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The logistics of a Dothraki invasion


Angel Eyes
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So in AGOT the Small Council starts raising their hackles at the idea of a Dothraki invasion of Westeros save for Ned Stark. But how was it going to work?

  • First off the Dothraki have a cultural aversion to the sea (they consider it poison water because their horses can't drink it).
  • How many were in Drogo's horde alone? The numbers seemed to range from 10,000 to 100,000 screamers, that's quite a range. Drogo's going to have to fight hard to crack that cultural nut
    • It's also the same reason it boggles the mind as to how Renly could keep his 100,000-strong army together
  • Acquiring the gold and ships, plus the crews for the ships; we see the start of this with Drogo acquiring slaves to sell but that's about it
  • The Dothraki would likely have some amount of infighting which would wear down their numbers at any point plus attrition
  • Being culturally averse to the sea, they're not going to be really adept at naval warfare... which the Westerosi are.
  • The Westerosi are likely not going to to do much to help Viserys and the Dothraki and hadn't for 15 years. Case in point Doran Martell: Viserys is his son-in-law-to be and has a kingdom at his back and contacts in Essos through his brother, yet he does jack shit to improve Viserys' situation or even just to train him up to be a suitable son-in-law for Arianne... was Doran setting her up to be abused?
  • There's a lot of fortifications standing between them and King's Landing; divided ones but the Westerosi could just shoot them silly with arrow fire as they pass or attack since the Dothraki aren't really interested in siege warfare
  • And they had no dragons at this point.
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I had an "aha!" moment some months ago, when I realized (not that it wasn't clear already to Careful Readers) that by the time we met Daenerys and her brother in Game, illyrio had already been involved for many years in the Young Griff conspiracy. I don't think he ever expected the  Dothraki to invade Westeros. That was just a story he told Viserys.

His real purpose in marrying Daenerys to Drogo was simply to get her and Viserys out of the way of his original plot. He was hoping that they would die on the Dothraki sea, or at least be kept away from the lands where his own scheme was unfolding.

The Dothraki could never put Viserys on the iron Throne, for reasons of military power as well as logistics. Illyrio figured that neither Drogo nor Viserys would realize that; and he was right.

Edited by Aebram
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If the Dothraki somehow get over their aversion to water and get ships, the Royal Fleet could just attack them then and there. Dothraki are not sailors. Even if they get others to crew the ships for them, it's not like they would be good at fighting on the ships. If the Dothraki do somehow manage to get to the stage where they can consider landing, where are they going to do it? Dorne is a desert so no go for their horses, the Stormlands are heavily forested (not to mention storms could scatter ships) so not ideal for them, the Vale is mountainous and the North is cold (bad for fodder) as well as being forested and hilly in many regions. Geographically, the best place for them to land would appear to be the Crownlands, which is flat, but assuming Drogo does indeed have upwards of 20,000 riders and horses, I wonder how long he can feed them. Dothraki also have no siege engines, no strategy and no ability to build anything themselves, factor in probable lack of native Westerosi support and I don't think the 'invasion' is really going anywhere beyond raiding a few villages and then starvation.

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Lets see

We are told his khalassar is 100k strong other times 40k 'screamers'

Soo thats a min of 40k men+ their possesions + weapons and food, if based on nomads each man will have 3-4 mounts so about 160k horses!! 

Now because the dothraki were stupidly designed to eat horses too thst means the amount of horses they take would probably need an extra  10-20k or so .......so lets assume they drop the horsemeat diet just for westeros , as it does say theyl eat beef+ pork etc

So 160k horses  !  iv read theres some big mediteranian flatbottom transports that carried  1000 plus horses but westeros is more like europe so rougher weather/seas  means the different designed ships could apparently carry 20-30 beasts.

So even a fleet of say 500 has to make around 10 trips to even get the horses all over!!! 

Edited by astarkchoice
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2 hours ago, astarkchoice said:

Lets see

We are told his khalassar is 100k strong other times 40k 'screamers'

Soo thats a min of 40k men+ their possesions + weapons and food, if based on nomads each man will have 3-4 mounts so about 160k horses!! 

