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[What Might Have Been] The Realm Defense Grid

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  • [What Might Have Been] The Realm Defense Grid

    So I just posted the following over in RPGnet during an argument about Lunars. It is not in any way the sort of thing likely to make it into 3e, but I thought y'all might find it interesting:

    I was going to write a fairly comprehensive set of rules for the Realm Defense Grid once, back when Ink Monkeys were a thing and systemizing setting elements like that made sense. Guest post, or something. My principles were basically as follows:

    1) It takes a long time to recharge between shots.

    2) Actually using it stresses the system, and it needs repair/maintenance between uses.

    3) The more maintenance it requires currently, the more functions are inaccessible. I had the beginnings of a whole list, like, that "Project your image above major population centers" thing was a social combat function that had been mostly-disabled so it was only powerful enough to broadcast over the Realm and not all of Creation. Presumably the range of its elemental explosion effects were also range-limited to within X hundred miles of the coast of the Inner Sea or so, and the iron thistledown function was mostly still at unlimited range at the time of the Fair Folk invasion. Now? Who knows!

    4) Even the Essence-collection function of the war manses tended to break down after the stress of active recharge, and needed maintenance, so the more you use it and the more you make it recharge, the more it loses the ability to recharge. Unless you've got maintenance crews keeping everything running, like the Solars had during the First Age.

    5) A lot of the big mote reservoirs sunk under the major war manses were nonfunctional at this point, so it could store very few shots.

    6) Basically no one in the Realm can actually do any of the maintenance it requires.

    ...all of which would combine to make it clear the Scarlet Empress's use of the RGD as her big stick was mostly a very skillfully-executed bluff -- she could use it occasionally, and still had access to basic functions, and she certainly could (and occasionally did) blow troublesome cities off the map, but every time she did, the decision had to be weighed very carefully around the possibility that using it this time would blow out another mote reservoir and reduce her clip size by one, again. Like the US blowing up Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then saying "We'll blow up more cities like that unless you surrender." (This also makes actually performing maintenance a tricky political proposition for the Scarlet Empress, BTW, because if she's running work gangs fixing war manses, people are going to realize the RGD isn't the big imperishable stick she's pretending it is.)

    It would also have had the benefit of transforming "The PCs conquer the Realm and take control of the RGD" from a "The PCs have an I Win button and the game ends" to "The PCs now have a powerful resource at their command, but must use it carefully."

    None of this will necessarily be canon as of 3e. It never made it to canon in 2e. But don't assume the Scarlet Empress's failure to use the RGD to conquer the world from pole to pole means she's stupid -- there are good reasons to construct thoughtful and useful the-RGD-might-work-like-this models where her use of it was wise.

    (Incidentally I am a fan of the theory that the RGD is a set of interconnected systems and functions and infrastructure built around the original Sword of Creation, which was made/discovered by Autochthon, for those of you about to jump in and say that my model is dumb because it's a perfect imperishable artifact from before Creation and so shouldn't need maintenance.)

  • #2
    It's certainly an interesting way of seeing it, although I generally went with the idea that it's not that the Empress doesn't want to use the RDG, it's that as the Realm Defense Grid is calibrated for Solars it costs her greatly in very real ways, and that's not counting the fact that she might lose control, which could do things like blasting everything from the control manse to the target straight off the map, or get her blast far too small or too large to be effective.

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    • #3
      The RDG is a pretty shitty weapon of conquest anyway. Yeah, it can destroy entire nations (maybe), but there's no point in ruling barren, lifeless wasteland and it can't be used to defend territory the way the Legions can.


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      • #4
        She did ask for a share of the Wyld Hunt captures/kills. Maybe that is how she did it?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Tiresias View Post
          The RDG is a pretty shitty weapon of conquest anyway. Yeah, it can destroy entire nations (maybe), but there's no point in ruling barren, lifeless wasteland and it can't be used to defend territory the way the Legions can.
          Yeah, fans who imagine using the RGD as a weapon of conquest tend to imagine conquest as something like Civilization, where you can wipe out major urban centers and then claim the land by... building new cities? In reality, you more often get situations like the US experience in Vietnam or every historical attempt ever to take Afghanistan, where the process of conquest goes like this:

          1) Take the major urban centers in a few quick military strikes.

          2) Declare yourself the ruler.

          3) Realize over the next decade or two, to your slowly dawning horror, that that you've sunk yourself into an unmanageable morasse as the rural countryside throws endless waves of guerillas and passive peasant resistance at you from a population who are loyal to their culture and not any specific leaders.

          4) Your empire goes bankrupt and you have to go home, or possibly you die first.

