There is an Earth-like planet with human-like inhabitants. After almost destroying the ecosystem with weapons of mass destruction, toxic waste and such, the civilization changed to survive and an almost utopian society was created.

I know how unlikely this sounds, but please go with the premise.

Perfect birth control, medicine (including prevention of genetic diseases) exist, all of the industry and agriculture are automated with almost no maintenance needed. There is a clean energy source available which can last for millennia. People live in smallish settlements, connected by underground trains, aircraft and satellites, leaving most of the surface for the nature.

There are small scale administrators, but they are mostly for keeping everything running smoothly, no abuse of power is happening.

People don't just sit around doing nothing, they conduct research, create art. Eventually, like minded people form a caste system, for example the science caste, the art caste and such. The marriage and/or procreation between castes is not forbidden, but seldom happens. Thus, the castes become races with genetic differences.

Now, my story really needs a warrior caste. However, there hasn't been a war for centuries and there is virtually no violent crime. Killing a person is unheard of.

How would a warrior caste form and exist for centuries and (more importantly) stay battle ready and superior to the best real world armies, while never killing a person or never even seeing anyone killed except in old videos?

I will need the members of the caste to be ready to survive and thrive on a violent, apocalyptic planet.

There is a very similar question How do you keep warlike people warlike in peacetime?, but I think my situation is a bit more extreme, and also happens 'in the future', not in the 'middle ages'.

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    $\begingroup$ Good question. By Valen's name! I have no idea! :-) $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2017 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ A similar thing happened to the Samurai. During the relative peace of the Edo period they effectively transitioned into bureaucrats. This isn't really what you want. $\endgroup$
    – Nathan
    Feb 28, 2017 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ Surely you will still need police? The martial arts premise works well. Warriors could also fight fires and rescue people. Technology is your only problem. If no one else has warfare tech, then you won't need it either, but developing and maintaining it might also be something that keeps warriors busy. There could also be a scouting element -- everyone learns the skills and gives a few years to the military, before moving onto other pursuits. They have two weeks a cycle as well to keep skills sharp. $\endgroup$
    – WRX
    Feb 28, 2017 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ Just a comment to the samurai: While Hollywood likes to portray them as ultimate warriors and the sword as ultimate weapon, in reality the samurais successes were not so impressive. They were several times defeated by Mongols; only a storm prevented that the Mongolian Army invaded Japan. They also tried to invade Korea and China, but were not able to gain a permanent foothold and suffered heavy losses. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2017 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ Probably trite, but my first thought: futbol $\endgroup$
    – Weaver
    Mar 1, 2017 at 3:50

21 Answers 21


High levels of automation you say?

Sounds like you want some metal-on-metal action.

The natural evolution of video gaming, virtual reality and sporting events, MetalBowl began as American Football, but with robots replacing the fragile humans. The visceral, brutal nature of the game as a spectator sport was preserved, but the safety of the people involved was paramount. Human pilots controlled android drones safely from the sidelines using VR kits and force feedback exoskeletal arrays. Since broken robots could be quickly and easily repaired the normal safety rules were quickly suspended.

Then someone from the just-forming artistic caste brought up an interesting point: What if the sport was more similar to a video game? After all, players could 'respawn' with a new metal body, or even use modified chassis to give their individual drones properties and abilities that better suited the player. Combined with modifiable weapon load outs and sturdier chassis MetalBowl evolved into MechWarfare, a virtual reality game extended into the real world for the entertainment of actual spectators.

Over time the battles got more brutal. The weapons got more powerful. Different weight divisions were formed with appropriate rules and ranges at which the spectators could safely be seated. Some divisions could only be watched via remote link, but were still preferred to simulated video games due to MechWarfare featuring actual physics and (as one proponent of the sport put it) the highest resolution texture packs possible. Some of the heavier divisions took to mounting heavy artillery and lasers directly into their mechs. Others developed more esoteric designs, lifting restrictions on number of limbs or designing mechs for 'assassination' games.

Eventually the Pilot caste formed, with each division using highly specialised and brutal tactics to ensure the destruction of their enemies. Games grew longer, the Pilots grew more and more invested in the results of their games, employing members of the Engineer caste to build better and better war machines.

When the Enemy arrived, the first they knew of this sport was the total decimation of their command structure by the Ultra-Lightweight division's League 1, followed up by an assault by the Texas Bulls and the Berlin Mannbrecher - the top ranked Heavyweight teams worldwide.

