Friday, February 23, 2018

More Thoughts on Espionage in Games

Virtually no true espionage video games or role-playing games exist. Some board games might be said to reflect actual espionage, but are so abstract that they're not relevant for my purposes. Cinematic espionage tends to involve a lot of violence, especially gunfire. This is hardly plausible. While it's true that some people are killed in the world of espionage this is usually done in the most surreptitious manner possible (umbrellas firing glass BBs containing slow-acting but fatal poisons, so the target doesn't even get sick until he's well away from the place he was poisoned and the person who poisoned him). The other way in which spies are killed is with official sanction, i.e. judiciary murder or openly shooting them because the killers are official agents of the State who have nothing to hide (in this case). Espionage is, after all, a capital crime in many jurisdictions. The sort of open combat seen in James Bond and Bourne movies could only be considered the product of a burned agent and a virtually guaranteed failed operation. Of course neither Bond nor Bourne are actually spies, they are assassins. But the confusion of these two professions has led to games like Spycraft, which are essentially action movie RPGs with espionage trappings.

Real world espionage takes many forms, but it mostly involves two aspects: intelligence and field operations. Intelligence is gathering data from a variety of methods and sources, from computer hacking to pillow talk. This data is then funneled to analysts and operations chiefs who decide what it means and what, if anything, to do with it. Field operations are sometimes conducted to gain intelligence (or protect intelligence assets) and other times to further other goals of the state, intelligence agency or other relevant party. For example, various agents of the Central Intelligence Agency distribute drugs, firearms and money by a variety of means to advance certain political and economic agendas in target nations and organizations. Though field operations will sometimes involve violence and the occasional car chase these are usually considered bungled missions. If the goal was actually to kill a lot of people espionage agents are not the choice method - mercenaries and WetWorks (essentially black ops military teams charged with illegal murders and kidnapping) are the weapon of choice. There is interplay between intelligence agencies and WetWorks, but they are not synonymous. The CIA does not have a military branch, though it may make use of military and paramilitary forces these forces are not actually part of the CIA.

A lot of intelligence work is considered boring, but this may be as much a case of their employers as the nature of intelligence work in general: modern states are bureaucracies, bureaucracies exist primarily to invent 'work' which justifies the spending of their budget - the employment of bureaucrats and the expansion of these bureaucrats' power is the overriding economic logic of the entirety of state organizations (including the military), and whatever mission objectives they put forth (even if they believe it themselves) is necessarily subordinate to the economic reality of bureaucracies. Bureaucracies that do not operate as employment scams and lobbying firms will cease to be politically competitive and will therefor cease to exist, or at least lose most of their money and power.

I suspect bureaucratic incentives and inertia is the primary reason that the NSA spends most of its time collecting huge amounts of random information, most of which is definitely useless and which exists in far too great a volume to possibly be usefully analyzed. Necessarily, most people at the NSA will be doing useless data collection and useless analysis on useless information. They will also have an incentive to invent fake utility and fake threats for this useless information and useless work, as they can not admit it is useless and thereby stop doing it - that would destroy the source of their jobs and the justification for their extraordinary power (including the personal power of many bureaucrats at the NSA, who have both extralegal means to push their agenda and the ability to influence lots of people and political actors through their ability to dispense money through jobs and contracts).

An intelligence agency that was operating under other incentives - such as actually solving mysteries and gaining useful intelligence, and not simply padding its nest and rationalizing its enormous staff - would operate in far different ways. While some of the technical aspects might be the same their targeting would be far more focused and far less wasteful, and they would likely ignore large swaths of pencil-pushing and build far fewer $80 million boondoggles to reward their friends at Boeing.

A private or non-bureaucratic intelligence agency would likely have more in common with the Pinkertons than the CIA - focused, non-arbitrary intelligence work is essentially detective work combined with organizational infiltration. The data analysts would likely be more like the people who work for Google than the people who work for the CIA - they have a set objective, a limited budget, a performance-based employment and have neither the need, nor staff, to simply photocopy the text messages of everyone in the world. Like advertisers, they want to make sure they are spying on and working over the right people.

