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The Cult of the Offensive

Discussion in 'Imperium OffTopicum' started by Thorvald of Lym, Nov 4, 2013.

  1. Thorvald of Lym

    Thorvald of Lym A Little Sketchy

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    or: Why You Can't Understand IOT Militarism with a 21st Century Economy

    It's every military-industrial complex's wet dream: an entire economy predicated on aggressive war. A common misconception held by the Imperium Offtopicum player base is that outside of explicitly conquest-oriented games such as SonRISK, the series is not about wargames. Many players have frequently objected to the sort of naked aggression demonstrated by warlords like christos200 and Patriotic_Fool; even when they bemoan Multipolarity 5's boast that it will completely remove the military sphere, they still maintain that IOT is about more than armies duking it out in the field. Sadly, such prescriptive sentiments only serve to obscure the underlying structure that has provided the impetus for these problem players' imperial ambitions. Ironically, it is the economy, not the military, that provides the greater reinforcement to this ethos, and the failure by players and game moderators alike to realize this fact is the reason attempts to reform IOT's core philosophy have so routinely failed. There is no clearer evidence that IOT has become a wargame than the market design of every title that has implemented hard statistics. Game moderators have tried to escape the paradigm of gunboat diplomacy through a number of means: back-door spy attacks, NPC-based power checks, punitive resistance mechanics, to name a few. But these are all attempts to circumvent the inherent problem of an economy teleologically grounded in fuelling war.

    In "The Death of IOT", I argue that the shift to stats-based rulesets, originally intended as a means to combat powergaming, ended up subverting the game culture, turning warmongering into the norm rather than the exception. At first I had attributed this to the psyche of the incoming player base, mechanical mindsets geared toward finding the winning formula within hard numbers rather than simply drifting freely through the roleplay. Certainly, that attitude exists, in regulars as well as the troublemakers; but I have since realized that far from merely catering to the play style currently in vogue, the rules actively and subconsciously frame the games toward a particularly military form of competition, regardless of the purported genre and any other supposed venues of power. The reason, as IOT's resident economic advisor Sonereal first articulated, is that the base economic model developed after IOT IV was built exclusively with combat in mind.

    Early IOTs, by virtue of their simplicity and the casual culture of the founding player base, were about diplomatic interactions, not the sort of empire-building that they are today. While they had war, they were not wargames, and beyond the inaugural problem players were not treated as such. Thus, when the push began for a stabilized combat system, we conceived it as an auxiliary feature rather than a core component. The results were stopgaps that varied widely and were frequently criticized for being too arbitrary or 'unrepresentative',1 and creating a 'comprehensive' combat system became the primary focus of the IOT V development thread. It was during these deliberations that the militarist framework took root: as war had been the primary venue of powergaming, it dominated the discourse, while the civil sector was completely ignored. The result was that income could be applied either toward military units and technology to increase their strength, or to improve the rate of income, which would then be spent on the military. It is a decidedly Medieval ethic of statecraft: one raises more funds to support a larger army that is then used to seize the territory of rivals to grow the revenue base. In hindsight, the irony is tragically hilarious: in an attempt to control war, we had inadvertently made it the sole mechanical focus.

    Although successive games have attempted to articulate economics with greater variety, they all begin and end, consciously or otherwise, with the primacy of military investment. Systems have become more nuanced—province-based income superseded by an interplay of industrial infrastructure, population, and in some instances material supplies; complex mechanisms governing international trade—but the end purpose remains the same: bankrolling the army. It is neorealism at its finest: security, and more specifically security through force, is the be-all and end-all of the state. This is problematic because most games do not advertise themselves as glorified RISK, and in the past two years have deliberately sought to diversify their appeal away from purely military strategy. While such attempts may manage to stymie prolonged war, they have failed to transcend the militarist mindset. The reason is that there is yet no game to offer an alternative paradigm; as Sonereal bluntly explains, there is simply nothing other than military or army-auxiliary sectors in which to invest. Economic innovation has always been intensive rather than expansive: GMs have greatly complicated market mechanisms, but the scope of the system has remained unchanged.

    Call me a dirty socialist, but I believe there is an important causal relationship between the drive to war and the market system presupposed in virtually every post-provincial-income game, especially Taniciusfox's: that of free-market capitalism.2 Setting aside grander ethical debates, capitalism is based on the commodification of goods, services, and most importantly, labour. It operates within a strict mathematical framework that discounts any variable that cannot be quantified to fit the operational equation. Its effect on IOT, both in rule structure and player thinking, cannot be understated: the capitalist mentality, which views everything in terms of cost-benefit analysis, has no place for 'irrational' moral qualms or truly random outside interference. Thus, with the sole exception of player-to-player politicking, everything is made to be as predictable as possible: even when confined to a black box, the economy is so rigidly formulaic that the most maths-adverse player can make a reliable estimate on an investment's end return; combat boils down to whose number set is higher based on sheer quantity, be it troops or tech levels. Supposedly, "random chance" is acknowledged (economic booms and busts, roleplay "bonuses" for combat), but this, too, is calculated within the overarching framework, a false 'exception' that reinforces the rule.3

