This mercenary company is listed on the rolls as 'A Dwarven Archery Unit'. This archaic definition has confused many a lesser commander as to the use of the unit, being that Dwarves are notoriously awful archers. Yet to the savvy commander, the unit becomes the perfect tool for siege combat.
A Dwarven Archery Unit is not a bow using unit, it is a seige weapon unit, specializing in ballistas and crossbows. The unit not only can build them (either from local materials or from previously made parts), but they can shoot them with deadly accuracy.
The Scorpio's Spawn will join a force with three to ten teams of six. One Surveyor (Captain) for each team, one Teamster (who handles all the transport), three Aims-men (which serve as weapon crew and construction), and one Supporter (handles most of the supplies and the day to day of the team and is crew wagon teamster). Each team will bring two wagons, one carrying a partially disassembled ballista, some spare parts, and one hundred bolts, the other the crew and equipment. The crew carts, driven by supporters, are marvels. These covered wagons protect crew and equipment from sun and rain, hail and wind, and it could be closed off entirely by drawstrings on each end. The big wheels rolled easily over the bumps and hole of the rough trails, and wide rims kept the wagons from sinking into the soft ground. The wagon's 10 - by 3 1/2 foot- body could take a load of a ton or so. The lighter the wagon, the less likely it was to bog down in muddy areas or stream-banks. There is not much room inside the wagon, and in decent weather crew cooks, eats, and sleeps outside. (Think small Conestoga wagon). In fact, the unit has a strong side business selling these (expensive) wagons to other armies and mercenary companies. Some merchants are experimenting with them as well.
A weapons wagon has special mountings in the bed, so a ballista can be properly sit and be fired from it. Unlike most siege units, Scorpio's Spawn are a precision strike unit. Their ballistas are frequently used as 'sniper weapons' picking people off walls who arrogantly do not cower behind the crenulation. They can place a bolt almost anywhere possible. They are often shot off and over the wall to take out those on a street. However, they have been known to shoot cathedral bells (in the tower), through palace windows, and other feats of impressive marksmanship. Sure they often miss, but the successes are spectacular.
In most cases, someone from the Units has mapped the city passably well. Usually teams of Scorpions do this duty in the 'off season' when they travel. (and they get paid for each map). This allows them to line up shots and shoot them down streets for maximum effect.
If properly prepared, they can do their legendary (and tricky) chain shot. This requires two ballistas and a link of chain between them. This can be used to do massive damage to light structures, or to take out a swath of charging soldiers. This is the only unit known to do this on a regular basis.
The Horses are often kept tethered near the weapons. So when there is a chance of break, they will hook up the wagons and pull them to the rear. Usually they will cover their retreat with crossbow fire.
Scorpio's crews will build catapults if materials are present and they have the time, but they find the weapon inelegant.
The Company can also field Crossbowmen. Most of the team will often join battles when their ballistas will do little good as crossbowmen.
Scorpio's Spawn was founded nearly two hundred years ago by a set of Dwarven soldiers attached to the Lord King's Army. The Army was set at siege with no end in site. Unable to tunnel under the walls due to local soil conditions, the Dwarves fumed at the inactivity. Utilizing their superior engineering skills, they created ballista to take out targets. Also applying their engineering skills they were able to calculate angles of launch to put these bolts in amazing places.
While they did not break the siege, they did help to break the defenders faster.
Many of the more curious humans hung about the Dwarves. They helped them create more ballistas and learned how to plan shots.
As the Army moved on, the Lord in charge gave the Dwarves some additional gold to do the same at the next siege, planned for a few weeks. The Dwarves, smelling a profit to be had, began the ground work for creating a company of ballista men.
The Company has be running for nearly 200 hundred years now. It's camp in the Nordforth mountains has become a Dwarven Keep with a Human town above it. Here, they make Carts, Ballistas, and Bolts to serve for the next few campaigns. They also make excellent surveying equipment in the Underkeep. All of these things, as well as crews are available at a price.
