For many centuries, magical armor has outpaced projectiles in warfare. Armor is enchanted with runes in order to make it more effective, as well as proscribed certain abilities to it. Runes are inscribed into the suit and then placed inside a ritual circle. A mage will then chant the incantation which will fill the runes with aether and activate their power. This spell can take up to 6 hours, depending on how specialized or powerful the suit is to be. Sets of runes, or packages, work together to give the suit its power. These packages can increase strength, speed, resistance to certain attacks, etc.

Runes are generally large and take up a lot of space, which is why they are not found on arrows or bullets. This has given armor the advantage over projectiles for most of history. Recently however, technology has been invented which can inscribe these runes into projectiles with lasers. They are made as small as neccessary in order to fit, making them more effective. Then they are enchanted by the mage in the same way as armor. However, having machines inscribe tiny runes onto them is expensive and time consuming. They also have to be enchanted one at a time, and cannot be done in groups. Because of this, they are hard to mass produce.

How can I make design a way to make projectiles cost effective enough to be practical?

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    If you can't increase the number of projectiles that can be enchanted, increase the damage of each projectile – nzaman Dec 8 at 13:30
  • If it takes that long to enchant a piece of armor, can you really enchant that much armor? I'm more than dubious. – RonJohn Dec 8 at 14:31
  • 1. So can the magic armors be mass produced? 2. Wouln't the armors still have the advantage? Can't you inscribe more runes in the armor with lasers? – Tomás Dec 8 at 18:53
  • Why not simply bend the rules and permit enchanting them in groups? – Cort Ammon Dec 10 at 1:01

There are two ways of approaching your problem - none will actually change your production method of magical bullets but they will affect their usage.

One is trying to outgun magical armor with a massive number of bullets. This is a scenario known from the invention of machine guns (it features prominently on screen in 'The last samurai'). Here, not necessarily all bullets have to be magical. Ff the first 10 magical bullets pierce the armor enough to let normal bullets - in particular ones fired en masse in very short amounts of time, so that magically increased dodging or speed will not protect or help the armor wearer sufficiently - enter, the armor wearer stands almost no chance. As armor tends to make its wearer less agile and fast than a trained fighter would be without such armor, this makes armor quite unattractive to wear in open combat against gun-fighters.

The second option is that the bullets which are so expensive to produce and have to be enchanted one by one are enchanted to gain more power than just the ability to pierce magical armour. The simple and efficient way would be to add heat/fire damage as this turns heavy armour made of metal against its user who is cooked alive by his own protective gear. Any explosive effect caused or increased by the enchantment will cause the armor wearer a type of damage against which his armor is not designed to protect. Since you can use laser technology the inscribe your runes, your guns will likely not be renaissance level low precision guns, but you will have high tech guns available. With specially enchanted bullets which each have to ability to kill or incapacitate an armor wearing fighter a single sniper with a high tech sniper gun can take out dozens of fighter from afar with enough time to reload his gun in between and no need for massive amounts of bullets.

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    +1 to, effectively, "shoot the unprotected places". – RonJohn Dec 8 at 14:30
  • @RonJohn Thanks. Excellent idea. – Alex2006 Dec 9 at 14:41

They are cost effective because they work with one shot.

“Arrow! Black arrow! I have saved you to the last. You have never failed me and I have always recovered you. I had you from my father and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the Mountain, go now and speed well!”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/128057-arrow-black-arrow-i-have-saved-you-to-the-last

Like the Black Arrow that finds the weak spot in Smaug's armor, enchanted projectiles are worth the expense because they perform amazing, and possibly one-time feats. As opposed to enchanted armor which is used again and again, the enchantment durable over months and years, the enchanted projectile (possibly when invoked, as here) expends its enchantment in a single amazing and successful-against-all-odds shot.

This also makes for much more awesomeness in a story.

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    Another convincing feature in that quote is the ability to retrieve the enchanted arrow. You do not need that many enchanted projectiles if they keep coming back to you once the damage is done. – Alexis Dec 9 at 12:29

It would depend on how the magic works. Can you use an arrangement of mirrors to allow one mage to enchant multiple ritual circles at the same time? Or can the ritual be done mechanically (like with Tibetan prayer wheels, which supposedly still work if they are turned by electrical or water power rather than a human)? For instance, if the ritual involves a sequence of hand gestures around the object being enchanted, you could have a kind of pantograph arrangement where the mage's hands are connected by wires and pulleys to a dozen wooden hands (or mummified mage's hands), each enchanting a separate arrow.

If nothing like that will work, then you need to reduce the cost of mages, by training more of them and/or making them work on more exploitative terms.

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