How big is my unit? (Newb question)

(Pun intended. Anyway…)

General question in a “Fires Over Omac” context:

So, Count Artois is an Anvil Lord. On his sheet, he has a 1D Affiliation with an anvil garrison and a Relationship with its XO.

Should he bring the garrison into a Firefight, how do I know how many troops he has? The side with more troops get an “outnumbers” bonus to their disposition. But how do I know what those numbers are? And what kind of equipment do his troops have?

Same question for the humble Kerrn he’s trying to slaughter (an informal rabble), or the giant mutant death bears he may bring to bear, or the prison guards the warden has at his disposal.


Units are as big as you want them to be. Whatever is appropriate.

Equipment is handed out by most basic iteration on their Tech Index. It’s a Low Index game, so the garrison would be equipped with jack lasers by default. However, there’s the “no energy weapons” proscription on Omac. So the garrison would be stuck with Assault Guns.

On Omac, the garrison is small and ill-equipped. The Kerrn don’t have any “armed forces at all,” but they are far more numerous than the humans.

The bears? There’s as many as you need. Always.

You can use building scenes to build up an army for the Kerrn or use them to “concentrate your forces” and there by win the out number bonus. Force concentration is a Strategy vs test.


It also might be appropriote to set up force sizes in Building Scenes. With rolls for Circles and Resources (for better leaders/specialist and weapons/armor respectively).

That way the the hammer comes down you know what you have to work with. Same goes for the NPCs of course, the GM should offer up a color, intersitial, or building scene showing some of his forces as part of the story narrative that the players (but not characters) can see.

edited: spelling.

abzu, khelek: Thanks!

Small as in… 10? 100?

Sydney, you out there?

If you’ve got a minute (and I know you do) give us an org chart for some potential anvil forces – orbital-based, planetary-based, etc.


Seems helpful. I want to say that the Omac garrison would either be a platoon of 25-40 or, at most, a company of 60-250. I imagine there’s probably a thousand or so kerrn planetside.

Hoo boy. How many people on Omac? And how much trouble have they been historically?

Here’s a handy summary of a RAND report:

Peaceful populations require force ratios of somewhere between one and four police officers per thousand residents. The United States as a whole has about 2.3 sworn police officers per thousand residents. Larger cities tend to have higher ratios of police to population.

For cases drastic enough to warrant outside intervention, the required force ratio is much higher. Although numbers alone do not constitute a security strategy, successful strategies for population security and control have required force ratios either as large as or larger than 20 security personnel (troops and police combined) per thousand inhabitants. This figure is roughly 10 times the ratio required for simple policing of a tranquil population.

The British are acknowledged as the most experienced practitioners of the stabilization art. To maintain stability in Northern Ireland, the British deployed a security force (consisting of British army troops plus police from the Royal Ulster Constabulary) at a ratio of about 20 per thousand inhabitants. This is about the same force ratio that the British deployed during the Malayan counterinsurgency in the middle of the 20th century.

More recently, successful multinational operations have used initial force ratios as large as the British examples or larger. In its initial entry into Bosnia in 1995, the NATO Implementation Force brought in multinational forces corresponding to more than 20 soldiers per thousand inhabitants. After five years, the successor Stabilization Force finally fell below 10 per thousand. Operations in Kosovo during 2000 showed the same pattern; the initial forces were sized at somewhat above 20 per thousand.

The population of Iraq today is nearly 25 million. That population would require 500,000 foreign troops on the ground to meet a standard of 20 troops per thousand residents. This number is more than three times the number of foreign troops now deployed to Iraq (see figure).

Now if you can shunt the block-by-block police work off on somebody else – say, Iraqi police, or Merchant League security guards or, dare I say it, badly paid Watchmen – then your military garrison only needs to be large enough to remind everyone you’re there, if necessary by swooping in to blow stuff up on occasion. There were vague hopes for Iraq of eventually drawing down to a few combat brigades, plus support personnel, less than 25,000 troops for 25 million people, i.e. less than 1 per 1,000.

Awesome primer, Sydney. Thanks.


Sure thing.

Note that these numbers get ugly for a planetful of people: 1 billion population means anywhere from one to twenty million security personnel just on occupation/public order duty. As an Anvil Lord, you’re going to want to fob some of that off on somebody else so you have at least some forces that aren’t tied down and unable to maneuver.

The social fabric of the Iron Empires suggests that decapitating the nobility and replacing it with different faces should be enough to keep a planet stable. The “rabble” are used to this sort of thing. It doesn’t disrupt the natural order of things. The military forces in the IE are pretty small, overall. I think they’d have a hard time if a billion people rose up as one (think of the peasant uprisings in the middle ages… they were very infrequent, very bloody and put down savagely). It’s why “freeman” aren’t free at all. And why information is so controlled. And why so much energy goes into creating nobility-worship. And why high-tech weaponry is kept in the hands of the nobility.


That sounds right to me. (And not just on the “duh, it’s Chris Moeller’s creation in the first place” level, but on the “yeah, that fits with historical models.”) And I think it implies that most of the day-to-day policing of the “free” population is indeed done on a fairly patchwork local basis, rather than as a direct exercise of Anvil or Noble control. As long as someone is out there with high-tech heavy weapons to prevent major social disorder – either banditry or revolution – then the Freemen communities are capable on their own of keeping ordinary criminal activity – theft, arson, rape – down to tolerable levels. I suspect none of us would want to live in an area with what the Iron Empires considers a “tolerable” crime rate for commoners to live with, but the society at least functions. It’s not a totalitarian regime, merely an authoritarian one, in which passive neglect is probably about as big a problem as active repression.

I think it’s safe to say that the Iron Empires depict a dark future for mankind. It is the end times afterall. The various lifepath settings depict the facets of the cloudy gem, some more clear than the others – the commune being the most idyllic of the bunch. But when the populace is ruled directly by the nobility or even left to its own devices (without a developed governmental body) you have a distopia – an over-crowded, materially exploited, crime-ridden ghetto.

I mean to imply no pejorative when I say that I envisioned the freeman in Iron Empires to living like contemporary Nigerians or Sudanese. Life is bad for those people – what little social order there is serves to oppress and exploit.


And the twist to the knife is that in such situations, the oppressed and deprioved usually end up oppressing and depriving each other over the tiniest advantages: look at trustees in prisons, sonderkommandos in concentration camps, gangs in inner cities.