The Imperfect Warlord (Chapter 1)
Part 1 of 11 in The Imperfect Warlord
Considered canon compliant up until Book 3 Page 79.
SUMMARY: Erfworld, the tale of a young man that was summoned to a world that is a gigantic strategy board game come to life in order so save a kingdom that was on the brink of annihilation. He leads large armies and engages in a war of conquest. I too like wargames, so it's only natural that a R.O.B. decided to send me in his place one day, right? An 11 part series that retells the events of book 1 through the eyes of an SI. Strong focus on creating war-game rules that fit the webcomic setting. Updates mondays and fridays.
Chapter 1: Flash-Foreword, IRC chat, PLOT!, Wanda&Stanley, TomaTattel, Plans, Signamancy, Jones&Bogroll, Sizemore, Maggie
We were being crushed. All attempts to avoid this outcome had failed. I had no choice.
It was time to begin Plan Z, my final solution. All I had to do was order the army to cover me, while the casters and I headed to the dungeon.
Except... the casters were spread out at the moment, as was Jade. I hadn't even had those spell scrolls cast. Not to mention that it would take Misty a minute to come down and Sizemore was a ways out, underground. Actually, the coalition was really pressing us even with our superior leadership. How long could my army last without the direct bonuses of Wanda and I anyway?
This... this was a really bad position. I got it now. Parson's real reason for the parley. Killing Ansom wasn't the main goal, at all. He just needed to buy time to get everyone into position, to make sure the casters would be able to retreat into the dungeon, before setting off all the pit traps.
I hadn't seriously considered doing that myself though. I had just naively assumed that I could fight as hard as I could and then the army would buy me enough time to get to the portal room. Why is it that only now, that I could see the folly of my idea? It was so... OBVIOUS. If I tried it, they would catch up, possibly kill me, before I could escape. Even if I didn't die, others would. People that I could save by bending my pride.
I... I needed to call a parley for surrender terms.
SIX DAYS AGO
ERFWORLD IRC CHAT
Reid: I already told you, after it fell on the floor, I grabbed it. It's mine, forever.
Sbub: *Rolls my eyes at their antics* Moving on, You really think you could do better?
Toma: Of course, with the power of canon knowledge, I'm sure I could do much better then Parson was able, even if I'm not as skilled as he is.
ROB: Oh? You think so?
Toma: WHO'S THAT??? O_O
Reid: That's Rob, you know, Rob Balder, the creator? Who else would use that name?
Toma: Oh, right. Of course, the author, who else could it be? Hahaha. Anyway, yea, lets do some Retconjuration and let me take Parson's place. I love war-games. There are a lot of fictional realities where I think I would be hammered... but I think I could manage this one.
ROB: Alright then, go to it. PLOT!
*Toma was kicked from the chat.*
Sbub: that was mean.
*RobTitan has entered the chat.*
Reid: Hey Rob, why did you change accounts just now?
RobTitan: Huh? I didn't. I just got here.
Nop: Hey! That ROB guy is gone from chat. How did he leave without there being a notification?
Nop: Ack, there is no record of him entering either!!!
Reid: Oh, so he was some sort of hacker?
Random Omnipotent Being (R.O.B.). The bane of many an SI that suddenly found themselves in the world of fiction. It seemed that it was now my turn.
I wasn't upset though. No. Rather, I was extremely thankful for the opportunity. Plus, he/she/it (when will English get a decent gender-neutral pronoun?) made sure I wanted to go. I hadn't expected this trip but I did say I wanted it. Point in his favour for that.
This boop crap was going to get old fast though, I could tell. Hmm, can I can still, at least, say boop?
Huh. Guess I can't. FINE! I'll say Rob instead. It's close enough. *grumbles* Still better then saying Titans (this world's god equivalent. They look like Elvis).
Anyway, this was Erfworld. I knew canon like the back of my hand. I knew exactly how to win.
What could go wrong?
I was currently in an undignified position. My head moved up and, yep, there was Stanley. My posture changed to a one leg kneel, as I began to speak. "Greetings Dwagonlord, Stanley the Plaid. The summoning spell that has seen fit to fetch me here has also given me knowledge. It seems I was brought from my homeland to serve and lead your armies to victory. Is that your wish?"
There, I managed to say the whole thing and my head wasn't even... OW! BOOP IT! My eyes closed and I lowered my head as the pain washed over me. I grimaced in pain but was still determined to not let it ruin Stanley's first impression of me. This guy could make things extremely difficult, and I had no intention of sitting around for a month while Ansom became the Chief, after he gets decrypted. Just need to work through the pain, it will be gone in a minute or two.
"Dwagonlord?" Stanley asked.
"Y-yes," I stuttered out, trying to focus on the question despite my throbbing skull. "As, as, the ruler of all dwagon kind," I took a breath to steady myself, "such a title should be natural, right?"
