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So I've got a partially built world for an ongoing DnD campaign I'm running. The players are occupants (I wouldn't go so far as to say 'citizens') of a city in the Taldrin Kingdoms. Unbeknownst to them, the Taldrin Kingdoms (currently in the midst of a civil war) are about to come under attack. Camped several score of leagues from the city is a conquering party.

They are seasoned conquerors, hailing from the far-off land of Nemat, and they have heard of the Taldrin Kingdoms. Far traders have brought casks of pickled nightfish, scrolls concerning the containment of elemental powers, and holds of incredibly light Pande coal. All originated from the Taldrin Kingdom. Lately however, traders have been bringing rumors that the Kingdom isn't doing so hot and Nemat has decided to capitalize.

The conquering party is composed of five platoons, three of mixed cavalry and infantry, one of archers and one of sappers. They are lead by a smart tactician, who's lieutenant is a mage specializing in clairvoyance and communication magic.

My first question is, how plausible is this situation? Would a conquering-prone civilization send out an excursion party in such a way? Would they include more people, fewer? Is there anything I'm forgetting?

A note on mages: Decent wizards are pretty damn hard to find in this world, harder than in a standard DnD setting. There are probably only a couple dozen in a large city.

The Taldrin Kingdom is pretty large. It consists of three main areas, Pande (coastal), Linne (fertile valleys) and Clethe (boreal forest). Each has a capital city and many surrounding settlements. The capital itself is currently a war zone. Nemat is much, much larger. Its capital city is a metropolis, and its dozens of main colonies are large cities in and of themselves.

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  • $\begingroup$ Migrate to Role Playing Games SE ? $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jul 22 '17 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ I'd prefer not to, the fact this is part of an RPG isn't very relevant and I'd rather have the world-builders' expertise. $\endgroup$ – Megalonychidae Jul 22 '17 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ You haven't given us anything to consider plausible except war it self. So yes. I find war plausible :P Try explaining what your concern is. $\endgroup$ – candied_orange Jul 22 '17 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ My concern isn't the concept of war, it's whether a conquering empire would send an expeditioning party a great distance based on rumor, and if so, what form that party would take. $\endgroup$ – Megalonychidae Jul 22 '17 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that's war. We heard a rumor that Hitler was an ass. That was World War II. If the rumor is the concern define it better. $\endgroup$ – candied_orange Jul 22 '17 at 23:45
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This is utter nonsense

Other answers already dealt with how nonsensical this force as combat unit is, but they missed something. This is not supposed to be scouting before battle, but something to decide if there should be full scale war or not. You don't do that with soldiers, you do that with diplomats, spies and other elements in modern times dubbed intelligence. As soon as your military scouts are spotted, the jig is up. Enemy knows you are up to something and you lose element of surprise - in fact, this is THE fastest way to end the civil war. Bad enough external enemy is the a time-proven infallible way to quell internal disputes and ally together groups which otherwise would be happy to slit each other's throats.

You are going about it completely wrong

What do you think Military attaché exists for? They are attached (hence name) to embassies as overt spies, supplementing the covert ones (fancy name and codified role/position is modern compared to typical medieval setting, but concept itself is much older). Military attaché is an experienced soldier who's task is to gather information about the country they are posted in, their overt position limits what they get to see, but ensures they will report back (because they are diplomats, they can't be prosecuted as spies), also military experience means they will be better at inferring information than spies are. Armed group has to be guards of a diplomatic mission. Main element should be diplomats, traders and support like clerks, cooks and servants. Smaller part should be guards. On the other hand, you have to keep entire group small, and composed of non-critical personnel, in medieval times killing envoys wasn't unheard of.

They don't sneak in, they go in announcing their presence in advance, speaking loudly of their mission, offering mediation, food at excellent prices and less overtly opening talks with each fighting group, suggesting possible alliance. Meanwhile, soldiers watch, as guards that's what they are supposed to do after all, watch enemy fortifications as they enter the city, watch troop locations as they travel. Watch, analyse and report back. Maybe they can get to actually talk to local soldiers and directly look at their weapons. Maybe they can get a look at training routines, maybe they end up in a skirmish between two sides and while doing their best to stay out of combat, observe the tactics.

Diplomats will have to work hard to make sure targets of future conquest don't get too suspicious, they have to make it look real and as bonus objective actively fan the flames while pretending not to.

