1) The McClellan: A meticulous planner and an expert in logistics, the McClellan wants to be prepared. Thoroughly prepared. He's the sort who'll visit individual units to check their kit, ask the troopers what their needs are, eat in their messes to ensure the food is well cooked. He's also a sound theoretical tactician, and wrote the army's tactics manual. Somehow, all this doesn't translate onto the battlefield, where he's hesitant to risk the army he loves so much, skittish and easily convinced the enemy's forces are far larger than they really are. He's never commanded a decisive defeat, but he's never come close to gaining a decisive victory, either. While he wins few battles and his superiors are fed up with him, he has the staunch support of his soldiers.
2) The Scott: He's the nation's greatest living military legend. He's served on active duty longer than any general ever has. He was a general three wars and fifty years ago, and in the last war the Scott was both the army's general-in-chief and the cunning strategist who led the national army to victory against impressive odds. Decades later, he's still the general-in-chief, and still a sound strategist. But now there's a new war, and the Scott is an old man: sick, obese, unable to take the field. It doesn't help his cause that he's a bit hidebound, still prefers the tactics of an earlier day, and is increasingly fussy in his dotage. For the first time, younger officers mutter that he ought to be superseded.
3) The Massengale: All his career, he's been a political animal. He had the right education, the right social lines, the handsome features, the brilliant smile. He started as the aide-de-camp to an important general, parlayed that into a high staff position in the national military establishment, and leapfrogged up the ranks of the peacetime army. He's an ace at making his superiors look good and himself look better, and is the fellow you want on the dance floor, in the banquet hall, at the conference table. Amoral, smooth, he has no qualms about backstabbing anyone who's no longer of use to him, the road to military oblivion is paved with the skins of his enemies, and common soldiers are beneath his notice. Now that the next great war has come, his chance to do what he must to become general-in-chief one day has finally arrived: to have operational command of troops ... something he's never done.
4) The Stuart: A belle sabeur, he's the very image of the dashing cavalier. He goes into battle wearing silks, sashes and plumes, and he's a popular hero to many. He's also a brilliant cavalry general, famous for daring and successful raids behind enemy lines. He's lucky, he's good at what he does ... but the Stuart has a dangerous problem with ego and distractions. He may well pause in his duty to throw an impromptu gala ball (which he loves) or to wear out his troopers with parades and reviews (which he also loves), and he'll freelance to rack up some new and impressive feat at the risk of his command.
5) The Giap: His nation is weak, and faced with powerful enemies who've occupied large stretches of the land. Self-trained as a soldier but an avid student of tactics, he has been forced to become a master of guerrilla warfare. While secretly he yearns for a great climactic set piece battle, his patience and iron will prevent him from such a foolish mistake, and instead the Giap channels his intellect into developing unorthodox and asymmetrical tactics to counter the enemy's military might. In particular, he will push his men into doing things thought impossible, like maneuvering through purportedly impenetrable jungle. His only weaknesses are off of the battlefield; he is ruthlessly authoritarian if in charge of civilians, and his love for the ladies offends the rigid moralists of his culture.
6) The Damon: A decent, honorable soldier who came up from the ranks after winning the nation's highest military honor, he spent many years in hardship posts before gaining general's rank. He makes friends easily, but he's no politician, won't compromise for barracks advantage, and has his share of enemies in the hierarchy. The Damon is also plain and outspoken, and has views about warfare and patriotism which offend glory-loving civilians with no notion of the horrors of war and even less desire to hear about them. Another trait that offends people is that while he scrupulously follows the codes of war off the battlefield, he sees no reason to hold back on the battlefield, advocating tactics and weapons his culture finds inhumane in the belief that anything which shortens the war is humane.
7) The Tserclaes: He's been a commanding general for decades, and has an impressive record of victory: he has never lost a battle in which he's enjoyed sole command. His men revere him for that. He is no innovator - although he has perfected the time-honored battle tactics associated with the infantry he commands - and has a straightforward approach to combat ... march to where the enemy is, and pound them head-on until they yield. He's known to be extremely loyal, and will never betray or cheat his nation. As against that, the Tserclaes has gained a reputation for battlefield brutality, having butchered more than one army in retreat and engaging in more than one infamous sack of a captured city.
