The Generals Repelled The Fandom Attack

I’ve spent years, almost since I started both playing the game and expanding my military reading material, trying to come up with a more “grounded” take on the game Command and Conquer Generals.

Constantly rolling a boulder up a hill would be more pleasant.

The game is nothing then an early 2000s pop culture view of the military. That’s why F-117s are more stealthy in-game than F-22s (they’re distinctive looking, ok?), the ramshackle terrorist force is made with just enough leeway to avoid a backlash while still meeting the villain of the week quotient, and Iowa battleships fight alongside beam cannons. China is the second faction because Russia was still picking itself up, and you get the idea.

Ok, so the real conflicts in Syria and Libya have featured conventional wars with ramshackle technical contraptions, so in hindsight it’s slightly better. Fair enough. But battles ranging from the pyramids to the Pacific, with the US able to traipse around as it pleases in Iran and even Russia (!), and geography being a dubious afterthought. Yeah, it still has some way to go.

The cancelled Generals sequel, to its credit, did try to turn the GLA into a more diverse and less blatant world populist uprising, but that still leaves everything else.

Sometimes settings just aren’t salvageable, and aren’t even fun to try and salvage. Generals is another setting with no foundation.

Writing On The Blank Slates

So, what do I do when confronted with a semi-blank slate character?

Make up an incredibly ridiculous backstory, of course. Undertale is a good example in point, because of how deliberately vague everything in it is-given my fertile imagination. Obligatory spoiler warning despite the game having been out for quite some time now.

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The main character of the game is intended to be a blank slate. Their low-res appearance is intended to be of an ambiguous gender.

Nearly of my Frisks are girls, based solely on me thinking the sprite looked more like one. But more importantly, all of them have extant human families. The story of the one who climbed the mountain varies a lot-ranges from the child of two wealthy financiers to a struggling parent, to a crackpot “analyst”. But the one variable is that all of them are kind and loving. The worst I got was an unscrupulous and hideously ambitious “stage mom” who pushed her daughter too hard and, post-pacifist end, sees her as a way up-but who is still ultimately caring and not outright abusive.

I tend to dislike kicked-puppy backstories, and for someone like Frisk, it makes even less sense that an abused, beaten child could be as friendly and forgiving as them (to say nothing of their incredible will to live).

One of my crazier, not serious ones is Frisk as a Little Sister style test subject, the antithesis of that. One of my crazier ones is her as a descendant of a Circle Trigon fighter, but that’s just me liking that crazy taxpayer-funded Esperanto empire too much.

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Chara, the other human in the game, is a harder case. A kicked-puppy background is easier to justify for them, as they “hated humanity” and ended up committing suicide.  At first, I made Chara a boy named Charlie, but now they’re sometimes a girl with that as their proper name.

To be honest, Chara never held that high a place in the story for me. They’re long dead by the time Frisk drops into the underground, and that’s that. No genocide route and none of the increasingly twisted “narrator Chara possession” theories.

But I still wanted a backstory, and my most recent attempt at one was surprisingly large. Chara’s father was a war criminal who met a violent end, leaving his/her De’Londa Bryce-esque mother to try and preserve her lavish lifestyle on his dwindling ‘prize money’. When Chara got old enough, reading about their father’s actions and mother’s stress made something in them snap and they ran off to the mountain where it was rumored no one returned from. The rest was history.

Although, the words “war criminal” and “cutesy Earthbound homage” don’t exactly go well together. Oh well…

 

Unleashing the Circle Trigon

So, it’s very weird how when dealing with the early “Circle Trigon” phase of US military OPFORs (a history of their progression I recorded in another post at Baloogan Campaign), my usual approach to exercise scenarios has been turned on its head. I played a largely futile attack by USMC aircraft on a battleship/cruiser pair in Command, and it was really fun.

