Guards need to guard


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


So in response to this thread I started as to why high-level NPCs don't handle threats before the PCs, someone brought up the idea of military units and their role in a fantasy RPG.

I didn't want to derail my own thread so I'm starting this one. The discussion I wanted to have here is: exactly how organized was the military in our own real life world during the Dark/Middle ages, and what did they do?

See, I run my own homebrew but it's pretty close to a Greyhawk-inspired "gritty realism" fantasy type game. That being said I don't think I've ever had a good grasp on military or police types in my games.

So a guard guards, cool. But did all the nobles have their own armies, or just the king? Did they go out and patrol the land, or just look after one town? Did towns/cities have their own guards? What's a sheriff and how did police work... or did they?

The POINT of all these conversations is for me to do a better job explaining to my highly skeptical players why their mid-level PCs are tasked with hunting down and neutralizing threats when there are sometimes military units in place near a known dungeon or site-based adventure area.

Liberty's Edge

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It depends a bit on what you're trying to emulate. In medieval Europe, standing armies were essentially non-existant; but nobles could force their subjects to become soldiers if they needed to raise an army for their king (for pretty much whatever reason their king decided they needed to raise an army), defend their territory, take somebody else's territory, or conduct a nice traditional religious crusade.

Edit:
As for guards, towns would have guards, but they were usually volunteers from the militia, so they didn't walk around in uniforms carrying swords. And jails weren't really a thing that common criminals were put in. They were used for storing captured nobility while you waited for their families to pay the ransom.


Standing armies needed regular budgetary support and training facilities to keep standing; this mean a functioning state structure to provide the necessary institutional memory, regular payroll, and support. Which in Europe meant ... the Byzantines. (Maybe some areas outside Europe during this period. The Venetian Arsenal for naval support might work as a model too, but it's doubtful that anyone less than a rich merchant city would have the necessary continuity.)

Town guards and mercenary companies existed, but they were either local citizens doing their duty or else paid contractors (with all the associated difficulties of either.) Armies could be raised, but were usually one-off levies rather than standing bodies of troops. (Feudalism is an attempt to replace the non-existent state structure by having local area X support warrior Y, generally about 40-50 full-time peasants to support one semi-professional warrior. In practice it was sometimes hard to distinguish feudalism from bandits from a protection racket.) "Nobles" would often be trained fighters, but not necessarily professional soldiers -- cf. some of the clashes in the Crusades between Western knights and Byzantine soldiers over how to fight the Muslims.

Areas where lots of fighting took place on a regular basis (e.g., the Welsh marches or the Scottish Highlands) tended to have quite a lot of people who knew what they were doing when it came to fighting, but they might or might not be capable of what trained professionals would do, particularly when it came to functions like logistics or engineering support or thinking about operations above the company level (such as, say, welding a dozen Highland clans into a single army.)

Of course, medieval Europe didn't have wandering monsters of substantially above human CR (bears and whales, yes; demons and dragons and vampires, not so much.) So a few dozen guards could usually deal with a small group of bandits or murderhoboes.


There was a lot of variation, but anything at all like a modern police force was rare. London didn't have a police force until 1829, for example.

Most places there was the equivalent of a neighborhood watch, with greater or lesser organization, and upon a 'hue and cry' being raised the townspeople would organize on their own.

Of course local lords had police powers over their holdings and often had armsmen that could deal with threats, but they would be probably closer to our national guard.

In addition their were often gamekeepers to prevent poaching and similar things, but that is probably more equivalent to hiring a security force to watch your stuff then a police force to protect the citizens.


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So take all of this with a grain of salt (it's been a while since I studied this and they keep changing history on me). From what I remember everyone above a certain level of power (usually meant nobility) had their own soldiers who also tended to double as guards. Generally as bodyguards or supervising local town militias. But the numbers are very small. These were knights, depending on the time frame and who they're working for.

Armies started with those permanent soldiers as leadership. Then they'd go out and hire mercenaries. Mercenaries had their own command structure and were only used when you actually had a battle you needed to fight. They were expensive (but still cheaper than keeping a standing army). Then if you still needed people you went to your towns and made them pay a "tax". Peasants or money, effectively (and that money just went to more mercenaries). I think you could also pay in equipment but I don't remember details. It might have been "you need to buy equipment for the peasants you send" instead. They came with all the loyalty you'd expect from someone like that.

