Suppose a school was founded in a remote mountain valley centuries ago by the first representative of a now-prominent deity. This valley has a forest with a river flowing through it; there are no major settlements nearby at the time of its founding.

Rather than teaching arithmetic and language skills, this educational institution provides instruction in fields such as advanced/obscure magic; military tactics; martial skills, such as swordsmanship and wrestling; politics; animal husbandry; and survival. Essentially, this institution trains heroes.

Instruction is performed in a master-apprentice-style relationship. Each instructor has one to three students at a time and spends a considerable amount of time working one-on-one with each of them.

The intent of this institution's mountain location was to make it independent of the money and politics of the surrounding country. However, resources are significantly harder to acquire and maintain as a result.

What steps should the institution take to ensure its continuing economic and political independence without moving from its founding location?

Answers identifying why this continuing independence is impossible are also welcome.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How does Hogwarts stay hidden, and why can't you use a similar technique? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Sep 28, 2018 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ It started out remote, but became a major center of industry and commerce over time, and is now a kingdom in its own right with the school presiding over the kingdom. Kind of like the kingdom of Magnostadt in Magi. $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    Sep 28, 2018 at 11:34

6 Answers 6


I agree with AndreiROM, however he overlooked the more base level needs of survival.

Food, water, shelter, cloths, weapons, repair materials ect.

You could use some of the ties established by AndreiROM to draw in money to buy such things, but then you start to lose a level of independence.

So you need fertile land to grow food and a source of fresh water. Shepherding (or goat herding) would probably be efficient. It takes fewer people, while providing food (meat and dairy) and cloths.

You'll need weavers (or tanners) to make the cloths and a blacksmith to repair weapons.

You will need a population that can supply enough of these to support your population of trainees.

Once the school is built trainees could probably handle maintenance to the building.

You still need to buy swords and armor and books though.

So there should be some resource that you export so you have money to buy such things.

Perhaps expert weavers? (You already need to make your own cloths)

Alcohol? Monastic schools have already established a tradition of this.

Finely crafted weapons and Armour? This makes thematic sense, however it is difficult to transport the materials for this into a remote area. You could have a natural mine or two in the area, but then you need an even larger populace to run the mine, and to feed the miners. (maybe just a gold or gem mine, but the high innate value of this would draw national attention)

Rare herbs or medicines?

Whatever you chose to export has to have a high cost to weight ratio to make it worth transporting from the remote area. (Exporting mutton would not be worth the effort)

Or perhaps there is an incredibly tumultuous river flowing from the school into civilization. A skilled navigator can make it over the many waterfalls and through the myriad rapids to sell a larger bulk of goods. Then transports the smaller quantity of needed good back.


This institution trains people in skills which are potentially valuable, or dangerous to the host country.

If a kingdom/country has a very volatile relationship with a neighbor, yet you train recruits of that nationality who later become their greatest generals you will shoulder the blame for those defeats.

Similarly, if a hero trained by you ends up becoming a villain your school will face a lot of political and popular opposition.

This institution will have to survive by one of several means (and they are not mutually exclusive):

1. Political Ties

Their leader could embrace politics and be sure to become the desired destination of every major noble in the surrounding kingdoms. Since no one would want their sons/daughters to be rejected your institution could become a bit like Switzerland: neutral ground where students of enemy nations study side by side.

This is not to mean that the political landscape might not become incredibly hostile, and your school might not suffer, but nothing in life is certain.

2. Military Power

Your students are going to be instructed by some of the greatest heroes who have ever lived (former students, of course). These heroes might posses such a reputation, and such powers that local leaders would be afraid to challenge them in the field.

Their reputation alone might be enough to ensure that no one short of a suicidal nobleman would challenge their independence.

Soldiers might refuse the orders to attack based on their respect, or fear for the heroes in question.

3. Powerful Wards

Your school was established on a magical node, which allowed the mages who built it to weave incredibly powerful protective spells around it. Those you do not wish to find their way to your gates will find themselves turned around and lost in the woods.

Only the most powerful scrying magic may even locate your general location! An attacking army would find itself seeing various illusions and hallucinations which would drive them mad, or simply confuse them.


Depending on the parameters of your universe the school stands a good chance of being able to maintain its independence. Of course, a certain suspension of disbelief is also required. That, or some very convenient circumstances.

