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Old 08-30-2016, 10:30 PM   #1
Gef
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Yucca Valley, CA
Default Griffin Rider Tactics (and Counters)

Campaign setup, TL4 fantasy, PCs are griffin-riders for one of the Great Powers of the setting. The corps is only a company strong and hasn't been much tested in battle. Maintaining this outfit is very expensive and only one of the other Great Powers does so.

Griffins run about ST 17 but are conditioned to ST 19 for riders, who have to have Animal Empathy (or just Good with Griffins) and be there at hatching for the griffin to imprint; few griffins will tolerate more than one rider. PCs buy them as Allies for 3pt. The griffins can fly with Medium Encumbrance (224# with a point in Exposed Payload), so riders are selected for small size, and for that reason, women are allowed. Training starts when the would-be rider is 14 or so and lasts 5 years, and any who grow bigger than expected wind up in support staff, the only such staff who can keep up with the main force. They just can't carry as much gear.

Riders wear leather armor, largely to protect them from their own griffins, and carry lances (because that's traditional for cavalry), and bows. Main role is courier and recon, with a dash of looking awesome to inspire the populous, but within the campaign world there are proponents of a more direct role, using bows from an altitude safe from counterfire, bombs as well, and lances to take on other flyers.

The vertical component of range is halved for riders shooting down, doubled for counterfire aimed back up. An altitude of 210yd (730') counts as 105 yards. Throw in the cruising speed of the griffin (15yps), and you can hit a target within 30yd lateral at -11, while counterfire takes -15. However at that altitude, effectively 410yd, the rider is beyond the max range, or at least beyond D range, for most single-operator weapons. Arquebus balls can reach the altitude for half-damage, but not with accuracy.

The doctrine, so far not well-tested, calls for riders to fly around the battlefield at 730' and aim carefully at targets who are looking the wrong way. With their fancy bows and $30-a-pop arrows, a typical rider has the skill to hit about ⅔ of the time and the power to penetrate the backplate of typical armor up to what Wealthy warriors can afford. That's a bodkin with no wound multiplier, though. The best archers in the corps can justify broadheads enchanted with Penetrating Blade.

So, if you're on the ground the obvious answer is to raise your shield overhead. Sure that helps, but the griffins are circling, so the shot aimed for you could come from any direction. Also, the riders allies on the ground might be perfectly happy to see you lift your shield (and your gaze) to the sky. If a hundred griffineers can keep 10,000 ground troops worried about being shot in the back, trying to fight a battle while staying under cover, that's a pretty good use of the corps, is it not?

Griffins haven't been used for a lot of bombing, but if the riders ditch their lances and bows and get more expensive, lighter armor, they could carry half a dozen small bombs (5d) per sortie, or one big bomb (24d plus frag). That's as opposed to 60 arrows.

While other states aren't using griffins, they have other ways to get airborne.

Flight with Spells
The theory is simple: Take a big, tough, brave warrior and cast spells to make him even better. With enough spells, a single warrior can cut a swathe through the battlefield. Typically, you need lots of wizards to cast lots of spells, and even so this juggernaut has only a few minutes’ operational duration, so all these wizards have to be pretty close to the front line. Ideally, you’d buff strength and agility, then add protection, invisibility, and flight, or better yet the faster version Hawk Flight. With a long weapon like a halberd, this guy can hover just out of reach and whack people with deadly blows every turn unless they had the foresight to bring a big net.

In practice, you expect two wizards to cast Flight or Hawk Flight plus Missile Shield on a guy big and skilled enough not to need buffs, with a suit of really heavy armor and a reinforced shield. He flies at top speed slamming foes like a human bowling ball. And when the griffins show up, this is the guy sent to handle ‘em. His speed is comparable to a griffin, but he’s only got minutes to engage.

Since his speed is high and maneuverability are excellent, and he’ll have Missile Shield, riders will either try to evade him until his wizard gets too tired to keep the spell going, or meet his heavy armor with a lance. Evasion is easy if there’s only one, but a group may be able to force contact.

A variant uses Walk on Air on a horse, with another wizard controlling the horse because left to it’s own devices, it’d do something sane. This is cheaper than maintaining a griffin corps if you have the wizards, but it’s not the same. Horses have much better load capacity than griffins and half the speed, but the spell doesn’t enable them to change altitude fast. This makes it hard to force an engagement, but it may be possible with good strategy or other air assets acting as hammer to their anvil. They’ll hit harder and defend better than griffin riders, so griffins will want to come at ‘em from below.

One more: There’s a spell that a wizard can conceivably hope to maintain indefinitely on a lightweight subject, Levitation. No Missile Shield required, because these guys stay up 730' too. They'll be in light armor, so riders can use their mobility advantage to go up another 700' and treat levitators the same as ground targets.

