Random rambling regarding “Force Multipliers”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the “Force Multiplier” lately. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s pretty simple. If you have a force of 10 men with bolt action rifles, issuing them each semi-automatic rifles will multiply their firepower significantly. Thus, when compared to a bolt-action rifle, a semi-automatic rifle can be considered a force multiplier.

I believe the term has its origins in military strategy. Its most significant historical MISUSE, to my knowledge, was when the germans introduced the machine gun to the field of operations in WWI. and some German strategists believed the war would be over in DAYS. According to my source (my Dad, now beyond questioning matters mortal), these Germans blithely assumed that every bullet fired from a machine gun would be as effective as each bullet fired from a bolt-action rifle. They’d never seen “spray and pray.”

Anyway, force multipliers… I’ve been watching the final season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the first time (do NOT post spoilers in here. I’ll delete your post and then ban you. Clear?) and it has AGAIN occurred to me that the Scooby Gang and their allies need force multipliers. Swords are better than stakes, and crossbows are better than swords, but what they REALLY need is a semi-automatic shotgun that fires hardwood-jacketed slugs. A paintball gun with pellets full of garlic/holywater slurry would be less effective, but it would keep the Vamps far enough back for safety, and it would be less likely to kill your friends. Of course firearms are anathema in the Buffyverse — we ONLY see them as instruments of evil — so their non-inclusion is not a matter of Joss Whedon not thinking of them. He just put a rule in front of his writers saying “No guns. Period.”

Then again, in the Angel universe (again, no spoilers. We watch these for the first time when the DVDs come out) you’ve got Gunn and his gang, who, as I recall, DID use force multipliers. They’re not stupid. They’ve got no slayer backing them up, so they tooled up for the job, and then got the job done.

Force multipliers appear in other contexts. Keenspot, for instance, is a force-multiplier for webcartoonists. The cross-promotion it provides ensures that even comics that really, really SUCK will have a reasonably large audience — or, at the very least, they’ll get exposed to a much larger number of people than they would if they depended on word-of-mouth. The “force” of “people looking at a web page” is multiplied by the links of the newsbox and the dropdowns. By comparison, Modern Tales lacks this force-multiplier, and compensates by charging much more money for content. The subscription model can be viewed as a massive force-multiplier if your only source of revenue has been ad banners, but, like the WWI machine gun, you can’t compare apples and oranges when you do the math.

When I look at the cartooning work I do, ownership of the intellectual property I create (Schlock Mercenary) is a force-multiplier. The custom commercial work I’m doing currently pays quite a bit better, but I only get paid ONCE. The Schlock I’ve already drawn will continue to generate revenue for me long after I’ve drawn it.

On that note, work progesses on Schlock Mercenary Book I. I’m not stupid enough to think that every Schlock reader is going to buy the book (“I’m RICH!”), but even if only 1% of them do I’ll be ahead of the game. I’ll say more when my publisher says I can say more, and believe you me I’ll be saying it until YOU are blue in the face, but until then you’ll just have to wait.

I’m interested to see in what other contexts (especially academic/scientific) the term “force multiplier” appears. “What’s that you say? Google is my friend? *sigh* That’s no fun.”


42 thoughts on “Random rambling regarding “Force Multipliers””

  1. I’ve heard ‘force multipliers’ used a couple of times, and it nearly always refers back to Colin Powell talking about how the military is always looking for them, to maximize their effectiveness with existing resources. I think I also saw something where he called education a force multiplier once, but don’t hold me to that- I couldn’t give you the source if I tried.

    1. Oh, yeah. Education is a force-multiplier. I’ve heard that too. Smart troops are more effective. Good intelligence is a force-multiplier. Terrain that you are equipped for and the enemy is not can be a force-multiplier for you (woodland when you’ve got woodland camo and your enemy does not, to cite one example).

      Artillery is a HUGE force-multiplier. So are armored vehicles. Trenches and foxholes are a force-multiplier. ALL these things make your infantry and other personnel more effective in combat.

