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Army sizes in epic fantasy


ICanDream

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Are army sizes getting too big in epic fantasy?
This is just something I've been wondering about, and I'd like your opinions. For instance in mistborn I recall someone mentioning that the final empire could raise hundreds of thousands of men. In the powder mage trilogy, there is an army of one million men. (However this occurs in an industrial setting, so I'm willing to overlook this.) In asoiaf, there is an army of one hundred thousand. I personally think that fantasy armies are getting to big.
Whats your opinion?
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Looking at the size of IRL armies, it's not surprising fantasy armies are that big, they are pretty realistic, surprisingly.

I agree the populations of these worlds may differ but since most of these worlds are in eras of war, the number of soldiers reaching such numbers is understandable.

Edited by StormblessDave
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No, I don't think they're getting too big. First off, let's talk about your examples.

In Mistborn, TLR had not only trained men, but Skaa that could be used as cannon fodder, Allomancers galore and lots of Koloss.

ASoIaF is as Dave said, in a wartime setting, and as such numbers as big as 100,000 are understandable.

Haven't read Powder Mage yet, I really should :P

In Stormlight, each Highprince has about 50,000 men if I'm correct. Maybe more. Together, that amounts to 500,000 or more, 700,000 if we're being generous and give each highprince somewhat more than that.

Considering how big Alethkar is, and that being a soldier is one of the highest, if not the highest Calling, those numbers seem acceptable.

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ASoIaF also uses a lot of conscripted farmers as soldiers, just as you did in real life. They have sellswords too, which adds to the numbers. 

When it comes to Mistborn, the Final Empire was pretty big, with huge population numbers, as well as cannon fodder skaa and koloss like @Eternum said (btw, I love Eternums username and avatar).

The Highprinces had armies of varying sizes. I believe Dalinar, Sadeas and Aladar had the biggest ones. They also had soldiers back home in their princedoms.

What I worry most about when it comes to armies is Warcraft. Considering that they have a new world war/apocalypse every other week they should all be dead by now.

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On the numbers, I think the Alethi princes have numbers closer to 10 thousand. Dalinar was able to mobilize 8 thousand for tower run. Afterwards on the scouting mission it mentions Dalinar brought three thousand about half of his current army after recruitment. This points to him only having had around 10000 beforehand. 

As for historical army size usually limeted the most by ease of travel, and resources, What is aggravating is when fantasy books do not build into world a way to support the size of the army. Soulcasters, and the terrain make a difference.

Where European medeival army's were more in the low thousands, with mostly. Conscripts or pulling from the populace, Romans with a standing military, sea support ,  larger empire, and roads could support larger armies.

ASoFI  is based on the war of roses, but is one where if Westeros armys are 100000 it is an exaturated number If I remember correctly, that war troops ran from 4000 to the highest 20000. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, FollowYourMuse said:

On the numbers, I think the Alethi princes have numbers closer to 10 thousand. Dalinar was able to mobilize 8 thousand for tower run. Afterwards on the scouting mission it mentions Dalinar brought three thousand about half of his current army after recruitment. This points to him only having had around 10000 beforehand. 

As for historical army size usually limeted the most by ease of travel, and resources, What is aggravating is when fantasy books do not build into world a way to support the size of the army. Soulcasters, and the terrain make a difference.

Where European medeival army's were more in the low thousands, with mostly. Conscripts or pulling from the populace, Romans with a standing military, sea support ,  larger empire, and roads could support larger armies.

ASoFI  is based on the war of roses, but is one where if Westeros armys are 100000 it is an exaturated number If I remember correctly, that war troops ran from 4000 to the highest 20000. 

Alethkar is not densely populated: armies within the million would be a stretch of disbelief especially since we haven't seen them shire enough children to sustain the human cost of their incessant warring: most families having one, two or no children at all. In order to have a large army, you need to have a large population. The war on the Shattered Plains likely was the biggest display of military power Alethkar has had in centuries.

I personally would prefer if armies remained small in SA: it isn't meant to be a military fiction, so I'd rather it does not focus on armies too much. So far, it has been perfect, believable. I wish to keep it this way.

