This post is something that has been rattling around in my brain for some time. I think I've got it hammered out to a reasonable shape now. One of the things the guys have done extensively in the past scenarios of this campaign is fight military units. They've fought Asosans extensively, skirmished with Cant and Blackcoats, murdered pirates, and so on. I can tell them that the Asosan military is experienced, well trained, and well equipped, but it doesn't really mean anything. When I think of a guardsman in DnD, I think of a level 1 Warrior. When I think of a soldier in my campaign, I think of the Greycoat of Kusseth. Kusseth is a very aggressive and military minded nation with lots and lots of money and is very heavily industrialized. There's almost constant warfare between Kusseth and Whurent, frequent skirmishing between Kusseth and The Fell Peaks, and occasional skirmishing between Vyanthnem and Kusseth. Kusseth soldiers get a lot of work. Kusseth is many things, but stupid is not one of them. The pay their soldiers and train them and equip them well. The Greycoats don't carry grandad's rusted carbine into war. They wouldn't be level 1 Warriors, even on their first day of boot camp. With how fighty Kusseth is, the fresh meat that was incompetent would get weeded out quick.
Long story short, I've developed a few terms and guidelines for describing the military of a nation in broad terms that allow the players to get an idea of what they can expect from them, without having every single detail handed to them on a platter. So here goes:
There are four categories: equipment quality, experience, morale, and training. Equipment quality governs what type of gear the soldiers will have, whether it is masterwork or might be enchanted or whatever. Experience governs the CR range of the various soldiers and is a general idea of how much fighting a nation does. Morale is a general idea of the morale of a nation and whether or not they are committed to king and country. Training is a general idea of how extensively soldiers are trained before they are shoved out into the wilderness. Each of these categories comes in three flavors: poor, average, and good. Some of the categories have special rules/designations that can modify how they work as well.
Groups of soldiers are also broken down into three types: grunts, veterans, and elites. Grunts are guys just out of boot camp or who haven't been really in a lot of hot spots. Veterans are guys who've seen some shit and lost a lot of friends along the way. Elites are the best at what they do, and it isn't very nice.
Poor: Normal campaign equipment appropriate for the tech level of the nation.
Average: Commanders and elite units have masterwork gear.
Good: All veteran and elite soldiers have masterwork gear, commanders possibly have high quality, enchanted, or "steampunk" gear.
So what that means is that since the Giants have poor equipment, they probably all use homemade clubs, and since Kusseth has a good equipment rating, veteran Kusseth Greycoats probably all use masterwork rifles.
Poor: Grunts are CR 1/2 - 2, veterans are CR 3 - 5, elites are CR 6, commanders and specials have same level as rest of unit.
Average: Grunts are CR 2 - 4, veterans are CR 5 - 7, elites are CR 8, commanders and specials are 1 level higher than the rest of the unit.
Good: Grunts are CR 3 - 5, veterans are CR 6 - 8, elites are CR 9, commanders and specials are 2 levels higher than the rest of the unit.
City Units: City units decrease CR range by -1/-1. City units may or may not gain some sort of favored terrain in their area of control, I'm uncertain at this time. If they do, it would take up a feat spot.
Fodder Units: Fodder units decrease CR range by -1/-1, their commanders follow the normal rules but are taken from other unit types, fodder units also have no elite version.
Special Units: Special units increase CR range by +1/+1 and commanders increase the levels they are above the other soldiers by +1, special units have no grunt version.
Alright, so what that means is that since Kusseth's experience rating is good, a unit of Greycoat grunts is probably composed of level 1 - 3 guys if they use character classes and level 2 - 4 if they use NPC classes. City units are any unit that's primary duty is guarding a city, like Kusseth's Wardens or a town guard. Fodder units are units like Kusseth Recoats, their penal legionnaires. Units used as cannon fodder. Special units are things like the Asosan warren hunters of the Kusseth Black and Brasscoats. Specials in the CR range breakdown refers to special attachments in the unit, Asosan Wizards and Clerics in among their soldiers and such. Commanders are the leaders of the group. People attain leadership positions, ideally, by being better than their brethren, so that's what that's about.
