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Jon_Dahl
2013-06-06, 02:45 PM
One thing that my group has run into a couple of times is ranking for mercenary groups. The problem is that since our characters are independent and free to choose their own titles, it tends to lead into silliness. For instance, we've had a mercenary group of four, which is led by a general and another group of four, which is led by commander.

As I was watching Game of Thrones, I realized that the leaders of Second Sons were completely free (or were they?) to choose their own ranks, but they chose to be "mere" captains. At least I didn't see anyone stopping them from calling themselves generals or whatnot.

As the GM, what should I do? Should I let the player get crazy with ranks? Let's imagine if the mercenary group is subordinated to a platoon of conscripts whom are led by a lieutenant. The small mercenary group is led by a commander, who "outranks" the lieutenant. Would this effect the morale of the conscripts?

Rhynn
2013-06-06, 03:00 PM
People who set their own rank can call themselves whatever they want.

That doesn't mean other people won't laugh at them.

If you rule a single castle and town and call yourself king, you're probably going to be laughed at.

If you command a hundred men and call yourself general, you're probably going to be laughed at.

A smart person probably chooses a title that fits their power: if you rule a dozen manors and a castle, you might call yourself baron. If you command a company of soldiers (whether that's 50 or 200), you might call yourself captain. A captain commands a company; a general commands an army.

Note that modern military ranks aren't really relevant. Others existed in specific cultures, obviously, but the "best" general ones are captain of a company and general of an army. (Serjeant meant something different in Medieval times.) "Lieutenant" pretty much just means "adjutant." It wasn't a matter of military rank so much as a description of your role. I've actually never heard of military ranks for medieval knights, for instance (at least out of military orders, which had more like broad classifications).

If you're beholden to someone else, you almost certainly won't be allowed to use a title that "outranks" them: if you are enfeoffed a small domain by an Earl, you can't call yourself Duke or Earl. That's be an insult.

Doug Lampert
2013-06-06, 03:25 PM
People who set their own rank can call themselves whatever they want.

That doesn't mean other people won't laugh at them.

If you rule a single castle and town and call yourself king, you're probably going to be laughed at.

If you command a hundred men and call yourself general, you're probably going to be laughed at.

And no one hires a mercenary who they're busy laughing at. Seriously, if I'm hiring mercenaries I'm hiring people for a serious business. A group of 4 with a "General" and "Commander", why would I hire these bozos? What makes me think they have any clue what they're doing?

I'll second that actual medieval armies lacked a lot of the modern formal rank structures, but a mercenary group's commander should be called "Captain" unless his EMPLOYER chooses to call him something else.

There were "free companies" the size of armies, their commanders were captains till someone ELSE awarded them a higher rank, because self-proclaimed higher rank makes you an object of ridicule AT BEST.

Napoleon's self proclaimed title of "Emperor" was taken as a deadly challenge to their legitimacy by pretty much every monarch in Europe, because he was saying that he could declare himself to be as good as any king. A mercenary who calls himself "general" is issuing the same sort of challenge to all the ACTUAL generals and captains in that he's claiming he can declare himself equal to the generals and superior to the captains. It's BAD when being thought a buffoon by your potential employers is the BEST alternative, but that's exactly what happens when the leader of four calls himself "general" and tries to get hired as a mercenary. He's just given strong evidence that he's either a buffoon, or a dangerous megalomaniac who's a bigger threat to his own side than to the enemy.

JustSomeGuy
2013-06-06, 03:35 PM
I recall reading that in the olden days, people would call themselves what they think they'd get away with, but if they went too far their nieghbours/rivals/peers would knock them down a peg or two - often with military force.

Rhynn
2013-06-06, 03:37 PM
And no one hires a mercenary who they're busy laughing at. Seriously, if I'm hiring mercenaries I'm hiring people for a serious business. A group of 4 with a "General" and "Commander", why would I hire these bozos? What makes me think they have any clue what they're doing?

Exactly. Odds are, they'll think you're a bit crazy if you're calling yourself general of 4 men. "General of what army?" You might as well strut around dressed as Napoleon with your hand stuck in your coat...

Of course, if these people are typical mid-to-high level D&D PCs, most people aren't going to laugh in their face, but they'll still probably not hire them.


Napoleon's self proclaimed title of "Emperor" was taken as a deadly challenge to their legitimacy by pretty much every monarch in Europe

BECMI D&D actually had mechanics for this in the Companion rules. :smallbiggrin: If you carve out a domain from the wilderness, the title you claim for yourself determines how likely other nearby nobles are to take notice, and how they'll react. Call yourself king with one castle, and all nearby nobles are likely going to take note, and their king probably will, too - and then you'll be getting annexed. It's easier to get away with calling yourself baron of some recently pacified stretch of wilderness.

