What Can Rank Do For Your Game?

So you’ve incorporated your players into an organization, and you’re trying to figure out how to make that rank system you’ve been working so hard on matter. What can rank do for you? A lot more than you might think.

The most logical use for it is dangling a carrot for your players—do this, and this, and this, and that, and you get a nifty new title and the recognition of your peers. Sweet deal, but I find it’s rather boring on its own, particularly if all that changes is rank and not impact on the people around, resources, or any of the numerous other perks that rank in the real world can grant.

Of course, there’s power—the higher rank a character is, the more resources she can bring to bear and the more people take orders from her. Having the kinds of privileges that come from a high position in an organization can bring an entirely new level to the game, adding strategy and resource management to the list of useful traits and giving people an entirely new range of interesting options to try to improvise new uses for.

And with great power—well, we’ve all heard the quote. Keeping that high position is probably going to require a commensurate set of duties, and failing to do those means losing the pretty title and the corner office. It’s a perfect way to make sure the plot hooks get picked up.

Rank itself can be used as a weapon, or at least a tool. The logical way, of course, is people taking full advantage of greater ranks to lord it over the lower ones, but that’s not the only way. A promotion might be a way to give someone else the recognition and resources they deserve, but it might also be a way to shuffle her to a position with a nice name but very little true power, to set her up for a job she wouldn’t like that her current title isn’t eligible for, or just to paint a bullseye on her back for her political rivals who were “passed over”. In the lower ranks, the PCs are likely to be on the receiving end of these, but when they’ve got authority (or friends in high places who owe them a few favors), they can dish them out as well.

If the group’s not quite in an organization, that doesn’t mean rank can’t still be used as a reward—it’s just that they’d be trying to help elevate the rank of a friend or the like who’s in the organization rather than directly improving their own. Sometimes it’s to get the friend into a position where they can do something, sometimes it’s just a PC wanting to do good by “their” NPC, sometimes it’s a part of a different task, but just because it isn’t the PC’s own title being affected doesn’t mean they aren’t going to get involved.

Rank and advancement therein: metagame reward, tool, weapon, plot hook and treat for the group’s NPCs. What’s not to like?

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