          Weapons of mass destruction don't work to conquer land unless the weapon is smallpox and the land is all of North and South America, and that only worked once.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Stephen Lea Sheppard View Post
            (Incidentally I am a fan of the theory that the RGD is a set of interconnected systems and functions and infrastructure built around the original Sword of Creation, which was made/discovered by Autochthon, for those of you about to jump in and say that my model is dumb because it's a perfect imperishable artifact from before Creation and so shouldn't need maintenance.)
            Autochthon as architect of the Realm Defense Grid and thus rightful owner of the credit for what was, in 1e, the greatest thing the Solars ever built: getting back onboard the horse named Retcon it rode in on, and going away.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Stephen Lea Sheppard View Post

              Yeah, fans who imagine using the RGD as a weapon of conquest tend to imagine conquest as something like Civilization, where you can wipe out major urban centers and then claim the land by... building new cities? In reality, you more often get situations like the US experience in Vietnam or every historical attempt ever to take Afghanistan, where the process of conquest goes like this:

              1) Take the major urban centers in a few quick military strikes.

              2) Declare yourself the ruler.

              3) Realize over the next decade or two, to your slowly dawning horror, that that you've sunk yourself into an unmanageable morasse as the rural countryside throws endless waves of guerillas and passive peasant resistance at you from a population who are loyal to their culture and not any specific leaders.

              4) Your empire goes bankrupt and you have to go home, or possibly you die first.

              Weapons of mass destruction don't work to conquer land unless the weapon is smallpox and the land is all of North and South America, and that only worked once.
              You mean like the Realm found with the Scavenger Lands, over and over again?

              OP: It's a cool idea, don't get me wrong, adds an extra layer to things. However, from a player perspective, the "repair" function is quite irritating. I get it, and I don't object as such, it's just that it essentially requires you to have a Craft(Magitech) guy in your circle (which isn't really feasible for a few reasons, although of course it can be done). Or be reliant on NPCs, which for me is just a recipe for disaster, and/or kind of annoying: "I'd get in my suit of power armour and go show them why they shouldn't oppose us...but I need to wait for the mechanics to finish repairing the incidental damage caused when I went on a joy-flight yesterday". Which on things like power armour or warstriders makes sense (particularly striders, since they're kind of crap anyway), but on the primary way through which one holds power over and protects Creation? All a Deathlord or the Fair Folk have to do is wait until you're on a maintenance cycle, and whammo, you've suddenly lost millions.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Allan53 View Post

                You mean like the Realm found with the Scavenger Lands, over and over again?

                OP: It's a cool idea, don't get me wrong, adds an extra layer to things. However, from a player perspective, the "repair" function is quite irritating. I get it, and I don't object as such, it's just that it essentially requires you to have a Craft(Magitech) guy in your circle (which isn't really feasible for a few reasons, although of course it can be done). Or be reliant on NPCs, which for me is just a recipe for disaster, and/or kind of annoying: "I'd get in my suit of power armour and go show them why they shouldn't oppose us...but I need to wait for the mechanics to finish repairing the incidental damage caused when I went on a joy-flight yesterday". Which on things like power armour or warstriders makes sense (particularly striders, since they're kind of crap anyway), but on the primary way through which one holds power over and protects Creation? All a Deathlord or the Fair Folk have to do is wait until you're on a maintenance cycle, and whammo, you've suddenly lost millions.
                Oh, I intended to write up the maintenance requirements such that fixing it by yourself is completely impractical no matter how awesome you are; you'd need parallel work on a hundred war manses across the Blessed Isle, and to expand it you'd need to recover, repair, and reconnect war manses across the Threshold, and the sheer scale of the thing would demand the importation of materials from all over Creation. It's less like maintaining a single artifact and more like maintaining a navy and air force; one dude cannot maintain 200 fighter jets and 6 aircraft carriers in 4 different drydock locations along two coasts, no matter how many Charms he has. All the same, because its functionality is so layered, you can keep it running while you're fixing and maintaining it -- there's no maintenance cycle where everything's down any more than there's a necessity to put all of your naval fleet into drydock at the same time. It's not a single artifact; it's a grid of connected artifacts and manses all across Creation incorporating a dozen different kinds of war manses and a hundred different other systems, including such things as remotely commanded self-directing war automata.

                "Maintaining the Realm Defense Grid" is a thing you do in the background once your campaign has hit "Try to conquer the whole world" scale.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Stephen Lea Sheppard View Post
                  Yeah, fans who imagine using the RGD as a weapon of conquest tend to imagine conquest as something like Civilization, where you can wipe out major urban centers and then claim the land by... building new cities?
                  In fairness, there is something to that model of conquest if your interest isn't so much in the cities as it is in the land supporting them; you don't magically pop up new cities in the ruins, you settle people on the now depopulated land in the form of frontier homesteads and the occasional defensive fortification if your frontier happens to border surviving angry natives or angry-fearful neighbors or monsters, and they all have to rely on supply lines extending out of cities in the homeland.

