Monday, July 31, 2017

Aristocratic Regulars and Military Forces

Celsius-13 Royal Railgun Guard
Not what regulars would
actually look like, but you get
the idea
Aristocratic power have nothing but the weight of tradition and law if they don't have the military power to back it up, and boy do they!  In fact, the primary reason I created the aristocracy and the Alliance was to give those who opposed the Empire reasonably access to military hardware.  While the ships will have to wait (it turns out designing the ships of the Alliance quickly turns into "Designing all of the combat ships of the Galaxy that don't belong to the Empire"), I can show you how their forces operate.

Alliance Regulars

The Houses have fought wars for literally centuries, and that tradition lies deep in the heart of the way they prefer to fight. The Alexian Empire rose to power through the use of large capital ships and heavily armored boarding parties armed with traditional force swords and force bucklers, the origin of the space knight. Modern warfare has evolved into a doctrine that combines starfighters, carriers and lightning-fast planetary raids, and the aristocratic houses have adapted to this model, but they still retain the symbolic heritage to their knightly past.

The Houses serve as the military backbone of the Alliance, though they retain sovereignty over their military forces (in principle, they always agree to work with one another, but in practice infighting and subversion of political opponents can lead to strife in the ranks that the Empire, with its homogeneous force, lacks). They prefer to serve as a primarily space-based force. Defensively, they serve as the “cavalry,” suddenly swooping in to aid a beleaguered world with air support and orbital dominance as well as additional ground forces as necessary. On the offense, they ferry the multitudinous militia to their ultimate destination and take up a dominant orbital stance, allowing ground forces to conquer (or liberate) a world. They also see their forces as self-sufficient. In principle, no House should need any other House. This makes coordination difficult at times, but it also means that the Alliance has no central command that the Empire can destroy. Even the obliteration of the Senate simply means the Empire must face a major space navy from each independent house!

Ultimately, Houses see their military forces not as a tool of conquest, but as a supplement for diplomacy. For an aristocratic house, the most elegant victory is won without lifting a finger. When engaging in war, the aristocracy pairs it with diplomatic efforts. They focus on narrow goals (rather than “conquest of a planet” they might focus on “capitulation to trade demands” or “acknowledgment of titular claims”) and bring as many allies, both on and off world, into agreement with their stance. They tend to use their military forces to engage in “gunboat diplomacy,” bringing their forces to bear as additional diplomatic pressure. When battle comes, houses prefer surgical strikes with professional forces, and they prefer impressive victories over strategic ones: better to take a capital and awe the populace than to capture some obscure but vital industrial base. This means that even if the house loses the battle, they can continue to fight the war on a propaganda front.

Broadly, aristocratic forces break into two categories, those who are genuinely aristocratic, and the common folk who serve the aristocracy. Aristocratic fighters are always knights, in that they always have at least a title with ascribed status +1, and start at a rank no lower than Lieutenant. They might serve as officers for a regular force, but they more commonly serve as knights, bringing their own arms and armor and leading from the front. Some knights will join together into knightly orders, groups of knights patterned after the original Knights of Communion. Those who merely serve the aristocracy become Regulars, professional soldiers and bodyguards with a heavy emphasis on looking the part.

Regular Agendas

The aristocracy retains the service of regulars and practices martial traditions first and foremost to remind people of their power. An aristocracy without bodyguards, without some weapon at his side (symbolic or otherwise) is not a true aristocrat. This becomes especially true when that aristocrat has lost his wealth and political position, then all he has left is the trappings of aristocracy.

Thus, the first role of aristocratic forces is social and ceremonial in nature. The regulars must look well dressed and wield traditional weapons. Knights must practice the arts of force swordsmanship, not because they believe in them, but because that’s what nobles do. In this regard, their military forces become diplomatic in nature. Simply a display of force, even just a parade, is an act of power that reminds people that the noble has the power to kill. The aristocracy prefers this sort of display, the art of saber rattling and gunboat diplomacy to actual open warfare, because open war destroys the very things he tries to control and wastes valuable resources in the process. Better, then, to posture and negotiate than to strike a blow. And if a blow must be struck, better it be fought in controlled conditions between two nobles (even a duel!) than pointlessly waste precious manpower over a dispute.

But should such a dispute arise, the military power of a noble must serve his interests. They must defend his worlds and expand his power on other worlds. The primary tool a noble has in his arsenal isn’t his force sword or his ground forces, but his navy. The aristocracy retains a powerful, interstellar presence (arguably, the aristocracy accepts that the common folk might be self-governing provided they only govern their worlds, while the nobility is allowed to govern the space between the worlds, including commerce between worlds), and it uses this to exert power. The highly ceremonial nature of their ground forces rely on this: regular infantry rarely expects to actually fight, but rather to occupy, as the fighting will have been finished when their starfighters have ensured orbital dominance and their battleships have leveled their cannons at the enemy.

Finally, while everyone hopes it will never arise, the regular forces protect the aristocracy itself. While each noble employs spies and security forces to ferret out plots against him, some assassins inevitably slip through that net and bring weapons to bear on the noble’s person. In such cases, in principle, the noble should be able to defend himself, and many do, but many (especially courtly ladies and more modern lords who concern themselves more with governance than combat) avoid martial training (“so tedious”) and carrying heavy weapons or armor (“It ruins the lines of my dress!”). In such cases, knights and the regulars step in to defend their lord, and even if their master has extensive martial tradition, they supplement his strength with their own. Every noble in public moves with an entourage of protection around him, at least 5 guards, and the larger and more beautiful the entourage, the more powerful the noble.

