Magus Imperius

By Jeremy Davies

Art by Dan Smith

"I shall do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which though art shall see the word of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee"
-- Exodus 34: 10, Inscribed in glowing script upon a floating stone at the main doors to the Assembly Arena. Templar College of Battle Magic, Azer, Megalos

". . . we are those that have the divine authority to do marvels on Yrth. With the Holy purpose to enforce the will of the Empire and to proclaim the word of the Lord. And terrible things indeed shall be revealed to you in your years between these hallowed walls . . ."
Sir Prior Claudius Antioch Battlemage, Templar Prior of Azer. Excerpt from orientation speech, January 12, 1997.

The existence of magic in a medieval campaign changes many aspects of low TL life. In a world where those with magical aptitude are available for military service, it would certainly revolutionize strategy at all levels. Although this article examines the Imperial Legions of Megalos from GURPS Fantasy, it can be seen as a template for any medieval standing army in a world where magic is real.


The "scouting" of recruits for the Legions is extremely important. The more mages they recruit, the greater the return from their forces. Any free citizen of Megalos that "spots" a young individual with magical aptitude receives a magus pension, which is a cash payment equal to the amount of aptitude discovered:

MA 1: $100
MA 2: $500
MA 3: $1000

It is only paid upon the individual's successful enlistment. Representatives from the Legion would definitely keep their Mage Sight eyes open at such occasions as festivals and country fairs, constantly on the look out for that elusive MA 3 child before one of the guilds got hold of him . . . The Legions are not an equal-opportunity employer. They do not enlist women or full-blooded non-humans, though there are some half-elves. One of these is a very respected and decorated Mage Commander by the name of Aarleng Fire-eyes of Legion IX. Many Legion officials would like to see talented women used at least as Fasinarus (see below) Magi, but the Templars flat out refuse to have female students at Azer. This naturally pleases the guilds, who don't have to compete for the talented female Mage students.

There is plenty of competition for recruits between the guilds and the Legion. Both groups require the same thing to survive, a steady influx of young, gifted individuals. There is no conscription as such, so the Legion representatives must play on the young person's lust for adventure and conquest, very much like military service does on this planet. The be-all-you-can-be approach. Journeyman guild mages are better paid and have superior benefits, not to mention having to put their lives on the line far less frequently, but the apprenticeships are long and boring. Generally, spells taught in a guild center around what can be used for commerce, not destruction. What 16-year-old male would prefer to learn cleaning and weather spells when he could be casting fireball and lightning?

Enlistment for normal Legionnaires is in a 4 year pactum. For a Magus Imperius the pact is 8 years minimum. A Magus may extend his pact at any time, the length of which is certainly an issue that is looked at when promotion and additional training is requested. A Magus with a self imposed 30-year pact is looked at more favorably than one on a minimum contract.


The first step after enlistment is to become a Legionnaire. Any mage facing battle conditions would still have to be as tough as a normal soldier, so mages undergo the same basic training as the other troops before moving on to the Academy. There are certainly no special privileges at this time. Jealousy among fellow recruits (and even instructors) make things pretty tough on the young mage at "boot camp." This usually improves the temperament of the finished product so while not actively encouraged, a blind eye is turned to all but the most physically damaging harassment.

Mages frequently return this disdain to their non-magical brothers-in-arms once they are serving in a Legion. The least insulting term used to describe them would be "mundanes," usually said with a tangible note of disdain.

On successful completion of the three months of basic Legion training, the Legionnaire heads to Azer, and the dreaded Templar College of Battle Magic, perhaps the most feared institution in Ytarria. What follows is two years of the most intensive warfare-orientated instruction available in Yrth. An area spell of Azer invention that accelerates and amplifies learning time for the students has been in constant operation since 1650 (see below).

All the magical colleges are represented at Azer, as well as the cutting edge of military magical research and development. The Doctrina is a group of the most experienced Templars and Imperial Magi that are always working on new projects for applying magic to the art of warfare.

After the first six months, the Deans of the College decide which of the three Lines of Magus the recruit will be assigned to:

The Fasinarus Line is reserved for the Mages not as suitable for battle conditions, old retirees and those aspected for enchanting. They are the enchanters, workers who produce the power stones, enchanted weaponry and items that keep the Legion marching. Their role is vital -- magical equipment is a huge strategic tool for Legion officials -- but the Battle Mages tend to look down upon their "lesser" comrades. This attitude is not helped by the practice of Battle Mages that fail in combat being reassigned to this Line to remain productive.

