Welcome to... Canonfire! World of GreyhawK
Postcards from the Flanaess
in Greyhawk
Cities of
Jason Zavoda Presents
The Gord Novels
Greyhawk Wiki
    Canonfire :: View topic - Plunder & Loot: What do Military Units get to keep?
    Canonfire Forum Index -> World of Greyhawk Discussion
    Plunder & Loot: What do Military Units get to keep?
    Author Message

    Joined: Sep 09, 2009
    Posts: 2470
    From: SW WA state (Highvale)

    Send private message
    Mon Apr 03, 2023 7:53 am  
    Plunder & Loot: What do Military Units get to keep?

    Greetings All

    Been a long time since I've posted an inquiry, and this one has come to my mind, especially since my player has a few characters that serve in a military capacity.

    I know from a historical perspective that many military units permitted looting of enemies to their soldiers, and that often the military commanders received a large amount of the 'cut' from this (such as Roman officers). Here is what I want to know from you all.

    What would military units be permitted to retain from their patrols in the various lands when dispatching enemies of the state (like monsters, humanoids, brigands, and the like)?

    1) Greyhawk City

    2) Veluna

    3) Celene

    4) Furyondy

    I can see the various options as follows:
    a) You get nothing, receiving ONLY your base weekly or monthly pay. Everything is turned over to the government.

    b) You get a cut of the loot. Not sure what percentage, so I am open to suggestions.

    c) You get EVERYTHING for your troubles and service. But maybe you get taxed (?) on the monies and treasure? This includes magical items.

    d) Finally, are the spoils equally divided among all the soldiers (includes any clerics and wizards in the band), or is it based on your rank?

    Again, I value input and suggestions. Please answer, following the format given above for easier interpretation. Feel free to offer your rational as well.

    Journeyman Greytalker

    Joined: Mar 12, 2008
    Posts: 161

    Send private message
    Mon Apr 03, 2023 6:45 pm  

    Are we talking about 'looting', as in taking stuff from defeated enemy soldiers?
    Or 'looting', as in foraging for food and anything of value that soldiers might find as they gather food from local peasants while on campaign, since logistics really didn't get invented until gunpowder became a big thing in war?

    Historically, armies were pretty poorly paid. You get a bonus to sign up, and after that pay is basically just enough for very basic room and board and little more than that. Allowing them to loot and forage... well, pretty much anyone and everyone in the army's path, enemy, friend or neutral, WAS how armies got paid.

    And yes, officers got a share of the loot. It was almost mafia-like, with everyone paying a share of their loot to their boss, all the way up to the general.

    Historical armies that tried to minimize looting fell apart pretty quickly. Soldiers generally don't want to risk their lives for little more than room and board, and odds are the other side is allowing looting. Since there's no such thing as 'national pride' until the 18th century, jumping sides between battles is not exactly uncommon. And it's not like medieval armies kept the sort of records you'd need to keep track of who was in what army when. Some solders would routinely sign on with a unit just long enough to spend their signing bonus, desert, and go sign on with another unit.... quite possibly with another nation. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    Peasant levies, of course, were more closely guarded as they would almost always desert at the earliest opportunity.

    (As an aside... a small number of soldiers trying to escape a lost battle who get caught by the local peasants will get a pretty gruesome end. The local peasants will take revenge on the soldiers for the looting - and other atrocities that came along with it - that were perpetrated on them while the army was intact. And again, sides didn't matter as 'friendly' soldiers were just as quick to loot the local peasants as 'enemy' troops did.)

    But that's historical armies. In fantasy, that doesn't really matter all THAT much. But it's probably why 'good' nations tend to have smaller armies; they pay more and can't afford the hordes of soldiers that an 'evil' nation that allows routine looting of all and sundry can afford.

    As to how this works for the armies in question, I can only offer my opinions.


    The Free City is almost more of a Fee City - there's fees for everything. They're a commercial power more than a military one. They're also a neutral power, so I can see them allowing foraging in enemy territory while on campaign. At the same time, they would actually care enough about their tax base to try to minimize their troops foraging in 'friendly' territory. So base pay will be somewhat higher, with promises of extensive wartime looting and foraging. But there may well be a tax on it, Greyhawk being Greyhawk.


