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Prax Ostrich Combat Jockets = Terrible IRL

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The inspiration for this comes from a post over on Facebook about real ostrich riders, where someone mentioned that the Praxian ostrichriders are in fact very small people. I can see where the idea comes from - jockeys - but this is in fact a terrible idea. In fact, very small people in melee combat is almost always a terrible idea, unless they have superhuman powers to offset their obvious size, reach, mass, leverage and power disadvantages.

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Small people would make terrible mounted warriors IRL, unless they primarily used horse archery. It's already hard enough to hit someone from horseback in melee (leading to the 4' pole attached to a horseman's hammer, the lance, etc.) if you are a little runt with stumpy arms not only is your reach shorter but you have to use smaller-scaled weapons.
Even as an archer if they are REALLY small they would be awful, because they would have pathetic draw length and would be weaker to begin with.
They would also be much easier to dismount, with smaller, weaker legs which wouldn't have nearly as much leverage and traction on their mount.
Basically, without magical superhuman powers (like Halflings and Dwarves have) tiny people would get wasted like children against normal-sized, technologically competent foes.
Jockeys /= Knights, or even Mongols. Tiny mounted warriors is basically a horrible idea, unless you give them an Uzi submachine gun.

And, in fact, this would actually be reflected somewhat in the rules: they should have a smaller SIZ and realistically STR, and thus should be easier to knock off their horse, do inferior damage, use weaker bows, etc. Depending on how detailed the reach rules being used are, the same is true here: someone with the SIZ of a typical child (as some real people are) would have a terrible native reach and would be forced to use smaller scale weapons, or they simply could not control them. This means they would be at a disadvantage in Strike Ranks, etc.

Most games do not bother to deal with this, but the fact is that a weapon must be properly scaled to the limbs, hands and strength of its user or it will not be effective. A shortsword is not a dagger to a giant, it's a toy. A giant's longsword is not a greatsword to a human, it's a novelty Bearing Sword that no human could actually use in serious melee. Thus not only would these ostrichriders have garbage reach in the first place, even their lances would have garbage reach against normal human-sized lances. And a footman with a pike could hit them without being endangered by these pygmies.

And the comparison to giants is pretty much spot on. Your typical smaller-scale fantasy giant (~2x human height) has the same ratio of size and mass to me that I do to an aboriginal pygmie. This is not to say a pygmie could not kill me - it does not take a lot of power to stab someone with a sharp spear - but if we were both equally trained and equipped for our size I would be at a massive advantage in every imaginable way except balance, and even then since small humans do not have the super-strength of dwarves even if he knocked me over I could just sit on his chest to win the grapple.

Tiny people are a staple of fantasy fiction, but they are realistically pretty much screwed in organized warfare, at least unless they have guns and armored vehicles.

The fact that the ostrichriders are primitive nomads makes things even worse. Training, organization and technology can help to offset inferior size and strength, allowing tiny little Roman manlets defeat the 'giant'* Celtic and Germanic people. But if they don't have massive, well-trained, professional armies they are probably going to get stomped all over: it would be as though the Romans were not only massively superior in equipment and professionalism, but also were twice the height of the Gallic people.

*i.e., typical among north European men, really not a size that would even be considered noteworthy in America - almost every male I know is over six feet tall, and most of the rest are close

Edited by VonKatzen

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The riders of ostriches, bolo-lizards and impala are pygmies, and ride smaller animals so they are effectively in scale with their mounts. Their mounts all effectively count as 'light cavalry' compared with high llama, bison, and rhinos and so fight as dispersed skirmishers. Their animals are comparatively nimble, and able to avoid larger creatures unless ambushed, and ostriches and bolo-lizards are better adapted to traversing severely broken ground than larger adversaries, and all tend to avoid hand-to-hand combats, with tactics more like a swarm missile attack, with arrows, bolas, boomerangs... Their smaller size also means they are smaller targets, and with their highly maneuverable mounts, issues regarding range and size tend to even out. If they attempted shock combat against larger heavier animals and riders, they would be in severe trouble.

Prax and the Wastelands are an ongoing arena between the different tribes (unless they are united by a powerful war leader). The tribe in the most trouble, and closest to extinction are the rhino tribe who ride one of the largest animals (but also with the most specialized tactics).

