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Old 12-05-2022, 10:24 AM   #1
johndallman
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Default [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Rank (and Courtesy Rank)

Rank [5 or 10/level] is a mundane social advantage. You are a member of some hierarchical organisation, which has social influence and/or provides useful resources to its members. Your level in the hierarchy is measured by your rank. You are entitled to give orders to those of lower rank and must obey orders from members of higher rank, although there are usually rules or laws that constrain this obedience. This advantage appeared at GURPS 4e, as a generalisation of 3e Military Rank.

Large organisations usually have 6-8 levels of GURPS Rank. They may well have more levels in their hierarchy, so it’s common for two adjacent levels, such as one- and two-star generals, to have the same GURPS Rank. The GURPS Rank boundaries are usually placed at points where the kind or style of power a holder has changes. There’s often a limit on the amount of rank starting characters can buy, but this depends on campaign style.

Rank usually comes with a Duty, and often has prerequisites, of minimum skill levels (usually useful for performing the duties, such as Administration or Leadership), or some kind of social privilege or advantage. In some societies, Rank replaces Status, which makes Rank [10/level]. A canonical example is a pure theocracy where rank in the religion takes the role of Status. In most other societies, Rank can give a bonus to Status: +1 at Ranks 2-4, +2 at Ranks 5-7 and +8 at Rank 8+. Unlike Status, Rank does not cost money to maintain, although you do need to carry out the Duty and maintain the prerequisites. In theory, if you have several kinds of Rank, the various status bonuses stack, although the GM is at liberty to discount that, and to forbid having more than one kind of Rank.

Example kinds of Rank in Basic include Administrative, for large bureaucracies, Military, Police and Religious. Special cases for Rank include Temporary Rank: you temporarily get to command as if you had higher Rank, and Courtesy Rank: you get the title of a higher rank, but no other significant benefits. Intelligence officers may have Administrative or Military rank, depending on the kind of organisation they belong to, while Counter-intelligence officers might have Administrative, Military or Police Rank. Some governments define formal equivalence between their Administrative and Military ranking systems.

Rank 0 is meaningful in most ranking systems. It doesn’t cost anything, but it comes with a Duty and/or an advantage which makes you a member of the system. Rank 0 police have Legal Enforcement Powers; rank 0 civil servants have a Duty. Some level of Rank can also be a prerequisite for other advantages, For example, professional diplomats with Diplomatic Immunity must usually have Administrative Rank above 0, and high-ranking military officers don’t usually need to pay for Security Clearance in the way a civilian would.

Some skills, such as Electronics Operation (Electronic Warfare), and Intelligence Analysis are only usually taught to members of the military or intelligence services, which may impose some level of Rank (or Security Clearance) as a prerequisite for training.

Social Engineering adds several things to Rank, starting with two extra kinds: Political, for elected politicians, and Feudal, for an aristocracy. Both of those clearly have courtesy versions: Political for politicians who have lost office or retired, and Feudal for aristocrats who no longer have power simply because they’re aristocrats, such as those of modern European monarchies. The supplement describes the concept of “span of control,” which works for all human institutions and gives an objective basis for assessing Rank. There’s a section on defining variant costs of rank for different kinds of organisation, and examples of Guild Rank, Magical Rank and Organised Crime Rank. There’s also more on the relationships between different Rank systems within a society, very large societies with more than 8 rank levels, fractional rank levels, Rank only respected by part of a society, Rank in a wide range of political systems, Status as a prerequisite for Rank, how to learn someone’s Rank (including foreign systems), and pretending to Rank.

The Pulling Rank supplement for Social Engineering adds a system for accessing the resources of your organisation via “assistance rolls” based on your Rank. This was developed from a more basic framework in Action 1 & 2, and models the organisation as a virtual Patron. It has a more complete list of types of Rank.