Poor: Up to 25% might flee rather than die, including commanders and specials.
Average: Up to 10% might flee rather than die, commanders and specials will die to the last man.
Good: Unit is extremely likely to die to the last man.
Fanatic: Entire unit will die to the last man while pursuing a mission related to what they are fantatical about, no ifs ands or buts.
Fodder Units: Fodder units always have poor morale.
Special Units: Special units always have morale one step better than normal.
This all means that there is a chance that given the right circumstances (which are specific to a given situation and will not necessarily come down to an Intimidate or Diplomacy check) some members of a unit may or may not run. So warren hunters are a fanatic unit and will die to the last man in pursuit of fucking up the Goebleen, but their morale rating reverts to normal Asosan morale if they are fighting pirates or Cant or something unrelated to Goebleen murdering.
Poor: Only elite units and commanders use character classes, no archetypes.
Average: Grunts use NPC classes. All units may use archetypes. Commanders, elites, and specials may use prestige classes.
Good: All units use character classes. All units may use archetypes. Commanders, elites, specials, and veterans may use prestige classes.
Special Units: Special units exist outside of the training scheme in terms of class choice, and are not guaranteed to all be the same class.
So this means that Giants, who have poor training, are probably mostly Warriors, except for their commanders and elite units. Kusseth has good training, so their Blackcoats could be Alchemists with the Saboteur archetype and have a mutagen that gives them a large bump to Stealth (or invisibility at higher levels). If we go back to the scenario where the guys were hunting Blackcoats, we see that the group of Blackcoats was composed of Alchemists, Gunslingers, and Rogues whereas Asosans are all typically Fighters or Warriors, depending on the type of group encountered.
So that's the gist of the way the system works. It's not so much enemy creation guidelines as it is player information distribution guidelines. It's informative enough to give you an idea about what you can expect from soldiers of a given nation, but not like opening the page to a monster manual and cheating your way to defeating them with player knowledge.
So here is Kusseth:
Equipment Quality: Good.
Here are Kusseth's various military divisions (as far as you all know): Blackcoats (special unit), Brasscoats (special unit), Greycoats, Redcoats (fodder unit), Wardens (city unit).
So based on the above information, there are lots of vague spots. Like we don't know what classes each unit is going to be composed of. But we know that there's a good chance a bunch of Redcoats are going to flee the first chance they get. We know that Wardens might not be super competent at fighting, but probably have some advantage if you encounter them in their own ward, maybe. We know the Brasscoats are a special unit, so they have no grunt version, so each of them will tend to be an enemy with an individual CR of 7 - 10 and the commander of a unit will have a CR of 9 - 12. So if we're thinking character classes, a Brasscoat will be 8th - 11th level, and their commander will be 10th - 13th level. They'll also have awesome gear, since Kusseth has good equipment quality and the Brasscoats are a special unit and have no grunt version.
I like this system. Part of my goal of GMing is to neutrally present the world to the players. Making guidelines for the military of nations goes towards that, because now the players have an idea of what they are facing and I have some firm rules regarding what a given military unit should be capable of. Instead of deciding on a whim what a unit they'll face can do, I have hard rules about what the city guard of Asosa can do, what their spearmen can do, what Goebleen Old Way initiates can do, and so on. The more I distance the make up of the game world from myself the more powerless I become to influence it, and the more neutral I become. Which is my ultimate goal (that likely can't ever be fully achieved). I want to be a neutral arbitrator of the game, I want to observe the story as it plays out like Destiny of the Endless reading his book. I want to observe the players and their actions, and I want the world to appropriately react to those actions. It's an insane and perhaps arrogant goal, because I am invested in the game world and I do revel in the successes and failures of the group, but it's something I'm always trying to strive towards. You piss off a wolf god and ignore it and leave yourself vulnerable, it attacks you by striking at the weakest members of your pack. You form a friendship with the prince of a kingdom, the kingdom will be friends with yours, and so on.
If anyone has any thoughts, I'd be curious to hear them.