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cpteveros

The Commander Advanced Specialty

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Hello fellow players and game masters,

 

Most of my players have advanced specialized (henceforth referred to as 'AS') in my current campaign. One of them, the Sergeant, wanted to AS into the Commander specialty. Looking it over, I found a few things I objected to and told him that he could AS into Commander if he received a promotion, which would require some good role playing and actions worthy of receiving a promotion.

 

Why? Here were my reasons:

  • The book describes the Commander specialty as representing both officers who are leaders by virtue of rank, and those who lead by virtue of action. I think that this a good distinction to make, as even a lowly NCO can be a charismatic role model. What I don't like, then, is that equipment for either situation is the same. A Lieutenant could receive a power sword and bolt pistol, sure. But say your medic took this AS, and receives this specialist gear for no other reason than he/she liked the idea of the role..
  • OW provides no prerequisites for Advanced Specialties outside of the 2500 XP required to choose one. Becoming a Sentry is just as easy as Brawler or Commander. Why can someone who has displayed little in the way of inspiring command or tactical brilliance be given access to the aptitudes, talents, skills, and gear of a Specialty that is all about that? Wouldn't it make sense to have some sort of requirement to becoming a Tank Ace, especially if the character has had 0 experience operating a vehicle in the first place? 
  • Comrades. The Commander gets the ability to an extra comrade for 400 XP, for a maximum of 4 times. Why would an officer have more people in his squad than in others? Why would a charismatic grunt? 

At the end of the day, it isn't a totally overpowered Advanced Specialty, but one that doesn't line up mechanics and lore-wise. He accepted my decision, but still wants to AS into the specialty. On one hand, I feel bad for not allowing him, but on the other it just doesn't make sense to me.

 

What have you done in your games? How have you ruled it as GM, or how has your GM ruled it? 

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Hrm, I disagree with the comrades thing. It's obviously trying to simulate an HQ squad. The problem here is that in OW, comrades don't really do anything RAW. He's spending 400 XP on thin air. The rest is entirely situational.

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When I first looked at it, I read the Sweeping Orders part wrong. I thought that each of the 5 comrades he could have were eligible to participate in a Ranged Volley Order and thus, Get Them! If that were the case, he would get +20 to hit and +20 damage for every shot, which is one of the big reasons I didn't allow him. Reading it over, I saw that such a situation was deliberately prevented and thus the Commander is kind of a weak party buff class.

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Tackling these one by one ...

 

The book describes the Commander specialty as representing both officers who are leaders by virtue of rank, and those who lead by virtue of action. I think that this a good distinction to make, as even a lowly NCO can be a charismatic role model. What I don't like, then, is that equipment for either situation is the same. A Lieutenant could receive a power sword and bolt pistol, sure. But say your medic took this AS, and receives this specialist gear for no other reason than he/she liked the idea of the role..

 

Well, houserule it. In my opinion, a lot of things in FFG's RPGs don't add up, but as this is a Pen & Paper game you do have the option of moulding it to suit your preferences or the situation at hand. The rules cannot foresee every eventuality, and the more specific a game's rules are, the more likely it becomes that you have to adapt them -- at least in a game that is driven by player agency and creativity, and by fleshing out a story.

 

In short, don't change the gear and just give the player access to the new Skills and Talents. Alternatively, the player could "find" his new gear in the form of battlefield trophies. He would not be able to easily requisition ammunition or maintenance for them, but that's what you've got the regiment's barter trade for, right?

 

As a final option, you could just promote him. How feasible this is depends a lot on the regiment they're playing, though.

 

OW provides no prerequisites for Advanced Specialties outside of the 2500 XP required to choose one. Becoming a Sentry is just as easy as Brawler or Commander. Why can someone who has displayed little in the way of inspiring command or tactical brilliance be given access to the aptitudes, talents, skills, and gear of a Specialty that is all about that? Wouldn't it make sense to have some sort of requirement to becoming a Tank Ace, especially if the character has had 0 experience operating a vehicle in the first place?

 

Once again, GM fiat. Perhaps the designers simply assumed that the players apply common sense and that the GM would veto anything too silly -- or that the group just would not care because people only want to have fun.

 

Comrades. The Commander gets the ability to an extra comrade for 400 XP, for a maximum of 4 times. Why would an officer have more people in his squad than in others?

