The Imperial Legion forms the bulk of the Empire’s standing army. Comprised of loyal and dedicated citizens, the Legion operates as a professional, disciplined force. Although the costs and logistics of such a thing mean that the Legion is generally only seen in the more centralized regions near the capital, it is nonetheless a powerful and robust fighting force when on campaign.
“The Legion” is in fact comprised of a multitude of individual legions, although they are all organized similarly. Each legion is commanded by a legate, who is appointed by the Senate from a wide range of candidates. Unlike the more feudal armies of the Empire’s frontiers, the Legion’s officer corps places much heavier emphasis on merit rather than noble birth. Accordingly, almost any citizen of the Empire can technically go before the Senate and seek to become a legate, although in practice a fair amount of political clout is required to be successfully nominated.
Usually, the bulk of a legion’s officer corps will be drawn from its own experienced soldiers and retired veterans. It is also not unheard of for knights and other individuals of high social or political standing to become legionary officers. Most of the rank-and-file legionaries are drawn from young citizens across the Empire. Occasionally, peasants from frontier regions are accepted as well, but political concerns keep this at a minimum (the local lords don’t much care for the state poaching on their serfs!).
Notably, knights make up a significant portion of the currently active legions. While once a legion’s pride was its dependable infantry, now the focus has shifted to the devastating charge of heavy cavalry. Some knights consider it a matter of duty and honour to serve time in the Legion, but with so many more lucrative options for the knights of the Empire, those who do join the Legion are not enough. Accordingly, the Legion has become a major vehicle for class mobility: the strongest and bravest of the regular citizenry are allowed to ride as heavy cavalry, and in so doing earn knighthood. These ‘brevet knights’ are often portrayed in a heroic light; regular Imperial citizens who ascend to glory.
That is not to say the infantry have been neglected; far from it. Imperial Legionaries remain some of the most disciplined and well-equipped troops in the known world. Because the Legion is funded and maintained directly by the state, each Legionary is equipped with good-quality mail, a heavy shield, the distinctive helmet of the Legion, and a versatile sword. The shields vary by the specific legion, as each one has its own unique colours and heraldry.
Some of the companies within a legion fight as versatilii. These are Legionaries who trade lighter shields for crossbows. They are as capable in hand-to-hand with their swords as they are in raining bolts down on the enemy with their crossbows. Being posted to the versatilii companies is considered prestigious and a step above the rank-and-file.
List of currently active Legion units
- Legio I ‘Imperia’
- Legio II ‘Meridiana’
- Legio III ‘Zephyra’
- Legio IV ‘Vespera’
- Legio V ‘Aurora’
- Legio VI ‘Aquilonia’
- Legio VIII ‘Firma’
- Legio IX ‘Praestantia’
The Empire has fallen on harder times, and the Legions have suffered. A few maintain their elite status in some limited fashion, but most have become more watered-down, more loosely-organized formations. Discipline and training remain the Legions’ defining features, but their equipment and knights are not what they once were. Different strategic requirements have turned them from a hard-hitting army of conquest and imperial might into a thinly-spread garrison force, preoccupied with policing discontent provinces and skirmishing with hostile raiders.
Most legionaries are now equipped with little more than a mail byrnie, a helmet, a spear, a shield, and sometimes a sword as a sidearm. The few knights who remain in the Legions are often little more than glorified light-medium cavalry and equipped no better than their footmen comrades.
Many citizens of the Empire serve a stint in the Imperial Legion, and this can be reflected in a PC with the following variant of the Soldier Background:
Skill Proficiencies: Athletics
Tool Proficiences: Carpenter, Cobbler, Cook, Leatherworker, Smith, Weaver, or Woodcarver’s tools (choose one).
Equipment: Mail shirt, spear, a set of common clothes, icon of your Legion, and a belt pouch containing 5 gp.
|25||Centurion||Rank, significant clout|
|50||Tribune||Rank, political status|