Police were essentially just a volunteer militia. Like a neighborhood watch but with actual force behind them. Depending on the size of the city they might be supervised by a permanent soldier or someone who reports directly to the local lord. The police themselves didn't really have any more authority than swinging a large stick around though. Sheriff was a job that reported directly to the ruler (as compared to the local lord) and so could act with some actual authority. "In the name of the King" and all that.

So with all that, I guess the answer to why armies don't help is simple. Money. The mercenaries were hired to fight the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, if you want them to deal with the goblins or ogres that's going to be extra. And the knights were only willing to fight if they weren't going to die (because you never killed a knight, you captured and ransomed them back) so they'd really only be willing to fight other countries. Cultists? Will just kill them. Goblins and ogres? Eat them. So they won't help unless forced to. That leaves the rabble, which might help you (if it's their town in trouble) but isn't going to be much help either way.

As for the guards, well, they're not generally large enough. The US has 284 police for every 100,000 people and that seems about average. That leaves a city like Magnimar with under 50 police (and more councilmen that cops). Even Absalom doesn't get over 1,000 police by those numbers. There's probably lots of private guards but in terms of what the government itself could muster there's really not much.


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So a king or central government would pay for mercenaries on a case-by-case basis, employ professional soldiers/knights to defend significant state or personal holdings, and hire a sheriff to report directly to them for "keeping the peace" in a geographical region like a county.

Lower nobles and landlords, chartered settlements with the cash etc could hire a single or a couple professionals again, to guard important people or locales full time.

Other than this, people were largely meant to defend themselves from the woes of the world. There were laws in place, LOTS of them in some areas, and officials or administrators, but might was essentially reactionary.

If a country invaded, you sent a militia raised from the peasants; if a group of bandits seized a road, you formed a "brute squad;" if nobles fomented insurrection you summoned your knights. As reward for these fighting people you paid money, allowed them to continue living or in rare cases elevated them with land, title and legal rights.

Now factor in monsters. In a world fraught with supernatural threats that can seemingly appear from nowhere you'd need more vigilance. You'd want to be less reactionary. If nobles were moving money and resources to make a bid for power, a king can read the signs and react; if a wizard using spells to hide themselves and their activities can suddenly appear in the king's bedchambers and unleash a pair of ridiculously powerful fireballs, that's another matter.

But in my opinion, not by much. I still don't see the need for massive buildups of troops and police forces. It might make more financial sense to have specialized agents to deal with these kinds of threats. Consider that in some countries in Golarion there may be a state-sponsored faith or the churches of some deities may have an alliance with the government. Having a couple high-level clerics on the payroll alone would be a huge advantage in the arms race.

So I guess what I'm seeing is that if I want to run close to gritty realism with some fantasy elements in my games, its likely that the PCs are more or less a really small mercenary troop. You call upon a mercenary company to fight a specific large battle; you call upon a party of adventurers to fight a specific large monster.


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Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
So a king or central government would pay for mercenaries on a case-by-case basis, employ professional soldiers/knights to defend significant state or personal holdings, and hire a sheriff to report directly to them for "keeping the peace" in a geographical region like a county.

while overtly simplistic, and something that changes rather a lot over time during medieval time. It fits an rough overview of how a feudal state would "security".

Thus my comments from here are imaging a high (or reforming) feudal state set in the 12 and 13th century, and what might constitute the professional core of an army of a noble.

Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
Lower nobles and landlords, chartered settlements with the cash etc could hire a single or a couple professionals again, to guard important people or locales full time.

Military service where still owed to members above in the chain of vassalage. This could included subjects/vassals would didn't hold any land in direct lease to the local feudal lord, though the giving of diverse privilege (ie. milling rights, tolls and the like), these where often referred to as "money(ed)-fiefs".

(I'll not get into cross-vassalisation here)

So a "chain" of owed military service in a very very simplistic overview would look like this:

King <- Dukes <- Counts <- Barons <- Knights <- "Landed free-men"

Now if you imagine said system from the view of the Count of "generic feudal state":

Count "Whats-his-name" <- Barony of "Who-is-it" <- John of Doe

Thusly you would get the service of 2 "knights*" and 11 "sergents/yeoman**" is "owed" to Baron "Who-is-it" from John of Doe in times of need or strife.
The exact service, period of service and payment to either be exempted or to extend a service period being subjected to the approval of the participants and (in case of sub-vassalisation) of the approval of the lord higher up on the feudal "chain".
A typical service period seems to have been 40-80 days, depending on a lot of circumstances (ie. peace/war time and such)

Baron "Who-is-it" might then be owed service from a handful of people. John of Doe, Walter of Wright, Gilles of Fish and so on. All in all he might be owed 12 "knight" and 80 "sergents/yeoman" from landed vassals.
Also he might be owed military service from sources such cities and churches/tempels in his barony.
The exact military service owed would be set out on a city's charter or be levied on particular power groups in a city like merchant/trade guilds. Again as set up by agreement of the participants/ higher lords.
So again the Baron "Who-is-it" might be owed the service of 3 "knights" and 110 "sergents/yeoman" from the city of "Wheresville" and the bishop of "Huh".

