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Operation of Military Hi-Tech
Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 9:51 am
Who operates the hi-tech kit on the battlefields of your KW? Legions of the Empire covers Charioteer pilots and maintenance of equipment (battlefiled engineers), but rather skirts round the issue in its description of the Muster. Indeed, the tone of the Muster section implies they are a source of numbers rather than specialist skill sets. It strikes me, however, that Guilders will be needed to operate the hi-tech kit as well as maintain it. I can see it being possible to train uneducated peasants to operate a TL4 tank (think Soviets during WW2), assuming the regimental chaplain can persuade them their souls aren't damned just be getting inside one. Higher-tech MBTs with laser sights, data-netted comms, think machine fire control systems and night-vision gear, however, is just going to be beyond their tech interface capabilities. Likewise using fields guns over open sights is probably achievable, but effective indirect and counter-battery fire is a whole new level of complexity (and maths). It is the provision of these technical skills that I see as the real niche market for the Muster.
The reason I mention all this is some recent unrelated reading on the Allied interventions in the Russian Civil War. In many ways this strikes me as a very FS conflict. A dozen amatuers for every professional; plenty of barely-trained peasants/workers; 'modern' field- and machine-guns but at a low density that meant cavalry still had a valid role; and perhaps most pertinently, battles could turn on the presence of a single armoured train, armoured car, aircraft or competently handled artillery battery. In a 'Baronial'/'County' -level conflict in the KW, therefore, tech-savvy PCs (and which group isn't?) with single suitable vehicle might be a viable mercenary 'company' and legitimately be played as a real deciding factor in the conflict - as long as the Imperial/House main legions don't turn up!
Re: Operation of Military Hi-Tech
Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:01 pm
There are several options I can think of for how those outside of the guilds would handle battlefield engineering - number 2 includes the possibility you touched on of amateurs trained by semi-professionals who were trained by the real experts:
1) Contract Engineers or Muster members to perform those duties. The advantages of this are that the noble house or church forces (Brother Battle do use high tech weaponry) could obtain skilled personnel relatively quickly this way compared to other approaches. As long as the guild member sent to fill this role is as advertised (it is in the guild's interest to ensure that they are most of the time) then the faction paying for those services can be relatively certain they have someone well suited for the job. Much of the down side to this is that even a scrupulous and honorable contracted guildsman is loyal first and foremost to their guild. If the hiring faction's goals put them at odds with the guilds then they would be foolish to consider such technical experts reliable and they would present a massive security and intelligence risk. Additionally there may be a shortage of people with the expertise required and the guilds may simply say "no." Refusal is is particularly likely if the work would conflict with other previous guild contracts (you don't want your demolitions experts blowing each other up on opposite sides of the same conflict.)
2) Pay to have a faction member trained at the Academy Interata. There are benefices for taking skills not normally availible to your character. The tutelage contract/license could be purchased for a suitable member of the noble house or church faction and they could be enrolled at the Acadamy on Leagueheim. This is far more expensive initially than hiring an engineer (see merchants of the jumpweb) but avoids the possible problems of divided loyalty. In the long run this is potentially cheaper and much less of a security risk. Things that aren't quite guild exclusives could also then be taught to other troops and officers by an Acadamy educated technical officer. This might include things like basic fortification construction, use and basic maintenance (but maybe not repair) of weaponry and equipment, and handling of explosives including mines and demolition equipment.
You can be assurred however that there would be a limit to how much the guilds would teach such a student as this does effectively place that expertise outside of their direct control. They have to know that anything taught to nobles or even the rare church member will filter out to others second-hand. This is briefly touched on in some of the books and the way the guilds mitigate this is by avoiding teaching outsiders general theory and complicating what they do teach until it resembles ritual and mysticism almost as much as science. Basically they are far more likely to teach high-paying outsiders what to do in a case-specific and needlessly convoluted way than they ever are to teach them the "why" of something.
There are some things that would likely never be taught to a non-member and anything they did teach would likely not include every little trick and secret known to the guilds. Need a demolitions expert or training in battlefield fortifications? No problem. Need to have a noble son or daughter trained to operate and repair battle-golems? Probably not so likely.
