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Sieges and fortifications in a world of Exalted

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  • Sieges and fortifications in a world of Exalted

    So based on a novel I've been reading with a siege, I'm wondering what sort of fortifications citys must put in to help repel sieges. How would you keep a city defended when you will have beings that can just fly over the walls or something like that. It seems maybe you have to develop very secure gatehouses, or are walls maybe just of lesser value in the setting?

  • #2
    Even if your opposing army is full of Terrestrial officers who all have the flying charm and led by a Solar who can Jump Good they can't get the whole army over the walls. Now a rampaging army of avian beastmen might be a different problem however, one which probably demands more archers than you have. But who has one of those just lying around?

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    • #3
      I still wouldn't presume that beings that can fly over walls are exactly commonplace even though they exist. If it's common enough near your kingdom, then you probably want supernatural assistance of your own, either the help of a local god, or hiring an exigent/exalt, or hell just getting a sorcerer to create some crazy curse-trap to anyone higher than the castle parapet (and tell your guards not to jump).

      If those sorts of things are unable to be gotten by your kingdom, they're probably unable to defend against one who could fly, aside from "moar archers" and the like.

      To take your question more broadly than JUST flying, I maintain the same suggestion. If you're assuming that things are super strong or wield sorcery to get past your walls, there's not a lot you can do mundanely to stop them aside from MORE stuff. They can punch through your wall? Make a thicker wall. They can magic your wall away? Time for a bigger army ready to shoot the sorcerer down once the hole is made.

      But remember that while supernatural things exist and are known, they still aren't everywhere and involved in every war. In the First Age, no doubt they have the infrastructure to guard against more powerful threats, but frankly, those involved the supernatural too.

      So in summary, get thee a sorcerer, god, demon, or exalt of your own to help you.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by Therian View Post
        It seems maybe you have to develop very secure gatehouses, or are walls maybe just of lesser value in the setting?
        Both sound like accurate assessments, although walls likely aren't lessened enough to be not worth using.

        Even for a flying enemy, in a large number of cases, getting inside of enemy fortifications will still have them at a disadvantage; a good defender will know how to move about in the interiors, and your objective is likely more difficult than theirs.

        Hell, even in the case where a gate is opened, or a hole is knocked through a wall, its value is not invalidated; if it's still forcing the enemy to concentrate in a choke point that can be more easily defended by a smaller number of people, and continue making victory costly, so long as it is placing distinct limits on the options of the attacker, the wall is still doing a significant percentage of its job.

        Hell, even if flying enemies can bypass the wall in some manner, even that is an imposition on the attacker, another complication, another cost that they have to bear in order to overcome you.


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        • #5
          First, archers, crossbowmen, anything you can get for range. Doesn't matter if the enemy has the ability to bypass your walls with ease, they still have to get to said walls. Let's face it as durable as exalts are they still die if they get enough arrows put in them.

          Second, fast response time is a must. There are a number of methods an enemy can use to get through the defenses of a fortress, but if you can get forces to deal with them quickly enough you can mitigate the damage. If the enemy rips a hole in the eastern wall then you need people at the hole ASAP to deal with troops that might get in while someone does something to fix the wall.

          Third, walls are still bloody useful. As has been noted multiple times the ability to fly/jump/walk through walls on a fortress is a bit of a major upset, but its also blatantly supernatural and you aren't likely to come across a massive army capable of it. Most things you'll be defending against will be raiders, wild beasts, Wyld beasts,etc. So, while it might be acknoweldged that should Mask of Winters decide to throw Juggernaut at the walls they won't help, its not like the walls don't help in preventing a crap ton of shambling skeletons and walking meat sacks from getting in.

          4th, sorcerers. People don't understand sorcerery that well in universe and to boot sorcerers are weird. That said they do know that sorcerers can make things happen and having one on your side dramatically opens up your venues for countering enemies trying to siege your fortress.

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          • #6
            You could always take a page out of Waterdeep’s defensive manual and have an elite cadre of gryphon riders patrolling the skies for errant flying beasts and levitating wizards.

            Different places will all probably have their own unique responses to that kind of threat though, with some places response being nothing, in which case they have a much harder battle ahead of them. Some cultures live entirely underground, others might fortify every structure, there might even be a city with a magical gemstone that summons a whirlwind above it to deter attackers.

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            • #7
              Seems like a good Terrestrial spell or Working would be a way to defend the sky above a city.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Therian View Post
                Seems like a good Terrestrial spell or Working would be a way to defend the sky above a city.
                Hmm, I think the spell in What Fire Has Wrought might define the upper limit of Emerald control over the weather as a whole, and I think it's generally only going to be strong enough to hinder a bit rather than repel.

                I think the range may also be beyond what a single working of that level can achieve.

                Keep in mind that, while it's exceedingly difficult, Terrestrial sorcerers can still perform up to Ambition 1 Solar workings (although they'll probably want to seek some aid from a powerful source if they want a shot at actually achieving them).


