How to Deal with Unusual Post-War Situation?

Nobles mostly avoided pitched battles. It wouldn't be worth it to either side, so usually the fighting would stop after an immediate objective was accomplished or a favorable position for forced diplomacy was obtained. The result of this is that normally, at the end of whatever, all involved nobles would be sitting in their manors paying ransom for soldiers and covering war debts, with probably the majority of their force returning as well.

This... Didn't happen. This was one of the most odd defensive turnarounds I've ever seen in any game, and probably the oddest I've seen in mundane combat in Ars Magica.

A greater baron had raised his feudal army (and tried a roll to increase the size of his force, but only did well enough to keep it the same size :stuck_out_tongue: ) to lead a major offensive against the baron to whom one of the PC Companions is a landed vassal. (Specifically, he's a Wealthy Landed Noble with a huge focus in Leadership whose liege is a Wealthy Greater Baron.) The PC was like "oh heck to the no" and raised an army to repel the invaders. I didn't see things going well for him because the baron's vassal/feudal army + mercenaries outnumbered his vassal army 5:1, but he rolled quite well to increase his army through the Affinity and ended up tripling his army's size.

The PCs involved were the noble Companion himself, an infantry group leader, and the leader of a well-sized mercenary band. The infantryman's group saved a group of overwhelmed knights in the first event... Pretty normal, helped keep the defending army's strength up. Then the whole "defense" part jumped off a bridge. I intended to simply have the PCs hold the line against an enemy cavalry charge, since the noble Companion had good enough Leadership that he didn't need much event bonus to win the second event. He laughed and opted to artificially break the charge by taking himself and his single group of knights out to fight three of the charging cavalry groups (two groups of knights, one serjeant group). I was stupified, but let him try. Thanks to a mixture of good combat tactics and some nice luck regarding the dice, his group incapacitated the serjeant group and one of the knight groups while forcing the other knight group to surrender. Due to this and the infantryman's previous success, the enemy army ran almost entirely out of cavalry. The enemy routed, and I figured that the last event would be regarding the groups' actions during the enemy retreat; keeping from breaking discipline while the enemies ran or something, you know.

I was about to ask if this was the plan when the Companion's player reminded me that the mercenaries had originally been hiding on the enemy's flank to draw troops in case the start of the battle didn't go well. It had gone fine, but they were still there, so the mercenary leader's player received order to take advantage of the route to Take the baggage train. Though they were heavily wounded by the retaliation, they managed to take and hold control of the baggage until the noble's army arrived, sealing the capture. Deprived of almost the entire baggage, the Greater Baron's army wouldn't be able to make the trip home before succumbing, but the troops were too disorganized and demoralized by the crushing defeat to have a reasonable chance of winning if they tried to go for broke, so the baron made a full surrender.

The noble now, effectively, has all of the army that didn't run away quickly enough captured, as well as control over all of the baggage supplies. This is not something I see as a problem; they worked hard, luck was on their side, and overall I'd say they earned it. What I need help with is figuring out is 1) what recommendations could I give the player regarding what to do with it, since he's still getting acquainted with the feudal system and I myself have no idea what people back then would consider the best way to handle this; 2) how would other people react to such a feat? Would his reputation go up or down substantially? (Also, would he reasonably be able to pin the mercenaries with acting on their own initiative so that they take the negative reputation for attacking the baggage?); 3) how does ransoming work when you've captured the noble and his entire force? Would you ransom the baron to his liege, then ransom every last penny out of the baron?; and finally, 4) an extension of question 1, what good is captured baggage? Do the people and supplies carried by the baggage train have value, and can that value actually be taken advantage of by nobles, or are there rules (cultural or literal) that would prevent the noble from taking advantage in that regard?

Thanks in advance for any help!

Generally, the side that suffers the most casualties in period does so after it breaks and flees. Keeping a fresh unit to harry the fleeing is good policy (although a win at greater than 5:1 is according to Clausewitz very unusual). Reputation goes up, definitely.

So, my question is this: where's the battlefield? A baggage train that contains enough food for everyone was extremely rare. The pillage that the army does in order to feed itself is part of, indeed most of, the point, in most cases, because if you destroy the economy of the land, then next year, you can come back with a cheaper force and take the place. bringing all your own food or paying for all the food is a mark of a saint (Henry V is said to have done this in Shakespeare, so he can be both the agressor and a good guy at the same time). Most of these people you want to leave. They leave behind all of their arms, armor and anything valuable they are carrying, of course, but you don't want an army on your land even if you have beaten it. They will either starve (which attracts faeries and demons) or stay encamped (which is one of the very best ways of getting an outbreak of disease in the area).

