Atha - Hand of War

  Atha is the smallest military formation used in Araea, consisting of 8 to 12 warriors. It is the most commonly fielded formation due to the geographical constraints of the tunnels and caves, either on their own or as the components of a larger force. Atha is also called the hand of war, due to its two principle formations: the Open Hand and Closed Fist      


  The Atha come in a few different variants, with more professional troops adding more roles and functions. At its core, the Atha is comprised of one leader and the warriors who follow him. This is the most common form of the Atha, used by levy troops and militias around the world when campaigning. It is small enough to navigate through the complex geography of the caverns, but still pose a threat.  
Rank & Title   The exact name of the rank given to the leader of the Atha varies between city-states. The Dhanā call them champions, while Mharaji give them the more humble name of the Palm. The quality of the Palm can vary: most are not professional troops and are sometimes just the best or most experienced in the levy troop.
  Beyond that, some forces add a second sub-commander to the force. They help with the day to day routines and should the worst come to pass, they are expected to continue leading the Atha until another leader can be assigned. Battlefield promotions to such a role is common enough that the sub-commanders frequently assume the role through the death of their superior. As the force grows in complexity, roles rather than rank are assigned. The most common of these are the Signaler.      

Tactics & Equipment

  The primary function of an Atha is to skirmish and harass the enemy. When two or more Atha face each other, they open with a barrage of missiles (should the caves allow such attacks) before closing into battle. While the exact armament of the Atha vary, they are light infantry with an emphasis on mobility over armor. Sturdy, light-weight breastplate from metal or carapace, while the poor may have to make due with hattick-weave gambeson or leather armor. Everyone wears a helmet, almost a necessity in the cramped tunnels. Short spears, swords and other stabbing weapons are the most common, with javelins, war darts or crossbows rounding out the ranged weaponry.  
Some nations do not supply their levies with weapons and armor, demanding its citizens supply their own means of waging war. In these cases, the equipment of an Atha can be a hodgepodge of old heirlooms and whatever could be scrounged up in time. For this reason, short pole-arm are popular and common weapons as they are easy to make and easy to use.
  Due to the difficulty of logistics in Araea, Atha who operate far have to be able to sustain themselves with limited resupply. Most carry a large amount of rations with them in addition to cooking and foraging tools. One or two weeks of rations are carried by each warrior and in larger engagement, control over supplies and foraging ground become an decisive part of the battles.   Atha has two primary formation they use: the Open Hand, which is a loose skirmish formation, and the Closed Fist where the warriors come together into a closed formation. The latter require more training: simply fighting clumped together is not the same as fighting in formation, as many amateurs have noticed when going fighting professional warriors.    

The Atha at War

  When not fighting under the command of larger formation such as a Khatib, the Atha only has each other to rely on. Atha are usually called and made up of people from the same general area though not always, and so share some sense of familiarity. They train, cook, eat and forage together. While not all form into tightly knitted bonds, enough come together enough to be greater than their individual warriors. This is particularly true in cases were they are levies with little or no training.  
Less organized troops, such as bandits or the Exiled, simple come together in bands with as many warriors as they can support. These often outnumber an Atha, but frequently function with much less discipline.
  The Atha are named by combining words or objectives. These include either political or group loyalties, tribal animal totems or virtues claimed by the Atha. Examples might include a word like 'Meri' (meaning 'Victory' in Dhanā) forming into Meri-Atha. When they are part of larger formations, they're either given distinct names that fit their parent formation or numbers, with the latter certainly requiring less book-keeping.
The Average Warrior   In Araea, most fighting men and women are not soldiers, but warriors. Even in the city-states, individual virtues as courage, skill at arms and ferocity are valued and larger battle break down into smaller brawls. There are some bands of warriors that train extensively to fight in formation and these elite troops are feared professionals.

War in the Underworld

  Between the dark caves and all the strange things that live in them, waging war in Araea is a difficult thing. Cramped tunnels and sparse vegetation prevent large massing of warriors in all but the most open and fertile caves. The Surface, while more spacious, has few things worth fighting over. Not easily deterred from killing each other, humans have adapted and found a number of ways to wage war.   Read more about Warfare in Araea    
by Bryan Syme


  Depending on the scale of the conflict, communication between different Atha can be difficult to maintain. There are several methods that the cave-dwelling denizens of Araea use to communicate over distances, but none are without flaws.   Signalers use horns, drums or similar instruments to make noise with certain tones translating into certain situations reported or commands issued.   In a busy battlefield, the noise can become deafening and telling friend from foe impossible. Messengers are more reliable, but slower. Tactics in Araea are correspondingly simplistic in most situations and every commander has to deal with an element of unpredictability.    
Nail-In-The-Eye   Almost every Atha has them: someone who nobody really likes. To continue with the theme of the Atha, these are informally dubbed as nails and compared to various afflictions that can trouble ones nails.


  It is popular for military forces to adopt vicious beasts and predators as their symbol, displayed on banner and inked into flesh. While the Atha are usually too small to really have one on their own with any weight, some exceptional Athas show enough ferocity or skill to earn theirs. More commonly, the Atha inherits the symbology of whatever Khatib they belong to.

