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Set in the modern day, many talented citizens especially those who can cast magic spells are encouraged to join the army. A very small group of mages can tap into the nuclear forces at will but they can only manipulate their own body to create a powerful nuclear explosion on the spot so in other word they are just a cannon fodder. I am wondering how can these people moves up the ranks in the world dominated by magic? Note that such spell requires lengthy incantation to release tremendous amount of energy.

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    $\begingroup$ So, to clarify, these are nuclear suicide bombers who have no other abilities in a world full of magicians? $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Mar 4, 2020 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed: yes, they cannot learn any other magic. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Mar 4, 2020 at 5:07
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    $\begingroup$ If the only spell they can cast is a nuclear explosion that will certainly kill them, then how do they know they can cast it? $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2020 at 7:12
  • $\begingroup$ @GrandmasterB: when they starts reciting the incantation, their body emits nuclear radiation and this can severely damage their cells and dna so the examination process is extremely delicate and only handled by pros. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Mar 4, 2020 at 8:22
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    $\begingroup$ They won't move up the ranks in the military because the last thing you want is having a living nuke in the middle of your HQ. A country will probably want them as moles in a foreign city or ambassadors. $\endgroup$
    – castor
    Mar 4, 2020 at 13:58

3 Answers 3

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Learning other skills to make them better than other nuclear mages

These nuclear mages seem like effective deterrents, as in the sense of 'You'd better not take this border fortress because we've got a nuclear mage in the basement and you'd better believe that we're going to blow the lot of us to kingdom come if you so happen to sneeze over this here border line'. The long casting time makes it not very suited for offense as a man chanting in ominous chanting will set off some red flags, but on the other hand if you're holding off the enemy you can buy enough time for the chant to be set off. So, similar to way nuclear weapons work in our world, nuclear mages would be used as a deterrent, albeit a defensive one. Thus, any position of strategic importance would be given a dedicated nuclear mage as a defensive measure.

And, naturally, it goes without saying that some forts will be better than others. And, seeing as how each fort only needs one nuclear mage, that means that the only people nuclear mages will be fighting for higher positions are other nuclear mages. Obviously, the strength of power would determine a standard hierarchy, but once that's out of the way, nuclear mages with alternative skill sets, such as analysis abilities or being a polyglot, will be prioritized over nuclear mages without such skill sets.

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  • $\begingroup$ wouldn't you want to lose your worst nuclear mage in a nuclear explosion? $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Aug 18, 2022 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @user253751 The point of nuclear mages is a deterrence, meaning that they would very rarely be used. If they saw frequent use, perhaps. But I don't think they would see frequent use. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Aug 18, 2022 at 19:48
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Somehow on the same line as Halfthawed's answer, but I'll argue that they are either:

  1. promote-able and promoted in high ranks or
  2. they may need be killed (maybe together their descendants with chances to develop the same traits).

Why they need to be promoted on good grounds - because they will be assigned in the strategically important cities/garrisons as the last-resort measure (I'll come to this later), so:

  1. they will be in a similar position of "the ship captain leaves last"
  2. they need to have a cool head and good tactical understanding to delay their own detonation until the population/army retreat from an now-indefensible situation, but not delay the auto-destruct sequence (meant to "scuttle" the place) until is too late.

You also do not want to risk putting them under the command of stupid leaders (and that includes you) lest they become annoyed beyond their limits.

The above already means that you do not want such mages to be secondhand quality, thus you may as well go on pushing their tactical abilities further and educate them.

Why you want to deploy them in the strategically important points only and not on the battlefield nor in unimportant locations. Because if you do the latter, at least some of them will realize that you are a second-hand strategist who engage in battles you can't win or cannot assess the importance of your army in the war (i.e. you are stupid enough not to read Sun Tzu or not to understand it). The will lose confidence in you as a ruler and the next thing that will happen is one of them blow himself up close enough to you to take you out of the equation.
A notable exception would be cases of real bad luck - something that any reasonable strategist would assess as winnable, but the conditions outside the control of your side would show otherwise. In this case, making them aware of the situation in full may result in one volunteering for a kamikaze mission.

Why you may need to kill those that you cannot promote - because you won't be able to keep their motivation aligned with your interest, so either the enemy will find a motivation for them or they'll start to ask themselves "what's the purpose of my life" and reach a conclusion that runs contrary to your interest.
It is much better if you find ways to keep them 'de-fused' by any other means except killing, especially if their children with latent 'thermonuclear' abilities may learn the fate of their parent, decide it was a terrible act of unjustice and come after you for revenge.

Wait, what? Children? yes, because you will want to keep their family 'hostage' (what a nasty word) for the duration of their deployment. You know, to protect the family against any kidnapping attempt from the enemy's agents. It's safer for them, it's safer for you too.
Besides, would you trust a thermonuclear mage to autodestruct when s/he has the family nearby?

You may accept the services of celibate 'thermonuclear mages', but you do it on your own risk; if the enemy manages to turn just one of them against you... (do I need to continue?)

So they have a family that are not with them during the deployment. Not much of a family life, is it? True. This is way you probably want to limit their deployment periods and alternate them. Bring them home periodically, let them participate, even if only as observers in strategy councils (because they need to be aware of the bigger picture and you want them to be so) and have their wonderful time with a well protected and provided family.

Who knows? Based on what they learn, they may even volunteer to go on meaningful counter-attack kamikaze missions for you and their family will know/understand/accept the reason?


Bottom line: you would be much better to never need them, so try to make their presence and potential known and visible to any wannabe enemy.
And, perhaps, trying to avoid making enemies in the first place is the best way to go?


PS: the 'thermonuclear mages' are very different than the nuke missiles during the Cold War. They are "nukes with a human sentience" and you need to treat them as such. Or else...

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They go up the ranks, but not REAL ranks

Sure, to make them feel better the goverment fills them with good boy badges and pays them well, make sure their families are secure and have plenty of candys. But otherwise, they do no not have real rank, they are expected to cast their thing, explode, and die for their country.

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