                  I think that's kind of what the Romans did with Gaul or Japan did with the Ainu people.

                  Of course, it depends on what form the surrounding economy takes; depending on the level of sophistication, destroying cities in one land can depress other ones that you still have a lot of stake in.

                  (Though I think when the Realm does stuff like this, it's about clearing living space for bordering satrapies, which also lends an extra layer of consideration)

                  Still more to it than carpet bombing everything and claiming victory.


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                  • #10
                    I'd say the best and most interesting thing about the RGD is that the default assumption of the game, as of the starting year, is that it doesn't work and probably will never be relevant at all even if you do run a world conquest game.

                    That being said, your idea is basically the one I had in mind when I envisioned the thing. The Empress controls the ICBM bases/silos of the post-apocolyptic wasteland that is Creation. Not, the Empress has an orbital death laser with infinite batteries. Which brings me to my question, so, what about flying war manses loaded with armaments? Any thoughts or feelings on those? Or just war manses in general. A manse book was fairly early on the schedule, not that I'm assuming that means it's set in stone. What are the feelings on manses designed for blowing things up?

                    Coincidentally, one of my favorite pieces from Ink Monkeys was that unstoppable Isidorian hoofstep manse that plowed through Malfeas. I had a fun time using that in game with a little re-tailoring (notably absent from the write-up: enormous brass cow-catcher and detachable defensive modules).

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Ithle View Post
                      (notably absent from the write-up: enormous brass cow-catcher and detachable defensive modules)
                      I was sure I'd included the cow-catcher in the final draft!


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Stephen Lea Sheppard View Post

                        Yeah, fans who imagine using the RGD as a weapon of conquest tend to imagine conquest as something like Civilization, where you can wipe out major urban centers and then claim the land by... building new cities? In reality, you more often get situations like the US experience in Vietnam or every historical attempt ever to take Afghanistan, where the process of conquest goes like this:

                        1) Take the major urban centers in a few quick military strikes.

                        2) Declare yourself the ruler.

                        3) Realize over the next decade or two, to your slowly dawning horror, that that you've sunk yourself into an unmanageable morasse as the rural countryside throws endless waves of guerillas and passive peasant resistance at you from a population who are loyal to their culture and not any specific leaders.

                        4) Your empire goes bankrupt and you have to go home, or possibly you die first.

                        Weapons of mass destruction don't work to conquer land unless the weapon is smallpox and the land is all of North and South America, and that only worked once.
                        While modern examples are not as glowingly successful, this strategy has actually worked rather well in the past. In fact, at one time, a certain empire I recalled came to almost rule the entire world by exploiting a pretty awesome navy and this very idea...

                        ... though, that said, nothing lasts forever.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Stephen Lea Sheppard View Post

                          Yeah, fans who imagine using the RGD as a weapon of conquest tend to imagine conquest as something like Civilization, where you can wipe out major urban centers and then claim the land by... building new cities? In reality, you more often get situations like the US experience in Vietnam or every historical attempt ever to take Afghanistan, where the process of conquest goes like this:

                          1) Take the major urban centers in a few quick military strikes.

                          2) Declare yourself the ruler.

                          3) Realize over the next decade or two, to your slowly dawning horror, that that you've sunk yourself into an unmanageable morasse as the rural countryside throws endless waves of guerillas and passive peasant resistance at you from a population who are loyal to their culture and not any specific leaders.

                          4) Your empire goes bankrupt and you have to go home, or possibly you die first.

                          Weapons of mass destruction don't work to conquer land unless the weapon is smallpox and the land is all of North and South America, and that only worked once.
                          Depending on what the local resources are, I'd imagine that lashing the place with fire and earth elementals then launching wood elementals at it, might actually leave you with a depopulated but habitable area, which could then be settled by your own people.

                          However, this is only particularly worthwhile if the area has extensive mineral resources and a very hostile population, as any other resources are likely to be destroyed during the engagement. I mean, you invade the Scavenger Lands because you want to extract a cut of the profit from the cities and grab first pick of the found artifacts, not because you particularly want the land. Similarly, zapping An-Teng like that would destroy everything useful about the nation. Honestly, of the places we're aware of, I think the only place this trick is likely to work is Harborhead (the population there is hostile and prone to infighting but the jade deposits make it worth governing) and doing so would piss off the Southern God of War, so you probably wouldn't be able to keep the place.


                          ....

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MissMaddy View Post

                            While modern examples are not as glowingly successful, this strategy has actually worked rather well in the past. In fact, at one time, a certain empire I recalled came to almost rule the entire world by exploiting a pretty awesome navy and this very idea...

                            ... though, that said, nothing lasts forever.
                            ...the British Empire had WMDs?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Holden View Post

                              ...the British Empire had WMDs?
                              Hardtack, my friend.

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