Make no mistake. The setting does have chariots already. For example, Dragon Kings details chariot units in warfare. In our world, chariots went the way of the dodo when people figured out cavalry. Lots of reasons, but the big one is mobility. Even if one argues that they would be impractical in warfare, chariots actually saw use for a long time in sports and civilian use. Want to be transported somewhere, and don’t feel like a mount or a howdah? There’s chariots!
In some ways Athas is great for chariots. Inix and mekillots mostly have howdahs, wagons and argosies. However, crodlu and kanks can quite handily use chariots. Also, there’s a lot of terrain out there that is flat or otherwise conducive. Also, terrain that is nice and flat. That helps. Armies would sometimes even agree on the battle field of choice. Then flatten it out and dig tracks for their chariots.
However, there’s nothing to indicate that warfare in Athas would nearly be so nice. I imagine most sorcerer kings would regard chariots as antiquated. Think Rome vs Boudicca. Commanders might ride them around for convenience and/or good line of sight.
Here are my big thoughts on why we need more chariots in Athas…
Chariots in battle can be used as stable platforms for magical spell casters and psionics. They are mobile and level. You can have a driver handling the beasts, so the caster can concentrate on the fireworks.
Nobles would be using these quite a bit. Hunting, social events, going around town.
I can easily see a psion dispensing with beasts altogether. Instead, hook up a giant obsidian ball. Use some telekinesis and just drive around with that.
CHARIOT RACES! We need coliseums some we can have some Ben-Hur styled mayhem! So many different, crazy possibilities there! Many different kinds of chariot styles to compete. GLADIATOR! Red vs Blues vs Green! Riots of Byzantium! Whooo!
Historically, chariots became obsolete as weapons of war in the early Iron Age (they were used after that but to poor effect). But it wasn’t metallurgy that caused their obsolescence; humans managed to breed horses that were strong enough to carry a rider, making cavalry a possibility. Cavalry are more maneuverable and able to cope with rough terrain than chariots.
Obviously chariots continued to be used for other things long afterwards - like racing. And I wouldn’t deny the dramatic potential of using them in the setting. But I’m also enough of a geek to find the military history compelling.
Flying chariots should totally be a thing. Use obsidian disks or orbs instead of wheels, and fly around on those. Even ground-based chariots could float (as the scorn earth effect) instead of using wheels.
Use it with the Stronghold Builder’s Guide rules and apply a single Stronghold Space to a chariot (which can be smaller than the total volume as that is a max volume, not a minimum… or just build a 20’x20’ chariot, lol) and add psionic enhancements to taste.
I toally agree. I have five of the raider chariots from the old 2nd ed miniatures which I can expand on when needed. I am only limited by the number of crodlu I have. If I could get another 10 crodlu I could quickly take my chariot total to twenty which is a pretty sizeable contingent for battle system.
Could see chariots being used for transporting heavy weapons, in Athas we fight things that are truly dangerous. So having a fast moving and mobile chariot with a ballista for sniping halfgiants and inix could be useful in battle.
I see your point, but for these to have a reason to exist, I think adding them to a fast chariot, instead of just having a lumbering halfgiant, carriyng them, would be necessary. Maybe adding a psionic gunner, who could use psionics to reload and making the ballista lighter?
Yeah, splitting hairs here, but i agree with Andronicus that a wheeled vehicle big enough to mount a ballista would generally be seen/called a “wagon” - it’d just be too big or have too many wheels to be considered a chariot, IMO.
You definitely can’t expect a team of crodlu to hold up 50% of the weight of a seige weapon and its support crew/structure AND run quickly.
A roman ballista would weight less then 100kg/220pound, with a bit of experimentation that could be lowered alot for ammunition storage. One could take a hittite 3-man chariot and have 2 men on it. Athasian tankhunter.
Ok, but keep in mind, a lot of that extra weight on these weapons is to basically handle the recoil. imagine what would happen if you fired a heavy weapon off the back of a light chariot - the chariot would likely go off course or flip.
Romans had the mule drawn carroballista, pretty sure there are depictions of a two wheeled version. It does not sound very mobile, with the mules. But necessity is the mother of all invention, if a fast mobile version was required, which it is not in our world, I am sure the athasians, with their flair for death and destruction, could make it work.
I’ll be honest, i was going to look up some figures and do some math to calculate if a chariot balista even made sense, but then i looked in Dragon Kings and saw that there’s a write-up for “heavy chariots”, which have 4 wheels.
That ridiculous, IMO - as those are basically wagons - but it does mean that a ballista can be mounted what’s effectively a wagon but called a “chariot”, so ballista can technically be mounted on a chariot (even if it could reasonably be called a wagon).
Therefore, I retract/ reverse my position - ballista CAN probably be mounted on chariots.
Even ballista with wheels is not what we’d consider mobile. The wheels where more about adjusting the position, as that was the only way to really “aim” ballista. You could also wheel them around on walls more easily. But basically any siege weapon would need to be carefully positioned and calibrated before use. Putting them on the back of a wagon would not accommodate that.
As for Athasians, if you want to do that, then build them on the back of a drik or mekillot!
ChatGPT-4 agrees that it is possible, but raises questions about practicability.
Yes, ballistae can be mounted on chariots, although this practice was not common historically. The ballista, an ancient missile weapon, was typically a large, stationary siege engine used for launching projectiles like stones or spears. However, the concept of mounting a ballista on a chariot is not far-fetched, especially considering the adaptability of ancient military engineering.
Mounting a ballista on a chariot would require significant modifications to both the chariot and the weapon. The chariot would need to be sturdy enough to handle the recoil and weight of the ballista, and the ballista would likely need to be scaled down in size to be mobile. This setup would allow for a mobile platform capable of delivering powerful ranged attacks, albeit with potential challenges in stability and reloading under movement.
Such a combination would have been technically feasible with the engineering skills of ancient civilizations, but the practicality and effectiveness of such a system in actual combat might have been limited compared to traditional uses of chariots and ballistae.