You can swan about Calradia killing bandits for quite some time, but you’ll never make the big bucks that way. Fortunately, diplomacy is not particularly advanced at this point in medieval history, and the eight warring kingdoms are constantly getting into wars. This is very bad for the good people of the greater realm, but it’s great for you! Find a kingdom you like which seems to be doing well and sign up as a mercenary. Then, tag along with one of their armies and watch as your battles go from twenty-man scraps to thousand-soldier slugfests. If the going gets rough, and your general gets in a fight with an army three times his size, maybe go on a “scouting” mission elsewhere so you don’t get captured with the rest of them (see the section on “Cowardice”). If you manage to acquit yourself well, maybe you can become a vassal and own your own castle or town. Then you can really ramp up your personal army, and you can finally employ the greatest weapon of any general:
The art of war
F1 gets the attention of your entire army. F3 orders them to charge. Most players just press these two buttons over and over again, but Mount & Blade in general and Bannerlord in particular allow for extremely detailed tactical management. You can order your troops into a phalanx. You can split your archers, sending groups to different hills and engulfing opponents in overlapping fields of fire. You can lead your horse archers in an end-around the enemy army, drawing away their attention before ordering your heavy troops to smash them when they least expect it.
Experiment, find out what works, and you’ll soon be able to take down much larger forces. Basically, you should look at what the forces of the living did in “The Battle of Winterfell” and do the exact opposite. Seriously, siege equipment IN FRONT of the infantry? Charging light cavalry unsupported into a mass of zombies who have no formation to disrupt or morale to deplete? Archers not firing until like halfway through the battle? I could have handled that battle easily AND I probably could have saved Dolorous Edd.
If all else fails
Bannerlord still not grabbing you?
Here’s a partial list of mods I’ve seen for its predecessor, Mount & Blade: Warband:
One that let you fight through the Lord of the Rings trilogy
One that let you play through Game of Thrones from literally any faction
One that changed the entire map to the city from Gangs of New York and replaced weapons with things like cudgels and shillelaghs (seriously)
A bunch that make the game into a Napoleonic-era clash of gunpowder armies
Several that create their own original fantasy setting, letting you fight giants and dragons and the like
Mods that overhaul the setting so you’re in an entirely different area of the world, like Sengoku-era Japan or medieval Southeast Asia.
Thousands of mods that tweak gameplay, improve graphics, or just make the game as weird as possible.
The modding community for Mount & Blade is probably the most active and dedicated I’ve ever seen. Even if you can’t look past the (honestly not that bad!) graphics and the weird interface, you can be confident that, given enough time, modders will take the game and make it into something you couldn’t even imagine. That’s the real beauty of Mount & Blade — it’s the best sandbox since Minecraft.