However, instead of an American battleship and cruiser, I represented the Trigonist warships with a French battleship and Spanish cruiser. This was “in-character” for the Aggressor backstory, which featured them carved out of Bavaria, Italy, Spain, and France. The Aggressor Navy being vaguely defined gives me a lot of creative freedom (it’s neither a direct copy of an American unit or obvious Soviet stand-in). I think my approach involves…

  • For later OPFORs, using “Actor” aggressor units adds variety, as a break from the waves of units. But for this earlier environment, obscure French/Spanish/Italian units “in-character” get their chance to shine. The Circle Trigon backstory is so goofy I feel compelled to run with it.
  • The proficiency setting is not always “Ace”. Weird how, even as I focus on the ‘characters’, I shift to the ‘actors’ proficiency. These are ad-hoc units trained in Aggressor tactics and speaking Esperanto, not the full-time OPFOR that became a beast at Nellis and the NTC. But who knows, I could make them aces if I wanted to 😀
  • Just wanting to have fun.

And I certainly did. I really should make a full Aggressor scen that treats everything seriously.

 

 

 

FE Battalion Operations

To put the FE Battalion on the offense or defense?

I’m leaning towards defense. A basic foot infantry battalion is more capable in defense, especially in closed terrain than it is on offense against a heavier conventional foe. Then again, I’m considering putting them in a mechanized battalion, because a foot one is simply too limited.

I don’t want to put them in some sort of special forces unit, even though bizarrely it’s what arguably fits them the best[1].

Now for the enemy. In military terms, this is easy-it’s the Circle Trigon/Krasnovia/Donovia. In other words, an enemy made as a bland opposing force in an artificial battle. Good for artificial battles (and it’s not like the canon FE games are the most deep and intricate anyway), not so good for character development or a sense of meaning.

Now for what their parent regiment/brigade will be like-will it be composed of other high fantasy turned-soldier transplants? Regular troops regarding it as a weak link?

Good news is I have a command staff.

Robin as CO.

Cordelia as XO

Mark as Operations Head

Matthew as Intelligence Head

Merlinus as Logistics Head

Oh no, I’ve stacked the staff with people from my favorite game (FE7) and the most popular (Awakening)! :p.

Now to figure out where to put the more problematic ones…

[1]FE characters have some anime physics and a few superhuman strength feats. I call them “Captain America level”, but their lower durability means they can’t be wasted in a line unit. At least if I wanted to be practical.

My Supervillains And How They Came To Be

So, yesterday, I finally drew some bad concept art of supervillains I’ve had in my head for a while. They are known as the Dead Hand, a reference to both a Russian nuclear system AND the “Four=Death” similarity found in East Asian languages. And yes, there are only three of them in the picture. That’s all I had room for. Forgive my terrible drawing.

 

So, each one of these has a story.

  • Empat (Malay for ‘Four’) started off with just the camera powers. Then I realized she was in a “what does Aquaman do without being in the water” situation and made her leverage her camera powers to superhuman accuracy. Then I gave her incredible intelligence and reaction time too, so her brain can process looking through countless cameras at once and switch images before even a supercomputer can react. Her look, I have to admit, owes a lot to the Payday series.
  • Ceathair (Irish for ‘Four’, although it’s a complex language that way) started off as Peter Walsh, the protagonist of One Two Three Dead. Then that fizzled out and I went with him being past the point of no return, because let’s face it, Darth Vader is more interesting than Anakin Skywalker. Then I realized he’d been one of my dime-a-dozen Punisher types and turned him into someone with a magic sword. His durability keeps increasing-as of now, he can easily survive being splattered. The shirt and tie is actually a reference to the pro wrestlers Irwin R. Schyster and Mankind, who wore similar clothes.
  • Cztery (Polish for “Four” is the newest. Originally, the leader of the Dead Hand, Richard Shi, was going to be a member, but his Q/Ellemist level powers made him too strong. So I had to swap in someone who had an indirect power. I’ve had a concept for “chemists” who mixed packs of chemicals in ramshackle arrays of tanks, and leveraged it into making her.

Better Supers

So, I’m finally ridding myself of the “Punisher Syndrome.”

See, an awful lot of my envisioned superheroes were basically variations on the theme of that skull-chested vigilante. Which is to say, they’re walking arsenals that achieve their superhuman qualities simply through ridiculous amounts of training.

