The best and most obvious way to get a head start on ingratiating yourself with a particular faction is to start there. Warband lets you begin the game in one of the six faction capitals, where you get to experience a short set of tutorial quests. These are optional beyond killing the first bandit that attacks you, but they offer an opportunity for a little bit of coin and reputation with minimal risk. After being set upon by a bandit in the streets of Jelkala, the fief of King Graveth of the Rhodoks, we are taken in by a merchant who explains that these same bandits have been plaguing the town. Furthermore, they have kidnapped this man’s brother and are holding him in an unknown location. The merchant offers some gold for me to recruit a small militia, hunt down the bandits and free his brother.
After the jump: what’s a warband without cannon fodder?
In the vicinity of Jelkala are a few small towns. Each of these is suitable to our needs as they have plenty of peasants who would love nothing more than to take a crack at glory and honor in combat. All they need is a decent leader and a little cash to buy some basic supplies. I am all too willing to provide. Soon, I have a group of five peasants, lavishly armed to the teeth with five pitchforks and one shield between them.
You don’t go to war with the army you want, but with the army you have.
We report to the merchant in Jelkala who informs us that a group of bandits have just left the town. If we leave in a hurry, we may be able to catch them and interrogate them for information on the kidnapper’s hideout. We sally forth from the city and intercept the bandits a few miles outside of the gates. They are none too impressed by the sight of my elite peasant commandos and a former fur trapper with a beat-up bow and chipped axe, and so a battle ensues. However, even a lousy hunting bow can defeat bandits easily enough if all they can hit me with are rocks they found on the ground, having no proper ranged weaponry of their own. I manage to distract and harass the enemy sufficiently well for my tribesmen to get into the fight and clean up what’s left.
An important consideration in the early game is balancing who gets kills in a given battle. Killing a bandit yourself gives your player character a huge share of experience which is necessary for leveling up and acquiring an array of character skills and improved combat ability. Letting a member of your entourage get the kill instead helps them to level up sooner, allowing them to be upgraded to a better form of soldier. Here, for example, I get one kill and the tribesmen get three, which is enough for one of them to level up. Since I have the money, I upgrade one to a Rhodok crossbowman, trading out peasant clothes and a pitchfork for a weak suit of armor, a crossbow and a basic melee weapon. Alternatively, I could have chosen a Rhodok spearman for a more powerful melee unit with no ranged capability. Each of these two choices then has additional upgrade paths, culminating in Rhodok sergeants and sharpshooters, who are some of the best infantry units available to any faction.
This choice made, the bandits tell us where the hideout is. Surprisingly, it is right outside one of the towns we recruited from mere days ago. We ride forth and defeat the bandits there in similar fashion, albeit at the cost of one brave tribesman. I promptly upgrade two more tribesmen to crossbowmen to compensate for this loss and make a note to recruit more cannon fodd… brave warriors at my first opportunity.
Returning to Jelkala, we are informed by the merchant that his brother had unearthed corruption in Jelkala itself that was allowing bandits to function freely within the city’s walls. Using his connections, the merchant had assembled a force of volunteers to capture the corrupt official and drag him before the king to answer for his crimes, but they were in need of a leader. Seeing an opportunity to put my combat skills to a more serious test, I quickly agreed and immediately led the ragtag force into the streets. After a relatively brief but bloody battle, I had three kills to my name and the enemies had been defeated with a total of seven casualties on our side. The merchant thanked me one last time, put in a good word with some friends of his in town for me, and then set off to attempt to make his case to King Graveth.
Now I stand with a small army at my command, a small bag of cash in my possession, and some decent bandit armor that was considerably better than what I once had. The people of Jelkala know my name, but only in passing. There are no more scripted battles. All options are open to me and my followers. The world is my oyster.
Tomorrow: let’s get cracking
(Click here for the previous Mount and Blade entry.)
Otagan, known to some as Jared, hails from the frozen wastelands of North Dakota. He is temporarily based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he works for a major banking institution that shall remain nameless to protect the innocent.