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LEGO™ as a defence against barefoot warriors

In the far future, after the collapse of civilisation, there is an ongoing war between two tribes. The tribes have only the ability to make neolithic technology.

These are the Barefoots and the Legolanders.

The Barefoots are a fierce tribe who never wear shoes or armour of any kind. They carry primitive hand weapons such as bows and spears.

The Legolanders are so called because they are based at an ancient site called Legoland. They wear simple clothes of natural materials, plus moccasins or tied-on sandals similar to those used by Roman soldiers.

They also have similar primitive weapons and and technology but, in addition, they have practically unlimited stocks of LEGO bricks and products of all types. These they discovered in a huge vault underneath their city.

Question

When the Barefoots (BFs) attack, how can the Legolanders (LLs) best defend Legoland (or temporary encampments) using their practically unlimited supply of LEGO products? Is LEGO going to be effective in their war against the BFs or is it just irrelevant or even a hindrance?

In short, is LEGO going to have any effect in this war or should it just be used by children and for leisure or decoration?


Assumptions

  1. At least a millennium has passed since civilisation collapsed.

  2. Apart from LEGO these opposing tribes have only neolithic technology

  3. The BFs will refuse to use footwear or armour when in battle-mode. They ridicule anyone who suggests the idea and they particularly ridicule the LLs.

  4. The BFs live in forest that surrounds Legoland. The LLs have cleared a wide swathe of land around the city so they can see approaching forces during the day

  5. You may assume that Legoland City was a typical 2020s Legoland resort. Of course the inhabitants may have added neolithic-type modifications to it and original features may have decayed.

  6. The BFs despise the LLs for their wearing of shoes and want to exterminate them from the face of the Earth.

  7. The LLs have a source of clean water and are able to grow some foodstuffs. However they need to make sorties now and again into the forest to hunt for wild boar and for other resources including wood for fires and tools.

  8. The LLs learn to use LEGO from childhood and they are expert at making LEGO artefacts.

  9. The BFs can steal LEGO pieces but they don't have any of the instruction leaflets so their understanding of it is very limited. In addition they have a strong religious taboo against using it because it reminds them of their despised enemies. BF children are not allowed to play with it.

  10. The plastic pieces have not degraded in the vault. However it is possible that they will wear and/or degrade to some extent when used outside. However you can assume a virtually unlimited supply in the vault. Without serious evidence to the contrary I don't believe any batteries would survive for over a thousand years.

  11. Please ask for other clarifications before answering

IMPORTANT!!!!!!

Unlike the 21st Century LEGO religion, the LLs have no taboo against combining LEGO with other technology. They use it as decorations and can combine it with neolithic technology where feasible.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Sep 1 '20 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ It has been brought to my attention that many of the answers here will be made moot in a few years, and in perhaps five years, new viewers will be either bemused or bewildered at the responses. As so often happens with sci-fi, reality overtakes fiction, and leaves much sci fi writing in the category of 'quaint historical narrative'. The material that makes LEGO bricks is being reformulated into a non-petroleum-based non-'plastic' substance. cnn.com/2020/09/15/business/lego-plastic-packaging/index.html $\endgroup$ Sep 15 '20 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ Caltrops. Using Lego pieces with sharpened ends, these will be easily deployed and very difficult to sweep clean from the field while being pressured by an enemy force. Lego could also be used to make the "core" of the caltrop, and other materials jammed or placed into the Lego core to serve as the pointed spikes. Small wooden spikes, thin shaped rocks, sharpened bones, etc $\endgroup$
    – Taejang
    Jun 16 at 14:23
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You state that they have abundant supplies of LEGO of all types. I am assuming this means LEGO Technic parts as well.

LEGO Technic includes many types of gears, levers, axles, wheels, pistons, air compression and pneumatics, shock absorbers, rack-and-pinion sets, universal transfer boxes, springs, and so on.