The invasion was over in less than three hours, tying for the record of shortest Heavyweight game of all time and astounding bookies everywhere.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer takes into account the natural need for "entertainment" that humans have, and justify military tech evolving and being maintained in a state of readiness. Well reasoned and complete. :) $\endgroup$
    – STT LCU
    Mar 1, 2017 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ @STTLCU Plus robots. :D $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Mar 1, 2017 at 8:50
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    $\begingroup$ My god... the greatest part is that this whole premise is plausible. I'm not a sports fan but I'd definitely go watch giant fighting robot football and its successors. $\endgroup$
    – Delioth
    Mar 1, 2017 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeutnarg: The Bulls CQC capabilities aren't as good as they should be though, they lost to the Mannbrecher last year when they managed to get a Kampfkunstpanzer through the crossfire and basically tore all the Texan's guns right off their housings. It took a while though. There were a lot of guns... $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Mar 2, 2017 at 9:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Sobrique I haven't at all started on designing this sport. Not at all..... (hides sheafs of notes) $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Mar 2, 2017 at 12:22

Like the question you mentioned, the best place to look for examples of what this would look like is Asia. The approach they have historically taken has lead to many martial arts which strive towards the exact ideal you mention.

The key to accomplishing this goal is to focus on energy. You have to spend energy to prepare yourself for war. Any energy which is spent towards preparing for fighting is wasted if no fight ever emerges. However, there is a solution to this conundrum which is found at the heart of virtually every martial art ever created. If your preparations for war also provide benefits in peace time, your time spent practicing martial arts can be effectively paid for by these benefits. This is why you see so many martial arts touting the health benefits their practice offers.

A successful warrior art which maximizes its benefits in peace time will attempt to create the smallest nugget of unbridled warfare possible. This keeps the cost of maintaining it as low as possible. Of course, it still needs to turn into a ferocious art when called for. The secret is in the opponent. One guarantee in a fight is that you have an opponent (otherwise it isn't a fight). If you can have only peaceful skills but, when pressured by an opponent, those skills sharpen into a weapon to wield against them, then you maximize your peace time benefits. You spend no extra time building up the non-peaceful side of your art until the opponent is here, and then you use them to hone the darker side.

Perception is often seen as a great focus for such arts. Perception is great because it is useful in both peace time and war. I have seen my teachers use their perception to help people realign their body so that they can walk with less pain. The same teachers have used the same perception in demos to demonstrate exactly what happens when you rotate someone's elbow precisely 2mm further than they were really comfortable with it rotating. Perception is a great thing to focus on if you need both war and peacetime benefits.

Depending on your society, there may be an alternative approach. The Octospiders from Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama demonstrate it. Instead of focusing on keeping a glimmer of warrior energy alive, they keep a glimmer of warrior material alive. In their genetics, they contain the code to turn into true monsters. If they decide that war is required, the species undergoes a genetic transformation into warriors who stop at nothing short of Xenocide. Several plot elements in Clarke's series center around the issues which arise from having such a frightening piece of material embedded in your DNA for all time.

Myself, I'd stick to the energetic approaches because there is so much prior art out there. The Asian martial arts are famous for their rich solutions for how to be peaceful while being ready for war. If you run out of martial arts there, you can also find the same message in martial arts from other parts of the world (I just find the Asian ones have taken that message to an extreme, which makes it easier to see).

Warrior in a Garden

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    $\begingroup$ The problem with this is that martial arts, while useful in a medieval setting or for civilian self-defense, have absolutely no use in a modern military conflict. For a modern military to be effective, they have to maintain technology and have to train people to be able to use that technology efficiently. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Feb 28, 2017 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz Yep! Or the other side of the coin, that nowadays "martial arts" is shooting a rifle and driving a tank. The other problem with "martial arts" (thinking of the kicky punchy pyjama dancing here) is that they don't work; not because they weren't once a genuine fighting system but because nowadays "no-one" (for a given value of no-one - certainly the vast vast majority) who teaches or trains in them knows what the "moves" actually represent. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2017 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz: the idea isn't to send these people into war with their martial arts. It's to make sure that they have the warrior spirit, so that all you need to do is teach them how to drive a tank and they are great warriors. And the researchers just need to keep up their research; war is just an adaption of peace-time technology and vice-versa. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Feb 28, 2017 at 9:00
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz "absolutely no use" is going too far. Armies today still train for some melee combat, for a good reason. You are thinking too much about open battle, when in reality today, much combat involves cities---urban combat, building to building, house to house, door to door. Also, there are commandos and other special forces who must be very well trained for sneaking around, silent kills, that sort of thing. Honest brutal truth here, which I hope you will take constructively: there really should be a way to downvote comments just like you can downvote posts. $\endgroup$
    – DrZ214
    Feb 28, 2017 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ @ggiaquin I love all of the paradoxes that arise from that. I love how the Spetsnaz can demo hand to hand combat and yet the Russian military can have an attitude that (if I paraphrase right) is something like "Hand to hand combat has no place in warfare. To engage in hand combat in war, first one must lose one's gun, knife, vest, helmet, shovel, find a clear open space without a loose stone in sight, and then find another idiot who has done the same." There's something really satisfying about watching militaries balance these two nearly conflicting ideals. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Feb 28, 2017 at 17:15

As stated, you're out of luck. Human nature being what it is, over a remarkably short time the fighting skills will become stylized, and combat effectiveness will essentially disappear. See, as a good example, the decline of the US Army during the 5 years between the end of WWII and the start of Korea.

