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Scorpio Rising

Sieging a Heortling Hill-Fort

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2 hours ago, David Scott said:

I can certainly understand that, however that is a bit mystifying as well - surely arrow would go through?

I suspect it depends very much on the thickness and layers. Experiments of shooting arrows at leather, tend to show that two layers will hinder penetration. Arrows are most effective against unarmoured targets, which is one of the reasons why javelins and throwing spears became more 'popular', as depending on the head they can penetrate armour.

Even in medieval times, battering rams were often protected by 'sheds' covered by hides.

2 hours ago, David Scott said:

These is another picture of a similar siege engine that has a spiked prisoner on top of it. The prisoner is part of a different scene and the spikes are on small domes, the small dome looks like its on the siege engine, but is clearly part of the other section. This gives the engine a different turret top. I wonder if this isn't a case of copy error:

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=111886001&objectId=369052&partId=1

top of the engine / spike bottoms

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?partid=1&assetid=359774001&objectid=369052

Suspect it is because the Assyrian artisans had little to no concept of perspective, but as with other scenes wanted to portray a sense of depth. In your first image, the siege engine seems to have a distinct dome atop its turret, suggesting that it was a real feature. Can only suppose that the turret was used to help line up the siege engine, as once it started being rolled forward there was no obvious means of steering it - and being in the turret when the engine was at the wall would be hazardous...

Edited by M Helsdon

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A short snippet from a longer essay on fortifications.

Hill-Forts

Large ancient hill-forts are found throughout Dragon Pass. In peacetime, they serve as religious, economic and political centers; in wartime, they provide defensive strongholds.

The Vingkotlings were the first people to build these fortifications (though some claim that the entirety of Dragon Pass and its surrounds display the remnants of a huge divine ‘hill-fort’), and several are known from that era. Some are now abandoned but are often visited, since they are the best sites for commencing many Heroquests. Others are now obscured by the settlements of later history.

The demigod Vingkotlings raised huge earthworks. Most are made of earth, and even the ones that were made by scooping out a hill instead of raising a mound appear to be man-made. They vary in diameter from Vingkot's Fort, which is over four miles, to twelve that are over a mile wide, and many others that are a quarter to half a mile wide. The latter are most numerous and date to the Storm Age.

Traditional Heortling hill-forts combine rude but rugged defensibility with a plan spiraling out in homage to Orlanth. Some are built upon, or within, the remains of the ancient Vingkotling forts.

They employ ditch and rampart defenses with a palisade, with the most prestigious having timber-laced stone walls, which may be faced with dry-stone walling. Some boast multivallate earthworks, with several banks and ditches surrounding the innermost walls, intended to hinder and disorder an assault, rendering the attackers vulnerable to missiles and magic cast by the defenders stationed at the inner walls. Many hill-forts make use of terrain to enhance their defenses.

Towers similar to a broch in construction are sometimes found on the walls or at the center of a fort. Some feature a stone-built citadel or fortified hall set within an enclosure or sited on a raised platform or natural outcrop.

Hill-forts are effective at deterring or holding off attacks by neighbors and nomads who lack sophisticated siege engines or the time to starve the defenders into surrender. As a hill-fort will hold much of the clan or tribal stores, and outlying farms will attempt to drive their livestock within its walls, attackers must bring their supplies with them. As a gateway is the main weakness in any defenses, attackers will concentrate upon attempting to break in by setting it afire or using a makeshift ram.

The gateways of a hill-fort are rarely as complex as those of a city. They are often inset in a stone-lined passageway that enables defenders to enfilade the attackers on three sides; in conjunction with earthworks in front of the gateway these also serve to ensure that the assailants are vulnerable for as long as possible before they can attempt to storm the entrance.

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Looking at the close-up of the top of the engine, it seems it could be conceivably covered in horizontal bands, or rolls, of leather stuffed with something like wet grass or sheepskins. Closely looking at the panel there is definitely a step-rise in the bas-relief from the small mound the spike is on to the engine top.

As to the possibility of a dome, a wickerwork frame could also be very quickly made and covered - any shape could thus be fashioned quite fast by even moderately skilled workers (and most people would know how to make, at the least, simple woven fences).

