Monday, November 1, 2010

Condottiere 1300-1500: Infamous medieval mercenaries

I wish I could say that I'm an armchair scholar. But I'm not. Way too lazy for that sort of research a lot of friends I know who can spout off bits and facts like rapid fire machine guns.

But in the modern era, when I want some information on something, I generally know where to look. For example, if I want a thin book with some, usually, great art in it, about a caste of a certain warrior type, I'm pretty sure Osprey Publishing will have it.

I've long had an interest in mercenaries on the battle field. Part of this is from the old book The White Company, part of it when I discovered Glen Cook's The Black Company, and part of it when I discovered Berserk and Griffin's Band of the Hawk. Each one organized around mercenaries.Other books, like the ones written by Elizabeth Moon, have used mercenaries,

Gaming books, ranging from AEG's own Mercenaries book to various other third party resources, like Born of Blood, have also been around. Although my memory does kick in and say, "Hey dude, the Flaming Fist." Yeah, I remember running many a Forgotten Realms campaign where the Flaming Fist were foes of the party, maily because the party memebers were always after new magic items and the quick way to get such items was to attack any NPC that might have 'em. Ah, the glory days of youth.

I haven't finished the Condotteire yet, but it made me curious enough to see what Wiki had to say on the subject. One thing I found fascinating, is that these mercenary armies, essentially in this book and resource if I'm reading it correctly, crop up to a very unique set of cirumstances. This gets into world building. When plotting out the dominos, make sure you know where things are likely to fall.

In terms of ideas, one of the things I like is the idea of a charter, so that these mercenaries can be identified and are not 'mere' mercenaries, but are condottiere.

Another idea I like is the use of famous mercenaries as statues or cast on gold coins. It doesn't always have to be a local member of the nobility, the religious caste, or some weird monster. Powerful individuals that can take a city get recognized here.

Lastly, I like the idea of collaterali. These individuals werestate official who oversaw the use of payment to the mercenaries. He was the one who oversaw the contracts. He was the one who overwent the 'daily admnistration of the mercenary armies.'  Need to know how many men are in the army? Need to know what type of weapons they have? Need to know what level of training they have? Can't trust the mercenaries to be truthful so you have to have you own man on the inside job there.

And this is true today. In many instances, the stock market is a huge gamble that the goods and services these companies are offering are real. I've read many a 'bust' that happened because the promised goods weren't there. If that is happening know, where we have all of this digital technology about us, imagine how much easier it would be in a place where a famous soldier would be unknown in another country?

To prevent abuse it woudl require mercenaries that fully honored their contracts or collaterali who were so trustworthy that they'd likely be killed. I can easily see a game where a group of players, acting as collaterali, discover that the mercenaries in their lords employee are a sham but have enough strength to take down the players if they're not careful about how they go about reporting it. On the other hand, I've dealt with enough players where I can see them taking the mercenaies side and for a side cut of the gold, selling out the defense of the kingdom by falsifying units, weapons, and training that doesn't exist.

Imagine some lord's horror when the ogres attack and those mercenaries that do show up do so in ratty leather armor with spears instead of on horseback with shinny plate armor and bright lances? The players might have a little explaining to do  at that point.