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Planar Warfareby John Calvin
The ability to move troops around the world quickly and covertly can play a major role in whether or not a military campaign is successful. In a world dominated by magic, and filled with characters powerful to wield it at its fullest potential, magic can play a decisive part in the way warfare is carried out. The 'Gate' spell (and some of its variants) has a great potential to alter the way that militaries conduct combat.
The following scenarios present several different ways in which the Gate spell can be used to great effect.
1) Portals: It is rumoured that the ancient Nithians had a system of permanent gateways that tied their nation together across vast distances. They used these portals to move commercial goods, as well as military units, to exactly the point in their nation where those things were needed most.
Pros: Portals do not require an extra-planar staging area. Anyone with the knowledge of activating a portal can use it (they need not necessarily wield magic).
Cons: The endpoints of a portal system are static. Once set, they do not change. If one of the endpoints of the portal system is destroyed or damaged, access to that area will be cut off.
2) High level wizards with the Gate spell: Wizards may open a gate from their current plane to any other plane in existence that has contact with it (transitive planes may be the easiest to access - Ethereal, Shadow, and Astral, although demi-planes, the inner planes, and some outer planes may also be accessible). Travel to another point on the same plane is not possible (in one step), but wizards may open a gateway to some extra-planar staging area, and then open a second gate back to another location on their original plane.
Pros: This option offers the most flexibility, as the wizard can choose his destination at will.
Cons: Travel to another location on the same plane is a two step process. A staging area must be accessed and maintained (at least for some period of time). The number of gate spells that can be cast will be limited to the experience of the wizard casting them.
3) Artifacts: Some artifacts may grant planar travel (either through the Gate spell or by some other means). Artifacts may allow destination flexibility, or they may be keyed to certain locations. The method of travel (and the destinations) should be determined on a per artifact basis.
Pros: Artifacts may allow non spell casters to operate them.
Cons: Wielders of an artifact may experience side effects. Artifacts may have time limitations on their number of uses. Artifacts will certainly draw the attention of other powerful individuals.
Defences against Planar Attacks
Defences do exist against the threat of planar incursions. Vital areas (such as fortresses, strategic locations, and even entire cities) may be protected through the use of spells, artifacts, and even rituals performed by the general populace. However the entire territory possessed by a nation can never truly be protected... the resources to do so would simply be too great.
1) Spells - Spells that block planar travel may be cast in order to prevent gates from opening in certain locations (a castle's courtyard, town square, etc). The spells must be maintained (cast again before their duration expires) in order to be effective. This method has the disadvantages of being hard to maintain, and only protecting limited areas.
2) Artifacts - Certain magical items may be imbued with the power to prevent planar travel. These artifacts would function much as a spell would, but their operation would be permanent. Structures could be created with these wards built into them. The area that these artifacts would protect would still be limited.
3) Rituals - Rituals are religious ceremonies performed by the general populace under the direction of the clergy. The power of the rituals can prevent planar travel as long as the rituals are maintained. Rituals might need to be performed on a regular basis (once per day, week, month, etc) depending upon their power level and how much land needs to be protected. Rituals work in a slightly different way than the other two options in that the area to be protected is essentially limitless, as long as enough true believers participate in maintaining the ritual.
Staging areas are required for any gate trip to which the intended destination is on the same plane as the starting point. The Gate spell can not open up a direct route to a destination on the same plane from which it was cast, so a staging area on another plane is used as a midway point. From the staging area another Gate spell can be case with a new destination on the plane of origin. There are several problems in setting up a staging area however. These are detailed briefly below:
1) Extra-planar locations may be disconcerting (at beast) and deadly (at worst) to those travelling there.
2) Access to extra-planar locations may be limited by variables from the plane or origin.
3) Extra-planar locations are rarely devoid of native life, and the natives (sentient or not) may not take kindly to intruders upon their domain.
Mystaran Staging Areas
The following are just a few examples (that I can recall off of the top of my head) of possible staging areas in the Mystaran Multiverse.
Honor Island : The Honor Island Mages have access to a node on the Ethereal plane. They share control of this node with creatures from the elemental plane of Fire.
Spill World: This demi-plane was discovered and explored briefly by a joint Thyatian/Alphatian effort.
Adventure Hooks (for WotI)
1a) Quest for Artifacts: The PCs must quest for an artifact that will either allow their forces to travel the planes, or that will protect their strongholds/cities from the threat of planar incursion. These artifacts may already be in the possession of their enemies, in which case they will need to be recovered before the enemy can use them.
