My planet's features, such as mountains, plains, and rivers were formed because the Tolks, people with superhero-like qualities, used it as a battlefield. They have offensive and defensive abilities like teleporting, long-range elimination, and disabling the opponent. Later, it became inhabited by Grundasians (the natives, which are unsophisticated like humans). It takes a long time for superheroes in movies to defeat each other, compared to humans. I don't want the war to take up most of my timeline. If my Tolks were organized in armies against each other, would the war last a long time compared to a battle between my natives?


closed as primarily opinion-based by Vincent, bowlturner, overactor, James, Shokhet Nov 26 '14 at 20:44

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  • $\begingroup$ It is far more likely that the natives will perish not by warring among them, but as a side-effect of the wars between superheros. $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa Nov 25 '14 at 4:42
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    $\begingroup$ Hey, welcome to WorldBuilding, and thanks for the interesting question! ....as it stands, I think your question is a little too broad, because I have no idea what powers your superheroes have (and, more importantly, which they don't), nor if they are as vulnerable as regular human beings are. I would encourage you to edit your question to fix that up, and then ping me in comments here [ @Shokhet ] so I can attempt an answer :) $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Nov 25 '14 at 4:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yep super-powers are like magic and can be pretty much anything $\endgroup$ – Vincent Nov 25 '14 at 5:09
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    $\begingroup$ Wars last until someone wins. Your superhero war will last so long as neither side can get the upper hand. You can therefore shorten the war by making one side have the advantage over the other, either in numbers or in quality (or both). It's worth noting that superhero movies tend to have the heroes behave more morally than average people. If your Tolks have a more typical human level of morality, they may find it easier to win. $\endgroup$ – Brythan Nov 25 '14 at 5:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah I can't see how superpowers (unless specifically designed to do so, which could certainly be done) are relevant to the length of combat. $\endgroup$ – James Nov 26 '14 at 16:44

I'll try the no answer as it's a bit of a pet peeve...unless the superpower is 'indestructible', battles between superhumans would be insanely quick. Most superhumans are granted powers that greatly enhance their offensive capabilities, but rarely come with defensive benefits beyond the physical endurance of an extremely fit human. If you can leap over a building in a single bound, what exactly prevents you from going splat on the other side?

Movies (and comics for that matter) have a poor effect on this, that is well illustrated by the Mike Myers 'Austin Powers' series. In particular, Dr.Evil and Scotty Evil debating what to do with a captured Agent Powers. Scotty is the realistic one with his "let's shoot him!" approach, but 'Scotty, no' comes up and Dr.Evil insists on a elaborate plan to kill Austin Powers, all overseen by one inept guard. Most movies depend on this... a superhero can only be overcome by a supervillain after all, and a common trait among all supervillains is the conceited need to gloat over a captured opponent instead of finishing them off, revealing the extent of their evil plan and forcing the hero to watch (and letting the hero survive and escape to foil them in the end). In a war situation, this need to gloat isn't shared by either side, and the 'finish them' mentality would be far more frequent.

The Transformers series can also be used here. In a series you start and end the episode in the exact manner it started (Simpsons Paradigm). No matter how badly beaten or close to destruction a Transformer is, in the series, they are back up and ready for battle in the next episode. The (ever so slightly) more realistic movies show these Transformers drop like flies as, there is no 'next episode'

I like the recent 'Flash' series component, in that he can run exceedingly quickly, but it still expends the energy of normal running and he is forced to consume massive amounts of food to keep himself going. War brings shortages, including food. If your superhumans consumed more resources on a day to day basis, then there would be added incentive to both sides to see a short war and not a protracted one.

Teleporting is also an interesting power to have here. Much of the long timeframe components in war is troop movement. Teleporting eliminates that.

So... my answer is No.

Movies are horribly incorrect. When you massively increase someone's offensive capabilities without a corresponding defensive increase, the battles will be significantly quicker. Riskier moves will be taken, the destruction will reach an absurd level, and it would be over in a heartbeat compared to our modern conflicts.


The reason why wars take as long as they do is mostly because of transportation and reconnaissance. The average soldier in the average war spends magnitude more time to travel to the battlefield and find the enemy than they spend actually engaged in combat.

For millennia, soldiers going to war traveled for months until they got to the enemy. The battle itself only took hours.

