As shocking as this might sound to some folk, the Lunar Army is actually tactically quite lazy. Their ace in hole is the Lunar College of Magic which is how they get most of their victories. Battle of Grizzly Peak? That was the first time the Sartarites felt the full brunt of the College of Magic in battle (“the Lunar magicians swept them from the field.” Siege warfare? The usual Lunar answer is “Send in the Bat.” See Runegate, Boldhome, First Battle of Chaos, Second Battle of Chaos, etc.
Look at the siege of Runegate – the Lunars went to the city and stopped. The next night Delecti marched his army of zombies and skeletons out of the marsh. They climbed on top of themselves to get to the top of the walls, but were fought off by the Sartarites, who no doubt hurled lightning, thunderbolt, shield, you name it. And they repulsed the attack.
And then came the main assault. The Lunar Army withdrew further, and the Crimson Bat came. The poor defenders had expended all their Rune points, and the Crimson Bat landed on the city and ATE EVERYONE.
Similarly Boldhome. The main Lunar army got there and couldn’t get up to the wall. But the Red Emperor ordered his daughter to lead the Full Moon Corps over the mountains and into the city. Meanwhile the Crimson Bat was sent against the defenders, but a huge dream dragon forced it off. The Lunar College of Magic threw everything it could at the city, and the Red Emperor himself came in with his bodyguard.
Then you have fiascos like Whitewall or Nochet. Whitewall took three years because the traditional, “Send in the Bat” failed. And Nochet had the Lunars camped out of the city like the Athenians outside of Syracuse.
The Lunars can do this because alone of all the armies of the Third Age, they have massed thousands of magical specialists into their own units, trained them work together, and made them effectively mobile temples, with sacrifices, worship, etc. And provided them with the resources to stay in the field for seasons at a time. And put the Crimson Bat in tow.
This approach is so overpoweringly successful that even in the hands of a lazy commander, it overwhelms pretty much every foe. Only when they have to go up against something similar does it really matter – but since Belintar has been removed, there is nothing like the Lunar College of Magic in the world.
And that is why Argrath proves so dangerous as he manages to build his own version of the Lunar military machine….
I’d go beyond saying that this is mere bureaucracy. The Lunar army is typically successful because of its ability to project overwhelming magical force on the enemy. Sure your tribe has its 40+ Rune Masters, and that includes some really amazing Rune Lords, but they all fight as individuals or as the leaders of groups of initiates or lay members.
In contrast, a single Lunar unit might have twice as many magicians, all trained to work together. And it has plenty more where that came from. And there are plenty of mundane soldiers to preoccupy your forces while their magicians prepare for the coup de main.So why bother doing much with the Heartland Corps, the Cavalry Corps, or the Provincial Corps beyond just something that preoccupies the enemy? It is only the rare Lunar military leader without access to the College of Magic who has to rely on them to win battles. And that is why Fazzur was so remarkable.
To begin with, you have to be the first to break out of how things are always done.It is also expensive maintaining massed units of magicians. Really expensive. That’s not something a tribe or militia can do. To be honest, but for Argrath, the Eleven Lights band would have likely disappeared in a few years.
To begin with Rune Masters are the elite in most societies. You are taking them away from their normal roles as priests performing sacrifices at a temple, being the local defender of a tribal group, etc, and putting them together with other magicians that likely are not from their own community. And you are doing that for hundreds of magicians. That’s going to get very pricy – much more expensive than hiring a few score thugs.
The modern Lunar military was probably a creation of the Fourth and Fifth Wanes.
As an aside, if you look at the Dragon Pass war game you find is that the Tarshite units are identical or even slightly weaker than their Sartarite tribal equivalents. The professional Lunar units are better than the tribal units (but not decisively), they are inferior to Argrath’s bodyguard units, which are the best non-magical units in the game.In short, the Sartarite tribes are militarily comparable to the Lunar professional army. It is the Lunar College of Magic that makes the difference, not the Lunar regular military (which does not enjoy the advantage over its foes that the Romans had over the Germans or Gauls). Where the Lunar College of Magic is present – Grizzly Peak, the Sartar Campaign, Hender’s Ruins, etc. – the Lunars win. Where they aren’t – Starbrow’s Rebellion, Dangerford, Battle of the Queens – it is a tossup.Pennel Ford is explained by the presence of something else on the battlefield – several Heroes. Harrek, Gunda, and Argrath give the Holy Country-Wolf Pirate army something that can stand up against the College of Magic. Which Lunars discover to their shock and horror at Pennel Ford. And then Argrath sets up the Sartar Magical Union. Then it is a whole new ballgame.
That being said, Greg said his experience playing Dragon Pass is that the Lunars win about half the time, and the Sartarites win about half the time. But most of those victories were on “points”.
Oh yes. And even Argrath’s decisive victory outside of Bagnot in 1628 does not end the conflict the Lunar Empire. It does give Sartar breathing room to achieve dominance in Dragon Pass, but the war continues for another 20 years, with each side waxing and waning until things reach a climax in the 1650s.
Again, different styles of play. Our Earth priestess might have 10 Rune points, but she is damn reluctant to spend 4 or 5 points on Summon/Command Elemental unless she really needs to. If the other players can handle things by forming up into a wall, she’d rather let them do that. Even at 10 Rune Points, she often runs out and the replenishing process is long and inconvenient.Other other group with most players having 3 to 5 points follow the maxim, strike fast, then run away. But if they are low on rune points, they will form defensive formations, etc.
Why doesn’t anyone else do this kind of magical military organization? it is way more difficult to set up than you might think, and requires a conceptual breakthrough. The First, Second, and Third Councils didn’t do it this way, nor did the Dara Happan Empire. Nor did the God Learners.
To begin with, you have to be the first to break out of how things are always done.
It is also expensive maintaining massed units of magicians. Really expensive. That’s not something a tribe or militia can do. To be honest, but for Argrath, the Eleven Lights band would have likely disappeared in a few years.
What is so expensive about it? To begin with Rune Masters are the elite in most societies. You are taking them away from their normal roles as priests performing sacrifices at a temple, being the local defender of a tribal group, etc, and putting them together with other magicians that likely are not from their own community. And you are doing that for hundreds of magicians. That’s going to get very pricy – much more expensive than hiring a few score thugs.