Consider a world where the majority of creatures behave with might-makes-right rules. How could a pacifist race adapt its biological defenses or its society over years of evolution to protect themselves without harming the attacker?

The specific race of beings is considered a delicacy among other races.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site. I have flagged your question to be closed as it does not appear to be about world building in any appreciable way. Please take an opportunity to look at the help center for guidance on writing good questions and answers. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 19:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This sounds like it could be better suited for Puzzling instead of WorldBuilding. It'd need some clarification either way, though. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ You can edit your own question. I would change that spelling and add why you think it fits into a world building question. It's sentient. What world are you on? $\endgroup$
    – WRX
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 19:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If your question is truly about pacifism and self defense we have a question for that :) worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/27582/… $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ if someone wants to rephrase the question do it. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 21:15

6 Answers 6



From an evolutionary standpoint: traits that increase survivability are the ones that survive, right?
In a fight, freeze, or flight response, you make it sound that this race values the flight response the highest. Meaning that social pressures would reduce traits that increase the fight response, so stronger, bigger, sharp teeth, will probably not be passed along.


The freeze response will be taken into consideration, because possums are a decent real world example of it working. IF the race is easily frightened, this will probably be the response that is most commonly used, meaning that adaptation traits would follow this.
In a race that tends to freeze in the face of a threat, the traits that will allow survivability will be a couple of the basics.


if the creature faints and then skunks its predator, it will increase its chances of survival.


if the creature faints and tastes bad, it's not getting eaten, also increasing its survivability.


When freezing up, if the predator senses prey by movement, heartbeat, heat, or whatever, if the prey can diminish its detectability nearly instantaneously, it will survive.


The flight response would also be used by a pacifist creature. If they had strong wills and had any advantage over their predators, this response be the one that would probably increase the chances of surviving. Some of the traits that would follow this response are as follows.


The old adage "I don't have to be faster than a bear, I just have to be faster than the slowest person" would come into play heavily. Faster ones will survive, slower ones will die. The race will slowly become faster and faster.

Environment utilization

If they can swim better, if they can fly, if they can tunnel faster, swing from the trees, or jump longer distances, they will survive. The ones who use their environment better, along with their biological advantage, those are the ones who will survive.



No matter if the creature faints or flees. If it is blending into its environment, guess what, that's increasing its chances of surviving.


I know this would be primarily thought of as a fight strength, as bigger size means that it would be able to fight off predators easier. However, in a freeze response, the smallest ones would probably be the ones to survive. If I am chasing two dove for example, and they both faint, I'm taking the bigger one, not the smaller one.


The ability to sense danger increases the race's surviving. Whether it is hearing, smelling, or even sensing, advantages in one of the senses will enhance the race.
Size can come into play in a flight response as well. It kind of depends on the situation these two races belong to. If we look at the human/mammoths, the bigger ones survived due to the ability to withstand more attacks. If we look at cat/mouse, the smaller ones survived, being able to hide in more places.


No matter how you react to intense situations, how intelligent you are will change your chances of surviving. Curiosity killed the cat.


Obviously, the race's society will play into their surviving as well. A couple of things will allow them to survive, BUT as their societal surviving ability increases a few negatives come in. Look at humans, our society is what allows us to survive, put one of us with minimal gear anywhere, and we're pretty much dead. This will happen to any other race that relies on it's society instead of biology. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that if the society is willing to cut out the weak, or those who go against it, those members will die. Along with this, as the society develops larger and larger, it's death rates as a community will increase substantially. A 1000 person community might lose 1-5 people a year for example, a 100,000 person community will probably lose 1000-2000 people a year. Here's what societal traits will increase the races survivability.


If they are split up into tribes of 50-100, as opposed to one group of 1000, they will die easier. Strength comes in numbers.


As a community, how fast they develop ways to increase surviving will obviously change their survivability.


The biggest reason ants have survived as long as they have is because they live underground. Similarly, a race that exists on a different plane (ground, sub-terrestrial, super-terrestrial) as their predator has a better chance of surviving.


The ability to communicate with the predator in any way will increase survivability. This might be hard to understand, but tricking your prey is increasingly easier as you can be understood by them. This plays into intelligence as well, but can be considered its own trait.


You have a lot of thinking to do about the dynamics of your two races, here is a small list, if you have a more precise example, feel free to come back and I will help you understand the dynamics a little better. Hopefully this list helps, but there are many more traits that can increase or decrease survivability. When in doubt, look at nature.

  • $\begingroup$ Tribes: Your tribe idea is brilliant, it allows them to "spread" over a region to avoid being found, instead residing in a common place. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 7:04
  • $\begingroup$ In the society section you hinted the ability of races to sacrifice themselves to the hunter, to protect the rest. For example, one race could use this to negotiate with other races and agree to sacrifice a specific amount of population as a trading pact (for peace). $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 7:09

Be a turtle.

Turtles do exactly what you're describing. They taste delicious, do nothing to harm their attackers (with a few notable exceptions), and are nonetheless very successful in environments filled with dangerous predators. Their trick is to be so well armored that it's impossible for predators to eat them. Armadillos and pangolins do the same, to varying degrees of success.