Edit:

I recall reading that in the olden days, people would call themselves what they think they'd get away with, but if they went too far their nieghbours/rivals/peers would knock them down a peg or two - often with military force.

Basically, yeah.

Of course, depending on where you go in history, there were often much fewer ranks. Newly conquered Norman England under Billy I the Conqueror had a king and barons, basically; baron referring, roughly, to any man who owned (not rented) land in exchange for military service (the traditional European definition of nobility; indeed, the word originally meant "man; servant; soldier").

Military rank also tended to come, largely, from noble rank. A baron is the commander of the forces from his barony, subdivided among his vassals who command those groups. They could obviously appoint someone in their stead. When the king assembled an army, he'd appoint someone to lead it. And so on.

TheThan
2013-06-06, 04:05 PM
I'd handle it in this way; I'd rank mercenary companies on a scale like this:


Class D is where a beginning mercenary company starts out, theyre no name cheep work, nobody expects them to last long.

Class C is one step above class D, these are mercenary companies that have survived their first few jobs and are beginning to make a name (and some profit) for themselves. Theyre still no name, but at least people are more willing to hire you.

Class B is one step above class C, the mercenaries have made a name for themselves and even managed to make enough to hire more troops. Most mercenaries fall into class B.

Class A is the top of the mercenary ladder. Class A mercenaries are well known, even feared by some. They make top dollar and have their pick of work. These are the men you want to hire, and maybe can sometimes afford it.

Class S is the very pinnacle of mercenary work. These people are the elite, the best of the best. They are famous (maybe notorious) and even feared. When hired, they can name their own price (which isnt going to be cheap). Even small companies can reach class S status if theyre good enough and survive long enough to make there.



Naturally, the higher your ranking, the higher the title you can call yourself without anyone challenging your authority.

Beleriphon
2013-06-06, 04:07 PM
This isn't taking into account actual armies. If you have anything even remotely based on Rome then anybody that shows with less 10000 men calling themselves general deserves what they get.

Rhynn
2013-06-06, 04:20 PM
Class D
Class C
Class B
Class A
Class S

... One-Punch Man? Or did it get those from somewhere else? :smallconfused:

TheThan
2013-06-06, 04:30 PM
... One-Punch Man? Or did it get those from somewhere else? :smallconfused:


Somewhere else.

though it's a pretty common ranking system.

Specifically I stole it from Zoids New Century Zero.
Its the ranking systems for zoid teams.

BWR
2013-06-06, 05:40 PM
And no one hires a mercenary who they're busy laughing at. Seriously, if I'm hiring mercenaries I'm hiring people for a serious business. A group of 4 with a "General" and "Commander", why would I hire these bozos? What makes me think they have any clue what they're doing?


OTOH, if the have a colonel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MVonyVSQoM)...

Beleriphon
2013-06-06, 06:42 PM
[spoiler]
Class D is where a beginning mercenary company starts out, theyre no name cheep work, nobody expects them to last long.

So most D&D aventuring groups at low level?


Class C is one step above class D, these are mercenary companies that have survived their first few jobs and are beginning to make a name (and some profit) for themselves. Theyre still no name, but at least people are more willing to hire you.

Not much better than before, but at least you can fight more than three kobolds at a time as a group.


Class B is one step above class C, the mercenaries have made a name for themselves and even managed to make enough to hire more troops. Most mercenaries fall into class B.

Middling to high level D&D groups that have actually worked to be a mercenary company. Maybe they even have a name!


Class A is the top of the mercenary ladder. Class A mercenaries are well known, even feared by some. They make top dollar and have their pick of work. These are the men you want to hire, and maybe can sometimes afford it.

We've moved into the world of named groups that last longer than their original leadership here. How long is a question but at least one or two generations of leadership should work.


Class S is the very pinnacle of mercenary work. These people are the elite, the best of the best. They are famous (maybe notorious) and even feared. When hired, they can name their own price (which isnt going to be cheap). Even small companies can reach class S status if theyre good enough and survive long enough to make there.

So the Flaming Fist from Forgotten Realms would be here right? They are the contracted police force for Baldur's Gate and much of the Sword Coast, actively recruit skilled new members and actually feared in by other groups in that part of the world. The even extend as far as another continent. I guess the leader becoming the Grand Duke of Baldur's Gate helps.

TheThan
2013-06-06, 06:52 PM
So most D&D aventuring groups at low level?



Not much better than before, but at least you can fight more than three kobolds at a time as a group.



Middling to high level D&D groups that have actually worked to be a mercenary company. Maybe they even have a name!



