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Fantasy/Ancient WMD Ideas?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Alex97, Apr 15, 2014.

  1. Alex97

    Alex97 Troubadour

    I'm thinking of including some sort of weapon of mass destruction in my current WIP. Its set in an iron/bronze age type setting, so dropping bombs would be a bit out of place to say the least. Magic is fairly minimal and rare in this story, but I think the weapon will probably have to be magic based. I'm open to any suggestions.

    A few ideas at the moment:
    -some sort of artifact
    - control over elements/nature (tsunamis, volcanoes etc)
    - Magic explosion?
    - Mythical beast (avoid dragons)
    - Disease

    I reckon whatever made this weapon or developed it will probably be an ancient civilization with superior magic and technology to the existing civilizations. Might be some sort of undercover war for this weapon between different factions.
  2. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    Oh, I remember hearing about this one Hindu thing? Where heroes could summon weapons of a god by repeating a prayer or something? The strongest one is supposed to have a power like a nuke or something. For the life of me, I can't remember what they are called though. = /
    Alex97 likes this.
  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    No magic required.

    How big of an area are you planning to devastate? And what's the geography?

    Option One: grain is explosive. Even in ancient times, grain silo's exploded with devastating force. Combine with fire (arson).

    Option Two: Locusts. Bad guys import a few cages of hungry bugs to the fields, turn them loose, bugs eat crops in short order, resulting in famine.
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  4. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

    How much death and destruction do you want and how do you want it dealt out?:cool:

    Because there are just so many many ways to go about this. A lot will depend upon the nature of magic in your world. But off the top of my head I'll throw out these.

    Opening a rift into a plane rich in energies the more tumultuous the better.

    If entropic magic is available, then a great rite or magic-weapon that cause everything in the area of effect to decay into dust. Another similar method would be drain the life-force out of an area,killing every in the area.

    Milking weather magic for all it's worth by engineering catastrophic weather; my personal favorite is the hypercane.

    Triggering natural disasters lay-lines may or may not be involved.

    Destructive-resonce, potentially all the destruction of an atomic strike none of the fallout. has the of advantage of being "tuneable" to only effect certain type of matter.

    Common offensive magic scaled up to WMD levels.
    Alex97 likes this.
  5. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Can you really go past Greek Fire? The recipe for it may have been lost but the stories of its use still abound. And one of the ways it was deployed was in great pottery jars which could be hurled by catapult.

    Cheers, Greg.
    Alex97 likes this.
  6. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Right, it could be anything, especially if this is one case where magic can go up to these levels. I prefer spells with a slightly natural feel, so the "nuclear fireball" or "dimensional melt" seems less fun than:

    • wind, lightning, cold, floods, or other weather chaos ("there was no glacier this morning")-- or if you want an undercover weapon, just keep the temperature or rain down for a few months
    • earthquakes, or turning the ground to quicksand or crumbling the walls
    • necromancy-- every grave in the city opens
    • madness-- everyone tries to kill everyone else (or it's something like every male tries to, or every animal; it worked in The Birds)
    • disease or famine-- probably the most subtle and believable, but just as effective over time
    Alex97 likes this.
  7. I'm with Phsycostick here. Greek fire. Give your civilisation repeating ballista; maybe magically enhanced for that extra couple of hundred metres range, and have them fire pots of greek fire. A couple of them; maybe mounted on the back of a chariot, would be lethal; not nuke lethal, I'll give you that, but ten or twenty of them would tear apart an army/city with relative ease.

    (and its not as OP is a nuke; It can be countered)
    Alex97 likes this.
  8. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    Something that can bring on an endless winter, drought, etc.
    Bringing on a pestilence such as a wave or locusts or rats.
    Something which poisons the water, could even be a disease brought on.
    Alex97 likes this.
  9. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    Before you figure out the WMD, I'd ask, Who would develop it and why? What materials do they have to work from? What's the desired effect? How would it be delivered? What would be aftereffects and how would they have to be mitigated (for instance, chlorine gas is great when the wind is blowing towards the enemy). That is, consider the moral, strategic and technical challenges the developers face, as well as cost, then R&D the WMD. Certainly tossing diseased bodies over a wall is easier and cheaper than developing a weaponized aerosol disease.

    On the flipside, if the WMD is discovered (such as an artifact), consider how it would be applied in current times, as well as controlled and delivered (you might think other, more benign uses for it too). For instance, in my novel, a guy learns to ride a dragon. How would it then be used in battle? Probably, I think, they way early balloons were: as spotters; and the way early airplanes were: not it in dogfights, but as bombers. You might also consider, for irony's sake, how the WMD might have once been used differently.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2014
    Alex97 likes this.
  10. Alex97

    Alex97 Troubadour

    Cheers for all the answers guys.