    The trouble is, Taleb's "black swans" exist irrespective of what is most convenient to the working model. IOT reformers such as myself criticize this 'mainstream' market mentality for outright ignoring most of the complex and interconnected influences that affect that same market's viability: environmental degradation, domestic political activism, refugee crises, the entire destruction of a generation through war, and so forth. More importantly, in the centuries since feudalism, the state's responsibilities have dramatically expanded; contrary to libertarian demagogues, it is the government that creates and maintains the necessary preconditions for a so-called healthy competitive market. Even in one of the most militaristically-oriented countries, North Korea, defence spending only accounts for one quarter of annual state expenditure. Some players—indeed, some GMs—would argue that the administrative details are "boring" and needn't be emphasized, or that the day-to-day management and distribution of public services can be assumed from (God forbid) GDP stats. Some might claim such a holistic scope would turn IOT into a bureaucratic simulation involving mountains of spreadsheets. These sentiments disregard the possibility that a) players want to tinker with the nuts and bolts of the machine, and b) by virtue of the GM's own limited patience, such a sim would try to drastically simplify the sort of statistical nightmare that is a Paradox Interactive game. Besides which, IOT already is a game played with spreadsheets; we simply chose to slap a tank on the packaging, rather than a health minister.

    Once one understands IOT combat as a microcosm of capitalist thinking, the reason for the militarist paradigm becomes clear. Wars are not soldiers fighting and dying in the field; they are competing investments to acquire property and resources. What little passes for enshrined statecraft in the ruleset is not about managing the citizens of a country, but about allocating capital to maximize profit in a perverse allegory of the financial sector. Combat is competition. Wars are hostile takeovers. State conquest is a merger. The sole motivating benefit of war, as reflected in the narrow and market-oriented scope of most games' set mechanics, is to acquire commodities: provinces, population, and in the few games that use them, natural resources. The rational actor model, coincidentally the foundation for both liberalism and (neo)realist philosophy, absolves itself of all moral considerations—of all moralizing factors—to justify a system predicated on perpetual expansion. Wars aren't waged in support of the market; they are themselves a market mechanism, pillage and plunder a key strategy to accelerating a player's fiscal feedback loop.

    Traditional rulesets reinforce this premise by subordinating what might otherwise be independent variables to the military-industrial frame. Take, for instance, popular approval, or national stability. While in more recent games Taniciusfox has tried to diversify the contributing factors, approval rating remains in a slavish inverse relationship to tax rates: low means high and high means low, despite the fact that, as demonstrated by the Scandinavian countries, under a committed government high taxes fund an extensive social welfare system that alleviates the sort of day-to-day suffering that foments discontent. Or take population growth, which is always assumed to be constant, always assumed to be positive, and always assumed to be sustainable. Time and again, from resistance4 to clientage5 to espionage6, the full scope of a field is dumbed down to fit within a market-friendly frame. Nowhere is this reduction more recognizable than the comical trivialization of nuclear weapons: stupidly simple to obtain and costing nothing to maintain, with fallout dispersing in mere turns and leaving no permanent damage to the land or the government's reputation at home, they are functionally reduced to recessions in a can, deployable at a player's leisure against his business rivals.

    Why has the deterrent of mutually assured destruction consistently failed? For the same reason the linear market model is such a popular basis for a game's economy: the true costs of the system are ignored in favour of an idiot-proof arithmetic. By divorcing policy decisions from their real consequences (at least insofar as one can apply the term to a forum game), players are absolved of any true sense of responsibility. Waging war need not concern the leader with citizens' welfare when he knows the population will rebound regardless of the carnage, the resistance will dissolve in a year, and the standard of living will magically diffuse without any intervention whatsoever from the capital. Exponential military growth is the logical outcome when troops are never short of supply and the game is not built to handle the effects of a demographic sector that consumes economic resources without reciprocal contribution. Most importantly, when citizens are portrayed as mere percentile modifiers to industrial output rather than individuals with real-world needs and diverse attitudes, when they can be consistently bought off through short-term tax breaks instead of meaningful long-term reform, when the game is designed such that they have no real say in the goals and management of their own state, why indeed should a player invested with supreme power whether nominally a despot or democrat concern himself with the mere well-being of his subjects? Little surprise, then, that in an atmosphere devoid of moral repercussions and governed by strict cost-benefit analysis, nuclear weapons, technology deemed so catastrophically destructive that they have never been used offensively since Nagasaki, in IOT are deployed, often liberally, in the first strike as a matter of course.

