Zero Team: Forest of Naught
“Good morning, Archons.”
“Good morning, Charlie!”
“You all did wonderfully on your last assignment. Now, I have a new one for you.”
“We’re ready, Charlie!”
“Of course you are. In the far south of Erfworld, across the Aybie Sea, is a large and isolated battlespace called the Forest of Naught. Charlescomm has no presence there; it’s a battlespace with a history of very small-scale wars that don’t warrant mercenary assistance. The assignment is to fix this.”
Team Leader Zero never spoke. At her level, she had enough respect that she didn’t have to: she’d croaked more units than most sides had. She just smiled at her junior associates – which is to say, all of them – and nodded or shook her head as appropriate. When she wanted to really make a point, she might gesture with a single index finger.
Instead, the briefing fell to her 2iC, Rami, a mid-level Archon with very angular features and three ranks in Shockmancy, while the media presentation went to Social Media Officer Lily, a Foolamancy specialist.
“The name, Forest of Naught, is very descriptive, in the sense that there are no forest hexes in the entire battlespace, courtesy of extensive destructive forage. Instead, over ninety percent of the land hexes are desert, sand, or rocks. There are six credible sides at present plus two of only one city apiece. Their pop counts are all very, very low, due to a paucity of supplementary income. There are plenty of resource hexes, but preliminary intel suggests they’re too low to be useful. None of the local natural allies has mining, and the farms are at quarter production. We suspect they have been for some time. Sandy?”
As the youngest, Sandy often had to raise her hand to ask basic questions of her seniors. Unbeknownst to her, some of the older Archons didn’t know either; they did know, however, that they could save face by letting her ask for them. “What’s quarter production?”
“It’s where a farm only produces a quarter of its maximum,” Lily said.
“Gee, thanks for that.”
Rami rolled her eyes. “Resource hexes don’t normally replenish to capacity by themselves,” she explained. “Mines get emptied, farms run down the soil, and so on. Left alone, they deplete to the point of being useless. You can rejuvenate them with the right magics – Flower Power and Dirtamancy, mostly – but that’s rarely an efficient use of juice, even if the casters are in the area, unless you have a ton of them with no fighting to do, as in the MK.
“Instead, most of Erfworld relies on a hidden mechanic called the Circle of Life, although few outside Charlescomm and the Magic Kingdom know anything about it. Every natural unit is made of Erf. When they are croaked, some of that is released back into Erfworld, where it replenishes a nearby resource hex. It only works if they’re croaked, not disbanded or harvested, so sides that spend too long without a war eventually lose income and become easy pickings for their neighbours.”
“Depletion takes long enough that it almost never comes up,” said Media Officer Izzy, “unless you go out of your way to do destructive foraging or something. It’s like Signamancy decay; it just stops you from doing nothing forever. In practice, if you never croak anyone, you’ll probably be conquered long before then anyway.”
“Unless you have an entire battlespace that gets stuck in peace or very low-level conflict for too long,” Rami nodded. “Which is where we come in.”
“So, what are our marching orders?” asked Disruptive Innovation Specialist Mattie.
“The first step to any plan is reconnaissance,” Rami said. “Izzy, the map, please. You and Shelly will be in the field. Mattie, you’re on capital intel. Sandy, you’re junior, so I’ll give you fieldwork too. Lily, you’ll cover the ocean. Ariel and Zero will find a defensible base hex; Ariel is on coordination, Zero will stay in reserve.” Zero nodded approval; she was often held back as a trump card. “And I’ll be the first contact.”
It was a common misconception that all Archons could veil, Shock, and send Thinkagrams. The sad reality was that Archons needed the relevant specials for each of those abilities (although all had the basics, like hoboken and commander with a bonus of zero). Because Charlescomm had so many Archons, though, they could form teams to cover all the bases, or send specialists for specific tasks. Because the myth enhanced their perceived value, Archons were expected to encourage it; part of being a good team leader was the knack to always have the right associate for this in the right place at the right time.
Mattie, for example, had no Thinkamancy, but multiple ranks in Foolamancy, giving her a very sturdy veil. This made her the prime candidate to send on the most dangerous scouting mission: two different capitals in one turn.