The Magus Imperius Proprius is the specialist mage. Those with aspected magery will certainly be sent to this Line. The Proprius will learn almost every known spell from one college, but know little of any other excluding prerequisites. Alternatively, he may learn a large number of spells from one spell string (see below).

The Generalus Line makes up the greatest percentage of Battle Mages. They will be taught many spells from at least three of the Strings below:

Spell Strings

Elementum (Fire, Water, Air, Earth)
Moderatio (Body, Mind, Movement)
Natura (Animal, Food, Plant)
Sensus (Light and Darkness, Sound, Protection and Warning, Illusion and Creation)
Litterae (Communication and Empathy, Knowledge, Healing)
Making and Breaking spells are mainly taught only to a special group of Proprius mages. They are known as cunicularians or cunicules (see below for more details).
Meta spells are taught to all Mages Generalus. Meta Proprius Mages are used extensively for the purpose of neutralizing enemy magics.
Necromantic spells not approved by the Curia are not taught in the Templar college. Any Legionnaire found dabbling in such arts should expect to meet the purifying flames of the Curia's Holy Inquisition!

Thus, the Legion hierarchy can plan for each Legion to have a well-rounded complement of magical power to draw on.

The training isn't easy, and about one-third of the recruits drop out somewhere along the way. 20% don't make it through basic Legionnaire training; of the remainder, a little over 10% drop out after six months at Azer, with another 18% immediately tabbed for the Fasinarus Line. In the remaining 18 months of specialty training, over 20% of the Generalus and Proprius Line trainees get busted down to Fasinarus, and another small percentage are lost from training accidents, personal problems unrelated to training, etc.

As far as skills training goes, Thaumatology is definitely on the syllabus, as well as all applicable Spell Throwing skills. Tactics and Strategy have high priority, as well as frequent retraining in such basic battle arts learned at Legionnaire induction, including Combat skills, Running, Swimming, Survival etc. Riding (Horse) is also introduced. Most Magus Imperius are given with a mount, unlike mundane Legionnaires.

The Cunicules are a particularly prestigious unit dedicated to the special magic needed in sieges. Although the Legions have non-magical engineers for standard sapper duties, the Cunicules are by far the most feared force of wall breachers in Ytarria. They are trained in both magical and mundane siege warcraft. Skills taught are Engineer/TL3 (Combat Engineering), Engineer/TL3 (Primitive Machines), Mechanic/TL3 (Primitive Machines) and Architecture/TL3. Although they do specialize extensively in the Making and Breaking college, they do learn many appropriate Earth spells.

Ongoing training is of course very important. Legion Mages are entitled to a minimum of one year training every four years of active service. There are also "specialist" courses that are filled according to talent, pact conditions and need. The Imperial Legions benefit from their Mages always learning more and challenging their capabilities, so this professional environment is encouraged.


Currently, most Megalan Imperial Legions are organized loosely around the same model as a Cohortal Legion of Imperial Rome (see GURPS Imperial Rome, p. 76). Individual Legion Generals often change their host somewhat to reflect their particular emphasis, or sometimes just because they can. The basics remain mostly the same, however.

There are ten cohorts of approximately 600 Legionnaires in every Legion. What follows is the ideal assignment strength of Mages for a Legion. At any time, a particular Legion may have a much different and unbalanced breakdown. War is hell and casualties have to be balanced somehow . . .

12 Magus Imperius Generalus per Cohort.
At least one Magus Imperius Proprius per Cohort representing each of the Elementum, Moderatio, Natura, Sensus and Litterae strings.
Three Magus Imperius Proprius Meta per cohort.
One unit of 12 Cunicularians.
One unit of 12 Magus Imperius Proprius Meta.

Many generals also have a group of mages as "advisors" that will stay with him in the leadership party. They will generally include Proprius mages of the Communication college (for sending messages to lieutenants), Sound college for relaying audible messages, Knowledge for scrying the enemy, etc. Most generals have a retinue of around ten mages. The most important of these is the best Knowledge Proprius, who is named the Legions Magus Imperius Cognito. He can be of a low rank and technically subordinant to other Mages, but his word will carry plenty of weight with the Legion's General.

