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Following on from this question, a fantasy setting exists where physical training has no limits and those dedicated enough can become super-fast, super strong and perform incredible feats.

Unfortunately the pressures of life mean the majority of people don't have the time or inclination to spend 5 plus hours a day training to move mountains so the number of superbeings remains low, though anyone in a profession which involves fighting such as the town guards, bandits, knights and the kings standing army would outclass everyone else by a large degree.

So if different nations in this setting come to a disagreement that only war will settle and decide it is time to call up the serfs to raise a larger army, how would the untrained masses fare against a small but vastly powerful group of regular soldiers?

Something I should note is no ruler is a complete monster and sending out raw recruits as a distraction or meatshields will reflect badly on the kingdom. We want to be able to use the commoners as usefully as they can be, without suicide missions.

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    $\begingroup$ If your "superhumans" will get to Superman-like level of power, then peasant armies would become totally irrelevant (as armies). However, if they get to be no more than GoT's Mountain level, armies would still be totally fine. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 11 '17 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ An interesting parallel arises if you equate these superhuman abilities to weapons. What you're asking is how to keep the knife and sword relevant in a world where some have machine guns and large quantities of ammo. If you can answer the "bring a knife to a gunfight" question, you're in a very solid position to answer your superhuman question. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Aug 11 '17 at 21:53
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If this is a medieval army, don't forget that the conscripts are going to be really strong too.

Granted, they won't have the benefit of constant training, but if they are of adult age and are relatively healthy, they will have grown substantial muscles. Farming is very hard work. If you want to get an idea, spend 20 minutes splitting firewood, or digging post holes for a small fence. Now imagine having to work like that for 10 to 16 hours a day.

Peasants and serfs did these kinds of activities every single day for their entire lives just to survive, provide for families, and to pay taxes to their local lords.

Your peasants aren't going to be super skilled fighters, but I imagine that the local blacksmith is going to be in the kind of condition that would allow him to crumple armor in his hands like a beer can. A typical plowman is going to be strong enough to bat a bear around around like a rag doll on the basis of the plowman is doing heavy lifting type stuff for 9 or ten hours every day. The difference between the nobility and the commoners will be more about training to fight, not raw strength.

How does this translate into battles? give your peasants a bunch of rocks! then teach them a few tricks about how to throw. With the kind of strength and endurance the peasants are going to have, it'll be nightmarish for oncoming infantry. A shield will turn a stone, sure, but for how long against a series of fist sized rocks being thrown at Major League Fastball speeds (42 meters per second)? Even if the material of the shield holds up, the guy behind it is going to be bruised and numb all the way up to the shoulder. If a rock gets past the shield wall and hits someone in the head, that person is going to die no matter how good the helmet.

Once the infantry closes on the peasants, things will shift back in favor of the trained troops. Raw strength won't hold up against edged weapons for long. Your very strong troops are going to be more likely to shear clean through someone rather than getting a sword stuck in a body. They are also going to be more likely to break their weapons when it gets to steel on steel.

You are going to have a lot of trade offs, but the end result is that in warfare, tactics and logistics are going to be what prevails.

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    $\begingroup$ I would not want to be the 'hero' leading a charge towards peasants who've trained all their lives to move two ton hay bales with ease. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Aug 12 '17 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs or a guy who swings an axe from sun-up to sundown. or a farrier who can lift the whole horse up in one hand :) $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Aug 12 '17 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ Oh gods... 'I train dogs for a living. Meet the Pack...' $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Aug 12 '17 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ This sounds like a medieval version of WWI trench warfare, with its bloody charges and devastating small-arms repeating fire. The lack of artillery, high explosives and industrial logistics and communications would add some twists, though. $\endgroup$ – Eth Sep 29 '17 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Eth imagine the rate of fire from medieval seige weapons if a peasant can cock and reload a balistae by himself, and move the cart it's mounted on. Or a team of super strong peasants loading heavy boulders into a trebuchet as a trained team. It wouldn't be like 16 inch guns, but a half ton rock landing and maybe even shattering in a group of people....nasty $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Sep 29 '17 at 17:46
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Something I should note is no ruler is a complete monster and sending out raw recruits as a distraction or meatshields will reflect badly on the kingdom. We want to be able to use the commoners as usefully as they can be, without suicide missions.

Take look at history. Most rulers are not a complete monster, but there's always infantry, with some training and fair to middling equipment.

Numbers are still numbers.

And your elite guys take TIME and EFFORT and RESOURCES to train. 100 men might be able to take an elite. Archers, not super archers, might kill someone like this, even if they are more than human. It will depend what their talents are.

In a Medieval world, rulers aren't all that worried about the optics. They want to win. Life is cheap.

Now, as far as honor is concerned, the elites may seek each other out, and the normals may not engage them. My suggestion is that elites have something to...show that they are. Depending, they can either be targeted, or the normals can avoid them, carrying word to other elites as to their location, so that they may engage.

The lower soliders can mostly engage each other.

That's how I'd work it.

