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World-conquering horde of desert nomads (evil god involved)

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Jabrosky, Dec 20, 2013.

  1. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I am in the process of re-plotting my first "magnum opus" novel, which would probably fit better in the "epic fantasy" category than any other. My main antagonists are the Yisraalim, a race of desert-dwellers whose culture mixes Biblical Israelite and Arab Bedouin elements. They start out a disorganized bunch of camel-herding nomads forever raiding one another, but then this prophet named Moshemud comes along to unite them under his leadership and embark on a campaign of world conquest. Moshemud's main weapon is a wooden staff enchanted by the evil god Elahu whom he believes should supplant all other gods in the world.

    While having divine backing through his staff might give Moshemud destructive power of Biblical proportions, I am not sure if it would be enough to crush the Yisraalim's opposition without a bigger army. While the Yisraalim begin as small and scattered tribes, their desert homeland is populated by four larger and more populous civilizations. These are Elysium (based off classical Greco-Roman civilization), Babelunyans (Mesopotamia), Wagudi (medieval West Africa), and Kametu (ancient Egypt/Nubia). It is the Kametians whom Moshemud attacks first, and in fact my working protagonist is the Kametian Queen Nefrusobek.

    How could a newly united horde of camel-herders from the desert pose a threat to these four empires? They may have Elahu's godly support, but I can't make him too powerful or else Nefrusobek can't beat him (unless she found another, equally powerful god on her side). I know the Mongols were able to conquer large expanses of Eurasia, but there had to be a lot more of them since they lived on a big grassy pasture rather than a desert. Or should I modify my Yisraali culture and environment so that they can field bigger armies?
     
  2. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

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    Nefarious Gods can be sufficient to bring destruction, even upon those who seem strong. What i would suggest, is that the entire power of Elahu is only worth a damn, as long as the staff is here to channel it. Thus, as long as the prophet will live, and carry this god-touched weapon, his power will be great, and his people greater yet. However, if the staff was to be broken, all this might and magic would fade in the blink of an eye.

    Its textbook antagonism : they always seem stronger than any of the legions of good, but even the most fearsome of warlords can bleed; even the greatest can fall. You just need to find the Achille's heel.
     
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  3. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    So basically what Nefrusobek has to do is steal and break Moshemud's staff. I like that idea!
     
  4. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

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    Exactly; it could be the object of an epic quest to retrieve the staff of the prophet... I really love stories where Gods interfere and meddle with mere mortals. In the end, it is a lesson to all of those who thought they were worthy of wielding the power of the mighty ones.

    I'm looking forward to how you'll twist this plot :)
     
  5. The Construct

    The Construct Minstrel

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    Perhaps the power of Moshemud's staff and the divine intervention of Elahu doesn't need to be of immense proportions that make him too powerful for the protagonists. Maybe on top of whatever powers you need/want it to have it also imbues the armies of the Yisraalim with supernatural skill and strength in combat, making even their small forces a formidable power that pose a real threat to great empires. They can achieve unnatural victory in almost any situation.
     
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  6. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    Hmm...I've decided that I want Elahu to have a fire motif, so perhaps Moshemud could use his staff to set his warriors' swords on fire or summon a shower of fireballs? That might give them advantages in combat.
     
  7. The Construct

    The Construct Minstrel

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    Or you could make it less apparent than literal flames and maybe more symbolic. Like they're possessed by fire-demons in combat, giving them brutal strength and rage (and causing them to run a high fever). As if Elahu and Moshemud lit a fire within them.
     
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  8. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

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    "His message, like a fire inside me, deep within my bones..."
     
  9. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Two major historical parallels leap out:

    Mongol Horde, which pretty much conquored Asia; and

    Prophet Mohameds 'crusade' to spread Islam.

    The second, with a few historical and fantastical twitches seems to fit your concept very closely.

    Worth noting: around 1800 BC (?) a large tribe of desert nomads did conquor Egypt, and ruled the land for something on the order of a century. Also seen fragmentary mentions of Mesopotamian city states being very concerned over nomad activity (and with justifaction, as the nomads sacked a couple of those cities).
     
  10. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Here's another side to all of this: what are the other gods doing in all this?

    It's an old question in tales like this. Do they seem to have disappeared, or start to look like myths compared to the one who's throwing his power around now-- and what really happened?

    The two usual answers (often combined) are that gods want to inspire people to do their own work, or that gods avoid getting drawn into direct confrontation because that tends to flatten their favorite sandbox.

    Another way might be that there's just one god (and minor angels and devils for variety, maybe) who gave mortals the staff for other reasons-- and now seems to at least not object to the prophet using it in his name.
     
