Duty and Orders

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Duty and Orders

Postby 0beron » Sat Aug 06, 2011 9:55 am

Well, and interesting debate has popped up about orders and how Duty applies when a unit has no orders or has been given orders it clearly cannot achieve, so I figured I'd move it here to get more attention so others can weigh in and offer some opinions or comic references.

Basically the question is "To what extent to infantry-class units have the ability to act without orders or in contradiction to orders, based on their Duty to preserve their overlord and side?"

Here are a few of the arguments made thus far:

User who believes that units CAN make their own orders based on Duty wrote:Orders last only as long as the situation remains similar. If something changes the situation, no unit is limited to orders that were made without knowledge of the new element. A piker stack set to hold a bridge against gobwins might be required to hold it even if hobgobwins show up (even if the hobgobwins are more likely to win, they would be compelled because there is still a small chance of victory), but if those hobgobwins are mounted archery units on unipegataurs that the pikers can't even hit, the order cannot be achieved and so becomes null... they cannot hold, only buy time by dying, but buying time wasn't their task. They were expected to hold the bridge, which is now impossible, leaving only self-preservation. Even the requirement for leaderless units to engage non-allied stacks fails, because they cannot engage a flying unit. So flight is permitted, if they feel it is in their Ruler's greater self-interest that they still exist to fight in the future. (It's also in their Ruler's self-interest to know the bridge was taken bby units they could not respond to.)


User arguing that only units with Leadership are capable of complex decisions wrote:The only time we have seen units "adjust" their orders or act without orders has been units with leadership. No basic infantry has ever made a decision about what is in the side's best interest and acted accordingly. So yes, your assessment that a piker commanded to defend a bride against gobwins would continue to do so if engaged by hobgobwins is correct...and it would continue to guard the bridge even if flying units attempted to take the bridge, because those are it's orders. If a caster or warlord was given the same instructions however, THEN they might determine it is in their side's best interest to withdraw in the face of insurmountable odds.


User with an interesting point about Stanley wrote:There are some things that force a non-Leadership unit's activity. But not everything is. Remember that Stanley was once a Piker. If a unit could never make a decision, Stanley could not have stood out and been given the Leadership special. There must be some freedom of thought and action in order for Stanley's rise to make sense.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby sleepymancer » Sat Aug 06, 2011 11:07 am

Well, I'm game to join in. Although I'm going to begin by hedging, flinging my hands in the air and saying 'I don't know'.

I get the feeling we are using the term 'infantry' here to mean non-leadership/non-caster units rather than specifically implying foot soldiers. Many of the arguments would presumably be equally applicable to seige, aquatic units, fliers and so forth.

The bit that I want to muse on is Stanley's early days as a lowly piker. I agree that he must have showed some resourcefulness as a lowly piker to have been promoted up and into the ranks of leadership. I find myself wondering if he got lucky in enough battles that he levelled to the point that it was worth spending the schmuckers on him to promote him to a leadership class? A distinction drawn between what a unit can think/scheme/say and what they can physically do. I also wonder if it wasn't the old 'cigarette break' promotion, where at points of non-combat he had been talking with leaders of his side, and when someone was needed for immediate promotion - rather than waiting for a relevant unit to pop - he got remembered. I also find myself wondering if Stanley pre-leadership was simply in led stacks.

We know that stacks without leadership are forced to auto attack. I would suggest from the days of the Doughnut of Doom that, in the manner of suggestion spells, the units seem to rationalise their headlong charge. I recall the straight-from-pop-culture look the two ?elves gave each other before charging in to their certain deaths. However, is it possible that thinking (somewhat)rationally can be viewed as a presumably hidden numerical stat, that is at 0 for an unled, ordinary infantry unit but gets boosted by the leadership bonus? I imagine the actual mechanic would be different to that, but hopefully the idea stands.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that the distinction might not just be infantry versus leadership, but unled versus led infantry.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby 0beron » Sat Aug 06, 2011 11:28 am

I agree with you with regard to Stanley, the fact that he got promoted doesn't necessarily imply he made any significant decisions of his own, but rather that he had good stats and thus a good candidate for promotion based on numbers alone.