In total Baron "Who-is-it" is owed the service of 15 "knights" and 190 "sergents/yeoman" from all his vassals.
He might then owe Count "Whats-his-name" the military service of 18 "knights" and 220 "sergents/yeoman", so he himself have to provide the 3 "knights" and 30 "sergents/yeomen" worth's of military service to his count, besides what he can provide trough his vassals.

* A fully armoured and armed battle experienced warrior on horseback with the logistics to support him (ie. extra horses, equipment, food and feed and might/might not have support personnel - groomers, a tradesmen or a squire).

** A infantry man, chosen by his lord to serve in a military capacity. The exact equipment and training depended on many factor, but as time went on from the early medieval age to the high medieval age (the time I focusing on here), they generally improved from being levied peasants with a minimal of equipment, to being paid soldiers with some combat experience and adequate equipment for performing military duty.

...

Might return later with a bit on "policing", militias and other aspects of your original question.


It would be helpful if you could try to narrow down your question a bit.

Also, you'll find that there is dramatically less information on what happened in, say, 900 then there is on what happened in 1360.


I don't really know that much about how feudal society actually worked... So I don't run with a mindset of that time frame. I find running in a more Rennaisance time period to be much easier to write for.


A funny story from my first game of Pathfinder:

We were playing in rise of the runelords. We entered a city and the GM started to give us some rp with a big militarised church of Pharasma(we had an inquisitor of Pharasma). The GM put emphasis on how they were strong and had a big armory, we even bought stuff from them.

After that, right outside the city, there was a manor inhabited by an half ghoul and the whole place emitted a strong evil aura. And I was just thinking: "How is it possible this place is so close to that big army of anti undead zaelot"?


Gaurwaith: the narrows of my dilemma is this - how big/well organized should the military or police force of a given area be in a more realistic-based setting? I came to that dilemma after trying to reason out why an army or a given police force... whose job it would be to protect locals against, say, a dungeon... would require PCs to handle this service.

As per the other thread I mentioned in my original post, this came up when trying to design an adventure for my homebrew involving some CR 1-3 threats on the doorstep of a Small Town. Looking at the Settlements section I was like "there's a 7th level spellcaster selling their services in this town? Why don't THEY just go fight the bad guys?"

But in that other thread there's a lot of good reasons why 1 or 2 7th level NPCs wouldn't go wipe out a dungeon. However through that thread I got to wondering, what about a Small Town's worth of militia, professional soldiers, the local noble and his bodyguard(s), etc.

For example, the adventure I'm modeling this on is a published adventure with a Small town on one end of a forest. On the other side of said forest is a cave known to the general populace to be full of isolationist goblins. However recent events have the goblins attacking like bandits.

So... a DC 10 Gather Info check by the PCs reveals the presence of a goblin cave, meaning the townsfolk KNOW they're there. If there's a local militia, a noble owed vassalage, the town has a church and, even though they're disadvantaged/superstitious the town still has Level 3 spellcasting avail meaning probably a CL5 caster, why do 4 level 1 PCs get called up to deal with all of this?

Doppleman: that's nearly EXACTLY the kind of situation I'm talking about. Why would militarized zealots with a hatred of the undead suffer a haunt of evil a mile from their doorstep? Especially when four hours of light conversation around the city might reveal the presence of said haunt?

In my other homebrew campaign at level 4, I set up a situation where there's a bunch of fey starting to harass civilization encroaching on the wilderness. One of the main religions in the area is the LG Erastilin. They respect the wilds, but also stand for small communities. They have lodges scattered all around and have a few rangers and inquisitors in the fold.

One of my players was like "let me see if I've got this straight. A small village on the edge of the wilderness has had a capricious fey demand petty sacrifices from the people for decades while it protected its sacred meadow, meanwhile just half a day away we encountered an Erastilin priest that could cast 4th level spells, and not only are they NOT coming down here and wasting this fey but they're sending US to investigate it?"

