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Mass Effect/AEC: Alliance Military Doctrine


Tweet of the Day: 10 Lessons From Real-Life Revolutions That Fictional Dystopias Ignore


Excerpt from Modern Galactic War by Paul Malthus, 3rd Edition , Made available for Extranet Scholastic Use by  The Institute of War and Diplomacy, Vancouver Metroplex, North American Union, Earth, 2190 (1st Edition published by Banabar Books in 2184).

 Systems Alliance Navy

The Alliance Navy is the senior branch of the Systems Alliance Military. It is tasked with the following missions:

  • Protect Alliance space from external attack.
  • Police trade routes within Alliance space.
  • Prosecute any conflict within and outside of Alliance space as dictated by the Alliance Parliament.
  • Assist allied forces in maintaining peace and security within Citadel Space.

In order to fulfill its mission parameters the Navy has adopted a doctrine of deterrence vis-à-vis any present or future threat. This doctrine calls for rapid reaction fleets to garrison key mass relay junctions. From there they can react with overwhelming force against nearby threats or stop an advancing enemy. If the threat continues then the Navy engages in mobile warfare with the objective of bypassing enemy strong points and attacking vulnerable targets such as shipyards, depots, mining, manufacturing and command centers thus stripping the enemy of its ability to wage war. This requires real time intelligence on possible threats. For this reason the navy has invested heavily on frigates. Beyond the traditional screening and wolf pack tactics, frigates (See: Unit Roles in Large Fleet Actions pag. 397) also serve as long range reconnaissance, insertion/support of special forces, rapid reaction units, and interdiction of enemy supply lines/lines of communication. With the advent of such technologies as stealth drives, advance cybernetic warfare suites, cyclonic barriers, Thanix cannons, and rotary Javelin missile launchers, the modern frigate serves as a fast attack ship and stealth reconnaissance vessel. Frigate crews have adopted unofficial motto of, “Frigates Lead the Way!”, since they are often the first ship on the scene.

The shift toward the use of frigates as long range patrol craft has allowed the Alliance cruiser to become a pure gun platform. Alliance cruisers dispense with spaces for extra cargo or fighters. Every meter of the hull is crammed with the essentials such as armor, electronic warfare systems, barrier generators, and guns. Alliance cruisers come a respectable second behind asari designs in the areas of sturdiness, exceed salarian’s in endurance, and match turian designs in primary long range firepower while outgunning them on the number of broadsides.  Dreadnoughts fill the same duties as in other Citadel forces, although Alliance dreadnoughts tend to come up short between 100 to 300 meters shorter than the dreadnaughts in other navies. They are still powerful but tend to under perform in the area of their primary armament compared to other Citadel forces.

The Alliance still holds the lead on fleet carriers. While not particularly powerful in their own right, they offer a level of operational flexibility unmatched by any other unit. Carriers based fighter squadrons can strike space or planetary targets on their own accord, screen friendly units from enemy fighters, and engage enemy warships. Carriers can be reconfigured to carry a large amount of troops and support planetary landings with fighters, gunships, and shuttles. And in the absence of a dreadnought, carriers fill in the role of flag ship, serving as command and control nodes for a fleet.

The combination of platforms allows the navy to field a powerful yet doctrinally flexible force capable of dealing with most conventional scenarios.


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TV Tropes: Science Fantasy

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What happens when you get robots in your sword and sandal epic?

Science Fantasy!

As the name implies, this trope is a deliberate mixture of elements from the fantasy and science fiction genres. Knights with magic swords hoping from one planet to the next in spaceships or robots fighting along side King Arthur against the Saxons. This trope comes in three flavors:

  • The first one falls under the Rule of Cool. It is a all style over substance. It is a good way to establish that setting is similar to but not the same as our current world.
  • The second is mechanic/thematic. The blending of tropes allows for characters and situations with different themes and abilities.
  • The third is philosophical, mainly the exploration of reality under Clarke’s Third Law, that any sufficiently advanced technology will be mistaken for magic.