    Militarism in early IOTs was regarded as deviant behaviour by powergaming players. In the games since IOT 7, however, this perspective is no longer sufficient for explaining why aggressive expansion has become the norm even amongst the same players that once denounced it. Structuralism, be it realist or ideational, dictates that behaviour is shaped by the system in which the actors participate. In the case of IOT, the adoption of a specifically capitalist-oriented economy and its accompanying ethos has, largely subconsciously, reshaped the terms of interaction such that imperial expansion is the predominant, if not the only way to play. Market-centric mechanics reduce state responsibility to empowering the economy and thus increasing revenue, whose only real application is to expand the military, in turn used to seize the assets of rival powers to further bolster economic strength in a perpetual cycle. With domestic sectors disregarded by the ruleset, any concern for the well-being of the citizenry is discretionary, the only feedback the roleplay of the ruling player himself. Even in games that try to broaden their appeal through "soft power" tactics, the overarching framework remains rooted in brute force, a reflection of the failure of both players and game moderators to recognize this structural fault. Now, I don't pretend to think there's some irrefutable argument that'll suddenly make the usual suspects project a conscience toward text on a screen; and that is precisely why the civil sphere must be as mechanically well-developed as the military. There are dozens of other potential aspects to running a country that IOT could emphasize, and Project Marmot's end goal is precisely such a diversification away from the linear path to militarism. The trick, of course, is finding a GM with the organization and patience to manage a game of such broad scope. Nonetheless, if the player base puts any validity into the inspirational drought that provoked the supposed Fall Crisis this past September, this may be exactly the sea-change we need to pursue.


    1 - A notable exception was my battle simulations early in IOT IV. While not devoid of controversy, they were regarded as the least abstract combat system before and after, both in terms of execution and result, and were only abandoned due to their considerable time investment.
    2 - Taniciusfox in particular champions a libertarian bias, as evidenced by his games' routine feature of "brain drain", where industry from states with high tax rates is redistributed to states with low tax rates as a reflection of private enterprise shopping for the cheapest overhead. Apparently, even under Socialist governments, state-run companies do not exist.
    3 - In one of the most damning testaments to this truth, Taniciusfox once admitted that in order to remain "fair", he judged roleplay solely on quantity and completely disregarded the content of the post, at least in respect to the actual bonus.
    4 - Perhaps Taniciusfox's most glaring oversight in his various attempts to de-emphasize war was failing to make resistance to foreign occupation a persistent event. Constant attacks on troops and industry, particularly if they incurred losses faster than they could be replenished, would be a powerful motivator for the withdrawal of, or at the very least a negotiated settlement by, the invader. Instead, and in contravention of virtually every historical precedent, resistance occurs for a few turns following invasion before abruptly terminating.
    5 - The Multipolarity series' client mechanic is the most brazen example of the plunder-based economic ethos. The term "client state" is itself a misnomer, as the suzerain usually does not provide aid beyond the initial purchase investment; "vassal" is a more accurate description of the relationship. In addition to extracting a tithe from client states, the player country gradually annexes the territory through an automatic and uncontested process. Had any game lasted long enough, non-player countries and the "soft power" strategy they were supposed to encourage would have vanished entirely.
    6 - Espionage, like combat, traditionally relies on numerical superiority for success through a similar algorithm of agents and tech level. Developed in an attempt to circumvent the same mathematical fallacies of linear combat, it only served to transpose the strategy to a new sphere.



    This article was originally published on deviantART 1 November 2013.
     
  2. Sonereal

    Sonereal ♫We got the guillotine♫ Supporter

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    Really, the idea is that SonRISK does away with most of the limits of traditional warmongering. You don't have to worry about an economy, except to expand. More provinces=more power points=more fuel for expansion.

    Most players, when they object to naked aggression by Christos or PF, aren't really objecting to that. Mostly, they're objecting to how bad they are at it. Later on you take about the immoral rational-state actor, but this goes back to it. It isn't that they're warmongers. It is that they're irrational state actors that people who oppose their aggression are against.

    I can't remember if it was the Dev thread of DoIOT thread where I said that the reason wars happen is because there isn't much else to do. Yeah yeah, spies, NPC checks, occupation mechanics, etc. are fine and dandy but all they do is put obstacles to warmongering without raising the benefits of being peaceful.

    Every in IOTs that are slightly better than the provincial economy system, like the recent RIOT, have a clear benefit to being peaceful. The world's leading economy at the end of RIOT was a player who was peaceful the entire game, but still countries went to war.

    It could be that the cost-benefit ratios were misweighed (as it was in the Egyptian-Urun war) or that it was weighed correctly, but a rule change messed up the equation (like it did in the Roman-Everybody Else War).

    Yet, the flow chart for the RIOT economy still looked like this.

    Provinces->Economic Points->Military
    Factories-> ->Factories


    The Military is the end of the line. You invest into factories so you may build a bigger military. What do you do with a military? Grab provinces, increasing EP, increasing the size of your military.

    All the occupation system did was negate the immediate advantage of taking somebody's territory, since you couldn't make use of the economic gains until the war was over, but even then, your enemy still suffered economic penalty from losing territories and factories.


