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Re: [GZG] [OT] Books (Weber/White/Meier)

From: Oerjan Ariander <orjan.ariander1@c...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jul 2008 13:54:27 +0200
Subject: Re: [GZG] [OT] Books (Weber/White/Meier)

Eric Foley wrote:

> >> >>Further comments below Indy's original message with spoiler
> here...
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>WARNING
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>HERE
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>THERE
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>BE
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>SPOILERS....
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>
> >> >As for why the Bugs became a paper tiger after Pesthouse, it is
> >> >simple: the entire Hegemony consisted of around thirty inhabited
> >> >systems, against the Alliance's many hundreds of systems. Once the

> Bugs had
> >> >run out of mothballed SDNs to reactivate and send into battle,
their only
> >> >reinforcements were new production units... and even though the
five Home
> >> >Hives could easily outproduce any *five* Alliance systems, they
had no
> >> >chance in hell against the top five *hundred* Alliance systems.
> >>
> >>Yeah.  And ultimately that was really the problem.	It's
fundamentally a
> >>war book where the war lacks all drama once the good guys simply
> >>the initial thrust.
> >Oh, I certainly agree with that! The ISW4 books are basically a
> >report from a StarFire campaign, where one side gets the upper hand
and the
> >snowball starts to roll. Once that happens in a campaign, everyone
can see
> >the writing on the wall - the only way such a campaign will survive
is if
> >some of the other players change sides (ie., if the Alliance was to
> >up) - and with the Bugs attempting genocide against both the primary
> >partners of the Alliance, there was literally no way that would
happen in
> >ISW4.
>Yeah.	Which ultimately creates a scenario that, while it works very
>for the StarFire equivalent of a "dungeon crawl" module, doesn't work
>well for a pair of books that they expect us to buy in hardcover.

It doesn't work very well for the game either, which is ultimately why 
Weber lost control of the StarFire game design...

>In Death Ground suggested a lot of interesting suspense and possibility

>that the Arachnids could have theoretically eaten everyone in 
>space.  Shiva Option basically reduced that to a nightmare scenario
>was never particularly realistic, and wound up reading like one long 
>bloody victory parade of various inventive ways to commit interstellar 
>genocide.  In that vein, about the only possible debate would have been
>Weber and White had done something like, I don't know... slow down and 
>grasp that maybe the wargamer's obvious answer to simply nuke any 
>sufficiently intractable species might not really sit quite that well 
>within real-world ethical considerations.  Imagine the discussion that 
>would happen if anybody suggested that we ought to simply nuke the
>tribal are as of Pakistan and put Osama Bin Laden out of our 
>misery.  After all, it's not like we're ever going to make peace with 
>them, and they'd do the same to us, right?

I don't need to imagine the "nuke 'Stan" debate; it is already raging on

plenty of web sites... and in the StarFire universe, about half of the 
Crusade novel is about that issue, too. As is the upcoming Exodus one,
seems - though possibly with a new twist on it... fortunately Weber
involved in that one, so maybe the end will be different this time :-)

> >>and I suppose it was described as a situation where the Arachnids
> >>more dangerous than any other enemy the Alliance ever fought... but
> >>at that, would it really have hurt the story to make the outcome a
> >>more in doubt long term?
> >It wouldn't have hurt for the books, but how? Once the landings in
> >and Normandy had succeeded, what doubt was there left about the
> >outcome of WW2? Even the Bulge was really just a minor setback in the
> >greater perspective...
>I think it's pretty obvious and, given that they wanted us to pay money
>buy two hardcover books of this at one point, even necessary for the
>of making a good story:  make the Bugs more dangerous, both at the
>and long-term, than they were in the modules,

I suspect that that would only prolong the agony. StarFire FTL travel is

restricted to the WP choke points, and because it is StarFire combat is 
extremely attritional. That's the core of the StarFire background, so if

you change that... it is no longer StarFire.