World of Warcraft, one of the most popular multiplayer games in the world. It is generally a fantasy based universe, with orcs, trolls, humans and dwarves fighting with swords and sorcery. But technology is all over the place, from simple stone clubs to massive spaceships that cross the space between the stars. Certain races and classes can use technology such as explosives and energy rays, allowing them to stand out. This gives the player a wider variety of character choices. And the games meta story has an advance race seeding life on different planets by means of extremely powerful magictek, with emphasis on the tech.

The problem with this trope is that it tends to break suspension of disbelief at least on the fantasy side of the equation. Advance technology and scientific reasoning are seen by many as the realm of the modern age and have little place in medieval or ancient settings even though the scientific method dates back to Aristotle. Fantasy elements are more common in science fiction, especially those with a retro-futurims theme like Steampunk as a way of explaining what was once considered science fiction in eras where the technology and material sciences could not produce the expected results. Urban fantasy is not quite space fantasy, since most of the tech is of modern design even if the genre does have magic in it. It is easier for the audience to accept the blend if the elements are presented upfront rather than a one time effect that serves as a deus ex machina.


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Weekend Roundup + #GamerGate: September 7-13

Tweet of the Day: Silicon Valley’s Cult of the Male Ego —— Yet another “controversy” has exploded on the video gaming side of the internets called by a few names but mainly #GamerGate. If you haven’t seen it you have been spared the worst of humanity (on the internet, you don’t say!) but again, I feel that this is another reflection of a larger culture war that is not limited to video games. Just see the whole SFWA kerfuffle earlier this year. Or the whole issue of spousal abuse and the NFL. Or the massive invasion of privacy of female celebrities. And if you look at all those situations, their evolution, the language, the positions, well everything is eerily similar. I may write more about it in the future but for now, here are a few thoughts on the matter:

  1. I don’t think that the gamer identity is dead, and claiming that it the be all and end all of the sad man-children from certain corners of the internet is an over broad statement to say the least. We have to work hard to change the image by standing up to them.
  2. Games are an art form and should be treated as such. That means that multiple critical paradigms can and will be applied to the medium as they are applied to other art forms such as books, movies and TV. Think of each school of criticism as a microscope that brings a narrow and intense look at a particular aspect of the subject. It is not an attack on media or those that play games to point out the obvious, tired tropes that games have relied on for too long and that the industry as a whole could benefit from challenging, changing, or simply moving on.
  3.  It is time for Games Media to update their standards. While there no secret cabal of propagandist manipulated by industry puppeteers, the combination of shady business practices across the industry and the lack of criticism or even embracing of such practices by many (but certainly not all) on the media side does not bode well for the industry. The problem is clearly that the perception of wrongdoing is as bad or worse than any actual wrongdoing by any party.
  4.  Start treating your consumer base as consumers and not as crazy fanatics that need to be fed a steady stream of hype about minutiae from map packs to who can or can not be romanced in a game. Certain developers like BioWare go out of their way to trumpet aspects of their games like, “diversity,” when in fact they are exploiting their audience need to fulfill a power fantasy (and have an actual poor record when it comes to the fetishisation of non-heteronormative sexual identities) just to gin up support for a given product and deflect from its short comings or poor performance.
  5. There is a clear set of agendas behind some in #GamerGate and the like that have nothing to do with games, journalism, ethics, or support for consumers but rather neo-atheist/MRAs with a clear anti-feminist agenda that simply have latched on to certain figures in the industry to vent their views upon.

Of course, for the long time reader of this blog none of this is particularly new but well you know me, I not about to walk away from such topics. Now to this week’s posts:

That is all for now. Have a nice weekend and thanks for all the fish! —–

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Space for Rent: Media and the Boxing of LGBT Culture



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What do I mean when I say, “boxing?” I mean that you take a group, such as members of the LGBT community and dropped them in a cultural box for the convenience of those outside of the group, in other words, stereotyping. First LGBT folk were dropped in the villain box associated with male predatory behavior. Gay men were a threat because they remained biologically but interested in other me, and lesbians also fell into this trap because they, “acted like men,” which again, meant being sexually predatory.  The next box was the funny box, LGBT folk as jesters: the funny cross-dresser, the flaming neighbor, and the gay best friend. No longer a threat, now they became the funny sidekick that dropped truth bombs and acted, well, queer. Their lives were never explored outside their relationship with their straight counterparts. A walking, talking joke wearing a feather boa.

