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Basically, the question is, what alterations would the necromancer/biomancer make to his horses to make them viable again?

  • The horses can be trained and are sentient. The necromancer can repair them with magic, no matter how badly damaged they are (takes days to do so).

  • The horses do not need to drink or eat, nor breathe. They are immune to pathogens and biological warfare.

  • The riders themselves are humanoid, but similar to the horses (they need no rest or food and are sentient. They can be repaired afterwards)

  • The Necromancer can upgrade the horses with monster parts (Swapping out their feet for claws, their eyes for those of a bird, add fangs, etc).

  • The necromancer uses them to fight both on earth (Typical urban setting vs hordes of monsters (Think orcs and goblins as you’d see in Tolkien), as well as fight them in a typical fantasy world (Again, think of Tolkien). A skirmish vs the occasional human army could happen, but wouldn’t play a major role.

Would speed be the limiting factor? So, would the necromancer need to upgrade them to that field?

Is it the lack of armour? Does he upgrade their strength and allow them to carry more armour?

Is it their grip and agility? Does he need to make them more nimble, allowing them to climb rocks like goats do, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ "viable again" in what context? Against modern day military who have ranged weapons, bunkers, and drone strikes? $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    May 30, 2022 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ The fifth point specified what the necromancer would be fighting. Mostly typical orcs/goblins that you see in a Tolkien setting. So crude armour, bows, pikes, swords, etc. And if there were a fight against modern human factions, it would only be in short skirmishes/raids. (The necromancer is fighting for humanity). $\endgroup$ May 30, 2022 at 9:29
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    $\begingroup$ OK, so why should cavalry by viable again. What made it not viable? $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    May 30, 2022 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Oh, you're right. I was trying to change the question to refer to how the skeletons will be otherwise part of a modern army. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    May 30, 2022 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ (a) You're allowed to ask one and only one question. (b) Your title says "modern army" but you never mention it in the body of the post. Horses by themselves are useless against tanks. (c) We can help you understand how to use a combat unit in a specific and well defined circumstance, but asking how they can be used globally is too broad and off-topic. Please be specific and detailed about what the problem is. What is stopping you from moving ahead as a worldbuilder? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 30, 2022 at 21:17

5 Answers 5

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Transportation

Once more from the top:

The amateurs discuss tactics: the professionals discuss logistics.

Napoleon Bonaparte

The cavalry serve a very important logistical role. They can do things a modern military can only do at great expense. Consider a rugged environment like the one below.

enter image description here

You cannot get a truck through this place. But you can get cavalry through it. If they are skeletal cavalry it is especially good because they never tire and don't need to carry food or water for themselves.

Is it their grip and agility? Does he need to make them more nimble, allowing them to climb rocks like goats do, etc.

This would be useful as it expands the range of terrain they can move into. Even a rocky place where you have to scramble up a few feet on hands and knees is impassible to horses but not humans and goats.

With an army of skeleton horses you can move your troops and all their equipment around more easily and set up an outpost in the middle of nowhere if that is where the enemy happens to be.

You can have supply lines that are constantly under fire. Your undead troops don't care. They do as they're told.

Bonus: In urban environment you can use a teargas+undead cavalry strategy. The undead are immune to teargas.

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  • $\begingroup$ Upvote because of the scantily veiled suggestion that instead of /(Swapping out their feet for claws, their eyes for those of a bird, add fangs, etc)/ you swap out their horse parts for undead goat parts to allow your undeadimals access to areas /impassible to horses but not... goats/. I hope you include the goat eyes with the upgrade because even though that does not help with access goat eyes are very cool and spooky. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    May 30, 2022 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk In this case the goats were already mentioned in the question. The rectangular goat eyes are another invaluable upgrade (until they get pecked out by crows) for a wide field of vision. They also allow make the horse especially good at seeing other rectangular objects. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    May 31, 2022 at 11:26
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What more do you need, they would be valuable to modern day armies!

Infantry has limited speed and carry capacity. Vehicles are loud and limited by the fuel, maintenance and reliance on roads (yes even for off-road vehicles like tanks). Your horses would have speed (they dont tire, RUN!), they have cross-country mobility, dont require fuel or food, only need maintenance when damaged and likely have a higher carry capacity than regular horses as you dont need to have such a large safety margin, so 200kg of rider+gear would not be unthinkable.

As purely support units they would already be game breaking. Bringing in supplies day and night without tiring or requiring their own supplies is a massively powerful tool. Add a rider and their ability to keep watch day and night without tiring would be a massive boost to an army. Scouting without the need to search for food and water would leave less trace and be harder to find.

Deep strikes would also be easy and powerful. If your rider+horse doesnt need food it is much easier to get around your enemy and hit their supply lines or even hit the army from behind when they are traveling. The added weight capacity and not needing to keep the horses and riders fresh is also an incredible ability.

Frankly you'd need to be adding downsides to make sure these things dont become the norm.

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  • $\begingroup$ The downside is that he is limited to a certain number. He can only bring so many of them at first (10 at first, at later stages it ramps up). But what would the necromancer change to make them better? Os is a horse, as it is, already the perfect design? $\endgroup$ May 30, 2022 at 11:02
  • $\begingroup$ @OsiriumWrites the Horse is by no means perfect, but making one particular upgraded horse would not be smart. You'd have bear-like horses (although why not biomance/necromance bears?) That use their mass and claws for combat. You have horses with traits of tigers and the like for extreme speed. You have an elephant inspired horse designed to plot along with vast quantities of supplies. The problem is that you can go into any detail about the upgrades and be correct. A horse with a trillion spiderbuts to generate spidersilk for repairs, traps, support etc is just as viable as a heavy cavalry. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    May 30, 2022 at 12:25
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Even if modern weapons can't kill these warriors, they could cut them to piece or reduce them to ash. But on the other hand if the undead soldiers have no heath signature they could attack at night, almost invisible, and even if they could not defeat people locked in a tank they could scare the enemy and break their ranks. Have a look at the last book of the lord of the rings, the ghost army summoned by the king could not kill (forget the movie adaptation), but they terrorised the enemy.

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Depending on how your world's magic works, an undead cavalry would have so many uses. If you need to send a squad on a suicide mission to save much more soldiers, send them. If your civilization has a famine or plague that took out your army, you can use them. For more tactics, you could use the soldiers to go to dangerous areas, like abandoned mines with dangerous gases, or just somewhere that is too toxic to breath in, maybe even snowy mountains with a blizzard. The enemy would not see them coming, and would make great shortcuts and ambushes.

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The biggest advantage undeads have in warfare is not needing supplies, even with limited combat capabilities they would be useful if you could use modern alies to open a path for them to go behind enemy lines, maybe raid cities or harass supply lines.

Unless you give them guns they are not going to be very useful in a normal battle and even then they would still be easy target for drones and tanks.

It is also worthy of note that air superiority is incredibly valuable in modern warfare. If you do not have flying undead the enemy does not even need to fight your army, just destroy them with helicopters and jets.

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