The Forces

Kingdom & Empire is set in a fictional world of many nations, races, and levels of arcane ability and technological development. Across these nations, and across the military branches of the larger nations, there is an incredible diversity of recruitment, organization, and operational tactics. Our key aim in bringing these factions to the table-top are to successfully translate their unique characteristics into the game, while simultaneously ensuring that they remain fairly balanced within themselves and against each other.

In this section we will introduce you to the unique histories and combat doctrines of the playable factions in Kingdom & Empire. We will also introduce you to the larger national militaries and multi-national alliances that these forces belong to. As additional factions are released, we will expand this section to include them. Initially we are beginning with two playable factions: The Knights of the Field and the Blackship Raiders. These forces belong to the Kingdom of Celesia and to the Ithican Empire, respectively. For each of these nations, they are the segments of the military most likely to make first contact with hostile forces. Indeed, when the Ithican invasion of Pittia began, it began with Blackship Raider forces landing in southern Celesia and the local Knights of the Field responding to the surprise attack.

The Kingdom of Celesia

When Celesia was still a city-state it largely relied on its walls to keep it safe. The protection of those walls was bolstered by a city guard composed of pikemen and archers conscripted from commoners and peasants who lived in the city. Celesia’s defensive needs at the time simply did not require a larger or more professional military force to deal with the occasional monster or nuisance from a neighboring town.

The dragon attack on the caravan King Richard III’s sister changed everything. In a combination of grief and outrage, King Richard III began a yearlong campaign within Celesia and among its neighbors to raise an army capable of waging war on the Dragonkin. King Richard III also aggressively recruited as many of Pittia’s wandering mercenary Dragonslayers as he could find, whether by promises of coin, land, or glory. The towns and cities surrounding Celesia were won over to the cause by the hope that someone would finally do something drastic about the scores of wild beasts and dragons that had been hunting humans and livestock alike with relative impunity outside the safety of Celesia’s walls.

With the formation of the Kingdom of Celesia and the recruitment of most of the Dragonslayers, Celesia’s military was radically transformed: The Kingdom began to train and equip a professional standing army of pikemen, arbalests, longbowmen, and scout cavalry and placed them under the command of newly minted knights recruited from the formerly mercenary Dragonslayers. This gave the Kingdom of Celesia a solid core of well trained mass infantry units, led by a highly skilled and lavishly equipped elite cavalry and infantry. When the Amaranthine Conclave offered Praetorians and Skyships to the Kingdom’s military in return for an alliance, it was the final piece required to catapult the Kingdom of Celesia into becoming the predominant continental military power.

In the wake of Celesia’s resounding victory in the Dragon War, its military was reorganized as a permanent national defense force: The Celesian Military Orders recruit volunteers from the commoners and peasantry throughout the Kingdom to train as pikemen, arbalests, longbowmen and scout cavalry. When not training or in the field, these soldiers serve as town and city guards across Celesia. The Kingdom’s large cadre of knights have been re-organized into three separate organizations, each specialized in different styles of warfare, and each open to differing ranks of nobility. The three Celesian Knightly Orders are The Knights of the Field, The Knights of the Wall, and the Knights of the Sky. Still today, as it was in the Dragon War, Celesia’s numerous massed infantry units are always commanded in the field by knights from one of the orders, though not without some measure of consternation from the commoner and peasant ranks.

The Knights of the Field

Celesia’s Knights had begun as independent mercenary individuals and companies of Dragonslayers who each had differing styles of armour, shields, fighting styles and battlefield doctrines. The speed at which every available Dragonslayer had been recruited for the Dragon War meant there was simply no time for standardization. Idiosyncrasies had to be tolerated so long as the new Knights could work together well enough to deliver a victory in the war. Once Celesia had emerged victorious against the Dragons, they finally had the opportunity to organize their Knights into permanent Orders each with its own roles, equipment, fighting styles and military doctrines.

Of these Knightly Orders, the Knights of the Field are the most numerous. The Knights of the Field patrol the towns and villages of Celesia that lie outside the protection of any fortified city walls. On a day to day basis this entails dealing with bands of outlaws and brigands, but also with the various monstrous creatures that still inhabit the wild and forested parts of Celesia, and even dealing with the occasional Dragon hunting in Celeisan territory. This everyday role in protecting the small towns and rural villages has made the Knights of the Field relatively well liked among the common people.

The Knights of the Field primarily recruit from the lower ranks of the nobility, whom have neither the wealth nor the status to apply to the other orders. Entrance is even theoretically open to commoners, though it would be quite rare for a commoner to be able to afford it. Generally only families that own at least some land and the titles that come with it can afford to sponsor the training of one of their children.