      Modern medicine is NOT a force-multiplier, or is at best a neutral element. Soldiers who would have died on the battlefield 30 years ago are now tended to immediately. Wounded soldiers are a drain on the rest of the fighting force, since somebody has to drag them to cover and evacuate them. Still, the knowledge that if you get shot, you’ll stand a good chance of living, is a morale booster, and good morale is (you guessed it) a force-multiplier.

      The more I use the term, the more watered down and meaningless it seems. It’s like “leverage” when used as a verb by marketing execs. “We need to leverage our [NOUN] to maximize [ANOTHER NOUN].”

      1. Strictly speaking, artillery and armor are not force multipliers; they’re the force (along with the infantry, though on a modern battlefield the infantry is mostly just applique armor for the guns and the tanks). Engineers and medical support are force multipliers, as are recon assets, intel, logistical support, maintainance, commo, and so on and so forth. All of these help the combat units get where they are going, make them more effective when they get there, and keep them in battle longer.

        Consider it this way. A medic won’t return you to *this* fight, but they can get you into the next one; and if a mechanic can’t get repair your APC while you wait, it’ll be there for the next battle. For a large formation commander in an ongoing campaign, that’s important.

        Btw; the Germans did not think a machine gun bullet was as good as a rifle bullet; they thought it was better. They were quite correct, too. A machine gun will automatically concentrate fire in a way that no unit of riflemen ever could; so against an advancing unit in formation (WW I attacks were technically in skirmish order), the machine gunners will kill a lot more men per thousand bullets than the riflemen will.

        The catch, of course, is that infantry spend very little of their time defending against deliberate assaults; and until the Germans invented the machine pistol, there were no automatic weapons really suitable for the attack (though everybody tried really hard). This imbalance tended to bog things down.

      2. woodland when you’ve got woodland camo and your enemy does not

        Heh, reminds me of a woodland camo tshirt that says “oh crap, it’s snowing”.

  2. There are drawbacks to force multipliers as well; as an example, a modern aircraft carrier strike force is a tremendous investment, a fantastic amount of manpower and material, all there to support eighteen strike pilots.


    That is a highly centralized, vulnerable force, when you think about it. The multiplier is enormous, but a bad batch of paella at a harbour stop can take out one third of the whole carrier strike force capability just like that. A dedicated assassin or small force can cause immense damage.

    That said, I’ll buy your book. Can I prepay right now? You take Paypal?

    1. Your Numbers are a Touch Low…

      I’m no swabbie, but I think your average Carrier Air Wing is roughly 40 fighter/strike or strike/fighter aircraft. This dosen’t incluse the AWACS, tanker, SAR or EW aircraft onboard that are a vital of aerial operations – you’re talking closer to 60 aircraft.

      Still an expensive basket, mind, but not as bad as all that.

      1. Re: Your Numbers are a Touch Low…

        as well, the carrier can be used to coordinate other task forces (such as landings/special forces/other naval and air units), plus the escorting ships and submarines can also launch attacks independently.

        If the concept of “naval airfield” didn’t exist, the carrier would still have a place as a command and control ship.

      2. Re: Your Numbers are a Touch Low…

        I got the number from a member of the mediterranean strike force; one of the eighteen, to be specific, getting intoxicated in a local bar. But yes, that isn’t necessarily fully reliable. But either way, my point is that the multiplier itself is sometimes fragile, or the force being multiplied (in this case the pilots).

        That was also part of the USSR Spetznaz operations planned in case they were to invade Sweden. In preparation they would assassinate Swedish fighter pilots (considered some of the best in the world) in their homes, never allowing them to get in their airplanes, where they would be much harder targets – and capable of causing a lot of damage.

        This development would make it much more likely that more cross training would occur in a military with a force that is vulnerable in this way; just like is happening now with US troops being sent to Iraq. Even clerks get a very comprehensive boot camp.

