Arbitrage - Binary Options Trading Guide for UK

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)

Hello, dummies
It's your old pal, Fuzzy.
As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great.
What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. I do my bit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post.
That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way.
We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps.
Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy.
TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle.
Ready? Let's get started.
1. The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life
The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows:
Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself.
Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part.
You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus.
That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it.
Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets?
2. A Hedging Taxonomy
The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now.
(i) Swaps
A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one.
Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered.
The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game.
I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging.
There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested.
Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure).
(ii) Forwards
A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me.
Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways.
People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances.
These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them.
(iii) Collars
No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray!
To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts.
(3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs
You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years.
First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA.
Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire.
Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking?
Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama.
Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details.
I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here.
Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post.
*EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
submitted by fuzzyblankeet to wallstreetbets [link] [comments]

Student Loan Default: The Guide (reuploaded)

The original guide that was recently deleted here: https://www.reddit.com/studentloandefaulters/comments/cg1fd7/student_loan_default_a_guide/
I take no credit for this post, just happened to have it saved in a document and thought I'd be doing an injustice by not sharing this information once I saw the original post was missing! All credit goes to the original author, and without further ado...

Student Loan Default: A Guide
I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time, and seeing that person be in $500,000 of debt and no one really helping him on studentloans, I felt it was time to summarize everything I’ve learned. While there is great information on this sub, it is not centralized. It requires some digging. I hope now to bring all of it to the surface.

Definitions:

Strategic Default: When a borrower realizes that he or she can spend less money by not paying a loan. The borrower waits out the statute of limitations and then either settles or waits the debt out.

Shills: People who are paid to prevent the spread of student loan default information

Statute of Limitations: The number of years your state requires before a debt can no longer be collected.

Cosigner: The poor person who is just as legally required to pay your loans as you are

Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion: A tax rule that states any US citizen can earn up to about $100,000 a year in another country and report their US taxes as 0.

Fraudulent Transfer: When a party tries to move assets to someone else in order to avoid a lien on their property.

Lien: Essentially when the government slaps a bill onto your property forcing you to pay off a debt before you can sell the property.

Income Based Repayment (IBR): Federal loans can be paid with 15% of your discretionary income (money earned after taxes) instead of a higher, unpayable amount

Aggregate Student Loan Limit: The total amount a student can take out before the federal government or a private lender stops authorizing new loans

Wage Garnishment: When a court forces your employer to take out a certain percentage of your paycheck to pay back a debt

Bank Levy: When the government or a court takes all of the money directly out of your bank account to pay a debt

Private Loans: Loans that originate from anyone but the federal government. These loans have a statute of limitations and less power but higher interest rates.

Federal Loans: These loans have no statute of limitations, the government can collect anything you earn to get these back, and they come with IBR which is manageable

Sallie Mae: The worst private lender on the market. They only offer deferment for four short years.

Forbearance: A period where you do not have to pay your student loans, but interest accrues.

Deferment: A period where you do not have to pay your student loans, but interest does not accrue.

Credit Score: A number that tells people how responsible of a borrower you are.

Student Loan Tax Bomb: After you have paid for 10 - 25 years on your federal loans, you are forgiven the rest. That is considered income by the IRS. You then add this “income” to your regular income for the year and pay the tax. It can be over $10,000.

Insolvency: When you are unable to pay your debts. This works well for defusing the student loan tax bomb.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness: If you work for 10 years at a government job, you can get your entire federal student loan balance forgiven. In 2019, the feds are making it near impossible to collect. This could change.

A note on cosigners before we begin: Look, your cosigner is probably going to be very mad at you. Prepare for your relationship to be strained. You need to try and get them on the same page as you, and I do offer a tactic here to at least shift all of the financial burden off of your cosigner below. If you decide to do any of these tactics without getting your cosigner off the hook, there could be more risk involved if you or your cosigners have a lot of assets.

Strategy

Student loan default is a strategy. And to have a good strategy, one must plan as much as possible. You have to know all of your options. While strategy is your overall game plan, tactics are the individual options you have to get your strategy accomplished. Below are the tactics that you can employ to beat the student loan companies.