There are thousands of references to Rank in other GURPS supplements and listing all the significant ones is impractical, but here are some selections. Action 8: Twists has rules for buying up Rank in action campaigns and using it when using or resisting Influence skills, for characters on both sides of the law. AtE adds Paramilitary Rank, and Banestorm has a good explanation of the conventions of rank in its societies. Bio-Tech tells us that military doctors are always officers (minimum of Military Rank 3), while Boardroom & Curia points out that elite organisations may require a minimum Rank (e.g., the College of Cardinals within the Roman Catholic Church), and gives examples of Insurgent Rank, Pirate Rank and Superhero Rank. The Sospital Group adds Business Rank, aka Corporate Rank, and Casey & Andy has Infernal Rank. DF 17: Guilds adds many more kinds of Rank, and Fantasy tells us that feudal armies didn’t use Military Rank, replacing it with Status and arguments. Hot Spots: Sriwijaya lists the substantial advantages that come with various forms of Rank in the setting, while Centrum in Infinite Worlds probably gets closer to a classless meritocracy than any real-world culture. Horror Magic gives us Cult Rank, while Mars Attacks shows us Martian Rank that includes Status, and Courtesy Rank used to represent a “first among equals.” Power-Ups 3: Talents makes Rank a possible prerequisite for Job Training, Social Engineering: Back to School provides details for Academic Rank, and Keeping in Contact provides optional links between contacts’ Rank and skill levels. Spaceships 2 has Merchant Rank levels for space crews, and Spaceships 3 covers Military Rank for warship crews. Steampunk 1 describes Rank for the era and refers us to Pyramid #3/39: Steampunk for historical British ranks in many fields. Tales of the Solar Patrol has a quite original table of ranks, and Thaumatology gives us Rank systems for Celtic bards and priests of Hephaestus.

My main experience with Rank in play was in the occult WWII campaign, where all characters had Military Rank, and most of them got promoted during the campaign. That used the 3e model where all enlisted men are Rank 0-2, and commissioned officers are Rank 3+. 4e does things a bit differently:
Quote:
Originally Posted by p. B30
In general, personnel that are not specifically
leaders will be Rank 0-2, while low-
level officers and senior enlisted men
will be Rank 3-4.
This doesn’t fit with the British model where even corporals (Military Rank 1) have leadership training and lead squads, and all commissioned officers, no matter how junior, outrank all enlisted, no matter how senior. Enlisted ranks stop at Rank 2, and officers start at Rank 3. That was how 3e usually worked, and was applied to all countries in GURPS: WWII.

Now, it’s usually a bad idea for green commissioned officers to override senior enlisted, but they do have that power if enlisted are limited to Rank 2. Do American senior NCOs have the power to override junior officers? SEALS in Vietnam seems to say that they can, with Rank 4 Master Chief Petty Officers who definitely outrank Rank 3 Ensigns and Lieutenants Junior Grade. Or is this some subtlety of American command that I’m not aware of?

Steampunk naturally matches the British system, with a commission synonymous with Rank 3, while Template Toolkit 1 gives modern NCOs a maximum of Rank 3.

How has Rank been used, or abused, in your games?
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Old 12-05-2022, 11:11 AM   #2
ericthered
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Rank (and Courtesy Rank)

Rank shows up in a lot of my games. Rank is generally hard to deal with.

I've played several games where rank is free, as long as the character is properly built to the concept. As status and wealth were also free (pending concept), we usually saw one player take a high military rank, and sometimes someone take a high civilian rank. Its a fun way to do city management and intrigue games.

My current real-time game features a military team, so everyone has rank. Including a doctor with courtesy rank.

I generally like to simplify rank in modern militaries: its very complicated, and gurps isn't served well by trying to mimic it too literally. I use the following:

  • Corporals of any sort are rank 1: they lead groups of men
  • Sergeants and Lieutenants are both rank 2: they effectively work as a team to lead the same size group, and where the Lieutenant is nominally in charge, the sergeant tends to get listened to better.
  • The Rank of Majors, Captains, Commanders, and anyone else between Lieutenant and Colonel are rank 3: They command formations. I use perks if the relative rank matters, and you can cash those in when you make Colonel/Navy Captain. The groups they command vary in size quite a bit.
  • Doctors get Rank 1 and courtesy rank 2 for a total of 3: Doctors command a small staff, but get the saluting rights and pay of Majors and so forth. Other specialists get similar treatment.
  • Colonels/Navy Captains are rank 4: They command field units, and this rank often has a fair amount of autonomy (and experience and respect)
  • Generals/Admirals are rank 5: that's a significant advancement.
  • Master Sergeants : I haven't had to rank them yet, but I'd probably stick a -20% limitation on their rank past rank 2 and assign them according to the rank of the officers they work with.
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Old 12-05-2022, 01:04 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Rank (and Courtesy Rank)

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post

This doesn’t fit with the British model where even corporals (Military Rank 1) have leadership training and lead squads, and all commissioned officers, no matter how junior, outrank all enlisted, no matter how senior. Enlisted ranks stop at Rank 2, and officers start at Rank 3. That was how 3e usually worked, and was applied to all countries in GURPS: WWII.