    This WIP in is in its early stages so the WMD isn't definite, but I thought it would raise the stakes and bring about some interesting moral decisions. At the moment all the different civilizations are very detailed, but I'm unsure about magic. However, it will definitely be subtle and perhaps become more important as the story progresses. I like the idea in ASofIaF where the main powers are all fighting each other, but there's a greater threat (the others) so I might include a WMD as something similar.

    At the moment I'm leaning towards some sort of disease/famine or weather event. The prologue opens with a volcanic eruption, but that will probably just be natural. It takes out the dominant city state so there's a power vacuum that leads to war etc.

    This is a pretty cool idea - could expand it to mind control etc. An item/individual that could do this would give different factions something to secretly fight over.

    Greek fire was something I was considering before and will definitely use in a battle scene at some point. There is an interesting account of the Byzantines shooting Greek fire from metal animal heads from the front of their ships. Not sure how true that is, but a pretty cool concept that could be incorporated.
  11. Addison

    Addison Auror

    Okay I don't know why this just popped into my head, the Justice League cartoon episode where they used the tower like a giant laser.

    So following that DC inspiration, your weapon of mass destruction could be something that concentrated energy - magic or cosmic or whatever - out of the planet's atmosphere and blew up parts of the world. It could give yoru characters a chance and conflict. Mayb ehte weapon is in pieces and they're racing all over to find the pieces first. Or when each piece is found there's visible effects on the world. The sun seems to be dull or magic either fades or goes nuts. Who knows.

    Happy writing. :)
  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Greek fire was sprayed from one ship to another according to the stories - I'm thinking of something like a fire hose. It was deadly at sea because it floated and burned on water - and some say it caught fire when it got wet - which would make me think it had something like phospherous in it. There are also stories of it being loaded on to vessels which could then be rammed into other vessels.

    But I'm thinking that if magic is limited then with a catapult and the greek fire being loaded into pottery urns and catapulted, it would be the best way of destroying a town or village. And if it contained naptha and pine oil as some say, it would work a little like napalm - which would make it a horrific weapon of war.

    Cheers, Greg.
    Jabrosky likes this.
  13. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    I'd say using magic to initiate natural disasters is your best option. You've mentioned the setting is lower magic, and this has the benefit that a lot of disasters can take startlingly little energy to initiate - the energy is already built up in the system, needing only the right nudge. Compare the common chaos theory metaphor of a butterfly flapping its wings causing a tornado across the world.

    So a magic user with little power, but using that power very deftly, could: trigger an earthquake on a pre-existing fault line, summon a hurricane (probably takes a while to brew, but oh well), cause a volcano to erupt, spawn tornadoes, avalanches, mudslides, floods (all that requires is a lot of rain upstream!).

    Nature provides the power in these situations - all the magic has to do is unleash it.

    Diseases fall into this category as well, I think.
  14. Sir Tristram

    Sir Tristram Scribe

    Have you read Voyage of the Shadowmoon by Sean Mcmullen? It deals with this same problem, and it does it excellently. My personal suggestions would be
    1. Greek fire
    2. Some magical artifact for gathering or manipulating energy
    3. Plague, Bubonic or otherwise
    4. some form of crop blight?
    5. Other than that, the classics like necromancy or summoning one's evil overlord from the Dark Dimensions might work.
  15. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    A lot of people have mentioned Greek Fire, but I don't see it as a WMD. Sure, it's a great battlefield weapon, but to me a weapon of mass destruction should be the type of thing that wins war when used, greek fire just wins battles. Eh, just my opinion though.
  16. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    The simplest weapon of mass destruction would be a powerful poison that, when used to contaminate a city's water supply, could spread so effectively that it would kill the entire population in a matter of hours or a few days.

    Some plants can be so poisonous that this scenario is very realistic, and from my point of view that counts as a WMD.

    In case that your world has low Magic, perhaps that magic could be used to extract elemental Chlorine from table salt and then cool it so you can manufacture liquid Chlorine. Then the liquid would be stored inside glass containers that are kept very cold by magical means, until the moment that you decide to unleash the thing against your enemies...