You may find the following of interest:

https://www.pensee.com/dunham/glorantha/gaow.html

https://www.pensee.com/dunham/glorantha/prax_ambush.html

Edited by M Helsdon
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Nah, I don't buy it, they would get plastered in melee. Also, smaller mounts may be more nimble but they're also slower and have less power as impact cavalry, compounding the problem of an already weak and tiny rider with tiny, short weapons. In fact, a tiny version of a normal animal could well be slower than a normal human on foot, due to stride length. Humans can easily outrun most small animals traveling in a straight line, and a giant plateau (where these nomads live) is not exactly good terrain for avoiding direct, heavy cavalry/infantry.

Mongols had this problem: their horses would be easily outrun if they got too close to enemy cavalry with European or near Eastern style war mounts. And the mongols and their ponies are only short compared to their opponents in this case, not tiny child-men.

Being half the size of your opponent (all other things being equal) is pretty close to a death sentence in organized warfare.

Being a smaller target is basically a non-issue, too. A decent archer can easily hit their mount, if not the rider, and a dismounted midget would be stomped into the dirt by a warhorse without the input of its rider at all. And given that good armor stops direct hits from arrows most of the time (especially the fairly crappy simple bows used by the ancient world) and that these mounted midgets would have even weaker bows than their opponents and weaker arms to draw them with and shorter limbs to draw them along they would be at a huge disadvantage in range and penetration when it comes to missile combat.

I do not believe there is any way a tiny human being could realistically compete in an actual running battle with normal people, any more than a normal person could sword-fight or out-shoot a giant.

You basically have to introduce powers like faeries (flight, supernatural maneuverability, magical powers) or dwarves (superhuman strength and toughness, plus being the same mass if not height as their opponents) to get something that can fight back. Otherwise it's basically like fighting little kids. It's a big disadvantage in individual melee, in mass melee it would get you ground like hamburger. The enemy would literally kick you to death if they had sabattons on.

Skill and nimbleness only go so far - if you'll notice basically every warrior in history has preferred heavier armor and weapons if available over this Hollywood ninja-fencing BS, with the exception of specialty troops and the post-gunpowder era. That is because size and mass are basically the best simple physical advantages you can have when you are trying to kill people with your hands.

Edited by VonKatzen

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16 minutes ago, VonKatzen said:

Nah, I don't buy it, they would get plastered in melee. Also, smaller mounts may be more nimble but they're also slower and have less power as impact cavalry

Which is why they avoid shock combat, relying upon missile combat.

16 minutes ago, VonKatzen said:

In fact, a tiny version of a normal animal could well be slower than a normal human on foot, due to stride length. Humans can easily outrun most small animals traveling in a straight line, and a giant plateau (where these nomads live) is not exactly good terrain for avoiding direct, heavy cavalry/infantry.

The impala, ostriches and bolo-lizards are not smaller than normal, but normal 'small' animals. An impala can run at 80 km/h in zig-zags, though the weight of a rider will slow it; an ostrich at 70 km/h, again slowed by a rider; a bolo-lizard probably at the same rate. A full-sized human can run at no more than 45 km/h, so these animals will be faster than any infantry, light or heavy.

Their speed and agility is greater than the larger mounts: bison 56 km/h without a rider; rhino 40 to 50 km/h and so it goes.

Prax and the Wastelands are up on a plateau, compared with the coastal plain, but the terrain is far more variable than atop an ordinary fairly small plateau: there are river valleys, some dry much of the year, hills, grasslands, and even scattered mountain ranges. Even where 'flat', the terrain is not level, but with numerous variations.

16 minutes ago, VonKatzen said:

Mongols had this problem: their horses would be easily outrun if they got too close to enemy cavalry with European or near Eastern style war mounts. And the mongols and their ponies are only short compared to their opponents in this case, not tiny child-men.

Despite the size of their mounts, the Mongols overran a very large portion of Eurasia, and were successful in their invasions of Europe, China and the Near East. What caused the relatively short duration of their world empire was a lack of central control, so that on the death of the Great Khan their empire tended to fragment.

16 minutes ago, VonKatzen said:

Being half the size of your opponent (all other things being equal) is pretty close to a death sentence in organized warfare.

Praxian warfare is rarely 'organized'.