In the adventure I am working on for GURPS the players will work for a private consortium which acts as an intelligence and security service for a variety of customers. This consortium has political-economic agendas of its own (as well as straightforward profit motives), and their customers likewise have certain ideological and economic agendas they wish to advance. But as they are fundamentally different in structure from traditional bureaucratic nation-states they differ radically in their scope and political incentives. They may try to overthrow foreign governments, but will not simply adopt regime change as a policy to rationalize spending billions in black budgets on foreign colonels, as in an intelligence bureaucracy. Instead they will first develop the objective to overthrow a certain state and then begin looking for ways to do it with the minimum possible cost and exposure. This will likely not be hiring 20,000 employees and constructing an enormous office building. The focus here is not on whether they are more or less benevolent than the KGB, but that the KGB was a state department whose continued budget and powers were the first priority to which any objective of communist revolution or finding traitors was subordinate - if no traitors existed, they would be found; and if revolution was hopeless that did not mean money could not still be spent on trying anyway.

Likewise the players can not act with the same arbitrary ruthlessness of the American and Soviet empire's intelligence agencies. They do not have the same level of integration into the ruling class and MIC elite, they do not have arbitrary police powers within the jurisdiction of their clients, etc. This is not to say that a private organization can not aspire to achieve a political hegemonic status and thereby gain such arbitrary powers and political protections (this is how most States are formed, often by barbarians) but so long as they have no actually become a political state they simply can not afford to act in such a manner even if they would like to. Without the power to tax one must actually earn a living.

A Short Rant on 'Boring' Games and Boring People

It is often alleged that realistic spy games do not exist because real-world intelligence is boring. Yet much of the banality and inanity of real-world intelligence comes from the bureaucratic nature of it (likewise, real-world military service is typically boring and often varies between extreme tedium and trivially easy work), but I often hear this in regard to any genre - anything realistic is 'boring' because people play games to 'escape real life'. I can't speak to everyone's motives, but I usually play games to become engaged in a simulacrum of an interesting situation and/or play a game whose mechanics themselves produce novel and entertaining results. The huge numbers of people who actually enjoy realistic, logically consistent games shows that such claims are essentially a projection by people whose imaginative and intellectual capacities have likely been stunted by watching too many movies. Lots of people think history, economics, political theory, ancient warfare and basically anything that isn't explosions and tits is 'boring'. I call these people morons.

Some people find may find themselves mentally exhausted and wanting to 'zone out' after work, etc. even if they are not necessarily imbeciles. That, however, is not something I have ever experienced. I usually find movies boring because they do not engage my mind and make no sense, thus becoming a pointless spectacle to which I am simply insensate. I pretty much never 'wind down', I like to be doing something all the time. I would much rather read a biography of Hannibal or play a game of Command & Colors than watch most films or television shows. Anything which does not both enrich and engage my intellectual capacities is usually boring. I simply do not possess the capacity to stop thinking about things, nor would I ever want to. This makes me very hard to entertain - I have extremely high and rather specific 'standards' when it comes to what I want, though I do read dimestore trash novels such as Star Trek or The Executioner. What they have, though, is exploration of some aspect of ideology, psychology, mythology, etc. which I find engaging and underserved in other media. I like Superman because I enjoy sun gods and hysterically unbalanced playing fields, which is why I find attempts to 'humanize' Superman tedious. Superman is not a man - he is a superman.

Now while one might opt to 'live and let live' the reality is that I have to live in a world dominated by people whose tastes and habits I find tedious and atrocious, and whose huge numbers mean that they have a large influence on the market production and the overall shape of culture. The quintessential normies who take no enjoyment (probably because they lack the comprehension, for one thing) from classical history are not constantly confronted with television shows demonstrating a highly realistic depiction of the Roman Civil War. However, almost every television show ever made is aimed at their shitty taste. Likewise, one can easily avoid playing GURPS and find hundreds of games aimed at railroading, Snowflakism, simple rules and mindless combat. But I can not post something in an RPG forum without one of these idiots giving me the 10,000th version of the same tedious 'realizm iz boring' tirade, which all of these fuckwits apparently believe I have never heard before - they're so stupid they think their throw-away responses are actually informative to someone who obviously reads and plays games, and who obviously has a taste for whatever it is I am discussing or promoting. Being dumb is one thing, but one of the most striking features of the idiot normie is that he does not realize how predictable, tedious and completely obvious everything he says will be.