Although many of the mages are assigned to Cohorts, they have their own chain of command:

Rank 0: Magus
Rank 2: Mage Sergeant (commands at Cohort or Unit strength)
Rank 4: Mage Captain (controls half a Legion or the Meta unit)
Rank 6: Mage Commander (all Mages in a Legion, answers only to the General of the Legion)

Uniform for Magus Imperius consists of a robe of a certain color covered in a white sleeveless tabard. The color depends on the Line and college specialty of the Mage:

Fasinarus Line: Dark Blue
Generalus Line: Dark Brown
Proprius Line: depends on string specialty
Elementum: Dark Red
Moderatio: Light Gray
Natura: Light Green
Sensus: Yellow
Litterae: Off-White
Cunicularians: Black
Meta: Deep Purple

Rank is only known by casting the simple but well-guarded Know Rank spell (see below), although the Mage Commander has the right to wear a golden circlet around his head. The Commander does not wear this circlet in battle, obviously -- why present an obvious target?

Strategy and Tactics

The strategic potential of many spells are obvious, while others are far more subtle. Many large spells are cast as a part of a Circle (GURPS Magic, p. 14). If a particularly powerful effect is required, all the Mages of a particular Legion can come together and form one very large Circle, or Gestalt. Concentrating a Legion's entire magical strength in one area is a risky move in warfare however, and is done rarely.

The Doctrina are always working on turning Regular spells into Area effect spells. This obviously makes the spell much more useful on a mass scale. It is up to the individual GM just how many Regular spells he allows access to his players as Area spells. An example is at the end of this article.

What follows are some of the more common strategic uses of some spells from some of the Colleges. There are literally thousands of ways arcane knowledge can be used for mass destruction however.

Animal: The summoning of vermin is a common siege weapon to frustrate and spread disease amongst pesky city defenders. Rider Within is a very useful physical observation tool. A hawk or a small rodent can give a commander some very handy information about enemy positions. Shapeshifting of friendly troops into vicious animals is an expensive and rather cosmetic tactic that has been known to be an effective morale weapon.

Body Control: There are many Body Control spells that have great mass combat potential. Legionnaires sometimes carry items such as amulets of Resist Pain. Rooted Feet, particularly as a Mass spell (see below) is quite nasty.

Communication and Empathy: A vitally important College to the Legions. Compel Truth and Mind Reading are all very good interrogative spells, as well as Hide Thoughts to avoid the enemy doing the same. Telepathy comes in very handy for battlefield communication (see Equipment below). During the Mages War on the 3rd of April 1925, in the battle of Al-Hayabad plain, a Mage Sergeant of Legion XI managed to take possession of the al-Wazifi commander. This turned the tide of the battle and won the day for the Legion. This tactic has since been known as the Andallus maneuver, after the Mage in question, who now lectures at Azer.

Earth, Air, Fire, Water: Powers of the elements are some of the most drastic and feared on the battlefield. Many Earth spells are used in sieges in conjunction with the Cunicules. Another tactic used during the Mages War was to cast a Delayed Create Fire over an area that was going to be hotly (heh heh) contested, then casting Resist Fire on friendly troops and sending them into the area to meet the enemy.

Food: Uncommonly popular on long forced marches. Legions do not have to carry the same amount of provisions as their Earth equivalents.

Healing Spells: Healing Proprius Mages are obviously a precious commodity. Everything but Resurrection is available (see Necromantic spells below).

Illusion and Creation: Illusions are not very tactically valuable, as armies have become more "magic aware", though morale can be affected. Created warriors are often used to fill gaps in formation lines.

Knowledge: The Legion's Magus Cognito is the information hub of the force, never far from the General and the Mage Commander. Scrying of all sorts are extensively used to gain an edge on the enemy, as are anti-scrying spells. Skill levels in these departments become very important, hence the Cognito position depending far more on ability than rank, social standing etc.

Light and Darkness: Used extensively, particularly Invisibility and See Invisible.

Making and Breaking: The Cunicularians are masters of the use of this College, often combined with the Earth spells. Weaken, Shatter, Explode, Disintegrate and Rive are all obvious wall breachers, when combined with Throw Spell they can even be cast from a protective distance. Walk Through Earth and Earth to Air are also often used.