We've moved into the world of named groups that last longer than their original leadership here. How long is a question but at least one or two generations of leadership should work.



So the Flaming Fist from Forgotten Realms would be here right? They are the contracted police force for Baldur's Gate and much of the Sword Coast, actively recruit skilled new members and actually feared in by other groups in that part of the world. The even extend as far as another continent. I guess the leader becoming the Grand Duke of Baldur's Gate helps.


Pretty much yeah, only apply it to NPC mercenary companies as much as PC mercenary companies.

Doug Lampert
2013-06-06, 07:39 PM
OTOH, if the have a colonel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MVonyVSQoM)...

Rank awarded by someone else IIRC. You can get away with calling yourself almost anything if the world's most powerful military awarded the rank (even if that military is currently hunting you, the rank is still legitimate).

fusilier
2013-06-06, 09:17 PM
Historically, these terms took some time to develop, and also might refer more to a "role" than a rank.

As pointed out above, someone who commanded a "company" was referred to as a Captain. That company might have 50 guys, it might have over a thousand. They were all led by captains. Infantry captains were sometimes referred to as "constables", but I'm not sure when exactly that was the case. And a captain could command mixed forces.

The state employing all these soldiers, could appoint one of the captains as "Captain-General", to command all the forces.

Other "ranks", might include sergeant -- which could be almost anything. The sargento-mayor (sergeant-major) of a 16th century tercio, was responsible for forming the tercio for battle, and he was usually the captain of the second company (the captain of the first company, being the commander of the tercio).

In Italy, a Lance might consist of a "Man-at-arms" (this could be considered a "rank"), a "sergeant" (or earlier, a second "man-at-arms"), a page/squire, and maybe a mounted crossbowman.

Lances were often organized into groups of 20-25 lances, called squadrons. Squadrons were lead by a caposquadra, or alternatively a squadriere. I believe this term evolved into "corporal" -- and note how it would outrank many people called "sergeant", but not necessarily.

Because companies at that time (15th century) were irregularly sized, it was common to organize the squadrons on campaign into "columns" of 8-10 squadrons. Whoever was chosen to lead a column, was called a colonello -- the origin of colonel.

To summarize, "ranks" aren't really the same as they are today. The titles were granted based upon the "role" that the person was filling. And somebody could fill multiple roles. A man-at-arms could be a caposquadra. A captain might also be a colonello.

What, exactly, the placeholders were called (the term lieutenant, means basically "place-holder") isn't clear to me. When the captain was promoted to captain-general, somebody would probably take over the day-to-day running of his company, while the captain remained nominally in charge. That person might have been called a "lieutenant-captain", but I'm not certain. There are a few other specialized ranks, based on the role; the person selected to carry the flag/banners, might be called an ensign. Also, people could move around, and carry titles with them. A captain who lost his company, might join the retinue of another captain, and maybe still be referred to as "captain".

tomandtish
2013-06-06, 11:58 PM
Actually (depending on the game you play) the letter rankings doesn't even necessarily have to depend on the level of the persons in the mercenary group. It's about the reputation of the group.

As an example a group of twenty 20th level fighters get together to form a company. Unusually, they have all worked separately and quietly in the past, so none have well known reputations. Despite the power of the individual members, the company is Class D. As a company, they have no reputation and no one expects anything much from them.

Likewise a Level S company could have large numbers of low level members. But if the company has stellar leadership, a reputation for always getting the job done and practicing honest business dealings, then they'll be classified this way.

Mercedes Lackey's "By the Sword" and Glen Cook's "Black Company" series offer some good looks at various mercenary companies.

Rion
2013-06-07, 02:51 AM
What titles are appropriate depends on which time period your game takes place in (or takes inspiration from if fantasy).

Military ranks are not some constant, unchanging force of nature, but have changed throughout human history. AFAIK in the middle ages there were really only one rank, the marshal who was the commander of the entire military forces of his employer. Captain wasn't really a specific rank you were appointed to, but referred to a person commanding an army. In most cases this was far from a permanent title. When an army was raised command would most often be given to nobleman in it, who would be it's captain for the duration of the campaign. Another position was the Captain-General, a captain who was given command over other captains to coordinate multiple armies (whether for a campaign or a single battle).
Since Captain wasn't a title, but a term reffering to controlling an army, the (higher) noblemen given command in wartime didn't refer to themselves as captains, but their title of nobility. As such the only captains who was referred to as such and remained so in peace time, were the commanders of standing (permanent rather consisting of vassals) regiments and leaders of mercenary companies*.

*When talking about medieval mercenaries, company refer to an independent army. Like all army it is capable of fighting together eith other armies during the largest of battles, but is generally expected to act independently during a campaign.