This has often been my response to psychiatric hacks - the idea that someone should be 'well adjusted' to a society of superstitious tyranny and dominated by packs of half-wits is risible. Anyone who finds themselves comfortable and accepting of such an environment is basically eugenics bait, and I don't care if that includes 98% of the planet. And I can't help but notice both a specific and thematic overlap between people who are able to 'turn off' their critical filters and 'just enjoy' a movie with people who do not question the norms and beliefs of their society at large, and indeed can not help but notice that this is not something they do themselves but also seem to be offended whenever someone refuses to do so. "Don't start asking questions, you'll make me think!" For some people, ignorance is bliss.

A final note is that while I do enjoy 'realism', because reality is the only consistent and fully implemented setting ever conceived, I am just as much interested in coherence and consistency in general. I would not mind madcap, absurd premises so much if people didn't stubbornly refuse to follow through on them. What's even worse are all the people making excuses for lazy, shitty writing because 'muhPlot'. I would much rather have a plot avoided or a setting changed to fit it, than to have a plot wedged into a setting it does not make sense in. The aforementioned people seem to think viewers have some social contract to passively accept the incompetence and ignorance of writers. But plenty of writers do put effort into realizing plots and trying to make the fantastic bits fit together. Most writers don't, and that's because they're bad writers.

I'm starting to think RPG supplements should be italicized

While role-playing game titles are not italicized (being counted as traditional games), I'm pretty sure that the titles of specific supplements should be. For example, one would not italicize Dungeons & Dragons, but one would italicize D&D Player's Handbook as this is the title of a long-form book. I see this occasionally on adventures, for example Keep on the Borderlands, but not as often for role-playing supplements in general.

GURPS Near-Future Espionage

Writing over on the Design Mechanism forums about assault armor I've gotten a bug about working on a hard science fiction setting for GURPS. GURPS is absolutely the best system for hard science fiction. Really, it is the only such system, and I am aware of no other RPG publisher that uses physicists and engineers as line editors. The GURPS books have excellent discussions on the plausibility and requirements for various technological developments at different tech levels, allowing for more-or-less realistic options within each Tech Level.

What I have in mind is something around Level 5 on the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness - technology is more advanced than present, but is based entirely on plausible engineering and physics principles extrapolated primarily from currently understood science. Likewise I will be using the more rigorous of the rules for training - rather than being allocated character points, the attributes and skills of character increase through experience and training. I will be using the Tactical Shooting supplement as well.

The setting will be in our solar system in the near future, where current political and economic systems have begun to radically change. Space travel will be significantly advanced, though still extremely expensive and requiring a great deal of technical specialization. The characters will be working for a quasi-political commercial venture in near Earth orbit, and the focus will be on privatized espionage with a background of political upheaval.

My primary non-GURPS source of data will be Winchell Chung's excellent Atomic Rockets website, which contains much excellent analysis of science fiction technology.

The primary sorts of advanced technology I want to integrate are: nuclear powered spacecraft, powered armor, advanced ballistic weapons. Also in order are a realistic treatment of security and information technology, to reflect what a difference these make in such an environment. Due to the small size and Big Brother security of space stations (necessary for simple safety, aside from any concern about deliberate penetration by threats) should make the game play a lot differently than James Bond or Star Trek, where a stranger can somehow show up on a ship in the middle of space and somehow not be instantly detected and chased down by hundreds of armed men. Penetration of such facilities requires true espionage work, including intelligence analysis and specially prepared and placed operatives.

Rather than ninjas the agents will in fact work through the employees of the target agency, both with their knowledge (moles) and without their knowledge (by exploiting human psychology and stupidity, i.e. bringing a jump drive you found into work!) I aim to make the campaign realistic not only in terms of technical resources but also in terms of how organizations, espionage and political penetration actually work (hint: it rare involves highly conspicuous British men in tuxedos committing mass murder).

