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?