My world is a giant wall filled with ledges

Rather than a planet, this is a wall with massive ledges scattered across the surface. The wall can be dug into, and there is magic in the setting, as well as fantasy races. The major population centers are located on these ledges, though towns built directly on the wall are also common. Water and other fluids that fall will not fall forever, eventually hitting a ledge or evaporating. Rock falls are common, especially when there are no plants to hold the material in place. There is typically a constant flow of liquid water, or at least dampness to the face of the wall that can be found in most places. The wall is endless, but has an assortment of dangerous things such as lava flows, large jagged ledges, and incredibly fast wind separating land masses the size of Australia. Each major shelf is around 50 acres, with the smaller shelves being about 10. There is only one side that is habitable on the wall, the other completely flat. It is impossible t tunnel to the other side, and there are only ledges on one side.


Most Technology is steam powered, with magic being used for powering it with quick bursts of heat or steam. Travel is limited by the large distances, and the fastest of the vehicles are limited to about 20 miles per hour due to unstable spaces between shelves, as well as the winds that make traveling far from the rough surface difficult and risky. Trains, blimps, hot air balloons, and tunnels are the main method of locomotion. With small crawling vehicles used for smaller groups when an airship isn't available.


Magic is only able to make quick bursts of energy to push, pull, heat, or cool objects. It typically takes energy from the body of the caster, such as energy from food or heat. Cooling causes the caster to heat up. There is a range limit of 10 feet, and the typical use is to power the technology used to travel.

What may help

There are major barriers to mass transit, as well as very limited living space. People are very spread out, and also lack space to be completely self sufficient. There is a steampunk level of technology, with very limited magic that most people are capable of using.


How would a government maintain the loyalty of its many ledges?

  • The situation is similar to that of the British Empire at the height of its colonial days — maintaining the loyalty of distant branches of the empire in a day when travel was lengthy and dangerous. (Although that's where the similarity ends.)

  • The best answer both identifies methods of maintaining loyalty and explains why those methods work.

  • Answers must deal with the limited landmass of ledges.

  • $\begingroup$ Are there two side to the wall, both with ledges on? (And can they dig through to the other side? $\endgroup$
    – Smock
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ What effect would X have on civilization OR ecosystems by themselves are too broad, together they are unavoidably so. Additionally the description is bare bones without things like size, scale, technology, how magic works, and whole list of other thing needed for this to be an acceptable question. I suggest you try this question in the sandbox first, they will help you narrow it down to an acceptable question. . worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7183/… $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Ej. I saw your link at the Sandbox. Normally, people post their questions there before here on Main to get input about the question itself. Since this is already here, let's try to fix it here. Your recent edits helped, but the question itself ("what are some effects ... on large, national governments?") is too vague and broad. There are many types of governments and they do many things. You can always ask multiple questions, so let's start much smaller. What is one very specific issue concerning large gov. you're trying to resolve? Edit your Q with the clarification, then let me know. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ BTW, Stack Exchange will automatically inform another user (who has previously commented) if you include @username in your comment. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 17:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I edited your question to put it into a good form. The question generally is still a fishing-for-ideas question of a type that generally doesn't work well on this site, but I believe the limited nature of the ledges overcomes this issue. If you feel you need to edit more (because I might not have captured your full intent - remember to keep things specific), please do. Otherwise, upvote this comment and I'll VTR. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 15:41

2 Answers 2


The logical answer here is satrapies.

In cases of limited or lengthy travel between territories, you are going to need a local government capable of handling problems itself, and being pretty independent.

So, you allow the former local government to exist, by and large. Let the people govern themselves. You establish a diplomatic corps, with a decent garrison and then sit back and collect taxes and duties. The satrap is a viceroy, has various powers and can in limited ways overrule the local government.

As an empire, you simply ban a few key things to maintain your powers - your sky navy patrols the sky lanes, dependent nations are not allowed to build warships. Thus rebelling against you is an exercise in futility.

And not being an overbearing, draconian regime makes people less likely to rebel in general.

*edit -

To address the specifics of the limited land mass and as a method of ensuring loyalty, allow your satraps to dictate a few key things. They are allowed to determine what crops are grown on a specific ledge, for example. By enforcing that standard, you make them completely dependent on trade, which you control and set the taxes on.

One ledge grows hemp, one ledge grows corn, one ledge grows lumber, one ledge has an iron mine, one has silkworm plantations. Together, they can make an airship. By themselves? Functionally useless.

That combined with most of the actual manufacturing/shipbuilding being on a few key ledges that are your home territories should ensure that rebels trying to challenge you from within is difficult or impossible.

Arrange things keeping the three dimensional nature of their world - if plants can hold rocks/soil in place, it would make sense to arrange your lumber ledges/forests on higher ledges to help shelter ones beneath them. I assume there will end up being a de facto rich to poor slide the further you get from the wall, seeing as the further out you are the more likely you will be to be subject to inclement weather effects/ random lava.

Maybe use subsidized public works projects to endear your satrapies to you - things that will overall benefit you anyways, like building housing up along the wall or mined into it, to open up the actual flat, more easily used land for farming or herding. Carve terraces into the wall to increase productive land.

If you are feeling a bit more manipulative and darkside - divide and conquer on the ledges. Providing that a system like this doesn't already exist, create a privileged upper class. Do it indirectly, over time, and in a way that can be blamed on them. Encourage them, subtly, to lord it over their "lessers". Then, use your satrap to introduce rules to curb the rulers slightly - basic human rights stuff - set your guys up as the voice of moderation and reason.

Ideally, the lower class will project all their problems onto the upper class, and not you - ruling indirectly from afar. If things ever get too out of hand, help the lower class to overthrow the upper -indirectly or not - and then just pick another group to manipulate and in a generation or two they'll be the new upper class and the balance will be restored. And if democracy starts taking root, well, that's what your navy is for.


This is certainly interesting.

Unless the "planet"/wall that these people are living on is magical in nature, it sounds like you're talking about a torus-shaped planet. Which is certainly interesting and doable. If thats what you mean, then the good news is that the laws of physics would be pretty similar to Earth (given the mass being the same). Though you might be sold on an actual wall, which is fine; I'll go with that assumption.

My first question would be how wide and tall the wall is. Specifically wide.

If its incredibly wide, say, hundreds or thousands of kilometers, then theres no reason why large scale armies would fail. As a matter of fact, it would be interesting for some rich people to create "toll routes". To have a fortified wall of their own around the perimeter of the world-wall. They could control the routes of trade and what have you. Though these forts would be very expensive to man and maintain.

If the wall was thin, say less than a kilometer across, then life would probably be very different. Unfortunately if life evolved on just a wall, you probably wouldnt have humans or even humanoid-like creatures. The closest thing to people you might have are small spider-people. Something equipped to potentially be able to inhabit the side of the wall as well as the top. Furthermore, you'd have very strange flora and fauna. You'd have to delve a lot deeper into theory-crafting for life on a thin wall.

I think this question is a little broad, but I won't mark it as such because I think it's interesting. If you can, give more details about the wall, and ask some more specific questions and I come back and edit this with the newly provided information.

  • $\begingroup$ There is no 'ground' the wall rests on, it's like a flat plane with gravity at a 90⁰ angle to it $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 23:48

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