How would you design armour to be effective against wizards?

For simplicity's sake we'll have the only magic available to the wizards be elemental magic(fire, ice, electricity, wind, light), and they have to cast it as a bolt or stream from a wand or staff, where the wand can be fired off in quick succession but the staff requires a five second charge before the magic is cast, and where the wand produces bolts with the range of a crossbow but the staff produces a stream of typical flamethrower range for three seconds. The technology available to the people is the post-Maxwell european victorian era. Wands can hold 20 bolts while a staff can hold 5 streams, and they have to recharge on a 24 hour basis.

Elaboration on the elements:

1: Fire. The fire bolt would be able to cause fourth degree burns to a head-sized target while the stream would be the typical stream of fire produced by a flamethrower.

2: Ice. The bolt is an icicle the size of a gladius while the stream is the production of snow that can cause frostbite or hypothermia if stuck or stayed in for too long.

3: Electricity. The bolt is a typical lightning bolt but the strength is of second degree burns and muscle spasms, while the stream is like what I'd like to call palpatine shenanigans, portable weaponized tesla coil if you will.

4: Wind: The 'bolts' are strong enough to stop an average man in his tracks while the stream can make someone roll backwards if they don't hold on to something.

5: Light: Bolts are flashes of light capable of blinding someone like a flash bang while the stream is closer to a laser capable of igniting wood in three seconds.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you provide us some context about the levels of technology, and probably magic available to the people wanting to construct this armor? It would also to be helpful to know more about the other elemental streams and bolts. When you say ice do you mean chunks of frozen water or the completely ungrounded from reality but still cool freezing powers shown in movies, tv and games? Without answering these questions it will be impossible for us to give you a good answer. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 7, 2021 at 7:53
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings Elaborated on them $\endgroup$
    – Hearsay
    Oct 7, 2021 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. Added post-Maxwell european $\endgroup$
    – Hearsay
    Oct 7, 2021 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ You might perhaps look at the Youtube channel Shadiversity. In addition to just many awesome videos on combat relating to fantasy, he recently did a video on how to have balanced fights between wizards and normal knights. $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2021 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ How common those mages are? As they have very limited "ammo" it is important to know if you will find 10 or 1000 on typical battlefield. Late Victorian era battlefield would be tens of thousands soldiers so 10 mages would have hardly any effect and senior commanders would just accept the losses. Even in late victorian era armour is expensive to make. $\endgroup$
    – Archelaos
    Oct 7, 2021 at 22:30

4 Answers 4


In a Typical Fantasy Setting, Use a Spiked Pavise

enter image description here

A Pavise is a large wooden shield with a spike on the bottom. Shields create distance between your body and the attack; so, not only does the shield stop the attack, but unlike armor, it prevents radiating injuries as well from when the shield itself gets hot/cold.

1: Fire. Wood is actually a great thermal resister. It takes just as much total heat to fully burn a given amount of wood as it does to melt iron; so, burning through an wooden shield quickly is about as hard as melting though several layers of plate armor. It also does not conduct heat well; so, while metal armor would heat up and burn you long before it melts, wood takes a lot more time to feel heat though. Furthermore, most medieval shields were also faced with hide and/or treated with vinegar which made them more fire resistant than untreated wood; so, even if a fire attack is hot enough to ignite wood normally, it would not be able to sustain a reaction against a treated wooden shield. So, fire attacks might scorch the surface of your shield, but not catch on fire or harm the user through it.

2: Ice. Most historical shields could stop a gladius quite well; so, ice bolts are not that big of a deal. As for the cold spray, again wood is a great thermal resister so you will not feel any of the cold on the other side of your shield unless it has a lot of time to build up. Plenty of time to close range and cut down the troublesome caster.

3: Wind: This is where the spike part of your Pavise comes in. A Pavise is designed to be stabbed into the ground making it a sort of mobile wall; so, you can plant your shield in the ground to brace against the force of wind attacks.

4: Electricity. By using the spike to brace for lighting attacks, you can ground your shield so that the electricity goes down through the shield instead of through your body.

5: Light: All the same protection you get from fire also applies to light except for the blinding part. Blinding light is hard to deal with using medieval technology. Many helmets were designed to be tilted just before an arrow or lance strike to protect the eyes; so, the same training may apply to light spells.

enter image description here

But in post-Maxwell European Victorian era...

