Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Thought ACKSperiments: The Monomerc

(With apologies to Joseph Campbell)
An approach to solving the problem of complexity in mercenary hiring and management in the same style as Simpler Logistics (but actually simple this time).

One of the central reasons that dealing with mercenaries is a pain in the ass is because there are so many types.  My previous proposal for dealing with this was to hire mercenaries as units, so that at least you get a whole unit of a single type, which you can then deploy in Domains at War.  But there's an even simpler approach: reduce the number of types.  I've already done a little of this, rolling crossbowmen in with bowmen for example, but how far could you go?

What if, as with mounts vs pack animals in Simpler Logistics, you only had one or maybe two types of mercenaries?  If those troops were equipped and trained correctly, you could choose what formation / fighting style (formed vs loose) to deploy them in.  And then "Number of Mercenaries" becomes a single piece of party state during wilderness adventures, like "Number of Mounts" (or an entry on each PC's character sheet - he has this many mercenaries, and in mass combat is the leader of a division formed of them, with his henchmen as lieutenants).

There is some design space around changing formations - maybe getting them to actually fight in formation instead of as irregular requires some effort.  Explorers, thieves, and bladedancers can get mercenaries under their command to fight in Loose formations; clerics and dwarves can get mercenaries under their command to fight in Formed formations; elves and fighters can do both.  Troops under the command of wizards, priestesses, and other Fighting 0 classes fight as Irregular.  A unit with a lieutenant will fight in a formation that fits that lieutenant's class (so your dwarf division commander with an explorer henchman can get one unit of loose in his otherwise formed division).

I've played with a couple of drafts of this.  Generally I end up equipping them with ring or chainmail, a spear, a short sword, a shield, and some ranged weapon.  This gives them 90' speed, and then depending on whether they're using the spear or the sword+ranged, they can be either Formed or Loose.  The trouble that I end up running into is that the BR for Loose units with any significant ranged capability ends up higher, and consequently their nominal wages.

There's a sweet spot with javelins as the ranged weapon where the BR for Loose and Formed troops is equal, but players will probably (reasonably) complain.  This does avoid making out every mercenary to be a competent horse-archer though, which is nice, and if you're using the Campaigns rules for recruiting and training troops, you don't need to them to qualify as archers.  Maybe cutting it down to two unit types (Mercenary Archers vs Mercenary Spearmen and then you can mount either) or four unit types (heavy infantry, bowmen, heavy cavalry, light cavalry) is as far as you can reasonably minimize.  Going down to four unit types also means that the light cavalry isn't necessarily also archers, which solves the "all horse archers all the time" potential issue.

In any case, an attempt:
Mercenaries are equipped with chain mail, a spear, a shield, a short sword, and three javelins.  Their speed is 90', provided that they are not carrying their own rations.

Formed mercenary infantry: 2/3/4 FF, AC 5, HD 1, UHP 6, ML +0, 2 spear and shield 10+ or 2 javelin 10+, BR 2 (12gp/mo)
Loose and irregular mercenary infantry: 2/3/4 LF, AC5, HD 1, UHP 6, ML -1, 2 sword and shield 10+ or 2 javelin 10+, BR 2 as LF (12gp/mo) or 1 as IF (6gp/mo)

Formed mercenary cavalry (on medium warhorse with leather barding): 3/6/9 FM, AC 5, HD 1, UHP 6, ML +1, 2 spear and shield 10+ (+1 damage on charge), charge 3 hooves 8+, or 2 javelin 10+, BR 4.5 as FM (54gp/mo) or 2 as IM with +0 ML (24gp/mo)
Loose mercenary cavalry: 3/6/9 LM, AC 5, HD 1, UHP 6, ML +1, 2 sword and shield 10+, or 2 javelin 10+, BR 4.5 (54gp/mo)
Since a medium warhorse, saddle, and barding cost 315 gp, and there was that post on the forums forever ago about how every ~10gp of equipment raises the mercenary's wages by about 1gp/mo, we can conclude that you do in fact need to pay extra to get cavalry-capable mercenaries (unless you're willing to have them fight as Irregular Mounted, which...  is kind of reasonable, for Not Real Cavalry).  So having just a single type of mercenary seems to not work out.

Anyway, if you take these 12gp/mo mercenaries, total the available gp value of mercenaries in each market class every month, divide by 12, and get your number of Mercenaries available per month.  I thought I had a spreadsheet for this from when I was doing Simple Mercenaries the first time but it turned out what I actually had was a python script, so I hacked that up a bit and the results were really interesting.  Total expected value for mercenary wages available per month is way higher than I thought in small markets - it's just that about half of that is in low-probability high-wage cavalry.

Anyway, assuming you consider "total expected wages of mercenaries available per month divided by single-type wage" as an acceptable calculation, the number of universal mercenaries available at 12gp/mo looks something like this:

Total merc wage129103566184656827498

That's enough to build out companies from class IV markets in reasonable timeframes!

On further reflection, it might be interesting to capture variance in addition to expected value on total wage, or otherwise understand the distribution better, especially for small markets where it's possible to roll no cavalry at all in a particular month.  That sounds like a lot more work and statistics though.

I think this single-mercenary-type approach is a bust due to cavalry and archer problems, but I'm happy to have rediscovered my tech for computing total expected mercenary wages per month by market class.  I think combining this with a much narrower set of mercenary types (probably 2-4 by culture) should hit a nice middle ground between ACKS' default of "there are too many types of mercenaries so building units is very slow" and the single-mercenary-type approach which makes building units stupid-easy, but makes a lot of compromises in gear selection and bends the rules for cavalry qualification.

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