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Fortifications against dragons?

Discussion in 'Research' started by ascanius, May 13, 2015.

  1. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    Fortifications are usually a result of the weapons tech and threat an invading army poses. The introduction of gunpowder saw a significant change in fortifications so my question is how would one go about fortifying against dragons?

    In my story dragons don't get huge the largest might weigh a little more than an African elephant but still having a fire spewing African elephant attacking my town is not something I would like. After that they get smaller, I have wild dragons that are much smaller and much more agile and aggressive but the domesticated ones have been breed to serve diverse combat roles much the way horses or dogs have been breed. They don't have ipenetrable hides and can be killed but their hide is think like that of a rhino. and the last thing dragons are expensive so an army of 1k might have at most 50. They are more expensive that a war horse would be in the middle ages.

    In terms of fortifications the only thing I can think of is towers with Roman balistae on top. Smaller towns are on their own I would think. Also doing this for something like a castle is one thing what about fortifying a city the size of Rome?

    Also in an open field battle how would dragons change the battle? and how would you attack an army with dragons?
  2. For the defense of a city I would imagine strategic locations would have towers with balistae. However, from what I know of shooting flying things it is better to either have a "spray and pray" method of delivery or a shotgun method. Meaning that the method of delivery either has to shoot a bunch of projectiles in rapid succession or that many smaller shots are shot at anyone moment because hitting something fighting a three-dimensional battle like that would be really really hard. So you could have Chinese rockets that would burst and send out a bunch of shot or gatling balistae.

    In open field combat you would need either a mobile platform for the weapons mentioned above or you would have to ground the dragons before they took flight or you would have to have a flying threat of your own. That is what I can think of off the top of my head.
  3. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    Large numbers of archers/crossbowmen would work, as would ballistae modified for high angle fire.
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I think you can look at modern warfare and how people fortify against bombers. Just off the top of my limited knowledge head, there's flak to try to take out the bombers before they deliver their payload and then there's bunkers for when they do.

    So maybe they have a gatling gun type system that shoots arrows/nets/crude explosives/tar. And instead of open courtyards and ramparts in castles, maybe there are special roofs that resist bombardment and flame. Maybe castles are embedded into hills or they're more underground than overground.
  5. Russ

    Russ Istar

    The key questions is whether and how well they fly and how far they can breath fire.

    IF their hide is like rhino hide the I am with XE, give me archers and crossbowmen and call it a day. If my projectile weapons have a better range than their fire breathing then they are toast.

    If they cannot fly non-flammable walls are the answer.

    Then you have to think about the personality of the creatures. Elephants were tricky because you could panic them and get them going the wrong way. Are their instincts or behaviours of dragons one could take advantage of?
  6. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    For ground based Dragons... Caltrops
    I love Caltrops!
    Feet are usually a sensitive spot so if you think standing on a Lego block in the middle of the night was painful, make it a 4 inch spike and then make it hundreds of them... They might not kill your Dragons, but they will let you direct them in to the areas that you want so you can deal with them. You can make then fairly simply and set them out quickly if needs be. They are a bit like Land mines in that they can also stop you from using the area once they are there, but at least you know where they are before you run in to them.
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    My first thought was: you can't build forts against dragons, all they need is a boulder and a thousand feet of altitude. A big enough rock always wins. :showoff:

    That's for the bigger, smarter dragons, though. Something more like an elephant isn't quite as unstoppable.

    One lesson from the Civil War might apply, if dragons charging at walls are similar to cannonballs: walls of packed earth turn out to take impact better than hard stone. (Let alone wood, which is bad idea with fire-breathing monsters anyway.)

    Russ has a point, and we've gone over this in some of our past dragon-fighting threads: armor is key. Since your dragons have rhino-hide, any ordinary weapon is just praying for a hit on a weak spot, and they'd be most vulnerable to massed attacks or a master warrior. (An archer works better for both options, if you have them. Edit: mostly because it's safer.) The ballistae, explosives, and maybe poisons people have mentioned start to look like the best option.

    That and of course, send out your own dragon cavalry!
    Last edited: May 14, 2015
    ALB2012 likes this.
  8. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    In my next novel, a guy on a dragon will not do the obvious thing and fly down and flame a city like a cavalry charge. He'll simply bomb it from high above.
  9. ArenRax

    ArenRax Sage

    Covered walls! Like the town walls from fable 2 and reinforced with non-flammable yet sturdy material,a sort of fire fighting contingent if anything does catch fire, and well like everyone says Flak lots and lots of Flak.
  10. In my work, Dragons live in the wilds to the north and the east. They've been driven there, because to their immediate south lives nations of a type of Fae - the Fal Ridans, who can grow wings from their backs as a sort of "racial" magic. Dragons don't have much when faced with a thousand flying fae either armed with slings, bows or muskets.

