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Background

My setting an, ideally, low magic fantasy setting will be ruled by 3 City States. I don't want any of these to feel right. As in there's no good guy. i.e. the reader is not supposed to see the setting and go "oh, that's obviously the best city that will win"

  1. This city is basically an unbridled science! as long as it's progress it's fine. As such there will be a lot of innovation that won't be seen in the others. I'm thinking they'll be more "elite" troops rather than mass troops. Likely the "eliteness" is due to better weapons and/or armour.
  2. This city is more Might is Right. They favour the strong and field a fearsome military. I'm thinking kinda Sparta and/or modern dictatorship as a basis. They'll field the largest army and it will be rather homogeneous a la centurions or hoplites etc. Obviously not all will be a half naked dude with a spear.
  3. Finally, this city would be peak HRE where, if there even is a "secular" head of state it would be symbolic only (kind of like the role of the English Monarchy to the Parliament). I'm thinking the military is likely Crusaders and is probably middling at both, they field a respectable army with respectable weapons.

Question

I'm kinda wanting a rock->paper->scissors scenario in the order posted in the title and/or above however I don't want rock to always beat scissors, but it would be ill advised to "meet them on an open field" without an advantage.

I'm not quite sure how to go about this whilst still keeping a low fantasy kind of feel.

I'm open to some magic and/or magitech but magic will always be at a cost, similar to the magic in Paolini's Inheritance Cycle the user will still have to pay the energy to expend it.

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  • $\begingroup$ In the short term this is possible, but in the long term, science and technology will eventually definitely create a colossal advantage over military strength or zealousness. This is because science and technology grow exponentially, something that the other 2 could never sustain. $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Jan 14 at 1:47
  • $\begingroup$ City A, small, population 1m, 10 aircraft carrier. City B, very big, population 1b, 1 aircraft carrier. City C, small, population 100m, roots of all religions. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Jan 14 at 4:37
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Your science army is 3 smart guys in a lab coats holding published peer reviewed journals.
Your military army if 50 crazies in a horde.
Your religion army is a single priest.

  • science disproves faith
  • faith converts the horde
  • horde rejects science

Science beats religion by disproving it, but can't stop a horde of crazies.

Religion beats the horde by indoctrinating them, but can't argue with facts from scientists.

The horde of crazies will destroy the scientists, but are too afraid to attack the church due to superstition.

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Make the military guys horse nomads. Give the religious guys mountain fortress monasteries. The Military guys can't beat them, as besieging these is impossible for them (the Mongols used Chinese engineers to get around that). However, your techy guys can be skilled engineers, very good at a siege.

However... your tech guys lack the fortresses of the monks, they live in flat lands, so the horse nomads can ride them down pretty easily.

The monks can be pretty good warriors, but can't match the technological edge of your techies, similarly.

A bit blatant, but that's a quasi-historical example of RPS.

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  • $\begingroup$ Blatant or not, I don't mind this. I had pictured my religious guys living at the very least adjacent to a mountain. Having them in it, or against it similar to Helms Deep kinda works too. I'm not sure how I feel about the Tech Guys just chilling in a arbitrary defended village/motte and bailey though... I had not considered military nomads though, which is an interesting idea. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Jan 14 at 3:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Joshua They can live in whatever kind of cities you want. Just that their land is composed of flat plains while the monks live in mountain regions, so the horsemen can raid and pillage fine in the techy territory but are ambushed and trapped in the monk territory. That would make it a more strategic level RPS. $\endgroup$ – Johnny Jan 14 at 4:54

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