In that instance I had to invent a conflict between secular and religious jurisdictions. Being a LG church the Erastilin have to follow the edicts of local sheriffs not to overstep their bounds, yadda yadda. But even as I was saying it the premise felt flimsy.


This is a lot of people to manage for the GM. My situation is probably just a mistake from my GM. He didn't think about it while telling the story and adding a military to the combat would ruin the challenge or he would have completely remake the encounter.


There are all sorts of reasons why you might not want to have a group of 30+ lightly armed and moderately trained militia go in place of three to six well trained and highly competent adventurers. Probably the most important is that the adventurers are less afraid to die.

In The Children of Hurin, Glaurung the dragon is crawling towards the forest of Brethil, where Turin lives. He's just successfully mobilized the inhabitants of Brethil and repeatedly defeated invading armies of orcs quite soundly. He decides that it's a very bad idea to take his army to go fight the dragon, because then it will just breathe on them. Instead, he and two friends decide to do it like adventurers. One of his two friends gets scared and runs away before they do the killing.

Goblins are very different from an invading army, they have green faces and pointed teeth, and all the townsfolk tell tales about how they like to eat babies. Everyone has a lot of hatred for goblins, and the natural instincts which make it hard for humans to kill each other aren't nearly so relevant. Likewise, the goblins are naturally evil and actually enjoy killing. When those thirty militiamen march off to the goblin's cave, there aren't going to be any prisoners, one side is going to be killed to a man. Likewise, both sides are going to fight to the last, because they know if they surrender they'll be killed anyway. In a normal battle, both sides meet and soldiers on both sides kill each other from time to time until one side gets scared and runs away, at which point the other side kills a lot of them and either takes the rest prisoner or else scares them off. In a battle with goblins, everyone is already scared, and everyone knows that running is useless.

In other words, a fight with goblins is way more lethal than the sort of thing a militia is cut out for.

This is to say nothing of the fact that the militia are going to have to attack the goblins in their cave, where whatever natural defences and traps they have will take a terrible toll. Adventurers are prepared for those sorts of things, and will have an easier time slipping in unnoticed. They aren't as good in an out and out murderfest as the group of thirty militia, but they're better at dispatching the threat efficiently and with no loss of life.


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I'd guess that there are many cases where the local town does mass up and go after the threat-of-the-month.

It's up to the GM to provide some reasons why the local authorities want to hire the PCs. "Risking someone else's lives instead of our own" is a good reason in many places. So is "it's a good distance away and we don't want to leave the town unguarded", "we want you to find out how bad the threat is before we call up the militia for half their 40-day/year service", and "none of us are experts in weird monsters"


Gaurwaith wrote:

...

In other words, a fight with goblins is way more lethal than the sort of thing a militia is cut out for....

They aren't as good in an out and out murderfest as the group of thirty militia, but they're better at dispatching the threat efficiently and with no loss of life.

Not to mention if someone in that group of 30 dies, that's a local community member lost... if it's some adventurer, that's a cautionary tale.

tonyz wrote:

I'd guess that there are many cases where the local town does mass up and go after the threat-of-the-month.

It's up to the GM to provide some reasons why the local authorities want to hire the PCs. "Risking someone else's lives instead of our own" is a good reason in many places. So is "it's a good distance away and we don't want to leave the town unguarded", "we want you to find out how bad the threat is before we call up the militia for half their 40-day/year service", and "none of us are experts in weird monsters"

Alternatively you could use "the militia is out dealing with x" as a reason they aren't there to stop "y" with "y" being your lowest level adventures.


A simple explanation is that hiring the PCs is how the local authorities deal with the threat. Lots of people could clean their own homes and tend to their own gardens but instead hire other people to do so. Matt Colville gives a good potential explanation as well as some good ideas in NPCs 2! High Level NPCs, Followers, and DMPCs. Running the Game #25.


yes... town/city/whatever guards....

usually that town/city/whatever's standing army that answers to the mayor/governor/whatever in charge.

city watch in cities and towns.

less than towns have militias that answer to the village hierarchy

the watch usually is the police force and can be conscripted into the army if needed.

believe it or not: say TAldor has a standing army of 5000 men total that can be raised to defend its borders or beat the sheet out of Cheliax,( this does include its mounted calvary as well as its footmen and navy, peasant), it does NOT mean that the entire force is always on duty.

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