    To the East, in the Hearthlands, they are in more conflict with humans. Seeing as, in my World, magic isn't a nuke, much more of a sawed-off shotgun - useful in some circumstances, but much easier ways of killing people exist, the Hearthlanders have come up with a way of creating Windlances. They are double or quadruple barrelled weapons that fire dart/ bolts, propelled by blocks imbued with magic at the bottom of the barrels. When they want to fire, the blocks are uncovered, bang, bolt travelling really fast, able to peirce armour at five hundred paced = dead dragon. They've ramped this technology up to eleven for cities/ fortresses, and created what can only be described as magic-powered AA batteries. Btw the people there also have to contend with giants. Cannon are becoming more of a thing there, but they are too inaccurate when compared to a flying dragon. Grapeshot works, though firing upwards, it looses power very quickly.

    The Dragon-Knights of the Hearthlands, the only people allowed to use Windlances - iron and wood is rare ish in the Hearthlands, and despite trade, it is like a thousand miles from my other continents - have developed a technique for fighting dragons, which is to use the dragon's weight against them, such as trying to get under the dragon - it's insticnt would be to squish the human, get your sword between a joint in scales, and try and roll away. If it works, the hardened ice that their swords is made from will be trapped between the ground and the dragon, and be driven fully in. That the theory, anyway . . .
  11. You can use more than grapeshot and regular old cannon balls if you have cannons. In the American Civil War they had mortar rounds that the artillery men would have loaded with explosives. They'd also have shrapnel and metal balls, much like grapeshot, and launch them up and over certain obstacles. The canisters would then explode over the defenders and spread their payload. This could work against dragons as well, just change the mortar to a cannon and go from there.
  12. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    I would highly recommend reading The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly as a good intro to how someone might organize dragon defenses with modern technology as a way to see how you might do it for medieval tech. A lot of the building defenses won't have changed, plus there was the whole bit about throwing water in the dragon's mouth to extinguish the flame thing, which was fun, and neither of those things relied upon modern war tech to accomplish the goal of defenses against fire breathing flying critters.

    Hope that helps.
    StoryTypewriter likes this.
  13. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate Sage

    Fortresses are built considering artillery - I don't see a dragon being capable of lifting a stone big enough to rival a big catapult, nor, unless it's explosive or incendiary, doing serious damage with it.

    In my dragonverse the von Wurmsbane manor house has sharply pitced roofs, in thick slate or stone slab, with nothing burnable in sight. Sally ports in the roof, equipped with steel crossbows with braided wire strings and mounted on metal swivels (too heavy to be hand aimed) are reached through zig-zag tunnels from the interior, all walkways between buildings are covered with uninflammable shelter, tunnels leading to cellars and dungeons all have further zig-zags to prevent dragons slithering into them like caves, and collapsable ceiling sections. Even the chimneys are multiple tubes, so small dragons can not get access.

    The big arbalestes are clumsy and slow, but dragons are reptillian and smaller quarrels and arrows just don't do enough damage to them to slow them - the standard anti-dragon weapon is a portable model of the swivel arbalest, shooting bolts with oversize tips full of black powder. And broadswords and axes to butcher them, evidently. It was largely the success of these weapons that convinced the remaining

    Ground attacking dragons wear armour. Since dragons are solitary predators (it was largely this, and their inability to see humans as 'rivals', rather than classing them as 'prey', that allowed humans to survive on the continent when they arrived. It took several dragons being swarmed under and hacked apart with agricultural and domestic improvised weapons before their error became clear, losing a hundred or more humans to kill one dragon, but breeding that much faster - and by then it was too late. They would have had to cooperate to survive, and their instincts didn't allow for this) they would never have gone 'disciplined' or 'teamwork' until some particularly intelligent dragon, instead of cheering the downfall of some competing relative noticed the diminishing number and importance of dragonkind, and organised their serving in human military organisations. And a heavy lancer on a warhorse could easily penetrate a dragon's hide, so human artisans had developed armour with quick release catches a dragon's talons can undo, and take to the air almost instantly - tanks transforming into helicopters in one swell - actually several swell foops, but little time lost. The armour has to travel by cart, not even the Empire's airships being adequate for transporting that much weight (and the airships' crews not being any too friendly with dragons, and not only because their lift gas is hydrogen). And not that many warhorses approved of the idea of charging toward a predator that size, despite their riders' encouragement, so the dragons tend to start the battle light, flying in or riding airships whose occupants were praying they didn't sneeze, and go into tank mode only for planned engagements - and even then I can't imagine any of them volunteering to have a battering ram strapped to her back.
  14. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate Sage

    So, architecture is left to traditional techniques, sappers and artillery, and dug-in infantry are generally too fiddly for draconian attention. If you see dragons over agricultural land they're generally on commissary duty - a fighting dragon needs a lot of meat, and the enemy can't be relied on to send in cavalry charges to supply their requirements - and there they have the advantage for the peasants of never descending to rape or torture - no Imperial dragon, or member of the alliance, would ever eat human, on political rather than moral or gustatory grounds. Lightly clad maidens chained out to propitiate the monsters were generally freed, and brought back to the human forces, who were generally less fastidious.
    So, It is in charges (combined with infantry - nobody has a force of cavalry, or camel riders, that will combine with dragon forces yet) and as flying scouts. Limited paratroop type operations, taking out enemy supply caravans, bridges and officers' encampments, but no 'heroic' engagements – they're mercenaries, not fanatical patriots.

