Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Army sizes: misconceptions

Date: Thu, 11 Nov 99 23:42PM PST
From: ShawnK Add To Address Book Add To Junk Mail To: GREYTALK@MITVMA.MIT.EDU
Subject: [GREYTALK] Army sizes: misconceptions

I got some old world knowledge (history and economics degrees) kicking around so Ill give this one a measely kick start:

If you are referring to Greyhawk Armies you should check out the old Gazeteers for the WoGH that came out back in 1980 or get a hold of someone who has the more recent Greyhawk Gazateers or World Boxed sets. I assume you are talking of the pre-Greyhawk wars era no? The old boxed and Gazateer sets had the number of standing peace-time armies.
If you tell me the population or nation I or another hundred people can tell you what the nation had before the Greyhawk wars began...

Im in agreement with the other posters. Prior to the era of conscription most armies were small compared to modern (1890-1990s) armies. Conscription greatly enlarged the size of armies.

Variable factors contributing to Army size:

1) population base
2) economic condition (financial position)
3) resource surplus and availability
4) intangibles (ie culture etc..)

ie A small nation may be able to host a very large army if they are very well off economically or in terms of resources and infrastructure.
ie A large poor nation may not be able to equip an army proportionate to its population.

The beginning of the 1980 Gazateer states:
"Multiply population by 20% to determine the number of males fit to bear arms, multiply by 10% to get the number of males in prime condition and suitable for man-at-arms status."

This ratio is probably not far off for MA European nations which much of Greyhawk is based on.
Number of men fit to bear arms will be higher in areas with less urban population, keep this in mind. Rural and nomadic life styles will on average produce a higher proportion of fit males than heavily urban areas (like Greyhawk city) where the average male will be less active in his job
(on average).

For example a fairly well off County of Urnst has a pre-Greyhawk war population of 200,000+. The Gazateer states that she holds an army of some 2000 horse and foot garrisons. It further states that noble levies can raise ten times that number of troops in a week or two 20,000. This is pretty fast mobilization of noble levied troops being part of the feudal system. This 20,000 equates nicely with the 10% ratio. A large and prosperous County of Urnst also has the infrastructure in terms of roads and economy to support such an army.

Remember when redoing your history that army size often does not equate to who wins or even who will end up holding greater territorial control or advantage. This is true in our world and even more true in the case of fantasy realms...

Take into account:

1) roads and infrastructure (smaller armies can make up for much with excellent roads and infrastructure, messages and commands can be sent much faster and armies can coordinate faster with relay points along roads, ie Pony Express style, and the Mongols were excellent at this long before the
Pony Express.
2) mobility of armies (able to move to intercept and retreat and re-attack)
3) equipment and training

4) rock paper scissor military theory (regular infantry kills levied troops, cavalry kills infantry, knights kill cavalry, horse archers kill knights, knights kill foot archers, dragons kill everyone except local
heros, mages kill local heros etc.)

Some of you will be surprised that I say horse archers kill knights. Well I would say in the real world long bows kill knights as well. (English long bows vs french armor example....)

Horse Archer example:
Horse archers in history are one of the most versatile and effective fighting units (in addition to being underestimated). Most recent military theorists would agree once cultural biases are elimenated.

When a Mongol expeditionary force of approximately 6000 rode into Poland (approx 1100AD) the state of European nations was very feudal with much internal squabbling. Still within a few months an army of some approximate 12,000 troops comprising of mostly feudal armies from German Baronies and a full contingent of knight Templars from France came to meet the Mongol force (good mobilization due to roads and etc through Europe). This force of knights Templars and German knights was destroyed utterly by the mongols.

The mongols had victory in every temperate climate culture they came across.
Coming from the west most of us love our Knights in shining armor but the English longbow made it obsolete and the Mongols with their guerilla attacks crushed such cumbersome knights every time. The best Templars went to face the Mongols in Hungary as well and were utterly crushed.

Ancient Kiev (Ukraine) fell within a week of seige.

Contrary to public perception the Mongols in almost every battle were outnumbered. We like to think of them as these huge hoards but the Muslim, Chinese and European armies they met were much larger in numbers and much slower....

Remember the factors...

In such case I would say light elven armies would be much more effective than normally thought. The armies of the nations around the Vesve and other elven areas would give any humanoid chaos army a good run for the money.

The Sultanate of Zeif and the Tiger and Wolf nomads would also thus be more effective than originally thought out in the Greyhawk Wars despite their smaller numbers.

I will continue this post on the morrow must rest to regain lost history spells...

Supreme Court Judge
Snicker Snack DND Outhouse
County of Idee

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