"Hmm," he pondered. "Yea! You're right! That's way more fitting then being called an overlord. Wanda, take a note. From now on, I am the Dwagonlord."
"Understood, Lord," Wanda replied.
"Hey, you okay there, Warlord?" Stanley asked me.
"The teleportation to... to the world of Erf is causing some pain," I replied. "It should be gone soon. Just allow me a moment. To recover. Please." Hopefully he'd give me a minute.
"Yea, yea. Sure thing," there was quiet for a bit before he spoke out again. "The guy doesn't have stats. Know what's up with that, Wanda?"
"I do not, Lord," she replied.
He hummed again in response. "He doesn't look like much though. You seriously telling me that this quivering wreck has led armies?"
"Hundreds," I lied. Sadly, I hadn't played as many strategy games as I would have liked. In terms of talent and experience, there was no denying that Parson was better then I was. I would have to ruthlessly use my knowledge of the setting to gain an early edge. Hopefully, it would improve my position enough that I could afford to make mistakes later on.
"And you're going to tell me he won them all?" Stanley continued.
"He is alive, Lord," was Wanda's response.
"Debatably," Stanley muttered before looking back to me. "Hey, you feeling better yet?"
"Enough to continue talking," I replied, grimacing. The pain was still there but it was more manageable now. I should be able to continue this conversation.
"What's your name?"
"Toma O'Two Tattel."
"That's a stupid name," he dismissed.
I forced a laugh. I remembered that when Stanley says something is dumb you needed to agree and amplify, "Yea, it sure is. I won a contest for the dumbest name around. So I worked hard to make sure it was as dumb as possible."
"Ha! I knew it," he smugly replied. Looks like I succeeded in managing him. "Okay, enough resting. Stand up Warlord."
"Right," I muttered as I pushed myself up. I found myself amused with Wanda's and Stanley's expressions of shock.
"Wow, he's tall," he said. "You're tall," he repeated, this time while taking to me.
“I believe that was a condition made of the spell?”
"Well, it did manage that much, at least," Stanley blithely replied, while Wanda raised an eyebrow. If asked, I would say everything I knew was all due to the Perfect Warlord summoning spell. I suspected she knew better though. Well, it's not like she doesn't keep secrets herself.
"Okay, just tell me this,” he continued. “Suppose you had to defend a single city on a mountain against an army that outnumbers you ten to one."
"Or twenty-five to one."
"Shut up Wanda. What would you do?"
"Difficult to say," I replied, "Are there any unaffiliated sides that can ally with us? I believe trying to gain more troops would be paramount." Please say yes. You would make things so much easier if you said yes.
"We're on our own," as expected.
"Hmm, the spell informed me that our walls are extremely tough to deal with, and we have dwagons that can raid," I said, while playing up the idea that the spell was giving me info. "If some of their defences can be lured off, I might be able to do a hit and run on the siege. If the siege can be destroyed then our odds would improve. My knowledge is limited however. This situation might be survivable, or even winnable, if I knew the details."
"Lord," Wanda interjected.
"Pardon?" I asked, even though I already knew this correction was coming.
"Say Lord, or Dwagonlord, or Master or another suitably respectful term when addressing your master."
"Oh? Well, from where I am from, the highest term of respect is... Tool." Calling Stanley 'Tool' is a bit of a controversial move but I feel it's worthwhile to retain. While it's true that the zeal of Toolism (which is a the belief that being able to use certain magical artifacts gives you a divine mandate. Stanley has one, naturally), did GK no favours in gaining friends. It also did a good job unifying the troops. I felt it would be useful for the early stages. I could tamper down on the excesses, after I dealt with Jetstone. Besides...
"Really? That's fantastic," Stanley REALLY liked the title, and I needed for our working relationship to be a good one. I was still debating if I could tell him that I wasn't completely up to date with the Erfworld rules or not.
"Lord?" Wanda asked.
"Don't you see? Tool... Like the Arkentools! I've been on a quest for the Tools of the Titans, all this time."
"Yeeeess....." she totally knew that this wasn't a term of respect. Heh.
"Well, really, that makes me a Tool of the Titans as well. I have a higher calling. I am a Tool."
"I see Lord."
"Not Lord, Tool. From now on, everyone addresses me as Tool."
"Yes Tool," I chimed in.
"A new era begins now. Stanley the Plaid is dead. Here begins the holy reign of Stanley the Tool. Long live me!" Stanley cried out as he marched out the door, leaving me alone with Wanda. I took the moment to ask a question I had been wondering.
"Was I the person you meant to summon?" I asked.
"No," Wanda replied.
"I thought not," I said. "The spell was never meant to be used by you and some things got mixed up because of that. Perhaps I am not what was supposed to come. I may, in fact, be an imperfect warlord, because of the way the spell was cast," or because someone interfered, and replaced the person that should have been summoned, but I didn't trust her enough to be so open.
"You'll have to make your own judgement on that, I continued. "Make no mistake though, I firmly believe it is Fate's plan for me to win this fight, regardless.”