Edited by M Helsdon

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But they would also suck at missile combat. Shorter limbs, less physical strength, less draw length on bows, less leverage for swinging a sling (a sling is a flail that comes apart on command), lighter arrows, shorter arrows, etc. By the same token giant archers and slingers would annihilate humans long before the humans were in range, and do far more damage per shot.

Mongols were also an extremely organized and professional fighting force using a wide variety of tactics and troop types, siege equipment, etc. They were not bronze age simple nomads, they were highly sophisticated warriors from a culture with thousands of years experience fighting with and conquering everything around them. The Liao Dynasty in China itself was a Mongol empire, before Chinggiz Khan was ever born. They had silk and steel body armor, cataphracted charge cavalry using large normal horses at a 4/10 ratio of their Turco-Mongol troops. Mongols were not harassment cavalry, they were both light and shock cavalry. Without that shock component and the aggression it allowed in their tactics (Mongols hit hard and won battles very quickly) they could not have done what they did. Genghis Khan himself fought as a heavy lancer.

If Praxian warfare is not organized they are very shortly going to become a province of the Lunar Empire or someone else who is organized. Technology and civilization has clearly steamrolled or converted all competition, and has basically done so since day one. Even when the 'barbarians' invade Rome they're sophisticated border cultures which copy the civilized people and adopt their methods when they take over.

Edited by VonKatzen

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Just now, VonKatzen said:

But they would also suck at missile combat. Shorter limbs, less physical strength, less draw length on bows, less leverage for swinging a sling (a sling is a flail that comes apart on command), lighter arrows, shorter arrows, etc.

Which is why the impala tribe use numbers, and the other pygmy tribes are minor tribes.

2 minutes ago, VonKatzen said:

By the same token giant archers and slingers would annihilate humans long before the humans were in range, and do far more damage per shot.

If giants used such weapons they would have an impact closer to an artillery piece. However, most giants don't have such weapons, and tend to use simple things like tree trunks as clubs or throw rocks. These can be devastating to a human mass target, but giants tend not to fight en masse.

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Giants would also have better eyesight, because of their large eyes.

And it depends on your giants. D&D Fire Giants clearly wear full plate, use missile and heavy melee weapons, in addition to giant scale siege weapons and fight in disciplined regiments. They're martial professionals to a man. They also crush humans like bugs unless they're faced by high sorcery, as they quite properly ought to. Only their preference for living in volcanoes (lack of conflict) and small numbers (lack of need to expand) has prevented them from basically overrunning the human lands and becoming at least its martial aristocracy, if not annihilating them altogether.

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Ostrich Riders prefer to use Missile Weapons, not fight in melee. In fact, ostriches would stick their heads in the sand rather than fighting, which puts them at a severe disadvantage*.

They use Composite Bows and often worship Yelmalio, so are skilled in the use of the Bow.

Also, it's all just pretend, so we can make them however we want.

* Yes, I know this isn't true in real life, but it should be true in Glorantha.

 

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1 hour ago, VonKatzen said:

And it depends on your giants. D&D

Well, this is Glorantha, not whatever D&D world you are assuming. 8-)

In central Genertela, the most common giants you are likely to encounter (and they aren't common) are Mountain Giants, known as Hecolonti, who are huge, dumb people. The typical giant is six meters or so in height, but smaller and larger individuals are common. A few giants are double this size. Few giants exceed 15 meters in height.

These giants have low intelligence and are aggressive and argumentative, even amongst themselves. They lack the tools necessary for even simple culture. Almost all other races fear the mindless destruction that giants often cause. They have a fondness for human flesh and the smell of carnage and carrion will lure them from their mountain lairs in the hope of easy feasting.

Edited by M Helsdon

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38 minutes ago, soltakss said:

Ostrich Riders prefer to use Missile Weapons, not fight in melee. In fact, ostriches would stick their heads in the sand rather than fighting, which puts them at a severe disadvantage*.

There was a very long treatment of the Ostrich Tribe in one of the issues of Heroes magazine which makes interesting reading. No idea if it is at all canonical (some parts certainly are not).

A while ago, I attempted to analyze the weapons and tactics of each tribe... Whilst based on canonical information, it isn't canonical.

