On TV, witches often wear skimpy, impractical outfits when going into a fight. This is done for fanservice reasons, so I wanted a way to make this sensible. Witches perform magic by drawing in energy from the natural world and focusing it into a spell using their own mana reserves. There are attack and defensive spells, which stay activated depending on their mana reserves. The more powerful the spell, the longer it takes to activate. This could be anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes. For a spell to be successful, a witch must be close to the area in which it is to be performed, forcing them to take part in battle on the front lines.

This is problematic because it leaves them vulnerable to attack without the armor to protect themselves. Needing soldiers to protect a valuable asset in the midst of combat so it can be used limits its value. It's like having to protect a powerful and slow moving tank that doesn't have the shielding it needs for defense. My first idea was having the witch make a defensive shield around them. However, as it would depend on their mana reserves, this would deplete them fairly quickly, leading us back to square one.

What would be the best way to protect these mage if they are so vulnerable ?

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    $\begingroup$ This is your own question Why do witches have non-magical bodyguards? in reverse. $\endgroup$ – Renan Apr 13 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ VTC OT:POB. All answers are equally correct (From the help center, "avoid asking subjective questions where every answer is equally valid"). And @Renan has a point, you've already answered this question by virtue of asking the former. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 13 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ traditionally witches do their most powerful stuff naked... the skimpy outfits were for tv. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Apr 13 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ Witches can use a defensive armor spell. $\endgroup$ – CWallach Apr 13 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Kilisi Not to mention it gets cold out there in the winter! $\endgroup$ – Liam Morris Apr 13 at 18:22

Needing soldiers to protect a valuable asset in the midst of combat so it can be used limits its value.

Definitely not, at least in absolute terms. That's the exact concept used with naval squads, where several smaller ships are there just to protect the aircraft carrier, where

Lacking the firepower of other warships, carriers by themselves are considered vulnerable to attack by other ships, aircraft, submarines, or missiles. Therefore, an aircraft carrier is generally accompanied by a number of other ships to provide protection for the relatively unwieldy carrier, to carry supplies and perform other support services, and to provide additional offensive capabilities. The resulting group of ships is often termed a battle group, carrier group, carrier battle group or carrier strike group.

which is your very same situation, just not involving a skimpy dressed woman.

Surround your witch with soldiers to defend her, and let her do her magic.

If the magic is only about putting a paper cone on the head of the enemies, well, yes, you are just wasting some good soldiers. If the magic is equivalent in its effects to a tactical nuke, a handful of dead soldiers are surely a worth price to pay.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually the point is exactly correct. The screening force does diminish the carrier's strategic utility, as it makes the overall task force more expensive, and limits the number of carriers which can be deployed (given a fixed total budget). The question then becomes, "Do the extra costs outweigh the utility of the carrier?" In this case, the answer is no. For witches, the answer is maybe. Depends on how much protection they need, and how powerful their results are. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Apr 13 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast, you are right, I made it clear in the edit $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 13 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ This also applies to tanks. I just read With the Old Breed, and he talks about how the army regularly lost tanks to suicide attackers carrying mines because they didn't deploy with riflemen to shoot the suicide attackers. The marines would have the tank to shoot the heavier targets riflemen couldn't take out and riflemen to protect the tank from smaller, more agile targets. $\endgroup$ – Hosch250 Apr 13 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ In fact, it applies to most military operations throughout history. Witches are probably similar to artillery, and that was always rather vulnerable in itself and relied on a defensive line ahead of it, whether it was archers or later cannons. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Apr 13 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ Siege weapons come to mind as well. Vulnerable on their own, can do a hell of a lot of damage at long range, probably relatively inaccurate, slow to charge up $\endgroup$ – Nacht Apr 14 at 5:06

Shield Bearers

One way your witches can be protected is to be surrounded by shield bearers. These were often employed by the wealthy to be able to fight without risking themselves being hurt drastically in combat. They were not soldiers or combatants, they were more similar to squires, their only job was to hold a shield and move around their liege to protect them.

Your witches may have shield bearers who function in the same way, unskilled people who run around the witch protecting her. This way skilled fighters are not being ‘wasted’ on protecting a witch when they could be fighting instead.


The witch may carry a physical shield herself. This would allow her some protection whilst she prepared her armour spell. You would likely want a large centre grip shield to do this (so it can easily cover the witch and be projected outwards). If the witch needs both hands, you may instead opt for a strapped shield. In any case, i would recommend the Kite shield.