"I see," she noncommittally replied. With that, I was done talking for now. The important part, with Wanda, was pretending I accepted my role with predestination. Even if she didn't show it, I was certain my words struck a chord. I moved to catch up with the Tool.
At the top of the tower, I was officially promoted to Chief Warlord. It's a prestigious title. With so many responsibilities, one might wonder what my first would be.
"That was a joke," Stanley said. "You laugh at my jokes," wonder no more.
"AHHHH! HAHAHAAAH AHAHAHAA! He he he! Hah. Haaa," Boop, I mean dang. I really am forced to do whatever he says. That will take some getting used to.
"Good enough," he decided. "Come on, lets go review the troops."
I glanced at Wanda accusingly and said, "I couldn't help but notice you didn't laugh." I knew she wouldn't, but it still felt extremely unfair.
"I don't laugh," she replied, as I ducked to fit through the door opening. I'd have to see about doing some alterations to the place or I'd be banging my head a lot.
"This is your capital city. Gobwin Knob," Stanley declared.
"Toughest position in the known world, the spell tells me."
"It tells you right," Stanley beamed from the praise.
"Built on a dead volcano, caldera is a natural defence, and there is a maze of twisty passages under the city, right?"
"Sounds about right. Seems the spell kept you informed."
"Well, yea, that and I was working on a similar setup. I was about to game a scenario like this when you summoned me," I explained, stealing liberally from Parson's speech, it's annoying to copy but, again, I needed this guy to like me. Telling him this would give me another notch in his favour.
"Game? A scenario?" Specifically, by getting him to ask this question, to which my reply would be...
"By that, I mean, planned. A war. For fun," I said, as Stanley turned to look at me. I grinned viciously.
"Wanda you..." Tool did a dramatic pointing towards her, "did a great job with the summon." He turned back to me, "Toma, was it?"
"Yes Tool, and my title was..." I looked down on my shirt. Yep, I had parson's beginning outfit. A slightly better one, actually. Instead of two pizza stains, it had the splashes that Bogroll added instead. I also had the calculator watch that would eventually become my mathamancy bracer, if things held with canon, "Lord Hamster."
"There ya go!" he exclaimed. "Works much better. I wanna take you to meet your retinue but first..."
Wanda was sent out to interrogate Jillian, a mercenary Warlord hired by the other side. The woman hated Stanley for wiping out her entire side a few hundred (thousand?) turns ago. Some people just don't know how to let go of a grudge, heh. But, seriously, that girl was an enormous pain to handle in canon. I would have loved to deal with her immediately, but there was nothing to be gained from killing her off, at the moment. I'd have to let it slide for now but I fully intended to deal with her before she ruined things, like she had in the original timeline.
We headed down the stars, to where the warlords were. Stanley talked a bit about recent events and he discovered that he lost a stack of spidews to Jetstone. I most definitely did not ask about why they were called spidews, instead of spiders, as that would just annoy him. Same deal for twolls, dwagons, etc. All part of the cutesy exterior of this world of warfare where you can slaughter a thousand units but can't utter a single curse word.
I honestly appreciated it though, as it's a lot easier to kill things that that don't bleed, have weird bodies, and cheerfully charge to their deaths on your say so. Not that I didn't respect Parson's wish for morality, and to be a player. I was even willing to admit that his method might be better, but I intended to be the most effective killer I could be, in this war-game brought to life.
"These are your warlords, such as they are," Stanley began as soon as we reached our destination. "In descending order of freshness... Meet Lord Manpower the Temporary, Lady Phat-Singh, Archduke Ferdinand, Sir Leeroy Jenkins, and Ensign Toast."
I put in a dismayed look as I stared at the warlords. Here was another opportunity to show my chops. "No wonder they are all zombified," I began. "Their Signamancy is terrible."
"How so?" Stanley asked in surprise. Hmm, he didn't react to me calling them zombies, instead of uncroaked. Figured that'd be the case. They seemed to automatically know terms that were different from the ones they used.
"Well, take a look at Manpower here. He's got a bulls eye target as his livery. Probably croaked by an arrow, am I right?" it helped, a little, that I already knew how he died, but it would have been a reasonable guess, either way.
"Yea, he was. Shot right in the eye by an unlucky crit. You saying that his livery did that?"
"It sure didn't help. Wearing something like that draws arrows to you like a moth to flame. No one on my world would ever wear a livery like that unless they wanted to get shot up."
"And the next one. Well, it's less bad, but it means you are likely to be ambushed. Being in the scopes is a traditional way of being hunted."
"Yes and her name is terrible. In my world, her name is one of the traditional signs of surrender. It's a popular expression on my world that 'it's not over, until the fat lady sings'. There is no way she could ever succeed."
"That is a really weird saying... What about the Duke?" Stanley seemed interested.