    There are still 'wild' dragons - traditionalists who expect an annual tribute maiden, who keep a village full of humans to serve and feed them. They're not much worse than human lords, really - indeed, they resemble them a lot except in never having made any vows of fealty to anyone else. They avoid human conflict unless it impinges directly onto their domain, in which case they show little innovation in tactics (imagine a human general a couple of centuries old) and tend to get killed pretty fast.

    You've probably read Ugsov the elder's natural history tomes - they're a standard in most schools - and his "Dragons, being creatures of Earth, with the caves they nest in, of the Air they fly through and the fire they breath, loath water in all its forms, sheltering from storms and avoiding its touch upon their scales."?Well, watching a group of dragons being scrubbed down, with all the splashing and general highjinks involved, one might begin to question his observational accuracy. And it is in naval warfare where the dragons' arrival has been most revolutionary.
    The coastal republics, a heterogenous collection of fishermen, traders and pirates, decided that, while the Empire was involved with its mountainous neighbours, it was a good time to organise an increase in piracy and coastal raiding. A small force of dragons - five, to be precise- clad in lightweight bamboo armour that didn't prevent them from flying short distances, and actually give floatation, on specially designed ships (copper clad decking, large landing strip means masts have to fold down) convinced them their calculations were in error. Tarred rigging and an inability to hide against the sea from anything aloft resulted in the capture or destruction of over forty craft and two 'merchant princes' who'd been 'unjustly aggressed - nothing to do with piracy, of course not' - and the release of several hundred kidnapped citizens.
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  15. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Excellent points, chrispenycate. Especially about dragons at sea-- the classic limit of flyers is that they can't always get a clear view (or shot) at what's hidden in the ground terrain, and ships don't have that protection. What ships do have is a vast amount of ocean to maneuver in, and dragons' range is a good counter to that, plus you have what a good flaming breath does to wooden ships.

    Hmm, interesting how the Asian dragon is more a water king than a land beast. With strategic uses like this, maybe this is why...
    Last edited: May 17, 2015
  16. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    catapult medieval arrows 3d model

    Looks like the second link might have arrows with explosives? A wall of actual flak?
    Multiple arrow catapults aimed upwards, would put up a ancient wall of flak to take down fliers at lower levels.

    Wood buildings would not stand long against a dragon. So anything meant to slow or stop an army must be of non-flammable material. (Skins covering a building covered in water might slow the burning process a little.)
    Gates and entrances, drawbridges were usually made of wood. So this would be a weakness. Stone covering the wood would protect some of the moving parts. Burning a drawbridge would be counter productive as the army wouldn't be able to cross on it. Burning the ropes that hold it up, might cause it to drop, and offer a route across the moat. But knowing this the landowner might have the drawbridge positioned so that if the support to the bridge is burned it would fall into the moat or fall to one side rather then drop for the advantage of the advancing army.
  17. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    A wild idea I came up with, projectiles and mirrors during the day. Use mirrors and shields to reflect sunlight into the sky to momentarily blind the dragons then fire some type of projectile at them. During the night you can use fire to create the light. I would also create "dirty" projectiles. Boulder and harpoons that are covered with glass or ceramics. Have them collide in the air in the dragon's path, creating a cloud of sharp particles that the dragon would breath in damaging it on the inside.
  18. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Your dragons can fly and breathe fire. That makes them a nasty aerial foe. But I assume that they aren't STOL - short take off and landing. That means that if the range of their fire breath isn't too great you can minimise any damage they can do by building high. Tall walls and small open areas between them. The closer to vertical they have to get to take off and land to get to their target, the more vulnerable they would become while attacking.

    Next, everything needs a roof - preferably one that won't burn and equally one they can't land on. So steep roofs perhaps made of stone tiles that would shift underfoot. And possibly with spikes pointing up everywhere, just to add to the unfriendliness of the terrain.

    Obviously ranged weapons are your best attack against them. I would have archers or riflemen depending on your level of tech, stationed in dragon proof towers with slits from which they can fire. I'd also tend to spike their weapons. The dragons presumably move fast through the air, they'll be hard to hit, and their hide is thick. I'd go for either a poison or an acid of some sort. Something that means if they get even nicked, they will notice the effect.

    Another thought, if your society is advanced enough, would be barrage balloons. They were used in WWII against enemy bombers and were a useful defence because the bombers moved too quickly to see the ropes holding the balloons to the ground - especially at night. Flying into one could cause damage to them, thus preventing them from bombing from a low altitude. Dragons, especially if they have big wingspans and fly fast could be limited as well in the same way.

    But as someone else said, your best defence against one airforce is another. I'd have each important structure defended by its own flock? of dragons.

    Cheers, Greg.
    Laurence likes this.
  19. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Maester

    Depends on where the dragon keeps his vulnerable spot.
    Are there wizards? Are there ballistae? How long can the dragon keep flying and breathing fire?

    You could fight fire with water or ice?
  20. Phrase

    Phrase Acolyte

    I would say... archers, bolt throwers, and a wizard or two on hand. Also... you may want to consider having buckets filled with water on hand. :p

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