So if you've ever played an RPG (tabletop or computer) you're probably familiar with the idea of jobs or classes.
Some of these can be easily explained away as they correspond (roughly anyway) to real world jobs or positions. A thief is someone who steals for a living, a knight is an aristocratic role with various responsibilities etc.

But a lot of the more exotic classes define an individual with a distinct (and often unique) set of combat abilities. Say sword techniques and battle magic known only to members of that class. Examples include things like DnD's Swordsage or Dragoons from Final Fantasy V.

I would like to include various groups in my world who resemble to a degree these classes and I'm looking for a way to explain their existence. Now presumably these individuals are part of some larger group, a kind of warrior guild. But what I'm wondering is does that actually make any sense? Particularly when you think that the various members of the group may not necessarily be aligned and could end up on different sides of a battle.

I'm primarily interested in combat based classes, non combat ones can be fairly easily described through guilds, religious orders and secret societies (which may also work for this question, but I'm not sure).

So my question is could an organisation exist with the following characteristics;

  • Members are trained in various combat techniques known only to the organisation.
  • Members can come from a variety of nations, species and backgrounds and will not always follow the same leaders. They can end up fighting each other on different sides of a battle or war.
  • The organisation should be reasonably large. While individual masters training apprentices in the wild works for some classes, for others I would like them to be more numerous then this method would easily allow.
  • The organisation may have some kind of fixed settlements or buildings where members are trained (though this is not essential)

If you can give real world examples of something similar as well that would be excellent, and I would also except an answer explaining why it is unlikely or not possible.

Edit: The marked duplicate doesn't answer my question as it pertains to more general aspects of RPGs / games being applied to the real world. I just want to take the idea of jobs and classes and give a sensible reason as to how and why they would exist. As far as I could see, none of the answers in the other question covered this.

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    $\begingroup$ Same as Kungfu schools, different styles in different places. And modern armies, many different trainings available for recruits $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Feb 19 '18 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Kilisi I did think of kungfu / martial arts. But I'm not particularly looking for different styles in different places, as much as the same style in different places. That's the bit I can't quite figure out. How does an organisation exist which trains people to fight but doesn't instil them with any allegiance? $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Feb 19 '18 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ While I'm not sure what a Rocket Propelled Grenade "dragoon" would look like, I'm certain that real-life warriors come in several different jobs or classes -- for example marines, aviators, rangers, tank crews, combat engineers, snipers and so on. But such classes are not "organizations"; they are specialties, or occupations, or crafts. Every nation will have its own aviators, there is no world-wide organization supplying aviators to interested belligerent powers. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 19 '18 at 9:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan I disagree this is a duplicate. The linked question concerns creating an RPG society, while this one wants to adapt RPG concepts to the real world. None of the answers to the other question provide an answer to this one. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Feb 19 '18 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ As someone who works in a university, you sound like you are describing an MBA program which takes corporate warfare far too literally. $\endgroup$ – Xenocacia Feb 20 '18 at 7:56

It is certainly possible and there are numerous real-world examples of the types of organisations you are looking for. Some examples:

1. The Hashashin

The original organisation of assassins led by a Grandmaster, known only as the Old Man of the Mountain, held several mountain fortresses throughout Persia and Syria. They carried out missions of espionage and assassination for over 300 years, successfully targetting influential figures including caliphs, viziers, sultans and crusader leaders. The first and most famous of the Grandmasters was Hassan-i-Sabbah.

This organisation has been widely popularised by games such as Assassin's Creed and anime such as Fate/Stay Night. While the hashashin were a tightly organised group, they were spread out over several locations under local leaders, meaning your fictional organisation could develop conflicts of interest and infighting.

2. The Teutonic Order

Similar in nature to the Knights Templar, this order of knights was formed to aid Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land but transformed into a military order. Eventually growing large and powerful (despite numerous defeats and changes of location), they conquered and ruled over large swathes of Poland, Lithuania, and Prussia.