"He's also got a target for livery! That means he's more likely to be attacked. Seriously, those things are bad news. Plus, while it's a somewhat obscure reference, that name is synonymous for things getting worse." This guy's death is what kicked off World War I.
"He WAS in charge when the alliance finally came in force..."
"Leeroy isn't as bad but everything about his Signamancy screams over eager. I mean we got a picture of a foot on a door. I'll bet he liked to just charge in recklessly without a plan. That sound about right?"
"That was exactly how he was like!"
"However, the WORST of them is Ensign Toast."
"Wearing a Red Shirt is considered something only done by those that are expected to croak. No, I should say, to sacrifice themselves so that the important people can live. I mentioned that being a bulls-eye draws arrows? Well, being a red shirt means everything is out to get you. Their role is extremely suitable for screening the warlord, not being one themselves. I'm amazed that he managed to get past level one, honestly.
"That's a... wow. How do you know so much about Signamancy?"
"It's required learning from my homeland. Pretty much everyone knows something about it to varying degrees. Tool, who on erf picked these people to lead?"
"It was Wanda."
“Hmm, so Wanda did it? Tool, is it possible that Wanda," and now for the clincher, "doesn't have a head for strategy?"
The Tool broke out in laughter, "Man, you got THAT right! I learned that one the hard way, let me tell ya.”
“No doubt it's a story about you triumphing, despite her incompetence,” I tried to smile winningly. It would be great if I could be 'officially' told about that bit of backstory.
“Wellll, without bragging, it was completely like that. Can't really talk about it too much though, real hush, hush, stuff you understand.”
“Of course Tool, perhaps another time.”
“Considering how bad she is, it's surprising she managed to finally get someone that knew what he was doing. Did you help out a bit?” was I laying on the praise too thick?
“Oh, don't get me STARTED, Hamster. I mean, Wanda was all 'gotta find some perfect mind' but she doesn't have a head for the other important stuff.” Honestly, it was Stanley I was taking to, I didn't think you COULD praise him too much.
“Oh? Like what, Tool?”
“I was the one that made sure Wanda found a big guy!”
“Yes, I felt that that was be the case when I came over.”
“Yeah, then I told her to make sure she got someone obsessed with war and kills his foes for fun.”
“I'm that too,” I honestly replied, as I hid my shock. Wait. Wasn't the word "kill" supposed to be a taboo word here? How did Stanley know it? Bah, moving on, I may not have gamed as much as Parson, but I still enjoyed it and a world like this was fascinating to me. Also, my morals were not as... pacifistic(?) as his and, as a result, I was much more eager in taking down enemy nations then Parson ever would be. I wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing...
“I figured that bit out myself when you mentioned the gaming thing," he said. "Oh, I also asked for someone that snacks on gwiffens, and eats marbits for breakfast.
“It's actually traditional, in my homeland, to eat tiny marbits in a bowl of milk.” Marbits being the marshmallow bits in cereal, in-case someone wondered.
“Milk huh? Never heard of the stuff.” Stanley replied. I wondered if milk might be one of those things that didn't exist in Erfworld, given that the purpose of it was to feed babies, which Erf did not have (as all units are popped in cities, fully grown). I think it might have been mentioned on one of those updates that had tea servings? I wasn't 100% sure.
“Good image though, “Stanley continued. “I'd love to see those things drowning, before being eaten. Seems Wanda did a good job listening to what I said.”
“I believe so as well, Tool,” I agreed.
“Well, common, we got a lot more to see,” and with that the Tool led me to where the rank and file were gathered at attention.
We went over the various units. There was a fair selection. I really wished I could see stats, as that would have been an enormous help in determining the power levels of everyone. Still, one had to make due.
There were a couple hundred zombies. I planned on asking Wanda about them when I had the opportunity, and not just because of the pride she took in her casting discipline. I found the whole thing genuinely interesting.
After them, the next most numerous troops were the pikers (spearmen), which numbered over a hundred. These were followed by stabbers (swordsmen), and archers, which didn't even make up a hundred combined. These units, by the way, formed the backbone of all the armies of Erfworld. All Sides, also called kingdoms, had them.
I paid particular attention to the archers. It was my firm belief that the best warlords were ones that had a long range attack, and I wanted to promote one of them to warlord at some point. I wasn't quite sure where Wanda was getting all these soldiers with those crazy markings on them. I couldn't find a single unit with livery among them.
The numbers became progressively smaller after that. Spidews, giant arachnids that took up the horse position. Twolls, which were heavy unit types that could also craft. Various golems, my favourites being the hard rock ones. Hobgobwins, which were not units of the city, but rather a tribe of monster men that were paid by the side to join us. Those were actually all knight class, and the strongest of the non-heavy ground units. The most numerous troops though were the...
"...Gobwin infantry, Very fierce. Big Bonuses for tunnel fighting,” Stanley explained. The tunnels beneath Gobwin Knob were one of our, few, big advantages. The fact that many units were not really capable of going underground meant that this was also an area where it was theoretically possible to win. Especially since we had a dirtamancer that could set up traps to whittle down their numbers. Since gobwins were another allied race, like the hobs, I could pay smuckers to increase my army, quickly.
