In my fantasy world, I have humanoid beings who are as adept in the air as they are on the ground. They can walk around just as humans do, but they can also just as easily float into the air or shoot upwards as fast as a man can run.

Early human settlements were defended by a palisade, or wall which surrounded the village. This practice of walled cities was effective for protection from intruders on the ground. But what if your enemies can fly?

It just isn’t practical to cover an entire village in a pyramid or box-like structure. So how would cities be protected from aerial intruders? What is there to prevent hostile beings from just flying into the middle of town?

The obvious answer is to build underground. That might work for some, but not the beings I have in mind. These beings live in grande palaces, not holes in the ground (no matter how elaborate).

That is my question: excluding living underground, how would a medieval-era village keep aerial intruders out?

  • $\begingroup$ So are these flying humans limited to an upper height at which they can fly or jump? I'm assuming that somewhere before Low Earth Orbit (LEO) they run out of puff. This becomes important because even today we don't build underground to protect against air attack except for very specific circumstances, like nuclear missile silos. Most air defences today are really anti-air offensive weapons fixed in place to 'defend' a fixed site. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Jun 3, 2019 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ How is this different from worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/129336/… ? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 3, 2019 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch that one was limited to avian enemies with bows. This one can have dragons and sh... Such. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2019 at 3:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan, I just read about humanoids in the question. I see no dragon $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 3, 2019 at 3:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm with @Renan on this one. Also, please note that you can always design an avian species that can overwhelm ground-based peoples. Just let them fly high enough to avoid ground-based arrows and they can lazily drop rocks until everyone's dead. Yes, you can build strong roofs, but then they drop burning oil. There's a reason modern militaries focus on air superiority. Generally, the team with the most wings always wins. You can't even live in caves - people need to eat (something other than magic mushrooms). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jun 3, 2019 at 4:31

2 Answers 2


Take a look at this pdf and read pages 3-5 that describe the art of passive air defence measures. There aren't a lot that you can use but there are two points that can be useful for your medieval village...

To be blunt, you're not going to be able to put a camouflage net over your village and even if you did, your flying horde are going to be close enough to the ground to see what you've got going on there. That's not the kind of camouflage I'm talking about. Everyone knows where your village is, but they may not know which buildings are important. Make the important buildings look non-descript. Ideally, you'd make all your buildings more or less look the same. Your enemy only has a small amount of time to attack and it still be a surprise so make it difficult for them to know which targets are the highest priority.

In any combat situation, your best defence is the enemy's lack of intelligence. Your camouflage is the first step to that protection, but now you want to sew confusion as well and so you start some active passive defence. You set up fake buildings that look impressive from the sky as honeypots. Ideally you put some defences around them to make them look like high value targets as well. If you can get away with it, you pretty much build an entire sector of the village as fake buildings but make them look like the village centre or some form of barracks. That way, while it's being attacked you mobilise your troops from a different sector of the village and start your counter-attack.

Now, a good enemy with a strong intelligence gathering capability will see through this but then that's the case even for land troops. If you know where to strike, you strike there by whatever resources you have to hand. If you don't however, you tend to strike where you think you should. As such, the best defence is to put up some cheap and simple structures that look really impressive from the ground and use them to lead your aerial enemies away from the areas you want to protect.


Short answer, they can't keep them out, but they can defend against them. That involves actual manpower and stout locks on upper doors or windows. Bars.

Even though today we do not build underground for fear of aerial bombardment, we do have anti-aircraft and other defenses. However, if this is part of their history, consider that buildings will be designed differently AND do not discount the idea of grand underground palaces.

Consider the Basilica Cistern of Turkey (see pictures in this link). The outside is just a single tower with one entrance at the base, but the inside is the size of a cathedral, and fairly lavish in architectural details.

But excluding living underground, as you say, what are the defenses?

Watchtower guard alerts These guards are set indoors and their only job is to watch for attacks on the top of the towers outdoors and on the walls. Set several men with a vantage point and a bell pull to alert the rest of the castle of possible aerial attack. Instead of windows, they get murder holes to better prevent being attacked themselves.

Limiting Movement in all Directions and then killing them... In most Medieval Castles, you have a gate, and contingencies once the opposing force gets through. In other words, you have a small space between the open gate and the next gate. While they are trying to get through, you pour oil in. Take this idea and apply it to creatures that can fly. Perhaps once the gate the first is shattered, another gate comes down trapping people between the two, then you empty the cistern into it and it rapidly fills with water up to the ceiling long enough to drown some. Or you have a ceiling that comes down with spikes. The mechanism of course would be inside away from your attackers. You can basically apply this motto of limiting movement as much as possible to any and all designs.

Good archers Everywhere.

Whatever the case, you will need to shore up specific points of entry that would be easy to circumvent. Take a design of a medieval palace then "attack" with your flying troops and whatever capabilities they have. You'll be able to see the weak points, and then counter those by re-designing or eliminating features that make it weak. Things such as limited rooftop access, making the way in narrow if you do get in, having defenses ready to drop down if there is an incursion over the castle and into the courtyard. The open balcony designs are right out...


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