The army of the empire is funded by taxes levied on the rulers of each of the eleven kingdoms beyond the walls of the Hidden City. Much of local taxes are taken in an attempt by individual kings to defray these costs.
As a result, the Dragon Army, drafted from the levies of the twelve kingdoms, is still tasked with overall defense of the empire and patrol the Walls, but recently has become unwelcome in the towns and cities of the twelve kingdoms as local prefects raise their own troops to enforce their laws.
The Dragon Army also patrols the Imperial Highways, still held by ancient tradition to be land of the empire, outside the jurisdiction of any local power. Technically, a pursued man need only step foot upon a highway to be free of any local laws or crimes. Of course, in reality, this only tends to work if a force of the Dragon Army is patrolling the road at that precise moment. And once on the road, a traveler is subject to the whims of the nearest imperial commander, who occasionally takes the word of the locals if it will save him the time of a trial, or decides to teach some respect to a traveler who does not bow quickly enough.
With the exception of the Butterfly Kingdom, each kingdom has a garrison of the Dragon Army.
One of the characters, Shen Wei Han, is a soldier in the Dragon Army. Part of the command structure established by his history includes commanders, each of which is responsible for about four units. A unit has a unit leader and a score infantrymen. These infantry usually serve as their own support, assembling their own defended camps on the road, maintaining their own equipment, cooking their own food, and where necessary foraging.
A term of service is six calendar years. That is fairly long, but during times of relative peace the convention of "Honorable discharge (with honorable reason)" is expected for those who need to depart the army during a term. Such people tend to be welcomed back if they change their minds; occasionally someone will apply social pressure to bring someone necessary back to a unit. There is more status to completing a term than honorable discharge, so one who completes at least one term will usually drop fractions when talking about length of service.
The competence and performance of individual units is strongly related to the attitudes of their unit leaders. The behavior of the unit leaders is often affected by their commander's attitude, but sometimes several unit leaders will collectively keep their morale despite a politically appointed commander.
While individual units usually have a person who is known to be "best", larger garrisons will often have a "training unit": an undersized unit formed of various teachers and their advanced students. Someone who is spending a long time learning substantial skill will usually get transferred into the training unit for the duration.
During the Empire's height, the Dragon Army was strong and highly respected. Recently, an increasing fraction of the ranking officers have been selected first for political reasons, and only second for talent.
Takanata has recently (end of book five) done a scrying on the motivations of the eight commanders immediately under the Obsidian Warlord.
You end up dividing them into Yang: personal ambition Yin: loyalty to the Warlord Chi: idealism, loyalty to the Army and the Empire
- SeaLord Miyora - Yin for Yang reasons
- Commander Chang Hu (Roads) - Yin for Chi reasons
- Commander Yao (NE)- Chi for Chi reasons
- Commander Sun (SE)- Chi for Yang reasons
- Commander Mushashi Nori (Construction) - Chi for Yin reasons
- Commander Teng (SW)- Yang for Yang reasons
- Commander Hsiao (NW) - Yang for Chi reasons
- Commander Ning Guan-pei (Rivers) - Yang because he is anti-Yin
> 1) Does Teng have a particular personal ambition he wants to achieve?
Ascendancy over Commander Sun.
> 2) Were Hsiao's ambitions altered by the recent increase in Northern > activity?
They enhanced and clarified his ambitions, rather than markedly altering them.
> 3) Is the Warlord aware Guan-Pei is anti-Yin?
Yes, though he thinks it is less than it is.
> 4) Are any of these three willing to actively sabotage other commanders > for their ambition?
Guan-Pei might. Hsiao would not *intentionally* endanger the Empire, but it is possible that the rivalry might have side effects in that direction.
> 1) Is Miyora likely to do something foolish to redeem his perceived > failure with the blockade?
> 2) Is Chang Hu's reason more the "my honor demands loyalty" sort of Chi > reason, or the "this is best for the Empire/Army" sort of Chi reason?
More the latter, but they aren't incompatible.
> 3) Is Miyora's Yang reason more gratitude for being promoted into his > current position, or hope for future advancement?
Those are kind of the same.
> 4) Does the Warlord use Chang Hu for potentially-nefarious tasks more than > he uses most of the other Commanders?
Yes, but more because the Roads command is more flexible in scope than the Wall commands.
> > 1) Are Nori's Yin reasons his wife, or something else?
> 2) Is Yao more loyal to the empire, or the army?
The Empire; he thinks that places where that's an actual choice are a sad sign of the times.
> 3) What does "Chi for Yang reasons" mean, anyway?
He's not really an idealist, but he also has no patience for office politics. He trusts his own judgement more than anyone else's.
> 4) Do any of these three have alliances outside the army to advance the > good of the empire?
Not officially. Yao has the party; Nori has his wife (and by extension, the Song of the Phoenix); Sun has a lot of old buddies (and the party).
None of them would think of that as an "alliance" per se. They also tend to think of it in terms of protecting the Empire rather than advancing the good of the Empire.
Northeastern Wall Problems
The barbarians are out in force. Commander Yao is the right person for the long-term health of the Empire, according to the Dragon, but that means he needs help now. See Dragon Army Problems.
North Wall Training
Level 1 shticks:
- Baleful Glare: I have a very impressive glare. Freq 6, Power 1.
- Light Sleep: I am always awakened by combat time. Freq 2, Power 3.
- Prepared: Survival: 1/run, I have a useful survival-type item packed. Freq 3, Power 2.
- Reserves: +1 health while in a fight. (Could be a problem afterwards!). Freq 6, Power 1.
- Social Armor: This is how I dress socially. I can wear weapons and armor in social situations without being considered impolite. Freq 5, Power 1.
Level 2 shticks:
- Armor: That's not armor. This is armor. Freq 6, Power 2.
- Mighty Blow: 1/combat, I may spend a point of Energy to have my sword strike at double dice. Freq 2, Power 6.
- Protect: Once per combat, I can move up to double my move to jump in front of an attack aimed at someone else. Freq 3, Power 4.
- Taunt: 1/turn, may taunt an enemy into targetting me. Freq 4, Power 3.
Level 3 shticks:
- Evasive: +3 dice to dodge, always. Freq 6, Power 3.
- Hold the Line: Enemies moving past me (within two hexes) must spend an extra movement per hex. Moving to attack me is normal movement. Freq 6, Power 3.
- Target Foe: If someone has attacked me or a teammate in the last turn, I can target them. (This is a sense mode, not an ability to attack insubstantial creatures or attack through walls). Freq 6, Power 3.
Level 4 shticks:
- Resist Cold: Half damage from cold. Freq 6, Power 4.
- Shield Block: 1/turn, half damage from melee attacks, when using a shield. Freq 4, Power 6.
Level 5 shticks:
- Brothers in Arms: For each teammate within 2 hexes, my sword damage is at +1 multiplier, up to x6. However, my sword damage cannot increase beyond x3 when I'm solo. Freq 6, Power 5.