Tuesday, February 27, 2024

[The Domain Game] part 4: Raising Armies

This is the 1 2 3 4th part of this ongoing series, and it is time to discuss the wargamer's favorite part: how to get an army to send against your foes.

In AD&D, the subject is treated in the simplest way possible—just hire mercenaries, mostly. There are a few other options available, such as loyal followers or recruiting tribal bands, demihumans, or humanoids, but none are as generally useful as the mercenary option, and tribal bands and even demihumans are only treated cursorily. But the thing is, in history there were several options available, some used in some cultures and not others, and others that were almost universal. For this post, it's time to get out "Armies from the Ground Up", found in Dragon magazine issue 125.

The most universal method of raising an army is to put out a call to the people to send their sons out to die fight for their noble leader. In some places, this might be an explicitly guaranteed right for the nobility to call upon, while in others it might be a cultural prerogative, and in still others the noble sovereign might have to convince the people that it is in their best interest to bleed serve on the battlefield. "Armies from the Ground Up" chooses to call these the "fyrd", choosing a term used by the Anglo-Saxons before the Norman Conquest. The fyrd consists of about 30% of the population, or every male of reasonably sound body aged from 18 to 45 years old. The article provides the option to expand this fighting force by increasing the age of the fyrd by one or more years down and three or more up, so from 17-48, 16-51, and so on all the way to the maximum of every reasonably sound male from ages 13 to 60. Each unit of increase bumps up the potential size of the fyrd by 2% of the total population, so a maximum of 40%. The article makes the categories rigid, so that for every one year down the high end must be increased by three years and the total size of the fyrd increases by 2% for each such increase, but the DM might consider being more flexible and increase it by 1% for each year down and perhaps ⅓% for each year up. Or something like that, it's just an idea running through my head as I type this. The DM might also work out some factor to cover conscripting female population as well, but there should also be some kind of penalty for all of these, such as reducing the overall effectiveness of the fyrd when recruiting younger and older population, reducing the overall happiness of the population and showing that by reduced morale or loyalty numbers for the population, and so on, especially if the battle for which these citizens are being called up doesn't go well. Anyway, this is the ideal, potential size of the peasant army. In the event only a certain percentage will show up in time to march out, which "Armies from the Ground Up" figures by rolling 5d6, adding 55, modifying the number by a few factors such as tax rate, the leader's general domestic and foreign policies, and such and then using that as a percentage of the potential army. So, the base size of the army will be 72% or 73% of the potential army on average and ranging from 60% to 85%, with various modifiers bringing the final total from 45% to 100%. Keep in mind, though, that by default these are untrained peasants carrying what amount to slightly modified farming tools. It might be possible for the players to issue their peasants more dedicated weapons to use in these times, but that can get pretty expensive, especially if they are given armor.

Another sort of non-mercenary soldier discussed in the article that might be available is the militia. This is a group of people given time off from working in the fields or whatever and provided with basic military training and equipment. As before, the "Armies from the Ground Up" article provides some details on setting up a militia and the effects of calling them up for military service.

The third sort of troops that might be available in a domain are what the article we're referencing calls the yeomanry. This starts to verge on feudalism, so it might be limited to regions using that sort of organizational model. Yeomanry are relatively wealthy population who have been given special privileges such as lower taxes, the right to own and carry weapons and armor, and so on in exchange for the responsibility of providing their own weapons, armor, and training and responding to calls to arms. They also might bring along a few companions such as their sons (or daughters), apprentices, and similar members of their extended household, providing those with equipment and training as well. This is slightly risky, as it creates a portion of the population who are capable of rising against the lord if things go poorly, but they can usually be pacified by providing many nice benefits and entertainments. That's mostly up to the DM to work out based on how the players choose to approach the matter, and is one of those places where Charisma again proves that it had better not be the dump stat. It's also worth noting that citizen-soldiers of this sort are how Athens and other Greek city-states organized their armies.

There are other possibilities, not laid out in the "Armies from the Ground Up" article, such as the Roman practice of conscription, but for the most part these comprise the majority of troops that aren't mercenaries or similar professional armies. It might be worth a DM's time to work out how many population would want to join a volunteer standing army that is treated like mercenaries in terms of how much they are paid, or for simplicity just stick to the methods of hiring mercenaries that AD&D already provides. Certainly, the article from Dragon magazine issue 109, "Fighters for a Price", can expand the mercenary tables in ways that the DM will find very helpful.

Since mercenaries can also include marines, or troops accustomed to sailing and fighting on or from ships, it's also worth it for the DM to familiarize themself with the ship rules and perhaps consider using expanded rules such as the article "High Seas" and possibly its follow-up "The Oriental Sea" found in Dragon magazine issues 116 and 130, respectively. One advantage to those articles is that they include specifications for a ship's cargo capacity, something that the DMG unfortunately neglected, but which is important for both using ships for mercantile trade and determining the number of troops they can transport.

Anyway, this is as far as I planned out in advance for this series, though I hope to continue it anyway. I will try to think of subjects that need to be covered, or you can suggest things you would like some treatment of. I also want to work out a more systematized procedure for handling domain level events and so forth, but I'm still thinking about the details of that (for the most part, it would just be a formalized description of what's already in these articles). I might also discuss the implications of the entries in the Monster Manual and similar sources for settings, along with suggestions on how to vary them to more accurately reflect a particular setting. Would a post that provided an overview of some of the other articles I referenced ("In a Cavern, In a Canyon", "A Capital Idea", "The Thief Who Came in from the Cold", or whatever) be worthwhile, or is it just easier to point you to those articles (and do you need to be told where to look on the internet to find PDF copies of old Dragon magazines)? Do you want a similar summary for the Cleric, Magic-User, and Thief domain-game articles mentioned? Let me know!


  1. Nice! As for other posts, I'd love to see you cover the Cleric, Magic-User, and Thief domain-game articles.

    1. Thanks! I'll prioritize those, though I'll probably take a few days off before continuing this series.