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I am thinking of making a world, using the Earth as a template, that is in "sort-of" Medieval ages, but at peace. In other words unlike our own Medieval times people and countries are not constantly waging war with each-other, but have settled in a lasting peace, like the world of today (EDIT: I meant that there are no open scale grand wars between everyone, not that today it's all sunshine and rainbows. :) ).

This poses a problem, however. Since I want it to be a fantasy world I want it to have all sorts of fantasy races: elves, dwarves, orcs, etc. But taking the orcs as an example - they are a warring race, not only are they depicted in nearly every work as warriors, but I want mine to be warriors as well. But how do you keep a warring race warlike in times of peace?

We all know that military forces only weigh down a nation in times of peace. Today most of the world's military (ok, disregard recent events) probably performs more rescue/public service tasks than actually fight. And I am also posing this question for warrior tribes. I was thinking, for example, of having a clan of dwarves that are exceptionally warriors and rely on other dwarven settlements to provide them with food and etc. in exchange for protection, fighting and etc. But in a time of lasting peace no one would be so willing to give them free food for nothing.

EDIT: This question has received many wonderful answers and I still can't decide which one to pick as the "correct answer", because there are so many deserving it! Since that I decided to amend my idea a bit and still have various conflicts in my world. Still, the question is very interesting to me and I will rephrase it, so that it is more clear:

What I was initially asking was if we take as an example a tribe of orcs that are pillagers - viking like, but on land only, they survive by fighting with everyone else and taking their stuff for themselves, if suddenly we wave our hand and everyone is at complete and total peace the orcs would be unable to raid anyone, because then everyone else (not just the pillagee) will band against them. So how would such a tribe composed mostly of warriors survive in this new situation?

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  • $\begingroup$ To wage war, you need someone to be at war with. Since you don't want your countries to be at war, they could be fighting bands of rogues, or some more or less sapient animals. $\endgroup$ – Burki Oct 13 '15 at 8:17
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't know that we'd settled into a lasting peace today? $\endgroup$ – Michael McGriff Oct 13 '15 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ Completely peaceful, and Earth-like just don't go together. Even during the Pax Romana, or the height of Chinese empires when things were "Peaceful" there were still rebellions, border conflicts, clan wars etc. A world where no one is fighting isn't realistic, I don't say this to be negative, but its the truth. $\endgroup$ – James Oct 13 '15 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ Are you comfortable with your question being translated "How do you engage in war without engaging in war?" Because you are trying to have a near contradiction in your world, careful choice of wording will be important. Can you add some definition to the concept of "warring" that you want? And can you work with a culture that you cannot tell whether they are still warring or not? (i.e. from the outside, you can't tell if they have turned their swords in for plowshares or not) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 13 '15 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ "But in a time of lasting peace no one would be so willing to give them free food for nothing." - See Dragon Riders of Pern and the Night's Watch in Game of Thrones for examples of how warriors are treated when the reason for their existence has faded from current culture $\endgroup$ – JBCP Oct 13 '15 at 21:37

15 Answers 15

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One reason we talk about the Asian Martial Arts instead of their European counterparts is that while Europe was in a near constant state of warfare, the Asian nations experienced long periods of peace. This allowed and required the warriors to codify systems for learning their fighting arts and kept the martial arts stable enough for to form styles that survived after their original purpose was no longer relevant.

This sounds a lot like your scenario.

So warrior people would even at times of peace consider themselves warriors. They'd carry their weapons with them. Armor would be too inconvenient, though. Think Japanese samurai with their two swords or European noblemen with their fencing blades. They'd spend lots of time practising their weapon skills in dojos or salles established for that purpose and managed by more or less reputable masters. The skills taught would over time become less useful for warfare and more weighted towards peacetime interests. Dueling, sport contests, self defense, even purely artistic forms.

This warrior caste would be supported by a society of non-warriors. They might even be banned from carrying weapons or at least weapons associated with their betters. This is typical for stable societies that want to discourage peasant rebellions. An entire warrior race would need to subjugate another race to supply them with food and service. Essentially it would be the normal caste (or class) system but with classes based on race. India used to have such a system after the Aryans conquered it. So your Orcs would strut around with their weapons, while their Goblin or Human servants would scurry around doing the work.

The reason why people would put up with having to upkeep warriors is obvious. The warriors have weapons and the training to use them. Workers generally would be banned access to both weapons and serious training.