                I have approximate knowledge of many things.
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                • #9
                  Ambition 2, actually. Only the very pinnacle is barred to them.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by nalak42 View Post
                    First, archers, crossbowmen, anything you can get for range. Doesn't matter if the enemy has the ability to bypass your walls with ease, they still have to get to said walls. Let's face it as durable as exalts are they still die if they get enough arrows put in them.
                    Should we consider the actual gameplay in how this plays out?

                    I mean, the assessment of Exalted dying if they get enough arrows in them is technically correct, but the manner in which the game models a volley of arrows kind of favours the defender.


                    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                    Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
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                    • #11
                      Fun fact: Demon of the First Circle wins battles of attrition (which most sieges are). Without the right supernatural help of your own there’s only so much you can do about a fresh blood ape appearing out of thin air in the middle of your camp every night on orders to kill as many of you as possible.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                        Even for a flying enemy, in a large number of cases, getting inside of enemy fortifications will still have them at a disadvantage; a good defender will know how to move about in the interiors, and your objective is likely more difficult than theirs.

                        Hell, even in the case where a gate is opened, or a hole is knocked through a wall, its value is not invalidated; if it's still forcing the enemy to concentrate in a choke point that can be more easily defended by a smaller number of people, and continue making victory costly, so long as it is placing distinct limits on the options of the attacker, the wall is still doing a significant percentage of its job.
                        Indeed; if the aforementioned army of avian beastmen are flying over the walls, they probably distinctly lack cover, making them easier to take out with arrow fire. They're not, after all, coming forward with mantles, big shields, etc, to protect them. And they probably can't wear heavy armour either.

                        Though, as Alpharius said, the main issue is probably the paucity of flying foes.


                        Originally posted by Sith_Happens
                        Fun fact: Demon of the First Circle wins battles of attrition (which most sieges are). Without the right supernatural help of your own there’s only so much you can do about a fresh blood ape appearing out of thin air in the middle of your camp every night on orders to kill as many of you as possible.
                        Eh... yes, and that's a huge issue when defending a village or even small town.

                        But if there's 10,000 warriors inside a city, the demon is annoying, but 1 demon a night isn't going to win a war. It's bad for morale, but the number of people killed a night may not really be significant enough to make a difference.
                        (I'd probably give a +1 bonus to the Strategic Manoeuvre roll, something like that. Useful, but not really enough to win by itself.)



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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

                          Should we consider the actual gameplay in how this plays out?

                          I mean, the assessment of Exalted dying if they get enough arrows in them is technically correct, but the manner in which the game models a volley of arrows kind of favours the defender.
                          Hmmmm... yes, I see your point. But in my experience, it does matter. The key issue with exalts is how few they are. If you're flying over a castle while your army waits outside, you're being targeted by everyone. And if the enemy battle group has a commander, they can roll a lot of dice at you.



                          So, let's look at an actually gameplay example:

                          This is not a typical siege, as it involves powerful Exalts on both sides. Most sieges I imagine in Exalted are just regular pre-modern sieges. Or a city of mortals is totally overpowered by an invading sorcerer/Anathema/sworn kinship of Dragonblood who breaks out things the enemy are totally unprepared for.
                          But it's the example we're interested in.

                          The situation:
                          The (essence 5) PCs killed an Eclipse diplomat. His circle, the Crimson Masters, and their barbarian horde, marched west to avenge their circle-mate. They needed to march along a caravan route past a salt-mining city in the desert.
                          The PCs seized control of the isolated city, with the help of slaves and a cult, as they'd rather stop the horde before it reached their own lands.


                          The Twilight built massive obsidian walls around the city, 30 foot high. He also churned out hundreds of spears, bows, and sets of mail. Meanwhile the Dawn trained 400 cultists as Tiger Warriors to defend the city, to join the troops the Eclipse sorceress had brought.

                          They knew the Crimson Masters had a necromancer, so they negotiated with the god of the salt mine to have his salt spirits keep a lookout for ghosts around the city.

                          The party's Zenith went to negotiate with the Crimson Horde. He found 2500 horsemen marching along the caravan route with some giant siege-monsters (though the PCs spying had suggested there should be 5000). He talked to the enemy general, a Zenith, and negotiations failed, but they let him leave (because honour).
                          The Full Moon, however, decided to just take out the enemy Zenith general right there. In the form of a Great Roc, he divebombed the horde. 2 size-5 battlegroups of tiger warrior horse archers (one ordered by a War 5 Zenith) shot him into crash when he reached short range. So he turned and flew back to medium. The battle groups aimed. He flew to long. They shot him, did some damage. Then he escaped.

                          That evening, the PC sorceress headed out on her dragon. She found the enemy horde, and unleashed Death Ray on them from range. She killed about 1500 people in a couple of rounds, and all the siege monsters, and they fled in all directions into the desert.

                          Meanwhile: The Crimson Masters knew it'd be difficult to break through 30 foot obsidian walls, and horse archers aren't the best siege troops.
                          So their necromancer opened a portal in the middle of the city from the Underworld, their sorcerer cast Impenetrable Veil of Night in the middle of the city, and 2000-odd nomads with torches poured out into the shrouded city. Obviously the plan had been to do this while the other half of the army were outside the city and seize the gates, but that was no longer possible.
                          So they ran round the city burning and looting.