All is not lost, however. I have 2 words for you: immersive VR. With first person POV recordings of real (and nasty) combat, and a competent AI for scenario management, a baseline of performance can be established.

Of course, you're going to have to make some pretty heavy modifications to the culture of the warrior caste. They're going to have their performance in VR have consequences, and probably lethal ones at that.

Furthermore, you need to understand this about combat: the individual skills you might think would be prized, such as markmanship, are only the beginning of the skills necessary for success in combat. What really counts is aggression, indifference to hardship, intense trust in one's fellows, willingness to die for the group, and the ability to keep on functioning when the only thing clear in a swirling chaos of blood and fear is that to keep on functioning may get you killed but it's better than the alternative. It bloody well doesn't matter how skilled you are, sometimes (oftentimes) what makes the difference between victory and defeat is just a dogged determination to hold your ground and not let your buddies down. War is a game of imperfect information.

Also, despite current US mottos about being warriors, warriors are not soldiers, and a good bunch of soldiers will go through a great bunch of warriors like a combine through a wheatfield. Warriors fight for personal glory, they don't cooperate well, and they don't take orders worth squat. Read the Odyssey and the Aeneid to get a feel for it. Soldiers fight for their buddies and because they are told to. They don't have the option of retiring to their tents when their buddies are killed, and they can't pick up and go home when the game stops being fun. And, of course, warriors don't do the unglamorous support jobs like pulling maintenance on vehicles, humping ammo to the artillery pieces or driving supply trucks. Soldiers do, and it is the performance of the unit as whole which matters. Warriors make a proud show and a good first attack, but after that it's the soldiers all the way. As a modern example, the insurgents in Iraq used to ambush Coalition soldiers and get into firefights. Nowadays the survivors mostly set off IEDs. And it's not because the Iraqis are poor fighters - they are tough and determined. Proud warriors. It's just that soldiers beat warriors in the long run, if the warriors are dumb enough to play the game of "let's have a battle".

As you might guess, this can suck mightily, and generations without real fighting is going to make the whole thing look pretty silly. So, VR with teeth is the only thing I can think of which might make a difference. And by VR, I don't mean 2 hours at a time, either. How about 2 months? With fatigue, hunger, and maybe a way to suppress the soldier's knowledge that it IS VR.

As the old saying goes, "You fight the way you train."


You're saying that there are NO conflicts, NO deaths in practice, nothing. So, sorry, but that cannot be a "warrior" caste. Warriors DO fight, they need to practice, and when they do, accidents happen. Look what happens in most armies: They have fatal accidents while training.

Plus, even if they are exceptionally good at aiming at robots, or at "playing at war" (with virtual simulations, or make-believe weapons acting like true weapons, etc), which is acting at a "tactical" scale, they'll need to be good at strategy, logistics, etc, too.

I'm afraid that the best you'd get would be "armchair generals" with no real experience of warfare. Sure, you can study the campaigns of Julius Caesar, of Napoleon Bonaparte, of Edwin Rommel, or whomever you think was a great tactician and/or strategist, you can study Clausewitz or Sun Tzu (or the local equivalents), but you won't instantly be "better than all opposition".

Of course, there are workarounds to this. Let's say this "warrior caste" (which would really be a caste "interested in perpetuating the martial knowledge" - either because they think it is "cool" (a bit like gun-freaks, etc.), or because they think it might become necessary again someday) is able to train...

Cool. Would they have access to areas they are allowed to utterly ravage while playing war ? (have you seen the damage artillery creates ? Remember how you stated they had weapons of mass destruction which nearly annihilated their race ? Would the other castes accept their "playing" with such toys, even with the best of intents in mind ?)

If they do, how do they cope with the damage ? Are there weapon failures, needing dismantlement (minesweepers and the like), lest they cause fatal accidents later ? Do they replant trees, re-create the ground like it was before, etc ? How do they avoid casualties while playing with real ordnance ?

If they don't, how do they train properly ? Do they have access to ultra-realistic simulations, allowing for full consequences of each and every action, just like it happened in the real world ? Do these simulation work on EVERY sensory level ? Visual and audio, as we know in our 3D shooters, even in VR, are utterly insufficient if you want to train soldiers, more so if you wish to train ELITE soldiers.

I mean, they do not train the stamina, do not prepare you for the smell, the tactile sensations (ground rumbling because an explosion shook the ground near you, even if you're behind cover, you might lose your footing and be thrown to the ground, air pressure will change too, etc). Would the soldiers be prepared to see REAL corpses from deceased teammates ? The training MUST be mental AND physical, work the reflexes and the instincts, build fast reactions, etc...

So, unless they really have such technology, and currently compete against themselves to stay in top shape, thus having to constantly revise their tactics, I highly doubt they'd be the elite force you need them to be.

