Military might of a manor?

Hi there!!

Back from india and italy. Loads of new stuff for me, even discovering the actual founding of a covenant near Padova in 1220 (search for Cittadella on the internet, including images, to see why I think it is 100% a spring covenant :wink: ).

During those trips I read Lords of Men (really good book, comments forthcoming in a few days if I find the time). After reading it I started to wonder about a few issues that LoM and Covenants did not completely solve for me. Basically I am talking about the military power of a manor house and that of a small castle.

One of the issues I have with LoM is that you seem to require Covenants to work with it: it is not a stand alone supplement. I know that people will argue about repetition et al, but I prefer my supplements to be wholistic. One of the areas where it is not clear cut is what are the costs of having military forces in a manor, or what is the level of military might that you are likely to find in a manor.

As written, I would have said that a manor tends to have a resident knight and a sergeant…. And servants. No other soldiers at al. There is also the levy to be called in times of strife (10 to fight abroad, 20 to fight in home ground) but that is about it, and they are NOT professionals, so they are not standing soldiers in the manor but peasants.

In the whole book there is not a map or drawing of what would constitute a “typical” manor house. What a typical manor TERRAIN would be is fairly easy to get, since we all have seen hundreds of times, but the concept of a manor is something I do not have as readily available: most are not castles after all. I have found images of manors in the internet, yes, but they tend to be from later periods and be fairly different from what it is described. So far the best image I have found for a manor comes from the 3rd edition book Mistridge….

/Ranting OFF

So, after all that ranting, my main questions would be:

  1. What is the normal professional soldiery contingent that my PCs are likely to find in a “mythic” manor (in the same sense as a “mythic pound”: the average benchmark of the game). No soldiers? 10-12 soldiers? A thousand?

  2. What kind of cost is this soldier contingent likely to represent to the manor expenses?

  3. The 2 same questions for a small castle in times of peace.

  4. The cost of a knight is stated to be around 5 pounds IIRC (serf’s parma); what about that of a sergeants or foot soldier?

In times of war I would assume that all the above numbers will double and that the levy will be called to stand ready.

  1. (Making a mortal jump now…), in ToME in the story of lady Martha it is stated that she has a household of several knights (a banner or so, so I assume 5 knights and 5 sergeants). It is not stated how big her lands are, but it is mentioned that there is only one manor there. Wouldn’t that be too much of a cost for her? Should she be said to have several adjacent manors?
    I am probably missing some important points here, but I fail to see where, so I would appreciate help in defining the “typical” manor construction and its “typical military might to my player. Thanks :slight_smile:



Despite being fairly critical of Lords of Men, I actually thought this was one place were the book came through pretty well.

By my reading, a Landed Noble with Average Wealth has himself (a knight), a squire (sergeant) and can call upon the services of up to 10 men at arms, plus another 10 if he is defending his home territory. A Wealthy Landed Noble (more typical in Norman regions) can call upon himself plus 4 knights, 5 squires/sergeants and up to 50 villeins, plus another 50 for home defense. (This is all from the inset: Consideration of Virtues and Flaws on page 31). Greater nobles can call upon corresponding larger groups of men. Check Chapter 3: Comparison of Titles and table in Raising an Army in Chapter 8: Massed Combat for details.

Also, the core rules sugegst that a Wealthy Landed Noble might have a small castle, so that gives a general sense of how large a small castle garrision might be. Rules for castle garrisons and their effects can be found in Chapter 8, though I've only skimmed them.

Yes, I have seen the 1+1+10(20) logic per manor and I find it really neat as well :slight_smile: However, that does not address what kind of armed forces you could find when it comes to garrisons, or if I should be expecting (well, presenting, since I tend to be alpha SG) in an average manor. From my reading of the book there seems to be no soldiers at all in 99.9% of the manors of Europe (except for the 2 resident mounted combatants), something that I find somewhat hard to believe....

The size and cost of garrisons for castles is an area that did not spring as something clear cut to me outside of pitched battles, that is what the 8th chapter is all about. This is what makes me believe that the book might be incomplete and you need Covenants to have a whole product. I might have misread it, though, and this is why I am asking for help in comprehending the book :slight_smile:

OK, let me try again... but the thing to remember is that in the period discussed there really isn't such a thing a full time professional standing army. Most manors wouldn't have a large, full time military force standing around in armor waiting for something to happen.

By my reading, a "typical mythic manor" is really a collection of 5 manors held by a Wealthy Landed Noble. Said noble has a mense of, let's say, 2-3 bachelor knights and a 3-4 squires (those of the knights, plus his own). That's his standing military force. In times of war, he can call another 2-3 knights and squires from his manors (assuming 5 knights and 5 squires total), plus up to 50 men at arms and another 50 for a home guard. Any of that might be supplemented by mercenaries, but that's unlikely to something done all the time.

