This post sat as a draft in my queue for a looong time, so it may be a little outdated, but a discussion in the Discord brought it to mind so I figured I'd press the Publish button.
Previously, I examined tribal goblins, who due to poor organization and a lousy manufacturing base end up relying very heavily on beast cavalry, scavenged weapons, and unconventional strategy.
But goblins, being weak, are natural candidates for domination by orcs and chaotic domains. Here I consider the sort of units one might see in a semi-industrialized chaotic domain, Mordor-style. There's a case to be made that Mordor, in Tolkien, represents the forces of modernity in the mid-20th century, with crude artifice, callous science, and forbidden knowledge applied to slaughter and conquest. I'm not going to go so far as The Last Ringbearer in apologizing for Sauron - I assume the Dark Lord is probably a bad dude, and his servants likewise. But evil doesn't mean stupid, and if you have the knowledge and power to train and compel beastmen to forge weapons, their products may be without beauty, but quite functional.
I guess my essential contention is that the primary deficiency of beastmen is organizational, rather than intellectual (of low and evil cunning). So here I'm assuming a tech-base comparable to humans, but army organization still hampered by the natural aggression of beastmen.
Anyway, starting from the bottom of the totem pole:
Goblins benefit greatly from being part of a chaotic domain, primarily because their weaknesses in melee are covered by their stronger counterparts. They remain useful as cavalry and make for adequate archers.
Goblin Arbalestiers: 1/2/3 IF, AC 2, HD 1-1, UHP 6, ML +0, 2 shortsword 10+, 3 arbalest 10+
Crossbows are great for goblins for the same reasons they were great for human peasants historically: compared to longbows, they're easy to learn to use, they hit hard, and they don't rely on upper-body strength. Any goblin qualified to use a sling or shortbow could use an arbalest to greater effect, and goblin arbalestiers are available as goblin bowmen. The arbalest's no-move-before-fire and great range are perfect for low-speed goblins, and if you're at range, having lower HP than orcs is fine. This frees up fast, tough orcs with carrying capacity for armor to get into the melee where they belong. It's a win-win. Wages are about 9gp/mo (cheaper than orcish crossbowmen), company TCO is around 1.5kgp/mo, and their BR is around 1.25. If your setting has guns, Goblin Musketeers are good for the same reasons.
Goblin Grenadiers: 1/2/3 IF, AC 2, HD 1-1, UHP 6, ML -1, 2 torch 10+, 5 thrown military oil 10+
In addition to advanced metallurgy, Mordorian beastmen have discovered the refining of naphtha. Some poor sods get to be the delivery mechanism for that volatile oil to the enemy, and goblins, being the lowest of the low, are often stuck with this duty. A unit struck with a thrown oil attack must immediately check shock, as fire bears a visceral terror. On a roll of a natural 1 with a thrown oil attack, the goblin grenadiers take 1UHP of damage and must check shock, in addition to gaining a depletion marker. Goblin grenadiers take double damage from fireball, fire breath weapons, and similar effects, as the oil in their packs ignites.
Goblin grenadiers can also be employed against terrain. If there are no units within their range (2 hexes) and forward firing arc, they can throw fire on the ground instead. It takes 3 successful military oil attacks against AC0 to ignite a hex properly. Most terrain becomes rough and obscuring when so ignited - units must move carefully around the fires, and the smoke blocks line of sight. As the oil floats on top of water, even mud and lake hexes can be affected. Forest and swamp hexes lit afire become impassable, as burning underbrush and falling limbs become serious hazards. Ignited hexes burn for a least 10 minutes, which is longer than most battles will last.
Goblin grenadiers' thrown oil attacks also deal 5 SHP of damage per hit to siege towers and wooden structures. As a result of these abilities, goblin grenadiers are useful in sieges, both defensively (igniting siege towers) and offensively (igniting hexes to block lines of sight and allow other units to advance to the walls).
Goblin grenadier wages are 3gp/mo, and their company TCO is about 1kgp/mo (accounting for the expensive oil that they use). They require little training, and are available as goblin light infantry. Their nominal BR is 0.75, but much of their utility is not captured by the BR calculation.
