The State of the Nation

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Peel's WIP

A good SD nation needs to be:

  • Fun for you to play.
  • Fun for the other players to play with.
  • Fun for the GM to run a game containing.

You might want to do something else with it too, like stretch yourself as a writer, but if it isn't those three things it's not a good nation for a game. If a nation seems like the coolest shit ever to you but nobody else wants to touch you, it's not a good nation for a game. To be fun to play, play with and run, a nation needs to provoke interest and inspire interaction, not just from your perspective but from the other players too.


  • The nation needs potential to actually do stuff. This is the most important one and a surprisingly common error even among experienced players. Doing stuff produces posts, and posts are what make an SD.
  • The nation should have a strong idea. The nation should be a unique entity in itself, not just be defined in relation to other things, like 'Imperial Germany, in Space, with Mecha'. A sack of vague themes might be a good starting point for a nation but if you're describing it entirely in terms of tropes and references, your nation isn't standing by itself as a concept.
  • The nation should gel with the setting. The nation must work as a part of the broader SD universe. If it's a sober space game, resist the urge to base your military on super robot tropes. Keep your technology (or magic) style similar to that of the background fluff and other players. If major events and ideological currents led up to the status quo at gamestart, describe how they influenced and still influence your nation today. Unless the game starts with your nation being sucked in from a separate universe to the game world, it's been sharing it with others for centuries or millennia and is not an island unto itself but a product of the world it lives in.
  • Resist the urge to snowflake. Strongly related to the above. In most game settings there will be a few things noted as rare exceptions. Inevitably, they become common exceptions once PCs grab for all the cool stuff when nationbuilding. In extreme cases, they go on to outnumber the 'normal' cases and cease to be exceptions at all. Or maybe whatever it is that makes your nation cool and unique really is unique, but doesn't fit the setting. Or maybe it does fit the setting, it's just totally superfluous and not terribly interesting to anyone else. Everyone wants their nation to be the Special One, but what really makes a nation compelling to the other players is richness of society, history, and connection with the world. Not your unique magical style or snazzy trenchcoat and katana.
  • Don't dicksize. Nobody cares how amazing your technology is, how elite your military is, or how many archmagi you have. They care about interesting flavour, how what you're doing relates to them, and how it can produce exciting stories that make both parties look cool. Too much waving stats around produces irritation, resentment and destructive arms races more than genuine development.

Development Tips

There's some things that usually help develop a nation.

  • Not everyone in a nation agrees. If they do, it's probably boring. What are the major divisions? Are they open or veiled? Lopsided or equal? How are they arranged geographically or demographically? How are they resolved, through politics, shadow games or mass violence?
  • What failings does your nation have? What is it bad at? If the answer is 'nothing really', something that is actually a good thing, or something that mainly serves to make your nation look more badass or heroic, take a step back and rework it.
  • If the nation is advanced enough to have mass media, what sort of things does it broadcast? What's in the pop culture of your nation?

The Madlib State


Every nation needs to be distinctive in some way. But it's very, very easy to get carried away, or just start with an out-there concept. Snowflaking occurs when the pursuit of a unique or cool concept becomes disruptive to the game or setting. Obviously this is an extremely subjective definition. Snowflaking is basically the obscenity of SDs: It exists, it is disruptive, and it is best restrained outside of certain contexts, but a precise definition beyond 'I know it when I see it' is very very difficult. Ultimately, only social consensus can determine whether something crosses the line or not. If everyone likes your idea, it's fine because it has been accepted into the setting, and conversely appeal to these guidelines is no defence against the rest of the playerbase rolling their eyes and wanting nothing to do with you.

The first warning sign is 'Are you introducing a radically new setting element that applies only to you?'. For example, the nation of uplifted animal furries in a human colonisation game. Or in a fantasy game based around the conflict between five deities and their churches, playing a nation that follows some completely different religion. Obviously in some cases this is appropriate. Some games are intended to have players come up with all manner of wacky ideas, and most games have their setting fleshed out by player creations. But almost all games have some degree of background coherence and fundamentally, even though PC nations should be the stars of the show, the themes and content of the NPC setting should be respected.

The second, and more dangerous warning sign is 'Are you declaring yourself an exception to a supposedly common setting element?'. For example (and by god was this a common example), in a setting based on a baseline-dominated Earth and loyal colonies facing down rebellious outer colonies armed with transhumans and theotech, at one point more than half the players wanting to play Earth-aligned colonies had one and sometimes both of those special features, despite their concentrating among the rebels being a defining feature of the setting and an essential historical factor. This is often a consequence of coolstuffitis (see below), as a good GM will spread desirable things around between factions if they exist.

