Trial of Position
A Trial of Position is one of the Six Trials of Combat and is used to determine career advancement. There are three types of these trials.
A potential warrior's life in their sibko can be regarded as a series of Trials of Position. The students demonstrate their current skills and those who aren’t at the level they should be at that time fail the trial. Failure at any of these trials causes the student to wash-out, leaving their sibko to join another caste.
These trials are usually written exams during early childhood with possibly some practical demonstrations. Later in their development, the trials can be mock battles with sibkin, with instructors or mock battles between sibkos. When somebody mentions a Trial of Position, they rarely mean this type since this is only applicable to schooling/training.
At the completion of military training, cadets must pass a final Trial of Position in order to enter the Warrior Caste called The Blooding. The trial involves a live-fire duel with warriors who will be the cadet’s peers if they defeat their opponent. This practice is done in the Inner Sphere but usually with simulated fire, although some severe factions of the Inner Sphere do this with live but powered-down weapons. The blooding is the only training battle that involves fully-powered weapons. The procedure varies from Clan to Clan; for example, Jade Falcon cadets must get past a training cadre of freeborn warriors in order to reach their 'Mechs, after which the trial continues more traditionally. Similarly, the Steel Vipers require that pairs of cadets fight one another, with only the winner eligible to take their Trial.
The use of live weapons for what is essentially an examination seems barbaric and wasteful of human life to those outside the Clans. An accident can easily cut short a promising career or life. It is one of the best examples of how little regard the Clans have for individual life in their quest for social supremacy. However the Clansmen, who believe the cause is worth everything and the individual is worth nothing, see this as an issue of rationalizing waste. This waste is justified since some cadets, though extremely brave throughout their upbringing, may shirk or not be able to think and react well under live-fire. The Clan idea is that it is better to discover this in an artificial battle rather than during a real battle where their comrades' lives may be in jeopardy.
Each trial involves two cadets and six opponents in the one circle of equals. Each cadet faces a set of three opponents, fighting each opponent one at a time in sequence. Defeating an opponent earns an imaginary kill. While an opponent’s cadet is engaged they will stay neutral, fighting only when it is their turn. If a neutral opponent is hit, either directly or accidentally, then all opponents become active and the trial becomes a free-for-all and the assignment of opponents to cadets is waived. Hence the opponents can engage any cadet and a cadet can defeat any opponent for a kill. A cadet can even earn a kill by defeating the other cadet during a free-for-all. There are also some other infractions by the cadets (such as breaking zellbrigen) that can cause a free-for-all. Since the last thing a cadet wants is a free-for-all, cadets will try to ensure nothing happens that causes one and hence the free-for-alls are rare.
If a cadet does not score a kill they are assigned to another caste and in most Clans cannot retry the trial. (The Hell's Horses and Blood Spirits do allow a cadet to participate in a second Trial of Position to join either a different branch of service or a lower-quality unit.)
If the cadet score a kill, they become a Warrior and are assigned the lowest rank of their sub-caste and for every kill after that they are moved up one rank. The first of their opponents will be a warrior of the lowest rank and lightest mass, and each opponent after that is one rank (and weight class) above the previous, meaning that each opponent is a peer of the rank they are trying to achieve. Each successive opponent is also harder for the cadet to defeat since the cadet will retain the damage sustained from the previous opponent.
Achieving more than three requires either that one of the cadets starts a melee, or for the other cadet to surrender one of their kills to you. While theoretically, a cadet in a free for all could kill seven opponents (all six warriors and his fellow cadet), the highest number of kills that has been attained in a Trial of Position by a clan warrior is four, for a rank of Star Colonel. This has only been achieved by Natasha Kerensky, with the cooperation of Phelan Kell. Kai Allard-Liao scored an unprecedented five kills in his Trial with the Wolf's Dragoons on Outreach, which adds to his legendary status among the Clans.
The great Jade Falcon warrior Aidan Pryde's story illustrates the risks of attempting these feats. Not only does the cadet face death from fighting multiple experienced warriors at once, they also risk not scoring any kills and being forever relegated to a lower caste. Aidan started a melee in his eagerness to attain a high rank, only to be defeated by his Sibkin, future Khan Marthe Pryde. Aidan's 'Mech was disabled by Marthe before scoring even a single kill and so was forced out of the warrior caste.
A warrior may be required to repeat this Trial later in their career if their continuing ability to perform is in question, as it was with Natasha Kerensky. In the Clans' early history, warriors were supposed to undergo a Trial of Position with a rank-appropriate opponent every year to "re-certify" and determine promotions. Khan Phelan Kell presents this as a current practice in the 3060 Wolf Clan. In reality this requirement is often waived or actual combat performance used as a de facto yearly Trial of Position. In Clan Diamond Shark, where warriors may retire to a lower caste, retired warriors may take regular Trials of Position to remain active reservists, eligible to return to the warrior caste at will. Inactive reservists must take a Trial to return to active duty, with a one-rank demotion.
Most promotions are assigned by a commander without a trial, but sometimes a Trial of Position is held to determine if a warrior is ready for a promotion to a higher rank.
A rarer case of this is that if a commander has endangered their unit unnecessarily through incompetence or otherwise that they are severely unfit for duty, a subordinate can challenge the commander to a Trial of Position. This is similar to a Trial of Grievance except the command of the unit is a prize of the trial. The trial needs some concrete evidence of great ineptitude before a subordinate can make the challenge and is otherwise frowned upon. If the commander wins, he/she is guilt free. If the subordinate wins, the subordinate gains the commander's rank and unit and the commander is investigated. This practice is rare though and only occurs in extreme circumstances.
Andrey Kerensky was a tutor at a war academy. One day he meddled in a cadet simulator fight, fought against four cadets simultaneously and won. Nicholas Kerensky based the Trial of Position on this incident, but changed a simulator fight to a fight with live ammo to ensure fanatical loyalty of the survivors.
- Era Digest: Golden Century, p. 17
- Era Digest: Golden Century, p. 15, "Trial of Position"
- Wolf Clan Sourcebook, p. 19