Goblin Spider-Knights: 2/4/6 Irregular Mounted, AC 7, HD 1-1, UHP 6, 2 lance and shield 10+, charge 2 bite 9+ and delayed poison (save at +2) (and bonus lance damage), ML +1
Goblins don't benefit much from the availability of advanced armors, because of their low carrying capacity. This is less of an issue for cavalry, however, and giant spiders have tremendous carrying capacity, allowing them to carry an armored rider while heavily barded themselves. This is a unit of goblins in plate with shields and lances mounted on giant crab spiders barded in lamellar. While not as fast as wolves, they're much better armored, and their poison charge can really hurt high-HD units, and also inflicts shock. They can climb sheer surfaces like cliff faces and castle walls.
They are, however, hideously expensive, with wages of around 71gp/mo per spider+goblin pair, and a company TCO of 8.25kgp/mo, for a battle rating of only 2.75. Still, they're a fun idea. Maybe spider-chariots make more sense - a pair of giant crab spiders (or a single giant black widow) can pull a heavy chariot, which can carry four goblin archers in heavy armor.
Of course, while we're on the subject of spiders as warbeasts, we may as well go all-out...
This was my first time using the Lairs and Encounters monster design rules; mostly I wanted to see just how much an elephant-sized spider could carry.
Concept: enormous spider
Hmm for a gigantic (elephant-sized) spider, I need it to weigh at least 8000 lb, so I'm retroactively going to maximize BME to 1.68. That gives me a mass of 4500lb, still insufficient. To hit 4 tons, I need 22HD. So that's what we're doing - 18HD, BME 1.68. We're also going to maximize CCF, at 0.426 - these spiders are bred primarily to be enormous and to carry heavy things. Using the cube-square rule, we get a carrying capacity of 1512 stone (by comparison, an elephant's carrying capacity of 180 stone).
1 bite, 44 average damage -> 8d10, plus save-or-die poison (save at -2)
XP 5500 (HD 22*)
Spiders are pretty smart for vermin, with training mod +2 (but training period 1 year). Given that this thing is enormous and selectively bred, I think Animal intelligence makes sense.
Natural lifespan of around 45 years.
You know, I don't see anywhere to calculate morale for monsters in this build system.
Trained value per L&E is something on the order of 121kgp, wages on the order of 3680 gp/mo.
BR per DaW is... really annoying to calculate for individual monsters, actually. So let's do a behemoth cavalry unit and derive it from there.
Given how much these things cost, it would be dumb to not armor them in plate (7200gp, 60 stone, +5 AC). A gigantic war howdah costs 240gp and only weighs 18 stone - there's no way we're going to use up 1500st of carrying capacity on this thing. We can put 12 orc lancers in plate in that howdah if we pack them in; if each orc weighs 20 stone and has 10 stone of equipment, we've used up a total of around 400 stone, well below even half carrying capacity.
So a unit of 5 of these has 60 orcs in plate packed into howdahs (AC 8, THAC0 14+) and five enormous spiders. Speed is 120', translates to IM 2/4/6 (... not actually faster than orcs on foot). AC 8.66 -> 9, UHD 34, UHP 11. The spiders generate 12.6 attacks, the lancers generate 4.95 attacks, for a total of 17.55 attacks, rounded to 18. The spiders have THAC0 -4+, while the riders have THAC0 14+; the weighted average by number of attacks is 1+.
Morale is tricky. Base morale of 0 for the spiders is not unreasonable, but then they're war-trained for +2. The orcs are beast-riders and have ML +2, so the average ML is +2 regardless of weighting. They are, however, unpredictable.
So here's how it all rolls out:
War Elephant Spiders: 2/4/6 Irregular Mounted, AC 9, HD 34, UHP 11, 18 lance and poison bite 1+, ML +2 unpredictable
So that's a hell of a unit. BR is 18.25 before poison, which contributes about 3.5 points of BR, bringing it up to 21.75. A single enormous spider with 12 orcs has a BR of around 4.25, and should demand a balanced monthly wage of around 3.1kgp, which is a bit under the wage L&E gave us of around 3.7kgp. Anyway, 4kgp/mo is probably adequate to account for rarity, equipment, and riders. Add in some specialists, supplies, and slop factor and you're probably looking at around 22kgp/mo TCO for a company of five of these things. 22kgp/mo is about four and a half companies of wolf riders at BR 6.5 each, or three and a half of boar riders at BR 8 each. So in terms of BR/gp, superspiders aren't great compared to existing beastman cavalry. They are, however, much more consistent on offense - four and a half companies of wolf riders can generate 29 attacks if they all charge, but on a non-charge turn only generate 9. Given that they're irregular and can't disengage, charging multiple times is pretty rare.