Of course wide spread wars mess a system like this up with need for mercenaries and conscripts opening up the system for commoners. But with your assumed long term peace a rigid class division between noble warriors and common workers and tradesmen would be the likely result. The warriors would then have the weapons and the training to use them as central part of their identity. A code of chivalry or bushido or some similar honor code system would follow.

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    $\begingroup$ I really like this, and it would provide an interesting dimension to Orcs that you don't normally see in all the tropes. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Oct 13 '15 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ One problem with martial arts is that they can become too codified to be useful for actual fighting. For example suspect that many kendo practitioners would make lousy sword fighters. $\endgroup$ – CodesInChaos Oct 14 '15 at 17:11
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Would Civil war work in your world? Orcs are traditionally arranged into clans or 'camps' while only engaging in all-out war externally when a strong enough leader comes along to organise their rabble. This would also explain why your other races don't wipe them out, they're no threat while they continue to fight themselves.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think this is the most "classic" solution for such a thing (in regards to Orcs). If being strong Warriors is important, the leaders might be the strongest Warriors, proven by combat with their peers. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Oct 13 '15 at 19:41
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I see 2 big options to warrant the necessity of keeping a standing army in peacetime:

  1. Have regular organized international/interracial war games. Then you can play on the patriotism of each race to motivate keeping a well trained army on standby.

    This has the danger of making the army a bit too geared towards the games and their rules. This could make them useless in a real battle against a opponent that doesn't follow the rules.

  2. Make the world dangerous enough that a standing army is needed. Bandits, large predators, etc. They would patrol the lands to keep the people safe.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the second option. I was thinking of making it a horror-world and that would give me the option to have "neutral territories" that would be places so full of horrors - no country wants them in their borders. :) All in all a lot of good answers and I am sorry I can't mark more than one. :/ $\endgroup$ – mathgenius Oct 13 '15 at 9:57
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Sports!
The US states are generally in a state of peace with each other, and which has lasted for 150 years.

But there are still rivalries and even occasional violent flareups, where top warriors battle each other for supremacy.

In a world where different races are in peace, there would still be rivalries, both between races and within them, and focusing those passions into less violent channels, like sports, would be a way to diffuse things.

Some races would be better at different sports naturally. For instance Elves would probably be pretty good at soccer, being light on their feet and very coordinated. Dwarves would probably be better at something like rugby, where hitting each other is a big part of the game.

Grid iron football would possibly be a place where they could mingle, as you need some people that are very fast to be receivers, and some who are brutes to be blockers, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ And, on a larger scale, also known as the Olympics. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Oct 13 '15 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ I want to see a Dwarven lineout! $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Oct 13 '15 at 23:52
  • $\begingroup$ I appreciate your answer, but I don't think the point of US Marines or Navy Seals is to participate in such games at peacetime. :D And that is my question about. $\endgroup$ – mathgenius Oct 14 '15 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, there are events like the SWAT World Challenge and SWAT Tactical World Cup (corporately organized commercial events) and the Combat Team Conference (hosted by the German Federal Police's SWAT unit, GSG9), and I'm willing to bet that there are less public events for units like Delta Force, SEALs, Green Berets, Marine Force Recon, and their international counterparts (e.g. the German Navy's "Kampfschwimmer" or German Army's KSK). $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Oct 14 '15 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @mathgenius Actually, as Frostfyre points out, it's a bit like the Olympics, and if you look up how the Olympics started, it was Greek city states which occasionally fought each other sending their best warrior athletes to compete against each other instead of fighting. Events like javelin (weapon), hammer (weapon), wrestling (unarmed combat), etc. are all things that would have been useful for a trained warrior. Also, though I used human sports as examples, the sports each race played would be different than what we play. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Oct 14 '15 at 17:57
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There may be peace here, but that's no reason why your warrior clans can't sail to far off lands looking for treasures and spoils, etc. possibly like the European empires. Your dwarven clan may send its members off on expeditions to retrieve treasures which they bring back and trade for food (perhaps the have a rotating "tour of duty"), and may have to fight with natives.

Likewise your Orcish clans may do the same thing.

In fact they might even meet in whatever "new world" they go to plunder and fight bloody battles there, even though technically they are at peace here.

