Fictional ranks - help please

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Mirena
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Fictional ranks - help please

#1 Post by Mirena » Wed May 21, 2008 11:08 am

I'm currently working on a visual novel that is set in a fictional military. The thing is, I don't know what to call the different ranks..

Currently I just have: Elite, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th. And leaders for each group. Which is rather confusing. I've been thinking about some possible solutions (like using alpha, beta and so on..) but don't really know any good ones. I definitely don't want to use real-life ranks (because of origins, different meanings in different places etc).

Ideas how to handle this would be much appreciated.

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#2 Post by Jake » Wed May 21, 2008 12:42 pm

Mirena wrote: I definitely don't want to use real-life ranks (because of origins, different meanings in different places etc).
I'd reconsider, to be honest. If you don't want to use the ranks of your native language, pick a different language... but words like 'Lieutenant', 'Sergeant' or 'Captain' are recognisable in several western languages, for example, because inventing words where perfectly servicable ones already exist usually only serves to confuse people. And when you're writing, it's important to have your meaning understood, even if it means sacrificing small elements of believability. And how is it you're happy to use "Elite", which is already a real-life word with a real-life origin and maybe different meanings in different places? ;-)

Another option is to consider the etymology of existing ranks and come up with words which have similar root meanings. Maybe mutate them a little so they aren't obvious, or use a different language for the root words. For example, 'lieutenant' comes from the root words 'lieu tenant' - literally, "one who occupies a position in place of another"; a lieutenant was originally (and to an extent, still is) an intermediary officer who represents their superior in some capacity, be it in terms of passing on their orders to lower ranks or attending meetings and briefing their superior later or whatever. So if we wanted to come up with a fictional renamed rank for the same position, we might think along similar lines; maybe alter it just a bit, call it an "altenant" (alt[ernative]-tenant) or something, or we might find a word which means something similar, like 'delegate'. To form the 'second lieutenant' rank maybe we find a different way of denoting inferiority; the French 'sous-' prefix has this effect, for example, we might prefix 'sub-' to make a 'sub-altenant' or something similar.


Really, the main bit of advice I'd give would be to not just make stuff up because it sounds cool - because it'll likely start to feel forced and false if there's no plausible etymology behind it.
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Mirena
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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#3 Post by Mirena » Wed May 21, 2008 1:06 pm

Ah, yes the 'elite'. I used it since this only is a temporary solution, and I needed something to set the top rank apart. I'm fully aware it doesn't make sense given my reasoning.

To be honest, I'm not very knowledgeable of the real-life military (and probably never will be) and I don't want to use titles in ways that don't make sense.. that is another reason why I thought making up some might be better. ^^'

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#4 Post by monele » Wed May 21, 2008 2:35 pm

While it's always fun to hear "colonel" and "general" and other names... I'm also not very knowledgeable about the *order* of these ranks. Sure, General is pretty much above all, but I'll start doubting between colonel and lieutenant... the fact I hear french names, english names... and that ground troops sometimes have different ranks than marine troops (captain, admiral)... argh!

In that regard, I wouldn't mind seeing a completely new set of ranks, but it would have to be... obvious, compared to the usual :)... and that's where it's difficult ^^;;;... It would be easy to go "1st grade, 2nd grade, ..." but it would be a bit boring too.

Is it a modern setting or medieval one?... or maybe futuristic one?

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#5 Post by Mirena » Wed May 21, 2008 3:09 pm

Well the setting can probably be described as mixed. Weapons range from magic swords to guns. There are no huge spells or elves though. As for the rest.. think something around present day, just that some areas are a bit further developed and others less.

..sorry for being vague, but I don't think i can describe it better.

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#6 Post by Wintermoon » Wed May 21, 2008 3:32 pm

If you're worried about authenticity when using real ranks, read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_military_ranks
If you're just planning on making something up, read it anyway.

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#7 Post by Mirena » Thu May 22, 2008 3:19 pm

@Wintermoon: I skimmed trough that page quite a while ago (it was then I learned of the multiple meanings), but thank you anyway.

Here's something I might use.. I translated various words into latin using an online translator and ended up with this, the meanings that were listed are in brackets. :p

Rector (leader, master, ruler)
Credo(to believe /trust, commit / trust in)

Peritus (skilled, expert)
Callidus (clever, dextrous, experienced, skillful/cunning)
Medius (middle)
Humus (ground)
Novus (inexperienced, new, fresh, young)

And leaders for each rank would have Imper added to their title (shortened version of impero (to command/rule).

How does it sound to you? Should I maybe alter them a little, endings especially?

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#8 Post by metalica » Thu May 22, 2008 3:30 pm

I like them in latin, it gives a certain... hmm... like...mhm... a certain feel i like.

