Joined: Sep 09, 2009 Posts: 2418 Location: SW WA state (Highvale)
Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:15 am Post subject: Spoils of War (for hired soldiers)
I could use some historical (and 'fantastical') perspective in how hired military soldiers divvied up 'spoils of war' when on campaign. I know this is largely based on which civilization or nation was involved.
For my purposes, I would like to know how the governments of the more 'civilized' nations/cities of Veluna, Celene, and Greyhawk City would deal with this issue.
Let me elaborate. In the typical campaign or mercenary setting, whatever largesse you encounter is yours. All of it. However, what if you are a soldier or hireling in the EMPLOY of a government or army? You already get a wage, and perhaps your arms, armor, equipment (maybe even spell components!), and the like are also included.
Did medieval governments allow their soldiers to amass wealth unto themselves, or did the government confiscate it? Or did the soldiers get a share? If so how much (provide ratio or percentage)?
Again, I am primarily interested in how the governments of Veluna (and by default, perhaps also Verbobonc and Furyondy given proximity), Celene, and Greyhawk City would handle this situation (and they are likely all quite different!).
As you say, Lanthorn, this varies by time and place, but here are some ideas from my reading on various time periods:
In the 30 Years War, especially as the war progressed, mercenaries were promised whatever wealth they could extract from the enemy. This reduced the governments' outlays as the mercenaries simply showed up and joined the army of a successful general. However, it had numerous drawbacks. First, the troops were not really under any form of firm discipline, as it is not like the commander could withhold their wages. Secondly, they would expand the concept of enemy to the populace of any (putatively) hostile state... read up on the schwedentrunk. Finally, mercenaries began to treat almost any civilian as hostile, even eroding the economies of their patrons. Wallenstien was the divisor of this system, but it was a long term failure and why national armies became a preferred means of war, though mercenaries persisted...
Regular troops into the 19th century could expect a share of loot if they stormed a stronghold. Witness Clive's campaigns in India. This share was based on their rank. I assume it worked similarly to a pirate or privateer, with the state getting at least 50%, and the rest being divided up among the troops... say the commander gets 6 shares, his captains 4 shares, a knight 2 shares, a sergeant 1 share, common soldiers 1/2 share, and others variable shares based on their value. These soldiers received regular wages as well. This was the general extend of looting by professional armies, which were usually supplied by the state to avoid the excesses of the Thirty Years War... though the late 18th century would see armies shift again to living off of the land under the French Republic and Empire. Battlefield loots was rare, as captured enemy stocks were usually considered the government's property.
In the medieval era, individual soldiers could get wealthy not just from seizing a fortification, but also from capturing or defeating an opponent in battle. A defeated opponents' arms, armor, and equipment were forfeit to the victor. If he were taken alive, the capturing soldier could also hold him for ransom. The commander of the army or sovereign would often buy an important prisoner from his immediate captor at a reduced value. The captor was paid without all the bother of a ransom, while the sovereign gained an important political bargaining chip or at least a long-term investment. At Poitiers, John II of France is captured by Sir Denis Morbeke, who turns him over to Black Prince to curry favor. Common soldiers were paid during this period, and haphazardly supplied. Officers, that is knights, were expected to supply themselves and were not paid... their military service was a feudal obligation.
In the ancient world, mercenaries usually functioned similarly, serving for a combination of pay and plunder. Under the Greeks, Alexander, and the Romans, all the plunder after a battle was usually tallied and distributed amongst the force on a share basis as mentioned above. There were usually accountants who swarmed after such an army, and would again pay pennies on the dollar to the private soldiers for bulky loot such as slaves or large items. Withholding personal loot was a severe crime to the Romans, and even the Bible mentions the punishment meted out to a hoarder after the sack of Jericho. The important distinguishing element here is that looting was organized and done after the battle, unlike in the medieval era where it might occur during the battle and was an individual affair for the most part, with the exception of seizing fortified places.
So there are a range of models available to the world of Greyhawk. I would say that the two biggest factors in what elements of the system would be employed are the state's alignment and wealth, and also the availability of cash. The 30-years war goes to an all looting basis as the states all run out of money quickly; the concept of national debt still a century away.