I'm already working on a Burning Wheel campaign, but that is nearly complete pending the organizational phase and does not require quite as much 'GM planning everything' as GURPS will. Their different style of play should allow me to manage preparing both at once, and I am not planning on running the GURPS game until after Burning Wheel.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Detail, Lethality, Realism & Heroism in RPG Combat

There is a difference between detail, lethality and realism in combat.


Detail is how much of the minutia of battle is played out in the rules. The counter-point to detail is abstraction.

D&D 3.5 has very detailed combat, with rules for shield-bashing, taking individual steps, etc. broken down into 6 second blocks. On the other hand, it is extremely unrealistic - so unrealistic, in fact, that any attempt to employ basic logic about physics, weapon employment and cause-effect relationships more generally is probably going to get you killed. Success in D&D 3.5's combat is best ensured by having a knowledge of the specific mechanics of the game, and can reasonably be compared to an MMO game where every creature and character has a host of specific, complimentary abilities that offer statistical advantages which may not be connected to any internal or external logic about just why this should be so.

Fields of Glory has very abstract rules, where minutes of time covering hundreds of men are resolved with a few dice rolls. Nonetheless the rules are fairly realistic, with feasible (but not necessarily predictable) combat results mapping well to historical combats. In Fields of Glory one can employ general tactical principles as well as the specific advantages of formation types to achieve victory, but there are severe limits to how much small-unit tactics, unit experience and so forth is calculated - they are assumed into general formulas about general distance, troop cohesion, etc. and not dealt with individually.

The Burning Wheel Fight! system has rules which are both detailed and realistic: features from the type of weapon used to the posture of the fighting-man and his proclivity to freeze up from surprise, fear or pain are all accounted for in exacting detail.

A common objection to detail is that it makes running a combat more difficult. One must keep track of more modifiers and effects. Another is that it requires a great deal of system mastery for player success. If players do not understand the mechanics and probabilities of the game they are likely to make mistakes and fail, increasing the learning curve and danger for even relatively simple combats.


 Lethality is simply how deadly combat is likely to be.

Marvel Superheroes FASERIP is a very low-lethality game. It is very difficult for someone to be killed, even by immensely more powerful characters, and characters are positively penalized for using fatal tactics. Marvel Superheroes is obviously not realistic, nor does it intend to be, but it is not without some internal logic as to how 'powers' work; much of MSH is very much abstract as well as non-lethal and non-realistic. Winning combats in MSH is most a matter of point-and-counterpoint, not unlike Pokemon or a narrative game, where the mechanics are all roughly equal in their ability to achieve abstract effects against opponents.

Rolemaster has very high lethality combat. Simple dagger fights can, due to the positive-feedback loops of certain tables, lead to everyone getting their limbs chopped off. While such gory wounds are not unheard of in combat they certainly are not a typical result of a handful of men, even men with axes trying to kill each other. Usually debilitation and defeat are reached far before this point, and even though every fighter would love to have such vorpal prowess it is in fact difficult to bisect a non-cooperating adult man in armor that way. Success in Rolemaster depends on maximizing certain statistical abilities and choosing certain weapons that will give the highest positive feedback loops against one's opponents.

Mythras has combat which is dangerous, but not to the level of Monty Python - people are not made of blood balloons, nor are they inexplicably able to survive dozens or hundreds of wounds with no ill effect. Combat will end with a fatal result in some cases, but in other cases incapacitation and surrender are likely outcomes. Success in Mythras combat depends upon equipage and tactical choices which optimize one's advantages against an opponent on both offense and defense, so that one might choose to try to pin some opponents, blind others, and impale others - depending on the physical and supernatural advantages each character has.

A common objection to lethality is that it results in the frequent destruction of characters, especially player characters, thus short-circuiting character and story development with random dagger thrusts.


Realism is where the results of combat are generally plausible to the situation: the combatants, their equipment, and their techniques of fighting.

In role-playing games realism is the least common feature. Whether deliberate (as in Wuxia-styled battles) or incidental (as in Risus, which is simply to abstract to possibly be realistic except in the most story-telling narrative driven cases) realism is the first to fall in games. In part this is simply the nature of games: reality is extremely complex, and one can not keep track of whether someone has his head turned the wrong way when an opponent swings a mace, etc. Detail does not necessarily equal realism, however. As with the D&D 3.5 example a game can have many details and sub-systems which do not work to produce more plausible outcomes.

