Thursday, December 25, 2014

What’s a Professional Soldier?

Anyone checking deeper into the Council of Barons on Fletnern will start to see that the “standing armies” of these baronies are listed at incredibly low numbers. Forsbury is listed as having 300 and this is considered the largest standing army in the Council. So if Baron Forsbury wants to invade his neighbor, does this mean that he either travels with less than 300 guys or brings a militia? Not necessarily.

So where do the rest of his troops come from? Well, Baron Forsbury is an unusual case. He is a Cattle Baron and as such has vast herds roaming his lands. Those herds are controlled by cowboys, all of whom have been trained for battle. Now they are considered light cavalry or even raiders in a military sense. These are not knights mounted on horses! But they are some of the most skilled horsemen and not too bad with their crossbows.

For the more “normal” noblemen, here are some thoughts: Most small towns are going to have sheriffs and deputies. These are trained military men, but they are not part of the “army”. Similar comments could be made about the tax collectors, the jailors, the forest wardens, even the dog trainers and hunt master. Almost every able bodied man who is employed at the castle is likely trained at least to some degree in the ways of war. This may not be true for the cooks and butlers, but it might be.

The issue is that few lands can afford to have standing armies of great size where all the soldiers do is stand post. They have to be doing something that actively needs to be done. Now you might think we’re splitting hairs. Is the soldier standing post at the border and helping the tax collector part of the army? Not always. He might be a tax collector, a customs agent, a policeman, or any number of other jobs. When a modern army goes off to war, the border agents stay on the borders, but when one of my fantasy militaries marches, the border agents, tax collectors, and bailiffs suit up and march right along.
So what do I suggest you do? First, figure out what the army is expected to do. Are they the police as well? Do they guard the royals and the walls? Is the smith maintaining the weapons part of the army? Is he expected to fight in the field or just travel with them to maintain equipment? Why? because if you don’t know what is expected of them, then you don’t know what is expected of their leaders. If the General is in charge of only the standing forces, he may need to use politics to get the proper equipment instead of simply ordering his logistics unit to order or manufacture it. Does it matter? Yeah - Generals who worry only about training troops to fight are completely different types of leaders then if they need to manage the cooks and cobblers too.
I know - If you’re playing a game where the “fighter” becomes a lord simply because he passed some threshold of experience and his army shows up out of nowhere, you may not care about things like leadership, tactics, or logistics. You don’t care that the “lord” is a complete moron who can’t even write his own name, as long as his strength attribute modifiers grant him extra damage. But the rest of us understand that there are different types of leaders. Some can manage the day-to-day business of an army, and some cannot. Knowing how to get an army into the field and properly fed is vastly more important than whether they have super strength, but I guess that’s lost on some of the gold farmers out there.


  1. I have been crafting a few frontier towns for my setting in a far flung corner; where everything is a bit more grey when it comes to jobs and trades and professions. I have an innkeeper in one hamlet that is also the mayor and treasurer. His wife handles the town's children during the day when the market is in full swing, as well as operates the hamlet's 'bakery' for visiting caravans and travellers and workers. The Innkeeper's best customer, a former knight from a dishonoured family a few baronies over, doubles as bouncer, reeve, and sheriff. He also handles the executions and rounds up the better lads to keep the crowds calm in such circumstances. The barmaid, the Innkeeper's daughter, handles the hamlet/Inn's stores, keeping records of taxes and foodstuffs; but she also happens to be very good at welcoming diplomats travelling through, settling currency squabbles, etc.
    What I'm getting at is that by starting small, I really have gotten a better handle on the tasks and jobs in a community. This happened for one reason only; a lycanthrope attack decimated the earlier incarnation of the hamlet as a thriving trade centre along a well used highway. Two years later, the Innkeeper and his family/regulars were the entire population, so they had to figure it all out. The highway was not nearly so well-used, but folk who had fled during the attacks started to dribble back in, minus the former civil servants who deemed the place too petty and small to return to. A few years later, we have a population of 200 permanent residents, and market every morning between sun-up and noon.
    Now, if the lycanthrope menace were to return, the Mayor/Innkeeper knows to pay the visiting caravan guards to stand post, round up the cattle boys and shepherds, as well as have the women (now trained in simple crossbow use) to take their assigned positions.
    I think that this attack on the small village gave me the insight that you are hinting at; looking at an analogous post-apocalyptic village, the survivors and left behinders had to fill in the gaps, and did it well, resulting in a thriving hamlet instead of a ruined village for goblins to haunt. Human ingenuity and flexibility at it's best. There is no real word for it, but it is that thing that makes humans special beside their long-lived cousins, the demi-humans.
    Now, even the knights at the baronial mansions have many duties. Why? It's better to be important than just try to seem important.
    I think that PCs could have many adventuring opportunities come out of their everyday jobs during downtime. Thinking of the Innkeeper's hamlet, brings to mind the best customer/sheriff/reeve/executioner/bouncer and all of the circumstances that such positions provide when they either intersect or coalesce in an emergency.

  2. It may not be polite, but I’m going to plug - I (as usual) agree with you. Adventurers need to have “day jobs”, otherwise, they need to spend all their loot maintaining their room and board. But none of them ever want to do that. They want to use all their money for new gear and healing potions. If you need job ideas for your adventurers (including the skills they would need to have in order to do those jobs), take a look at 100 Professions at (Sorry, cannot do links in comments)