Now because the dothraki were stupidly designed to eat horses too thst means the amount of horses they take would probably need an extra  10-20k or so .......so lets assume they drop the horsemeat diet just for westeros , as it does say theyl eat beef+ pork etc

So 160k horses  !  iv read theres some big mediteranian flatbottom transports that carried  1000 plus horses but westeros is more like europe so rougher weather/seas  means the different designed ships could apparently carry 20-30 beasts.

So even a fleet of say 500 has to make around 10 trips to even get the horses all over!!! 

Narrow Sea seems to be kinda Mediterranean-lite... I mean, they use galleys for fighting there!

Largest Mediterranean horse transport could carry up to 100 horses, but more typical number was indeed 20 - 30 horses. Up to 40 in some cases. So for 160 000 horses, you need at least 1 600 horse transports, and with more typical sizes that number goes up to 4 000 - 8 000. And that is just horse transports!

So yes, fleet of 400 - 800 and ten trips per each transport.

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4 hours ago, SeanF said:

Dothraki, plus Golden Company, plus disaffected lords, is a different issue.

Yeah im thinking part of the reason varys + ilyrio use the whole viserys + dany dothraki plan is as a feeler to many lords. The dothraki element is soo exotic lords everywhere will talk of it and varys littlebirds and  regualr spies out side KL  can try and find whos pro targ!!

That said i dont think they ever expected the dothraki to cross over the sea,we know they wouldnt follow a man like viserys nor would drogo give up part of his hard won khalassar to such an idiot esp when hes plans of his own.

The dothraki part of the plan seems.to been made or a few reasons

To distract eyes from.young griff, to give the beggar king some serious muscle thus hear what lords had to say about targ rule and give the golden company some reasurance they wouldnt be fighting alone!!!

 

 

 

 

Edited by astarkchoice
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Robert was afraid of the Dothraki.  Robert was an incompetent ruler but he knew weaponry and battle.  If he feared the Dothraki then it is proof that if they had crossed the Narrow Sea, the Baratheon reign would end very quickly.  He knew many of the nobles would support King Viserys III if for no other reason because he was  the true Targaryen king and the Iron throne belonged to him. 

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4 hours ago, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

Robert was afraid of the Dothraki.

No he wasn't. He was afraid of Targaryen loyalist houses joining the Dothraki, not the Dothraki alone. Dothraki alone are a joke and all Robert has to do to beat them is get Stannis to sink their fleet with the Royal Navy or sit in his castle while they starve.

4 hours ago, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

If he feared the Dothraki then it is proof that if they had crossed the Narrow Sea, the Baratheon reign would end very quickly. 

Actually such an invasion would probably strengthen the Baratheons as everyone teams up to fight the savage heathen raiders and Viserys the Mad.

4 hours ago, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

He knew many of the nobles would support King Viserys III

He feared that, didn't know that, Daenerys whom you love so much also expresses doubts about this when Illyrio claims it.

4 hours ago, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

for no other reason because he was  the true Targaryen king and the Iron throne belonged to him. 

Doubt it given Viserys had been abandoned for over a decade and unlike some here nobles in Westeros aren't Targaryen fanatics.

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20 minutes ago, Craving Peaches said:

No he wasn't. He was afraid of Targaryen loyalist houses joining the Dothraki, not the Dothraki alone. Dothraki alone are a joke and all Robert has to do to beat them is get Stannis to sink their fleet with the Royal Navy or sit in his castle while they starve.

Actually such an invasion would probably strengthen the Baratheons as everyone teams up to fight the savage heathen raiders and Viserys the Mad.

He feared that, didn't know that, Daenerys whom you love so much also expresses doubts about this when Illyrio claims it.

Doubt it given Viserys had been abandoned for over a decade and unlike some here nobles in Westeros aren't Targaryen fanatics.

Dany has doubts about the common people drinking toasts in their honour.

The lords are different.  Some have blood ties to the Targaryens and/or lost relatives in the war.  Most would act on the basis of self-interest.  People like Roose Bolton, Lady Dustin, Walder Frey, Mace Tyrell,  Balon Greyjoy, Littlefinger etc. would be calculating what they could gain by supporting the invasion, and what they risked losing.  Doran Martell would definitely have backed the invasion, if it seemed viable.

