Set in present day Washington D.C, USA.


A group of special operation task forces gathered at a history museum to safeguard a relic believed to be from a lost civilization in ancient times. This relic is dated to be at least 5000 years old and took the appearance of a wooden staff, this relic seems to emit an unusual frequency of energy into its surrounding. According to ancient text this staff once belonged to a great wizard who once claimed to be able to open a portal into a different dimension.

Suppose a small group of wizards (5 of them) are planning to steal/rob this relic via force/stealth. The wizard will use the ring on his/her finger to produce magical effect on matter, in other words they are powerless without the ring. This ring also emits unusual energy into the surrounding but limited to a range of maximum 10 meters.

Magic abilities


  • Invisibility (visible lights and infra-red are affected)


  • Telekinesis (lift objects up to ten times user weight)
  • Levitation (float in the air and move up to 50Km/hr)


  • Pyrokinesis (manipulate the shape and temperature of existing fire)
  • Illusion (create intangible copies of user to distract others)


  • Summoning (call forth available terracotta warriors to aid them in battle)
  • Animate Object (terracotta warriors can move on its own and do battle)


  • Disintegration (reduce any dense materials such as steel into ball bearings)
  • Resurrection (revive anybody with all wounds healed, but ring's range is halved)


How can I protect the relic from falling into the hands of these wizards with modern technology?


  • We know they are coming but we don't know how they will breach in nor do we know what kind of attack they are capable of.
  • These wizards can also come at the peak hour.
  • The museum is open to public.
  • The ring is non magnetic and is not make of metal.
  • No one except the wizard know how to use the staff.
  • There is no traitor among wizards.
  • The wizard can sense the presence of the staff.
  • The wizards will use guerilla tactic when reduced to less than half of their full strength.


  • Prioritize the safety of public before relic.
  • Do not allow the staff to be destroyed/stolen/lost.
  • You may dispatch all intruders with maximum prejudices
  • There are no wizards on our side except scientists.

P.S kindly keep your answer limited to the methods of detecting and identifying intruder as well as how your task force will try to fend off the invaders. Whichever plan you use please make the museum look inconspicuous(no tanks allowed to share the parking lots and absolutely no apaches going in circles above the roof and alright Chihuahua is allowed but keep it leashed at all time)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How much knowledge of modern technology do the wizards have? Have they been watching and keeping track? And how much time can we take to modify the museum for higher security, or specifically capturing wizards? $\endgroup$ – Erik May 16 '15 at 7:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If we don't what the wizards are capable of then they are unstoppable. A Hollywood super-thief can't be defended against. $\endgroup$ – user2617804 May 16 '15 at 8:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Counter question; superman turns outright evil and can duplicate himself at will. Help me write a way that the CIA can stop him from picking his nose. Any one of these guys is possessed of everything they need to wipe out the whole seal team, and the rest of the american military besides - and you've written in 20 of them. Start by defining how hard these things are to do for the mages - if it's effortless, you've officially written yourself into a box. $\endgroup$ – Sean Boddy May 17 '15 at 8:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why did the mages need to wait until the museum opening to come get the thing? They obviously can't sense it beyond a certain range or else they would've already had the thing. The Seal team is going to move the staff, or destroy it if they can and it's really that dangerous. The things you have handwaved have internal inconsistencies which need attention. And I'm no longer certain this is worldbuilding so much as a writing challenge. $\endgroup$ – Sean Boddy May 17 '15 at 15:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You need to provide clearer conditions. "Prioritize the safety of the public" over "do not allow the staff to be destroyed/stolen/lost" creates a hierarchy. Given that you have intentionally created a Kobayashi Maru style impossible scenario, you should expect worldbuilders to hold you to your orders as literally given. The natural solution is to destroy the staff, because this protects the public. Secondly, the conditions are not congruent with the desire to keep the staff oddly public. Why in the world would we (the society) choose to display it that way, knowing the dangers. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon May 17 '15 at 19:48

10 Answers 10


in other words the mages are invincible (they can revive each other at will), innumerable (they can create copies of themselves as well as armies of minions at will), unblockable (they can go anywhere), and have unstoppable power to block attacks as well as to attack themselves.
If I were that SEAL team I'd just order some lattes and watch the pyrotechnics as the relic gets stolen, there's no way I could stop them anyway.
Typical example of boundless magical abilities, a very bad idea if you try to make a reasonable, interesting, plotline.