    Emphasis on after IOT IV. I didn't play V, but I did play VI and based RIOT off of it. I remembered playing VI that I enjoyed it but distinctly remembered, "This would be better if larger powers had some kind of real advantage."

    IOTVI's economy system was this.

    Leadership Points->Espionage
    ->War (NOT units). When at war, LP is doubled.
    ->Nuclear Weapons
    eXpansion Points ->Expansion.

    You couldn't gain more XPs or LPs in any way except from other players. Being at war, however, did net a sort of advantage over not being at war because you could do more. I went to war to build nuclear weapons since I could build them at twice the rate if at war.

    So, for RIOT, I thought a simple system of making one province=one economic point would work, and it did. The system worked like this.

    eXpansion Points -> Peaceful Expansion
    Provinces -> Leadership Points -> Armies/Fleets
    -> Atomic Research -> Atomic Weapons

    Hence, the game was a more refined war game. Sure, there's diplomacy like any other war game, but the nature shifted. In IOTVI, everybody was equal. You could have switched from Ireland to Cathay and be at war with some Sicilian minor, but you both had the same amount of LPs, and the system was reliant on having many allies.

    The new system supported having a mix of strong and weak allies, not so much a lot of allies if you could get a strong one or two in your belt, so diplomacy naturally changed.


    This reminds me that I need to PM you.

    The "entire destruction of a generation" through war part is the most amusing part of this list given the Post-MP Mechanics. Here's how that flow chart tends to work.

    Population ->Economy->Taxes -> Revenue ->Technology
    Industry -> ->Trade -> ->Military
    ->Espionage

    Technology being Industrial, Healthcare, Espionage, Army, and Naval. I'm 99% sure you see where this is going. Everything still ends with the military in this flow chart. Embargoes, blockades, acts of espionage, all go toward disrupting Population, Industry, or Trade, hence revenue.

    How do you get more pops? You either do so peacefully by just sitting there and investing in healthcare or you invade. If you're invading somebody, you're doing so because you believe in at least one of the following.

    1. The cost of going to war in terms of population lost and industrial growth on my end is less than the marginal revenue obtained by annextion of X amount of rival pops and industry.

    2. My neighbor has a strong economic base, but weak military. A surprise attack will even up the odds.

    Throwing away entire generations of soldiers is optimum because you think you'll relatively benefit in the short-term. Most IOTs don't go so long that the cost of losing a third of your population ten turns ago really sinks in.

    Hue.

    To be fair, most PI games are war games, and a lot of us base rulesets off of those. Most things done in a PI game is to facilitate the conquest of something.
     
  3. Ailedhoo

    Ailedhoo wonderer

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    Population has not being fully explored in IOT. What of overpopulation? The consideration of agriculture, population generation, material usage, living space and additional population considerations are no explored by "invest such in such to pop boost to boost population and aim high."

    It would be nice for a IOT to take a environmental consideration.

    I hence am intrigued greatly by your article Thor.
     
  4. Sonereal

    Sonereal ♫We got the guillotine♫ Supporter

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    Most rulesets operate under the assumption that food and resources are abundant enough to support pops. Really, you could probably go a long way to slapping a shifting maintenance costs on pops at some point.
     
  5. filli_noctus

    filli_noctus Hmmn

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    Interesting thoughts, Thor. I'll briefly cover the half baked musings I've had whilst reading them.

    The majority of IOT games I've taken part in have no upkeep for military and those that do don't really take into account the effect on the other end of the supply chain (although the GM could be assuming that's implied). Furthermore captured industry usually starts working immediately with no effort on the conquerors part - fuelling the war engine.

    A population mechanic would be an excellent way to balance this. Population would be required to man the military but pulling them out of the pool would also lower the nations economic potential whilst increasing military costs. LH's CoI game currently has a manpower mechanic but it's never been an issue for me as I've so far always had far more MP than EP and it has no effect on EP generation beyond a few being required to build industry.

    Ideally there would also be a means to represent over-population, something along the lines of Civ's food mechanic - but it would also represent consumer goods (I'm going to call them Consumer Points or CP from this point on). So long as the level of this mechanic is equal to that of the population you are ok but if the population is bigger then you're going to need to find a way to make more, trade for some or take some from someone else.

    The military would take some population out of the group able to create EP or CP and they would cost a certain amount of EP in maintenance, but most armies include some form of reservists. I would by having units have a recruitment cost (to create the unit), activation cost (to change a unit from reserve to active status), active maintenance (high and they can't contribute to the economy) and reserve cost (low and they can contribute). Units can be created in active or reserve state. An active unit can attack or defend, a reserve unit may only defend on the turn it is activated and a new unit can do neither.

    Infrastructure would require EP to build, population to run and would generate a certain amount of EP and/or CP, which may be a pro rata amount if it requires multiple pop to run and less is available. Infrastructure could be damaged by war or other means and would require an EP expenditure to get running again. Also in war populations of conquered provinces could be killed, become refugees in another province, become partisans or comply with the conquerors. Refugees would be an issue for the recipient as they would contribute to overpopulation but would require either time or EP expenditure to assimilate into a new province and become useful.