        1. Re: Your Numbers are a Touch Low…

          This thread is days old, but the correct number of carrier aircraft capable of delivering useful amounts of ordinance is probably more like forty. F-14`s, F/A-18`s, and S-3 Vikings can all carry large guided munitions.

          Since most carrier air wings have at least two squadrons each of 14`s and 18`s, ( or one large squadron of 18 or so) and one of S-3`s, this should give you the “about forty” number for a max effort sortie.

          This leaves the carrier with little CAP self protection though.

          Re: Swedes comment on Spetznaz: very nasty those Spetznaz teams, but almost as spendy as training a pilot in terms of resources.

          Cross training at the military pilot level would be impractical. It takes the better part of three years to make a fighter pilot. Most of whom are military academy grads, tack on four more years.

          It takes at most, two years to train a competent aircraft service technician of whatever variety.

          We sailors used to ( politely & within our own unit) tease pilots and say it takes a college degree to break an aircraft, and a high school education to fix them:)

          1. Re: Your Numbers are a Touch Low…

            Yes, the Spetznaz are costly, but in terms of overall effect on the whole fighting force capability, well worth it. In the example specified, even if the Spetznaz get killed taking the pilot out, they have eliminated a strike aircraft which can inflict a lot of damage.

            And while extensive cross training would be impractical, I suspect we will see a lot more of “going over basics” across the lines. Things like a basic three week course to learn how to recognize and deal with assassination or terrorist threats – and of course, a lot of resistance about having to “crawl in the mud” and things like that from those supposed to be taking these courses.

            But of course, that would not by far be enough to take on a Spetznaz eye to eye – but it may be enough to counter the tactical approach of a guerilla soldier, or even change the target’s habits enough to make assassination much more costly and difficult even for a well trained opponent.

  3. Programming languages are force multipliers.

    Imagine writing a database in machine code.

    Now imagine doing the same thing in assembler.

    Now imagine doing the same thing in C.

    Now imagine doing the same thing in C++.

    Now imagine doing the same thing in SQL.


  4. Computers are a force multiplier in engineering. I, with a pencil and paper, can design a bolt. I, with a computer, can design the bolt, the nut, the flange, and the static structure they attach to, and model them mathematically in a manner which allows testing without the necessity of prototyping.

  5. ****what they REALLY need is a semi-automatic shotgun that fires hardwood-jacketed slugs. A paintball gun with pellets full of garlic/holywater slurry would be less effective, but it would keep the Vamps far enough back for safety, and it would be less likely to kill your friends.****

    You can see such nifty items in “Underworld” and “Van Helsing”.

    Fun stuff!

    1. Supersoaker waterguns with holy water are also a possibility. ^_^ Not as long-range, but still effective. A decent plastic water pistol full of holy water would work better than a bottle too.

    2. From My “Bureau 13” Days

      I always figured the best weapon to have would be a fully automatic shotgun loaded with 1) wooden flechettes, 2) silver buckshot in holy water and 3) white phosphorus in napalm sauce. Load the magazine 1,2,3,1,2,3,etc. This is what the Frog Brothers would have when (if) they grew up.

      I got one! I got the one that looks like Twisted Sister!

      1. Re: From My “Bureau 13” Days

        One thing I read once that scored big points, at least in the style factor, was in one of Jim Butcher’s novels. This guy had a duffel bag full of shotguns loaded with incendiary rounds – basically shooting a huge jet of flame when he fired it. Of course, this ruined the shotgun – that’s why he has more in the duffel.

        He went buck wild on a small army of vampires with that setup.

        1. Re: Force Multipliers vs Vampires

          I’ve seen Van Helsing and Underworld. The Supersoaker got used in Bordello of Blood (which I’m embarrassed to admit having seen). The Blade movies also featured good anti-vampire arsenals.

          The difference between these and the Buffy series lies in their research into force multipliers as a plot-point. The Scooby Gang stopped innovating on anti-vamp weaponry in season one. They pretty much just use the stuff the Watchers have always had the Slayer use.