                          The Dawn led a small group of soldiers to try to find the enemy. He was attacked by a Solar+Lunar, and fought them off, but was too slow on foot to track and stop most enemy raiders.

                          The sorceress returned, and found the enemy leaders. She killed a Solar and Lunar with Death Ray. Then she fled because she was being shot full of arrows by a battle group and they'd crashed her, so the enemy necromancer managed to escape.

                          She found another large group of enemies to attack with magic, killed some, but they shot her full of arrows again, and she fled, wounded.

                          The darkness faded, and the enemy had retreated back into the Underworld. (Later their army was smashed by one of the Lunar PC's Abyssal dad and his ghost army).

                          While the Zenith and Eclipse tried to organise food rationing, and the Eclipse sorceress rested to heal her injuries (the Lunar had already healed with Stamina charms), the Dawn took 75 cavalry and went to hunt down the 1000-odd survivors in the desert, led by the enemy Zenith. He eventually manoeuvred them between him and an allied army of 1000 tribal archers, and smashed them to pieces with a charge and single combat against the Zenith.


                          So, you can see some of the uses of magic on both sides: making giant walls, churning out equipment and training spods into soldiers quickly, attacking from the air, ranged magic, spying/counter-spying via spirits and charms, using sorcery/necromancy to transport troops and confuse the enemy. The PCs won, but the city took a lot of damage.


                          I also learned that the best way to defend against single flying exalts is battle groups of Tiger warriors with compound bows (for the range) and a War 5 commander with an excellency. Three times I made PCs flee enemy archers, whereas when every time PCs managed to actually fight enemy Solars, PCs won (without the enemy Exalts doing significant damage).
                          Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 11-10-2018, 07:29 AM.


                          "Wizard of Oz, you really are a wizard!"

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                          • #14
                            There was an article in Dragon Magazine back in the day called “The Castle Designers Guide to coping with Magic and the Supernatural” which, while not necessarily directly applicable to Exalted, has some potentially useful comments.

                            However, one of the biggest differences is that, in D&D, you can theoretically find a whole bunch of low level casters everywhere, so any castle might need to be able to deal with one or more of the spells on the lower end or some flying opponents or something, but they probably don’t need to worry over much about the really high level magic and they’re usually all looking at the same set of problems, so the same solutions will work across the board.

                            In Exalted, any location might suffer from regular problems from ...anything really. Octavian might have been summoned during the First Age and told to assemble an army and his empire has been eating away at your border for the last several hundred years, but your people have learned his tactics and built defenses which will stop raids from his troops. But those tactics and defenses won’t necessarily help against Raksi and her monkey army.

                            Thus, in Exalted what defenses a location has are going to tend to be tuned to what they’ve historically had to face and what weaknesses they suffer. Chiaroscuro has massive salt wards running through the city, surrounding shadowlands and preventing the hungry dead from attacking the city. Most western islands have lookouts wearing iron charms to warn of Fae attacks. Neither group has much of a defense against something the other faces on a regular basis.

                            So, if you’re working on a particular location, do a bit of thinking on what sort of problems they’ve faced before and how they dealt with it then. That will help you figure out whether the city has walls or not as well as many other things.

                            That said, one of the other major differences is that Exalted doesn’t necessarily have a ton of magic out there that can be used by just anyone, so, most often, the bandits raiding you are just...bandits, not mystically empowered cultists or a Terrestrial and her personal guard. So, general defenses used by that period still make sense.


                            ....

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                            • #15
                              I think I'd divide this into in-setting vs. in-system.

                              In-setting characters would still want to build up fortifications. The majority of any enemy they'd face would be mortal or mildly supernatural, so there's still benefit. Plus, if you can channel any potent supernatural enemy (Exalted or otherwise) into one of a small number of paths, your own Exalted defenders won't have to chase all around the battlefield to engage them.

                              So, probably a lot of walls, spikey fields, strategic forestry, and the like, to break up formations and encourage hostile Exalted to leap over them into places you've planned for them to leap into. Enough walls to conceal what you have inside your defenses, if not to stop the invaders. I believe there are some good youTubes on the DMZ between the Koreas, that would be full of relevant ideas.


                              In-system, I think each defense we cover in-story would be treated as a non-Charm dice bonus on War rolls whenever it came up as relevant. Some would be single-use (a field of spikes that gives +2 on the strategic maneuver one time as the first hostile unit tramples through it) and some would be persistent until defeated (a huge wall with towers and murder-hole gates) would be a +3 until defeated, etc.

                              For an actual siege, you could model the back and forth as a contested extended War roll-off. The defenders would have their set of advantages, but the attackers would get to decide what maneuvers to make. Defenders would start to take disadvantages as supplies dwindled. In both cases, the idea would be to create Scenes for characters to play through, either tearing down defenses or counterattacking.


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