Another idea is that it may be peace time but it's an uneasy peace, similar to the Cold War. Both Orcs and Dwarves have convinced their people that the standing army is the only thing stopping the other side from coming in and wiping out / enslaving / subjugating their race.

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Take a look at the Mayan People they had warfare to get slaves to sacrifice, even in peace time. They didn't consider their raids as an act of war but as a religious gesture.

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  • $\begingroup$ In other words you can fight without having a war, provided the questioner is happy to slide one use of the word "warring" to mean one and one to mean the other. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Oct 13 '15 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ You are right it is all a matter of definition, if you ask "can you have war without war" then you already answered the question so you would have to by default change a definition, eg. can you have religious war without having a conquest war? The attacks the mayan did was mostly "agreed upon raids". But i will let the questioner decide if the answer was usable for his specific case. $\endgroup$ – Magic-Mouse Oct 14 '15 at 5:48
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I see several possibilities for your world in general. And a few key points you should try to clarify in your world

  1. Our world (Earth) right now is not completely at peace, each nation is really only looking out for themselves, so espionage, sabotage, economic domination, pressuring, and war deterrents still exist on a national scale. This can be shown even more clearly in a medieval world in that caravans could be attacked, and posting armies near borders or hiring mercenaries could be used to pressure other countries,

  2. Orcs could be seen by the international community as a "lost cause". if treaties have been made and broken by the orcs in the past, the other races and communities may have had to subjugate the orcs. This could include military occupation of their land, trade embargoes to cripple them, and general disallowing them to take care and lead themselves. This concept also opens the door to guerrilla warfare on the part of the orcs, in the manner of groups created by the orcs, trying to break away from the countries oppressing them.

  3. Vast and widespread economic issues would result in much more need for warriors and armies. If the vast majority of the world is in extreme poverty, warriors would be in high demand for protection of the wealthy against bandits, thieves, and uprisings/riots. This concept would also allow for plot developments involving the morals of the mercenaries in that the people the work are corrupt.

  4. Also consider having either a primitive race that isn't intelligent enough to engage in peace talks, so protection will be needed against them, or an extinct, highly advanced race that left mechanical or magical creations roaming the land/protecting ruins. (If you have them protecting ruins, the knowledge seeking elves would have a need for warriors/adventurers).

  5. I also like some of the other answers that were posted, like the idea of large predators and wars self contained inside individual races.

  6. Final quick random thought, could a type of portal be opened with another world requiring warriors/adventurers to explore it be opened? Or maybe there is some sort of terrorist / anti - establishment / anti - treaty organization exist that requires the countries involved in the peace to pool resources? Just a thought

EDIT

  1. In response to your clarification, It seems to me that you are looking at a scenario where one of your races loses their will to live/purpose in life. If it is such a peace where they cannot even really attack each other then I see several things happening to the orcs. Each group will deal with it differently. Some may go on individual suicide runs where they try to kill as many as possible before being defeated, and I also see groups of orcs just wasting away their time, drinking and loafing around, growing weaker while not doing any work, and then become passive about the world in general. This opens the door to a smart orc character that tries to get the orcs to adapt to their new situation, while the world (and the orcs who die without another hope) prove him wrong in the eyes of the orcs, that everything is hopeless/pointless

  2. Also maybe think about adding some ridiculously strong orc king/orc guard/magic control power that don't allow orcs to fight, thus making them even more passive (Think humans after many loved ones die, the one left drinking and cursing the world). Also kill off any "Kamikaze" orcs quickly, to drive in the point that it is hopeless and depressing that even the ones who decide to go out like a proud member of the orc race are not allowed to do so and die immediately. This is where some OP magic or honor guard could come into play.

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    $\begingroup$ Orcs don't break treaties. They typically break much harder things, like bones or armour. $\endgroup$ – Burki Oct 13 '15 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ I like your ideas, but (as I will edit in my question) my point is more in the line of "how will a race/tribe of warriors that is used to move as a warband fare in a world, where everyone else is at peace and attacking any one will result in the world decimating them" or stuff. :) $\endgroup$ – mathgenius Oct 14 '15 at 7:19
  • $\begingroup$ Take a look at my edit, I'm not sure if that's 100% what you are asking, but there are another couple ideas for the pile :) $\endgroup$ – BackwardsBear Oct 14 '15 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ That edit gives very good ideas! Thank you very much! $\endgroup$ – mathgenius Oct 16 '15 at 13:26
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Have them fight amongst themselves till there's a major external threat. Keep the local fighting small scale since few in the tribes will want to get killed in minor scuffles that don't really matter.