Limit what your mages can do, limit how often they can do it, and tailor that to make them roughly equivalent in abilities to your soldiers. That way the eventual outcome of the story will remain in the balance until you decide to have one or the other make a plausible mistake or get lucky in some explainable way, not have it predetermined by the mechanics of the battle.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ They maybe wizards but they are no gods, if a terrorist possess a nuke do we cower in fear or try to look for clues of who they are where they are hiding and what they are planning to do with it. Let's accept the fact that wizard can be killed the problem is to ensure that they stay that way! $\endgroup$ – user6760 May 16 '15 at 10:18
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @user6760 Accepting that the wizards can be killed is one thing. Understanding the nature of how and why they can be killed or stopped is fundamental to the planning of any defense. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon May 17 '15 at 19:37

Since you want people to see the staff but not touch, it is probably in a glass vitrine. Make it bulletproof and bolt it into the floor. Then make it sealed and pressurized. Add hidden canisters of some relatively harmless narcotic gas with valves that trip if the pressure inside the vitrine drops. And naturally this trips the general alarm as well.

Also since the description of disintegrate talks about dense materials the staff should automatically drop into a bag made from multiple layers of ballistic fiber. The security bag would be also attached to the building with similar anti-disintegrate material and would close with a combination of fast acting glue and a vacuum pump. The bag will also contain a tracker so that if the mages succeed in destroying enough of the floor to lift off the bag they can be tracked.

At general alarm seal all exits, tell visitors to drop to the floor, and fill the building with smoke. At that point everyone moving should be either an intruder or a member of the response team. Both unable to see each other.

Now give the response team active infrared goggles that can see thru the smoke and a gas mask. Start emptying rooms of visitors systematically. Empty rooms can be filled with gas and secured with acoustic sensors and pressure plates. A room that should be empty but has activity can be sprayed with a neurotoxin (not necessarily lethal, magic probably requires concentration) that is absorbed thru the skin. Even if the mage is resurrected the toxin will remain on the skin and still work.

Dealing with rooms that have mages (or mage activity really) and visitors is more problematic. Gas similar to one used in the vitrine can be used. Sonic weapons should work and disable the mages and visitors without too much problems. Acoustic systems can actually locate approximate locations of moving people and infrared can locate harmless visitors. Which by elimination gives you areas with hidden mages. Unless there is a visitor close you can spray those with disabling chemicals or use microwave based weapons. If there is nothing valuable or vulnerable behind you can even use a shotgun.

It is also possible to build an active acoustic system that can echolocate even invisible people. An imaging radar is also possible. Acoustic sensors can be replaced or supplemented with capacitance based ones. Semi-transparent smoke would make invisible people visible especially if they move.

If the mages succeed in moving the bag with staff inside vehicles with imaging radars, trackers for the locator in the bag, and mini-guns should sweep the skies and roads clear of intruders. Fixed installations at the entry points including the roof would also help.

| improve this answer | |

The solution is actually simple. If you know they are coming and you do not know what they can do and assume they can do a lot...

Best replace the relic with a copy and move the real thing to a secret place far far away.

The new place should have no public and lots of space. In good secret keeping tradition, as few people as possible should then know where it is. Lock it up and throw away the key. This is operation A.

Then the hunt for the wizards begins. This is operation B. It is actually only there to support operation A. It will only work if the wizard's relic detection only works short range as well. For the public's safety the museum will need to close. Then set up a BIG drone surveillance area around the museum to detect odd behaviour and for the follow-up capture have some helicopter teams with very big nets, tear gas grenades, stun grenades etcetera ready. The idea is to incapacitate and identify the wizard and confiscate the ring.

And just hope you have not been infiltrated. Yet. If so race to throw the relic into a volcano.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ The wizards are drawn to the relic that emits the unusual energy signature $\endgroup$ – user6760 May 16 '15 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ In that case the secret location will have to move erratically and fast. To that volcano. And no operation B needed. $\endgroup$ – Bookeater May 16 '15 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ Mind you that is a piece of unique artifact from the past and shouldn't we try our best to preserve this piece of antique instead of liquifying it? $\endgroup$ – user6760 May 16 '15 at 5:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, it is a great shame. But the only way to be sure lacking Asgardians. Not knowing what these guys can do and all. Any chance of talking, reaching an agreement with the wizards? $\endgroup$ – Bookeater May 16 '15 at 5:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ On second thoughts, how about the space station? $\endgroup$ – Bookeater May 16 '15 at 5:28

Dismiss SEAL Team Six, they are far too conventional to take on such an important task. Instead replace the defenders with a rag tag team of misfits from the various people who are affected by the crisis.

Replace the weapons they hold with weapons that are known to deal significant damage to the mages. I suggest at least an archer, as history would show that such outfits must have an archer.