If such a knight had a small castle, his number of men wouldn't really change. The castle garision in peacetime would be the same as that of a manor. More likely, a castle would be held by a greater nobleman, who would have a larger mense and be able to call on more men in time of war. Most of the time, however, the castle would be - at best- lightly garisoned.

As for costs, Lords of Men prices a landed noble at 3 pounds, his family at 3 (total) a squire at 2 and the rest of his staff at 1 each. A single manor earns 20 pounds, so a wealthy landed noble with five of them earns 100 pounds (but must maintain at least an administrative staff of a steward, bailiff and servants, if not a full knight, at each manor).

That's what I get out of reading Lords of Men, plus a little knowledge on the side.

Obviously, compared to a covenant with a standing force of grogs... well, IMO the covenant really just looks absurd, historically. A castle in the forest, commanding as much land as a landed noble and maintaining a large standing force of mercenaries would not be the kind of thing that would escape notice. :slight_smile:

A highly informative post. Thank you a lot :slight_smile:

However, I still have my issues with the "no soldiers" thing.

When you approach a castle or fortified manor I would assume that SOMEONE would be watching your approach, and that this is highly unlikely to be a knight. Aren't there PLENTY of mercenaries and other professional assassins lurking around mythic europe and being employed in castles and manors? I find the lack of a fighting staff puzzling, but it might be the effects of hollywood and popular fantasy.

Another thing is that most covenants that I have seen described do NOT command 5 manors (or their equivalent): they administer the territory of a SINGLE manor at most. They can have additional sources of income, but operations like Triamore (ArM4 book, true) would be in a HUGE deficit as per the RAW, right?


I see your problem... and yeah, I think it's really Hollywood and D&D talking.

Part of your problem is this: most manors aren't fortified. Most manors are just a big, rectangular two story house where a lord and his household (or more likely a lord's steward and servants) live.

Most castles, as I understand things (and I could be wrong) are really only used in times of war. They might have a small garrision, a few men on the walls and at the gate. Those could be the sergants/squires but could equally be knights. A knight is a professional solider after all. Only in times of war would they have a large force of men... most of whom are those 100 serfs called up from the surrounding villages.

Edit: On reflection, I think part of the problem is that, in popular fiction, we're used to thinking about castles while they are on a war footing... fully garrisioned and ready for the enemy. We tend to overlook that active warfare only took place for a month or two out of any given year and for much of the rest of the time those spearmen on the battlements were actually out in the fields going about the business of planting and harvesting. (of course, I could be wrong)

Yeah, keep in mind, your covenant has more military on steady duty because you have more nobles (magi) that each need a body guard.

My offline saga did the following:

Our Lord companion had a seargant (master at arms) and 8 men at arms initially of which 3 were dedicated to guarding his sister (she had the wealthy virtue), the other five were also hunters and woodsmen as well as soldiers. He now has more since he has moved up to Count but his manor near the covenant is still only Steward, Master of Arms and 6 soldiers/foresters.

Our covenant had 12 fighting grogs (their wives help maintain the place) of which two have craft skills to help maintain the place, a four act as woodsmen and hunters to help supply food, and a couple had roguish skills to acquire extras for us. only 3 are nothing but soldiers and three of those are the shield grogs of three of our four magi. We have three new grogs and turb captain sort that just arrived but they are hired mercenaries and we aren't sure how they will mesh (spanish christians when 9 of the other 12 are arab)

I can see sheild grogs and the like being the magi's equivalent of serjeants, especially if the rest of the turb was more akin to levies... primarily laborers/farmers/craftsmen who also owe a period of military service. In which case a "typical" covenant with 6 magi might have 6 standing grogs (serjants).

In fact, the baseline for covenants in the core rules (page 71) suggests one grog per magus and two covenfolk, such as servants or craftsmen, per magus... which, then follows the manor pattern quite well.

Spain, the Levant, and Italy are the exceptions to this presumption. Aragon/Catalonia has a decent sized standing army of mercenaries, as does Castile. Also, borderland castles have a manned garrison pretty much at all times. And Templar fortifications are manned by many knights at all times. In Italy, towns have standing mercenary men-at-arms pretty much year round I do believe.

That's a fair and important point. My view is, I confess, horribly Anglo-Norman. I think Spain, Italy and certainly the Levant all tend to spend more time engaged in active warfare than the English midlands, which would explain their a more active military presence.

Xavi - I use Triamore for my saga and did the economics a year or so ago. Assuming good harvests all the time and a fairly high price for grain sold on the open market it was possible to support a Spring Covenant with 7 mages but this is by assuming the manor of Bois de Haillot (i.e. the location for Triamore) has an unusually large area of cultivated land also and fudging the some other things too. The economics are described on my saga website, specifically and particularly.