It turned out not to be too bad at all. One had only three warlords, the other four and two casters, with no Eyemancers in either. Beyond that, they had a mere handful of stacks defending. In the field, she saw a number of hunters, more than the meta demanded in a normal battlespace. They were probably wasting their time, too, because she hadn’t spotted a single feral worth the hunt on her way across the battlespace. What a wasteland.
Because of her lack of Thinkagrams, Comms Officer Ariel had to call her at end of turn. “Mattie, report.”
“All very weak. Gulawa has a king, Chief two, and a spare one. Thirty infantry, two knights plus stacks: two stabs, pikes, archers. Suwatata has a king, Chief three, two spare ones, with Changer and Signa. Forty-one units, one knight plus stacks: four stabs, pikes, archers. Assorted field units, confirmed eight hunters and six hunters respectively, no others.”
“… Seriously?” Gulawa was the weakest capital either had ever seen, with about a tenth of the garrison that the meta called for.
Lily was another team member with multiple ranks in Foolamancy and a knack for evasion. She was also rather scatter-brained, so Rami always tried to send her to collect the least important information.
She’d been sent back over the Aybie Sea, looking for any ships. None of the Forest of Naught sides used much in the way of ships except a few boats for harvesting from fish hexes; Rami didn’t expect her to find anything.
She was therefore surprised to spot two damaged Vie King corvettes out in the middle of the ocean. She unveiled, waved, and descended to the deck of the ship with the higher-level captain, a three. Like all captains, he had a very bushy beard.
“Charlescomm,” he nodded. “Greetings. What business have you here?”
“Charlescomm, as a universal provider, makes a point of fielding associates throughout the known world,” Lily said, “to enable just-in-time solutions for all problems.”
“What, out here?” the captain said sceptically. “This is the edge of the world. There’s nothing out here.”
She smiled, but gave a pointed look at the two scorch marks along the ship. “It would seem, with all respect, Captain, that there’s not nothing.”
“We spotted one of Seaworld’s spy ships forty hexes north of here. We just last turn ran it down. That’s our story; but what are you really doing here?”
Her smile widened. It was astonishing how many people would hand out valuable information like candy. “Charlescomm is also Erfworld’s foremost supplier of up-to-date information. In fact, pending approval by my supervisor, I would like to propose a joint venture …”
Rami descended onto the Gulawa battlements and touched down with the ball of a single foot, light as air. It was a single-side city, level three. Joke sides like that could persist for a long time, if their ruler was likeable and knew his place. They were too harmless to be a threat, and they could act as a sort of buffer between larger sides, with the mutual understanding that if any large side conquered it, then they’d have to throw a lot of troops at its defences, so they’d look like aggressive expansionists who were currently weakened.
Two warlords and four stacks of infantry gathered around her, awestruck. She was the nearest thing to a caster any of them had ever seen, or likely ever would. The king was with one stack; with such a weak side, losing six stabbers and a knight was enough of a catastrophe that it was worth risking a king in battle to prevent it. Rami wished she had permission to blast him. The Battle Royale achievement was a rare accomplishment.
“Good morning, King Picayune,” she said with a curtsy and a smile.
“Good morning, er,” he said.
“Senior Associate Rami of Charlescomm, your battlespace solutions provider.”
“A side a long way away.”
“Is this an invasion?” he asked frankly.
She gave a polite fake laugh. If it were, you’d be provisions right now. “Not at all, Your Majesty. Charlescomm is strictly neutral in all conflicts except when terms are arranged.”
“What do you mean, terms?”
“We provide a variety of premium battle-related services at negotiable prices. For example –”
“You fight for money?” Picayune asked, looking revolted.
“To put it bluntly, yes. We specialise in –”
“That’s despicable,” he said. “Get out of my city.”
Many rulers had that reaction. They fought for their own cute reasons, like honour or revenge if they were doing well, or survival if they weren’t, but somehow fighting for money horrified them. Charlie generally recommended that associates grin and bear it, then laugh it up when they finally screwed the side over and made off with most of their assets.
“Your Majesty, I –”
His stack brandished weapons. She smiled again and raised her hands. “We also provide economic services.”
“I’m not interested.” He gestured, and the archers nocked and drew.
“I can quadruple the output of this city’s farms.”
He paused. The archers gave him a questioning look and relaxed their draws. “Impossible.”