Have the adventurers set off (on foot, as obviously should you carry the ring on an F-15 Eagle it will be shot down instantly) towards the nearest volcano, to cast the weapon into the pits from wench it came. Give the staff to the weakest member of your party, this way even when the nazgul are right on top of the staff bearer, they will not detect it.

| improve this answer | |

If instead we know what the wizards are capable of doing-magic. The simple solution is place the artefact in solid glass display with 24 hour public access which is a cylinder from top to bottom. Place snipers in the ceiling space with hidden 2 mirrors (no biggie shooting through those). The wizards will show themselves in their frontal attack as they try to move the cylinder or blast it with fire or float at it. They all get shot at once before they can do any other magic.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Nice! pointing guns at visitors while sight-seeing... bore multiple holes on their largest organ with surgery precision... A museum of purgatory indeed! $\endgroup$ – user6760 May 16 '15 at 9:01

The staff is covered in layers of glass, so that the public can see it. If the glass is damaged, then the staff moves through a tunnel that opens up under it to a more secure location(not open to the public). The museum room that is showing the staff can have turrets that compare visual light, against thermals and shoot anything that is invisible (If they recognize a target, the staff is moved).

This will hopefully kill/incapacitate a couple of the mages. Take their rings away from them.

This also assumes that the mages cannot use telekinesis on the staff.

Ofcourse because the magicians can sense the staff, they know the location of the security room. So security for that room will have to be made.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ I like your secret trapdoor that displace the staff when the glass is tampered, but aren't the turrets overkill btw invisibility affects ROYGBIV and heat $\endgroup$ – user6760 May 16 '15 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ Wow, your mages are OP. nvoigt idea of using gas is a good one, fill the staff's container with concentrated gas, so that when its broken, the gas fills the room. $\endgroup$ – Necessity May 16 '15 at 9:54
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed nvoigt's idea is very good can put everyone to sleep temporarily or not. My mages are specially handpicked and well trained by Ra's al Ghul(Batman's teacher) they used to rank top three in WCG for five consecutive years I once lose a match of rock paper scrissor against them. $\endgroup$ – user6760 May 16 '15 at 10:05

Use SWAT tactics

These mages can (assumed instantly and infinitely) revive/heal, throw cars, stop bullets, and even create a completely false attack using illusions. Obviously force is not going to stop them easily, however, there are ways to stop them without wounding or killing them. The first is.

Strobe lights

Strobe lights are basically just flashlights with tweak. They blink. The frequency of the blinking can be adjusted to cause epilepsy. The mages may be immune to bullets, but their own biology (assuming they're human) can be used against them. Another, meaner option is the...

Long Range Acoustic Device


Or LRAD for short. The LRAD is basically a flash bang grenade without the flash, but with way more bang. Sound proof the walls, a mount a couple of these inside (smaller variants of course) and the mages will be quickly incapacitated. For good measure, one could place a helicopter armed with one of these to disable any flying mages. Unfortunately, while not able to kill, nearby civilians can, at the worst, lose hearing and will experience a great deal of pain if in range of the LRAD.

| improve this answer | |

You mention that the wizards can't use their magic if they aren't wearing their ring. You also say the soldiers don't know this particular fact, but do have reason to suspect something supernatural.

During daytime hours, when the museum is open to the public, have all visitors remove their jewelry. While it does inconvenience several people, the risk is worth it. (Of course, they'll need a way to secure the jewelry, but that isn't part of the answer to this question.) The soldiers can then detain anyone wearing jewelry for interrogation.

Some reasons for the public why jewelry is banned:

  1. Because the sign says so. How often do you question why certain signs are posted in public facilities? When people see a sign, they tend to follow it, regardless of how logical it is.
  2. There was an assassination attempt involving poisoned jewelry and the intended victim is in the museum again and asked for no jewelry. A little more far-fetched, since such an event would probably find its way to the news, but it also gives a reason why there are soldiers in the museum.
  3. There have been reported events of people wearing jewelry (and only those wearing jewelry) falling unconscious since the artifact came to the museum. Out of an abundance of caution while the effect is investigated, jewelry is being banned for the protection of the public.

When the museum isn't open, use the typical sensors museums are equipped with. Have soldiers perform random patrols, changing their routes at the flip of a coin (human decisions aren't random enough). Have guard dogs inside and outside the museum. Their senses should be sufficient to detect approaching intruders. The artifact itself can be put inside a box anchored to the floor and secured with a combination lock.

In The Da Vinci Code, we are introduced to an item called a cryptex. This is a device secured with a combination lock. It contains a piece of papyrus and a vial of vinegar. If someone tries to open the cryptex by force, the vial breaks and the vinegar destroys the papyrus. For another layer of security, you could do the same thing with the artifact and its box, but with a powerful acid (supposing acid would work).