This changes things. The Victorian Era had sighted, riffled firearms that will decimate your wand and staff armies. Depending on the exact decade, you may also be looking at cartaged ammo, Gatling guns, revolvers, etc. While a Pavise may still be practical against magic, the guns of this age will cut right through them, and any other armor you try to field. They will also have a better effective combat range than staffs because they are better designed to be aimed. The average crossbow engagement was fought at 40 meters, with a theoretical max range of 300 meters. A crossbow is also easier to aim than a stick without a stock or handle; so, more like a longbow, your staffs will likely have a hard time hitting anything more than 20 meters away without significant training. In contrast, by the mid-1800s most battles were fought at 60-100 meters, with weapons that had a theoretical max range of 900+ meters. Even without the modern niceties of gas repeating mechanisms, the adage remains that magic staffs are weapons of terror, and guns are weapons of war.

So to answer your question, the best defense in this era is a better offense.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 for great answer,,, aaand SG1 reference :D $\endgroup$
    – Archelaos
    Oct 7, 2021 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ There's a video somewhere showing how a pizza is better at resisting a gas torch than steel plate, because it doesn't melt. Wood might not be the best thing, but even painting it with clay or mud will be surprisingly effective. $\endgroup$ Oct 8, 2021 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime That is what the vinegar treatment is for, it was commonly used in the middle east to fire-proof wooden shields against Greek fire. Unlike clay, it soaks into the wood making it more permanently fire resistant. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Oct 8, 2021 at 13:49

Armor. Faraday cage (metal wire cage, chainmail basically) to stop electricity, fire resistant materials like asbestos to resist fire, and chainmail to stop ice.

enter image description here

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Shoes. Spikes, to grip the ground in event of wind. Fire and electrical resistant as well.

Goggles. They could probably make some sort of tinted glass which would be resistant against flames.

With these defences the wizards won't be a lot more deadly than people with guns.

  • $\begingroup$ asbestos is medieval, BTW. Charlemagne had a tablecloth of it, and as a party trick, they would eat on it, and then watch it be thrown in the fire and come out clean. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Oct 8, 2021 at 2:51
  • $\begingroup$ "won't be a lot more deadly than people with guns." that's probably a bad comparison. Firearms spelled the end of knights in shiny armour, because effective armour was too slow, too heavy and too expensive. $\endgroup$ Oct 8, 2021 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ They have some pretty deadly powers, so it's never gonna be nice fighting them with victorian armor. An icicle which goes fast enough will penetrate a chainmail vest easily. Enough flames will kill anyone. But, you'll need a solid direct hit with this armor, not a glancing blow. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Oct 8, 2021 at 21:38

Apart from being produced by magic, there are already potential injuries which can be caused by fire, ice, electricity, wind, light, and we have protection against them. They are commercialized as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and in many countries they are made mandatory by law.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury or infection. The hazards addressed by protective equipment include physical, electrical, heat, chemicals, biohazards, and airborne particulate matter. Protective equipment may be worn for job-related occupational safety and health purposes, as well as for sports and other recreational activities. Protective clothing is applied to traditional categories of clothing, and protective gear applies to items such as pads, guards, shields, or masks, and others. PPE suits can be similar in appearance to a cleanroom suit.

The purpose of personal protective equipment is to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering controls and administrative controls are not feasible or effective to reduce these risks to acceptable levels. PPE is needed when there are hazards present. PPE has the serious limitation that it does not eliminate the hazard at the source and may result in employees being exposed to the hazard if the equipment fails.

Your armor has to be designed along the same lines.

  • $\begingroup$ They have victorian level tech, so modern PPE with kevlar and such isn't possible. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Oct 7, 2021 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @NepeneNep, that info was added after I posted my answer, and as usual edits should not invalidate existing answers. Nevertheless, protective equipment doesn't need to be made with high tech materials: raincoats existed before Goretex, for example. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Oct 7, 2021 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ One of the best protections to this day against cutting hazards? Chainmail. Typical welder gear to protect against splashes of molten metal, especially on hands and torso? Leather. Also works with electricity, btw $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2021 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ thick, high quality leather can protect against most of these and it was a common material used for PPE for many centuries. Think of blacksmiths aprons $\endgroup$
    – Sonvar
    Oct 7, 2021 at 19:16

/the only magic available to the wizards be elemental magic(fire, ice, electricity, wind, light/

Magic armor!

The magic armor uses the same 5 elemental magics. A given magic as defense would be more or less useful vs any given magic as offense. Fire and ice are both good against light and of course great against each other. Wind is good against fire, ice and electricity and also pretty good against wind but poor against light.

You get the idea. Fight magic with magic. Plus it is more fun to write than writing about people with lead codpieces to defend against electricity. Although now I think I need one of those.


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