Last post time. My apologies if this one is a little fragmented; I’m trying to rely as much as I can on the audio recording of the session, but it’s difficult to make out, and disagrees with my notes in places where he started waffling. This one also stops being funny halfway through.
Marty was drinking tea when we left off. I left out how this was a deliberate plan by Rick, who’d brought a magically miniaturized tea set to throw him off his guard, but ultimately the image remains. They were chatting amiably about how Marty runs “his empire”, because what else could Marty ever talk about?
This is going to be a long list. He changed the Imperium around a little, and not for the better.
Firstly, he patrols his disarmed, captured territories with the same troops that captured them, having essentially promised them anything the Empire didn’t want. They take the place of every law enforcement organization on the planet, down to the beat cops, and they’re completely above the planet’s law. While this is being set up, violently and crudely, the remnants of the planet’s armed forces and other dissenters are being lined up and shot down to the clerks. Oh, I’m sure there’s no bad feeling here at all. To Marty’s infinitesimal credit, he does remark on the policing of this arrangement being “where a lot of the trouble comes in”.
He has a solution. I’ve listened to it several times, and I still have trouble parsing what I’m hearing, and not just because the audio is echoey. It sounds like he’s “cutting out a lot of the corruption” by forcing the existing governments of national level or higher to function in an “advisory role”; they have no power whatsoever, and are apparently watched closely by the Fleet officers he installs to run his planets – who also pay them. People with no authority to stop corruption are tasked with reporting it to people with every conceivable motive to hide it while being held visibly accountable to their former constituents for it. They’re a complaints department. Even I’m not that cruel to existing politicians in my new world order-type settings, and I can’t say what I normally have happen to them for fear of being indefinitely detained.
Of course, there is always the possibility of some leader not wanting to step down, and he’s at least smart enough to leave the existing bureaucratic structure in place to maintain the infrastructure. That’s where the mind control comes in; as near as I can tell, those government officials converted to an advisory role are replaced with officers, and the minds of their former coworkers rewritten to accept and endorse the change. Oh, but using it on the general populace is “simply inefficient, and possibly unethical.” NO, REALLY? Apparently the general populace is just randomly scanned, and “only dissidents” are rewritten. Everyone already jingoistically enthusiastic about being invaded by imperialist dictators can go unmolested.
It only gets worse from here.
He promises world peace via forced demilitarization. Every single weapon not in Marty’s hands is destroyed, as is “the defense industry”. I’m…not quite sure how that works economically, or how that prevents people from, at the most basic level, just punching each other en masse. Apparently this represents an acceptable level of violence. “There are always going to be terrorist elements, those that are just angry at society […]. The mentally disturbed will always seek to hurt others.” Bravo, Marty. Not only are you calling everyone with a mental disorder violent, you’re maintaining that the only possible reason anyone would oppose a military dictatorship is an innate, irrational desire to rebel. You know, like that generation of French teenagers who stormed the Bastille to tick off their parents. “However, having a unified set of laws at least makes it easier to find and remove such people before they harm others.” Wow, can we just go back to denying the vote to “idiots” and be done with it, Marty? This is up there with his misogyny and his racism for sheer stupidity.
I have to interpret this next bit intelligently, because he’s incredibly vague. He maintains that the unification wars are never going to end, because “certain worlds are literally infinite”. Now, to my cynical bastard ears, that sounds like a transparent excuse to stay permanently on a war footing; he doesn’t need one, but he’s got a Eurasia and an Eastasia all lined up to funnel war materiel to.
Who am I kidding? He’s never read 1984. Nor has he read Fallen Dragon; he’s carrying out constant asset realization on an intergalactic scale, and he sees no problems with that kind of economy. Nor, indeed, has he read literally any world history:
Players: “And what happens when this empire breaks?”
Marty: “IF it breaks.”
Players: [various observations on the inherent transience of political structures]
Marty: “The difficulty with a large empire is in the corruption of those in charge, and with the loss of a charismic [sic] leader. For instance, the Hellenic Empire. Alexander the Great, on most every Earth. With the death of the single unifying charismic[sic] entity, the entire empire split up. Another example: the universe of Star Wars. If I had not intervened there, the single charismic [sodding sic] entity’s death would have caused it to fracture into warlord states.”
WHAT. AM. I. HEARING.
“And, in the case of a great empire falling, it’s rarely worse than what it was before they were unified.”
Hey, Marty, interwar Germany called. Something about inflation… (Okay, maybe not a great empire, but big enough…)
“For example, the influence of the Hellenic Empire under Alexander the Great created a unified feeling throughout Europe.”
Wait, WHAT? Europe? Alexander the Great started in Pella and went generally southeast; by my admittedly cobbled-together map overlay, he held (more or less) modern-day Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey. That’s a few million Gauls short of Europe.
Undaunted by logic, he keeps heaping praise on Alexander, this time for “making Byzantium the best city of the ancient world”…because it was just two shacks and a fishing pole on the Bosporus before he got there, right? And incidentally, I’m deliberately avoiding making a Watchmen reference amidst all the Alexander love. Marty here is being any reference I could possibly make.
