Re: Orlanthi Dragon Magic during the Hero Wars, Argrath's powers

From: IUL Labor (
Date: Mon 03 May 1999 - 15:48:24 EEST

Chris Bell

> From my understanding, when Argrath first appeared, his magic and tactics
> took the Lunar Empire entirely off guard.

Little wonder. For years, the Lunar magicians had ruled the field of
battle virtually uncontested, without any organized magic to threaten
them. In the few cases where the enemy had strong, organized magic, the
battlefields were seeped deeply in blood (Night of Horrors, Building
Wall Battle).

Argrath's first magical victory was at the Battle of Sword Hill. After a
season or two of guerilla warfare in the Far Point, the Phargantite-led
Tarshite expedition corps which had been repelled at the Battle of
Queens in 1626 finally found something resembling a Sartarite host ready
to take battle in an organized way. Even the terrain wasn't exactly
disadvantageous to the Tarshites (probably reinforced with neighbouring
provincial troops).

I'm fairly certain that the Tarshite school of Lunar military magic was
present at this battle. Under the direct tutelage of King Moirades and
Fazzur's older brother, this body of magicians had achieved to kill
Prince Terasarin over a vast distance, with a "stray moonbeam", and
being one of Moirades' sources of imperial pride, I doubt this school
was in any way second rate. However, it will have deployed its resources
as usual when facing barbarian opposition - effectively as field
artillery. Argrath's magical counterstrike took them by surprise, being
mounted from a fully armoured mounted company of warriors (at least true
for the Eaglebrowns; the Eleven Lights are mentioned only in CHDP).
Their resources already spent, the Sartarite magical strike was
effective, not so much against the magicians but against the ordinary
troops who would have assumed that magical firepower would lie on their

Note that Sword Hill was Argrath's great magical victory mentioned in
KoS. Yoran was a disaster (IMO similar to the magical battle from DP
boardgame), and Dwernapple was shrewd use of allies rather than magical
powerwielding. (The magicians on Annstad's wing were peeled away by
Jar-eel's companions...)

> Form what I know, he made use of
> Lunar innovations, such as Sartarite militias of Magicians that were the
> equivalent of the Lunar Magical colleges, as well as being a skilled
> Heroquester and magician.

Argrath was the first Orlanthi to scale up the usually small circles of
magically talented people in a battle to regiment-sized bodies (where a
regiment of magicians still would number fifty rather than 500, the rest
being guards and/or servants).

Unlike most Lunar regiments, he saw to it that the non-magical combat
skill of his magicians was not neglected. (In DP a foot magician unit
losing its spirit still makes almost a decent militia, and the mounted
magicians are among the better cavalry.)

Unlike the Lunar classes, Argrath's magicians had no unified approach to
regimental magic. Sir Narib's company sounds like Seshnegi allies from
Heortland or Esrolia with a few strong combat wizards among their
mercenaries, the Egglords sound like EWF reincarnated, the Snake Pipe
Dancers might be an old tradition reinforced with new ideas, the Free
Philosophers are most likely a Lhankor Mhy band of magicians, Tosti
Runefriend has been described as a bear shaman on his private vendetta
against a bear magician among the Lunar allies who ended up supporting
Argrath even past his vendetta, etc. The Lunars have such magical
hodgepodge too (Spell Archers, Comet Seers, Blue Moon School), but their
best magicians are the Classes.

> Supposedly, during his time in Pavis, he made the
> first discoveries of old EWF Draconic lore that enable him to counter the
> arcane Lunar sorceries.

Another source for this would be Minaryth Purple, described in Wyrms
Footprints as a well-traveled heroquester. An expert on both troll and
EWF matters. The dragonrise conspiracy seems to have been active in
Sartar already while Argrath gallivanted on the Homeward Sea.

> Now, from my understanding, up until that point, all other things being
> equal, Lunar magicians had been able to basically whup the butts of most
> other magicians, due to not only the breadth and depths of Lunar magical
> theory, but also due to secrets gained from Nysaloran illumination and some
> use of western style sorcery.

Unit by unit, and given a favourable phase of the moon, Lunar magicians
kick ass. They are magically stronger than any barbarian unit. Add in
Glowline or Bat effects, and they are on maximum strenght 50% of the
time. Part of the secret seems to be numerical superiority - a Lunar
Minor Class seems to be made of primarily of magicians, not guards.

> I'm assuming that much of the Empire's success was due to the arcane secrets
> and outlook that the Lunar Way itself provides, as well as the powers of the
> Red Goddess herself.

Yes. The trick of subjecting your power to tidal effects, only to ignore
the tides when convenient, is an epitome of the Goddess' way.

> Until the appearance of Argrath, and perhaps the
> Starbrow rebellion, the binding and defeat or Orlanth was almost inevitable.

Depends on how you define "Orlanth". I don't see much Lunar activity in
East Ralios or Lankst or Oranor. The Lunars seem to have managed to
confine the conflict to Dragon Pass, much like they did at Castle Blue
in 1247.

> However, Argrath appears, and suddenly there's this massive turnaround.
> Lunar secrets fail against Argrath's Draconic powers. He resurrects old
> myths, Heroquests, and Dragon Pass itself rises to aid him.