(and yes, "infantry" was a blanket label I was using for all non-leadership special units)

You bring up a good reference with the elves, I also remember a text update that followed Wriggley? (the decrypted stabber) and how he feels a sense of unity within his stack and while he thinks of himself as an individual, all of his actions come from the Warlord's orders, or from a hive-mind of the stack ("deciding" when was the right moment to charge, as a group). This leads me to believe that in combat especially, an individual unit will not stand out for its actions, but rather for its level and stats. Even if a unit does something particularly brave or effective in combat, it's implied that they would only have done so based on a leaders orders (based on battle tactics that leader had)

Also very good point with the rationalization of orders. It might be that infantry does have a Duty score, but they rely on units with leadership to tell them how to best do their Duty. So even if they are given suicidal or impossible orders, they might still believe they are somehow ensuring the future survival of their overlord and side.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby MarbitChow » Sat Aug 06, 2011 12:10 pm

0beron wrote:Basically the question is "To what extent to infantry-class units have the ability to act without orders or in contradiction to orders, based on their Duty to preserve their overlord and side?"

Unless they are a commander, duty has no effect on them: http://www.erfworld.com/book-1-archive/?px=%2F084a.jpg
So, based on the comic, they have no ability to act based on duty. They simply obey. Furthermore, arguments about 'self-preservation' don't carry any weight, since only one side can move at a time. If you are defending a hex, it means that it not your move, and you cannot retreat. (Kingworld being the obvious, rule-breaking exception.)
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby drachefly » Sat Aug 06, 2011 12:32 pm

Movements within a defending city are another exception. A grounded flying unit could elect to take off. Or infantry could opt not to engage enemy units that were attempting to traverse the hex rather than engage. Or retreat into a more tactically defensible position within the hex from wherever they had been put. Or retreat to restack with allied units within hex.

There are meaningful off-turn engage-or-not choices to be made.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby Kreistor » Sat Aug 06, 2011 12:49 pm

You have to remember that even though Erfworld has "rules", they are reflected in the comic by choices. It is a Rule that stacks without Leadership must attack Enemy units, in the comic, it is reflected by the unit yelling, "Enemy! Attack!" as if they were choosing to attack. The Rule may be more accurately stated that, "Units without Leadership will always choose to attack enemy Units."

We have, then, some freedom of thought.

now, I want you to take a look back at my example of Unipegataurs with mounted archers attacking the Pikers guarding a bridge. The Pikers have an Order to "Hold the Bridge." The Rule demands they will choose to attack, but they have no weapon to attack with. There is one funsdamental difference between this situation and our world. It can't happen here.

In our world, flying requires fuel, and eventually that flying unit that is tearing your unit apart will have to return to base. Merely by staying, some of your units will survive and you will hold the bridge. "The only way to hold terrain is with boots on the ground."

Not so in Erfworld. Those Unipegataurs can fly without tiring, and can hold that bridge once taken, because their rations will pop right there for them. No refueling. No apparent need for more arrows, so far.

Another thing: in our world, it was rare for any battle to exceed 10% casualties on either side until The American Civil War. There were some instances (Rome defeating Carthage for instance) where greater losses were suffered. In Erfworld, the attacking Side can continue the Turn until every unit in a Hex is dead. 100% losses are common. It lacks the concept of reinforcement and support fire.

My real attack on the "Hold the Bridge" order is in interpretation. The Pikers' order are impossible to achieve. I contend that an Order that cannot be achieved is not an Order at all.

Let's consider a different order. "Climb that mountain." The Leaderless stack begins climbing the mountain, but reaches an impassable cliff. The Units will try. Maybe they'll be smart enough to pile rocks to try to get up it. But they are compelled to try everything, determining what fails and what helps.

The Pikers on the bridge cannot even try. They lack Fabricate, and so don't know how to build weapons that could hit anything that high. They would stand for a while throwing rocks, but arrows can be launched from far beyond throwing range, so that method becomes tried and rejected. After a time, they have nothing left to try, the Order is accepted as impossible because say it is impossible, and so they should be permitted to flee.

