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Military Tactics with Magic

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Azaraiha, Jul 11, 2020.

  1. Azaraiha

    Azaraiha Dreamer

    In your world, how does battle tactics incorporate magic on the battlefield?
    Dark Lord Thomas Pie likes this.
  2. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

    Very bluntly. Since one usually never has too much of an idea of what they're facing, most magical battles are less tactical and more brute force. Since it plays a bit like elemental rock, paper, scissors up to a certain point. Fire, water, lightning, thresher plants, astroids, earth being shoved up and other such magic. A battlefield becomes a churned mess a lot of the times, but this stops nothing.

    It also incorporated into armor and weapons. From power armor to firearms it finds all sorts of uses.
  3. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    I would say it depends on the magic system. Most magical systems I've read about here and in books would have serious penalties for dropping that much artillery on the battlefield. I would say that at least for me, with my stories, that would be a last-ditch-effort to save the homeland kind of stuff.

    That being said, I think you could use more subtlety to influence the flow of battle. For example, restraining vines or strategically placed fields of mud could be used to slow the advance of horses or infantry. Clairvoyance or farseeing to keep an eye on the battlefield from an elevated position. You could suddenly summon an elemental or shadow soldiers in the middle of a formation of troops to break them, or at the least, distract them so you can press an attack from outside. You could use ice missiles to shred the legs of cavalry horses or fireballs to light pre-made traps on fire.

    As Orc Knight stated above, magical items might affect combat. Enchanted horseshoes for faster attack speed on cavalry, rings of invisibility on teams of assassins targeting an enemy leader. Featherfall charms to drop troops from airships to turn the tide of battle. With a bit of creativity, it doesn't have to be the world-breaking magic; unless of course you like that sort of thing.
  4. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

    Not at all. Most magic powers are passive - such as silver weapons being used to counter magical beasts, but these are just normal weapons made out of silver. Other uses of magic are scouting and similar, but you do not see big flashy explosions.
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  5. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Inkling

    Wizards tend to used far more for communication purposes than for actual combat. In that they (at least some) can 'speak from afar' they are more valuable for coordinating and giving scouting reports. Their actual fighting skills (consisting largely of pulling what they need from other worlds, ideally something deadly) are better suited to one-to-one combat than to war.
    Dark Lord Thomas Pie likes this.
  6. In Maymyth: Wizards don't fight, they supply the soldiers with runes. They also use healing runes on the common folk.
    In Zorn: Usually artillery, powerful wizards can be like an army all on their own. Also, there are battlemages.
    The other, nameless one: Wizards are treated like Tolkien's wizards, godlike power and there are only a few of them. They don't bother with silly things like military. Also, monks can use magic, but only a little bit, and they don't usually fight unless in self defense.
  7. Za'dok Khoal

    Za'dok Khoal Dreamer

    As afore mentioned, I usually like it when the magic is "somewhat" explained, a system or way things work and why. the Force in star wars, the old star wars at least, Luke was withheld by his dis-belief Yoda was not, and experience did gain a sort of power, strength in the force this was some what subjective though. The matrix, neo couldn't jump the building because he was limited by his own belief of what was possible. There is also physical examples like muscle, to how much and in what way does someone who works out use said muscle, how much use does the muscle get, and in what way, the bridge construction worker who packs concrete and rebar every day is going to be stronger (in general) than the law maker who argues politics and reads law most days. you have body builders who can lift, verses the runners, verses the people who have swimmer's bodies. they all have things they are good at and abilities in their own rights.
    Then there is power by knowledge. The more you know the more attacks and defenses you can put up, power by the recalling of spells or how creative the individual may be with little knowledge compared to brute force or speed. Just ideas, figuring out a system in the stories is usually a fun part for me, then throwing the system at scenarios in my head to see how it would hold up in a story or if there are any holes to the systems use. One last thing, the magic ability, "why" was it made, or "why" is it an "Ability"? Was it solely made to be used in war? Or, did it have a more pleasant utilitarian purpose?
    Dark Lord Thomas Pie likes this.
  8. Eclipse Sovereign

    Eclipse Sovereign Dreamer

    Well, in the old days of my setting magic defined warfare. Humans were used to colonize a region, and the real combat was left to Sorcerers. Later on, dragons were designed as air support and deep strike units. Essentially, a dragon would be sent to destroy the capital of an enemy nation, completely nullifying their morale and often decimating the command structure.
  9. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    Traditionally mages were used to enchant weapons and heal the wounded. However, the invention of firearms reduced the need for enchanting weapons so mages were mostly used as clergy and medics. They also made excellent spies as they could go places that would've been impossible for armed combatants or civilians to go.