Now, it’s usually a bad idea for green commissioned officers to override senior enlisted, but they do have that power if enlisted are limited to Rank 2. Do American senior NCOs have the power to override junior officers? SEALS in Vietnam seems to say that they can, with Rank 4 Master Chief Petty Officers who definitely outrank Rank 3 Ensigns and Lieutenants Junior Grade. Or is this some subtlety of American command that I’m not aware of?
Leadership training for enlisted below Sgt is probably nonexistent, in my experience (USAF) they have authority over lower ranks but operate from default.
In USA the most junior officers outrank the most senior enlisted ranks. They may have less experience in which case the smart ones word their orders carefully and do not micromanage senior NCOs. But they can if they choose to.

I like Pulling Rank and have used it, though sometimes the roll seems too low. Have to be careful about that and aware when to apply modifiers or just waive a roll if its directly for the organizations duties.
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Old 12-06-2022, 06:42 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Rank (and Courtesy Rank)

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Now, it’s usually a bad idea for green commissioned officers to override senior enlisted, but they do have that power if enlisted are limited to Rank 2. Do American senior NCOs have the power to override junior officers? SEALS in Vietnam seems to say that they can, with Rank 4 Master Chief Petty Officers who definitely outrank Rank 3 Ensigns and Lieutenants Junior Grade. Or is this some subtlety of American command that I’m not aware of?
In the US the most junior officer still outranks the most senior enlisted. But if some fresh 2nd lieutenant tried to get uppity with the sergeant major I can pretty much guarantee that a captain or major would take him aside and beat some sense into him. OTOH the sergeant major is by definition a good soldier, so if LT tells him that something really has to be done, he'll do it. Well, if it isn't obvious nonsense. But if LT starts to do something profoundly stupid his E7 should be drawing his red card and saying "Are you sure about that, Sir?"

But SOCOM is... different. Especially SEALS. I have heard a lot of SEAL officers whine that in retrospect they should have gone enlisted because once they get a little rank they stop doing almost anything in the field- they become administrators, and the teams are really run by senior enlisted guys. Ensigns and JGs do field stuff basically as a sort of orientation to what they are going to do during planning later in their careers.

US Army Special Forces is similar though not as extreme- the highest enlisted guy is even called the "team daddy" and he runs the shop. The officers and him come up with the plan, but he executes it and has pretty significant authority while doing so. By nature of their mission though (hearts & minds, etc.) the officers still do a lot... but they don't tell daddy how to run his house.

One might describe USSOCOM as "informal", I guess? They really don't care about rank much- they care if you can do the job. And they promote you fast once you are proven. There are a lot of damned young E8s wandering around SOCOM. I did a three-day patrol with some SELAS once and a young guy who was only a couple of years out of BUDS was put in charge of the refueling operations. That could have gone horribly if he'd screwed up the planning- another Black Hawk Down moment, MRAPs with empty tanks stranded in the middle of Indian country.

I think a lot of people who haven't been in the military overestimate how strictly hierarchical it is. I mean, yes, there is definitely hierarchy. But once you make E6 or so there can be debate and discussion, too. Don't get me wrong- when the heat is on and you get an order, you damned well execute! But a good CO wants to hear peoples' ideas.

Also, recall that GURPS sets Rank according to how many people you command. (Obviously there is some wiggle in there, though.) So for instance a professional like a doctor or a lawyer might be high in rank, but if he isn't in a command position at the moment his GURPS Rank would be low, perhaps with the difference made up in Courtesy Rank. As a major I was the commander of a Forward Surgical Team. And actually I was in an O4 slot as an O3- by doctrine FSTs are commanded by a lieutenant colonel. But an FST is only 20 people, so my GURPS Rank would have been equivalent to a platoon sergeant, with the rest made up of Courtesy Rank! Likewise, a staff officer might have a relatively low Rank commensurate with a corporal since his staff is only a half a dozen folks or so, but with some Courtesy Rank on top.

If this seems like a bit of a kludge, well, it is. The rank system in GURPS is imperfect- it's more appropriate for a medieval military, I'd say. (Not unlike it's economic system.) But it'll do for 99% of useages.