The spiders get 18 attacks (at better THAC0) every round, forever, and can be expected to consistently kill one human unit per turn, and to shock even heavy infantry phalanxes, beastman heavy infantry, and giants (who are also very vulnerable to their poisonous bite). On the other hand, four and a half companies of wolf-riders are honestly a lot harder to kill, with a total of 90 HP to the superspiders' 11. High AC is nice, but if they're plowing through the center of a melee line they're going to start taking attacks from the side and rear, and some of those will hit eventually. The spiders will also have trouble with cavalry (especially light), and have no answer at all to flying units. I suppose there's really no reason to not give the orcs bows, besides not wanting to redo the BR math.
Probably plays a lot like an OGRE; you can clean up mainline units or make a run for the commanders, but eventually the enemy's light units will wear you down, so you must hurry.
Since they can climb walls, they're pretty useful offensively during sieges. You could put catapults on their backs instead of orc lancers, but... really you want these guys to be up in melee, clearing the tops of the parapets in advance of your ladders.
I guess at this point we've already really moved on to orcs from goblins, though.
Orcs benefit substantially from the availability of heavy armor because their speed doesn't degrade until they're carrying 7 stone of gear, per Domains at War Campaigns page 35 (humans start to slow down at 5 stone). The only reason not to upgrade the stock orc units is cost. As a forward-thinking Evil Overlord focused on military modernization, up-armoring my orcish legions is a top priority.
Orc Armored Light Infantry: 2/4/6 Irregular Foot, AC 5, HD 1, UHP 8, ML +0, 2 spear and shield 10+ or 2 sword and shield 10+, 2 spear 10+ ranged. Equipped with chainmail, shield, spear, and scimitar. Wages 8gp/mo, TCO 1.25kgp/mo, BR 1.75.
Orc Armored Heavy Infantry: 2/4/6 Irregular Foot, AC 5, HD 1, UHP 8, ML +0, 3 polearm 10+. Equipped with banded mail and a polearm. Wages 11gp/mo, TCO 1.75 kgp/mo, BR 2.
You call that heavy infantry? I'll show you heavy infantry. Honestly the light/heavy distinction for beastman infantry is sort of artificial, since it's all Irregular Foot.
Orc Seriously Heavy Infantry: 2/3/4 Irregular Foot, AC 7, HD 1, UHP 8, ML +0, 2 spear and shield 10+ or 2 axe and shield 10+, 2 spear 10+ ranged. Equipped with plate, shield, spear, and battle-axe. Wages 13gp/mo, TCO 2kgp/mo, BR 2.25.
May as well upgrade the archers and crossbowmen too, even.
Orc Armored Bowmen: 2/4/6 Irregular Foot, AC 5, HD 1, UHP 8, ML +0, 2 battle-axe melee 10+, 2 shortbow ranged 10+. Equipment: banded mail, shortbow, battle-axe. Wages 9gp/mo, TCO 1.5kgp/mo, BR 2.5.
Orc Armored Crossbowmen: 2/4/6 Irregular Foot, AC 5, HD 1, UHP 8, ML +0, 2 battle-axe melee 10+, 3 arbalest ranged 10+. Equipment: banded mail, arbalest, battle-axe. Wages 16gp/mo, TCO 2.25 kgp/mo, BR... 5.5? Jesus.
Orcish Armored Boar Riders: 2/4/6 Irregular Mounted, AC 7, HD 6, UHP 24, ML +2, 2 spear and shield 10+, 5 bite 6+ on charge. Equipment: giant boar (30st carrying capacity), orc (15st), spear (1st), shield (1st), plate armor (6st), chain barding (3st). Wages 51gp/mo, TCO 7kgp/mo, BR 13.
Orcish Incinerators: 2/4/6 Irregular Foot, AC 5, HD 1, UHP 8, ML +0, 2 torch 10+ melee, 5 thrown military oil 10+ ranged. Equipment: Banded mail, 3 torches, 8 flasks of military oil. Wages 8gp/mo, TCO 1.5kgp/mo, BR 3.5. All the special rules that apply to Goblin Grenadiers also apply to Orcish Incinerators.