Hippogriffs
Eagle plus horse, instead of eagle plus lion, makes less maneuverability but higher load capacity (still less than a horse at east while airborne). Elves use hippogriffs and they're far away, but a potential enemy of the PCs' state now has an elvish queen. They may already have a program, and even if they don’t, hippogriffs aren’t as picky as griffins about their riders, so Gallenia may be able to acquire hippogriffs that are already trained. Their tactics are likely to be similar, and they could wear better armor, but still couldn't get barding for their teeds. In a hypothetical running battle with archery, the high speeds involved ruin accuracy for both sides, but a lance favors a griffin if it can use superior maneuverability to flank the hippogriff.

Wyverns
Oh dear. These critters are huge, with natural armor, poison, and load capacity like a horse. They can’t be tamed, so you need magical control to field them. Why then bother with riders? Without a rider, a wyvern can out-fly an encumbered griffin, and if a wyvern attacks a griffin, the wyvern wins. It takes a lot of arrows to take these down, but on the other hand, it takes a lot of money to field even one.

Flying Boats and Carpets
An 85 carpet can bear half a ton at 30 miles per hour, but more importantly, it can stop and hover over the battlefield, so it’s a better platform for archery than a griffin, perfect for a team of 4-5 crossbowmen or a bombardier with a gunner for defense against pesky griffins. The same enchantment will work on a small boat, which can have gunwales and a roof to protect the crew, although the weight of armor reduces the available load capacity. The cost of such a contraption is half a megabuck or more, most of which pays for 32 wizard-years of labor; a coven of 13 could enchant one in under 3 years, more expensive than raising and training a griffin but far cheaper to operate or store. Were a state willing to resort to mass human sacrifice, it could produce full-size flying ships as fast as it could lay them.

Against an enclosed skyboat, the best attack is a grapple, because it can’t bear the added weight of a griffin, and the enclosure that protects the occupants also protects the griffin from them. The same trick also works on an open carpet, of course, but the occupants might object, so they have to be dealt with. Archery’s a possibility, but you’d have to disable the whole crew, and meanwhile the crew is shooting back. Griffins can fly faster than carpets in the sprint, but they can’t climb faster, because carpets can go full speed straight up. Carpet-riders can have better armor than their griffin-borne counterparts because they need no weight allowance for tack, and crossbows are more powerful and accurate than bows. They also take longer to cycle, and in theory, that’ll give griffin riders a chance to charge with lances. Sound like suicide?

The likeliest antagonist has about a 200 wizards in the flying carpet business, enough to produce a whopping 5 per year. It could double that immediately, double again in 3 months, double again in a year, to an output of 40 per year. Of course it wouldn't be that. There'd be lots of small carpets designed for use in conjunction with Lighten Burden, or for halfling riders, susceptible to quick enchantment. There might be large platforms for cannon. And there'd be all kinds of experimentation with enclosed designs for bombers.


Thanks for reading this far! Do you think I've missed anything in my analysis? If you had griffins, how would you use 'em? If you had plenty of wizards but no griffins of your own, how would you deal with 'em? For the latter, telecast is out, but enhancing the range of missile spells is in.

Last edited by Gef; 08-30-2016 at 11:04 PM.
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Old 08-30-2016, 10:46 PM   #2
Kalzazz
 
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Default Re: Griffin Rider Tactics (and Counters)

Are cornucopia quivers a thing?
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Old 08-30-2016, 11:00 PM   #3
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Default Re: Griffin Rider Tactics (and Counters)

I can see a lot of ballistae and cannon in setting defenses. By TL4, large castles are on their way out in favor of star forts with cannon, but you'll probably have more wall guns on swivels as well in order to target the aerial cavalry.

I'd probably outfit the aerial cavalry with bows, crossbows, shorter muskets, dragoon pistols, and javelins rather than lances. Lances are good for heavy cavalry, but we're probably looking more at WWI dogfighting tactics rather than charging lines of fellow aerial cavalry. It seems like they'd only carry lances for parade reasons, leaving them in the armory when it came time for actual combat.

Flying boats I can see being decked out with cannon as well; flying boat vs boat broadsides and bombardments of fortifications seem rather plausible.
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Old 08-30-2016, 11:02 PM   #4
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Default Re: Griffin Rider Tactics (and Counters)

http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=73465

This is one from TL 5 but might be interesting

Are there TL 4 blunderbusses? They would seem well suited for aerial combat
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Old 08-30-2016, 11:09 PM   #5
Gef
 
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Default Re: Griffin Rider Tactics (and Counters)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalzazz View Post
Are cornucopia quivers a thing?
Absolutely, and great for hunting, but one that gives you fine arrows with fine balance aren't quick-enchantable and therefore prohibitively expensive. The way I envision the corps, it's a prestige outfit (Social Regard), and rich guys actually spend big bucks to get second sons into it - that includes buying the gear; the corps generally doesn't provide it.
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Old 08-30-2016, 11:10 PM   #6
Gef
 