Meta: Meta spells are taught to all Magus Imperius in their time at Azer, but the Meta Proprius Mages hold great respect. Their main duty is that of anti-Mages, as well as augmenting their own side's attacks. A Spell Shield and Pentagram are cast on any important areas, such as the Legion General's tent, the Powerstone Recharging Rack, etc. as a standard operating procedure. Spell Walls are common at the front line of a battle. Delay, Links, Reflexes and the Azer-invented Hang spells are very tactically-efficient tools for a Mage Commander. Scryfool, another Azer devised spell, is also popular.

The struggle for the control of Mana in a given area is often a war within a war. During the Mages War of 1924-28 the strategic control of Mana was often more sought after than the land itself. The dangers involved in spells such as Drain and Suspend Mana are obvious in the spell descriptions. No mage wants to lose Aptitude for any amount of time. However, No-Mana zones are created on occasions, usually under direct orders from a General.

Mind Control: The Mind Control college has great morale control potential, for both the enemy and the ally. Bravery, Loyalty, Berserker, Charm and even Mass Suggestion have all been used on friendly troops, while Fear, Panic, Terror, Sickness etc are used on hostiles.

Movement: Quick March was devised many years past for the express purpose of increased troop movement. Wallwalker can be especially handy for climbing those ramparts. Teleport Other is probably one of the most effective yet risky spells of this college. To move even a small force into a strategically advantageous position (e.g., within the walls of a besieged city) is dangerous, particularly with a powerful enemy Mage force to deal with. It has been successful in the past, but it has also met with many bloody failures. Still, it would sure beat the only Earth method of storming a mighty fortress . . . up that ladder son . . .

Necromantic: Turn Zombie, Pestilence, Banish, Turn Spirit, Repel Spirits, Astral Block and Rotting Death are the only Curia approved Necromantic spells available to the Imperial Mage. Resurrection is a gift granted to only three out of 5,679 applications in recorded Megalan history. There has to be a very strong case for a person's return to this realm before the Curia will meddle with what the Lord hath taken away. There persists rumors that in the upper ranks of the Magus Imperius, Necromantic spells are used without Curia permission. Summon Shade and Soul Jar in particular . . .

Plant: Plant spells can be very useful in the wilderness. Pollen Clouds are used very successfully on pursuing forces to aid strategic withdrawals.

Protection and Warning: There are many obvious uses in this defensive college. Missile Shield and Reverse Missiles are used extensively. Teleport Shield, Utter and Force domes/walls are all very useful Area spells. Sense Observation is another HQ protective spell used as a matter of course.

Sound: The sounds an army makes can tell the enemy many things. Walls of Silence are often cast when a Legion begins constructing siege engines. Great Voice can be very useful to a General on the battlefield to aid the morale of the common troops. Invisible Wizard Ears have also been used on more than one occasion.


The Magus Imperius Fasinarus at Azer and at other well-concealed locations (generally in areas of high/very high mana, or maybe over the top of a mana pool . . .) are continually working on creating magical items for the use of the Empire's armed forces. Everything from powerstones, scrolls and potions to swords, shields and breastplates. Every Legion will have different and maybe even unique items, but as can be expected in the highly organized and structured Legions, there are standard-issue articles.

Powerstones form the backbone of the magical power from which the Legion's mages draw their energy. They are issued as follows:

Each Magus: 10-point stone
Each Mage Sergeant: 15-point stone
Each Mage Captain: 30-point stone
Mage Commander: 50+ (!)-point stone
Cunicularian Sergeant: additional 20-point stone
Meta unit Captain: additional 30-point stone
Legion Cognito: 30-point stone

The Meta unit is in charge of the Powerstone Recharging Rack, which every Legion has. The rack itself (see GURPS Magic Items, p. 65) allows up to 100 powerstones to be charged, regardless of quirk requirement, at the rate of one level higher than the actual surrounding mana level. The rack is protected only by a wooden case (PD1 DR4) and may have no other spells cast on it. However, at least four mundanes are assigned to protect it with large shields enchanted with the Reverse Missiles spell. Also, the case is set upon a wooden platform that a Meta Proprius Magus controls with a wand enchanted with Apportation, Power 3, Fireball and Force Wall. Apportation has been a very effective spell for transporting the delicate racks. Power 3 makes the 45-lb. device effectively self-powered, while Force Wall can be used to help defend the precious apparatus. Fireball is supplied to destroy the valuable rack as a last resort before the enemy can take possession.