As said above, snowflaking is a subjective perjorative. Just like a skilled artist can make an obscene work of art, a skilled writer can make a good nation that defies setting assumptions. But don't be so presumptuous as to assume you can pull it off, and remember that skilled writers tend to do it much less than less skilled writers. One of the hallmarks of a skilled writer is that they respect the setting they are working in, be it theirs or someone else's. Furthermore, specifically in rules SDs, don't assume that just because you can do something, that you should. Because of the above possibility for the exception-concept to be done well, most GMs leave outlets in the rules for players to go outside the norm if they really want to. What usually happens is that a legion of players pounce on this option, and the setting is overrun with chaotic good drow. Don't be those guys.

Importing a Nation

One way to make a nation in an SD is to import a former creation of yours from somewhere else, be it another game, a story, or just some notes on A4 paper from when you were in high school. There's nothing inherently wrong with this but it does need care applied, because that creation was made in a different setting with different themes and assumptions. Where there is a clash, the SD setting wins. If you import a nation from elsewhere, you should rewrite its history and flavour to make it an organic product of the world.


Mal's Section of Cynicism and Negativity

This is how all nation/faction SDs are doomed to go.

The Narrative Right to Victory

It's hard to put one's finger on what Narrative Right to Victory is exactly since it changes from story to story and each person sees it differently. You could argue that individuals see it as whatever will let their country or character win in a fight, or conversely that a player is bound by their view of the NRV and compel themselves to work with it, tailoring their side so that it both satisfies them aesthetically and will win. The former view compares to the latter much like optimism to pessimism. You will find some of each in every game; more newbies will arrive with the former attitude, fully expecting the SD to eventually progress into conflict and the conflict ending in their favour while the latter view will be taken by veterans of many games or those who want to pretend they are veterans of many games. In the latter case, one sees that old mantra spelled out three or four posts in; 'I don't think this SD quite catches my interest, but good luck': 'I'd like to play something fun, but it's out of place here so I'd lose.' The irony of course is that NRV cannot ever be put to the ultimate test of war. Not ever: it is the death knell of any SD, but more on that irony later.

Put simply, Narrative Right to Victory is who should win in a given conflict because that is how stories go. Upon thought, we must find this conclusion is unsurprising because Story Debates are, ultimately, stories. As one might expect, it is very open to interpretation as there are many many kinds and tones and levels of light and dark between stories but it is also remarkably closed for a number of big reasons. One is that the portion of the English internet engaging in Story Debates and similar endeavours is highly culturally unified. Another is that the English internet remains dominated by the United States of America, which as far as stories go is also highly unified. Finally, storytelling as a whole is unified because despite all the variety that is there, the vast majority of stories ever told only go a few ways and the ultimate story from which nation SDs are derived - history itself - has gone only one.

NRV Facts

  • With respect to a given point of reference, NRV can, like any natural force, be mathematically quantified.
  • The purpose of NRV is victory in conflict.
    • The ultimate purpose of NRV is victory in total armed conflict with other players.
    • NRV is the manifestation of Entropy within the system of an SD - the accumulation of NRV accelerates the story towards final conflict and final dissolution - Ragnarok.
  • Gathering of NRV within the prime frame of reference is positive sum. Player A building a dozen battleships has only a shallow understanding of others' perspectives on their cost. He does not truly believe those battleships are costing him anything. The final cost - even in the context of a rules set - of the battleships is treated entirely as a cost of social interaction with other players.
  • Gathering of NRV within all other frames of reference is either zero-sum or negative-sum. Even Player B, Player A's closest of allies, does not truly believe that he could possibly benefit from any action he undertakes - the benefits are treated as an increase of NRV in Player B's frame of reference. Removing all intermediary steps, the logic could be reduced to "I benefit from an additional fleet of mercenary battleships because I am allied with Player A but Player A gains nothing because the strength of his new battleships, which he paid for and maintains, are perfectly balanced to their cost." For Players C, D, E, and F, Player A and B's rivals or enemies, the result of the decision to build battleships (and most other stand-alone decisions made by Player A) is probably negative because it's obvious that Player A couldn't possibly have the economy or support infrastructure to sustain such a fleet expansion. Therefore, he must be stupid and this decision will ultimately reduce his NRV due to economic, logistic or training insufficiency.
  • NRV has no objective value.


The Final Battle of the Player Nations. Ragnarok is not the only possible fate of a game - by convention, most games do not in fact progress to Ragnarok because most players are aware of what it is - the absolute and unequivocal end of an SD due to drama. Therefore most player groups will stand down from the brink, either of their own accord or by the will of the game's GM. Even in these cases however, the game is inevitably doomed to soon run out of steam as players become disaffected by the realisation that all of their efforts have ultimately been for naught. The game rots away and peters gradually to nothing, leaving only a sense of existential futility. Hence, while Ragnarok is technically averted, the threat of its occurrence still brings the game to an end and NRV's role as Entropy is sustained.

