Saturday, July 30, 2016

Training Soldiers

How long does it take to train an unleveled person up to the point where he can qualify as a soldier, i.e. a combatant ready to be hired by the main character? Let's go find an answer.

Any kind of soldier is considered to be training toward the fighter class, so we can consider the training they do to be the basis of training any 1st level fighter would have received. 500 XP is required to make an unleveled character combat-trained, i.e. capable as a soldier, and then a further 1000 XP is needed to become a 1st-level in any class. (The combat training and XP-before-1st-level concepts are taken from Alexis.)

This means an unleveled character being trained into a first-level fighter requires 1500 XP total; the 500 needed to acquire combat training is thus 1/3 of that total.

The base age before factoring in character class in my game is 15 years old. The starting age of a fighter in my game is 15+1d4, so the average starting age of a figher is (16+19/2) or 17.5 years old. Thus, that the average fighter took 2.5 years to gain 1500 XP. (I've assumed negligible XP is gained while reaching age 15, but that would be an interesting rabbit hole to go down some other day.)

If combat training requires 1/3 of the XP below 1st level, and likewise 1/3 of that 2.5 year average training period, then we are left with a training period of of 10 months (assuming that the first 500 and the later 1000 XP are gained at the same rate, which you may contest.) So that's a good preliminary solution.

But we can go one better. With the fighter starting age distribution actually being 16-19, we could say that the training period is 1/3 of the actual training time, whether that's 1, 2, 3, or 4 years. The corresponding training periods are 4, 8, 12, and 16 months. What's the benefit of chunking things up? Well, given a gaggle of men freshly recruited, we can say that 25% are ready to serve as soldiers after 4 months, with another 25% being available each 4 months after that. Now we have some time-based figures we can use, should the party ever decide to wage war for themselves or take sides in someone else's conflict.

Ah, but we can go one better again! Who says we have to stop at 25% divisions? Let's divide the 16-19 distribution into 8 six-month periods, then we multiply by the 1/3 time figure for training, getting a two-month period. Divide your number of recruits by 8, and that's how many new soldiers you can turn out every two months. With 100 recruits, it'd be 12 (rounded from 12.5), at first the fastest learners, then the guys who took more time to become competent. Of course, this figure is assuming that we can train all 100 soldiers at once, but there ought to also be a limit on how many recruits a single trainer (leveled fighter with skills in training others) can handle at one time. Maybe you've got a 5th level trainer and he can only handle 50 recruits -- now that 12.5 soldiers-per-month rate is cut in half.

So there's a limitation on how long it takes to turn out ready soldiers, and a limitation on how many of your conscripts can be trained simultaneously, and these two limits combine with the starting number of recruits to determine, basically, how many guys you can add to your army every two months (or each 4 months, depending on the scheme we use.) You could even go further and figure out a monthly value, if that's the time scale you want to track things in. And, of course, if you don't want to use pure percentages, you could always roll 1d4 (multiply by 4) or 1d8 (multiply by 2) for each recruit to see how long it'll take to train him.

All of this training stuff can apply even if the person being trained is not as young as 15. I'm just ballparking here, but maybe normal training rules apply to men between ages 15 and 35, and it takes more time to train anyone younger or older than that age. I'm just speculating here.

Finally, just for fun, let's compare our derived figures to modern army training. It's no fair comparison, just something to think about.

In the US Army they spend 10 weeks on basic training, and then each soldier receives a variable length of additional training depending on their assigned specialty. Infantrymen do 14 weeks. That makes a total of 24 weeks, or 6 months, of training. Furthermore, this is a total of 6 months to train to what I would consider a 1st level fighter. Compare these figures to the average 10 months of training needed to get a combat-trained unleveled soldier, or the average 2.5 years needed to get a 1st level fighter. It's quite a difference, as it should be, since modern training methods are backed by centuries of improvement that a medieval or Renaissance trainer would obviously not have been able to use. I think the proportions between the army figures and my training periods are near enough to call it OK: 10 weeks for basic combat training is 1/4 of 10 months; 6 months for full skills is 1/5 of the 2.5-year average.

