And now, the war.
I’m deviating a bit from script here, since this part was mostly non-interactive. Partly (mostly) this is because I’m still recovering files from my decrepit laptop’s latest hard drive explosion, but there was a lot of the war that the players did not see. I, on the other hand, got to have the whole sodding war explained to me bit by bit, before and after it took place around the players, because I was a handy target for unwanted exposition.
He built his campaign around Space Empires V. Specifically, a spare copy of SEV I had lying around. He subsequently “patched it up” and added a boatload of “purely aesthetic” mods, hypocrisy be darned, before playing it more than most WoW addicts. Not with other people; according to him his modifications meant he couldn’t use multiplayer. He also didn’t like the AI, because it kept beating him; he’d either play with the AI at a significant disadvantage or just iterate through the sides in hotseat mode, ostensibly because the AI didn’t play the empires he’d made up “correctly” and so was suitable only for generic enemies.
Admittedly, I’ve played strategy games against myself before; it’s the only way to explore the mechanics under controlled conditions, and I don’t know any other way to figure out the basics of Dominions 3. I don’t, however, think that bears any resemblance to an actual strategy, and this is where Marty and I differ. Efficiency has never been a concern of his, given he has all the time he wants, and so obviously the biggest guns are the best ones; given SEV’s rather simple weapon mechanics, this applied physically as well as economically. Then, too, he’d learned to avoid extraneous components, because he was exclusively firing guns so ludicrously enormous that armor couldn’t mass-effectively soak the burst damage. (Multiply redundant) shields could, but they consume Supply, which means every time he recharges his shields he’s losing gunshots. His ideal, then, was as many of the biggest gun he could come up with, welded onto the biggest hull he could get, and as little else as possible. Turtle up, race up the technology tree, and build them in huge hordes to be flung at the enemy en masse.
Enter Star Wars.
By any measure, its technology is laughably advanced; their civilian propulsion systems can drive them at several million c. Setting aside magic hyperdrives, they have twelve meter long starships that can accelerate at 37,000 m/s2 (survivably!) while firing terajoule lasers indefinitely. Now, I look at this and call it magic. Chief looks at this and decides clearly it’s better technology than anything else out there and is therefore the logical choice. Oh, but not the starfighters. They are tiny and carry tiny guns. No, he needs the Eclipse. Quick Star Wars primer: The Eclipse-class Super Star Destroyer is a Star Destroyer scaled up by about a factor of ten with a miniature version of the Death Star superlaser mounted axially. (Yo, dawg, we embedded an enormous cylindrical cannon in your ludicrously huge pointy spaceship so you can overcompensate recursively.) Building one of these monstrosities is an exercise in painful stupidity. Building a second one after the first is the textbook definition of insanity.
Marty, last I asked him, figured on needing “at least a hundred thousand, to start with”. The existing Imperial Navy was apparently intended to be a feint while his REAL firepower was under construction. Admittedly, even with the “extra Kuats” he intended to put in place, this was a tall order, and he intended to economize by removing “extraneous components” like the fighter bays, point-defense gun emplacements, most of the armor, and a good deal of the life support.
“Using SEV as an estimate, I can get them to only cost a third as much to build and take a tenth of the crew.”
Oh, yes, that’s much more economical. Now each one only needs seventy thousand people willing to board the SSD Freudian Nightmare II and be flung into the far corners of the multiverse to die. See, he had a very short list of possible fates for his ships, most of which involved a ship that could no longer shoot ramming into either its targets or anything handy; he’d learned from SEV that extra ammo bays were a waste of space, because none of his ships lived long enough to run out.
I did try to explain that presenting this as a fait accompli was begging for disaster. I even rebuilt his ships in my copy of SEV, set them up, and showed how badly he lost at force projection to even my amateurish parodies of carrier battle groups. He always had one of two responses: “I’d have more ships than that” (a 5:1 resource advantage wasn’t enough, apparently) or “I see I won all the actual battles”. See, he counted a battle won if he had more ships surviving than his opponent did, but I counted the victor in terms of the relative industrial output expended. (Too simple, I know, but I was bad at strategy back then.) In short, if two of my ships and one of his mutually annihilated each other, but mine are produced more than twice as quickly, we’d both call the same engagement a win. So that was a waste of time.