Nevertheless, now and again games are allowed to go out with a bang, either because this is deemed a superior alternative to wasting away, or simply because, like in many real life political situations, all the actors are simply caught off guard as events spiral out of any one side's control. Broadly speaking, Ragnarok is the direct consequence of the accumulation of NRV. Starting from levels near unity at the start, gathering of NRV begins at the nation development stage for some players who minmax advantages and disadvantages to best prosecute their desired wartime strategy. By the time the game starts, the race will be on for all players. Because NRV accumulation is positive-sum for the player in question and zero or negative for everyone else, each player's perception of NRV values drifts further and further from each other player's perceptions. Eventually - inevitably - two sides in conflict will both find themselves with sufficient edge and sufficient reason that overwhelms all political and social safeguards. This causes a cascade effect as players at the periphery of the situation all weigh in on the issue and by this point, there may well be enough disparity between each of the players' Quiets to cause a chain reaction. At this point, if last ditch efforts are not made that change this calculus and bring the SD below criticality, Ragnarok will be triggered.

Although not every little spat means the end of the world, virtually anything from a collision in colonial ambitions to a premature declaration of rivalry in any field can trigger Ragnarok. In some cases, a player who feels he has been wronged, or has no choice but to act at once to avoid a disadvantage later, may opt to call down Ragnarok early, though the GM may be able to head this off.