The order absorbed several other subsidiary groups of knights including the Livonian Order, which led to recruits coming from all over northern and central Europe. This led to the order's eventual downfall through political and military infighting, while the local populations united and overthrew their military overlords.

They appear in various computer games (Medieval: Total War, Age of Empires, Europa Universalis, and Assassin's Creed), books (Conrad Stargard science fiction series by Leo Frankowski), and films (Alexander Nevsky, the 1938 film), and are commonly depicted as brutish and brutal.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for some real world examples. The Knight Templar and other orders did come to mind. I suppose an organisation that starts united and then splinters off would fit my needs quite nicely. $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Feb 19 '18 at 16:05

The simplest way is to have the organisation be a loose collective. Each master will train apprentices, when some of those apprentices become masters some inherits the previous masters school but some others go out into the world to set up their own.

Some of the new schools flourish, some don't. Over time similar (but maybe slowly diverging) classes grow up and study in each of these schools.

Sometimes the split is amicable and the school and masters remain friendly. Sometimes it is anything but and anything from bitter rivalry to full on enmity springs up between these schools.

  • $\begingroup$ But how large could such an organisation grow? Presumably once it became established you might have one 'Grand Master' and numerous masters teaching apprentices, but could a single school reach a large size if the masters keep leaving to start their own? $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Feb 19 '18 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ @adaliabooks All of the above. You could have groups of schools, or independent ones, or most likely a mix. What I'm describing is just how most martial arts schools work here. When I did Tetsudo for example it was expected that anyone who reached black belt would become a teacher and either help at an existing class or found their own. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 19 '18 at 9:51

You only need time, not guilds or worldwide schools.

Lets take DnD as an example since I've played it on and off since 1978.

The earliest versions of DnD assumed a great civilization sometime in the very distant past.

Wizard: There must have been someone a long time ago that either developed study based magic or received it from some outside source. He/she would have taught it to a few people. Whether there was a formal school or not is largely irrelevant. Since magic was useful, people learned it and the study spread, often with distinctions of various flavors as people learn different portions of the available knowledge depending on circumstances, skill and interest. Fast forward to "modern" times and you have wizards most places that have a large enough population.

Cleric: Clerics worship various deities. Presumably, it is difficult for a deity to show up and offer power for worship. So we can posit that they show up in only few places on the world and convert a small group each time. The worship spreads like a virus across the world (small pockets of worshipers who send out people to convert other small pockets).

Fighter: This is the first class that has a real world example. Just look at any weapon wielding group on our history. The club, sword, axe, and bow have sprung up multiple times in multiple forms as materials become available just because they are good tools for what they do. Sword techniques, for example, develop to take advantage of the shapes of the various swords. They can spread where ever the sword style goes. It may also be developed spontaneously whenever a sword style is common. There don't need to be specific guilds.

Rogue/thief: Like in the real world, these skills can develop several times in different areas. Where ever someone has something that someone else wants, people will learn how to get it.

There are other classes that are either similar to the above or combine lesser versions of the above with something else. These are all variations that can be spread with sufficient time.


In a comment, you ask

How does an organisation exist which trains people to fight but doesn't instil them with any allegiance?

That's easy: mercenaries. A prime real-world example of what you are asking are Swiss pikemen. According to wikipedia,

Until roughly 1490, the Swiss had a virtual monopoly on pike-armed mercenary service.

So there you have it: people with a specific fighting skill set and no allegiance but money. I think I remember having been taught in school (I'm from Switzerland myself) that Switzerland decided to prohibit mercenaries because Swiss-on-Swiss battles happened too often, which is one of your criteria, but wikipedia disagrees, and cites "Cambridge Modern History, Volume 1: The Renaissance" as a source. Anyway that's quite a small leap to make.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. I had considered the groups being mercenaries as an option but assumed that in most cases that would also prohibit combat between the members, but perhaps I was overly hasty in ruling that out. $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Feb 19 '18 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @adaliabooks this would be a good question for history.SE $\endgroup$ – Nico Feb 19 '18 at 16:06

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