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Magic (which is just ancient technology and not supernatural mumbo jumbo) in this setting is close to what you'd find in the anime Grimoire of Zero. That is to say it has a set of rules and the list of spells is grouped by function and the elemental aspect is missing entirely.

The spell we talk about today is a magical bow (called steim in the show) that shoots an explosive projectile.

I my world, it's called

Magical artillery

Magical artillery, at its core, uses swarms of micro machines, that are designed to explode upon contact with the target. They're about as fast as an average arrow, but are able to recognize objects and change direction. They're also able to break up into smaller pieces and reassemble later.

The power of a single shot can be turned up or down. The more powerful a shot is, the bigger (usually in length) it gets.

The primary weakness is the fact that a shot can be prematurely detonated by the enemy.

This is all fine, bit the main reason why there are only a handful of rifles and cannons in the setting is because Magical artillery is comically better than them, plus there are spells that can jam or even destroy ordinary guns, I think its name was "/k/ry of the Second Amendment ".

However, I doubt that Magical artillery in its current form would be able to out conventional ranged weaponry. I'd like to know, what property this spell needs to have to be able to outperform conventional assault rifles, rifles and machine guns?

Note: I'm not sure if the weapon classifies as artillery

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    $\begingroup$ I have no sources so just putting it here - Doesn't conventional weaponry need to: aim at the target so it exposes at least the muzzle; require line of sight which exposes shooter location; recoil; heat? It seems to me that you could just use your artillery as mortar behind cover with its aiming capabilities. $\endgroup$ – Eriol Mar 5 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ Which is it: Artillery (indirect fire)? Or rifles/machine-guns (direct-fire)? $\endgroup$ – user535733 Mar 5 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ I don't now of any conventional rifle ammunition which 1) explodes on contact with any meaningful power, 2) recognizes objects, 3) changes direction, 4) breaks up and reassembles, and 5) whose power can be tuned. Sounds like the ultimate personal smart-weapon. How much better does your magical artillery need to be? $\endgroup$ – Schwern Mar 5 at 21:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see a single advantage conventional firearms have over this weapon. You may actually have the opposite problem: Battles are incredibly boring in your world. $\endgroup$ – Muuski Mar 5 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe you're thinking that conventional assault rifles and machine guns have an advantage in volume of fire over a magical bow? Volume of fire can be used to suppress the enemy, and also to make up for inaccuracies. That's all unnecessary when soldiers have personal smart, explosive, fire-and-forget weapons. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Mar 5 at 21:50
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Variable Penetration

If I take an anti-materiel rifle and shoot a tank, it does a lot of damage to the armour and insides. A machine pistol does nothing. An RPG explodes but might not do much.

If I use the same rifle on a plane fuselage it makes a neat hole on both sides of the plane. A machine pistol makes a line of holes. An RPG tears a whole side off the plane and the whole thing in half.

If I use it on a crowd I can very much kill a straight line of people. A machine pistol mows down everyone in the front few rows. An RPG kills a cluster of people.

Magical artillery can be used to punch a hole into a tank (throw all the drones at one point), tear a plane apart (use one drone to knock a hole in the plane, then fill the plane with drones and boom), and kill everyone in the crowd (use just enough drones per person to cause terminal brain damage).

The adaptability of this weapon is it’s main strength. If you throw a huuuge attack against a target that turns out to be quite weak you can still redirect the artillery to the next target. There’s no one armour or defence strategy that will work against it aside from deploying your own magical blocking system. A single shot from a magical artillery piece can be effective against air, sea, land, personnel, mechanised targets, buildings, large areas, single targets or any mix of the above.

Plus, as others have noted, you can shoot round corners.

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  • $\begingroup$ RPGs don't act like in the movies. Anti-tank RPGs (ie. HEAT) don't explode like a bomb. They use a shaped charge so called because it uses carefully shaped hollow cone of explosives to turn a sheet of metal into a high velocity bullet that penetrates the armor. A cheap, light RPG can fire a very slow, heavy projectile that can still punch through armor. But an RPG can fire many different warheads. HEAT, high-explosive, thermobaric, fragmentation, smoke, illumination... Anti-material rifles haven't been viable against tanks for 80 years. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Mar 6 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Schwern: That’s why I said “might not do much”. I wasn’t aiming for military accuracy in a post about magical nanodrones when the point of ‘different guns do different things’ is easier to make by being 80 years out of date. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 7 at 8:22
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The Tracking Ability Makes it Superior to Modern Weapons

What you have are tiny micro missiles capable of changing direction. That is a massive advantage. If they are autonomous and can change direction they can just go over cover and around corners to kill. This is an incredibly lethal weapon.

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perhaps you can think of these projectiles as perfectly segmented fragment... a bullet made of grains of sand that wouldn't fragment until impact. If those grains just happen to be explosive, then fine, you could even use a chemical "Fuse" to dial in the effect right before firing... In this, you almost get a gradient from a single solid Piercing shot, all the way to an explosive shotgun blast. In other research, I'd look into the differences between a cannon ball, "chain shot", "grape shot", and fragmenting shot. How those "particles" are handled is greatly variable, but thinking of the chemical fuse example, an area effect haze of neutralizing mist that sets off the fragmentation or even explosion is perhaps an analog

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Faster Projectiles/Longer ranges

Arrows shot from modern compound bows can leave the bow moving 100 m/s or more. This is certainly too fast to outrun, but arrows have quite a bit of drag and thus lose speed rapidly. By the time you're shooting 40-50 meters, the arrow is moving slow enough that you can step out of its way if needed. And even long-distance clout shooting doesn't typically send the arrow much beyond a couple hundred yards at most.

On the other hand, a modern rifle round is moving ~10x the speed, and holds that speed for much further distances. Much longer-range shots are possible, and the target has much less time to react, assuming they have any warning at all. The current sniper record is something like 2+km nowadays, and many machine guns have a "spray and pray" indirect-fire range of double that.

Higher Rate of Fire

A very fast archer might be able to shoot 4-5 arrows in a minute. A machine gun can fire hundreds or thousands of rounds in the same amount of time. Target-tracking is great, but sometimes you just need to put as much ordinance downrange as possible. As the quip goes, it's not the one with your name on it that you should worry about, it's the one addressed "to whom it may concern".

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Answering to the question of:

I'd like to know, what property this spell needs to have to be able to outperform conventional assault rifles, rifles and machine guns?

Tongue-in-cheek answer: the only thing I want to make sure I'm aware before I place an order on your online shop: how long/complex is the incantation one needs to make before firing such a weapon to guarantee the results? Please don't send me reading small-prints.

Point: a long setup time before I'm able to fire the magic bullets and anyone with a classical Uzi may sneak on me and fill me up with bullets before I can dispose of him.

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  • $\begingroup$ Was this meant to be a comment? It doesn’t seem to answer the question. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 6 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs point taken, thanks. Please check if you find the answer to your question $\endgroup$ – Adrian Colomitchi Mar 6 at 12:50

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