Most other creatures, such as those that rely on speed to escape, are also prepared to fight. Rabbits with kick, mice will bite, and wildebeest will gore. Turtles, alone, are probably the only creature whose defenses render them almost utterly unable to respond to an attack with violence. They are the perfect template for a race of pacifists.

Your (presumably sentient) race could do the same: simply curl up in a ball every time one of the numerous dangerous predators they share their environment ambles by. An entire village could coordinate in doing this, giving them better chances at not being caught unaware and unprotected. As technology progresses, it could follow this same path, with progressively better defended fortress-like towns making it all but impossible for attackers to devour the inhabitants.

Simple fortifications could be combined with optimal town location to provide the best defense. Turtle people living in tunnels chiseled into the rock with thick, iron doors could repel most attackers without raising a finger.


Sharkn8do answer is the best. So I can add little, but here are my 2 cents.

Just expand on the tricks used by animals. Some hide on the numbers.

Some are not really pacifists, but use other species as protection, like aphids or some plants which attract or bribe ants into protecting them. If the cost of killing you is larger than the benefits, it protects you.

Some may give sacrifices. Some may turn themselves poisonous, some may use intrigue to manipulate other races on his benefit.

Some bovines kill or hurt another herbivore to distract predators towards the weakest prey.

Some animals choose to live on places and times were there are scarcest predators. That's why annual migrations exist, or some animals reproduce on harsh environments. Cicadas appear in large number on periods which are prime numbers, because it reduces the coincidence with the surge of predators which multiply on fixed periods.


The trick to living around more aggressive creatures that you don't want to harm is a careful definition of doing harm. Frankly, you can't stop a creature from doing harm to itself, so no pacifist can hold themselves truly responsible if another creature harms themselves. The trick, then, is to act in a way which puts them in a position where the more they try to harm you, the more likely it is that they will harm themselves.

The general technique is to identify the point where your opponent commits to an action -- the point where they cannot undo that action. For example, there's the point in a punch where they are no longer capable of actually pulling the punch, even if they wanted to. At this point, you can sense whether it will harm you. If it wont harm you, let it happen. There's a chance that the action will actually harm them (perhaps they throw their shoulder out). This could end the fight. On the other hand, if it would harm you, you move not to stop the motion, but to change it and shape it. You make it so that the motion cannot harm you, but rather propels you into a better position to prevent the next strike from harming you. If you can do this perfectly, every time, the opponent must eventually cause enough harm to themselves to stop the fight. The trick, of course, is how to do it perfectly.

Many Eastern martial arts strive towards this idea. You can spot them because they are the ones which suggest the first to move loses. These are great sources for inspiration for your creatures. In such arts, one uses the actions of the opponent to cause their own undoing. One such great example is Aikido. Now I am not an Aikido practitioner, so I cannot truly speak for the art, but I can paraphrase what I have been told about it. One thing I have been told is that a sign that you have done an Aikido throw correctly is that the opponents legs cartwheel over their head, completely out of the opponent's control. This only happens when they have gotten themselves so off balance that they decide the best course of action includes completely giving up on trying to do anything meaningful with their legs. Physically, you don't do anything except find clever subtle ways to let them put themselves into that position. (Aikido would say that, energetically, you merge with your opponent, but understanding what that means takes a bit more time and practice. The physical portion of the art is easier to see and demonstrate).

You can draw inspiration from any such martial art. Aikido just happens to be convenient because its results are reasonably easy to see in youtube videos. Regardless of which art you choose for inspiration, they follow the same pattern. You prevent the opponent from harming you, and put them into positions where it is easy for them to harm themselves instead. In the best of cases, you can do so with such finesse that your opponent is left smiling.


Run away

There are two basic responses to danger: to fight, and to flee. You've just eliminated one of them, which conveniently leaves one other option. Most animals that you'd consider "prey" do this in the real world, such as rabbits, wildebeests, deer, and quite a few fish species. It's the most realistic solution aside from attacking back.


Camouflage, or color and texture change, will suit your creatures. It won't save them from immediate danger, but in many instances it will be useful.

Wear armor

Whether your creatures evolve armor, similar to a turtle shell or an armadillo's plates, or they build it, they may be able to escape danger or dissuade their assailants if they're hard to kill.

Live somewhere else

If generations of your creatures are being hunted, surely they will settle somewhere far from those that wish to eat them. It's not a permanent solution, but it will help drastically.


Tell the king that eating the desert will make the king xxx (fill here with any disease related to excessive calories / overweight ness : fat, huge, clogged arteries, diabetes, ...) and fine tune based on kings reactions

  • $\begingroup$ The question is pretty clearly off topic, please refrain from answering content that doesn't belong on the site. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 19:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note to voters: This answer was given before the question was substantially changed, so should not be downvoted because it doesn't answer the new question. Usually massive changes of questions is discouraged because it invalidates existing answers, but an exception is made for questions which get closed with a high negative score. This gives questioners a chance to salvage the question rather than risk receiving a question ban due to poor questions. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 22:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You are actually answering the question, what you suggested is, that the way is to avoid being eaten, is to reduce the perceived value of being eaten, by making them look untasty or unhealthy. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 6:50
  • $\begingroup$ another way is to increase the perceived value of being eaten, for example a race could make themselves tastier and modify the aggressors brain with hallucinating substances to make them "overeat themselves to death". $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 7:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .