What is the SGAL Military Primer? This primer is designed to help SGAL players play a military character in a consistent and believable way. Unlike civilian characters, there are many more regulations, rules and codes that must be adhered to, which makes it different from playing a character in many other RPGs.
Why do we need a primer on playing a military character? As much as this is a fictional role playing game based on a fictional TV show, the fictional TV is based on the real life militaries of the world, especially the U.S. It is important to adhere to a certain level of realism so that all players can enjoy the game and their characters; by adhering to a certain level of realism we also establish a non-arbitrary baseline so that players are uniformly aware of what they can and cannot do. Many times players can become frustrated if the feel other players are playing their characters unrealistically and feel it diminishes their ability to stay true to their own character.
So you're saying I don't know how to role play my character?! Perhaps, but that's not an indictment on you as a player. Most people do not have a firsthand knowledge of military strictness or regulations. This primer is designed to help bring up the most important aspects of military reality. If you do not wish to role play someone who follows military regulations, then do not role play a military character. By choosing the play a military character, you accept all responsibilities that come with it.
That sounds boring. I'm just here to have fun! Why should I care about realism? For the same reason I mentioned above. It tends to irritate other players who wish to play their characters realistically. Now, we do allow some bending of reality, so it's not like we'll expect you to know every little detail or play it strictly but the book, but this primer will set realistic expectations without ruining the fun of the game.
What is considered an order? Any time you are told to do something, even if it does not start or end with "that is an order" it is considered an order. This means that any time something similar to the phrase "We're doing this" leaves someone's mouth, it is an order and should be treated as such if given by a superior officer. If someone of lower rank tells someone of higher rank to do something, they could get in a lot of trouble (unless the higher ranking officer asked for their opinion). How things are worded is very important in the military, so suggestions should be worded as such.
Expectations for Command Officers
Giving Orders: Give orders with authority. That doesn't mean be mean about it. That means when you give an order, you expect it to be followed. And do not give an order unless you are prepared to explain WHY you gave the order to your superiors. Conversely, you should never have to explain an order to subordinates, as they should be accustomed to following orders without hesitation. If you are unsure about what orders to give, field respectful opinions from your XO and other officers. If enlisted personnel have input, make sure they ask permission to interject before giving their idea. You may require this of lower ranking officers as well, but make this expectation known to those officers. Always be prepared to defend your orders when being debriefed by your superiors, even if in the aftermath it was the wrong call.
Relationship with team members: While there is certainly room for friendly relationships on every team (provided they don't violate regulations), first and foremost you are your team's superior officer. That is the main priority and your first responsibility, not to be the best friend to everyone on your team. There will be times you have to make decisions that anger your fellow teammates for the greater good. You cannot let how your character feels get in the way of that. Conversely not everyone on your team will like your character. That does NOT mean the player does not like you. You are not your character and neither are they.
Dealing with insubordinate military characters: In the field, this is a bit dicey, since you are likely the final authority, so some leeway is given in terms of how to deal with it, but be prepared to defend any actions taken. Also, stay as consistent with punishment as you can. Circumstances can be taken into effect, but if it appears you are giving preferential treatment, your command can be revoked.
- Insubordination in the TV shows: Some of you might be wondering if characters in the show can get away with it, why can't I? Well, 1.) many times they didn't get away with it, 2.) when they did, it was usually an extenuating circumstance and 3.) it was mostly the superior officer's call on how much to put up with it. My advice is if your character is going to be insubordinate in character, talk to the CO's player out of character first to make sure how their character will respond. If you proceed to be insubordinate, be prepared to face whatever in character consequences your commander doles out.
Dealing with military characters not following orders: Again, some leeway is given, so be prepared to defend your actions, but mostly relieving the character of duty and putting the character on report for disciplinary action is the appropriate response.
- Defying orders in the TV Shows: Again, some of you are saying, 'but SG-1 and others went against orders sometimes!'. Yes, they did. And it was up to their commanders to decide if what they did was right or not. Even if they /were/ right, sometimes they were punished anyway for not following orders. Don't forget that a very big deal was made of Shepard's "black mark" for defying orders for a very good reason. It took him a long time and strange circumstances to get past those consequences; expect it to be just as hard or harder for your characters if they choose to disobey orders. If you are going to defy an order, be prepared for consequences, right or wrong.
Dealing with insubordinate civilians: This is a little different since the civilians are employees and not military officers or enlisted. The best you can do is send them home if needed and possible. Otherwise, you can request they be removed from your team and put them on report with your superiors, who will then decide what to do with them.
**Note to civilians** This does not give you the right to defy your CO's orders at every turn... or at all. Remember, the SGC wouldn't hire you or send you out on the field if you felt you had to disobey every order. The SGC looks for obedience in its civilians every bit as much as they do in their soldiers.
Expectations for Non-Command Officers / Enlisted
ALWAYS obey orders: Even if you disagree or think they are wrong. If you do disobey an order, be prepared to face the consequences. We won't be letting this slide anymore. This could include up to a court martial for your character. Even if you are proven right in the end, there will still be some consequences even if you can justify your actions; however, they will be much lighter. When in doubt, confer with your CO's player to make sure your character will not suffer permanent consequences. Extenuating circumstances such as possession, mind control or other things can be taken into account, but again, talk to your CO's player first.