          In order to kill a Buffy vampire you need to either:
          A) Sever the head
          B) Expose it to sunlight until it burns up
          C) Drive a wooden stake through its heart

          If you were to shoot these vamps with exploding rounds from a shotgun, they’d heal EVENTUALLY, but once the vamp is down in a pool of its own gore, you can pretty much pick the heart up in your hand and punch a stake through it.

          You don’t even need exploding rounds. Just use buckshot in an 8-round banana clip. If it’s possible to stun a vampire with a karate-kick to the head, three rounds of .00 buck from 20 feet away ought to stun it pretty good, too.

          If the Slayer can catch arrows and throw stakes accurately, she ought to be Queen Lethal with a shotgun and a couple of side-arms. But, as I mentioned before (I think), Joss Whedon didn’t WANT guns in Buffy. *sigh*. All those dead 20th-century slayers… it’s the fault of the Narrative.


          1. Re: Force Multipliers vs Vampires

            Ever seen Joss Whedon’s “Firefly?” series? That was good sci-fi, and guns were very much a part of it. 🙂 I suspect you’d like it, Howard.


          2. if you want to see buffy with guns

            there’s a british 6 episode series called “ultraviolet”, where the british have a special unit dedicated to taking down the supranatural with modern weapons – carbon impregnated grenades, modified bullets, that sort of thing.

          3. Re: Force Multipliers vs Vampires

            Y’know, there is a Chinese (or possibly Japanese, I’m not 100% certain) weapon called a chu-no-ku. It’s a rapid-fire repeating crossbow with a box magazine. That seems to me it’d be a lot simpler solution than trying to make hardwood-jacketed rounds.

            Another thing that might work well at typical vampire-slaying range would be to load your own shotgun shells with a single .78″ ironwood ball in each shell, but the chu-no-ku solves the problem quite nicely without violating the no-guns prohibition. Five or six people with a pair of chu-no-ku each could put almost a hundred wood-shafted crossbow bolts downrange in under thirty seconds.

          4. Re: Force Multipliers vs Vampires

            It’s a Chinese weapon with an overhand lever action. Darts are put in a slot on top, the lever is drawn back (along with the top of the bow mechanism and the string), and when the lever is fully back it automatically fires a dart. You then push the lever forward again, and repeat. No real accuracy worth mentioning; but it could fire a dart every second or two.

            I hear tell that a unit of Chinese irregulars with these bows once beat a Japanese force (during their last war) by shooting lots of darts over an intervening rise in the ground. The Japanese, unable to shoot back owing to a lack of mortars, beat feet.

          5. Re: Force Multipliers vs Vampires

            If the Slayer can catch arrows and throw stakes accurately, she ought to be Queen Lethal with a shotgun and a couple of side-arms. But, as I mentioned before (I think), Joss Whedon didn’t WANT guns in Buffy. *sigh*. All those dead 20th-century slayers… it’s the fault of the Narrative.

            Buffy was about growing up and dealing with life while being the Slayer. It wasn’t about loading up on teh gunz0rz and going Rambo on the vamps. That’s the same reason the vampires weren’t all raiding museums and wearing armored breastplates.

  6. I love how your mind works. I’m going to share this with a few Buffyverse fandom friends of mine. Not to mention, hoard these nifty ideas for my own RPG because right now, characters are gearing up to a night of slaughter with all kinds of nasty baddies coming out of the woodwork. ^_^

    On that note, work progesses on Schlock Mercenary Book

    YATTA! I’m so glad it’s happening. I’m buying them. Not for me, since I can read the archives online, but my father would really get a kick out of your strip. He hates computers though so trying to get him hooked on it via online isn’t going to happen in my lifetime. But maybe if I got him into it through a book first… ^_^

  7. Indeed, I believe I encountered Schlock Mercenary because I saw the icon on my Keenspot page and was curious. Nor is yours the only one that’s true of. A few I started reading after seeing the animated ad block.

  8. If Luke and Leia had gotten together, would they be force multipliers?

    Force multipliers are nice, but force exponent-izers and force logarithm-ators can sure steal their fun.

