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Old 04-05-2024, 05:08 PM   #1
Dalillama
 
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Default Magic on the TL 3 battlefield

Or, What's a battle mage for anyway?
Assuming TL3 militaries, who have had access to magic long enough to include it in their tactical doctrine. Assume limited access to enchanted gear, and that a skilled mage has half a dozen primary spells. What are the best ones? Does this change depending on troop type?

Case 1) Rare magic. There is roughly one mage per battalion, 1 in 1000 soldiers is a useful mage. What spells are most useful for this army?

Case 2) common magic: There's about 1 mage per company of 80-100 soldiers; command, intelligence, and logistics have their own mages. What are the best spells for a line mage? How about a 'scout' mage?

Case 3) Ubiquitous magic: Every squad of 4-8 soldiers contains a mage, there are additional company and battalion-level mages, every branch of specialists has mage.
Case 1 is probably going to see mage focused on crying the enemy army, coordinating movements, and ensuring the right weather, and preventing the other side from doing the same.

Case 2 might use a lot of area effect spells, even create fire can control parts of the battlefield.

Case 3 is going to probably focus on buffs, plus one or two fighting spells because they'll be in the thick of it.

Thoughts?
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Old 04-05-2024, 05:46 PM   #2
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Default Re: Magic on the TL 3 battlefield

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Originally Posted by Dalillama View Post
Or, What's a battle mage for anyway?
...

Thoughts?
Speaking as a semi-pro historian with a military focus...

GURPS base Magic System I can see a number of ways to vastly improve on 'historical' TL 3ish communications.

With improved communications you could have a vast improvement in tactics/operations/strategy. What Napoleon or Alexander might have achieved with a handful of WW2 handie/talkies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkie-talkie

Magic can get you that and I expect that would be a better force multiplier that dice of damage.

And of course magical healing since disease was the biggest killer in war up to the American Civil War at least...
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Old 04-05-2024, 06:38 PM   #3
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Default Re: Magic on the TL 3 battlefield

Anything that helps C3I - command, control, communications, and intelligence. GURPS Magic spells tend toward the sort a individual dungeon-crawling hero would want, but for an army, you can leverage the mages better with "big" spells.

I agree with healing, for example, but Remove Contagion on the camp and especially the kitchens and latrines will give the commander more active, healthy soldiers by preventing diseases than will Cure Disease to cure each soldier after they've already gotten sick. If you have few magic items, a self-powered Purify Water hoop would be tremendously valuable (especially if you rig it so that the water supply is channeled through it, purifying everything that comes downstream before it gets distributed to the army). Conversely, you'd like to Foul Water on the enemy water supply, rather than individually sickening soldiers in battle.

Similarly, weather spells can slow the entire enemy army, whereas no mage can throw Rooted Feet on enough enemy soldiers to matter. Gate spells will let mages create portals from one base to the desired destination. ("Get there first with the most men".)

Intelligence means scrying, so Far-Seeing, Far-Hearing, Scry Gate, and the like. Knowledge spells also help the "scout" mage; finding an efficient path to move the army to the desired destination with spells like Know Location and Pathfinder is more valuable than getting one spy to make some personal observations and report back, useful as the latter is. Truthsayer and Mind-Search will have some application in interrogation, but are probably too expensive to apply to every captured enemy soldier.

Regular spells would be most useful if you can target the enemy commanders. But of course the enemy knows that. So, meta-spells to block scrying and remote magical attacks will be a top requirement. Every independent unit needs a security mage.

Some magical research would be directed to developing Area versions of Regular spells for combat. Individual mages throwing Explosive Fireballs at the enemy line don't do a lot of damage on the scale of an entire battle; Rain of Fire (etc) might be applied more usefully. Battlefield control with Area basics like Create Fire might be used to isolate key points of the enemy army so that they can be defeated in detail more effectively than trying to set fire to the entire line.

Other researcher mages will be tasked with inventing a counter to every good idea the offensive mages come up with, so that the same can't be done to their own army. Acquiring enemy magical doctrine and spells to know what to stop is another application of the intelligence spells.
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Old 04-05-2024, 08:03 PM   #4
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: Magic on the TL 3 battlefield

There are a few simple damaging Spells that have disproportionate effect.

Take Create Fire. cast it on top of a formation of soldiers and the soldiers may only take a few pts of damage before they jump out of the area but you've busted their formation. Add Shape Fire and you can chase them across the battlefield faster than armored infantry can march.

As for cavalry, horses _really_ aren't going to have anything to do with such a combo.

The Opfor can try and match all Create/Shape Fire Mages with extinguis Fire Mages (or maybe Water Jet) but miss one and you've still got big trouble. Fight Fire with Fire and that just means everybody shifts to dispersed troops of the "skirmish" type.

No heavy formations for shock and defense is a pretty big change.
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Old 04-05-2024, 08:53 PM   #5
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Default Re: Magic on the TL 3 battlefield

Some of this depends on what the range is for hostile observers is for ceremonial magic, because 100 extra energy from friendly observers goes a long way. Aside from C3I, GURPS Magic has some very strong positional defense spells, such as mystic mist.
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Old 04-06-2024, 08:26 AM   #6
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Default Re: Magic on the TL 3 battlefield

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
Take Create Fire. cast it on top of a formation of soldiers and the soldiers may only take a few pts of damage before they jump out of the area but you've busted their formation. Add Shape Fire and you can chase them across the battlefield faster than armored infantry can march.

As for cavalry, horses _really_ aren't going to have anything to do with such a combo.