Moving on, more reason from Rick and Lily: if I may paraphrase, problems integrating disparate cultures tend to increase exponentially as an empire increases in size and diversity, generally because people have their own ideas of how to govern themselves. 7200 whole realities just seems inherently unworkable as a conventional top-down empire. Ah, but Marty has his answer. “Just individuals seeking power…It is rarely the people themselves who seek to fragment when an empire falls.”
If you’ve never heard the Great Man theory of history, there you go; it has more intelligent proponents, but it generally sounds precisely this stupidly dismissive. I’ve rarely seen elitism this nigh-solipsistic, and when it has surfaced, it’s generally in the type of people rich enough to pay historians to lie to them. This…this is all the rock-stupid presumption of “winners make their own luck” with the defensive insecurity of “you built that”, but Marty doesn’t even have the decency to self-importantly confine it to his own accomplishments. Go ahead, Marty, white knight for the 1%. See where that gets you.
His players are naturally having none of it, but Marty has more bastardized history. “It was not until the thirteen colonies broke off from Britain that its empire started to collapse” almost two centuries later. Apparently they “had had it with unfair laws and taxes”...and we’ll just forget that the whole thing was more than half a proxy war between Britain and France, shall we? You know them, with the army who outnumbered the British forces seven to one and the war chest handing the colonists the vast majority of their war materiel. They worked their baguettes off getting the revolution going.
“If [the colonists] had had more freedom in their own government, then they would not have bothered to try.” Two words, Marty: Colonial Legislature. Sure, the Council appointments were theoretically subject to State Department approval, but they were vetoed approximately never; the Assemblies were elected, for goodness’ sake. I’m just waiting for him to mention “taxation without representation” – because, yes, the British trying to recoup the immense debt caused by the French and Indian war by taxing the people they defended is just patently ridiculous. This is 200-year old propaganda, and he’s just lapping it up.
“And without them as a precedent, no other colony would have tried to free themselves for perhaps a century or more.” What. Okay, MAYBE the French Revolution would have been delayed, but come on, Marty, this is getting a bit silly.
Thank goodness the players just let it drop and go for the larger point: we can’t manage a unified government across a single planet with one sapient species, and he’s trying to do it across thousands of universes. Apparently, the Martesian Imperium avoids the problem by having most of its laws apply selectively – that is, the (installed) planetary government picks which laws it wants to have in effect. This just gets better and better.
I love this next part.
“Without military forces to command, political differences remain in the political arena without escalating into armed conflict.”
Players: “Unless, of course, there is a difference of opinion between the military and the civilians.”
Already planning the rebellion, I see. If my ego were totally out of control, I’d say I rubbed off on them. Seriously though, this is a good sign.
Marty: “If it’s a single person who’s upset […], you do not have an uprising.”
What about “empires are torn apart by leaders” up there? He goes on for a while here, about how rebellions result from insufficient self-government, and since everyone has a voice in his empire about some things, clearly there will never be true rebellions.
…but we still have the orbiting police kinetic harpoons. Must be for pest control.
“Take the Federation, of Star Trek. There is no internal rebellion.”
The Federation doesn’t conquer, Marty. And is deliberately kept a vague utopia by the writing staff.
“And when have you seen a people rebel with peaceful alternatives?”
Word association game time: Post the first qualifying rebellion that comes to mind.
Seriously, I’ve never seen someone this energetically stupid. He builds a dictatorship, lets people vote on what color to paint the Ministry of Truth, and calls them free – then turns around and mind-nukes them for disagreeing, because clearly they must be insane to dissent. Sure, they can vote on anything, but if the installed governor has absolute veto power, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s like some toy-train democracy set up in an elementary school classroom, plastic and hollow and more of an exercise in jingoism than anything else. They don’t have the right to do what the government doesn’t want them to do; without that it just seems pointless.
Oh, and apparently other than very polite wars “there is no conflict [in Fantasy Japan]”. What a surprise. We also get this gem: “not everyone can be heard, but a people can be heard.” Le People, always ready to stand with anyone and curiously never turning up to object at how many of Le People die in their own collective name. Sure, individuals might, but as we see, The People are quite distinct from the sum of the actual people.
And apparently The People want war, and lots of it. “There will always be war.” He’s built some of the key tenets of his system around maintaining permanent, large-scale, multi-front conflicts in infinite planes. Admittedly, so did EVE Online, but that’s just as much a hamster wheel of a system—and at least it makes a twisted sense economically. Politically it seems incredibly unproductive, and he’s also depending on it to drive technological development. His economics are far worse.
He is the Tyranids. Remember what I said about asset realization? Here it is in full swing; he intends to constantly encourage people to “make their fortune on the frontier”. The frontier with people already living on it. Because, you know, the industries that thrive in undeveloped areas with no technologically compatible infrastructure are always so beneficial to the surrounding areas… he’s got a horde of thieves, looters, and slavers incoming behind the army to strip the new worlds dry, and he’s acting like this is good policy.