Looking at sources for England, which are easy as I speak English but not so useful for a campagin set in the Ardennes, it seems that Triamore as published is exceptionally large. The sources I have read (which include Domesday book translations) suggest manors were smaller and more varied than Triamore or the basic school textbooks suggest. I got LoM as soon as it arrived in the UK but I have not really read it in detail: in truth I am a little worried it will blow my calculations or otherwise "invalidate" it (which I know is silly because it's my saga and I can do as I like).

Yup, the calculations (1 grog per magus, with the magus being the knight and the grog the sergeant) goes along the core book. However, a lot of the covenants that most people use or are presented, show a level of military preparedness much higher than that. Or that is my impression. Most grogs are notn shield grogs, and most mages have more than one shield grog, even teams of grogs under their orders. There are several examples of that in the RAW, with professionañl teams of grogs under the guidance of a single magus.

It is interesting to see that most manors are basically defenceless compunds, though. I never thought about that. Suddenly a band of 8 brigands becomes a real military treat to a region's welfare instead of only a danger to some small travel parties.


It's a holdover from earlier days, I think. I remember my 4th ed spring covenant in North Wales having 20+ grogs and 3-4 magi (depending on the time), which was at the low end by the covenant creation rules of the day. However, that saga also illustrates the problem with that kind of thing... we used military strengths like those found in Lords of Men for the surrounding nobles and suddenly our little Spring covenant was one of the most powerful military forces in our little corner of the world.

Personally, I think if you're going to use the kind of numbers we see for most turbs, you need to increase the size of the most masnies accordingly or risk having covenants that can project a simply absurd amount of mundane military might... leading one to wonder how such a thing fits into the world.

... and thereby hangs a tale...

Again, a tad Anglo-Norman, but Conway Castle (a major castle built by Edward the First, about 70 years on from the canon time) which held a large area of hostile north Wales only had 8 to 16 soldiers as a garrison, including during entire decades of open warfare. It was besieged by Welsh armies several times, but as far as I know, never reinforced (it could be and was re-supplied from the sea). It only suffered damage when the Welsh attacked before it was finished.

Conway town had a few hundred settlers, of whom every able-bodied male also served as the town garrison when needed, but none of them were professional or permanent soldiers even if they were fairly militant to be living there at all.

Most manors really wouldn't have had any soldiers apart from the basic knight/squire and in their absence, possibly the steward or bailiff. However, every able-bodied male could and would fight when ordered to.

So, the only 'watchers' would be people doing their daily chores, including a lot of children looking after animals (pigs, sheep, cattle, goats, etc) foraging in fields, common land, and woods.

And a band of 8 mercenaries would be a major danger requiring the locals to be alerted and to hunt them down en masse as soon as they realised anyone was there. And if they were good at hiding or at fighting, the local knight would have to call on his feudal lord to come and help. Not really pleasant if the band have already sacked your manor house and raped/pillaged/burnt the village...

Hope this helps.


Hmm, searching for "Cittadella Padova" mostly brings up pictures of a walled in city center.
Like the 2nd picture on this link
And i get the feeling thats not what you´re referring to?

From a couple up to a couple or three of handfuls,ie. ~2-15 of soldiers of the professional or semiprofessional(meaning they have a profession of some kind that they spend maybe half their time at) is probably realistic. As much again in an emergency(though that might include soldiers of questionable worth(too old, too young etc)).

Less than you would expect, as the few "soldiers" there will likely be the kind that is loyaltybound rather than "bought".

A handful up to 5 handfuls, ie. ~5-25. If its in a really unimportant or sparsely populated area or in a place that hasnt been truly threatened for a very long time, as a manor.
Though these would be less likely to be "semi-pros". And a bit more likely to be loyal to their paycheck rather than the lord(if for no other reason, because there´s more of them).

In war, running into the above manor or minor castle the manpower could vary from near zero (if the lord is taking risks to get the extra edge over an enemy or perhaps desperate or if they fear a siege they cant hold against and therefore take most or all soldiers to either a better castle(that of the lords liege perhaps), heads out to try guerilla tactics or simply runs off to be out of the way of an approaching enemy) up to well over 5 times as many(for example assuming being outnumbered and expecting a siege as a clear risk but having had enough time to call in any allies, relatives or on favours owed).

A manor can be quite large...

Manors are often built to be defensible though.

It depends on exactly where and when, but you´re not "wrong", although i would say you´re overstating it a bit.
There generally was a few more or less professional soldiers around even if they weren´t exactly numerous.
Although some small castles, if they were important enough would have a few dozen fulltime pro soldiers even in peacetime. They were simply to important to risk loosing by a surprise attack, and others acted as a base of operations against banditry.

