The background of the World setting is similar to 15th Century Europe with low-magic.
The tribe in question is a sub-race of human, but having a culture similar to IRL Romani People, who roams around the continent in different groups without settling down (or are forbiddened to do so), often met with distrust and despise by "common" humans, and often treated as sub-humans with dark magic shamans (which is partly true).The difference is, apart from IRL Romani people who engage less with the common society, this Tribe in the setting also having a reputation of being a formidable and fierce mercenaries.
Some basic Characteristics:
- It's a foot based civilisation, different from Horse-based nomadic tribes like Mongols and Huns. They have wagons, cattles, some horses, but Cavalry is not the bulk of their military/culture.
- Their population are relatively small comparing to common countries. This include many reasons like bad living conditions, low fertillity etc.
- The tribe was around for thousands of years. They have a different religion than not-Christian beliefs in this world, plus the use of black magic, they're treated as dark barbarians, and hated by many people throughout hundreds of years of history. Several crusades were organized against them but they ulitmately survived. The common human coexist with them reluctantly when they realized that it's impossible to wipe out the tribe entirely.
- As a coalition of different tribes, the people is seperated into diffrent smaller tribes and roam around different places. Though they have a psudo-centralised council system that meet up occasionally with different tribes.
- The tribesmen are stronger than common humans, often have a big bodybuild, massive strength, good ability to recover from wounds and some can even sustain multiple arrows while fighting. This make individual tribesmen formidable foes even while not wearing any armour.
- The main characteristics of the tribe mercenaries are thus:
- Big Claymore men, basically the tribe version of Doppelsöldners/Uruk-kai Berserkers/Falxmen, wearing medium or heavy armour who can crash through enemy lines and wreck havoc.
- Great Crossbowmen, with their formidable strength they can build and hand-span great crossbows with their bare hands, comparing to windlass crossbows and stationary ballistas used by common human.
- Black mages. Mage is rare in this world, but this tribe have a higher proportion of mages than the common countries, and is often feared because of this. However, note that these mages are also relatively small in numbers and not the bulk of the forces.
- (They also have medium armoured shock cavalry who can charge into weakpoints or run down routed foes, but cavalry is not the bulk of their forces, this might be the only cavalry they have occationally.)
- Based on their reputation as mercenaries, they were often contracted by (reluctant) Feudal Lords to act on their interest, in some very rare cases, a small number of them can be absorbed into a country's standing forces (like Varangian Guards), or even settled in some limited areas, they're also allowed to trade with cities just like how Romani people are allowed to trade, and can also, of course, pillage enemy villages and profit. However, most of the countries distrust them, they're forbiddened to own lands or having business, so most of this tribe just continue their Nomadic lifestyle.
In comparison, the common human armies are your everyday basic medieval armies (English, France, HRE), that mostly rely on Feudal Obligations and normal mercenaries to provide combat forces, and mainly revolve around heavy armoured Knights/Men-at-Arms and Crossbow/Longbowmen.
For now, I can see several flaws from this settings:
- They're much hated by common humans and taken more as a threat, kind of like the Jewish community in Europe. With smaller numbers and inferior equipments it's hard for them to survive from crusades and other eradications directed by common human in the past hundreds of years. And because they mainly move by foot/Wagons, they're slow moving and can be easily catched up by heavy cavalry.
- As a nomadic tribe, each individual groups might have too little population to act as a strong group of sellswords, there're too little resources, food, cattles to sustain a maybe 10k+ population for such group based on their nomadic culture, especially within a European-like environment instead of vast steppes.
- They lack anti-cavalry infantry to act as a formidable forces against heavy Men-at-Arms, They don't have pikes like German or Swiss mercenaries, I don't think spear/halberd made up a bulk of their forces either. The Claymore men are great against infantry lines but weak against cavalry charge or crossbow/longbow barrage.
- Lack of equipment and industry to make such army to work. A tribe constantly on the move might not be able to forage enough resources and have a proper forge to build massive claymores and great crossbows, not to mention plate armour in a Late Medieval settings. Lack of resources also make it hard to breed a good number of shock cavalry. They can buy some armour occasionally, but most of them have to remain no armour or no shields (they also don't value shields in their culture), which add their weakness against common armies.
Question: How to make such Tribe/Civilsation work as a formidable mercenary group against normal Medieval armies, in order for them to survive in this world instead of being completely wiped out?
Some of the aspect can be changed here because it's just the early stage of setting things.
Currently I'm basing this tribe partly on Great Migration Gothic Tribes, however it's obvious that 15th Century Europe is different from 6th Century, also the Gothic ultimately settled down while this tribe do not. Gothic also rely more on shieldwall in their warfare.