8) The Gars: A man who sees further than other commanders of his day, he hasn't invented any new tactics, but is the master synthesist, and melds ideas into formations and tactics that have proven startlingly effective. Notable for piety even in a pious age, he will not permit blasphemy in his army, and has curious renown for writing popular hymns. What endears him most to his men is that the Gars leads from the front: he is in his own right a deadly warrior. But he has taken more of his share of wounds over the years - which hasn't at all curbed his reckless desire to fight - and some worry that the next battle could be his last.
9) The von Clausewitz: He's had a long military career, and has been in a number of battles, but he's usually held staff positions - chief of staff, inspector-general and the like. The largest unit he's led in battle was a brigade, and that as subordinate to another. His reputation rests on his being a notable military theorist. Even there, his views are somewhat heretical, for he's less concerned with the minutiae of mathematics and drill than with the philosophy of battle and on war itself, and he's deeply skeptical of a number of long-cherished military shibboleths. Nonetheless, many generals swear by his writings, although to the von Clausewitz's irritation, they tend to 'interpret' his views to support their own prejudices.
10) The Ewell: He's a profane eccentric, a hypochondriac fond of bizarre diets and whacky non-sequiturs, with more nervous tics than many a trooper cares to count. He's also been a brave general for years, operating as the loyal and effective subordinate to one of the most renowned commanders of the day, and despite his quirks, his men have always followed him with a will. But his superior has just died, and the Ewell has been promoted to run his old army. Without the old general's firm hand on several willful subordinates that the Ewell must now command (or, as to that, directing the Ewell himself), it's anyone's guess how he'll perform at his new elevated rank.
11) The Mitchell: He is a daring, tireless, committed leader, and was chosen to lead a new and promising arm of service. He feels that he proved the new arm's worth in battle, and indeed is convinced that this type of unit - if properly developed - will revolutionize war. As such, the Mitchell is an unstinting advocate of the service arm, and openly derisive of traditionalist generals, feeling that they're only interested in fighting the previous war. He's crossed the line into open insubordination on the subject more than once, and a number of generals want him muzzled ... or cashiered.
12) The Baner: As a young boy, he was forced to watch his mother and aunt executed for treason for being on the wrong side of a succession dispute. But he was befriended by the king's son, and pledged loyalty to the dynasty when the prince took the throne and restored the Baner's family lands and title. But that is all the Baner is loyal to, and he respects nothing and no one else. He will defend the new Queen now that her father, his friend, is dead, but damn all else that gets in his path. Unsparing in his wrath, he will attempt things other generals won't - night attacks, midwinter campaigns - despite the toll it takes on his men. His lifelong griefs he drowns in alcohol, which is visibly affecting his health ... though not (yet) his skill on the field.
13) The Hood: Eager to lead his troops into battle, he has distinguished himself on many a field as a leader of smaller formations, mostly of countrymen of his from a remote province. 'A lion, not a fox,' as one fellow officer called him, his bravery has led to near-fatal wounds that still impair him, though he insists on continuing to wear the colors. (Off the field, by contrast, he is personally shy, and has a diffident manner which astounds those who know only of his repute in war.) Now he has been put in charge of an army for the first time, with his nation badly battered and nearing final defeat; while he is the youngest commanding general on either side, it is hoped that his aggressive nature will turn the tide. The Hood hopes so, at least, and feels that he not only has no choice save to take the long chance, but that he'd rather go down swinging than survive the war not having done his utmost.
14) The Burnside: He was out of the army for years, although he always maintained a militia rank, studiously drilling with the local units. When the next great war came, he became a general. He's not a good one, and he's the first to tell you that. Yet somehow he keeps getting promoted, and he keeps muffing battles. He doesn't want higher command, and turns it down as often as he dares, but the vagaries of politics, a string of bumblers, and the chance of a rival general he hates taking the top position have thrust him into a spotlight he's convinced he's incapable of meeting. He's also patriotic to a fault (he's very willing to throw civilians in prison for even hinting at sedition) and may not feel it's his right to tell his superiors no.
15) The Bragg: The best that can be said about him is that he's 'touchy.' Anything that goes wrong is one of his subordinates' fault. Anything that the enemy does right is because one of his subordinates failed to react in time. He's constantly complaining about them and they're constantly trying to subvert him in return. Beyond that, he's just as likely to pick fights with his superiors, writing frequent notes about his lack of support. He's been court-martialed, censured, reprimanded ... but keeps his position because of his past as a war hero and the backing of the realm's ruler, a personal friend of his.
