To briefly summarize: former slaves to a race of flying dragon-like humanoids (I've made some modifications to them based on feedback, but the gist is more or less the same) have escaped into the wilds to hide and gather strength. To stay hidden from the frequent airborne patrols, they make their homes in underground caverns and under covered areas of the world. They can and do venture above ground for food and supplies, but usually only do so at night or under cover of natural barriers like treetops. I assume since they're primarily underground that beasts of burden and crops are mostly out of the question, but feel free to correct me. It's probable that this group would eventually gain enough strength to be able to settle above ground, but that's only a future possibility.

Given their situation, how advanced could such a society hope to get?

  • $\begingroup$ What level of technology is society above ground? Are the slaves the same species or different? And what type of slave culture do they have? Slavery in the U.S. was very different from slavery in various cultures around the world. These could all have a pretty big impact on survival options. $\endgroup$ Feb 27, 2020 at 22:23

4 Answers 4


You are describing a subsistence-level society of refugees, so not advanced at all.

The classic problems with "underground society" questions are reliable sources of food and water and air, and safe disposal of trash and sewage.

Without these, the under-dwellers will either be discovered (hey, this ranch gets raided every week. Let's stake them out), or poison/infect themselves (mommy, the water tastes strange), or starve.

Before the Industrial Revolution, these basic survival needs took most of the time of most folks. They had their hands, and not much else...just like your escapees.

And that's before the extra two big challenges: Digging a home is generally harder work than building a shanty above ground, and (of course) the need for, well, light in enclosed spaces without electricity.

Finally, danger of discovery and attack means that communities of under-dwellers will be widely spaced, single family groups or very small tribes. Warrens populous enough to produce any worthwhile advancement --a schoolteacher or an electrical generator-- are also very likely to leave traces that will be detected from above.

A low-density society of subsistence foragers won't have the time or resources to advance much at all.


It depends on the patrols and the attitudes of the flying people.

Consider early America and runaway slaves:


Maroon societies were bands of communities or fugitive slaves who had succeeded in establishing a society of their own in some remote areas, where they could not easily be surprised by soldiers or slave catchers. Maroon societies had several degrees of stability. At the least stable end would be gangs of runaway men who wandered within a region, hiding together, and who sustained themselves by raids. Other, more stable societies included men and women and might have developed trade with outsiders. Some maroon societies felt safe enough to plant crops and maintain some semblance of permanency.

By the time of the Revolution it was harder for these settlements to persist. Slave owners were more interested in reclaiming runaways.

In response, slave-owners organized slave patrols over land and water. Many of the Florida village’s slaves escaped to also contained remnants of Southeastern Indian tribes, gathered together for survival. This group later became known as the Seminoles.

You can mirror this. Refugee enclaves nearby must hide and emerge to raid and forage. They will always be desperate. Further afield the escapees will be more confident and so can build things, plant crops, and possibly slowly innovate according to their needs and abilities. Also, the dragon people might not care as much about these remote settlements - even if the dragons are aware of them, they are not a threat. Potentially they could be a source of more slaves someday, and in the meantime the dragon people don't have to feed them.

You could take it one more step with the Amerind analogy - more distant organized peoples (of some sort), unfriendly to the dragon people, who harbor the escapees. Maybe they could live together like the Seminoles. Or if these other "peoples" are nonhumans of some sort, they could allow their lands to be used as refuges, tolerating the escapees and interacting with them from time to time. Maybe these other peoples are not friendly but are in fact frankly dangerous both to the escapees and the dragon people and the escapees have to balance the risks.


Civilization for humans started when some of our ancestors stopped hunting-harvesting and managed to domesticate some plants and animals.

Living underground rules out, as admitted by you, this possibility.

They can and do venture above ground for food and supplies

Since they don't have agriculture, probably they won't advance any further than Australian Aborigens, who were basically forced hunter-gatherers due to the lack of suitable domesticable plants and the very limited agriculture they could rely on.


Your society needs a 'home base' that provides all of its needs in order to grow and advance.

Water, air, waste disposal...all of these are fairly simple to attain in undergraound spaces. With all the energy that root and mycelium systems bring down from the surface I don't see why agriculture would be a problem. It would merely require a food source that grows in the dark...or possibly 'grow lights' (not sure what technology your society has access to) powered, again, by TREES! Tap into tree roots for basic energy needs. Grow food for humans and animals.

It would take work and ingenuity but a tree-powered, underground society should be able to advance as far as any other.

  • $\begingroup$ I disagree that a root-based society could progress as far as any other because surface agriculture provides far more yield. Tree roots wouldn't permeate caves on the same scale as crops grow in fields; there just isn't enough food imo. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Feb 27, 2020 at 0:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .