Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Horse Technologies

To begin with, the treasure table I put up yesterday has been upgraded so that the input data & results appear on one page.  Some of you who are not familiar with excel will find this much easier to view.

One thing I failed to make mention of was the Civ IV development index ... which the reader will find shown now on the Input Page.  This is in reference to the number of 'coins' a particular bit of land area would have, in accordance with various NTME posts I wrote last fall, particularly this one.  These things all link together.

By changing the comparative Civ IV development, you multiply coins, gems & jewelry on the Treasure Table by any number you choose to insert there.  So if the treasure isn't enough for you, there's a simple toggle you can play with.

A note about gold, silver and copper coins.  I suppose I am as robotic as anyone in the acceptance that there ought to be more copper coins than gold coins because gold is more valuable.  When you think of it, however, that really doesn't make a lot of sense.  You may have more pennies in your house than dollars in your wallet, but in reality you possess many more dollars in general wealth than you own in pennies.  Moreover, you are FAR more likely to have a hundred dollars in your wallet than 100 pennies in your pocket.  I've never quite made that connection.

This is why on the table there are almost always more gold coins than silver or copper.  The latter two exist to make change ... but the principle wealth anyone possesses ought to be gold pieces.  In reality, copper is so useful for so many things it is more likely that it would be melted down for use rather than hoarded away - so finding tens of thousands of copper pieces would be so unlikely I can't be bothered to include it.

Besides - and lets be honest here - copper is so degraded in value in the game that most characters after a certain level can't be bothered with the necessity of hauling all that weight for an easily dismissed gain.

As I said, the war tab is based off the cultural intelligence table I posted last week - along with this below:

This obviously deserves some discussion.

Once again, I don't want to get dragged into a debate about whether horses of a particular variety existed in Earth history at the same time as a particular armor or weapon, or versus a given tack or tactics.  Anachronisms are bound to occur, and whereas I can appreciate them, generally I am anxious to produce a playable measure for limiting some cultures while promoting the technological superiority of others.

Thus, I perceive that some cultures would be possessed of heavy warhorses, while others would not.  The same may be said of the stirrup, barding, hippogriffs or the availability of paladin's warhorses.  I realize some will recognize there's a magical quality in paladin's warhorses (they're not 'bred') ... but we can agree, I think, that some cultures will have learned how to call them, while others will not have.

Tactics were the most interesting part of the table.  Bareback riding would have been the first efforts made to actually ride a horse by gripping the mane and with the rider's thighs.  Consider - the first people who lived with horses ... why would they ever think that horses could be 'broken'?  If you had never seen a broken horse, and every time someone had tried to ride such an animal they were bucked off, wouldn't you just assume for generations that it was an animal that simply refused to be used in that fashion?  "Ride what?  The animal whose meat and milk we eat?"

Just to point out, not all horse-like animals can be domesticated.  Zebras have never been ridden - and cannot be ridden (as described at length in Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel).  The first persons to succeed with horses must have been stubborn, or drunk, or both.  I'm sure there were a number of factors at work there.

A bareback riding culture might have some reconnaissance options, but we're certainly not talking about a combat cavalry.  That wouldn't arise until at least a cultural intelligence of 8.  Skirmishing would represent a disorganized body of blanket-saddled men moving at the edge of an army and merely harrassing an enemy - NOT acting as a unit, but as individuals, most often dismounting before attacking, then quickly remounting their animals.

Organized raiding would be the step up from this, where groups of men would skirmish at specific enemy targets, still generally dismounting - though now there's a saddle, but no stirrups, something hard to imagine.  Horses tended to be much smaller animals, which could be better gripped with the thighs, as that's pretty much all you had to keep you on a horse.

The cataphract charge is the shock tactic of bunching horses as closely together as possible and all rushing against a line of men, using the bodies of the horses as weapons to trample and create a breach.  In my world, this would mean effectively one horse per hex, with some attacking possible from the horse but mostly on the ground after much of the cataphract was dismounted.  Generally, this reflects the standard Roman tactic.

Lancers appear with the development of the lance (see the other table) and the appearance of the stirrup (approximately the Mongol period).  Yes, there were lancers prior to this, but because of the impact, without stirrups, knights tended to be thrown off the horse - so the lancer as a reliable tactical unit really doesn't exist until after the invention of the stirrup.  Prior to that time, most lance combats were one-on-one honor bouts, even in war.  The battle of Hastings was fought mostly on foot.

