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The Technological Battlefield

by James Ruhland

Ok, I admit that when I rejoined the list the latest incarnation of the "tech vs magic" debate (Vol. MCXLVII) was half over and I paid it only casual attention at the time. However, after looking over the resulting posts in the latest update of Stan's page, I have a few remarks and then some general ideas:

Lasers (Beam) - Alex is right that the "traditional S/F" Laser might not be that effective a weapon - beam lasers (as opposed to the "pulse" lasers of S/F lore) would be very nasty. As far as power requirements, yah - but advanced batteries and power sources might make concerns about energy consumption a thing of the past.

CPR Guns - Alex's alternative to Rob's lasers are CPR guns (I.E. your average assault rifle, firing a Chemically Propelled Round). Thing about these though is the ammo takes up cumulative space (you have the round and the propellant) - not such a drawback in the case of small arms (except that each weapon, and each soldier, is limited in its capacity) - but for large weapons (main guns on armoured vehicles), this can make logistics a problem, especially since any Interstellar Expeditionary Force (IEF) will be limited by the transport capacity of the vessels it uses to move to Mystara.

MDs/"Gauss" Weapons - For that reason I prefer electromagnetic mass driver weapons - the "round" is accelerated down the "barrel" to high speed, and you get the same or better impact as with CPR Guns, but the rounds are smaller (half or less the size of a round of CPR Ammo). This vastly increases the "duration" of armoured vehicles, especially, since you can put that much more ammo in the bin.

Depending on how advanced the Tech force is, they might have some or all of the following sorts of weapons:

Sonic Weapons - no, not sonic swords and the like. But really nasty stuff. Weapons designed to project sound (perhaps inaudible to hearing) at frequencies that mess with your neurological functions - perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently. Save vs. Paralysation at -4 or end up in a permanent state of seizure (if you're unlucky) or temporarily incapacitated (if you're lucky). Area weapon (circa 1 mile square for the "worst" such weapons, about the area of a fireball for hand held versions). Such things are being researched as you read this, so don't think they're fiction stuff.

Plasma/Fusion guns - These use (internal) lasers to heat hydrogen to a plasma state, containing it in a magnetic bottle until it reaches the maximum energy level the weapon can contain, then opening an aperture in the bottle, releasing the plasma in a high temperature, high velocity jet (8000+ meters per second). "Fusion" weapons operate on the same principle, but the plasma is heated until fusion begins. "Protection from Fire" will *help* (some) against such weapons, but will not provide immunity. These are pretty nasty weapons - but they are bulky - suitable for mounting on vehicles, mainly). However, troopers in powered exoskeletons ("powered armour") can wield them as squad support weapons.

Armour - such powered exoskeletons will probably be made of lightweight, high-tech ceramics and/or anti-ballistic composites, similar to what Alex described under "armour" - the best of these will have computer monitored "chameleon" surfaces (remember the movie "Predator"? I knew you did), as well as biomonitors & automatic first aid dispensers (drugs, healing balms, whatever - consider these the equivalent of Potions of Healing and the like, but the soldier doesn't have to use his Action "drinking" them, they are automatically administered as needed). These "condition monitors" will also be fed to the soldier's "HQ" - where the staff medics etc will get instant information. All troops will have the equivalent of GPS systems, so their location will be known at all times, helpful for retrieval, and for directing them into the right areas.

Electronics - All vehicles, most troops with powered exoskeletons, and the like will be equipped with a wide array of electronic sensors, heads up displays, and the like. The main function these will perform, for our purposes, will be to separate Illusion from reality - depending on the quality of the ECCM/ECD (Electronic Counter Countermeasures & Electronic Counter Deception) equipment, this will either make the soldiers immune to illusions or give them bonuses (perhaps large bonuses) in their saves to see through illusions (and such saving throws should be automatically rolled, rather than rolled only when they "ask" for it - the electronics are always alert for deception).