I am also assuming that they may have lost our current knowledge and science, but they have at least retained a modicum of our intellectual capability. They would be able to think and learn, communicate, and to use tools.

So do not think in terms of LEGO pieces, think in terms of LEGO knowledge.

The greatest contribution to defence that LEGO would provide is knowledge about mechanics, levers, gear ratios, wheels, and knowledge in using these devices. Children growing up would learn about such concepts as gear reductions, wheels and axles, mechanical advantage, simple machines, and other engineering concepts. So although this civilization might not have electricity, steam power, metalurgy, advanced chemistry, or scientific knowledge, they would definitely have mechanical engineering knowledge. Copying the LEGO pieces into larger mechanical devices and apparatus would be absolutely expected. If they can build it in LEGO, then they can build it in wood. These Legolanders would have, at the least, an understanding of levers and basic catapults. They would definitely have carts and other axle transportation. Certainly, they would have the princciples of compressed air and pistons. They would have access to springs and the knowledge behind the concepts of a spring.

So the LEGO advantage would not be in building the weapons out of LEGO, but of building the prototypes out of LEGO, and transfering the design to wood, clay, and such. It is the learning and knowledge of engineering that LEGO would provide - a head start, as it were, on mechanics, just like it does for children today.

EDIT A Note on Glue

Even the neolithics had very strong glues,that could be used to bond LEGO structures.

Hide glue was once one of the most common glues in use. Hide glue was the strongest glue available before modern chemistry brought modern glues to the public. But don't let the primitive aspect of the glue fool you, hide glue is a very strong glue.

https://www.survival-manual.com/hide-glue.php

EDIT addendum - summarizid my comments into one place.

The following assumes they have not regressed (devolved) in intellectual capacity, but that they are just lacking knowledge and skills, and certainly no metals or metal working, no saws, steel tools, or such (all ores used up, maybe? Certainly, one thousand years and we will run out of metals).

Ways to scale up LEGO Technic parts (once they know what to make, how to make it is just human ingenuity):

Humans have been hollowing out logs since eternity. Once they have the concept, they could easily cut a log in half using stone wedges, hollow it out using sharp stone tools, and patch it back together again, just like LEGO. Seal the ends using the hide glue I just referenced, and pitch, and you have the makings of a pneumatic cylinder. Alternately, make the cylinder from clay. "The Mesopotamians introduced the world to clay sewer pipes around 4000 BCE, with the earliest examples found in the Temple of Bel at Nippur and at Eshnunna,[7] " en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumbing#Water_pipes

Springs can be made from soaking sapling wood and curling it into a spiral. beds.org/blog/… Okay, that's a stretch, but they already HAVE the springs - in the LEGO pieces. Maybe not individually super powerful, after all LEGO was purposely 'mellowed down' so as not to be harmful (non violence has always been the LEGO mantra), but gang dozens together? Yes, a powerful short-range dart gun against a non-armored person.

Gears are easily made from wood, carved using stone tools. 'Early examples of gears date from the 4th century BC in China[3] (Zhan Guo times – Late East Zhou dynasty), which have been preserved at the Luoyang Museum of Henan Province, China. ' en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gear

Gears could be made from ceramics and even glass, for strength and longevity. Moulded and shaped glass gears would probably survive hundreds of years longer than metal gears. ceramics.org/about/what-are-engineered-ceramics-and-glass/… I wouldn't use one in a multi-ton press or a car engine, (although ceramic gears are being made with the strength of steel - http://www.roccera.com/ceramics/net-shape-mfg/) but in an unpowered society?