Favored Weapons

Preferred

Formation

Tribe

Primary

Secondary

Tertiary

Bison

Lance

Sword

Javelin

Shock/Open Melee

Bolo-Lizard

Bolas

Spear

Dagger

Open Melee

High Llama

Lance

Javelin

Broadsword

Shock

Impala

Composite Bow

Darts

Short sword

Open Melee

Morokanth

Claws

Spear

Thrown rock

Shield-wall

Ostrich

Boomerang

Javelin/Spear

Short sword

Open Melee

Pol-Joni

Lance

Sword

Bow

Shock/Open Melee

Rhino

Lance

Axe

Mace

Shock

Sable

Any

Any

Any

Open Melee/Shock

Unicorn

Composite Bow

Sword

Lance

Open Melee/Shock

Zebra

Composite Bow

Lance

Sword

Open Melee/Shock

Primary denotes the most common and preferred weaponry. Metal swords and axes are rare and expensive in Prax. Other weaponry may be carried.

 

Edited by M Helsdon

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2 hours ago, VonKatzen said:

The inspiration for this comes from a post over on Facebook about real ostrich riders, where someone mentioned that the Praxian ostrichriders are in fact very small people. I can see where the idea comes from - jockeys - but this is in fact a terrible idea.

I think you are mixing what is desirable from a fighting standpoint with what might be available. It's not like somebody goes "Let's all be SIZ 10". And the advantages of lighter riders and smaller burden for the mount could offset the disadvantages. Small riders with long weapons, such as lances who could rise all day, thanks to a small SIZ might be more useful that larger riders who need to have multiple mounts. 

2 hours ago, VonKatzen said:

In fact, very small people in melee combat is almost always a terrible idea, unless they have superhuman powers to offset their obvious size, reach, mass, leverage and power disadvantages.

But just what is considered "very small". The Romans were rather successful, and were shorter and smaller than most Norther Europeans. The Huns were another fairly small people, but still effective. So I think you might be overestimating the importance of size for the rider.

 

 

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56 minutes ago, soltakss said:

Ostrich Riders prefer to use Missile Weapons, not fight in melee. In fact, ostriches would stick their heads in the sand rather than fighting, which puts them at a severe disadvantage*.

You could always rule that the ostrich thus steadies the bow shot. Such helpful birds.

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1 hour ago, VonKatzen said:

But they would also suck at missile combat. Shorter limbs, less physical strength, less draw length on bows,

If you're willing to make things a bit weirder, then consider that chimps are small yet much stronger than humans and model the Ostrich Riders as charming, pretty, hairless chimp-men. (Add suitable Godtime explanation for how this came about.)

 

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1 hour ago, VonKatzen said:

But they would also suck at missile combat. Shorter limbs, less physical strength, less draw length on bows,

Which cam be compensated for by using a composite bow. Think Huns. Very good on horseback, terrible on foot.

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3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Which cam be compensated for by using a composite bow. Think Huns. Very good on horseback, terrible on foot.

That would solve the draw length problem, but not the strength problem. The poundage of normal human bows would be too much for them to fully draw, even a short little Hunnic bow. I would agree with you if we were talking dwarves - who are little bodybuilder tree stumps, and could make excellent use of extremely heavy composite bows to compensate for a short draw. But in the case of a very small human that's just not true.

3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

But just what is considered "very small". The Romans were rather successful, and were shorter and smaller than most Norther Europeans. The Huns were another fairly small people, but still effective. So I think you might be overestimating the importance of size for the rider.

From what I have read and based on the size of their mass we're talking about jockeys here, people who would almost be considered midgets (or whatever the PC term is for people with congenital growth limits) rather than simply small people. Yes, Romans were smaller than Germans on average, but Romans were not jockeys. Jockeys often weight under 100lbs and are very short. This would be necessary to ride very light animals like ostriches over long distances without hurting the animal, and matches the illustrations I've seen. A typical Roman soldier, on the other hand, would be around 5' and a few inches, maybe 140lbs or so with an additional 20+lbs of kit and armor.

That is much less of a difference compared to your average north European. Also, Romans were technologically and militarily sophisticated in the extreme for their time, and used tons and tons of armor compared to their competition; ostrich riders are dirt-poor primitives who barely wear body armor and have almost no organized social structure. If the Ostrich riders had large numbers and had the social and technical sophistication to train and equip a variety of troops (or hire mercenaries) to complement their light cavalry role I don't deny that they could be effective in battlefield conditions. But alone, without cataphracted charge cavalry, infantry, etc. to back them up? They could annoy people, but any organized fighting force would probably do to them what Caesar did to Gaul. Only here, the Gauls are 4' tall and have mounts that are slower than an ordinary horse (Gauls used full size horses just like the Romans, and loved cavalry just as much as the ostrichriders do).

