The Mask of Command

One of the many pleasant surprises of Burning Empires (both game and comic) is the unpredictable synergy of hardcore military mechanics and techno-feudal color. Every time I try to use the Tech Burner to translate something fairly mundane from my experience as a defense reporter, it comes out… strangely different. Thus, I give you my attempt at what the US Army today would call a Battle Management System, and which I’ve termed, with a nod to the great military historian John Keegan, the…

Mask of Command
Resources: Ob 10

Commander’s Visualization Enhancement
(+1D Advantage, +3 points; x6 applications, +18 points total)
The Mask’s CVE (“See-Vee”) projects an abstracted image of the battlespace with the latest locations, conditions, potential movement routes, and lines of fire for all forces under the wearer’s command (in blue), along with estimates on other friendly forces (green), the enemy (red), and even neutrals and civilians (white). Thanks to a simple voice-based interface and a highly sophisticated sensor system that detects where the user’s eyes are looking, the commander can intuitively shift focus, zoom in and out, and call up or turn off various types of detailed information.
The CVE grants the wearer +1D to Tactics for all five Firefight actions which allow it to be rolled – Close Combat, Direct Fire, Flank, Suppressive Fire, and Withdraw – and to the initial roll to determine Disposition.

Either Built into Helmet
(Categorical Limitation, -1 point)
or Grim Visage
(+1D Skill Advantage, +3 pts; +1 Obstacle Limitation, -2 points, affecting two additional skills, -2 points; net, -1 point)
While in use, the Mask of Command of necessity obscures the user’s face. Many models are simply built into an ordinary enclosed helmet: In this case, the relevant suit of Iron or Anvil must be specified when the device is first bought, and it cannot be used unless that specific suit’s helmet is worn and the visor is down, but there are no additional effects.
However, some models are designed to be worn independently of armor, either with normal clothes or underneath the helmet. Some of these deliberately present a grotesque or monstrous facade, while others are just unnervingly blank: Either way, when this kind of mask is visible, it gives +1D to Intimidation but +1 Ob to Persuasion, Seduction, and Soothing Platitudes.

Vulnerable to Jamming
(Categorical Limitation, -1 point)
If the enemy wins Signals Warfare specialist action by three successes, enabling them to jam communications altogether (p. 499-500), the Mask of Command gives no Tactics bonus until friendly communications are restored.

(equivalent to External Trait Limitation, -3 points)
Each Mask of Command must be programmed for a specific kind of force. When the device is bought, specify one of the following:

  • Hammer masks give their +1D to Tactics when commanding vehicles with Space-scale speed ratings; their specialized software can calculate the complex effects of gravity wells, radiation belts, and solar wind on space units maneuvering in three dimensions.
  • Anvil masks give their +1D to Tactics when commanding a mix of troops on foot and vehicles with Atmospheric-scale or Ground-scale speed ratings; their software can calculate how to take best advantage of terrain, directing infantry into buildings, bunkers, tunnels, and dense woods while grav vehicles alternate between flying high and skimming over the grass.

(equivalent to External Trait Limitation, -3 points)
Each Mask of Command must also be programmed for a specific scale of operations. When the device is bought, specify one and only one of the following:

  • Decurion masks give their +1D to Tactics when commanding a unit as small as an individual soldier or a single vehicle, or as large as a ten soldiers. They are useless for larger forces.
  • Centurion masks give their +1D to Tactics when commanding a unit as large as ten vehicles or a hundred individual soldiers on foot (with ten soldiers equal to one vehicle in a mixed force). They are useless commanding a unit of a single vehicle or of a single squad of ten or fewer soldiers (i.e. forces appropriate for a Leader mask): Their software lacks the fine-grain resolution to give a Tactics bonus to such smaller forces.
  • Legate masks give their +1D to Tactics when commanding a unit as large as 100 vehicles or 1,000 individuals; they are useless with a unit smaller than 10 vehicles or 100 soldiers.
  • Imperator masks give their +1D to Tactics when commanding a unit as large as 1,000 vehicles or 10,000 individuals; they are useless with a unit smaller than 100 vehicles or 1,000 soldiers.

(Note there are eight possible combinations: Hammer Decurion, Hammer Centurion, Hammer Legate, Hammer Imperator, Anvil Decurion, Anvil Centurion, Anvil Legate, or Anvil Imperator).

Oh, a Keegan reference. A man after my own heart. (Check the biblio for BWR.)

Nicely done, though I think Force-Specific is two cat. limits, not a trait limit. If you wanted to hook it to Corvus and Crucis or Anvil Lord or Clean Cut, that’s a trait limit. Limiting the bonus to a type or category of vehicle or warfare, well, you know what I’m going to say.


Now, if only we could get The Price of Admiralty, Face of Battle, and Book of War in there =) Keegan’s nice because he’s so very readable.

Let me make sure I’ve got you 100% before I go wikifying: Are you sayng

(a) “Force-specific” (Anvil vs Hammer) shoudl be only -2 points, but “Scale Specific” (Decurion, Centurion, Legate, Imperator) is fine the way I have it as a -3 point trait limit, bringing the cost up to Ob 11,


(b) “Force Specific” is -1 point and “Scale Specific” is also -1 point, bringing the cost up to Ob 14?

Frankly, if it’s (b), I think I’d just drop both limitations and let the thing be Ob 16; the marginal returns work out better that way.