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This is in regards to a story I'm writing, where the two main characters are a human girl and her giant companion. They're both outlaws with the giant being seen as an outright monster by the vast majority of people.

The setting I'm imagining is a low fantasy Medieval setting - some point in the 1400s - where, bar the giant , there are no magical elements present in the world. The giant herself stands at about 200ft / 61m tall and is strong enough to crush rock in her fist.

What sort of strategies would a fantasy army in this setting use against a threat like this giant?

The giant is an element in the setting, it needs no rationalisation.

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    $\begingroup$ This seems a question of tactics, not strategy. A strategy would be the way the army carried out the goal of exterminating giants within the limits of it's resources and capabilities. Like garrisoning each town vs sweeping through the forests. Like banding the giants together and forcing one big battle vs. isolating them and burning them out one-by-one. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ Does your world have gunpowder? Many people associate the fantasy late medieval setting with a complete lack of gunpowder, but by the 1400 gunpowder was already in wide use. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 7:20
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    $\begingroup$ Things to establish, given that we're operating outside the realm of realistic physics: What does the giant eat? How fast does it move? Is it thick-skinned enough to resist arrows and spears? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 9:21
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    $\begingroup$ "there are no magical elements present in the world". Simple. Wait for Physics to do its thing. Square-Cube law means that your giant would simply die from being crushed by their own weight, and suffocate from lack of oxygen. $\endgroup$
    – Aron
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 10:11
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    $\begingroup$ Is the unstated goal of the army to kill the giant? $\endgroup$
    – cms
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 12:55

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Skirmishing

Attacking the giant head-on is foolish. However, warfare has known skirmishing and hit and run tactics since at least the Romans who employed velites - light infantry who would be mobile and engage enemies from afar with javelins.

These light attackers do not need to do much. They only need harass the giant to distract her and either keep her occupied or...

Traps (option 1)

...lead her to a trap. A pit trap or a bog, or even dense enough vegetation can be used to lose the giant's footing when the army can swoop down.

This is not dissimilar to how heavy cavalry was handled in some cases. A fully armoured knight might as well be unstoppable as a modern tank when compared to some tribal opponents. Yet the significant bulk of the armour has been used against such knights by drawing them to swamps (where they lose their mobility) and using hooks on poles to drop them from their horse. At that point the tank turns into just a turtle on its back. The armour weighing them down while less armoured and worse armed people dealt with the helpless tin can.

A giant, once downed, would likely be significantly exposed to actual army attacks. As well as long ranged attacks like bows or siege weapons. The trap area can also be rigged with explosives, or other dangers like ignitable materials that can be set alight once the trap is spring.

Even without extra contraptions, or army around - a pit trap can be laid with spikes. Or it could just be that - a pit and a giant falling in it might break a leg which neutralises the threat. Just make sure the pit is deep enough.

Do nothing (option 2)

...they just keep harassing her, run circles and never engage. This is another Roman invention called Fabian strategy.

Short history lesson: the Carthagen general Hannibal Barca was one of the most dangerous opponents Rome has ever faced. He was a masterful tactician and strategist and decisively won every battle against Roman legions. This culminated with the battle of Cannae the worst military defeat Rome has ever suffered in its history. Almost the entire Roman military force of the time was lost. Estimates place it between 50 and 70 thousand troops. Further estimates place this to somewhere between 5% and 20% of the male population of Rome at the time. This was no mere defeat - the Romans had to refresh their troops from the elderly and the completely inexperienced youth.

It is hard to undersell how horrific this defeat was. In one fell swoop Hannibal not only won the battle but almost destroyed all the military Rome had. The replacements would be fewer in number and a lot less experienced.

Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus realised Rome cannot win against this opponent, who as might have been a giant crushing rocks. The solution was to avoid fights and just wear down the enemy through attrition. It worked. Despite winning the battle, Carthagen lost the war as his army roamed the lands but did no major battles and little by little lost men until Hannibal had no choice but return home.

Similarly, a giant can be engaged, harassed, goaded, but never engaged. Even if spears do not pierce her skin and arrows do nothing, she will also do nothing if persistently avoided. The armies have one big advantage here - numbers. Send a wave of skirmishers, then replace them with fresher troops. This is a constant barrage of soldiers who only serve to wear down the giant. She has a limit - eventually she would tire. They could persist the skirmishing and never let her sleep or feed. They do not have to kill her - just to drive her away.