Cover image: by Hideki Miyashita


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Sage Dejers
Dejers Garth
19 Dec, 2018 21:01

Atha, warriors of the tunnels. I like the information delved into here and got a disciple-like vibe from the order and construction of the Atha, are some constructed as a training experience? Potentially with far more advanced leaders helping beat them into shape?   I do like the notes that reaffirm that these don't operate thejr methods in the same way one would expect normal troops to try to replicate, the reminder that this is tunnel based and not standard is a good point!   Something I missed here, however, was the ingenuity used or required by these groups. These are -tunnels-, so are they used to building traps, laying false ambushes and sealing off exits to lure their enemies in?   It seems to me that warfare would certainly evolve in that direction should the constraints become that the surface is unlivable. Obstructing a passageway in Araea is much simpler and formations like shieldwalls are so much more effective due to the limited nature of ranged weaponry in those environments.   Thanks for sharing!

20 Dec, 2018 09:18

Stay tuned for more about that in the article about Warfare in general in Araea. :)

20 Dec, 2018 08:10

Great use of structure and very easy to read. However, I would maybe think about changing where certain paragraphs of information are located, for example the very last paragraph might benefit from being at the very top of the article.   I like the two formations you've given it, but I some thoughts about Closed Fist; what does the formation look like? How does the formation engage enemies? Is it a defensive or offensive maneuver? What are the commands given to the troops when in such a formation? When is usually the best time to form the Closed Fist when in battle?   Great article!

11 Feb, 2019 19:03

Hand is more of a Skirmish formation, spread apart in a sort of round V shape (hench the name). Fist is just those ranks pulled together: but fighting in close formation requires a lot of practice.. Especially in tight caves and narrow tunnels, where you need to be flexible who goes where.   But the other ideas I haven't really given too much exact thought. There's not really a great depth of commands you can give, though. It works either defensively or offensively, functioning more as a basic building block of troop formations (like a squad might) :)   Thanks for the comment :D

20 Dec, 2018 10:57

It is wonderful to read a formation article that isn't just a bland block of vaguely memorable ranks and positions. The pictures add a great deal to the whole piece, as well! One thing I did notice, you mention once in a while the word "Khatib". From context I believe this is the larger force that the Atha are part of, but I am not quiet certain. I think it would be useful to have a link or at least a tooltip about the subject. (I could have missed it)   I love, love, love the totem concept. It would be wonderful to have an entire article on the various totems that have been used by the Khatibs.   Additionally, why do certain nations refuse to arm their soldiers? This seems like a great way to lose whatever you are trying to keep, or gain.

Author of Ravare.
11 Feb, 2019 19:35

I'll add a link to the Khatib!   And it's not so much that they refuse as they can't afford to. Before professional armies were a thing, a lot of nations demanded its citizen's levy bring their own equipment. It's why rich people formed the elite of such armies: they could afford better gear, and horse. It's a similar dealio for some of the nations in Araea. Most city-states do not have professional, standing armies. So, they rely on levies and some have to bring their own gear.

20 Dec, 2018 15:52

I agree with orange about restructuring a few things. The information here is very detailed and well thought through, but there are a lot of places where a single sentence is doing a bit too much leg work:   " It is the most commonly fielded formation due to the geographical constraints of the tunnels and caves, either on their own or as the components of a larger force."   There's two complicated ideas trying to share the same space: that the atha are the most common militant formation and that it's due to the environment they fight in. Personally I'd break these into two sentences for easier legibility, but rearranging so that the sentence doesn't break the ideas apart could help. Example, "The atha are the most commonly fielded units due to the restricted space of the caverns and tunnels in which they operate. However, in larger spaces, many atha may join together into a greater force."   As it is the original can be read in a way that seems contradictory to itself.

11 Feb, 2019 19:37

I'll have a stab at splitting it up! Those two ideas do deserve equal attention, as they're pretty fundamental to the setting (and article)   THanks!

24 Dec, 2018 19:20

Very interesting article. It's nice to hear about a small band of select warriors that have a warrior-code they abide by. I would like to know more about some of the different 'roles' the members in the Atha play. You alluded to the role of a signaler, which may seem like common sense to deduce what this individual does, I would nonetheless like to hear about it.   It's also interesting to hear about cave warfare -- I certainly got the sense that they had to adapt to fighting in cramped spaces, narrow tunnels, being sure to wear helmets, etc. But one thing that made an eyebrow shoot up was that polearms are seen as a good weapon. You may want to expand on why that is, as wielding a halberd or poleaxe in a cramped tunnel might be considered unwise.   Overall, I think the article was great, and with all my critiques, I would emphasize proofreading and tightening up on formatting. I look forward to reading more from you, keep up the good work!

11 Feb, 2019 19:47

I should probably clarify the type of polearm I'm talking about. It's less a pike and more something like this:   Short, cheap stabbing implements for the most part when Atha's are on the offensive, with more chunky poleaxes when they're doing stuff like defending fortifications and know the space they have.   It comes down to a stick with a sharp bit of metal being real cheap, pretty much.   What signalers do are elaborated on in the Communication sidepanel :) Besides them, the leader and the sub-commander, it's pretty fluid.   And well, Araea is up to almost 150k words, so if you want to read more there's no lack of stuff :D