Once that reform is in plate (so to speak) and my iron-clad grip on the realm has stabilized, I'm going to want to start selectively breeding orcs for martial virtues like discipline (as well as desirable physical characteristics like increased toughness). The end result of this orcgenics program is basically hobgoblins, but with 120' speed. They are in no respect inferior to man, and they shall inherit the earth. Saruman's uruks and Warhammer's black orcs are both in this mold.
Elite Orc Skirmishers: 2/4/6 Loose Foot, AC 5, HD 1+1, UHP 10, ML +0, 2 spear and shield 9+ or 2 swordsword and shield 9+ melee, 2 spear or 2 javelin 9+ ranged. Equipment: Chainmail, shield, sword, spear, 3 javelins. Wages 15gp/mo, TCO 2kgp/mo, BR 4.
Elite Orc Pikes: 2/4/6 Formed Foot, AC 5, HD 1+1, UHP 10, ML +0, 3 polearm 9+ melee, 2 javelin 9+ ranged. Equipment: Banded mail, polearm, 3 javelins. Wages 18gp/mo, TCO 2.5kgp/mo, BR 5.
Elite Orc Heavy Infantry: 2/3/4 Formed Foot, AC 7, HD 1+1, UHP 10, ML +0, 2 spear and shield 9+ melee or 2 sword and shield 9+ melee, 2 javelin 9+ ranged. Equipment: Plate, shield, spear, sword, 3 javelins. Wages 20gp/mo, TCO 2.75 kgp/mo, BR 5.5.
Elite Orc Bows: 2/4/6 Loose Foot, AC 5, HD 1+1, UHP 10, ML +0, 2 sword 9+ melee, 2 composite bow 9+ ranged. Equipment: banded mail, sword, composite bow. Wages 27gp/mo, TCO 3.5kgp/mo, BR 6.75.
Cavalry... hm. On the one hand, horses do not fit the orc / realm of darkness aesthetic at all. On the other, they're so much faster than beastman mounts, and that really starts to matter with Loose Cavalry units. There really aren't that many options for mounts that won't make you Irregular (by dint of being carnivorous). Giant boars are actually viable for Formed Mounted, but they're so slow. I dunno, I'll worry about this later.
Ogres are another unit worth up-armoring. They're slow, but not getting any slower. I'm not really clear on how to price armor for large humanoids, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over that.
Ogre Armored Infantry: 2/3/4 Irregular Foot, AC 9, HD 4+1, UHP 21, ML +2, 5 polearm 6+. Equipment: large plate armor, big polearm. Wages 100gp/mo, TCO 7kgp/mo, BR 14.75.
Ogres also have the carrying capacity to personally carry and use light ballistae (a human has a base carrying capacity of 5st and can wield a 1st arbalest - an ogre has a carrying capacity of 40st, and should be able to wield a 5-7 stone light ballista). Since ogres count as two men for unit composition purposes and are much stronger, I have little doubt that they can effectively crew such weapons personally. At 60 ogres per unit, and 10 light ballistae per human ballista battery, a company of ogres each armed with a ballista would have firepower comparable to 6 human ballista units. One might reasonably argue that they're not trainable as Artillerists and should take a -4 to-hit penalty, which might be fair.
Ogre Ballistiers: 2/3/4 Irregular Foot, AC 9, HD 4+1, UHP 21, ML +2, 4 sword 6+ melee, 12 light repeating ballista 6+ ranged (range 8 hexes, no volley overhead penalty, no move before fire, see DaW:B page 61-2 for more details) and 1 reload token. Equipment: large plate armor, light repeating ballista, sword. Wages 130gp/mo, TCO 8.75kgp/mo, BR... well my spreadsheet is telling me their BR is 59.25. Use at your own risk, I suppose. Honestly they might be more useful in smaller units - 12 attacks all on one target is going to be overkill a lot of the time.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the next ballista up the chain is 80 stone, and not even giants have the carrying capacity to use one as a hand-weapon.
I suppose this would've been a fine place to apply Orc Chieftain Abilities for some chieftains and lieutenants. Maybe next post.