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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.

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    $\begingroup$ It looks like you're asking us to brainstorm and and build your world for you. Such questions are not permitted on this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 23 at 8:11
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    $\begingroup$ Why don't you take inspiration in the many many mercenary companies, regiments and armies which roamed medieval Europe? The Swiss come to mind, the German Landsknechts, the Black Riders, Italian companies, ... $\endgroup$
    – fgysin
    Jan 23 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ I’m having trouble reconciling ’bad living conditions’ and ‘big body build’. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 23 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ Good swordsmen, abnormally strong, proportionally more mages then other groups, seems kind of overpowered. They seem superior enough to outright conquer everything. $\endgroup$ Jan 23 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ I'm having problems reconciling 'claymore swords' and 'no pikes'. A nomadic tribe would have a lot of problems melting the amount of steel required to make a large longsword, while a small piece of steel (or even iron) strapped to a stick is far easier to achieve. By definition, any civilization capable of making swords can make spears and pikes. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Jan 25 at 10:17

8 Answers 8

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Just make them cheap mercenaries or payable in cheap commodities. Everyone needs dispensable troops they can put in the vanguard to soak up arrows. If they have good shock troop use as it seems then they're even more valuable. If they die you don't need to pay them, if they don't they pay themselves in what they loot.

They might prioritise looting things you don't really care too much about anyway. Being nomads things like pots, pans and metal might be worth a lot to them. The Balearic Islanders were half naked savages no one liked, but they were brave, skilled fighters and took their pay in wine and women rather than gold and silver, so they were sought after troops.

Their leaders would be veteran, skilled, and pragmatic men, well aware of when and how to fight or not. Nomads can survive because they're not tied to the land, if things get too dangerous they just move. Sedentary people can't, they have to stand and fight if encroached on.

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    $\begingroup$ Balearic Islanders were also renowned and deadly slingers. This is from where the Balearic Sling received its name. Finding a niche skill unique to the people, that is highly prized and combined with this answer would should go a long way to satisfy the OP. $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Jan 23 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Gillgamesh lots of reknowned and skilled slingers in ancient times, it wasn't a niche skill any more than archery or horse riding. Reading between the lines one of the Balearic Islanders main assets was their expense. They came with their own equipment and you paid them in cheap commodities. The rest is hype. There are zero accounts of Balearic slingers outclassing other slingers in combat situations. Whereas they are several accounts of Rhodesian slingers and others doing just that. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Jan 23 at 23:52
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They survive by sticking to forests, mountains, swamps, etc.

Everything about the late medieval army was based on fighting in an open field. Without a field to fight in, you can not form pike blocks, cavalry can not charge in formations, archers and musketeers don't have the line of sight to kill you from 100m away. In fact, there are many cases in history going all the way back to the late bronze age where better trained and better armed forces were destroyed by less advanced civilizations because they tried fighting them in terrain that took away the strength of their intended battle formations.

If the terrain prevents the humans from forming into some sort of phalanx or shield wall, then battlefields will break down into a series of a thousand duels where the individual toughness of subhumans will become the determining factor in who wins.

In short, both sides know that if they fight in the open, the humans win, but if they fight in rough terrain, the subhumans win. So, as long as there are both environments to call home, neither group can drive the other out of existence.

Why humans value them as mercenaries

Since the humans fight in the open, you may then wonder why the humans would even want subhumans as mercenaries, but history has an answer for this as well.

Late medieval warfare was closely modeled after the tactics of the Ancient Macedonians: just with some updated technology. At the core of the Macedonian army were the Pezhetairoi: heavy infantry that fought with long spears very similar to those later used by medieval pikemen, but what most people overlook is that the Macedonian elite infantry were actually the Hypaspists: light infantry meant to fight up close. A pike block or phalanx lacks mobility and is vulnerable to being flanked; so, the Macedonians employed Hypaspists that specialized in up-close combat to protect the flanks, push into rough terrain where the phalanx could not fight, and to move quickly to reinforce breaks in the battle line. Although the Hypaspists were more lightly armed than the Pezhetairoi, they were taken from the strongest and bravest of the infantry because they had to be in order to win under such conditions.

