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As a follow up to this question.

When the greatest wizards of all time decide to retire, they place great pride in creating an Artifact encompassing their life's work. Schwarzschild's staff of miniature black holes would be a subject of study and used quite often and recharged between uses(as per previous post). An Artifact would be usually comprised of the majority of a person's magic and is very much reviewed like an entry to a scientific journal would be here. Artifact's persist past death of the creator and recharge the same as when the creator was living.

Since created items are often singular in purpose, for purposes of war, live mages are often better than a singular item. This does not prevent them from using Artifacts.

Why would these massively powerful artifacts not work for war despite,

  • being rechargeable
  • being powerful

What limitation could prevent them for war but let them be used for study (even if they are destructive)?

Answers should consider the systemic restrictions to be applied and that they need not be a perfect method of restriction/limitation and should not consider social forms of enforcement such as law enforcement.

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    $\begingroup$ Because if you make a Black Hole too light, it will explode. Make it too big and carrying it will be a problem. Not to mention fun stuff like indiscriminate space distortions, Hawking radiation, and all the equipment required to harvest energy from them. There is also my favourite trope that creating something that powerful would invite war. Unless everyone has it, which case peace would be enforced by MAD. $\endgroup$ Aug 28 '20 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ sounds like every country has their own artifact? maybe the same thing with the nuke stuff, considering the example of your artifact is a miniature blackhole which probably enough to destroy a planet or a big chunk of it. its good as intimidation to maintain peace as is but not to be use carelessly. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Aug 28 '20 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ Seems like a very broad question. Almost any answer would suffice, in the absence of any criteria for answering. For example, maybe the magic that goes into creating an Artifact requires the imposition of Salaam's Seal of Perpetual Peace, which disallows the use of Artifacts for aggressive & bellicose purposes. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 28 '20 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas While requiring a seal to be in place for creation of an artifact would do the trick, A thousand answers using variations of an arbitrary name would still count as the same method albeit named differently. Thats still only 1 method. Not an infinite amount. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Aug 28 '20 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ Why would you make destructive artifacts if you can't use them in war? A few specialized ones, perhaps, but wouldn't most people in that case prefer to dedicate their efforts to something that would, you know, be used? (Of course, if these really are the equivalent of people's doctoral theses, sitting on a shelf unused for decades might be realistic...) $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Aug 28 '20 at 17:54
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The risk of loss to the enemy.

The Artifacts are not only tools of great magic but also demonstrations of subtle techniques for manipulating magic which took their creators a lifetime of research and experimentation to master. We and the enemy both have Artifacts, but each documents and demonstrates a different aspect of magic. If the enemy could study one of our Artifacts they would learn a lot about how we understand magic, and their wizards would use that knowledge to become even more powerful. Similarly, if we obtained one of the enemy's Artifacts, our wizards would study it and become more powerful.

Both sides keep their Artifacts safely locked away in vaults within their well-guarded schools of magic.

Given the vagaries of war, it is far too dangerous to bring them into battle. Even an overwhelming advantage in any single battle isn't worth losing the Artifact, and as a result, losing the war forever.

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    $\begingroup$ Of course if you lose, there goes your vault as well. And now, the guys who risked their artefact have two... $\endgroup$
    – Jontia
    Aug 30 '20 at 11:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Jontia, good point. If the battle lines ever got close enough to either combatant's magic schools (and artifact vaults) then either the artifacts would be moved elsewhere (possibly magically) or they would be removed from the vaults and used in combat as a last ditch survival effort. Even in that last ditch circumstance, precautions would be made to keep the artifacts out of enemy hands. Perhaps the artifact wielder would wear a magical dead-man's switch and a big enough explosive to destroy all useful aspects of himself or the artifact. $\endgroup$ Aug 30 '20 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ I agree there's a bunch of things that could/should happen if you are about to lose a war. But that only increases how much this feels like a social convention more akin to law enforcement or MAD doctrine. $\endgroup$
    – Jontia
    Sep 1 '20 at 6:29
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Nuclear reactors VS hydrogen bombs:

When you think of nuclear war, you're thinking thermonuclear weapons. In reality, while nuclear bombs feature in the theory of war, the actual use for them is quite tiny. A nuclear weapon is too uncontrolled and terrifying to deploy, and if you did, then there would be an explosion (pardon the pun) of similar uses. Mutual assured destruction creates a strong incentive to not deploy such weapons.

