It sounds like a good idea to me. I've contemplated a similar idea, but I got to the phase of "What if I don't want to march in this line" and gave up. The idea of mercenaries didn't come to me.
As for my opinions on RTS games, I like them, I just suck too much.
Which is why I never play multiplayer, because I always get beat in less than 5 minutes in. >_>
I've been reading up on this game called Dust 514 that's gonna try doing the omni-game thing that yahtzee is talking about here. From what I understand it's gonna have vehicle driving/plane flying/fps'ing while one player on each side is gonna be acting as an RTS commander.
EDIT: vehicles are customizable, fps'ers level up through an achievment matrix (probably similar to getting the pro perks in Call of Duty: Black Ops) and the two commanders put down way points for guidance, choose player spawn areas, decide what vehicles are accessable (spelling?). I believe there where a few other things that the Commander person could do but don't remember them, essentially allowing the commander's input to the game still affect the outcome even if the players on the ground refuse to follow him.
I heard some people mention savage 2. Its not really and RTS at all, at least not at an entertaining level. The fun i have in RTS games has a lot to do with freedom such as control over units and flexible building. getting a small group of my favourite units together and skirmishing the enemy, or building in specific ways to create a good defence or steal resources is what i like doing.
Which makes me kind of a hypocrite because i enjoyed the original majesty and it was the game that came to mind when yahtzee mentioned RTS with players controlling the units. In that game i didnt mind not being able to control the units directly because i could always entice them to do what i wanted with money, and when i built their shacks and upgraded them to luxury apartment they rewarded me with fancy spells.
As a side note i think WoW came from people wanting to play units in warcraft 3, although thats nothing to do with RTS games, although a faster paced MMORPG thats more focused on fantastic end game content with RTS elements sounds cool. Less grinding, more epic battles presided over by a set amount of commander players. Oh and take out the auto attack bullshit and replace it with hotkeys and combos. Even button-bashing is more fun than waiting for your character to swing his axe by himself.
Its okay that i went off track because no one will read this and the topic probably died a while ago anyway...
Interesting. I would propose an alternative setup, more of a social experiment.
It's true that having a human commander lead human troops seems fraught with uncertainty as a game concept. Basically the trust and authority relationship that would need to grow seems complex in a game setting and who has the time for that except D&D players (note: I don't know anything about D&D). Worst case scenario: the ground units will ignore all orders and have a party and the commander will go power mad and put his units in impossible situations. That's what I would do at least.
But instead of having human ground/first-person units as a third party between two regular RTS commanders, I propose an alternative: an RTS commander ordering computer units versus an equivalent army of non-centrally organised human players.
Aswell as having the dramatic (though technically inaccurate) "one against all" quality, it will put collective action to the test. As I see it the advantage to the RTS commander would be overall strategy whereas the human ground units might find it hard to organise an all encompassing plan of attack but would naturally have an advantage on smaller scale tactics.
Of course you'd have to balance out (as far as possible) the game, what tools are available for each side etc. But the victories would be quite epic: either you manage to defeat Bob the Pussy and his army of evil bots or you can claim to have defeated pretty much everyone at your lan-party.
Just a thought.