    Finally you would have a contentment mechanic which would be composed of factors including overpopulation (more pop than CP), unemployment (more pop than is needed to work all infrastructure + active military) and extra modifiers which could be caused by such factors as unassimilated foreign refugees, extended or bloody wars and a failure by the player to adequately respond to foreign atrocities. If the population is not content EP and CP generation will go down and if they become angry enough you could face a rebellion of provinces and army units.

    As this is quite a complex set-up it would have to be assumed that transport infrastructure is good enough for population and infrastructure to be considered at the national instead of the province level to simplify matters, although the player would still have to decide how to allocate pop if there is more infrastructure slots than pop to fill them.


    OK, that was more than I expected to write, it's not exactly had all the implications fully thought through and as I've never GMed a game I've probably missed some nuance that may make some or all of it unworkable but make of it what you will.
     
  6. Tani Coyote

    Tani Coyote Son of Huehuecoyotl

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    Interesting points all around. I hope the repercussions of excessive militarism in ATEN will be sufficient to encourage peaceful play as well as careful warmongering. I tried to build it so warmongering is very doable, but excessive war will exhaust a state's resources just as it would in real life.

    I decided cutting economic production was a much more efficient method and also much simpler than regular attacks.

    I have had very harsh penalties for war, actually, such as economies not becoming fully productive until ten turns AFTER annexation. I didn't get rid of this because I like war. I got rid of it because a lot of players didn't want it. Most players want to ravage the crap out of each other, and I'm content to let them at this point, unless I want a game that's specifically built for peace.

    I have given up on trying to rein in violence in most games, which is why I devised MPV in the first place; it would make war illegal entirely and exist to beat the doctrine of national sovereignty and individualism into submission. Surprise surprise, barely anyone wants to play it. :p

    Thus, I shall add a small point to your post: the real reason all IOTs inevitably feed into war, however unconsciously, I believe, is the fact the playerbase desires war.

    It's not bias, it's simplicity. If I treat socialist economics differently I need to start doing the same for every economic system. It makes for good simulation, but it also makes my will to live increasingly shaky.

    So while I oversimplify the many complex factors that tend to influence economics, I instead run on a few key principles:

    -Military investment is inherently wasteful, as it exists solely to deter another person's military; it does not produce anything of its own. States with smaller militaries enjoy more growth.
    -Investment flows to states with lower costs. Costs IRL would cover everything from taxes to regulations to wages, but for my sanity I generally use taxes alone as a measure of overall barriers to investment.
    -A state with more infrastructure can gain more from world trade (to try and deter war, I made trade revenue larger than home revenue in most cases, but alas, it doesn't work as most players don't get involved).
    -Above all, government spending is nine times out of ten less efficient than private sector spending. High taxes and excessive borrowing generally carry penalties.

    These are not assertions of truth, they are the simple guidelines I generally build my economic systems on. I want to run a game, not a simulation. It is like the preface of Copernicus' Revolutions: I do not assert these to be absolute fact, but it's a lot easier to work with these as if they were.

    Fair points. I eventually replaced the annexation mechanic, much to the chagrin of those with a bizarre fetish for land.

    Actually, no. My newer games also tend to take into account your standard of living versus other nations of a comparable caliber for revolt risk. If you squeeze the life out of your people via taxes and don't invest it in a better quality of life, THEN they will get upset.
     
  7. Jehoshua

    Jehoshua Catholic

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    I'm of the opinion that if one is interested in diversifying the IoT experience away from a purely war oriented paradigm, that this will have to occur organically in the sense that incremental trial and error will be necessary to improve the system. There are however a few cursory things I think that could be immediately implemented.

    -

    The first would be a maintenance cost (in money, manpower and materiel) for military units. This would provide a check to erstwhile unlimited military growth and establish a clear financial cost to the warmonger strategy, while not actually attempting to forcibly prevent players from going down that route (which the player base doesn't seem to want). Money would be required for other expenses, and so a large military would weigh a nation down in other areas, manpower could be purely a limiting factor for how many troops you can reasonable have (so we don't get the obscenity of a tiny nation having a massive army disproportionate to its size) or it could feed into economic efficiency (perhaps in a directly proportional loss/gain binary, so in terms of income from infrastructure and industry if 20% of your manpower is in the military, you could get 80% of potential returns from industry and infrastructure each turn. You could have a more complex relationship, but that would be for a GM to work out), and materiel would be required to feed industry, so the more of it you are required to use each turn in the military, is less you have feeding into your economy, again, providing a cost to a large standing military.

    The second would be to add an internal stability/happiness modifier, in which happiness and domestic stability decrease (which could result at varying levels in riots, rebels, and so forth) not only in the event of economic failure and poor living standards, but with the casualty rate in conflict and loss of "prestige" (through engaging in unjust wars of aggression, or being found out doing other diplomatically damaging things such as having ones spies discovered) as well. The rate could be improved by investing funds into improving the economy, the national living standard, and "culture" (by which I mean entertainments and things) that make the good life, well... the good life. Peace by its nature would be inherently conductive to stability/happiness, but shouldn't actually in and of itself I think provide a statistical gain to a nation.