If I could talk the Tool into it, this would be the place I would probably spend a large chunk of the remaining Treasury on. I maintained a serious face throughout. It was critical, absolutely critical, that Stanley gave me more room to maneuver then he had Parson. I still wasn't sure what I was going to do yet. Following canon had a number of benefits but it also got half the city turned into lava, along with all those gems that were still in the underground.
A criminal waste, but, no matter what, I needed to make sure that certain people didn't die due to Stanley throwing a temper tantrum.
During the tour, Bogroll showed up. I wasn't sure if Wanda would be picking him to become my lackey, but I was glad she did. He was reasonably intelligent as twolls go, was fairly close to being as tall as I was, and helpful.
The tour continued and eventually we finished with every unit, except one. Stanley made a big production number out of it. Calling to them as they flew around the top of the tower and having them land in front of me. He was proud of them, and rightfully so.
Dwagons were, by far, the most powerful force available in EITHER side of this war, we had around 50 or so and they were, far and away, our best units. In fact, these guys were so strong that, even without the city's air defenses, it was possible that my side could actually beat the Alliance in the sky that otherwise outnumbered us twenty-five to one. If the walls could hold, there was a chance of winning without using the Armageddon option.
With the tour finally wrapped up there was only one thing left to do.
“Alright Hamster,” Stanley said. “Here, take an eyebook."
He pulled out a pocket book before continuing. “Here, let me re-size it for ya,” the book suddenly grew in his hands. “It's cool; learn to use it. Uh... Bunghole. Find your master some suitable quarters. Meet me in the Situation room at dawn, Hamster. I'll handle Ansom's turn myself.” He tossed me the book.
“Company dismissed! End of turn!” and with that he flew away with all the dwagons. I watched them fly away. I had really wanted to try riding one...
“My Lord, if you will follow me, please,” Bogroll asked.
“Yea, okay,” I followed along and opened up the eye book before I passed some of the infantry units. I pointed to one, with a long spear, and said, “you. Follow.” Before he dropped his current task and immediately joined in. I went back to the book. Needed to talk to Sizemore. He is another of the casters in GK, specializes in dirt type magic.
LordHamster: Okay, easy enough to figure out. Now, how do I talk to someone?
LordHamster: Sizemore? I am the new Chief Warlord. Respond.
I waited as I followed Bogroll to what would be my new quarters. After a short amount of time, I got a response.
ImInUrDirtz: do you need some help, Warlord?
LordHamster: Yes, first off, what are you doing at the moment?
ImInUrDirz: I am currently creating a crap golem.
Those things were every bit as disgusting as they sounded.
LordHamster: how fast can you create them?
ImInUrDirz: One a turn, they are the simplest of the golems I can create.
LordHamster: Will you have any juice left after casting?
ImInUrDirz: Some, not much.
LordHamster: The reminder would normally be used on the tunnels, correct?
LordHamster: Great. I need to know what sort of defenses and traps you've set up.
ImInUrDirz: Not much. Setting up underground defenses has never been a priority. Especially since I spend my turns mining for gems, which keeps opening up new passages.
ImInUrDirz: Although, as the place is mined out. There isn't much point in doing that anymore.
I had really hoped that would not be the case...
Fun fact, the mines were not mined out. Sizemore hadn't even found a third of the gems in it. Which was why I really didn't want to have lava melt half of them away.
LordHamster: That changes now. Finish your golem but that's the last one.
LordHamster: From here on out, all your juice will be spent to make the underground more defensible.
LordHamster: Block off the passageways, make a dead ends, pitfalls, ambuscades, etc.
LordHamster: Also remember we have a lookamancer, so set up some secret passages in order to ambush.
LordHamster: Magical traps are also a must, but make sure you can disable them if you need to.
LordHamster: I'm not sure on how good enemy intelligence is, but if they don't know we have a dirtamancer, then it might be able to lure a large number of them to certain areas before striking.
LordHamster: You are also ordered to requisition any help you need from the other tunnel capable units in order to aid you in this task, that I'm not using myself.
LordHamster: After you've finished using up your juice, find me. We need to go over some things. How long do you think it will take?
ImInUrDirz: Well, the golem is almost done. Working on the tunnels will take a bit longer but since I won't have much juice left...
ImInUrDirz: It shouldn't be overly long.
LordHamster: Great, message me when you're done.
IminUrDirz: Will do, Warlord.
I closed the book. Okay, getting started on the tunnels would be extremely helpful in making sure we win any attack down there. It's just criminal how tunnel defences have been ignored for so long.
Okay, what else?
“Bogroll,” I began.
“Yes, Warlord?” the twoll replied.