Also, don't forget that they would fight amongst themselves (even if only "for fun", not for real), and that a lot of the strategies they would have devised would probably only apply against an adversary they know.

Tactics evolve because threats evolve (along with technology, and new offensive tactics). If your opponent uses infantry, you devise means to destroy said infantry. If it uses vehicles, you develop anti-vehicle weaponry. If you think they will come with aircrafts, you create anti-aircraft defenses. That's because, as a human living in the 21st century, you KNOW those are real threats.

Now, would you build, as a human in the 21st century, a defense against "giant space worms" ? Or against a Death Star taking position near the Earth, ready to take it out ? You wouldn't. Of course, you lack the technology to do so, but even if you knew how to build something very powerful, able to blast the Death Star to pieces, if it were to come near the Earth... would you do so ? Considering the material cost of such a weapon, and the fact that most sane people would tell you that the Death Star is only a fictional machine, and, thus, has no real chance to come and attack us, I'd wager that nobody (or not enough people, at the very least) would be willing to build that super weapon.

My point, here, is that even if you train elite people to the best of what their race ever knew, they probably wouldn't be adapted against a threat they didn't even envision. If aliens land and field an army of a type we "understand" (with grunts, vehicles, flying things, weapons that shoot things in a straight or ballistic trajectory, etc), we should be able to field a defense quickly, and it might even be somewhat effective - depending on the offensive and defensive capabilities of the alien's gear.

But if those aliens are able to teleport at will, for instance, then everything we know about strategy (establishing defensive perimeters, scouting for positions, creating chokepoints, etc) becomes instantly moot. If their weapons kill you without an understandable mean, how will you try and defend against them ?

So, to sum it all, I'd say that you may maintain a force which has the POTENTIAL to become an elite force. But, for it to REALLY be that elite force, it will need to learn about its foe, and that usually will entail casualties. Think of a civil-war era general, encountering a modern armor in the field, for instance. Maybe they would be able to vainquish it in time, but you sure could expect a lot of casualties in the meantime. And if you reverse the trope, even modern troopers could die fighting a stone-age tribe. Maybe not because of the warriors themselves, but, say, because they're not immune to a disease, or to the toxins of a local plant or animal, or whatever...

Also, if the opponent is VERY underestimated (say, you're mowing down thousands of enemies per hour, without losing a man), your soldiers could become careless, see themselves as "invincible", and start goofing around (starting wagers, skill competitions, kill counts, etc... leading to possible risk taking). Imagine a guy taking a "dare" selfie, back to the enemy, or other stupid behavior.

I'll stop here, as this answer is probably already too long, but I hope my points make sense.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! I'm in two minds, really... Half of me thinks your answer should be closed because it does not answer the question. But then again, while i do think it is truly a comment on the original question rather than an answer, it still provides valuable thoughts, so i guess i'll opt for "this is an edge case and should be left open". May i nevertheless interest you in the tour and help center ? $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Feb 28, 2017 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the welcome. I feel that my post "answers" the question (maybe with a lot of sidetracking), expressing how it could (or, most likely, could NOT attain the stated goal). However, it is likely that I could have made it better. I wrote it as I thought about it, not after a long preparation process :) $\endgroup$
    – Kzwix
    Feb 28, 2017 at 16:58

For the general line, I'd got with Kzwix answer. Or as is said:

We often excoriate armies for getting ready to “fight the last war.”

But what you want this:

I will need the members of the caste to be ready to survive and thrive on a violent, apocalyptic planet.

With a planet full of wild life, small and large, you will need people to keep them in check. While your society might be close to utopian, nature will do it's thing.

So have a protector caste. These guys and galls roam the country side, herding flocks of cows and sheep, make them migratory if need be. They endure the great outdoors. Yes, they have tents and vehicles (or horses). But have weapons to defend against bears and wolves. Know how to deal with small ills and wounds. Have knowledge how to live of the land. Have had pets and livestock die in their hands. Or an other protector they have worked with for years... And when a large predator creeps close to the villages, these are the ones you call.

These things alone don't make great soldiers, you need training for that. But it gives you the best chance. You could do that by sending them out in small groups, platoon style. Maybe give them the training en-route to planet hell?

In short, have a caste that knows how to endure hardship, to stay alive and thrive where others just want to go home.

*and as a bonus you will have some very colourful characters.

  • $\begingroup$ Basically give them the fundamental skills and traits a soldier needs. This would do better than stylzed martial arts when they will have to convert into soldiers(or warriors) in case of real war. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Dzink
    Aug 3, 2017 at 0:33

There are a lot of "peacetime warrior" groups that exist in the real world (Eagle Scouts, Martial Arts dojos, militias/hunting groups, etc). A great real-world example of this is also the Samurai of Japan, who lived through quite a long period of peace between the end of the Sengoku Jidai and the arrival of Commodore Perry. For them, samurai traditions were handed down over the generations, with new warriors learning the techniques of their ancestors as part of a societal and almost religious duty.

