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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:06 am 
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In devising insignia of rank for the civil and military branches of the Imperial Service in my SF RPG setting, Flat Black, I want to have a tang of the British Empire, but also give the idea that the system was set up in comparatively recent time (the Empire is only 110 years old, in a setting in which individual careers can last ninety years) by tidy-minded systematisers. I was going with the following, but I have decided to revise it thoroughly.

Image

Distinction lace (cuff stripes)

Officers in the Imperial Navy and Imperial Corps of Marines, and Imperial civil servants of equivalent rank wear stripes of distinction lace on the cuffs of their uniform jackets, on slip-ons on the epaulettes of short-sleeved uniforms etc. as appropriate, which indicate their comparative rank. Naval ratings, marines other ranks, and local employees on Imperial projects do not wear them, and neither do employees of the Eichberger Foundation and its subsidiaries. Students and cadets are not yet commissioned, and wear no cuff stripes. Instead they wear a white cloth "label" secured with an embossed button (like a midshipman's gorget tabs, but worn at the cuff, not at the collar).

My original, more British-flavoured idea is illustrated by the "cuff distinctions" row in the image above. Cadets at the service academies and students at Imperial universities wear labels fastened with silver buttons. On graduating they replace the silver buttons with gold ones. Midshipmen, ensigns, and probationary whatevers wear a label with a gold button on their prentice cruises etc. On completing probation they replace the label with a branch-of-service insignia: the image illustrates the gold star of line officers in the Navy. The first actual stripe comes at O-3, which is about the minimum rank at which an Imperial servant might get unsupervised command of, say, a commando platoon on detached service, or a building project.

The "tidier" system that I am considering to replace that is inspired by the insignia of the Portuguese navy, and is more consistent with the system shown in the "epaulettes & slides" row of the illustration above. The labels would be worn with gold buttons by cadets and students, or perhaps by seniors at the universities and academies. Officers from O-1 upwards would wear one narrow stripe of lace for each "pip" in the insignia illustrated for their rank in the "epaulettes & slides" row, in addition to which ranks O-4 to O-6 (senior officers in the Navy, field officers in the Marines) would wear a medium-width stripe, ranks O-7 to O-9 (admirals in the Navy, generals in the Marines) would wear a broad stripe, and ranks O-10 to (theoretically) O-12 would wear an ornate band or two medium stripes.

Epaulettes and slides

The system of stars ("pips"), crowns, swords and batons etc. is not used by civil servants, and I am in two minds as to whether even in the Navy and Marines it ought to be used by specialist officers not in the military chain of command. These are the symbols that are worn on the rank patches on combat uniform (and equivalents) by the Navy, Marines, and Home Office police.

I have revised the system from what is illustrated. Unfortunately I lack the means to illustrate the revised system with the skills I have. Fortunately the revision changes details only, not the system.

Though it uses familiar British symbols (square "stars", crowns, crossed sword-with-baton…) the system is not similar to the British system. It's more like a generalisation of the systems used by several European armies. There are four categories each of three ranks, with one, two, or three stars for each rank. The category of junior officers (company officers) has no categorical distinction, just the one, two, or three stars. The category of senior officers (field officers) is distinguished by a national symbol (in this case, the Imperial crown) with the stars underneath it. The category of generals is distinguished by a crown with a crossed baton and sword underneath it, one to three stars under that. And the category of marshals is distinguished by a crown above a crossed sword-and-baton on a wreath of laurel leaves, with stars below that.

Ratings & other ranks

Insignia for naval ratings and marines (other ranks) are as illustrated, except that the E-7 to E-9 insignia need to be re-drawn. I'm not sold on the large crown, large crown in wreath, arms of the sovereign progression. I would prefer a something, something in wreath, something in wreath surmounted by a crown progression.

Note that the marines have two insignia at grade E-3. The ᴛ insignia is for experienced privates who have completed two years of training and 11–15 years as commandos and then been re-trained as medics, sappers, fitters, riggers, armourers, MPs etc., but who do not command teams. The single chevron is for lance-corporals who do have command responsibility. I am in two minds as to whether the NCOs in evac, engineer, recovery, provost &c. platoons ought to wear a ᴛ over their chevrons.