Players in the Game

  • Red Zaku - The Red Zaku has the temperament of an exciteable puppy. He quickly gets heavily involved in the game from the moment the idea emerges and often becomes the leading poster in the story thread. Just like a red MS-06 Zaku is a bad suit that goes three times as fast, this type of player is a bad poster who splits every story he wants to tell into three separate posts, giving the illusion that he is unusually active and thus deserving of special attention or consideration. Naturally, a Red Zaku is a paper tiger with no Char in the cockpit and one that isn't careful is likely to soon attract the ire of a Gouf.
  • Red Zaku Commander Type - This variant of the Red Zaku is similar in operation but he spends as much or even more time spamming posts three times as quickly in the discussion thread. Once the player has amassed a large post count and commented or provided suggestions to nearly every part of the rules and conflict resolution system whether or not they were ever even up for discussion, he will begin subtly or overtly throwing his weight around by implying he made a significant contribution. This can be a more dangerous type of player, especially if the GM is some kind of stealth variant or is really dumb, but being too blatant about manipulating the rules in one's own favor is sure to draw fire from other players.
  • Mobile Suit Factory - The Mobile Suit Factory starts with little military power but typically has large amounts of infrastructure with view of building up and supporting a larger force further in the future. This effectively invokes the overwhelming American strategic victory after WWII which itself invokes the old-as-dirt principle that "slow and steady wins the race". The problem arises when one or more other players inevitably realize the same and conclude that the only rational solution is to shoot the turtle in the face the moment it takes a step over the starting line.
  • Hangar Queen - The Hangar Queen is an unfortunate victim of the illusion that he or she enjoys story debates when in fact their true passion is the act of creation. Such a player lavishes time and attention onto an exceptionally detailed and well-realised OOB but quickly finds more interesting ways to spend their time a post or two into the actual story. There is no dishonor in being a Hangar Queen, but they are often resented by other players for throwing early assessments of the political-strategic landscape off-balance by their swift exits.
  • Asteroid Miner - An Asteroid Miner is so named for the common-as-shit device of a giant fucking rock hurtling through space about to impact on some poor guy's planet and help is needed - the Asteroid Miner is the one who will kindly deflect or destroy said rock with their flagship, which is always brand new at the time of the SD. There is more to this than face value - although the primary one is obviously to sieze the the moral high ground, the Asteroid Miner also subtly expresses a lack of confidence in the victim's own defensive capabilities. Despite this implication, the Asteroid Miner typically earns a modicum of respect even if he has shortcomings in all other areas, for following convention if nothing else.
  • Torp Whore - Torp Whores are light cruisers with a rather unassuming appearance but actually pack serious heat to the tune of up to 40 torpedo tubes under the hood. Such a player posts unassuming content now and again while carefully setting up escalation and casus belli. When the time is judged right, the torp whore unleashes volleys upon volleys of words in an effort to overwhelm his opponent. A Pretend Torp Whore with bad torpedoes will quickly find its explosive poop rendered impotent against firmer defenses. The most dangerous torp whores however, may be genuinely good writers who may have prewritten a mountain of material that can be split up and spaced apart by enough hours to defuse accusations of not waiting for the opposition to respond.
    • Minelayer - This is a related concept wherein a vulnerable seeming player unleashes an explosive way of diarrheaic posting the moment it is attacked. Being as that history often paints the losers as the aggressors, a minelayer with good mines may have one of the most solid claims to victory provided the NRV potential outside of this hasn't fallen too far out of line. A Farragut Fury tries to invert this concept by preparing material for the course of a likely assault and then attempting to lure his quarry into an aggressive action through loud saber rattling.
  • Gouf - The Gouf picks a particularly irritating player early on and sets up to primarily go after them. Generally speaking, the Gouf will minmax his nation as far as he is able and quietly gather allies while gently deflecting the gamebending initiatives fielded by a Commander Type. Then, once the game starts and the stupid player starts acting stupidly as expected, the Gouf closes in for the kill. Since a Gouf is typically a fairly experienced, respected and skilled writer who believes he is doing the SD some good by flogging an irritating newbie, he may be able to pull this off, but he can also generate resentment since he is more or less also a bully.
  • Zakrello - The Zakrello joins a nation SD with reasonably complete and realised nation that is completely and utterly out of place with all established conventions of the setting. When confronted on this issue, a he will be quite confused as to why creativity is such a bad thing and why there is such stern resistance to his novel and worthy ideas. He may make small cosmetic changes in an attempt to accomodate but is usually too deep in Quiet for the issue to be resolved to anyone's satisfaction.
    • Plant People - This Zakrello Subtype is a player who always plays the same set of characters, race, or nation regardless of the setting or established limits. The Plant People have often built up their chosen race or polity independent of any rules or structure, and as a result frequently have to try and force them into a space designed for a much smaller box. Plant People nations will often pick up advantages unique to a game they apply for, which they will then retain through all successive iterations.