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  11. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    My initial idea was that Elahu was some kind of extra-dimensional alien being descending upon an originally godless world, but that would make defeating him all the more challenging for my mortal characters unless he had really circumscribed powers.

    Here's an alternative back-story: the staff Moshemud comes to possess isn't actually powered by any god, but is instead some abandoned technology from an alien civilization that died out millions of years ago. How does that sound?
     
  12. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

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    Depends if you're willing to mix Sci-Fi'ish elements with fantasy. As a rule, i prefer to avoid such unnecessary and often disappointing combination (e.g. World of Warcraft's weird Titan/technology medley).

    Outlander God however could be a good alternative, although it seems to be a detail to develop in another novel.
     
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  13. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I guess I'll go with Outlander God then.
     
  14. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

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    To go back to the more dangerous part, the most valuable thing in a desert is water. What if the fire-staff can dry up the water supplies of the nomads' enemies, or provide a surfeit of water to the nomads? Not sure how this works with fire motif, obviously, but if you can somehow capitalize on scarcity you can up the ante. Also, FWIW, the Book of Joshua is basically the Israelites conquering one city after another and might give you some battle ideas.
     
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  15. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Jabrosky,

    I am a desert warfare expert in the U.S. Army. I write papers, I teach classes. I'm told I'm pretty good at it.

    I just spent over an hour preparing an answer to this question, but looking at it, it seemed insanely long and intricate so the answer is now a master class on desert warfare in my blog.

    The short answer is, a group of nomads wouldn't whip four empires.

    Desert dwellers rule deserts, but they historically have a horrific batting average once they get into conventional warfare. The reason for this is that desert warfare is idiosyncratic and mainly based on attrition and resource preservation. The learning curve, once a bunch of nomadic guerrillas face conventional forces on their own turf, is hideously steep and generally ends badly.

    Desert civilizations tend to use the desert as a weapon. The desert is the biggest problem in desert warfare. Go figure. They wouldn't, realistically, conquer four empires. They would, however, thrive on their own once they mastered desert warfare, and after handing out a few thrashings, nobody from the outside would screw with them.
     
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  16. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    *cough* have you ever heard that when people read a word, they don't really read the whole word? Just so long as it's about the right size, the first letters are right and the last letters are right, the middle words don't really matter? If you have then I might suggest changing the name of your big bad? It could end up offending people.

    What Malik said made me think, if desert nomads suck out of the desert, then what if they bring the desert with them? If you wanna keep the fire symbolism. You could have it cause heatwaves, create sandstorms, cause drought, etc and so on.
     
  17. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    That's a pretty cool idea. The problem from a plot standpoint is that historically, the main reason that desert civilizations have tried to expand their territory is to gain land that doesn't have heatwaves, sandstorms, drought, etc.

    Unless they're just being a bunch of jerks and want to screw up someone's perfectly good empire. "Hey, let's go sandstorm those guys over there!" "Yeah! We'll heat-wave 'em, too!"
     
  18. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    As a matter of fact I did want to give Moshemud a Moses/Muhammad-like vibe. The whole concept owes its inspiration to the historical spread of the Abrahamic religions, especially their conflicts with indigenous belief systems.

    That said, what Malik said about desert-dwellers not being well-suited to conquer large empires like I had planned was discouraging. From what he said, it sounds like they would work better as a defensive than offensive power, at least without their god's help. And then there's the question of why Elahu would pick a scrappy bunch of nomads as his army in the first place.

    Hmm...maybe I should pick one of the four empires to be my Big Bad faction instead?
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2013
  19. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    I wouldn't go that far. While desert-dwellers have a disadvantage against settled populations the records of nomads in regards to military exploits are staggering and the Arabs did in fact manage to conquer huge empires in real life so I won't put that as a very big problem.

    And for the same reason remember that the Middle Assyrian Empire was close to destroyed by Aramean tribes if I recall while the Libyans and Hebrews caused hell on other places. So basically if the empire in question is plagued by internal problems or in a period of weakness, for one reason or another, then determined nomads can absolutely take it on, and win.
     
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  20. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

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    What Queshire said got me thinking, and this idea of this expanding and all-devouring desert might be a good plot-antagonism. While what Malik said made a lot of sense, I believe that those desert dwellers don't need much more than the word of their God to become the harbingers of death and havoc, sinking cities under the sands, drying lakes, rivers - seas ? - for the sole purpose of watching the world burn, and rule this arid and desolated world. Fanaticism as a matter of fact, might be a fascinating aspect of antagonism.

    "Destroy for it is the will of god; burn the world for it is what he taught us to do; sink the world under the sands so on day, we could rule it whole."
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2013
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