It all comes down to the definition of "Hold the bridge". If you think that every order in Erfworld automatically has appended " until you die", then I'm not surprised there's disagreement. I think the Leader that tells them what to do has to say, "until you die" for an order to demand suicidal adherence. Even without a Leader.

I'll admit, there's a good chance that I'm wrong. It's not how I interpret "Hold the Bridge"... it matters how Rob interprets it. And Rob has been most notably merciless in Erfworld's Rules.

Drachefly wrote:Movements within a defending city are another exception. A grounded flying unit could elect to take off. Or infantry could opt not to engage enemy units that were attempting to traverse the hex rather than engage. Or retreat into a more tactically defensible position within the hex from wherever they had been put. Or retreat to restack with allied units within hex.


Such movement is only permitted to Units on the Side that hold the Garrison. Once Garrison is captured, the Units of the previous owning Side are now treated like invaders, and must expend move to redeploy.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby drachefly » Sat Aug 06, 2011 2:33 pm

... yeah. And? I was just providing more examples.

Your main argument revolves around 'should'. We don't know whether it is. It could be that such units are, in the absence of amended orders, stuck.

As a side note, high % direct losses from battle were frequently observed in ancient times (a list of the most notable would be too long for this post). Not so much in the medieval up to mid-industrial eras, agreed. That was largely due to the more limited nature of the wars fought, and then the limited capability of musketry for purposes of mass slaughter.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby 0beron » Sat Aug 06, 2011 3:13 pm

MarbitChow wrote:Unless they are a commander, duty has no effect on them: http://www.erfworld.com/book-1-archive/?px=%2F084a.jpg
So, based on the comic, they have no ability to act based on duty. They simply obey.

I think this little forgotten factoid really solves the argument...units without leadership do not have Duty to act upon, and therefore will not make up their own orders. If their orders are "impossible" they will simply stay put and do nothing. So to keep with the pikers defending a bridge against fliers example, the pikers will simply guard the bridge until they are croaked.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby sleepymancer » Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:34 am

Another thing to add to this. I've just been re-reading book one, and on pg. 123 a pertinent comment is made by Maggie to Parson. Parson had commanded a fighting retreat to be made, and was told 'Lord... These are Uncroaked. They require a simple, specific order of battle'. Which implies to me that ordinary infantry can adapt a lot more to circumstances, within the remit of the order. Obviously, attempting the (known to be) impossible will still not be done, but hey there's some scope and freedom for ordinary units there!!
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby Tominator2 » Tue Aug 09, 2011 10:36 pm

0beron wrote:
MarbitChow wrote:Unless they are a commander, duty has no effect on them: http://www.erfworld.com/book-1-archive/?px=%2F084a.jpg
So, based on the comic, they have no ability to act based on duty. They simply obey.

I think this little forgotten factoid really solves the argument...units without leadership do not have Duty to act upon, and therefore will not make up their own orders.


The description of Obedience states that some units may disobey (for certain, limited reasons) with a chance of being disbanded for their disobedience. It is not clear who can decide to disobey or how the decision about being disbanded is made, but it is clear that disobedience is an option.

Put the shoe on the other foot. If our infantry were ordered to take a bridge, only to arrive and see it guarded by untouchable fliers, would they still be Obedient if they waited until the fliers left? What if they waited in ambush for units they could damage to cross the bridge and attacked them?
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby 0beron » Tue Aug 09, 2011 11:25 pm

Well I would argue that Duty is what gives a unit the ability to judge what they think is best for the side or in the ruler's best interest, so units without Duty would only Disobey is an order contradicted an order from a higher commander (or the ruler himself)

With the bridge idea...it seems the comic has implied that basic units are pretty stupid and limited. From a mechanical standpoint, infantry would be under orders to enter the hex the bride is in (before which point they could not notice the fliers). Once there, if they are unled, mechanics dictate that they have to "engage". I imagine that with a Thinkamancer, units could relay the situation to the capital and then be given orders to withdraw, but that's hazy.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby Sixty » Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:08 am

Kreistor wrote:Such movement is only permitted to Units on the Side that hold the Garrison. Once Garrison is captured, the Units of the previous owning Side are now treated like invaders, and must expend move to redeploy.