A living giant not here is still a win. She can go crush rocks in the neighbouring kingdom.

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    $\begingroup$ Better have horses, otherwise the "run" part of "hit and run" may be an issue - any weapon's range will put you within a few strides of an angry creature whose footspeed is several times higher than yours. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ On your list of places to drive the giant in option 1: off a cliff. Gravity is not a friend to giants! $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearHoagie if speed was proportional to size then elephants would outrace cheetahs and humans would outrun roadrunners. There's no reason to believe that the giant will be able to move faster than a human. With a target this huge, archers can happily engage from a few hundred metres away and still be confident of hitting. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 It makes little sense to compare differently sized animals with entirely different leg configurations and gaits. We're talking about a scaled-up human, in which case walking speed is roughly proportional to the square root of leg length (physics.stackexchange.com/questions/23921/…). Haven't you ever noticed that tall people tend to walk faster than short people? No way is the giant 30x the height but no faster. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearHoagie A giant that much taller is going to be walking very carefully. While they could theoretically move faster, they are much more likely to move methodically and deliberately to avoid stumbling and trips and an associated fatal fall. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 15:09
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Pit Trap

enter image description here

Mrs Giant is big and heavy. Big heavy things are more vulnerable to falls than small light things.

A three foot drop will not harm an ant. The same fall will bruise a person. They will be fine unless they land awkwardly. The fall will kill an elephant. Elephants HATE holes in the ground.

enter image description here

That's right, the smartest animal on the planet can be contained with three foot moat in the sand. The one pictured above is an especially large moat. They have been stopped by smaller.

Check out this precious little girl debating whether or not to leap a storm drain. I will not give away the ending.

enter image description here

Scale this up to a sixty metre giant, and a five metre hole will be plenty. She stumbles into the pit, catches her ankle, trips over, cracks under her own weight, and Mrs Giant is no more.

The enemy soldiers dig loads of holes in the ground and cover them up with wooden scaffolding. As pointed out by @ChrisH, since the weight difference is so vast, you can safely march your soldiers across the scaffolding without setting off the trap. But once the giant puts her foot down, the beams crack and it is all over.

The war against the giant is fought with both brains and brawn. Where do you dig the pits? How do you lure them? When should we double bluff? It becomes a game of cat-and-mouse.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 3:58
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Swamps

Okay - Physics time. a 200ft Humanoid is going to weigh a lot. I haven't done the calculations, but here's another WB question: Here about this - This is for a Giant that is merely 20-30ft tall and their calculations give a weight of about 4.5 Tonnes - your Giant is 10 times that height - and so doing lazy maths (and ignoring the Cube Law) - they are going to be weighing easily in excess of 45 Tonnes.

Your Giant is going to weigh more than a Main Battle Tank. Assuming that they don't have massively large feet (e.g. out of proportion to a 'regular' human) to spread all that weight over a large area (With Tracks, an MBT can exert about half the ground pressure of a Human) - then we know that unless they are on solid and stable ground, they are going to have issues with sinking into the ground.

a Swamp would be the worst nightmare for a Giant - too large for them to go around it or jump over it - and they can't traverse it without getting stuck. From there, it's just a matter of using Ballistas on an immobilized target.

Other tactics:

Starvation

Amateurs study tactics, Pros study Logistics. To feed a single Human, engaging in Military type activity for 24 hours, in the modern era, requires a ration pack weighing about a Kilo.