    By the Great War modern warfare had made enchanted weapons obsolete, the mass slaughter made it impossible for mages to heal people in the numbers that were needed and the very act of casting spells exposed mages and combat units to enemy gun fire.

    During the Great War mages were mostly used for assisting medical teams and for espionage but some major powers were experimenting with using enchanted military vehicles and aircraft to protect them from enemy attack. Enchanted military hardware was banned by the Treaty of Chur'Bro but it's widely believed that there are several countries secretly training with enchanted military hardware.
  10. StrawhatOverlord

    StrawhatOverlord Scribe

    It varies with the faction.

    The Tawy Empire has magician universities so they have enough proper mages to incorporate them into their military as essentially fantasy artillery, and this is also mostly how they keep enough territory free of hostile creatures that they can farm and such.

    The Maldem Magocracy don't really have a military per se, since all of their citizens are mages. They also have no need to conquer since they can just magic up resources instead of taking over resourceful lands, but they will nuke your face off if you try to conquer them.

    The Aldebrand Kingdom mostly has a few weirdo sorcerers and largely scattered witches (who are officially outlaws) so the magic they have militarily is a limited number of educated wizards, some "old magic" sorcerers, the court mages of the noble houses, and champions of the old gods (basically barbarian paladins). The land of the kingdom is also deeply seeped in very ancient magic that make it a bitch to invade.

    The Eorg (dwarves) just prepare war spells when they have a big conflict, so also basically artillery.

    The various tribes of Anaan (elves) don't do direct war as they think it's inefficient and unseemly. Their approach would be things like, kill their leaders pushing to attack them and leave the mooks untouched. Or give the soldiers blissful dreams every night so they don't want to fight. Or nightmares so they don't sleep for days and go crazy and can't fight.

    The Drakkaros have rituals and spirits, but mostly they wage war on pure brawn.

    In a more general view, all the big powers of the world ward their fortifications and key areas, or consecrate them, which usually doesn't technically make them less vulnerable to damage, but makes it so attacking the building or area is an affront to a deity.
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  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Battle magic is tricky. Any sort of ranged attack is going to have to take into account friendly fire. The mage may not know who is at the point of attack, or not be able to control exactly how far the effect will go. I address some of that in my first novel.

    It's possible to use magic to prepare the field. Keep the troops back and just let loose in the direction of the enemy. But the other side has the same capability, and artillery duels can get dreadfully bloody.

    Armed combat can also get tricky, but there's more room to innovate here. Each side might have reinforced armor or overpowered physical weapons, in addition to being able to do things like magic missile attacks. This aspect offers the most potential for creating different fighting styles. Some time or other I'm going to use the magical version of Cretan slingers (I think I'm remembering rightly) dashing out between the two armies, to wreak a little havoc just before the charge.

    Another sort of battle mage might be used to set traps, going out in the night. Spying would be a related activity.

    If your mages can fly, that opens up a whole other can of horses of a different color.

    Then there's siegework. In one story I reference sappers, though I don't narrate any activity directly. I call them tunnelers and they work in teams. Some do the physical work, but walls and foundations would be magically reinforced, so there are also mages who work at sapping the magical works.

    One could also consider raids. Historically, these were conducted in part to strike terror and in part to forage. Slinging a few fireballs is ever so much more effective than soldiers shouting and throwing torches. I can picture another sort of wizard carrying off haystacks or even entire barns, back to a castle or camp. Mule mage. <g> Or, why steal cattle when you can just fly them over to the next valley?!