That’s what Robert rightly fears.  England has been invaded often enough by claimants with tiny armies, who saw support snowballing. 10,000 Golden Company, and 10,000 Dothraki, could set the country ablaze.

Say, they capture Tarth and Storms End, as Aegon later did.  That’s a big blow to Baratheon prestige.  At that point, even some of Renly’s vassals will be thinking hard about switching sides.

Edited by SeanF
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8 hours ago, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

Robert was afraid of the Dothraki.  Robert was an incompetent ruler but he knew weaponry and battle.  If he feared the Dothraki then it is proof that if they had crossed the Narrow Sea, the Baratheon reign would end very quickly.  He knew many of the nobles would support King Viserys III if for no other reason because he was  the true Targaryen king and the Iron throne belonged to him. 

The Dothraki would have to get over their cultural aversion to the sea. Culture's a tough nut to crack, as Daenerys has found out the hard way.

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A big factor in any dothraki invasion would be their weapons,they seem to be largely horse archers with arkh as back up weapon...meaning again theyd need to bring with them a frigton of arrows or make them in the westerosi winter! 

The arkh is a bit of a ?

described as long and half a sword and half a sythe.  We hear they are wickedly sharp, fast and while they cannot slash through plate  armour as jorah learns they can penetrate chainmail!!!!

They take jamies hand off in one clean slice but are also heavy duty enough to take the mereenese nobles head too.

The one in the wiki looks like a tulwar or a bizzarely  elongated  falchion  (a falchion from what iv read and seen on youtube  would meet the criteria of being able to cut mail or slice through a mans neck).

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The scene with Robert and Cersei…another example that the show writers could write good…even great (Tywin/deer) dialogue when it was surrounded by GRRM’s structure/garden…was effective but slightly misleading. Castles are a great defence against an invading horde like the Dothraki…but not indefinitely, not independently, not in and of themselves. What they mostly do is buy defenders time and force concentration of the enemy.
 

But that’s only truly effective as part of a bigger strategy…if there is not a Westerosi army gathering somewhere to come break the siege, well, first off people won’t starve without some point or hope, so you’ll likely see capitulation/treachery, etc. and secondly while you are behind your walls the Dothraki are destroying any value or credibility your rule has. Feudalism is mostly protection from your overlords, but it at least purports to keeping your oppressors to a limited supply and the Dothraki consuming/destroying/enslaving everything not locked down will be catastrophic to Westeros, and therefore the Westerosi power structure. 
 

All that to say I doubt that just sitting it out is the plan…that’s taking a specific usage (ie, ~ Alfred’s burgh principal of being a defensible source of resistance to blunt fast moving raiding/invading forces, giving you time to raise your own forces to react effectively) and making it general. It made for a good speech/scene, and does actually highlight a real and effective martial concept, but only as part of a broader strategy. If the plan is just bunker down, time will probably start working against you before it starts working against the mobile force with almost complex access to all your resources. Particularly if they are already accustomed to living a nomadic existence with the necessary understanding of resource exhaustion those societies are built to overcome. 

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31 minutes ago, James Arryn said:

The scene with Robert and Cersei…another example that the show writers could write good…even great (Tywin/deer) dialogue when it was surrounded by GRRM’s structure/garden…was effective but slightly misleading. Castles are a great defence against an invading horde like the Dothraki…but not indefinitely, not independently, not in and of themselves. What they mostly do is buy defenders time and force concentration of the enemy.
 

But that’s only truly effective as part of a bigger strategy…if there is not a Westerosi army gathering somewhere to come break the siege, well, first off people won’t starve without some point or hope, so you’ll likely see capitulation/treachery, etc. and secondly while you are behind your walls the Dothraki are destroying any value or credibility your rule has. Feudalism is mostly protection from your overlords, but it at least purports to keeping your oppressors to a limited supply and the Dothraki consuming/destroying/enslaving everything not locked down will be catastrophic to Westeros, and therefore the Westerosi power structure. 
 

All that to say I doubt that just sitting it out is the plan…that’s taking a specific usage (ie, ~ Alfred’s burgh principal of being a defensible source of resistance to blunt fast moving raiding/invading forces, giving you time to raise your own forces to react effectively) and making it general. It made for a good speech/scene, and does actually highlight a real and effective martial concept, but only as part of a broader strategy. If the plan is just bunker down, time will probably start working against you before it starts working against the mobile force with almost complex access to all your resources. Particularly if they are already accustomed to living a nomadic existence with the necessary understanding of resource exhaustion those societies are built to overcome. 

