The Spirit Breakers

Exiled from their home this elite military force is adrift in a foriegn land. All these people have ever known is war so they put themselves for sale as mere mercenaries at the same price as any other sword slingers. But these men have brought a new type of type of warfare to the northern lands and the fields of battle will run red with their enemy's blood.


Tactics, Equipment and Organization
The Spirit Breakers are a cavalry force consisting of light, missile and heavy cavalry. The company contains 20,000 men with spare horses and a full armoury of weapons and equipment.

10,000 of these are horse archers. These soldiers are mostly used to attack enemy infantry. They use whatever means nessesary to avoid being drawn into combat with infantry. In this they are very successful for they can turn round in the saddle and shoot while retreating. Once their arrows are spent however they can use light sabres in melee combat. They are led by the venerable and dependable Commander Kazrim.
5,000 of the army are camel riders. Camels are not as fast or strong as horses but they are taller allowing their riders to throw spears from a more favorable angle. But mostly camels are used for their effect of horses. The smell of camels unnerves horses and a charging camel can at least stop in its tracks or retreat. Either makes enemy cavalry indecisive and vulnerable. Consequensely camel warriors are used to combat horse cavalry. For this they are armed with scimitars or battle axes. The young and ever eager Commander Sadrim leads this division. However rumors that he was commissioned because of his noble birth have never faded.

On their own these cavalry might be at a disadvantage. But the last and central division of the terrifying steel dogs dispels this notion. These men and their mounts are wrapped in two layers of chainmail and reinforced by sturdy platemail. For their initial charge they have piercing lances. Soon these are discarded in favour of battle axes, battle hammers, halberds and other polearms. But the charge and actual weight and momentum of the rider and mount is what allows the steel dogs to completely shatter the enemy lines. At the head of every charge is the bloodthirsty Prime Commander Neltoc. This man's body is host to a score of scars the most prominent being the one where his right eye used to be.

The spirit breakers were led by General Septark who founded the army and devised many of the strategies that gave them victory.

With the help of Septark's tactical edge the force were able to strike mainly infantry divisions and exploit their weaknesses. When faced with other cavalry armies the Spirit Breakers retreated but at the same time their archers and camel cavalry repelled the enemy cavalry with skirmish tactics.

The great power of the spirit breakers can only be felt or seen when they attack infantry. The general strategy is as follows. Firstly camel cavalry engage the horse cavalry troops of the enemy which will probably be small but even small detachments of cavalry can counter horse archers so the camel riders' role is important.

Then without cavalry to stop them the horse archers send storms of arrows upon the infantry. Once or twice the enemy has been destroyed by these volleys alone. A range of tactics are used here. Sometimes the archers move in circles paces away from the infantry front line. This allows arrows to be fired continuously and whilst moving which improves accuracy and arrow speed. Also the ability of the riders to shoot backwards while retreating can dishearten the enemy.

It is when the infantry are forced to charge or retreat for any hope of survival, when they break formation, that the steel dogs strike. They gather about 600 paces away and charge. At first they move slowly but then they build up momentum and become virtually unstoppable. Assisting their charge are five hundred of the best, most experienced horse archers who give supporting fire.

Assuming the enemy cavalry are destroyed the camel riders charge into the rift in the infantry and are followed by the horse archers.

For this army the only defeats suffered are those when the enemy manages to survive.

The Spirit Breakers came from the Sovereign Plains. It is within these plains that the Hundred Cities fight, rape and butcher each other. It is a fact that these people do believe that if unified they would be unstoppable. They just haven't decided who will lead them yet. Each city is both strong and to proud to bow to a foreign ruler. So the cities wage war and have momentary distrustful alliances.

Twin City, in the northern plains never could mount an attack on another city. Mainly because five other cities at anyone time fought against them, desiring the fertile plains surrounding it.

Born of two cities so close together that they decided merge. The pride of these two districts -which was considerable- was settled by the marrying of the son and daughter of the respective rulers of each city. The line stared was held sacred and above all others, for only the combined blood could rule. Their child who it was decided to be entitled prince not only brought unity but something more special. Their first child was female and due to their being no suitable male cousins she was declared crown princess. The first in the Hundred Cities' long and bloody history.

It was many generations later however, when Prince Jaenan sat on the throne that three crushing defeats drove him to accept a unique proposal.

This proposal was made by the renown Prime Commander Septark, a person who Jaenan loathed at the time. Septark was a cripple who could barely walk and found wholeness in learning how to ride his only family were his fellow soldiers. He rose swiftly through the ranks due to his courage and strategically brilliance. He was soon appointed Prime Commander of the Steel Dogs regiment but that was just the beginning.

