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Ranking System and Commisaars


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#1 Hordeoverseer

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 06:28 AM

I wonder if anyone has established a ranking system in the game, whether based on real life ranks or customized for the setting or regiment. I want to know, where do the commisaars stand in all of this, are they literally above everyone else or are they intergrated into the officer system. I always thought that they were at least the equavalent of a lieutenant, taking orders from Captains and Majors (non-commisaars) but apparently this doesn't fit the lore, giving me all sorts of headaches on who can command a commisaar and stopping him from being a loose cannon. Help?



#2 Gokerz

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 06:53 AM

Hordeoverseer said:

I wonder if anyone has established a ranking system in the game, whether based on real life ranks or customized for the setting or regiment. I want to know, where do the commisaars stand in all of this, are they literally above everyone else or are they intergrated into the officer system.

They are literally apart from everyone else.

Not part of the normal chain of command. They only get their orders from the Commissariat, which is a seperate organisation to the Imperial Guard and belongs to the Departmento Munitorum. Their job is only to motivate troops, mete out punishments and find dissidents and heretics within the ranks of the Imperial Guard. In practice, this often gives them a lot of power to influence the decisions made by officers.



#3 Hordeoverseer

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 07:05 AM

I suppose it is the intention, but does give far too much power to screw up the storyline at times. Would they mean they could potentially bolt a company officer because he wanted do things in another, commendeering the company in his place?



#4 Alekzanter

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 07:11 AM

It is extremely rare that a Commissar would hold an officers rank in the Imperial Guard. That being said…

A Commissar has to look at the biggest picture. Not the big one, not a bigger one, but the biggest. Will bolting a Company Officer have deleterious effects on the unit/company at a later date? Will doing so sow even more discord and disunity throughout the troops? Or should he leave it for later, debriefing? Certainly, a Commissar can gak a Major and commandeer the unit/company…but the Commissar has superiors to answer to, as well. Was it the best decision to make, or rash and impulsive? This is what debriefing is for; getting the detailed intel and wrap-up, and dishing out punitive consequences.



#5 AtoMaki

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 07:11 AM

Hordeoverseer said:

I suppose it is the intention, but does give far too much power to screw up the storyline at times. Would they mean they could potentially bolt a company officer because he wanted do things in another, commendeering the company in his place?

There are senior commissars who can stop the PC commissar to go overboard. IIRC there is one such senior com for each company, and there is one even-more-senior commissar for each regiment. So while the PC commissar can execute the poor company officer (or even the regimental commander!) but he has to explain it to the company/regimental commissar later. 



#6 Gokerz

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 10:40 AM

Basically, if someone wants to play a commissar, both the other players and the DM need to be really sure he can be trusted with the kind of power the position of Commissar provides. The guy playing the Commissar in our group does so because I specifically asked him to play either the Commissar or Sergeant. Because I knew I could trust him in these roles.

If there is no player in your group that fulfills this criterium it might be better not to give Commissar as an option to begin with.



#7 Hordeoverseer

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 02:47 PM

Gokerz said:

Basically, if someone wants to play a commissar, both the other players and the DM need to be really sure he can be trusted with the kind of power the position of Commissar provides. The guy playing the Commissar in our group does so because I specifically asked him to play either the Commissar or Sergeant. Because I knew I could trust him in these roles.

If there is no player in your group that fulfills this criterium it might be better not to give Commissar as an option to begin with.

This would probably be best. At the moment, it's rather lousy for me when the Commissar player in our group asks 'Can't I just shoot this guy?' for every single encounter, including friendlies.

 



#8 ranoncles

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 03:07 AM

 

I think it is important to remember the WH40K Commissar is based on real life examples, namely the original French revolutionary wars political commissar and the later Red Army commissar or the Wehrmacht political officer.

 

They all have in common that they were to oversee the political indoctrination of the rank and file, ensure loyalty to the political party in power and prevent the troops being used against the party. And they often did not have equivalent military ranks so there was no chance of them being subordinated to military officers. WH40K uses Commissar-Candidate, Commissar, Senior Commissar and Lord-Commissar as distinctive ranks and unit positions such as platoon commissar, company commissar, regimental commissar etc.

 

In WH40K terms, the political indoctrination is mostly done by the priests. The commissar therefore need only focus on ensuring loyalty to the Imperium and prevention of heresy and corruption. This includes ensuring the officers and men fight with the necessary zeal and efficiency.

 

While history has examples of blood-thirsty commissar zealots going off on killing sprees, this was relatively rare. While fear indeed works as a motivator of sorts, more often it completely paralyses the officer corps with everyone being too afraid to give any orders.

 

For example, the Russians learnt this painful lesson against the nimble Wehrmacht in 1941/1942 and soon its commissars were more busy with focusing on building morale and political reliability than second guessing the officers.

 

WH40K fluff naturally describes commissars are gun toting zealots but in practice this doesn’t work. Kill too many men in any unit and the brutalized survivors simply frag the commissar. The Ciaphas Cain novels depict this very clearly. What these commissars really tend to do is enforce discipline amongst the rank and file (make sure the soldiers obey the unit officers and follow regulations), maintain battlefield morale (e.g. show exemplary bravery themselves and occasionally shoot a malinger or defeatist) and ensure the officers are doing their job with proper Imperial zeal (by always going forward instead of retreating or considering surrendering).

 

While technically, any commissar has the authority to enforce discipline on anyone within the Imperial Guard, there are obvious limits. A commissar attached to a company would have little knowledge of the regimental battle-plan. The movement of other platoons and companies might well seem like a retreat to such a commissar. Should he then shoot the colonel? That would be a bad idea if the regimental commissar had approved the maneuver….On an even higher level, should a regimental commissar discipline a warmaster?

 

The obvious answer is NO. Unless a commissar observes officers outside his assigned unit cavorting with daemons or running away screaming “we are all gonna die”, he only focuses on his own charges.

For role-playing, I'd recommend a commissar who focuses on insane acts of personal bravery, always 'forces' the unit commander to take the 'major gain' option without considering the 'major pain' and only shoots men if they run away or break major regulations…. 

 



#9 Kasatka

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 03:00 AM

Already covered by previous posts but basically:
Commisar holds no office or military rank within the Guard. If in a unit with a player officer (Sergeant class) then he will adopt a support role, reinforcing orders if troopers get out of line.

A squad commisar is an enforcer making sure that:

  • Squad Sergeants aren't ruining platoon Lieutenant's orders
  • Platoon Lieutenants aren't ruining company Captain/Major orders
  • Company Captain/Majors aren't ruining regiment general orders
  • Generals aren't ruining warzone Commanders orders.
  • Warzone Commanders aren't ruining Warmaster's/Lord Solar's etc orders.

Basically it'd take the death of the officer in a unit (be it to enemy fire or friendly execution because of deriliction of duty) for a commisar to take over and then they would only do so untill a new officer could be appointed. Appointment of new officers will be done in the field most of the time and then ratified when/if the unit returns to base.

As a player commissar it is not your purpose to get in the way of a player officer, but to support them. If there isn't a player officer then it is to support an NPC officer (ie the GM will just tell you orders).

I blame popular media for focussing commisars on the role of executioners - they are first and foremost inscrutable political officers


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