The Knights of the Field take their recruits immediately after they complete basic training at the Celesian Military Academy. From there they begin training to ride warhorses, fight in heavier armour, and train in advanced sword and shield fighting as well as eventually learning the use of the special triple arbalest. Recruits begin active service as Battle Squires and only by proving themselves in active duty can they eventually earn promotion to Knighthood. Once Knighted, they serve as Company Knights and mounted Outrider Scouts. From there, Knights of the Field who survive long enough will eventually specialize as Monster Hunters, mounted Knights Errant, or as Knight Praetorian pilots. 

Knights of the Field are organized into small companies consisting of a few Battle Squires,  some Company Knights, a small number of higher ranking specialists, and a Knight Captain to lead them. Knights of the Field companies mostly use the mass produced Missionary MK II Praetorian, but efforts are being made to equip each company with at least one of the more powerful Crusader MK I models. The Knights of the Field also still make extensive use of cavalry, unlike the other two Orders. They are an economical option for covering the large distances traversed by Knights of the Field companies, and they can be devastatingly effective on open ground and in densely packed forests where Praetorians can struggle.

Knights of the Field battle doctrine favours mobility, a balance between offense and defense, and the use of cavalry units as far ranging scouts and flank charge units. Knights of the Field are expected to be able to fight as a cohesive unit, but also to be able to fight relatively independently and hold out for some time for support. Like the other Knightly Orders, Knights of the Field have the right of conscription and may command the assistance of any local Celesian MIlitary units to bolster their numbers for larger missions, and the Knights of the Field make extensive use of Pikemen and Arbalests when necessary.

The Ithican Empire

The Ithican Empire’s rise began over a century ago. The nomadic desert tribes of the Bleached Flats were approached by three sorceresses of immense arcane power. The sorceresses led the tribes deeper into the desert to a giant tower of obsidian that they had raised up from the ground. Prior to this momentous event, the nomadic desert tribes had little experience in warfare besides minor inter-tribal skirmishes, and had certainly never been in a position to fight any of the more prosperous races that lived in the Ithican continent’s fertile coastal and plains regions.

Under the leadership of the three sorceresses, these impoverished nomadic tribes were transformed into bands of ruthless desert raiders that learned to fight using extreme aggression and psychological intimidation tactics. They repeatedly raided villages and towns on the edges of coastal Dyridian Kingdom and among the agricultural Ulfar to obtain many of the resources they desperately needed to militarize. Neither the Dyridians nor the Ulfar wanted to risk sending forces into the middle of the brutally inhospitable Bleached Flats to try and find the raiding parties in the middle of a huge desert. This meant neither were aware that the nomadic tribes they viewed as nothing more than ignorant human savages were being organized into a serious military power and, ultimately, a nation.

Using the resources pillaged from the more prosperous nations, the three sorceresses directed the Obsidian Tower to create deadly new arcane powered weapons of war such as Praetorians, skyships, skiffs, and enchanted weapons. They also had their Obsidian Tower acolytes train to weaponize their arcane abilities in combat so they could contribute directly to the upcoming war efforts. The bands of desert raiders were then reorganized into mass infantry units and a separate organization of elite assault units called The Vanguard.

When Dyridian Kingdom received the offer to become vassals of the Ithican Empire, they initially thought it was a joke. The ancient and storied Dyridian Kingdom, becoming a vassal of some ragtag group of human savages starving in the desert? They regarded the idea as preposterous. They only mobilzed a cursory defensive effort, dismissing the potential military threat as entirely overstated.

When the full might of the new Ithican Imperial Army smashed into the borders of the Dyridian Kingdom, it was a slaughter. The Imperial Army repaid Dyridia’s derision with a scorched earth campaign that virtually annihilated both the Kingdom, and the Dyridians. Those few who somehow managed to survive the bloodbath were made into slaves, to live and serve at the whims of their new Imperial masters. The Ulfar, having seen the horrors visited on their trading partners, immediately accepted the offer of vassaldom from the Empire when it arrived, and have come to be respected contributors to the Empire as a result.

With the conquest of the Dyridians and the acquiescence of the Ulfar, the Ithican Empire became by far the predominant power on the Ithican continent. From there it was a relative triviality to claim any settled territory that had not been part of the two largest nations on the continent. In the period that followed, the Empire consolidated its gains and built a highly effective administrative machinery to lead the Empire and handle the day to day running of the state and the military. The Meritocracy then began to reorganize the military to make it ready for the next large step of overseas expansion, and to ensure that the massive military itself could not become a threat to The Meritocracy’s power.

