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Offline RGTraynor

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Expanding the Elven Empire
« on: May 12, 2011, 06:05:38 PM »
I’ve an interesting situation for which I’d appreciate input.  I’ll try to keep the exposition as brief as I can.

Background: The mighty Elven Empire (Vinaria) is isolated in the far northwest of the world; there are formidable barriers which have made trade with them quite difficult.  Partly as a prop to their strained economy (they’ve been fighting nearly constantly with the Evil Horrors to the north, west and south for many decades), partly to be in a position to help against the hordes of marauding fishmen about to boil up into the civilized lands from the south, they’ve just completed an immense effort to create a magical Gate to a small island smack in the middle of some major shipping lanes in The Rest Of The World.  So they’re rapidly building a trading port, with merchant compagnia flocking in from around the seaboard looking for a slice of the pie, and throwing together infrastructure as fast as they can ...

Tech level is Renaissance; gunpowder technology’s been around for several decades now, enough for reasonably reliable culverins.  Gunpowder siege artillery hasn’t yet been numerous (although shipboard culverins are growing in number), and the first arquebuses have started to appear.  Naval tech is late 17th century.  The game system is GURPS, for the record.

My wife and I’ve been hacking out how they’re doing this (the Gate’s six months old now), but I keep shaking my head and thinking, “d**n, I hadn’t thought of that.”  No doubt there are things the Vinarians haven’t yet thought of either.  What should I have in this boomtown that we might have missed?  What elements do they have to create? - for example, the Vinarians need to create a corpus of admiralty and foreign trade law, something they’ve not in their history needed.
It's not that I don't understand what you're saying.  It's that I don't *agree* with what you're saying.

Offline RGTraynor

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Assets
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2011, 06:06:10 PM »
(1) The Vinarians have a LOT of wizards, a disproportionate number, enough to make some magical technologies feasible.  The elves are devoted researchers, with the largest library in the world at their command.

(2) They have a strong, competent government (relatively) united behind this effort, and enjoy the broad support of the empire’s citizens.

(3) They have a very strong, battle-tested army, a regiment of which has been posted to the island.  For this and other reasons, their borders are relatively secure.

(4) The Gate has been conditioned to bar avowed enemies of Vinaria from passing through.  The elves are somewhat scared about the implications of unlimited access - for one thing, the Gate on their side is situated on the outskirts of their capital city - and not only heavily guard it, but have constructed it over a canal to allow only barge traffic to pass through.

(5) They also have very high levels of craftsmanship and a decent spread of natural resources; the world’s most renowned wines come from their land. 

(6) So far the merchant consortiums hitting the island have offered a bleepload of gold for various concessions and trading rights; Vinaria certainly now has the international credit to undertake some expensive infrastructure projects.
It's not that I don't understand what you're saying.  It's that I don't *agree* with what you're saying.

Offline RGTraynor

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Complications
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2011, 06:06:38 PM »
(1) Vinaria is a very orderly society, complete with a privacy fetish and a strong inclination to public service and errantry.  The elves themselves are the minority aristocracy of the nation, which is largely made up of humans and elven blood people.

(2) Vinaria is seven hundred miles inland, about, and all the knowledge the elves have of seafaring comes from their internal riverboats and some exchanges with naval delegations from one of the outside nations.

(3) Vinarian society has been under some strains.  Aside from the constant wars, they accepted nearly 30,000 human refugees a year and a half ago from an alien world and culture through a temporary Gate.  Assimilation has been tricky.  Happily, the refugees were from a maritime culture, and half the immigrants to the new island are of that folk.

(4) The Vinarians are culturally conservative; they like doing things the way they’ve always done them.  Among other things, they’ve taken poorly and slowly to gunpowder, something their emperor is resolved to correct, but it’s taking time.

(5) Their navy has long been the poor, disparaged stepchild of their military.  They’ve purchased some light warships and have hired three mercenary vessels for patrol purposes, but they’ve got people who captained a keelboat a year ago as officers on deep sea warships.

(6) Vinaria is a far north, cool land - think a spread from Maine to Maryland.  The island is just off a steamy, tropical jungle coast, and the Vinarians are gobsmacked by the heat and humidity.

(7) That craftsmanship?  It’s very fiddly and painstaking, in the search for beauty and elegance.  Mass production doesn’t come readily to them.  They’re far more likely to take six months about building a single beautiful, exquisitely crafted ship that will last two centuries than to build five slapdash vessels which’ll fall apart in a decade - but which they might need in numbers now.
It's not that I don't understand what you're saying.  It's that I don't *agree* with what you're saying.

