I don't necessarily think this is something that CAN or even SHOULD be done, but I wasn't done waxing poetic about it and I was starting to feel guilty about further derailing the ACKs elves discussion.
I've tried spellcasting variants, and it never feels like a warlord to me. A spellcasting buffer/enabler reads 'cleric' to me no matter what flavor text I give it. A bard variant would read warlord better for me, but the issue I have with that in ACKS is that ACKS (and basically any RPG that isn't outright superheroes) is a much lower power level than 4E (especially at low levels), which makes it difficult to have enabling abilities that feel impactful and unique at low levels. A +1 or +2 to hit is a very significant impact on cleaving through low-level monsters, but "I spent my action to give this guy +1 to hit" doesn't feel good to play in the same way.
I think in this case, the warlord's abilities would need to somehow channel through him actually landing hits. So for example "I spent my action to give this guy +1 to hit" is unsatisfying but "I hit, and because I hit I'm gonna give this guy a +1". No idea whether or not that's balanced, but that's what it would probably look like. The warlord might in other ways contribute to tactical movement in the ACKs framework, like +2 to initiative when engaging in a fighting withdrawal or, as someone else pointed out, temporarily granting combat trickery proficiencies.
Then again, maybe in ACKs a "warlord" is just a high charisma fighter with the right proficiencies, but that doesn't really capture that great feeling.
I like the idea of some form of battle cry that can give some allies temporary HP. Perhaps only characters in melee get 1d3+ warlords level temporary Hp? That way it isn’t actual healing, keeps things lethal enough, but adds a small buffer for players.
Arcane Striking from the Ruinguard gives you a mechanic for an "inspirational attack" that has an effect - the Xd6 from expending a spell slot of X level is more-or-less equal to an equivalent level Blast spell that does Xd6 on a successful touch, so in theory any other spell like effect of the appropriate level should be able to be channeled, if simply being the equiv. spell level is an acceptable balancing factor.
You'd kinda have to fudge a bit on "Attack throw required" and the actual target of the spell, but, eh. Furthermore, I'd expect that this warlord would need to attack and hit a credible foe - his fighter pal isn't going to get a +1 to hit the dragon if the warlord's standing in the back of a cave bullying goblins and yelling out encouragement to the front line - so that's a balancing factor as well.
Lord of the Rings Online took the concept of "hit points as morale", and it's Minstrel and Captain classes espc. were big on the "I did this now you have a bonus" sort of activities, be that rallying cries or ... well, power chords.
/has/had a level 60+ level Minstrel that looked suspiciously like Freddie Mercury
HP occupies a weird space where it is supposed to represent not just physical health but will to fight and luck. However in ACKs, it also represents a major effect on someone's ability to recover from an otherwise mortal wound. Then again, how many stories involve a stirring speech to a dying comrade who seems dead but turns out to be ok? I could see limiting "morale" to temp HP to avoid this weird stretch of imagination or I could see accepting it
I would say that Bard Music already exists as a precedent for making allies fight harder. A "Warlord" character would probably be defined by the use of better tactics and organizational skills. If I were writing the class, I'd probably have a list of Gambits that give special options if the party does specific things. IE: If two PCs are both engaged with a single monster, a Warlord can declare that they're Occupying it, and it no longer threatens anyone else, so thieves can backstab and other characters can move past freely.
Of course, write five abilities like that, and you've got a 4E character. Totally contrary to ACKsian class design.
Bards do a lot before the battle starts; I would make a warlord do the opposite, and have skills that only (or mostly) apply in battle. Spell-as-custom-power would work great for a lot of these, especially for giving a proficiency-like-ability. And, tactics:
Encouraging shout: Give up a cleave to give a teammate a +2 to attack that round
Combined takedown: give up a cleave to give allies in a 30' radius a +2 to any combat trickery
Phalanx: give allies within 30' a -1 to initiative to get a +1 to AC
Morale Surge: once per battle, force your side to hold off making a morale check one round
Vengeance: if a teammate falls in battle, give all remaining allies within 120' the Berserkergang proficiency
I'm working on the Heroic Fantasy Companion at the moment. One of the major changes in the HFC over vanilla ACKS is that hit points are more fully developed along the lines of "hit points as morale," like in Lord of the Rings Online. From the book:
Hit points are a measure of a character’s ability to survive in combat. Hit points are not a direct representation of the character’s capacity to receive physical injury. A character with 40 hp cannot survive eight sword stabs to the stomach! Rather, they represent a holistic combination of fighting skill, stamina, luck, and the favor of the gods, all of which contribute to helping the character roll with blows and survive attacks that would have killed a lesser combatant. Therefore, the amount of damage a weapon deals must be understood relative to the hit points of the character struck. It is the percentage of hit points lost, not the raw number lost, that indicates how physically wounded a character or monster is.
However, in virtually every retro-clone (including ACKS), the elegant abstraction of hit points is marred by an asymmetry between damage and healing. Consider two characters, a normal man with 5 hp and an epic hero with 40 hp. When the normal man is dealt 4 points of damage by a sword, this is a grievous blow (80% of his hit points); when the epic hero is dealt the same 4 points of damage, this is merely a flesh wound (10% of his hp). This is exactly as it should be. Yet when the epic hero is treated with cure light wounds, he recovers 1d6+1 points of damage – enough to repair a light wound, as the spell suggests; while when the normal man is treated with cure light wounds, he is likely to recover from what we just said was a grievous blow that brought him near death. To fix this asymmetry, The Heroic Fantasy Companion offers rules for proportional healing.
All beings recover hit points through rest. For each full day of complete rest in reasonably sanitary conditions, a creature will recover its base healing rate (BHR). If its rest is interrupted, the creature will not heal that day. A creature’s base healing rate is based on its maximum hit points, as shown on the Base Healing Rate table. A character’s BHR should be recorded on its character sheet, and updated each time the character gains additional hit points.
EXAMPLE: Athelstan has 12 hp. His base healing rate is 1d4 hp per day. With a full day of complete rest in sanitary conditions, or with a cure light wounds spell, Athelstan will recover between 1 and 4 hp. If Athelstan had 100 hp, his base healing rate would be 3d10hp per day. For each day of complete rest, or each cure light wounds spell, Athelstan would heal 3d10hp.
I think this makes a warlord-type class offering temporary hit points make much more sense!
A thought occurred to me; what about abilities triggered after the warlord performs a special maneuver?
Since RAW ACKS you can’t cleave after a special maneuver, this is very similar to ‘give up your cleave to do something’, while also including into it whatever penalties or bonuses would be applied to allies as a result of the special maneuver itself.
Something along the lines of “When you successfully disarm an enemy, one ally of your choice who was engaged with that enemy may move X distance away from them.” or “When you successfully trip an enemy, one ally of your choice may make a melee attack against the now-prone target.”
Limit the usage probably, so the overall ability would likely look something along the lines of “At third level, a warlord learns how to utilize wolf pack tactics. He gains the Combat Trickery: Knock Down proficiency. In addition, when he successfully knocks down an enemy, he may choose to spend a gambit. If he does so, one ally may make an immediate melee attack against the now-prone target.”
(I have no idea how many gambits a warlord would have or how fast they would recover, at this time, but I do like gambit as a name for their resource.)