The most realistic combat systems will tend to be the most detailed, however. Burning Wheel, Mythras and GURPS are some of the most realistic combat systems. They have very short turn lengths, rules governing how weapon types, character training, positioning, etc. effect the outcome of battles. The greatest problem with detail-realism is that it requires the players to have a good knowledge of how to fight, either from real-life historical and military knowledge or by a detailed study of the rules. They require strong player investment and system mastery. In one respect this is unrealistic: a medieval knight is likely to be far better at making tactical decisions than the pizza boy who is controlling his actions in a role-playing game. Inadequate understanding of combat realities on the part of the players (including the game master) can result in inferior performance and missed opportunities that real-world combatants (even relatively inexperienced ones) would likely be able to exploit.

A common objection to realism is that players engage in games specifically to avoid aspects of real life, and/or to simulate highly unrealistic fictions such as . This latter point leads into the question of heroism in games.


Heroism is a concept of characters performing acts of atypical prowess, which might be foolish or fatal in the real world. One frequent objection to detail, lethality and realism is that they make these acts of puissance difficult to pull off. However, let's consider a few possibilities:

Detail and heroism are not necessarily antithetical. A detailed heroic character simply needs to have his heroic prowess reflected in a more detailed way. In BECMI Dungeons & Dragons a heroic elf needs merely to be of a high level to succeed at defeating large numbers of opponents, causing world-shaking magics, and so forth. The 'level' is an abstraction of a character's heroic attributes, essentially the higher level the character the more heroic he is. However in GURPS a heroic character is entirely possible - he needs a large number of character attributes to grant him steely calm in combat, exceptionally high survivability, incredible mental prowess and so forth. But the result will be a character who is no less heroic than the 15th level BECMI elf. What will be different are the specific effects of his heroic attributes, however. Because each aspect of the physical, intellectual and spiritual aspects of a character are actually mapped and detailed in the rules there is no generic measure of 'heroicness' as in BECMI. If one wants to make a character who can be incredibly lethal in melee but not simply have superhuman strength and speed one is obliged to engage in even more detailed character building, to give specific sub-effects of strength, speed, etc. If one does not engage in such subdividing of an already complex attribute system one will end up with an Elf that is essentially Spider-Man, and the interrelated nature of GURPS will also make this character incredibly good at all sorts of other things which the BECMI elf may not excel at.

Heroism and lethality can also be found together, but it generally requires one of two options: an uneven playing field, or (as above) superhuman details. An uneven playing field is something like Scarlet Heroes or Barbarians of Lemuria: the rules specifically favor the player characters (and perhaps other special characters), with most enemies being 'mooks' who are easier to kill and less capable than player characters regardless. The superhuman details need not be detailed per se, it simply indicates that the relevant characteristics of PCs are well above the baseline of the world.

Finally, realism and heroism are entirely compatible but they require the details of heroism. On a more historical level a heroic character is one whose attributes, skills and gear are at the peak of human capacities, allowing him to engage in dangerous combats, death-defying stunts and the like that few humans could pull off. The character is still essentially a member of homo-sapiens but due to his fantastic plate armor, iron thews and lifetime of harsh training he has developed the ability to scythe through lesser combatants. Conan is a prime example of this approach: he is still a mortal man, he even feels the debilitating effects of age, but is so strong, fast, and skilled that even the elite noble warriors find him hard to match.

Beyond this is the superheroic realism: a character possesses physical and mental talents that defy the plausible bounds of ordinary human beings. 'Realism' in this sense is preserved as in hard science fiction, new boundaries and capacities are assumed and then extrapolated logically. What would happen if someone were actually as strong as Beowulf, able to rend chain armor with his bare hands?

What is most difficult to reconcile is heroic realism and low-lethality. Realistically, a blow that can reliably knock a man unconscious can also give him a fatal concussion. Realistically, a taser can kill someone, and the superhuman lighting-blasts of magic and heroics should at the very least fry some flesh off. Someone strong enough to break steel chains can shatter skulls like watermelons. Games such as GURPS have optional rules to neuter some of these effects of realism, but at the sacrifice of realism in the process.

