May 23, 2019, 12:24:03 PM

Author Topic: Forest World  (Read 3015 times)

Offline Raptori

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Re: Forest World
« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2015, 01:59:28 AM »
It really depends on how (real world) realistic you want to make it. I don't think there was a literate forest people.
Writing has been invented five times (that we are aware of), one of which was Maya. They lived in Mesoamerica, i.e. in the rainforest, so it's perfectly realistic for a forest civilisation to become literate.

Incidentally, they were also very technologically advanced at times, and had a complex society. A forest world doesn't have to be entirely filled with germanic tribes.
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Offline jefGoelz

Re: Forest World
« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2015, 02:12:10 AM »
Let me start by noting that I have a Ph.D (and M.S. and B.S.) in Forestry. I've worked in boreal forests, northern hardwoods, Central Oak-hickory forests, Appalachian spruce-fir, Southern Hardwoods, Swamp Forests, and Southern Pine Forests (all North America). I've tagged a couple places with numbers and I'll comment below; I've deleted chunks because I didn't want to comment on those chunks.

Elephants and rhinoceroses are also doing just fine in forests. Not all forms of forests, but many are open enough to let them through.1
Generally speaking, the denser the canopy of the foliage is, the less undergrowth you will have because of the lack of light that reaches the ground. You can have bushes and brambles that are literally impenetrable, but these will be in places that are open to the sky. An important difference between natural forests and most forest that are close to inhabited places in the industrialized world, is the diversity and lack of uniformity. In a natural forest trees will eventually die and fall over, allowing sunlight to reach the ground, which first will be covered by small plants and eventually young trees. For that hole to be closed again will take centuries. If you're in an area where there has been logging in the last 300 years, that's not a natural forest. All the trees are about the same age and therefore of the same height and the canopy closed without holes. There hasn't been any opportunities for a second generation of trees yet and there also will be very little, if any trees, that have fallen over and are in the process of decomposing (which again takes decades or even centuries). Most forests near human habitations are way too clean and tidy compared to natural forests.


There is just no way move warriors in formation. And while you might quite well be able to ride on an animal along a trail or even through very light underbrush, you can't really use cavalry units. A scout on a mount would be able to race back very quickly to the rest of the army and warn them of enemies ahead, but you won't be able to do any fancy flanking or circling with 100 or 400 riders. They just can't stay together as a group and still make quick maneuvers.


Something that also won't work is masses of archers. Even with tree trunks relatively widely spaced, branches and leaves still affect arrows and you probably can't see far anyway. Archery would be more in the way of hunters, where you pick out a specific target and aim directly at it and your arrow has to hit the spot where you aimed or it will hit nothing.
To me, that all idicates that warfare would almost certainly take place between armies of pretty small size. If you want to assault a fortified town or hill fort, you'd of course get as many men together as you can as you will have to face the entire adult population fighting back. But big marching armies seem very unlikely to me.

If there is open space where your archers can't reach, those will be perfect spots for enemies to build catapults and balistas and the like. They won't be able to shot them at you from inside the trees and when you can decide what the minimum shoting range will be, it should be close enough for you to shot back at them.

Another thing that I believe gets always ignored in fiction is that it's close to impossible to silently sneak up on someone in a forest. 2 Dry leaves are the loudest surface you could possibly walk on. You probably need a good, and loud, distraction to get close to someone in a forest without him hearing you from a few meters away.

1) You don't have a very good notion of what forests are like. There is no forest, other than areas that have blown down within a few years (or maybe killed by ash fall or something similar), that are impenetrable over wide areas. There might be a spot (a few acres) that a person (or rider) can't get through, but locals will have found ways around them.

For the most part, gaps caused by death of a single tree will close within 5-10 years.
Forests near human habitations will only be clean and tidy if the locals have put in effort to make them clean and tidy.  BTW, one thing natives living in temperate forests do is BURN the undergrowth regularly. They do this to clear the understory (see farther to shoot prey), to encourage the growth of blackberries and other fruit, to control insects, or to drive prey

In a pre-industrial society, there won't be any large clearcuts. They will harvest wood for local use, of which firewood will probably be the most important. They might fell some trees to give more space to desirable trees (fruit trees, for example).

I'm a bit confused by your discussion of warfare. There probably wouldn't BE any large armies in the kind of situation you describe (because populations would be small and alliances probably wouldn't span more than a few hamlets). If they have cavalry or missile troops, they'd use them. I can't image they would have siege weapons.

2) It's not particularly hard to sneak up on someone in the woods at all. Forests are not quiet places and you wouldn't hear someone sneaking up on you until he was right on you (with the possible exception of immediately after the leaves fall in the autumn and while they are dry and crispy).

If you have any specific or general questions, you can message me.


Offline jefGoelz

Re: Forest World
« Reply #17 on: December 21, 2015, 02:16:40 AM »
It really depends on how (real world) realistic you want to make it. I don't think there was a literate forest people.
Writing has been invented five times (that we are aware of), one of which was Maya. They lived in Mesoamerica, i.e. in the rainforest, so it's perfectly realistic for a forest civilisation to become literate.

