It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience. — Julius Caesar (attr)
As I write Warbound: The Shield Maiden I find my self in unfamiliar territory. The action in my previous two Domains of the Chosen books, Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale and Bloodlust: Will to Power took place in the confines of the arenas of the Krassian Empire, but the Warbound books follow the Legions, and much of the action takes place on battlefields in and around the Domains.
The first big battle is chaotic and does not delves too deeply into the tactics of the Legions. It involves a desperate battle against a fleet of pirates. It tends to focus on the actions of two characters, both of them Warbound, and mostly serves to whet the reader’s appetite and develop a character or two.
I’m also somewhat shy about detailing the training of the Legions. Vintia, one of the perspective characters for Warbound: The Shield Maiden, spends much of her time out of camp for various reasons and is unable to join in the training sessions with her cohort. I do detail a mock battle, but even that is focused on the actions and emotions of a handful of characters (which is what most people want to read) and does not delve into the strategy and tactics of the world.
Today, while finishing up the first draft of the pirate battle, I realized I was shying away from writing about the tactics and organizations of the Legions. After some careful thought, I realized why. As an avid gamer, when I created Bloodlust, I also created a little RPG to play with my friends. This allowed me to detail the various aspects of the games, from Gladiator training and arena life to crowd appeals and faction match points progressions, and see how others reacted to them. When gaming players tend to find flaws in both settings and systems fairly quickly, which helps flesh out something as unusual as the arena’s of Krass. Sadly, I have not had time to create a war game to explore the ideas of mass battles in the Domains, and even if I had my game group only meets once a month for some Shadowrun these days.
Instead I will mostly develop the ideas in writing. Having a blog allows me to expose the ideas to my readers and get feedback that way.
Here are the basic elements of the Legions that I have to work with.
- Roman Influences: I love classical history and the basic presentation of the Legions is very similar to the Roman Legion. As you see, I use much of the terminology, which keeps with the extended classical feeling that I am trying to invoke with Krass itself. It is a good starting point.
- Magic!: The most important new element to consider is magic. How will the Legions use magic to aid them? How will they counter the magic of the enemy?
- Steampunk Elements: Almost in spite of myself, I added steampunk elements to the Bloodlust series. This includes mechanical automatons, spike throwers, flame cannons, powder based cannons, and many other devices which have potential battlefield applications.
- Mixed Genders: I don’t think the idea of mixing genders in battle is especially controversial in Fantasy fiction these days (Women still face resistance in assuming combat roles in many places in the real world, mind you) and does not really present any conceptual problems. In the early, desperate days of the Domains only a fool would turn down brave women willing to fight the horrors of the Reckoning; the Legions thus have a long tradition of service from all genders.
- Fantasy Races: The Legions are multi-racial. This presents slightly more difficulty then mixed genders. Two Legionnaires of wildly divergent sizes, like an ogre and a quickling simply cannot lock shields. It presents an interesting set of problems that I never expected: most cohesive fantasy armies tend to be made up of units of a single race. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the organizational aspects without relegating every non human phenotype to an auxilliary formation — formation warfare relies on direct physical teamwork where the differences between an Armodon and a Shadow elf are key.
- The Warbound: The Warbound themselves are another factor. These former Gladiators have been retrained and re-equipped to join the Legions, where their skills with the more destructive aspects of magic can be put to use serving the Domains. The Warbound serve the Legions directly, without much interference from the Deliberative. This requires a set of mechanisms for control as well as a whole new set of tactics. How is having a supernaturally strong warrior with the ability to cast fireballs or a font of healing going to change the way the Legions fight?
- The Enemies of the Domains: Part of taking the action and the story beyond the borders of the Domains is a chance to see other cultures and enemies up close. How these potential enemies fight will have a great influence on Legion Tactics. Imagine battles against the odd, graceful, magic eating Wirn, or the shape-shifting, spirit empowered Pale.
Basic Legion Organization
- The Legion: The Legion is commanded by a Legate, who is advised by a Strategos. Each Legion is made up of 10 Cohorts and several support groups.
- The Cohort: Each Cohort is commanded by the Senior Centurion and is made up of Six Centuries. The Cohorts are identified by number, but often adopt formal nicknames and banner heraldry. The First Cohort is made up of the largest, strongest veterans and is commanded by a Senior Centurion, called the First Shield. The First Shield advises the Legate, and outranks all other centurions.
- The Century: Each Century is commanded by a Centurion, a Legionnaire with at least two decades of fighting experience.
- File: The file is a semi-formal grouping based on the position when the Century assumes basic 10×10 parade formation. The file is led by a senior Legionnaire called the Decurion, or the File Leader. Files are informally called tents, since the file will share a single tent on march.
- The Eighth Cohort, Ninth Legion: The Engineers of the Ninth Legion are organized into their own Cohort. These are sappers, siege engineers, and artillerists who started out as Legionnaires and thus know how to put up a fight. Fighting engineers are considered a necessity in long distance operations. The Ninth Legion has several additional cohorts assigned to it when it was reformed to join the Bright Company. It does however lack cannon fodder forces like automatons and undead, which are unreliable in places which have not been cleansed of wild magic.
Basic Legionnaire Weaponry
- Lorica: The Legionnaires of the Domains are equipped with armour similar in design to the Lorica that we associate with the Roman Legions. However, the Lorica of the Domains is made from steel alloys and treated with magic through a process known as spell-forging. The early days of the Reckoning required that the Domains pack as much power into a single Legionnaire as possible, and thus arms and armour are of excellent quality.
- Scutum: The Legionnaires use a shield that is entirely made out of a specially treated laminate, edged with tough steel alloy and spellforged to resist magic and the elements. The shield is even higher quality than the armour, and allows the Legions of the Domains to put up a shield wall that can withstand cinematic levels of abuse from unusual sources.
- Gladius and Pilum: Despite years of weapons advances the Legions stick with simple short swords and spears as their weapons of choice. The old dual javelins, thrown to break up massed charges of beastmen have been replaced with a single sturdy spear that can be used for close fighting or planted to ward off cavalry and large beasts. The spear is backed up by a sturdy short sword which excels up close. The Krassian short sword is a little shorter than a Roman Gladius, but balanced to chop as well as thrust. It is often used for construction (like a Machete — for jungle campaigns in the trials) and is exceptionally sturdy.
- Grenades: With the advent of widespread artifice and infantry the Legionnaires have been equipped with grenades. These are simple devices that can be armed with one hand. Once armed the grenade begins to glow and vibrate and with explode after ten seconds. The explosion is not nearly as impressive as a modern grenade, but they are quite effective when thrown in volleys. The grenades are more effective at breaking up charges and formations than javelins, and provide another tool for killing monsters. Legionnaires drill extensively with grenades, including emergency procedures for when they are dropped or kicked back into the lines. Incendiary grenades are used in some engagements, and elemental grenades and more advanced types are being produced as well.
- Specialist Weapons: several men in every century carry specialist weapons like spike throwers, weapon created by Artificers that acts very much like a rapid firing crossbow with a pressurized air component. Spike throwers can use a variety of munitions. Grenadiers are common as well, breaking formations far effectively than javelin volleys. Other unusual arms include flamethrowers, elemental enchanted weapons to deal with exceptionally tough monsters, and so on.