I do not like the idea of being a nonexistent commander either. It made sense in X-Com (All of them) Because you would be watching the battle from your command center. In this game I would like a little sprite that I can customize (Hair , face ect.) and level up like a normal battle brother. Say have a normal mod that when your sprite gets ‘killed’ just knocks him unconscious. If you win the fight your character gets up. If you lose or retreat. You get captured, some of your gold taken away/you get left for dead and lose some gold. Excuse for only having some taken away is because of you stashing the majority somewhere before battle. Anyways. Depending on the outcome of the loss you will wake up do whatever outcome it was and have your three ‘companions’ back. Say you get left for dead. Villagers find you nurse you back to health and some decide to join you. In a ‘Ironman Mode’ you get knocked unconscious and your Brothers win you get up, wounded and requiring a lot of medical supplies. If you lose. One of multiple outcomes (Being left for dead and robbed, taken prisoner ect.) One of them would be character death and game over.
If you didn’t want to go that route you could do something that involves the PC a little more like after the completion of a contract/do not take and causalities/anything commanderish the PC gains experience that the level ups he/she gets you can spend a perk point on a perk that, for an example, gives a party wide resolve boost. Or perks that help your party early battle, but taper to useless late battle or vise-versa. Make the PC more important then some nameless reference in written portions like this http://imgur.com/NSNKRx2 Like seriously. Why do I need someone to save me from assassins when I am a god-like being that can command troops from the heavens and I am seemingly omnipotent and ubiquitous on the battlefield?