A note on LEGO strength itself, (AKA paying homage to the laminated interlocked LEGO solid flat ABS base plate, as opposed to the LEGO brick itself):

When most people think of a LEGO wall, they think in terms of building the wall traditionally, with one LEGO brick stacked on top of another, vertically. This is the weakest way to build a LEGO wall. Because of the nature of its structure, LEGO bricks are very strong in compressiion vertically, with the forces following down the 'tubes' inside. Even stronger is the thin solid ABS LEGO base plate, that LEGO structures are built upon. So the strongest configuration for the wall is to build it with the LEGO bricks sideways, several bricks deep, interlaced, and a large laminated and interlocked LEGO flat base plate structure sandwiching it. I tried it. It is very strong, will even resist hammer blows.

HOW TO: Lay out a layer of LEGO flat base plates, flat on the ground, twelve feet wide and as long as you want the wall. Place another (laminated) layer of flat base plates on top of this, interlocked and staggered. Repeat for several layers. Then, place long (32 bump) lego pieces side by each, ends staggered and overlapped, on the bases, until the entire base is covered in a solid layer. Build another layer, using the long blocks, only at right angles. Then, another and another, until you have quite a thick base. Laminate several layers of LEGO flat base plates on top, again staggered and interlocked. Now, you have a very large, solid, flat patform that is entirely inerlocked and integrated, that you could probably drive a transport over. It can be as thick and large as one cares to make it, given enough pieces. Raise the entire structure vertically, so it is now at right angles to the ground. Prop it up using wooden posts. An almost solid twelve foot high ABS wall perhaps a foot or more thick, with a solid flat inner and outer surface, ablatively inpenetrable by anything the BFs would have. Cover it with animal hide for UV protection, although I am not sure this is needed. I have LEGO pieces from the 60's (yes, I am that old - I was one of the first kids in Canada to play with LEGO circa early 1962), that have not deteriorated in the slightest. For even more strength, glue the inner layers of bricks together using hide glue. Three layers of flat base plates, stacked one on top of each other, are almost impossible to seperate without a sharp object to pry the layers apart. You will not, can not, stab a sharp knife all the way through five layers of flat base plates when the grain is alternated without powered assistance.

Not only could these large laminated sheets be used for walls, they could be used for shields, cart bottoms and sides, and even cut in a circle for wheels, and maybe gears. Sharp stone edges would eventually shape the LEGO, and I am sure if they had baked clay, someone would quickly learn that shattered pottery, especially if glazed, is very sharp and strong. If you have ever cut yourself on broken glass, you know exactly HOW sharp it is.

Since they can be made any width, any length, any thickness, given enough LEGO, they can be made into beams as thick as a log, perfectly straight and dimensional, to reinforce the wall (grain at right angles to the grain of the wall). Exceptionally strong if the base plate laminations are oriented perpendicular to the applied force, i.e. sideways, 'on edge'. If you have enough flat base plates and 32 bump pieces (I do), and try this, you might be amazed at the strength.

If you do indeed have enough LEGO flat base plates, you could even make roads, maybe even cover the entire ground surrounding your settlement with one huge LEGO laminated base apron, then build pyramids five or six blocks high with LEGO slopped and pointed roof pieces, to make life very difficult for barefoot attackers. It would be one huge trip hazzard, very awkward to get one's footing.

Really creative LEGO builders would use these laminated planks, beams, thick sheets and platforms to build fortified carts to use on the LEGO platform roads to journey into the forest. A bicycle made of laminated ABS LEGO flat bases on edge, maybe?

The trick is to think 'Use it sideways, not in the traditional direction. Use laminated base plates, not just the bricks. Interlock layers at right angles, not just in one direction.'

EDIT research into acetone

Acetone, AKA nail polish remover, is an excellent glue for ABS and LEGO. My research has discovered that acetone occurs naturally, in the human body, and in nature. It is easlily made from egg shells and vinegar, for instance. It is also present in very bad wine, and in the urine of some uncontrolled diabetics. Some people on an unmonitored Keto diet expell it in their sweat. So it is very much within reasonable conjecture that the Legolanders, in that thousand years, would have accidentally discovered acetone as a glue for LEGO pieces. It is not a high tech product, well within the technology level of the neolithic period.