This isn't exactly a new situation for the Empire. Jannisor had done the
same 7 wanes earlier, a bit further north. Once warned, the Lunar
magicians can be trained to deal with this. Such retaliation might take
time - the Empire Struck Back (Yoran) only 13 years after the Dragonrise
of 1625, and still full four years after the loss of Tarsh. At
Dwernapple Argrath produced new, unexpected allies, but the empire still
reacted, trained its magicians for new contigent plans, and returned in
magical force again. The Lightbringers' Quest for Sheng was done in the
direst hour, as it should be for this measure.

> Now, did Argrath keep his powers to himself, or did he teach his followers
> the Draconic secrets he knew?

IMO Argrath somehow had learned the secret of ring-making his great
(claimed) ancestor Sartar knew so well, and after testing these methods
in Pavis County and northern Prax (including the cross-tribal secret
warrior and magician societies of the Praxian beast nomads) he used them
against the Lunars. Getting an object lesson what coordinated magic
could do from the Cradle incident and the demise of the White Bull Army
probably helped a lot.

> Where they different from what the Waltzing
> and Hunting bands of the EWF taught?

I think so. Argrath did not return a wide-spread knowledge of draconic
secrets, but limited it to (some of) his magician societies. I tend to
think that many of his secrets would be late-EWF style rather than
emerging-EWF style, too. A good part of this was based on use of only
half understood artifacts.

> How did he reconcile this with the memories of the Dragonkill and
> existing Orlanthi feelings in regards to Dragons, especially the cult of
> Alakoring Dragonbreaker at the time.

A dragon raiding your lifestock and stead is bad news. A dragon raiding
your neighbouring clan is, well, ambiguous. A dragon raiding distant
enemies is good news.

Alakoring is renowned for breaking the stranglehold on the cult of
Orlanth. Since this is what Argrath reputedly does as well, what does it
matter if he uses bits of secrets stolen from the dragons and the EWF
now and then? Orlanthi are happy to use the Sandals of Darkness, even
though these are stolen from an enemy.

> How did Argrath's "Enlightenment" surpass or bypass Lunar Illumination?

Huh? Why should Lunar illuminates be sensitive for draconic awareness,
or vice versa?

> I'm
> assuming that Argrath's Draconic magics were a counter to the Lunar
> Illumiannt mysteries and techniques, as far as I can tell.

In the boardgame, Argrath's powers negate the glowline and glowspot
effects which aren't in any way related to Nysalor's methods (there was
no "Brightline" during the late Dawn Age), but to a fairly "chaotic"
method developed by the Red Emperor against Sheng Seleris, using Yara
Aranis demonic background and the moon's glow to "cheat". The glowline
has a horribly unbalancing effect on Lunar magic. Surely this would be
one item on the White Moonie agenda...

> How did Argrath's Dragon Magics become integrated with traditional
> Lightbringer magic?

There's a precedence. Orlmandan the Red demonstrated that it was
possible to worship the old gods and use draconic magics. The EWF was
built on this interplay, so Argrath did not have to invent it, only
rediscover it.

> As far as I can see, Argrath must have been packing so pretty powerful mojo
> to stop the Lunars so dead cold, especially as the Lunars had up until that
> time met with very few defeats. The only one I can think of is how Pharoah
> thwarted their invasion.

Jannisor, Sheng, Night of Horrors. In these cases, the Lunars had
suffered long series of defeats and had to field a surprise power when
the situation was dire.

I personally think that Argrath did no such thing as start the Lunars
dead cold. At Sword Hill, he outsmarted the Tarshites. At Yoran, Lunar
might prevailed. At Dwernapple, the giants saved the day. Before the
Lightbringers' Quest, the Lunars once more occupied the heart of his

> Also, until the royal house was destroyed, Sartar
> was also the nut they couldn't crack, as Sartar, a unified kingdom, had
> resisted them for many years (about 2 centuries, if memory serves?)

One century - founded 1494 (four years after Hon-eel's takeover in
Tarsh), destroyed 1602. Until 1538, Tarsh was (or should have been) at
the focus of Lunar attention. When Palashee rebelled, the Lunars fought
Tarsh once again, until 1555. Only Phargentes started the wars against
Sartar, for their role in aiding Palashee. Only Tarkalor managed to set
back Lunar advances, although Terasarin did manage a stalemate for 18
years. Phargentes won Tarsh, and harrassed Sartar, but never made an
overt move to conquer it (failing to become King of Dragon Pass).
Moirades contested with Terasarin for 18 years before striking a well
prepared blow. Much of this delay resulted from necessary groveling in
the Heartlands, I suppose. (Philigos was kept waiting 17 years for an
opportunity to oust Palashee, and Fazzur needed 14 years to repeat his
march on Karse...)

You might as well claim that Tarsh resisted the Lunar Empire for three
wanes, and remain silent about the minor interior problems caused by a
certain Sheng Seleris.

The inspired rulers of Sartar did pose a problem, especially Tarkalor,
but at no time did the Sartarites face a major invasion force into their
land before 1602. Terasarin's reign is described as incessant raiding,
not invasions, and this is the time which resembled outright warfare
most closely. Jarolar and Jarosar (somewhat) sensibly tried to settle
the conflict in Tarsh, as did Tarkalor (successfully until 1582).

Joerg (still unchallenged holder of this name here)

(Caveat: I'm writing this away from my sources, a couple of dates might
be off...)


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