Tactics

Paying Your Loans: [low risk] In the rare chance you have anywhere between $1,000 to $20,000 in federal student loans and you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you should probably just pay the damn loans. All you have to do is set up an auto debit and forget about it. It will be about 15% of your income. You really want to try and avoid consolidating if you can, because it will count against some of your IBR payments. You would also lose your grace period if you did this. At the end of 10 to 25 years, you will be forgiven all of the loan amount you did not pay. That forgiven amount is considered income by the IRS, so you will be put into a higher tax bracket. I would get an accountant when this comes. In your case, your tax bomb will be low enough where you could probably just pay it. If you want to really shake things up though, you are welcome to try either the Asset Creation Tactic or the Madlad Method below. Here is more information on Income Based Repayment: https://www.studentdebtrelief.us/repayment-plans/income-based-repayment-plan/

Default Private IBR Federal (Staying Put): [low risk] The standard strategy here on studentloandefaulters. As mentioned above, for the federal loans, it’s best to just IBR and automatically debit your bank account each month and forget about it. For the private loans, this is where the game begins. Your overall plan here is to default, wait out the statute of limitations in your home state, and either settle the debt for less than 30% or just hope they leave you alone and you don’t pay at all. From this moment on, whatever you would have paid for your private monthly bill, sock that money away. Once you go past 120 days of no payments, you are in default. This is where the phone calls come in. They will start to harass you. They will call your work, your cell phone, your cosigner, etc relentlessly. Most likely, they’ll start doing this before you get to default. As they call you, you can either just give them the cold shoulder or start immediately acting like you do not own the debt. Never admit that you own the debt. Tell them you think they are crazy and have the wrong person. Inform your cosigner to do the same. Once your loans are sold to a collection agency, wait until they call you and ask for verification of the debt. If they do not provide it, you won. Chances are, they will be able to verify it, so just make sure you never admit to the debt on the phone or make a payment. If you make a payment, you’ll reset the statute of limitations. Do not give them five dollars, two dollars, a penny. If they do sue you, show up for court. Get a lawyer if you can afford it. You have to show up to court, or they win automatically. Even if you don’t have a lawyer in court, you need to make them verify the debt. You could still lose here. If you do lose in court, go to my tactic of “The Cat and Mouse Game.” They are playing a numbers game, and if you are harder to sue than John Smith down the street, they may prey on him or her instead of you. Now, there are four states in the United States that do not have wage garnishment: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. You could move there, and if you have barely any assets, you are considered judgement proof. This means you’re not worth the time to be sued, because you have nothing to take and cannot be garnished. Moving is hard, though, so that’s a personal decision. Also, from what I understand, if you do move to these states, you can switch your statute of limitations over to their states which may be less time until you cannot be sued anymore. If you do lose and just want to stop here, you could get your bank levied and you could be slapped with up to a 25% wage garnishment until paid in full Clarification: a lot of people do not ever get garnished, and bank levies are rare (they are non-existent on federal loans). Do not let this freak you out!. I repeat this is super rare and not likely to happen. Anyways, you have options at this point. If it does happen, try another tactic like leave the country or cat and mouse below.

Default Private Default Federal: [medium risk] Some of the wilder people have attempted to default on both federal and private loans in order to do a cash settlement. The same strategy above in Default Private IBR Federal applies, but realize that the US government could just step in and do an administrative garnish on you eventually. If you were living some sort of cash existence, you could potentially avoid them and then write them a money order and settle for 30% or something. This way, you avoid the tax bomb and would probably pay a lot less interest overall. If you do this and it works, I would love to hear about it.

Cat and Mouse: [medium risk] So, you want to avoid getting sued or you lost a judgement? You don’t have to sit back and take it. u/nowaysalliemae has successfully avoided being sued by essentially going on the run. You see, to be sued successfully, they need to know where you work. If you get sued, move to another state, and switch jobs, they have to do the entire process over again! This means find you, verify the debt, sue you, etc. You can essentially do this until your statute of limitations runs out. And then, you dispute the debt on your credit score. They take it off at that point, and you just saved a lot of money. I decided to put this as medium risk, because moving around a lot would require some luck. Especially since you would need to work wherever you go, there are a lot of moving parts here. I think it is totally doable, and if you are an adventurous personality type, it could be a lot of fun. This only works for the private student loan side, because the US government has a lot more power. You would still IBR your federal loans on this tactic. For more information, go through nowaysalliemae's post history.