ALWAYS be respectful: When asked for your opinion or even when disagreeing. And when your CO makes a decision or gives an order, move on. Being insubordinate is a quick way to get sent home on a mission or getting relieved of your duties. If your character has a problem with an order, take it through the chain of command (if realistically possible. If not discuss with your CO's player how to address it without consequences). Unless your character knows FOR CERTAIN that there is time to do so (almost never in combat situations), you should never disagree or offer input on an order which would cause any delay in carrying out an order. Your CO expects their orders to be followed, and at times even a slight delay at carrying out orders can have very dire consequences. If you feel the order is somehow wrong, you should carry out the order first, and discuss it later by following the chain of command, as previously stated.
In the absence of orders, conduct yourself professionally: Meaning you're a soldier and you have a code. If you do something to violate that code, you will be disciplined. You don't have to be a saint, but if you do something blatantly immoral, be prepared to face the consequences. This is the ONE time, where you MIGHT not be punished for disobeying an order, but be ready to justify WHY you disobeyed. Once again, discussing with your CO's player or me is advised before you do that. (See bottom)
Note: An Enlisted that has the rank of Corporal or higher (so any enlisted person who plays) is considered a non-commissioned officer. They should still conduct themselves as if they are leaders - because the military considers them leaders. However, they are not subject to the same punishments and scrutiny as commissioned officers.
Other Expectations for All Officers
Relationships with other military characters: I will admit, we blur the line here more than any other, but this is not a license to ignore military regulations. Below is a short list of examples of appropriate and inappropriate relationships. These are NOT comprehensive.
- Appropriate relationships in the military
- Two officers as friends, even close friends
- Romantic relationships outside both officer's chain of command (I.E. different teams)
- Romantic relationships between officers and civilians or enlisted and civilians
- Inappropriate relationships in the military
- Romantic relationships between officers and enlisted
- Romantic relationships between officers in the same chain of command
- Gambling between officers and enlisted
- SGAL regulation bending: In the interest of having fun, we DO allow relationships between officers in the same chain of command, HOWEVER, they are to be DISCREET and NOT get in way of doing your job. If your relationship does not adhere to these guidelines, one of the characters will be moved. If there is a question about whether a relationship crosses the line, please feel free to ask.
- Marriage: While we do not mind characters getting married (we have even allowed it on the same team), marriage between two people in the same chain of command DOES require approval. This simply means asking a GM OOC about it and they will give you the details. Failure to do this may mean that we consider the marriage unapproved by the military, and may have both of the offending military characters court-martialed. If one or both of the characters is a civilian, they may be fired from their position at the SGC.
Court-Martial / Getting Fired
If your character violates the rules too often, or commits more than one major violation (without running it by your CO), they may get Court-Martialed (if they are military) or fired (if they are a civilian). What this means for you as a player is that you lose the character, permanently. Because you are getting fired / Court-Martialed from a top-secret base, it will be considered a matter of national security and your character will be arrested to prevent the character from telling anyone about the SGC. Unless it is approved by a GM, your character will likely not be allowed any visitors, so there will be no 'in prison' talks between the character who was Court-Martialed / fired and any other character.
Enlisted Personnel credo examples
Army: No one is more professional than I. I am a Noncommissioned Officer, a leader of soldiers. As a noncommissioned officer, I realize that I am a member of a time honored corps, which is known as "the Backbone of the Army." I am proud of the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the military service and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself. I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit or personal safety.
Competence is my watch-word. My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind -- accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers. I will strive to remain technically and tactically proficient. I am aware of my role as a noncommissioned officer. I will fulfill my responsibilities inherent in that role. All soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership. I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own. I will communicate consistently with my soldiers and never leave them uninformed. I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards and punishment.
Officers of my unit will have maximum time to accomplish their duties; they will not have to accomplish mine. I will earn their respect and confidence as well as that of my soldiers. I will be loyal to those with whom I serve; seniors, peers and subordinates alike. I will exercise initiative by taking appropriate action in the absence of orders. I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage. I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, Noncommissioned Officers, leaders!
Marine Corp: I am a Staff Noncommissioned Officer in the United States Marine Corps. As such, I am a member of the most unique group of professional military practitioners in the world. I am bound by duty to God, Country, and my fellow Marines to execute the demands of my position to and beyond what I believe to be the limits of my capabilities.
I realize I am the mainstay of Marine Corps discipline, and I carry myself with military grace, unbowed by the weight of command, unflinching in the execution lawful orders, and unswerving in my dedication to the most complete success of my assigned mission.
Both my professional and personal demeanor shall be such that I may take pride if my juniors emulate me, and knowing perfection to lie beyond the grasp of any mortal hand, I shall yet strive to attain perfection that I may ever be aware of my needs and capabilities to improve myself. I shall be fair in my personal relations, just in the enforcement of discipline, true to myself and my fellow Marines, and equitable in my dealing with every man.