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blog Fantasy Fortifications — Part 2: Technology and Materials

Discussion in 'Research' started by Black Dragon, Dec 15, 2019.

  1. Featured Author

    Featured Author Scribe

    AldarionAldarion submitted a new blog post:

    Fantasy Fortifications — Part 2: Technology and Materials
    This article is part 2 of a series on Fantasy Fortifications by Toni Šušnjar.


    This section, being technical, depends a lot on the nature of the fantasy in question. Is it low or high fantasy? How widespread is magic? Are there any fantastical/magical materials present? Can magic be used to reinforce buildings. Good examples of magical-yet-not-obviously-so fortifications are Helm's Deep (Aglarond) and Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings. Both Aglarond fortress and main wall of Minas Tirith had been built using magic – yet that magic takes the form of really advanced technology, and provides obviously fantastical fortifications without obviously breaking any laws of physics (Angrenost/Orthanc and Barad-dur are more obviously fantastical).

    Both building and siege technology is important aspect in designing walls. When it comes to siege technology, it can take various forms. But primary difference is lack or presence of stone-throwing weapons (catapults / onagers, ballistas, trebuchets) and their technological advancement, and lack or presence of gunpowder weapons.

    When it comes to materials however, another factor is their presence or absence. Where there is stone available, crude stone fortifications may appear long before they are technically necessary. Where there is none, fortifications will be built out of other...
    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.
  2. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

    What are your thoughts on the use of (nearly) indestructible materials in a fantasy setting? For example, adamantium? Do you think that they detract from the storytelling?
  3. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

    Yes. No. Maybe. Depends.

    Nearly indestructible materials are best used sparingly, for obvious reasons - although that will also depend on story purposes. In some cases, they are a very good - and important - aspects of the story. For example, nearly-indestructible construction of Orthanc and Othram* serves to constrain the attacking force. Thus Saruman still survives to give some information, and siege of Minas Tirith becomes a contest of will more than that of physical strength. They also serve to explain how Orthanc and Tirith palantirs managed to remain intact when most others were lost. But most cities and buildings in Middle Earth are very much not indestructible, and that means that you cannot just "button up" and hope to survive.

    In A Song of Ice and Fire, you have similarly indestructible fortress in Storm's End. In this case, it is likely to play important role in war against the Others. Some others may be of similar construction.

    It can detract from the story if overdone, however. If everything is indestructible, question becomes "how do people even manage to fight"? Of course, such question, well answered, may also place foundation for a rather interesting setting. But more than that, it may well feel cheap, that it is so easy to become invulnerable. So overall, you can use them - no problem with that - but only if you have a good reason to do so.

    * Main city wall of Minas Tirith.
    Black Dragon likes this.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    What I can never figure is, if it's indestructible, how is it shaped? You can't sharpen something to a point without destroying a bit of it. You can't poke a hole in it, or make armor or pretty much do anything with it except find interesting pieces for wall art, like finding driftwood.

    Also, since matter can neither be created nor destroyed, everything's indestructible, right?

    Yes, yes, I know. Nobody asked me. :)

    Good article, mate.
  5. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Inkling

    It could harden after being shaped, like concrete. Or it could even be 'grown' like some sort of crystal-thingy.
  6. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage


    There are actually several possibilities:
    1. It is only indestructible by weapons utilized, not indestructible overall. This means that it can be shaped by whatever can affect it, and new weapons may appear that will render it destructible.
    2. It is destructible, but only by means which are impractical for weapons utilization in the period. For example, if material is vulnerable to slow heating on extreme temperatures - well, you may be able to technically achieve such conditions, but can you use that as a weapon? Not until you get to lasers.
    3. It is a composite of several materials, and process of mixing and cooling them changes physical/atomic/crystalline structure of material in a way that later renders it indestructible even to processes used to create material in the first place. Kinda like diamond on steroids.
    4. And of course, everyone's favourite:
  7. Yora

    Yora Maester

    In theory you can tell stories with anything. The question always is what you want to say with it.
    Indestructable materials seem to fall into the category with other things that are good for silly nonsense fun, but I see little use in them for stories that try to feel plausible.

    Creating materials that are much more harder to break or deform than it is to make them is actually not that difficult or strange. There are a lot of materials that change their properties very significantly when heated and allowed to cool down. Take different powders, mix them, add water, shape them, and then burn them, and the resulting ceramic will have very different properties than the stuff you crushed into powders.
    While not indestructable, carbides can be stupidly hard.
  8. Yora

    Yora Maester

  9. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

    I am familiar with his videos. Good stuff. EDIT: Other good Youtubers, though not necessarily for castles, are Scholagladiatoria, Lindybeige, Kings and Generals, and BazBattles.

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