Personally I tend to favor realism, even in the heroic conditions. I also like the details of combat and tactics, so I tend to favor detail. Not surprisingly Burning Wheel, Mythras and GURPS are among my favorite games as they are designed with real-world assumptions in mind; even when the characters are supermen they are still in an environment where normal physics, biology and economics play a role. In fact I prefer this especially for the heroic and superheroic character as it allows him to draw out all the facets of such superhuman attributes not only in combat but in the broader world as well. In D&D that superhuman 15th level elf is still going to be walking at a 40' a round, when (given his possession of the speed, strength and coordination necessary to kill a dozen men with ease in a minute or less) he ought to be quite a bit faster than that. The very lack of detail gives a sense of disconnection and arbitrariness which impedes my ability to conceptualize what is even supposed to be happening in that combat round.

The more heroic the character the more extreme and farcical the disconnection becomes. I also tend to favor the gritty and detailed because it gives me options to play out different ideas, in D&D all of the fluff-text about ancient empires, elven lords and the like is starkly disconnected from the mechanical realities of the character or else entirely dependent on narrative 'winging' which tends to produce arbitrary results. I'd much rather have such elements be part of the game instead of relying entirely on subjectivity and imagination.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Inkle's Sorcery! is a Great Game

To test out my new ASUS ZenPad Z8 I went ahead and got Inkle's Sorcery!, the first in a series of four games based on the other Steve Jackson's gamebooks of the same name. I have never played the original books, but I am familiar with the world of Titan in which both this and the Fighting Fantasy series take place. So far it has been a lot of fun - so much, in fact, that I went ahead and installed it on my other tablet and phone.

I know the original gamebooks had an adjuct spell list that players were supposed to memorize (rather than refer to), but in the video game version players have the option of casting a small number of spells when appropriate. Some require special items to cast, while others do not - all, however, cost Stamina (the hit points of this game) but they can really make a lot of situations go more smoothly and give you story options you'd miss otherwise.

There are a plethora of options and variants in most of this game's scenarios that really put shame to many so-called 'role-playing games' that come out. While the mission and situations exist from the get-go, there are plenty of knock-on consequences, from making friends with the assassin in the woods to buying a cloth cap to get yourself telepathy.

The game runs quite well on my bargain-bin Chinese cellphone, so system requirements are minimal. The interface is well tooled to be usable even on a small device.

If you're a fan of gamebooks or adventure games I recommend checking out Inkle's Sorcery!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Pointlessness of Open Forums for a Contrarian

Generally speaking I won't write anything unless I know most people are likely to disagree with it. I don't see the fucking point of writing something that everyone already knows. At the same time, I couldn't give a shit about most other people's opinions. If it is a popular opinion I am already literate enough to be familiar with it. If it is a contrarian opinion I have deliberately sought it out. The few people whose opinions I might value on a subject I probably already know, because I am familiar with their work.

Likewise, for the same reason I don't accept Facebook requests, I have opted to remove myself from all Google+ communities. I have no interest in seeing the endless flood of trivial shit people post. The stuff I want to read I am already looking for, and am likely to find it no matter where it is (or isn't) posted. And the possibility of missing some brilliant insight is well worth it to avoid the endless stream of literary offal and 46 IQ 'ideas' and D&D palette swaps that dominate every single open forum I have ever encountered.

Of course this means I wont get as much 'exposure' for my blog posts, but I don't really care if anyone reads this. I write to clarify my own ideas or to communicate specific concepts with specific people. I am not interested in much else than putting my ideas out for the sake of putting them out.
Ich singe, wie der Vogel singt
Der in den Zweigen wohnet.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Magic, Economics and Warfare

Every game has its own magic system. Every game world has its own rules on how common magic is. Yet despite this magic tends to be pretty common - most authors just can't help themselves. They will use magic incessantly, even if they pretend to themselves that it is rare it will show up every 30 pages. If you want your world to be 'low magic' then you need to actually not use magic, and most DMs/writers, etc. won't leave it alone. So, by default, magic is at least as common as an engineering degree and takes about the same level of aptitude and resources. In games where magic comes from deities it will be uber-common: priests abound.