Now the current box is fetishisation, creating same sex romantic couples to fulfill the fantasies of straight men and women. This is not something new, of course, pornography aimed at straight males has indulged in the  lesbian fetish for decades. It is a variant of the threesome fantasy. The women start the sexual encounter, go through the process of foreplay with the implied promise that all that is left is to presence a penis to round out the scenario. These women are available, with uncontainable sexual drives, and yet still require a penis to be satisfied. Same sex fetishes aimed at female audience put more emphasis on the romantic angle (as does most erotica aimed at straight women) but again, it is not done out of an attempt at diversity or a fair representation of the LGBT community although often disguised as such. Why do I say that? Because this is just another box, with a single label. LGBT folks are defined solely by sexual identity and sexual behavior just as they were when placed in the other boxes above. Nothing makes this phenomenon more clear than James Bonding in video games, where characters are created for the sole purpose of fulfilling player fetishes, so much so that people have made list of who is and who is not available for a romantic tryst in the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition (a fantasy computer RPG by BioWare, a division of Electronics Arts) and have sent death threats to the developers when they didn’t get their way. And content creators have noticed the trend and have develop ways to exploit it through tactics like queer bating, which again, are not really directed at any LGBT viewers, but at the straight viewers.

Of course this is not unique to the LGBT community, other minorities are treated the same: the horny black man that can not get enough of white women, the black face minstrel, the Hispanic lover, the murderous Arab, you get the idea. And it is just as harmful to drop others in a box and suffocate their identities with whatever label we feel is useful for us. Not to say that romance and erotica involving LGBT folks is out of bounds, but we should note who is the intended audience and whether it really furthers the causes of diversity and equality or simply drops another group into another box.


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Lessons from the Aether: RPGs and Character Creation

Tweet of the Day: The Volatile Mr. Poe: A Charleston Chronicle 


Roleplaying games are all about playing a role of a character in a giving space. Many, if not all RPGs, are based or influence by various speculative fiction genres such as sword and sandal, space opera, and cyberpunk to name a few. While a significant amount of the rules in any game (except for the purely, “narrative,” ones) are numbers base, today we are going to explore the narrative side of the game and how they can be applied to writing.


The first paragraph or chapter of a RPG rulebook will be dedicated to a description of the setting. While not part of the character construction rules per say, the impact of the setting upon the characters can not be underestimated. Characters are a product of their setting even as they are outliers within it.  For our purposes we will be playing a game called Void House, a sci-fi RPG based on the universe of the Ruins of Empire (NOTE: NOT ANACTUAL PRODUCT) a distant future space opera set in the Milky Way. The action is set two thousand years in the future. Mankind has explored most of the galaxy and rules it under the banner of a unified empire. Aliens races exist, but they tend to be the minority in galactic affairs. The heart of imperial territory falls under the purview of the Great Houses, each controlling an arm of the galaxy. But our heroes hail from the edges of galactic civilization, a place called The Void. The Void encompasses the outer geography of the galaxy, the spaces between galactic arms as well as all territory in and around the galactic poles. It is a place of distant stars and chaotic politics, festooned with criminals, exiled nobles, and grasping entrepreneurs.

Enter our hero: Hakan Tempest. Hakan is a human male in his early thirties that hails from the world of Media, one five earth-size moons that orbit the ringed gas giant Taurus. His home town is the sprawling city of Derin, a sprawling urban complex of over twenty million inhabitants. Derin is the capital of Media and the heart of the trade and politics for the Taurus Collectorate. The city is divided by a combination of rings and levels. The richest members live in the outer rind suburbs and commute directly to the upper business levels in the inner most ring of the city. The second most inner ring is the industrial area that doubles as a massive slum. A lot of folks searching for their fortune never get out of the so called The Choke, a place with a reputation for extreme poverty, vile crimes, and generational poverty. The next ring is home to the middle class. The working class lives at ground level a street or block away from the worst of the Choke. The better of classes live and work in the levels above them. The city center is the business and governmental core of the city, with government employees at or near ground level while the higher level house corporate headquarters with planetary and collectorate wide reach. Hakan Tempest comes from the Level 3 of the middle class ring (Working Class) at the edge a block away from the Choke and works at the bottom level City Center.