    Historically, the armies of Bishop-Princes and other religious figures were every bit as bad about looting as any other army. Of course, such religious leaders did not have a direct line to a NG entity guiding the morality of their actions...

    As a fairly peaceful nation that doesn't do a lot of campaigning, foraging will not be allowed. Base pay will be fairly high as a result. Veluna would have a smaller, but fairly professional, army.

    Of course, looting the enemy dead once the battle is over is pretty much assumed.


    Now we get into nonhuman psychology, which is always tricky.

    When you live effectively forever, why risk your life fighting for money? This is why elves traditionally favor the bow; all the dying happens way over there.

    Celene is probably the closest to a modern army you'll find in fantasy. Lots of ranged skirmishing infantry, with a fair amount of cavalry doing recon and shock combat and magic support standing in for artillery. It'll be a small army fleshed out by lots of civilian volunteers who have learned archery and basic fieldcraft.

    The elven definition of 'loot' will almost certainly be far more selective than the human definition. A human looting a body will probably take anything that can be expected to sell; an elf will shun ugly things even if they would fetch a pretty penny in a human settlement.


    When your king and crown prince are both literal Paladins with (again) direct lines to a LG deity overseeing your morality, you are going to be keeping a tight control over your soldiers and their baser instincts.

    Having said that, as was mentioned earlier logistics is pretty much not a thing at this technology level, and Furyondy is very much an actively campaigning power. So a certain amount of foraging of enemy territory is inevitable; it's simply impossible to supply an army in the field without it. Yes, Clerical magic can diminish the need, but probably not eliminate it.

    Given that situation, I'd expect that there would be professional quartermasters overseeing foraging, with foraging teams led by Paladins and LG priests to prevent abuses as much as possible.[/i]
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 11, 2009
    Posts: 381
    From: Verbobonc

    Send private message
    Mon Apr 03, 2023 8:04 pm  

    I take Lanthorn’s position to be focused on how soldiers engaged in internal policing would conduct themselves after winning an engagement against bandits, humanoids, or other monsters, specifically in regard to what plunder may be available. Also, this is for soldiers operating outside of cities or towns, which would have their own local watches, and soldiers looting in the city streets is just a bad look.

    I decided to use the mental example of a bandit gang. By whatever means, our patrol, men (or elves) tracks, corners, and defeats them, and now has to dispose of their possessions before taking the prisoners to the nearest justice and a swift trial.

    Soldiers from any of the mentioned states would be entitled to the personal possessions of any foe they defeated. If a solider defeated an opponent in single combat, that opponent’s possessions (arms, armor, clothes, and other effects on his person) are forfeit. If the combat was confused enough, or large enough, then the personnel effects of the defeated foemen are divided up on a basis of shares, common soldiers having one share, sergeants two, officers and spellcasters three shares.

    The real question, in my mind, is the bandit’s trove, or in DMG terms, lair treasure. This is where national characteristics would be impactful.

    Greyhawk: If a trove’s original owners can be located, it is returned to them, though it is customary for a consideration to be paid to the soldiers who recovered it not to exceed 10% of its value. This consideration is paid by the owners. If the original owners cannot be found, or ownership cannot be determined, the city automatically gets 50% of the trove. The rest is divided up among the soldiers present, and up their chain of command as well, stopping at the commander of their garrison, who gets a 25% share. Thus, an officer who sent his troops on patrol, but never left the fort, would still get a consideration, again on a share system.

    Veluna: The trove will be returned to the proper owner if it can be identified. If not, a third will go to the archcelricy, a third to the noble whose territory it was found in, and the remaining third to the soldiers.

    Celene: The trove becomes the property of her fey majesty, unless any other person can demonstrate a claim to it.

    Furyondy: The trove’s disposition is handled by the lord on whose land it is discovered. If a legitimate owner can be found, half of their goods may be returned, the rest kept in payment for the service rendered. If no claimant can be found, the soldiers would get a portion to divide among themselves, while the rest would revert to the local lord. Unless it is found on crown land, Belvor will never see any of this wealth; Furyondy is rather decentralized after all. In the From the Ashes timeframe, their might be more variance, as Belvor would be trying to exert his authority more, and by the time of the Great Northern Crusade, the crown gets maybe 10% of any trove.