  • Davion - The Davion is a minmaxer who spends much of the pre-game period turning his state into a finely honed weapon (as far as the numbers and ad/disads are concerned) and observing the thread for targets who have made the mistake of not being so diligent. Such targets are of course rare as everyone wants to win, but there is often at least one in any given SD. Once the SD starts, the Davion quickly musters up an excuse and launches an attack, threatening an early Ragnarok if the flames are allowed to spread.
  • Einherjar - The Einherjar puts all efforts before and after gamestart into honing and building an offensive military. However, any postures of aggression ultimately go unanswered because the Einhiljar knows either explicitly or implicitly the difficulty of fighting a war against a PC no matter what the numbers or stats say. Hence they will only see battle during Ragnarok when all the nations go to war at the end of the game.
  • Wunderwaffe - The Wunderwaffe joins the game late, typically when it's past its prime but often still in time to be established just as things go south. Even though he has not expended any effort early on and joins the fray after the other players have already laid most of their cards on the table, the Wonderwaffe asks for a position of relative strength in the name of "game balance". He may take a fresh set of advantages that counters the advantages of the established powers, exploits their weaknesses specifically (since that would be "an interesting idea") or subverts their advantages for itself as an equal or superior level.
  • Bloc Builder - The Bloc Builder loves alliances and signs all the ones he can and convinces his new allies to also sign on each other and to sign NPCs on at the slightest pretense. The goal of the Bloc Builder is to draw some big, thick lines over the national borders and eliminate the palette of the map down to a few colours.
  • Lamprey - The Lamprey is too cowardly to go to war on his own but will quickly join a war if one emerges, deciding the winner and reaping as much of the reward as they can get away with.
  • The Snipe - The Snipe joins an SD with the intent of interacting with other players' plots, but only on their own terms. A Snipe often designs their nation to be as sneaky or isolated as possible, and yet inexplicably shows up at every major event despite nobody knowing who they are or how they got there. A Snipe will go to great lengths to maintain their isolation, often arguing extensively in the OOC thread why they should receive a special exception to this or that rule or setting piece.
  • The Scribe - The Scribe joins an SD to write a story. Whether he's interested in the setting, the characters, or just the act of creation, he plans out a plot and writes about it- and often does so without any interaction with other players, and occasionally without even interacting with any of the NPC's either. A Scribe is often an excellent writer, able to carry their interest through writing and reading their own plots- but can be intimidating to other players often due to the volume of their work, and its independence. Few players want to impinge on a Scribe's plot to interact with them, especially once the scribe has gotten going.
  • The Time Traveler - The Time Traveler is often a player of medieval or historic games of both the fantasy and alternate history variety. Despite GM declarations of the historic period or the established technology level, the Time Traveler will do their utmost to apply modern ideas and technologies in place of period sensibilities. Examples include gatling muskets, jet engine biplanes, or even electrically powered swords. A Time Traveler will argue extensively with the GM that their 'advances' should be allowed, and go to great lengths to have them included.
  • The Special Force - The Special Force is a player who either lacks confidence in his ability to run a nation, or simply has no interest in it- but whom nevertheless finds the setting interesting enough to join. He often players the smallest nation possible- going so far as to ask for special privileges to support this, and 'makes up' for this disadvantage by having comparatively stronger characters, often on the power levels of entire armies. The Special Force needs to be monitored by the GM, because he can often get out of hand- as players typically respect each other's named characters and only kill off nameless or recently created enemies, the Special Force only *has* named characters.
  • The Crash Test Dummy - The Crash Test Dummy is a player who joins with a character that, while often perfectly appropriate for the setting, has some quality or theme that the other player reacts poorly to. Crash Test Dummies rarely make it to the actual game- often ending up in arguments over why they should be allowed to play their nation or characters with the players who believe that they're too problematic to allow. An example would be a player to brings an expy of Jesus to a medieval fantasy game- while perfectly fitting for the setting, the mere insult of someone playing such a religious figure is often too great to ignore. While some crash test dummies are aware of the problems their choices will cause, many have no such awareness and are only playing those characters because they haven't seen it done before, or think that it's 'interesting'
  • The Combiner - The Combiner is a player who seeks to play a specific niche of a nation, and makes up for its deficiencies by being so closely allied with another player that they are effectively one and the same. A Combiner will design a nation with only a token regard to its weaknesses, often making those weaknesses fall into an area that their ally is particularly strong in. Combiners can typically be managed by an attentive GM who keeps them sufficiently separate from their ally so as to create narrative tension and prevent their combination from becoming an unstoppable death spiral machine. However, due to their playstyle, they can also be very dangerous- if a Combiner quits the game, more often then not they will attempt to leave their entire military and/or national holdings to their ally, inflating that ally's forces far beyond what is appropriate. While usually just an afterthought, this can sometimes be a deliberate action- and Combiners will often frantically backpedal if caught in it.