The problem with this, for what you're describing, is that they would only be passing down the fighting techniques of their ancestors, not developing new ones (the Samurai got crushed easily once the west came in with their modern weapons and tactics). Still, if the peace started when they were already at an adequate level of military technique then it should work.

Alternately, you could have different towns compete in massive mock-campaigns against each other to hone their techniques and develop new ones (like modern day sports leagues).

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    $\begingroup$ Take the spartan approach where you declare war on the helots every year. Samurai did something similar, with their zero tolerance for disrespect from the lower casts. Which is why if a samurai walked down the street and someone did not bow, he would kill them. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2017 at 16:35

"...It was on such a day that we came into contact with the war-like people of Phlogiston. On arriving in our dimension-hopping machine, we stepped out and immediately began taking notes.

"The planet seemed to act like an outsized hive - with various specialised members of the race taking part in this or that aspect of society. Accounting, transport and socialites were the first to greet us - shortly followed by those dedicated to cleaning the streets and waste disposal.

"It seems they had never seen outsiders before - indeed they seemed started to find that they were not alone in the universe. It was at this point that they bought forth what I can only analogise as their racial equivalent of 'soldier ants'.

"These great, hulking creatures had been gym-trained and fed on sport. War had become as a game to them - much like the javelin and boxing is a sport to us, theirs were laser weapons and neck-break. They'd engage in 'friendly' rutting rituals which encouraged the survival of the strongest of the species and the withering decline of their weaker cousins.

"A later analysis of their culture showed particular dedication to the heroes of their classical era - their fighters of monsters and slayers of dragons.

"This last point - on which we shall end on - was our root cause for concern. A pair of bearded Victorian gentlemen in full dimension hopping gear, such as we were, must've been a frightful sight for such hairless brutes - and they reacted much as one might expect an Argonaut might.

"It was a good week before I could calm Charles from his shaking and convince him to return to gather notes."

TL;DR: nobody in the army actually kills anyone in basic training to be trained with a gun, and many of our games and sports reflect the survival instincts we as humans were born with. War may even be a hobby interest for your species - and they've just been waiting for the right targets to practice it on.


Cold storage.

That's the only solution I can think of. When times call for a good warrior caste and good generals, dust off the cryogenic facilities and warm them up. Bind them appropriately so they don't take over, and loose the dogs of war, as they say.

Afterwards, give them rewards, collect any progeny they've spawned, especially the ones who've taken after their daddies and mommies in efficient use of violence, and freeze them (and their sperm/eggs separately for backup) to wait for the next catastrophe.

If you don't take them out of the picture, they'll sooner or later try to take over for themselves or make other trouble. A people without the means to defend themselves is just fodder for conquest/victimization.

  • $\begingroup$ My only problem with this concept: you unfreeze them, they deal with [current crisis]... how do put the cat back in the bag? What if they decide to take over right then? $\endgroup$
    – Ghotir
    Feb 28, 2017 at 21:52
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    $\begingroup$ Rewards of some sort? Work it into a religious belief? Maybe make sure they know that their lives will be eventful this way; a warrior who thrives on combat would find nonviolent times extremely dull and boring. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2017 at 21:54

If you look at the history of England’s class system, for example, the nobility started out as a military class and developed into a gentry that did other, more useful things. There were also several periods of peace and stability, such as between the Napoleonic Wars and the Great War, when the Navy and armed forces were kept around in case they were ever needed, but put so much emphasis on looking sharp over readiness for battle that the crews of some ships just tossed shells overboard instead of firing them so the gunpowder wouldn’t scuff the paint.

So, you’ve got a hereditary caste of people with a lot of outside funding (maybe from taxes, but historically from rents on real estate, and maybe in this world, they own companies) and a lot of expensive toys. They were heretofore the warrior caste, but are no wars for them to fight. This group of people is going to have a lot of political power, if they instituted the utopian society and control its security forces, and they’re going to look for ways to justify their position in society and keep it going.

That might be keeping a standing army and navy around in case there are rebels or aliens. Having professional athletes and coaches come from this caste, as others suggested, makes a lot of sense. They might study a lot of military history. They might honor their ancestors with a lot of ceremonies and reenactments. They might do a lot of research with military applications, or public safety more broadly. It’s easy to see how studying earthquakes or tsunamis and reinforcing buildings against them could be seen as protecting civilians. They might become civil servants. They might do search and rescue, law enforcement and engineering. They might keep a lot of the military hierarchy while, in practice, they’re mostly doing business that in our society would be left to the private sector. Maybe they’re politicians. They might believe that society needs a small group of people inculcated from childhood with the martial virtues, and therefore that it’s important that their children get to live their traditional lifestyle.

