Mercenaries and Conscriptions

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Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Mercenaries and Conscriptions

A recent forum post complained about the cost of conscripts vis a vis mercenaries and noted that mercs seemed superior. Not much longer thereafter, my own playtest campaign encountered the choice of mercenaries versus conscripts, and universally chose mercenaries. This suggests that whatever I think the rules are doing, in actual play, mercenaries seem to be superior.

Reviewing the rules, I've found two areas I'm contemplating changing.
1. Reduce cost of recruiting conscripts: At present, the equipment cost of conscripts is too high. This is because all conscripts are assumed to be equipped with a "standard kit" which includes some very expensive items, such as military tunics and tents, for 45gp. For light infantry, that almost doubles their cost! It seems hard to argue historically that ever peltast and velite had a nice uniform and a tent. I'm going to remove the standard kit from conscripts. (Or change it, etc.)

2. Increase wages of mercenaries when recruited en masse: At present, mercenaries can be recruited in unlimited numbers with at most a 50% increase in cost. Strangely, the cost increase kicks in half-way through one crop, which is quite inconvenient for book-keeping. The new rule will be: "If a realm’s entire crop of mercenaries of a particular type is hired, wages for that type of mercenaries will increase during the next crop. The new wage will be equal to (base wage) x (total number employed) / (size of one crop). Prices remain elevated until less than a crop is employed in the realm. This represents prices rising due to scarcity and puts a soft “cap” on recruitment."

EXAMPLE: The Tarkaun has already retained 48,000 heavy infantry, representing 100% of the empire’s crop of heavy infantry. Now he recruits another 36,000 heavy infantry from the next crop. Wages for heavy infantry are therefore increased to (12) x [(48,000 + 36,000) / 48,000] 21gp per month. If the Tarkaun hires more heavy infantry mercenaries, wages will continue to climb.

Thus for mass armies, mercenaries become an increasingly expensive proposition.

If you've had a chance to playtest D@W: Campaigns, please let me know what you think of the above. They're rather last-minute but I hate to allow a problem go uncorrected with the few days left to fix it...

koewn
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On 1, that does follow from the domains I've been working with, and I agree that it should be presented as an option. (the 8 and 20 man tents are more expensive per man, however, unless they'll be sleeping under tarps or the open sky) Conscripts have felt last-resort/emergency due to the cost inherent in making them useful.

(Alternatively, there's just a lot of mercenaries running around in any given realm - enough to make me nervous, at least, what with these wealthy adventurers on top of that)

This is trained conscripts also, yes?

#2 - I like that better, the gradual build up of wages.

I'm OK with it still happening at the half-crop level, as far as bookkeeping goes. Both ways show the economic opportunity cost sorts of things (get there early, get paid less to sit around maybe, get there late, the war got cancelled). The crop boundary makes more intuitive sense at the domain levels where it's *not* monthly cropping, however.

EHamilton
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The first idea seems uncontroversial and easy to implement.

I'm having a hard time grokking how the second idea would work in situations where recruiting is occurring at multiple locations. For example, suppose a duchy's ruler is recruiting from his own realm, but also sends out a fleet of sailing ships every few months to recruit from the Type I market at the imperial capital and some other markets along the coastline. Does the "size of one crop" include only the crop from the realm, or does it also include the various other markets where the fleet recruits?

Answering either "yes" or "no" would be problematic in different ways, I think. I can't see a reliable way to work around this issue that doesn't involve keeping track of the origin of each individual mercenary (realm vs external market), which makes for extra bookkeeping.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

My answer here is that it only applies to realms. The number of mercenaries recruited at cities is too small to impact the wages.

The number of circumstances in which a PC would be recruiting from multiple realms for which there is not an over-arching realm is virtually zero; I've not seen it occur ever, at least.

EHamilton
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So if you answer this way, I think that commits you to saying that you'd separately track all the mercenaries recruited from an outside location, so that they don't count toward the ratio. Is that the intent?

I'm somewhat surprised that your players don't want to recruit from outside realms. It seems like the draw of terrain-restricted and exotic unit types was pretty strong in my introduction scenarios. ("WHERE CAN I GET THOSE WAR ELEPHANTS!!!!") I'm fully anticipating that everyone will be eager to send fleets off to recruit from desert and jungle lands (and wherever I force them to travel to find hippogriff-riding crossbowmen!) But I don't have your level of experience, so maybe I'm wrong about that.

EHamilton
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A second concern I have about the "soft cap" idea is that races with a large variety of different troop types will end up with much larger armies than races with very few. Since dwarves can't have light infantry or cavalry, for example, they'll routinely end up with an aggregate soft cap that's less than a third the total army size of a human realm.

This is already a "rate of mobilization" problem in that races with few options take much longer to recruit mercenary forces from realms with limited troop types. But with the soft cap, it becomes a "maximum mobilization capacity" problem, too.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

It's definitely not intended to punish more specialized races with a slower rate of mobilization.

The theoretical answer to this is that in a realm of size X, there are relatively more dwarven heavy infantry in dwarven realm X than there are human heavy infantry in human realm X, because human mercenaries are spread thin across several categories while dwarves focus on heavy infantry.

Making a chart for each race for each city and market combo would have been impossible in our space constraints.

I'm open to ideas for how to express this in a workable way for the Judges.

EHamilton
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The simplest idea (and the one I'll probably use if I can't think of anything better) is just to divide every number by the ratio of its number of troop types to the number of human troop types.

