The Military Council is the gathering of Imperial generals who determine the strategic plans for the Empire’s armies. Comprised of each Imperial general and their staff, it meets during each festival to review the current state of the Empire’s wars and to plan future campaigns.
During these meetings, the Empire uses the opportunities for gate travel to send their heroes to fight pitched battles against the barbarians. The generals decide which of the opportunities divined by the Civil Service they will attempt, who will go and who will be in command.
Role within the Empire
The Military Council prosecutes the Empire's wars against the barbarians and defending her borders. Declarations and cessations of war can only be made by the Senate, but is solely empowered to decide on how war should be prosecuted. They also play a minor role in the judicial system; the council has the power to release individuals who have been sentenced to fight to the death in battle, if service has been exemplery.
The generals are appointed by the senators of that nation by unanimous vote. In the event the senators are unable to collectively agree on their choice of generals, then the Senate as a whole votes on the matter, with candidates from the nation presenting themselves to the Senate.
Each general is permitted to bring an adjutant to the council with them, but only those with a vote on the council can speak unless invited to do so. In practice the rule is rarely enforced unless the tent is crowded or those present are being disruptive. Synod members have the right of witness, but cannot speak unless invited to do so.
However the constitution explicitly forbids senators from entering the Military Council under any circumstances. Some historical scholars claim this reflects the importance the First Empress and her advisers placed on the separating the business of war from the busines of politics. Less flattering interpretations point out that since the Empress (or Emperor) is a member of both chambers, this ruling also enhances the prestiege and power of The Throne.
The structure of the Military Council and the Imperial armies was laid down at the creation of the Empire. The Marcher Steward, Tom Drake, argued passionately that the command of Marchers yeoman must be with a yeoman. He point blank refused to compromise, for Drake it was about the principle of representation and the right for Marchers to choose who they raised up. But his vision of armies raised within nations and led by generals of those nations appointed by their senators quickly gained ground easing concerns that the Empress might wield the might of the armies as a tyrant.
Powers and functions
Command of an army
A general commands a single Imperial army, usually of around 5000 fresh recruits, drawn from volunteers from their nation. Once a general is given their command, they have sole authority to order the army to move or attack as they choose. Traditionally the generals of one nation will cooperate but it is not a requirement and a general is within his right to give orders as they see fit.
Generals do not have control of the logistics of their army, all these matters are handled for them by the civil service. Some generals choose to fight in the field with their army, others prefer to issue orders only, but either way such matters are not handled during the political meetings at Anvil. Experience has shown that all attempts to plan intricate tactics for a vast military campaign that will span the next three months are worse than pointless.
As a result the civil service will not accept any instruction from a general for precise tactical deployments or operations. What is decided at Anvil is where the army will move and where it will fight - over the next three months and nothing more. It is this decision that the general must make when at Anvil.
During the meetings at Anvil, the Empire has the opportunity to intervene in the ongoing campaigns that the armies are fighting. These interventions are critical to the fortunes of the campaign and the ability to intervene in this way is the Empire's greatest tactical asset. The goal is for the heroes of the Empire, who are gathered together at Anvil, to commit themselves to a single pitched battle with the Empire's enemies at the most pivotal point and thereby turn the tide of war in the Empire's favour.
The opportunities to intervene are prepared for the generals by the civil service who make extensive use of day and night magic divinations and collate numerous military intelligence reports to assess the most effective locations to strike.
Usually, however there are more opportunities to strike, than there are chances to use the portal. When this occurs, the military council must choose which opportunities to take. If the council cannot reach a consensus, then the Military Council most vote. In this case, each general has a single vote with ties being decided by The Throne. Deadlock has only ever occurred once in the history of the Empire - and the outcome was determined by drawing runes from a bag; since then common sense has reigned.
Once the battle opportunities are chosen, each nation must decide which battle they wish to support. The portal is not powerful enough to allow the transport of all the Imperial Heroes, so only the very best of each nation attend Anvil and the nations have to choose which battle they will fight.
Because of the natre of the magic involved, a nation must take the field together. The only exception is for bands with a magic standard that carries the Mercenary Banner enchantment. The members of this band can choose to fight with their nation or instead fight a different battle with their banner. Other than this, the nation's heroes take the field together.
The Imperial Civil service use day magic to calculate what distribution of nations may travel on each battle. They give this information to the generals and they discuss amongst themselves which nations will fight on which battles. These discussions are often heated, but are usually resolved sensibly - the generals know from bitter experience that political maneuvering that is too overt can damage a nation's morale if they are sent to fight in a battle in which they have little interest. As a result the council tries to find the best allocation for all.
If they cannot agree an allocation by the time a decision must be made, then the matter is put to a vote, with each member of the Military Council present receiving a single vote.
Choosing a Field Commander
After the nations have been allocated to battle then the Military Council must choose a single individual to act as overall battlefield commander for that battle. Like the issue of nation support this is often incredibly contentious; consensus is the ideal and is often reached, but if it cannot be generally agreed upon, then all suggested candidates are put to the vote, with the candidate receiving the least votes being eliminated each time until only one remains.
The field commander has the ultimate authority for determining the plan for the battle and the responsibility for winning the battle opportunity for the Empire. The field commander is legally required to report to the Senate on the conduct and outcome of a battle, including any exceptional actions undertaken by individuals or banners under her command, as well as explaining any failures that took place.
Imperial magistrates may condemn a character to military penal service in the Empire's armies. These individuals are legally bound to fight with their nation and are expected to be given direct orders by the generals in every battle that they fight. Military penal service is instead of the death penalty so it is considered appropriate to give them high risk orders appropriate to their status and they can be legally executed for disobeying these orders.
If a character or group sentenced to military penal service performs exceptionally well over a prolonged period of time it is possible for the Military Council to vote to grant them a pardon them for their crimes.
This is an additional OOC explanation to try to make crystal clear how war and battles happen in Empire. The Empire has approximately twenty armies at its disposal of approximately 5000 men each. These armies are sent on campaign by the general issuing a single order at each event, instructing them on where to go and whether to attack or defend.
Between the events Profound Decisions will compare the deployment of the Empire's armies with the deployment of the barbarian forces and will calculate, with no random factor - the rough outcome that is going to result.
This outcome forms the basis for the prediction produced by the Imperial Civil Service (using divination magic) for the generals. In effect, they are told what the outcome will be if they do not intervene in anyway. They then have a set of battle options to intervene, which will affect this outcome. The better they do on their battle, the more objectives they achieve, the more positive the impact on the outcome of the military campaign that their armies are engaged in. In effect the random element of the clash of armies is the represented by the dyanmic impact of the battles the players fight.
An analogy that one of the authors of the system used was that of Sharpe from the novels by Bernard Cornwall - Wellington is on campaign with his army in Spain - his army of thousands spends months maneuvering and fighting battles with the French - but the outcome is always critically affectd by the actions of Sharpe and his small band of elite soldiers.