 

Apart from what DBG said, an officer has more influence and authority over assignments, so it kind of makes sense that they have the option to attach more troops to their squad, either as specialists or simply bodyguards/cannonfodder.

 

Why would a charismatic grunt? 

 

For the same reason any Guardsman gets 1 Comrade free of charge. Comrades stick around with the player characters because they've bonded somehow, and a charismatic Guardsman could simply have "more fans" that stick with him/her, trusting that the veteran knows how to keep them alive.

 

6539_5_screenshot.png

 

Mind you, in all the OW games I've played, the squad was always larger than just the PCs and their Comrades, inflated to at least 10 men. It's just that the other troopers were "extras" and background material not actually represented in any of the game mechanics, at best only mentioned when a gruesome death is required to support a dramatic description of the ongoing fight. 

 

In this context, you could say that a charismatic Guardsman who creates a better "link of trust" and gains more Comrades within their unit just represents better teamwork as a direct result of an increased esprit-du-corps, as more people flock to their advice instead of dicking around in the background without achieving anything that is actually portrayed by the game's rules.

Edited by Lynata

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We have five players with a comrade each in our game, so we already have a full squad. As an officer, I can see a few extra troops being allocated, but it doesn't make that much sense for an operator to have five guys following him around just because he is a charismatic guy. 

 

The issue is that the Commander specialty is one of the few that you would have to houserule prerequisites for, or role play a reason to get them. Speaking to him last night, I cleared up the mix up about sweeping orders and multiple comrades. This makes Commander less attractive for his play style, so he is choosing something else next time we get to that milestone. 

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We have five players with a comrade each in our game, so we already have a full squad.

 

Oh! I see ..

 

... hmm, how about if the squad just "happens" to stumble across a few stragglers or is being combined with a half-strength squad? As far as I recall, IG squads can go from 10-20 ... it'd primarily depend on the regiment, but some commanders might rather have a 15-man group than one at 10 and another at only 5, especially if the latter don't have an experienced leader.

 

Your player, being their new Sergeant, would naturally be the "beacon" for those NPCs to rally around.

 

This makes Commander less attractive for his play style, so he is choosing something else next time we get to that milestone. 

 

... ahhh. Never mind then! I should read the entire post before replying. :P

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As soon as I told him the +20 damage per shot wasn't a thing, he was done with it  :P

 

He is more of a damage output kind of guy, not so much the buffing. He is now going to look into another Specialty. 

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Sounds more like a minmaxer. :P

 

But yeah, it makes sense that leadership characters are more about buffing. Damage output should be first and foremost a thing for the Heavy Weapon crews, maybe Snipers. There are also several advanced specialities that would seem to be suitable for him, though, all depending on whether he wants to go for melee (Brawler), explosives (Breacher) or shooting (Sharpshooter) in his playstyle. Maybe also the Sentry if he's a heavy weapons guy, but this speciality sounds more like a hybrid between damage and support (rather appropriately), so I dunno if this one is as interesting for him as the others.

Edited by Lynata

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He is going Scout for the cheap Agility and the Chameoline Cloak, all in the name of survival. It seems like an odd thing to go to from Sergeant, but he is more worried about staying alive than anything.

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It should be noted that promotions and rank are different from one regiment to another. Page 30 of the (honestly lacking) GMs kit shows how the squads requisition rating is implied to their rank.

the biggest problem that rank has in an only war game is the fact that a PC squad is generally a specialist team or a command squad already (psykers, BONEheads and enginseers are rarely attached to a group of grunts) so the ranks of anyone other then basic troopers and sergeants/commanders are odd; do you have specialist first class, Chief mechanic, warrant officer, color sergeant etc. you could detail all these but the important thing to remember is how players generally shouldn't have any in game (or out of game) power over other players. despite this being a game about structure and orders PCs should be able to do what they want and not have another PC dictate their every action (or kill them - god i dislike commissars as a PC class).

 

Back to the main point. a Commander is not necessarily a LT or CO; a operator switching to Commander could be in command of a team of operators (engineers or crew) allowing him/her to control his chosen vehicle without the other PCs; a Medic taking Master of Ordnance is not necessarily an artillery specialist, instead their intelligence has been recognized by the attached artillery battery as worthy to calculate in field ballistics or they have chosen to stay in the reserve providing medical care when people are wounded and short artillery when on the attack.