Attacking the baggage is not a problem. Shakespeare aside again, you'd be an idiot not to take the baggage. If he'd refused to attack the baggage people would think him a fool.

The first thing your person need to work out is this: do they want to counter-thrust? There's probably no-one at home where the enemy noble came from, so right now is the very best time to go and ransack his lands and burn down his house. Now's the time to do him sufficient economic and social damage that he never comes back. If you just let him go, because he's got more land, he'll be back in two years and you need to do this all again. If you want to stop that happening, now's the time to brace yourself for sin and pillage his lands, like a professional. At the very least, if there's a castle on the border he's been holding as a defense against you, you should take that from him, so that the next time he tries this, you are fighting on land he thinks of as his.

Even if you don't want to do this: doesh e have any other neigbours who think they own part of his land? Send them a letter by the fastest horse you've got saying "Bob's just lost his army and he's my prisoner until he pays me a year's worth of if you want to take back those farms his grandfather swindled your great uncle out of, now's the time. PS: I'd like your son to marry my sister."

Now's also the time to shake him down for heiresses.

The baggage is valuable because it is not only supplies, it includes the coin he was using to pay his soldiers. King John, for example, used to have to carry around barrels of pennies to pay his troops. It's also the exact supplies you'd need to take your army and raid his lands with. 8)

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Basically my point is that the battle was a means to a political end: your players should now be trying to exploit that political end, not just treat this like a board game where people move armies around.

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  1. He can and should ransom the noblemen. He might ransom them for a lesser amount (dangerous - it could be insulting) or release the lower ranking vassals with the assurance that he will keep the baron until reasonable payments are made. He can't get anything from or for the soldiers - he can let them go (merciful!) or hire the baron's mercenaries or pay them off to march a good three days away. He can keep the baggage or disperse it to the locals (generous!) or keep the coinage and valuables and disperse the food.

  2. Other people will be extremely impressed, and possibly have lots of other responses. If he is a known troublemaker, consorter with magi or ethnic minorities or other despised people, they may suspect trickery or sorcery or demonic influence. If he is a generally good guy with a positive reputation already, his peers will be extremely impressed and may attribute his victory to God's will. Attacking the baggage, so long as there was not a general slaughter, is expected, so the mercenaries simply did what anyone would. If there was a slaughter, he can make up some of the social points by punishing the mercenaries (and keeping the booty). Basically, the trend will be to confirm whatever opinions people already have, unless there's something to offset. If he treats the captives properly (entertaining them so long as they are well behaved), he could wind up with a great and fearsome reputation.

The baron's reputation may be in trouble, of course.

  1. Nobles are ransomed back by their leiges, or their wives, or (in the case of dukes and especially kings) their subjects. As a rule of thumb, a noble is worth three years of his income. Most of this will be in non coin goods, including livestock, moveable goods, valuable objects, and so on. These payments may go on for years, and could ruin the baron, and he may try to escape payment. The baron is responsible for his vassals (the knights). I would expect that a great deal of negotiation about value of payment, assurances by the baron's liege or from the bishop or archbishop, and ongoing presence of hostages (his heirs, for example) may be included, if you want to go to all the role-playing trouble. A simpler solution is to say that over the course of a year or so a great many payments and assurances are made, and the companion shifts to Very Wealthy social status.

  2. The baggage is food, coin, and various supplies and everything necessary to supply the force. It goes to the victor. Eat the food or spread it around - it won't last. The coin is plunder. It's his to keep and dispose of as he wishes. The other supplies, including wagons, horses, oxen, livestock, weapons, etc., are also plunder in general. It's possible some of the goods belong to sutlers and other camp followers - they expect to be out of luck, and if an effort is made to not rob them of their possessions, they will probably be reasonably grateful and spread good word of the PC. They were captured by mercenaries, though, and it may be a bit late.

PCs do the darnedest things, don't they?

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See, if something like this had happened while he was on the offensive, I would've taken it as par for the course, but I'm just stunned he pulled off a stunt like this while on the defending side. Gah.

