An RPG Resource Review:
World Militaries sets out to do for the rest of the world what US Militaries did for the armed forces of America – provide an outline of what goes on in different services and hence what kind of background and training prior service therein might give an agent. Naturally, given its scope, the amount of information provided on any one unit is small so further research is necessary should you require more detail.
The book consists of 6 chapters, five of which look at different parts of the world and the final one of which is the 'new rules' section. Coverage varies considerably, based on the authors' knowledge of different nations' armed forces – and probably the likely interest amongst players and GCs in using them as background either for agents or for the game as a whole.
The first chapter looks at Asian forces, namely those of the People's Republic of China (complete with the incongruously named People's Liberation Army Navy!), the Republic of India, Japan and both North and South Korea. A standard pattern is followed for each country, explaining the general composition of their army, navy and air force. There are notes on training, specialist units, likely arms and equipment and traditions; and a note on their views on gender and ethnicity – i.e. how well integrated into their forces are females and members of minority ethnic groups within that nation.
The second chapter is based around European forces with the exception of the United Kingdom, which gets a chapter to itself. Here we find France (including the French Foreign Legion complete with the Kepi Blanc), Germany, Norway and Poland. A useful feature of each nation's entry is a table of ranks, including the correct foreign language titles, so when encountering someone from one of these forces, they can be addressed correctly! This chapter also contains notes on the organisation of NATO and on the Geneva Conventions – the code that governs the treatment of prisoners of war. Finally it covers the Hague Conventions, another international agreement that defines the terms under which war may be waged – including how a state of war is formally declared and which weapons are deemed so repellent that they should not be used in combat. And, should your agents – or their enemies – really step over the mark, there's an introduction to the concept of war crimes.
Chapter 3 deals with Middle Eastern Forces. Here we learn about the armed forces of Iran (where, unlike the rest of their Islamic society, women are encouraged to participate fully albeit only as non-combatants), Israel, Pakistan (oddly, I'd have put them in with India) and Saudi Arabia.
Russian forces are the focus of Chapter 4, with quite extensive details of the various services of the current Russian Federation – and how things have changed since Soviet days. This could provide an interesting basis for a game, with former and current members of Russian forces seeking to carve out a living for themselves.
The last chapter of the survey of world militaries looks in detail at the armed forces of the United Kingdom. Within the British Army, the basis for much tradition is the regimental system – and anyone interested in exploring this further should hunt down the British Army's website and follow links to the different regiments. To a British soldier, the regiment is everything, and you’ll find veterans telling you that they served in the Cheshire Regiment rather than merely telling you they have been in the army! The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are rather more homogenous, although they are not lacking in traditions either. This chapter includes notes on the armed forces of Canada and Australia, Commonwealth countries whose armed forces are structured on largely British lines.
Chapter 6, the final chapter of the book, is the rules section – no rules information appears in the preceding chapters. It begins by defining 'military agent' as an agent who is a serving member of the armed forces. The first rules cover new departments based on a selection of the units described in the preceding pages, ranging from Russian conscripts to Gurkhas, the French Foreign Legion and even Israeli military chaplains! Next comes some notes on specific military uses of existing skills – such as using Innuendo to denote your mastery of military field hand signals! – and a series of feats to develop your expertise at Close Quarter Battle, as well as Quick Study (you pick up new information fast) and Threat Analyst (you know a lot about the opposition's forces, each time you take the feat you pick the nation you wish to study).
Then come some NPC classes, mostly of use when you need an expert in a specialist field such as a Combat Engineer, and none of the agents have the skills required... or of course, as cannon-fodder such as a Third World Conscript. We then move on to training programmes, which allow agents to purchase the necessary skills for particular skills such as diving, escape and evasion, or even prisoner handling and political indoctrination. There's a bit about the sort of resources that a military agent in good standing can draw upon, and some extra military equipment you can requisition. This includes protective clothing, some new kits and a range of survival gear which you really shouldn't leave home without! For some rather bizarre reason, individual protective equipment (the formal name for the uncomfortable suit and respirator you wear in case of nuclear, biological or chemical threat) is described as MOPP – the US term for it, and the various levels of protection required also detailed according to the US system. There's also some ground, sea and air vehicles, vehicle equipment (want to air-drop that Land Rover?) and new bundles that cover regular issue kit for specific roles or tasks... including a humanitarian aid kit complete with comic books and soft toys for any distressed children you encounter! Even submarines and main battle tanks are covered, should the need arise.
The chapter winds up with notes on conversion to the Stargate SG-1 rules, useful as the majority of Stargate team members have a military background. There's also a thumbnail sketch of how much various countries spend on their armed forces and the qualifications (in terms of attributes and skills) for entering the officer corps or enlisted ranks in the various units looked at within the book.
The book gives a good overview of the armed forces of selected countries that agents might either come from or need to visit in the course of their careers. However, if you want to use any particular nation's armed forces as a major element in your games, you will want to research them in far more detail than can be contained here. The fairly standard line art does not contribute much to the book and there are one or two minor errors (like a piece of text repeated on a different page) that really ought to have been spotted.
Probably more use as background material than for forging your campaign setting, there is some excellent flavour material that can be used to round out agents or for that matter their enemies that come from the countries covered in this book. A lot of the equipment is very useful, whether or not your campaign has a military slant.