Just an expository post for SIM 11.
There is no unified military service in the Allied Lands. The White Council does attempt to appoint leaders to joint military campaigns – Mediators or Knights of the Allied Lands – but the various kingdoms are reluctant to place their military contributions under someone else’s control. Very few personages have the fame necessary to issue orders to a multinational force, ensuring that personal grudges and dislikes can affect the course of military operations. This tends to ensure that most military forces deployed by the Allied Lands appear somewhat ramshackle. Indeed, even ‘regiment’ and other military terms can mean different things to different kingdoms.
Generally, military units are raised by kings or trusted noblemen, with the latter often commanding their regiments in person. (City-states sometimes raise additional City Guard units, but it’s very rare for them to serve outside their cities.) During peacetime, the kings often maintain small armies, but tend to frown on noblemen having more than a handful of men under their banners. Sellswords (mercenaries) are fairly common, yet they are often frowned upon outside wartime.
The non-magical military in the Nameless World is generally divided into the following categories: infantry, cavalry, archers and (now) firearms.
The infantry is normally raised through conscription, with the soldiers given a choice between joining the army or facing punishment. (It isn’t uncommon for criminals to be offered a chance to serve instead of jail or execution.) Training is harsh and discipline is brutal, but a skilled soldier who gains notice can rise in the ranks. It is quite uncommon for a commoner soldier to reach commissioned status, yet a decent commanding officer knows to pay attention to his sergeants. The infantry serves to take and hold ground.
By contrast, the vast majority of the cavalry consists of lesser nobility, who can afford their own horse and supplies. They are often considered flamboyant show-offs by the infantry as they often prance around the battlefield in colourful armour. The cavalry is generally used to scout out enemy positions, carry messages around the battlefield and, on rare occasions, charge enemy forces. (This is considered grossly unwise.)
Archers (a term which includes field artillery) are normally drawn from freeholders who are supposed to practice weekly with a longbow and arrows. Their task is to rain arrows down on enemy forces and, when attacking a castle, to bombard it into submission with catapults and other bombardment weapons.
Firearms, a relatively new innovation on the Nameless World, consist of muskets and makeshift cannons. In theory, only kings are allowed to possess and use gunpowder; in practice, the secret is out and spreading. No one is quite sure how to use a firearms unit in combat, but they’re experimenting to find out what works. Most firearms soldiers are drawn from the middle classes.
There is no overall commissary for logistics, communications or healthcare, despite the best efforts of the White Council. Commanding officers are normally responsible for taking care of their men, with the authority and funds to purchase supplies from merchants and distribute them to the soldiers. (Or steal the money, which has been known to happen.) Nor is there any logistics chain in the modern sense. Blacksmiths and other workers are often attached to military units as camp-followers (along with washerwomen and prostitutes), but this happens on an ad hoc basis.
Medical care is often hit-or-miss. While Healers are normally attached to the army, the average infantryman is rarely able to pay their fees. They are normally dependent on chirurgeons (doctors) who are rarely able to save badly-wounded men. An injured soldier might simply be pensioned off and told to make his own way home.
Unsurprisingly, military units within the Nameless World are often a mixed bag. Units that have good commanding officers (almost always a nobleman) and a working staff tend to do very well; units that have poor or corrupt officers rarely survive their first challenge. Mutiny is relatively rare – it is punished by decimation, when crushed – but desertion is alarmingly common. Indeed, the vast majority of sellswords consist of soldiers who were either paid off by their commanders or simply deserted.