Obviously, that's all for naught if that specific nation has reputation of rarely engaging in diplomacy and has repeated this pattern (invading immediately after sending diplomats) too many times.

Frankly, I'm surprised your world doesn't have diplomats at all. Why does Nemat need to confirm rumours themselves? How far they are? If Nemat is so far that they have no reason to keep diplomatic relations, how they expect to march entire army over for conquest? Why do they even conquer in the first place? Land or just plunder? You need to know answers to such questions to build proper world. You need to examine motives, implications and underlying logic, otherwise you fall back on absurd cardboard cut-outs.

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If the goal is information gathering, don't send a small army, send spies. A handful of spies per city would:

  1. Be much easier to hide.
  2. Have better access to inside information.
  3. Be much cheaper.
  4. Be less harmful politically if discovered.

A better idea would be to send spies for now, then really BIG armies later.

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The conquering party is composed of five platoons, three of mixed cavalry and infantry, one of archers and one of sappers. They are lead by a smart tactician, who's lieutenant is a mage specializing in clairvoyance and communication magic.

This sounds like a reconnaissance unit.

This tactic has been used as far back as vaguely organized warfare is recorded.

The size of the force employed varies as per mission requirements and of course composition depends on mission scope, technology and availability.

A fairly well known example would be "Jeb" Stuart's failure to report back to General Lee at Gettysburg. Here Lee was, as was typical, using his cavalry as a large mobile recon force.

I particularly mention this failure as it shows the importance of recon in warfare. Not fighting, but bringing back useful info on the disposition of enemy forces is very valuable. Note in particular that it was the timing of Stuart's return (late) which was the real problem. So timeliness is important in this mission.

Note that you do not generally send out recon units to fight. You send them to come back and/or report. In your case it would be important that the commander of the force clearly understands this. For a bit of drama consider adding a significant subordinate who is all too keen to fight to your plot.

Note that while you mention cavalry as being part of the unit, I'd recommend they're all on horseback. Mobility is very important.

The mage whose a communication specialist is an interesting note. I had an acquaintance who was a soldier who was with the UN in the Congo. He was a radioman (and lugged a huge old radio around for his troubles). Because radiomen (and radios) were so important to safety and mission he says the rest of the squad took a bit of extra care to make sure he was OK. Something you might consider with your mage.

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A real player has more than one play. A real conqueror has more than one way to conquer. Nemat is a long way from Taldrin and it is hard to administer a state from far away. Better for the Nematians to have a friendly / client Taldrin government in place, beholden to the Nematians. Your expeditionary force can make that happen.

I propose your Nematian force talk to people in the countryside and learn which way the wind blows. Then come with your force to the side you pick for the likely winner (or more tractable client state) and offer your services. An organized surprise attack by these Nematians in alliance with their chosen side could turn the tide in that city. The appreciative victors will readily accept more Nematian help and with that help will go on to win the civil war. The Taldrins probably know of the Nematians to some degree and the opposition will be horrified that their enemy has (by pure luck!) acquired such a powerful ally. The war could end soon.

If the Nematians want to own Taldrin ground, their troops are now all in place after providing their "help" and they could just take control. More wily though for a distant power is to leave troops in the Taldrin cities to help if need be; these troops can ensure Nematian traders are treated well and that Taldrin can be a jumping off point for even more remote Nematian adventures.

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Could five platoons conquer this country? Not a chance.

Here in the USA, five platoons would be about 200 people. Your "Taldrin Kingdoms" has three capitols, and therefore at least three cities. No matter how capable your 200 people are, they wouldn't be able to suppress even a civilian insurgency across that large of a population. And your Kingdoms will presumably have private guards, local law enforcement, personal guards of your various feudal lords, etc. People who are armed and motivated to get rid of the foreign invaders.

Plus, as soon as the Kingdoms come under foreign attack, presumably at least some of the soldiers involved in this civil war will decide to put that on hold long enough to take care of the foreign threat.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, but I believe I mentioned that this is simply an excursion party. They're not meant to conquer a Kingdom (or even a city), that would be ridiculous. Instead, they're to test the defenses of this mysterious Taldrin Kingdom, assess their strength and political situation. At the very most they would set up a forward base for future troops. $\endgroup$ – Megalonychidae Jul 23 '17 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ You introduced this group as the "conquering party," so I presumed it involved conquering. You should call it a scouting party. Okay, I'll give a new answer. $\endgroup$ – Ariah Jul 23 '17 at 0:28

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