Not all of them have gotten changed. But I’m very thankful that enough have-and that I’ve had the imagination to make them different. After all, I don’t want the walking arsenals to overlap too much.

Army Unit Names

So, when naming fictional military units, I like to use fictional names rather than real equivalents. There are many reasons for this, from creating a sort of “wall of separation” between fiction and reality that makes me feel more comfortable writing them, to just the fun of thinking up appropriate names in the same general class.

Regrettably, US Army units encounter both of the seemingly contradictory stumbling blocks I described in an old post on unit names at Baloogan Campaign. Its current divisions are (comparatively) few and in many cases distinctive, especially specialty units like the 82nd Airborne. Almost like aircraft carriers.

However, they’re also numbered-and the US has a huge pool of inactive World Wars-only divisions that make putting a number above them an exercise in stumbling over triple digit units.

130_inf_div_ssi

The shoulder patch for the phantom 130th Infantry Division.

This is not an insurmountable issue, and in fact I have an in-jokey way. I’ve used the phantom units used in WWII as “real” units. So units that were fictional in real life become real in fiction.

Plus it’s also somehow less of an issue for units not American, especially from fictional countries. There I can add all the 1st and 3rd and 82nd divisions I want to.

The FE Battalion Has Arrived

So, my insane, twisted mind is taking the playable characters of the heroic fantasy series Fire Emblem and forcing them to work as drilled soldiers in a more modern battalion. Trained in technologies, these confront a level of war they could not understand before.

There are roughly 500 playable characters across every Fire Emblem game[1]. Enough to fill a small-medium battalion. Several large problems are:

  • Age and condition. These range from the very young to the elderly.
  • Division of labor. These people range from kings to lowly nomads.
  • Willingness to go into the more drudgerous parts of the unit (support, etc), which ties into the above point.
  • Degree of support the FE Battalion would have from higher levels.
  • Overall objective and type of opponent they’d be facing[2].

Another question mark is what the basic type of battalion it would be. A boring but effective plan would be using the healers as the basis for a medical unit and using the rest as just guards and clerks to support them. But since logic got thrown out, I might as well have them be a line unit.

A mechanized one, with the horse-mounted fighters as vehicle crews and the footbound ones as dismounts? Or a lighter one that takes advantage of their experience in less-developed conditions?

And finally, which of the heroic commanders would get to lead the whole unit?

[1]My count was preliminary and either ignored or double counted the same characters appearing in different games. But it’s around that number.

[2]This is actually clear. It’d be a conventional conflict against a powerful but not too powerful OPFOR.

The Artist Was Too Good

Sometimes, an artist is meant to mock or attack something, but they end up actually looking good. DC was mocking the 90s belts and pouches fashion with Magog. Not only was he drawn so well that the garments flowed a lot better than their targets, but the authors ended up actually liking his design.

Similarly, the irreverent One Punch Man set its sights on Dragon Ball villains and spiky-haired power-ups in particular with villain Lord Boros. Instead of something like an even more disproportioned Broly, Boros ends up as an interesting and effective design himself.

So, a mockery can become art by itself.

The Commander

I’ve been looking at surplus military manuals from various time periods to give me the important information of where a formation commander would physically be during a battle.

Obviously, the answer is “it depends”. Especially at lower levels, the rule of thumb (at least according to American military manuals) is “behind the lead subunit, so you aren’t at the very tip, but can still control the march and battle”. Of course, what the lead subunit is depends on the formation and the circumstances. The manuals themselves do not give a set location for where the command post should be (for very good reasons of both safety and flexibility), and throughout decades of major updates and technological changes, are adamant that the commander personally move often to the best location, which is frequently not the main command post.

Thus this gives me a feel for writing. The nuts and bolts of every specific engagement matter less than general details like where the commander would (in-theory) be. There are exceptions to the norm, for better and worse, which many of the manuals cover to their credit. Naturally, these won’t stop me from putting commanders into very weird situations, because I like weird.

It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve seen in my numerous forays into bad fiction examples of rather dumb commander placement, on all extremes. Many of which are not justifiable in either a tactical or literary sense.

And of course, pre-mechanized command is an entirely different story.