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Imagine a world like any standard RPG games. In these games characters grow stronger as they defeat opponents, long after any real-world soldier would have reached their peak possible performance. In these RPGs your level 100 PC is practically a 1 man army taking on dozens of foes at once with little risk; while in the real world even your most elite solder is only human, he can still be taken down by a few simple infantry men teaming up against them, or even die to a novice due to bad luck or one bad mistake.

I want to imagine a world closer to the RPG ideal, not just for PCs but for everyone; and people in this world are aware of it. People never reach quite the level of one-man-army as allowed in some RPGs, and it's more complex and variable then kill x foes and your certain to gain a level, but It's a known fact in the world that experience or training can let someone reach levels of Charles Atlas Superpower that make them able to greatly surpass the strength of a person with basic training alone. Most will not, or could not, reach the upper echelon of power, as factors such as innate talent, severity of training etc affect how fast one will grow in power and some simply will not have the raw talent or dedication to raise to the top levels of strength. Generally as one gets better raw training alone does less, and often combat experience against real threats becomes the main way to continue to grow powerful.

Now imagine a military in this world that acknowledges and expects this level of variance in power and skill. The military has soldiers that span the spectrum of power, but of course there are more of the inexperienced weak then the elite solders. Effectively you have a pyramid of lots of new fighters, decent number of competent, some veterans, and tiny number of elites. The power of the most elite solders are quite powerful, able to take on large numbers of rookies, but they are not invincible, bad luck or mistakes can let less skilled foes beat them and numbers and team tactics can easily allow a number of skilled-but-not-elite solders to defeat a more elite one. The military's power is mostly dependent on it's large number of less experienced common solders, simply due to the vast number of them compared to the more powerful, but the power of more veteran and elite soldiers is highly valued and recognized as an important factor in battles.

I'm trying to figure out how militaries would adjust by recognizing and utilizing this power potential. How would the relative skill level of soldiers decide how they're assigned, how does one use veteran or elite solders, more powerful but increasingly less common, to best utilize their power to support their less skilled solders etc.

What about rookie solders, how does one deploy them to make the most of their numbers while recognizing that there may be soldiers of noticeably higher strength they are best not used against out there on a battlefield?

For that matter if there is an expectation that generally speaking soldiers will manage to keep growing more powerful with experience (though this is general, and significant variance on how quickly one grows in strength and maximum potential) affect how soldiers are trained or utilized? Will there be a higher focus on keeping the rookies alive long enough to get some skill under their belt?

I'm looking at your average fantasy pseudo-medieval world in terms of technology. This also means smaller military sizes of standard medieval worlds.

You can also presume some level of unorganized non-sentient monsters in parts of the world, with the military being responsible for driving back monsters which wander to close to civilized areas, meaning some degree of constant threat even outside of war, but with monsters being weak enough that the military can hold them at bay; a soldier can die to monsters as part of the hazard of combat, but no one expects monsters to actually wipe out an entire patrol...

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  • $\begingroup$ What era is this in? In what ways do you grow more powerful, body's ability to absorb damage and keep going, strength, reaction time, accuracy what? $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Mar 4 '16 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ @sdrawkcabdear generally speaking I'm imagining everything increasing to an extent, though with a focus on high skill (accuracy, reaction, dodging, etc) over raw power. Think of your average waifu movie, or Advent Children movie if you ever saw it, for the sort of thing your most skilled fishers can do. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Mar 4 '16 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ What is required to gain experience ... modern MMA fighters become very skilled over time but their risk of death in almost nonexistent. They could be badly injured but never killed. I ask because one goal is to get the most noobs to level up as much as possible with as few dying as possible. If a real risk of death is needed to level up this is a futile goal, because probabilistically some must die for others to level. $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Mar 4 '16 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ TL;DR do you read DC comic there is this monster which managed to terminate superman (yeah it died in the process too) however Doomsday can be resurrected and become IMMUNED to whatever kill it. So yeah with great experience comes great power...no worry our hero have returned and is ready for fight once he(it) is soaked in colossal ball of plasma for couple of millennia! Muhahahahahaha! $\endgroup$ – user6760 Mar 5 '16 at 6:49
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This is a rather complex question. It depends on different factors, but we could look at a few points

Experience

Though Video RPG and a few others place a huge part of the experience acquiring process on combats and kills. But it isn't very realistic. The name says so: "experience". Meaning, each time you do something new, you gain experience. Killing your first goblin would make you progress, but by the 100th, it will hardly be worth it.

But other things might be interesting to accumulate experience: solving a mystery, travelling, creating something new, etc. Depending on the source of your acquired experience, you progress in one profession. A blacksmith don't need to kill anyone, but by forging various swords & co. he will be better. And get to the level of a Master Smith.

Profession

Still inspired by some RPG, you could start as lower levels as quite generalised professions: merchants, soldier, etc. Soldier would be generally as proficient with spears, swords or bows. But as they progress in levels, they'll become more specialised (think Legolas!). You could have a Master Smith specialised in Swords, another in Armors, others in horse shoes.

That may sound random, but I think it brings some realism, and it is essential to your question.

Army

For now, let's forget about smiths, musicians or politicians. And let's dive in the world of the Force.

They know that the more battles they do, the better they'll get.

Newer recruits and/or younger ones will be kept for menial jobs. Cooking, etc. And you use the wars and larger battles to provide experience to many. And you somehow used a natural selection to see which ones got a natural talent for it.