It was first identified by an alchemist in the 1600's.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, LEGO Technic is included. Also they have all the instruction booklets. They can follow the diagrams even though they cannot read the words. I like this answer - especially the prototyping and scaling up. However I'm not sure about making large-scale gears, springs, and especially compressed air with only neolithic manufacturing capabilities. Can you elaborate? Remember they have no metals to work with. $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '20 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ Humans have been hollowing out logs since eternity. Once they have the concept, they coul deasily cut a log in half, hollow out a log using sharp stone tools, and patch it back together again, just like LEGO. Seal the ends using the hide glue I just referenced, and pitch, and you have tha makings of a pneumatic cylinder. Alternately, make the cylinder from clay. "The Mesopotamians introduced the world to clay sewer pipes around 4000 BCE, with the earliest examples found in the Temple of Bel at Nippur and at Eshnunna,[7] " en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumbing#Water_pipes $\endgroup$ Aug 30 '20 at 0:02
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    $\begingroup$ Springs can be made from soaking sapling wood and curling it into a spiral. beds.org/blog/… Okay, that's a stretch, but they already HAVE the springs - in the LEGO pieces. Maybe not super powerful, afterr all LEGO was purposely 'mellowed down' so as not to be harmful, but gang then together? Yes, a powerful short-range dart gun against a non-armored person. Gears are easily made from wood, and even baked clay. $\endgroup$ Aug 30 '20 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ 'Early examples of gears date from the 4th century BC in China[3] (Zhan Guo times – Late East Zhou dynasty), which have been preserved at the Luoyang Museum of Henan Province, China. ' en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gear Once they know what to make, how to make it is just human ingenuity. $\endgroup$ Aug 30 '20 at 0:26
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    $\begingroup$ Incidentally, gears could be made from ceramics and glass, for strength. ceramics.org/about/what-are-engineered-ceramics-and-glass/… $\endgroup$ Aug 30 '20 at 0:36
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  1. Collect Lego in a cauldron.
  2. Heat to an even temperature of about ~260° C
  3. Pour into spear-head shaped mould.
  4. Insert thick straight stick into moulds non pointy end.
  5. Use solid plastic spear to stab the incoming bad guys. It will be an epic spear.

Or

  • Pour molten plastic onto the heads of attacking soldiers. It's basically napalm.
  • Catapult the couldren of molten ABS plastic at the enemy camp / marching army. Will splash and give 3rd degree burns.
  • Make arrow heads instead of spear heads.

Solid ABS plastic is amazingly strong and heavy, suitable for some pretty intense heavy duty stuff. People 3D print functional guns from this.

I'm sorry theres no way to fight a war with Lego bricks, assembled into master builder level stuff or used individually. Yes stepping on a block barefoot sucks, but your Lego minefield will be no match for a few weeks of grass growth or dust accumulation, or just some minesweeper guy going through with a broom.

You may think you'll be able to build some fortifications with them, but itll take ages, theres no glue to hold it all together, and it's full of fault lines ready to fracture when gently touched. Even if you managed to make a massive Lego fortification stay put, itll decay in sunlight, as ABS isnt UV stable.

But... I really want to hurt their feet! ... For morale!

Stepping on a lego brick sucks, but, as someone who in darkness has stepped barefoot on everything from Lego to screws to nail-plates, you get used to it pretty quickly, and actually change your stride to minimise injury.