3)Recover/steal the knowledge themselves and train their own experts This is much more of the long strategic approach to solving this problem and would put would in direct conflict with guild patents and exclusives. One would have to accept and be able to fend off repeated visits by harbinger sabateurs; I would also imagine they'd find themselves under inquisition scrutiny by Avestites operating on a sudden flurry of anonymous tips. The Engineers - the Harbinger operatives in particular - might even make deals (turning in proscribed tech/shutting down minor but offensive projects) with pragmatic or corrupt inquisitors to help ensure their flameguns find such an operation.
It is certainly not impossible for a house or other sort of faction (espescially one outside of the Empire) to accomplish this. It is difficult and requires resources and immense patience but can certainly pay off big time - as the Decados cartels and shipyards demonstrate. Advantage here - free from reliance on the guilds for certain services and potentially large profits as well. Not a quick way to acquire expertise unless you "steal" it by bribing or coercing an expert to swear allegiance to you and betray their guild; this will have a significant negative impact on their life expectancy.
4)Hire a Non-Guild expert This could possibly be something such as a licensed (or unlicensed) Yeoman or a barbarian mercenary. The advantages here are that it might allow one to keep the guilds out of the loop and may allow one to obtain services they normally do not offer. They are also far more expendable as they go through the known worlds without the sort of protection that guild membership offers; if secrecy demands their death after their job then there is not much besides conscience or the mercenary's survival instincts to prevent it. The guilds will not miss a violator of their exclusives and patents and the church will not miss a heretical and unregulated purveyor of sinful tech. Dealing with such unrestricted and unlicensed agents in the first place is what may draw the ire of the guilds, the church, other noble houses, or even the Imperial Eye. That makes their disappearence after completing their work all the more appealing to their employer. Expect any such skilled individual to be paranoid and always watchful for such betrayal; they would have to be if they've lived long enough to get good at their trade while existing effectively as an outlaw.
5)Forcibly Conscript someone with the expertise needed. Easier to do with Yeomen but a diplomatic nightmare in the case of a guild member. This is one of the things the guilds respond most severely to - as it not only constitutes stealing their services but is a practice that would threaten their existence of allowed. The chances that such an illegally conscripted expert would be allowed to live would seem very small if they were a member of a guild. I imagine that most guild members would believe that cooperation would only end in their death in such cases and so would be very reluctant to do so; the guilds likely encourage their members to believe this since the difficulty in getting useful work this way also reduces the likelihood of someone bothering to try. Psychic manipulation and brainwashing might even be required.
Re: Operation of Military Hi-Tech
Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 10:20 am
Re: Operation of Military Hi-Tech
Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:06 pm
In a tank crew you have Commander (Noble), Driver, Gunner, Loader (conscript)
I could see the driver not being a guilder. Perhaps the Gunner being Guilder trained.
In a FS army I could see any number of make ups. Tanks are expensive and usually run nobles or at least a muster trained in tactics.
In the Hazat I could see them using Estancia to command tanks.
Re: Operation of Military Hi-Tech
Posted: Sat Jan 07, 2012 11:30 pm
Normally you don't contract a whole army of guilders. The guilders who usually gets drawn into mercenary or frontline work are Muster, Charioteers and Engineers. Charioteers and Engineers are clearly specialists. The Muster has a different role, in that they also deal with bulk labour. You could contract a reinforced company of Muster troops of guaranteed quality... Or you could contract the same number to instruct, organise and lead your own troops. Training is one of the most common contracts a merc unit can accept. Entire merc companies are foundd on training and advising local units. How you deal with each guild varies. Engineers are a community of very specialised individuals. They are the least likely to interact with other troops, and their contracts usually include provisions against direct combat duties. Charioteers can be more active.
I do believe there are several mid-level non-guild technicians out there. Everything you train one noble to do, he can eventually instruct others in. There are some limits to this... Most of these people are only taught operator skills (Mech/Volt Redemption, Pilot Spacecraft, Think Machine etc) without the theoretical background to go with it. The skill level is also limited. A pilot trained at a House starfleet academy won't be as skilled or able to improvise as a real Charioteer. That ground crew flight technician will be able to do basic diagnosis and repairs, but if an unfamiliar/new model lands or something unexpected pops up he won't be able to adapt. The guilds themselves likes to train a bunch of semi-skilled labour to do the work when they set up shop somewhere. Max skill level 3 in a single operator skill was a good measure, not sure how that translates into the new system.