As I mentioned above, actually successful, historical steppe nomads and their kin (Huns, Gothic horsemen, Sarmatians, Turco-Mongols) used not only light harassment cavalry but fully armored shock cavalry. They also made use of infantry whenever they gained control of sedentary regions. Also while Mongols might seem rather small to an Englishman of the 13th century they were not jockey-sized or midgets. They were simply ordinary sized for people from east-Asia, comparable to the Romans and maybe a little bit lighter. In the other cases - Goths, Sarmatians, Parthians, some parts of the Hunnic coalition - these people are in fact described as tall and well-built, and were bigger than most of the people they were fighting. In fact one of the awesome things about horses is that you can take a very large man, cover him in metal and he'll still have as much stamina as light infantry thanks to his strong, sturdy mount while being even more mobile.

Harassment cavalry by itself is not very effective in battlefield conditions, and because these people are even smaller and weaker than normal humans and can't move as fast or as far as a full sized horse they're in a worse position vis-a-vis enemy cavalry than the light archers of Hungary. Also, note that the Magyars (after conquering the Hungarian basin) immediately started mass-importing European-style heavy cavalry to compliment their own elite (which remained light cavalry).

Now they may remain unsubdued, as many poor 'barbarian' societies did for long periods, simply because conquering them would be too much of a hassle and not enough return. But if they actually did have a standup fight against even ordinary light cavalry they would just plain lose, barring tactical genius, etc.

The lance would be a good choice in melee for them, because it allows them to use momentum rather than physical strength. Problem? The mount and the rider are both very light and have much less armor on than typical charge cavalry. This means they won't hit nearly as hard. Which means you could take a direct hit in good armor and still be OK, whereas a similar charge by Sarmatian heavy cavalry would quite possibly punch through plate armor. And because any enemy lancer can more easily use a longer lance than them the enemy could charge them head on and would still hit them first, thus 'winning' the collision without even being touched by the enemy's lances.

Being that tiny and that primitive basically makes them very poorly suited to fight any kind of troop of normal sized humans, much less something like a Gloranthan Ogre which can already tear a powerful human apart with their bare hands. Methinks the Ostrichriders would very quickly find themselves under the yoke of foreigners. On the upside the forced crossbreeding might turn them into more reasonably sized people, in which case they could learn to ride real horses and shoot composite bows effectively.

Everything I said here would be just as true for D&D halflings, or Gloranthan Ducks, although Tolkien's hobbits are explicitly described as preternaturally tough and nimble, they are not merely small humans but are, for their size, actually much sturdier than humans.

Edited by VonKatzen

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7 minutes ago, VonKatzen said:

That would solve the draw length problem, but not the strength problem. The poundage of normal human bows would be too much for them to fully draw, even a short little Hunnic bow. I would agree with you if we were talking dwarves - who are little bodybuilder tree stumps, and could make excellent use of extremely heavy composite bows to compensate for a short draw. But in the case of a very small human that's just not true.

Lots of practice can help, but again it depends on just how small.One thing that Glorathan character s would have that could make a big difference is the Strength Battle Magic spell. A couple of points of that could make all the difference.

 

7 minutes ago, VonKatzen said:

From what I have read and based on the size of their mass we're talking about jockeys here, people who would almost be considered midgets (or whatever the PC term is for people with congenital growth limits) rather than simply small people. Yes, Romans were smaller than Germans on average, but Romans were not jockeys. Jockeys often weight under 100lbs and are very short. This would be necessary to ride very light animals like ostriches over long distances without hurting the animal, and matches the illustrations I've seen. A typical Roman soldier, on the other hand, would be around 5' and a few inches, maybe 140lbs or so with an additional 20+lbs of kit and armor.

Yeah, I don't see sub-100 pound (SIZ<=8) warriors being that much of an option but 140 Pounds (SIZ 11-12) being quite possible. Muscle mass and thus STR roughly depend on body mass. In other words you can't have 100 pounds of muscle mass if you don't weigh 100 pounds.