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Beyond specific spells, one might consider looking at the differences in meta-themes between bronze age history and Glorantha. In our world, battles are (frequently) won by superior logistics, and quicker command and control feedback loops (as well as luck, many say). In Glorantha, battles are won by bold heroes and their gods. You may want such notions to affect your battle more than the results of some individual spells.

 

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2 hours ago, Bud said:

In our world, battles are (frequently) won by superior logistics, and quicker command and control feedback loops (as well as luck, many say). In Glorantha, battles are won by bold heroes and their gods. You may want such notions to affect your battle more than the results of some individual spells.

In our Ancient World, even in the Bronze Age, logistics was fairly well understood by the more complex military (Egyptian, Hittite, Mycenaean (if Homer is given any credence - a siege, even if not lasting ten years but a campaigning season requires considerable organization) etc.), with relatively long distance campaigns. Command and control, however, remained rudimentary, up until the Modern Era, because the transmission of orders once units (warbands etc.) were engaged was limited to signals from a standard, and trumpet and horns. A general either led from at or near the front, and if not, could only decide when to send the reserves (if any) into the fray.

Lunar silver trumpets are mentioned in the boardgame Dragon Pass, though it is likely that they are actually more resilient and cheaper brass trumpets washed with tin, which look silvery.

Battle Communication

The limitations of communication, by standards, runners, or trumpeters, means that the commands of the general and their staff officers are mostly restricted to directing unengaged units and the reserve. Battlefield communication is rudimentary even in the most disciplined armies.

Before battle, orders can also be sent by the passing of verbal messages through the ranks, though this is prone to error and being interrupted, or by heralds.

In battle, trumpets can be used to send various signals, but the most important, to be obeyed without hesitation are – to charge, halt, pursue, and to retire. These instruments can be used to transmit information back to the general – such as the sighting of enemy forces. Each regiment has its own specific calls, so that a general, or its own commander, can convey specific instructions.

The notes of war horns and trumpets are recognizable across wide distances on the battlefield.

 

The Standard

Standards are held in awe as potent symbols of the honor of the unit.

A regimental standard is inhabited by the guardian spirit, wyter or genius of the regiment. Each company (or equivalent) of a regiment usually has a lesser standard which carries a lesser spirit. The assembled company wyters or genii are celebrated and worshipped, in addition to the regimental spirit.

The standard is important as a recognition symbol and rallying point, and a means of communication in battle. A trumpet or horn blast is often used to draw the attention of the troops to the standard which then directs the action to be taken. The standard-bearer lowers, raises, waves, or make some other motion with the standard to indicate or direct the movement, tactic or formation to be employed.

 

Bits and pieces about Heroes, derived from the article in WF#15:

 

Heroes

Heroes have a particular impact on warfare. Some are demigods; their fighting prowess is considerable, enhanced by their band of personal followers, and the magical weapons with which they are armed. Some Heroes are great war-leaders, others are great warriors and some are both. They provide inspirational leadership to their own troops, and bring terror to their enemies.

Often Heroes will cross the battlefield, regardless of the situation, to confront and fight against opposing Heroes. Their victory or defeat will have a major impact upon the outcome of the entire battle.

A Hero is often accompanied by their own warband, personal followers of whom some are almost Heroes themselves.

Heroes often acquire powerful magical items, especially weapons, to augment their mortal strength and abilities.

The impact of such an individual and their followers on a battlefield is enormous.

Their fighting prowess is immense, especially considering that they are armed with magical weapons (a rarity in the world) and fighting against ordinary men.

Many regiments will give way when confronted with a Hero, even those famed for discipline and experience. Those who hold are in danger of being cut to ribbons.

The Hero and their band more than equal any normal opponent, and their seeming lack of fatigue allows them to cut their way through their foes at their leisure. More important than any of this is the simple presence and aura of the Heroes. This, their individual souls, is what makes them worth regiments.

Edited by M Helsdon
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Whoa.  A lot of interesting information here.  I'm going to fire off some scattershot responses to various points people have made:

1. I've never played RuneQuest in any form and the only edition I own is the (heretical) MRQII.  As such, I don't have a particular handle on "battle magic" and what it should mean.  I'll be running this game using HQ:G and as such magic will be rather more freeform.  I found Ian Cooper's response about ritual and personal magic quite helpful from this perspective.

