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In traditional fantasy battles, you have 2 large armies charging at each other while magic users on both sides throw out various spells for whichever side they are on like supernatural artillery. But in more modern times we really have pitched battles. In addition to that we already have powerful ranged weapons so using magic in its traditional role isn't necessary. So how would you would use magic users in modern-day battles?

Suppose you have a war with both sides having modern weapons and using modern tactics. Both sides also have access to magic users. The magic users powers include:

1.summoning a storm ranging from a small drizzle to a super storm.
2.summoning a magical creature like a dragon, sea serpent or elemental.
3.banishing magical creatures.
4.the ability to increase the probability of a certain outcome, such as changing the probability of winning the lottery from 1 in 100000000000 to 1 in 10.

My question is, how would this power be used in modern war tactics and against modern weapons? Or are they too impractical to be used at all?

The power of an individual magic user depends on his emotional and spiritual state at the time he is using magic. Some people are more spiritually inclined to use magic than others and the more you use magic the easier it is to use it; like any muscle, the more you use it the more powerful you get. I'd say for storm summoning apprentice-level magic users probably summon a powerful storm including lightning and tornadoes but they probably wouldn't be able to make a storm the size of a hurricane for example. At mid-level you might see a magic user summon a storm the size of Hurricane Katrina. At the supreme level you could probably summon a super-storm several times larger than Katrina (there aren't that many supreme level magic users, I'd say less than 10 for each nation.)

Distance is also a restraint on a magic user. An apprentice would only be able to summon a storm where he actually is. An intermediate might be able to summon a storm that is several miles away although he would still have to be fairly close to where he wanted it to appear. At the highest level you can summon storms from just about anywhere on Earth. But even at the highest level it would take a long time (maybe a couple days to a week) to summon a storm beyond 100 miles from where you are.

Of course this may vary because an apprentice for example might for some reason find himself in the heightened spiritual state which case he would be significantly more powerful than normal. Or for example a magic user at the supreme level who is still mourning the death of a loved one might himself temporarily reduced in power. The same goes for the rest of the abilities. It's magic, not science so I can only really give you generalizations.

Ok, let me explain how the system works. The magic users here are people with a special spiritual connection to an higher dimension. While they are capable of doing all of the powers listed above they usually specialize in one, maybe two. Most start learning from a young age. So there is a fair amount of skilled magic users on either side.

As far as rules go there are just 3 simple ones.

  1. The farther away you are from where you want to use magic the more time and/or skill and power it takes to perform it.

  2. Your spiritual and emotional state can also decrease or increase your connection to the higher realm and therefore your power.

  3. The more a magic user has practiced, the stronger the connection is to the higher plane and the stronger the power is.

  4. Using magic requires spiritual energy. It's not physical energy so it's not going to make you tired or hungry, but using too many spells in a row decreases power slowly until the user is unable to use magic for a short period of time (a couple of days to week); however, intermediate or higher level magic users can use a special form of meditation to shorten that time (fully recovering the magical energy in a couple of hours). The amount of spiritual energy that a person has depends on the overall power level.

  5. Magical creatures, while still physical, come from completely different dimensions than ours, which means that they cannot be killed with conventional weapons. However they can still be injured and incapacitated with them. They can also still feel pain. To put it in more practical terms, if you shoot a magical creature in the face you won't kill him but he will probably retreat and heal for a while. When he does come back here he will probably try to avoid attacking you again because being shot in the face really hurts. The only way to permanently get rid of a magical creature is to either banish it or kill the magic user who summoned it.

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    $\begingroup$ Close-voters: please don't vote to close without leaving commentary. OP: I believe the problem being identified here is that, while you have listed some of things that can be done via magic in your world, you have not listed the limits of what magic can do. As such, magic could be used in any way/shape/form and all answers become valid. If you would add details to your question detailing how magic functions and what limits it has, it would likely be better received. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 29 '16 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ Could you provide some indication of how many magic users there are available, and the limits to their powers? If three million guys can just spawn billions of dragons over the rival nation instantaneously, it's going to be very different to one guy who has to work for a week to create one dragon. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jan 29 '16 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ You might be interested in Weber & Evan's Hell's Gate and Hell Hath no Fury novels. These depict a war between two relatively balanced sides where one uses technology while the other uses magic for roughly the same warfighting purposes. Not exactly what you are asking for, but it does depict the effect of war magic being used on conventional forces, and visa versa. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Jan 29 '16 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ Give me one moment and I'll add more detail to the range of their abilities. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Jan 29 '16 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ @BryanMcClure Interesting question. I'd like to take a shot at it but please provide clarifications for the following: 1. Does the magic use 'resources' (such as mana), and are there special things (food, rituals, etc) that magicians need to do in order to replenish it after using magic? How often can they use it? 2. Are summoned magical beings 'tougher' than conventional weapons? I.e. Can a summoned dragon be shot down by fighter jets? Is it easier (since dragons are biological things)? Harder? $\endgroup$ – WarPorcus Feb 1 '16 at 3:36
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Based on the OP's conditions of magic here's how I see the magic being used in the battlefield.