Last edited by acrosome; 12-06-2022 at 07:16 PM.
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Old 12-06-2022, 08:02 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Rank (and Courtesy Rank)

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Originally Posted by acrosome View Post



Also, recall that GURPS sets Rank according to how many people you command. (Obviously there is some wiggle in there, though.) So for instance a professional like a doctor or a lawyer might be high in rank, but if he isn't in a command position at the moment his GURPS Rank would be low, perhaps with the difference made up in Courtesy Rank.
I like that idea. Rank + Courtesy Rank for specialists and administrative rather than command personnel.
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Old 12-07-2022, 04:59 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Rank (and Courtesy Rank)

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Originally Posted by Refplace View Post
I like that idea. Rank + Courtesy Rank for specialists and administrative rather than command personnel.
I think I've been using that, along with using Courtesy Rank for various other 'added authority' situations. Of course, I've also used it for Senior NCOs to demonstrate the social influence they have, but it doesn't represent them all that well, since the Regimental Sergeant Major has command over the enlisted and NCOs of the regiment, but not the officers. One thought I had was a limitation on high levels of rank to represent this, so you have normal Military Rank up to 2, but have three more levels of Military Rank (NCO, -##%) to show that you're the chief NCO under a Colonel, rather than being a Lieutenant Colonel. Not sure how big the limitation should be, though my immediate thought is '-20%.'
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Old 12-07-2022, 09:00 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Rank (and Courtesy Rank)

Rank is probably my most commonly awarded for free advantage. Some campaigns have a baseline from which characters can buy up, others have characters drafted, etc.

I also sometimes discount it due to the nature of a campaign. If we're all about to world-hop or leave civilization behind, I will charge little for rank or forbid the advantage calling it "background info."
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Old 12-07-2022, 09:38 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Rank (and Courtesy Rank)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prince Charon View Post
I think I've been using that, along with using Courtesy Rank for various other 'added authority' situations. Of course, I've also used it for Senior NCOs to demonstrate the social influence they have, but it doesn't represent them all that well, since the Regimental Sergeant Major has command over the enlisted and NCOs of the regiment, but not the officers. One thought I had was a limitation on high levels of rank to represent this, so you have normal Military Rank up to 2, but have three more levels of Military Rank (NCO, -##%) to show that you're the chief NCO under a Colonel, rather than being a Lieutenant Colonel. Not sure how big the limitation should be, though my immediate thought is '-20%.'
I think we went over that last month, over here. The -20% limitation for the rank of Master Sergeants and so forth sounds right to me as well.



Doing some investigation, one reason Master Sergeants "get away" with technically being lower rank than Green Lieutenants is that they aren't assigned to the command chain of Green Lieutenants: They report directly to the leader of the unit whose NCO's they lead.
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Old 12-07-2022, 11:22 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Rank (and Courtesy Rank)

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
I think we went over that last month, over here. The -20% limitation for the rank of Master Sergeants and so forth sounds right to me as well.



Doing some investigation, one reason Master Sergeants "get away" with technically being lower rank than Green Lieutenants is that they aren't assigned to the command chain of Green Lieutenants: They report directly to the leader of the unit whose NCO's they lead.
Yeah, I would not give NCO's a limitation on their Rank. They are paid less (base salary, not including bonuses) and in all respects their Rank has less value than even an O-1. However the experience tends to earn them more respect. So they have higher skills in relevant areas and possibly more time to build a reputation.
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Old 12-08-2022, 09:18 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Rank (and Courtesy Rank)

Most of my experience using Rank in a game has been in fantasy setting where I didn't have to worry about the details in different services of the real world, and in that case, on balance I like it. If I make a 100pt mercenary leader with a squad of men, paying 5 points makes more sense than buying them as an Ally Group with a certain frequency of appearance and forcing them all to use the same template. Likewise 10pt for a 150pt merc boss who has a platoon, or 15pt if he has a company - and that's as high as I've gone with it.

In fact, I subdivided, seems like a straightforward implementation of the Potential Advantage rule. In my blood company campaign, I had R½ Cpl, R1 Sgt, R1½MSgt, R2 JLt, R2½ SLt, R3 Capt. The company had specialists to whom I didn't give Courtesy Rank, didn't think of it, just placed 'em in their own unit attached to HQ and gave 'em Social Regard for being scary wizards.
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