    1. Well, since the ability to use The Force is clearly a heritable trait, you’d THINK Luke and Leia could have a baby Uberjedi. This is assuming that it behaves like a genetic trait.

      It MIGHT be that the midichlorians (oh, how I HATE them) are a mitochondrial infection, and are only passed on through the female. But wait… Anakin to Luke… Maybe they exist in both the Y chromosome and the mitochondria… and maybe if twins have sex, there’s a midichlorian overload when a Y-chromosome is used to fertilize an egg with midichlorian mitochondria, and the baby ends up with no Force, or six fingers, or is born in West Virginia.


      1. it’s bad when the family tree don’t branch but…

        I’ll point out that this is a perfectly good strategy when breeding. “Line breeding” (eg father-daughter) is good for setting traits in your lines. The only problems with it is that 1)you have to be willing to cull any puppy that isn’t absolutely perfect and 2)you have to be more honest about the bad traits in your sire and bitch than most of us can be. MY Moose (the world’s greatest male rottweiler) is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT…’course, that’s why we don’t line breed and settle for finding complimentary, though unrelated, stock to further our breeding program.

        On the main point of force multipliers: I’d actually only heard the term in mechanical conversation…eg pliars and levers are force multipliers. Guess I live in the wrong universe.

  9. I think that Joss wanted to make a point about the human spirit with the Buffyverse, hence technological solutions and clever gimmickry would have invalidated the “only the slayer gets to kill vampires” rule, or something…

    having said that, [and this isn’t a spoiler for final season buffy] she did use a LAWS rocket to take out a demon supposidly invunrable to mortal weapons. Guess it’s warentee on that expired sometime around the invention of gunpowder.

    Jim Butcher is pretty good with the gadgets, I mean, holy water balloons! Not to mention the nifty paintball gun. And the ultimate anti-vampire force multiplier has to be the UV light bomb from Blade2 !

    Mind you, when you’re talking about intellectual force multipliers, what about the internet ?! We can do things with this box of tricks, that couldn’t be dreamed of a few decades ago. Both in terms of educating ourselves and distributing our own stuff.

  10. I recall similar concepts being used in an episode of Highlander once (I don’t think this is a spoiler, I don’t even remember how the episode ended, just the premise for it). But in any case, Duncan encountered another immortal who developed a following of mortal worshippers and used them as a gang to “kill” other immortals, so he could then go in for the kill while his opponent was still recovering.

  11. Innocence

    Way back in season one Buffy did use a rocket launcher to defeat The Judge. The guy against whom “no weapon forged” would work, to which Buffy declared “That was then. This is now.” before firing an anti-tank weapon in shopping mall…

    That seems to be force multiplication of some form 🙂

  12. The most overused term since “New and Improved!”

    While just about anything nowadays is called a force multiplier, few things really hit the mark. Some examples that do:

    Precision Weapons – To take out a WWII bridge, you’d throw a bomber sqdn at it (rough estimate: couple of dozen planes, about 200 men, thousands of pounds of fuel and 100 ton of bombs) Now – one man, one F-16, one weapon and the chance of taking it down is almost certain.

    Aerial Refueling – Don’t base bombers in England, Italy, Saipan and Australia: just one set of B-2’s in Missouri and the worlds your target range!

    Computers – This goes w/o saying except the big advances no one thinks about occur in fields like logistics (remember, amateurs talk of strategy while experts talk of logistics). Before you had to have a lot more of everything to mitigate the problem of bad supply, along with all of the people to manage it. Now there’s less stuff and fewer people, which reduces your “footprint” on the ground. You’ll see something like this when the Army goes hybrid vehicles. Double the mileage means half the trucks, drivers, escorts, etc – all with no loss of ability.

  13. Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter

    Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter” has the main character’s coming up with many interesting ways to kill vamps.

    Including flame-throwers. 🙂

    (Start with the first book, bail when the sex starts to bug you.)

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