Offline Strolen

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Re: Expanding the Elven Empire
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2011, 12:07:35 PM »
Use the seafolk refugees to build ships to get their navy up to par. Give them their own areas to work and their own ships to build. They can probably build quite a few in the time the Vinaria can plan on building one from your description.  They may be convinced that a beatiful sturdy boat will go down just as quickly in a sea battle so they are better off working on quantity for a little bit.

Put many of these refugees out to sea or hire them to protect the shores and train Viarians on sea battle and such. Are their enemies on the water with them. Offer bounties and rewards for captured enemy ships.

If magic can't top the gunpowder then they need to develop that technology and figure out how to use it on the ships.

If the land refugees get too out of hand they may resort to press gangs and force labor to clear the slums. Heck, if they build enough ships they may have to do that anyway for able bodies to man them.  If I understand it correctly they will probably have more ships coming towards them through the gate. I would want to be ready for it. Pirates and such would be a problem too probably.

Just some random thoughts as I read it.

They need to build a navy fast. I would have thought they would have at least something ready prior to opening the gate. Are the forests nearby safe? Much logging would be needed and specific trees for the masts would be very valuable if they are rare in the area.

Will maybe need wizards for the quick change in temperature of the weather to keep the ships from leaking.

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Offline RGTraynor

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Re: Expanding the Elven Empire
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2011, 05:26:05 PM »
Some responses out of my feeble, allnighter brain:

1) The Caranthians (= refugees) are from another plane of existence, and their enemies are very solidly back in that dimension and will not be able to chase them; the elves saw to that.  Very few of the Caranthians are sailors - most of them died in the wars trying to defend their homeland from being overrun.  What they are, happily enough for the Vinarians, are maritime trade workers: shipbuilders, ropemakers, chandlers, longshoremen and the like.  They've not been terribly content in inland Vinaria ... and are, by the bye, from a much warmer clime than Vinaria; they'll adjust to the heat better.

2)  System is GURPS, which means that with few exceptions, cannon fire trumps magic.  Weather control spells work quite well in helping ships along, but there's no combat spell in the book that'll outrange a culverin.

3)  There's a lot of timber on the mainland, just a few miles away; the Vinarians are counting heavily on that timber, because it takes a LOT of wood to build a warship.  It's barely-inhabited jungle, with unknown nasties and haunted ruins in there.   They're expecting such troubles, are unsure they want to tie down that many soldiers there quite yet (and that land is claimed by a nearby nation) and are contemplating just buying the timber from local lands.

4)  The problem with building a fleet ahead of time is simply in the size of the Gate; it's 21' x 12' and around 1600 miles away, which in Create Gate terms is freaking staggering - making it larger was just not going to happen, and making it THAT large was a terrible risk.  You can push the hull of a dismasted schooner of not much more than 70 tons through that, about.  It's dandy for keelboats and flatboats, though, and they're what's carrying cargo traffic both ways.

5)  Pirates not so much of a problem - the PCs in the middle of all this went on an embassy to the Pirate Isles ahead of time to buy them off and hire a couple of them for mercenary naval patrols for a year.  Still, there'll be renegades.

6)  Huh.  D'ya know, I didn't think of the problems they might have with pushing the five schooners they DID get through the Gate with such a rapid change of temperature.  Certainly their wizards could have made the transition less harsh, but they likely wouldn't have thought of it.
It's not that I don't understand what you're saying.  It's that I don't *agree* with what you're saying.

Offline Ted

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Re: Expanding the Elven Empire
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2011, 09:56:01 PM »
Although very modern, gunpowder does allow for suicide-bomber tactics. A plot against the elves may very well be to move gunpowder through the gate- either to destroy the gate or two allow it explode on the other side to grave effect.

The gate becomes a tactical and strategic target. Defenses must be erected around it, both to keep it active and working, and to prevent its destruction or misuse.

Infiltration will be impossible to stop, and the gate makes for an extremely tempting path into the elven lands for spying and sabotage.
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. When one gazes into an abyss, he is gazed into by the abyss.-Friedrich Nietzsche.