Septark used most of the favours he was owed to gain an audience with the Prince. The preoccupied monarch had little time for a cripple and was starting to despair at the march of the army of Saltonia. The Saltonians had long been an enemy of Twin City and it looked like they were going to take the Prince's city in his weakest hour.

But Septark had a solution. He told Jaenan of his plan to unite the entire cavalry of Twin City into a single force. He outlined the tactics of such a army and said that as their infantry was clearly no match Saltonian legions and that their foe had a weak cavalry it was their best chance.

Jaenan much to the crippled general's surprize accepted immediately. Hence Septark chose his commanders and pulled back all the cavalry detachments in the field.

Then Septark rode out swiftly to meet the enemy. As the Saltonians so far were used to combined infantry and cavalry forces from Twin City they expected enemy armies to only move as fast as infantry. So they were completely taken by surprize when Septark hit them on the march. 3 out of 5 legions retreated to a secure high grounded position. The remaining two legions suffered the full brunt of the Spirit Breaker's might. Only a few hundred made it back to the other legions. They thought the Saltonian position was safe but soon the horse archers encircled them and fired. Trapped in a defensive position cavalry was sent out and soon repelled by the camel riders. All the legions could do was wait it out.

When the arrows were spent the Saltonians had been decimated. They would never attack Twin City again.

So it was the Spirit Breakers became famous and that they defended their city for years to come. They were exulted and for once Twin City did not have to fear.

But then came an assault by an independent army. It was a hungry army and the fertile lands seemed ripe for the picking. The spirit breakers didn't even need to use ordinary tactics, they just charged and scathered the brigands.

But on their return they found the city now flew the flag of Jaenan's cousin Jerin. A messenger they knew well had come and told them of the devastating coup in which Jaenan and his direct family had been killed. The messenger had only been spared because it was thought his loyalty was only to a paying master and because he was a close friend of Septark. The messenger did not insult them with the obvious offer of re-commission in Jerin's army and pledged himself to the spirit breakers and not the man who thought him cheap.

They knew they could not retake the city as infantry was required for such a task and even if they did they would beckon civil war. Yet for reasons of honour they could not serve under Jerin. So in utter despair, they left Twin City forever.

Fleeing out of the desert they entered the northlands of large stable, but warring nations. Here they plyed their trade, shamefully reduced to mercenary work.

Roleplaying Notes
The army have arrived in a normal fantasy european continent. As mercenaries they will have many adventures. Some ideas:
1. PROBONO WORK A massive war has caused an endless river of defenceless refugees that the Spirit Breakers feel morally obliged to protect.
2. LAST DEFENCE The horsemen have been paid by a monarch to come to defend his capital city. If they fail then the entire nation will collapse.
3. INTERNAL CRUSADE The dominant religious leader had declared that the heathen Spirit Breakers are to be executed. Now the foreign army must face the armies of the entire continent.


? Responses (14)-14

Goto Author

This could handle a little spellcheck. Now for a mercenary group it is rather large, an entire army, which makes it feel a bit awkward... but not impossible perhaps. Still there might be objections against their size, so it might useful to downsize them a bit. Oh, and add the mercenary freetext to this.

Now the history itself is not improbable, there's bound to be entire army units that have deserted after their homeland changed lords. But there will be sure some dissention among their ranks, as to whether they should return, or perhaps carve out a little place for themselves.

The strategy bit is solid; they have a strength they work on, and there are enemies they are not good against. But what are their long term aims? Do the commanders have something in mind, or are they still mainly concerned for survival? How freely do they recruit new soldiers? And what happened of Septark?

I would just like to see something of the long view. The idea is pretty good itself.

Goto Author

It basically seems that its a calvary group combining Saracens AND crusaders, correct?

That would be a nasty tag-team indeed.

As manfred mentioned, the size of the group seems excessive to me. The logistics of feeding 20000 landless soliders (plus their support staff, camp followers, etc) would be incredible.

Goto Author

Nicely done submission. It has details and flow. It has nice dramatic hooks.

They could of just camped outside the gates and seiged the city, waiting for starvation to takes it toll, as they could of taken any outriders OR anyone comming to break their seige. They did not have to attack. But that is just a tactical thing.

Without Cav, and it seems their military focused on Cav for a number of years, the city state would become easy pickings for some other state. So they have also left their homeland crippled defensively. Again, something to consider...

Lets see...The sub is marred by a few awkward sentences, but nothing too bad.

I do have one real problem with it: size. In the general tech level and world you has supposed, 10,000 Cav is the size of a National Army. Countries the size of France could field a mixed army of 10,000 souls. Most such armies run from 5-8000 of mixed cav/ infantry/ archer. Such large forces can only be supported for a few months of the year (campaign seasons). Now these people come from a two city 'state'? That is one big army. Those two city states must have a massive amount of land to support them.