 

a ten man squad may be Cadian standard (ie tabletop) but may be 50+ for some regiments, so don't get to bogged down in having multiple comrades (which can be quite useful with the right orders and other non mechanical effects)

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The campaign and regiment have been somewhat Codex standard, in that I didn't allow support specialists (I share your dislike for Commissars) and there are only 10 men per squad. While lore wise there could be justifications, mechanics wise handing them a power sword because they think that would be cool doesn't cut it for me. That's why I put some prerequisites on the Advanced Specialty, and not as much on others. 

 

Extra comrades aren't as useful as you would think, especially for someone who has oriented himself as a tank/damage dealer. 

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the biggest problem that rank has in an only war game is the fact that a PC squad is generally a specialist team or a command squad already (psykers, BONEheads and enginseers are rarely attached to a group of grunts)

 

This may sound somewhat "pessimistic", but I don't think Only War cares much for this aspect of codex background, and instead attempts a deliberately murky description, leaving it to the GM and the players to somehow justify the end result of their planning ... if they even feel a need to justify it, that is. This would also explain stuff like Storm Troopers being available as individual reinforcements, or the game's artwork suggesting the existence of female Vostroyan Firstborn. It comes down to the book providing a framework built on maximum freedom of movement -- how much the group limits themselves depends on the players and the GM and how much they want to stick to whatever interpretation of the setting they fancy.

 

In a way, that's actually a positive thing too, even if this "laissez-faire" attitude of the game may seem confusing at first..

 

you could detail all these but the important thing to remember is how players generally shouldn't have any in game (or out of game) power over other players. despite this being a game about structure and orders PCs should be able to do what they want and not have another PC dictate their every action (or kill them - god i dislike commissars as a PC class).

 

I strongly have to object this notion. I don't know what people you've been gaming with that you have developed such a strong dislike of a command structure within the team, but personally, I consider this an important thematic element of the setting, whose absence would actually ruin the atmosphere for me on the basis of a military game not actually portraying a military (just like we went with the codex structure for my group's Marine campaign, as we felt a DW game without a Captain was just wrong).

 

Of course care should be taken to put only the right kind of player in command -- someone who can actually handle this kind of responsibility (not just for the other PCs lives, but also to maintain a proper portrayal, for a command role will require lots more good roleplaying, compared to a grunt player being able to get away with a bare minimum). This gets even more challenging for Commissars, as here the player would not only have to handle command decisions but also portray a much more extreme upbringing and personality. But much like with playing Space Marines and Sororitas and other archetypes that are tricky to pull off, it can be done, and it can be a boon to your game.

 

Needless to say, it's your game, so if your group truly cannot handle a hierarchy and the game just runs a lot smoother by "winging it", there's no need to adopt one. I simply had to oppose the idea of this being a general no-no.

Edited by Lynata

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I've had both positive and negative experiences with players in positions of authority and I completely agree it depends more on the player's maturity than anything else. That said, even a commissar is not lord of life and death on the front lines, and with the right regiment, it's not an issue at all to take some time for behavioural correction via beatings on the fellow as a group...

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I agree with what you have said (I was in a rush at the time and wanted to finish the comment). I am not against having team leaders or some sort of structured hierarchy; the problem comes with players who do not know how to play a person in authority, same way you have bad GMs you can have bad players and roles such as sergeants and Commissars are rife with potential abuse (yes i have had a game with such characters, luckily myself as a GM and the player have recognized and improved in this area). Yes if you know the player and they understand and the party accepts, then I'm all for having a leader character (just simply to finalize debates and give direction).

 

I would be a lot happier if games with built in leader roles/classes would have a side note helping players and GMs be aware of these issues.

 

On a side note. I would have liked Commissars to be implemented differently, while a Commissar lead party or a High command Party could fit them, I believe that having them as more of a semi-adversarial role (NPC) would have been thematically better. (hints of this are in the book e.g. with Commerce skill and the scavenger regiment trait)

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and with the right regiment, it's not an issue at all to take some time for behavioural correction via beatings on the fellow as a group...

 

If a Commissar player dicks up that badly, I'd rather have the other PCs organise a little "accident", as it occasionally happens in the Catachan regiments, or in the real world in the Vietnam war. After all, the front lines are a dangerous place, right?

 

I just can't see a Commissar getting beaten by a bunch of troopers not ending without serious consequences for the entire unit, especially with this kind of player. They will either over-react or get turned into a tame parody of a Commissar, and neither would be good for the game and the fun of the players. If it gets that bad, remove the character from play ("Whoops, sorry sir.") and have the culprit roll a normal Guardsman.

