I see with my little eye…

by veilwar

That people are coming here from a variety of places. Twitter and Facebook, in dribbles. A couple web searches on google. But the largest portion are coming from two places right now: Isegoria and the EN World gaming forum. Isegoria gets the Special Presidential Medal for Blog Promotion Excellence  (SPMfBPE) for linking me three times in a week and a half; dude, you’re my new hero.

For everyone who did not get here from EN World, I can recommend this thread which discusses the idea of a fantasy army invading the Earth from a D&D perspective. While I can tell you without giving too much away that magic in the Veiliverse doesn’t work like it apparently does in D&D (my last encounter with that game was more than two decades ago, and I gather that things have changed at least a bit) there’s a lot of interesting speculation there on the relative advantages of technology and magic.

One of the most interesting things in laying out the background for this story is coming up with a plausible rationale for high-powered fantasy infantry. If the invading goblin hordes were equipped like the Swiss Landesknecten, or Roman Legions, or an early Medieval spear levy they would stand exactly no chance against the modern-style military in a stand up battle. Hell, look what happened to Saddam’s army in ’91 and he was equipped with technology only a few decades, not centuries, behind the current state of American military art. The battle of 73 Easting was a turkey shoot.

If you have an army, even a very large army, of essentially non-magical creatures with a few chocolate-y nuggets of magic embedded within, the non-magical part gets rapidly attrited until all that is left is a few powerful magical creatures or wizards in the middle of an abattoir being targeted with lots and lots of artillery, missiles and – if all else fails – small tactical nukes.

I looked at it this way. If you live in a world where magic works, magic will be part of the way you live your life. You – or the skilled craftsmen and enchanters who make your stuff – will begin to include magic in everything. First in the high value artifacts, eventually in damn near anything. Look at what’s happened with computer chips here in our world. First, they were used for extremely critical national defense needs like decryption and calculating atomic bombs. Later, big business started using mainframes. Later still, personal computers. And finally, there’s chips in your toaster and throwaway toys from Happy Meals.

This doesn’t mean that every fantasy world dweller is a wizard that can cast a fireball any more than every American citizen is a Chinese or Indian integrated circuit designer. But the residents of the fantasy worlds will increasingly, over time, benefit from the diffusion of magic into smaller and smaller crevices of their lives, barring only some cultural prohibition on the use of magic or some sort of serious side effects from prolonged magic exposure akin to the brain tumors we all get from using cell phones. (You don’t have a brain tumor? Wow, lucky you.)

So a fantasy army that has ubiquitous magic is not one where everyone is a wizard, but rather one where everyone has access to reasonably powerful magical artifacts – enchanted armor, enchanted weapons, etc. And that eliminates one major advantage of a modern military force – the fact that each American soldier or Marine possesses an automatic weapon that can shoot very far and very fast.

Other issues, like logistics, air power, long range artillery – well, we’ll have to deal with that, too. But we haven’t even added dragons and wizards to the mix yet.