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    $\begingroup$ Historical Japan is a similar example, with the samurai warrior caste taking over a bureaucracy role, becoming civil servants and politicians after reforms. $\endgroup$
    – Peteris
    Mar 1, 2017 at 15:32

Anathem by Neal Stephenson is a great treatment of this exact type of scenario (the Ringing Vale). I'll let you read it yourself, rather than spoil the plot. Or you can read the tvtropes page on the novel for a cliff notes version.

More broadly, a warrior caste is defined by its ethics - why they fight, why they don't fight, who is and isn't an acceptable target, how much force is appropriate for a given situation, etc.

Personally, I think it's important to distinguish between soldiers and warriors. A soldier follows orders from an external authority. A warrior is directed by internal code (bushido, chivalry, etc). A soldier fights when, where, and how he is told to fight. A warrior picks his own battles and methods.

The following Heinlein quote gives insight into the warrior mindset:

Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.

For a warrior, his/her duty is to stand between a group of people s/he has sworn to protect, and those who would do those people harm. The warrior has a vested personal interest in finding a non-violent resolution to a conflict, because that's usually the most efficient way to fulfill that duty.

Warriors try avoid fights not because they fear violence or death, or aren't capable of using it with ruthless efficiency, but because they understand the personal cost it imposes upon them. To quote Dwight Eisenhower:

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity

Another consideration facing the warrior is that no matter how good s/he is, there's always a risk of being injured or killed, which would prevent them fulfilling their duty. Likewise a leader has a duty his subordinates to bring them home alive if at all possible, and a duty to his superiors to preserve his command.

These factors combine to create the seeming paradox of the martial pacifist, creating an individual (or caste) who always strives to find the least-violent resolution to a conflict. They train and spar not for personal glory or one-upsmanship, but rather to improve their ability to fulfill their duty to others.

That doesn't mean that warriors aren't willing to stage pre-emptive attacks if that's what's needed. Nor do they believe in fighting fair: there are no rules once blades are out or bullets are flying. Push them too far and they're not just going to beat you, they're going to destroy you as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Another good resource for understanding this mindset is Marc MacYoung's blog No Nonsense Self Defense. He has a whole section for writers.


A reclaimed earth is all we need here. Even in a Utopian Society there will be a few that do not wish to live in the modern world, even today there is a resurgence of national park usage.

These people will be roughing it in a world that is dangerous typically in small groups. This is your 'warrior' caste.

With the earth reclaimed by nature then we have mega-herbivorous again, which would lead to the conclusion of mega-carnivorous too. These groups would have to both survive nature and survive fights against 100lb (est) carnivorous like lions, tigers, and wolves.

Adding some narrative magic, make an annual event where these groups gather and show off their big hunt. Just surviving in the world will make them as hard as green berets, but actively searching for danger will bring these people into a competing caste that would promote the risk taking needed for war.


This would be called sports. This caste would become professional athletes. In one sense, the original Olympic Games reflected preparation for war: hammer throw, spear throw, wrestling, running, jumping, shot put (strength), etc. Add more modern martial sports like archery, fencing, shooting, biathlon, etc. Add in orienteering (quickly moving over terrain with a map and compass), and more abstracted martial activities.

Perhaps sports are restricted only to this caste. Perhaps these sports are restricted only to this caste and other castes only participate in others (badminton, baseball, soccer, table tennis, bowling). Or perhaps anyone can participate in these sports but only clans within this caste compete in the Olympics.

It would be oriented towards the level of weapons that are known. If your society has firearms, target shooting, skeet shooting, paintball competition, etc, would directly contribute to military prowess. But being in great physical shape with high stamina, endurance of pain, eye-hand coordination, etc, would give you a huge advantage over more sedentary people.

I'd have more problems trying to imagine a society in which no killings occur. Not even accidental (manslaughter)? Really? No one dropping something out a window onto someone's head? No one pushing someone in jest and the person falls down the stairs to their death? No one using the wrong ingredients in a food dish and accidentally poisoning someone? Not one single person getting angry and stabbing someone with a kitchen knife in a moment of passion?

I can conceive of a world where murder is extremely rare and warfare doesn't happen, but...


Simple answer. Cryogenics. When the warrior caste had no relevance, they froze them ready for a time where they would be needed.

Another option is implanted memories. Using a computer system to implant memories could instantly turn a member of the artist caste into a warrior with the latest training and skills.



Why not have a 'resistance'? Almost every sci-fi universe has it, especially the 'utopia' variety.

In fact, the answer to this questions sounds like it could be best provided by a review of the literature. Why there is the Dauntless faction in Divergent? Now, I don't really know anything about Divergent, but perhaps over at Sci-Fi.SE they could help you with that.

Another example, particularly near and dear to my heart, is the movie 'Demolition Man.' In that movie, society moves past violence into a utopian future, only for some cryogenically frozen bad guy from the violent past to be released. Which of course calls for Sylvester Stallone. But if the danger of cryogenically frozen or otherwise hidden away bad guys is real, then some sort of military force is needed, assuming no Sylvester Stallone is available.