(Of course that would most likely make for a better novel, which I
is why Weber *did* come up with new concepts for interstellar travel in
HH series, but since W&W wanted to write novels set in their own gaming 
universe it is kinda difficult to circumvent in the StarFire novels :-(

Given StarFire's attrition-style warfare, once one side - whether the 
Alliance or the Bugs, doesn't really matter - gets the upper hand it
almost inevitably *retain* the upper hand. There is only suspense to be
as long as it is uncertain who really has the advantage; once the reader

knows that, the suspense is gone - and from that point onwards, the only

real effect of having a bigger losing empire is that the mop-up phase
take even longer than it did in TSO.

Or you could allow the Bugs to win and eat us all. *That* would keep the

suspense up <g> I'd love to see the early part of the Telik/Franos/Star 
Union story line (Crucians discover Telik and Franos via a closed WP, 
allowing the three races to escape the Bugs even though both Telik and 
Franos were lost) turned into a novel, too.

>1.  Narrow the initial tech and industrial gap. [...]
>2.  Give them a larger support empire in addition to the five Home

See above. These might drag out the suspense phase a bit, but will 
definitely drag out the genocidal mop-up phase since there's now so much

more to mop up :-(

>Screw this "oh no, they ate a frontier colony" overblown pathos and 
>project that out to, say, overrunning Proxima Centauri after Pesthouse
>a result, and these two books probably get about five times more 
>interesting just from that alone.

Agreed about agonizing over minor rocks like Indra or Golan, though
was a fairly major world for the Khanate... 'course, Klean was a
world, not a human one, so the emotional effect isn't quite as big as if

Proxima had been eaten :-/

>3.  Give the Bugs better stealth.

This would only help them on the defense though, unless they also get a
more extra closed WPs into Allied space - or if their Stealth allows
to stay hidden at point-blank range, which would allow them to go
and kill anything with impunity (not that good for the plot!).
that all but one of the contact points described in the novels are just 
closed WPs (and that one exception only features very briefly in the
since it is on the Star Union front), they had already played that card 
quite heavily. It'd lead to yet more Kliean-style campaigns: "Bugs boil 
into yet another unprepared sector, desperate defenders get mangled at 
first but finally manage to stop the Bugs after losing worlds X, Y and Z
be eaten, then fight them to a stalemate..."

>Now here comes the part where we start breaking Starfire rules, but in 
>which we make the "Bugs with nukes" more truly reflective of "BUGS with

>4.  Make the Bugs capable of inhabiting a broader range of planetary
>estate than we can. [...]
>5.  Make the Bugs, since they care very little about individual comfort

>levels, quicker and more inventive at turning a planet around from
>landing to productive industrial world than we are. [...]
>6.  Make the Bugs more capable of industrially exploiting a planet than
>are, [...]

None of this breaks any game rules. The Bugs already had advantages 5
6, and 4 wouldn't be a major change either...

>Visualize this:  an Arachnid "egg infestation" fleet sneaks into a star

>system that the Alliance has generally not cared about because they
>it's useless.

Again we run into a problem with StarFire's WP travel: if it is a system

inside surveyed Alliance space, "sneak in" means "using a closed WP"
the open WPs are already covered by comm relay stations. Given the 
Alliance's policies of settling every habitable piece of dirt and then 
some, the only "useless" systems inside Alliance space would be the ones

having no planets with breathable atmospheres - but that would be an
bigger issue for the Bugs, since they'd have to build an atmospheric 
environment to hatch their eggs in before they could do any serious 
swarming, and then it is no longer just a few crates of stuff.

Allowing the Bugs to rapidly turn newly conquered worlds like Indra or 
Golan into productive colonies could be interesting - but even if they 
breed like flies, it'll take them time to set up an effective industry.
is all very well having a million mining bugs using their claws as 
pick-axes in a thousand primitive mines, but if you want to ship the ore

they dig up somewhere off-planet you still need a fairly advanced 
transportation system to collect it. (Not to mention the effort needed
feed the miners, and so on.)

All in all: it wouldn't be hard to come up with a more interesting
for novels than the StarFire universe... but such a setting wouldn't
the StarFire universe. More specifically, it wouldn't be Weber&White's
gaming universe where they wanted to set their novels.



"Life is like a sewer.
  What you get out of it, depends on what you put into it."

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