at 13:48
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Your primary constraint is providing enough food for the soldiers but what if they didn't have to eat. Instead they use either photosynthesis or absorb energy coming from the planet's core. This energy source, like our sun, would be nuclear and therefore nearly infinite, eliminating the need to provide a stream of physically tangible food products to the infinite armies.

This doesn't necessarily solve the need for war products, so each soldier could be sent over to the planet already wearing armor and wielding their own weapon, as in kajacx's answer. All of the soldier's armor and weapons could be metal or otherwise fully recyclable meaning that the supply would increase 1:1 for each new soldier even as it becomes damaged.

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Make your magical means of maintaining and increasing the population require something like water.

Water is a renewable resource, significantly difficult (per the monetary cost) to obtain, which we require. After we use it, it returns to the common resource pool from which everyone draws. However, despite being renewable ("infinite"), we can only use so much at a time.

One thing that's almost like water in this way is time. If each summon/resurrection requires a lead time, and that time grows with the population, we get a "sweet spot" of summon time and population that's impossible to escape because of the race to summon as fast as possible.

Depending on your preference, you could instead do the same thing with other resources, such as special facilities (which are high-value strategic targets), materials, or energy.

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It is possible to have a world with infinite resources. The trick is that you don't need a world where resources are physically infinite, merely one in which they are economically infinite. Which means you need a mechanism that limits consumption based upon the available supply (meaning, the amount that human beings have access to right now) and demand of any given resource.

Many places have such a system for doing this in the real world today, and it can be implemented regardless of your level of technology with no magic whatsoever. It's called the price system.

Specifically, you need a price system where prices emerge naturally as the result of transactions between buyers and sellers of resources. When a resource is scarce, the price will go up, which will discourage potential buyers from using that resource for frivolous things, encourage sellers to find more of the resource, and entrepreneurs to offer alternatives that can be used for the same purposes. When there's lots of a resource, the price will go down, which will let lots of people buy it, and sellers could still make a lot of money and therefore keep making more of it.

This is a very crude explanation, and is glossing over a lot of details. It also doesn't work for everything and everywhere. You need a few things for it to work:

  1. You need to be able to have "a market" for these resources. That means there has to be people who clearly own the thing and can sell it to somebody, and it has to be possible for these people to meet and do this in predictable, safe ways. Which means you need to have a civil society that has laws and minimum amount of trust. Maybe you need money.

  2. The resources in question need to be "ownable." It's very easy to own a farms, or a herd of domesticated cattle or big piles of iron and wood. When somebody owns something, they can set a price for it, and prevent other people from overusing it. It's very hard to own clean air, or wildlife, or the ocean, which is why these things tend to get overused.

  3. You need the prices to reflect reality, so you need them to emerge naturally from transactions between buyers and sellers. If you have someone who isn't a buyer or a seller set the price at some arbitrary value, then the prices won't change in response to relative scarcity, so you'll always end up with less than you would have had, either because people can't buy it (the price is too high or it's banned, which is like having an infinite price), or people buy too much of it (the price is too low, so it's all gone and it's not worth it to find more).

The price system works really, really well when you're able to use it. All of the resources you describe here can be used with the price system without issue, and will ensure you have the maximum amount of any given resource that is possible.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm. The difficulty with a price system is that if the world order breaks down (as it might do due to scarce resources), then prices become irrelevant, and you just have looting. HOWEVER, one might be able to adapt your answer if 'price' is taken to mean ANY kind of price (money, energy, tasks), and the world itself is considered the owner, and exacting of those prices. A bit of sci-fi speculation might be needed to make a world which demands fluctuating prices based on supply and demand... but the concept is intriguing. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 13 '18 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ You posited a war, which typically implies nation states fighting each other. That is a form of world order; if there is no world order then you cannot have a price system, but your war becomes something disorganized and different. Like a anarchic battle royale of sorts. $\endgroup$ – Joe Dec 14 '18 at 0:56
  • $\begingroup$ Also, "the world itself" cannot be the owner unless it can act like it has ownership. Typically anytime ownership is fuzzy and not an an identifiable person, you get a Tragedy of the Commons: the scarce thing goes away because the nobody puts their foot down and says "No, you can't take that" $\endgroup$ – Joe Dec 14 '18 at 1:02
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, and a property of your magic world is that you effectively have a war that cannot be won or lost through attrition, which implies you should be able to field smaller armies than you otherwise would for this time period. You don't need conscription to replace casualties, so you can have greater division of labor than an ancient society usually would (which means less scarcity because you don't have to take as many people away from other productive activities like farming and logging or mining or whatever to win battles) $\endgroup$ – Joe Dec 14 '18 at 1:05
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An interesting solution might be a world that experiences an unnatural amount of meteor showers and therefore constant influxes of readily accessible metals.

As for foodstuffs, you could have an ecological system dominated by large prey animals, though this would require other considerations, such as how do they eat enough to sustain their size and how do they procreate fast enough to be a viable food source. Of course, the demands of the world could have easily forced developments in this area of technology, making them more advanced than their Earth counterparts.

Either way, you may have to use a bit of handwavium on this one. The simple question of why two civilizations would even be at war in the first place if resources were so abundant as to be essentially infinite, would have to be satisfactorily answered.

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Only talking about the food part here, not the metal, or wood or anything, but have you considered eating yourself ?

If you are resurrected as a whole even when your arm gets cut off, just cut off your arm, suicide, eat your arm. You're good to go for the day.

You here already have an infinite resource : bodies.

Also, if you have infinite bodies, you can have infinite energy (kind of) by burning them, same thing goes with tools that can be made out of bones instead of wood or metal whenever it is possible to do so.

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If we talk about energy, it's possible. We use very little of renewing energy (solar, winds, ocean waves, geothermal...), and oil/gas/coal could be used no more if humanity will switch to this energy.

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  • $\begingroup$ All those resources are finite. Even if we collected all the energy the sun outputs in a usable form, that'd only give us 247 million times our current energy consumption. Which isn't bad, but it isn't infinite. $\endgroup$ – Ray Dec 14 '18 at 1:57

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