The large infantry units were organized as Imperial Army units that were recruited, trained, paid, and led by The Meritocracy itself, and were expressly forbidden from taking any part whatsoever in the conflicts between Houses in the Empire as they jockeyed for social standing. Those units include the omnipresent Legionnaires, as well as many units that benefit from Ithica’s technological prowess such as Musketeers, Praetorian pilots, and armed skiff riders. Legionnaires also serve as keepers of the peace when not at war.

The Vanguard was broken up into two organizations. The Blackship Raiders would carry forward Ithica’s old traditions of desert raiding by becoming a volunteer expeditionary invasion force oriented entirely around making initial forays into new lands to loot, pillage, and throw the enemy into disarray. To compensate for the enormous risks involved in being the first to invade overseas lands, members are granted a percentage of the wealth seized in the conquest and a large boost to their social standing and that of their House in The Meritocracy.

The Vanguard itself was reorganized with the most elite military units in the Empire to act as the main thrust of Ithica’s military power, able to move in and subjugate areas softened up by the Blackship Raiders, and to work together with the Raiders to smash any particularly stubborn resistance.

Finally, the Obsidian Tower is now formally subject to the rule and administration of The Meritocracy as an arm of the Empire’s military. The Obsidian Tower continues to train its acolytes to use their arcane abilities to devastating effect in warfare, and to develop new arcane wonders and weapons that can strengthen the Empire’s military as a whole.

The segmented nature of military power and authority in the Empire does not exist by accident. In an Empire with a culture built entirely around the glory of military conquest, and where virtually the entire population are in active military or administrative service, it became vital for The Meritocracy to take steps to make it as difficult as possible for any one general or faction of the military to be in a position to attempt to try and take over the Empire.

The Blackship Raiders

The Ithican Imperial Army’s origin as bands of ferocious desert raiders is continued today in the Blackship Raiders. After the Empire had completed its conquest of the Ithican continent, The Meritocracy turned its sights towards Pitia as the obvious initial target for overseas expansion. In the very early stages of planning for the invasion, it was realized that the military would need to be reorganized specifically around the needs of an overseas invasion where there would be limits on the size of force they could land and keep supplied in the early phases of a conquest. Additionally, the risks would be massively higher for the units that were part of the initial assault, and some incentives would have to be created to ensure the ferocity of the units taking part in it. 

With these considerations in mind, The Meritocracy began by ordering the creation of much larger skyships than they had previously used. These much larger skyships would be able to transport a much larger force and contain enough provisions to keep them supplied for some time. The new skyships would also be be entirely black to aid their ability to strike by surprise under the cover of darkness. Towards that end, the Obsidian Tower developed reusable arcane powered landers what would allow forces to be deployed directly from the new Blackships into battle. 

To ensure that the members of this initial expeditionary force would be highly motivated, The Meritocracy made the Blackship Raiders a voluntary organization that would recruit from the elite assault units of The Vanguard. They promised both a percentage of the spoils of conquest and a huge boost to one’s standing in The Meritocracy, as well as that of their House, to those who volunteered. With such strong incentives, they found no shortage of volunteers.

Most who volunteer for the Blackship Raiders are trained as Blackship Privateers who are taught to use a sword and black powder weapon simultaneously when fighting. Those who had already been trained as Praetorian pilots before joining the Raiders carried on as pilots in the new organization, and new pilots would be selected and trained from among the Privateers who distinguished themselves in battle. Outside of these units, the Raiders also received a wide array of specialist units from across the Empire, including rare Dyridian units, war beasts and their trainers, and Heavy Skiff Riders who pilot floating skiffs with Praetorian sized cannons mounted on them.

Supplementing these forces would be standard Ithican Imperial Army units assigned to the Blackships. While these units of Legionnaires, Musketmen, Scouts and Light Skiff Riders do not receive the luxury of volunteering for duty on the Blackships as the elite units had, they still receive some percentage of the spoils and the boost to social standing. This, plus the fervent patriotism typical of the Empire’s mass infantry units has meant that Imperial Army units typically take pride in being assigned to a Blackship.

Inspired by the Empire’s desert raider traditions, the Blackship Raiders battle doctrine uses shock and awe tactics combining surprise assaults with psychological warfare tactics, extreme aggression, and the extensive use of black powder weapons. It must be emphasized that, to those that have never encountered them, the sound, smoke and deadly fury of black powder weapons and cannons are truly terrifying. Blackship Raiders are also trained to concentrate their attacks against small portions of an enemy force to try and smash it before their relative lack of defense catches up to them, and they excel at coordinated multi-unit attacks.