Magic has interesting implications for warfare. First of all there is the artillery/sniper effect. Magic Missile never misses anything within line of sight. Your Barbarian Warlord can be assassinated from over a mile away by a gaggle of apprentice wizards. A phalanx formation will be busted right down the center by a fireball, and once its ranks are broken a phalanx is FAR weaker. You don't have to kill many of them at all, just punch a hole in them and the rest of the formation dissolves. Also magic cannot be compared even to cannons or artillery: it is much more mobile and much more accurate. Most fantasy magic is more accurate, predictable and repeatable than modern day howitzers. Mass formations may be suicidal.

Perhaps more interesting is the effect magic could have on logistics. Create Food & Water, various spells which heal minor injuries, improve stamina, and increase mobility. Spells which create light, darkness and allow darkvision would vastly improve the night-fighting capabilities both on the offense and defense. This has huge implications for the speed with which an army can move and the size of army which is sustainable. Again, you can pretend 'magic is rare' but I am calling bullshit. Most RPG modules/settings will have every single acolyte capable of casting 1st level spells. Given the proportion of priests (and that all of them are crusader warriors in D&D and many similar settings) means that any reasonably sized nation can call upon thousands of spell-casting armored dudes, and even if they can only cast first level spells this has huge effects on the ability of the army to move, provision, and recover after a battle. Armies would be much faster than their ancient or medieval equivalents, could be much larger, and could fight harder and more often. In fact they would be even faster than non-mechanized modern forces, because they are smaller and have the ability to call upon these resources at-will (instead of having to engage in months of pre-planning and allocating precious billions to any given operation). Armies with typical fantasy spell access will not only be faster and more maneuverable, they will overall be far more versatile.

A second-order effect is economics. Low-level priests and druids can increase crop yields, purify food and water, heal wounds, mend wagons/weapons/boots with a few seconds of work, every day, day after day. This means armies can again be larger, recover faster, take fewer casualties, and have better equipment. In some ways, due to the 'at-will' nature of these spells, this will be even better than modern armies. Doctors can not instantly repair broken bones. Engineers can not instantly repair wagons without materials. Wizards and priests can.

Magic and weapons can also be magically enhanced, making them more powerful, more effective against armor, and able to produce strange effects. Here again people often try to pretend that magic items are 'rare', but since any moron stumbling around most fantasy worlds will accumulate about one a month I call bullshit. Again, if you want stuff to be 'rare' make it rare. Otherwise you're just making excuses for your inconsistencies. Most DMs/writers won't, and so they're just lying when they say magic is rare/difficult/poorly understood. It's not. Magic is actually more reliable than technology in the vast majority of fantasy settings.

A third-order knock-on effect is that the overall population growth will be higher due to lower fatalities and higher yields of crops. And since most adventurers do half of what they do for money I don't believe that you wouldn't have priesthoods training people for full-time crop enhancement. Real priests are at least as venal, and some of the most prosperous farms and craftsmen were in or around abbeys, whether in the Babylonian, Incan or Holy Roman empires. Now just imagine if priests could actually use spells and weren't just charlatans. The implications are staggering.

A fantasy medieval world would simply not be a medieval world. The implications of priests with real magic powers instead of just lies would make them devastatingly powerful, far more powerful than they were in real-world theocracies. The ability for anyone with training and a 90 IQ to learn basic spells would make it so profitable to use sorcery that the market would be flooded with would-be wizards, and this would in turn more wizards who could train more wizards. 'Wizards don't like to trade spells with each other' is a trope to make it so Magic-Users don't learn every spell in the game, but it's unlikely to be true in the real world because people like money, power, and prestige. All the guilds, restrictions and cliques in the real world didn't prevent people from learning crafts for which there was a high demand, and entire cities/nations would spring up to out-compete any society which did manage to impose such strictures. Such restrictionist societies would then be destroyed by those which weren't such niggardly, hidebound control-freaks because they would have superior economics, warfare, etc. and would be able to overwhelm whatever 'magician's guild' tried to pull it off.