"What about recruiting? Any suggestions?"
- "Plenty! First of all, you're going to need to head to the realm's capital. That's where all the training centers send their trained troops. Mostly it's tradition, but it's also so they get a little bit of city life before they go off to war."
- "Once you're there, you'll need to figure out what sort of troops you'll want to command. When you're just starting out, you'll probably be limited to infantry, archers, or mixed infantry. The cavalry troops won't feel comfortable being led by such a new troop leader, and those special forces folks -- those snobs won't even give you the time of day 'till you've come back covered in scars and glory. I've heard stories about special forces even refusing to work for one realm's Judge!"
You raise your eyebrows and act suitably impressed.
- "Anyway, your squire will head around to all the stalls and give you an estimate of what's available: What sort of troops, where they hail from, what kind of shape their equipment's in, how well-trained he thinks they are, and what mood they're in. He'll do a quick head count, too, and have a chat with their trainer about how much it'll cost you to hire them."
- "You'll have to show up in person to do the actual hiring, and you'll need to bring cash. They'll want to have a look at you, and sound you out. No trainer worth his salt gives over too many of his boys to a green troop leader: it's bad for business if a large unit of his men loses a lot of battles. They get real upset with people who just want to hire one or two men, too -- these aren't bodyguards, after all, they're soldiers. You might get away with hiring as few as five of them at a time, but that's pushing it."
- "Cavaliers, on the other hand, like to parade around with a lot of well-dressed troops. Every now and then, you'll see a real Hero, with plenty of men following him."
You listen carefully, but point out that you're not going to be recruiting fresh. Your family is supplying you with a dozen or so family retainers. You were just thinking about using some of the money they're giving you to add a few more men. Uncle Freddie nods.
- "In that case, whichever you wind up getting, you'll need to add that type. If your family retainers are archers, you'll need to hire archers, because they don't get along with infantry."
- "What about mixed infantry?", you ask.
- "That's something else entirely -- those are specially-trained infantry. You can't just add archers to an infantry unit or something, you've got to hire men specifically trained that way."
- "What should I do about paying them?"
- "You should do it, without fail", Freddie tells you sternly. "Your troops will expect to be paid weekly. Their pay doesn't just go in their pockets, it goes to pay for food and clothing and such. Now, it doesn't go toward repairs -- you're expected to pay for repairs yourself, since technically you own the equipment. But that's separate."
- "Your men will keep track of how much they're owed, and they'll be honest about it. If you're the forgetful type, you can tell your steward to pay them every so often. My master left instructions with the other paperwork to have his men paid every 6 days, to keep in line with the tax. If he thought they needed a little pick-me-up, he'd pay them early."
- "Now, how much you pay them will depend on their ability. Part of that is the sort of equipment they're lugging around. Especially good equipment requires particular training, and costs more for basic maintenance. It's nice to hire a bunch of smart-looking soldiers with flashy foreign-looking armor, and them scimitars, but you might regret it come payday. And just because they have those things, doesn't mean they know how to use them! There's many a trainer out there who equips his boys with the best equipment your money can buy, then barely shows the poor lads which end goes where, and makes a tidy profit hiring them out! They'll look mighty pretty running hell-for-leather off the battlefield, too."
- "On the other side of things, you get these real serious types. Trained like devils, they do, with not much more than sticks or slings. They'll fight down to the last man, even if it means head-butting knights in armor!"
- "So, I should keep an eye out for the really well-trained troops, and forget the ones with the fancy equipment?"
Freddie shakes his head. "No, not at all. Well, yes. I mean -- it depends, see? If you're hiring new men, it's a good idea to know what you need them for, and how soon. If you're marching off to war right after supper, then you want to pay for the folks who're already trained. You'll pay through the nose, but you'll have a mean little force ready. On the other hand, if you know you're going to have some time and money on your hands, you might want to hire up a bunch of green troops with decent equipment and train them yourself. A week or two of training (with a little carousing thrown in to keep spirits high) and you'll have a finer fighting force than anything you can hire in the markets."
- "Why not hire the well-trained ones and just buy a lot of good equipment?"
- "Because they won't use it. I knew a fellow once who commanded a crack legion of slingsmen -- yup, rock-throwers. I laughed my behind off when I first saw 'em, all prettied up in livery, with these crappy leather slings. But that first battle was something else: they deployed right up front and just threw like you wouldn't believe. They held their ground and took down scores of the enemy until the cavalry came up from behind them and charged in."
- "Well, this fellow was mighty proud, but he got a little tired of the teasing he took from the others. So, one night he went down to market and bought up a slew of the fanciest longbows you ever saw, and brought them back. His men would not touch them -- mortally offended, but really, they had no idea how the darned things worked. Poor guy was out a good eighty gold, to no benefit, and his troops were pissed off at him to boot. These days, the equipment sellers don't even sell to troop leaders, just to the trainers. Less chance of insult or injury that way."
- "One more thing -- I'm going to have some troops to start off with, but my aunt says they're going to send me some more money a few days after I leave, and I was thinking of hiring a few more men. Should I?"
- "There's no harm in it. The big problem is that the new guys are going to be a little nervous and left out. It won't be a very cohesive group, which could cause problems in battle -- nobody's going to stick around when the battle goes the wrong way if he doesn't even know the names of the other folks in his unit. Give it time, and they'll settle in. Or, you know, a bit of ale or whiskey does marvels for getting people to open up -- provided they like that sort of thing, of course."
- "Boy, I knew a troop leader once, a regular Bacchus. Got along real well with his men, but they always got real sour every time he tried to bring 'em out for a night of carousing. Takes him a while, but he finally figures out that they're all tee-totallers! Broke the poor blighter's heart, it did. Fortunately, as time went on, he added lots of men from a different region to his unit, and after a while the tee-totallers were in the minority. Still, he looked pretty mournful for a few months there."