    A third thing that could be implemented would be a replacement of a client/vassal based diplomatic system (involving NPC's, where players collect a bevy of associate states who vote along the party line) with one based around prestige and influence. The first modifier prestige would effectively be a nations international reputation, which would be increased (in the eyes of any given NPC) through friendly bilateral relations (economic, security and in terms of common ideals [which I talk more about below]) and a general perception of friendliness and benevolence (opposing actions that state dislikes, and acting in a way it favours based on its own national characteristics).

    The second modifier influence would proceed from the stability/happiness rating I mentioned before in addition to its economic strength to reflect soft power. This would not advance a nations actual diplomatic rating like prestige does, but advance its particular "ideal" (of which a secret set of ideals [ergo, not revealed to the players] based on the kinds of nations players set up would be present in any given game). So for example if a nation that is a "traditionalist theocracy" is happy and rich, its ideals will passively spread (the level of influence depending on how much prestige it has with a nation, and on factors such a proximity and the level of economic ties) leading more nations to trend towards those ideals, which in time could provide a positive diplomatic feedback loop to that nation in terms of prestige as the ideal spreads, and in terms of influencing NPC's to adopt diplomatic stances in ones favour. This would naturally involve some sort of system within each nation of the influence of various "ideals", where failures (actual and relative) on the part of the ruling regime degrade the dominant ideals strength in the society of that nation to the point that eventually another ideal with a strong level of influence could become dominant precipitating a regime change (say from a military dictatorship to a liberal democracy, thus favouring the liberal democracies in the game and in particular the state from which the most "liberal democratic" influence came [to reflect this, the total influence in any one nation of any particular ideal could be divided proportionately between the nations from which influence to that ideal comes [so say the nation of Christosia has a strong liberal democratic influence (49%) in it within it roughly equal with the ruling ideal of Radical Nationalism(51%): of that 49%, 50% could be from the Commune of Thorvald, 30% from the Tanician Plutocracy, 15% from the Cult of Ravus and 5% from a base domestic liberal influence {which could naturally increase without outside influence if dissenting ideals are attached by a GM to the stability/happiness modifier I mentioned, so that a lower stability/happiness rate increases the level of dissent from the dominant ideology and correspondingly weakens the ruling regimes ideal in that nation}]

    With regards to player nations I add, obviously the level of influence from any given other players nation wouldn't amount to much in terms of how that player acts. But in terms of affecting the strength of internal ideals, the influence mechanic would still apply, which could (if a player fails to look after his domestic affairs) see dissent and domestic instability, or even a change in regime (wherein the player presumably is booted, or required to play in accordance with the new ideal of his nation unless he wants to consign himself to perpetual irrelevance due to internal chaos). This would provide a means for players to compete without the necessity of war (while obviously playing the role with NPCs I mentioned), holistically merging domestic social strength, economic influence, and diplomatic prestige with regards to NPC's, into a competitive diplomatic and ideological paradigm involving actual effects on other players. The player would have the choice to either try his luck through war, or through influence/prestige to gain dominion, with both paths being feasible and having costs and risks associated with them.
     
  8. Patchy

    Patchy Emperor

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    Looks like another interesting thread about IOTs. Don't really have much to add though to the discussion so I'm just subbing for now.
     
  9. Terrance888

    Terrance888 Discord Reigns

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    Very enjoyable essay, Thorvald. :)

    I agree that positive feedback mechanisms to display success in the non-militaristic sectors of a state could be important.

    Some old timey NESes had full on stats for Infrastructure, Civilian Leadership, Education, Literacy, and such: not including stuff hiding in the black box.

    Other than that, I'll just be subbing and lurking.
     
  10. arya126

    arya126 Squad Leader

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    There is a reason mechanics, and yes the economies, have been focused on war. The players want war.

    I would not be adverse to willing GMs taking the time to flesh out a peaceful side of game mechanics for those who find that interesting. The downside is that you just created juicy targets for the warmongers. Those mechanics could potentially be fun, and with the maintenance feature suggested by Jeho (and used effectively in IB1) warmongers would have a harder time preying on the peaceful nations out of the blue and such.

    However I would also like to note that war is the main attraction for me to an IOT. I have tried to be peaceful before. It simply doesn't work, whether in regard to circumstances forcing me into war or it getting boring. War is exciting and is often very rewarding even if you lose in a sense.
     
  11. Jehoshua

    Jehoshua Catholic

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    As has been noted by others, war and warmongers are inevitable since people favour different things. The point of the suggestions I made (which should be taken together) is that a cost/gain balance needs to be established between two alternate paths of competition and potential success (whereas presently the only sphere of competition of that of military conflict) in order to make war strategy and peaceful strategy equally legitimate paths for a player to take.
     
