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Offline 0rph3u5

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"739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
So, I come up with ideas for new campaigns scenarios fairly often, yet more often when not I just don't find interesting gameplay to fill them with. As such I have this stack of notebook pages scribbled full with stuff that sounds somewhat cool in my head but that will never make it to a stage where I can see if it will ever be good.

This one actually came to me when Nyctaeus applied his talent to re-work some of the Ancients models. However there more I look at what Spoon and Axem are doing I find myself drawn to further away from this idea.
Also this is perhaps needlessly complicated and thematically "dark" - and I hope to set my sights towards more hopeful material in the future.

Anyway...

739 - An Ancient-Shivan War

Part 1 - The Court of Knives

The story begin at a small border garrison of the Ancient Empire. At the edge of a small nebula a small flotilla of Ancient ship crewed by the client and subservient species of the Ancients, in following only referred to as "the Masters", fight a war of attrition against an "infestation" of self-replicating machines - a last ditch-effort by an previously vanquishes species to sour the victory for the Masters by forcing them to expend resources and time to continuously defend sections for new conquests.

The diverse assembly of non-Masters species that fight at this place are referred to as "the Nameless", as they have a significantly lower status bordering on non-personhood in the society of the Masters. This goes so far that individual Nameless, as the title implies, are not allowed to have any other official identifier other than those given to them directly by the Masters, which for the majority means a number and a designation for their place of birth/origin. Most Nameless despite this retain a rudimentary cultural identity for themselves and those like them, while also coming together through a shared fate.

The situation of the protagonist, a Nameless lieutenant with the simply designation 739, is radically changed by the arrival of a Master Admiral.
The Admiral seeks a personal champion for an upcoming power struggle among the Masters for the leadership position of Archon, which is a supreme commander for one of the Masters' migrating fleets of conquest. As the previous Archon is approaching the end of their natural life/fitness to command, they have called for all the officers under the command to compete for the right of succession in series of ritual combats, which are to demonstrate their ability to lead troops, develop strategies and overall to outsmart and outfight their competitors.

Normally this kind of combat is fought by a single Master Champion commanding Nameless squadrons on the behalf of their superiors each. Each round of the combat ends when the Champion falls in battle, and the remaining Nameless join the winning side as spoils of war/trophies/reinforcements. The Admiral however sees this as a wasteful practice, as it encourages both sides to just waste the lives of the Nameless in order to kill the Champion.

Likewise the Admiral expresses great sympathy with the 739 and the Nameless in general, as they are leading "honest lives unburdened by the politics and intrigues of the Masters". Especially the direction of the Nameless' lives (from the perspective of a Master) to be wholly focussed on the most pragmatic solutions possible, without the arrogance or bluster of "being a Master", is what the Admiral states to be find most admirable.

As 739 is a Nameless, they have no choice but to accompany the Admiral back to their conquest fleet and be their champion.

There, the fact that 739 is named as Champion causes a big controversy among the Master officers looking to compete for the Archon's position. However the Admiral makes a convincing case to the Archon that ultimately boils down to the argument that the contest itself is sufficient enough to test the merit of their Champion and that of the Admiral's opinions.
739 is ruled to be valid pick for Champion and the contest begins in earnest.

The Admiral has another trump card however: Having banked on the arrogance of her fellow competitors, they are willing to smuggle 739 into the Nameless of their adversaries to conduct sabotage of any kind. 739 is Nameless after all and among the Masters the comings and goings of the Nameless are beneath notice.
As such 739 is able to subvert the ability of several competitors to fight effectively and the Admiral quickly moves up the ranks, having the troops under her command bolstered by the Nameless that would have died in open combat.

With all their competitors defeated, the Admiral seizes the title of Archon.
Knowing that their approach to succession and their stratagems have cost them considerable prestige and turned their former competitors into enemies that cannot reveal their colours just yet, the new Archon begins to consolidate their power. The first step is to ensure the loyalty of the Nameless, so they can offer up any treacherous Master and that way pre-empt any upcoming leadership challenge.

