"Speed is the essence of war" - Sun Tzu, MBA.

However, this war has dragged on for a long time and resources are getting scarce; new ice mages are issued a loin cloth while flame mages get chainmail. Many believe that it is the ice mages that are responsible for the prolonged war since all they do is freeze stuff and slow things down! The flame mages, on the other hand, since they set things on fire and make stuff explode are more favored.

Now that it has come to this, ice mages have to create their own armor with their own magic power. Those who are talented and have enormous reserves of magical energy can wear thicker ice armor but the tradeoff is that it is significantly heavier since mages never go through harsh physical training like the other foot soldiers. I would like to know if ice armor is even worth the effort because now they have to retire a couple of hours earlier than usual in battle?

For clarification: it simply needs to defend against melee to short ranged light weapons such as daggers, swords, axes, lances, crossbows etc. The ice mage will be part of the infiltration unit that focuses on speed and stealth but things can get dicey really quick in battle so they need more covering than the loin cloth can provide.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ MBA = Military bad-ass? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 1:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. Master's of Besieging and Assaulting? $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ MBA = Masters of Business Administration. $\endgroup$
    – user64888
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 2:40
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    $\begingroup$ @CharlieHershberger Clearly an honorary degree awarded when someone gets down to Business, to defeat the Huns $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ It's completely dependent on what the properties of the armor are, and if the ice mages are doing melee fighting, using long-range attacks, an the like. If ice armor is as hard as steel and as light as ice, and the mages just sit there casting long-range attacks, then ice armor is pretty decent. If it's as strong as an equal mount of ice, it's worthless. Add more details about the armor properties. Consider pykrete as an alternative en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pykrete $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 3:28

6 Answers 6


Can work! But not with pure water and you can not warm it, that is, all combat have to be in open air and winter time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Habakkuk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pykrete

I could bet you have had a good idea!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Assumedly from the context, the mages generate cold and could maintain the armor. We were just debating pykrete above in the comments! There probably needs to be a bit more context to evaluate effectiveness. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 3:55
  • $\begingroup$ actually this is ingenious, the mages can rush to rendezvous with allies much quicker in their pykrete clothing then steal the water to make instant armor if things turn sour ;D no worry I usually bulk upvote the next day! $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 5:10
  • $\begingroup$ While this is true, pykrete not only has durability and resistence comparable to concrete... it also weighs similarly, and it's as flexible. A thin layer of pykrete won't stop even an arrow, much less a sword or a pyke, while a thick layer is way too heavy and cumbersome. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ just use the paper to make paper armor, which is perfectly effective and way WAY lighter. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ If the creation is quick enough, pykrete could be used as a kind of shield/cover. Deploying the prepared wood pulp when needed together with water from the environment to form cover, and either leaving it be and moving on or maybe even reusing it. It would grant a defensive option, but not as true armour. Pykrete would also be a great idea to create fortifications with. It would allow for walls that are stronger than the ice ones or things like palisades for only 1/7th of the resources! The bad thing is that this wouldn't speed up the war, and might even actually slow it down further. -_-" $\endgroup$
    – vinzzz001
    Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 13:44

Sometimes, and also, it depends

First of all, a thick piece of ice between you and your attacker will certainly protect your mage from most melee weapons. But carrying thick pieces of ice around is probably not going to be effective regardless of what shape it is in because ice is heavy.

This means that each mage, depending on proficiency will have to determine how to distribute their magical attention between offense and defense. If a talented ice mage can cover themselves in 2' thick magical ice armor in less than 5 seconds, then transforming themselves into an immobile spellcasting tank in the heat of battle. But a less skilled mage might just conjure one or two protective walls to support his squad. And a novice might just conjure a tower shield when it's needed (if they're fast enough).

But the unit that you have your ice mages in seem like most of their job is maneuvering, with a small piece of their job striking, and only when things go wrong for them would they actually get into an actual skirmish. So their principle means of defense is stealth, and adding physical armor to a stealth unit is typically not worthwhile. But, if it can be conjured at a moment's notice, and dispelled just as easily, then it would be a useful skill to have for emergencies. If instead it takes a lot of time to summon up, then it probably won't be very useful.


It's a downgrade -- in most cases.

Kameraad, have you heard of this neat tool? It's called a hammer, and it smashes through ice easily. Have you ever played pokemon?

ok but seriously:

The main problems of ice armor are as follows.

  1. It's brittle. If you've ever dropped an ice cube, you know that it shatters. If you hit an ice cube with a hammer, it shatters. Ice armor will shatter when it is hit. Metal armor, on the other hand, flexes when hit, and will not shatter.
  2. It takes energy for the ice mages to make it and keep it from melting. Also, you will freeze to death wearing ice armor. Finally, it's slippery.
  3. If you are hit with something pointy with good ice penetration, like a spear or ice pick, the armor will shatter and the weapon gets through. A crossbow, which can penetrate steel, will literally ignore ice armor.