Our Giant is significantly larger and so would need to consume (again, ignoring the Cube Law - cause Lazy) in excess of 33 Kilos of Food in a 24 hour period. Probably closer to 100-200 Kilos (accounting for additional energy needed to move and maintain a larger being etc.) - The Army wouldn't need to fight the Giantess, merely stop her from getting sufficient food (driving away livestock, making lots of noise to scare away wild game, burning down crops etc.) - And the additional size would make the effects of missing Meals that much more traumatic on the Giant physiology - weakening them much quicker.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 I was still drafting an answer along these lines when you put yours up. Assuming a person slightly over 2 m tall is 100 kg, someone 30 times taller will be 27,000 times as massive, or 2,700 metric tons (and needing 13-27 tons of food per day - if the square-cube law doesn't hinder them then it shouldn't benefit them). I can't see any way that such a being can feed themselves even without driving away food, but starvation is definitely the ideal strategy. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, why would you ignore the cube law "because lazy"? It's not like it's hard to cube a number. 30 times taller means 27000 times more massive. However, see also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kleiber%27s_law which would indicate her actual food requirements only scale as mass to the power of 0.75. This means she only needs 27000^0.75 times the amount of food as a human, which is 2106 times. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ @causative - simple - using the lazy numbers still made the point I was making - that such a tall humanoid would weigh a whole lot and would eat a whole lot. The fact that if I had followed the full formula would have given a larger number only serves to reinforce the points I was making - soft ground and starvation would be the best tools to use. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 23:04
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Fire

The use of an oil accelerant coupled with an ignition source in order to light equipment and personnel on fire dates back to at least the 6th century. Lighting your giantess on fire would be a very appealing option especially if your 200 ft giant wears some type of clothing which could serve as additional fuel for the flames. If your giantess doesn't have clothes, then I think you're writing a completely different type of story.

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    $\begingroup$ The right combination of pitch/tar and alcohol can be both highly flammable and sticky, which is important if you're making Molotov cocktails or similar - or if you want exposed skin to burn. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 16:50
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Direct attacks are no realistic option. The logical choice for such a huge and moving obstacle would be to have the giant followed secretively, wait until the monster is asleep, and poison it. Arsenic, nightshade, or monkshood will do the trick, and were frequently used during the middle ages.

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    $\begingroup$ Problem is, for a being more than 30 times larger than a human the LD50 of the chosen substance will be about 27,000 times more than is required for a large human. That's a lot of poison to administer. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 Five pounds worth of dried castor beans should do it, then. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 23:24
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... not traps ...

Humans used pit traps to hunt e.g. mammoths. The animals were panicked and herded into the pit or down a cliff. But the normal humans will be unable to dig a pit 60 metres (200 feet) deep in any reasonable timeframe. Anything less than that does not help much against a biped with arms to climb.

... probably not bows or spears, either ...

Think of an arrow that is scaled down by a factor of 10 in length, by a factor of 1,000 in weight. Yes, it will hurt. It probably won't inflict serious injuries.

... probably not bombards or trebuchets ...

Big siege engines did exist in the era, but they could not be aimed at a moving target.

What does that leave?

Scorched Earth

Burn any concentrated food source in the area. Let the giant starve. Forarging for wild berries or hunting bucks is going to get nowhere, at this size.

Field Artillery

The Romans had the Scorpion, a type of torsion catapult that could be moved by the troops and aimed by the gunner.

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    $\begingroup$ An arrow scaled down by 20 would be two inches long, like a needle. It wouldn't inflict a serious injury. But 1000 of them would. And plenty of medieval armies could muster a thousand bowmen. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @DJClayworth, would a thrown needle penetrate all that deep? $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 5:32
  • $\begingroup$ First, arrows are fired from bows, not thrown. And second, yes. To be specific an arrow would penetrate as far into a giant as anything else. That can be up to a foot. To a giant that seems like half an inch of a needle, enough to cause pain on its own and enough to do damage in thousands. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 21:52
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Initial attempts when she first appeared would probably amount to suicide missions causing only pinpricks. Once the panic settled down the citizens would have to coexist for a while. But with the giant snacking on all their livestock, they'd have to do something.

At this point, biological warfare is the way to go. Chemical toxins of the era would have to be delivered in massive quantities - it's not like they had nerve agents. The goal would be to cause infected wounds, especially to limbs. Using techniques from similar times tipping sharp weapons with infectious agents (for example fluids from rotting corpses, or excrement) would be known. Even soil may contain botulism spores; while botulism wasn't identified until the 18th or 19th century, soil-contimated wounds were known to be problematic.

To get sufficient penetration wouldn't be easy. A spike pit trap big enough for just a foot would be one way, or the heaviest crew-served ballistas. Or both, with the ballista firing over a concealed trap or oversize punji sticks.