739 as the victorious champion is offered a name and title in recognition of their accomplishments.


Part 2 - Embers of Defiance

Time has passed since the Archon won their challenge for succession and 739 has remained their most trusted enforcer. However the shine of the initial cooperation has dulled as time goes on. Despite being in a trusted position, 739 remains excluded for key deliberations. And the realisation is dawning of them that their own elevation might just serve as distraction to ensure the loyalty of the Nameless - the promise of them being elevated as well if their service is just faithful enough.

Things begin slip into an even darker territory when the Archon's fleet is joined by another conquest fleet in transit to its next destination. The Masters of the New Fleet are even more opposed to 739's position and the Nameless of the New Fleet seem to be more fanatically devoted to their Masters than the ones in the Archon's Fleet.

Half-way through the journey, 739 is summoned before the Archon. As both fleet are taking on supplies and new Nameless conscripts, a troubling new phenomenon has appeared within the Nameless population: a cult-like movement that proposes the existence of a golden age before the Masters - fundamentally contradicting the Masters' narrative for the Nameless that conquest by the Masters equals the individual species of the Nameless "being uplifted and civilised" by the Masters.
739 is ordered to assemble a team and investigate the origins of "this fallacy" and deal with so it does not undermines the Archon’s command.

Given a cruiser and a small contingent of trusted veterans, 739 sets out to find the point of origin and it while it takes a while to get there, they manage to trace it back to an planet that is listed as uninhabitable in the Masters’ records.

Upon arriving at said planet, 739 and his crew discover that it is not like what the records said it would be. Instead of uninhabitable rock the planet is full of life and covered in ruins. Upon reaching orbit 739 is contacted by someone they didn’t expect here: 1327, another nameless from the same border outpost that 739 was recruited from.

1327 begins to explain that since the departure of 739, the Nameless of border outpost have fought several decisive battles against the machines, even penetrating one of the machines manufacturing centres. During that mission 1327 made a discovery that put them on a different path: the entire facility was covered in markings and iconography that they remembered from their time before being conscripted into the ranks of the Nameless. The creators of the machines and 1327 own ancestors must have had at least something in common, or more provactively might have been the same people.
In trying to reconcile this discovery with the official record provided by the Masters, 1327 happened upon more and more gaps in the official account. Finally realizing that planet they had been born on and would retire to, were not the home world of their kind. Instead their entire species had been resettled after being conquered, all evidence of their civilisation before the Masters’ attack had been purposefully erased to make them compliant, and now their relationship with the Masters had turned them into willing participants in their own domination.

Following that conclusion to their search 1327 set out to find the original home world of their kind and to reclaim what was lost for their species  - because during their search, 1327 learned something else: the end of the Masters would be coming soon.

At this point it would be up to 739 to decide what to do next:
Is 1327 delusional and a danger to be eliminated? Or is the idea of liberation from the Masters worth preserving even if it based on “false assumptions”?
This decision then would be the starting point to colour Part 3…


Part 3 – Masters and Destroyers

Upon completing the previous mission 739 and their crew re-join the Archon’s fleet just before it reaches its destination: a muster of the Masters’ conquest fleets.

There it is finally revealed what the Archon has kept from 739 before: Another conquest fleet has encountered an alien force that could not be defeated. Other fleet have already been dispatched but most met the same fate, some even retreated in shame rather than face “honourable defeat in death”.

Now the Archon’s Fleet along with many others are send to fight this new alien threat – which we know as the Shivans – and regain the holdings that were surrendered.

At first battles go in the Masters favour, as the Shivans’ capital ships tend to be outnumbered and outgunned by the Masters in every confrontation. However the Shivans’ shielded fighters and bombers tend to be more significant danger, costing the Masters ship after ship even though the initial engagement have been won.