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I actually thought about that a while ago, and found this: http://www.writing-world.com/sf/hordes.shtml

It's basically an analysis of how many soldiers you can get from a given base population. It's on the assumption of a medieval setting, but it does nicely show that compared to population size, armies are relatively small. And then there's the matter of paying for them (both paying your soldiers, and having a large enough part of your population producing food for everyone - given the efficiency (or lack thereof) of medieval agriculture, that's not trivial). A more modern setting could sustain bigger armies (relative to population size) because advances in technology make it easier to produce, store and transport food.

So, it really depends on a lot of things. Most of the examples mentioned so far are pretty okay, I think, although it's hard to tell in ASoIaF because I don't think we actually have any hard figures on how big Westeros and its population are. Of course in Stormlight, Soulcasting throws the entire matter of food supply out the window, so it really only depends on how many men the Highprinces can pay.

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The biggest constraints to army size by population are food production, and supply lines. 

Soulcasters solve both of these issues. Rosharan armies can reach numbers that are a much higher percentage of their population. 

Long term, that's probably not a good thing for their population. Short term though, they can field a much larger number than a society should be capable of.

Edit: and I should have read more fully. I basically just repeated @kimni

Edited by Calderis
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31 minutes ago, Calderis said:

The biggest constraints to army size by population are food production, and supply lines. 

Soulcasters solve both of these issues. Rosharan armies can reach numbers that are a much higher percentage of their population. 

Long term, that's probably not a good thing for their population. Short term though, they can field a much larger number than a society should be capable of.

Fielding those large armies are going to be very useful during the Desolations. Population isn't really going to have a good time either way, so using the majority as soldiers makes sense.

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Roshar, specially the Vorin kingdoms still have a long way to go with population, considering half of their population (women) is forbidden to fight. While most of the time its best for women to stay out of wars to keep having children, when the apocalypse is coming its not quite so simple.

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@Calderis @Toaster Retribution@kimni

Well to put in semi modern perspective.  On average now...in most nations approximately 0.5% of the population is in the military.  

During WWII 12% of the U.S. population was in the military.  

That was industrial times though, so not the best equivalence.

Ok if we go back to the 30year war of the 1600s armies ranged from 10,000 to 50,000 and foraged off the land.  No soulcasters. I know they had muskets, but most formations were pikemen so it is close enough for equivalency.

Adding in soulcasters should bring you close to the 12%.  This should lead to armies 3 to 4 fold larger than we saw in the 30year war.... so up to 200,000.

 

As to the population issues...well look at what has happened after every major war in history....soldiers come home and ......well you get a baby boom.

 

Edit: oh wow nice link Kimi, I missed it on my first read.

Edited by FiveLate
Continuation.
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About the 30 years war: yes, armies foraged off the land. Or started to, until there was nothing left to forage. I've heard it described as one of the most destructive wars in human history (in terms of infrastructure and impact on society), and for precisely that reason: the armies were not sustainable. There were too many soldiers, and not enough people working in agriculture to provide food.

With soulcasters, that kind of militarization on the level of technology available then might have been possible, but without it, the armies basically caused famines (and the epidemics that followed because of starvation) everywhere they went.

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On 8/27/2017 at 6:06 AM, FollowYourMuse said:

On the numbers, I think the Alethi princes have numbers closer to 10 thousand. Dalinar was able to mobilize 8 thousand for tower run. Afterwards on the scouting mission it mentions Dalinar brought three thousand about half of his current army after recruitment. This points to him only having had around 10000 beforehand. 

As for historical army size usually limeted the most by ease of travel, and resources, What is aggravating is when fantasy books do not build into world a way to support the size of the army. Soulcasters, and the terrain make a difference.

Where European medeival army's were more in the low thousands, with mostly. Conscripts or pulling from the populace, Romans with a standing military, sea support ,  larger empire, and roads could support larger armies.

ASoFI  is based on the war of roses, but is one where if Westeros armys are 100000 it is an exaturated number If I remember correctly, that war troops ran from 4000 to the highest 20000. 

 

 

He had 8 thousand on the tower run, but I remember it says he still had more back at camp.  Then factor in the men he had doing patrols, all the men back in the princedom, etc, he has a lot more than 10 thousand. I would guess double that at minimum.