Character Class

Now that we gave our character a name and a place of birth, lets look at his character class. In gaming terms the character class defines the role and abilities of the character within the adventuring party (a common name for the group of characters in most RPGs). Most RPGs, regardless of their particular setting have three general classes: Fighter/Warrior, Rogue/Thief, and Mage/Wizard. Your Fighters are masters of weapons whether it maybe a crude bronze gladius in the local arena or a high tech plasma rifle that can destroy a enemy tank at five kilometers. The Rogue is your indirect action class, someone who relies on stealth, guile, and diplomacy to win the day. Not as tough as the Fighter, but able to either bypass most obstacles or place a poison blade between their ribs. The Mage is your magic type. In sci-fi settings they may use the power of the mind to bend reality or tap into unknown knowledge from ancient sources, they tend to be a combination of scholar and artillery type. They can be the most versatile of classes but also the weakest physically. Many RPGs add a healer class of sorts and one or more sub-classes to allow for greater player choice.

Hakan is a member of the Planetary Militia, a sub-set of Fighter Class with Detective as his sub-class/specialization. He is physically fit and is as good in a fist fight as in a firefight.  His class also determines his skill set and certain advantages/bonuses. Again, without going into the mathematics of the rules, we can say that Hakan knows basic hand-to-hand combat, how to use infantry firearms and because the Planetary Militia is a mix of military and police, his skills include basic fist aid, survival training, and skill in criminal investigations. He has the Observant advantage, which allows him to perceive minute details in the environment, great for investigating a crime scene or reacting to an ambush.

Quirks and Flaws

Some RPGs allow for further character customization through a series of quirks and flaws. Quirks are habits that are unique to the character and help to make him stand out. Flaws are things that can get him into trouble and are often used to balance any advantages the character may posses. Hakan quirk is that he loves his Turkish coffee and will go out of his way to drink at least on cup a day. His flaw is that he is as stubborn as a mule. Once something pique his interest, he won’t rest until he finds out what it is.

Background and Motivation

This is where the player gets to fill in the details of the character, either by using a set of rules or by creating it themselves. Void House provides a series of tables that include such details as family, friends, romantic relations (if any), a major incident in his past, and any contacts he may have in the militia or elsewhere. But even these tables only provide hints to the player on his character background and are entirely optional. He rolled a working class background, so he decides that Hakan as a large extended working class family with parents, grandparents, three siblings and quite a few cousins. The major incident involves an accident at the Academy which earned Hakan both a life long friend and a bitter rival in the force. And he has a collection of contacts from his years working in street patrol and enforcement. Living so close to the Choke motivated him to fight against the crime encroaching on his community after a family member died in a shootout between criminal gangs.

That is a basic round down of a typical RPG character creation session. You may have noticed that the process answers some crucial questions about the character: Who is he? Where does he come from? What is his occupation? Why did he join the Militia? The very same questions that come up whenever a writer creates a character in fiction. It just so happens that RPGs have turned character creation into an art.

The video below provides a great example of the character creation process during a typical RPG session. Even if you don’t get some of the lingo, you should be able to understand the process based on the description above:


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Ties that Bind

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As many of you know, I am an avid gamer of both video games and tabletop RPGs. When you combine that fact with a passion for writing you end up with the desire to give your game characters a bit more than a name, class, and level. I conjured quite a few of these character write-ups and I like to share one with you today. This particular short involves my character in the game of Hellas: Worlds of Sun & Stone (follow the link for more information) a interesting mix of Greek legends and space opera.


Ties that Bind

Delta Five Fortress in orbit around Athenoi

Orion waited for his guests in the banquet hall. He usually ate with the rest of the soldiers in the main mess but protocol demanded that high status visitors be catered to, especially if they were family. His sister Psyche, strode into the hall on silver sandals and covered in a tunic of dark brown with golden embroidery. Chthonic colors that linked their house to ancient traditions of land and wealth, traditions that some said preceded the Twelve. He wore the white and blue tunic of the Athenoi Navy over his pilot’s uniform, white for the clouds he flew through and blue for the seas sailors sailed from the beginning of time.