So, large boost to his Reputation, the spoils go to him to be used as he wishes, and the recommended course of action in this scenario is to ransom the baron and all his nobles, with assurances taken against not receiving payment (such as the baron's heirs or somesuch), as well as sending a little note to another noble on bad terms with the baron letting them know that they've got a golden opportunity and that by pure coincidence you happen to have somebody you'd like married to one of their children. Strip the combatants of weapons and armor and let them go if feeling merciful, do something else if not so much. Hope that the mercenaries haven't yet taken everything if you want the released captives to spread good word, otherwise don't worry about it. Political story seed in getting assurance out of the liege or big church man, so then there's additional pressure since it'll be on the big guy's Reputation if the baron tries to subvert payment. Perhaps add a counter-thrust just to make things really suck for the baron, maybe taking the currently-heavily-undermanned castles on your borders or somesuch, for more plunder and to knock him down a peg. This about everything?

Thanks! I'll discuss stuff with him and toss him the options that would be considered logical in-period, so he can come up with his course of action. Much appreciated, guys!

Outisde of the RP and story aspect which was already well covered, as GM, if I found that the player had a very good plan and acted well, I would be considering granting him a free social virtue to reflect his success or even a skill virtue (not related to Leadership since it seems already well covered), like Puissant Area Lore (his keen sense of tactics demonstrated an accute knowledge of his region), Puissant Intrigue (for the negociation he is about to have with his neighbours), or even a martial skill.

Overall, well crafted and executed plan against odds, deserve a rewards.

You might even consider having a relic or a magical item in the baggage. It can be an excellent way to introduce the next story, linked to the origin of the item. If it is of hermetic origin, how did it come into this noble possession ? who made it for him ? was it a legal (according to the Code) sales or some extra cash made by a greedy Verditius - who will be very keen on keeping this thing underwrap. If it is a non-hermetic item, what are its powers, could it be a source for discovery/integration, where does it come from (if the noble know that the PC is interest in this item, he might be willing to negociate his freedom against extra information) ? And if it is a relic, once this known, I am sure abbotts will be flocking to claims that their church/monastery/cathedral should be in charge of safe keepingm where as the local priest will suggest building a church for this sacred item is the right things to do. Who do you please, who do you send packing ?

It all depends on how much story seeds you want. I have to say, the battle and the victory looks to have been a great game, and the follow up can lead to many, many stories.

Everything's mostly said by this point, so the only thing I can add is that, if the PC "counter-thrusts just to make things really suck for the baron", said Baron will have a much harder time paying back the ransom over the upcoming years, so his payment might take much longer. On the other hand, not doing so will leave him in a better position for retaliation. So your player has to carefully weight his options when retaliating, which in my book makes for interesting choices and roleplaying opportunities. :slight_smile:

On an incidental note, the winning PC could demand (as part of the ransom) to be granted ownership of some of the land currently held by one of the Baron's other (defeated) knights. Which would get the Baron some flak from his knights, and would put the PC in the peculiar situation of now having the Baron as his liege, and also having two lieges, a situation that the feudal system handled remarkably poorly considering it actually happened quite often.

Big wins against odds are more likely for the defending side. The defending side is the stronger side (Clausewitz).

Though I kinda recall reading somewhere that at this point in history people wrongly believed the attacker was the one with the advantage. Can't recall where I read that, though.

This is a feature. If the baron can't pay the ransom, then he's disgraced and the PC has good reason to throw him down completely and give vassalage for parts of the baron's land to some of the baron's family members (who have stayed as hostages). Preferably underage family members, so he can then claim their wardship and send stewards to monetize their estate income, while still leaving them on hook for the ransom.

That sounds more or less right to me.

How much he wants to push his advantage depends on lots of factors internal to the game, and the player, and how dastardly the Baron seems to be, whether the Baron is a close neighbor, and so on. If the Baron is not a very close neighbor, and this was not a terrible personal matter, he might choose not to squeeze too hard.

The PC may find himself with new political allies, including the Baron's knights and rivals, as well as enemies and all sorts of other attention.

He might also gain a lifetime land grant, or a multiyear rent income, against ransoms - "I can't pay all that now, but we can let you have the use of / income of this land for (so many) years."

One assumes the Baron will try again at some point, once he's back on his feet, if for no other reason than honor and plunder. Putting some of that income toward defenses and fortification may be a good idea.

Oh, and the PC's baron, on whose behalf this battle was fought, is likely to be very grateful, in a slightly remote and guarded way. The PC's credit rating has probably just jumped quite a lot, which tells you where the PC's rivals have just cropped up.

So true.

The PC's liege could become jealous and/or be convinced that his vassal is an invincible military master-mind. Either one could lead to uncomfortable situations and interesting stories. The PC is also going to be much more popular/important at his liege's court.