If the aim of "being at war during peace" is to provide the tactical and strategic flexibility to fight new foes, your armies are unlikely to get that from inter-tribal warfare. Everyone knows everyone else's tactics and there isn't any pressure to develop new tactics.

If the aim of "being at war during peace" is just to maintain a warlike culture and the discipline required for such a culture then light inter-tribal warfare would be sufficient.

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Doomsday Preppers

They're at peace now. But that's not always going to be the case. You can have them be in a constant state of readiness for an upcoming war.

One big reason for having them be ready for war is if there's a religious component to it. Not necessarily "other peoples are scum and we must conquer them" (which goes counter to being at peace), but more along the lines of "Ragnarök is coming": Some day in the future, the gates of hell/heaven/the dungeon dimensions (pick according to alignment) will open and the world will be filled with demons/angels/unspeakable horrors. When that day comes - and it could be at any time - true warriors must be prepared to fight for good/evil/order/chaos.

So the society lives in a state of constant readiness to put warriors on the fields of Armageddon. This could also be interpreted as a reason why such a vicious and warlike race will make peace with other races - why waste time with pointless wars which risk valuable warriors' lives? Make peace with dwarves/elves/humans, and save your energy for the battles which will really matter. (Besides, those dwarves make nice armor that might come in handy ...)

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting angle, I like it. Welcome to the site. $\endgroup$ – James Oct 13 '15 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ Your idea is really nice, but the main problem I am trying to figure out (will edit original question) is - in peace time warriors are a burden to a tribe/government/whatever, they do not work, do not plow, do not hunt, do not harvest, they only consume, which is a burden and causes a strain to the economic system. So what would a tribe full of warriors do if at peace? $\endgroup$ – mathgenius Oct 14 '15 at 7:22
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Economic warfare is a way to continue the tension. Depending on the technology level economic warfare can be overt but deniable - for example - privateers; or with higher tech economic espionage and sabotage of infrastructure techniques can be used.

Preparation for future conflict is another possibility - the idea of smuggling in small nuclear weapons and assembling them inside major enemy cities in case war breaks out. Although in a fantasy setting "nuclear weapons" would be replaced by (say) delayed action gates to bring in a demon.

There might also be an equivalent to the arms race but for spells/devices.

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"The Orcs have always been at war with the Dwarves".

Wars are primarily a tool by which the ruling classes of a country control the working classes.

This is just as true in Orc clans as it is in early 20th century Europe, or an idyllic Elven forest city.

Orcs are an unruly lot, driven only by plunder. What is an Orc Chieftan to do if he wants to stop the lesser members of his clan challenging him to Grush'Klath (a duel to the death using goblins as improvised weapons with the survivor being named Chieftan)? Find his boyz some plunder.

But the Orc Chieftan didn't get his position by being foolish. He knows that taking a fortified Dwarven city has a good chance of weakening his horde, and if that were to happen, the Skullsmashers clan that lives in the next valley would finish the job that the dwarves started.

So the Orc chieftan takes an outlying dwarven village, that is curiously abandoned by its former occupants, who must have fled in such a hurry that they couldn't take their gold with them. The Orcs take their plunder back to their warren, and spend the next month spending their coin, making up increasingly elaborate stories about the extent of the defences that the village the plundered had, and being glad that they had had an empty village to raid, unlike the Western Hills tribe, who had stormed a village defended by flame throwers and steam tanks (or so the story goes).

Meanwhile, the Dwarven Forman, having wisely withdrawn his workers from the village to prevent violence, shurgged his shoulders and returned to his ledgers. In his 'expenses' column he wrote, "Orc raid took 200 gold pieces, or 3% of today's revenue."

Meanwhile:


A sly Elf Prince slips from the forest city to set alight a tranquil corner of the forest, to turn the populace's attentions to their hatred of the goblins, and away from the worrying problem of how a race so long lived was having such a significant population decline.


The Royal Guard of the Court of King Gerald sigh, as they scatter Dark Elf arrowheads around the nunnery to hide their King's unsavory appetites.


The gnome inventor looked around at the destruction he had wrought on his laboratory with his latest experiment. He mused to himself, "I doubt the insurance company knows what a lab looks like when it has been flattened by giants."


