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In my world, clans and factions fight wars with what is effectively magic, and have different types of soldiers. Most of these seem pretty practical, but I am not sure about the "ninja" class.

World setting:
North America, post-apocalyptic, no internet, very little electricity and internal combustion engines. Less population due to disease, lack of food, wars and magical monsters.
Major tribes and clans have population of a few thousands to tens of thousands.

Magic system:
Each human being can be trained in "magic", except this magic conserves momentum and energy, and is not "magical" in the way that Harry Potter series's magic is.
Benefit of magic includes:

  • Increase muscular power with magic (requires energy)
  • Shoot magic laser beam and fireballs (requires energy and intense training)
  • Telekinesis (requires intense training and does not break physics)
  • Craft magic items (i.e. magic equivalent of firearms, ammunition and steroid)
  • Healing (very rare and requires intense training)

Existing classes of soldiers:
These are types of soldiers that I feel are pretty reasonable to have:

  • Knight: Heavy armours, heavy melee weapons (sword, mace etc.) Specialized in using muscular power intensification. Act as front-liners.

  • Mage: Light arms, specialized in casting magic fireballs and laser beams, act as long-range crowd-control and artillery (also counteracts enemy mages)

  • Gunners: Similar to mage, but use magic firearms instead of casting attacks themselves, very long range, expensive to deploy.

The class in question
I know historically accurate ninjas are more like spies than soldiers, but they seem really cool to have. My current setting of this class is this:

  • Lightly armed, use short, bladed weapons like daggers.

  • Use physical projectiles like darts and arrows.

  • Not specialized in strength but in speed.

  • Does not cast magic projectile very often (need to reserve energy for movement), but will do so in emergency.

Based on the descriptions I gave, is there a practical role that these ninjas can fit in?

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you allow new ideas for magic in answers or are we restricted to your list so far? $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf Feb 4 '17 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity where does the energy come from for magical acts? If it's pure biological energy you're going to have trouble sustaining a candle flame. $\endgroup$ – jorfus Feb 5 '17 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ @LioElbammalf Please feel free, I will judge if the ideas a compatible during implementation $\endgroup$ – user289661 Feb 5 '17 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ @jorfus The current idea is that some kind of cosmic matter is in the air, and magic users draw the energy from that. $\endgroup$ – user289661 Feb 5 '17 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ That's a great way to put a limit on it. What's the collection process like? Meditate and visualize? Astral project with a basket? Chant and trance? $\endgroup$ – jorfus Feb 5 '17 at 18:00
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So your army is going to need scouts, spies, snipers, search and rescue guys, messengers and assassins. You may also need specialist urban combat units. Your ninja class will suit all of these.

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Your ninja's are the disruption units of the army. Think an Assassin class. Or the medieval equivalent of a tactical missile strike. They can be deadly and quickly get to important targets to take them out, such as the enemy general.

Alternatively, you can send them in to take out the enemy mages and gunners so that your arty can get through.

The speed helps them close distances and escape chases from knights - since their armaments are also light weapons, they have to pick their targets (low armor ranged units), or they will die quickly against an armored knight.

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What about giving a plus to your ninjas trought disguise and camoufalge?

Let's say they are fast and deadly in close combat but this is no useful against fireballs, guns and armors, and by those means are easy to kill, so, they require training in matter of psychic powers to become some kind of shadows and/or mist, some instant disguise and illusions to avoid direct attacks and get close to enemies, that puts a lot of possible tricky and traitorious scenarios at hand.

You can divide them in levels to define how much of them are like martial artists with no super powers and a few high level like the very same reincartion of Hattori Hanzou!

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Your Ninjas can act as an offensive close-quarters class while your Knights focus on defensive close-quarters.

From how you have described your Knight class as front-liners, I'm under the impression that they not only have to attack the enemy, but defend your Mages and Gunners. The Knights are also the only class that fights in close-quarters and not from long-range. So if the Ninjas can pick up the slack of the Knight's attack duties so the Knights can focus more on defense, then they will both still be essential to an army without overlapping roles.

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Ninja is perfect for low density post-apocalyptic urban warfare. Scouts are essential. Stealth and speed allow you to bring something unexpected to every encounter and defending against stealth adds an interesting dimension. I might not call them ninjas though, ninjas were invisible because they were just like everyone else. They blended in with the normal people. Nobody is normal in your new world.