Good points

The issue is though while westeros is supposedly the size of south america so has vast vast amounts of plain grass fields, crops ,livestock, fish  wild game and probably  food stores ... grmm however hasnt cleared up how essos or westeros endure these multi year long  winters! Or how much will the south feel the incomming winter!

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1 hour ago, Angel Eyes said:

So, to get back to the topic, how did they intend to cross?

Its an interesting point that esp as if they rely on a few merchant fleets (and sellsails as protection)  can the free cities hosting them be said to be truely nuetral?

The golden company is delivered by a volentene fleet from volon therys. If volantis can field 200 or so warships we can assume the volume of  non military ships passing through must be vast. Id say itd be  between them and quarth for   largest harbour in  all of planetos

 

Personly i dont think they were ever comming and the army drogo promised would have beem sellswords, slave s or some sorta mix

 

Side note  should probably start.new thread on the simple question...why did no one suggest just killing drogo instead? Makes ned happy and makes robert happy!!

Edited by astarkchoice
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12 minutes ago, astarkchoice said:

 

Side note  should probably start.new thread on the simple question...why did no one suggest just killing drogo instead? Makes ned happy and makes robert happy!!

Because Daenerys - and her unborn baby - are the dynastic threat.

They probably don't understand Dothraki society well enough to understand the implications. From their perspective, Rhaego will be the legitimate khal of Drogo's khalasar and the claimant to Westeros. The acting khal could marry Daenerys, putting them in basically the same position as before, and they've aggravated the khalasar to such an extent that they've all but guaranteed they will attack. Or Dany could find a new husband and broker an alliance between him and Rhaego, making Rhaego even more dangerous.

What should actually happen of course is that Drogo's khalasar breaks up, Rhaego is killed, and Dany is carted off to Vaes Dothrak never to be seen again (without the dragons that allow her to retain her own followers in number), so it would in theory solve their problems completely. 

It's not surprising that Ned, Bob, etc. don't know how it works. Dany clearly doesn't prior to Drogo's death and she lives among the Dothraki. 

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41 minutes ago, Alester Florent said:

Because Daenerys - and her unborn baby - are the dynastic threat.

They probably don't understand Dothraki society well enough to understand the implications. From their perspective, Rhaego will be the legitimate khal of Drogo's khalasar and the claimant to Westeros. The acting khal could marry Daenerys, putting them in basically the same position as before, and they've aggravated the khalasar to such an extent that they've all but guaranteed they will attack. Or Dany could find a new husband and broker an alliance between him and Rhaego, making Rhaego even more dangerous.

What should actually happen of course is that Drogo's khalasar breaks up, Rhaego is killed, and Dany is carted off to Vaes Dothrak never to be seen again (without the dragons that allow her to retain her own followers in number), so it would in theory solve their problems completely. 

It's not surprising that Ned, Bob, etc. don't know how it works. Dany clearly doesn't prior to Drogo's death and she lives among the Dothraki. 

Wouldn't they have at least some knowledge of how the Dothraki operate via Jorah?

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20 minutes ago, Angel Eyes said:

Wouldn't they have at least some knowledge of how the Dothraki operate via Jorah?

Jorah's reports are probably going to be along the lines of where they are, what they're doing, what they're planning, how many men they have, rather than detailed exposés of Dothraki culture giving those at the other end the necessary understanding to figure out that Drogo is just as effective a target as Dany for their goals. 

And I doubt Robert or even Ned actually reads Jorah's reports: they'll be delivered to Varys who'll precis them for the council as appropriate. 

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1 hour ago, Alester Florent said:

Jorah's reports are probably going to be along the lines of where they are, what they're doing, what they're planning, how many men they have, rather than detailed exposés of Dothraki culture giving those at the other end the necessary understanding to figure out that Drogo is just as effective a target as Dany for their goals. 

And I doubt Robert or even Ned actually reads Jorah's reports: they'll be delivered to Varys who'll precis them for the council as appropriate. 

And from Varys he could direct an assassination.

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