A phony war has all the advantages of a real war, without all those pesky disadvantages.

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  • $\begingroup$ Uh-h-h-h-h... I think you are getting a little sidetracked. $\endgroup$ – mathgenius Oct 14 '15 at 7:30
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Take inspiration in modern worldwide political setting (Cold war with less tension).

Nations are not at war with each other, don't attack each other directly. but lead proxy "wars" in minor nations.

Your world nations could be cool with each other, trade, their leaders hugging each other, and in meanwhile their soldiers kill each other somewhere far away for any non-relevant reason.

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There is always fighting.

Even when there are no large-scale wars, there will always be small-scale violence in form of more or less organized criminals or local uprisings. The most warlike individuals of your warrior races could be in high demand to fight in these conflicts as mercenaries on either side.

In a fantasy scenario, there might also be aggressive monsters roaming the world, so hiring a few well-trained warriors as bodyguards will be a smart decision for any traveler. And is there is a wyfern eating your sheep, an earth elemental squatting in your mine or do the corpses at your graveyard have problems staying dead since that necromancer did that completely harmless ritual? Fear not, and hire the brave dwarfen warriors of Clan Mighty-Axe. And just this year, first-time customers get 10% discount (not combinable with other bonus programs).

Suppress them.

When the orcs were defeated in a war and the winning forces are too ethical to genocide the whole orc species, they will try to suppress and re-educate the orcs by forbidding them from forming armies. An effort which might work for a few years, but is certainly doomed to fail in the long term as the orc nature will not take such a humiliation for long.

Cold war situation

The world is officially at peace, but all sides are preparing for battle. One faction started to train troops (like the dwarfs out of tradition or the orcs out of habit), so others need to do the same to avoid being crushed should that one faction ever decide to declare war. While the borders are open and the diplomats of all factions are happily feasting at the same table, their armies are grinding their blades preparing for a war which everyone hopes won't come soon. As long as every side has their standing armies, no side will dare to wage a costly war. But as soon as one side starts to show weakness by sending their soldiers back to the farms and melt their swords into plows, they will be easy prey.

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+1 for the Asian martial arts answer. Also how about the ancient Roman army system? They had periods of peace interspersed with periods of war/revolt. It was the army soldiers that built their famous roads, bridges and aqueducts, had the best of engineers and artisans and acted as the judiciary/lawkeepers in very far-flung provinces. They had their 'system' - training schools, professional contracts lasting 20 years, military code and duties - to keep them fighting fit in peacetime. And there was always the threat of bandits, revolts, squabbles escalating, attacks from the surrounding tribes as well as the need to appear strong and cohesive to deter invaders, as a form of political and psychological show, etc. Lots of possibilities there.

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Economy is a trick you can use. Some people have entirely focussed on warfare and booty to stay at the top. Examples are Mongols under Gangez Khan and Halagu Khan. Muslims of medieval times thrived on that strategy for some 3-4 centuries or so. So did French and British from 18th to 20th century, only these Europeans invested time and effort in the defeated countries to milk them out with taxes for a long time to come. Same applies to Aztecs.

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And another trick economy offers you is that you could have your people fight for market dominance. If you are preparing leather armor and another nation is also preparing leather armor (for export), you two are going to be trade-rivals. And if somehow your rival is gaining markets and your product is going down on popularity, you would very much love to invade them to either capture their skilled workers or destroy their production plants so that there is no competition.

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Yet another option that connects economy with warfare is mercenary armies. How and when you use them, is your own choice.

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Another economy-related reason is over natural resources. Since we are talking medieval times here, it could be gold mines, diamond mines, silver mines, iron reserves, butimen and naphtha reserves (crude oil, basically). These are things which occur naturally and you cannot produce them. So if there is an unexploited natural reserve that occurs in a region where it's in shortage, there are high chances countries/tribes would fight for it.

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Another economy-related reason for warfare is the control of important trade routes. If trade caravans have limited number of routes from one place to another, some warrior peoples would always want to control those routes, clean them of all pirates, robbers etc and then officially tax the caravans.

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And then there is a geographical reason other than economy and trade routes. Some places are naturally the first option for settling. Close to rivers or lakes (freshwater supply), fertile soil, far from volcanoes or seismic-belts and plenty of wildlife to hunt. Such a place is worth fighting for, in medieval times, simply because all people want to settle there.

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