Soon the tide of battle turns on the Masters and they are forced to give more ground. Which in turn deteriorates the chain of command as the assembled Archons begin to seek the blame for every defeat in each other, rather than accepting fundamental flaws in strategy and technological problems that have yet to be overcome.

739 and their Archon find themselves in especially tenuous position as the Archon’s previous decision become scrutinized and their leadership becomes increasingly challenged by the Masters under her command. In order to fight off rivals for their command, the Archon begins to eliminate her Master Officers and replace them with Nameless from the rank and file.
This does not nothing to solve the problem, as it only transfers the challenge to their command from internal to external – from their own officers to other Archons. On top of that it introduces a new, stronger competition for promotion into the ranks of the Nameless, eroding their cohesion as a fighting force.

When the Shivans then push the offensive and bring in the Lucifer to attack the Archon’s fleet, 739 is again faced with decision point:
Who actually deserves their loyalty and protection?
Should they fight it out with Archon, risking their lives for a Master in position they might not be able hold even if they survive?
Should they just gather up the Nameless and then leave the Masters to die on their own?


From here on out, everything would of course branch out:

- Staying with the Archon would mean cropping up her command as it dwindles around to nothing, yet the Archon would soon realize that something has been missing and, instead maintaining the downwards spiral of their command, begin the research that ultimately leads to the discovery that Shivan shields don’t work in subspace and the development of subspace tracking. Yet before it could be implemented as effective strategy, the Archon is forced into a final stand above the world that their research is based on. The battle, of course, is lost and the colony is destroyed – only to be re-discovered 8000 years later.

- Leaving the Archon for another Master Commander would mean a more stable military campaign going forward, however fighting the Shivans remains a losing prospect. And you do.

- Leaving the Archon and escaping with the Nameless would play differently, depending on your choice in Part 2:

-- If you let 1327 live you would find a ready-made sanctuary, however, as 1327 insist of sending out groups to liberate more Nameless, it would soon be discovered by the Masters and all would be made an example of to scare the rest of the Nameless into continuously fighting the Shivans.

-- If 1327 had been driven away or killed in Part 2, 739 and company would be hunted by both Masters and the Shivans – until the Masters are defeated and Shivans disperse (if you could survive that long that is).


Gameplay

So before I dive into the issue list here is a bit of what the gameplay would have looked like:

For Part 1 is actually quite simple:
The competition to succeed the previous Archon is just a competition, so at least 4 tiers of enemy Champions is four different arenas. With the added twist that you would get a "preparation mission" before each one, in which you get to set up or stop some stratagem. I also considered adding an element of resource management by having you discover up to 6 possible "cards" for you to play across all 4 "matches", with an added unseen (but not un-telegraphed) stat that makes one card particularly effective and another one particularly ineffective against one the Champions. Another element of resource management would be the "winner takes the survivors as their reinforcements"-aspect, so while it might be safer to just defeat all enemies in a fight, going straight for the Champion might up your numbers for the rest of the competition.

For Part 2, the main hook would be that you are commanding a cruiser and had to delegate all the task that require speed and precision to the AI wing mates. I also considered doing some experimental stuff with possibility of cruiser weapons and tactics, but that is all going into a different long-term project now - so excuse me if I keep that to myself. Objectives would mostly revolve around "finding stuff", so scanning other ships and going places. I was also thinking of working with the scale of cruiser a bit, i.e. having environmental hazards and obstacles, that the fighters can actually manoeuvre through or around, giving you or your enemies a bit of cover.