If you really want to take advantage of their shoe-less-ness, cut the lego blocks in half diagonally before scattering them, the sharp cuts will penetrate skin. Yes they'll be covered up quickly by grass growing and stuff, but if you really want to do serious injury to their feet with lego, that's the way.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 30 '20 at 8:19
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    $\begingroup$ There's an extra bonus if you can pour molten plastic on the enemy. When you've captured (or killed I suppose) important enemies, you can melt Lego plastic all over them, turning them in to a human size Lego which you can display alá heads at the Tower of London. Or send back to the enemy as a gift from your Army's gift shop. $\endgroup$
    – BruceWayne
    Aug 30 '20 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ Just a question, is it necessary to maintain an even temperature of ~260° C, or would higher temperature be fine too? Because if it is, it probably won't happen, they won't have any technology to maintain a specific temperature. $\endgroup$
    – Alice
    Aug 31 '20 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Alice One of the comments (which wasnt a chat but got moved to chat for some reason. Can we get them back somehow?) pointed out that you dont need to be strict on temperature. Anything above 80 will allow you start moulding it, even boiling water will do. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Aug 31 '20 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash Ah, thanks, good to know. Didn't realise it's that easy. $\endgroup$
    – Alice
    Aug 31 '20 at 10:39
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We're talking a nearly unlimited amount of Lego here. Have you seen what people can do with Lego without things like the programming modules? Hint: you can do as much as the amount of Legos you have allow.

Let's go for a quick example: this guy built a prosthetic arm for himself, at age 9:

enter image description here

The arm has no complex programming, is strong enough to partially support his weight (he can use it to do push-ups) and the only non-lego part is a group of cables which I'm assuming help strengthen it, which could most likely be substituted with organic vines or rope without problem (you can also use arrangements of Lego rubber bands, but that sounds like poor resource use).

In addition to its lethal ability to penetrate the flesh of an unprotected human foot, Legos are incredibly versatile tools which can be used in many ways, with the limits being your own creativity and how much the bricks can endure.

Example no2: armor. enter image description here

This Lego replica of a master chief armor only shows how Lego, when used correctly, can be even shaped into a defensive wearable tool. It's in no way stronger than a rock spear (this armor depicted is most likely useless in protecting against anything), but it is still better than no armor whatsoever and it sure will hurt if you try to punch that bumpy structure. My guess would be on using technic pieces, potentially combined with spike pieces to make it more annoying for enemies to deal with and hit you using their hands alone (if you every played with technic pieces, you know that 1-if you assemble them properly, you'll get something pretty tough and which, more often than not, requires a decent amount of force to disconnect; and 2- they will hurt if you hit someone with them, especially someone without any protection).

While you do have the ability to even make "guns" with Lego components only, I don't think they'd be nearly as good as a proper bow and arrow, since they're weak, but Something like a small Lego "gun" with a proper arrangement of Lego rubber bands could be a useful projectile tool at relatively close quarters, especially if aimed at the eyes (with proper elastic bands, you can even make fairly strong ones).

Another thing is projectiles: by combining a load of Lego bricks together, you can make a projectile that can be tough, fairly heavy and, depending how you built it, filled with sharp points, meaning striking it properly at someone's head has a good chance of confusing them, a possibility of incapacitating and a small possibility of drawing blood if hit right.

In other words, we can see a few advantages here: the legolanders can potentially: build decent prosthetics for amputee members of their tribe, make relatively strong armor to protect themselves, make close range, fairly strong projectile meant to distract attackers and harm their eyes (not counting the projectile Lego weapons already existent, which could be disassembled and combined to become stronger),and make tough, heavy projectiles which can be easily thrown at the enemies.

And all of these options are only concerning minimal tweaking with the bricks and analyzing some options of what you can do with building alone. Considering Ash's suggestions, you can also combine these building strategies with molten plastic to make them stronger (example: fit the Lego armor inside an arm model and cover it with molten plastic to add a solid plastic layer to it). The possibilities with unaltered Lego alone are big, and your legolanders clearly have a pretty good advantage over their enemy tribe regarding their potential to make tools.