Houses have different policies when it comes to in-house high science expertise. The Decados cartels are highly advanced in their areas of interest, even if the Engineers are starting to gain the SOTA advantage due to less insular research methods. It also seems like their expertise is often misdirected to serve whims and fancies of Decados nobles pet projects rather than what would be more profitable or productional (Found a Vau spacecraft? Let's make a race track out of it!). The al-Malik have loads of nobles who dabbles in some area or the other, but while the individual noble can be somewhat competent in both operation and theory of their special interest, their weakness lies in making these nobles coordinate what they find. They are a House of isolated dilettantes and adventurers pursuing their own interests, and as a whole they become more focused on preserving what relic tech they have rather than undertaking the large, focused projects and data-sharing needed for actual research. The Hawkwoods have no strong in-house high science ability and rarely need it due to their favoured relation (*cough* pygmallium trade *cough*) with the Engineers. Their relation is more like an international cooperation trading a few nice trinkets in exchange for a resource who's true value the locals can't comprehend and are unable to extract themselves. I'm not sure what policy the Hazat have besides getting into bigger debts in order to import all the tools of war they think they need. The Li Halan keep an isolated region of rather competent technologists around and actually manage them competently. They are allowed some self-governance to the point of them becoming an entirely different culture than the Li Halan norm.
I'm not sure what tech level the barbarians have. And you get an even bigger allegiance problem than using a guild... Would you trust that space viking guy with your sensitive plans? As a rule, standards are lower when you hire non-guilder experts. Instead of a vetted and contractually bound guilder, these are guys you often don't know anything about.
Enslaving tech experts is just what got guilds like the Engineers started. If you commit such an affront, you will get blackballed and start receiving regular visits from guild enforcement fleets. If one noble starts doing that, others might get the idea that they can just rob the local Reeve offices or confiscate every Charioteer ship in the system. The FS setting is both one of competition and intermingled dependence.
Re: Operation of Military Hi-Tech
Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:32 am
Having had some experience with tanks in my national service conscription, I can share the following. There is no way any of the crew members of a tank are unskilled grunts - every member of the crew will be trained (drilled) in working at every station on the tank. They wouldn't all ned to be specialists (i.e. military training/Muster tank driver), but they would all have to be well trained to pull it off, and should be able to stand in for each other when someone gets hurt or whatever. The optimal situation is to have every crew member a graduate of some war college or something (i.e. a specialist), but it should be enough for a noble to hire one specialist to pilot his tank and to train his tank crew. And, onboard the tank the specialist/guilder is king - even the noble commander will have to follow his orders ("strong military advice") or else it all goes to hell. Everybody should be well-trained and able to do their job without being told what to do, and they should, as I said, be able to step into any other job onboard, so even the noble might find himself breaking his back loading shells. The crew members will probably sign confidential agreements with the guilder, stating that they can't share any insight or training they get.
All this assumes one wants an efficient tank operation, with a reasonable chance of the crew surviving (tank crews have low life expectansies in most wars).
Re: Operation of Military Hi-Tech
Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:19 am
It sounds like we're broadly in the same ballpark. To a degree I think this depends upon one's views of related topics like the prevalence of education and 'modern' warfare. I have images in my mind of tanks in Africa and Afghanistan in recent years. Sometimes well handled, but as often as not used as little more than mobile pillboxes (I've even read one example in Africa of the crew ripping out all the colourful wiring to make jewelry and amulets). If the opposing Baron similarly has a few such 'prestige' weapons mainy for the annual Emperor's Day parade, then all well and good. A well handled armoured force would go through them like a hot knife through butter however. Here I see education being the main show-stopper. I'm not an engineer but I'd have thought even semi-skilled tank/artillery/radar maintenance would require an ability to refer to manuals and schematics, which rules out the vast majority of serfs.