First some considerations.

  1. There are only a few magic users available - at least a few really competent ones. Thus they will be integrated in higher level headquarters. You won't see magicians in fire team or even squad level, for instance. Magic users will be attached at Brigade (the lower level ones) or Theater. The reason for this is the available counters the enemy has. If a squad in contact requests tactical magic support (i.e. summon a fire breathing dragon at these coordinates, NOW, in order to suppress enemy fires), and the enemy happen to have a dispeller in hand, then that is an effort wasted. Artillery, on the other hand, just slams into the target without much the enemy can do about it.
  2. The powers that the military will use will be strictly regulated. Wide ranging weather powers (like summoning super storms) will not be very useful as it will affect everyone involved (including your own people). The weather powers used will be highly localized events.

  3. Because of this, planning and intelligence are keys to proper magic deployment. Knowing that you only have a very short windows to achieve good effects on target, you plan your magical deployment to the nth degree in order to support brigade/theater wide operations.

  4. Since magicians do not require special rations, equipment, supplies, logistically their deployment will not be a problem. They're just specialist personnel attached to headquarters.

So how will magic users be deployed in this setting?

First of all, they will be organized into magic units, attached to the theater chain of command under the Theater Commander. The Theater Commander may assign magic task forces to Brigades that need them based on the submitted Operational Concepts plan that these Brigades submit. The assigned Task Force will be there in order to support a specific operation, and not be part of the garrison/day-to-day units.

The Brigades will use these units as force multipliers in addition to its own artillery, aviation, and attached SOF assets. While the SOF and Aviation assets prepare the battlefield and provide direct support to their attacking forces, for instance, the magic users will summon highly localized storms at specific locations in the enemy's rear areas in order to prevent reinforcement and resupply (or at least impede them). Since this can affect multiple fronts in a theater, the Theater Commander may want to use this deployment to order other Operations to occur in conjunction in order to maximize the effects achieved.

This will all be planned as much as possible to achieve strategic surprise. Rest assured, however, that enemy magic users will immediately react to dispell the weather effects, and as they are detectable per the OP's explanation, the enemy will immediate order counter fires (say artillery/missile/air strikes against the location of the magic users), so using these magicians will also mean deploying security units composed of other magicians, ADA, and Fire Detection radars, etc. It's an expensive proposition.

The military will not be summoning elementals/magical beings offensively and tactically in land warfare because of the risks involved for little gain. Whatever a dragon can do (fly around, hit stuff with its claws/tail, breath fire at things), a strike aircraft can do better, with more flexibility (you can't order that dragon to, say, drop cluster munition, or crater a runway, or breach a deeply buried bunker for instance). And this is before the enemy spellcasters manage to dispell the dragon (best case scenario) or a stronger magician manage to wrench control of the dragon to their side, strip it clean of any information it may had (the location of its initial summoner, for instance), and turn it against your own side.

Instead, Theater Commanders will use these summoning for strategic interdiction of - say - enemy leadership or assets. An example would be: A highly reliable intelligence is received that a certain enemy commander will be traveling in a convoy from City A to City B without adequate escorts (magical or otherwise). He may order his magician to summon a dragon and condition it so that the dragon materializes right there on the road at a specific time, then engage a specific vehicle - before the defending magician can react, then is dispelled immediately to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. So basically, these magical beings will be strategic precision weapons.

The probability boost is likely the power the military uses the most - in order to improve the effectiveness of its planning. Intelligence is all about probability. "Based on these observations, these documents, these intercepted communications, and these gossips at the local bar, there is a high probability that the enemy will redeploy these units to here, most likely to support a planned attack that may or may not occur against these objectives at this date and time." So, the theater commander uses the boost to improve the probability of this actually being true, so that the plan he makes to counter this move has a higher chance of actually doing what he intended it to do. See the paragraph above for another application of this power.