 

7 minutes ago, VonKatzen said:

Also, Romans were technologically and militarily sophisticated in the extreme for their time, and used tons and tons of armor compared to their competition; ostrich riders are dirt-poor primitives who barely wear body armor and have almost no organized social structure. 

And that's my point. Skill and organization can compensate for SIZ, at least up to a point, especially with calvary. Just how much it can compesate for depends. 

 

 

 

7 minutes ago, VonKatzen said:

As I mentioned above, actually successful, historical steppe nomads and their kin (Huns, Gothic horsemen, Sarmatians, Turco-Mongols) used not only light harassment cavalry but fully armored shock cavalry. They also made use of infantry whenever they gained control of sedentary regions. Also while Mongols might seem rather small to an Englishman of the 13th century they were not jockey-sized or midgets. They were simply ordinary sized for people from east-Asia, comparable to the Romans and maybe a little bit lighter. In the other cases - Goths, Sarmatians, Parthians, some parts of the Hunnic coalition - these people are in fact described as tall and well-built, and were bigger than most of the people they were fighting. In fact one of the awesome things about horses is that you can take a very large man, cover him in metal and he'll still have as much stamina as light infantry thanks to his strong, sturdy mount while being even more mobile.

Yes. But I think just how much of a problem small SIZ would be would depend on just how much of a difference, if mounted or foot, and if there is magic that can compensate for it. 

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Just now, Atgxtg said:

Lots of practice can help, but again it depends on just how small.One thing that Glorathan character s would have that could make a big difference is the Strength Battle Magic spell. A couple of points of that could make all the difference.

Magic can of course turn a baby into a battle monster with the right spells. But since everyone uses magic, and civilized people are better at it, it washes out at best, and is more realistically overpowered by the sorcery of the Lunar Empire or even the rather more sophisticated 'barbarians' like the Orlanthi.

24 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Yes. But I think just how much of a problem small SIZ would be would depend on just how much of a difference, if mounted or foot, and if there is magic that can compensate for it. 

In the case of someone who is sub-100lbs, v. people who average at least 50% more, a huge difference. It would be like me (6', 190lbs) fighting an 11yo boy. Yeah, he could kill me, but chances are it would go the other way. And if we're fighting in groups of roughly equally skilled men the sheer inertia of the heavier/stronger group would allow them to break the ranks of the enemy force, not to mention the larger ones could strike outside the range of their enemies. This is something that I've discussed in other contexts regarding a Makedonian phalanx v. medieval knights, despite the huge reach of the phalanx the massive weight and body armor of an unmounted knight would allow them to wade into the phalanx and push it back, assuming roughly equal numbers, in a way that an ancient army facing the phalangites simply couldn't. The same would be true of primitive, very small warriors fighting heavily equipped iron-age armies; in fact the impetus of the charge and splitting enemy ranks was one of the main tactics of Roman infantry, and their sheer amount of body armor (for the time) was very useful in this. These ostrichriders fighting anyone who isn't a Prax nomad or the like are going to be facing much bigger, stronger, faster opponents with better equipment and more of it.

Again, they could make it work - with organization, mercenary help to fill roles, but even so I think they would be inferior missile cavalry to perfectly normal missile cavalry.

As far as ranged weapons these ostrichriders should use crossbows to compensate for their physical weakness. But they almost certainly lack the metallurgy and mechanical prowess to produce them, so they'd have to import them in mass - a very expensive prospect for dirt-poor primitives.

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1 hour ago, VonKatzen said:

But since everyone uses magic, and civilized people are better at it, it washes out at best, and is more realistically overpowered by the sorcery of the Lunar Empire or even the rather more sophisticated 'barbarians' like the Orlanthi.

I think you are mistaken. Praxians are much more skilled with magic and staying alive with it than the average Lunar, even the average Lunar soldier. Praxians and Praxian shamans are pre-eminently about survival in a way that even the Orlanthi don't approach.

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8 minutes ago, jeffjerwin said:

I think you are mistaken. Praxians are much more skilled with magic and staying alive with it than the average Lunar, even the average Lunar soldier. Praxians and Praxian shamans are pre-eminently about survival in a way that even the Orlanthi don't approach.