She smiled. “Let’s talk terms, Your Majesty.”
Ariel, Lily, and Izzy projected Thinkagram replays of Zero one-shotting the Gulawa Chief Warlord and King Picayune with a single spell, one to each of the three neighbouring sides. “As you can see, Archons represent a paradigm shift, but more than anything, an opportunity. We’re very powerful assets, capable of providing extreme targeted leverage in key undertakings. We accept bounties and a wide variety of missions for negotiable but reasonable fees, including but not limited to Shockmancy, dynamic leadership with optional dance-fighting, reconnaissance, communications, and Dollamancy support. Charlescomm also offers insurance policies, guaranteeing peace of mind …”
Sandy watched and marvelled at her superiors. They’d got most of Gulawa’s treasury for what the fortyish casualties would do for the farms by the Circle of Life. The Vie King had paid them most of the value of the city, while taking all the aggro for being the invaders who currently held it, as well as soaking most of the damage for being the front-line combatants. They’d got most of the XP from their opening Shockmancy salvo. Ariel was lining up contracts with the other Forest of Naught sides. If they didn’t get insurance or something better, they’d extend their contract with the Vie King and annex the entire battlespace. Of course, the farms would be kept busy if the battlespace was contested, so they’d have to sell its location on to Seaworld, too …
“Good morning, Archons.”
“Good morning, Charlie!”
“You all did wonderfully on your last assignment. Now, I have a new one for you.”
“We’re ready, Charlie!”
“Of course you are. Even further south, there’s another battlespace, the Cherry Glaciers. In it, eight sides are vying for supremacy. At stake is a gem deposit worth upward of a million shmuckers. The assignment is to ensure that the lion’s share of it goes to Charlescomm.”
Nothing epic this time; just a short one-shot, because I felt like it. The eight Archons all reference Angels from Neon Genesis.
The Circle of Life mechanic has no canonical basis whatsoever. It’s just the first idea I thought of that, to the best of my analysis, resolves the dilemma of Pax Parson’s depopulation without being exploitable enough for anyone to bother mentioning in canon.
(NOTE: User was awarded 25 shmuckers for this post.)
Since you like to play with stories about mechanics of ErfWorld, I thought I would throw out something.
"Courtiers" is something that no one has ever explored and I personally find it fascinating. They seem kind of pointless, but clearly they have value if they are created. I thought about writing a story about them, but I never find the time. Here are my thoughts on what could be special about them
1) Courtiers can self direct. What separates a Courtier from an ordinary unit is that it can self direct and maybe even give orders, but because it lacks a Leadership score it is much cheaper to build and maintain than warlord. If this is true, a courtier can perform a variety of useful tasks. It can act as an adviser or major domo. It can act as more sophisticated scouting units where you need units that can do more than run and hide. They can be sent to act act as low cost representatives for a side.
2) Courtiers can relay detailed orders. We have seen that magic and written text can rely orders. So why not units? A ruler or warlord can use a courtier to relay an order in the say way.
3) Courtiers have useful skills that aren't directly applicable to battle. Kind of like how a Twoll have fabricate
What are your thoughts on what Courtiers do?
Thank you very much for the support, everyone!
I actually did write about a courtier in Glass: it made sense to put a civilian into a horror story. I didn't go into detail about the mechanics, though.
I fanon that courtiers are basically warlords minus the war. They can manage cities, don't autoattack, can negotiate with other sides, and have soft skills like initiative, intelligence, and capacity to learn. They can't meaningfully fight; they can technically command a stack, but don't give a bonus, have no combat instinct, and tend to panic and generally be worse than useless in battle. In return, they're significantly cheaper than a WL, both in terms of pop rate and upkeep. They can't realistically level, can't pop as casters, and are never rulers (this last might a tradition rather than a mechanic).
They aren't particularly useful for relaying messages: scouts are better suited to that, being faster and cheaper still.
In optimal play, they make better value city managers (unless the city is contested and needs WLs anyway for defence), diplomats, and bureaucrats. In Glass, Hussar was the scouting master, collating reports and directing field units; a WL could have done that, but a courtier was cheaper and more focused. Transylvito is suboptimal in using WLs to manage cities: courtiers could do it for cheaper and the WLs would create more value on the front lines. (I dislike fanoning that characters do things obviously badly, but that one's practically canon.) They generally have superior diplomatic intuition; also, if a top WL plays emissary, then even if the hosts don't kidnap/assassinate/interrogate him, you're still deprived of a high-value unit during the trip. Courtiers can also be traded if a foreign prince takes a personal liking, without the strategic baggage of losing a powerful asset or the risk of Jillian-type battlefield disloyalty.