Paths to Victory

  • Pasta Chef - This type of nation emphasizes its non-aggression. The Pasta Chef is, in essence a blob of moral superiority based on innocence attached to a fictional country. They are nice guys who would never actually attack anyone nor would commit evil acts but always have a strong streak of national pride and strong opinions against those who do evil. They assume that because they will not be the aggressor in case of attack that they will have, quite literally, the moral high ground and therefore have the Narrative Right to Victory. This particular path goes well with a lot of the other defensive paths and indeed many Pasta Chefs reinforce their position with alliances and terrain.
A Pasta Chef nation doubles its Moral Terrain Bonus in all large scale military encounters.
  • Defender - This type of nation emphasizes a high quality defensive military and a large force of reserves that can be called up unrealistically quickly. The principle of the Defender is that the very act national defense assures ultimate victory - the 'defender's high ground' rather than the moral high ground. In other words, the player believes he can win so long as he doesn't invade first and will typically offer small concessions and losses at the beginning of a war in order to muster more NRVs for when the tide must turn. Although in theory a Defender's reserves can be called on only for defense, players in practice are fast and loose with this limitation, often justifying various exceptions to turn "reserves" into additional infantry divisions.
  • Solid State Defender - The Solid State Defender is an extreme convergent evolution of the Defender that backs up its military with an impenetrable wall of man-made defenses - it is a Maginot Ring with a fictional country attached to it. Although it may seem like a variant, the SSD nation rests on a completely different doctrine - it does not ultimately trust the act of defense to itself be sufficient for victory and concentrates on subverting the ordinary shortcomings of fixed defenses. Most will studiously ring the entire country in a solid wall that cannot be bypassed and employ sophisticated air defenses and commando units to prevent bombing and sabotage respectively. The more cunning and lacking in common sense will prepare an apparent weakness, sell it as a weakness during point-buy and then drop hints of the trap laid within in the hopes that whoever winds up attacking them won't notice in time but everyone else somehow will. Some Pasta Chefs will also mimic this species, turning into a Solid State Pasta Chef, but this is often because a Pasta Chef, being lightly equipped in terms of material resources, will have the currency to afford some luxuries.
  • Triple Expansion Defender - The Triple Expansion Defender takes pages from the Russian defensive playbook and uses sheer size to blunt any attack on its territory. This is a rare ploy for a number of reasons. It is hard to get other players or the mods to agree to grant a sufficiently large chunk of the map to begin with since True Russia is part of the Power 3. Even with that out of the way, it is hard to overcome the negative connotations of losing such vast amounts of land and inhabited space. Players may try to mix up the steppe with harsh winters, sudden unprecedented swaths of rough terrain, or claim that the main industrial, population and resource centers were way over at the other end of the country all along. Of course, when properly played the triple expansion defense will be able to turn all that early pain into narrative currency with which to steamroll swiftly in the other direction.
  • The Borg - The Borg is an offense oriented variant of the Triple Expansion defender, often occupying a large area of territory which it uses to fuel a comparably large military that it uses to assimilate (either through threat of war or actual war) NPCs into itself before turning on player nations when all NPCs have been assimilated. The Borg often lacks unique weapons or technologies of its own, instead spending points on specific counters to other nations' unique weapons or technologies- save where it can capture or subvert them. The Borg is a risky ploy however because if they aren't careful they will rapidly be identified as 'the villain' and both players and the GM will be quick to act against them, limiting their options.
  • Noodle Chef - An extreme version of the Pasta Chef, a Noodle Chef plans to concede occupation of the physical country and that's when the fun really begins for in truth, he is a set of characters and commando forces armoured in an ablative nationstate and characters are invincible. This is nevertheless a gambit, especially if the opponent is charismatic enough to subvert the moral high ground as that is generally the only thread by which any agency in the story at all hangs. The Noodle Chef should avoid any actions that could trigger the Terrorism card and counter the Democracy card by playing it first.
  • Mordor - The Mordor emphasizes terrain as a defensive measure to enhance the advantages already inherent in being the defender in a conflict - it is a blob of impossibly harsh terrain with a set of names and numbers tacked on. The doctrine of such a nation is that no opponent, irrespective of any advantages can possibly accumulate the NRVs necessary to overcome the logistical, transportational and guerillaniacal difficulties presented by a solid ring of mountains backed by desert sand like talcum powder, pre-poisoned wells, and scorched earth for good measure. Unlike a Pasta Chef or Solid State Defender, the Mordor is not necessarily in possession of a defensive military. Indeed, its attitude may well reflects its namesake, a cyclone of barbaric military aggression visited upon unwary neighbours. The significance is that physical terrain is at least partly blind to moral terrain. While an aggressive Mordor still expects to win by attack, the wall of mountains provides a safe fallback should the offensive fall apart.
  • Island - An Island is a defensive state that follows a similar strategy to the Mordor and scientists disagree whether one is a variant of the other or if this is an example of convergent evolution. The core trait of an Island is that it expects any invasion to necessarily come by sea and sports uses its island status to justify a powerful navy. Despite often colourful histories of its past actions in order to build rapport, an Island's navy is actually far less combat oriented than a land country's navy - it is built to deter instead. An Island nation is not necessarily an actual island. Many island players begin by asking for a continent. Others try to form part of their coast with powerful neutral NPCs or mountains in which case they are a Half Moon Mordor. An island may also attempt to pull off a Full Moon Mordor by covering the coast with a solid ring of cliffs for added security.
  • Rattlesnake - A Rattlesnake is a large, alert and prepared military and an assertive diplomatic agenda with a fictional state attached to it. A Rattlesnake is always rattling its sabre in an effort to spark an incident, an excuse with which to launch military action. Although apparently highly aggressive, the behaviour of a rattler (at least a good one) is actually highly measured because it knows that overstepping could have disastrous consequences. Its principle for victory is 'I should win because public opinion should generally be on my side'. It is based on the real life theory of the significance of popular support extrapolated to imaginary people, such a state therefore does not actually rely on military prowess to bring victory, though it'll certainly buy a good army if given the choice. They will often devote points into commandos and submarines to pull off false flag operations and random sinkings. Since the results of recent North Korean naval mischief and subsequent investigations, the utility of the latter tactic has probably been reduced greatly.
  • Diplomat - The Diplomat is (remarkably enough) a diplomatic strategy. The player believes that he has something truly worthwhile or at least genuinely convincing to offer to almost anyone and therefor has the clout to bring about desired results without a fight. Since words are not ultimately binding amongst players, the Diplomat concentrates on the NPC population, quickly making posts cajoling them into closely knit economic unions, trading blocs or alliances. A suitable distance down the road, the relevant NPC's resources are quietly added to the master's OOB. Although the method of gaining them is non-military, the Diplomat's NRV is still based on having superior numbers and resources to bring to bear when Ragnarok comes.
  • Merchant - The Merchant considers himself a linchpin of international trade and considers international trade vital to the prospects of any state, PC or NPC. During times of peace, the Merchant may act much like a Diplomat. During times of war, the Merchant quickly plays the Embargo card and expects this will destroy any possibility of the naughty aggressor from being victorious. Merchants combine very nicely with Islands and an Island may claim Merchant status even if they're sitting on a rock a hundred miles off Antarctica originally meant for obsidian-wielding cannibals, ten timezones away from the next nearest industrialised blob of colour.
  • Ghost - The Ghost is often a nation that has no presence or influence on the narrative at all. Whether he is some small nation from the new world, or an ancient order of hidden elites, the Ghost actually relies on having as little narrative weight as possible, in the hope that he won't be dragged down by the gravity of those with large amounts of NRV. A ghost 'wins' by remaining independent and interacting only with NPCs- staying off the radar of the players until the conclusion of the game, or if the Ghost locates some unstoppable superweapon.

