The Chains Of Commanding
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Basic Information

The Chains of Commanding is an authority trope. It implied that when you have a high position of authority, you bear a very heavy responsibility, you can't tell anyone else about your troubles (since that would imply weakness), and in general suffer from more stress than most people are able to bear - especially if you actually care about those you command. This is especially bad in times of war, when every mistake you make costs the lives of your subordinates… and even when you take the best possible action some of your people will still die.

This is more common in literature than in RPGs - isolation is almost inherent to this trope and, if you have a party of fellow sufferers, a good chunk of the burden is lifted. Solo PCs, of course, are still at risk.

See Also



Game and Story Use

  • If your players don't mind a little Angst in their games, this trope can be well worth exploring in your campaign. The trickiest part is getting the PCs into a position of authority. The best way of doing that is to create a local power vacuum (ideally thanks to some previous adventures) and then making clear that the PCs are the most competent people available to become the new authority figures (possibly because they are harder to kill than anyone else in the area - in other words, the political situation is so nasty that anyone with any sense at all will refuse the job). One they have the job, make them realize that every choice they make has vast repercussions on those below them, and watch them angst about it.
    • If their first instinct is to just run away and leave someone else in charge, the players might not be interested in such a campaign. Talk to the players about this - just because a PC is wallowing in wangst it doesn't mean that his player isn't having fun.
  • The Exalted RPG works well with this trope, as most of the Exalted are elevated to positions of high responsibility.
  • A core part of age of sail naval fiction - as soon as the protagonist achieves command rank, he is hoisted out of the society of the ward room and dumped on his own into the back cabin, where a great many responsibilities suddenly become his (the step from senior lieutenant to master-and-commander being a massive one - lampshaded in the classic Hornblower and the Hotspur by the fact that Hornblower's lieutenant in his first command was actually his senior aboard their previous ship). Also, as noted, his ability to consult on professional matters all but dries up.
    • This is where having a non-executive companion - such as Stephen Maturin (Jack Aubrey) or Nicholas Renzi (Thomas Kydd) becomes useful.
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