In practice, they're often a sort of Veblen unit, signifying to other sides that you have enough fat to support a bevy of civilians, so you'd be very hard to take down if you got serious, while showing you're not aggressive enough to be an immediate threat.
Rami went there first for initial negotiations, and the entire stack came over later to wipe them out.
I very much like the concept of the Circle of Life. You could equate it with the ending of a business; all assets being liquefied then paying out outstanding debts, severance of employees and the remainder being distributed amongst shareholders.
Perhaps in Erfworld Resource Hexes are the equivalent of shareholders; absorbing the excess so that units can return to Zero.
I started reading this, and I'm just going to have to pause. I understand that you like doing your own thing on the rules of erfworld, but isn't saying an archon counts as a commander a little much? The lack of being able to command is a core issue of being an archon. They get looked down upon for being knights due to this, it means they can't be promoted to chief warlord.
Circle of life thing is an interesting concept though.
I remember he was pretty tickled by the idea that Moneymancers could make it rain. Anything's possible.
Archons indeed aren't WLs, chief or otherwise, but IIUC the definition of a commander is any unit with the leadership special, which Archons do (randomly) get.
I fanon that the friction between WLs and Archons is borne of the latter only having one chance in six to increase their leadership stat each level. A level 6 WL has six levels of leadership, whereas the average Archon has only one, and more than three is very unlikely; an Archon is therefore a Fake Warlord, a knight with some fancy magic tricks and delusions of command.
That is a very different idea than canon. I'm a bit confused by it. If being a warlord just needs leadership, then shouldn't an archon be able to become a chief warlord?
There seem to be three abilities that define warlords from knights. The ability to command other units, to create stacks, and to give himself, and stacked units, a leadership bonus. An archon seems to have all three of these, so shouldn't they also be able to be promoted to chief warlord then?
It also seems to be the case that units with higher leadership can give orders to units with lower leadership, is that your take as well, or are commander units allowed to disregards the orders of other commanders? I'm also interested in how an archon fights when they have no shockamancy. Do you feel that archons can use more standard weapons instead, or that they have to avoid fighting, in which case, how would they be leveling up. Would being a cold caster type stifle their growth, given how much less they can use it as opposed to normal casters?
WL != commander. A WL is a specific class of unit, notable for the leadership special. A commander means any unit with the leadership special, or equivalently, able to command a stack. All WLs are therefore commanders (unless, say, a Weirdomancer removes the special); most commanders happen to be WLs, but not all. Casters are also commanders, with a stack bonus of zero. Casters and Archons cannot become CWL because they're not WL-class.
My HC for the bonus is that the special comes with a number, Leadership n, and the commander gives +n to the stack. n can be zero, viz for casters; or the unit's level, as for WLs; or something in between, as for Archons. n is usually tacit, because it's usually owned either by a WL and equal to his level, or a caster and equal to zero. Archons are the only ones who need to go into detail about it.
Units without leadership always obey units with. There's no universal hierarchy for commanders giving orders to one another, but it's understood that level implies rank except when otherwise stated, and you disobey at risk of disbanding. For example, CWL Parson gave orders to Ansom, who was 7 levels higher; but at Portal Park, he lost his designated rank and had to defer to Artemis, the most senior on the field.
I fanon that Archons have all six random specials at rank 0 from the get-go, which gives them the very basics of each. Leadership 0 lets you give orders but no bonus; Shockmancy 0 gives you hoboken (which is also why non-Shockmancer casters have it) but none of the stronger or more juice-efficient attacks. They can fist-fight after depleting their juice, but they're pretty much just basic infantry at that point, so it's almost always better to withdraw and wait for more juice.
Archons with hot specials can level much faster than those with Dollamancy or Thinkamancy, but any use of magic (or leading a stack in successful combat) provides some XP. CC likely has fresh Archons either train up a level or two before entering the field, or gives them milk runs tailored to their special, or teams them with veterans who feed them XP.
