Dragon Pass warfare (was heroes, fyrds and hoplites)

From: mickey galeotti <mickey_at_galeotti.freeserve.co.uk>
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2000 16:00:55 -0000

Mark Galeotti


Lots of interesting debate in recent GDs - now that I've a moment to contribute, here are my thoughts.

ON HOPLITES When is a hoplite not the same as a hoplite? The key point to make here is that the hoplites we were originally discussing were not, as DANIEL FAHEY rightly points out, Sun Dome style citizen-soldiers. Dara Happan hoplites are professional soldiers, from regiments with unit traditions stretching back over a thousand years!

(FWIW, though, I'm behind the citizen-soldier view of RW hoplites: you can
fight professionally without being a professional fighter.)

ON THE FYRD OK, so the fyrd doesn't train in how we'd expect a professional military to train (but I think it worth noting that quite a few regular militaries don't train that way, either, and would do even less if they are also expected to build roads, patrol cities, put out fires, distribute grain, etc). I'd strongly support DARVALL's vision of how Orlanthi 'train' through play, raiding, hunting, etc. After all, not only are they also mounting cattle raids, but they are also defending against them, engaging in major hunts
(which require teamwork - a wild boar is formidable enough, never mind a
dinosaur!) and even such political events as a wapentake will probably involve some team-building, just as dances help moving in unity! Then there are also the tales round the fire - amidst all the boasting and bravado, kids will also be learning about the difference between Ernalda's Knot and Vanganth's Spearhead, and in which situation each formation is best used.

Of course, they will also be learning much about their core work, hunting and farming, from the practical tips embedded in the tale of 'How Barntar Ploughed the Stone Goblins Out of His Field' to the stealth skills learnt playing catch-the-alynx.

Similarly, I'd agree with MICHAEL HITCHENS that what the Orlanthi gain in individual prowess they lose in large-scale tactics. That's why the Orlanthi are hard to defeat piecemeal in the imperial conquest of DP, but why it's the Lunar, not the Storm Empire which sprawls across central Genertela. The empire understands, thinks about and trains for coordinated operations, and - until Argrath - the Heortlings did not.

How does an Orlanthi force defeat the lunars in 1613? This has mainly been answered by DARVALL and DONALD ODDY, but it also worth noting that according to the account in Wyrm's Footprints (p88), they were hit by a flood while trying to cross a ford, half the column was destroyed but even so that the remaining half *could have held* had it not lost its morale (always a problem for lunar troops outside the Glowline). Their chances for an orderly retreat were further diminished by the fact that they were in wooded hills - good Orlanthi territory, but hardly helpful for the hoplites who made up the main element of the force.

ON HEROES I've enjoyed this debate, and I definitely agree that heroes don't have to be warriors. Sure, the essence of heroism is conflict, but this can be intellectual, against the elements, whatever. Consider, for example, the sort of 'heroes' exalted in RW society today: entertainment, media and literary types (pick your favourite pop star or TV anchorperson), explorers, athletes, scientists and scholars (Stephen Hawkings is hardly your typical warrior-hero), businesspeople - even Mother Teresa (Teelo Norri?).

Also, take a look at societies which actively tried to manufacture heroes. In the Soviet case, for example, there is the miner Stakhanov who heroically over-fulfilled his labour norms (OK, so this was rigged - but might not Gloranthan societies push lots of effort into getting some people through heroquests?), the Order of the Heroine Mother given to mothers who produced loads of kids (can't recall off-hand - 6?), even the loathsome Pavel Morozov, a kid who turned his parents in to Stalin's secret police and who was thus feted as a true Young Soviet. (I still remember spotting with horror a 'State Orphanage named for Pavel Morozov' - either someone had a very sick sense of humour or, more likely, the Soviets were Ironically Challenged.)

Mythic power follows belief - people really did, for example, regard Stakhanov as a role model who drove them to heroic feats at work. In Gloranthan terms, these would be heroes of sorts, even if only because of the amount of devotion heading their way and the regime's efforts to develop them as such. (It's like the tactic in KoDP in which you put lots of points into heroquesting, pick the right season, use supporters, etc, to try and make an otherwise not-so-heroic character successful.)

And I agree with DONALD ODDY that it isn't always the lone champions and the high officers who are the heroes. In my take on the Marble Phalanx, hopefully to appear in a future Pavis & Big Rubble Companion, the unit hero is Rokhornovos the Bright, its first drillmaster:

"While the commanders devoted themselves to the intricate manoeuvres of Polaris or the tough leadership of Daxdarius, the lochagos (senior non-commissioned officer) Rokhornovos devoted himself to his regiment. To training its hoplites until they could march and wheel in unison like the stars in the sky. To ensuring that every hoplite joined battle as smartly attired and polished as if on the parade ground. To an unyielding regime of training and drill that made the regiment unbeaten in battle during his term of service. Then, at the Battle of the Wailing River, when the phalanx was isolated, outflanked, torn by spirits and battered by half-naked warriors with spears that coiled and bit, even the discipline of the Marble Phalanx began to break. As the first soldiers began to rout, it was Rokhornovos who rallied them with his presence, Rokhornovos who brought them back into formation, Rokhornovos who single-handedly goaded the Wailing River itself into the suicidal attack on the phalanx that turned the battle."



Mark Galeotti

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