I thought if your Garrison was captured all surviving units had shackles appear on them and were automatically taken prisoner (like Wrigley)

"He was on his knees in the mud. His hands were held with the shackles that popped on his wrists the moment Warchalking's Garrison fell."
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby Sojiko » Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:41 am

MarbitChow wrote:Unless they are a commander, duty has no effect on them: http://www.erfworld.com/book-1-archive/?px=%2F084a.jpg
So, based on the comic, they have no ability to act based on duty. They simply obey.
Actually that's not what it says, it says that only leaders are affected by Duty but not that Duty is the only source of initiative. Simply that it forces a leader to use his initiative.

Tominator2 wrote:The description of Obedience states that some units may disobey (for certain, limited reasons) with a chance of being disbanded for their disobedience. It is not clear who can decide to disobey or how the decision about being disbanded is made, but it is clear that disobedience is an option.
Yes, from this we know all units have initiative, but note it only affect compliance with orders, not acting outside them. It speaks of the ability of any unit to refuse to do what it was told.
And from the Loyalty stats we know they have some latitude for acting against their side or ruler, not just disobeying orders to serve them better.

sleepymancer wrote:Parson had commanded a fighting retreat to be made, and was told 'Lord... These are Uncroaked. They require a simple, specific order of battle'. Which implies to me that ordinary infantry can adapt a lot more to circumstances, within the remit of the order.
More than initiative, this denotes the ability to understand and interpret complex orders. So depending on how the orders for holding the bridge were given, an infantry unit could conclude that retreating against an invulnerable opponent is the best way to obey their orders even if the specific situation wasn't explicitly addressed.
This would not fall within disobedience but understanding the orders with enough complexity to categorize "retreat to conserve forces against an opponent that cannot be harmed" as part of their original orders. Once again it depends on how the original order was given.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby ftl » Thu Aug 18, 2011 4:38 am

Sojiko wrote:. So depending on how the orders for holding the bridge were given, an infantry unit could conclude that retreating against an invulnerable opponent is the best way to obey their orders even if the specific situation wasn't explicitly addressed.
This would not fall within disobedience but understanding the orders with enough complexity to categorize "retreat to conserve forces against an opponent that cannot be harmed" as part of their original orders. Once again it depends on how the original order was given.


One more thing - remember, orders aren't *actually* given by words. It's natural thinkamancy, not a written-out order sheet. They would interpret their orders however their commanding officer meant for his orders to be interpreted.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby Swodaems » Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:23 pm

ftl wrote:
Sojiko wrote:. So depending on how the orders for holding the bridge were given, an infantry unit could conclude that retreating against an invulnerable opponent is the best way to obey their orders even if the specific situation wasn't explicitly addressed.
This would not fall within disobedience but understanding the orders with enough complexity to categorize "retreat to conserve forces against an opponent that cannot be harmed" as part of their original orders. Once again it depends on how the original order was given.


One more thing - remember, orders aren't *actually* given by words. It's natural thinkamancy, not a written-out order sheet. They would interpret their orders however their commanding officer meant for his orders to be interpreted.


Incorrect, Parson has already proved otherwise. (For those of you unwilling to click on the links: Stanley ordered Parson not to speak until ordered otherwise, so Parson got Sizemore to order him to speak. (Sizemore isn't shown actually giving the order, but figuring out what happened isn't too hard from the sequence of events.) Stanley clearly meant for himself to be the only one to be able to give Parson that order, but Parson was still able to get around that.)

At best, the units would only be bound by their interpretation of what they thought the order meant.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby drachefly » Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:30 pm

... or Parson is special.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby Beeskee » Fri Aug 19, 2011 2:45 am

That order wasn't transmitted mentally, though. And yeah Parson is special. :D

Though he couldn't avoid smacking himself when directly ordered.