I see, instead of an archon falling into the knight class of units, they qualify as a commander type of unit, which include casters, and warlords. However, warlords are the only commander unit that can be promoted to chief warlord. Interesting ideas, as always.
Do warlords have any other special traits, other than the guaranteed leadership bonus every level?
Also, good point on Parson, and Artemis. I had assumed that higher ranking leadership meant you could order anyone with lower leadership. I'll have to think about that a bit more. If I understand correctly 0 leadership means that you can be ordered though?
Archons do count as knights -- canon is explicit on that -- but that doesn't disqualify them from also counting as commanders. The two are usually disjoint because most sides can't pop anything with both, but that isn't a rule. I have no idea what the knight class actually does, though. I thought it might be a riding bonus, until we met that heavy hob kt; now I shrug and say it's just a stat boost.
I fanon that WLs are basically stabbers with leadership, although I stress that leadership bestows a lot of intelligence and personality, so it's not just a hard mechanical difference. If Fate says, though, they can have more, as with royalty, or TV with flight and drain, or Albert, or Seaworld's seafarers. That can apply to basic infantry, too, like Haggar's headbangers.
My HC is that the special's text is "Leadership n: this unit can do [commander stuff, including disobeying orders if Duty demands] and gives +n to all units in a stack it leads." The n only affects the bonus: a caster has leadership 0 and has all commander perks, just with a stack 'bonus' of +0. The thing about disobeying is that, ideally, a superior is more experienced and more informed than you; an order has to seem insane before you can reasonably conclude that it's a bad order, rather than that you just don't understand its rationale. Most junior commanders will therefore obey everything, but technically they don't have to.
The riding bonus still works if you are talking about hobgobwin heavies. All being a heavy means is that they weigh too much to be able to ride traditional mounts, it doesn't mean they are incapable of riding. If the Hob heavy knight had access to a larger mount, like a megawiff, then they should be able to ride it as normal. I think flying works the same. When Don King got fat, it wasn't that he suddenly lost the ability to fly, he just couldn't lift the weight he was currently at. If he got thin again, then he could take off without issues. By the same token, flying infantry don't wear armour, because it would be too heavy to take off. Riding is a bit confusing though. We've seen non-knights ride mounts, on occasion, but flying units don't seem to like riding at all, suggesting that being a flier, or seafarer, somehow precludes them from being able to do so, which is why I make a division on the three types.
My fanon is that knights are scouts with higher stats.
The simplified version works like this
- An infantry is a basic unit.
- A scout is a basic unit with the ability to withdraw from combat. They pop at half the rate as normal infantry.
- A knight is a more powerful version of the scout; if land type, can ride mounts. It pops once a turn.
My method for riding works as follows, Riders can stack, (or perhaps bond? would work as a sort of D&D wizard familiar) with one mount at a time, order it around, and they only counts as one unit, for purposes of the stacking malus (allowing a stack of 8 riders and 8 mounts to have the max stack bonus, even though it normally maxes out at 8). You could even keep the usefulness of this by saying that the knight doesn't need to be riding the mount to benefit, which would allow heavy knight to fight side by side with the mount, and keep the stacking advantage.
On archons, I have to say, the more I've thought about it, the more I like your concept of them having a 0 level in everything to start. It's fixed my issues with how it was possible to have a Fox 5 unit not have a single point in thinkamancy, even though she clearly used it constantly, or what happens to archons without shockamancy. Given that Charlie is stated to be able to give some of his power, I could imagine that her thinkamancy would become indefinite, once she joined in. Did you think up how the power ups work? I'm imagining it like this.
- 0 lv leadership= can create stacks; give orders; refuse orders
- 0 lv foolmancy= can dispel veils; create tiny images
- 0 lv dance fighting= can dance when lead
- 0 lv shockamancy= hoboken
- 0 lv thinkamacy= one minute thinkagram
- 0 lv dollmancy= equivalent to fabrication special, except it requires magic to maintain.
- 1 lv leadership= +1 leadership combat bonus
- 1 lv foolmancy= can veil self; can see through veils
- 1 lv dance fighting= can lead a dance fight
- 1 lv shockamancy= weak shock bolts
- 1 lv thinkamancy= 5 minute thinkagram; 1 suggestion spell
- 1 lv dollmancy= can create etsies
- 2 lv leadership= additional +1 leadership combat bonus
- 2 lv foolmancy = can veil a larger area
- 2 lv dance fighting= bigger dance bonus?