HOWEVER, that doesn't mean nuclear power isn't going to war. Depleted uranium projectiles make tanks deadlier. Nuclear power plants power defense factories churning out weapons. Last but not least, all the really critical ships in the navy are nuclear powered.

The same principles can apply to your artifacts. Don't make a water elemental powered artifact swallow whole fleets, but maybe you can make ships that are almost frictionless in water. Don't make fire elementals that burn whole armies, but instead liquify metal and make armor for armies. Don't make the earth swallow enemy walls, but instead make stone-tipped arrows that go through metal like it wasn't there.

Direct deployment of artifacts is anathema, and will lead to uncontrolled proliferation and global destruction (who knows, maybe this has happened before, and your culture is built in the ruins of a once-great civilization that was destroyed by their artifacts). Subtle application of the powers of the devices IS, however, a perfectly acceptable use to benefit society directly and the military as a side-benefit. It all depends on how your magic system works.

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Artifacts are difficult to transport and their effect can not be easily directed.

Thermonuclear weapons are the most powerful weapons known to modern humans. However, the very first thermonuclear charges had a certain problem - they had to be built and detonated in one place. They depended on large amounts of liquid deuterium, and there was no practical way of delivering this weapon in form of a "hydrogen bomb". How good is the weapon if you can't strike your enemy with it? Only later thermonuclear weapons had become as portable as fission ones.

So, these magic artifacts just can't be brought into battle. Even if they are small (and technically can be moved), their activation process requires them to stay in one place for some time. They can only be used for demolition - for example, an enemy captures a castle, and defendants obliterate the castle, the enemy and themselves in one big blast - but this provides only a very limited use.

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    $\begingroup$ Extending this, if every group that has very-destructive artifacts can agree to ban their use in war, then you can end up with something analogous to a mutually assured destruction nuclear stalemate - where it's not that the artifacts can't physically be used but no one wants to be the first to do so because of the inevitable retaliation via the other side's artifacts. $\endgroup$ Aug 28 '20 at 19:45
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Proper application as weapons

We have lasers in industry that can cut a half-centimeter (approximately 0.2 inch) thick steel at a rate of 6m (~20 feet) per second. Fire it at a person's head and it's instant death.

So why don't we use it in war? Because it's a female dog to aim and shoot. It's a very heavy machine that takes too much electricity to power. It would have to be mounted on a nuclear powered tank. The tank would need to have technologies for cooling both the laser and the engine that have not been developed yet. And the target would have to be stationery, because the laser takes long to warm up and is only that damaging at its focal point.

Boeing and Lockheed were reportedly testing laser weapons mounted on military aircraft since the 2000's or so, but due to so many complications lasers still remain common weapons only in scifi and cyberpunk literature.


With magic weapons it's the same. So yeah, Ponder Stibbon's Hex-controlled Reactor is a powerful device that is able to split thaums (the basic particle of magic). You could probably use it as a siege weapon against a castle, if you are able to spend a decade building the machinery inside the castle in the first place. The real world equivalent would be building the Large Hadron Collider around an enemy's bunker, and then tuning it so that particles collide at the bunker's walls.

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    $\begingroup$ There's the Boeing YAL-1 It needed a 747 to carry chemicals for 20 shots. Try operating a 747 in a hot war zone. $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '20 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ Just reading the wikipedia page, that YAL-1 is equivalent in infrastructure to an entire SAM or Artillery battery. $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '20 at 16:14
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Usefulness besides war

It's been alluded to and outright said in some answers, but here's a deeper view on the usefulness outside of war.

Powerful artefacts can be used for much more than war. They might be things like a weather staff. Capable of irritation through rain or prevent fields from being flooded through sun these things can be used in war, but it's impractical. A large army can consume fields just as well, and large armies are probably required to defend such a piece in war. It would be too valuable not to defend it with a large army. That makes it not as effective and hazardous to your own troops.