The probability booster will also work well in national level missions and/or international level politics. However, since the adversary also has probability booster, they will most likely cancel each other out.

So, in conclusion, having magic will provide certain force multiplier options for Commanders to deploy, but with similar capabilities in the adversary's hands, they may not have as wide effect as we'd initially think.

Edited to add:

Magic specialists will, due to their powers, be high priority targets for both you and the adversary. There will be cells in the Theater staff dedicated to targeting and interdicting enemy magic specialists with their own assets (personnel, aviation, artillery). They will also be afforded a high priority in case they have to call upon shared assets like air strikes. In addition, specialist magic users will be employed tasked exclusively with detecting, countering, interdicting, and suppressing enemy magical activities.

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Weather

Assuming that each warring faction is bound by some rule preventing them from constantly counteracting every one of its opponent's moves, then controlling the weather would be highly beneficial for many reasons.

Whole new use for Kamikaze and spies

In WWII certain disposable airplanes and people flew into enemies for one sole reason: to cause mass damage. They had no intention of getting out alive. This could be used to any armies advantage if they had spies who was also a weak apprentice. The spy could, in essence, summon tornadoes on top of enemy bases/barracks.

A PT-76 tank weighed upwards of 14.6 tonnes(32,000 pounds). The heaviest object lifted by a tornado was about 81 tonnes(180,000 pounds). Given than a non-experienced magic user probably can't create that powerful of a storm, a tornado right in the middle of a military base would still create some serious damage.

Tactical Advantages

According to Global Security:

Low visibility is beneficial to offensive and retrograde operations and detrimental to defensive operations. In the offense, it conceals the concentration of maneuver or friendly forces, thus enhancing the possibility of achieving the element of surprise. Low visibility hinders the defense because cohesion and control become difficult to maintain, reconnaissance and surveillance are impeded, and target acquisition is less accurate.

Given that the wizard, a low level magic user in a dry area could easily create wind gusts causing sand/dust storms to hide their movements from the enemy.

Strong wind gusts could also make radars malfunction and damage surveillance equipment. Just those two combined could at best cause a little delay in advancements or at worst allow the enemy to sneak bigger more powerful weaponry into good positions for attack.

Defense

The same things go for defense. Good cloud cover and fog could hinder an enemy who is trying to advance. A very good wizard could create small storms on top of advancing enemies. The tactical advantages are endless if you can control the environment of a battle.

Missile and NBCs(Nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons)

Sudden changes in weather can throw off important calculations which can make weapons of mass destruction very unstable and hard/dangerous to try to use properly. Sudden gusts of winds can throw off the trajectory of a nuclear warhead. Even though magic is possible NBC weapons would still be very deadly, but it would give some hope to defenses because even for fighter jets, flying in storms is hard.

Overall, war as we know it would be over and it would be even harder to try and gain an advantage against another magic wielding nation. The Global Security(link above) outlines most of the things I talked about and much more.

Magical Creatures

In my opinion the magical creatures would be impractical to use in war because of the easy counter by another wizard. Unless a very powerful wizard made a magical creature in a military base and it killed all the wizards that could help, the magical creature would quickly be banished.

Probability

Unless you are in a long range gunfight not many things in battle are left up to chance. At a time when any calculation no matter the complexity is possible by means of supercomputers most variables are found and accounted for before it can cause real harm. Guidance systems for missiles and bombs are extremely accurate and most problems are caused by human error.

Side Note

If magic was suddenly discovered by more than one nation at a time the war would probably be over before it started. The nation who gained control of the first magician would wield the power to take over/attack other unsuspecting countries with magical creatures and powers that they had never seen. Just like the use of nuclear weapons, the use of magic in war would have to be monitored and controlled very strictly to prevent hostile nations from doing anything crazy.

Supreme wizards would be extremely powerful and even overpowered. A storm twice as large as Katrina would cost almost a quarter of a billion dollars which would cripple, if not bankrupt a poorer country. An out of control supreme wizard would devastate economies. And they say that corporate espionage is bad...

Edit:

Prior to the Geneva Convention, the United States used weather warfare in the Vietnam War. Under the auspices of the Air Weather Service, the United States' Operation Popeye used cloud seeding over the Ho Chi Minh trail, increasing rainfall by an estimated thirty percent during 1967 and 1968. It was hoped that the increased rainfall would reduce the rate of infiltration down the trail.

