Training Normal Men

There’s a recurring pattern in the excellent Posideon’s Spear by Christan Cameron, where Arimnestos of Plataea takes a bunch of regular people who are serving him as oarsmen, and trains them into light infantry (so they're more like a crew in the very ancient style, where pentekonters would be filled with warrior-oarsmen rather than having dedicated marines). They start out as fishermen, shepherds, farmers and craftsmen, but finish capable warriors rather than mere rabble. It begins with arming them and making them practise every night when they beach the ship, and is cemented when they are taken into combat for real.


I’m going to leave the equipment aspect aside, because that isn’t hugely relevant, and is easy to deal with. What it looks like to me is that Normal Men/0th level characters are being turned en masse into 1st level ones. Or are they just going from non-combatant Normal Men to the light infantry troop type? Does that have any meaningful impact?


According to Manual of Arms, it takes a month, which seems pretty reasonable. Also included in that is teaching them to fight as a formation, rather than a disordered mob. How is that represented – I should have a look at D@W: Battles – I’m guessing there’s a loose formation and they can fight in closer order? Perhaps it takes a year of experience rowing and fighting for some of them to gain 1st level? If they all become 1st level characters (most likely Fighters) how does that impact the level demography? Does it even matter?


They’re also turned into proper oarsmen as they go, which would seem to be acquiring the Labour (Oarsman) Proficiency to me, possibly Endurance and Seasoned Voyager (a naval version of Adventuring, covering knowing how to scrounge firewood and food, build a fire, set a watch on a beachside camp, not make lubberly mistakes aboard ship). However, if they already have a full stack of Proficiencies from their mundane life before the career change, how would they acquire these? Or would we assume that most unskilled Normal Men probably have no more than one or two Proficiencies out of their allotted four?


I guess this all ties into the problem D&D has generally with training. If you took a bunch of slaves, freed them, fed them properly, exercised them and trained them as oarsmen, they should get stronger and fitter. That would be increases in Str and Con (perhaps some of which might be restoring lost Str/Con from being badly treated in captivitity), but how would you model that? I could see gaining 2 or even 4 points to each (a trained rower is stronger than an ordinary person in many trades), though that wouldn’t happen in a month, more like 3-6 months. It would also decline given long enough out of training, but are we getting into pointlessly complex territory here?

D@W:Campaigns has training/conscription, and for light infantry it’s a month.

They become veterans (1st level) after gaining 100 XP.

If you follow D@W:C’s Spoils of War (starting pg 74), each participant in a battle gains 1 XP for each gold piece collected; it’s assumed 50% of the total spoils is shared with the troops (leaders claiming the first half), and the rest are split amongst the men in proportion to their wages.

Leaders gain XP for the creatures killed (relative to number of units led), not regular troops.

“What it looks like to me is that Normal Men/0th level characters are being turned en masse into 1st level ones. Or are they just going from non-combatant Normal Men to the light infantry troop type? Does that have any meaningful impact?”

It’s the second one. They’re still 0th level, but now they’re fighting men instead of normal men.

In ACKS, I believe this is represented by a +1 to hit, a slight HP boost (From 1d4-1 to 1d4?), and a bump in morale. Domains at War, this is represented by giving them a bonus to morale and to-hit values, as well as changing them from Irregular Foot (A unit type with numerous strategic restrictions) to Loose Foot (A unit with powerful mobility tricks.)

Ah, it’s in mostly in there already. Including differing sources for troops (mercenaries/conscripts/militia/slaves).

I don’t normally track XP, but the transition from Normal Man to veteran is a significant one.

Though it doesn’t really touch Proficiencies at all, for my second area.

Right. That makes sense.

All the “untrained” types seem to be 1d4 hit points, -2 morale and “fight as Normal Men”. So Fighting Men have more hit points (1d6?), -1 morale (or that of their trained type) and effectively +1 to hit? Irregular Foot to Loose Foot fits with the whole “from rabble to soldiers” business.

Yep :slight_smile: Elsewhere it’s been stated by Alex he took care not to do anything that would bake Proficiencies too deeply into the system, so there’s no good system right now.

There’s been a thread or two ( about resolving the “4 normal man proficiencies” versus Adventuring, you could do something similar with a 2 or 3 slot value “Naval Adventuring” that includes the Labor(Oarman) and “How Not to Die On A Ship”, leaving a space or two for skills from a past life to individualize the crew (or give the players a reason to favor the guy that came on board with Healing)

There’s a more formal system here:

Yea, training for proficencies is still something that feels like a hole; gaining them as saves progress feels just as gamey as other options.

Regarding ability scores, I’ve lately been of the mindset that training at a task betters your ability to apply your current ability to the task, rather than actually raising your ability score, which also then has the cascade effect of changing other in-game interactions. I gathered that from the proficiency progression for the 11+/7+/3+ proficiencies; and assumed the first time you take the proficiency it takes your throw from 18+ to 11+, 4 points and a “virtual 18” for 3 more points.

It’s a very convoluted way to justify giving up on the very complicated idea of training up and maintaining ability scores :wink:

Oops, I was incorrect about the to-hit boost. Here’s Alex’s post on the matter, over in a thread which I’ve already forgotten the name of (Normal Men and Mercenaries?)

“Mercenaries are also normal men, but their training has made them slightly better in combat. They have 1d4+1 hit points each, fight and save as normal men, and have morale appropriate to their level of training (generally +0 to +2).”

Trained light infantry has 1d4+1 hit points, -1 morale, and 11+ attack through. There doesn’t appear to be an attack bonus from training.

In the Core rule set, unskilled rowers do not require a proficiency and can only earn 3 gp/month from that labor. Sailors require the seafaring proficiency and can earn 6 gp/month. I would assume that your labor(oarsmen) works similarly and pays similarly. Given this, there seems to be four ways to go about training the oarsmen:

  1. Treat it like military training, it take 1 month and a trainer per 60 men to teach them labor(oarsmen) or seafaring, doubling their value as rowers, similar to light infantry training.
  2. Make them veteran sailors, if they go through 100 XP worth of naval battles, they will become first level fighters and can reselect their proficiencies. The downside is that their wages would shoot up, probably from 3 gp/month to 15 gp/month as veterancy for foot units seems to add 12 gp/month to their wages.
  3. As written in the core proficiencies, normal humans gain extra proficiences after 5 years, 15 years, and 35 years of work. This would mean that an oarsmen with all three proficiencies and no initial aptitude would probably be too old to row.
  4. Assume that some percentage of the recuits have an initial aptitude and use that to boost the other methods of training, maybe some of the recruits were fishermen in their old lives.

Having “trained oarsmen” should have benefits in terms of speed and ability to sustain pace - something that will interact with the naval rules The Dark is working on. Someone untrained can work an oar, but someone with Labour (Oarsman) is a professional. It’s reasonable that a professional could command a better wage.

I think all four of your ways of getting oarsmen work, with a fifth: slave oarsmen selected young and trained for the job, the same as slave soldiers.

Interesting. Yeah, in my game proficiencies aren’t optional, they’re an integral part of modelling how stuff works.

“trained oarsmen” in the current incarnation of my rules would be Average crew (the untrained oarsmen would be green). The green crew’s ship suffers -1 initiative (slower response), -1 morale (less willing to engage in battle and less ability to row at high speed), and +1 to turn (takes one extra round to turn 60 degrees). My thought behind that is that steady rowing isn’t excessively difficult, but anything that requires a change in the rate of rowing (rowing faster to build speed, rowing different speeds to turn the boat, etc) will be difficult for untrained rowers.