Conch shells enchanted with the Message spell are issued to all ranked officers from the General down to the Captains of each Cohort, including the Mage Commander and Captains.. These shells are all Named and kept as the personal property of the individual officer. They have become unofficial badges of rank for many of the Legion officers and are generally worn hanging from the belt, sometimes elaborately decorated.

Battlefield communication for the mundanes becomes instantaneous under this system. No longer is the medieval general forced to rely on time consuming and injury-prone runners to send an important directive to a far flank of the battle. Signals, flags and colored smoke, are still used to validate orders if the source of the message is at all in question. The Meta Proprius Mages go to great lengths to keep comms secure, but the battle for the hill top of al-Ashaq in the North of al-Wazif proved the necessity for a validation system to be available. In the fall of 1524 Legion II was crushed by a numerically inferior force due to some magical "hacking" of the Legion communication system.

In addition to this, all mages above rank 0 (including the Cognito) wear thin silver circlets around their heads which are enchanted with Telepathy and Power 1.

Each Mage carries a scroll case on them holding at least 5 scrolls. The spells on the scrolls are issued to them by the Mage Commander as he sees fit. They will generally be of a totally unrelated nature to the particular mage's expertise, adding to his versatility.

Other items are issued on a need basis. Certain tactics are sometimes devised around the use of particular items. The Voluce Ballitors are a group of 30 Templars who utilize a combination of self-powered rings of Flying and helms enchanted with Infravision and Invisibility. This group of medieval drop troops train extensively using the powers of their equipment to their fullest. In 1992 they were instrumental in the conquest of Sa'Azraq.

Mages are encouraged to obtain any artifacts they can that will be of use to the Legions efforts. Some Mage Commander's personal staves are very awesome items indeed! They are of course required to hand over any items of "war booty" to the Mage Commander, but all but the most important of magical artifacts are returned to the mage who captured them as a bonus for outstanding service.

When a mundane is recognized for heroism in battle or any other actions considered above and beyond the call of duty, a magical item appropriate to his position is often given as an award. A worthy soldier may be presented with a fine broadsword with +1 Accuracy, +2 Puissance and Shatterproof. A non-mage sapper may be given a glove with Shatter and Power 1.

The Imperial Legions of the great and terrible Empire of Megalos are the tool that put the Empire where it is today, and the instrument through which the Emperor maintains order throughout his own lands. They are an ever-present threat to the other major nations. The organization of the Magus Imperius, along with the Templars, are at the cutting edge of the research, development and utilization of strategic battle magic. Many centuries-old elf wizards have shaken their heads in wonder at the sheer destructive brilliance of spell use they have observed from Imperial Mages. Certainly humans seem to excel in destructive potential, perhaps the greatest Bane of all the Banestorm brought . . .

. . . The soldiers sword may cut you, the Knights may run you down,
But your soul may be damned And your clan turned to dung,
If the Magi is moved to frown.
The Legion is on the march.
The Legion is on the march.
-- Anonymous 16th-century folk poem

Know Legion Rank Regular

This spell is the first taught at Azer and allows the Mage to know the rank of any other Magus Imperius. It is taught to skill level 15 to reduce its cost to 0.
Duration: 1 second

Mass Rooted Feet Area, Resisted by ST

As Rooted Feet (Magic p. 27) on a large area.
Duration: 1 minute
Cost: 4 to cast, 2 to maintain
Time to Cast: 1 second per energy point used
Prerequisite: Rooted Feet, IQ 13, Magery

Enhance Learning Area

A spell devised and jealously protected by the Deans of the Templar College of Battle Magic at Azer. It helps enhance the learning speed of prospective Magus Imperius. The less time they spend learning, the more time they will spend in the field of battle or creating enchanted items. Learning time is doubled for anyone being actively instructed by a teacher within the area effect of the spell, in other words, one hour of study is actually worth two for game purposes.
Duration: Permanent
Cost: 5
Time to Cast: 1 hour
Prerequisite: Magery, Enchant and at least 6 Knowledge spells

Article publication date: December 4, 1998

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