Likewise, subhuman mercenaries would make the ideal Hypaspists in a human vs human battle. They are bigger and stronger than their human counterparts, and they are already trained to fight under the conditions that the Hypaspists were expected to fight under. So, while you would not want them as your core fighting force in an open field battle, they would pair VERY well with human soldiers when following a combined-arms strategy.

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War Wagons

Give your nomads a large beast of burden - think domesticated moose or elephant.

This explains why they are nomadic; they move around to feed their herds.

But at the same time, these animals can pull very large wagons. Most wagons would be for moving people, or supplies, but specialized war wagons move your crossbowmen.

Congratulations, you've basically re-invented the chariot. Faster than infantry, but with the fire-power to punch through plate armor, a chariot with 1 driver and 8-10 crossbowmen would be pretty tough to counter with pre-gunpowder tech.

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    $\begingroup$ While I really like your general premise, I'd like to point out that chariots and war wagons were fundamentally different. Chariots were lightweight, minimal carts meant to carry heavy infantry or archers quickly around the battlefield whereas war wagons were more like movable fortifications. They were typically too slow and left the animals too vulnerable to move around the battlefield; so, instead they would deploy the wagons, detach the animals, and then wait for the enemy to come to them where they would have a strong defensive advantage. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jan 23 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki - I'm envisioning something that never quite existed. It's like a chariot (so designed explicitly for war, and stripped down to just the essentials) but because it's pulled by a (possibly magical) large beast of burden, it's big enough to carry a dozen men, and move at reasonably high speed for a brief period of time. So call it whatever you like, but it's mobile and full of crossbowmen. -- I could totally see the normal wagons being used as mobile fortifications like you describe for historical war wagons. Perhaps that's how the Claymore soldiers contribute; man the mobile forts. $\endgroup$
    – codeMonkey
    Jan 23 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ These existed, the Hussites used them very effectively in Bohemia and elsewhere throughout the Hussite wars and often won against odds of 3:1 with them even against early gunpowder tech as they were difficult to target with artillery when moving and stopped bullets. Enabled peasant infantry to beat knights and their armies of the Holy Roman Empire several times $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Jan 26 at 0:59
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Travelling Merchants

These people survive because they have found an economic niche to make them invaluable to the communities they visit: they trade in wares from far and wide.

In an age of serfdom when most people are simple farm laborers that never leave their home village Medieval Fares served an important economic function more-so than the largely entertainment function we romantically attribute them in modern popular culture. Fares brought merchants with goods from other towns and cities - fantastic cloth in colors and threadcounts your local weaver could never achieve, metal jewelery your local blacksmith would find impossible to reproduce, perfumes or potions your local healer could not even find the ingredients for let alone properly refine. As such, your nomadic tribe(s) serve as a sort of periodic boon to the local economies.

However, that doesn't mean everything is all sunshine and rainbows. The emergence of a (relatively) wealthy merchant class can cause strife even in settled communities. Some culturally/ethnically distinct nomads are exceedingly likely to be scapegoated as "greedy middlemen taking an exorbitant cut while doing 'no real work'". Compounded with this is the fact that buyer's remorse will typically kick in after the sellers have moved on means a lot of sour grapes. So it is quite possible that these middlemen can both be viewed with derision and suspicion, without being outright confronted on the battlefield.

Additionally, this kind of economic activity would make these caravans prime targets for bandits, which could partially explain their limited military prowess. You don't have to know how to flank an enemy position or stop a cavalry charge to thwart a bandit attack... but being good with a sword and/or crossbow will sure go a long ways. And training and feeding warhorses or whatnot is straight out overkill and would eat into the profits.

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  • $\begingroup$ Also, merchants can provide wares that do not match up to the fantastic claims that they gave while selling them. "I paid five gold for this thing that fell apart the first time I used it and that guy who sold it is already in the next country." $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Jan 24 at 15:35
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Okay - let's go through your Flaws one-by-one:

-And because they mainly move by foot/Wagons, they're slow moving and can be easily catched up by heavy cavalry.