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Any explanation for the public for prohibited items camera is fine but jewelry? I mean to general public this is only a wooden stick anyway I like the idea of cryptex and acid... It seems everyone wants to banish the relic from this world. $\endgroup$ – user6760 May 17 '15 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760 Any number of reasons. I'll edit to include some. As for why everyone wants to destroy the artifact... Well, it's the best way to ensure someone doesn't get hold of it who isn't supposed to. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 17 '15 at 2:20

The wizards do not have any means to walk through walls unseen, so you would need a large room to display the staff and a single point of exit that is guarded by a sealed room.

People exit to this room. It gets sealed and checked. If the staff is still in the main room, the lock is opened and people can leave the exit room. If the staff is indeed gone, it should be trivial to find the mages in the locked room. Bring a dog.

If they disintegrate the walls long enough to actually put a hole in them, you should have plenty of time to flood either room with CS gas.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ They could create an illusion of the staff. The gas is a great idea though, as they cant disintegrate it and cant really use telekinesis on it. Also a dog wouldn't work well, instead use thermal sensors to find invisible and also tag the staff somehow so that you can find who is carrying it. $\endgroup$ – Necessity May 16 '15 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ According to the question, they can only create illusions of themselves. Obviously you can improve the overal concept the more money and technology you throw at it. But you should check the question, "invisible to infrared" might as well mean no thermal signature. A dog would still smell the person. People always underestimate the tools we used for thousands of years. Technology is damn cool, but a well trained dog is better and more versatile than most machines. $\endgroup$ – nvoigt May 16 '15 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ Your right, I didn't read the question close enough. I guess the dog does make sense. Saying that wouldn't it just be better to place the staff in glass and fill that container with knockout gas, so that when it opens, it knocks out everyone in the room? $\endgroup$ – Necessity May 16 '15 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ Seems like a good idea. Another layer of defense. $\endgroup$ – nvoigt May 16 '15 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ Couldn't the wizards utilize gas masks to make the gas effectively useless? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 16 '15 at 15:51

As soon as the magi get within 10 m of the staff, they can disintegrate the material surrounding it and retrieve it with their telekinesis. They can then disintegrate the building itself, flying away through the walls/ceiling at 50 kph. If the twenty magi disperse in equally spaced horizontal directions, they can completely disintegrate any object within about 125 m, enough to collapse the entire building (and render any defenses within useless). They may also pick up bystanders (roughly ten per mage, or 200 total) and use them as human shields, making any attempt to stop them out of the question (as protection of the public takes higher priority).

Clearly, once they have the staff it's game over. The only way to be sure of the staff's safety is to nuke it from orbit prevent them from taking the staff in the first place.

This building is protected by a very secure system: every alarm triggers The Bomb...

~ The Keymaker, The Matrix Reloaded

I'll make the crucial assumption that the magi's telekinesis is also limited 50 kph (although I'll allow that it can accelerate objects up to that speed instantly). If the display case/security system extends 1 m around the staff, this gives us a minimum of 72 ms to destroy the staff1 once the security system detects it has been moved.

The obvious solution is a shaped charge: when deployed, it emits a jet or slug of molten metal at several kilometers per second, sufficient to destroy pretty much anything. A couple shaped charges in the base and top of the display case will be enough to completely obliterate the staff once the system has been triggered. They are also incredibly fast: see this video of a Russian APS destroying an RPG2 in-flight with a shaped charge.

Of course, the great thing about shaped charges is that they're directed. The amount of explosive is also relatively low: since their energy is focused they don't need to be as strong. This means that (with proper shielding) no damage will result to the rest of the building, and most of the people in the room will survive (albeit with permanent hearing damage).

Note that a shaped charge will punch through most materials as if they were not there, so the system could be neatly concealed by the wood paneling of the display case.

Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you keep it a secret‍!

~ Dr. Strangelove

Right now you're probably thinking things like: shouldn't we try our best to preserve this piece of antique instead of exploding it, and: Nice! pointing bombs at visitors while sight-seeing... Let me explain:

The magi want the staff intact. They cannot remove the staff without triggering the explosives, and like any decent booby-trap, the system is tamper-proof: any attempt to deactivate or destroy the explosives before the timelock expires will detonate them immediately.

If they know about the system, they will not attempt to remove the staff. Thus, the system will never be activated, the staff will not be destroyed, and the public will never be in danger. And if the magi are really comparable to "MI6 high on mojo", then you can bet they'll have done their research and know about the system.

All warfare is based on deception.

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Of course, if the system will never actually be activated, it doesn't actually have to exist, right? Just drop some (fake) hints about the construction of such a system in the right places, and the magi will never even show up out of fear for the staff's safety. Unbeknownst to them, the staff and the public will never be in any real danger.

1 Thanks to Frostfyre's mention of the cryptex for inspiring this answer.

2 The warhead of an RPG is also a shaped charge: however, Arena's shaped charge disrupts the normal firing of the RPG so that its copper jet is formed incorrectly and looses effectiveness.

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.