All I need now is a figure to determine how many people willing to be soldiers are present in each settlement, as a percentage of the overall population. Assuming they're getting their training from somewhere, since they're starting employment ready to go, I'd then be able to multiply that "number of willing soldiers" times the 2-month rate and get the maximum number of soldiers available for hire each 2 months. Looking to hire an army? Better go somewhere big.

OK, I've been typing this all day. Time to let it out onto the web.


  1. I can see the logic here - particularly in establishing a minimum time. I find I want some sort of random roll, however, based on a person's temperament, ability, intelligence, failure to get his or her self injured, etc. The above seems a bit, well, pat for me. It works for mass armies - but supposing the players pick up a lone, non-combat trained person in their travels, who wants to become an adventurer - say, a 15 year old boy. How would the system deal with that?

  2. hey friend, sorry if i'm late to the party. i think you've been misinformed- a US Army infantryman goes through a TOTAL of 14 weeks of training.
    -a vet

    1. Johnathan, thanks for correcting me. I thought the Army website was pretty clear, but I must have misread.

  3. Going through your blog in chronological order, so I can see you have more training posts, but I haven't read them yet. Apologies if you've addressed this.

    >Thus, that the average fighter took 2.5 years to gain 1500 XP

    >The corresponding training periods are 4, 8, 12, and 16 months. What's the benefit of chunking things up? Well, given a gaggle of men freshly recruited, we can say that 25% are ready to serve as soldiers after 4 months, with another 25% being available each 4 months after that.

    The numbers seem extremely long for the very small benefit being a level 1 fighter provides (basically, a +1 to hit, maybe some hit points, depending on the system - not guaranteed in all of them).

    Seems to me like you could get a 5 percentage-point increase in your ability to land a telling blow after a day of instruction, at most.

    1. Someone whose name I recognize is going through my blog? I'm glad to hear it, Charles. Thanks for doing so.

      Your criticism is not unfounded: ultimately "1 to 4 years to train a fighter" is just an arbitrary number. But you're underselling the benefits of being 1st level -- and also the benefits of being combat-trained, which is distinct and lesser than being 1st level! I want to lay those out for you and get your opinion on the whole.

      Let's lay out the benefits from going from untrained (-1500 XP) to combat-trained but still 0th-level (-1000 XP). They are:

      (1a) +1 to hit (+0 as opposed to -1; I don't know if Alexis uses this rule btw)
      (1b) being able to take damage without having to make a morale check vs routing (the ordinary untrained person would require a morale check for taking even a single point of combat damage)
      (1c) initial weapon training and the first one or two proficiencies
      (1d) training in some forms of armor

      The proposed period of time for gaining the above is 1/3 of the total training time to get to 1st level, because the gain of 499 XP needed is 1/3 of the 1500 total needed to go from untrained to 1st level.

      After gaining the above benefits, the following are further accrued while going from -1000 XP to the beginning of 1st level (0 XP):

      (2a) +1 to hit
      (2b) +1d10 HP (avg 5.5, thus the avg roll will double the character's HP, as before they only had a mass HP of 1d6 (avg 3.5) or maybe 1d8 (avg 4.5))
      (2c) gaining a sage ability (I use Alexis' system wholesale)
      (2d) training in all other weapons
      (2e) gaining the rest of the fighter's first four weapon proficiencies
      (2f) training in the rest of the types of armor

      Certainly (2c-f) would take a while. "All other weapons" and "the other types of armor" is quite a few. Gaining HP would be slow, too, I think.

      To review: a 1st level fighter has, in total, gained all of (1a) through (2f). If all of that in total takes 1d4 years, then the average fighter achieves that over a period of 30 months (2.5 years), with 10 months being (1a-d), and 20 months being (2a-f). The best-case[*] fighter, doing it all in one year, would spend 4 months on (1a-d) and 8 months on (2a-f), and then he would be 1st level.