Well, not necessarily - Wars are won by Logistics. Traditional Heavy Cavalry is domiciled in a town/city/region - and whilst a Wagon train may be slow, the further away from the base of operations they get, the less effective the Cavalry becomes. This isn't the flaw you think it is. The Nomads, by their nature, are uniquely equipped to operate on the move and without a set location - so whilst the initial skirmishes would be heavily against the Nomads, as they keep moving away from the threat, the threat gets less and less.

Plus there's an element of 'Stuff it, can't be bothered chasing this rabble round the hills, let's go back home for Tea and Medals'

-As a nomadic tribe, each individual groups might have too little population to act as a strong group of sellswords,

Historically - most Medieval Mercenary companies were between 20 to a few hundred Men. You have to remember that the value in a Mercenary is that they are professional soldiers - a concept that didn't really exist in a Medieval setting. The first European standing army was the Black Army in 1462.

To highlight why this is so important - there's a whole bunch of videos on Youtube of the likes of AirSoft where a small squad of Soldiers (Marines, Special Forces, SAS etc.) will play against random civilians - and absolutely wipe the floor with them.

So you don't need thousands upon thousands of men (although such large Mercenary groups did exist) - a few hundred professional troops was usually sufficient.

-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,

"Weapon systems X is completely destroyed by Weapon System Y - therefore Weapon System X is Useless"

Sorry, this is one of my favourite rants about Armchair Military enthusiasts. There have been multiple times when a new weapon systems has had a significant impact on an existing weapons system and people have declared that such a system is obsolete.

Granted, sometimes they are right - but as a contemporary example: People have been looking at the Ukraine war and seeing highlight videos of Tanks getting taken out by Javelin/Drone/Artillery etc. and declaring the Tank is useless. The Tank is not useless - if you want armored firepower that can move up with your infantry - a Tank is still the best option.

Coming back to your Flaw - if your Nomadic mercs are no good against cavalry... don't use them as anti-cavalry troops! A Crossbowman is not good at Melee combat against an Armored Knight. That doesn't mean that I don't want Crossbowmen in my Army - it means that I want to deploy them in such a way that the advantages they have (relatively accurate fire by unskilled soldiers) are maximized.

-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

There's two ways to address this - one is to say that they have ways and means (trade mostly) to acquire those items - that's easy, but boring.

A more interesting answer is that this is how they take their payment: Whoever is hiring them must equip them with Arms and Armor to their specifications for each man currently serving + 50% - so for 100 men, they have to provide arms and armour for 150. This allows them to loose some in Combat and to Trade for other resources later on.

Another option would be "Ancient Alliances and Debts of Honour" - Take a City in your world. Make it famous for making high-quality Metalwork, Steel, Swords and Armour.

Have it that at one time, the City was badly besieged by a particularly terrifying enemy.

Have a group of your Nomadic Warriors see the tactics of the Enemy and find them to be particularly egregious (Could be putting prisoners upon Stakes, Wanton Cruelty, Or John Wick-esque killing of a Dog) and are so angered by this that they fight for the city, without payment.

Once all is said and done, the Nomadic warriors were victorious (something something reputation something) but all their swords were dulled, their armor rent etc. And so the Blacksmiths of the City offered to re-equip them in recognition for this - and an agreement was struck that once a year, they would come to repair/replace their arms and should the city be attacked again, they would defend it.

So, TL;DR

  • By staying Mobile, the cost to hunt down every last one becomes too high, which is how they survived.
  • Only a small number of Professional soldiers are needed for it to be realistic - from 20 to a few hundred.
  • If they suck against Cavalry, don't deploy them against Cavalry.
  • They can be paid in Arms and Amour, they can trade for Arms and Amour, or they can have an allegiance to be gifted Arms and Amour.
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Magic

You've not really stated how the magic in your world works, but if they have stronger mages than others then any force deciding whether they want to wipe them out will consider how much it will cost to do it, how likely they are.

A black mage might have enough power to blow themselves up with some huge explosive force should they be threatened with existential threat.