 

A Commissar player could well see this risk as further incentive to play their character in a way that he or she is a boon to the game. The best Commissar is the one the PCs have reason to fear, but who also never actually has to shoot anyone, and who can inspire the PCs to heroic action. This goes both ways, though: the other players should not provoke the Commissar with silly jokes or pranks, as in this case they are essentially forcing the Commissar's player into a corner. It really is a co-operative effort. With the right kind of players, this can lead to great and atmospheric RP. In any other cases, I agree that such classes should best be left out. :/

 

On a side note. I would have liked Commissars to be implemented differently, while a Commissar lead party or a High command Party could fit them, I believe that having them as more of a semi-adversarial role (NPC) would have been thematically better. (hints of this are in the book e.g. with Commerce skill and the scavenger regiment trait)

 

Well, I'd say both are good options -- it comes down to what fits better to your group. It'd suck if such an iconic character archetype was not playable just because some players couldn't handle them. I mean, the same can be said for Space Marines and Sororitas. Or even several Imperial Guard regiments as a whole! ;)

 

There's nothing wrong with using the Commissar as an NPC to "spice up" the squad's downtime, though! The book may not feature much or even anything in terms of rules for this, but then again, I don't think this actually needs any.

 

I would be a lot happier if games with built in leader roles/classes would have a side note helping players and GMs be aware of these issues.

 

Yeah, I think that would help. I recall the Inquisitor's Handbook briefly touching on this subject when discussing the Sororitas, but even there it was rather vague. I suppose the writers thought it was obvious enough to call attention to the risk, though, and that at this point a GM would foresee any potential issues by remembering the personalities and experience of their players and act accordingly. Any issues affiliated with these classes and the chance for problems would often be different between individual players anyways, so one could almost write an entire chapter about this topic.

 

I too would have expected at least a similar sidebar for the Commissar, though. Perhaps they thought it was too obvious, given the reputation of this class? ;)

Edited by Lynata

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With regards to specialized characters not fitting in to have in every mission:

 

Just make a distinction between your PC's primary characters (grunts) that go on "normal" missions and the actual "specialized" missions that require "specialized" characters that go alongside a number of grunts.

 

Have a list of prewritten specialized characters and ask somebody in your group to volunteer to play one of those characters (or allow them to create their own specialized character). At the end of session, grant the same amount of XP that everybody gets to their primary grunt character (like he was on another mission and got experience that way).

 

Also easier to get rid of a troublesome commissar that way, less drama.

Edited by Gridash

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and with the right regiment, it's not an issue at all to take some time for behavioural correction via beatings on the fellow as a group...

 

If a Commissar player dicks up that badly, I'd rather have the other PCs organise a little "accident", as it occasionally happens in the Catachan regiments, or in the real world in the Vietnam war. After all, the front lines are a dangerous place, right?

 

I just can't see a Commissar getting beaten by a bunch of troopers not ending without serious consequences for the entire unit, especially with this kind of player. They will either over-react or get turned into a tame parody of a Commissar, and neither would be good for the game and the fun of the players. If it gets that bad, remove the character from play ("Whoops, sorry sir.") and have the culprit roll a normal Guardsman.

 

A Commissar player could well see this risk as further incentive to play their character in a way that he or she is a boon to the game. The best Commissar is the one the PCs have reason to fear, but who also never actually has to shoot anyone, and who can inspire the PCs to heroic action. This goes both ways, though: the other players should not provoke the Commissar with silly jokes or pranks, as in this case they are essentially forcing the Commissar's player into a corner. It really is a co-operative effort. With the right kind of players, this can lead to great and atmospheric RP. In any other cases, I agree that such classes should best be left out. :

 

Well, we've already discussed the accident bits in other threads at length and it's very little new. They're easy to arrange and a quick fix, and definitely work. Sometimes, though, you have a commissar who's being a bastard not because the player is one, but because it fits the IC development, and the guy's been forced into more and more hardline positions. This is where a wake-up call is appropriate, and a combination of cathartic venting and an atmosphere that suggests the beating is entirely the commissar's own fault has been a good way to do it in the past. Think along the lines of the sentries taking a walk for ten minutes and a group of masked men grabbing the commissar out of his bed and hauling him in front of an, equally masked, tribunal to stand "trial", while the beat squad waits. Sure, stuff like that can backfire, but I'm assuming a decent player here, and not a sperg. Those you deal with differently.

