Army size?

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Thread: Army size?

  1. #1
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    Army size?

    I’m playing in a campaign which has, over the course of three years, become what one might call “Epic” (and thats just how i like it!) So the characters are the leaders of a huge empire, a religiously driven empire of what were once humans until some uber-wishes (that’s right I said Epic) altered their stats enough that they had to be called a new race. The god they follow is a LG good of war – think Heironeous – and most of the able bodied population has had some military training and nearly all have a strong faith in their god.

    But recently a war started up between the character’s empire and several rival countries. The other countries are mostly human, but two of the three have many demihuman slaves and allies, my question is, how many people could be fielded if such major powers went to war? One of the players is thinking of armies whose numbers reach the millions, but im thinking that could never happen, but maybe im wrong, a good majority of the population is motivated and ready to go to war, but I have a hard time getting comfortable with the idea that armies that large could even exist. It is a fantasy world I know, but how could such a force be fed, and god forbid they should be defeated, or most of the countries workforce – indeed, most all of the country - is gone.

    The conflicts span a very fertile continent about the size of Asia and Australia combined.

    I now ask for your opinions and advice.
    I'll make it into heaven if I have to ride there on a river of blood


  • #2
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    I can't respond properly at the moment, as I'm about to go see a movie with my wife. However, upon my return, I shall provide a thorough and detailed response.

    Semper Fidelis,


    (Edit: I have returned!)

    The size and expansion of a nation's armies can be dependent on a series of factors. Alignment, military organization, economy, population, and magic all have significant impact.

    For some real-world examples, in the First Century AD, the Roman Empire had control of over 100 million people. At any particular time, the Roman Army had a standing strength of approximately one million Legionnaires. This proportion of forces was divided between general all-purpose Legionnaires, at about 500,000 troops, and an equal number or about an additional 500,000 troops that were specialists, territorial, or ethnic auxilliaries, such as Gallic cavalry, Numidian raiders, Palmyran archers, or German barbarian horsemen, and so on. Thus, the total Roman forces would represent approximately 1% of the empire's population.

    This figure is deceptively weak, however. As my history professor in my honors history class explained, during the Punic Wars with Carthage, particularly with Hannibal's rampage through northern Italy, Rome lost many battles. One huge battle--The Battle of Cannae--a Roman army of roughly 80,000 troops were defeated in one day. The Carthaginians slaughtered them. The Romans were cought in poor terrain, pinned by mountain slopes hedging them against the shore of a lake. Rome lost many battles--but always won the war.

    The amazing thing about the Roman military, though, was its ability to "regenerate" itself. In short time, whenever Rome lost a battle, and tens of thousands of soldiers--like at Cannae--the lost armies were swiftly replaced. This is one of the secrets of Roman domination of an empire of over 100 million people for over 1000 years--unlike other nations, that fielded a small army of elites, supplemented by larger masses of untrained levies--and this was so in ancient times as it was in the Middle Ages--the Romans had perfected an in depth, comprehensive system that operated like a machine to recruit, train, and equip armies on a mass, and more importantly, constant scale. When Rome lost one battle, or several--within a short time, those lost armies would be replaced by equally well-trained and well-equipped--armies. The enemy, of which there were many, could never, ever keep up with such a machine-like precision of armies. The ancient world society couldn't *concieve* of what the Romans had done. In many respects, it was unnatural. The Romans perservered though in their efforts to maintain a professional army at all times, and supported by a system that was in constant motion to replace any losses.

    In a similar vein, a fantasy army isn't under the severe real-world limitations that an ferociously powerful Roman Army was. Instead, with all of the food magic, disease magic, healing, life-enhancing magic, there is reasonable cause to extrapolate that a fantasy population could easily be three times larger than the real-world Roman Empire. I say *easily* The force multipliers are enormous! The regenerative abilities are astounding compared to the real world.

    With these thoughts in mind, it *ISN'T* unreasonable to concieve of an empire where there are millions of soldiers available. Thus, if one had several large, powerful, sophisticated empires, then the armies would be huge, and the wars would indeed be on an epic scale!

    I say go BIG!

