Ten . . . HUT!!!
An Alternate Treatment of Military Rank for GURPS
by Douglas Cole
The GURPS advantage Military Rank is excellent for "generic" adventures, especially with a mixed group of players. Having a player that is a Lieutenant or Captain is a useful thing for the Contacts he brings, as well as the always-popular access to high tech or deadly equipment. However, in military-based campaigns such as WWII, Special Ops, and Traveller: Ground Forces or Traveller: Mercenaries, it can matter a great deal whether a character is a corporal or sergeant, both of which are treated as Rank-1 (5pts) in GURPS. The existing Rank rules can be optionally replaced in such campaigns.
The system below is based on the United States military rank and grade systems; most Western countries use something similar. Grades are divided between Enlisted, Warrant Officer, and Officer ranks; there are nine grades of enlisted rank (E-1 through E-9), four grades of Warrant Officer Rank (W-1 through W-4), and eleven grades of Officer rank (O-1 through O-11). ). Again, this is for the US military-other countries may eliminate ranks, or have a certain grade be given more or less responsibility.
Enlisted Personnel and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs)
Enlisted personnel are divided in to four grades. The amount of command and responsibility can be fairly minimal until you get to grade E-5 (A sergeant or equivalent).
Enlisted Rank Table
Private 1st Class
The rank of Specialist is still an enlisted man, though he shares a grade with the NCO Corporal rank. The difference in cost reflects the difference in responsibility.
NCOs are the backbone of a professional army. While outranked in the letter of the law by officers, good NCOs virtually run any real line unit, and have the bulk of actual combat and "hard nosed" experience. There are six levels of NCO, from Grade E-4 to E-9. To become a Sergeant Major in the US Army, a position that takes years to achieve, costs 17 points.
NCO Rank Table
Sergeant 1st Class
Command Sergeant Major
Sergeant Major of the Army
Certain ranks hold the same grade, but will be used in different positions. First Sergeant and Command Sergeant Major tend to be staff positions, while Master Sergeant and Sergeant Major are line positions. The staff positions will frequently come with many Contacts, and high levels of Reputation-not to mention a ton of responsibility. A Command Sergeant Major is the primary NCO for an entire Regiment, for example, and the Sergeant Major of the Army is only one person! This person will be respected by colonels and generals, and held in awe by mere lieutenants. Truly, in many cases it is really the Reputation and Contacts that come with each position that gives it its real utility.
Warrant officers are typically technical specialists at particular jobs. There are five levels of such officers, and their cost is intermediate between senior NCOs and junior officers. They typically do not lead units, but might be assigned to them for their particular area of expertise. Warrant Officers rate a salute from enlisted men, and are frequently in charge of many administrative offices, such as Finance and Personnel. Warrant officers run most battalion Aid Stations and Troop Medical Clinics. US Army helicopter pilots are also typically Warrant officers, although many former WO positions are becoming mandatory commission positions. Other than Pilots, most warrant officers were formerly enlisted, usually at least grade E-5.
Warrant Officer Rank Table
Chief Warrant Officer
Chief Warrant Officer
Chief Warrant Officer
Master Warrant Officer
There are three levels of company grade officers, three more of field grade officers, and five grades of general officer. Company grade officers (2nd and 1st lieutenants, and captains) lead actual combat units of squad, platoon, or company size. Field grade officers (majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels) command much larger units, up to and including a regiment. Finally, general officers command division-sized units or larger. Point cost for officers are as follows:
Officer Rank Table
General of the Army
A glance at the enlisted and officer cost tables shows that it costs the same to be enlisted grade E-7 as it does to be Officer grade O-2 (and in between W-2 and W-3). This is a fair reflection of military reality. The "higher rank" of the officer is offset by the long experience of the enlisted man. One historical note: In WWII, Omar Bradley, the General of the Army, was the last 5-star general; the rank has not been used since. That position would cost 50 points.
Reputation and status: Personnel get a free level of Status beginning after ten points are spent on Rank (O-2, W-2, and E-7). A further level of status is granted at O-6 (Colonel). "Three-star" equivalents (O-9) and above get one more, yielding Status-3. Good (or bad!) NCOs and command level officers should also have a service Reputation; by that time, people know who you are!
Despite the regimented nature of military organizations, there are frequent cases of a lower "E", or "O" grade holding position that would usually require a higher grade. They don't get paid more, and shortages are common. A Specialist squad leader is not that unusual, though if he is likely to stay there, then a lateral promotion to corporal is usually coming soon.
Leaving the Military: The high cost of rank is much less useful after you get out of the service. Reduce point costs by 60% to reflect the lesser utility of your rank when you retire from the service. Discharge strips you of all rank; dishonorable discharge also strips you of status, and gives you a Negative Reputation to boot! Higher ranking officers and enlisted men who have served for a long time may receive a pension (which is why the rank isn't discounted further).
Courtesy Rank and Seniority: In some cases, military service personnel from different branches may be serving alongside each other(such as an Air Force Major being on an Aircraft Carrier with a Navy Lieutenant Commander--both are the same grade, O-4). In this case, the "brother" service rank counts for very little (the Air Force Major would be treated with "due respect", but he's an interloper, outside the chain of command, and his orders would carry very little weight). For long-term space campaigns such as in Traveller, this could be a nearly constant occurrence. For such situations, apply a 40% discount to the cost of the rank (making it equivalent in cost to Courtesy Rank). Most of the time, you are outside the chain of command, but should the tables turn, you act with your full authority.
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Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Paul Vissing, Hans-Christian Vortisch, Nigel McCarty-Eigenmann, and Rupert Boleyn for helpful comments and real-world lessons.
Article publication date: September 20, 2002
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