This is a perfect example of the effects of weather on war. All from the wikipedia page for Weather Warfare.

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  • $\begingroup$ you forgot that magic users can banish the magic of other users if you sent a super storm to one country the users of the other country can banish the storm before it destroyed a city. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Feb 1 '16 at 2:14
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    $\begingroup$ @BryanMcClure At the beginning of the post I assumed that everybody involved with the magical war wasn't constantly trying to counter everything that the enemy did. If that was the case then any magic would simply be countered and it would come to an inevitable stalemate. $\endgroup$ – theanprocks Feb 1 '16 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. The only way to counter magic this to be 1. In range of the magic being used. 2. Equal or stronger than the current magic user. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Feb 1 '16 at 15:08
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Affecting the weather and changing probabilities are HUGE. The weather can make a huge difference on a battle field. Changing the probabilities of weapons hitting their targets can also make a big difference.

However, like in any military campaign, if both sides have similar abilities it comes down to the general in charge, the weather, and luck. So while things might be done differently, the end results are likely going to be similar.

If one side is improving the chances of a successful hit, the other side will be increasing the odds of them making the same shot. So the better magic and generals controlling can make the difference.

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  • $\begingroup$ How about in a situation like like Iraq war where there aren't pitched battles what part do you think these powers would play for both sides? How would they employee them? $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Jan 29 '16 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanMcClure Well increasing the change of dropping a bomb that could kill Saddam early in the war would be one significant one. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Jan 29 '16 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ Good point they might even be able to decrease the chances for homemade bomb working correctly in spacific area like say in embassy or or military base. Any ideas on the other powers? $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Jan 29 '16 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ when nations attack they might try to send droughts or floods on their enemies. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Jan 29 '16 at 20:04
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Essentially the magic users would counter each other out. If only one side had magic then that side would easily win. It comes down to who has more/stronger wizards and who has better tactics.

For example the probability power: a magic user could make all their enemies shots miss. Eventually the enemy would counter by making all their shots hit and it would go down to who is stronger. The same works on all spells.

The only way it would change is if one team has more power or they thought of a weird new way of using magic. Then they might be able to use it before a counter spell was invented.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! I think you have a solid base for an answer. But as it is now, it would highly profit, if you could elaborate a little more. For example, what tactics could be useful? Have a look at the question, the OP has described the way magic works in his setting in high detail. Let me encourage you to put some more thought into your answer $\endgroup$ – T3 H40 supports Monica Jan 30 '16 at 21:31
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I'll look at this in a different way.

Military forces, as constituted in the Western world since ancient times, requires discipline and the ability to work as a team in high stress situations and follow orders. So magic users in the military will require just as much, if not more, training and shaping in order to actually work in a military environment.

Consider a magic user in a tactical setting. He is a fairly new wizard with limited power so he needs to be brought close to the front to get in range for his magic to work. He needs to follow the orders of the Sergeant in charge of his squad (I can't see new wizards moving around the battlefield on their own, they need a close protection squad as a minimum) to get around without being shot, and he won't even be allowed to unleash his magic until the proper orders are received (or the conditions set in the orders are achieved). You simply won't be allowed to unleash random magic on a battlefield. Effects need to be synchronized (a lighting bolt without a following infantry assault is just wasted), and secrecy preserved (unleashing magic will be rapidly detected and countered in the most violent manner possible. A modern wizard isn't going to be happy about being the target of artillery, airstrikes or a Predator drone with Hellfire missiles).

Basic training is going to involve a lot of psychological conditioning in order to allow the wizard to focus and maintain a level emotional state during high stress in order to actually work his magic. Wizards might have to go through the equivalent of SoF training like Navy Seals "Hell Week" or SAS "selection" in order to demonstrate their basic suitability, and then receive some pretty heavy duty follow up training to become effective on the battlefield.

Senior wizards will have already survived this sort of training and will also need to become trained as staff officers in order to effectively plan and integrate magic into the overall scheme of manoeuvre. This is the same reasoning as not letting junior wizards unleash magic on their own transposed onto a bigger scale. Command posts will have operational cells for the use of things like intelligence and tactical aviation, so we will see an extra cell for magic, and a wizard with LCol rank to plan magical integration and brief the senior commander on the plan.

Magic on the modern battlefield will certainly be much different than in a fantasy setting...

