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My DnD character is a sorta artificer/warlock mix who has technical prowess and has a patron that can give him glimpses into technology from alternate universes (basically advanced knowledge on technology) and their ultimate goal is to make it possible for the average person to have the power to counter magic, without having to have magic powers themselves.

They also have the goal of starting a company to exploit this technological advantage to raise a professional army to counter other armies who use wizards and other magic users in combat. The problem I run into is the sheer strength that magic can bring to an army. Everything from being able to call down meteors to even just the ability to put people to sleep would make an army not using magic practically useless. So I am trying to find ways to counter magic on a military scale. I am not completely adverse to using a little bit of magic to reach this goal, but I would like to keep to the original premise that the army is made up mostly of non-magic soldiers.

For some context the setting of the game is based off of a Europa Universalis mod called Anbennar, so when I say technologically advanced I mean so in a late medieval/early renaissance sense with a fantasy twist (think breech loading guns that use crossbow arms instead of springs, gatling gun type weapons, fantasy “tanks” which are either pulled internally by horses or use large cranks to rotate the wheels, pedal powered planes, stuff Leonardo Da Vinci would come up with). I hope to have at least basic steam engines decently soon, and to begin building factories for mass production. I think the current technology level would be around the 1870’s or so in terms of weapons available, though none are as refined as they had in our real world by then.

I do have access to a specific metal called “Damstere” which is made of crystalized magic and in essence acts as a spell slot. It can be burned to power magic that is connected to it in some way (be it scroll of some other form of magical infusion) which I considered as an option when combined with scrolls of antimagic to make a sort of “anti-magic shield grenade” but the sheer time cost to make a single anti magic scroll is very high, and getting access to enough 15th level wizards to make the scrolls would be nearly impossible for large scale production.

Another option later on is a material known as “Dark Damstere” which has inherent anti magic properties, but just getting access to that material will take quite a bit of time (nearly a century), way too long for it to be a viable solution in the short term.

So, with the information provided I ask, how could I go about having armies which can have at least some resilience against magic?

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  • $\begingroup$ You don't generally just exclude a branch of military as long as it is affective and not made obsolete by other technilogis, and mages are one such branch of military. Adding technology into the whole combined arms force is easy enough. Making it work all by itself... well, if mages could shut down other mages they'd do that already. I do not think you'll have much luck short of special anti-mage tactics built around at least semi-auto-rifle level of technology. Or you build a factory and buy all those mages... $\endgroup$ Nov 29 '21 at 12:49

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Artificery at its Finest

Your character is an artificer who has a patron that lets them skip a lot of the research portion of R&D, and skip right to the fun parts of developing whatever tool is needed. So the first thing I would suggest is to lean in on that side of the story because it lets you handwave the messy parts of creating advanced tech to combat magic and instead focus on how to use it once you have it. So lets forget about the "how" and focus instead on the "what".

You are looking for some kind of technology that can counteract typical magic used in warfare, and more generally artifacts that can be mass produced to make magic more accessible for the common man. The good news is that Anbennar already has a system in place for that exact thing, in the form of the Artificers estate. In non-game terms, this represents groups or individuals who focus on using tech to replicate and replace magic. So your character and the company they want to form would be considered an artificer and guild in-universe.

So now we have established what you are (artificer + guild) and how you outfit your military group (handwaved designs from an otherworldly patron), the only thing left is to figure out what kind of gear you have created for your military.

Story VS Gameplay

This part is going to be a little more freeform, because ultimately the answer is going to depend on your story. Basically, you need to figure out what magic is being used by armies of the time in your story, and then come up with counters to that for your army. During an actual game of EU4 you could see real stats and numbers for things like army size and composition but since this is a story setting we don't get that luxury.

The bad news is, you are going to have to be at least a little creative for both the problems and the solutions. The good news is that since we are using the patron for inspiration, you can make up whatever kind of gear you want as long as you can reasonably explain why it is a counter to other magic.

Assume the enemy army is led by a powerful warmage, who is known for using big flashy AOE spells to turn the tide of battle. The enemy mage prefers to cast fireballs and lightning bolts to disrupt battle formations, but is also willing to use a wide-area sleep spell during nighttime raids against enemy camps. Knowing those three spells are the biggest issue, your character will need to come up with one or more artifacts that can be used to counter the enemy mage. Doesn't matter what the artifact is or how it counters, as long as you can kind of justify it. Some random examples include:

  • Personal Cooling Charms - Maintains a field of pleasant air temp around the soldier for comfortable fighting no matter the local weather. Can be short-circuited to prevent the effects of a single fireball.

