The Warlord Guide: What and What NOT to Do For the Aspiring Conqueror #4: The Company You Keep
Hello, everyone out there who is still out there. On a whim I decided to check out this site again and read through my old blog posts for the nostalgic value. This series here was definitely my defining moment on this site, and I did have some neat insights, but I don't think I came up with enough.
I've come a long way as a writer since then, but my frustration with the ineptitude of Redwall Villains has stayed the same, or, if anything, intensified. I'm not sure if I really feel the initiative to continue this series, but I do have enough left in me to write another guide for all of you aspiring conqueror's out there.
After having read through my other guides, I realized it was all focused externally on the immediate threats of foebeasts and on tactics for making the conquering of Redwall easy, but after reading comments I got on my other three entries, you guys had it right all the time: it's not just them, the threat can be internal as well.
Forming Your Horde
We are never expressly told how one goes about scrounging up a horde, but we're left to assume it's by finding little tribes and bands of vermin and bullying them into following you until you've recruited a horde. Obviously, you'll need to outmatch the heroes, but we'll get more into that later. When you form your horde, you will need a few specific units. They are:
Notice I said trusted. A random fox selling magic herbs in Mossflower will not do. Get on this seer's good side and offer them a position of power and security. Healer-types remember these types of acts, so years of just treatment and respect will earn you a loyal horde beast as well as someone who can interpret the inevitable nightmares you will have, as well as a healer. We've seen this through Nightshade the fox in Outcast of Redwall, faithfully serving Swartt Sixclaw, or the fox Fortunata in Mossflower, whereas Sela was decietful towards Cluny the Scourge because in the very little time that she had been with his horde he treated her poorly and offered her nothing. She had to turn a profit somehow. It also helps if your seer believes you are destined to conquer, such as Mangiz, who served General Ironbeak out of a type of destined duty.
A Corsair Commander
A good horde will be made up of a few commanders you can trust to get the job done, but whether you have a pirate empire or a land-based horde, a corsair commander is an invaluable asset. One of the most successful and intelligent minor villains in command of a group of hordebeasts was the rat Ripfang (Lord Brocktree), and he was a corsair, and villains like Plugg Firetail are charismatic and inspire troops. Corsairs tend to think differently than a normal commander, as they are both more wild and typically more cruel than others in your horde, but they also have a strong sense of fraternity that makes rank-and-file hordebeasts feel special, and happy beasts fight better than disgruntled ones.
A Trusted General
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how often this one gets overlooked. This beast must not be an ally, they must be your friend. I know this is hard for you to do, being evil never really gave you time to make friends, but these generals are invaluable. They should be well versed in military tactics, as well, that way, as your friend, they'll never lie to you and always give you the news straight, and, as your general, they'll be able to think on their feet using tried and true methods of combat. This general not only serves as a right hand man, but also compliments the corsair commander nicely, as this general will ground the corsair's wild and free-spirited nature. The general will also keep the horde an army by providing a strong, military foundation. Look for beasts like Ashleg or Lask Frildur, who served their leaders dutifully and efficiently. Just make sure to treat your generals the way you'd treat your non-existent friends.
These are by far the trickiest to come by but are a necessity. Whether they're rats that look like mice, like Vitch, beasts adept at getting in places they're not supposed to, like Shadow, or is in a hostage situation like that inflicted on Plumpen, a man/woman inside is beyond crucial. They can poison the food supply, open the gates, assassinate high-level targets, steal goodies, or just run reconnaissance. If you don't believe me, then take a closer look at the villains I mentioned. You know what they all had in common? They got in.
A Bow Beast
The Jacquesian code of nobility typically limits main characters to swords or other close-range melee combat weapons. This stands to reason as close-range combat is far more personal, and it lends the heroes an aspect of desperation and grace under pressure. That's why you need someone who can shoot them before they get there. When I say a bow beast, I mean the greatest bow beast in all the land. If you find a decent bow beast, keep looking for a better one and put that particular one on never ending training. This beast should not only have excellent aim, but should also be able to loose arrows quickly and in rapid succession. Creatures like Vallug Bowbeast (whose name is sort of self-explanatory) and Nightshade managed to kill a main character because they had excellent aim and were adept with a bow. Extremely useful for when you're fighting Redwallers, because they just love to have the Skipper, Abbot/Abbess, and Abbey Warrior poke their heads up over the battlements like targets, and if you've got someone who can hit them, then by all means go for it.
Whether you have a Gloomer, a Slothunog, or a group of Dirgecallers, a monster of some kind is not entirely necessary, but certainly adds a certain flair and a sense of style to your horde that may have been lacking earlier. The trick is to not loose the monster on it's own. Have your horde go with it so that if the heroes have a beast of their own (like Stormfin), you guys can kill it if it looks like your champion is going to lose. A monster is useful for intimidation, and, if at all possible, sneaking the beast inside Redwall may not necessarily be the most efficient use, but it would be hilarious, and if they don't know you're in the area, then it makes for an excellent first strike. They are, however, obsolete when fighting Salamandastron, as badgers and hares feel no fear and can kill something fighting with its bare hands easily.
Proper Care of a Horde
Many warlords tend to believe that they should only interact with their minions when they need to cement their dominance over the group by putting down a rebellion, giving orders, and berating them during their practice drills. While you need to keep yourself distanced from them to maintain the air of power, completely ignoring them gives off an aspect of negligence or arrogance, and that is not something you want.
