Two words about two letters etc. (small PotD Spoiler)

Tue Jan 14 15:26:57 PST 2003

On Tue, 14 Jan 2003, Andrew Lias wrote:

> >In the thread above, when you made this point I argued that the Japan
> >analogy fails on your other argument - remote-control detonation.

> Actually, you are confusing me with another (and I don't blame you, given
> how many have weighed in).  My only suggestion was that *some* sort of
> sorcerous counter-measure was developed.  I was very careful to leave the
> exact nature of the counter-measure unspecified.

Oops, another sign this thread is too tangled to profitably pursue.

> In my opinion, people have been far too quick to jump in with the conclusion
> that sorcery was used to detonate the gunpowder.  I don't think that that
> needs to necessarily be the case.  Magic is both versatile and strange.
> There are many different ways that I can think of for firearms to be
> rendered moot, from having a spell that supresses the gunpowder, to spells
> that effect the accuracy of firearms, to spells that alter the psychology of
> the participants so that they would avoid using firearms, to spells that
> would put upper boundaries on missile velocities, and so forth.  More
> importantly, I am fully aware that there must be many, many possibilities
> that I have not considered.

My anti-Japan argument holds even if any of the above is substituted.
I believe the above would apply more generally to basic armed conflict,
and certainly rule out a lot of what we saw in _Dragon_ - javelins and
arrows, for example.  My assertion, which I've made about three times
so it must be true, is that there's nothing "magical" about gunpowder
and any methods against it would imply skills that would make armies
impossible.  I think that the current level of sorcery does this anyway.

> All I know, for certain, is that we have the empirical fact that firearms do
> not exist in current Dragaeran culture.  Given their military usefulness and
> given that Dragons, if no one else, would certainly embrace them if they
> were practical on the battlefield, I think that the simplest explaination is
> that they are *not* practical on the battlefield, for some reason.  I would
> contend that sorcery is the most obvious reason that they wouldn't be
> practical, without bothering to speculate on the specific sorcerous impact
> (which I think is wise since we really know next to nothing about how magic
> actually works in their world and what it's advantages and limitations
> really are).  I have yet to see any arguments which would dissuade me from
> making this speculation nor, certainly, any alternative arguments which I
> consider to be more plausible.

I'm hereby convinced by my arguments and thus think this is a "Steve says
so" issue.

> >Or almost any emperor issuing
> >Teckla rifles to beat back an Eastern invasion.
> On the one hand, you speculate that the East regularly gets rolled over and
> crushed by superior Dragaeran sorcery, in order to have its own technologies
> reset, and, on the other, you imply that the East is such a grim threat that
> Dragaeran emporers would introduce socially destabilizing technologies in
> the hands of Teckla to fight them off.
> You will pardon me if I find that the two arguments seem be incompatible
> with one another.

I don't see any destabilization if your "guns aren't actually useful on a
sorcerous battlefield" argument is correct.  The emperor sends in the
Teckla to clean up the Easterners while he's busy doing more important
things  (painting his nails) then has the Orb render the guns worthless
while he has the Dragon army round them up.

> My own take is that the Dragaeran Empire is not, in fact, threatend by the
> East in any serious way, but that the amount of effort to fully conquer it
> exceeds the level of commitment (in resources, or otherwise) that would be
> needed to, indeed, stage a full conquest (in the same manner that Rome never
> fully conquered Britain, barbarians though they were).
> -- Andrew Lias

I've wondered about this myself, and present the
_PG_/_FHYA_/_Teckla_/_Orca_/ explanation - the East is a threat when the
Emperor is embroiled in court intrigue or weak or dealing with financial
disasters or faced with power-hungry Houses or fighting off the
Greenaerians.  Also note that Dragaerans aren't exactly fecund.  How
many Dragonlords are there (say in Uttrik's time or Vlad's)?  They
seem to kill themselves off in duels on a regular basis, so there
can't be an endless supply to guard the passes over the mountains.
Say an average Dragon is worth 100 Easterners - that might well mean
trouble for the Empire given the generation time difference and
the surprises the East can throw at an invader. Certainly in the modern
era a couple of sorcerers could hold off any number of Easterners.
I don't understand why the rioting Adrilankha ghetto wasn't blanketed
with a sleep or migraine spell in _Teckla_.

> [1] I would also suspect, although this is more of a hunch, that they
> would also be interested in keeping themselves beyond the wrath of the
> Tekla.  I suspect that the Jhereg may realize that quality firearms,
> even if available, would tend to equalize their relationship with their
> customers in a way that they would find unacceptable.

Yes, this is a good point - my counter-arguments depend on the anti-gun
sorcery question and the protection-from-missile sorcery we've seen
employed on occasion, so I'll skip them.

- Philip