I don't necessarily disagree, but Praxians are far worse at summoning eldritch demons and shooting white hot fire, which is a much bigger advantage in a set-piece battle. Praxian magic is focused on stuff civilized people compensate for with for with organization and technology. The Lunars don't need to - they have organization and technology - so their magic is used for stuff that is impossible without magic. Camouflage and tracking magic is really useful as a barbarian, but in an open battle the Crimson Bat trumps every time.

Civilized people have a huge edge IRL, because although they lack a lot of skills barbarians have they don't usually need them; and they can instead focus on how to shoot people from half a mile away with a ballista. What's true of technology and personal skills is also true of magical skills. Barbarians might do better on their own, in the ass-end of nowhere, but since civilized people will just bring in an army of artisans and baggage it doesn't really matter. The Romans were not as good as Gauls at scavenging and herblore, probably, but they didn't need it. Meanwhile, the Gauls knew jack-all about siege warfare and formation fighting.

Contrary to Robert E. Howard (one of my favorite authors) civilization is a trump card in conflicts. Every barbarian that's ever managed to defeat a decadent civilized empire has been conquered by his conquest. In literal, economic terms stuff like organization, trade, rationalization is objectively superior in almost all circumstances. Instinct is a garbage guide created by evolutionary mishaps, and usually falters against even very stupid plans guided by reason and technique.

All societies are not created equal.

Edited by VonKatzen

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1 hour ago, VonKatzen said:

All societies are not created equal.

Magic is not science; nor is it technology. Unless it's sorcery... and the intimate understanding of the spiritual world that Praxians have and Lunars and Sartarites do not gives them a significant advantage in their homeland. The Praxians were 'conquered' (extremely temporarily) because they were disunited, not because they were inferior. Outside of Prax, sure, animal nomads have issues - yet not serious enough issues to preclude their use as mercenaries in Tarsh.

The only recourse against the Bat is better magic. Isn't it interesting that the Empire never bothered to send it against the Wastes?

Glorantha is not our world. Applying our history and our rational understanding to it is useful, but insufficient. No-one has ever conquered the Wastes in any lasting way. Sheng drew tribute from it, but that is the closest thing I can find.

There's a core piece of Glorantha's history here that bears thinking about: it is in part, in the Hero Wars, a story about asymmetric warfare. It's not an accident it emerged in the 1960s.

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2 hours ago, VonKatzen said:

Magic can of course turn a baby into a battle monster with the right spells. But since everyone uses magic, and civilized people are better at it, it washes out at best, and is more realistically overpowered by the sorcery of the Lunar Empire or even the rather more sophisticated 'barbarians' like the Orlanthi.

I'm not saying that the magic wouldn't be a wash, just that a little bit of magic would pretty much wipe out all the "Small SIZ" problems. That can make small warriors far more practical for Glorantha than for Earth.

 

2 hours ago, VonKatzen said:

In the case of someone who is sub-100lbs, v. people who average at least 50% more, a huge difference.

But that's now how RQ has treated it so far. In game terms a 50% increase in weight is only  a 4 point difference in SIZ. At least it was per the old SIZ table. Not sure about RQG, but as the stats for most species haven't changed much, I doubt it would be much more than that. Probably less if they are striving towards making bigger creatures a little weaker than before.

Now a 4 point SIZ difference isn't huge in in the game. If fact with the (old) eew HP formula, 4 points of SIZ means even less that it does in RQ3 or Pendragon. 

 

 

2 hours ago, VonKatzen said:

Again, they could make it work - with organization, mercenary help to fill roles, but even so I think they would be inferior missile cavalry to perfectly normal missile cavalry.

Yeah,if that's all they got. Frankly I see them being skirmishers, more like 18th-19th century calvary who can ride on their mount all day because of their light weight. 

2 hours ago, VonKatzen said:

As far as ranged weapons these ostrichriders should use crossbows to compensate for their physical weakness. But they almost certainly lack the metallurgy and mechanical prowess to produce them, so they'd have to import them in mass - a very expensive prospect for dirt-poor primitives.

A crossbow isn't easy to use or load mounted. Most of the loading aids don't work so well from the saddle. Javelins come to mind. Even a scaled down Alt-alt. But I'd probably expect composite bows and riders with good upper body strength for their SIZ. IMO they really can get by with a light (20 pound draw weight ) bow and rely on mobility. Plus some ancestors to ostriches could be rather nasty in combat. 

