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There's a world where ninjas have vast magical powers (up to creating great fireballs, small tornados or tsunamis) and unhuman level of speed and endurance. On the other hand, there's no stupid ninjas running in orange suits, shouting their techniques names so enemy knows what to expect and certainly there's no commanders stupid enough to send their army running in one big blob against second big blob of ninjas, where most of these ninjas know techniques with such big area of damage.

Also supply is much lesser problem. As ninja are scarce in population, there's less mouths to feed. You can also just seal supplies in a scrolls and send just one person which would be as effective as whole supply convoy.

So, in theory, there's not much problem with sending some good ninja deep into enemy territory to obliterate city or two and go without a scratch. When there's not many ninja and a lot of terrain, it's easier to sneak by than protect vast borders. There's so much power difference between (even mediocre) ninja and normal human, that later stand no chance. There's manpower to send normal levy as scouts or guards, but they would be as useful as their corpses saying "there was enemy here".

I see a lot of offensive potential in armies of this world, but not much defensive.

So my question is: how could warfare between ninjas look like without it being about who strikes hard first?

I wouldn't like to go for resolution such as MAD so warfare (symmetric or asymmetric) would be viable for this world.

You can think of power limit as scaled down Naruto, without power creep that was introduced after Chunnin Exam and later.

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  • $\begingroup$ guerilla warfare or mostly ambush $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 13 '20 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ Train some of those ninjas to use their "vast magical powers" to detect attempts at ninja infiltration... How is this different from the current real world? There are quite a few countries which have the capacity to strike their enemies from a very great distance, using magical spells such as the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper and the AGM-114 Hellfire; yet for some strange reason those countries refrain from using their magic against other countries with similar capabilities. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 13 '20 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ and sabotage* (to slow due to lag to edit it) $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 13 '20 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ If it's ninjas warring against each other, it would look like business as usual because you wouldn't see anything. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Aug 13 '20 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ FWIW Ninja were mostly spies/espionage agents ... While they were trained in combat their purpose explicitly was to avoid fights and acquire information via alternate means where possible. $\endgroup$ – aslum Aug 13 '20 at 13:40
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The first thing that comes to mind are that ninjas are most likely your primary fighters. This does not mean non-ninja soldiers don't exist, it does mean that they are likely not fighting.

Ninja Ninja Tactics

Head-on combat will be decided by skill, deception, trump cards, and a bit of luck. You need to know your opponent's strengths and weaknesses relative to your own so you can devise an appropriate strategy or counter. Sometimes that strategy really is to hit them hard and fast, while other times it is about who has the better trump card.

For what it's worth: My bet is on the giant furrball of rage for best trump card.

Group combat has the extra dimension of more combatants, but will distill to each side trying to gain incremental advantages until the other side cannot overcome the disadvantages piled against them. This can come from trying to align beneficial single battles, clustering your enemies together to bomb them with a giant fireball, or trying to gang up on one fighter at a time.

Ninja Ninja War

War is a different beast -- a many-tailed and suprisingly deep beast.

Information is vital. Not just on your terrain, but on your enemy elite. You need to know things like the lay of the land you want to invade, what defenses the towns/cites have, anything particularly special about your enemy forces. A kid turning into giant sand beast of destruction will be bad for your army's health -- good to know these things first.

This stage it is your espionage against their counter-espionage. All manners of deception are in play here, and the goal is not to be neutralized. Take that as you will. Disguises, illusions, and sometimes even being obvious in your actions all have their place in a war of information.

When it comes to actual fighting, well the civillians are ideally not to have war on their doorsteps. Or at least overt war. The best way to kill your enemies is in their sleep with a sharp kunai -- or any other way that does not involve actually fighting people and limits collateral damage to exactly what you want it to be.

Ideally, a war will end with the death of the enemy leader and not enough ninja forces thinking straight to prevent an effective immediate succession of leadership to keep fightning you. But even old leaders are wily and strong and know a lot of ways to skin a snake. Be wary of old ninjas -- they do not get there by being nice little pushovers.

Non-ninja soldiers are most likely in support roles as opposed to a raw combat role. They might even make good espionage agents if only for the fact that ninjas will be looking for ninja magic and miss things like a random person using mundane disguises. Mundane scouts can still search for information and if they are disguised enough, can be easily overlooked by faster moving aerial ninjas and still spot remnants of their passage.

As D&D Players can attest -- The True Seeing spell does nothing against a mundane hide check. A similar principle can be applied in a gambit for information.

Now nothing stops a ninja army from razing everything to the ground and just expanding on it, but really your ninja force of elites are soldiers. Many are not likely to be farmers or carpenters, or be in the trade of maintaining land. But unless there are only two powers in the world, the other powers will be paying attention and may provide help at the most inconvenient moment. Or attack your other flank while you are busy looting and pillaging.

On Stupid Kids in Orange Suits

Disposable bodies that return information to caster and the ability to look like anything are powerful skills if used right, either as an impromtu fighting force or as a disposable disguise. Giant toads might be a bit obvious, but they are effectively portable siege engines -- giant snakes are capable of doing good damage to a city. Toads jump and have weapons so that helps them.

While yelling out your technique names is bad for stealth, if you yell your clone technique in a forest and nobody hears you, did you call it out? Also he is a stupid kid with little training right now -- he will improve. Hopefully.

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What it sounds like is that Ninja VS Ninja Determines the outcome of wars

What does this mean? This means that there is no value gained in destroying or sending normal armed forces to a region until you have bested the local ninja force. Otherwise, You send your big normal army? obliterated by ninjas. You send in your ninjas to obliterate the local populace? Angry local ninjas obliterate your populace/standing army.

Ninja vs Ninja is the only way to determine a victor and avoid harming a bunch of civilians. So, Ninjas fight Ninjas and the winner gets to occupy the area by threat of being obliterated by Ninjas.

How do Ninjas fight each other? Honestly, you could learn a bit from dopey orange wearing ninja kids. The fights are not usually determined by the first blow. The perceptive abilities of ninjas increase more than the offensive abilities. Combat becomes about layering deceptions about the method of attack so thick that they can't immediately determine what to do to counter. Only when massively outclassed do Straightforward battles happen otherwise, fighting people of your own level of power and experience comes down to Spy V Spy levels of one-uppance.

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  • $\begingroup$ That sound legit and I thought about something about the line - but what stops either sides from going to attrition war by destroying cities and killing population until second side have no resource to sustain it war effort? $\endgroup$ – Elas Aug 13 '20 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Elas same reason that we don't go to nuclear war! it would destroy both sides. Besides logistical efforts for a small group of ninjas is easy meaning the ninjas don't need city help to carry out missions. $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Aug 13 '20 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ reading this somehow only make me think of dopey orange wearing ninja kids talking no jutsu out their enemy...... $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 13 '20 at 14:51
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You're ninjas probably have a base of operations, or at least somewhere the top brass meet every now and then to talk about war and stuff. If the other ninja team finds that, they can deal a huge blow to enemy ninja chain of command. probably use a ninja scout to check it out, then maybe a strike team later? however you want to kill ninjas:)

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