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Depending on the skills you choose to choose to emphasize, I can see several use for your ninjas. Of course, they can develop all of it or specialize in a branch :

  • Precise strike - Extreme stealth.

By sending a few assassins inside the enemy's camp or city, you can take out the leaders, sabotage the mount's saddles or the vehicules, set fire to food or ammunition supplies, unlock the gates, etc. This would require your soldiers to be equiped with only "stealthy items" as they will be killed or captured as soon as they are found. It would also require a way for them to kill themselves quickly and easily as the risk of torture in case of capture would be great.

  • Disruption - Explosive weapons.

With their great stealth and mobility, your soldiers could also cause unexpected and violent blows to an ennemy's army. For that, they would need to get close to the ennemy, by approaching or setting an ambush, and suddenly cause panic with the more spectacular weapons your people have at their disposal. It doesn't need to be deadly, it needs to be scary, and it needs to be timed just right so that the rest of your army can take advantage of it. Then they could either enter the fight or choose to vanish again for another strike.

  • Scouting and harassing - High mobility.

If they are very fast, your ninjas may also be your scouts. If you're in a society that doesn't have access to modern technology, remember that a battlefield is mostly a vast piece of land with nothing such as "rules" or "official limits". Soldiers could be hiding behind this crest. Are there reinforcement coming from the north ? Scouts roaming everywhere act as human radars and spare you the need to move your whole army for every little change of the plans. If you have inactive scouts, they also can harass the ennemy forces, by striking from a safe distance, and then getting away before he can retaliate.

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I think without really knowing a lot about the context in which the soldiers have to fight nobody will really be able to tell you how good they would be in combat. And the significant context here might have to include almost everything in your world depending on how "realistic" you would want to make your soldiers.

First of all in which context is your setting being used? Is this for a game? maybe an RPG campaign?

Then you would have to think about how much fun each class is to actually play. Maybe the knights never really have a lot of options in a fight except for buffing themselves with a spell and hitting somebody with a weapon. This could be very boring. Or you always fight in close quarters as a group and your gunners never get a clear shot. That would be very frustrating.

If this world just stands on its own and you do not have to think about things like that then there are still lots of things to consider. For example chemical weapons can be quite effective in combat but are not allowed to be used because of ethical considerations. So how does the culture and political climate in your world look like? If your world is in perpetual war maybe nobody has a big problem from an ethical standpoint but ninjas might be looked at as a cowardly class of soldier by something like your Knights if they have a kind of codex. If not maybe everyone tries to assassinate the other factions leaders all the time with ninjas.

Taking those considerations aside, let us say that you put me into your world as a general of these kinds of soldiers. Still I have to know the full context of how combat plays out to know which of my units are actually worth something in the field. Is there perpetual war? A Unit that needs a lot of equipment might be too expensive to supply in a world were the resources of an army are depleted by a prolonged war. Are all these clans and factions living in a desert, the mountains the forest? In what climate are we fighting? Do I need to conquer something far away in a different climate? This has made a lot of military units almost useless and caused a lot of attrition in real-world wars (like napoleons army in Russia or the german army in Russia during the second world war). Even today some of the most advanced military equipment just has problems in desert sand or arctic winter.

You should probably think up all of the scenarios in which these armies might clash against and then evaluate them again. Maybe read something about warfare in a scenario that describes your world best. Maybe look at the battles were people had to fight without enough supplies if your world is starved of them. Keep in mind that you can change your world in order to make one class of soldier viable. In fact if you think enough about it, you probably have to really think hard about how exactly your magic works and what kind of defenses you have against it because most classes of weaponry become useless with everybody wielding magic.

To get to some scenarios were your ninjas would maybe excel: I do not know a lot about the historical ninjas but most spies even in modern times had to be very creative with their equipment to be the most effective. You talk about the power to craft magic items. Depending on how those items work they could be very important in infiltrating the hostile army and sabotaging their plans. Of cause if magic grants you an advantage in detecting enemy spies that is less of an option. In open combat a faster unit might be able to outmaneuver slower knights to get at the more important units or to get knights in heavy armor tired so that they are less effective in battle. But in some situation you do not have a lot of terrain to work with.

So to wrap up there are lots of ways pretty much any unit you think up can be effective. It all depends on the situations they have to fight in or use there abilities.

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