So the background is a (European) Middle Ages (ish) fantasy world but with some magical tech which is only really understood by a race of godlike beings.
There are elves, humans and dwarves (who are all mortal and can use magic, just not to the level of the gods). These mortal races have been largely oppressed / enslaved (not overly much, think medieval serf classes or peasants rather than modern slavery) by the gods, though some are more benevolent.

The gods basically go to war against each other, annihilating themselves and much of their technology, infrastructure etc. Wild magic makes the world quite dangerous (kind of nuclear fallout but not as severe) and most of the mortal population is decimated and goes into hiding.

I'm imagining that mortal races hide out underground or in other remote areas for a couple of generations (basically to give a chance for most higher level knowledge to be lost). There will be some bastions of civilisation that survive the cataclysm, but other than that civilisation is knocked back to basically Bronze Age levels.

How long would it likely take to recover back to a medieval kind of tech level? I'm assuming it would be quicker than development would be the first time round, but how much quicker?

Could they recover in a few hundred years or is closer to a thousand more likely?

  • $\begingroup$ Are any gods still around? $\endgroup$
    – wetcircuit
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @wetcircuit A few survive, but mostly in hiding and unlikely to be helpful to the mortal races efforts to rebuild. They are also (rightly) blamed for what happens so are hated by many people afterwards. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2017 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ How do pre-modern societies feed themselves living underground? And I say it will take longer. Why? All easy assessible resource are already mined and used. $\endgroup$
    – Mormacil
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Quite quick technology recovery in most fields - most medieval technology had immediate benefits and was passed by hands-on learning, not centralized books/schools/scholars. Wiping those out requires repeated disasters to entire generations. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 15:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ErinThursby Heh, yeah it's interesting how simple things we take for granted are actually quite modern ideas.. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2017 at 23:05

2 Answers 2


"Bounce back" is a relative term. Just restoring population numbers is a math problem, but this would be a completely new way of life for them. I'm going to say the recovery will be uneven to the maximum extreme once the moderating uber-force of the gods is removed.

You will have some areas that recover almost immediately – perhaps under the guiding hand of one of your benevolent surviving gods. They may have a wounded (sleeping?) god, but the people still preserve the knowledge and lifestyle of the way they were before. These areas might even seal themselves off from the chaos by hiding their cities, forming secret societies, preserving knowledge in private libraries, etc.

Other areas will never recover, possibly because a god was artificially maintaining a population there through magic – like a plantation where the slaves are not indigenous and have no desire to preserve their exploitation so the land reverts to swamp. Subsequently the way of life collapses and the people barely survive, if at all.

The power vacuum means war lords will rise up and battle for dominance, perhaps modeling themselves after the old gods. Some people will follow them, others will rise against them. There will be massacres as factions try to claim the best resources. This might even kill more people than the gods war, assuming the gods were more about killing each other than laying waste to valuable "chattel" that they might claim for themselves.

A comparable incident in history might be the Greek Dark Ages, which fits your war of the gods scenario, at least in legend. Archeology suggests a 100 year rapid collapse, followed by about 300 years of dark ages (all very rounded numbers obviously), then within a century a new culture is flourishing with an imported alphabet and an entirely new system of government. By that metric it's about 500 years total.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Very interesting, your account of what would likely happen is fairly close to what I have in my head so that's a good sign. I don't know Greek history particularly well so that is new to me and does seem fairly comparable to what I have in mind. So recovery could be reasonably quick with most places returning to a fairly stable state within 300 - 400 years.. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2017 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ @adaliabooks it's a good concept! I could see worshipers hiding holy relics and even pieces of the gods' bodies as sacred items that might unlock god magic…. Fertile world for "the old ones magic" mixed with current technology. $\endgroup$
    – wetcircuit
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ there will be some of that, but the gods are mostly hated after the war / cataclysm and the few still religious societies tend to be oppressive empires despised by their neighbours. But it's funny you mention pieces of their bodies as I think there will be an element of that (people can use them, or any mortal's body parts, to summon and speak to a person's soul/spirit. Though I'll probably need another question to tackle some issues I have with that at some point too) $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2017 at 18:27

First, let's take a look at the difference between the Bronze Age and Medieval.

Both actually cover a lot of ground, this will depend on where you are starting. Late Medieval saw the invention of gunpowder for instance, but for the majority of the era, it was not an advancement.

Wikipedia has a decent list, although some are later and more towards Renaissance, but keep in mind that though many of these advancements were discovered and used, they were not all common for the majority of people.

Here are some high points that WERE common:

  • Mills
  • agriculture, specifically, crop rotation
  • founding of Universities
  • Buttons. You know, the things on clothes.
  • the idea of quarantine
  • the wheelbarrow. (although wheeled carts are bronze age, this one wheeled model is actually considered a medieval invention)
  • the chimney.
  • looms.

Later and less common, but still very important to development:

  • zero, as a concept. Arabic numbers were all the rage with monks, but...were outlawed in many places for centuries, as far as marking common goods, until the banking system of the Renaissance made it necessary, and the invention of the printing press made it less confusing.
  • Clocks.

  • explosives.

  • advances in astronomy. with instruments to measure, some of which re-discovers bronze age discoveries, some of which is new.

You can take a look at the list for more. Many of these concepts, once learned (like the wheelbarrow and the button, as we know it) might not actually go away.

You should also consider that while parts of the world were firmly Medieval in the 12th century, there were other parts of the world just entering the Bronze Age. And, in places like Russia, when other countries were firmly in the grip of the Renaissance, most people lived a more Medieval life in that country, with Medieval social mores and tech.

You're defining the era based on what Europe was doing, but even in Europe, there are always places ahead and behind on specific concepts, or as a whole.

The Bronze Age, besides the obvious metalworking stuff, gave us things such as:

  • domestication of animals, including horses
  • the wheeled cart
  • boats
  • governmental systems
  • writing
  • the socketed axe
  • tools and weapons of all kinds.
  • astronomy, depending on when and where.

You might want to investigate WHEN in the bronze age you want these folks knocked back to, because this goes from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, depending on who you ask and where you're looking at on a map.

So how long will it take for your people to get re-Medieval?

I think there are too many factors involved for me to give you a specific number. You might not think this is broad, but on the wide, wide scale of the history of these two eras, it really is. I CAN answer that how long it will take will depend on these factors:

  • population, before and after. Look at population estimates for the Bronze Age, in the areas you know and look at the population during Medieval. This is going to be WIDE in both eras. Cannot stress what a huge impact this has. If there are too few people, advancement will not happen as quickly. You can actually almost solely base the answer to this on breeding on how many people there are and in what concentration. This will be interconnected with farming.
  • Know when you are starting and how fall they are falling. Tech available during early Bronze is different then late, same for Medieval.
  • Some things won't be lost. Like buttons and wheelbarrows, but depending, farming techniques might be, and mills definitely will be.
  • $\begingroup$ Some very good points there, I'll have a think about just how far back I'd be looking for civilization to fall. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2017 at 23:06

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