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What's the point/purpose of fantasy races? Should I bother having them?


Through all of history generals and kings almost always stayed back in order to strategically direct the battle.

Besides Alexander the Great, there weren't many.

Oh, wait. There were a few.

Off the top of my head: King David, Queen Zenobia, Phillip II, Darius III, Xerxes, Leonidas, Lysander, Aegisilaus, Gaius Maurius, Julius Caesar, Pyrrhus, Marcus Marcellus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Mark Antony, Magister Militum Flavius Stilicho, Edward Longshanks, Robert the Bruce, Alaric the Bold, Erik the Red, Attila the Hun, Krum the Horrible, Vlad the Impaler, Ragnar Lothbrok, Khalid Ibn al-Walid, Genghis Khan, William of Orange, George Washington, Robert Rogers, Andrew Jackson led an army of goddamn pirates at the battle of New Orleans, Stonewall Jackson among dozens of his contemporaries -- in the Civil War, generals on both sides literally stood in a firing line with their troops -- Custer, Patton, Teddy Roosevelt, Nikola Zrinski, General Gavin parachuted into Normandy with his troopers, Rommel ("The Desert Fox"), Ord Wingate, Lord Nelson (and for that matter, damn near every naval commander who has ever lived), Santa Anna, Che Guevara, Charlemagne, and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

In feudal Japan, it wasn't uncommon for commanders and warlords to slug it out one to one on the field, which is what generals and warlords do in the world that I created for my series.

King Abdullah II of Jordan led a combat mission to beat the crap out of ISIS a few years ago after they burned one of his pilots alive. As if that wasn't badass enough, he's the head of his nation's Special Operations Command and acts as their jumpmaster during training exercises; they train side by side with U.S. Special Forces and Navy SEALs and he's out there huffing and puffing beside them at the ripe old age of 53.

Coming in a close second, the Brits' Prince Henry flew an Apache attack helicopter in Afghanistan.

Leaders lead. That's why they're called leaders.
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King Abdullah II of Jordan led a combat mission to beat the crap out of ISIS a few years ago after they burned one of his pilots alive. As if that wasn't badass enough...

Wow! Now thát is a HOS deserving of respect! Prince Harry, too, though he ain't HOS. Yeah, I'd say that's plenty badass! No standing at the sidelines handing out "guidance" for him!

Leaders lead. That's why they're called leaders.



There's a whole other side to this, too, which is resident in the way that militaries work, and also, in what it is that soldiers and officers do.

The general as we see him today is more or less historically singular. In the modern military it may take 25+ years of experience to become a general. Compare this to the Civil War, when it was possible for an officer to be promoted to general within a matter of months.

We typically don't put generals on the line because these days, they're expensive and irreplaceable. More than that, they're not necessarily combat leaders; they're groomed for the responsibilities of command via extensive training in leadership and management, with skill at arms as a secondary consideration. The modern general is a highly specialized and educated leader akin to a CEO or a senior board member; not all of them are experts in combat arms. I know generals whom I wouldn't want standing in the same grid square with me downrange. My current commanding general, however, can outshoot me and can probably kick my ass; both of which are no mean trick, if I say so myself. Still, we don't put him into harm's way. He stays back and makes life and death decisions affecting thousands of people, because he's way smarter than we are and the Army is set up to work that way. Generals decide what needs to happen organizationally; senior officers delineate the responsibility; officers take responsibility for seeing that the delineated steps handed to them are accomplished; and sergeants and warrants determine the best way to do it and then handle the hands-on management while the soldiers get it done. (This is a gross oversimplification, but for more on this, read Von Steuben's The Blue Book, which set up the way the U.S. Army works. I recommend that you then compare and contrast it with Von Clausewitz's On War, and De Re Militari by Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus.)

We don't have commanding generals on the field anymore because we don't make war that way anymore. It doesn't make it wrong, and while it may make for less of a heroic literary figure, it doesn't necessarily make the modern general any less of a leader. We often refer to the GWOT / OEF / OIR as a "sergeant's war," because the actions of one team-level leader -- a sergeant in charge of perhaps three other people -- can shift the entire battlespace and literally change the world in an hour. This is partially a function of advancements in weapons technology, but it also correlates to the vagaries of asymmetric warfare. We don't need generals on the field when a sergeant can retake or lose a strategic objective because they deployed a weapons system on the right instead of the left.

All that said, depending on the time period and the society you're modeling your world after, it is completely plausible for people to be literally born into a military leadership position, or achieve it with a modicum of skill as opposed to a lifetime of service and training and eventual selection. The sons or daughters of a king or a great warlord, for instance, might be raised to be warlords or generals themselves. Also, historically, it was often possible to buy a commission to become an officer with rank commensurate upon the amount of money that you or your parents contributed to the war effort.

A person in such a position might either A.) Enjoy combat; B.) Discover they have a knack for it -- violence, like music, writing, or dance, requires a rare aptitude in order to excel, which is why most never exceed the fundamental mechanical requirements; C.) Have something to prove, whether to mommy and daddy, or their sweetheart, or the soldiers under them, or their bosses, or themselves; or D.) possess some combination of any of the above. Such a military leader would sure as shit be out there doing the hard thing.

What I'm getting at, here, is that it wasn't unusual at all for generals or leaders -- going all the way back to the days when war consisted of tribes throwing rocks at each other and the leader was the one with the most good ideas -- to be right out there kicking in skulls beside their subordinates.

Build your worlds however you want, but understand that there's no reason to consider the modern general -- or the professional politician in uniform -- as the only possibility.

TL;DR: Read it anyway.


toujours gai, archie
Just echoing Malik here. He mentioned Alexander. He commanded the left wing of his father's army at Chaeronea and personally led the charge that broke the Theban line.

D. Gray Warrior

This all sounds really interesting! Do you still write in that world?

I think races like that generally work best in fantasy worlds that are full of mystery left to the reader's imagination.

I no longer write in that world, though I still add a bit of a mesoamerican influence in otherwise pseudo-medieval European setting.


Quote Originally Posted by Annoyingkid View Post
Through all of history generals and kings almost always stayed back in order to strategically direct the battle.

This is patently untrue. In fact I would argue that throughout history, before the gunpowder era, there was more leading from the front than otherwise. There were also plenty after war changed as well.

Malik, sometime you will have to buy me a beer and I can tell you all about King Abdullah's military career and what he really did and does. :D


Malik, sometime you will have to buy me a beer and I can tell you all about King Abdullah's military career and what he really did and does. :D

I figured it best to just stick to the official narrative. We definitely need to have a beer or six someday, though.


Having different fantasy races makes your story more unique and feel more like a real setting where fantasy events can take place