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Ideas on different ways of sieging?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by oaktree33, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. oaktree33

    oaktree33 New Member

    I am currently brainstorming a story centered around the main character's conquest of a chain of islands. I've come up with a lot of details of the story however I'm blanking on the sieges. I can't seem to come up with different ways the main character and his army siege different cities. Any ideas?
  2. Peat

    Peat Sage

    There's pretty much two ways to siege somewhere.

    The first is to surround it with an army. No one goes in or out. You wait for starvation to force them to surrender.

    If you can't or won't do that for some reason, you assault the place.

    To do that you need to get past the walls somehow. Popular ways of doing this

    - Knock a hole in them
    - Bribe someone to open the door
    - Climb ladders to the top of the wall/use siege towers
    - Build a tunnel under the wall, then collapse it to cause the wall to collapse

    Fairly uncomplicated business, really.
  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    If you have a chain of islands, then blockades will be important. Cut off each island from it's neighbours. Sink it's ships, destroying food and materials [and kill people and disrupt communications] before they can reinforce and co-ordinate. That way you can weaken the next island before you start assaulting it.
    Sieges to some extent are punch - counter-punch. You use whatever techniques you can. To beat the opposition's strengths and to make the most of your strengths against their weaknesses.
  4. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Well, what kind of forces doing the fighting are we talking about and what kind of fortifications are there? The composition of both will shape of a siege is conducted and plays out.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    To start with, look at the problem from the defender's point of view. How would they defend their island? Then look at it from the attacker's point of view. Then maybe swap again, just to consider counter-measures.

    You might read an account of how Alexander besieged Tyre. It's quite a story. Short version: he tried everything, including building catapults on his ships, but nothing worked. In the end, he built a mole from the mainland to the island, having to defend against attacks from the city every step of the way. He did such a good job, Tyre is no longer an island.

    They did things big, back in the day. The siege of Syracuse is another good one.

    Also, the conqueror would not necessarily have to island hop the way the Allies did in WWII. Some islands would not have a navy, or at least nothing significant, so he could move past those, take the key points, then mop up later. Also relevant would be whether each island is independent or they are all under a central rule.

    Edit: and don't forget magic. That's the angle that always interests me. How would the presence of magic (your magic, how it works in your world) affect both defense and attack in a siege. There the door really is wide open.
  6. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    When I'm in my early planning/brainstorming phase I do a little bit of research about this sort of stuff. Currently, I'm writing a heist/caper, so I googled and read about some of the more colorful and interesting heists in history and I took some of the ideas and adapted them to suit my work.

    I once wrote about a rebellion, so I researched the causes, battles and effects of some famous rebellions and ended up basing some of my story on Louis Riel, a French Canadian/Metis rebel.

    Just a quick google search of famous sieges in history bring up some interesting hits:

    A WIKIPEDIA page of lists of seiges
    7 brutal sieges from History.com
    10 of the deadliest sieges in history
    The six craziest sieges in history...

    Hmmmmm, that could be interesting, let's check that out.

    Ok, first on the list - The siege of Paris in 885.

    According to this account (and it does not have to be true because you are not writing historical fiction, you are merely getting ideas for fantasy), the french King was named Charles the Fat because he was so wimpy and well, fat.

    So the Vikings thought it a good opportunity to come in a take some gold from a fat guy.

    At the time Paris had two bridges leading out of it that blocked boat traffic. Each bridge was guarded by a tower. The Vikings laid siege with all the typical siege making stuff: battering rams, hot oil, catapults etc. But when they went to sleep one night and woke up the next morning they found the towers taller. WTF? How did the tower get taller while they were asleep?

    Well, usually when attacking a tower you have three options: Climb the tower, knock it down, or wait until everyone inside starves. Well, when the other side has an inaccessible bridge leading to food and water and weapons and tower building equipment then number three is pretty pointless.

    The Vikings waited but the french kept fixing their tower and getting fat off fresh cheese. So the Viking planned to fill the river with dead bodies, creating a bridge out of cadavers so they could get their equipment across. Sounds awesome.

    Wehn that didn't work they lit a few of their boats on fire and rammed them at the bridge.

    But it didn't work. The Vikings had to go back to trying to destroy the tower while the french dumped hot oil on their heads. After a while a heavy rain came and raised the river, destroying the damaged bridge for them with a flood of dead bodies.

