Military Ability In N'Ferra [LONG]
- Below is my most recent study of the military of N'Ferra. Any and all
comments are welcome. N'Ferra's website is
Military Ability In N'Ferra
(and how it got there)
The current military situation in N'Ferra is, in many ways, similar to that
of pre-WWI Europe. The many states are prickly about their independence and
attempt to have as little as possible to do with the Confederation
government. In particular the Confederation judiciary is almost never
called upon to resolve international disputes. The member nations are
preparing for war (the military ability of each member world easily exceeds
that of the Confederation forces proper) and the interlocking treaties
assure that any minor dispute could flare into a major war covering most of
the nations in the sphere.
The past ten years (as of year 14 Fifth age) has seen an immense shakeup in
N'Ferra's military standards and ability. With the introduction of mass
production, technology has come to reign supreme over the battlefield.
Powerful individuals using the other powers may have limited effect, but
the tools produced by technology are currently too numerous and powerful
for any individual to overcome.
AIR AND SPACE FORCES
The spelljamming helm was developed in N'Ferra in -198. Though primitive by
modern standards, these spelljammmers made trade between the planets
practical. The main difficulty in using these early spelljammers was that
they would not work within gravity. Thus, though combat between groups of
spelljamming vessels became common, the spelljammer had no real effect on
other aspects of combat.
As with many other aspects of life, this changed when N'Ferra made contact
with other dimensions in the year 0. Examples of spelljammers in use beyond
N'Ferra were quickly reversed engineered and the knowledge gained applied
to N'Ferra's spelljammers. Though N'Ferra's spelljammers had improved since
their invention, these new applications represented a huge leap forward.
N'Ferran spelljammers became faster and capable of shifting more volume.
Though there proved be a limit to the amount capable of being shifting by a
single spelljammer, gestalt spelljammers enable multiple operators to
cooperate in shifting larger volumes (if at slower tactical speeds). By far
the greatest change however, was the introduction of spelljammers capable
of operating within gravity and thus supplying ground support. Spelljammers
were quickly adapted to the role of artillery platforms and bombers.
Though the drive system is the most obvious, other changes have also
extensively modified the nature of spelljamming vessels. The old wooden
hulls gave way to hulls with metal or life enchantment reinforcements.
Metal, crystal, and livewood became more common in construction until today
almost hulls are built almost entirely out of those materials. Ships today
carry much larger guns firing explosive or armor piercing shells, and the
old "tetrahedral" layout for guns has given way to the new "prism" layout,
which permits more firepower to be directed at a target in most cases.
The projectile cannon remains the weapon of choice aboard military attack
craft, remaining more powerful and flexible than any of the alternatives.
Rockets, even when guided by spiritualism or psionics have proven
inaccurate. Ether shock cannon require power sources too large to carry
aboard a mobile platform and lack the indirect fire ability of projectiles.
Spell amplifiers have proven to have too short a range.
Even projectile cannon have themselves changed. Over the past years they
have become more damaging and longer ranged. Calculating engines have made
them more accurate, and bound spirits provide better coordination between
guns. Shells are generally enchanted, and alchemy has improved and expanded
Today it is nearly an article of faith in N'Ferra that the next war will be
won in space and in the air. To that end spelljammer-driven vessels have
been built up and improved in all nations. Advances in N'Ferra have made
the ships of even a decade ago obsolete. This strategy is based on the
small combats that N'Ferra has seen. Though the limitations of this
strategy are acknowledged, how it can be bettered is much disputed and
The spelljammer-powered vessel remains the major force in both space and
air due to their speed, power, and versatility. As N'Ferra lacks a safe
internal combustion engine, aerodyne-based vehicles remain too unwieldy for
military use in spite of their speed advantages. Several nations are
exploring their possibilities however, and it is only a matter of time
before airplanes and carriers see combat use. Aerostats are too fragile,
and Magical Levitation is too slow and expensive to make effective combat
vehicles. There are some vehicles which rely upon meta or psionic flight,
but such vehicles see limited use because their operators must be drawn
from the 2% of the population who have such gifts.
