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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Dinglehoff

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I didn't quite take it as optimism, that last part. The whole thing reads like a survivor's journal written after the fact; one that carries a lonely hope in the shadow of grim duty, out to whomever finds it. But that was just my reaction there.

Anyway, thank you Director for such a magnificent story. You're right that the forum doesn't have many gems like this around anymore.
 

King of Men

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with the near-death of narrative fiction on the forum I think this may be one of if not the last of the dinosaurs.
"Old wars, old peace, old arts that cease - and thus was England born." It's sad when the old game forums become abandoned; but after all there are shiny new ones, and new game mechanics to conquer. Although in that respect it's not always clear that improving the AI is really an improvement; crazy AI offers the author more scope for entertaining and realistic-ish explanations of ingame events. An AI that always does the game-mechanically clever thing cannot be explained in terms of nutty kings, idealistic pacifists coming to power, sudden conversions to religion, or strokes among leading figures in a war party - to the AAR-writer's loss.

I wonder if we are nearing the limits of the art form as far as narrative fiction goes? You can only describe the Protestant Reformation from the viewpoint of a character supporting, opposing, or affected by it so many times; at some point it's been done. I feel my own AARs have gotten less character- and story-focused as time has gone on; it's difficult to come up with new character-centric approaches to "the same" bit of history, even if the state actors and the geography varies. I sometimes feel forced to concentrate on the geostrategy precisely because that's the new part that my readers haven't seen before. The minutiae of pike-and-musket warfare (or rifle-and-saber warfare, or trench-and-machinegun warfare, or tank-and-bomber warfare...) have been done, and well done. So have the arguments, pro and con, for Protestantism, or the personal reasons that a man might fight in a French-style revolution.

Anyway: I ramble. Congratulations on a multiyear epic well completed, and good luck with your new writing projects! I hope they make you rich as well as extending your well-deserved fame beyond these forums. :)
 

loki100

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crazy AI offers the author more scope for entertaining and realistic-ish explanations of ingame events. An AI that always does the game-mechanically clever thing cannot be explained in terms of nutty kings, idealistic pacifists coming to power, sudden conversions to religion, or strokes among leading figures in a war party - to the AAR-writer's loss.
I'd agree with this whole heartedly, you can see it terms of CK. CK1 didn't work, wasn't logical but the result was a rich vein for both comedy and narrative style treatments. CK2 is slick, mostly intrinsically logical and has spawned almost no comedies and precious few narrative AARs.
 

King of Men

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Well. *Coughs modestly*. I do feel that God Will Know His Own wasn't too bad on either comedy or narrative. But perhaps it was already among your "precious few"? :)
 

Brian Shanahan

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Well, I'm back (basicly overloaded on things to read and reality got busier). I must say, an unexpected ending.

And, are we seeing the birth of the Knights Temporal, with Ronsend's farewell?
 

Director

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To all - well, I'm back. A week in new construction in South Texas with no AC, a week to (partly) unpack, then a week in Michigan (averaged 4 hours of sleep each night... was so tired that today I fell asleep 4 times while trying to finish a single text message) followed by my valiant attempt to leave Baltimore airport on Labor Day Weekend's Friday afternoon. A one-hour drive took three... ("A three hour tour! A three hour tour!")



Incognitia - thank you - you are entirely too kind. I benefit from having a corps of terrific readers and commenters and I try not to disappoint them.

A long way back in the planning stages it seemed to me that this must be - and end in - a tragedy. All of the principal players are undone by their own flawed characters. Only Makhearne is really redeemed at the end, and Ronsend is tortured by survivor's guilt. Frost and Messoune cannot be redeemed in any believable way; instead they accept the consequences of their actions and go down fighting to the last. Makhearne achieves a bit of nobility by sacrifice and Ronsend learns what it is to atone... Nemor, of course, suffers and dies for his fatal inability to make a commitment to one side or the other.

Thank you for reading - and commenting!

loki100 - if I hadn't jiggled the story to have someone survive we'd have been back in the last episode of The Sopranos and I don't have the writing chops to pull that out.

Thank you for the compliments. I have always looked forward to your comments and often learned something about my own story from them.

A cardinal purpose I had in wiriting Special Providence was to gain some deeper insight into the creation and use of effective characters. That is a principal reason for having so many 'thumbnail sketch' characters who have their brief moment on-stage and then depart. Another was to explore the idea of how difficult it would be to 'steer' an entire world-culture even when those doing the steering are enormously intelligent and technologically advanced. The necessity of operating in secrecy proves to be an effective brake, as does Makhearne and Ronsend's low-intensity opposition. Frost is frustrated again and again by her inability to get at the levers of power, and when she finally does it is her lack of legitimacy that opens the door to a coup. It is very hard, in the Victorian Era, for a 'power-behind-the-throne' to rule in any but the subtlest and most indirect of ways - at least in my opinion.

I haven't bought CK2 but I can say that in general I agree with your comment. There are still some really good stories being written there and in HoI and we will have to see what impact the release of EU4 will have. Writing well is hard (at least for me), doing the research is hard, developing the characters, location and so forth is hard. Comedy I think is most difficult to do brilliantly well and the easiest to attempt since you can (lazily) use all manner of anachronisms and (lazily) mine pretty directly from the masterworks of others; for some of this the laziness and meta-references become most of the humor the piece possesses.

Dinglehoff - I definitely intended that ending to have some hope but also a recognition of the price that had been paid for it. As you note, there is precious little rest for the victor.

King of Men - I didn't intend any sour grapes there (nor do I think you took my comment that way), I just think there isn't as much interest in deep narrative as there once was. Gameplay, history-book and comedy are easier to write (though every bit as hard to write well, in my opinion). Back when coz1 was helming the Gazette there was a lot of talk about what the expansion of the Forum membership and the large number of new games was going to bring. I think we know the answer now - dispersion and identification with a game rather than with AARland - and so the question becomes how do we keep a sense of community in the new environment?

I do agree that the AI can give an author a real leg up when it comes to things to write about. Persian battleships fighting (and defeating) two Japanese dreadnoughts, thereby sinking an invading Army, is an example from a recent game of Victoria 2 (House Divided). But creativity is not constrained by history: instead of writing once again of the Protestant Reformation, call it the Brianist Reformation and throw in some Monty Python, or invent a second schizmatic Pope, or let it be an Illuminatist plot to resurrect the Inquisition gone horribly right. Write well and I think the audience will go with you wherever you wander.

Robert Silverberg has always maintained that there is only one plot that every story more-or-less follows. It is the treatment that matters... or as I always have said, if you must steal then steal from the best.

Thank you for your kind thoughts... should any sort of fortune or fame come my way you may be sure I shall brag of it insufferably. :)

Brian Shanahan - The ending was a bit contrived but necessary if it was to go where I thought it should. I've never been good at the blockbuster-thriller sort of huge set-piece battle followed by wait-its-not-over so repeat repeat repeat until the special effects give out. (I kind of wish I was, but I'm not). I would hope the ending remains within what we know of the situation and the characters while being a bit of a surprise... It was in any case the best I could plot out that didn't violate some part of the author-reader contract.

I think we will be seeing the birth of a new organization and civilization, parallel to and independent of the Knights Temporal. ("There are a thousand histories among the naked timelines, a thousand tales of the heroic men and women who stand against evil in the line of duty. They are the Knights Temporal... and these are their stories."
 
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