16) The Kilpatrick: He's fearless, blustery and a schemer, and is where he is because of his mastery of political manipulation. A cavalry commander, he's notorious among his men for suicidal charges and ordering his troopers well past the point of exhaustion and breakdown, and the rankers hate his guts. His reputation is little enhanced by his taste for peculation, his lack of personal morals - up to keeping prostitutes in his tent on campaign - and his callous treatment of subordinates. Still, the politicians enjoy victories, and pay little attention to the cost the Kilpatrick pays for his methods.
17) The Morgan: He's actually from the future - brought back to this time and dimension through means unknown. He has command of technologies and techniques far in advance of the primitive times in which he finds himself, and being industrious in nature, convinces the ruler to let him replicate them. They've stood in very good stead on the battlefield ... so far. But the Morgan is brash and breezy, dismissive of the customs of the realm, derisive of the traditions of the culture, contemptuous of the ruling class and their ways, and not-so-secretly believes that his knowledge and talents should have him ruling the whole land. Those generals brought low by the Morgan's successes thirst to encompass his ruin.
18) The Hawkwood: He's the most famous mercenary general of the era. Quicksilver brilliant, he always seems to be on the victor's side on the field. Of course, he tends to ensure that: he has no compunction about switching sides, and will often take a contract from one side and then go to the other and see if they'll better it, keeping the payments in any event. (His men revel in the flows of cash, more than any other mercenary commander commands, and stay loyal, ironically enough.) The Hawkwood is no orator, and doesn't rally troops with personal magnetism or stirring speeches - just by the reputation of a man who always wins.
19) The Boudicca: In an era and a culture where women are not soldiers, less so commanders, she is the notable exception. She's no great tactician, but her harsh voice and piercing glare would shame many a drill sergeant, and she prides herself on being as tough as any soldier. What really makes her stand out is that she's got more skin in the game than any other general: her family was among the victims of atrocities wrought by the other side, and she will never, ever, ever quit, not while she's still breathing, not as long as she still has a half-dozen soldiers to command. In like fashion, the laws of war mean nothing to her any more, and massacres of defeated armies - or captured cities - at the hands of her army are commonplace.
20) The Jomini: The great rhetorical opponent of the von Clausewitz, he is a military theorist who scoffs at the notion of philosophy and holds to that of geometry. He feels that a scientific approach reveals all manner of patterns which can be brought to play on the battlefield ... if on a flat plain, as opposed to rough terrain, where the numbers aren't so neat and pretty. His works are popular, and have led to him being appointed as a general (though never in full command, something that irks him) by more than one side. While this has come back to bite him when one side commissioning him declares war on another, the Jomini's diligent staff work continues to commend him. He is, however, a sycophant, and tends to tell a ruler what he or she wants to hear to gain preferment.
21) The Van Dorn: He was a compromise candidate - the two other choices being bitter rivals, and other candidates wanting no part of the fractious command - and it was a surprise when he was appointed to the post, despite his successes as a leader of light cavalry. Aware that he was only the fifth or sixth choice, he thirsts to prove himself, despite his warring subordinates and the shambolic state of his army. Emotional and impulsive, he expects to gain a glorious reputation, come what may. He also has prominence as a painter and a poet, which he practices to clear his mind of military matters, but more recklessly, he is a 'terror to ugly husbands' as one disgruntled peer termed him, caring little for the status or power of those he cuckolds.
22) The Rosecrans: A skilled engineer and successful educator, he was humiliated when he was kept at his desk at the national military academy when cadets and fellow officers alike were rushed into the last war, gaining glory that the Rosecrans never saw. Needing to support his family in a better fashion than his mid-rank officer's pay could manage, he resigned his commission and went successfully into business. The new war has brought many retired officers back to the colors, and the Rosecrans was put in charge of a modest force, to good effect, where he outmaneuvered the enemy without giving battle. Now he has his own army ... but while he is good at maneuver, he is a poor tactician, given to confusing and unrealistic orders, and is wont to dive into the front lines waving his sword rather than commanding the effort.