As for understanding the meaning well not too bad, unless explained i would probably understand only 3 of those: Novus, Medius and rector, but that will be the same if you use real militar rankings :wink: cause as monele I'm not too familiar with them either...

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#9 Post by monele » Thu May 22, 2008 3:40 pm

I agree with metalica :). Latin sounds good, but/and I'd only guess Novus, Medius and Rector. I like the particle idea too : less to remember and immediately gives a comparative rank (lesser Medius is not as good as Medius is not as good as higher Medius).

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#10 Post by Threevenge » Thu May 22, 2008 9:55 pm

Just my two cents to throw out here: Did you consider a with colors and animals? If I recall correctly Advance Wars uses this method. I can't think of what each one is off the top of my head, but to explain a bit each animal is like a group of rankings and each color is a specific.

For Example (starting from greatest rank to lowest):
Black Tiger
Gold Tiger
Silver Tiger
Bronze Tiger
------------
Black Fox
Gold Fox
Silver Fox
Bronze Fox
------------

Just giving you another possibility to consider.
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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#11 Post by LVUER » Thu May 22, 2008 10:39 pm

How about using chess piece as a rank like
King, Queen, Rooks, Bishop, Knight, and Pawn.

To add the amount, add some prefix like
Siachmat Rank : the highest
Siachmat-King, Siachmat-Queen, etc...

Xeque Rank : middle ranks
Xeque-King, Xec-Queen, etc...

Escacs Rank : the lowest
Escacs-King, Escacs-Queen, etc...

The order is like this: Pawn, Escacs-Pawn, Xeque-Pawn, Siachmat-Pawn, Knight, Escacs-Knight, etc...

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#12 Post by monele » Fri May 23, 2008 3:43 am

Good ideas :D. The animals or chess types could also be used for special units, if your story needs them, such as rabbit being quick, tower being strong but slow, etc...

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#13 Post by PyTom » Fri May 23, 2008 4:28 am

Honestly, I think it depends on what sort of setting you want your game to have. If you're going for any sort of realistic setting, then you should probably consider adopting the rank structure of one of the existing military services. For English-language works, that probably means either one of the US or UK military rank structures:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kin ... s_compared

Generally, the concept of "Elite" units is less tied to rank and more to ability. While generally special forces will only consider people who have attained at least certain rank (Sergeant is common in the US), you can have higher-ranked officers who are not associated with the special forces. For example, a Colonel assigned to a logistics unit* will outrank a Lieutenant assigned to the special forces.

As you leave reality behind, more fanciful names make sense. In the same way that it wouldn't make sense to have the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Magical Mage Brigade, it also doesn't make sense to have the Elevated Lionhearted Elder of the Twenty-Fourth Air Force.**

* Logistics are very important. According to Eisenhower, the four vehicles that most helped win the war were the Liberty Ship, the Jeep, the 2½ ton truck, and the C-47 cargo plane.

** The part of the US military that will soon be tasked with protecting this web site, among others.
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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#14 Post by LVUER » Fri May 23, 2008 6:19 am

PyTom wrote:Generally, the concept of "Elite" units is less tied to rank and more to ability. While generally special forces will only consider people who have attained at least certain rank (Sergeant is common in the US), you can have higher-ranked officers who are not associated with the special forces. For example, a Colonel assigned to a logistics unit will outrank a Lieutenant assigned to the special forces.
That's right. A special force unit usually is an elite unit but not vice-verse. Elite means the unit expected to do more and better than the regular unit, but the rest is just the same.
PyTom wrote:As you leave reality behind, more fanciful names make sense. In the same way that it wouldn't make sense to have the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Magical Mage Brigade, it also doesn't make sense to have the Elevated Lionhearted Elder of the Twenty-Fourth Air Force.
Hahaha... really funny ^_^

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Re: Fictional ranks - help please

#15 Post by Jake » Fri May 23, 2008 10:03 am

Chess pieces are really just an existing rank structure, just for a game rather than for a military, though. And again, a lot of those names will have existing different meanings in different languages. Particularly since the 'Rook' also gets called 'Castle', one of which is a bird and the other a fortress.

Animal names I'd place in the 'fanciful' set, myself; real-world militaries don't tend to use animal names for ranks. Advance Wars is certainly on the 'cute' side of realism.
LVUER wrote: The order is like this: Pawn, Escacs-Pawn, Xeque-Pawn, Siachmat-Pawn, Knight, Escacs-Knight, etc...
And things like this... well, what do they mean? Personally, I have zero instinctive understanding of why an 'Escacs-'something would be lower than a 'Xeque-'something. Not to mention that they don't appear that cohesive: 'Xeque' looks vaguely Greek-derived, 'Siachmat' looks Gaelic, and I have no idea how to pronounce any of them.

Generally speaking, entirely-made-up names are a bad idea for these reasons, and names from a language totally removed from the one the story is written in might as well be made-up as far as readability is concerned.
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