2. Quite whom the besiegers are is a little vague.  The references I've picked up indicate that the Lunar army combined with a mercenary force from Volsaxiland led by Duke Sanuel sieged Road End fort, but they also imply that Sanuel was the overall commander of that force which makes it unlikely that there was a substantial presence from eg. the Lunar College of Magic as I can't picture them taking orders from a foreign mercenary.  Instead I imagine any Lunar troops to be Tarshite peltasts and other medium-light grade troops with low magical capabilities.  Sanuel will have wizards of his own but it will be whatever magic he's brought from Volsaxiland, not the powerful magics of the moon.  In this context the idea of disease spirits sounds pretty cool.

3. I don't have any prior experience as a Gloranthan GM and running at a con I need to make the game accessible for an entirely Glorantha-illiterate audience.  As such, I want a firm grounding in an intuitively plausible situation that neither requires deep historical knowledge of bronze age warfare nor familiarity with Gloranthan magic systems.  At the same time, I want to make choices that don't violate the Gloranthan reality.  As such, having a primarily physical contest with personal augments helping heroes on both sides and one or two strategic uses of ritual magic feels about right.  Having the enemy do a clever magical thing definitely makes sense and adds fun; having them doing six clever magical things at once will make the game muddy and hard to follow.

4. I'm interested in the idea of "Gnomes" and their significance for siege warfare.  Are they earth elementals or something quite other?  They're not something I've come across in my Gloranthan readings to date.

Thanks again for all the thoughtful replies here.  I've learned a lot from them, even ones that aren't immediately germane to the needs of my particular game.

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16 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

Whoa.  A lot of interesting information here.  I'm going to fire off some scattershot responses to various points people have made:

1. I've never played RuneQuest in any form and the only edition I own is the (heretical) MRQII. 

There is nothing "heretical" in the MRQ2 rules - they are basically the first edition of the Mythras rules, and a solid system in the RQ family.

 

16 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

As such, I don't have a particular handle on "battle magic" and what it should mean. 

Battle Magic translates as common magic - spells that can be learned by anyone, even though many are taught by temples.

 

16 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

2. Quite whom the besiegers are is a little vague.  The references I've picked up indicate that the Lunar army combined with a mercenary force from Volsaxiland led by Duke Sanuel sieged Road End fort, but they also imply that Sanuel was the overall commander of that force which makes it unlikely that there was a substantial presence from eg. the Lunar College of Magic as I can't picture them taking orders from a foreign mercenary.  Instead I imagine any Lunar troops to be Tarshite peltasts and other medium-light grade troops with low magical capabilities.  Sanuel will have wizards of his own but it will be whatever magic he's brought from Volsaxiland, not the powerful magics of the moon.  In this context the idea of disease spirits sounds pretty cool.

I would guess that Sanuel has a couple of Lunar guides for the troops and military advisors for the officers, including a priest or two. I don't think that there will be significant spell-casting support for a mercenary unit when enclosing the hillfort, but it is quite possible that a small detachment of siege engineers and magicians might be deployed to cut a longer inhibition on the road short.

 

16 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

3. I don't have any prior experience as a Gloranthan GM and running at a con I need to make the game accessible for an entirely Glorantha-illiterate audience.  As such, I want a firm grounding in an intuitively plausible situation that neither requires deep historical knowledge of bronze age warfare nor familiarity with Gloranthan magic systems.  At the same time, I want to make choices that don't violate the Gloranthan reality.  As such, having a primarily physical contest with personal augments helping heroes on both sides and one or two strategic uses of ritual magic feels about right.  Having the enemy do a clever magical thing definitely makes sense and adds fun; having them doing six clever magical things at once will make the game muddy and hard to follow.

You can treat magical support by NPCs like calling in artillery fire, or as a flashy blessing or glamour carrying an attack into the thick of the enemies. Having either blown away after an initial effect could leave them stranded in a hard place, forcing the players to give significantly more than 100%.

You might have followed the thread about Warding, one of the most useful RuneQuest spells to shore up a broken defensive area, and its potentially fatal effects on intruders. 

 

16 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

4. I'm interested in the idea of "Gnomes" and their significance for siege warfare.  Are they earth elementals or something quite other?  They're not something I've come across in my Gloranthan readings to date.

"Gnome" is a term for Earth elementals. These can act as mutable golem-like creatures or as vortices or waves inside the ground.