It might be a spell which causes death of the user and wide areas around themselves which is why they don't use it as mercenaries.

When you have a world with magic, there is no point comparing it to 15th Century Europe because 15th Century Europe doesn't have magic.

You can solve any of your problems with magic. You don't need a stable area to make a forge if you can have magic forge welders making swords and crossbows.

And you can use magic if you want to stop them being too powerful. Magic can kill them, magic can't be used for some purposes for whatever reason, like is seen as spritually wrong to reanimate corpses.

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Disposable

Your people are always on the brink of war with city or country x or y. Should you plunder 1000 of your working population, making a lot of people unhappy, or just 500 and add another from a mercenary tribe that people would even cheer for to die? This is the strength of unwanted mercenaries. Their deaths are meaningless to the masses and cheaper in the long run for a city or country. If they survive you can pay them well to be off your land again, happy that the cost of using them was much less than if you lost, as well as less of your working population was drafted or is now dead.

Horses are expensive

Horses were a late addition to war. First and foremost because they are expensive. They require special training and breeding for war, making them an investment that is hard to get a return on. The manpower and food required is immense. The second is that they aren't an all purpose unit in your army. They have a lot of advantages, but if you would just charge an enemy line you'll quickly find that those horses are on the business end of pikes and spears. When deployed correctly they are a great force multiplier, but you need strategy for that. The tribe would have a hard time keeping war horses fed throughout the year, and would go into battle with an incredibly valuable asset that too easily is lost, not giving back a good return.

Pillaging

The tribe is a mercenary tribe. They are most likely rich from the plunder. The whole tribe is likely close, meaning they can carry more stuff away from any conquered areas. They might be hated, but they are still valuable in trade.

Hunting them down is uneconomical

It is a waste of energy and resources to hunt them down. It us a simple cost and gain scenario. The tribe will be all to happy not to be in any conflict they aren’t paid for. The country or city would need a huge amount of investment of soldiers and equipment to battle them effectively. It is most often cheaper to just cart out some food for the road out of the country, and possibly you can even force them to pay for it with their pillaged gains. Not to mention you might use them in a battle scenario at one point.

Uneasy alliance

I would argue that an uneasy alliance is best for both parties. The tribe is allowed to roam from city to city, country to country. You might want to call in their services soon, and you don't need to waste your own population to do it. They are hated, but bring quite a bit of money with them to keep locals placated. You can swindle them, they are less than them any way. They cannot effectively breed and feed war horses on the move all year round, so they are resigned to foot.

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One place that might be useful to look for inspiration is the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and the semi-nomadic Germanic groups that became major players in its twilight years. Maintaining an empire is labor intensive and expensive, and maintaining a standing professional army is one of the biggest costs in that endeavor. Rome, to varying degrees, always relied on mercenary support from the surrounding "barbarian" tribes, but they really amped up this dependence in their twilight years. It turns out it's a lot cheaper to hire a bunch of already trained soldiers than it is to recruit and train your own, and this has the added benefits that 1) deaths in combat don't eat into your own population and 2) an army can be fielded quickly in wartime and disbanded in times of peace.

Rome always distrusted and minimized the cultures they drew mercenaries from while also becoming increasingly dependent on them. This worked surprisingly well for a while. The Goths, Vandals, etc. got free weapons and armor and got paid to fight, while the Romans were able to rapidly field an army from nothing whenever things got hot. The tension between their societies caused the occasional problem, but didn't prevent them from working together. Since there were substantial benefits for both parties for cooperation and substantial risks for both parties if they came into conflict, an uneasy relationship developed between Rome and Germania that lasted for centuries.

That relationship was able to be maintained as long as a certain amount of distance could be maintained between the Romans and the "barbarians". Romans were scared of and condescending toward barbarians and barbarians were often oppressed and screwed over by the Romans, but as long as the barbarians had defensible land to run to where the Romans couldn't easily make the rules and the Romans had somewhere to send their mercenaries back to when the war was over, the benefits still outweighed the costs on both sides. This balance was toppled when the Huns started invading Germanic lands, driving the people who lived there west into Roman territory.

