Magic is an important part of fantasy writing. Some would say it’s one of the defining traits of the genre. Not every story has magic, but those that do might want to consider including it with their military forces. This is where you get battle casters, combat mages, or whatever you want to call them. Their role is to hurl spells around a battlefield to create an even bigger scene. So, what are some things to consider when designing or using a character like this?
(Yes, I know it’s another list, but I’ve tried to make it a non-list post and it wasn’t working. Sorry about the repetition.)
- Consider giving the casters a specialty, but don’t make it a requirement. This usually boils down to Fire Caster, Lightning Caster, Ice Caster, or some kind of element because they won’t require much flexibility. They’re really here to make the battlefield more dangerous and act like living mortars and cannons. So, you can decide how deep you go here.
- Uniforms have two paths here: One is that the casters are dressed like average soldiers to hide among them. This gives the element of surprise, but it is hard to cast magic in armor because it typically requires precise arm movements. The other is to give them their own uniform, which makes them stand out. It puts a target on them, but it allows them to have gear that works with their magical ability.
- Always remember that most attack spells have an area of effect. Lightning can jump among armored enemies, fireballs explode, and the list keeps going. There are ways to make them more precise, but then you have to factor in that the caster is aiming. So, you have to find a way around the problem of them blowing up their own people. It’s easier than you think if they focus on the rear of the enemy forces and then switch to support magic.
- Do NOT ignore the existence of support magic. This is more than healing, which can be done by fantasy priests. I’m talking about physical enhancement and defensive spells, which can turn a battle more than explosions. Soldiers can always handle the fighting while the casters can gradually fall back into more of a support role. This can always be the standard tactic while you have a handful of more aggressive casters. Of course, this is only one possibility and it depends on the author.
- I would decide on how a military caster is ranked too. They might not have a title, but they need some kind of influence. One could consider them special forces and work from there. Personally, I would put them high up the food chain, but not at the very top. A lot of this depends on how the world sees magic and those who use it. You can’t have a caster call the shots if the world is supposed to fear or hate them. Probably wouldn’t be in the army anyway unless they’ve been enslaved.
So, how would you put casters into a fantasy army? What role would you have them play?
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Originally posted on Author Don Massenzio:
This installment of my 2019 author interview series features author Richard Dee. Richard selected 10 questions from my list and his responses will tell us a little bit about him. Please enjoy: What is…
As usual, here is your warning that this story has cursing, sex (not graphic), innuendo, and violence. It’s my Rated-R action adventure called Derailing Bedlam. This is the fourth outing (third official) for Cassidy and Lloyd, so feel free to click on one of the two covers to see how it started. Each one is 99 cents!
Cover by Jon Hunsinger
Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger
Posted in Derailing Bedlam
Tagged action adventure, assassins, Bedlam, Cassidy, comedy, Derailing Bedlam, dystopia, fiction, friends, guns, humor, jeep, knives, Lloyd Tenay, mercenaries, serial, serial killers, sex, Shattered States, trains, traveling, united states, violence, writing
Lord of the Rings
You might think it’s easy to simply plop an army into a story and watch the soldiers clash in the background. Well, it can be done that way, but that prevents you from doing some world-building. You can learn a lot about a world and its kingdoms by the military forces that exist in there. So, it’s a good idea to put a little more depth into these creations and here are some semi-serious tips to help.
- Uniform uniformity is important. Bandits and a mercenary force can have a variety of looks, but an organized military needs some commonality among its members. This is because your rank and file soldiers have probably been given the same gear with only a few having unique looks. It’s the officers that might stand out with flashier weapons and armor, but even they might have a common theme. This can show the smithing culture and technology that exists in the kingdom as well as direct the tactics that they will use.
- Study some real world military systems to get an idea about how such hierarchies work. This really helps with knowing how to use the ranks and lingo. Call an army leader an Admiral instead of a General and you’ll get lectured. Only way out is to make it clear that your world uses the terms in this way. That means you can’t use them interchangeably. A great source for this would be to talk to a veteran or someone who is currently serving. You might get more info than you expected.
- It’s always fun to create some unique forces for the army. This can be a humanoid squad of specially trained soldiers or technological wonders. The former can be useful for heroes/villains that are pushed as threats that go beyond your basic enemy. The latter really only comes into play with large scale battles and sieges. Consider the environment that the army operates in for the most part to help. Can’t have war elephants in the arctic, but you can have mammoths.
- Remember the size of the army. They can’t march through an area without leaving a sign of their passage. You can see them coming from far away as well because you have hundreds to thousands of soldiers. Stealth is not an army’s strength, so don’t have them suddenly appear. I mean, it could work for humor if a hero wanders out of a tent or hotel to find themselves surrounded. Then again, they still see the army and it was only them being unaware that led to the incident. Doesn’t really work this way without author intervention or magic.
- Flags. Can’t have a fantasy army without flags.
- People talk about armies in fantasy worlds, so create some rumors or facts to help give the reader a sense of their reputation. This can reveal information about the rulers as well. Maybe people fear the soldiers or think they are champions of peace. Perhaps they are proud of never losing a battle or some other kind of record. It’s your choice on how much you show here, but just consider how we respond to our own military and work from there.
- If you put a lot of work into designing your fantasy army, try to use them for more than a quick scene of carnage. As tempting as it is to build up this amazing military force and then have a hero or villain crush it, you might regret making them a throwaway gimmick. First of all, the ‘one destroys many’ thing has been done, so it won’t have the shock value that you expect. Second, you can find more to do with them such as an extended battle or potential allies. In the end, this is the author’s decision, but it’s one that should probably take more thought than is usually given.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged 7 tips, armies, fantasy, fiction, humor, knights, list, military, soldiers, sword & sorcery, Windemere
A fun blast from the past with Legends of Windemere: The Compass Key. This is really where the central plot with Baron and temples took off. The section I’m presenting is pretty long, but it’s from one of my favorite parts. Battles within the mind are always a joy because you can be really weird and bizarre. Sorry that this one is so long, but I couldn’t find a good cut-off point.
Posted in Legends of Windemere, Teaser Tuesday, The Compass Key
Tagged epic fantasy, excerpt, fantasy, high fantasy, Kira Grasdon, Legends of Windemere, magic, mindscape, Sari, sneak peek, sword & sorcery, teaser Tuesday, The Compass Key, Windemere