I’ve been re-reading some advice from the great Frater Stokastikos regarding magical defense. Some of that advice is in line with what I have discovered or observed to be true on my own.
Servitors are your best bet for magical defense.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m big on wards. I have constructed some pretty elaborate and effective ward systems over the years, including one with managed to deflect a strike that would have otherwise brought a tree down on my house. But I have some caveats about wards.
1) My wards are designed to be intelligent and adaptive. Effectively, my wards systems have servitors encoded within them.
2) Wards and shields are environmental controls. A ward system will regulate the kind if energy that gets through from the outside world into the area you are warding. It creates a boundary. It functions as a wall, or even a window screen.
3) Wards and shields can be penetrated, breached, and bypassed. A wall is gypsum board and you can shoot bullets through it. Even a heavy door can be kicked in. Wards are passive systems that keep out ambient “noise” and accidental but honest intrusions.
So wards have their place. And they can slow down or deflect a magical attack depending on how it comes in.
But your best bet is to have an intelligent servitor than can intercept and neutralize incoming attack. Something that can anticipate and adapt to unique approaches. Design it well.
And remember: servitors can be compromised, too.
Attack with precision.
Attack via enchantment. Be as precise and specific as possible. Look for a very particular result which takes advantage of your target’s weaknesses and addictions. Find the balance point that requires little effort to throw off. Large and generalized attacks are sloppy and attract undue attention. Be the sniper, not the terrorist.
Now one thing that Stokastikos advises that I had not thought of is the idea that attempting to ascertain the nature of a magical attack through divination will increase your vulnerability to it. Given that his approach to magic is so heavily based upon probability, this should not be surprising. I always advise people who suspect legitimate magical attack to get it confirmed by at least three independent sources. But I think that in this case, the fact of an attack is different than the nature of the attack.
Two quotes offer the most profound approach to magical combat:
“Do unto others as they would do unto you, but do it first.”
“Humans fight mainly to change the behaviour of their rivals and adversaries. The best magical attack accomplishes this behaviour change directly and bypasses the intervening carnage entirely.”
The most effective combat tactic is to convince your opponent you are not worth fighting.