Mounted bowmen, too, appear throughout central Asia around the turn of the millenium; the crusaders fought them, the Seljuks were deadly horsebacked archers and several armies in India featured them.  They predate lancers by some degree, but they're close enough I feel it was really a question of geography (the steppes of Central Asia vs. the forests of Europe, along with European horses vs. Central Asian horses) and not specifically intelligence.

Hit & Run presumes the mounted cavalry has transcended the need to get off the horse to fight, and that skirmishers are now rushing into combat and out without having dismounted.  Ambushing refers to the tactic of more thoroughly managing the movement of groups of mounted soldiers so as to move more quietly, in single file, and to keep the horses silent so as to surprise hosts of men - then hitting them from multiple sides in a controlled, managed action.  This takes tremendous skill, and there aren't many examples of it prior to the 14th century.

This leads to schooling horses.  I haven't talked about the advancements yet, but the next stage is tactics depends on teaching the horse to do more than simply bear a rider.  Sharp turns, gaits, managing to traverse difficult terrain and keep footing, these are things we take for granted in horses but which at one time were unknown.  The earlier reference to breeding comes from the fact that most horse breeds that exist now were manufactured from earlier natural strains, thus the creation of the warhorse and inculcation of certain desired traits.  This really took off when schooling horses became a necessity for military tactics.

The hussar charge is an improvement on the old cataphract in that the horses were more tightly packed together.  Tolstoy in his book War and Peace speaks in one scene of feeling Paul's knees pressed against of the flanks of the horses on either side of his own, as the charge was so compact as to utterly shatter an enemy position when impact occurred.  Hussars were the terror of the battlefield once this tactic was introduced - and it necessitated terrific schooling on the part of horses.

A very great problem with the hussar charge, however - and this in the age of gunpowder, the late 16th century - was that the mass of flesh packed together in this fashion made the hussar charge tremendously vulnerable to shot.  In a D&D world, it would be no less vulnerable to area effect spells like fireball, color spray, cone of cold, ice storm, burning hands, etc.  The solution that was applied was to have the hussars ride at the enemy loosely grouped, and then concentrate in the very last moments before the actual charge.

Point in fact, you will probably never see this in a movie, unless someone decides to do with with CGI.  The best scene from a good cavalry movie, the Light Horsemen, shows a cavalry on Beersheba as it rides wide open and straight at the enemy ... but the actual tactic of the late concentration was dropped after the American Civil War, and there are no soldiers left anywhere in the world who are trained well enough to effect such a charge, even on screen.  Though I think there may be some cavalries who could train up to doing it ... if they could be bothered.

Have a look at that movie link; it's one of the most beautiful depictions of horses in motion I've ever seen.

A few other notes.  Clingor would be, I think, a reference to the Thomas Covenant series ... it's a call out to campaigns that include some sort of magical cloth or saddle that enables the rider to be better fixed upon the horse, and not knocked off.  Magic barding is somewhat obvious; magic horseshoes would be like the horseshoes of the zephyr or some other similar item.

There you have it.  I suppose I'll come back around to another treasure post when I have the magic portion added to the Treasure & Arms table.


Alan Harrison said...

My best guess who first rode a horse: bored pre-pubescent girl, bothering a foal when she should have been milking its mother, or something.

jbeltman said...

Did you think about chariots at all?

Alexis Smolensk said...

You misunderstand, jbeltman, if you think that the cultural intelligence table of the post is in any way a description of earth history. It presupposes, instead, that different parts of the 17TH CENTURY WORLD has different levels of technology ... and no chariots existed anywhere in the 17TH CENTURY WORLD. I'm sorry that wasn't clear, except that I stated as much twice, perhaps three times.

This is not meant to be a depiction of the Earth history of intelligence or technology.

Incidentally, there are very good reasons chariots were abandoned universally after the Greeks (the Romans used them for sports, not war). Might want to look into that.

Jonathon said...

Alexis: obviously "chariot" as such has no place in your technology chart and I am in no way disputing that. Your use of "abandoned" to describe them caught my eye, though, because I tend to think that a war wagon is in many ways a late evolution of the basic idea of a chariot. Just bigger, slower, meaner, and more heavily armored. Would that have a place in the 17th century tech tree?

Though possibly that falls outside the bounds of a "horse technology" chart.