You see, sheer logistics will make this force impractical. Feeding, watering, and supporting 15000 mounts (minimum for mounts and spares) and 10,000 men (plus do these people have any support staff like armorers, farriers, grooms, valets, etc, in their camps?) for a year is quite a task. These people are never paid in gold, just food. They would destroy any ecology that were in for every long. Don't believe me?

Lets do the math. 15000 times animal units/month gives something like 390,000 lbs of feed a month (plus human food too for this force). That would be required for the three to five months green feed is not available. Figure they would need 1 acre per 3 mounts, so they would be 5000 acres of space for a given green month. That is 5000 acres arriable that can't be used to feed your peasants. Per month. So you will use up 15000 acres rotated for the green months, and will need approximately 6000 acres dedicated to just making the feed for the rest of the year.

Maybe dropping the size of the unit by a factor of 2 to 10 would go a long way towards realism.

Goto Author

Everyone else posted while I was looking up numbers and such.

Manfred brings some good points:

But what are their long term aims? Survival will only carry you so far.

Do the commanders have something in mind, or are they still mainly concerned for survival?

How freely do they recruit new soldiers? Are they so perfect they take no losses? And are the new ones any good?

And what happened of Septark? Which is what I wondered, as a major part of their armed forces

Lastly: Camels in cold weather. This could be an issue as these critters do not exactly thrive in colder and wetter enviroments, hence the reason there are no camels left at the San Francisco zoo.

Goto Author

I get the impression that this massive force is meant to be similar to the Mongol Horde, moving fast with a minimal baggage train, but the numbers given are a massive force, one that would have great difficulty keeping itself in the field without large numbers of support and logistical personnel. I would like to see more detail on these important military functions: Just how do they maintain themselves as a viable fighting force?

A massive army like that would need to conquer (or subdue) large areas in order to get the food and supplies that they need. They were dismayed to be forced into the role of mercenaries; Perhaps they would prefer to be conquerors?

Goto Author

As Moon observed, we all posted at about the same time and all observed some of the same issues.

Goto Author

At the risk of annoying our resident military experts (:)), I am pretty sure that history features countless 20K sized forces, but yeah, with the logistics involved, 20k seems a tad much in this particular case. Sorry to repeat whats been said already.

I otherwise like the piece! Nice verisimilitude. Good work, necro!

Goto Author

It's hard to tell the true size of ancient and medieval armies, as accounts from the time tended to make up numbers to emphasize their points more than to factually report what happened. While huge armies weren't unheard of, for instance the Persian force that faced the Spartans at Thermopylae, history records the massive logistical problems facing generals fielding such a force. (The Persians had more problems than many other ancient armies, as many of them didn't even speak the same languages.)

Goto Author

They would have to constantly move, or starve.

Goto Author

Not bad, the backstory is certainly solid and the tactics seem sound. While I would generally agree with the others that the numbers are quite a bit too large, but if I were to use them I would just reduce the numbers until they fit into the logistics of the setting I would need. And while the Spirit Breakers would certainly work with as few 200 or 1000 mounted warriors, it lacks the cinematic impact of thousands and thousands of men riding across the plains.

Goto Author

Darn Cecil B DeMil. He has reset our expectations because of his films (and the films that followed him).

Goto Author

It was a fun idea with some interesting twists. Very usable if you were to have an army scale war in your game and it gives some specific strategies on how it would happen, not to mention the addition of the camels. Would add a bit of interest to a clash of armies.

I like the idea of a disowned army, although I would like to think a little more about their departure. I would think that they would probably try to storm it or siege it for at least a little bit. What is a civil war to them. Weren't the Twin Cities basically in a civil war forever anyway until they finally forged peace? I can understand honor bound, but with that many people there are very probably factions inside that would swear new allegiance, go to the other twin city and support them, then leftovers may go out and be a masterless army. With those numbers they could probably pick any of the cities that are their enemy and take it over and establish it as their own. I just can't see an army having no base and just wandering, especially in the environment given.

There needs to be a leftover child heir that was missed. Isn't that the cliche that the army could rally on, the new ruler would fear, and provide a loving continual conflict and goal to allow the army to bind together to attain?

Goto Author

Another possibility: the army could have been exhausted or suffered many injuries in the conflict (perhaps a little misinformation was in play). And when they returned home in bad shape, they were given a choice - to give up, swear fealty to the new king (after purging all disloyal elements) - or attack their own homes, be a part of of yet another civil war, and probably lose.

Instead, they chose exile.

Goto Author

Brilliantly executed General!, Keep it up.