23) The Pompey: A young, successful, ambitious general, he dismays the conservatives in the government by his rapid rise, and his cavalier approach to legality: the Pompey often gets his way by subtly threatening the government with his loyal army. His tactics are only efficient and neither inspired nor imaginative, and he can be tricked - if only temporarily - on the battlefield. He is unparalleled at logistics and strategy, and wins his battles largely by choosing the right battlefields, thinking two steps ahead, and maneuvering his columns to put the enemy in untenable situations. He'll also readily adapt strategy to the opponent's behavior: against a larger army he'll fight a war of maneuver, against a defensive army he'll fight a war of attrition, against a hesitant enemy he'll go on a swirling offensive. Many believe he is destined to rise to the top - something his foes in high places devoutly wish to prevent.
24) The Forrest: In an army dominated by the aristocracy and the gentry, he's a rough frontier commoner. In an army where most of the leading generals are scions of the nation's military academy, he's self-taught. In an army where the commanders all started as officers, he started as a simple recruit. In an army where the gentleman officers despise those in trade, he's not merely a former tradesman, but a gambler and slave-trader. Yet his brutal and innovative methods have made him his nation's greatest cavalry commander and a tactician of impressive gifts, and he believes in the virtues of high mobility. In personal combat, he is unparalleled, and is said to have slain dozens of the enemy personally while leading his troops (as well as having a record number of horses killed under him). The Forrest does not believe in quarter, and seldom offers it, contributing to the dread in which enemy generals hold him. It would be a dark day for the enemy should the Forrest ever reach high command - but he is dismissed as merely a successful raider by those same gentleman generals.
25) The Montmorency: He's the protÃ©gÃ© of the nation's most famous general, and now that he's succeeded the old woman he seems fair to better his retired mentor's record. He's even won a nickname - the 'Tapestrymaker' - based on the number of captured colors he's sent back to the capital. Logistics bores him, idle camp life sends him into paroxysms of depraved excess, and he's had a hand in at least one notable war atrocity, but on the field he's undefeated. Somehow, he stays loyal to the nation, despite political infighting that has had him spending time in prison on trumped-up charges ... but when the war trumpets sound, the Montmorency is always hastily pardoned and put back in harness. A pungent humor seems to keep him sane.
26) The Vauban: He's the foremost military engineer of his age, and his nation has raised taxes to a near-ruinous level to rebuild obsolete fortresses and castles to his design. Beyond that, his tactics for prosecuting a siege have proven very successful and been widely adopted, and one would imagine the Vauban's reputation to be complete. Unfortunately, he's a prolific writer - and a proud member of the national academy of scholars - and a frequent critic of the government, proposing radical changes in land use (he's advocated ceding territory he deems too difficult to defend), taxation and religious practice. It's increasingly felt that his military services are dispensable ... especially since they are mostly in theories already well known.
27) The Grant: (No, not the one you think.) The 'Mad Musician' is an oddball, all agree. He's famously laconic, speaking mostly in barked out one-word sentences. His only hobby - or vice - seems to be music; he's a devoted cellist and composer, and brings his instrument on all campaigns. Indeed, it's whispered that his army career was made only because a general wanted a cello player for a string quartet. Inarticulate, poorly educated, rough around the edges, dismissive of scouting, what has sustained him is his iron constitution, the discipline of his soldiers, his belief in outposts, entrenchment and gaming out scenarios ... And that the Grant is the world's deadliest fighter. With any weapon he is the master, and he has won more than one battle by literally riding to the front and single-handedly breaking the enemy line. His men may think him insane, but they will follow him to Hell and back.
28) The McDonald: Like the Morgan, he hails from a land in another time and space, of technology far beyond that he finds here. He was summoned by a magical spell, but the wizards didn't quite get what they thought they were getting. While he's a thoughtful, intelligent young man, he was never a commander: only the sergeant of a small raiding unit. In command now of an army, he's won the day by pulling out techniques and stratagems of his time unknown to those of this land. But the enemy is not stupid, they're learning quickly, and the McDonald is running out of rabbits to pull out of his helmet. He also came here only with the futuristic weapons he could carry on his back, and those are rapidly being depleted; he has taken to learning the sword and lance against the hour they fail, but is by no means expert. A tendency towards impetuosity is doing him no good.