For Part 3, I really got nothing other than trying to make the "their cruisers/corvettes/destroyers are easily defeated but their fighters/bombers are not"-thing work, possibly again by having you command a cruiser or a corvette, as that would offer the more satisfying gameplay at this scale. (also thanks to the fact that a number of the Ancients ships we have are on the Inferno-scale, see the Akrotiri and the Androgeos, it would not be that much of problem with a cruiser having nothing bigger than itself to interact with)


The Issues

I think the first issue with the campaign outline is fairly obvious: The endings are all half-baked and "misshapen" to a degree. They do follow the internal logic of the campaign (at least in my head, I might have skipped a point or two a normal person would think of), but I can't bring myself to fully endorse all but one; which is the "survive until the end"-one. I know the scenario calls for a bleak set of endings, and I keeping with the canon set up in the margins of FS1's Ancients 3 and Ancients 4, that's what I come up with at this point.

I especially dislike where the first and third scenario are going, because it feels like varying degrees of edgy for edginess sake. These endings do follow logically from the rest of the set-up, i.e. the Archon being an "outside the box"-thinker and 1327 being, if not delusional, well-intentioned but ill-informed. But other than that they register to me as ... just wrong.

Some of that might be explained by the next the issue. Because the whole Master-Nameless, master-slave-dynamic is strictly speaking just in the story to allow the players to distance themselves from the results of the fighting between the Masters/Ancients and the Shivans. It is to give a new objective structure to the gameplay in which you can see e.g. an Akrotiri go up and be detached about it, because it is a ship of Masters and even if you are fighting with them you are not fighting for them.

But when you use a dynamic like that, which is central to the problems facing actual people today - European colonialism did destroy quite a number of indigenous cultures in the name of "civilisation", with methods that have a lasting impact today - you owe it to yourself and those still affected to bring in a diverse set of voices, so you are not just "mining" someone else's tragedy for dubious effect. And I have to admit I don't have contacts that could give me an understanding I would considered sufficient (= beyond academic).
Perhaps, if I had I would have come up with better ending scenarios.  :)


So, this is my Ancient-Shivan War-script that will never make it to a full campaign/set of campaigns. I hope it was an interesting read.
"When you work with water, you have to know and respect it. When you labour to subdue it, you have to understand that one day it may rise up and turn all your labours into nothing. For what is water, which seeks to make all things level, which has no taste or colour of its own, but a liquid form of Nothing?" - Graham Swift, Waterland

"As you sought to steal a kingdom for yourself, so must you do again, a thousand times over. For a theft, a true theft, must be practiced to be earned." - The terms of Nyrissa's curse, Pathfinder: Kingmaker

"...because they are not Dragons."

 

Offline HLD_Prophecy

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Re: "739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
Interesting thoughts, nice read! Definitely a different path than ASW took. Sounds more grandiose, more effort required tho.  ;)

If we're talking indigenous peoples though, it would be interesting to look at how the Nameless live, what their cultures were like, etc. I mean rather than just "oppressed races are oppressed" I mean do the Masters have any of these races they can reasonably point to as examples of savagery and degeneration (and thus extrapolate that degeneration to all the Nameless 'cause arrogance is arrogant), or are the Nameless all technologically, culturally, and morally advanced and the Masters are just like "lol savage b/cuz theyre different lol"

 
Re: "739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
A fine story indeed. IMO it's a bit off from FS, what doesn't diminish the quality of plot; I just doubt that the Ancients would have allowed their slaves to pilot spaceships. You could've tried to cut a few more ties and turn it into a more original plot.

While indegineous troops played an important role in maintaining order in the colonies for a number of reasons, their presence on the main battlefield of WW 1 and 2 was rather limited, compared with the number of white people.

 

Offline HLD_Prophecy

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Re: "739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
While indegineous troops played an important role in maintaining order in the colonies for a number of reasons, their presence on the main battlefield of WW 1 and 2 was rather limited, compared with the number of white people.

This was true to an extent, however depending on the front and the countries involved. Many South African and Indian troops were involved in the British campaigns, for example. To be honest I'd say that "limited" could be an understatement. My ancestors the Dutch (lol) in the East Indies incidentally refused to segregate Indonesian troops, at least in the Navy as I recall. Wise in multiple ways, not the least of which being it helped to satisfy the populace, among whom rotten no-good Japanese-backed traitors abounded.