  • Portable Lightning Rods - Massive metal rods designed to attract and capture any lightning strikes, magical or otherwise. Captured lightning is sent to batteries and can be used to power other artifacts such as...

  • Thunder Turret - Anti-personnel siege weapon which fires bolts of lightning at enemy forces. Can be powered using artificer batteries or raw magic. Equivalent of enemy mage casting Lightning Bolt.

  • Sparkcaster Rifle - Smaller version of the Thunder Turret which can be used by a single soldier (or small group, depending on race and size). Heavy and with limited batteries, these rifles are best used by dedicated strike teams to take out high value targets such as enemy commanders and mages.

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The problem isn't that your army is vulnerable to magic, the problem is that the enemy has more mages than you. So I propose that you make teams of anti mage snipers. Mages often take years to decades to train so removing them is a good short term solution while you're getting your anti magic metal.

Since you don't seem opposed to your side using at least some magic, I propose your snipers be outfitted with magic items. For example

  1. Magic bullets. It's only a matter of time until a wizard tries being incorporeal to avoid being shot. Make sure that doesn't work
  2. Scopes of mage spotting. Essentially just long range version of the D&D detect magic spell
  3. Potions galore. Invisibility potions for getting into position/escaping, silence potions so no one hears the shot, guidance potions to make sure the shot hits. The options even for lowish level magic is near endless
  4. Enhanced guns. Even if you're limited to breech loading guns, you can have a much more powerful shot if you make the sniper barrels out of a magic metal like mythril
  5. If your enemy does end up fielding one of their rare army destroying mages you can still use your anti magic scrolls to render them impotent before sniping them

The main goal of the snipers will be to make mages not want to go to battle rather than killing them all. In most fantasy settings mages that work with/for one kingdom or another tend to be nobles and if a large number of them start being assassinated on the battlefield they will likely refuse to go or spend much more of their energy erecting protections against snipers than in bombarding your army.

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There are many options and some depends on your story:

  1. Magic conflicts with technology. The best example is Arcanum. in this world, technological devices will become ineffective or even permanently inoperative in the presence of powerful magic and vice versa. With this setting, you just need to introduce more tech within army so magic become less effective against it.
  2. Introduce (relatively) cheap anti-magic amulets/rituals. You have some semi-god power who provides tech and knowledge outside this planet universe. So it could provide knowledge
    2.1. about manufacturing anti-magic amulet or
    2.2. about ritual which protect from magic.
    The cheapest version would protect from direct magic arrow (and could be granted to every sergeant in the army), more advanced would allow survive in magic storm (and designed for captains) and best one could protect from any magic but are limited for some reason.
  3. Introduce anti-magic material. Version of unobtanium which exist in another universe and could absorb magic. The main difference from p.2 is your hero receives material instead knowledge.
  4. Anti-magic faith. One (or more) god protect from magic his disciples. More belief - more protection.
  5. Specific perk ability. It could be
    5.1. Nanites,
    5.2. 'Disease' transmitted by bite (like lycanthropy) or kiss or whatever (in one story, it was swear to the lord)
    5.3. Special race/chimera breed for specific purpose - anti-magic war.
    Again, thanks to another universes for that.
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A few neat items

Now, non-magical soldiers can't use magic, but they can press buttons. I point you to a few VERY useful items. Some are magic, some aren't, but they are all effective.

Immovable Rod

One of the most useful magic items in existence. And only a "uncommon" item. Imagine a simple crossbowman, with immovable rods instead of bolts. Place a small sharp bolt in the front, in a tube, above the button. Shoot a magic-user in the hands, and the feet, and the chest. This may seem like an impossible feat, but you have numbers. It's much easier to train a crossbowman than a wizard. Now that wizard can't perform any somatic components.

Greek Fire

This is definitely doable with a medieval tech level, because the Greeks did it before even Rome was around. It's just some pine resin mixed with some non-flammable stuff. Now, in case you couldn't tell, it's hard to cast a spell when you're covered with burning fire. And there's no way you can concentrate on a spell like Fly.