He did, however, come up with a third answer: Thrawn and Lelouch. He’d bought fully into the idea of the military genius with the single perfect plan, and that was what he intended his chosen generals to provide. Of course, given his ego, he really expected them simply to implement his own plan, as defined by his completely inflexible, one-unit military structure—but still relied on them for the kind of impossible victories they’d pulled off in the source fiction. He more or less halved his own losses down from what his chosen simulator indicated “because of the generals”.
He defined a strategic plan, too, although he never flatly admitted to implementing it: fly the fleet through the portals to simultaneously reach every inhabited point in the target reality, blast randomly selected planets to shards, then issue his standard join-me-or-die ultimatum. I can’t help feeling the sequence of events is suboptimal here. At any rate, he’d just wreck one planet every [unit of time] until they complied, and he’d go back to doing that at the first sign of noncompliance. Quite how he expected a military genius to implement that intelligently is beyond me; it’s not really the kind of plan you can optimize without chucking it entirely. Oh, but he had a propaganda department to deal with the backlash!
In sum: he intended to steamroll everyone with an immense fleet of thousands of ludicrously oversized disposable starships, relying on a cadre of “military geniuses” to optimally implement his planned heavy-handed omnicidal terrorism according to a plan devised by playing a completely unrelated videogame against himself for weeks.
To be fair, this is his plan as he explained it to me; the PCs didn’t deal with most of it, even tangentially, and what they DID see was slightly different. Remember, they were members of the MIC, so for most of the initial war they saw very little. From the accounts I’ve gotten, they had a bunch of agents die and a bunch of realities drop off the grid before actually getting to respond.
Then Marty showed up, and Rick decided not to give up instantly, which was a problem. Naturally, Marty’s immune to everything, not that Rick doesn’t iterate through everything in his arsenal—including a hug while wearing half a dozen thermal detonators. These were psychically deactivated, then Marty decided to ignore him, walk into the MIC’s vault of reality-ending superweapons, take everything vaguely useful, and leave.
I have to give him an atom of credit here. The ensuing space battle saw them win, although from what I can tell it was against an insignificant fraction of Marty’s navy. That said, the GM was quick to point out that Marty’s forces were infinite, while the MIC’s were not, and so they were doomed no matter what they did.
A lot of silliness ensued with superweapons, propaganda-induced mass defection, and MIC-approved FLEIJA deployment out of Code Geass into critical Star Wars facilities including the Maw Installation…where they met clones of Marty taking the place of both the scientists and the guards. Because, you know, Marty’s the best they’ve got, and the whole galaxywide proscription on human cloning is just a technicality. Stormtroopers show up and are incredibly accurate (which I could see) and impenetrably well-armored (which I can’t). Seriously, they’re apparently almost immune to blasters, no matter what the movies show. Still, they pull it off…although the GM is quick to note Marty has built a backup Maw. Not a backup Maw Installation; he’s replicated the black hole cluster around it, too. It’s like a deranged cooking show: “and here’s an impossible gravitational anomaly we assembled earlier”. Anything to make the players’ actions irrelevant.
Oh, and Rick killed Darth Vader with a crapload of explosives, because Marty didn’t care enough to save someone so whiny. As the GM later explained to me, this was wholly intentional—Vader was too unstable to use and this was the most convenient way to have him removed.
Then came the final battle, explicitly brought on by the players’ “terrorism”. Marty “himself” showed up, kicked the crap out of the base, and fought Rick one-on-one while the GM was constantly laughing about how easy he was going on the players. Of course, Marty’s still totally immune to everything up to and including a turbolaser, and he’s instantly healing any incidental damage. One would think someone would point Blackhawk at him and they’d ineffectually flail at each other for eternity, but Blackhawk’s long since disappeared. The players were simply told he’d disappeared before every mission they’d sent any agent on had failed; as per normal, it was exposited to me that he had in fact switched sides at the earliest opportunity. In his absence, there was only Rick, who kept firing until Marty once more got bored and gave everyone five minutes to leave via the newly constructed portal to who knows where before the entire base was annihilated. In his infinite mercy, the remaining MIC personnel could take anything they liked except for an immense list of things, and five minutes later the party was sitting in a field somewhere with two starfighters, assorted hand weapons, a hundred and fifty engineers and precisely nothing else.
And that was how he ended that semester of the campaign.