    Semper Fidelis,

    Last edited by SHARK; Tuesday, 16th April, 2002 at 06:15 AM. and

  • #3
    Hmm. Reminds me of something that Monte Cook said in a recent chat, about how there're no rules for mass combat in the DMG (Apparently he wanted to stick some in). Wish there were. Like, for instance, having a base % of a population comprising the military. Say 5%. Then having it modified upwards or downwards by different factors. For instance, a Lawful society would most likely have more troops than a chaotic one, as lawful individuals are more likely to subsume their own freedom for the greater security of their nation.

    Anyway, you may want to get the Birthright boxed set. The system's not perfect, but it's pretty good for determining how much revenue a ruler collects, which can then determine how many units he can pay for in his army.

    It'd be nice, though, if WoTC were to put out a couple supplements for handling D&D on this scale. Rulership of nations, building armies, etc. Also be nice if they had stuck to the plan of making Chainmail a true mass combat game. Would've been great to combine all that into a D&D game.

  • #4
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    I've been researching this myself a bit. I hit the Atlas to get some statitics for this...

    In 1998, the average nation that was not 3rd world, had about a .75% of the total population in active ready status military.

    The average for reserves was about .98% to 1.02%of the total population in adition to the standing army.

    Given the times of most D&D campaigns, times are rough, roads need to be guarded, castles/keep maned, royalty to protect, monsters to supress, I think it could be conceiveable that maybe 3% of the total population could be apart of the proffesional army
    and a levy army could be as high as an adtional 8 or 10% of the total population.

    Those are just some rough figures I go by. Food for thought
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  • #5
    10%? That seems way too high. In the middle ages, most of the population was made up of peasants living in rural and small communities. I imagine most armed forces would come from royal guard and city defense forces with some militia drawn from outlands. Then again I could be totally wrong. I'd love to see some real stats. For instance, middle ages population of england and france lets say and the sizes of their respective armies.

  • #6
    3%, huh? Hmm. So using the Forgotten Realms as a base...

    Cormyr, which has a population of 1,360,000, has 40,800 men in its army.

    The Silver Marches (1,090,800) has 32,700.

    Calimshan (5,339,520) has 160,185.

    Zhentil Keep (14,658) has 438!

    Seems 3% may be to low. Comparing it to modern militaries today doesn't really work, though, as you don't need as many troops with a high tech army. Maybe you SHOULD be looking at the percentages of military troops in 3rd world countries? Seeing as how they're closer to the tech level of Forgotten Realms (still far above, but not so far ahead that technology starts making up for numerical strength).

  • #7
    Keep in mind a D&D setting can have much larger armies than a medieval one. Problems which traditionally plagued historical armies would become much less of a problem with a little divine magic. For example:

    1. Feeding the army, even in hostile terrain, could be accomplished with spells like Create Food and Water, Goodberry, and Heroes' Feast.

    2. Logistics would be easier with Teleport, Dimension Door, and the like.

    3. Need to equip your troops? No problem...Fabricate whatever you need.

    ...and so on.

    Depending on the number of Clerics (which your people would probably have many of given their religious nature) I would say 10-20% would be a reasonable figure.

  • #8
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  • #9
    IIRC, in 1453 the turks conquered the Byzantine Empire, sacking Constantinople with an army of about 100,000-150,000 Turkish warriors.

    The Turks were able to field more combatants then almost any culture you'll come across and at the time they were in the heighth of their power.

    Also in the early 13th century...Ghenghis Khan and his 120,000 men took the awesome forces of the Kwarezm Empire, which boasted 400,000 men. But those were among the largest empires of their times.

    While it's somewhat conceivable to have armies numbering in the millions if two - three great empires face off, anything more then 500,000 is really pushing it.


  • #10
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    Since someone requested it, here's some information about a third world country's army:

    170 Million population
    about 400 Hundred thousand in the armed forces (army, air force and navy)

    0.23% of the population are in the regular armed forces.

    It actually all depends on militarization and amount of population needed for the basic production necessities of the specific society. I am pretty sure a State like Israel or Iraq will have a higher percentage of people on the regular armed forces.
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