1b) Destroy an Artifact: The PCs must journey deep into enemy territory and discover an artifact that is prevent planar incursions. Once the artifact has been destroyed (or removed) the PCs can launch a sneak attack directly in the heart of enemy territory.
2a) Opening Nithian Portals: Nithian portals from the Known World to the Island of Dawn (perhaps in Thothian territory) could play an important role in the invasion of either of those areas. The PCs must gain control of a portal within their territory and learn how to operate it. Once the proper rituals are known they can launch an invasion into the heart of enemy territory.
Supplying the troops once there will also become a top priority, so both endpoints of the portal will have to be controlled.
2b) More Nithian Portals: Unknown to the PCs, there is a third portal that is tied into the network, and it has just fallen under control of the enemy. The PCs must defend one of their portals against a sneak attack from within. They must then find the enemy controlled portal and capture it in order to deny the opposing army access to it.
3a) Access Staging Area: The PCs must negotiate with a power that already has control of a Staging Area (perhaps the Honor Island Mages). Their mission is to gain access to the area for troop movements through diplomacy, or if that fails to try and prevent their enemies from doing the same.
3b) Control Staging Area: The PCs must lead an expedition that will gain control of a known staging area. The area may be under the control of populations native to the plane it exists on, or it may already be under the control of their enemies.
3c) Create Staging Area: The PCs are tasked with the creation of a secret stating area. They must open a gate to another plane and transport enough materials and resources to get the staging area into a functional state. All of their activities will invariably draw the attention of natives of the plane who will want to acquire the staging area for themselves.
Can anyone else think of any other Mystaran extra-planar strongholds? Any ideas on how they would be used in a combat situation (WotI for example)?
Ok, I've done a little 3E calculations regarding the Gate spell and here are the numbers I come up with:
The lowest level that is capable of casting Gate (an 9th level spell) is 17th. Thus in a non-Epic campaign there will be wizards from 17th to 20th level that can cast Gate. The Gate spell can create an opening from 5 to 20 feet in diameter (caster's choice - not level dependant) and can be held open for a number of rounds equal to the caster's level (17 - 20 rounds).
Medium sized troops usually have a 5'/5' facing and can move with a base speed of 30' per round. Assuming that you have a 20' diameter gate, then that means that you can get troops marching through 4 at a time. With a 30' movement rate you can get 6 rows of troops through per round.
So a 20' gate opened for 17 rounds will get 408 troops through per casting. A 20' gate opened for 20 rounds will get 480 troops through per casting.
However, the above numbers assume that troops are moving through the gate at a walking pace. The troop numbers can be doubled if they hustle, and tripled or quadrupled if they run (depending upon their encumbrance and maximum run rate).
17rnds 20rnds walk 408 480 hustle 816 960 runx3 1224 1440 runx4 1632 1920
With these kinds of numbers it may very well be feasible to overrun a small fort or castle from the inside. Larger installations may be taken (quickly) as well if this tactic is used in conjunction with a standard siege.
Here is a question to ponder over (for those who like thinking about such things): Assuming that these tactics work, and that both Alphatia and Thyatis have access to mages with these powers, then how would differently would the WotI play out?
Here are some of my ideas:
- Alphatian troops could bypass the IoD entirely and land troops directly in the Known World. The question is would they land them in Glantri or in Thyatis? If the war against Glantri is just an excuse to invade Thyatis again (which I think likely) then their main target must be the Empire of Thyatis.
- Likewise Thyatian troops could find themselves directly on the Alpher continent with neither a long sea voyage nor battles on the IoD in their way.
- Battles might become more like guerrilla warfare. Hit and run tactics. Gate in, destroy something valuable to the enemy (troops, natural resources, supply chains, etc...), and then gate back to a secured area.
Another use of the Gate spell could be to open up a gate above their heads and then shower them with destructive spells. A large number of low level mages (using fireball, lightning bolt, etc...) could be very effective at demolishing a fortress from within its own walls, or at scattering an advancing column of troops.
Attacks of this kind could also be used as a means of assassination. Simply scry upon the leader of enemy forces, open up a gate, and then pummel them with an overwhelming barrage of destructive force.
Gates could also be used in conjunction with summoning spells. Open a gate in the middle of town, and summon monsters on the other side of it. Close the gate and you are safe from any rampaging that your summoned creatures are doing.
This kind of warfare might be akin to more modern forms of war where one simply points a missile at one's enemies and then shoots it off. In this case mages can bombard their targets with destruction, all from the comfort of their own towers.
The Glantrian Doomsday weapon may be an immortal power level example of this kind of combat, but I don't see why the major nations (or powerful wizards like Barimoor) couldn't also use these tactics.