      Having seen all the benefits made clear, let me ask you:

      [Q1] Do you still believe that 1 to 4 (avg 2.5) years for all the benefits of (1a) thru (2f) is too long?
      [Q1a] If yes, how long ought it to be? I'm open to suggestions and this isn't my area of expertise.
      [Q2] Do you believe that (1a-d) should take some other fraction of the time rather than the simple 500/1500 = 1/3 of the total time to acquire (1a) thru (2f)?

      I'm excited to be talking about training again. I was only able to write the above comment clearly because you made your above comment, so thank you for giving me reason to circle back to these ideas, and to lay out the "untrained to combat-trained" and "combat-trained to 1st" benefits in a neat list.

      [*] In the periodized schemes I laid out above, it wouldn't be "make a single 1d4 roll and spend that many years training"; it would be "make (e.g.) 10 d4 rolls, one each 10th of the training period, to see how far you advanced over that period". In a later post I expand this to include failure, such that it possible to have made NO advance in training during a given time period. That could extend on indefinitely.

    2. Thanks for the detailed reply! That does make it more clear; I should have realized your 1st level fighter would look a lot like Alexis', but my baseline assumption is always more like B/X.

      So I was assuming the difference between a 0-level nobody and a 1st-level fighter was +1 to hit and 1d10 HP instead of 1d6. Which is a piddling difference.

      Am I correct in assuming that weapon proficiencies provide +0 to hit if you have them, and a penalty if not? So the 0-level with no proficiencies would actually be at -1 minus their non-proficiency penalty to hit? I don't have a 1e handy, just OSRIC, which works like that.

      The first thing that's occuring to me is that perhaps there should be a "soldier" NPC class that they can be trained into - basically, a class that provides the "combat-trained" benefits and a faster progression, but none of the "fighter" benefits.

      Fewer weapon proficiencies, no sage abilities, maybe a weaker hit die, maybe slower to-hit progression.

      If you take my reading of hit points (short version: they're the mirror image of the to-hit bonus and represent increasing defensive skill, basically "mulligans" on attacks that would kill a normal person - this is supported by my reading of chainmail and 0e), they would take the same amount of time to get as to-hit bonuses.

      Anyway, that digression about an NPC class aside, to your questions.

      Q1. With your clearer explanation of all the benefits, it does seem more reasonable. Four years I think is still a pretty long time.

      Maybe 6 months to 2 years? I just come back to my experience) training a few hours a week for about a year at medieval swordfighting. I would have almost certainly won against no-training me. Condense that training into 40-hour weeks, and I would be there in a few weeks.

      [Q1a] Thought experiment:

      Untrained vs. untrained me - 50/50 chance of who wins.

      Me after ~150h training vs untrained me - let's say 80% chance trained me wins. Does this model being "combat trained"? Is it better? Worse? Do we accept this premise?

      If so, maybe combat trained in a month to two months, and fighter in another four months to a year? This is assuming full-time training. Obviously make allowances if it's part-time.

      Q2. Given the training with a variety of weapons and armour and the sage abilities, I think getting to F1 would be more than twice as hard as getting to CT. Maybe 1:4 instead of 1:2?

      This has got the brain working, interesting stuff. At a certain point, it's angels on a head of a pin, but it's very good to think through these things.

    3. Certainly not angels, if the players have need of an army and a need for new recruits, quickly.

      I like the comparison to modern army training and the recognize of advancing training techniques. It seems a fair litmus test, especially if your system results in average training times that are 1.5x (or more) longer than current standards.

      A point of note, however: modern army training standards change every few years as the needs of the Armed Forces change with an evolving political climate. Just ten years ago, we still emphasized certain combative elements, like hand-to-hand combat, while a few years later we put those aside because we weren't required to engage the enemy in that fashion. A medieval or renessaince army wouldn't have that kind of rapid change.