    Adventure hooks:
    • Members of a patrol defeated a bandit/monster/etc. but decide to keep the treasure for themselves. They fabricate a story to their commander, and plan to come back for the treasure at a much later date after making oaths. In the years between, members of the group begin dying off or disappearing, and concerned loved or the government ask the players to investigate. If the former soldiers are dying, one of them has decided he wants the treasure for himself. If they are disappearing, perhaps they are finally getting ready to collect the plunder, and leave the area for good. Think the Simpsons Episode, “the Flying Hellfish”.
    • Members of a patrol set out to recover a lot of wealth stolen from a merchant, but decide enroute to take the wealth for themselves. Think Kelly’s Heroes. I could really see this happening in Nyrond post-Greyhawk Wars. The players may be sent after the patrol by their commander, the merchant, or a third party.
    • Like the first hook, but only one member of the patrol still lives, and he is a parent of one of the PCs. On his deathbed, he gives the player a map to what is left of the trove. However, a family member of another member of the patrol figures out what is going on and leads a band of bandits/adventurers after the characters.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jun 29, 2001
    Posts: 736
    From: Bronx, NY

    Send private message
    Tue Apr 04, 2023 12:19 pm  

    One thing to note with historical references is that there are several "types" of loot.

    1. Personal Effects
    Everything from armor and weapons to a stash of coins in a purse to the purse itself, plus boots, belts, cloaks, and the shirt off their backs. This will generally go to whoever snatches it first, though the gear of officers will typically be reserved to the officers and nobles of the victorious side. In a fantasy setting I might expect magical gear, particularly scrolls and wands, would be reserved for spellcasters serving with a unit in a similar manner.
    Significant differences would be expected when it comes to the effects of humanoids, particularly when being looted by elves and other demi-humans. While equipment they had claimed from demi-humans would likely be retained, the rest is likely to be claimed only to be sold to whatever merchant might take it, or simply sold for scrap.

    2. The Baggage Train
    This includes stuff found at the enemy camp, and includes things like food, armor and weapon reserves, tents, the war chest, and luxuries brought by the officers, especially nobles.
    Portions of this will be snatched by common troopers, but most of it will be reserved for the officers, and some, like the war chest, becoming the property of the commander or crown.

    3. Plunder
    This is stuff that bandits and raiders have stolen from the people of the kingdom the patrol serves, if it is identifiable. It would generally be returned to its owner, or retained by the crown if it could not be returned for whatever reason (particularly the death of the owner). However, a recovery fee, probably around 10%, would be paid to the unit, and shared out based on rank.

    4. Really Big Stuff
    I mean BIG. In the Age of Sail this included enemy ships. A captain could get ludicrously wealthy from taking prizes, both military and merchant, and the crew would be able to party hearty the next time they were in port. This would likely extend to ridiculously potent magic items if identified, and possibly the mounts of a large force, though the mounts of knights and nobles were typically considered personal property and included as part of their ransom.
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 26, 2002
    Posts: 541
    From: Canada

    Send private message
    Tue Apr 04, 2023 7:05 pm  

    As a few other posters have alluded to, it will vary depending on which country is employing the soldiers or mercenaries in question. The 1st Edition DMG also alludes to the crews of sailing ships being entitled to a share of any treasure they take (the captain getting 25%, various lower ranks getting smaller shares and the crew dividing another chunk, with the player who owns the ship getting the remainder) so we might assume something similar for land-based units.

    I would also see many countries, particularly good-aligned ones, paying their troops pretty well to avoid them ravaging the peasants and the commoners. Militaries might buy large amounts of grain, produce, etc. from aristocrats and feed the troops themselves. This might be a pretty good source of income for aristocrats and freemen alike-or it might constitute part of their feudal dues and taxes in lieu of coinage.