"There are a few things I'd like done by the twolls, after you are finished showing me around. One, arrow carrying cases, full of arrows, for traveling on dwagon back. Make it one for every archer. Two. I would like one to start working on modifying parchment. Make it really, really, thin and have them bring me back the results.”
“YES, Warlord,” he enthusiastically agreed. Some people might wonder why I had made such a specific request. If they had asked, I would tell them it was because GK had no toilet paper, and I didn't feel like using fig leafs as a replacement for any longer then I needed too. For all the advantages this world brought about, the sanitation of this aspect was limited to frikken chamber pots. Which were then gathered together to make those danged crap golems. I shuddered at the thought.
What I needed was to talk to people that knew stuff. Unfortunately, most units were not all that knowledgeable. The best of them were casters and warlords. I was the only warlord, and the casters were busy. My second objective would be getting to the Situation room, but Stanley was there right now. I didn't think it would be good to interrupt him. I had to wait for him to go. Which reminded me.
I turned back to the, spear-wielding, infantry unit. Probably a piker, although I recalled a story arc about a stabber with a spear, as well... In terms of signamancy, he looked Caucasian, with brown hair and eyes. His face was plain. He was thoroughly forgettable. “State your name, level, and duties.”
“Jones, level 1, garrison piker assigned to the outer walls, Warlord,” he replied. Oh good, it was a piker.
"State piker bonuses," I ordered again.
"We get a bonus when defending against other melee units, as long as we can maintain range." Hmm. I had thought it was a straight bonus against stabbers, or defending, but it seems the truth was a bit more complex. Seemed logical though. The advantage of a pole-arm is range, after all. Okay, next question on the agenda is...
“Explain how the stacking bonus works.”
He blinked before explaining, “stack bonus starts when two units are stacked together. It maxes out at 8 units and gives a +7 bonus. Afterwards, every additional unit knocks that total back down. It becomes 0 again, after the total has reached 15 units.” That was about what I had thought. Rob (the author, not the R.O.B.) had given the general overview, and this was in line with it. Glad to have it confirmed.
More importantly though, “and how does that work for riding mounts?” I asked. I was planning on sending out a dwagon strike force and wanted to know how useful adding some infantry would be.
“Ah,” he started. Probably a bit dismayed that he might not have fully explained it to my liking. “When ridden, mounts count as two separate units for stacking bonuses, but only as one unit for the malus, when ridden by a unit with the rider special.”
“But if the unit doesn't have the rider special, they can still ride the mount, it's just sub optimal because you have to stack with the mount to ride it, while still counting as two units for the malus, when the mount could stack with a stronger unit, right?” I guessed.
“Yes, Warlord,” he confirmed. If he was wondering why I seemed unsure about something so basic, he gave no sign. Basically, this meant that 8 riders, mounted on 8 steeds would be a max stack, and gain the full +7 bonus. However, non-rider units would be too numerous to have any bonus at all. For them to have a max stack, it would be 4 units riding 4 mounts.
Now that I thought about it, it probably had other uses too. I remembered that seafarer units couldn't tame animals. I'd bet that taming was restricted to riders, as well.
“And which units have the rider special?”
“All command units, and the knights.”
“No infantry have the rider special?”
“Not that I know of, Warlord.” Meaning they could be made with the special. Probably be more costly then popping normal versions, though.
"But we do have units with the scout special?"
"Yes. I don't know how many though, Warlord."
"That's fine. Scout special is the ability to disengage from combat, yes?"
"Um. Yes, Warlord, and to be able to use cover to conceal yourself."
"But they can't control other units in their stack?"
"No, Lord. You'd need the command special for that."
Right! The command special! If a scout was in a group, he could run away, but couldn't get the group to follow him, which is why they didn't join with normal units. However, if a scout also had the rider special...
"YOU CAN'T DO THAT!" Jones shouted, scandalized. "infantry can only get one special. They can be a rider, or a scout, a rocker, or WHATEVER, but you can't just pile up specials. If you want units with multiples, you make a knight or something."
The three of us had not stopped moving. I was silent at his outburst, and as embarrassed as boop at having caused it. I'd said something horribly stupid. That's right though, isn't it? Stanley's hob knights could ride, scout, AND dance fight (aka. rocking out). Ride and scout would be common specials for the knight class then, and probably a few more that I didn't know about.
"I see," I finally replied. "I apologize to you for not knowing something I should. The summoning that bought me here had some issues. Tell no one about the things I have asked you. That's an order."
"Yes, Warlord," he said, having also regained his control.
"That goes for you too, Bogroll," I said.
"Yes Lord," he replied
"Okay, lets continue getting to my quarters," I ordered, as we began walking again. We were silent the rest of the way there.
Okay, that sucked. I'd just decided that I was NOT going to let Stanley know about my information gaps. I would find a few trustworthy people and get my information from them. This whole 'not understanding basic stuff' was just too damn humiliating for me to let everyone know about.