    Just a few ideas. Lots of possibilities, limited only by ... well ... imagination.
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  12. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Compared to most other systems, the (mortal) wizards in my worlds are wimps. Grand destructive magic is beyond them. Grand destruction is most certainly within the capabilities of the Lovecraftian entities summoned by Traag's sorcerer-aristocrats during the war; these beings tend to be huge, immensely strong, and largely invulnerable to mortal weapons. On occasion, mere handfuls of these abominations routed entire armies. They were countered by 'Godborn' - wizards born on the Spring Equinox and blessed with healing and protective magics, and by knights and capable warriors wielding enchanted weapons.

    That said, most imperial wizards were used in a support capacity - scrying for enemy activity, setting wards, and healing (especially Godborn)
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  13. Aswin

    Aswin New Member

    Well... According to me magic brewers usually are helpful in defences, especially when it comes to huge mobs of monsters or men to invade a castle kind of stuff.
    Sorcerers can use some magical barriers, make trenches go invisible, or even create an illusion of an army behind enemy lines.
    The more imagination u can acquire, magician characters would be as flexible, making it as a great advent age in battlefield.
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  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    One way to explore this question would be to take actual historical battles and speculate what would change if you added magic. Towton, Guagamela, Zama Regia, Tannenberg, Ypres, Pearl Harbor, Pavia. Lake Trasimene ... There's quite a list from which to choose, and that's not counting sieges (Rhodes, Constantinople, Carthage).

    And there's quite a large variety of magical options. For example, just add a single mage who can create illusions but only of a certain size and duration. Illusions can be fun because of course both sides are fooled.

    If adding a larger number of mages, how are they stationed? Interspersed with your own troops? Cavalry? In the center, or on one wing? Behind, or in advance? Guerilla tacitcs only? So many choices!

    Rarely discussed are how you get the mages there in the first place. Most armies have a measure of discipline, of command and control. Do your mages go to officer training school? Is there a martial ethic that regulates them, akin to chivalry? Do they have their own officers, or are they integrated into the chain of command? What mage would want to go into the army rather than have his own grand tower of wizardry and complete independence? Are they specialists, or do they get pressed into service like a peasant or a merchantman and its crew?

    On the other foot, what about counter-measures? Do you train your footsoldiers to deal with magical attacks? How does cavalry adjust? If you have regular artillery, what is its role now? And so on.
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I just read an article that might give still more ideas. Or at least one. It's in two parts
    A Wonderful Struggle: The 16th Century Art of Civic Combat, Part 1 | HROARR
    A Wonderful Struggle: The 16th Century Art of Civic Combat, Part 2 | HROARR

    The part that caught my imagination was the holding of public competitions between schools of fencing. Especially within an independent city, this could offer possibilities among magicians. Could be competitions between battle mages, but could also be contests or other displays, always with a potential of devolving into outright fighting. Tempers do flare. In storytelling, this could be a way not only to develop plot but also to show off different styles of magic in the same scene.

    It also made me think of combining skills. That is, a master swordsman who *also* does magic. The ways various forms of non-magic fighting could be combined with magic combat seem limitless. It's odd we don't see more of that. It's usually soldiers over here, wizards over there.

    All that aside, the articles are solid history and make for some interesting reading for anyone with some historical curiosity.
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  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Here's another consideration. I'm writing a scene in which Our Hero is camped beside a river and is ambushed in the middle of the night.

    He has a mage in his company. I haven't been specific about what magic this fellow does, and I haven't settled on what magic the attackers have; I tend to develop the specifics as I go. As I blocked out the scene, I realized that magic in such a situation might be more hindrance than help.

    Sure, I could just let some mage employ the equivalent of a flare and call in the artillery and kill everyone. But it occurred to me that magic at night might be as problematic as a trebuchet or arrows. Leave aside essentially re-creating modern tech via magic, and this can make things pretty tense. I like that better. For my scene, anyway, no battle magic in the dark of night. Even better (for my scene anyway), the Hero's mage is not a battle mage at all, so he might be tempted to try something, or be in despair when he realizes he cannot help.

    Anyway, it was an angle of battle magic I had not considered. Also, fireballs at night would tend to blind temporarily friend and foe in the immediate vicinity.

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