EDIT: You can also take a page from Novas in the Aberrant game. They are meta-humans that can often do incredible things--one of the side effects of being "super" is that you need much, much more food than an ordinary human to live. In the Aberrant setting, which is set in modern times, this wasn't a big deal, but in a more Fantasy/Medieval setting, an elite needing 2-5x as much food will be a much bigger deal. This means that it will limit the poor a bit, and that supplying them will be more costly. So, if a Guard in a city, for instance, is determined to become elite, he might live in a poor neighborhood with no amenities, just so he can supply himself with the food he will need, because he could not afford rent otherwise.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like the logistic spin you've put on this with the edit. I had started out thinking people may suggest local lords have a requirement to keep people trained to a certain level. But too much strain on supply lines makes for a harder army to manage, like a modern military that only has fighter jets. $\endgroup$ – MissingPear Aug 11 '17 at 20:26
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Sacrifices will be made in war. Sending troops to be sacrificed for advantages does not make you a monster.

Aside from this, you can use the historical solution. Give the peasants easy to use weapons and simple tactics that will allow them to handle fighting against people who are far far better at war then they are. This actually happened in Europe with pikes and crossbows. Peasants would use mixed ranks of crossbowmen and pike-men. This made knights significantly less effective. It didn't take very long for peasants to get good at using this tactic and formation because both of these weapons were relatively easy to learn to use for group fighting. It happened again with guns. The nobles get super pissed every time this happens, it's actually really funny to read about. At one point several people tried to get crossbows banned because they were unfair. At another point uppity hunters in England tried to do the same with guns because the weapon was uncouth.

Your peasants will need a numbers advantage and some sort of positional advantage in order to realistically fight superhumans. Including the use of tactics designed specifically to counter superhumans would make your work far more interesting as well.

Well finance superhumans are another problem, but peasants should still be able to win if they can capitalize on numbers and positional advantages well enough.

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A huge part of the army doesn't actually do any combat, only exist to supply the line and manage operations, this can easily be done by non-super people.

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An army is not a simple collection of individual heroes, or at least it stopped being a simple collection of heroes around the time of the Trojan War, three thousand years ago. Whether an army of merely human soldiers will defeat a small group of superhumans depends on how well the human soldiers are trained, how well they are led, how well they are supplied, how exactly super are those superhumans, how well they are trained, how well they are led and supplied. It depends on how well the human armies intelligence works; and it obviously depends on the specific strategic situation.

To provide a well-known historical example, consider what happened to the invading German army in the war with the Soviet Red Army. German soldiers were much better trained, had much better technology and much better leadership than their opponents; but the strategic reality was that the Soviet side was better supplied, had the possibility to trade territory for time and could afford a war of attrition at horrible odds; so in the end the Soviets won although they lost five times more men than the Germans.

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  • $\begingroup$ That example isn't really a fit for this scenario. Both sides would have a large number of regular humans and then a small number of elites. $\endgroup$ – MissingPear Aug 11 '17 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ @MissingPear: You are right in that it's not a perfect fit; it is intended to show that the capabilities of individual soldiers, commanders or units is not the only factor that needs to be considered. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 11 '17 at 20:00
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In England, every able bodied man was required to practice the longbow 2 hours each week, whatever else he did.

from https://www.forbes.com/2010/06/16/legal-humor-archery-opinions-columnists-kevin-underhill.html

It is clear that there were laws requiring archery practice dating back to at least the 13th century. The motive was to make sure England had enough men trained to use the longbow, which for centuries was a crucial weapon for the English. (The most famous example is Agincourt, a battle that Henry V won in 1415 and is still going on about.)

The training requirement was usually combined with prohibitions on other kinds of games and sports so that people would focus on archery instead of, for example, “tennis, football, [quoits], dice” and other “games inappropriate.” The point was not so much to condemn games as to make sure they did not get in the way of longbow training. In other words, they saw nothing morally wrong with tennis, it’s just that it is hard to kill a French knight with a tennis ball, no matter how good your serve is.

Thus when you raised a peasant army from England, these peasants all owned bows and knew how to use them. This sort of thing would go a lot farther in your world where practice works even better. It would be a fun scene where the peasant army is arranged against the cocky superhumans and the first superhuman takes a rock to the nose at 400 feet, immediately followed by one to the groin. The peasants have been attending their required practice.

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  • $\begingroup$ English and Welsh archers were more likely to be yeoman, not peasants. Peasants and serfs were literally tied to the land, as they had neither the resources to do more than farm for bare survival, or had no civil rights, or both. This gave them no time or opportunity to do the training required to do archery. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Aug 12 '17 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ Take a look here @Thucydides. archery.mysaga.net/archlaws.html. Or maybe it turns on the definition of "all sorts of men". $\endgroup$ – Willk Aug 13 '17 at 3:40
  • $\begingroup$ I do think it hinges on the definition of "all kinds of men". More specifically I was thinking of how Henry V hired Yeoman archers for the French expedition which culminated in the Battle of Agincourt several centuries earlier, since these were the sorts of men in the middle ages who had the time and resources to devote to archery. Henry VIII was a Renaissance prince, and firearms were displacing archery because gunners needed far less training than archers. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Aug 13 '17 at 5:16

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