Relying on the Guilds for armoured/artillery/aviation operations also neatly guides us towards the FS image of war. I've always thought 'Legions' went vastly overboard with its Ortillery vs pikemen and lasers vs longbows blah (plus the implied CharGen rule that all nobles have a max Wits of 3)(YMMV), but we can 'naturally' get close to the writers' broad theme with some thought about tech and military culture. Noble commanders will, IMHO, be less inclined to hire in Guilders to do their fighting as they will invariably be regarded as less reliable. The highly decentralised nature of a feudal-based military will further reduce the proportion of armoured and artillery use as they require extensive organisation and infrastructure. At the same time I can see FS being one of the few SF settings where power armoured troops have a reasonable technical and cultural legitimacy. So, the basis for warfare becomes the 'lance', consisting of a 'knight' in power armour, a squire to support/recover the knight if/when his PA is damaged or breaks down, an engineer to maintain the PA suit, and a number of yeoman infantry to hold ground, patrol, guard, and generally do all the dull infantry stuff that the knight can't be bothered to. The crossbow/longbow analog exists in the .50-cal anti-materiel rifle or similar, so knights aren't invulnerable, but the Imperial rifle carried by most troops shouldn't bother them unduly. Most battles are therefore determined by the knight vs knight combat, which is as it should be. Apart from a few prestige weapons (which might still be critical in low-level battles), armoured, artillery and aviation units only appear in the 'proper' armies of Counts and Dukes (assuming an FS county is the size/population of a C21 Earth country and a Duke rules a planet). I see House and Imperial Legions being an order of magnitude more competent/hi-tech (jhwisner's model 2 above), but limited by the educationally able recruiting pool to only 10-20% of a House's overall forces (I'd include space-based forces and space 'navies' in this).
Re: Operation of Military Hi-Tech
Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:28 pm
Operating military tech requires a lot of training. I believe something like the armoured units would be akin to guards units, manned with full-time soldiers. Same with the spacecraft, radar and comms systems, logistics etc. You can't just pick up people who have supposedly never seen a truck and expect them to be able to function with a little training and supervision by a guilder or trained noble. A tank is a scary thing, but it's the kind of mid-level tech I believe floats around in the KW somewhere between the high science of the elite and the agrarian serf communities. There are a wide range of what would be described as TL 4-5.
Traveller tried to match a setting with many disparate human colonies, some of wildly varied industrial bases and technological development. At some point, the chasm just becomes to great. There is no way some pocket empire army with the equivalent to WW I infantrymen can hold against a chap in a powered Battle Dress with advanced comms gear and a man-portable plasma rifle if they don't outnumber him 200 to one. Yes, you can technically order your serfs to grab the nearest pointy implement and hold a line... But they won't be able to do anything useful. They are about as useful as rode bumps when the baron next door drives over them with an armoured truck or shells them with a mortar. There are militia units around, patrolling on horseback and armed with surplus Imp. Rifles, but their purpouse is mainly security, not frontline duty. If I can have some of my serfs form these security units, they can watch for bandits, infiltrators and laundry thefts and free up units with actual combat value for the front or border duty.
To understand a KW army, you need to understand the industry, logistics and manpower behind it as well as the political organisation of the nobility. I don't believe local minor nobles hold on to any military forces of use. The weapon systems described require the existence of somewhat united regions and industrial centra. The basic power block on a planet shouldn't be the individual fief, but these regions centered around one to three industrial/economic centra. A single noble with a farming village won't have powered armour. She will barely have an Imperial Rifle and a horse. I imagine a continent as a series of these blocks, dominated by either interstellar Houses or powerful local nobility. There is some infrastructure in place, people won't run off when they see a truck or a train, depending on local culture. It's not really about high tech defined by some tech levels, but what is considered strange and alien.
Another concern I can get if the KW are so much like underdeveloped 3rd world nations... Why isn't Leagueheim crushing them all? If Leagueheim had the manpower advantage of industrialised farming alone, they would easily dominate two or three Houses. You can't ascribe all these skills and resources to 'I paid a guilder to do it'.
A full army fielded by one of these regions. Food drawn from the countryside, manpower from serf levies and yeomen conscripts, officer corps from minor nobles, gear and training from the academies and factories of the urban centra, is organised at roughly the level of a small WW I nation. If there is artillery units, logistical corps or even an air corps they are small, centralised units. Some of the duke's guards units might be advanced infantry wearing armoured battle dress and lasers, but the standard trooper is a conscript with something equal to an Imp. Rifle and bayonet.