Military Relationships - The Art of World Building
Oct 082020
 
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Our military group has a relationship with the rest of our world and it’s smart to at least quickly decide what those are like.

With Other Military Groups

A world without rivalries is less entertaining and realistic. In any region, sovereign power, or settlement, it’s possible for two or more military groups to exist and be called upon for different reasons. This can lead to resentment and more. If the knights are always given the toughest jobs of fighting the most feared creatures, it’s reasonable that another group might wish for an opportunity to prove themselves capable of this task. The knights could also be condescending towards others. Our multiple groups don’t have to suffer discord, of course. Perhaps they complement each other well and look forward to working together.

Bear in mind that two groups who don’t get along in one location might be great comrades in another. This may mean deciding on a city-by-city basis, but as that’s time consuming, we can decide on several typical relationships that happen and then just assign one of these to each settlement as needed when we’re using that setting. The usual reasons for this discord or cooperation will be found in our file about the military group. In our settlement files, we’ll only say which version is happening and possibly a specific incident that triggered the current (or usual) status of relations. This keeps us from repeating explanations in one settlement file after another, beyond, “They resent and bicker with each other here.”

Below is not an exhaustive list of options for how they could get along, but it can give you some ideas, all of which might be true on your world in different locations, between the same two groups. These might not be mutual, or one group could be more at fault than another.

  1. Mutual admiration and respect, cooperation and appreciation on joint missions, seeing themselves as collectively part of a large picture
  2. They work fine together but disrespect each other privately (usually)
  3. On joint missions, they contest the other’s authority and are difficult to work with
  4. They avoid joint missions and are known to openly sneer at each other
  5. Brawls between them are common in bars
  6. They sabotage each other’s missions
  7. They are in open conflict (for control?)
With Species

Not every species will view our military group the same way. Clearly, knights who destroy an evil species won’t get admired by their victims, but even a species that receives protection from said knights might take it for granted. Even so, we should decide what every species’ typical attitudes are toward this military group as a whole and its individual members (these can be different).

We should also decide what this group officially thinks about each species, as attitudes are often shared. Sometimes an organization promotes a viewpoint that its members are indoctrinated with, whether this is good or bad. This will depend on the dominant species. Some members might disagree with that attitude but learn to keep their mouths shut, while others speak up and get themselves into trouble. To decide attitudes about each species, we can leverage the relationship they have.

Using the knights as an example, if they’re always saving the dwarves in a region, they might have either contempt for dwarves or amused condescension. This might be true even if they admire and like the dwarves for other reasons. They might enjoy saving them, but they might also resent it, particularly if their friends sometimes die in the process. It’s easy to imagine the less noble among them thinking that their friend would be alive if the dwarves could defend themselves. While we associate knights with good deeds and bravery, etc., that doesn’t mean some of them aren’t asses. But we wanted to decide what the entire military thinks, so why does this matter? Because this sort of experience can cause many to share this attitude.

A supposedly evil species that our military group is routinely defending against, or driving away from a settlement, is sure to cause a uniform attitude among the group. They likely think disparaging things, perhaps rightly so. Maybe they want to exterminate them altogether.

Another possibility is someone holding attitudes from his home organization, getting involved with soldiers from somewhere else, those who don’t share this stance. Maybe a knighthood in a different region needn’t rescue the nearby dwarves, who can fend off the threats facing them. When these knights air opposing views, an argument can ensue.

With Settlements

Most military groups will be based in a settlement they are charged with defending. Unless they’re poorly performing their duties, they probably have a good relationship with the town’s inhabitants. There are shops, bars/taverns, and more that cater to them, offering discounts, supplies, or social activities. We need only point out especially friendly or hostile establishments in our files. The military may get too rowdy, starting brawls, resulting in confiscated weapons upon entry. If two military groups don’t get along, an establishment may cater to one and ban the other, or makes them sit in designated areas. Strict militaries will have better behaved warriors, generally, at least at home, but some forces are less so. Decide what makes sense for them.

How well behaved they are in other settlements will depend on several factors, including their leadership, how they’re viewed and treated, and whether that settlement is considered an ally and has its own military. If the settlements are in the same sovereign power, they may have a rivalry that falls short of physical altercations leading to death. Consider whether they’ve saved the other settlement in the past or failed to and earned some discontent or worse.

With Sovereign Powers

If our settlement exists inside a sovereign power, the military groups are associated with the power more than the city in which they’re based. This is especially true if they have more than one location. Each power could have a different relationship with their knights, as well. They could be nonexistent in other places, known only by reputation. We could think that an authoritarian power is unlikely to have knights because the latter is noble and the former can be brutal, but it’s not always the case. A republic could, but we most often associate them with monarchies. All of this may be true with other military groups.

With Anyone Else

We may have created organizations as per another chapter in this book. If so, we can decide how that organization gets along with this military group. The military may be an obstacle to avoid or overcome, or allies who protect and help the organization’s members. Such interweaving of our inventions makes our world stronger.

There can also be types of people who are collectively viewed a given way. In a world with magic, are there any generalizations we want to make about how wizards and this military group view each other? Are wizards included as special ranks, like the Marines? Are they forbidden? Does this military feel like wizards are often causing problems that lead them into battle, such as raising an army of the dead (or living) to conquer lands this military is charged with protecting?

These are generalizations, but take the time to mature the outlook of this military and then compare and contrast it with everything else in the setting to determine relationships. This task is one to return to often for a few minutes at a time, tweaking our decisions. Always be thinking of how to cause tension, even among allies, who might fight on the same side but bicker over minor differences in form or substance.

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