Other Weapons:

"Field" Weapons will include such things as the (usual) cluster munitions, aforementioned Mass Drivers, Plasma/Fusion Guns, and the like. But even more devastating weapons are possible - including Particle Accelerator Weapons (similar to the CERN thing, but instead of being a big circle it's a long "projector" - nasty particles are accelerated at relativistic speeds, focused in a concentrated "beam" that retains its power over long distances. These are almost certainly large weapons, and most likely to be found on ships in orbit. They make wonderful orbital bombardment weapons. A more advanced version of this weapon fires mesons - sub-atomic particles that decay explosively, producing radiation and damaging particles. The nasty thing about mesons is that they do not interact with matter, and thus can pass through any obstacle (including entire planets). By accelerating the mesons to relativistic speeds, their subjective passage of time is slowed, delaying the decay. This allows them to be targeted to precise locations. Both of these are "area" weapons, so note that every time a Mystaran nation (or nations) fields a large army (such as some of the ones suggested earlier, consisting of huge bands of high-level heroes), such weapons can be fired from orbit to "break up" (read: completely devastate) such formations (area of effect is several hundred meters square, rate of fire is at least 10 times per minute). Number of damage dice rolled should be 20-100d6. Save for half damage. Normal "immunities vs XXX" will not protect, because these weapons cause damage in ways that are unheard of on Mystara. The "solution" of course would be to send Alphatian Men of War to engage the orbital support fleet, but they wouldn't last long. Note that the "minimal" separation between individual ships in the orbital fleet would well exceed the range of any weapons used by Mystarans, and the ranges of the "tech" weapons are effectively infinite for our purposes (Ranges in the hundreds of thousands of kilometres). Satellites deployed by the invading force will be used as "forward observers" to spot such troop movements.

Fighting a *real* tech force of the type capable of reaching Mystara would mean facing threats of a magnitude almost completely unheard of, IMO. And one that can't simply be solved by "well, I teleport to their HQ and kill their general" - for one thing, you don't know where their HQ is. For another thing, multiple redundancies in C3I will be built in. Probably the main salvation of the Mystarans will be their ability to use Wish spells - Wishing to know the things they don't (like HQs), Wishes vs. the Tech defences & weapons, etc. Of course, the usual assumption is that the Tech guys don't have magic - they've "just" got Tech. Who's to say? Blackmoor based their civilisation, eventually, on technology - but it wasn't as if magic was unknown to them. Why should that necessarily be the case for the invaders? (well, for one thing, because to do otherwise would be the worst sort of overkill. A battalion of Jump Marines backed by a transport with a Meson Gun would be able to easily dominate Mystara if they had magic capable of countering the spells of Mystaran mages).

Tech guys who don't have magic might have the feared Psi Corps on their side (Yep, here comes Bester and his merry band of minions to screw with your minds). This sort of "tech" invasion might not consist of troops that can openly be battled - it might consist of infiltrating Mystaran society, turning rulers into puppets with shadowy "advisers," and the like. Or those damned "technomages" also from B5, end up running the show on Mystara. Troops can then be landed later, to "help out" - these would then be integrated as "advisers and support squads" into the subverted nation's regular armies - thus you get Mystarans fighting Tech Guys who are allied with Mystarans. People tend to think that "the battlefield" is one-dimensional: my guys fight your guys in open combat, and the better side wins. Then when that doesn't work well they introduce ways for one side to creatively subvert the other ("I charm their leaders and have them turn on each other" or "I teleport to their rear areas and kill their generals with meteor swarms") - forgetting that two can play at this sort of thing. The tech guys probably aren't brain dead - they probably have their own manual of "101 ways to screw with your enemy" also. Psi guys might mean Zhodani-like teleportation into the rear areas of the *Mystarans*. If nothing else suffices (I.E. you don't like Psionics), then the first thing the "tech" guys do when they assume orbit around Mystara is use meson guns to flatten all of the Palaces of the various Mystaran nations, killing most of the government officials and throwing the world into anarchy.

Oh, and I forgot to mention - if the Tech guys lose, and if they're sore losers, they can always resort to their Strangling Weapon, make Mystara's sun go "blewie" and fry the whole solar system. Merry Christmas 8-)