All Tram needed to do was two simple things, both of which were tied together in a single causality:
1) He needed to recognize that Parson could attack at any moment, and then cogitate as to why Parson had not yet attacked.
This. This and a thousand times this. This is EXACTLY the crux of the entire matter.
If Tram had realized that Parson could actually do something useful, then I would agree with any denigration of him, if he continued to act as he did.
However he did not. The question then is - how much should that be held against him when discussing his intelligence?
Consider this. Out of ALL the people watching that fight, the ONLY one who thought of that exploit was Parson. Don King and a roomful of Transylvito warlords didn't. They saw that the dwagons were trapped in airspace and thought the battle was won - Caesar still grumbled about Jillian, of course, but he didn't make any strong points about how Jetstone was now screwed. Jillian and Duncan didn't. Duncan said "if they lose the battle now, they deserve to" - in his mind, there was absolutely nothing that GK could have done, it was all up to Jetstone not to screw it up. Jack, who had spent an entire summer gaming scenarios with Parson, thought that their best plan was to use the dwagons as meat shields, throw up baffles, and hope Jetstone runs out of arrows. Slately still considers the battle won *even now*. Even Charlie didn't mention anything about an off-turn falling exploit - even his most dire warnings were generic, talking about how dangerous Parson is, but presenting no reason to believe that he was able to do anything in the current situation.
Are you saying that they are all idiots for not seeing that GK could use an exploit to fall?
Everyone was convinced that Parson COULD NOT do anything useful. Point 1 is where the entire hangup in this discussion occurs. I think it is completely natural and in-character for any erfworlder, even the smartest ones, to miss this.
He twice remarked upon the former, but never once thought about the latter. Why did he fail to even speculate as to why Parson didn't take a few crap attacks at him as he entered the city, or bomb the tower, or otherwise attack? He speculated that Parson could try to drop crap on him, but never once thought about why it didn't happen. Isn't that strange to anyone besides me?
Well, we don't know everything he though about. But no, given that we have reader omniscience, it doesn't seem strange. The ACTUAL reason was that, with the loss of Ansom, GK forces were in too much disarray to do anything at all. Wanda was being all fatalistic and not paying attention to the reality of the battle, all the other commanders up in airspace were decrypted and thus would defer to Wanda. Parson had just been appointed and wasn't watching the battle closely and had no idea the CW just walked under them.
Whether or not Tram considered it, "they're still in the process of switching CWs, and the new guy hasn't been caught up to speed yet and so nobody's really in charge" would be an obvious guess, and would in fact be correct. (Also, anyway, this entire thing happened before Tram had even heard of Parson - the parley with Charlie happened later.)
The smart diplomat tries his best to get into the head of his opponent, to think as he thinks in order to predict his actions. And wondering why my opponent didn't try to kill the CWL when he was under my opponent's yellow dwagons seems like a good way to be thinking if you're trying to get into his head. But Tram fails at this.
We don't know whether he did or didn't consider it; anyhow, the answer was trivial and boring, and wouldn't have added anything to the discussion even if Tram had figured it out. And it wouldn't have been notable enough to mention in-comic if he did.
This line of thought would only be notable if Tramennis made the *WRONG* conclusion from it (that there was some deep significance to the lack of attack). The right conclusion - that GK was in disarray - would have encouraged him to follow the path that he did in fact follow.
2) He needed to avoid the trap of reading the same, conventional royal script of insult and then attack. And here he failed miserably, and instead precipitated the attack he recognized as being quite possible in point 1 above. Why did he fail so miserably? Why did he trot out the same, tired script which could only be perceived as a prelude to an attack, when he desperately wanted to parley in earnest?
Because, re: point 1, like everybody else in his universe besides Parson (and maybe Charlie), he did not believe that GK could do anything of value to prevent him from continuing the negotiation at his leisure. He had been given no reason to believe he needed to avoid that trap - he felt he could correct that impression as the parley went on (since he was sure GK couldn't do anything).
Again, the smart diplomat should be capable of seeing things as his opponent sees them. And if Tram had managed that, he should have anticipated that insults would have touched off an attack.
Except, the insults DIDN'T touch off the attack. If he had seen things as Parson would see them, he would correctly guess that the smart CW would never fall for stupid mindgames like that.
And he'd be right. The insults didn't set off the attack. What set off the attack was the very act of parley - Parson was just using the parley as a distraction. He didn't even hear what Tram said to Ossomer, insults or no insults.
Again - this train of thought would lead Tram to change something ONLY if he reached the *WRONG* conclusion, that Parson was the sort of warlord to throw a tantrum in response to insults.
This is, of course, entirely from the POV of Tram and his knowledge of the situation. No 4th wall breakage needed. Put yourself in this position and it should seem natural that Parson attacked when he did. But Tram fails at this.
Putting myself in his situation, it seems entirely unnatural and impossible that he should be able to attack at all!
Literally everybody in his universe, besides Parson and maybe Charlie, were caught off-guard by what happened. Does this make erfworld an entire universe of idiot-ball-holders?