If a traditional shield seems out of place, there is also the Pavise. This was a shield that was designed to stand on the ground and protect an archer or crossbowman so that they could reload and fire without needing to stand out in the open. Your witches might employ a pavise for similar reasons, to protect them whilst they cast their spells.

enter image description here https://www.pinterest.com/musasji/pavise/

Inspired by Willk’s comment:

I like the idea of a witch pavise. It would be a corpse, minimally animated so as to move to intercept missiles with its own flesh. If you got close, it would look at you and maybe its mouth would move. Don't touch it.

Rather than only using these animated corpses to throw themselves in front of projectiles (such as spells, arrows or rocks), you could have them throw themselves onto the enemy or their weapons. Having disposable body guards who do not fear death can be a huge advantage:

  • They can use their bodies to block weapons (you can’t swing a sword if a corpse has skewered themselves onto it)

  • Can overwhelm, pin down or distract an opponent (preventing them from attacking and allowing you to fire into the crowd risk-free)

  • They do not require skilled soldiers and the fallen can be used to your advantage

  • Can be used as shield bearers rather than needing a squire or the like. If you had enough, they could form a shield wall or a testudo around the witch.

If your witches had access to this magic, they could use the undead to effectively protect them, they may not even need the armour spell of theres enough of them.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of a witch pavise. It would be a corpse, minimally animated so as to move to intercept missiles with its own flesh. If you got close, it would look at you and maybe its mouth would move. Don't touch it. $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 13 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ Thats a fun idea, and you’ve inspired another. I will add this to my answer and build upon it. $\endgroup$ – Liam Morris Apr 13 at 17:54

It's often better to play to strengths than compensate for weaknesses.

Given their vulnerability to conventional arms, the most sensible thing would be to have witches function off the front line and instead put them in settings where they have the advantage - ambushes, espionage, and scouting - or as healers and enchanters where they aren't directly at risk.

If it isn't mandatory that they be slinging thunderbolts: ambushed supply convoys, destroyed bridges, blighted crops, and stronger, healthier troops are worth just as much, if not more.

That said, depending on how many witches are available in a given force, having them work in units might be effective. Dividing spellcasting duties among multiple witches eases the individual load on their capacity , but it does also depend on having access to enough witches to do so.

Alternatively, since the issue with armor is that it impedes the ability to draw in mana from their surroundings, finding a material that conducts magical energy would be the most direct workaround. Your witches seem to be stationary while casting, so mobility isn't as much of an issue as far as protective designs go - a (magic) iron maiden might do fine.

Finally, alteration magic: humans are soft, bears and dinosaurs less so.


Individual armor is not enough. Someone will come up and whack the witch with a hammer. She will have to run and dodge and will not be able to complete her spell.

Fortunately, in addition to going around in the buff, typical witches have another quality useful for you.

Witches fly. witches on a broomstick, Goya source

Your witches will circle the battlefield. Their motion is their protection. Additionally, they will be hard to see - witches will prefer to act at night and might wear dark clothes or black body paint to camouflage them against the sky. Or a simple glamour might be a lot less costly of mana that full hammer proof deflector shields. The moving witch might appear as a bat, or a nighthawk.


I got to thinking that maybe there is a reason that witches wear such odd clothes. Maybe they have an actual need to be recognized as witches. Unusual and impractical clothing with bright colors and maybe some shiny stuff would help with that. Nobody who is not a witch would wear something like that on a battlefield.

So maybe the answer is simply that nobody shoots at people they recognize as a witch. Witches stand enough apart from ordinary soldiers and clearly visible so that they do not get shot accidentally. I mean bombs and artillery still happen but it is war. And you can have rules about when not to use imprecise weapons and when not to use witches that minimize overlap.

But why would nobody shoot at a witch that is casting on attack spell for the enemy?

Witches are simply too valuable. Valuable enough that there is a treaty that sets rules of war regarding when to use them and bans shooting at them as long as the rules are followed. This would require that the witches are really valuable during peace and very rare. Right bloodline, chosen by a familiar spirit, long apprenticeship... And a relatively stable society so that people actually care about less prosperity after the war is over.

So it would simply be sound economics not to kill witches. The enemy would just kill your witches to retaliate and then post-war everybody would laugh at how poor idiots who killed their access to magic for small tactical edge are.