EDIT: Just my history brain working in overtime, lol.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2018, 01:26:17 am by HLD_Prophecy »

 
Re: "739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
How are the ancient Vasudans going to figure into this?

Shivans view most other species the way we view infectious diseases. They think they are doing good by curing the universe of them. After all, no one mourns the fate of smallpox.

The Final War For The Multiverse

 

Offline 0rph3u5

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Re: "739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
If we're talking indigenous peoples though, it would be interesting to look at how the Nameless live, what their cultures were like, etc. I mean rather than just "oppressed races are oppressed" I mean do the Masters have any of these races they can reasonably point to as examples of savagery and degeneration (and thus extrapolate that degeneration to all the Nameless 'cause arrogance is arrogant), or are the Nameless all technologically, culturally, and morally advanced and the Masters are just like "lol savage b/cuz theyre different lol"

Well, there is still a lot of "canvas space" in each part and it would be great to fit more about the situation in the Empire in there, but I am not ashamed to say that my imagination has limits and that is certainly it... I mean, during the prep-missions in Part 1 you can do that, certainly all over Part 2 and further reinforce it around the decision point Part 3...

As for the attitudes of the Masters, I was trying to not go too far away from FS1 Ancients cutscenes which go straight from "encounterd" to "subdued or destroyed other sentient live" - Considering how matter of fact these cutscenes are played it is bit hard to find something canon there, but then again it also pivots quickly to "the Shivans are divine judgement" which might hint a certain megalomanical entitlement...

You could've tried to cut a few more ties and turn it into a more original plot.

But then I would have had the power to change the ending and that would have taken all the challenge out of it :P
(I admit that I failed to provide a good resolution but think about the mechanics how to make a "loosing war" into a gameworthy story was the task after all (because normal rules of tragedy don't work with the interactivity of games per se) )

I just doubt that the Ancients would have allowed their slaves to pilot spaceships.

Let me offer two counterpoints:
However for one that might presume a view on slavery that is "too modern", i.e. frames slavery only terms of manual labour - As a counterpoint, there are well documented instances of highly trained and highly regarded slaves in the Roman Republic and Empire; they were owned like property and had the repective legal standing but were also entrusted with autonomy of action and decision within the mandate from their owners, e.g. as revenue collectors.

The other thing here is that I don't neccessarily would frame a spaceship for the purpose of this story like we would, i.e. as technological achievment and significant expense. If it is not, consider it more a pike than cruise missile, then it works out.

While indegineous troops played an important role in maintaining order in the colonies for a number of reasons, their presence on the main battlefield of WW 1 and 2 was rather limited, compared with the number of white people.

I am not going into that debate because ... well, this is hardly the place to debate that kind of issue with the depth and nuance it deserves. Heck, even among historians (remember I am writing my MA-thesis in History still) that's a hard project to establish, just because it requires getting quite divergent school of thought to the table, at least in the academic envoirnment I work right now (All Military Historians I know are of a very materialist-mechanistic persuasion ... which has its merits but is also prone to dismiss elements that are hard to quantifiy or fall below the threshold of statistical signifiance if you do)

How are the ancient Vasudans going to figure into this?

Ask :V: ... The Freespace Reference Bible is pretty vague on the how and when the Ancients had that fabled contact with the Vasudans ... I would always go the route that Ancients ship crash landed during events of Part 3, but I wouldn't elevate that from a background event...
"When you work with water, you have to know and respect it. When you labour to subdue it, you have to understand that one day it may rise up and turn all your labours into nothing. For what is water, which seeks to make all things level, which has no taste or colour of its own, but a liquid form of Nothing?" - Graham Swift, Waterland

"As you sought to steal a kingdom for yourself, so must you do again, a thousand times over. For a theft, a true theft, must be practiced to be earned." - The terms of Nyrissa's curse, Pathfinder: Kingmaker

"...because they are not Dragons."