- 2 lv shockmancy= stronger blasts
- 2 lv thinkamancy= 20 minutes worth of thinkagrams
- 2 lv dollmancy= create golems; magical accessories
That idea uses size classes. What does heavy do if every unit already has a more detailed stat; is it just shorthand for 'size class above medium'? I fanon that heavy is a class whose rules text includes "this unit can't ride another unit"; physical size is pure Signamancy, perhaps reflecting a unit's hits. Maybe flyers and seafarers have the same text, but OTOH they wouldn't be inclined to ride anyway since that would nullify their specials, so maybe they just choose not to; I'm agnostic.
Are knights scout-like? My intuition of a knight is a stronger soldier, not one who is less likely to attack, and I can't think of any canon where one hasn't autoed, except Archons, who wouldn't anyway if they're commanders.
I have all the same mount HC, except the part about a dismounted rider not counting toward stack penalties. I think Rob confirmed a lot of it.
I pretty much have the same Archon growth curves; maybe Thinkamancy ranks give higher fidelity calls that can transfer extra info channels, but no suggestion, and Dollamancy allows magic gear and improves the odds to create an etsy, but no other golems. I fanon that casters self-resist, so Archons also resist Shockmancy and suggestions, and have bonuses to spot veils and maybe when fighting cloth golems.
Well, if you go by the logic that size trumps class features, then it's not that knights can't ride, it's that becoming a heavy grants you more physical abilities, while also taking away your ability to ride. Therefore, riding is still a knight class feature, but being a heavy negates it. Same deal if you are a flier infantry that becomes a heavy, suddenly you can't fly. Seems reasonable to me. It's not an either or situation here. A knight is probably both a stronger unit, and also able to ride. This would mean that being a knight heavy is suboptimal though, which is why you rarely see this unit type.
They had to camp that night in the rain. All the hexes in the foothills were rainy. But they couldn't stop short in a clear hex; they needed to take full-move turns to make it home in three days rather than four.
Jillian was annoyed at that. The slowest of her two gwiffons still had a dozen move left.
I use this quote as evidence that flying warlords cannot ride mounts. If they could ride mounts, then why wouldn't they ride Jillian's mounts to get further along and camp on a sunny hex? There are 4 warlords at the time, two of them can ride a gwiffen at a time. Jillian still has move because she can walk. Therefore, everyone can cross the hex together, they don't even have to break stack.
The unmounted idea isn't something I have a strong opinion about, and I'll give you the point on there not being evidence knights can disengage from fights, if you don't count archons. I personally do, because it is really dishonest to make a big deal about archons being knights, when they are actually stealth commanders that work under different rules, but it's your headcanon, not mine.
The reason I think archons can create other golems, besides etsies, is because CharlesComm, apparently, has 700 or so golems guarding the city, even though we never saw them during Lilith's rampage. They could be mostly etsies, but those things can't even fight, so it's not right to say that they can guard the city. Unless Rob hadn't made up his mind on how well archons could make golems when he first put down that information.
Ooh, I'd forgotten about the TV WLs implicitly not being able to ride.
I don't have any explicit evidence that kts don't get a riding bonus, it just seems like awkward design to put that onto a unit that can't use it any more, and weird for anyone in-story to mention it. I could accept it for the hob as a vestigial feature from before he became heavy, but if flyers can't ride, then Archons and skanks have dead code. Not impossible, just awkward.
Charlie makes a big deal about Archons not being kts, but Associates. Them being commanders isn't very useful for a WL because the bonus doesn't stack and an Archon's bonus is usually lower, so WLs fixate on the kt part and think of Archons as flying fighters with a few spells. Archons themselves never say it, except that one time Parson directly asked what exactly they were.
True. I'm mostly just trying to prevent power creep; they're said to have limited specials, so I figure they get a restricted spellbook for each discipline. The MK sells cloth golems; it could be that Charlie hired Dollamancers to fab them specifically to misdirect anyone curious about what Claud was doing. Alternatively, maybe they just can't fab complex items like guns. Either/or.