Saturday, June 15, 2013

The SUE System: Charge of the Derp Brigade

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.


  1. The stormtroopers were basically white scratching posts with lasers to 'Igor' iirc, because she didn't do enough damage to bypass their armor (despite having some Armor Piercing).

    While I play some strategy games (like dom 3 and Sev 5) with myself as all players, I acknowledge that it is not a strategy game and more of a empire simulator for me to play with.

    Marty literally used everything but the kitchen sink,(although he was contemplating using that, but didn't have the time) including fixed turrets riped up iirc. It was quite amusing how resourceful he was.

    Lellouch (depending on when in the series I suppose) would probably try to take over and make the multiverse Britaniaverse.

  2. Ow ow ow ow.

    Please forgive any typing errors - I think I facepalmed so hard at this that my hand went through my skull.

    Remind me again why Chief Circle doesn't like Gurren Lagann? it sounds like he's bought into "Bigger is Better" hook line and sinker. (If he somehow ended up running WW2 Germany, I'm sure he'd've ordered mass-production of the Ratte tanks.)

    Blowing up planets at random, and he somehow deludes himself into thinking he's the good guy? Arrrgh.

  3. Gurren Lagann was suggested as a way for players to overcome obstacles with spiral power, and was therefore a threat.

  4. ... Most people would fight to the death against someone who blew up random planets before even issuing a ultimatum and whose ultimatum was "Serve me unconditionally, or I blow up planets until I've decided you're no longer disappointing me." Besides the sheer amount of ill will and desire for vengeance that would drum up, you've outed yourself as wholly unreasonable and untrustworthy right out of the gate.

  5. If he based his doomfleet on Space Empires Five, I'd expect it to be nothing but ships with maxed engines and missile launchers, which proceed to fly around in circles as the enemy chases hopelessly.

    Also, a *hundred thousand* Eclipses? The Empire is ridic, but not *that* ridiculous.

    Incidentally, the Freudian Nightmare letter is actually from a StarDestroyer.Net thread regarding a one *million* kilometer long wankship, IIRC. Surprised he didn't pull out a hundred thousand of those.

  6. Holy shit you played dom 3. :) nice. I played that a lot. If you ever hung out at shrapnel or dom3mods you probably saw my name come past a few times.

    To others, dominions 3 (and 4) is a nice tbs game in which you play a pretender god trying to kill all the other pretender gods and become the ultimate god that way. It is pretty broad (very very broad) and quite interesting in MP play. I suggest you try it if you care for fantasy tbs games. And it isn't event that expensive anymore. (Due to being on shrapnel dom3 was crazy expensive) but nowadays dom 4 is pretty cheap on steam.

    Sadly, the wiki about dom3 has long ago crashed. So getting good information on the inner workings of the game is a bit hard.

    Sucks that Marty missed that Thrawn was so awesome that he won using shitty equipment. A master of subterfuge, and unconventional tactics. Such a general would be worthless if the only thing you have is very very very large hammers.

  7. You know, it's lucky for Marty that he "sealed off" the warhammer 40K universe in his setting because otherwise he'd have lost his little invasion right there. Let's take a look at this faction by faction, shall we?

    Imperium of Man: All of the vital worlds in the Imperium have significant orbital defenses, with holy terra being arguably the single best defended world in all of fiction. More importantly, the moment that obviously non imperial ships warped into the system, they would be attacked. The Imperial policy of "Shoot first and keep shooting" would mean that Marty's warships, stripped of their point defenses, shields, and armour, would be disabled before they could even issue their ultimatum over a world the IoM feels the need to protect (EG space marine homeworlds, sector capitals, ect). Now that still means he can blow up something like a hive world and issue his threats. Unfortunately, the IoM is unlikely to roll over to such a threat, given they're known to do such things to themselves on a very large scale. The war would be costly for the IoM, sure, but that's very much how they roll anyway. The Imperial (40 K) navy tends to be built around broadsides, making them very effective against ships with only spinal mounted weapons even before factoring in the massive advantage of having fighters, frigates, and cruisers all moving too fast for the Imperials (SW) to line up a shot with their one oversized gun.