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Sometimes, though, you have a commissar who's being a bastard not because the player is one, but because it fits the IC development, and the guy's been forced into more and more hardline positions. This is where a wake-up call is appropriate, and a combination of cathartic venting and an atmosphere that suggests the beating is entirely the commissar's own fault has been a good way to do it in the past. 

 

Why would you undermine the Commissar's role and the player's accurate portrayal by siding with the other players who have forced them into this position, though? That's actively punishing good RP.

 

Think along the lines of the sentries taking a walk for ten minutes and a group of masked men grabbing the commissar out of his bed and hauling him in front of an, equally masked, tribunal to stand "trial", while the beat squad waits. Sure, stuff like that can backfire, but I'm assuming a decent player here, and not a sperg. Those you deal with differently.

 

A "decent player" would act like a Commissar, though, and not let it slide. I can only foresee two possible outcomes from such an incident: either the Commissar goes full hardcore and tries to reassert their authority by collective punishment (possibly expecting the perpetrators either being ratted out by their comrades, or being bold enough to step forward and take responsibility to spare the rest of the platoon), or - less likely when playing by background, but more likely if player focus is on keeping the peace - the Commissar caves in, which will ultimately be a sign for the level of discipline henceforth being decided by the grunts, turning the entire platoon into some weird democracy-led militia where any enforcement of regulations is subject to mob justice.

 

"In Vietnam the threat of fragging caused many officers and non-commissioned officers to go armed in rear areas and to change their sleeping arrangements as fragging often consisted of throwing a grenade into a tent where the target was sleeping. For fear of being fragged some leaders turned a blind eye to drug use and other indiscipline among the men in their charge. Fragging, the threat of fragging, and investigations of fragging sometimes disrupted or delayed tactical combat operations. Officers were sometimes forced to negotiate with their enlisted men to obtain their consent before undertaking dangerous patrols."

 

I believe the question of whether or not a character like a Commissar fits into a game must be decided by the players as a group. The player who wants to portray a Commissar must be good at doing so, and the rest of the group must be willing to let them. If the Commissar's player is a ****, don't let them play one. If the other players can't abide by the rules, don't do so either. It sucks to ban a player's preferred class because of issues that are out of their control, but ultimately it'll be better for the game. It's not going to be very fun for a good Commissar player if they have to work with a bunch of people who can't take anything seriously and constantly provoke them either way, with or without beatings. The latter would just be the nail in the coffin, so to speak, humiliating them at the table.

 

If I were a Commissar player, I'd rather have my character get shot in the back.

Edited by Lynata

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I have a Commissar in my current group. When an incompetent PC Lieutenant ballsed up and angered the local Confessor, the Commissar followed the proper Primer-approved method of punishment - removal of the limbs, death by exsanguination, and then burning of the remains.

The Operator was shot for driving the tank forward against the Lieutenant's orders. Tactically the manoeuvre was sound, but it was a breach of discipline. The Psyker managed to get High Command to intervene on his behalf by the burning of fate when sentenced to death for disobedience.

None of the players begrudge the Commissar his actions, and in fact, all of them feel it adds to the mood of the game. Granted, we're playing the Death Korps of Krieg, so you can imagine my players are generally very accepting that their fate is likely to be bloody and unpleasant.

Every time I've played with a Commissar bar once, they've added to the game. The only time they haven't, the player specifically rolled one up to bully someone else at the table. That player no longer games with us.

Granted, in the Elysian game I play, my Stormtrooper is a straight up maverick and has openly admitted to Commissars that if they get between him and completion of the mission, he will not hesitate to gun them down. Any Commissar rolled up at the table is very much aware of what they're in for joining that squad. Thus far, nothing has gotten between Antioch and the mission and lived to recount the tale.

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That's hardcore!

 

Very impressive. I'm not sure I could pull off not being soured by such developments, but then again, such things depend a lot on the mood at the table, and how thrilling the events are narrated and described. I don't doubt it adds to the atmosphere if you want to go for a Grimdark™ experience, and with this choice of regiment, I'd say it absolutely fits. :)

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I think it just depends on how mature your group is, how deep their knowledge of the background lore goes and their degree of roleplaying capabilities. 

Edited by Gridash

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