Mayans had agriculture.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Forest World
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2015, 02:24:17 AM »
It really depends on how (real world) realistic you want to make it. I don't think there was a literate forest people.
Writing has been invented five times (that we are aware of), one of which was Maya. They lived in Mesoamerica, i.e. in the rainforest, so it's perfectly realistic for a forest civilisation to become literate.

Mayans had agriculture.
Yora has said his culture would have agriculture too.
I wish the world was flat like the old days, then I could travel just by folding a map.

Offline jefGoelz

Re: Forest World
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2015, 02:58:52 AM »
It really depends on how (real world) realistic you want to make it. I don't think there was a literate forest people.
Writing has been invented five times (that we are aware of), one of which was Maya. They lived in Mesoamerica, i.e. in the rainforest, so it's perfectly realistic for a forest civilisation to become literate.

Mayans had agriculture.
Yora has said his culture would have agriculture too.
I read this thread over again, and you and I  mentioned agriculture, but not the OP. Maybe it was implied? The mayan's written language was mainly for record-keeping, and they were a farming culture not a Forest culture.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Forest World
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2015, 03:15:25 AM »
It really depends on how (real world) realistic you want to make it. I don't think there was a literate forest people.
Writing has been invented five times (that we are aware of), one of which was Maya. They lived in Mesoamerica, i.e. in the rainforest, so it's perfectly realistic for a forest civilisation to become literate.

Mayans had agriculture.
Yora has said his culture would have agriculture too.
I read this thread over again, and you and I  mentioned agriculture, but not the OP. Maybe it was implied? The mayan's written language was mainly for record-keeping, and they were a farming culture not a Forest culture.
I took it as implied - he mentions domesticated animals such as goats and pigs, as well as mentioning that while major land-clearing hasn't happened rather than no land-clearing at all. But yeah, you're right that he hasn't specified either way - my mistake! It all depends on what he wants to go for really.  :)
I wish the world was flat like the old days, then I could travel just by folding a map.

Offline CameronJohnston

Re: Forest World
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2015, 09:04:46 AM »

Since people have to work fields to grow food for settled populations, the overall population would have to be really quite small so that no major land clearing has taken place yet. Few people over vast areas also means little trade, which leads to little specialization within self-supporting settlements, and therefore limited technology.
Since I already planned to have mostly societies with early Iron Age culture, I think I am not going to get into any trouble there.


Not a bad idea by any means, certainly makes for an intriguing setting. The problem I have with it is that (certainly in the UK) historically heavy deforestation began in the Bronze Age, so by the early Iron Age a lot of your forests would be cleared by axe and fire to become farmland. As soon as you have better than stone axes it really takes off. Especially as populations expand due to farming technology levels, keeping cattle, more abundance of food etc.

Not an insurmountable issue of course - you can keep populations lower than historical standards by introducing natural forest predators, endemic diseases, different food beasts and the like. Or simply state that trees grow quicker in this forest world. Any of that would make perfect sense.


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Offline Yora

Re: Forest World
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2015, 09:30:21 AM »
If the whole world is fully forested I imagine you'd have a hard time defining nation states.  It would be hard for the apparatus of state institutions to arise out of the tribal structures that would do well in such a habitat.

It's likely, if you believe the world to be sparsely populated, that slavery wouldn't be strong, as coercion works only where there isn't anywhere easy to escape to.  This applies also to any state apparatus that tries to exert sovereignty over a dispersed area or multiple tribes.
The Scandinavians were pretty big on slavery and they are from a region that was very undeveloped in comparison to other parts of Europe. I think the most important thing with keeping slaves is that you have to take them far enough away from their homes to prevent them from running back. And also to make sure nobody comes to rescue them. You can't really take people from a neighboring village as slaves while that village still exist.
What you can have is surviving captives from a village you destroyed. Or you might be able to sell captive enemies to a relatively far away place, but that requires some pretty good long distance trade connections. The vikings were able to do it because they used their ships to raid very far away from their homes, so any prisoners from England or France would be very unlikely to successfully escape from Sweden.

I'm a bit confused by your discussion of warfare. There probably wouldn't BE any large armies in the kind of situation you describe (because populations would be small and alliances probably wouldn't span more than a few hamlets). If they have cavalry or missile troops, they'd use them. I can't image they would have siege weapons.
Estimates I've seen put the number of warriors Armenius got together to ambush Varus at 10,000 to 30,000. That is a pretty big army already. Though I believe we have very little actual information on how much these Germans had already been Romanized and how comparable they might have been to other groups living to the northeast.

Someone mentioned Maya, which I had not really thought of yet. I believe they might probably be very interesting to look at closer, as a kind of "forest civilization". Though of course by now the jungle had a 1000 years to grow back, so I am not sure how good the evidence is for how much land they cleared or didn't.
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Offline jefGoelz

Re: Forest World
« Reply #23 on: December 22, 2015, 01:44:09 AM »
Just because they fought in a forest doesn't mean that's where they got their food. Food source is what limits population.