A goodly-law oriented country with cash (Verbobonc, Furyondy, and Veluna) would likely look at mercenaries as an extension of the regular army, and contract them to fall under similar (not necessarily the same) customs and usages as their own troops. Such a state would also work to supply them as well, to avoid living off the land and the evils that could come of it. If such a country ran out of cash... they might consider a loot system, but might also release their mercenaries as, to quote the movie The Rock, "mercenaries get paid" one way or another.
A less lawful, and certainly poorer state (Highfolk) may move more towards a "loot and supply yourself" system if the mercenaries are pointed towards the enemy of they thought that the mercenaries could sustain themselves that way, but they might also be leery of brining mercenaries who might become a threat in the first place.
A lawful neutral state, (Dyvers, Greyhawk), would likely function like the Lawful Good states, but it might create areas in which more of a loot-based system might work if they merely want to harass an enemy or deny an area to them and not occupy or defend it. Think the Hundred Years War.
Building on tarelton's comments, given that Greyhawk is a world with a lot of bulk coinage, gems and other related materials available as plunder, the promise of lining one's pocket with that kind of treasure would induce a lot of mercenaries to take up a given ruler's shilling. It's an incentive for smaller adventuring bands, so why wouldn't it be the same for larger mercenary companies?
Having plunder distributed after the battle based on one's rank is not only common in both the ancient world and the 19th century, as tarelton mentions, but there's a basis for it in AD&D, too. The 1E DMG describes the treasure shares that ship captains, lieutenants, mates and crewmen are entitled to when a large treasure is taken in their presence. More lawful and/or goodly and neutral countries would likely lay out for the mercenaries what they will be entitled to ahead of time. Hoarding would be severely punished not just by the government employing the mercenaries, but by other mercenaries who'd be angry at anyone trying to swindle his mates.
Similarly, the Against The Giants modules mentions that the players are to keep any treasures they win as payment for their efforts. That implies that governments will often demand a share of adventurer loot as taxes, again noted in the 1E DMG. Adventurers who are directly hired by a government or other authority figure would be 'paid' in the form of their treasure taxes being waived for that mission.
It's all Gygax-approved, so you know it's good for you!
Joined: Jan 11, 2009 Posts: 207 Location: Montgomery, Alabama
Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 5:24 am Post subject:
Cool topic to think about, particularly in my line of work. I can't imagine trying to maintain discipline if Soldiers were "paid" through spoils alone. It definitely makes sense for campaigns with large numbers of Soldiers and massive battles. As CruelSummerLord said, it also works for adventuring groups and without it all the various magical swords, armor, and items would still be hidden away in dungeons and towers, instead of being distributed across the land by greedy characters.
Joined: Jan 05, 2002 Posts: 627 Location: Sky Island, So Cal
Posted: Sat Jul 27, 2019 9:20 am Post subject:
A few things I would add to the discussion:
For the region in question, the most likely source of mercenaries are either Perrenland or Greyhawk City. Perrenland mercenaries would be large companies of very well-disciplined troops, used to working with one another. They would go in for formal contracts with established conditions including regular wages. They might accept slightly lower wages with the promise of loot, but would not agree to situations in which a large part of their reward depended on the luck of whether or not they won an enagement or the chances of fortune in terms of what loot was present.
In contrast, Greyhawk mercenary companies would be smaller squads of individuals with more specialized abilities - more like overgrown adventuring groups of low level and loose organization. Heavy in spell-casters, rogues, etc. They would likely be paid by task or objective (not by month, say) and might negotiate deals where a large part of their reward came from looting. Discipline would be low, company identity transient, and many of them might not have worked together before the current mission.
A second point of consideration would be the religious dimension of the conflict, of central importance in Veluna and to a lesser extent in Verbobonc and Furyondy. The state churches might declare a crusade (in which case victory was by any means necessary and extreme looting was absolutely expected), a conflict with grievance (where the rules of warfare applied and looting would be restricted to legitimate "prizes" among those who could afford to lose them), or a conflict of honor (especially where combatants were members of the same faith, where highly formalized rules of war applied, and where "looting" would be restricted to captured arms and armor and ransoming). _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Kirt's descriptions are very helpful. Perrenland is one of the states of the Flanaess, along with the Suel Barbarians (Vikings) and Grand March (Teutonic Knights), that are almost directly lifted from history. The Swiss mercenary companies of the late Medieval and Early Renaissance are a great template to use for their soldiers, and the original source material even provides them with similar equipage.
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