N'Ferra defines the following types of armed vessels with the listed size
varying from 70% to 140%:
Super Dreadnought @ 1,940,000 cubic feet
Dreadnought @ 972,000 cubic feet
Battleship @ 486,000 cubic feet
Cruiser @ 243,000 cubic feet
Light Cruiser @ 122,000 cubic feet
Destroyer @ 60,800 cubic feet
Gunship or Frigate @ 30,400 cubic feet
Corvette @ 15,200 cubic feet
Patrol @ 7,600 cubic feet
Gunboat @ 3,800 cubic feet
Pinnace @ 1,900 cubic feet
No Super Dreadnoughts actually exist. They have been built on paper, but
N'Ferra's current spelljammers are not good enough to support their
construction. In all probability Dreadnoughts and Battleships will continue
to grow larger until it is necessary to define a new type at around 486,000
The most advanced current vessel is the Dreadnought. A typical Dreadnought
has a volume of 970,000 cubic feet volume (about 28,000 tons displacement
or 360 spelljammer tons), requires 4 of its 6 spelljammer helms to move at
a tactical speed of 29 miles per hour (1.7 ship rating), and also mounts a
teleport drive. The typical Dreadnought carries 12 350mm guns firing solid;
Armor Piercing; High Explosive; High Explosive Kicked (where an alchemic
catalyst is used to increase the power of the explosion); Chemical; or
alchemic boosted chemical rounds. Hulls are of composite steel
(technology), single crystal (psionic), or livewood (biology) construction
depending on the abilities of the building nation.
Smaller vessels carry proportionally less armor and lighter weaponry, being
more likely to carry rockets instead of cannon as they get smaller. Light
Cruisers and smaller vessels do not typically carry jump drives. Corvettes
and smaller vessels are intended for "close-in" defense and are not usually
found in fleet actions, and often use enchantments or engines for
propulsion instead of spelljammers.
Each major world maintains around 300 Dreadnoughts and Battleships with
appropriate quantities of smaller vessels. The balance of forces depends on
whether a particular navy consider the ability to do damage or the ability
to force or deny engagement more important. Some older vessels mount their
guns in a tetrahedral pattern, allowing (assuming 12 guns) three to nine
guns in a "broadside." More recently, guns have been mounted as along the
sides of a prism allowing for three to eight guns in a broadside. While the
tetrahedral layout might seem superior, practice has shown that it is
unusual to get more than four guns using that configuration, while eight
guns are common with the prism configuration.
Navies consist of vessels besides those intended for armed combat.
Transports are generally around 243,000 cubic feet and lightly armed.
Stealthships are built at 36,500 cubic feet using stealth spelljammers and
carrying rockets as their main weapons. Minelayers and Minesweepers exist
in wide varieties.
N'Ferra makes the distinction between mass fire, directed fire, and
accurate fire. Mass Fire is intended to attack the enemy through simple
weapon throw weight. Accuracy is not particularly important. Mass fire
weapons tend to do little damage, but have an extremely high repeat rate.
Accurate fire is intended to damage the enemy with every shot. Highly
damaging and long range, accurate fire weapons tend to have a slow rate of
fire. Directed fire falls between the two extremes. Not as damaging as
accurate fire, nor as fast as mass fire, directed fire is the tool for
limited objective missions.
Infantry armed with 8mm bolt action rifles provide the majority of N'Ferra
ground forces. Infantry typically wears light to no armor, and is equipped
with a heavy pack of equipment including Purify Air enchantments. (Other
common enchantments include Purify Water, Lend Strength, and Spark Cloud.)
Infantry is further backed by machine guns and team magic.
Cavalry still exists. Armed with repeating carbines they are much more
mobile than infantry, but fairly fragile in spite of often expensive
protective enchantments. Mounts for land, sea, and air maneuvers all exist
in N'Ferra and are used by all major worlds.
Artillery ranges from 260mm cannon to 450mm mortars. However, even larger
guns are available at fixed locations. Also available at fixed positions,
where they can draw power from local powerplants, are ether shock cannon.
Though no communication between front line artillery and supporting
artillery is typically available, psionic perceptives with the artillery
are supposed to provide sufficient information to allow cooperation between
In the coming battles the worlds of N'Ferra expect to put tens, if not
hundreds, of thousands of individuals on a single battlefield.
Unfortunately their best form of real time communication requires links of
psionic communicators. The effect is very similar to communication by
telegraph, although no physical medium is required to support the
communication links. Teams of psionic communicators and perceivers are
supposed to support command staff, but no one is sure how well these links
will work in practice.
Though a few nations have produced tanks, they have not proven themselves
in the past. Tanks are difficult to transport and spelljammers have
generally proven to be more effective in the role they would occupy.