As far as units and orders go, infantry are forced to auto-attack when there's no commander in the hex. In the 'bridge' example above, the units may not be able to attack the flying archers, but they can move within the hex even when not on their turn. A string of units occupying a series of hexes can pass messages along by running up to the hex border and talking across it to a neighboring unit, so it seems reasonable to think the bridge defenders will probably choose to pass along a message saying that they're under attack by units they cannot attack back.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby Unclever title » Fri Aug 19, 2011 2:20 pm

drachefly wrote:... or Parson is special.

Or Stanley hadn't fully thought out the order. He did say it pretty quickly and right at a moment when he angry at Parson and at that moment wanted nothing more than for him to just shut up. He probably wasn't even thinking about who should be the one to do the ordering at all.

Remember, Parson ordered Bananna to jump off the tower before he even realized he had given Bananna an order, without the order being properly formed in the mind first there can be unintended consequences.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby Selexor » Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:44 am

Well, this whole thing starts off with some fridge logic. Remember at the very start of Book 1, when Gobwin Knob looks doomed - Manpower is croaked, and Wanda is ordered to pick a replacement for him. She refuses because the manner in which Stanley has ordered her to choose a new Chief Warlord is, in her opinion, going to doom them all. How was she being ordered to select new Warlords? By picking "the most handsome and dashing one" and promoting him. This seems like an idiotic, nonsensical way to choose a Warlord, until you remember natural Signamancy, and then suddenly we have an important new point - The most handsome and dashing Warlord will almost certainly be the one best suited to the job, Numbers-wise. Stanley's instructions actually do make a tremendous amount of sense in context.
Yet Wanda refuses, because she recognises that Numbers will not save their side. Only a Warlord capable of lateral thinking and being able to twist the rules of Erfworld can do that, and as she teaches Parson very early on, a big part of that is taking initiative and being able to manipulate or out-think Stanley. So the entire comic starts with someone disobeying an order because of Duty, and the reason for doing so is to specifically bring into Erfworld a being capable of resisting Duty even more (amongst other things, of course).

I guess it's kind of a meta-example: We have a unit who recognises that the limitations of Duty have crippled her side, yet has the initiative to seek out someone who is not as bound by those limitations as her. To me, this suggests a very detailed awareness of the Rules of Erfworld - Wanda couldn't break those rules, so she got Parson to do it for her. Wanda may of course be unusually savvy about these rules, perhaps partially due to her being a Caster, but it's looking like at least some of that awareness is shared by all units with leadership. They know what rules control them, but greater awareness allows them to move more freely within those rules.
Tramennis knew he had to end the threat of other sides, but chose Diplomacy over Battle when most Warlords would not have. Caesar knows that if he disobeys The Don he'll get disbanded, but by gaining support from other Warlords and Casters, he can push the Don's orders to the limit, even breaking them in relative safety, if he disagrees with them. Basically, give a unit with Leadership an objective, and they are Duty-bound to accomplish it, but the means are ultimately up to them, even if it means partial disobedience or taking a more creative interpretation of those orders.

Sadly, we've had very little perspective from non-Leader units to compare to all of this. Bogroll, Zhopa, Wrigley the Stabber from Unaroyal... they seem to be able to take a little initiative when given generic orders, and they worry about whether they've done their Duty properly - should I have done it this way or another way? - but for the most part, they seem pretty passive and fufill whatever generic role or Duty they have, until they're given an order. At which point, they seem to carry it out fairly literally.

So how's this for a theory - any unit can take initiative and interpret orders as they choose, provided they're smart and/or rule-savvy enough to do so. And when a unit is popped with, or upgraded into having, a Leadership ability, they're given that as well. Sort of like an invisible "intelligence" score that increases slowly over time, but can also get a hard upgrade when a unit is promoted. And, the more Intelligence you have, the more initiative you can take, simply because you're aware that you have the option.
But of course that's just my opinion.
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Re: Duty and Orders

Postby mortissimus » Sat Aug 20, 2011 3:02 am

But the order to manage the city was clear enough and yet Parson failed because he did not understand it.
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