Now the oppression of the Romans was constant and inescapable, and often worse than it used to be, both because of the fearful attitude Romans often had to the barbarians now so close to them and because they were on their land now where they held all the cards. The barbarians put up with this for a while, but eventually, the benefits of cooperation no longer outweighed the costs. Additionally, now living in Roman lands and seeing first hand how their society really worked, it became apparent that the risk of conflict wasn't as high as they once thought it was either. Rome barely had an army. It had outsourced pretty much its entire warfighting apparatus to the barbarians. Fed up with the conditions they were forced to live under and better equipped for war than their Roman opponents, the Goths raided Rome, the Vandals raided North Africa, and the rest is history.

So, what does this story have to say about the issues you are dealing with with your hypothetical nomadic society?

  1. They're much hated by common humans and taken more as a threat

The barbarian groups that eventually invaded Rome were hated and feared by the general Roman populace for the whole period of their history, even as Rome made itself more and more dependent on them for basic defense. This came down to a couple of things. Firstly, Rome didn't really think it would ever be taken down by mere barbarians. Even as it was outsourcing more and more and giving up more and more of its own power, it never considered that this could make them vulnerable enough to actually be toppled. The barbarians believed this too. The very idea of attacking and toppling Rome would have sounded insane to anyone alive during the Roman period. It took a very particular combination of opportunity and desperation to make them finally make that move. Secondly, Rome was really good at manipulating other societies by taking advantage of local tensions. Barbarians fought each other, and Rome could support one or another at different times, allowing them to control the balance of power among their potential enemies. When a more powerful society fears an apparently less powerful one, they will often attempt to control, rather than eradicate, them.

  1. there're too little resources, food, cattles to sustain a maybe 10k+ population for such group based on their nomadic culture

and

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.

I'm going to discuss these two issues together because they are related and can be solved using the same mechanism. Societies that rely a lot on mercenary work don't tend to do so because they have a shortage of gold. You can't eat gold. Generally, these sorts of societies want resources. Those resources often come in the form of gold that can be exchanged for other resources, but they just as often come in the form of direct exchange. Rome would equip its soldiers, giving them armor and weapons. They would provide livestock and lumber and food and all sorts of things one needs to make an army work. The mongols, similarly, didn't support their massive empire on the resources of the steppes, but on the resource gained through plunder and conquest. Mercenary societies generally become mercenary societies in order to access resources they can't acquire at home, and these societies often become increasingly warlike as they grow because they need to keep the resources coming in to provide for their increasing population. Your tribe doesn't need to mine iron and make their own swords. They either get provided them by the cities that hire them or take them off the bodies of the people they kill. Same with food, livestock, clothing, etc. They don't sell themselves into combat just because they love the thrill of battle. They do it because they need stuff.

  1. They lack anti-cavalry infantry to act as a formidable forces against heavy Men-at-Arms

This is a bigger issue, I think, than the other two. Most societies have a way to deal with the sorts of challenges they are going to face on the battlefield. A society that fights cavalry would have either cavalry of their own or anti-cavalry units. Historically, societies that lacked both of these things lacked them because they didn't fight cavalry, such as pre-contact native americans, who lacked horses or neighbors with horses. There is nothing about being nomadic that necessitates lacking an ability to deal with cavalry. If they fight them, they know how to fight them. If they didn't, they would be dead. The obvious answer would be that they do have pikemen and other anti-cavalry units, and maybe even a few of their own cavalry, that use horses and weapons provided for them by their benefactors or enemies. Of course, if you just don't want them to have pikemen or horses, that is also fine, because this isn't the real world. All you need is a unit that can take down cavalry. In our world that has historically been other cavalry and pikes/spears/etc. But this world has magic. You don't have pikemen, cavalry, or archers, but maybe you have mages that can sling spells from a distance or shamans who can make those claymore men double in size and be capable of taking a horse's head off. The key thing there is that there does have to be a way to deal with cavalry. No society that fights for a living is going to just ignore a threat they face regularly because of vibes.

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