This has become fairly relevant to a high-stakes game, so I’m going to put my thoughts out for the internet to pore over. This is mostly a consideration of what the aristocracy is made of, what the command structure is like, and the distribution of the key skills of Command, Strategy, Tactics, and Logistics. While it’s approximate, given that many skills in LPs are optional and there are General points to buy up essential extra skills, I’ve considered the picture painted if the general truth is that people have pretty much all their LPs’ skills and nothing else.
For Men, the two paths to the nobility are great wealth and success or birth, and the latter is far more sure and the only gate into the echelons of the high nobility. But even birth is not enough; nobles are expected to be knights. Martial skill is a part of the aristocratic culture. And most knights will have risen through the traditional noble path: they will have been brought up as pages and squired for another noble knight, before receiving their own knighthood. They thus have at least combat training, if not experience, but very often lack any real experience as a soldier.
The stratification of Men plays out in the ranks and on the battlefield. Command is common enough; sergeants have it to get their men moving, and of course captains have it. Even captains of the guard can manage to command men. Strategy is available to captains as well. Logistics is the provenance of quartermasters. And Tactics, well, that’s only learned in the school of hard knocks, and that hard-earned knowledge can be found among the veterans. But here’s where things get tricky: captains rarely rise through the ranks; it’s an appointment, and thus goes to knights and lords. So the captain has Command and Strategy, but lacks Tactics; he can go for the big picture, but in the fray he’s clueless about how to seize advantages, and he’s just keeping his men together. And he knows nothing of Logistics to go with Strategy; he knows what needs to be done, but not what’s needed to make it possible. A good quartermaster is essential—but completely outranked, and a noble may well disregard the likely lowborn quartermaster’s recommendations.
There’s one possible saving grace: the Constable, who is also trained in Logistics. A captain elevated to that rank, effectively commander in chief, will have Strategy and Command as well. Still no Tactics, but at the grand strategy level that’s okay. This is the guy you want in charge: he’s got the tools to lay out a good deployment and see it done. The problem is with the appointment: the Constable is quite possibly an appointed noble who has never been a captain, or any kind of leader at all. Then he’s got Logistics and, well, nothing else. He can see to it that his plans are technically workable, but he’s reliant on advisors to come up with good plans. And may well lack the Command skill to get his men to turn plans into reality. That’s a risky situation. A wise king will not promote such an incompetent to Constable—but not all kings are wise, and a favorite promoted in peacetime may become a disaster when war looms.
So that’s the problem of Men at war: their stratified classes means the critical pieces of knowledge are all too often not held by one leader, and the class system can become a barrier to effective communication among the experts. A brilliant war leader will likely have to have an unusually eclectic set of experiences, be it varied lifepaths or crucial knowledge picked up in his own time—with General points.
(And as an aside, the Mercenary Captain LP provides nothing of use in command. And requires Pilot. It’s a weird lifepath.)
Dwarves have an even more divided society, but it’s in many ways divided horizontally instead of vertically; that is, where Men separate the high-born from the low, the Dwarves separate craftsmen from traders from nobles, though each can rise and be accorded great respect. There isn’t quite the same aristocratic social stratum. The prince rules his hold, and under him are various Dwarves who must, one way or another, do their work and earn their keep. Even more than Men, Dwarves prize martial skill; all Princes must have been axe-bearers. And like Men, there’s no need for real command experience, just something similar to knighthood. Although only roughly; the axe-bearer is squire, and knight rolled into one, and more easily available to the common man—well, Dwarf. As noted, Dwarves are less hierarchical, though it’s true that non-nobles must usually serve as banner-bearers before taking up the axe.
But there things differ. Dwarven princes do learn the art of Command; in fact, they’re likely good at it, with their optional Call-On trait to back it up. They don’t know any of the other key skills, but they’ve already got a leg up on the average noble among Men. The army, too, is similar: graybeards, like sergeants, learn Command. Captains have Command and Strategy. But the hierarchy isn’t as strict; captains may be promoted graybeards as easily as princes. The higher command, wardens and high captains, have the same skills. It’s the quartermasters again who have Logistics, here exclusively, but they can be drawn from the graybeards or from the nobility, and among Dwarves nobles aren’t so elevated that they’re not open to (stentorious) discussion, so quartermaster and captain are likely to hammer out plans both good and feasible between them. There high captain is probably the closest thing to a Constable. He lacks Logistics, unless he’s (somewhat unusually) promoted from quartermaster to captain to highest rank, but he’s definitely equipped with Command and Strategy. So the Dwarves are less likely to have incompetent leaders, and their leaders are less hampered by social hierarch.