The military use of paranatural powers generally relies on teams of people
working together. General uses of these teams include weather control,
warding, observation and signaling, morale alteration, and field
fortification. Other uses may be found for these teams, but current
military theory tends to de-emphasize this. Offensive uses of the powers
such as creating damaging fire or electricity in particular have proven
easy to defend against, but are still occasionally used. Commando teams of
powerful individuals are usually equipped with a wide range of powers, but
are too rare to affect the battlefield except in specialized cases.
(Low ability mages are used in the following roles. Magical Support: Create
Fire, Transfer Maintenance, group magic (Fear, Panic). Sentry: Sense Life,
Sense Foes. Piloting: spelljammer use. General Support: Hawk Vision,
Continual Light. Engineers: Seek Earth (Mine Detectors), Shape Earth.)
Though the forces above have received the most attention throughout the
sphere, N'Ferra uses several other types of forces. These forces include
Underwater, water surface, espionage, propaganda, and likely others. The
specifics of these forces remain to be developed.
Of immense strategic importance is the natural gate between orbit 2 and 7
linking the inhabited worlds of Ashmin (Ch'vrr), Voheesa (Fibrien), Ch'kl
(Bine), K'k'k (Nye), and Ssst't (Gennen).
Several artificial gates have also been built. Though not capable of as
much traffic as the natural gate, they're still strategically significant.
Artificial gates exist between Orbit 4 (Human) and The Gate
constellation, Orbit 1 (Nurha controlled, but containing the Slahses and
Varn homeworlds) and The Warrior constellation, and The Serpent (Lon) and
The Eye (Rachak) constellations. Other artificial gates are under
1) Primary military transport in space and air is by spelljammer helm and
teleport drive with no directions immune from attack. Primary military
transport on the ground and underwater is animal drawn vehicles and
2) Using spelljammers, a larger force can almost always force or deny
engagement to a smaller force. In a gravity field, the initiative remains
with the force with a greater tactical speed; typically that composed of
3) Using spelljammers, strategic movement requires significant separation
between individual vessels.
3) A defender can typically deny the use of rail to attackers. This means
that given only a short period defensive ground and water forces can be
massed much more quickly than attacking forces.
4) Technology-based guns are the most cost effective means of attack in
N'Ferra. Other powers may play specific functions, but guns are the
"muscles" of all militaries.
5) Larger vessels can mount larger guns and more people and are thus
capable of doing more damage. Larger vessels (and guns) are also more
generally effective than smaller vessels per unit spent on them.
6) The nature of the driving device (the spelljammer helm) places a limit
on ship size of around 1,080,000 cubic feet. Beasts of burden place a limit
on artillery of ?.
7) Psionic telepathy provides the best means of communications. However,
telepaths are not common enough to be available at the tactical level.
8) All worlds have areas which are allied offworld and might be used to
The newest spelljammers may combine to permit multiple operators to drive a
single ship regardless of differences in the power being used. Ship Rating
calculations for the newest spelljammers are (total fatigue + total skill)
/ (3 * operators) - (operators + 3). Tactical Speed remains 17 miles per
hour (8 yards per second) times Ship Rating. Time from a world's surface to
the edge of its gravity envelope continues to be the cube root of a body's
diameter in miles times two minutes (40 minutes for Earth). Most military
spelljammers are equipped with fatigue boosters (+2 at best) to make their
Stealth spelljammers have also been placed aboard some craft. Stealth
spelljammers operate in two modes. In the standard mode they operate like a
standard spelljammer, except that they need not drop to tactical speed
within one mile of a gravity field. They _do_ need to drop to tactical
speed to fire weapons, otherwise their weapons will strike themselves, and
must maneuver at tactical speed _within_ a gravity field. In stealth mode
these ships are invisible and undetectable to everything (available in
N'Ferra) except physical contact. They need not drop to tactical speed
within one mile of a gravity field, nor do they force other vessels to drop
to tactical speed. Stealth spelljammers have basic ship rating of
(fatigue+skill)/6 - 2 and may not have multiple operators. Stealth
spelljammers affect a maximum vessel size of 40,500 cubic feet. (This value
is continually increasing as new ship and spelljammer designs are tested.
[35% per year, max 135,000 cubic feet.])
Spelljammer helms are extremely durable. After a recent magazine explosion,
the essential parts of two of the ship's three spelljammers were
recovered and mounted in a new vessel.