I think I may be inadvertently learning something. I started a new, non-cheaty character and I've only gotten captured once. In one battle, it was eight vs one and I was only level 3, but I still managed to pull out a victory.
It turns out that there's a trick to fighting from horseback that makes you practically invincible. What you have to do is stop caring that single battles will seem to drag on forever. You just have to get some distance between you and the enemy, spur your horse up to full speed, and then take as many runs as necessary to make up for the fact that you're likely to miss with your attack.
It's something that looks kind of ridiculous, this horse-bound warrior running in huge circle and only intermittently engaging with the enemy, but it really works. It means I'm spending a lot more time in battle than I'd really like, but if that's the price of victory, so be it.
Since I'm now the scourge of bandits everywhere, I should probably start thinking about moving up a tier in politics. Stop being a wandering adventurer and become an officially sanctioned mercenary. Then work in service to the king until I am awarded with a fief of my own. After that, use my growing power to gain more land until I'm strong enough to challenge the king. After that . . . the world.
Or maybe not. I'm a little wary of the transition. A lot of the nobles have power that dwarfs mine, and I'm sure that as soon as I make my move, I'll have a huge target painted on my back. It will likely be a cutthroat brawl for survival and prestige and I'm not sure I'm ready for that, emotionally.
I think, at least for a little while, I will keep my focus on bandit hunting. I'm making just enough money from selling their loot that I can just barely keep ahead of my operating expenses and still have enough left over for the occasional piece of superior equipment. Maybe when I have a full suit of plate armor and a champion warhorse I'll feel a little bit more comfortable about challenging the powers that be.