Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Just a quick note on a dark room full of knives

I may be repeating myself here, but just a few thoughts.

It strikes me that one's oldest enemies are the ones closest to home.

The Festrian Empire will no doubt have enemies on its borders, and it does - for instance, the Autocratic Duchy (it was a duchy, wasn't it?) of Berlings, and any number of Old Empire powers beyond the frontier. But when the Festrian Empire was smaller (oh, a couple hundred years ago) its reach was shorter, and its rivals were much closer.

Those planets didn't go away.

They're at least nominally vassal states now, some of them. But I don't picture anything too cozy - and I'm starting to gravitate towards these planetary governments retaining much more of their autonomy. There's a bunch of worlds all close enough to strike each other given a jump or two, and none of them are going to have much incentive to let their guard down. Relations may be cordial - in fact they had better be - but with all these major powers within two weeks of each other's homeworld, the vast bulk of each world's fleets will be concentrated right there, at the homeworld. Nothing less than an armada, which nothing less than an armada will be able to unseat.

All those backwater worlds under your wing? Just how many ships will you spare for them, Emperor? Certainly, not a ship of the line - not unless there's an immediate need. Perhaps you'll have small patrol fleets posted here and there to keep an eye on the neighbors, as they'll be keeping an eye on you.

I've been reading about how the Spanish expanded their frontiers in the 15th and 16th centuries, with Adelantados - nobles who risked their own fortunes (and those of their patrons) to conquer, er, convert territory in the New World in the name of the Crown and the Church. The idea was that none of it was to rely on Royal coffers. It didn't always work out that way: Florida and New Mexico turned out to be awfully expensive for the Castillans. But I do like the idea of using a sort of Adelantado system on the frontiers to spare Fester from having to commit elements of the Armada away from the home systems - not just because of the expense, but because Fester's supremacy at home only lasts as long as it maintains both a defensive armada capable of taking all comers, and an offensive force which can be reasonably expected to do the same. Which means that about sixty percent of the Festrian Navy has to be focused on home defense, and thirtyfive percent or so needs to be focused on its close neighbors.


Blogger Omer Golan said...

The big question here is: how strong is Fester (and worlds under its direct sway, i.e. imperial domain and not vassal state) in comparison to its major vassals?

And were there any "pacification campaigns" against these client-states in the past, before they were integrated - or did their strength remain undisturbed?

Also, regarding the frontier, remember that any group with enough money to charter a ship for a few months - or who have a ship, even a Type-A, themselves - could start a colony on the frontier. Some with a little more money might even start colonies beyond the frontier. So some colonies would be founded by fringe groups and dissidents out to escape the constrains of core-world society... Ideal for adventuring, isn't it?

12:15 AM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Festeria itself is a high-population, high tech world which would be classified as rich were it not for the high pop... I haven't really crunched the numbers for its domain worlds, largely because I haven't really decided what that means in the context of MTU.

As far as planet-wiping goes, I figure that most of that will have happened prior to the Night; when worlds of the Old Empire started coming out of the Night, most of the ones which would end up being developed powers in the current age would have been pretty well off even then; when the Festrian Empire gets going, its "strong" neighbors would have enough clout so that a) wiping them out would be extremely difficult and, in the end, undesirable. I suspect that the noble families of all these planets might, over the past few hundred years and even reaching back into the last days of the Dark, might have intermarried some. One wishes to command all of these worlds, but one doesn't wish to eradicate them. So at home there's a political standoff backed by massive force; but on frontiers the coreworld rivalries get played out for stakes that are small on a planetary scale but that can make individuals pretty rich or pretty dead. (

And then of course, the worlds on and beyond the frontier are generally not empty - and the Old Empire worlds to be found there range from the barbaric to pocket empires in their own right.

As you say, ideal for adventuring!

What I need to do - and this will take more time than I have on hand immediately - is set up the rest of Festeria's local rivals/vassals/etcetera, and how their relationships generally play out in the frontiers and interior backwaters.

This model, by my lights, is very friendly for a sort of Genteel Piracy which aids the space opera aspect of the game a lot, if one is willing to find a way to make it work in terms of the mechanics of it all.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Omer Golan said...

What I like about your setup is that it follows the proto-Traveller assumptions very well: from a frontier perspective you have a "remote polity with great industrial and military might" which can't project its full power all the time to all places, just like in the LBB4 introduction.

12:37 AM  
Blogger Festeria said...

If that's so, that's good- means I'm still on target!

One thing that does occur to me is that following this particular fleet-distribution model, a lot of the problematical effects associated with HG sort of disappear. The big ships stay with the big fleets, at homeworld and in forward fleet positions; patrols and the like, really anything that affects PCs, has to be small, flexible, and inexpensive - like a Patrol Cruiser.

Then, there's the issue of what it does to fighters...

4:58 AM  

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