“Jones,” I said, after confirming this would be my bedroom, “go down to the Situation room entrance and stay there until Stanley leaves. Afterwards, come back to inform me.”
“Yes, Warlord,” he saluted and ran off. Okay, I had learned some things I wasn't sure of before. My window for trying to hire Charlie was closing. Once he was hired the Royal Alliance, my job got immeasurably more difficult. I wouldn't be able to contact him without that darned tool's say so, however. I honestly doubted that guy was willing to hire Charlie. Sigh.
The bed was too small, I'd need to put at least two together, in order to sleep. Blankets were, likewise, tiny. There was giant blanket made out of a giant teddy bear though, so that would work instead. I talked with Bogroll some more but he really didn't know much. I was wasting time. This was the one day I could do stuff and not be pressed.
I had sent Bogroll out to get the twolls started on what I wanted when Jones finally returned. I immediately had him take me to the Situation room.
The Situation room was the most important area in the city. Especially with the three casters that lived there. They were a Thinkamancer, that specialized in mind magic and communications, a Lookamancer, which specialized in spying and reconnaissance, and a Foolamancer, that specialized in illusions.
They were currently fairly mindless. They had joined in a link that allowed them to pool their powers together and give them abilities not normally possible, while at the same time it cost them their individuality and sanity. It was also slowly killing them. I had no idea how many days they would last, but it was inevitable that, unless they separated, they would die.
Even worse, separation itself could kill them, if not done with experts overseeing the process. These were priceless people and I couldn't afford any of them dying. That, however, was a problem for a bit later on. My most pressing issue was, instead, upgrading this eyebook that they had created.
“Thinkamancer,” I began. Her name was Maggie but you did NOT call a caster in a link by her actual name unless you wanted to risk something terrible happening. “This eyebook that you casters created is useful but I feel like it is also vulnerable. The ability to connect with other users, I want that feature isolated from storage center of the book."
"I'll be writing down all of the strategies I have for winning this battle, so I want you to set it so only I can access, and write down information, into it. Make sure no thinkamancy can penetrate it, no foolamancy can trick it and no lookamancy can read the information. I'd also like you to upgrade it where possible. Make it better able to copy images in my head, and be able to create some foolamancy illusions, add some sort of cypher, that only I can unlock. Do everything possible to make this more secure and useful to me. Do you have the juice for that?”
“Yes, Warlord,” she replied. “We will need access to your mind in order to permanently link the magical item to you however," said another, Jack, I think. "Is that acceptable?” asked the third, Misty the lookamancer.
I nodded and handed over the book. “Please sit here,” the casters said, I now realized that you couldn't completely focus on talking to just one of them, but had to see them as a collective consciousness instead. A hand touched my head. The book was given to the foolamancer, and then the three of them joined hands.
Good Rob, I hoped this worked. The book was incredibly valuable but also a security risk. Thinkamancy was considered a simple thing. You mainly sent messages with it. However, the “think-a-grams” sent with the discipline were less secure then supposed. If Charlie was able to break in, then I'd be in some serious trouble. I had considered having a different artifact made but it would use thinkamancy too. There was just too many things I needed to write down for another option.
It was unfortunate that I didn't know if Charlie could break in or not. The way the story went suggested that he couldn't, but you never could tell with the man. In any case, I had a powerful caster link working on fixing up any security holes, so it should be alright.
After awhile, the book was handed back. I was a bit surprised as I hadn't felt anything. I stood back up again and turned to the thinkamancer. “What changes did you make to this?”
“As you ordered, the communication link was completely separated from the rest of the book. It is also now bound to you and will only work if you use it. No one else can access the information you store in it. It is now capable of simple illusions and sounds, can scan the hex you are in to find whoever you want, and directly communicate with him.”
“Oh? That's an interesting addition,” I needed to test that, “show me Bogroll.” I commanded.
An image of Bogroll working in the smithy showed up. Looked like he was starting to create my suit of armour. “Can anyone tell if I am watching them?”
“No Warlord,” I frowned at her reply.
“Wait, what if someone uses Lookamancy to read over my shoulder while I am writing?”
“You simply need to activate the privacy mode. Only you will be able to see anything created by the book. Everyone else will only see a blank page.”
“Could you also make it so I know if I am being spied upon?”
“A separate device could be made to do that, we cannot make one this turn.”
Hmm, good enough for now, and I had more important things to work on. As long as the information in the eyebook is secure, I can move on to other things. “Perhaps later, what I need even more is something that will give me the illusion of having stats. As you have noticed, I have no visible stats, which makes me stand out from the other units. I need something that can create an illusion that even other foolamancers cannot pierce, so that I seem like a normal unit. Can you create something like that after you regain your juice?”
“It may be possible, Lord,” they said. Fantastic. Alright, what else do I need?
“Oh, what about...”
I was interrupted by my eyebook making a noise. Hmm, I think that was Sizemore's sound. I opened it up and sure enough...