Trying to feed infected food might work too, at least to slow her down - a few barrels of beer left as bait, but some contaminated with the same agents. If livestock infected with anthrax could be identified, they would provide a good source of infectious material, and anthrax can be contracted orally or cutaneously.

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ropes on horseback. Bring her down like an ATAT

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  • $\begingroup$ What ropes are enough to hold a 61m/200ft giant? The ATAT is 22m or so. The giant is three times as large, while the knights probably do not have enough high tensile strength (metal) ropes. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 6:45
  • $\begingroup$ I was imagining a chariot of sorts. Maybe a team of horses carrying a wagon with a spool of 6 inch diameter rope. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 11:47
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By the mid-15th century, field artillery already looked and operated like it would for the next three hundred years - just heavier for a given amount of firepower and more expensive to field. Smaller man-portable guns of various designs (usually some form of tiny cannon mounted to the front of a short wooden stave, which was armed and fired the same way as a cannon) had also proliferated.

The existing answers all pose viable options (especially Chris H's "Kill it with sepsis!" option, which would be my approach if this was the 13th century instead). However, I think they're inappropriate to the premise, which poses a 15th century medieval army as the antagonist. This question simplifies to How would men with guns solve a problem that can be solved with high velocity pieces of metal?

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For a smaller giant, a bunch of archers is probably the easiest way. Hey, it works in Warhammer! You don't even need that many, although it might take them a while if the skin is thick. They'd have to go for weak spots like eyes or a death of a thousand cuts type deal. Or maybe poison the arrowtips.

Your giant at 61 m is kind of big though. It's really quite similar to a siege tower. So similar tactics are possible: Catapults, trebuchets, ballistas, any sort of heavy projectile. If you're being realistic, such a large giant would likely move quite slow. But if you make it proportionally as agile as a human or something, it might be hard to land a hit with some of those. Then they'd have to resort to archers, but probably very large bows with heavier arrows, or crossbows. It might also take a very long time.

You might be thinking the giant can just stomp the archers. Nah. The archers scatter in a wide circle and it would take him a very long time to stomp each one.

Other more exotic options include setting a pitch trap. Spread some flammable stuff on the ground, and lure the giant in. Then set it on fire with burning arrows or a torch. This doesn't work if the giant's hide is valuable or something like that.

An interesting option would be to lure him near some tall fortress and throw boulders or boiling oil on him. Honestly with 61 m it's kind of clumsy to get him to a something tall enough. Maybe a canyon? But dropping rocks from above is kind of like throwing them with a catapult, so it's not that dramatic. However, you could for example have the giant crawl under a gatehouse and then have people throw things on him, it would make for an interesting scene.

Depending on how physically accurate the giant is, you could prepare various tripping traps like raised tripropes or chains, wet or icy stone, cartfulls of banana peels... If you're more on the realistic end of the spectrum, falling would be devastating to the giant. Plus infantry could rush in and stab him with spears or halberds. Alternatively, you could use caltrops, like upright sharp wooden logs hidden among wheatfield or tall grass, stuff like that.

But my favorite by far would be a sneak attack. Have scouts track the giant and wait for him to sleep. He would presumably sleep on the ground, if he has a giant bed you can bring siege ladders or climbing gear. Now that you got him, you can poison, stab, use a battering ram with a sharp tip, set on fire, do whatever you want really. You can have a guy climb inside his ear and carve up his brain from the inside. Shudder! If you want to go with plain old stabbing, probably it would have to be synchronized so that everyone stabs at the same time, on command, since he'll start waking up from the pain.

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The giant has to sleep sometime

Gulliver meets the Lilliputians enter image description here

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Why complicate things? Just make an extra large ballista. Shouldn't present a particularly complicated engineering task.

"Use more gun."

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What is the medieval equivalent of Lego?

As many commenters above have noted, the heavier you are, the more your weight pushes down onto the ground, and this means you can be more hurt by falls. You can also be more hurt by sharp things on the ground. This is why a child can gleefully romp around a room full of Lego bricks, but an adult suffers excruciating pain from a barefoot step onto a single Lego.

Now imagine how much your giant would suffer from stepping on these toys!

Naturally, this doesn't apply if your Giant wears shoes.

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