Ethnic Tarot

History is a vital informant of nation SD's and since much of history has been played out by actors separated by ethnic lines, players believe (even if only implicitly) that various ethnicities add or subtract NRV roughly reflecting the ethnicity's achievements in actual history.


  • The German - The German, as well as its rarer variant, the Prussian, is an ethnically based path to victory based on being of Germanic influence. The NRV basis of such a nation is that Germans are genetically good at fighting and tend to win battles and wars unless the odds are unfairly stacked against them. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of players who opt to play the German (and it is the German because the number of German slots must generally be limited for balance purposes) have little or no idea as to exactly how the German army of various ages achieved its successes nor what their respective limitations and shortcomings were. The watchwords of Germanic warfare are speed and aggression.
  • The Italian - Unlike its great grandparent Rome, modern Italy is derided for the generally subpar performance at all levels of its military and often political foolishness as well. Those parts of Italian militaries with proven records (such as their frogman units) are conveniently swept under the Rug. This is often balanced by the perceived wealth and morale-boosting cultural relics just sitting around in art museums, ruins or basilicas in an Italy-expy. Unsurprisingly, this is a popular card among players who wish to apply it to their NPC neighbours. In rare instances, the Italian may leverage its connection to the Emperor or the Pope to advantage, generally by using Latin instead of Italian. However, this often leads to them just being a modernised Rome or a militant Vatican and shedding all the dead weight of Italy down to the last spaghetti.
  • The Pole - Despite centuries of colorful history woven with vibrant highs and shaded lows, failures and successes like any historied nation, Poland's perceived national character is defined by the five weeks of losing that occurred in the autumn of 1939. As far as SD's are concerned, outside of the context of its relationship with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (and not even much of the latter), Poland simply does not exist. It is unsurprising then, that Poland is a byword for invasion target and a very popular ethnicity for a smaller NPC neighbour, especially when the PC in question is German. Although Polish names have been used before in a limited fashion, no major PC power has ever been willingly Polish in the history of Spacebattles.
  • The Frenchman - Like other "loser" ethnicities, the overall assessment of French military prowess is generally negative. Most of this rides, like Poland, on poor performance in WWII, but some of the sentiment dates all the way back to the late medieval when France was busy losing to the English and their magic longbows. Periods in history when France was strong, like almost the entire time in between, is swept under the Rug. Yet, although still conventionally thought of as a "losing side", the Frenchman is in a more interesting position than either the Italian or the Pole. The easiest outs are, obviously, Napoleon and, less obviously, Joan of Arc. Either in person or in spirit via a descendent will make France awesome. Other possibilities are attributing all the failures to French armor or French equipment in general or any other part of the French military apparatus in general, from leadership down to training, while still granting the common French soldier a strong consideration in élan.
  • The Russian
  • The Japanese
  • The American
  • The Brit
  • The Chinese
  • The Mongolian


  • The Emperor - There's something about being called an empire that's just so much cooler than being called a mere kingdom or republic. Bonus points for being "Imperial X" or the "Empire of Greater Y". Can also be invoked in conjunction with the Historian arcana to have ruled a massive empire in the past. This last is the best out for an Italy pigeonholed into the losing corner.
  • The Historian - The Historian arcana rests on an expectation of future profit due to past results, and past results don't cost anything in point-buy. This is why nations with national consciousness and oral history of ten thousand years (even though they advanced quickly) are such staples of even SDs set in a relatively modern period. The only obstacle of course is having to concede that your precious nation which has stood astride the world for millennia somehow failed to conquer it and not only that were forced into relative obscurity along with the rest of the player pack owing to some poorly imagined misfortune.
  • The Pope - Straightforward. You put the Vatican inside your nation, then say that most of the world is your religion.
  • The Ninja - The Ninja typically invokes the popular culture conception of this trope, seeking NRV by maintaining a small stable of highly capable super-functionaries that each are of profound narrative interest, shaping the story by their actions. Ninjas are typically easier to write than a comprehensive and fully realized nation, and the Ninja relies on this angle to avoid having to write less whenever possible. When used in conjunction with the Historian Arcana, this is inverted- a Historic Ninja decries the power of single powerful individuals in favour of widescale revolutionary movements.
  • The Pirate -
  • The Valkyrie - The Valkyrie subverts the historic reality of gender roles by filling virtually all important, high level government and military posts with hot young women. In addition to being very easy on the imagination (few states invoking the Valkyrie go so far as to supplement with images), it quickly establishes a positive circular logic involving success against adversity, awesomeness, and lesbians.
  • The Hanged Man - The Hanged Man inverts the qualities of the player's Nationalia card such that Russia becomes tiny, Poland is a military superpower and China stops being awesome in every conceivable way. The sheer shock of this card's use on the playing field may be sufficient to bring victory but the effects may vary depending on game and audience.

One Man Shows

A One Man Shows are strategies based around historic figures or outright fictional characters. The reasoning is basically that, because such great people could shift history in their own time, it is therefore plausible and believeable occurrence for any point in history and what better point in history than right now, here in this SD, under my pen? The One Man Show has several distinct advantages over strategies based on superiority in other areas. Firstly, while it still requires historical knowledge, the subject of one person's life is much less broad a topic to become versed in than the intricacies of a country. On the other hand this same shallowness makes it much easier for others to find holes to poke into it. Another advantage is that most point-buy systems do not assign a cost to specific characters whilst most material advantages will have a cost.

