Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Of Rank and Fighting Ability - a rant

I'm thinking about the major NPCs of my City on the Ice-Choked Sea setting for D&Dish weird fantasy. Part of it includes deciding what to do with the high-level NPCs I've detailed earlier for that setting. And here I come face to face with a very common trope: many video games and face-to-face RPGs equate social (or military) rank with fighting prowess. and i don't think that this should be the case.

Assuming that fighting prowess equals social or military rank is assuming that the society or military force in question is a perfect meritocracy centered on fighting ability - where the more competent people are promoted to positions of power. While this might be true for groups such as pirates or viking raiders, where people literally fight their way up the rank ladder to the top (and have to keep themselves in good shape to stand against challengers), many more civilized organizations and societies do not work this way.

Examples of this abound. In the typical western state, the military is, ultimately, under the command of a civilian politician, who may or may not have any military experience; this is quite extreme in the USA where the President - an elected civilian - is actually the direct commander in chief of the military. But this is not only a case for democracies - not all medieval monarchs were warrior kings; many were even invalids, yet had armies at their command.

Furthermore, even inside the military hierarchy, ranking officers need not be high-level Fighters. After all, climbing the ranks and administrating armies require quite different skills than fighting in the battlefield. And this is not to mention the even less meritocratic forces where a noble (or other dignitary) could earn a military rank by the virtue of his social status... In many cases, indeed, a Sergeant might be more experienced as a soldier than the Lieutenant he answers to, especially is the Sergeant has plenty of real combat experience and the Lieutenant is fresh out of officers' college...

So the game stats of people in power will vary in my settings. Some would have powerful stats, other will be (in LotFP terms) be level 0. But in many cases, a low-level (in game terms) person in a position of power will have mighty warriors at his or her disposal - bodyguards, elite units and the like.

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