There are two overlapping command hierarchies in BattleMaster. One is the feudal structure of oaths and allegiance and the other is the military command structure of the army system.
The feudal structure is the more basic one, as it covers all aspects of gameplay. The basic concept is that of a simple hierarchy:
- knights sworn to a lord
- simple nobles
With the exception of simple nobles, who are drifters and more or less "float" in the structure depending on how the realm positions them, everyone in this chain answers to the person on the step above. Dukes answer to the king (though the exact power relationship between them again depends on the realm), lords to their dukes and knights to their lords.
The hierarchy is of utmost importance and that especially means that no layer is "jumped over". For example, a duke shouldn't order any of the knights of his lords around, as that would mean ignoring the authority of the lords.
However, anyone can issue orders to anyone else: the only way to enforce this system is to complain about receiving orders from someone you don't feel should have direct authority over your character.
The military hierarchy likewise has different levels:
- army members
Again, everyone only answers to his direct superior, so generals should not order knights around directly (unless they are also a marshal).
Playing the Command Structure
The Wrong Way
Three oft-repeated comments on this command structure are that it is "inefficient", that it takes a long time for orders to reach anyone, or that it requires generals and/or marshals especially to log in very often or right after the turn.
Whoever tells you that is playing the wrong game the wrong way and should remove his thinking organ from his posterior body opening. Sorry for stating it that harshly, but lots of people won't get it otherwise.
What's behind that is the mindset of people who play strategy computer games, in which they as the player control every single unit on the battlefield. Well, guess what, BattleMaster isn't one of those games. The units control themselves: there are other players leading them, who want to have some fun and make some decisions too.
The Right Way
The right way to play the structure is to pass responsibility down the chain or delegate. The general should set the high-level missions for each army, and let the marshals handle the details such as when to move where or what formations to use. The marshals, in turn, should check what really needs to be managed by them and what can be left to be decided by the individual knights.
In addition, not all decisions have to be ad-hoc. Quite on the contrary: advance planning is a lot more useful and guarantees a higher response rate. Standing Orders don't have to be always about the next turn. They can also contain general orders ("withdraw and refit if you have suffered more than 60% casualties") or orders for a few turns in advance. They could also - warning, revolutionary idea - be actual standing orders ("if you don't see shared scout reports of the neighbouring regions when you log in, scout and share the reports").
In some armies, marshals could even leave some decisions to the players, such as "if a scout report indicates incoming enemies more than twice our size, tell everyone and retreat to the last region we were in". Neither a marshal nor a general has to make every decision right then and there. Lots of decisions can be pre-planned with just a little effort.
- If you feel the urge to log in right after turn change as a marshal or general, you are taking too much responsibility upon yourself and not planning ahead enough.
- If you think the general has to read all the scribe notes, gather all the intelligence and know where everyone is and in which condition all units are, you are confusing the general with the marshals. Why should one player do the work, instead of distributing it around? And not only the work, the responsibility and the fun too.