The utopia could be like Minority Report, with precognition removing criminals before they commit crimes, necessitating a police force.

In summary, there are plenty of options, from the need to combat separatists or 'resistance' elements; a threat from outside the society--only part of the world is a peaceful utopia, or there are non-peaceful aliens about; or police are needed to cover things up or remove future criminals.


Science and training for an imagined war can be its own kind of hobby or art. In a post scarcity society (which yours sounds like) any and all activity is in the end unnecessary. Painting art, science, philosophy are just things people do, because they like to do it.

In the same way playing games, or practicing battles and developing the strongest war-machinery there is, can be a passion, just like painting, quantum physics or gardening. - Just let your warrior caste be a group of like-minded fellows, who think preparing for the worst war imaginable is a better life goal than writing poetry or building high towers.

Post scarcity any kind of action besides eating and procreation would need the same level of justification. Being an artist or biologist is just as pointless as training for a war that will never come, if your society essentially already fulfills all human needs.


Football of course!

Or maybe cricket, as in the Trobriand Islands. An example of the forms of transformation between the original game, the Gentlemans Game, into something that suits the needs of the warriors - team sizes are increased and somewhat flexible, and ritual aspects include dancing, body paint, and religious ceremony that would raise eyebrows at The Oval.


Swords to plowshares back to swords Convert your weapons of war to non-violent purposes. Antimatter weapons to clean power, laser weapons to communications arrays. Power armor to adventure explorer gear.

Preserve the culture of fitness and physical excellence with a tradition of personal challenge and maybe something like the radical ecological extreme sport philosophy from the Point Break reboot.

The Mehinaku tribe is a great example of a peaceful tribe embracing physical fitness through wrestling. The added bonus is that it's used as an outlet for physical aggression without escalation. The tradition of Aikido is also a great example of an almost entirely defensive martial art.

A problem you now face is that those best suited to fight might choose not to since nonviolence is an active choice. Ignoring that tension would be a mistake.


It seems to me that you are describing the Federation from the early seasons of Star Trek: Next Generation. Watch the first three seasons.

(this was before enough people pointed out that the society they described would not work)

Edited for more detail:

The first few seasons of TNG were a bit preachy. There was no money (they thought the concept outdated) and everyone did jobs that best fit their interests.

This was Roddenberry's Marxist Utopia. The trouble is that it wouldn't work. Without money, how do you trade for stuff? Granted, with replicators, the only thing you need is energy. If energy is free, that works. The trouble is, they show trade between civilizations. How does that work? Revert to barter?

Also, everyone does their jobs because they interest them? Given human nature, now may people would choose to stay home and play computer games? It would take some pretty heavy brain washing to overcome that.

The other thing that the Federation has is a standing army (Star Fleet). They are "science" vessels that are loaded with defenses and weapons. Look at emulating Star Fleet for your military.

  • $\begingroup$ Much better. The Federation are Fascists, though, not Marxists. I know, its hard to tell the difference. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Mar 1, 2017 at 1:16
  • $\begingroup$ It is very hard to tell the difference. NAZI is the shortened version of the National Socialist Party (in German, of course). US schools don't bother teaching that. $\endgroup$
    – ShadoCat
    Mar 1, 2017 at 1:20


There are real-life precedents.

Many sports in real life derive from military skills - martial arts, kendo, fencing (sort of), archery, some horse sports, and so on. Some of these sports were at least in part invented so that the warrior caste could keep their skills sharp in between wars.

Also, look up the Haka, a traditional war dance performed by some rugby teams at internationals. This indicates that for some, rugby has replaced tribal warfare as a means to demonstrate prowess and the warrior spirit etc.

So, for your story, create a sport that can be abstract to bloodthirsty as needs be. This means that the warrior caste are useful as entertainment for the other castes, and can serve as a proxy for any residual bloodlust left over.

You could also have it that the political class have created this sport specifically to train warriors for a possible future war in secret, a bit like Ender's Game or some such.


This answer is going to read like a combination of a few other answers, but really I'm just going to provide a partial summary of Turn A Gundam, which has a background somewhat similar to the setting you propose.

In the series, the Earth and everything on it was nearly destroyed by war, setting Earth culture back thousands of years. Meanwhile, on the moon, humans continued to get by more or less just fine. The culture of the moon is (not entirely) utopian, and citizens appear to be loosely separated into castes.

The series deals with warrior/soldier castes in a few different ways:

  • Royal Guard - Protectors of the regency, their purpose in life is to ensure the safety of those in power, because sometimes rebels just happen (politics, boredom, desire to resettle the Earth, etc.)

  • Cryogenically Preserved Soldiers - As part of the setting of Turn A, certain members of society are occasionally cryogenically preserved and resuscitated at regular intervals, including nobility, those with (presently incurable) illnesses, and soldiers with extensive experience and ability (who are loyal to the regime/society). The soldiers don't necessarily like "going back to sleep" but their loyalty compels them to follow orders, so if their presence is deemed unnecessary or dangerous they'll still be willing to go back into storage.