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    $\begingroup$ Great ideas. I think however that rubber would degrade over a thousand years - at least judging by the contents of my kitchen drawer! $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '20 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ Armor made from sticking lego together would be worse than useless, bulky and weak it would just weigh down those wearing it, if you want to make armor out of it melt it down. the only real projectile weapon you could make would be a bow and ABS is not strong enough by itself. you are not making projectile weapon more effective than just throwing sticks and rocks. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 29 '20 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ @John I think we're talking different kinds of Lego pieces here. The Lego bricks are absolutely useless to do anything meant to withstand hits (mentioned it myself with the spartan armor), but Lego technic pieces, especially when you connected most of those empty pins, resulted plates which are strong, frustratingly hard to pull apart and more than capable of withstand a fair amount of hits, especially blunt force (and even metal stabbing weapons like knives - from personal experience- have a hard time completely piercing through it because of all of the connectors connecting everything ). $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '20 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ @John If you used wood resin as glue to stick it together and fill in the hollow spaces you might be able to make armor that's surprisingly strong. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Aug 30 '20 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisMelville A lot of people don't adhere to the Lego Group's trademark guidelines in casual speech. Heck, they might even refer to Kreo or Mega Blok bricks as "legos"! ;) $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Sep 1 '20 at 6:14
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I have worked with ABS and it is a deceptively strong plastic, Lego is mostly empty space. Not as good as some other choices but for some uses very effective.

Ideally you you want to melt it slowly preferably in a ceramic container to spread out the heat, it can burn if heated to much. For shaping boiling it will keep it from burning, you can even pour boiling water over it to soften specific areas. this will let you reshape relatively easy to make slabs/sheets of plastic. You can press it to make it stronger/denser, your are not casting it as much as you are "forge welding" it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6veqON60IE

A short list of what you can make out of it.

Spear points which will be better than wooden ones, you can also just dip a wooden point in it to save material. similar methods can be used to make arrow heads and daggers.

Mix it with hair or fiber to make very strong and light armor. this is probably the single best use, since introducing effective armor during what is effectively the stone age is a big improvement. As a bonus such armor can be recycled as it wears out.

Use it to make a composite bow by combining laminates of wood, bone, and horn.

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  • $\begingroup$ When you say, " make a composite bow by combining laminates of wood, bone, and horn", are you intending to use ABS as an adhesive? $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '20 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ @chasly-reinstateMonica no as another laminate and brace. ABS does not penetrate well enough to work asa binder. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 29 '20 at 18:54
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For a tribe that has sworn off footwear, 1000 years is adequate time to have (re)developed natural hobbit-like callouses for the soles of their feet. Maybe not a full genetic adaption, but certainly some way to avoid many people spending a significant amount of time dealing with foot injuries (this is why a say "callouses" rather than "thick skin").

Lego won't help much as a foot-based defense. There might be other things you can do, but stepping on the bricks would be an insignificant hindrance.

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    $\begingroup$ I have stepped on LEGO pieces with workboots on and it STILL hurts, even through thick souls. And you can twist an ankle. $\endgroup$ Aug 31 '20 at 4:24
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    $\begingroup$ 1000 years is not an adequate time to have much genetic change. However, just a few months going barefoot is enough to let any human's soles get thick and suitable for going permanently barefoot... $\endgroup$
    – hyde
    Aug 31 '20 at 4:50
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    $\begingroup$ I agree. In fact, now that I think about it, it is quite likely that the BFs would practise walking over stolen LEGO, both to toughen their feet and as a sign of disrespect to the LLs. $\endgroup$ Aug 31 '20 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ @chasly-reinstateMonica you mean "to remind themselves of how weak the disrespectful grunts who can't touch mother Earth with their bare skin all the time are" in a religious ritual of scorn? :D $\endgroup$
    – Patrice
    Aug 31 '20 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmmm. Might LEGO be so abhorent to these BF's (like garlic to a vampire) that they would never even dare to come close to a LEGO structure? A simple LEGO wall to keep them away? Maybe use LEGO as a talisman against the BFs. That LEGO armoured man of ProjectApex - maybe it does not have to be strong, just a cloak of 'no-touch-em' religious fanaticism? $\endgroup$ Aug 31 '20 at 19:40

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