Once they got some experience, you'll use them to guard. The more experienced they are the more important persons/places they guard.And they participate in larger operations to accumulate more experience.

And that's about as far as you get in intermediate level. One should note that many died in the process. Battles are not particularly safe places to be.

And we come to the core of your question. What to do with the highest levels?

But as we defined earlier, they got specialised. So there's not a single answer to give. You could, for example have:

  • specialised units in a battle field organised to break the strategy of the opponents (somehow like cavalry was in many Medieval European battles).
  • independent units: like killers, guards for Kings, spies, etc.
  • trainers, teachers: they help the peons to capitalize on their experience.

Politics and society

Now how are they treated by the societies? The highest levels are probably famous people. Whose reputation go far beyond their own countries. Many countries will try to bring the best offers to them. Attacking a country with a big fortress and the best archer in the world, is probably going to cool some ambition down. So money, titles, husbands and/or wives. Anything they'll want.

Some would just sell themselves to the highest bidder. They would want to be the best, and accumulate experience. Others would stay in a country for a reason or another. But they are certainly the objects of many political and economical discussions.

However, depending on the power gap, they might just work as Nuclear Weapons. They are too powerful, so you don't attack an army which have any of them in it. Or you do, but only if you have one equivalent in yours, but that you leave on the side. That would be too costly to both take the death price in your ranks, and take the risk to lose your masterpiece.

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Actually, what you propose isn't too far different from what we had in our world.

A well trained knight in full armour was able to take on 10 or 20 untrained peasants and emerge victorious. Not always of course, but it was possible. Mount him on a horse and it became even more likely.

The differences you describe are ones of degree rather than absolutely game changing. Your elite units would become even more elite, your cannon fodder even more cannon fodder.

If you had population to spare you would most likely want to be in a lot of constant low grade wars and skirmishes since from those your elite start to emerge, and then more training and equipment can be lavished onto those elites since they are where the true power lies.

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Farming is the key...

You want to level up soldiers safely and cheaply. Its hard and expensive to level them up in open battle because many will die.

There are non sentient monsters that would grant you experience if you defeat them, up to a point. You should trap and bread some of these creatures as training stock to ramp up your army with, that way everyone goes into their first battle as a level 2 or 3 not a level 1. Mock combat and training can be another way to accomplish this.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is not actually an RPG. monsters don't give XP, just general combat experience and training help to grow stronger. real experience is needed to keep learning, but a manufactured situation with things too weak to be a threat isn't that. No free grinding without real threat of consequences, like in real life... $\endgroup$ – dsollen Mar 4 '16 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ @dsollen Fair point this was sort of a hack. But why does their need to be danger in order for you to get better? In our world practicing pottering makes you better at pottery whether or not the pot has the ability to kill you. Can't you train to perfection with out the risk of death? $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Mar 4 '16 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ You can learn from training, but not slower. For all the massive training given to solders today before combat the difference between a true rookie and someone with only 1-2 engagements of experience can be pretty massive. Training is never perfect, and it never recreates the terror, chaos, pain, and uncertainty of real combat. As such It seems like it wouldn't serve to teach the skills needed for real combat nearly a well as actually using them. And, from a meta level, because I want the people doing things to be more important and better then the ones home training ;) $\endgroup$ – dsollen Mar 4 '16 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ @dsollen there's a difference between training and practice. For combat, you can practice it without being lethal just by setting it in realistic conditions with non-lethal weaponry (that maybe gives an electric shock if you get hit - wire the electrodes to the soldier's genitals for all the terror, chaos and pain required for this "this matters" experience too!) $\endgroup$ – gbjbaanb Mar 5 '16 at 15:18
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It depends on 2 factors really - you either want a large number of "sweet spot" trained troops, or a few "super" trained troops. The difference in skill will tell you which you need (ie, take football, you can have the super skilled Messi still be beaten by the less-well skilled League 2 team so you'd train all your troops to the easy-and-cheap-to-achieve League 2 level, but if the skill levels were so different that the top player could take on a team all by himself, them you'd want to specialise in having a couple of them).

So assuming that as skill levels increase, they start to plateau and the difference is not so great, then you want a training programme for troops like we already have. You can see the difference here between troops of varying skill levels: a whole company of ill-trained troops will not be a match for a platoon of trained ones, or a handful of special forces troops.

However, assuming that you have D&D style experience where a level 1 untrained grunt will easily be outclassed by a level 5 veteran, and a level 20 elite soldier will take out whole armies single-handedly, then you're n the world of superheroes, where you needn't bother with any number of ordinary armies, you'd have them for peacekeeping and civilian suppression duties, and a couple of stars. Your position in the military world would be dependant on these, a bit like any story you'd find in a Marvel or DC comic.

Of course, the difference doesn't have to be down to skill: you can use technology instead. So a reasonably trained trooper can be issued with an iron-man suit (or whatever) and be a very effective fighting force by himself. In this case, you're limited to how many suits you can manufacture and support - your military might becomes one not of soldiers but of technological industrialisation. Similarly, if you developed remote-control robot troops, you don't even need soliders as you'd want them piloted by guys sitting around all day in front of a VR monitor (though ones with a good sense of discipline). In this case your battles are better fought by experienced tacticians than soldiers and your training will be more like a war game.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think VR monitors, iron man suits, and remote-controlled troops fit into fantasy/medieval technology. :) $\endgroup$ – Cyoce Mar 7 '16 at 7:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Cyoce I got carried away :-) ... steam powered iron knights...? $\endgroup$ – gbjbaanb Mar 7 '16 at 8:49

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