Such men appear pretty much as soon as their are fortifcations to be besieged and last until the advent of modern military engineering around the dawn of the 20''th'' Century. Their background varies from the rare, specialist professional - usually a mercenary or an employee of a major power (like the Marquis de Vauban) through more generalist engineers pressed into service for siege warfare (like Archimedes at Syracuse) to men who were predominately generals but had a good grasp of engineering principles (like the Duke of Malborough). Required skills would include knowledge of architecture, the construction and use of artillery (unless there was a seperate artillerist with the army), mining techniques, general ballistics and geometry, siege tactics and the construction of non-artillery siege engines. Any given engineer might only possess a subset of these - for example onesuch who remains at home designing machines to be used in some far away land is unlikely to need to understand mining or be able to lay earthworks.
In the offence the engineer will study the enemy defences design and direct the construction of the lines of circumvallation and countervallation, plan routes of attack and site breaching batteries (if appropriate) and plan operations such as cutting off the defender's water supply. He will also place the siege camps so that they are secure and suitable for a prolonged stay. If appropriate he will plan sapping and mining operations and design and construct sapping or escalading equipment. When a breach is established, the engineer will assess it for practicality prior to an assault and try to assess what suprises may be waiting beyond and when the target has fallen, he may oversee the slighting of the defences to prevent their re-use.
Defending, the engineer will design and oversee the construction of the defences - or at least modify them as best he can to optimise their effectiveness (including forming defensive innundations and building outposts) - and place defensive batteries (if available) to counter-fire against attacking artillery. Under attack he may well take a role in organising running repairs and other forms of damage control, countermining, the fortification of breaches and the construction of redoubt walls and ambush positions behind defences that are about to fail.
In the Roman army, most engineering fell under the control of the legion's praefectus castorum, although in large operations the general might select a legate known for his engineering skills to direct matters.
Game and Story Use
- Possibly an interesting role for a solo PC, especially on the defending side.
- A good role for a non-combat specialist as the combat PCs play out assaults and patrolling.
- Ironically, in the Napoleonic Period at least, the British Forces could find that a naval officer would answer tolerably in this role: unlike his army counterpart (who, unless a professional engineer simply required a lot of money) the naval officer was expected to be skilled in geometry (as part of his navigation skills) and artillery ballistics, to understand logistics and administration and to be able to oversee carpentry based construction.