  12. filli_noctus

    filli_noctus Hmmn

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    Speak for yourself. Some players want war, others try to play peacefully but common current rulesets with no cost for a standing army force everyone to build a large army to defend from warmongers, and when you have a lot of armed men standing round doing nothing there's a strong temptation to use them. As someone pointed out in te he Clash of Ideologies thread players who focus on early economic development at the expense of military tend to get stomped. If rulesets can be tweaked to stop an enormous army being a requirement more people will be able to play the game how they like - not how others dictate.
     
  13. Ailedhoo

    Ailedhoo wonderer

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    Good consideration.

    War is meant to be a tool, the sledgehammer in the great tool box of the state, as oppose to the sole construction that a state should aim for. There are many other tools such as trade, espionage, research, culture and other instruments that should be considered, especially in considering the debate on hard and soft power. As Noctus noted many players would enjoy their IOT experience to be dented. Emphasising the trade aspect of economics could be a step in such directive, as well as war damages that both sides may have been suffering from which coast may be considerable. Jeho has considered a directive solution most notably to maintenance, along with the suggestions Noctus has placed forth.

    In the end this thread has proven that articles on IOT may help us consider ways of improving IOT experience and hence I would encourage others to commence critiques... if they have time of course.
     
  14. Arrow Gamer

    Arrow Gamer America's Dictator

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    Filli, as a note, I in CoI spent nearly all my money on economy, and it has made me arguably the most powerful nation in the game.
     
  15. Tyo

    Tyo HANDS HIGH TO THE SOUND Retired Moderator

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    I actually like all of this. A Lot.
     
  16. filli_noctus

    filli_noctus Hmmn

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    Lighthearter run games seem to be a little safer to start with than most, probably due to the trade mechanics making war less profitable than in other rulesets and trading partners being more inclined to defend each other. If you think back to IOT Enlightenment 2 I was playing pretty peacefully - other than threatening anyone who blockaded anybody - until you and Kinich decided to take P_F out completely and I wasn't happy about losing a trading partner, at which point the danger of focusing on economy became clear when I captured your most productive province. I imagine we'll soon be seeing the military powers looking for rich but weak industrial nations in CoI, especially as the war between Carthage and Austria is now over and they've both got some pretty hefty armies.
     
  17. Tani Coyote

    Tani Coyote Son of Huehuecoyotl

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    If one thing I've noted about history is certain, it's that a lot of states tend to have periodic "bulges" in manpower and riches, which they proceed to use in military conquests until they eventually expend a great deal of it and are forced to return to more conservative positions in the power structure. Making an exponential military machine unsustainable would be a way to go about this; as you mention, states that emerge from a war have huge armies, and very few games have incentives to reduce said military.

    Maintenance costs really are a fantastic idea to rein in this problem (similar to a real country, a player will take on debt and build a large army during a crisis, but proceed to curb it once the threat is gone). While a few games have had such, I always wondered why they never really caught on.
     
  18. Sonereal

    Sonereal ♫We got the guillotine♫ Supporter

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    Not only are all the ideas workable, but I've even made worksheets that worked to do things like this.

    The unemployment issue is as easy as making two "buildings", which for this example I will call Economic Factories and Consumer Good Factories (EFs and CGFs). Both are able to employ 25 people in this example.

    The Excel Sheet would look something like this.

    EFs|CGFs|Employment Slots|EF Workers|CGF Workers|EP Production|CG Production

    EFs=# of Economic Factories
    CGFS=# of Consumer Good Factories
    Employment Slots=(EFs+CGFs)*25
    EF Workers=# of EF Workers
    CGF Workers=# of CGF Workers
    EP Production=IF(#of EP Workers<=EFs*25,EF Workers/EFs,EFs)
    CGF Production=IF(#of CGF Workers<=CGFs*25,CGF Workers/CGFs,CGFs)
    Unemployed=IF((EF Workers+CGF Workers)-Employment Slots>0,EF Workers+CGF Workers)-Employment Slots,0)
    Unemployment Rate=Unemployed/(EF Workers+CGF Workers)

    The two lines above the two lines above are important. One EP Factory would produce, at full employment, 1 EP. However, if it is underemployed, it'll produce less than 1 EP and if it has more workers than needed, it will only produce a maximum of 1 EP.

    The bolded line would probably be thrown into a hidden column to prevent clutter. The Unemployment Rate would be visible however.

    However, if you haven't already noticed, the system encourages the same kind of market-driven expansion to gain more pops to work in the factories unless you add a slew of other things you've mentioned at the same time, such as refugees, rebels, stability, etc.

    Players desire conflict. In SonIOT and Fiat Homo, players were perfectly content with using the trade mechanics as bludgeons against one another. The effects of trade wars were readily visible.

    Likewise, in Multipolarity, players gladly turned to influence warfare most of the time, with actual wars being the result of miscalculation on somebody's part (usually a native warmonger).


