Being a Coldhearted Bastard : Recollections of a Ruthless Warlord

By Terikel Grayhair

Nice guys finish last.

That is an age-old adage that applies to our Virtual World as well. It is possible to hear the Horns of Victory while being a thorough gentleman and kind lord, but that takes a lot of sacrifice, self-discipline, generosity, and above all time. Tis far faster and more efficient to be a ruthless, cold-hearted bastard and crush thy foes beneath thy feet.

We shall not go into details about crushing thy foe upon the field of honorable battle. That is the work of the general and captain. No, this treatise shall leave the destruction of enemy forces upon the field of battle to them, and focus on the nastier side of being a true warlord. With the exception of this simple counsel- when thou has crushed thy foe, driven him screaming and wailing across the field, hunt him down with fleet-footed horseborne and kill them all. Chasing fleeing men and cutting them down is done out of prudence and not for sport, though it can be immense fun to sic an entire squadron of horseborne warriors upon twelve fleeing fools who have already soiled their trousers. It is imminent wisdom to annihilate thy foe utterly, and slay his fleeing warriors, lest they regroup and meet up with others to form an army that can destroy thine own warhost later. Also, completely eradicating the hostile army is seen by the gods of war as a good thing, which raises the tally of killed and thus provides more experience to thy own as well as giving a greater chance that thy victory will grant thy general the blessed command stars, a crushing victory instead of a clear one, and other benefits.

The weapons of the true warlord, besides warhosts that shatter and destroy hostile arrays of warriors, are the Slayer of the Knife, the Speaker of Words, and the Slovenly Spy. Thou might call these fellows by their mundane and boring names- the Assassin, the Diplomat, or the Spy, but we favor our own titles for these men and prefer to use it above all others. Other tools, like the Plague and Storms, come up intermittently and thus cannot be counted on. But a knife in the dark, aye lad, that you can trust.

We tend to make prolific use of these fellows. A well-trained and experienced Slayer has brought us Victory on more than a single occasion, and sometimes he can bring us an entire burg. Slaying a nobleman disbands his bodyguard. This removes from the enemy order of battle his most precious warband- and his most destructive. Do this on the eve of battle, and thy foe comes to the field leaderless, and easy prey for the wolves. Do this when the lordling is the only warband in the town, and the town itself lies so open that a single band of peasants may enter it and bring it under thy banner.

We always try to have a Slayer accompany our warlords, where feasible. This is twofold- one, the Slayer is at hand to slay the lord of our foe; and two, the Slayer prevents our own lord from falling to an assassin's dagger himself. Also, if the slovenly spy accompanying the warlord espies a hostile Slayer, our own Slayer may gain valuable experience sending this fellow into the Afterlife, as well as enriching himself with the lackeys and goods of the former Slayer.

Slayers are also well-versed in arson. Coupled with a slovenly spy to tell him which edifices are what, the Slayer can set afire those edifices which can damage the warhost the hardest- temples and water supplies for the civilized enemy, blacksmiths for those dependent upon battle-buggies, stables for the horse-borne foes. Betimes a Slayer-Spy team can so wrack a burg with discontent that a Speaker of Words may offer a small sack of silver to it and have them switch allegiance to thine own banner.

Speakers of Words are also useful fellows for bribing small armies of foes and rebels. Rebels plague us rampantly, and are often not worth the trouble of hunting them down and slaying them all. Often a Speaker with a sack of spare silver can make the problem go away very easily, but for a small price. When in the later stages of conquest, we often find that gold flows in rivers and we are drowning in the useless stuff. This gives the gold a purpose, and eases our burdens tremendously.

Slovenly spies are also grand chaps to have along in any campaign of note. These seedy fellows can slip inside an enemy burg before we assault, and use magic powder to blast the gates apart, leaving the city defenseless and open to our assault without having to bother our fine soldiers with menial toil in constructing engines of war. They also see and hear everything, and thus prevent our warhost from falling prey to a hostile ambush. If these two abilities were not enough, there is a third- they can see and hear their own. Thus foreign devils spying on our movements can be found, and become prey to our Slayers before they can report our disposition to their lordlings.

A true ruthless bastard will not let anyone stand in his way to domination. This includes those losers who would attach themselves to better men, as well as low-lives whose only claim to fame is that they share the same royal blood that flows through our own veins. The losers are dealt with simply- gift them to worthless relatives at the first opportunity. In exchange, claim for the betterment of the Family those hangers-on of the worthless one which may actually have some value. Then one has only the worthless relative with which to deal- and that is easily done. Place the fool upon a depleted ship and sail him towards hostile waters. Soon enough, a pirate or fleet of the enemy shall come along and sink that ship- sending thy worthless kin to the bottom of the ocean to poison the crabs along with it. Should thou be land-locked, give the worthless one a chance at redemption by having him sally forth into battle against insurmountable odds. Fate shall do the rest.

Late in the campaign we have noticed the propensity of rebellions among our flock. After so many years under our stern but fair rule, they often wish to rebel and lead their own destinies- as if they had it so much better before they came under our banner. These ingrates we always exterminate, for in letting one succeed we feel we encourage others.

Some warlords will cry over this saying that we are cutting our own throats and taking the short gain of plundering the burg over the long-term benefits of a large tax base. Bah! Though we do so agree to that in the early campaign or mid-campaign, towards the end of the campaign this is no longer the case. We have gold flowing like rivers, and have little need for ungrateful wretches which tear down our banners and hound our warriors from their filthy streets. Extermination is the key, for in slaughtering the fools we do indeed lower the tax base, but who has need of their coins when so many others give to our cause? We need the peace and tranquility the slaughter will engender- for that city shall not revolt again for quite some time. This gives us more time to deal with true foes.

We also deal with large populations through the Plague. Sickness is a tool that can be wielded with deadly efficiency by a ruthless bastard. Send forth thy slovenly spies to plagued cities, and have them contract this illness. Then, using their slimy ways, have them carry the disease to other hostile cities to reduce the tax base of thy foe, and sicken his men for the slaughter to follow. This can also be done to thine own burgs which threaten rebellion- have an infected fellow stay at the barracks for a fortnight. Soon enough, the peons are coughing and vomiting, and dying like flies. Within a few seasons the Plague dies out, leaving a stronger, healthier, and above all more orderly city behind.

Another fond method we use for population control is the lowly band of peasants. Peasants in our world number two score and two hundred souls. We have overcrowded cities produce these bands by the dozens, and clump them together into armies. This relieves the population pressure of the burg and makes it easier to manage. If thou be a sneaky, ruthless son of a warrior, then thou can send these peasant hordes into thy neighbor's lands, preferably with a spy or assassin along as well. Once in the hostile province- even if the burg is besieged, it does not matter- disband them all. Wrecking the public order buildings, infecting the place with thy spy and his weasly ways of fomenting rebellion, and then overcrowding the place with colonists of your own can often have the effect of driving the locals to rebellion against their own lord. And for the truly merciless, assault the place directly thereafter and exterminate. The plunder is determined by the amount of populace slaughtered, and by boosting thy foe's population before exterminating means thy rewards are higher- and the extra cash of plundering help to recoup the losses incurred in creating the peasant army in the first place.

Nice guys finish last. The ruthless wallow through rivers of blood to quick Victory!