  • $\begingroup$ On the "Political Ties" part.. The famous and revered Heroes and Heroines of the surrounding nations will most likely be Alumni, since that's what the school does: "this institution trains heroes". So, any Politician who tries to interfere with the school will be probably be derided by them and lose popularity. Any military commander who tries to take it by force will find his greatest fighters respond "Yeah... Nope. We're not doing this.". And, that also gives you a network of outside aid sending Gold or resources back to the school... $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2018 at 14:49

The school will need to be completely self sufficient

...with as few external dependencies as possible.

If the school isn't self sufficient, then anything it needs can be held at ransom by the surrounding polities till the school capitulates. The easiest way to achieve radical self-sufficiency is with a strong school culture of self reliance and asceticism. Basically, "if it's not made here, we can do without it."

The likelihood that absolute self-sufficiency can be achieved is frankly very low. It's very easy to grow dependent on an external source of high quality goods such as steel, where the internal economies of scale just don't permit sufficiently high quality goods to be made at the school. (Steel is a good example. Iron smelters grow more efficient as they increase in volume. It's unlikely that the school will want to invest 100M doubloons on a smelter when they can just trade a few rare medicinal flowers for a few tons of steel.)

Many trading partners

In the cases where self sufficiency isn't possible, work hard to establish alternate trade routes and trading partners to acquire those goods/services. Recognize that the school's enemies may conspire to shut off a particular trade good to gain leverage over the school. The broader the supplier set, the harder it will be for enemies to gain leverage.


Lastly, be so bad-ass that no one would think to challenge you or anger you. Become that world's equivalent of the Swiss, armed to the teeth but neutral.


There are a few avenues to (further) explore here.


Consider tuition. It would be pretty reasonable to require a prospective student to either bring or otherwise help provide their own clothing and food for the duration. Start with the hunting and farming classes, and the youngest students may well be able to provide for the whole community. This is particularly true if you have different 'majors'. Farmers may show up for a year or two of husbandry and agriculture training. Goats should help make use of the higher altitude lands. Throw in something like X measures of workable metal, magic crystals, and/or other resources, and your tuition should keep you self-sufficient.


The political landscape here reminds me of the early stories in Asimov's Foundation series. If you provide succor to several nations more or less equally, you might be able to strike a balance. Anyone who wants to attack you for your knowledge and training will end up facing the others, who would all rather not lose their access.

And of course their access would be in the form of having the noble children trained by the best. 'Students' may become another way to spell 'Hostages'.


You would, for the noblest of reasons, send out representatives of $deity to help heal the sick, teach people to grow crops better, and help build stronger buildings. Throw in the occasional natural disaster relief effort. Anyone advocating attacking you is basically asking the population to defy their deity and attack the Red Cross. Not exactly a recipe for popular support.


Depending on how far you'd like to go with the deity theme, consider requiring all priests to be trained there. Any time someone starts to stir up people against the institution, start sermonizing about faith and justice rather than obedience.


A valley like that provides an endless supply of potable water as well as likely a few natural choke points. If an army does manage to get in, they're fighting a bunch of independent survivalists on their own terrain. Sounds like a recipe for guerilla warfare to me. Since the timescale is hundreds of years, I don't see a reason why this couldn't be heavily fortified.


Not much was said about the magic system here, except that it's 'advanced' or 'obscure'. Depending on how it is defined, there are an infinite number of uses for it. Mind reading/controlling nearby nobles, tunneling out an underground village, and calling down avalanches all come to mind.


You are training heroes as you said it. Thus, all economic problems can be expected to be solved by an honorary "rule of the cent" or something, where a hero sends a fraction of his earnings/prizes back to said school.

On political/military independence, I'd just be copying the rest, pick any of those suggestions.[but just being high up in the mountains/remote is enough of a deterrent. Combined with not-really-being-wealthy (meaning there is no reason to go for you) and everyone there being more than a good fighter, and no one will attack)]


The school is just a cabin and has only one professor. The professor has a lifestyle much like that of Captain Fantastic. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to stock a house with supplies for a year for four people, specially if survival training is involved, and if you do your own hunting and farming. You don't need to do groceries very often if you are a good planner - a one day per year trip to the civilized world will do. To stay away from politics, go shopping covertly, and to stay away as much as possible from money, sell your excess produce.

If that single professor is willing to give online classes, then they only have to store supplies for one, and can use bitcoin (or manacoin, since magic is involved) to be even less dependent on the local economy.


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