These artefacts are a lifetime's work. There are too few applications for a lifetime's work to go into war. Politics, arts, agriculture, artisinal crafts and much more are the things where the work and money is. Sure some wizards will focus on war, but many will go to anything else. And the lifetime artefacts that are created by war wizards might just be altogether too dangerous to be used. Artefacts of destruction are seldom able to distinguish friend from foe, nor foe from useful things you might want to use later, like a mill of planting fields.

In short, artefacts are often more useful for prosperity. Lifetime artefacts used for war, or created for war, are too dangerous, too valuable and/or impractical to be used for war.

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Artifacts need to be atuned to the local properties of the magic field, a very slow and labour intensive process. If you really put your mind to it you can get one active in about 2 years of time, otherwise it'll have to stay within a few kilometers of were it was attuned to previously if you want to actually use it.

Problem of this answer: using artifacts for defensive siege warfare would be trivial, assuming that the artifacts effects are appropriate.

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Magic is often a strangely misrepresented thing in fantasy. It's almost solely aimed at combat and war, which is not how it would really go if magic were "real".

Magic would follow the same lines as technology. There won't be any fireballs thrown in the beginning. Instead the first magic that was discovered is about the 3 S's: Sex, Shelter, Sustenance.

Sex contains everything from making sure you look good to attract a partner, convincing said partner, getting pregnant, giving birth to a healthy baby and then continues with getting the child to grow up healthy and strong while teaching him things he needs to know.

Shelter contains everything from building something against the elements, from a small fire to keep you warm to the clothes you wear (or don't need to wear because magic) and everything around your home. Hell even just something to prevent your home from catching fire would be worth gold in ancient times.

Sustenance is all about the food. Finding it, making it, hunting it, protecting it, herding it, growing it, keeping it free from disease and poisons, preparing it, stockpiling it, keeping it fresh etc. It is likely that you would see magical refridgerators before you would see advanced weapons.

The items your mages leave behind are focused on this, and likely given to their children or those they care about. An artifact that can cure diseased crops, keep the soil fertile or even just harvest all the grains without harming the stalks so they can be harvested again would be invaluable.

An artifact that can cure disfigurements and change one's appearance to their wishes would be a most powerful tool in such times (it would be a powerful tool today!). Or what about a tool that makes people immune to certain diseases? Child death would go down, horrible diseases that we get shots for today would be eliminated (but what if the artifact causes autism? GASP!). Even if it can only be used for a single family, a powerful mage would not hesitate to give this to his own family so they can be strong and healthy for years to come.

Or imagine leaving something to improve the homes of your family? They could be fireproof, always a comfortable temperature without the need for heating or cooling, the space inside could be larger, furniture could be immune to wear-and-tear. It might not seem that powerful, but if you never have to replace your furniture in the olden times it save a lot of time, money and effort. Not to mention how it can increase the status of the family.

Most days aren't about warfare, and as miss Nightingale proved even war is less about the war and more about the hygiene needed so infections dont kill literal magnitudes more than the actual fighting does. Many wars never even happened because supplies are more important, and the ability to send home your troops so they can help with harvest is invaluable for the country as a whole. The amount of magical artifacts focused on warfare would be minuscule compared to the amount of magical artifacts focussed on just making it through to the next year.

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Non-sentient magic can be disrupted by enemy mages

Your magic system could allow mages to disrupt magic unless the caster resists them. Spells might be magic constructs ("balls of light") which have to travel to the destination before they activate. Left uncontested, an enemy wizards might be able to disrupt a spell before it activates, causing it to dissipate without effect. If a wizard casts a spell, they could be able to resist enemy wizards trying to disrupt their spell, so that it activates as normal. But it could be impossible to defend a spell cast by someone else, or by an artifact, so that they are useless in war.

(You would have to say that continuous-effect magic like shields can be disrupted unless the caster actively defends them. Possibly there are disruption-resistant materials which would allow for permanently enchanted weapons, but the process of enchanting them is slow and creates magical "ripples" which allow enemy agents to detect and , and can be disrupted like any other spell.)

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Artifacts leak. Specifically, while they recharge like a living mage does, in the presence of large numbers of people this magic will leak out into others. Leakage rate is a function of population density within a known distance.

This means artifacts can be studied and used in isolated universities, but in a war setting just having people nearby makes them useless.

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