  • Rule of Batman - Rule of Batman follows such traditions as Air Force One, Exalted and fictional exercises involving Batman in a position of national power. The idea is to have a great figure either as the ruler or as a significant mover and shaker within the country. Since this person is omnicompetent, he can be called up by the President (or in case he is the president, call up himself) to undertake any task of national importance and since he is omnicompetent, he will excel and by his enlightened guidance, so will the country excel. Such figures are fictional as a rule, since no real human could possibly be truly omnicompetent, but some players, especially American ones or Chinese ones, may be led to believe they have found an exception. In general, such figures must be obvious expies of existing fictional figures to retain any power, or even be outright insertions. Common figures for this purpose include a fictional All-American American President, a fictional All-American American citizen, Hannibal Lector, Wolverine, Batman, Char Aznable, Porthos Fitz-Empress, Victor Steiner-Davion, or in extreme cases, the God Emperor of Man or the God Emperor of Mankind.
  • Rule of Napoleon - Rule of Napoleon posits that a state will succeed and gain NRV through purely the military leadership of one man or woman. This is a well trodden path indeed, as plenty of highly successful published fiction and media rest on this foundation, such as the Honor Harrington series or Code Geass. There are plenty of historical precedents as well, which is an added bonus. The general in question can either be a head of state that for some reason manages military operations, or a general that happens to be around to do everything that needs doing. Most players also assume that great leaders attract great supporting staff in which case it blurs with a standard Advantage in leadership. The advantage is freed from point cost on the basis that it applies only to a core of staff surrounding the great leader who, again, just happens to be around to do everything and are always entirely trusted by the civilian leadership. All the phantom bad generals and bad officers are thereby put on a bus. The most brazen will simply will simply sweep beneath the Rug the fact that great leaders need anyone at all, and indeed balance the disadvantage of him being surrounded by idiots with the advantage that he is able to win anyway.
  • Rule of BASARA - This is a rare gambit, but its usefulness increases the more magic there is and the further back in history one goes with a sudden spike in settings where mecha combat is significant. Rule of BASARA simply attempts to achieve victory through the sheer strength of arms of a single warrior who rides a magic mobile suit, sweeping fleets and armies from the heavens. BASARA can be adjoined to some of the other kinds of One Man Shows. When the invincible warrior also happens to be a wealthy playboy, power broker, or the All-American President, you have Batman BASARA. If he is also your military leader, then you have Sengoku BASARA.
  • Rule of Personal Pasta Chef - The people of the country accept their leader as their Personal Pasta Chef. The President is either an affable down-to-earth guy who finds the time to listen to even the most minor of his constituent's personal grievances and correct them, or the Princess is a beautiful, peace-loving maiden opposed to war and with a great singing voice to boot, gently defusing every conflict short of full scale war that comes her way. Since the country is ruled by such innocence, it is also innocent and with such a figurehead, the state is a Pasta Chef no matter what it does. Even military occupation will not stop such a country's NRV from steadily building up.
  • Rule of Demagogue -

Inspecting the Army

--Shrike 23:45, 9 May 2011 (PDT)

  • The Hammer - Known scientifically as Battleshipistan Davionis or Tankograd Ralsonis, The Hammer relies on a fairly one-dimensional (if assumedly powerful) set of tools to destroy all opposition. Generally battleships. This is because battleships (though whatever power units are setting-appropriate can be substituted) are Cool and thus have high narrative priority coupled with the logic that more = better. The Hammer is almost invariably the mark of an aggressive player who will seek battle as soon as possible.
  • Grit (aka Technological Underdog) - This concept relies on the assumption that inferior technology grants narrative priority due to being Gritty, Rugged or Realistic. It is also relies on the fact that people with inferior technology are generally underdogs and thus deserve to win.
    • Not to be neglected is the Grit and Polish gambit which, after conceding general technical inferiority, will go to every length to avoid admitting qualitative inferiority in any specific comparison, be it due to divergent tech development, rugged engineering (somehow distinct from technology), size or because that fancy flashy stuff doesn't really work. Peel 02:02, 10 May 2011 (PDT)
  • Techwanker - This is an extremely strong and common concept and is quite simple in concept: Better Technology = Victory. Unless strictly regulated by outside actors the users of this will assume they are basically unstoppable in anything resembling a straight-up fight. Some more sophisticated variants of this will offer to compensate with low numbers, low fictional national hit points or some other token in attempt to get even more techwanking past the collective radar.
  • Elite Military - Broadly comparable to Techwanker, except narrative precedence is assumed by virtue of the soldiers of the military the fictional nation is attached to are somehow superior to the norm. This will often manifest in ways that are implausible, ahistorical or simply inexplicable; circular logic can often be deployed in justification.
  • Outside Contextual (aka Wunderwaffe) - This can be difficult to deal with as narrative priority is assumed by the deployment of something special. Outside Contextualizers will generally seek to gain and maintain some form of completely unique ability/technology. Aircraft or zeppelins in a WWI game with performance vastly superior to their historical counterparts is a good example. In general this will assume anything potentially revolutionary is revolutionary, no matter what logic would say otherwise.
  • Force Multiplier - A fairly sophisticated concept, those who engage in Force Multiplication champion tactics such as massive command and control, electronic warfare to extreme degrees, etc. They will operate under the assumption that they can roll back the fog of war and tighten it around their opponents and gain narrative priority. Closely related but less sophisticated is the Invisible Fleet which will posit the vast overuse of stealth technology, relying heavily on the Cool of stealth/cloaking devices.