29) The Wheeler: In the last war, much the same as the Stuart, he was a general of light cavalry renowned for his raids behind enemy lines. But while the daring, slashing raids captured the imagination of his nation, his disinterest in following orders, love for frontal assaults and the laxity of discipline which seeps through his command doesn't endear him to a number of his peers. (Chief among these is the Forrest, whose disciplined nature finds no tolerance for the Wheeler's antics, and has publicly sworn that he'd rather be dead than serve with him again.) Following the conflict, the Wheeler entered politics and gained high posts, and wrote several popular books of his adventures. Now, thirty years later, it's a new war, and the luster of his fame -- that, and that he's one of the last generals from the old war still fit for it -- has led him to be appointed commander of the national cavalry.
30) The Roosevelt: Sickly as a boy and home tutored in consequence, the young aristocrat grimly pushed himself to be an outdoorsman, building up his stamina with a stern regimen of physical training. While an excellent scholar, a life of letters simply bores the Roosevelt, and he'd rather be out hunting or exploring. Still, a man of his station accepts all duties presented to him, and he's had a series of ministerial posts ... although his enemies claim that it's more a matter of boundless ambition than disinterested service. But now! Now there's a war! And to be a real man, a man must fight! The Roosevelt secured a general's commission, gathered a unit full of fellow aristocrats and riders from his estates. His command -- backed by his money -- has the best of everything, but it's yet to be seen whether his impetuousity and self-confidence will win battles.
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? Responses (12)-12
I've been at this for some hours, and while there are thousands of generals of history I could adapt, I don't mind if someone fills out the roster if I don't get to it promptly.
Better then mine, still two left to be a 30 though.
Very good. Mostly because I learned about a few historical personalities I wasn't aware of before! While quite a few sound similar 'master of battle/tactics/strategy/etc', I suppose that can't be helped when writing about generals. Hard to become a general if you suck at it :)
Having said that ( a minor nitpick), there is actual some nice variety! Good work.
Will try to come up with two more if time allows.
Heh, well, when you look at it, that's the critical element involved with any general: does s/he suck at it or not? Leave that part out, and it's a critical flaw!
5/5 Nice history lesson built into an awesome collection of NPCs(or pcs for that matter).
Only thing it needs to be changed is make it a 101.
Probably could, even if the characters might get a tad repetitive! As to that, only four of those are based on fictional commanders.
A few of these are brilliant and dig right into the core motivations that I am all too familiar with! I could relate my experiences with quite a few of them correlating to actual officers I have worked for over my years. Really outstanding!
You just opened up another world of creativity for me actually. I keep my military very much out of my personal life but, man, there are so many eccentric personalities I have worked for and got to know very well....what a waste that I haven't used them before. Just odd it took this to totally refocus my POV on it all!
Being someone that always struggles through NPC creation, I think this post is totally awesome! Although they are not really fictional, it is an amazing job you did, putting all them together with such a post. Definitely a post that should stay within an arm's reach.
Heck, I could run it a few more, although I'd get diminishing returns on personality traits distinctive enough to be useful to players.
But heck, if NPC creation isn't easy for you, this approach is a good way out. Each and every one of those generals I listed are real world generals, except for the two from Anton Myrer's superb 'Once An Eagle,' the one from Twain's 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court,' and the one from Brian Daley's 'The Starfollowers of Coramonde.' The traits listed are ones really recorded. But you could do the same riff with any other commander.
Take Denethor, from Lord of the Rings. If I were to have done up 'The Denethor,' anyone familiar with LotR could work it out: the hereditary commander-in-chief of the national military, a sound, skilled and wise leader for many years. But he's been slowly going mad, he's convinced his nation is doomed to be annihilated in the next war, and it's causing him to make reckless decisions, to treat subordinates callously, and to ignore his allies. A jealous streak and a fear of being superseded doesn't help matters.
File off the serial numbers, and you can make a vivid portrayal from that, yeah? Great. You can do that with pretty much any fictional character, and that's how you do key NPCs if coming up with personalities is tough for you.
Beyond that, a lot of gamers get bogged down in stats. They sweat over attributes, levels, skill lists, magic items, combat stats, all manner of fripperies. And for the most part you don't need any of that. What do you need to know about the generals on this list? Their tactics/strategy skills. A Will roll for how much they stick to things. Probably a Health/Con stat, because campaign life is rigorous, and many a general's been laid low in a key hour by illness or age. And that's about it. Most of these guys aren't going to fight: a half-dozen were in their sixties as I portray them, and three of them in their seventies, so who cares what their Broadsword or Riding skills are? You can save yourself the trouble with all of that.
One of the better submissions here.
Thanks for these character sketches. Will help me a lot.