  • A major dignitary comes to visit his lordship! The regulars must make sure they look their best for when they greet the dignitary. More than that, though, they need to work out how they’ll best defend the dignitary should the worst occur, while still maintaining a genteel and civil atmosphere conducive to his lordship’s disposition.
  • The Empire attacks a world under his lordship’s protection! That cannot stand! The regulars must marshal immediately, but first they must assess the threat and see about how best to go about defending the world. Perhaps they can even persuade his lordship to call in a few favors from other nearby houses.
  • His lordship desires to expand his domain onto a world, and his lordship’s servants have found a convenient pretext. The regulars must take the world, but they must do it gently: his lordship must be seen as liberator, not tyrant, and anyway, the regulars aren’t large enough or well-prepared enough for complete subjugation of a world. Once resistance has been defeated, the regulars need to be prepared to win hearts and minds, so that when they inevitably leave, his lordship will still be seen as rightly their lord and protector.


The Alliance Regulars as Opposition

Alliance Regulars enjoy extensive training and expensive gear, but the aristocracy tends to prefer style over substance, so regulars often aren’t as effective as they advertise. The result is that most Regulars tend to be BAD -2, but their security can verge into BAD -5.

They engage in fairly strict regimentation, with orders passed down the chain of command from noble to commander down all the way to footmen, and regulars will absolutely keep a secret if commanded too, but regulars tend to be quick to brag about their position, their closeness to the nobility and their exploits. A pretty spy with a little bit of alcohol can usually get most regulars to spill their guts fairly easily, perhaps not about something specifically commanded to be secret, but enough details on the periphery of a mission that they can put the pieces together.

Most regulars house in expensive barracks located near an aristocrat’s estate, which tends to be highly secure and off-limits to outsiders. Infiltrating a regular encampment is easier than infiltrating a lord’s estate, but not by much. Most servants and regulars know one another and expect new regulars to present identification, but their masks, their consistent (and well-publicized) uniform styles means that a decent forger can usually create credentials and disguise themselves well enough to slip in. Once inside, materiel, security and sensitive files tend to all be kept in centrally located points, allowing a would-be saboteur to gain access to whatever they need.

Serving in a House

Military Ranks




High Marshal


Field Marshal






Captain, Batman


Lieutenant, Knight


Man-at-Arms, Sergeant





Regulars use much more traditional ranks, dating from long before the Empire. A Man-at-Arms serves as the bodyguard and the retinue of a major officer in the battlefield. Higher ranks require a Title. A knight acts as the noble equivalent to a Man-At-Arms. A lieutenant runs a platoon, and some knights or lieutenants become ensigns, who have the right to bear the noble’s banner into battle. All typically require ascribed status +1 (a knight). A Captain commands a company; a Batman is the personal valet of a higher officer, and often has special permission to act in his stead; both tend to be at least ascribed Status +1 (Knights, though some Gentry become Batmen). Commanders and Brigadiers tend to be of high noble stock (Ascribed Status +2 or better) and may well be the Regular’s ultimate noble commander. A Field Marshal or High Marshal might be the direct commander of a force, but just as often, they’re assigned by the Alliance as the noble responsible for governing a collected force from numerous worlds and regions. These tend to be Ascribed Status +3 or better!

Favors of the Regulars.

Entry Clearance (Pulling Rank p 13): Regulars have fortresses, foundries and shipyards, all of which may require special permission to enter.

Consultation and Specialists (Pulling Rank p 15): Regulars can offer Contacts with skills like Administration, Intelligence Analysis, Leadership, Strategy and Tactics, representing military attaches or military advisors. They're usually between Skill 15 and 18.

Gear (Pulling Rank 16): Enlisted regulars always get their equipment from their lord, so that all of his soldiers look the same, but officers generally need to provide their own equipment (and it needs to match the general themes of the house).

Evacuation (Pulling Rank 17): Regulars have access to the requisite navies, and delight in pulling off rescues.

Treatment (Pulling Rank 17): All forms of the Alliance Military care about their soldiers, so provide hospital facilities for its wounded veterans.

Introduction (Pulling Rank 18): Rank 2+ members of the Regulars (especially Men-at-Arms and Knights) tend to rub shoulders with much higher ranking nobles and generals. As such, these nobles have an express interest in getting to know those who may serve them directly, and characters might arrange for a meeting, or guard duty close to a high-ranking noble.

Fire Support (Pulling Rank 19): The Alliance Regulars have access to powerful battleships with orbital bombardment capabilities and starfighters that can offer close-air support.

The Cavalry (Pulling Rank 19): When the Alliance gets serious, it sends in the hard hitters. It will send a 10-15 of standard regulars (BAD 2), between 3-5 knights (BAD 5) or 5-10 fighters for a space-based request.

Character Considerations

Requirements: Regulars have a minimum Wealth (Average) [0], Military Rank 0 [0], and Duty (12 or less or 15 or less, Extremely Hazardous) [-15 to -20]; Note that lordly characters might serve in a military on a temporary basis. In such a case, the character gains a temporary rank of the GM’s discretion, which is lost when the operation ends.

For regulars as patrons or enemies, see Houses as Organizations.

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