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  • $\begingroup$ So the 'magic' element will be included in that convoluted 30 slide OPCON ppt deck. Lol. $\endgroup$ – WarPorcus Feb 1 '16 at 3:53
  • $\begingroup$ But the wizards at Staff college have learned much faster ways of inserting the slides in the deck......;-) $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Feb 2 '16 at 2:52
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4.the ability to increase the probability of a certain out come such as changing the probability of winning the lottery from 1 in 100000000000 to 1 in 10.

That seems quite strong. If you fire a rifle into the air, what are the chances that the bullet is going to hit the enemy commander? If you aim a sniper rifle with a scope, you should be able to do much better than 1 in 100,000,000,000. Battles would be very hard on leaders and wizards.

The abilities to summon and banish monsters would seem to cancel out. That shouldn't be worse than an artillery exchange.

Presumably both sides could control the weather, so they would tend to cancel out as well. If one side is dominant though, that could determine a battle.

You might think that ability to change the probability of outcomes would cancel as well. The problem is that sniping is something that you do with surprise and which takes effect immediately. If you summon a monster or storm, it does damage over time. If you banish it, it stops doing damage. An accurate shot may be instantly fatal.

There are other outcome related things that can be done. For example, what are the odds that a spark will flare up in the ammunition tent and trigger an explosion? What are the odds that a bomb will fall in the perfect location?

This seems strong and without a counter in the system. You'd need to know the right time and location in which to counter. How would you?

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  • $\begingroup$ Just because you increase the probability doesn't mean it will happen. You might be able to bring a 1/100000000 to 1/10. But not a guarantee. And some one with the same powers can counteract it. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Feb 1 '16 at 2:52
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    $\begingroup$ but what if you already have say, a 1/10 chance with modern technology? The same percentage change will give you 1/1.0000001 chance to succeed. A sniper with a wizard could just lay waste to the enemy as fast as he could pull the trigger. $\endgroup$ – Baldrickk Nov 2 '17 at 13:53
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Likely, the magicians would do one of three things.

Case 1) They all band together and become supreme dictators of the world. This shouldn't be too hard, seeing as they can create magical creatures and make super unlikely things happen.

Case 2) They all band together to create world peace(cynics, feel free to skip this part). This also shouldn't be too hard, if they could combine their power to create some sort of spell that would cause every single weapon aimed at a human (or that would damage a human) to malfunction and turn into a raspberry pie.

Case 3) WWW erupts(World War (between) Wizards). Eventually, either one will prevail or the world will be destroyed in the war. Seeing as the beings that we are talking about can effectively turn anything (or anyone) into pillars of salt, the world caught in the crossfire would likely be destroyed.

Side note: depending on the amount of control the wizards in this scenario have over their magic, a spell gone awry could potentially destroy all of Earth and leave the magicians floating in empty space guiltily pointing at each other and saying "He did it"

Now, the battlefield aspect. Friendly fire becomes a HUGE issue. Say the magician releases a spell saying something like "May all mine enemies turn to toads", but mispronounces and says "May all turn to toads". WAM and all of the soldiers on the battle field turn to toads. In the end, the magicians might be more trouble then they are worth. The battles will turn into two things: a) everyone protects the magician and b) everyone cowers from the firepower of the enemy magician. It's like bringing a nuclear silo to a knife fight.

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  • $\begingroup$ our talking about what they would do socially or politically. I talk about how you would use them in a modern battlefild $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Feb 1 '16 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ DevilApple227 your taking about what socially and politicalay would happen. I want to know how these powers could be used in a modern battlefild. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Feb 1 '16 at 2:29
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At some point if you're talking about probabilities, you could argue that if you have a supreme user affect the probability that you would win the battle with one person from 1:100000000000000000 to 1:1, then what would the restrictions be on who wins if two supreme wizards head it off?

This also begs the question on whether or not there are any sort of magical items that disrupt magic, or if another magical user could change the probability that another could never use magical user's ability to 0.

Perhaps I don't quite understand the limitations, but there seems to be a strong probability (see what I did there?) of a perpetual stalemate in any war whatsoever.

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  • $\begingroup$ you have to use your probability magic spacific event to happen like say someone trips but I hope fight is a lot of little events put together see you can use your powers to guarantee an option out fight. Also no matter how powerful you are using probability magic is not a hundred percent guaranteed. It's always still a chance that the specific event will happen the way you want $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Feb 1 '16 at 3:02

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