    And just as real militaries did, troops with particular survival and hunting skills (like the First Nations-inspired Flan, for instance) can also "eat and run" as needed. Seizing the food supplies of defeated enemies is another option. Humanoid cooking might be suspect at best and dangerous at worst, but raw beef or venison that human or halfling cooks can still work their magic on is certainly welcome!

    The individual soldiers can also spend their pay and their share of the treasure on various indulgences (alcohol, carnal pleasure, gambling, other luxuries, etc.) during their downtime. Some of them might buy additional food, sweets, or what have you that they keep for themselves.

    Exactly how that treasure is divided can vary. More evil and/or less disciplined armies might allow free looting, particularly the armies of countries like Iuz, the Horned Society, the Bone March or the Pomarj. Any major treasure hoards, of course, would be claimed by the leaders as their personal property.

    Meanwhile, more good-aligned and especially lawful countries would expect the troops to pool all their treasure together for everybody to get a share. Higher-ranking officers and leaders might get the rare gems, jewelry and art objects, particularly if they'd have an easier time selling these things. The general troops would be paid out of the bulk coinage, each getting a good-sized pouch or sack for their trouble. The troops will likely police themselves on this to a certain extent-cheating your mates could have serious consequences in the next battle...

    The highest-ranking officers and leaders, in all cases, get the largest shares of treasure. The sailing ship example in the DMG is a good example of how this would work. Any loot left over after the percentages would be passed over to the government, in part to defray the costs of equipping, training and feeding the soldiers in the first place!
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 26, 2002
    Posts: 541
    From: Canada

    Send private message
    Tue Apr 04, 2023 7:11 pm  

    Another thought-governments would make adventurers pay 'treasure taxes' in many cases, such as when the Marquis of Bissel charges the players in Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. In lieu of directly paying adventurers or mercenaries in some cases, governments may simply waive the treasure taxes for anyone specifically working for them.

    You have to pay a 20% treasure tax if you come out of Castle Greyhawk alive, but if the Oligarchs hire you to flush out an orc lair in the Cairn Hills, you keep the plunder you find there. Any merchants who had trade goods like lumber, cloth or wheat stolen by the orcs could pay you a reward for returning their property...and if you don't report this to the authorities, they won't necessarily raise that much of a fuss.

    Joined: Sep 09, 2009
    Posts: 2470
    From: SW WA state (Highvale)

    Send private message
    Fri Apr 14, 2023 9:23 am  

    I want to thank you ALL for your collective input (and more is welcome).

    I was mainly thinking about how military units WITHIN their own borders (not necessarily across borders) would divvy up loot and plunder. However, I appreciate the deluge of answers and insights that were offered.

    For instance...

    Would Greyhawk military units on patrol in the Cairn Hills or the Domain of Greyhawk be able to claim a portion of monies, gems & jewels, and even magic items that fell into their collective possession if they dispatched an orc band, marauding beast, bandits, etc.

    And the same applies to the military serving the aforementioned countries in my original post (Celene, Furyondy, and Veluna), wherein their troops are actively patrolling their national territory.

    thank you again

    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 11, 2009
    Posts: 381
    From: Verbobonc

    Send private message
    Tue Apr 18, 2023 12:10 pm  

    Of note, I based my response on what used to be English, maybe even British law for treasure troves. I assume that there would be some customary Oeridian laws on the books for these situations, varying by locale...
    Display posts from previous:   
       Canonfire Forum Index -> World of Greyhawk Discussion All times are GMT - 8 Hours
    Page 1 of 1

    Jump to:  

    You cannot post new topics in this forum
    You cannot reply to topics in this forum
    You cannot edit your posts in this forum
    You cannot delete your posts in this forum
    You cannot vote in polls in this forum

    Canonfire! is a production of the Thursday Group in assocation with GREYtalk and Canonfire! Enterprises

    Contact the Webmaster.  Long Live Spidasa!

    Greyhawk Gothic Font by Darlene Pekul is used under the Creative Commons License.

    PHP-Nuke Copyright © 2005 by Francisco Burzi. This is free software, and you may redistribute it under the GPL. PHP-Nuke comes with absolutely no warranty, for details, see the license.
    Page Generation: 0.40 Seconds