ImInUrDirz: I have finished with the initial preparations you ordered. Shall I come to meet you?
LordHamster: Yea, I'm currently in the Situation room. Meet me there.
ImInUrDirz: Yes Warlord.
I turned back to the thinkamancer and continued, “What about memory enhancements? I have some specific memories that I need to perfectly recall. Can we do that without you knowing what I am moving around?”
“Yes Warlord. The book can actually do that already, to an extent. Many half-remembered things should be fully transferable."
“Perfect,” or was it? I had done everything I could to make sure the book was secure... but that didn't mean Charlie wouldn't be able to break in anyway. Like Stanley, he also had one of these Tool artifacts, the arkendish. It gave him an unrivaled ability to use thinkamancy. Even if the chance was 1% that he could find out. If he did, my plans would become worthless.
No... I couldn't risk it. As useful as being able to have access to a copy of the webcomic was, it was still too dangerous to chance it. “On second thought. Maybe I'll try that later on.” I decided to wait on Sizemore instead.
“Alright, Sizemore, lets get to talking.” I said when he entered the room. “There are many things I need to find out...” and with that we began to talk. Most of the stuff was answered by Sizemore, but I also ran a few questions through the linked casters as well.
It was dark, far too soon for my liking. I had learned a lot though. I had also gone over the map a bit and tried to decide how I would be doing things for the next day. Sizemore had been extremely excited to have a Warlord so interested in casting, as expected, the previous ones were dullards that only focused on troops and command.
I thanked Sizemore for his help and headed back to my chambers. Except I had forgotten where they were. Hmm.
“Book, point me in the direction that will take me to my chambers,” I opened it up and, sure enough, an arrow become visible and by following it was was indeed able to get back to my chambers with no particular issues.
With that problem out of the way, I went to sleep. I had a big day ahead.
NIGHT. FIVE DAYS REMAIN UNTIL THE BATTLE FOR GOBWIN KNOB
MECHANICS CORNER: Welcome all, to the first installment of mechanics corner. In this space I will be mentioning the various liberties I've taken with known canon and how I've interpreted it.
- Piker bonus: In canon, it was stated that pikers got a bonus against stabbers. They were also defending at the time. So it's uncertain as to the reason for the bonus. My solution is to say that the bonus comes from guarding and being able to attack out of the opponent's range. However, once the enemy closes in, the advantage switches to them. Pikers are the cheapest infantry in the game, and stabbers are considered better, so any bonuses against them would have to be situational.
- Stacking bonus: This is mostly canon. The only addition I made was to decide how big the bonus is. I believe it goes up by one, for every unit added, until we reach 8. Then it goes back down again, as more units are added, until the number reaches 0. Total bonus could be less, but I prefer a straight +1 for every unit added. Max +7. It also works with the system I created as it related to known canon. Specifically, the mention of how Ansom had a total of 33 in a max stack with Wanda. More on that later.
- Specials: There was a comment in book 0, about how Bart was a solid warlord with no specials. I interpret that to mean that they have the same standard specials that most warlords have. Not that they don't have any. Their specials are leadership, commander, and rider.
- Rider special: This is my own invention. Added because of a balance issue. By making it so only certain units get the full bonus for riding, you can make it tradable. So a warlord with the flying special, doesn't get an additional special, he TRADED it for the more common rider special and the stat board makes a note of it. On the down side, he can't join with a mount for a full stack, which makes him more vulnerable. I also wanted to make it a separate ability, like the scout special, to explain why mounts are so often ridden with no riders on them, even though infantry is much cheaper then the mounts. The idea that unique abilities have hidden costs (hidden from the readers) is a big part of how I believe Erf works. Example, the drain special replaces the ability to eat food.
- Passengers: When a unit rides a mount but doesn't have the rider special, they are not considered in control of the mount's actions. Which is another big reason why non riders don't use mounts.
- Taming ferals: It's not specified here but I feel this ability is a combination of having the rider and commander specials. We've only seen land-based warlords manage it, unless they have a natural affinity to a specific creature (vampires with bats)
- Scout special: I believe that a scout can't order other units to join him in a retreat. I don't see scouts on mounts either, so I'm assuming that it's a combination of the rider AND scout special that allows knight to do so. These two specials are main basic specials of Erf units. Scout special is also probably the special that allows a unit to find hidden units.
- Max of one special per infantry: I figure that infantry can be popped or upgraded in various ways. He can have a scout special, or a rider, dance fighter, seafarer, tunneller, etc. but they can only get ONE upgrade. If you want more specials, then you get advanced units. Cost is... say, double of what a normal infantry costs. It's generally not done, because it's more efficient to have two infantry, as opposed to one with a special.
- Eyebook upgrade: sounded plausible. Just jack and Maggie allowed it to make illusions. So misty too should let it spy on others in the hex. All three of them together should be capable of the upgraded I put in.
Word Count: 8200
Part 1 of 11 in The Imperfect Warlord