I'm am currently creating a world in which wood is not used as a resource because it is not available. People can use stone, reed or other plants, but not wood. To specify; the world is in medieval like times and revolves around big cities, with no countrysides.

Which things in daily life would be different? I already thought about how doors and furniture and such would be made different, from plants and stone, but what other things am I missing? Does it have a major impact on how people live or is the difference debatable?

To give some more examples, for instance, how would light and heat work without wood? Can fire be made easily with plants, or will it be something else? Or, what kind of tools do need wood to work and would now be completely different? And as for cooking and such, do you still have pots the same way but just all made of steel and stone, or does the absence of wood change it?

  • $\begingroup$ Long ago they couldn't make pressboard out of plant fiber... you could still frame with steel. There are plenty of others for heat... $\endgroup$
    – J. Musser
    Feb 7, 2016 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ What is "reet"? The only definition I could find was: "good, proper, excellent," 1934, jazz slang, from American English dialectal pronunciation of right" from Dictionary.com $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Feb 7, 2016 at 3:19
  • $\begingroup$ Oops, a typo. I meant reed. $\endgroup$
    – Noralie
    Feb 7, 2016 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Noralie there you go! $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Feb 7, 2016 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ What does 'no countrysides' mean. Without surrounding farmlands cities would starve. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2016 at 6:03

2 Answers 2


The people of the world would survive quite well and probably be as good as us.

The main things we use would for are:


The cities have large underground tunnels so coal should be easyish to get. Even without coal you could burn dung, dried out plants or even natural gas. Probably dung is best as in a city space is valued so having special farms just producing plants to burn is wasteful.


If the people are skilled enough with tools they could carve stone tables and chairs although chairs may want some form of reed cover to make them more comfortable. For more portable chairs they could use bamboo.


Bows wood be difficult to make so slings may be the main form of ranged weaponry. You can make bamboo backed bows but but you still need another wood to use on the belly of the bow. Spears could use bamboo shafts or bone from a creature like a horse or other long straight boned creature. The same could be used for axes. If they are skilled in metal work then they could have metal shafts. Shields could be made from metal although this is heavy, ceramics although these are also heavy and not brilliantly strong, or maybe (not sure if this would have enough strength) woven reeds in bundles tied together covered by leather. This would be padded enough to weaken blows and hopefully swords would get buried n the reeds and be torn from the attackers hand.

Plates, bowls, cooking equipment etc

Use ceramics, they are easy enough to make and durable, strong and where used in real life.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't want to imagine how would cooking food with dungs feel, but it's still a possibility. $\endgroup$
    – a1901514
    Feb 7, 2016 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ @a1901514 Which would you prefer, dung cooked food or no food? $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2016 at 20:10

There are plants that convert well to make supportive fiber and/or structures. The first two that come to mind are hemp and bamboo.

Although I'm pretty sure at least one of the above can be burned, it's common in Plains cultures to burn animal dung, especially horse, for heat.

As for building, the Jews/Egyptians were quite successful at using bricks made of mud and straw

I don't see why cookware would be anything but metal.

Cooking fires would probably be coal in areas with industrialization. Gunpowder was available in the West by the 12th century and perhaps 200 years earlier in China. It was used like lighter fluid (and really cool fireworks before some stupid male decided you can kill people with it).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You forgot to mention native Eskimos and other peoples that used animal bones, such as whale bones for tools and structures. Also, pretty sure that fireworks came a lot later, after people started killing each other with gunpowder. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2016 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ Fireworks is true; although, not by the modern definition. Good call on the bones--my list wasn't meant to be exhaustive. $\endgroup$
    – Stu W
    Feb 7, 2016 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ Cookware could be ceramic, easier to make than metal, $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2016 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ Sure! Again my list wasn't meant to be exhaustive. I'm currently writing historical fiction 15th century. Metal seemed ubiquitous in Western Europe (although the ovens were often ceramic), but ceramic seemed more common in Ottoman Empire heading east. Cannons and early firearms, dating to the 13th century, were usually a hybrid of the two: the firing chamber was metal and the barrel was ceramic. The heavy cannons used by the Turks in the siege of Constantinople in 1451 could shoot a projectile up to a mile. It required about 50 horse and 300 men to move. $\endgroup$
    – Stu W
    Feb 7, 2016 at 21:29

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