Note that in the Navy the grade E-1 is for astronaut apprentices, who work in the orbital docks building and refitting ships, installing and testing the types of equipment that they will later get to maintain and repair. A rating with less than about five years of experience is not considered sufficiently useful to deserve a berth in a warship. Apprentices do not wear naval ratings' uniforms and are not attached to the crews of warships.

Note that warrant officers in the Imperial system are senior NCOs, equivalent to USN chief petty officers and USMC staff NCOs. They are not equivalent to American warrant officers.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:43 am 
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Re-naming the highest ranks

I am strongly tempted to change the titles of ranks O-7 to O-11 to be tidier. The result would be something like the following

O-0 : Cadet
O-1 : Midshipman / Ensign
O-2 : Sublieutenant
O-3 : Lieutenant
O-4 : Lt-commander / Lt-major
O-5 : Commander / Major
O-6 : Captain / Colonel
O-7 : Rear Admiral / Major General
O-8 : Vice-admiral / Vice-general
O-9 : Admiral / General
O-10: Vice-marshal
O-11: Marshal

O-12: Chief Marshal (statutory, but not in use)

As well as being tidier, this would make the terms "commodore" and "brigadier" available for officers at the O-6/O-7 level temporarily appointed to the command of ad hoc assemblies of vessels and/or units.

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— Brett Evill

My SFRPG setting, Flat Black

© My posts to this board are copyright under the Berne Convention. They may be quoted on the board with appropriate attribution. They may not be reproduced beyond the board except with explicit permission from me.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 2:54 pm 
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"Midshipman" is usually equivalent to "cadet" -- an officer trainee. I think you'd be better off using "cornet" for O-1 marine officers, and retaining "ensign" for O-1 naval officers.

"Lieutenant Major" is a clever way to avoid the captain (O-3) vs. Captain (O-6) dilemma, but it's an awkward formation in itself. Would "Submajor" be better? Then similarly for "Subcommander."

If you could find a substitute for "Commander" as a rank, you could also clean up the "officer in command/skipper" problem.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 10:39 pm 
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Thanks, Thrash! I'm pleased with the "lieutenant-major" contrivance, but Faulkner's advice is that writers should kill their darlings — perhaps I ought to be more willing to revise the whole area. It has the advantages of circumventing the O-3 captain / O-6 captain howler, and of being so obviously the rank below "major" that explanation becomes unnecessary. Also, it is a direct parallel to "lieutenant-commander". On the down side it is as you say linguistically clumsy (though no worse than "lieutenant-colonel" or "lieutenant-commander"), besides which it might be confusing that an IM lieutenant-major is actually equivalent to a modern Anglophone major, a major to a lieutenant-colonel, and a lieutenant to a captain.

I have thought of doing something like this

O-0 : Midshipman / Cadet
O-1 : Sublieutenant / Subaltern
O-2 : Lieutenant
O-3 : Sub-commander / Vice-major
O-4 : Commander / Major
O-5 : Sub-captain / Vice-colonel
O-6 : Captain / Colonel
O-7 : Commodore / Brigadier
O-8 : Vice-admiral / Vice-general
O-9 : Admiral / General
O-10: Vice-marshal
O-11: Marshal

But (a) it is weird, not reminiscent of the 19th-century British Empire, and (b) I don't like major and vice-major being split across the company/field officer divide, commander and sub-commander across the junior/senior officer divide.

Replacing "midshipman" with "ensign" would not be "retaining" for me; there are no ensigns in the RAN or RN, and never have been. We and the Poms (and Kiwis, and English-speaking Canadians) have "acting sub-lieutenants" instead. That's not much of a solution, but on a British ship an ensign is a flag; naval officers called ensigns are something that the Americans adopted from French origins. Anyway, British midshipmen served with the fleet for two years before being commissioned as sub-lieutentants until 1957 (and in the USN, midshipmen were not commissioned as ensigns upon graduation from the Academy until 1912). In the RAN it is still usual for midshipmen to serve six months at sea before being commissioned as acting sub-lieutenants, though my nephew was commissioned immediately on graduation because he came first in his class. Since it is a Victorian-British tang that I'm shooting for I think I'm happy to have middies in ships on their 'prentice cruises. Hey! It worked for Niven & Pournelle.