I would say the maintenance effort is too high (weight isn't much of a factor compared to metal armor) to be viable. Assuming this is regular ice and not something like pykrete (which I think has sawdust), the protection is too low.

However, in an infiltration role, armor matters less: no need for armor if you're not being hit. Just slide on ice. If the main opponents are fire mages, then ice armor protects you from fire and is a benefit!


It's better either way you slice it

If you're doing high or medium fantasy, Ice Mages are comically broken and they're basically the waterbenders from the Avatar series if the kid-friendly restrictions are lifted, meaning they can easily steamroll everybody else without breaking a sweat simply because their element is the most versatile and the most abundant one.

If you're doing low fantasy and especially if you're lacking magical offensive capabilities in your world, having ice armor provides a ridiculously high advantage. First and foremost it greatly improves efficiency by almost completely negating wear and tear, when the ice armor gets damaged it can be instantly repaired by pouring water on the damaged area and freezing it. Second is the fact that it can be adapted on the fly, if you need a nimble and fast attack force your soldiers can thin their ice armor down in an instant to gain speed and then simply take a dunk in the nearest water-source to shore up their armor when they need to become slow and sturdy.

Furthermore, if your soldiers have the capabilities to create ice armor then it goes without saying they have the capability of creating ice weaponry. An Archer who doesn't have to worry about running out of arrows, a Spearman who can instantly create an ice spear if he sees a horseman charging him down and create another one when another horseman heads in his direction, a Horseman who never runs out of javelins while he's harassing the enemy formation. Or perhaps an entire siege formation that doesn't have to concern itself with hauling ammunition for their Ballistae, Catapults or Trebuchets.

Most significant is the fact that "ice-armor creation" can be also by applied DIRECTLY on the enemy. If water is an abundant resource and especially if you're fighting in open waters, just dunk some on the enemy, close in and start solidifying it, the more you do it the more you handicap your enemy until you finally apply more weight on them then they can handle and you basically immobilize them. Then it comes down to whether you want to unfreeze some of them for questioning or you'd like to leave them to freeze to death.

  • $\begingroup$ except the ice armor offer less protection than normal clothing. an ice spear is about as helpful as a noodle spear, it would not even survive carrying it. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ Ice is exceptionally sturdy against slashing attacks and it's somewhat sturdy from piercing attacks, it's main weakness comes through bludgeoning attacks because it's brittle. As far as ice weaponry goes, icicles can pierce their way through bones and even seriously bend metal if you apply enough force, quite a lot of people have died in winters by finding themselves in the wrong place in the wrong time under a falling icicle off a roof. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ at any wearable thickness ice is useless against any of those attacks, you are talking about less than an inch of thickness, the Ice won't even survive the wearing walking around much less an impact. somethings ability to injure by falling is irrelevant of strength. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ Damn you're such a buzz-kill, so the fact that this ice armor is magically created and sustained plays no significance? Then what's the point of having it in the story to begin with, might as well chuck it out of fantasy altogether. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ the OP's question is whether it would actually work, not answering honestly is worse than useless. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:32


Ice by itself is horribly brittle. If you limit it to similar weights of existing armor you can't even get to an inch of thickness, at that thickness it is nothing but dead weight and won't survive even the movement of the wearer, much less an impact or strike.

if you want to use your ice mages effectively they should be making fortifications and cover, a brick of ice will stop almost anything, works even better if they can drop bales of straw to use as a base, instant pykrete. Or destroying stone fortifications which they would be far better at a fire mage, freeze thaw cycle can break just about anything.


It could be very useful

Ice has a density of 0.917 g/cm³

Steel has a density of 8.05 g/cm³

Since steel armor was on average 1.5-3mm thick, this means that ice armor the same weight as steel armor would be about 13-26mm thick. That is at least as thick as an most ice cubes. Ice that thick may shatter when hit by strong enough of a force, so it will not take repeated blows the same way that steel can, but against a single powerful strike, it will probably perform better. Ice shatters, but this is not the same as failing to stop a strike. Shattering is actually a good thing when it comes to stopping an attack which is why we use ceramics instead of steel in most modern riffle armors. It redirects a lot of the impact force to follow the lines of fracture instead of penetratingly through so instead of getting that impact force stabbing into you through that couple of mm² of blade, the impact spreads out across the entire shatter zone. This will especially make ice armor better against high velocity/low mass weapons like bows and crossbows.

To maximize the effectiveness of ice armor, it should be segmented into articulating plates. An ice mage could take a normal cloth outfit and add a tessellation of 5cm hexagons of ice to it so that no one hit could ruin a large portion of the armor, but each hex is enough to spread out the force enough to prevent major injury. Shaped right, the hexes could have enough overlap to prevent strikes from easily slipping in-between them.

Depending on how fast ice casting is, your ice mage may even be able to replace damaged hexes in between strikes.

The hardest part is designing armor that thick that also articulates well. Gauntlets, staboons, and counters are probably out of the question because they do not work if to thick; so, your armor coverage will probably be more similar to that of ancient Greek armor than a Medieval knight.


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