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55 minutes ago, jeffjerwin said:

Magic is not science; nor is it technology. Unless it's sorcery... and the intimate understanding of the spiritual world that Praxians have and Lunars and Sartarites do not gives them a significant advantage in their homeland. The Praxians were 'conquered' (extremely temporarily) because they were disunited, not because they were inferior.

It was the caltrops.  They'd never seen them before.  The lunars came up with the idea after their failed invasion of 1608.

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In actual game terms, magic is technology. It has repeatable, predictable effects and can be employed by sufficient resources, wealth and intellectual merit. It's basically an imaginary form of technology. And, in fact, I think that's how magic was conceived of by many ancients, i.e. a means-ends relation based on conceptual rather than mechanical relationships. The idea of magic as non-rational is really a modern invention, to distinguish it from science and engineering. Likewise, alchemy was philosophy and fake chemistry, not theosophical mystery religion. Magic was false science, not anti-science. And in game words, it is real science, because it has statistics and calculable ratios. Whether or not that's what's intended, that's the case. The whole idea of magic as a non-rational force is completely useless in a game with rules, even if it's in the fluff, it's objectively not true.

If your players have any kind of ability to plan and strategize, they will treat it exactly like science, too. Means/ends cannot be eliminated. Talking about 'non-rational worlds' is literally meaningless, in that it's not just 'unexplained', it is instead a non-sentence with zero content. Whether anyone likes it or not coherence is a property of everything that exists, and if fictional worlds deny that they're just wrong, even on their own terms. Even chaos has rules. I can show you the chart. All this talk of anti-reason/non-reason/formlessness is just aesthetic gibberish, not actual sentences with meaning or import.

The supernatural, defined as something undelimited and without causal relationships, is a non-definition, a non-concept, a non-statement. I don't regard such utterances as being anything other than the sort of meaningless noise that comes out of an air conditioner. Anything which is not logical, in the strict sense, does not exist, and it doesn't matter what you call it or how it works. If it works at all, if it exists at all, it is logical and therefor a science and a technology. I reject the premises of supernaturalism, which is not a premise, but gum-flapping disguised as speech. If magic exists, in reality or in fiction, it is logical and it is technical.

I basically refuse to not take things literally.

Edited by VonKatzen

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2 hours ago, VonKatzen said:

If your players have any kind of ability to plan and strategize, they will treat it exactly like science, too. Means/ends cannot be eliminated. Talking about 'non-rational worlds' is literally meaningless, in that it's not just 'unexplained', it is instead a non-sentence with zero content. Whether anyone likes it or not coherence is a property of everything that exists, and if fictional worlds deny that they're just wrong, even on their own terms. Even chaos has rules. I can show you the chart. All this talk of anti-reason/non-reason/formlessness is just aesthetic gibberish, not actual sentences with meaning or import.

The supernatural, defined as something undelimited and without causal relationships, is a non-definition, a non-concept, a non-statement. I don't regard such utterances as being anything other than the sort of meaningless noise that comes out of an air conditioner. Anything which is not logical, in the strict sense, does not exist, and it doesn't matter what you call it or how it works. If it works at all, if it exists at all, it is logical and therefor a science and a technology. I reject the premises of supernaturalism, which is not a premise, but gum-flapping disguised as speech. If magic exists, in reality or in fiction, it is logical and it is technical. 

I've veered off responding, because I didn't want to spend Christmas getting into a fight. But the above paragraphs (among other things) seem to be written in the hope of provoking one. I'm a bit puzzled this has started up on Christmas Day instead of getting pissed and falling asleep.

Glorantha in game form has always been a relationship between mythos (the idea) and logos (our inherited framing mechanism). Sometimes this is an uneasy and fractious conflict; sometimes an inspiring and creative one. Recognise that tension, sure; but if we're to try and resolve that down into logos alone, then I guess I'm out.

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10 hours ago, VonKatzen said:

Giants would also have better eyesight, because of their large eyes.

 

The expression better sight due to large eyes is incorrect. First you need to define better e.g. 

Prey animals have very good long distance vision but can't focus under their nose

Flies are very good at detecting movement 

Raptors have great visual acuity, some have two fovea

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