But wait, where’s Tactics? Well… that’s not standard for the Host. They’re more apt to just throw themselves at the enemy and trust superior training, arms, and armor to carry the day. Oh, and superior coordination. The Horn-Callers have Links, allowing the Host to coordinate its actions like no other force.
So the Dwarves are perhaps less likely to have that singular commander who combines all the talents of a leader, but their leaders are at worst at least capable commanders and they’re less hampered by promoting useless aristocrats. Their Tactics are lacking, but that’s really no different in the upper echelons; their Links provide singular communication. Their princes make good commanders and may well take on the high command. And, of course, none can match either the quality of their gear or the nearly religious zeal with which they produce it.
Surprisingly for a folk often thought of as frolicking in the woods and fields, the princes among the Elves are again raised as fighters. They all take up the mantle of sword singer before taking the title. The Etharch, though he will always excel at command with Voice of Ages, may be a warlike ascended prince or a more contemplative loremaster—to say nothing of what other paths he may have taken in his long, long life. The Althings, too, are great lords among the Elves, and they need not have any military experience. Nor do the patriarchs and matriarchs in the wilds. So the Elves along have both militant and peaceful leaders.
The makeup of the Protectors, too, is different. They have no sergeants or quartermasters. They have captain, who may come through the ranks or from the princes’ number, and every captain has Command and Tactics. That’s not like the other captains, who have Strategy but lack Tactics! These captains can’t lay out the grand plans, but their other skills—Monody of the March, Silent Fury—suggest that they’re more likely to be in the ranks. The captain leads a smaller unit rather than setting strategy. That’s left to the Lord Protector. Again, the commander in chief of the Elves is different: he’s got Strategy and Logistics along with Command. In fact, he’s the only one with either. So one person lays out the plan with the knowledge to make it both worth executing and practicable. He’s something like an ideal Constable—but he’s going to be either a prince or a captain. If the latter, which is likely enough, he’ll combine all the key skills in one person. If the former, he’ll have to defer to the captains for Tactics on the ground if he doesn’t pick it up himself.
So along with the might of the Protectors (see Elves at War, the Elves have a command structure that all but guarantees skilled leadership. The cost is that they have no captains and quartermasters to offer advise or to take over in the event of the Lord Protector’s incapacitation. The senior command is a single Elf, which means an all too tempting target for anyone who would decapitate the Protectors and hamstring the might of the Elves. Though with the soldier-protectors on watch, the rangers prowling unseen as scouts, the prowess of the Lord Protector himself in battle, and the best healing of the soothers, pulling it off is no mean feat!
The Orcish hierarchy is simple: the Great Ones rule by dint of force and intimidation, and all others find their own place in the merciless pecking order. The same is true of the Black Legion—itself practically synonymous with the clan. There’s no real chain of command. Those Who Bear the Lash drive the goblins and lesser troops with Command, Intimidation, and savage applications of the whip. For the more powerful, the Head-Takers and the Named do the same, but with the Hatred-fueled Brutal Intimidation to up the ante. Only the Great Ones understand Strategy; Logistics and Tactics have no place. The Orcs do not plan in battle; they hurl themselves forward as driven by their masters or flee when they can. Similarly, they don’t organize the practical details of a campaign. They ravage the countryside, live off plunder, and eat their own dead if they must—and if they must cause those deaths, well, the weak have it coming.
The savage power of the Black Legions is probably only held in check by infighting and disorganization. Plenty of Commands are bellowed, but they are all too often conflicting or useless. Only the mightiest have an inkling of planning beyond hurling forces against foes, and enforcing those plans is difficult to say the least. Even a Great One who has mastered Logistics and Tactics will likely have more than a few Flights of Murderous Fancy in the process of trying to ram those plans down the fractious throats of every member of the horde. And it’s probably not worth it; better to ensure that the lessers suffer in battle so that the turnover of power amongst them keeps them from raising their eyes to your own position. The other races must constantly fear what would happen if the Orcs managed to overcome their Hatred enough to form a disciplined army.