Yup, thats probably quite a normal manor situation. With the 3 dedicated just for protecting the sister i would probably have added another 2-3 fulltimers but thats me. I think you´re probably quite representative with the above.

Indeed, location and "owner" makes alot of difference at times.

Oh and BTW, i always considered the idea of "1 grog per magi" to be insufficient. I usually use 2 per magi as a basis, that leaves at least 1 personal defender/guard for each magi and a few more for all the other duties.

Partially true. Servants wont be expected to fight in wars(most of the time at least) but in times of desperation or defending against bandits, many will likely have at least some minor ability with a weapon. And that, together with a professional leader and a handful of decent semi-pro´s will usually make mincemeat out of any bandits foolish enough to try to actually attack a manor(which is i previously mentioned is very commonly built to be defensible to some degree).
And its certainly not out of the question that a single knight and veteran serjeant together is enough to kill off that band of 8 brigands.

Hmm... some criteria differences here.... And the problem is that all of them seem correct/feasible!! :laughing:

Ok, let's try to define a mythic manor in terms of manpower.

MANOR (only one manor)

  • a strong house (manor)

  • a village of around 300 people.

  • 1 knight

  • 1 sergeant (either a squire or a dependable veteran fighter)

  • 5-6 people with skill at arms (skill of 4-5), even if not full time armsmen. These tend to be foresters, the bailiff and maybe a personal bodyguard for the knight.

  • 10(20) levy dudes. 3-4 of them would be yeomen with some military training (probably trained by the sergeant or bailiff, skill of 4), with the rest being conscripted peasants. The yeomen are also peasants, but they get more skill at arms than the rest of the levies, and act as leaders for the peasant levy. Most of these are strong due to the fact that they toil on the fields, but their skill at arms will not be really high (2-3) and their equipment tends to be poor (inexpensive). The yeomen have somewhat better equipment, but are basically the same, just better skilled fighters .

A poor noble controls 1 manor. An average noble controls 2 manors (or their equivalent) and a wealthy landed noble controls 5 manors as per the rules. So a poor landed noble can field 2 mounted fighters, 5 infantry and 10 levies (20 in home ground). A wealthy landed noble can field up to 10 mounted fighters (a banneret), 25 infantry and 50 levies (100 in home ground).

Those numbers in terms of military might (as per LoM) would be:
Poor 0-1-2(4)
Average 1-2-4(8)
Wealthy 2-5-10(20)

Plus mercenaries.

Most of the time those would not be readily available forces, but would need time to be assembled and prepared for combat.

I suspect that if the manor is a castle, part of the levy will be on standing duty at most times, with say 5-10 dudes being on more or less permanent duty here. Considering that this would be one dude in 10 of the levy, I do not see this as weird. (I am assuming that you must be a Wealthy Noble have a castle, so you have 5 manors minimum and access to 50-100 levies)

The number of servants would be around 2 servants per fighter. So an average manor would have (2 mounted + 5 “fighters”) around 15 other staff members for a total of around 18-22 adult inhabitants (children under 12 not counted in those statistics)

Would those numbers be considered kosher for a “mythic manor”?

The Covenants and grog teams presented in all editions of the game (including Arm5) tend to have a MUCH BIGGER military might than that, even without counting magi as fighters (and we all know a magus is a bannerette of knights all by himself if he is combat worthy).

In the mentioned case of Triamore, the population of the manor is around 500-600 people, so it would count as an “average landed noble” (2 manors). The covenant has around 5 magi, 25 infantry and a levy of 40 dudes (non fighters of the levy and covenant specialists), approximately. These numbers fall well within those of the “average noble” except for the grog contingent, that is fairly larger than what we were looking at here (5 grogs)

About the cursory reference to Cittadella:

  • it was founded in 1220 by the Commune of Padova.
  • it follows a Roman plan
  • it has his own charter of independence of the city of Padova
  • it has not changed in size since the 13th century, and its main buildings correspond to that period

= to me it looks like a bunch of magi getting a charter from Padova to found a covenant nearby and granting the necessary rights to warrant their total autonomy. :wink:


Well yes, pretty much because its all a matter of when and where you´re looking at.
And the individual owners of the manor/castle as well. A paranoid "military is everything" holder of a manor could very well keep twice as many fulltimer soldiers by spending himself dry. Someone involved in a feud might do the same out of necessity. Just as the opposite...

I would say a few more yeomen and probably a good bit more levies. With the yeomen acting as part time soldiers(1/4 or 1/2 time and being available within an hour or two most of the time when not acting as a soldier). For a holding with 300 villagers, 30 levies is probably the lowend number and for homeground defense, getting almost a third(90-ish) of the total as levies isnt unreal(ie pretty much all who can fight).

I would. Though i would probably prefer the above increase.

Count the covenant as a militarised manor and include yeomen as part of the grogs. And you get close enough i would say.

Ah ok.