“Those who join diplomatically never need worry about having their lands burned and their people killed. Whereas those who join by conquest…”
Okay, so it’s an army of dispossessed thieves, looters, and slavers with nowhere to return home to. I love how he’s doing a scorched earth offensive, though. Totally logical. Naturally, the players ask about neutrality. What of the empires who aren’t hostile, but want to remain sovereign?
“Well, a large amount of diplomacy is what begins…however, force may be required if they refuse.”
So that’s a no, then?
And then Lily, being from a swords n’ sorcery world, asks what the heck the Federation is…and Marty EXPOSITS THE SETTING AGAIN, albeit this time with more quibbling over terms. “A book, or a series of words on pages…” Yes, folks, the Emperor of Reality is sitting drinking tea and failing to concisely explain what a book is. Then he starts using their world as an example, which means he needs to explain what a roleplaying game is…and he doesn’t abstract this out. “Games of pretend” my ass…pretend to be a better speaker, Marty. Pretend to know not to read the “what’s an RPG” section of the DMG to your players. For a while I thought he’d dig out dice and go meta, but no. He just blathers on about how his oh-so-amazing game works…in his game. Achievement Unlocked: Marty Nirvana.
And then the plot stumbles drunkenly onward! Somehow!
The rest of Rick’s personnel start popping in, just ahead of the lava. Apparently the entire island is sinking because “isn’t that always the way, ha ha? Have a ticking clock?” Then he goes on to reveal he set everything up, including the dragons, specifically for the benefit of the party.
The entire campaign has been busywork.
At least everyone survived, even the relevant NPCs. Then we get this:
“It’s time we end this. Before, you were not worth killing.”
“Your mistake. You don’t fight a Krieger and not kill him.”
“Quite…which is why I set up this test. Defeating the dragons means you are at least enough of a threat to be worth killing. And while I will regret killing you […] I will at least not feel that I have killed you unfairly.”
Oh, yes, this is totally fair. On the one hand, the invincible god-baby of hundreds of universes…and on the other a guy with a sword who’s exhausted from slaying dragons. And why do we care what Marty feels? Why include that? He’s the villain; no one gives a crap.
Rick asks for a wall between them and the innocents as they take their starting places; accordingly a transparisteel wall pops up. Apparently the escape of everyone else is completely guaranteed, no matter what happens. This is now Thunderdome. Two men enter, one man leaves, although one of them is going to have a hell of a time carving through the wall. Incidentally, welcome to the Jedi Problem; Lily is totally out of the fight. This is a personal vendetta while half the party sits useless. What a way to end the campaign.
They roll for initiative. One guess who wins.
Marty charges forward “incredibly quickly”; he’s so fast normal humans can’t see him move, parallax be damned. Rick blocks, and apparently his arms almost buckle under the force...and Marty isn’t done. He squeezes three attacks out of one round, somehow, and shreds the outer layer of his armor.
Naturally, he dodges lasers by sight…
(And at this point, still operating under significant time lag, I actually walked into the room and asked, directly, if this was some sort of parody, if he was playing devil’s advocate, or anything that would let me believe he was not…this.
“While nearly impossible to pull off, it is not incorrect.”
…and all things slower. He’s unhittable.
He’s also arrogant as hell, as he stops dodging to note how the sword “hardly seems sporting”, and is evidence of a lack of preparation. Bear in mind, this is Rick’s singular piece of gear and one of Lily’s best works; both the players’ jaws drop in unison.
Then he throws him a lightsaber analogue, albeit with a metal blade to keep it balanced, and keeps denigrating Winterflame. “A fine sword it is, though it doesn’t actually harm me. Hardly sporting.”
Yeah. Best sword ever, chucked like an old rag. I still have no idea why. What did it matter? Why couldn’t he just be vulnerable to Winterflame, when he’s too fast to hit anyway? What is there possibly to be gained by pissing on the party’s efforts like this?
When did numbers start to matter more than players?
The rest of the fight is exactly what you’d expect. Marty runs roughshod over him with stupidly long sequences of attacks; Rick, dying by inches, blocks as many as possible and attacks with everything on him. Marty’s smugly immune to electricity. Who knew, right?
GM!Marty keeps reminding Rick how much he keeps revising the sword up to do more damage and give more pluses in hopes of finally damaging him, because numbers. He finally wounds him…Marty has fast healing.
Lily sits down at the table, while they’re waiting. Woohoo, the party is all doing something.
This is the most boring final fight I’ve ever seen.
Marty is also immune to poison, hur hur.
He’s also immune to piercing, slashing, and bludgeoning. “As a shapeshifter, he’s immune to having his form altered mechanically.”
Too stupid. I don’t care.
As expected. And GM!Marty’s reaction:
“Oh hey, it’s 6:30. We can still catch dinner.”
Rick’s last thought is to want to die with his weapon in his hand. Fitting. Totally lost on Marty, IC and OOC.
His personnel leave; the epilogue has them living quiet lives “of no importance.” Lily recovers his body and goes off to parts unknown. Marty, of course, just leaves.
Incidentally, one last kick in the teeth: as he’d later mention, that wasn’t Marty. It was a completely disposable clone; Marty “owed it to his people not to expose himself to even negligible risk”. Even if Rick had won, it wouldn’t have mattered.
And that was the prequel campaign.