Leave the Country: [medium risk] What if you want to avoid all of this altogether? Do you want a reset button on your life? You can just leave the country and start over. Seriously. Your credit score does not follow you across countries. The federal government cannot garnish your paycheck if you work internationally. You are not a criminal doing this. Furthermore, there is something called the Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion. Since you will still IBR your federal loans on this plan, as long as you make less than $100,000 in another country, your US income is zero. This means you just got a free education while you make money in another country. Once you pay zero for 25 years, you will have to defuse your student tax bomb. Tactic Below. Private companies do not stand a chance here. There are countries in the commonwealth such as Australia and Canada that are more willing to take you in if you meet certain requirements. You could teach English at a bunch of places. You could apply for residency at these places or be a perpetual tourist. A perpetual tourist is someone who essentially moves to a new country, goes to a neighboring country for a weekend, and then goes back to that new country they are trying to start a new life in*. This in no means you have to go back to the U.S. Ever. For example, you want to live in Panama forever, every 90 days, you take a weekend trip to Nicaragua. You come back to Panama after the weekend is over and get another 90 day pass. Rinse and repeat. This gives you another 90 days in your country of choice. If you make money on the internet, this strategy would work pretty well. You can just be a perpetual tourist or marry someone in another country and start a new life. This will not be a good fit for everyone, but there’s something exciting about this. If you are young, single, and restless, this could be the adventure of a lifetime. Here's more info on being a perpetual traveler and the FEIE: https://www.escapeartist.com/blog/perpetual-traveler-us-tax-code/

Suspend Payment Without More Debt: [low risk] So recently, it has been brought to my attention that there is a community college, Luna Community College (in Las Vegas, NM), that has tuition so low you could go half time all year for about 684 dollars. They have a small amount of associate's degrees. If you just want to stop paying without taking any more loans, this would be the way to do it. You could do this for many years. Luna Community College's tuition matrix: https://luna.edu/tuition_matrix

Convert Private Loans to Federal: [low risk] From this point on, these are my special tactics I’ve been thinking about. They might work really well for some people. So, you have a bunch of federal loans and a good amount of private loans. You don’t want to fight debt collectors or move around. Try this. This plan only works if you have a bachelor’s degree though. Anyways, there is a special loan offered by the US Federal Government called the Graduate Plus Loan. This loan is incredible, because there is no aggregate student loan limit. In other words, you can borrow as much money as you want here. Even a million dollars no questions asked. All you need is no delinquency or default on your credit report. If you do have these things, you can get a cosigner in on the plan. They won’t ever be responsible anyways because you will defuse the tax bomb at the end. This works to your advantage, because you could go back to school at the graduate level, get a diploma mill master’s degree online, use your room and board payment to start paying off your private loans ASAP. Just make sure you are doing whatever your school considers half time enrollment in order to avoid student loan payments while doing this. Once you’ve gone to school long enough and converted all of your private loans to grad plus loans, you could just go on an IBR plan. This will at least make your life manageable. You would have to defuse your student tax bomb once this is over. Tactic below.

Convert Federal Loans to Private: [medium risk] So, what if you wanted to go the opposite way? Maybe you want to convert all of your federal loans to private ones, default, and then leave the country? Hey, maybe there are reasons you want to hurry up the settlement process. You could essentially do the same strategy as above, but instead just borrow from Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, etc until all of your federal loans are paid off. Then, either cat and mouse or leave the country. I don’t think a lot of people would find a use for this, but hey who knows?

Asset Creation Method: [high risk] What if you wanted to not just pay off your loans but get ahead in life? Maybe you feel like using your student loan debt to your advantage. Thanks to the work done by u/BinaryAlgorithm, you could really come out on top here. Remember those Grad Plus loans we were talking about? Well, there’s nothing stopping you from continually borrowing all year on these loans, investing the room and board, and acting as if you do not have the debt in the first place. While I had originally said that rental property does not count as income, I cannot find any documentation proving this. You can still invest this money however you want, and you just defuse the tax bomb at the end (if anyone can find that documentation, please let me know). I did find that rental properties offer a lot of ways to reduce your adjusted gross income (management fees, advertising, etc), and these could reduce your income closer to zero. We’re not done here. Moreover, you could get a job that qualifies for Public Student Loan Forgiveness, enjoy your investments, and then pay for the 10 years. Be sure to convert all loans to federal before starting this tactic. I only put this as high risk, because the whole plan falls apart if Grad Plus loans get capped. Will they? Probably not, because those are the loans doctors and lawyers take out to go to their professional schools. It would take an act of congress to change the way the law stands now, but still, you should know that. This plan spans decades, so a lot can change. Also, having this many installment loans may lower your credit score over a multitude of years, but based on what everyone has found out here, it's not by much. For more information, go to this subreddit's search bar and type in "aggregate" and go look at BinaryAlgorithm's two posts on the subject.