For example, humans have 14 troop types, and dwarves have 3. So each line in the table for a dwarven realm/market could be multiplied by 14/3 = 4.67.

That might be a little too generous, since a human realm would rarely recruit all of its different troop types in a given month. Maybe divide the ratio by 2 and round down, giving dwarven realms a factor of 2.

Sanity check: Kobolds, with just a single troop type, would tend to field armies with 7 times as many light infantry as humans, at the cost of no other troop types. That feels about right.

Antiquities
Joined: 2013-07-05 19:55

I feel like wage increases should also take effect with the existing mercenaries. Using the example above (48,000 heavy infantry are hired at 12 gp, then 36,000 are hired at 21 gp), the next month (or whenever wages come up for discussion), the 48,000 should insist on being paid the 21 gp. This makes it more expensive to maintain those high numbers for a long time, and I would think that even if the excess troops are let go, the remaining troops will insist on keeping their higher wages, making it a long-term issue.

Twilight Jack
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I would certainly agree with The Dark on the first portion of his post, that previously hired mercenaries would rightly wish to benefit from rising wages based upon high demand/low supply for their troop type.

As to the second part, I would counter that as excess troops are released from service, they once again rejoin the available supply of mercenaries, which should relax the demand and provide downward pressure on wages. So while remaining troops may wish to continue to be paid at the highest possible rate, their cost cannot long remain higher than the cost to release them from service and hire a new crop of mercs at the prevailing rate (any bonuses which may have accrued from long and loyal service to a single employer notwithstanding).

EHamilton
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This actually resolves some of my concerns about bookkeeping, and makes logical sense. Paying two different crops of mercenaries with two different wages would not only be (1) hard to track but (2) probably not conducive to good morale! ("Hey, why is that guy being paid 20% more than me for the same job? I quit! You can rehire me at a fair wage!")

Releasing mercenaries back into the realm should drive down the wage back down (proportional to the number released), but losing mercenaries on the battlefield should keep the supply tight and leave wages high. Note that this strengthens the incentive to use conscripts/militia, but also strengthens the incentive to hire mercenaries at foreign market cities and ports to bypass the penalty.

koewn
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I'd already expected that was the case - they'd immediately refuse service if not paid the new, higher rate.

It sets up a risk/reward decision for the mercenary company - take guaranteed lower pay right now, under the risk that the war may be over quick, or wait a cycle, see how it goes, jump in when wages are higher, hope they're still fighting.

If you would be running a group of people as, say, the Black Company, they'd be making the decision to go with a couple mass battle sessions right now, or hold out and do some adventuring instead, and wait for wages to rise, if it doesn't seem like it'd be a war that'd go well for the hiring side.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

This has been a highly valuable forum thread. Here is some updated language. Let's confirm this makes sense to everyone:

"If a realm’s entire crop of mercenaries of a particular type is hired, wages for that type of mercenaries will increase during the next crop. The new wage will be equal to (base wage) x (total number employed) / (size of one crop). The new wage applies to both prospective mercenaries as well as currently-employed mercenaries. This represents prices rising due to scarcity and puts a soft “cap” on recruitment. Prices remain elevated until less than a crop is employed in the realm.(At the Judge's discretion, killed or crippled mercenaries might be considered to still be "employed" for one year afterwards, as their loss will also impact availability.)

EXAMPLE: The Tarkaun has already retained 48,000 heavy infantry, representing 100% of the empire’s crop of heavy infantry. Now he recruits another 36,000 heavy infantry from the next crop. Wages for heavy infantry are therefore increased to (12) x [(48,000 + 36,000) / 48,000] 21gp per month. Both the current 48,000 and the prospective 36,000 heavy infantry will demand this wage. If the Tarkaun hires more heavy infantry mercenaries, wages will continue to climb.

EHamilton
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To make this discussion a little more concrete, let me present the recruitment options I'd see for players on my own map:

1) Player realm - This is the easiest option, and probably will be the first choice for early recruits.

2) Local market - These are small initially, since players need to build them up. They could be folded into the realm initially. For a larger realm that recruits on a monthly timetable, they will stay on the weekly schedule and be out of sync. So maybe they should be tracked separately at that point?

3) Regional markets - There are a few of these. One is a port town a couple hundred miles away down the river, within barge/caravan range. Another is the imperial capital on a nearby micro-continent, another couple hundred miles by sea. These locations would be popular for sending ships to recruit rarer types like cataphracts, which would appear too slowly at a regional market to create an entire company.

4) Distant foreign markets - These are even farther away, generally hundreds to thousands of miles along the coast. For players who want to recruit camels or elephants, however, the incentive is certainly there. And if a fleet/caravan is already headed there for exotic troops, it's probably efficient to pick up some normal infantry there at the same time, to come back with a full cargo hold.

So I'm thinking I'd probably need to track the total number of troops recruited from the local realm, at the minimum. It's important to track the number recruited there, rather than the total number currently in the army, since (1) killing troops shouldn't drive down their salaries, and (2) recruiting more troops at a foreign market shouldn't drive up their salaries.

That would suggest that each realm would have to track a "total local mercenaries recruited" number, from sources 1 and 2 only, for each troop type. This would go up only when recruiting from a realm or local market. It would only be reduced if mercenaries (from any source) were released back into that realm/market.

That's extra book-keeping, but at least it attaches itself to the source of the infantry, not to the hired troops themselves. That way once troops are hired, you can forget about where they came from, and treat them as a single pool. This avoids the headache of units made of some combination of local and foreign troops that have different effects on supply/demand when released.