    Of course, developing your small arms industry is always a good idea, given you know somebody will need those guns.


    There really isn't much of a way to get involved that situation. Simply spam infrastructure and reap the whirlwind. It is competitive, but only in the sense that the winner is whoever throws more money at the subject wins.



    Most population-based rulesets already work on the binary. If 20% of your manpower is in the military, you're only producing 80% much as you could.

    However, there are several things that could help this out. Military maintenance being one, but military technology increasing maintenance would help as well.

    Say that 10 Soldiers cost $10 a turn to maintain. Your have a total population of 100, and your total potential is $100. $100-$90.

    However, you get a nifty tech called "Army Level 2". Most times, techs only increase performance. So, you can with 5 Soldiers do the work of 10 Soldiers. Therefore, you would think players would lower the size of their military to 5 Soldiers to reap $95 in profit a turn. However, since most players already are paying the $10, keeping the 10 Soldiers is a good idea because you now have the strength of 20 Soldiers!

    But what ever Army Level 2 not only doubled performance, but increased maintenance by .5 for each soldier? Your force of 10 Soldiers now fight with the strength of 20 Soldiers, but it costs you $15. You're still better off with the tech, but the active cost of investing into military tech still increased your costs. Its up to you at that point whether cutting back or staying the same is worth it.

    It makes having a higher-tech army more expensive to maintain, meaning "more army tech" isn't always the solution.

    All fun and games until you have to constantly cross-reference cells to find things.


    They want conflict. They don't really care what form it takes. If you replaced "Soldiers" with "Missionaries" and "war" with "missionary work", players would gladly play a game where they fight to save the souls of [insert opposing heretic or heathen].


    Those are tools really. Espionage and Research have, and always will be, the surgical tools you use before going to war. Espionage is a hard mechanic to produce because you have to, somehow, make it interesting and flashy enough to catch the eye, while also making it understated.

    Likewise, here are the most common techs.

    Army: For killing [REDACTED]
    Navy: For killing [REDACTED]
    Health: To increase the standard of living people so they can live longer lives and increase population growth, which is good, since these people are used for killing [REDACTED]
    Espionage: For killing [REDACTED] with knives
    Infrastructure: For providing the resources to kill [REDACTED]

    Everything is indeed a tool. A tool for conflict. The reason why war is the most attractive is because it is the most visibly, readily noticeable tool.

    For example, RIOT was set up so players could have unlimited trade agreements. Imagine what course the game would have taken instead if there were limits on who you could trade with, and if trade had weighed more. All of a sudden, threatening, bribing, and working your way to increase your trade power is suddenly more attractive.


    Was IOTE the one where I rampaged across the Pacific? The advantage of that rampage was that trade was amazing and with the power of blockades and knives, I was able to destroy enemies.

    Wars were less about provinces in that game and more about trade, which is why I liked it. There was another LH game where I was the WSA in North America and that game had a strong trade system as well.
     
  19. Midnight-Blue766

    Midnight-Blue766 The filidh that cam frae Skye

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    Hey, how about introducing a Causus Belli system? You need to pick a Causus Belli in order to declare war on other players, and depending on how many points (of some sort? :crazyeye:) you put in, there's an x chance of your Causus Belli becoming fully justified, meaning you can declare war on the other player.
     
  20. Terrance888

    Terrance888 Discord Reigns

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    In NESing, Causus Belli is entirely fluff. You can declare war without Causus Belli. You can declare war with a great Causus Belli. You can declare war with a mediocre Causus Belli. Generally, the better the Causus Belli the more support your citizens have to the war.

    I believe Causus Belli should be fluffed, and here is why.

    There are allegiance Causus Belli's. That's right. Even honoring a defensive pact or an alliance counts as a Causus Belli of YOUR entry into a war. And even this isn't a perfect CB. If your population didn't understand the reason or the defensive pact or alliance in the first place (especially among ideological enemies), they may refuse to accept such a simple CB.

    Another CB is when a state is acting "aggressively" towards another state through non-war actors. Therefore, the CB of the state declaring war must state which actions aggrieves it the most, and why the just and proper response is war.

    If there is a mechanical purpose to CB's, then they are pretty much worthless. I could just say "I don't want to pay a tariff" as a CB against nearly all my neighbors, invest max availability, and get the war rolling.

    If there is a set CB layer system, then they are non flexible and lots of alliance systems, often interlocking, will form. States now not the reason for defensive pacts, other than the fact that if they want to go to war without war weariness, they best sign as many DP's as possible and use it to their own advantage. Players will fully accept that low level actions have a low chance of engaging a proper CB and will continue to act in such way.

    Fluff is the future. :p

    EDIT: And because trying to define CB's is a fool's errand anyways. Worse comes to worst, just link to a common consensus/examples of reasonable CB's, and let context lead the results. Assigning a "properness" number to a CB, adding various societal factors, and then rolling an RNG is, of course, one way to mechanicalize it without being stupid about it.
     

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