The Opfor can try and match all Create/Shape Fire Mages with extinguis Fire Mages (or maybe Water Jet) but miss one and you've still got big trouble. Fight Fire with Fire and that just means everybody shifts to dispersed troops of the "skirmish" type.

No heavy formations for shock and defense is a pretty big change.
Sure. If you houserule away the -1/three FEET distance mod. That's the elephant on the battlefield, when it comes to the effectiveness of damage spells on the GURPS battlefield. If I'm the OPFOR commander, I am not going to meekly line my army up in one nice, dense, shoulder to shoulder mass, conveniently missile weapon free and standing in ready range to your battlemages. And should something like a wall of fire suddenly spring up as I call the advance? Then I do something intelligent and tell the drummers to call the halt. I bet I can outwait the casters' Fatigue reserves, especially given how hefty the cost is to maintain a large area.

And yeah, the 100-extra-energy bit is bruited about in such discussions pretty often. So here I am, once again, the OPFOR commander, and if I see any group of the enemy clustered together in such a formation, standing still and concentrating? I'm going to be highly motivated to bring any artillery I've got to bear on them. I'm not even so much thinking of the golden bullet of taking the mage out as in having a few onager loads worth of fist sized stones breaking the ritual up. Etc etc etc.

Mages are just way too valuable for things others have mentioned: C3I, healing, weather manipulation, and so on. Hell, I'd rather have an Animal mage more than just about anything else, either to control the bird that's observing the enemy order of battle, or to control the falcon that's going after the enemy Animal mage's bird.
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Old 04-06-2024, 08:53 AM   #7
King Leonidas
 
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Default Re: Magic on the TL 3 battlefield

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dalillama View Post
Or, What's a battle mage for anyway?
Assuming TL3 militaries, who have had access to magic long enough to include it in their tactical doctrine. Assume limited access to enchanted gear, and that a skilled mage has half a dozen primary spells. What are the best ones? Does this change depending on troop type?

Case 1) Rare magic. There is roughly one mage per battalion, 1 in 1000 soldiers is a useful mage. What spells are most useful for this army?

Case 2) common magic: There's about 1 mage per company of 80-100 soldiers; command, intelligence, and logistics have their own mages. What are the best spells for a line mage? How about a 'scout' mage?

Case 3) Ubiquitous magic: Every squad of 4-8 soldiers contains a mage, there are additional company and battalion-level mages, every branch of specialists has mage.
Case 1 is probably going to see mage focused on crying the enemy army, coordinating movements, and ensuring the right weather, and preventing the other side from doing the same.

Case 2 might use a lot of area effect spells, even create fire can control parts of the battlefield.

Case 3 is going to probably focus on buffs, plus one or two fighting spells because they'll be in the thick of it.

Thoughts?
the rare mage would probably use arty spells being kept in the back. killing and assassinating this mage would be top priority they would be guarded to living and hell and live like royalty. as far as i understand the tier one can call comets out of the sky and perhaps make them automatons
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Old 04-06-2024, 09:08 AM   #8
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: Magic on the TL 3 battlefield

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Originally Posted by RGTraynor View Post
Sure. If you houserule away the -1/three FEET distance mod. d.
That's what the Shape Fire is for. You cast the Create spell next to you and then use the Shape to move it to where you need it faster than any formation of even lightly encumbered infantry. 300 yards per minute in fact.

Then if you start using Ceremonial Magic to get the 100 spectator boost you're talking really big running masses of fire with enough juice for maintaining that you can start them 600 yards or more away from the enemy.

What you need to counter that is probably something like Mongol cavalry that's been trained out of its' fear of fire (men _and_ horses).

It's not unbeatable but it's not going to go away with trivial counters and it probably seriously impairs any ability to fight in formation. That's a big change to the battlefield.

Advanced Mages with the Telecast Spell can effectrively make the -1 per yard go away too.
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Old 04-06-2024, 09:41 AM   #9
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Default Re: Magic on the TL 3 battlefield

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
That's what the Shape Fire is for. You cast the Create spell next to you and then use the Shape to move it to where you need it faster than any formation of even lightly encumbered infantry. 300 yards per minute in fact ...

Advanced Mages with the Telecast Spell can effectrively make the -1 per yard go away too.
Shape Fire: base cost 2, in addition to the base cost 2 for creating it in the first place. No, you're not going to make a large scale wave of flame dance across the battlefield, especially given that:

(a) In order to do so, you need to open a section of your lines wide enough to allow that mass of flame to get through, unless you:

(b) have your battlemage right in the front line, at which point:

(c) the enemy commander can bloody well see where the center is, and has every incentive to pour missile fire right on that point, never mind:

(d) having his own mage have his already linked/held triple strength Rain spell let loose, at a vastly lower cost than the Fire spell.

Sure: if you have an archmage in your ranks, there's Telecast. I will see your archmage and raise with mine, who'll go with Counterspell.


Yes, yes, I know that it's Awesome and Kewl to have wizards dominate battlefields with some of these spells. With the limitations baked into the system -- and we haven't even touched on that the participants in a ceremonial cast need to be chanting, or holding candles, or doing something that's scarcely military and decidedly noticeable -- a sensible commander just isn't going to go with it.
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Old 04-06-2024, 11:22 AM   #10
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: Magic on the TL 3 battlefield

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Yes, yes, I know that it's Awesome and Kewl to have wizards dominate battlefields with some of these spells. t.
It is also apparently Awesome and Kewl to ignore what other people actually say and just belittle their opinions by waving your hands vigorously.

I think we're done here.
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