Cannonfire

Magic-Users have trouble killing what they can't see. Many 5e spells have a range of "within range that you can see". However, artillery, trebuchets, and cannons don't suffer from the same problem. Set up a few trebuchets, and a set of artillery cannons, and point them to the sky. Listen to the screams of your enemy wizards as massive balls of metal start raining on them from above.

Poison Gas

A few mundane water-breathing caps (I believe common item), and your troops will be safe. But the wizards gasping and flailing on the floor from the poisonous gas you put into the air won't be.

Hope that helped.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have actually been working on things like Greek Fire and poison gases for dealing with enemies who are otherwise difficult to kill using regular means. The immovable rod strategy is genius, I can already see the possibilites of scattershot cannon firing dozens of them at enemy mages abd pinning them completely in place. $\endgroup$ Nov 30 '21 at 11:44
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Philip Dick in many of his stories used psionic abilities and, when psi where used, also anti-psi were present.

You can move along the same line: you can have anti-mages either protecting the army by negating part or all of the attacks, or by more or less jamming the enemy casters, so that they might not see the actual target or see a target where there is none.

Imagine that your army moves disguised as a wave of ants, while a ghost army made of virtual images moves marching behind or ahead of them.

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  • $\begingroup$ I saw Shadiversity's video on the subject of how magic could be used in combat, which did help in figuring out what I would need to counter. I like the idea of disguising my army as ants, but working within DnD magic could make that a little less feasable. I would also need quite a few mages to achieve effective anti-magic on a military scale, and all my troops would need to be nearby to a mage at all times. What I am more looking for is a portable anti-magic system that the individual soldier (or small groups of soldiers) could use to protect themselves from magic without relying on mages. $\endgroup$ Nov 29 '21 at 12:45
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Flash Bang!
The fist uses of gun powder wasn't for actual weapons'. It was used in rockets and grenade like devices to terrorize and confuse the enemy.
employ god-awful amounts of flashbang type grenades', gasses, magnesium powder, and rockets to disorient and distract the mages. No concentration no magic.

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You Need Tactics, not Tech

For a DnD Nation to have a significant number of wizards, they must be a wizard culture. Much like Medieval Briton was an archery culture, having a culture that treasures the pursuit of one martial art often comes at the expense of other martial arts. Briton did not have the Knightly culture of the French because if you have to pick one thing to devote 10 years of rigorous training too, it means you are not rigorously training in other areas; so, following this pattern, we can assume that the wizardly culture you are facing will generally be weak in other areas that require a lot of dedicating training. So, if you can deprive them of thier magic, your own martial culture (be it knightly, archery, infantry, or whatever) will likely have the upper hand.

Why do I bring this up?

The biggest disadvantage of a DnD style caster is spell slots. 100 wizards shooting fireballs can wipe out thousands of tightly packed infantry, but will quickly run out of fireballs to cast. So, to win the war without a lot of magic of your own, you don't need to make your people immune to thier spells, you just need to make them waste thier spells before you commit a full forced attack. This same principle works for Mana or Stamina based magic systems as well.

For this, you need Skirmishers. Skirmishers are any sort of cheap disposable military unit that fights in a spread out fashion ahead of your main battle formation. While a fireball CAN take out a few dozen tightly packed infantry, it can also only take out 1 guy standing by himself; so, your skirmishers move into firearm range and start taking pot-shots at the wizards. Because a dedicated wizard culture is not also going to be an archery/marksmenship culture, they likely do not have a lot of other ranged stuff to fire back at you; so, the wizards with thier small HP pools and limited spell slots will be forcedfire thier spells at your skirmishers while thier mundane troops try to close the distance and force your skirmishers to retreat. It is possible the mages will kill many of your skirmishers, but that is okay, because they are your cheap and expendable troops. By the time you are done, many of the mages will either be dead from the targeted attacks of the skirmishers, or thier spell slots will be used up.

So, you continue to send in wave after wave of skirmishers until they run out of spell slots to waste on your spread out troops, and that is when you send in your main army. With the enemy's spell slots spent, your remaining troops are for all practical purposes immune to the enemy's magic.

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Mongo method.

In Blazing Saddles, Mongo is too big and tough to fight. To defeat Mongo, you must trick Mongo. Over and over again.

If you have a force that you cannot beat head on, do not meet them head on. Do not fight a fight that gives the magic users an advantage. Consider how various forces have taken on the US military in the past 50 years. A standup fight vs the US would be stupid. That is what the Americans always are trying to fight. But despite unlimited money and equipment the US can be run around and run around for years and eventually cede the field.