Witches are magical. Anyone who kills a witch gets cursed. Basically witches do magic by mediating the power of spirits and when a witch is killed that allows the spirits to attack the guilty parties directly without having a mortal conduit limiting their power or moderating their wrath. Alternately powerful witches might simply have cast a powerful ritual magic to protect witches from angry people with fixation on bonfires. Or both of the above.

So being clearly visible would actually be a rule motivated by protecting common soldiers that otherwise might accidentally kill a witch and get eaten by a demon. That then eats anyone regardless of which army they belong to within few miles for desert. I mean why not now that it got free access to the material plane and all?

Witches are holy. There might simply be deep religious reasons not to kill witches. A witch is a bridge between the mortal realm and the spiritual realms. Or a maker of bridges maybe? In Latin that would be "pontifex" or to use more modern English form a pontiff. A witch is basically a holy person by definition.

Incidentally, people might be confused because many religions ban witchcraft and even magic entirely but this is actually bit of a red herring. In that context "witchcraft" specifically means "using magic for evil purposes" and "magic" is about dealing with "evil spirits". Or simply spirits that do not serve the will of God. Priests and holy men still would do things indistinguishable from witchcraft or magic but it would be called something else because they are not using it for evil purposes and are borrowing the power of godly spirits.

So it would be entirely possible for what is a "witch" in context of modern entertainment to be considered holy by fictitious form of Christianity or even Islam. But they'd probably call them something else and be very very clear about where the power is coming from.

The reasons are not mutually exclusive and can be combined and mixed. And probably should be. "Holy" pretty much means "mess with it and you will be cursed", so if the witches were protected by a curse, people would treat them as holy, anyway. And religious dogma and secular rules would follow.


Your witches can absorb ambient magic through their skin.

But having clothing in the way impedes this. Thus, they have a trade off between higher durability and higher magic reserves. Some witches may be particularly good at dodging or maintaining defensive spells, meaning they can afford to be naked allowing them to absorb more ambient magic to maintain their defence. Other witches may prefer to armour up completely, fire off a single spell and then be just like every other muggle schmuck in the battle. Most find a comfortable midpoint.

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    $\begingroup$ This offers an explanation for why the witches may not wear armour but it does not answer the question. The OP is asking how they could be protected whilst wearing limited armour, your answer ignores the fact that they must both wear limited clothing and still be protected. Its related to the question but this answer side-steps it rather than actually answering it. $\endgroup$ – Liam Morris Apr 13 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ @LiamMorris's right. This doesn't answer the question - but it's a cool idea, that "energy" is absorbed from the environment through the skin. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 14 at 17:35

I think in an army witches should be placed in the center. With this everything seems to fit together better.

  • There would be no need to assign soldiers to defend the witches because they are already surrounded by the entire army.
  • As you mentioned distance to the spell's target is a factor. This way the witches will be close to the battle.
  • Being close to the battle, witches are able to counter enemy heroes. By heroes I mean the fighters that are stronger than the other soldiers and it would take a lot for the allied army to take them down.
  • Ally hero shielding. In general being more active on the battle field.
  • This can provoke many tactics. Witches being the most influencing factor, battles can be about defeating enemy witches. If the enemy tries to reach the witches, thewitches in turn make it difficult and exhaustive for them, giving a value and role to the allied soldiers.

Of course if the witches can fly, I think Willk's answer is the best one.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi, welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! If you haven't yet, please take our tour. I can see you are already a member of other SE sites, in which case i must inform you that rules and culture vary between sites so i encourage you to take a tour of our site, even if you have taken it on others and visit our help center for more information. $\endgroup$ – Liam Morris Apr 14 at 21:23

Perhaps I have been playing too much Skyrim, but would it be possible to place permanent defensive spells to your witch's clothing or jewelry prior to the battle?

This would not be a complete solution, but could supplement other methods, such as shield bearers or bodyguards, so there would be fewer needed.

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    $\begingroup$ You can never play too much Skyrim, i have around 5000 hours played. Although, saying that, when walking i have stopped dead in my tracks several times when a jogger is coming towards me as i think they are going to hand me a letter. You can imagine my confusion when they keep running past, only for me to realise I'm not playing the game. $\endgroup$ – Liam Morris Apr 14 at 21:40

It's quite simple really Certain Magical spells can be used to make invisible magic armor harder then any other armor and completely weightless. Having this armor renders wearing other types of armor unnecessary and frees the witches to wear whatever they want.


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