They require loose earth rather than bedrock (animating bedrock should take them a lot more energy, at least in my Glorantha - you need to rip out a part out of a greater whole in order to animate it, which should at least increase the difficulty.

 

16 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

Thanks again for all the thoughtful replies here.  I've learned a lot from them, even ones that aren't immediately germane to the needs of my particular game.

That's a common phenomenon when you throw interesting tasty bits of unresolved questions into the shark pool, but feeding frenzies can be productive at times.

Don't hesitate to ignore our ramblings and keep asking what exactly you want to know.

 

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20 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

2. Quite whom the besiegers are is a little vague.  The references I've picked up indicate that the Lunar army combined with a mercenary force from Volsaxiland led by Duke Sanuel sieged Road End fort, but they also imply that Sanuel was the overall commander of that force which makes it unlikely that there was a substantial presence from eg. the Lunar College of Magic as I can't picture them taking orders from a foreign mercenary.  Instead I imagine any Lunar troops to be Tarshite peltasts and other medium-light grade troops with low magical capabilities.  Sanuel will have wizards of his own but it will be whatever magic he's brought from Volsaxiland, not the powerful magics of the moon.  In this context the idea of disease spirits sounds pretty cool.

I believe that the name 'Sanuel' is no longer canon, but after the disintegration of King Rikard the Tiger-Hearted's short-lived kingdom following his defeat by Fazzur Wideread in 1620, Hendrikiland and Malkonwal were reorganized by the Lunars into four military districts (Volsaxar, Hendrikar, Gardufar, and Esvular), and the larger cities given Lunar garrisons. At that point various adventurers (in the old meaning, not PCs) would have taken advantage of the opportunities and taken mercenary service with the Lunars. Most such mercenary companies, if Western in origin, would have a sorcerer or two among their number. However, disease spirits are rarely useful in battle, though they can infect troops in camp, weakening units with infection and disease. As they have a tendency to propagate, they are liable to affect besiegers as well, so unless your sorcerer has very effective Control spells, using them is a risk, and may not go down well with allied forces.

Tarshite mercenaries are also possible, and as likely as members of the Tarsh Provincial Army. The only light infantry in that would be the 1st Tarshite Light Foot, equipped with javelins, small shield, and kopis swords; this regiment is recruited from around Slavewall and is very similar to Sartarite mercenaries and worship their own tribal gods. They are skilled at suppressing guerilla fighters.

20 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

4. I'm interested in the idea of "Gnomes" and their significance for siege warfare.  Are they earth elementals or something quite other?  They're not something I've come across in my Gloranthan readings to date.

Earth elementals. They can shape the earth (but not rock or sand) in almost any way: in warfare they can create pits or ramps, dig tunnels, fill tunnels, or undermine walls. Defenders can use them to topple or bury siege engines. However, as they are so useful, any significant fortifications will employ countermeasures in the form of guardian spirits and spells to strengthen walls against them. Stone walls on stone foundations will counter earth elementals, but depending on the terrain, it isn't always possible to dig down far enough to reach the bedrock, but in this case, (big) earth elementals can be used to form large ramps to allow attackers to storm the walls.

Edited by M Helsdon

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Sanuel is a unit from the Dragon Pass boardgame, which means it is part of the basic canon.

The exact background of that unit has been subject to speculation, though.

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7 hours ago, Joerg said:

Sanuel is a unit from the Dragon Pass boardgame, which means it is part of the basic canon.

 I've checked through some Army Lists Jeff authored a few years ago: Sanuel appears in the earliest draft but is later replaced by Mularik.

Edited by M Helsdon

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2 hours ago, M Helsdon said:

Sanuel appears in the earliest draft but is later replaced by Mularik

The last I heard was that Baron of Sanuel was a title given to Mularik Ironeye.

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45 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

The last I heard was that Baron of Sanuel was a title given to Mularik Ironeye.

My information is three or four years old, so it is entirely possible that Sanuel has changed from a personal name to a place name (in Tanisor?)

King Rikard the Tiger-Hearted was also an heretical Hrestoli exile from Tanisor, though Mularik met Argrath among Harrek's Wolf Pirates.

The regiment of Mularik’s Men consists of iron-clad cataphracti heavy cavalry equipped with kontos and broadsword, supported by sorcerers. Mularik, although a mercenary, is unlikely to have supported the Lunars.

Edited by M Helsdon

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