Magic here seems to depend on magic users. Fight in ways the magic users do not, and in places they cannot.

  • Rain of meteors mage can only be in one place at a time. Do not be in that place. - Mages are not young and they get tired. Wear down your opposition before you engage.
  • If you can cut your enemy's diesel supply you can hamstring his motorized forces. Is there an analogous way to interrupt the forces fueling magic? That energy comes from somewhere.
  • Have mage get irate and squander energy on pointless or ineffective magic use.

All of these have parallels in real military endeavors. Read Sun Tzu then read a book on great battles. That is fun and will give you ideas about how an inferior force can prevail over a seemingly superior one. Plus these will be better stories than just "I got the Antimagic! Ho ho!".

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Make their strength yours

This depends on how common mages are in your opposing army. (Since your question specifies facing them in combat.) But the best way to defeat a strong opponent is to use their own power against them.

Lightning rods

If casters are as common as soldiers, or are the same thing, then you can't really win in a fair fight with the advantage of magic on the other side. But what if your patron can show you a device that's magical leech? Any magic(al item) which comes within 15 feet is drained into an internal battery, forming granules of crystallised magic. These things will leech from each other, but you don't care since you're not using magic.

After the fight, you now have a lot of magical-batteries charged up. What if they came printed with a low-level "Heal" spell on them, castable by anyone with a battery? Or, during the fight ... what happens if you short one out, releasing all the magic in it at once?

These have the narrative-balance advantage that they can be "filled", if enough wizards are concentrating fire. Limited-range also means that mundane archers on a roc's back are still possible, but that's a far cry from the instant-win that a meteor can be, and it needs constant attention.


For more common mages:

Why should they continue to have wizards?

If mages are rare and powerful, much like large artillery, then kidnap is a worthwhile route to explore. (Failing that, assassination.) If you can imprison your opponent's artillery, and set them to powering your anti-magic production ... this is a win for you in every way.

Miscommunication

For more common casters, but still not more than a couple of them: your army is known for being anti-magic. So any message delivered by magic is trustworthy, right? Wrong, if your casters are willing to lie a little. Oops, whose command post did your opponents just meteor-strike?

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The flesh is weak

Put not your faith in the flesh, for the flesh is squishy and soft and mortal. Foster devotion instead to the wonderfully well-oiled machine that is an army automatons.

Ice magic? No frostbite to worry about. Maybe some locked up hydraulics, I trust your artificer is smart enough to think about heating systems?

Fire magic? Skin of steel, no need to worry about burns. Invest in cooling systems just in case.

Lightning magic? Study how planes have worked around that, also there's a reason those guys with the tesla coils use chainmail.

Acid magic? Simply apply a fine layer of gold. It's fragile but glass shielding would also work. Tempered glass for an actual holdable glass shield might work better for this purpose, if you don't mind a lot of replacements from physical confrontations.

Illusion magic? I doubt the spells would work on a computer mind, they barely work on the minds of undead and only in specific situations or with specific feats if I remember correctly. They might be fooled by a holographic type spell but a quick scan would classify the perceived object is an illusion. You also have the advantage of the automatons being capable of perceiving many more wavelengths than people are able to.

Speaking of undead and various other probable summons, forget about animals being effective against robots with their natural weaponry(unless they're absurdly huge and strong), and if the weapons of various summons can be blocked with a weapon of your own then the inherently armoured nature of bots will allow them to basically walk straight through an undead army and deal with a necromancer directly. And if there is something absurdly huge and strong? Use a mech. or better yet use a tank, but a mech is cooler and may be viable because of the availability of magic. Oh. and you don't need to worry about a necromancer using your own dead soldiers against you because, well, they were never alive to begin with. Also no souls.

Army logistics? Microfusion cores would handle all of your power needs. And as for repairs? Depending on the advanced-ness of the automatons they'd either be able to repairs themselves via manual methods or nanites, or you can have the only biological components of your army be some engineers/mechanics and make plans for the logistics for them.

Speaking of nanites, a nanobot swarm would take care of those mages really quickly. Who cares of a few billion get blown to smithereens by fireballs and lightning orbs, you did make them self-replicating right? Riiight...

Anyway, tech vs magic is all about preparation and accounting for eventualities, including the eventuality of a combatant's death, who is easily replaceable if they weren't really alive to begin with.

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