    The Craftworld Eldar: Given that stuff like armour, point defenses and the like were stripped out, I think we can safely assume that additional sensors were not added. This is a problem when fighting a race with staggeringly good stealth technology. Ironically, stripping out the armour on ships intended to fight the Eldar is probably not a bad idea as their lance weapons cut through it like a knife through butter anyway. Not using the reduced weight to try and reduce their edge in speed? That's a mistake. T: SSD's warp in and begin aligning spinal weapons with craftworld. T + 3 seconds: Naval brightlances pick off reactors en mass, since no shields means no defense against scans and no stopping the powerful AP weapons.

    Tau: Given that blowing up a Tau world at random practically guarantees that you just murdered a bunch of Ethereals, you can forget a surrender. The Tau navy would defeat the nearest flying planet crackers, Earth Cast engineers would analyse the designs for their many, many weaknesses, and any further battles would be complete curbstomps. It would be interesting to see Thrawn vs Sunshadow, but let's be honest Thrawn would be at such a crippling disadvantage due to unit composition that "Fight" might be overselling it.

    Part 2 below


    1. The Orks: Two words: Looted SSD. The reinforcements would enter the system to find the last wave upgraded to be killya, louda, and redda so's they goes fasta. The Ork obsession with dakka would ensure that this silly "One gun, no reloads" nonsense would be fixed. Low life support is not an issue for this species, either.

      The Necrons: Possibly the first time the SSD fleet will encounter the planet firing back. Or phasing out of reality to dodge their fire. On unleashing self-replicating scarabs en mass to devour their ships and crew. Really, showing up at an active tomb world is the worst sort of bad day.

      The Tyranids: Firstly, how do you intimidate the 'nids? They don't have any worlds to blow up, and their bioships are not just going to sit around and wait to be shot up like a planet would. Also, you've stripped off all the stuff that prevents them boarding your ship and eating your crew as a snack.

      Chaos: Do I really need to say that flying your fleet of super ships into the Eye of Terror is a bad idea? I mean, I suppose that if you can protect yourself from the demonic possessions, boarding parties of chainaxe wielding maniacs screaming about spilling your blood for the blood god, the horrible flesh-melting plagues, mass-scale mind control, or the fact that reality suddenly doesn't have to play by the rules and actively hates you... what are you going to do here? Intimidate the ruinous powers into a surrender?
      Good luck with that.

      To be fair I think that if the Galactic Empire (under Palps) were to try and establish a foothold in the 40K universe they'd be in with a shot provided they don't overreach. The tactics described above though? Half the factions consider your infinite reinforcements to be lunch, or new playthings, or more gubbins, or target practice.

    2. Addendum:

      Dark Eldar: Once again, no planets to kill. Any part of your empire with citizens, they will raid. Your massive number of clones? They are going to have fun with those...

      Remember: Don't let them take you alive.

    3. I think you mean it's lucky for Warhammer 40k that he sealed it off I assume. Logic has nothing to do with this. He can mind control Palpatine and ret-con whatever he wants, I'm pretty sure the only reason he didn't proclaim himself the God-emperor of man (presumably after effortlessly clearing the warp-gates of daemons and fixing it to work through realities as well) is that the PCs like/knew more about the setting than he did and would flip their shit if he 'fixed'/conquered it, because by its very nature it is not conquerable.

      Humans (all humans, because they would obviously unify once he proves how awesome he is):
      Tau: I'm sure he would convince the tau that they are racists and a horribly inferior species to him so they should all serve under him as the ultimate caste.

      Tyranids: Clearly he will scare away the Tyrannids by re-purposing the Astronomicon into a super-weapon that using some weird logic lets him link to their hive mind and direct them into biologically producing his little suicide ships.

      Necrons: This is basically what Marty wants his troops to be like apparently, so he'ld iunno reprogram them to follow him and pilot his suicide ships so he can have them respawn.

      Orcs: He will either civilize them (hahahahahaha...) or he will use them as the threat to send everything else after, or beat the shit out of them and become the new waaaaaaaagh boss using his berserker blood.

      Chaos: Iunno, he convinces them he is the 5th chaos god (hes worse, also its my fan theory that the emperor is the actual 5th so could fit) and the chaos gods would fall in line (or be the infinite enemy to throw his troops at, presumably his wars are a farm to produce blackhawke-like characters)

      Eldar/Dark Eldar: I am less familiar with them, but they are fundamentally psychic, ans so he would probably just use mind control or failing that, and noticing they have no planets (I thought they had craftworlds, but mabye thats just the normal eldar). Mabye he would reunite the two warring factions and everything will be happiness and rainbows. Or he shows up and claims to be/is an eldar god.

