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You have a split second to make something known. Whether that is an order, a warning or an idea in combat you need to be precise. I’ve seen people take this the wrong way a lot. They think if they break down what they want to say in it’s barest of bones they have got it right but if your order doesn’t give all the information your target needs then you’ve wasted your breath.

That in mind there are three types of orders:

  • BAD – An order that needs clarification, explanation or assumed knowledge not everyone has.
  • GOOD – an order that tells you everything you need to know to respond without any additional input
  • EMPTY – An order that means nothing.

Bad orders are time wasters. They normally have one of 5 failings.

1) Your band need to look at you to make the order work. Example: THIS WAY! Especially in loose skirmish without looking back at you to hell are they going to know which way to go. You can avoid this by physically leading them (A touch on the shoulder will do it), getting in their line of sight and giving the order (you need to get everyone’s attention) or calling ON MY VOICE starting to move and continued yelling ON ME as you move.

If your band are in a line then Left and Right are good additions to orders to make them work but everyone has to be reading the same way as the front for this to work.

2) Your band don’t know which of them should take the order. Not everyone should be dealing with every order. Example SUPPORT THE LEFT FLANK *everyone goes over to help*  *Queue right flank massacre*. Here you need to break up your force to deal with the issue. Depending on the size of your force address people by name, group, rank or weapon set. If it is few people and there is time consider going to them directly and more quietly – your group only have so much attention and you want to save that.

3) The action they need to respond with is unclear. Example: LOOK OUT. For what? Oh, oh that was a dagger boy in my back. Identify the position of the threat, the threat and (if still necessary) the action. DAGGER BOY ON YOUR SIX, BOB tells them enough to respond. You don’t need to tell Bob not to die. He is likely to agree it’s a good course of action so don’t waste his time with it. If the threat is SKIRMISHERS ON THE RIGHT you have warned the party. It may be they can respond to that themselves but adding SKIRMISH UNIT TWO ENGAGE will tell them you want them met with offense when they could have responded defensively. If there is room for doubt in an order try to eliminate it.

4) The order lasts longer than the battle. Example WELL CHAPS WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO IS GIVE THEM A FIGHT THEY WILL NEVER FORGET. TODAY YOU ON THE LEFT AND YOU TWO ON THE RIGHT ARE GOING TO MUSTER UP YOUR BALLS AND HIT THEM BUT ONLY AFTER… Every. Word. Counts. Your voice will expire in an event. Your forces attention has a maximum. Don’t push it.

5) Not everyone understands the order. Example LADS, DINOSAUR. This is one that means I want a certain target on the floor (Get on the floor – everybody walk the dinosaur: obviously). I’d never do it outside the friends that know it because… Well, I’d have 2 people dashing to their death, a confused force and me looking like an idiot. 


Good orders just work. They don’t have any of the above fuck ups. They are clear, to the point, effective and followed*

(*this last one will be the subject of a Food for thought to come)


Empty orders mean nothing. Example GIVE THEM HELL. Football commentators often get to me when they say ‘They really need to score a goal now’; no, they needed to score one all along – that’s how football works. However, the commentators are saying it to highlight the struggle and to make the game more exciting. The only useful purpose of an empty order is to make you feel something.

The most famous empty order to me and my friends is HOLD THE LINE. When you are already in a line this is redundant. It’s like saying to a tennis player PLAY SOME TENNIS. Hold the line has it’s uses – when you are in a different formation and you want to change back or when you are moving and you want to stop this order is not empty as it communicates something. However, when your force is in a line and you are yelling hold the line because the force is buckling that doesn’t help them. You need to give them some insight as to why it is buckling so they can address it or give them an order to help them address it. THEY’RE PRESSING ON THE LEFT. SHIELD USERS MOVE TO MEET THEM.

You might think empty orders are a waste of time but they are my favourites. Empty orders are about feelings and, fighting or not, we’re roleplaying here. Use these to remind your force they’ve got this and keep them swinging. Instead of HOLD THE LINE my patented favourite is STAND TOGETHER – inject your force with the solidarity they need to feel. They are fighting for their lives in the make believe they are stood in and it’s us against the world dammit. Other fun ones include: PRESSURE and FOR THE <insert cuse/belief/town>