In the modern age where aircraft and motorization allow soldiers to get to the site of operation a lot quicker, the most time-consuming part of war is finding the enemy. Most modern wars are asymmetric. The side with the inferior position goes into hiding and uses guerrilla tactics so the superior side can not use their numerical advantage to overwhelm them. Instead, they need to patrol the whole theater searching for the enemy which is a very tedious and time-consuming activity (Vietnam war, Afghanistan-Soviet war, Chechen wars, Afghanistan-US war, to just name a few examples). These conflicts would end a lot quicker when it would be possible to easily detect the enemy locations so they can be engaged directly.

So when you give your Tolks not just the ability to travel quickly through teleportation but also the ability to detect their opponents easily over long distances, they can spend most of their time in direct combat which will end the war rather quickly.

This is simple math. When we grossly oversimplify the combat and assume that all combats are one-on-one duels to the death and each duel takes an hour (longer than the average showdown in the average superhero movie), the population will halve every hour. When we assume a population of 10 billion, it will take just 30 hours until there is just one survivor (logarithm to the base 2 of 10 billion). Even when you improve their defensive capabilities and endurance so that it takes a whole day of epic combat until one of them is killed, it would take merely a month until the conflict is over.


Yes, to a point. It would last longer, I couldn't begin to say how much longer though. If we look at progression in weapons, wars got longer and longer between equal powers while battles, if anything, got shorter. WWI was a big long affair because of trench warfare and that has to do with high firepower, relatively low mobility, and an imperfect mix of ranges as far as I understand it. Similarily long, The Cold War and likely any other WMD War to follow are long protracted affairs but are a little less "warlike". So you probably will hit a cliff at the WMD level where things happen instantly if allowed. Much more likely though is agreements banning such weapons and a cycle back into longer warfare styles. With superhumans you can't just ban things though, so if their power levels get to WMD then its up to the individual if they use it and level the playing field and wars do get shorter.

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    $\begingroup$ Not WWII, WWI was trench warfare. And the reason is because the technology at that time made the defender's advantage huge (MG nests...) $\endgroup$ – kutschkem Nov 25 '14 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ @kutschkem After getting out of my armchair and looking it up it seems they both did. I was definitely thinking of WWI though. Machine guns... Yeah that was what I was thinking on the range thing I just couldn't dredge up the particulars, seems the cementing factor was not enough mobility to make any other strategy worthwhile. $\endgroup$ – Black Nov 25 '14 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Black - tanks and planes provided a LOT of mobility in WWII. It took longer than WWI mostly because big players like USA and USSR came late to the party. $\endgroup$ – Darth Hunterix Nov 25 '14 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ @DarthHunterix Good point, I only meant to say that WWII had some trench warfare. I see my answer is still worded that is was the cause, which is wrong as you point out, so I'll change that to WWI to keep the message. $\endgroup$ – Black Nov 26 '14 at 7:03

The duration of a war is very hard to predict, but essentially comes down to a combination of factors:

  • Does technology (or super powers) favor defense over offense?
  • Are the sides cautious or aggressive?
  • The goals of the antagonists (for example if one side just wants to wipe out the other they will deploy much more devastating weapons than if they want to claim the other side's resources).
  • First strike advantage.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction.

So if you have two sides with cautious leaders and strong defenses you may never see open war and things can drag on for a very long time. Likewise Mutually Assured Destruction can lead to a standoff, often with a Cold War or Proxy War. On the other hand if offensive powers tend to win and the person who attacks first has an advantage and the two sides see no way to end this other than the death of all the others then both sides will tend to throw everyone at each other as fast as possible and the main war could burn out in as little as a few hours.


I'd say such war would end rather quickly. The closest thing we have to superheroes in the real world are special ops units, and their entire training is focused on one thing: bring the other guy down VERY fast.

When you see some competition between such guys you'll notice that they don't fuss around like in the movies - the fight takes seconds and ends the moment one guy gets the upper hand.

I suppose the battles between superheroes would be similar - they struggle for a couple of seconds, and then one guy is toast.

The only problem are those with teleportation, super-endurance, or ability to become incorporeal. They either will be deciding factor in each battle, or there will be some good counter-superpowers (like superspeed for telerporters, psychics for indestructibles, a good vacuum-cleaner for ghosts, etc).


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