      And this is me, thinking about the rational and simple ways to use his powers (in horrifically ruinous) ways to "fix" the problems.

      tldr: His fleets were never the threat, thats just him basically having cool toys to play with to claim their was effort involved in his inevitable victories, it's his god mode powers/ability to handwave away actual problems/his ability to have infinite numbers of himself that can act independently but are completely loyal and immune to everything (It was once suggested that making that many clones might cause some to go mad if they got to close to say cthulu and go mad, potentially posing a huge risk)

    4. Without shields, point defenses, and presumably any internal security force it would only take a small ork boarding party to eventually take the entire ship. Their only hope would be that the orks get bored of running through miles of empty corridors while occasionally slaughtering part of the skeleton crew.

  8. This guy's total lack of tactical sense and grasp of mixed unit tactics is bewildering. Giant capital ships have point defenses and fighter bays for a reason. If they didn't, a small battlegroup of fighter-bombers would decimate them, for a fraction of the cost of the battleship. So you put point defenses, shields, armor, and interceptor bays on large ships to prevent exactly that from happening. Huge ships like that are incredibly expensive, fragile, and hard to replace. Losing one is a disastrous event. Anyone here who has played EVE online and has flown with a battlegroup that contained a Titan-class ship understands that your biggest threat isn't the enemy titans or battleships, its the enemy fighters. Two Titans will endlessly beat on each other, and Titans generally can weather smaller flagships and destroy them, but fighters can cripple their systems, stop them from jumping, and cause utter chaos and distraction. Marty's fleet of mile-long glass cannons would be decimated, utterly, with no hope of victory, by a carrier group that cost a tenth what his ships cost. Even if those ships manage to destroy the carriers, with no interceptors or point defenses, the fighters they launched are still online and will just work them over one at a time until they are destroyed or too crippled to be usable.

    There is a REASON navies contain frigates and destroyers and carriers, and not just heaps of dreadnoughts and battlecruisers. Huge ships are actually super vulnerable because they are massive targets and have more things in them that can break that will hamper the whole ship's ability to function properly. Massive ships fill a role more like fire support or artillery, they are meant to hold heavy weapons for use from longer ranges, but are not useful for front-line engagements because of how easy they are to outmaneuver and how cumbersome their weapons are. Sure, a giant laser that can atomize a space station is useful, but after firing it has to recharge, it requires colossal amounts of power, it is gigantic and heavy, and aiming it is a ponderous affair. That's not to say it doesn't have its place, but these are all vulnerabilities that smaller, faster ships can easily exploit to bring it down in a hail of bug-bites or crippling of vulnerable systems (Cant aim it without engines (assuming it is mounted into the hull, which the majority of such weapons will be), can't fire it or recharge it without power, and unless it is automated or remote controlled, no life support means it is a lot of metal drifting listlessly through space with nothing controlling it). There is also the replacement of ships which he will lose left and right. Such ships are a nightmare to actually build, requiring an entire army of engineers, architects, and workers to actually put this thing together in such a way that its own internal stresses won't shear it in half the moment it tries to turn (Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a bitch in space), and such sophisticated systems as giant energy cannons and the engines to move them will require large amounts of extremely rare and exotic materials to function, which will be quickly depleted and producing more will be something approaching an impossibility.

    I could go on and on about the baffling and easily exploited weaknesses his one-dimensional force has, not the least of which is, beyond its combat ineffectiveness, its total impossibility to actually maintain due to losing such sophisticated and enormously expensive ships so much faster than they could ever be replaced (and would basically become irreplaceable at some point), but I think you get my point.

    1. Seriously, if someone attacked with a fleet composed of a bunch of glass cannons with no extra ammunition, no fighter escorts, no point defense, and minimal life support, you could just zerg them with a bunch of fighter-bombers, or just bombers, since they have no answer for that. Actually if I remember right, the bridges on star destroyers have a bunch of glass viewing windows, screw sending bombers, just sent an interceptor to fly to the bridge and shoot the viewing windows, they couldn't do anything about it with no point defense or fighter escorts, and since they have a 10th of the crew and minimal life support, if the bridge goes, goodbye anyone who can pilot the ship, or fire the gun, or communicate. Seiously, if this was a viable strategy our navies would still be dreadnoughts. The sheer stupidity of that battle plan astounds me, not to mention the fact that to build "100,000 to start" would mean fucking strip mining entire planet systems for resources, and need an insane amount of fuel