So good to see you again, sister. This visit was…unexpected,” said Orion with a hint of a smile.

She moved with practiced grace but to Orion’s expert eyes her posture was almost mechanic, programmed to impose her will on those around her.

Mighty is the weight on your shoulders, dear sister.

He waited for Psyche to take her seat at the table before joining her, plates of olives, onions and barley bread in hand.

She sniffed at the food, “No servants?”

This is a military outposts. Soldiers do all the chores. No space for civilians let alone slaves. Besides I will not trust my life to someone who serves as the whim of another and not of his own volition,” said Orion.

What about Demetrius?” said Psyche between sips of wine.

There it was, the old accusation. One of the reasons Psyche hated him so much. One of the things that brought so much misery to his family.

Demetrius died doing his duty, as his father knew so well. I should not have promised to bring him home safe, but I did, and it cost me,” said Orion with a heavy sigh.

Cassiopeia, the price of your brash words, brother and the final stab that destroyed our alliance with Euripides’ House,” said Psyche.

So old Euripides still rails against our House?” Orion asked.

Every time he visits the Angora, which is all too often these days. And I for one don’t blame him. A dead son and a marriage arrangement destroyed. The shame of it is enough drive any man insane,” said Psyche. She gave Orion an unflinching stare.

There was no love between Cassiopeia and me when I returned with her brother’s ashes. I pledged to return but she did not wait and I for one, don’t blame her. And before you talk about duty to family, remember that I have also a duty to the State, which I have and will continue to fulfill. Cassiopeia knew it, Demetrius knew it and Euripides knew it. Again, it is not my fault they can not accept it,” said Orion.

Psyche put her knife down, “It is never your fault, is it Orion? You stole the woman your brother loved, a woman I considered a sister, then discarded her-”

Orion cut her off, “I did no such thing, dear sister.”

Psyche pressed on, “when she was of no use to you. You made brash promises you knew you could not keep. And now you hide out here while I shoulder the burden of House and Home alone.”

Orion looked at his sister with pensive eyes. She was a civilian, and a politician at that. She did not understand the weight on his shoulders, the responsibility to defend their home world from any attacker, the need for men and women like him to sacrifice their lives if need be for the greater good. She would never understand.

So, you come all this way to reopen all wounds?” asked Orion.

No, I came to warn you that I can no longer protect you against Euripides wrath, dear brother. You are now on your own.


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TV Tropes Monday: Boarding Party

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Space is an Ocean so at some point brave heroes or villainous raiders will want to board your ship, space station or asteroid.

Enter the Boarding Party.

And enter they will…wait that was a very bad pun…shame on me. But this trope is one of the reasons why so many space operas have hand guns and swords, sometimes at the same time. Hand guns or other infantry firearms can be used in the confined spaces of star ship, but if for some reason the walls are too thin or the guns to powerful then some old fashion swashbuckling will do. Remember to do a lot of Flynning will you’re at it. Of course if you happen to have a laser sword that can cut through diamond, it might be safer to stick to a firearm.

The trope page mentions several ways to pull a successful (or at least attempt to) boarding actions. Ships can come alongside each other (like in the age of sail), shuttles can attached themselves to the target’s hull (like a rescue submersible), you can beam yourself aboard (Red Shirts first), and you can shoot a hollowed missile at the ship with a few Space Marines aboard to fight the good fight.

Of course you also have the boarding of a abandoned space hulk floating in the darkness of space. Did the ship had a malfunction and become a tomb for its crew or did someone/something dealt with them. A few minutes of silent corridors with nothing but human breathing as soundtrack can really amp up the tension. Makes the ensuing combat all the more meatier when they do meet the beast(s) in the deepest part of the ship.

Or will they?

Of course, this trope is harder to pull off on the, well, harder side of the Mohs ScaleSpace is really, really big, and ships could engage at thousands if not ten of thousands of kilometers, so sneaking in a boarding party would be hard to pull off. Even today, with ships festooned with all manner of sensors (mainly radar) that can detect and engage any and all targets at dozens of kilometers away making it easier to just lob a few dozen missiles their way and be done with it. Some special occasions, such as ships at anchor, restricted waters or in space dock might mitigate for this.

But once aboard, expect a white knuckle ride.



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