I call this The Sable Quean Principle. Though Vilaya was the rightful leader of the Ravagers, nobody stopped Zwilt the Shade from (nearly) killing her when it came down to it. This was mostly because Zwilt had done the smart thing and lead from the front lines, giving the troops a face and figure to follow, whereas only a trusted few were allowed to see Vilaya. Troops prefer a leader who leads by example, and while I'm not saying lead on the front lines (unless you're very good at it), I am saying you should remind your troops that you have prowess above theirs, and that you do care whether or not they die, even if you don't.
Avoid them at all costs. Their gang leader most likely wants a position of power (possibly yours), and your soldiers and the mercenaries will most likely not mix well. If you absolutely need the mercenaries, execute their leader immediately and make sure your horde outnumbers the mercenary band. They won't try anything, and if you defeat their boss, they'll most likely be scared into submission. Make sure to start the mercenaries off at the absolute bottom of the horde, unless you find real prowess/potential and the right amount of loyalty in one or some of them.
How Many is Enough?
Much like Lays potato chips, enough is never enough. The breakdown of the numbers you should have comes from the average forces you're going to be facing.
1 Badger = 5 score (100) soldiers
1 Redwall Warrior = 4 score (80) soldiers
Skipper of Otters + Otter Crews = 3 score (60) soldiers
Foremole + Mole Crews = 1 score (20) soldiers
The Hare (excluding the Long Patrol) = 3 score (60) soldiers
The Surprises (Cellerhog or extremely PO'd dibbun moms) = 1 score (20) soldiers
The Long Patrol = 8 score (160) soldiers
The Gousim = 5 score (100) soldiers
The Deus Ex Machina Group = 5 score (100) soldiers
All in all, this list adds up to seven hundred horde beasts, but beware of Jacquesian intervention, as there will probably be some kind of handicap inflicted on your troops, so it never hurts to over-prepare. Now, very rarely will the Long Patrol get involved when you go after Redwall, but if they do, plan for two badgers, as the badger lord of Salamandastron (place) will most likely come with. If he does that, take a large group of soldiers and sprint over there and move in while he's gone. That'll show him.
Encourage Equal Opportunity Employment
There is a seemingly endless amount of vermin, yet very rarely do we see any women in the service. If you promote an equal amount of glory and plunder for females as males, your horde will benefit for three major reasons.
1) More females enlisting means more bodies to throw at angry Redwallers,
2) If they mate with your current horde beasts, they'll develop a sense of love (as best villains can), and will be fighting not only for glory, but also for protecting one's mate, and
3) Mates means children, and training children is an excellent opportunity.
Vermin rarely feel any sense of loyalty towards their own children, so if you offer some form of compensation for the children, you can quite literally stockpile a moldable army. This trick has never been used in Redwall, but it has been utilized in real world history. The Ottomans used conquered Byzantine children to form the Sultan's personal army, and historians state that this is the first real organized army of all time because of the heavy sense of tradition. The Long Patrol does this and they're the strongest force in Redwall.
If you raise children with a vicious loyalty towards you, trained with every major weapon until perfection, and have your commanders teach them the ins and outs of tactics and strategy, you now command a perfect fighting force, and the best thing is that it will be relatively cheap.
Uniforms Are a Must
Really, it's more about organization. The fatal flaw most hordes run into is a lack of organization and communication. If you do not have the time to train up a dutiful military class like the Marlfoxes or the Pure Ferrets did, then have your general best friend instill a sense of hierarchy. Make rules and laws that new recruits must obey, and have strict consequences for disobedience, and reward systems in place for cooperation. Make promotions based on merit, not on who is there at the time or who kisses up to you the most. The best way to create this sense of unity is through uniforms. If every beast has the same weapon, the same clothes, and the same lodgings, then they are no longer a group of vermin working together, but they are a single fighting force created to obey and follow. United and dutiful minions are the best kind, and thanks to the corsair commander, they won't loose their sense of brotherhood, either.
Have a Forum
This is sort of a tentative rule, but the concept is that ideas can come from the most unlikely places. Now I know what you're thinking: But my gang is made up of a bunch of brain-dead flunkies who couldn't think their way out of a paper bag!. True, but intelligence is not the same as creativity. The concept for a tactic or idea can come from idiots, and then smart people, like you or your generals, can make the necessary adaptation from concept to reality. But make sure that your minions understand that freedom of speech stays in the forum, and will not be tolerated outside it.
Build and Use Siege Weapons
A user named D2r pointed this out in a comment in my first guide. Why don't villains use siege weapons? Wouldn't it make sense to have a catapult that could lob flaming rocks down on your enemies? that way you can do collateral damage and set the abbey on fire. If you can burn that orchard down, a siege might actually work. Instead of incredibly vulnerable siege ladders, make siege towers so your groups can be protected while they climb. Maybe it's because they hadn't been thought up yet or the villains are too impatient to use anything more complex than a battering ram.
Well, that actually felt kind of good. It's been awhile since I really immersed myself in the world of Redwall, especially my favorite aspect of it: the villains. I don't know how many of us are still active on here, but if you are, I'd love to hear the feedback you guys can offer me! Thanks, and happy conquering.