Offline RGTraynor

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Re: Expanding the Elven Empire
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2011, 07:31:13 PM »
The Gate has a secret condition laid upon its creation: that "avowed enemies of Vinaria" can't pass through it.  That's very literally worded, mind you, and it's not inconceivable that there are magical ways to spoof it.  Certainly once this is known - and it sure can't be kept secret for long - people will try.

Destroying the Gate is effectively impossible (I could explain the system mechanics making it so, but take it as a given).  It can be temporarily closed, but a powerful temporalist can reopen that quickly, and the Vinarians have the temporalists who created the thing in the first place.  The point failure source is that the Gate is in the middle of a canal, to make it easier to haul large quantities of goods to and fro and to further restrict traffic.  On the Vinarian side, there's a large gatehouse built OVER the canal, and a barge with a few barrels of gunpowder could well bring that down - it'd clog the Gate for the time it took to clear a few dozen tons of masonry from around it.  So far, the Vinarians are insisting on using their own barges, with a couple of soldiers on each one, but there might be ways around that, among which is a suicide barge.  Put an innocent dupe on it with instructions to touch a match to X fuse when it goes through the Gate, and ...
It's not that I don't understand what you're saying.  It's that I don't *agree* with what you're saying.

Offline Pariah

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Re: Expanding the Elven Empire
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2011, 11:16:35 AM »
I personally think having it located in a canal is a great way to promote black market trading, just as soon as someone designs a halfway decent submarine so as to avoid detection suddenly the stranglehold that the Elves have on their trade will work against them, but thats just a half-baked idea on my part.
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Offline RGTraynor

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Re: Expanding the Elven Empire
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2011, 11:21:27 AM »
Well ... hm.  A submarine isn't precisely easy to make on medieval tech.  (It wasn't easy to make on CIVIL WAR tech.)

But it doesn't have to be a submarine.  It can be a large box, and even surreptitiously attached to one of the barges.  Hmmmmmm ...
It's not that I don't understand what you're saying.  It's that I don't *agree* with what you're saying.

Offline Strolen

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Re: Expanding the Elven Empire
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2011, 11:48:23 AM »
With magicians a dime a dozen, it probably wouldn't take much to get something of smaller size underwater and through the gate though...

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Offline RGTraynor

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Re: Expanding the Elven Empire
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2011, 10:54:56 PM »
Mm, the VINARIANS have wizards a dime a dozen.  They're not terribly common in the rest of the world, and I require serious specialization: a great capital city would have about a dozen wizards CAPABLE of learning useful underwater spells.  Whether they actually do so?  The highest point wizard in my campaign's history is a water wizard with 41 Water, Ice and Weather spells, and she hasn't learned those ones.  Swim and Walk on Water is as far as she's gotten there.

Not to say it's impossible to find wizards to do it; it's just not at all going to be easy.

(Heh, I should editorialize sometime here about my views on how heavily wizards would impact society, which boil down to "not nearly as much as most gamers think.")
It's not that I don't understand what you're saying.  It's that I don't *agree* with what you're saying.

Offline EchoMirage

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Re: Expanding the Elven Empire
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2011, 09:26:08 AM »
An idea: the Elves, if they are not too far from the norm, will have Animal spells in abundance. Shape-shifting into or controlling nasty water critters may give them an edge in naval combat. Who cares about enemy galleons when your sailors can transform into all sorts of nasties to poke holes into them or inflict horrible things upon their crews with tentacles.

Along these lines, they could have a Watcher-in-the-Water guarding the gate from below the waves - if your vessel does not carry a ward-stone or some other means of identification, it gets dragged under and extensively examined by a dozen tentacles of greater girth than their mom.

Also, while spells in GURPS certainly do not out-range cannons, innate attacks with the Magical limitation and Malediction/Enhanced Range enhancement would be very appropriate for more war-minded Elves ("Believe me or not, but as soon as we sail against those pesky Elves, our ships get lashed by lightning out of the clear sky!")
« Last Edit: May 16, 2011, 09:43:07 AM by EchoMirage »
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Offline EchoMirage

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Re: Expanding the Elven Empire
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2011, 09:37:50 AM »
Another note: GURPS allows wizards to learn "Maneuvers" for their spells - very much like in GURPS: Martial Arts - gaining bonuses for extra fatigue and skill penalties (which can be compensated by expending character points, leaning the maneuver better.

The fatigue cost for more difficult maneuvers is steep, but with the number of Elven magi, producing moderate power-stones is rather cheap, and apprentices with Lend Strength are easy to come by. So, long-range homing fireballs are quite feasible for them.
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