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Default Re: Griffin Rider Tactics (and Counters)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalzazz View Post
http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=73465

This is one from TL 5 but might be interesting

Are there TL 4 blunderbusses? They would seem well suited for aerial combat
I'll check out the thread. No rifles, all the guns in the campaign have D range 50 or so.
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Old 08-30-2016, 11:18 PM   #7
Kalzazz
 
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Default Re: Griffin Rider Tactics (and Counters)

Ill admit, spending a 1/2 lb of encumbrance to get a cornucopia quiver enchanted with 100 energy for generic arrows would seem very nice for being able to pour 20 arrows a minute downrange in a military setting to me

Sure, a generic arrow won't be near as likely to actually hit what your aiming at (I wouldn't recommend aiming, just let it fly in the general direction of what your aiming at, as long as the target is large enough to be 'within several yards')

And a generic regular arrow is only 1 less damage than a fine arrow

Having some really sweet arrows handy for precise shooting would be good, but I expect that having a renewable supply of arrows would also be cool
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Old 08-30-2016, 11:20 PM   #8
Gef
 
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Default Re: Griffin Rider Tactics (and Counters)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantasm View Post
I can see a lot of ballistae and cannon in setting defenses. By TL4, large castles are on their way out in favor of star forts with cannon, but you'll probably have more wall guns on swivels as well in order to target the aerial cavalry.
Good point. Fortunately for the riders, there won't be as many cannons as crossbows aimed their way. I assume that weapons that can reliably hit airborne targets get first priority to take out.

>I'd probably outfit the aerial cavalry with bows,

Yep.

>crossbows,

How easy do you think it'd be to reload these on the back of a creature that flaps wings to move?

>shorter muskets, dragoon pistols,

I figure these are all-but-impossible to reload. If revolvers haven't been invented yet, how would you arrange it? Remember load capacity is limited.

>and javelins

How do you see them being used, and against what targets? Getting close enough to the ground to hit something with a javelin means taking a volley of archery, right?

>It seems like they'd only carry lances for parade reasons

I agree, but I'm trying to get inside the head of the powers-that-be in the campaign setting, who think of lances as cavalry weapons until field experience shows them the light. There may be a bit of propaganda involved in the decision. Yes, lances with pennants look great in parades, and I figure those same pennants are used for signalling in conjunction with the griffins' main role as recon.

That said, if you had a lance and trained to use it, what would you use it on?

>Flying boats I can see being decked out with cannon as well

I was editing my post to say so as you typed this, but now I wonder, if I can fly over my target, why not dispense with the weight of cannons and just use bombs? Okay, what I said about hidebound generals above may apply, trying to fit flying boats into their mental model means arming them like sailing ships.

Last edited by Gef; 08-30-2016 at 11:23 PM.
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Old 08-30-2016, 11:31 PM   #9
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Default Re: Griffin Rider Tactics (and Counters)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalzazz View Post
Ill admit, spending a 1/2 lb of encumbrance to get a cornucopia quiver enchanted with 100 energy for generic arrows would seem very nice for being able to pour 20 arrows a minute downrange in a military setting to me

Sure, a generic arrow won't be near as likely to actually hit what your aiming at (I wouldn't recommend aiming, just let it fly in the general direction of what your aiming at, as long as the target is large enough to be 'within several yards')

And a generic regular arrow is only 1 less damage than a fine arrow

Having some really sweet arrows handy for precise shooting would be good, but I expect that having a renewable supply of arrows would also be cool
I'm convinced. By my campaign assumptions about enchantment, this is cheap, just $500 for a quiver of the little darts you use with an arrow guide. And it means the less accurate guys can keep shooting 'til their griffins tire, and get at least some luck. 10 arrows per minute for an hour means at least 12 hits even if you need a 4.

The arrow guide takes an extra turn, I'm allotting a second for Observation, and I'm assuming one turn of aim because it's worth +6 (base 3, 1 for bow quality, 1 for arrow guide, 1 for anachronistic sighting aids).
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Old 08-30-2016, 11:43 PM   #10
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Default Re: Griffin Rider Tactics (and Counters)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalzazz View Post
Ill admit, spending a 1/2 lb of encumbrance to get a cornucopia quiver enchanted with 100 energy for generic arrows would seem very nice for being able to pour 20 arrows a minute downrange in a military setting to me
And not having to worry about ammo supplies lets the harrass the ground troops strategy work better.
A lot of troops wont be heavily armed, nor will thier mounts if any.
So the expensive arrows on the elite troops and regular arrows on the generic or common levies.
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