To me "ensign" and "cornet" sound like an infantry and a cavalry title respectively. That's what they were until replaced with "second lieutenant" in the Cardwell Reforms, and it's what they still are in the Foot Guards and Household Cavalry, who never saw a reform they liked. (Before 1871, "second lieutenant" was an artillery and engineers rank! That will never do for the Guards.) The Foot Guards and the Household Cavalry never went to India, naturally, so it was second lieutenants in the colonies and the Raj in the later Victorian period. But cavalry cornets and infantry ensigns were the rule in the first half of the British Empire, and I feel more comfortable with marines light infantry having ensigns than I would with cornets.

You are right about "commander" and "lieutenant-commander", but I'm somewhat afraid that if I fix it the results will be too alien. I really ought not to impose such a learning burden on players without significant pay-off. As far as possible such an RPG setting ought to be either familiar or self-explanatory.

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— Brett Evill

My SFRPG setting, Flat Black

© My posts to this board are copyright under the Berne Convention. They may be quoted on the board with appropriate attribution. They may not be reproduced beyond the board except with explicit permission from me.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 11:26 pm 
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Agemegos wrote:
...on a British ship an ensign is a flag; naval officers called ensigns are something that the Americans adopted from French origins.
The US Army originally had ensigns; they were eliminated in 1815. Without going back to check sources, my recollection is that "ensign" the officer was so called because he was in charge of "ensign" the flag. I don't think he carried it personally under normal circumstances, but gave orders to the enlisted man who did. In essence, the rank is the same as the Roman "signifer", with the caveat that Roman centuries were commanded by NCOs. A "cornet" is just a different kind of flag, carried by cavalry units.

Quote:
You are right about "commander" and "lieutenant-commander", but I'm somewhat afraid that if I fix it the results will be too alien. I really ought not to impose such a learning burden on players without significant pay-off. As far as possible such an RPG setting ought to be either familiar or self-explanatory.
I wouldn't worry too much about burdening your players in this context. The military-inclined will absorb the differences without much difficulty (especially if the end result is less confusing that current examples); those not so inclined probably won't bother to learn the system in any case, counting on you or their fellow players to clue them in if it becomes important.

The French naval mid-grades are all "captains": Capitaine de corvette, Capitaine de frégate, and Capitaine de vaisseau. If you don't use traditional ship classes like corvette and frigate in your setting, perhaps you could adapt "Corvette" for "Lieutenant Commander" and "Frigate" for "Commander," in much the same construction as "Ensign" and "Cornet."

If you ever run across a copy, the role-playing game Other Suns features one of the few military rank systems I've seen that is radically different from the Western European model. It served very well to give a proper "I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more" flavor to the setting.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 12:12 am 
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I think that one of my problems with this material is that I have not fully committed to either "we're in an interstellar 'thousand-year Raj'" or "we're really not in Kansas any more".

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My SFRPG setting, Flat Black

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 12:25 pm 
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I've produced a table of updated ranks and insignia. Any comments?

Attachment:
Insignia table.png
Insignia table.png [ 192.91 KiB | Viewed 399 times ]

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— Brett Evill

My SFRPG setting, Flat Black

© My posts to this board are copyright under the Berne Convention. They may be quoted on the board with appropriate attribution. They may not be reproduced beyond the board except with explicit permission from me.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 7:39 am 
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Right. I've souped up the enlisted ranks insignia a bit. The art is still dodgy, but at least now I no longer have to explain that some of the images are place-holders and that the real insignia are different.

Attachment:
Imperial armed forces table of ranks & insignia.png
Imperial armed forces table of ranks & insignia.png [ 191.84 KiB | Viewed 383 times ]

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— Brett Evill

My SFRPG setting, Flat Black

© My posts to this board are copyright under the Berne Convention. They may be quoted on the board with appropriate attribution. They may not be reproduced beyond the board except with explicit permission from me.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 2:10 pm 
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Great stuff!

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:20 pm 
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Last night I found the "tools" menu in Graphic Converter, and have produced a complete series of the military rank badges in indigo on olive backing, which I'm pleased with. I might be able to re-draw the flying dagger in the C.W.O. insignia to look less like a trident, too.

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— Brett Evill

My SFRPG setting, Flat Black

© My posts to this board are copyright under the Berne Convention. They may be quoted on the board with appropriate attribution. They may not be reproduced beyond the board except with explicit permission from me.


Last edited by Agemegos on Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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