The Basics of a Good Defense
The Basics of a Good Defense
By Watcher Eagus Kamon.
This book contains information I have gathered in my twenty or so years of combat, whether it was as a mercenary, in the Waterdeep Watch or, at the time of writing, as a bannerman for a local lord. With the introduction of different solutions in this book, I will be referring to them as either passive or reactive. A passive solution refers to something like Barkskin or Shield, which should almost always be on before engaging in combat. Reactive is something that due to the nature of it, whether it's the spells duration or effect, is something to be used as and when you need. A good example of a reactive solution would be Stoneskin or Displacement, this will be explained further.
Chapter 1: The best defence...
Passive protection is arguably the most important, this is something you should have on you at all times to keep yourself harder to hit, or harder to hurt. First off, you need equipment that suits your personal combat style. Whether your focus is in absorbing blows with a shield or a suit of plate, nimbly dodging between them or simply taking the hit and powering through, you need good quality arms and armour. In relation to myself, I have a set of well-made iron fullplate. It keeps me covered, and offers a good amount of protection that I can bolster further with magical spells and potions. For most up-front warriors, full-plate is an expensive armour that you will want to aim-toward. Splint and breastplate are cheap alternatives, but not a good substitute.
When armour on its own is not enough, spells of shielding and barkskin are powerful boons to any would-be combatant. These spells can force a sword to deflect, and glance, or in case of bark, absorb the blow. When thinking about the costs of such items, and the liberal use, remember that splintered wood is cheaper than shattered bones. Similarly, elemental wards protect for a long amount of time, I am told by Raznor and other casters that most last around a day or so, and with the possibility of enchanted weapons, alchemical weapons or magic spells, is a prudent purchase which will save on healing potions, or maybe even save your life.
"But now, if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." - Book of Protection, page thirty four, credited to Watcher Luke of the Twelve.
In more dire circumstances, stoneskin potions offer less deflection, but actual absorption of the strikes, glancing off of a layer of stone. This layer feels thicker than it is, and against multiple enemies who can often land hits, is not a solution as much as it is delaying the inevitable. In situations like this, displacement is more important than reducing damage. Potions of blur are cheap, but ineffective (though they also defend you from actual harm), and Displacement potions are powerful but do not last long, summoning blurred copies in a similar way to a Displacer Beast's innate ability. These reactive solutions give you time to fight back, to use more powerful potions onto of each other or just give you a brief reprieve to heal with. Healing is one of the best reactive solutions, so long as you can drink the curatives faster than you are receiving your hurts.
Stalling is not a poor tactic, provided you have comrades you can rely on to deal with what is harassing you, otherwise the rule of thumb is to keep yourself in a state of protection where you can damage the enemy more than they can damage you, while this is incredibly obvious, this sort of attrition on the field of combat is not uncommon, and it is surprising how often people will enter a full-defensive stance and spend their entire time blocking their own swings with the way they fight. Remember that whenever a fight is breaking out, rushing in without any spells on is a good way to find yourself outclassed and quickly taken down.
"An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin. Pride ends in humiliation, humility brings honor." - Book of the Advisor, page twenty nine, uncredited.
Chapter 2: ...is a good offence.
The passive and reactive way of thinking works well with offensive solutions. With the so-called 'Animal Aspect' spells lasting hours, magical weapon enchantments and elemental weapons lasting similarly, they should be applied before a fight truly breaks out, the quicker you can take down a target, the less time it gets to fight back and put you on the defensive. While it's an overused platitude, the 'strategic offensive' is the most common principle of war that everyone outside of the clergy of the Triumvirate can recall with ease. It is easier to exploit the initiative than it is to fight on the backfoot. Reactive solutions are rarer and usually in a shorter supply for the offensive than they are the defensive, but the thinking is much the same, use them as and when needed, when you cannot easily hit a target (and when it is efficient and safe to do so).
Passive solutions include the animal aspect spells, elemental weapons and magical weapons. While the list is short, it is extremely effective when cast by a mage of skill, and can turn an ordinary or average warrior into one with unmatched skill and destructive power. When combating enemies empowered by a wizard, dispelling items are a necessity, as killing the wizard in question does not dispel the enchantments they have cast, direct confrontation is NOT advised.
Reactive solutions include Divine Favour, Divine Aid, and many others (there are a plethora of spells I do not know the name to that can be used, use your own judgement), but a very important mention goes toward the True Striking potion, which allows for a moment of perfect aim and speed, though for barely a ten second period. After drinking a True Striking potion, it is advised to aim for legs, arms, disarm or to sweep your opponent off their feet with the moment of aim you are given, allowing you to follow up with attacks while they are weakened or prone.
"He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze." - Book of Vengeance, page twenty two, credited to Doombringer Samuel, the Hand of Hoar.
Chapter 3: Fortifications.
Setting up a defend-able area can be a daunting task when dropped on someone used to leading an assault, but not a true defense. When tasked with defending an area, stick to the following rules.
Setup a perimeter- Create a smaller area in which to defend that keeps all crucial areas and entrances defended, if there are many, setup trusted warriors as sentries. Archers and shieldbearers make excellent sentries, archers for their sharp eyes and shieldbearers for their ability to hold off enemies before calling for help. Tell them to call out their name or cardinal direction when they spot enemies.
Setup 'standard' positions - Tell your group where to sit, and what to look out for, central positions are best for this, allowing people to manoeuvre to places as they are needed. Designate trusted backliners as compass holders to direct people in cardinal directions when they are called out by sentries as being attacked or otherwise needing attention. If commanding enough people against two pronged-attacks, set up different groups of balanced types so that you are able to deal with two fronts at once. When a threat is dealt with, tell them to return to their positions.
Fortify your position - If given enough time prior, spiked barricades or palisades can help funnel or keep enemies in chokes and keep them manageable. Numbers can be quickly overwhelming, even if they are not strong enemies. These chokes can help mages setup spells to devastating effect, traps to ensnare or kill and even just allow archers an easier shot as well as keeping stress from your vanguard.
Project your voice - Shouting loudly sores your throat and leaves you ineffective. Barking orders is important, but make sure you drink often, and do not wear a helmet to muffle yourself. This is often why field commanders lift their visors or do not wear helmets at all. Make sure you are heard, and that communication comes easily between you and your group.
Create multiple 'steps' of a defense - If given enough space, having multiple areas to fall back on allows more chance to hold a defense. If your first position is breached, a steady retreat while still fighting is a good way to keep your defense strong while transitioning to a second hold. Traps and summons are imperative, tangling or otherwise to make sure stragglers or those chasing are slowed or occupied while you have time to set up again. This cannot always be done without losses, or without stumbling slightly, but is better than failure.
Make sure your group know their roles, and are prepared for an extended skirmish. Ask your arbalests and archers to count their projectiles, and share among themselves, ask your mages to direct spells between each other, so there is conservation of magic and do similarly with curative potions and other defensive solutions (if given proper time), otherwise you have to keep faith in your fellow man to protect their position, and hold the line.
"I say to you that you are his shield, and upon this ground I will build His church, and the gates of Hell will not overpower it!" - Book of the Zealot, page sixteen, credited to Watcher Matthew, first of the Vigilant Eyes of Helm.
This book is meant to give advice and help to those starting out, or to help those wishing to improve, but it is not a substitute for real-world experience or your own gut instinct and feeling. Everything in here should be taken as a guide in tandem with your own experiences - no one can judge a situation with all the contextual minutia better than you can. Trust your own judgments and keep faith. Stay vigilant, and remember that if your cause is just and in defense of the people, Helm keeps watch beside you.
Watcher Eagus Kamon, 6th Flamerule 1396 DR.