Welcome back! Today we have a focus on one of the mercenary groups in the upcoming D&D 5th ed adventure – Tales from Temerrit: The Fall of Palrom the Usurper. While conflict and war is a cornerstone of many of the D&D worlds, I felt like not a lot had been done to flesh out the world of professional mercenaries. In a way every adventuring party is a small group of professional mercenaries, but I wanted to focus on larger groups. Given that the Usurper relies on mercenaries for the bulk of his forces, I was excited to record some ideas and provide background for several of these groups. Gwrawn’s Raiders are an example of a fast and hard hitting force of cavalry mercenaries that follow in the tradition of several historical examples of strong cavalry armies. Each mercenary company comes with a roster of enemies taken from D&D source books, suggested tactics, bonus special rules, and details about their leader, who is, in essence, a ‘boss’ in the world. As always, C&C would be appreciated!
NaNoWriMo Word Update: 11,728 at time of posting
A heavy-cavalry and incredibly mobile mercenary company, Gwrawn’s Raiders are led by Barthol Gwrawn, a cunning half-orc Warlord who lives for the pursuit and chase of battle and the aftermath. His men are at their best in the wide open plains, especially around Cobalt Lake and the flat plains and moorland east and west of the rivers. Many of them hail from Maeotia, a windswept land to the far southeast. At the time of the campaign, some of their edge has been blunted while facing off against the Wildling tribes of the Forest of Whispers, while also being tasked with occupying Greenfield and many of the smaller towns and hamlets that cling to the Vigilance Road and Sassafrail River.
Being the most mobile of the Usurper’s forces, they run frequent patrols throughout the occupied lands and are most likely to be discovered outside of the cities, especially in the east. They favor fast hitting strategies, scouting enemy positions and then swarming their opponents, using their speed to avoid counterattacks. Due to their mercenary nature, unless cornered, Gwrawn’s Raiders will attempt to retreat from combat should the situation turn heavily against them, to eventually return with reinforcements. They will avoid headlong charges unless led by a Maeotian Underofficer or Commander.
Raider camps are generally unfortified, but are always patrolled by pairs of mounted raiders or horse archers. Smaller camps are temporary affairs, but the larger ones often have attached blacksmithing, veterinary, and medical services. Camps are arranged in concentric circles, with the Commander’s tent forming the central point of any camp. Otherwise, the raiders generally shun major cities, preferring wide open spaces. Raiders always take excellent care of their horses, and they utilize them with exceptional skill in combat.
Commander – Barthol Gwrawn (Half-Orc Neutral Evil Warlord (VGtM) riding Sycles)
Main Base – Greenfield
Outposts – Frig’s Ford (NE of Ewdea), Siegeworks of Cobalt Landing
Manpower Strength – Roughly 5,000 men & women, with associated hangers-on.
Roster of Forces
- Light Raider (Bandit on Horseback)
- Light Raider Officer “Fist” (Bandit Captain on horseback)
- Trackers (Scouts / Spies)
- Soothsayers (Evil Priests, Illusionists(VGtM), Apprentice Wizards, Acolyte)
- Light Horse Archer (Archer on Horseback)
- Maeotian Cavalryman (Veteran, Knight on Ring-mail Warhorse w/ Lance as additional weapon)
- Maeotian Underofficer (Blackguard (VGtM), Gladiator on ring-mail horseback)
- Maeotian Advisor (Abjurer, Diviner (VGtM))
- Maeotian Commander (Champion (VGtM) on fully-armored horseback)
Special Rules – Tying into the raider’s skill sets with their trained horses, the mounted enemies gain the following ability. In addition, see the modified rules for various horse options on the next page.
A trained horse does not provoke opportunity attacks when it rides out of an enemy’s reach and the horse has not attacked (used it’s hooves attack). The rider can still attack and benefits from the glancing strike rule. (Author’s Note: This is designed to simulate the speed at which a light, well-trained horseback rider can maneuver, strike, and retreat. It should be hard to react quickly to light riders.) Other riders’ heavily armored horses are comparably ponderous and thus do not benefit from this rule.
- Trained Horse – Use Riding Horse stats from the Monster Manual, add Glancing Strike.
- Armored Warhorse – Use variant Warhorse stats from the Monster Manual, with AC14 for Ring Mail and 25 HP. Do not add the Glancing Strike rule above.
- Fully Armored Warhorse – Use variant stats from the Monster Manual, with AC17 for Splint Armor and 30 HP. Do not add the Glancing Strike rule above.
- Sycles (Sic-Clees), Bearer of the Raid – Ridden only by Barthol Gwrawn himself, uses variant stats from the Monster Manual, with AC18 for Plate Armor, and 40 HP. In addition, Sycles gains the benefit of the Glancing Strike rule.
Typical Encounter – From lower to higher levels
- One “Fist”, a half dozen raiders, and a tracker or two (6-8 common enemies)
- One “Fist”, 3-5 Horse Archers, a tracker, and a Soothsayer (6-8 common enemies)
- One Underofficer, two Cavalrymen, four raiders and a tracker/soothsayer (4-6 common enemies, 3+ uncommon enemies)
- One Underofficer, 2-6 Cavalrymen, one Soothsayer (Possibly 1-6 Horse Archers)
- Maeotian Commander, two Advisors, one Underofficer, two soothsayers, six or more Cavalrymen (1-3 rare, 4-6 uncommon, 1+ common enemies)
Barthol Gwrawn is a half-orc neutral evil Warlord riding Sycles. He is never found far from his horse, and takes personal care of it, as is his desire, and the fact that Sycles does not accept any other person tending to him. Barthol cares little for most fineries and most other pleasurable pursuits, with the exception of music, particularly woodwind -style instruments, and antiquities. He enjoys delving into barrows and ancient ruins, and collects ancient fragments of manuscript or rusting weaponry. His baggage train includes several carts of antiquities, and a single pack mule for his tent and other gear. In combat, he favors striking from horseback, and isn’t against using his own men as cover. He will retreat from combat if things are truly looking overwhelming, but his personal leadership empowers his men, and they will fight to the last in his presence. As a commander, Barthol is always at the forefront of his men, and rages at any who shirk their duty. He doesn’t take much advice from his soothsayers or other magic users, and relies more on a pair of old friends, Hertol and Wulx. These twin orc brothers have been with Barthol since their youth, and they trust, and know, each other’s minds implicitly. Otherwise, Barthol is a trustworthy, if unpredictable, Palromian commander.
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