    A few hundred tons of liquid Chlorine would create a cloud large enough to wipe out huge armies and entire major cities, and it would be freaking terrifying as well.
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  17. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    Having had an awful and very wet winter in the UK - I'd say a weather effect of some type. Either something that causes perpetual heavy rain (though hail is faster and destructive), or endless sunshine and drought - it's slow - but it's sure effective.
  18. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    In RPG sessions as a games master I've also thrown insect plagues at player's countries (though that's already been mentioned in another post) and armies equipped with parabolic mirror shields that could focus the energy of the sun - not true mass destruction but capable of decimating a battlefield and taking out leaders at the rear that thought they were sell safe from arrows or scything down whole rows of enemy forces. Poison gas is also pretty good it can kill outright, cause madness or even have other disgusting effects.
  19. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate Sage

    Veda weapons, yes, possibly. Shocking Secrets Of The Vedic Science Revealed! : The Most Confidential Knowledge – Integral vision of reality – Science – Philosophy – Religion Unfortunately I think you have to be a god (or possibly one of the greater demons; sometimes it's hard to tell the difference) to operate them, or at least survive their triggering. Perhaps a demigod, but not a mortal hero. And a properly theistic POV is so difficult to maintain; where's the interest, if you are properly omnipotent, in the entire conflict? Like saturday afternoon football.
    Grain won't explode. Finely dispersed in air, the dust from grain might; flour certainly will. So will naptha, especially distilled. However, to explode they have to be enclosed, and it will be a big enclosure. If you're doing a Stalingrad, and can take over a cathedral, fill the interior with clouds of flour, then find someone suicidal/heroic/daft enough to light the fuse.
    Big bang, lots of bits, but not really mass destruction; hardly any worse than a gas explosion in a block of flats.

    Thunderbolts (Kinetic strike)
    By far the most flexible and destructive way of getting rid of enemy armies or cities. Just take a collection of asteroids from the belt (well, it's probably a track on the crystal dome holding the stars in this case, but it's the same final result; thunderbolts from heaven).
    No dinosaur killers, a few tons per missile. Shock waves as powerful as an H-bomb, air hotter than a furnace and loaded with poisons from all the unpredictable substances heated to plasma. Your troops had better be a long way off the impact point. Glittering disciplined cohorts and high fortified walls make much better targets for celestial artillery than scattered villages and guerrilla raiding troops.

    Earthfire (volcanic eruption)
    Very difficult to manoeuvre the enemy into suitable territory, and essentially a defensive weapon. You site your home next to an active volcano and apply continuous spells to prevent it erupting; dead man's switch. Seal off the rooms, with air-tight shutters for the windows; the gasses and particulate ash are going to be worse than the lava.

    Skyfire (Solar flare)
    If you have a sun god you can request a solar flare; lots of lethal radiation, killing living creatures not protected by several inches of rock and soil, but leaving structures intact (maybe slightly radioactive, and thatch roofs might catch fire, but mainly infrastructure survives, contrary to most of my techniques).

    Deluge (Tsunami)
    Well, or destroying an irrigation dam. Or in some way convincing a large body of water to move rapidly across the battlefield; the 'allowing the Red Sea to return to its natural bed' technique. Can take out cities, but better against villages and armies.

    Pestilence (biological warfare)
    Until very recently more people died from infection in every war than by weapons. Certainly, some of the infection was from wounds going septic and a lot was exacerbated by food shortage, but the main reason was large numbers of men in close contact, with minimal sanitation or water purification (yes, cities also fit that description, and were also hotbeds of disease). I can't see (yet) how to hit enough of an army at one time to make it effective; incubation times in different humans vary too much; poisoning's more reliable. Dumping plague victims into streams, wells and other water sources has a venerable tradition, predating the microbe theory of disease, and, while hardly fulfilling our 'mass destruction' images could quite possibly kill more men (and horses and camels) than more flashy bangs and materialisations.

    I believe the largest explosion on Earth in historical times was the eruption of Krakatoa. Nothing but heat and water producing steam, and more energy expended than with a hydrogen bomb. You waste an enormous number of slaves digging a cavity in the red glowing rock, but the hydraulics of getting a few dozen hogsheads of water in before steam pressure makes this impossible can be handled by any culture capable of constructing a ziggurat.

    Weather control
    Apart from sandstorms and hurricanes, a slow reaction time makes these techniques (hailstorms, lightning, blizzards, drought) more useful for prolonged warfare, such as sieges and blockades than field battles. Also important in naval warfare (and, with the state of the roads, water transport is going to be your chief method of transport for heavy goods).

    Best used as a sapper technique against fortifications, a 'Jerico' weapon.

    Land slip, avalanche
    Has been used in mountain regions from time immemorial. Just needs scaling up, and some big mountains;

    Chemical, poison gas, poisoned wells, food.
    Your smiths, your potters, can make gastight containers, even your coopers can make containers suitable for heavy gasses. Hydrogen sulphide, chlorine; some poisons are within the abilities of very limited alchemists. But gas masks aren't, and there is no

    That's enough for one post (all right, more than enough) I'll look into magical entities later.
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  20. evanator66

    evanator66 Minstrel

    It could be a tome/tablet/scroll with the knowledge of how to build technologically advanced weapons. These could be automatic ballistae, basic firearms or mechanical soldiers.

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