 

Offline HLD_Prophecy

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Re: "739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
@Orpheus: Quite right, you may not have the depth to go into the whole culture matter entirely. It just interested me that you compare the Masters to European imperialists. I mean in real life the Europeans met a diverse array of cultures, some of whom were quite innocent, others... well, to be quite honest I can't entirely blame the Spanish for wanting to get rid of an Aztec culture that ritualized human sacrifice, torture, and death worship. Dreadful society. Of course then you got Europeans going too far and extrapolating this savagery and thus lesser humanity to most if not all indigenous...

All I'd say is that it depends on how far you want to push the "European colonialist" comparison. Obviously this is sci-fi so it need not be in any way realistic to what us Earthlings experienced. But if you were going to tell people that this was some kind of an allegory... maybe the Nameless cultures should have some deeper investigation.

Quote
you owe it to yourself and those still affected to bring in a diverse set of voices, so you are not just "mining" someone else's tragedy for dubious effect. And I have to admit I don't have contacts that could give me an understanding I would considered sufficient (= beyond academic).

And what you said here was quite useful.


All that said that's just my historical mind working in overdrive and I hope not to be unfairly critical. This is your story!  :nod:  And it looks cool, really cool, I would have greatly liked to play this alternate ASW.

 

Offline Iain Baker

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Re: "739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
Very interesting. If you doubt you will ever get around to making it into a game, perhaps turn it into a story? With regards to the whole European colonialism thing, the vibe I got from reading it was that the ancient empire was more akin to the Roman empire than the later British/French/Spanish etc empires.
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Re: "739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
I always thought that the Ancients were much like reactionary 19th century Europe on the inside and super-Nazi to the everyone on the outside.

BTW, did the Roman Empire use slaves for their army, or atleast how many soldiers originated from the non-italian provinces?

 

Offline Iain Baker

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Re: "739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
I always thought that the Ancients were much like reactionary 19th century Europe on the inside and super-Nazi to the everyone on the outside.

BTW, did the Roman Empire use slaves for their army, or atleast how many soldiers originated from the non-italian provinces?

Re slaves in the roman army. Not sure, although they did use a form of conscription from time to time. Re non-Italian troops - yes absolutely, they used troops from the areas they took over. How prevalent this practice was was dependent on the period - remember the Roman empire lasted a bloody long time. As I understand it, the use of non Italian troops in the Roman armies increased towards the end of the Roman era when they were in decline and needed any troops they could get.
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Offline 0rph3u5

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Re: "739" or 0rph3u5' take on the Ancient-Shivan War
BTW, did the Roman Empire use slaves for their army, or atleast how many soldiers originated from the non-italian provinces?

Not as part of the official fighting part of the Legions - you had to be a at least a "free" member of roman society* to become a Legionary. But when it comes to supply train and permanent forts you have an attenting group of slaves similar to any other roman settlement.

*Roman social structures are a bit complex, and not uniform over time. But for non-foreign males there is a continuum from slave to free to citizen to aristocrat that can be applied for most of the time basically.

Things get a bit more diverse if you are looking at Legion Auxiliaries, because they were not uniform at all. Auxiliaries were recruited from non-citizen classes, often raised locally and sometimes the term is used interchangibly with allied troops. Auxiliaries generally provided a Legion with specialized troops, either in terms of equipment or local knowledge.
"When you work with water, you have to know and respect it. When you labour to subdue it, you have to understand that one day it may rise up and turn all your labours into nothing. For what is water, which seeks to make all things level, which has no taste or colour of its own, but a liquid form of Nothing?" - Graham Swift, Waterland

"As you sought to steal a kingdom for yourself, so must you do again, a thousand times over. For a theft, a true theft, must be practiced to be earned." - The terms of Nyrissa's curse, Pathfinder: Kingmaker

"...because they are not Dragons."