Found the quote from the book on how big his army was when they got betrayed, will have to look for the others later:

"“Assault formations!” Dalinar yelled, turning back to his troops. Stormfather, there were so few of them left. Less than half of his original eight thousand."

Edited by erog84
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4 minutes ago, erog84 said:

He had 8 thousand on the tower run, but I remember it says he still had more back at camp.  Then factor in the men he had doing patrols, all the men back in the princedom, etc, he has a lot more than 10 thousand. I would guess double that at minimum.

I was not counting any left in Kholinar.  I was considering the current active army on the plains. Even if  he left half his army behind - unlikely, and most would be The Standing armies of the brightlords, - Like Amarams in the thousands each. 

Dalinar rode Gallant at the head of two thousand six hundred and fifty-three men. That was all that remained of his assault force of eight thousand.
 

My guess is that there we a couple battalions of 1000 left in camp or on patrol during the tower run or his numbers for scouting mission would be higher. 

Scouting Mission: Dalinar brought three thousand about half of his current army after recruitment. 

That Leaves a force of 6000 for final Battle 

 

 

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@FollowYourMuse, you misunderstood @erog84

Dalinar had multiple battalions left at the war camp. These are the ones that the bridgemen replaced as they were not fighting Parshendi per Dalinar's agreement with Kaladin. 

A battalion to patrol the war camps, and either one or two for bandit patrols in the land between Alethkar and the plains. 

Yes he was recruiting heavily afterwards, but a good chunk of that 6000 he still had were remnants that did not go to the tower because they were engaged in other duties. 

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43 minutes ago, Calderis said:

@FollowYourMuse, you misunderstood @erog84

Dalinar had multiple battalions left at the war camp. These are the ones that the bridgemen replaced as they were not fighting Parshendi per Dalinar's agreement with Kaladin. 

A battalion to patrol the war camps, and either one or two for bandit patrols in the land between Alethkar and the plains. 

Yes he was recruiting heavily afterwards, but a good chunk of that 6000 he still had were remnants that did not go to the tower because they were engaged in other duties. 

I might be misunderstanding, trying to figure where double the numbers adds up. Yes a portion we're remnants, but Dalinar has only 6000 after tower battle,  for the scouting mission, with 2653 returning from tower battle that means that between recruitment and what he had left in camp is only about 3500 ? So I am not sure where double the numbers are, even if 3000 were left in camp with original 8000 that's 11000. 

 

 

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On 9/1/2017 at 6:46 PM, FollowYourMuse said:

I might be misunderstanding, trying to figure where double the numbers adds up. Yes a portion we're remnants, but Dalinar has only 6000 after tower battle,  for the scouting mission, with 2653 returning from tower battle that means that between recruitment and what he had left in camp is only about 3500 ? So I am not sure where double the numbers are, even if 3000 were left in camp with original 8000 that's 11000. 

 

 

8k - What he took with him, this isn't in dispute.

3k - Lets say this is the number he has for patrolling war camp and bandits, could be too high, but all guess work.

3k - My guess is 3k (which could be completely wrong) due to him not taking ALL his able body men.  There was a quote somewhere where he mentions not taking as many as he normally does because he is teaming up with Sadeas.  So this would be the amount of men that he would normally take that he left behind. (that isn't part of the bandit/war camp troops)

All that, if true, would put him at 14k or so at the warcamp, so I guestimated around 6k troops left at home.  Which again, is just a guess and could be completely wrong, but a ot of times projection strength isn't anywhere near your full strength (have to keep the homeland secure).

Found this quote:

“We need troops, Dalinar,” Sadeas said. “Lots of them. How many men could you field, at maximum?”

“On short notice?” Dalinar said. “Eight thousand, perhaps.”

So as far as what qualifies in short notice, no idea.

Edited by erog84
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On 8/27/2017 at 2:25 AM, ICanDream said:

For instance in mistborn I recall someone mentioning that the final empire could raise hundreds of thousands of men.

Ignore the "million troops" line about TLR. IIRC, there is a million Skaa in Luthadel and it is well within TLR's power to conscript every last one of them if he wanted to.

The Luthadel Garrison was only 20,000 troops. Luthadel has 1,000,000 Skaa. Luthadel's "military" was 2% of its total population. Does that sound unreasonable?

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