    With only 12 men left in the tower, the Vikings took over. You can imagine that with a raised river, bloody battle in Paris and nowhere to bury their dead, the French started to fester pretty bad. Disease abounded.

    The people in Paris alerted their King, Charles the Fat, who sent the French army to pay out the Vikings. He gave them 700 pounds of silver to leave.

    Tons of useful ideas there! The river of bodies, the ramming burning warships into the bridge! So awesome. Read of up sizes that have actually happened, then take notes and steal ideas.
  7. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    For magic in my world... Two words. STONE KNIFE... a blade designed to cut stone like butter... Use it on the wall; just start scoring marks into it, then use a ram or catapult to knock it down in a localized area... Climb over rubble and kill enemies.

    Another thing I imagine... Barrels of oil of impact launched into the wall from a trebuchet or catapult. Or coating the head of a ram... All it would take is one hit, unless of course the walls are magically fortified.

    A dig spell was used in a gaming campaign of mine to undermine the walls of the city or Ashenford... Another magical idea for sieging a city.

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2016
  8. Peat

    Peat Sage

    I can't really think of too many successful island hopping campaigns in a medieval sense (although I might if my south-eastern Asian history was stronger). The first big difficulty is simply getting enough ships together to transport an army worth bothering with. An interesting fantastic way of replacing that could be Mages who simply build stone bridges from island to island in double time - Alexander's tactic against Tyre on a massive scale.

    Back to sieges...

    Frankly, siege warfare tends to be very repetitive. Its possible that if you want lots of different sieges, you're better off looking at the personalities of those involved, rather than the technical details. A foolhardy commander might be tempted into a rash sally that weakens his forces so much it makes taking the walls easy; a cowardly one might be scared into surrender. A hero might stage an incredible resistance that takes weeks of bitter house to house fighting to finally defeat. A demented hero then might do a Cersei and set the whole city alight when its clear he hasn't won. Maybe he's been told to surrender or they'd kill the hostages they have - including his children - and he's all "Can have more children mate".

    The other way you have of mixing it up is magic, depending a little on how different magic is in different cities. What do you do if you're besieging a city where the magicians levitate gigantic boulders over your siege engines and just let them fall? What if they have a Celtic cauldron of plenty in there and starvation is absolutely not going to work? Heck, what if they finally storm the walls and realise the walls were held be illusions and there's no sign of the city's population at all? *scribbles down idea for own use*

    I guess the third is gimmicks. Have an Archimedes-esque mirror superweapon. Have a city fall because an arsenal blew up and took half the wall with it.
  9. oaktree33

    oaktree33 New Member

    Thank you everyone! Much appreciated, it was very helpful. Heliotrope, I love that dead bodies idea. I'll also have to check out those lists of the best sieges.
  10. Jerseydevil

    Jerseydevil Minstrel

    I just want to add something here. Sieges were boring. Seriously. They could last weeks or months and the attackers had very little to do. The assault itself would be full of terror and drama, but the siege proper ie., blockading and waiting for the defenders to starve, was long, monotonous, and repetitive. There are many accounts of the attacking army being worse off than the defenders, since they would have to plunder the countryside for food, the very countryside that the defenders had stripped bare or burned before the enemy arrived.

    As far as the actual assault goes, it depends on the type of fortification and the tech/magic available. Since these are islands, tunneling might not be feasible, since the water table might be too low and any tunnel under the walls would flood, drowning the attackers. There could be an assault, charging up the ramparts with ladders and the like, but generally, in such a situation, the defender would have the advantage, and take a toll on the attackers. They might win, but they will be so battered and demoralized that they might not be able to continue a protracted campaign.

    Blasting a hole in the wall might work, but this leads to a choke point, and all of the defender's firepower will be concentrated at that spot, so keep that in mind. The first wave of attackers would be called the "forlorn hope," since they will almost certainly be wiped out.

    The best way is bribery. "Gold or lead, it's your choice."

    Just a few thoughts.
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    The siege of Rhodes is another example.

    But that piece of historical information was just a pretense for pedantry. I can't help myself here. The word 'siege' is a noun. So there's no such word as sieging or any other verb variant. The verb is 'besiege'. You can ask about different ways of besieging something (the direct object is pretty much required), but you cannot ask about different ways of sieging.

    OK. I feel better now.

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