  • Legit Born-and-Bred Warriors - These people are raised with the promise of war, that some day they would be invaluable to the survival of their culture. In the mean time, they train via simulations (VR, games, whatever) and physical training exercises. One thing to note is that everyone shown to be a part of this faction is particularly hot-blooded and violent. Whether this is nature or nurture is (IIRC) not made explicit.

  • Civilian army - This group is the largest, but also possibly the weakest. Completely voluntary, their training doesn't seem anywhere near as extreme or thorough as the (much smaller) legit warrior caste, but they do seem fairly capable as soldiers, i.e. following orders and persevering in the face of unexpected difficulties. This army may or may not be a standing army, instead coming about mainly to facilitate the invasion of Earth. As such, I hesitate to consider this a "caste" and more just a profession (as it is now, more or less).

One thing the series also makes clear is that peaceful utopian societies don't produce a whole lot of exceptional soldiers/warriors, the moon culture's primary advantage over the Earth's being technology, not guts nor even strategy. Training, simulations, and psychosis help even the playing field, but against a foe that has spent centuries struggling and warring, it might not be enough.

TL;DR there are a lot of options, and there's nothing wrong with diversification.


Surviving on a violent, apocalyptic planet... Maybe you need not a warrior caste, but a survivalist caste.

Warrior caste might be good at fighting, but they need stability - they need training time and social support and basics provided, so they can focus on being warriors. They can't survive on their own, but only as part of a larger society - and their primary use would be against other warriors. They can't be better than dedicated armies who have need and thus recent practice (even if they can be passably good) - though dedicated armies will likley run up against the same limitations (basics and social support are difficult on violent, post-apocalyptic world, for everyone).

If the planet is as chaotic as you mention, then getting those basics is going to be the worst problem - hunting, growing or gathering food, dealing with wilderness and predators, preventing anyone else from walking off with whatever is gathered, self defense, basic healing. So your caste is, I think, going to need that stuff, more so than the art of war or ability to win large scale battles.

Anyway, the survivalist caste I'm envisioning is broad and diverse, including not only survivalists, but also artisans, history buffs, entertainers, gardeners, hunters, and various kinds of hobbyists. In general, I imagine the foundations of the caste will be about exploring or preserving historical techniques - primarily because people find them interesting, and now have the leisure to explore - but between the various primitive skill-sets and the historical reenactments, they might have enough practical experience to survive this new planet long enough to thrive.

A lot of these skill-sets would be casual rather than actually survival oriented with a utopic society backing them up, more about demonstrations and craft shows than something one be confident enough to rely on if they knew they would be dropped on this other planet. On the other hand, you mention the surface is largely reserved for nature, and this could be used to practice actual survivalist skills in a more realistic manner - maybe dedicated settlements with certain technology caps (reenactments), maybe events or challenges where people or groups head into wild territory to practice or show off their practical skills, maybe spiritual ordeals where a person has to survive on their own for a certain amount of time with specific supply restrictions.

If so, when they're dropped on the post-apocalyptic world, the skills they need would be spread over the whole caste, with a lot of frantic cross training, groups with mixed skill sets, and people shining in their specialties and racing to catch up in other areas. But as long as the skills are there throughout the caste, and there's a decent amount of cooperation, they should have a chance to last long enough to get the experience they need to eventually thrive. Seems more realistic than if everyone in the caste was ready for the dropping-off in advance.

And now, a word on fighting.

Having blithely traded your warrior caste for survivalists, I should mention that having included reenacting and entertainment in the caste, they could have some pretty decent fighting ability anyway. There are several types of reenactment fighting I think will be pretty useful, including using similar weapons but lots of safety equipment and rules (fencing, SCA, martial arts), which gives some experience with actual historical weapons and tactics but may over time suffer from becoming more stylized than battle-ready. Another option is using safe, fake weapons with pretty realistic full contact sparring (like paintball, or dagorhir, or perhaps eventually virtual reality), which will give a lot more realistic practice in physical running and fighting, but not so much experience with realistic weapons. And finally, larger scale reenactments (including battle reenactments), which are generally heavier in history than practical fighting skills but offering tactics and strategy training, and also some information about historical logistics and supply. None will do by themselves, but with the overlapping skill-sets from all of them, they should be able to find all sorts of useful fighting skills.

Also, survivalist training might keep open the possibility of other forms of being dangerous - bow hunting, sling-stones, defending against wild animals, tracking or evading notice, use of traps or snares to hunt (even larger prey), hunting with dogs or horses, spear fishing, blowdarts for hunting birds or squirrels, and so on - that will have to remain usable in order to be worth teaching. Between that and the emphasis on historical techniques (which were used then because they worked), some fighting skills or skills that can useful for fighting might remain practical instead of losing function to stylization.


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