The price for all of it is quite steep. So steep in fact that most will not hire them (or buy their quality products), despite their noted levels of success. Many regulars, as well as other companies, have great animosity against them... as they feel the money could be spent to buy more useful troops.
Note: A ballista looks like a scorpion. Scorpio being the related astrological sign. The translation from the Dwarven to the Human came out as Spawn.
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? Responses (9)-9
You could write a story based on this.
Good solid mercenary company with a difference. Why do they price themselves so high that so few can afford them and that causes animosity: wouldn't it be good business sense to lower it a bit?
I found the bit about them acting as crossbowmen a bit hard to swallow (though I could certainly see that they would be trained with the crossbow). As I read this, they seemed to be ultra elite troops: very highly skilled, very well paid and very arrogant. Why would they deign to risk their lives in combat (even ranged combat) with common soldiers?
3.5/5 but witholding vote for now as, knowing you Moonhunter, you have some excellent answers to these questions!
Their cost is mostly about their overhead. They employ 6 people, when most armies employ 2 for each ballista. They have top knotch equipment, 4 horses, two wagons, extra crew (highly trained at that). They are not over priced because they want to be elitist or price gouging, they are expensive because of what they bring along.
Think of them as engineers, rather than warriors. They are logical, rational, and have no 'dreams of glory'. It is just a job. They are not in it for the history or the bardic tales. They don't get all the macho or honor crap that the rest of the military folks buy into.
Now compare their costs too a rough shod unit made by two guys from local materials, which may or many not have a horse to move it. The average military leader thinks he can 'get by' with the conventional ballista unit. These units are a fraction of what you would pay for the Scorpio Spawns. Think of it as I could use an F-12 fighter craft, why do I need a F-21 fighter craft, especially if I am used to only what an F-12 delivers (and are unclear that the F-21 joint strikeforce stealth tech with remote technology craft can actually do for me).
You get what you pay for and these people deliver.
Now most 'artillary' pieces tend to die in this kind of battlefield for two reasons. In a siege, the great battle usually happens between the enemy camp and your camp. Ranged weapons are normally set up just on the 'outskirts' of the attacking camp. Once the battle is joined, they are stationary and they can not hit moving targets. Secondly, no real soldiers are protecting them. So they are just a plum target for anyone who can get to them. This is what happens historically to the two man team and their cobbled together balistas.
Now this company does not march out onto the field. They don't get 'dirty'. They can stay off to the side or the rear (where they are their balistas would be anyways) and launch into any battle. This is much like any dedicated archery unit.
These units can defend themselves, at a good range. In fact, if the battle is joined, they can sit back from their 'hard points' and effect the battle... take out any force that advances on them from a really far range... and put in some serious licks while they are retreating from a position. (And they can because they keep the horses right there to pull their balista cart right out).
This really isnÂ´t bad.
One answer is naturally self-defense, for even they may be under attack. Also, the crossbow is an ideal practice weapon for its larger version. Put together, if the enemy is too close for a ballista shot, crossbows can do a lot work, before they start attacking them or their expensive weapons. Also, it is a matter of pride (Dwarwen stereotype) - they canÂ´t just stand around if the battle is not going well.
Yet another reason why warlike lords would consider hiring them.
And why so expensive?
Perhaps they donÂ´t want to fight wars of others all the time, and when, it better be worth it. They would be insulted if they were seen as just some merceneries - they are the VIPs of war. Skilled, deadly, and mostly behind the lines; but action is there if you want it. The rest of the year can be spent in comfort.
Actually I had not thought about that option. That may be part of the reasoning behind it. I was just thinking about hard economics.
Good points Manfred - thank you!
Double post? And this is the 3rd time I've tried to comment on this. So I'm to lazy to go into much detail.
I like how you gave the darves something that they'd do well that no one really has before.
Very cool. It reads kind of like a game manual for an RTS, but has tons of detail, and is a cool concept in and of itself. I like this whole mercenary theme a lot of people have been going on lately, and this is a great post. No other word to describe these guys except 'cool'.
War is expensive, and getting specialized foreigners to fight for you is even worse.
I like the idea of these folks