Defusing the Student Tax Bomb: [low risk] So lucky for you, I talked to an actual lawyer and an actual IRS agent about this. This is completely legal and doable. Okay, so you were a good person and paid your IBR for 25-30 years. What now? Well, you’re about to be hit hard with a tax bomb. All of that money that is now forgiven counts as income on your taxes. This could mean a bill in the tens of thousands if you combined this with any of the other methods here—or just borrowed a lot to begin with. Luckily for us, there is something called insolvency. This means you are unable to pay your debts, and there is a really simple formula for whether or not you are insolvent. As long as you have more liabilities than assets at the time of student loan forgiveness, you are considered insolvent. In other words, right before you are about to be forgiven, like year 24 out of 25, you would take out a loan on something. All you would need to do is buy a house, buy a car, or buy something with a huge price tag. As long as your liabilities are way higher than your assets (like aim for 100K or something more), you are considered insolvent and you don’t have to pay any of the tax bomb. Boom. The IRS agent said this is fine. The lawyer said this is fine. I cannot believe this is fine. Where could you get the money to borrow for a house? Check Asset Creation method above. You could always sell the asset after the tax bomb is dealt with. For more information on defusing the student loan tax bomb: https://lawyerist.com/defusing-student-loan-interest-tax-bomb/

Getting Your Cosigner Off the Hook: So 90% of us have cosigners based on some statistic I read. These people are going to pissed at you, because they get harassed. If you have a lot of time to plan your strategy out, you can simply convert all of your private loans to federal ones. They are no longer responsible. The plan is above. Check out “Convert Private Loans to Federal.” Furthermore, if you are attempting to go the default route with private loans, you could potentially get your cosigner off the hook by refinancing your student loans without the cosigner. After you refinance, you could just default then. You would need good credit and meet certain requirements for this. Also, if you plan on defaulting, you might want to get your cosigner to transfer their assets to their spouse or someone trustworthy. Even though liens are rare, this could give you some peace of mind. As long as about 3-5 years go by, this is no longer considered a fraudulent transfer. Your state will have certain rules about this. If you are from Florida, apparently houses are untouchable there. You will need a lawyer to plan the asset transfer. At the same time, you may not be able to get your cosigner off the hook. Make peace with that. Student loans are brutal, so all you can really do is educate yourself and your cosigner and hope you come out on top.

Madlad Method: [high risk] Now, here comes my personal plan. This is what I’m doing, because I want to live a life on my terms and not really work for anyone my entire life. I’m also not a normal person, so this will probably appear crazy to some or most of you. So at this point, if you understand all of the methods before you, you are a powerful player in the student loan circus. You can do anything from fight the man to maliciously comply and bankrupt the system while becoming upper-middle class. I don’t really care for any of that. I want to go to a tropical paradise and make music for 20 years, so here is my interpretation of everything. I have some federal loans and private loans. I net about 25K a year through the Grad Plus loans, and I work about 4 hours a week in the online classroom. I take that federal loan money, and I sock away a few hundred every month to save up for my private loan settlement in about five years. Since I save 300 every month, I’ll have about 18K in 5 years when I go into default. I will settle ASAP. At the same time, I will continue to go to diploma mill universities, get master's degree after master’s degree, and move to a Latin American country where the cost of living is even lower. This way, my 25K a year puts me in the upper class of that country. I can live where I want and really do whatever I damn well please for as long as the Grad Plus loans are around. As an added bonus, I will already be starting a new life in another country where I can make connections and maybe even get married. I studied linguistics, so I know how to teach English. I can do that if I want a source of income anywhere. So there is my plan, and honestly, one day we might get someone in office who just wipes out all of this debt anyways. If that’s the case, I can just play the waiting game until all of this is over. Here are the rules on adverse credit history and Grad Plus loans: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/plus-adverse-credit.pdf

Final Thoughts: Defaulting on student loans is not immoral or a sin. It is a business decision. Everyone else gets bailouts, why should student borrowers be any different? You’re going to have to ignore the people who tell you why they think you should be a good little slave and pay your loans. Those people are not your friends. Those people are not on your side. Some of the best advice I ever received in life was you have to do what’s best for you. Also, if you have anything you would like to add to this or would like to challenge, please let me know. I want this to be as accurate as possible. I will be looking at this perpetually to make sure there are no errors. Take care. Good luck. You can do this.
submitted by PlsvoteforBernie to studentloandefaulters [link] [comments]

An in-depth review of the "Ghost Mode" gameplay overhaul mod

As I'm sure you can all relate, the 10th Witcher Games Anniversary video brought a lot of feels. And with them came the itch to do yet another playthrough of my favourite video game. This time, to freshen up the experience, I decided to break from my tradition of only installing visual enhancement mods and look into the gameplay overhauls recommended on the sub.
To my surprise in-depth assessments of these mods were nowhere to be found. True you can look up detailed descriptions of what they change, but that won't give you an impression of how the changes work in practice nor an objective look at how they impact the overall experience. Thus the goal of this thread is to help you decide if you would enjoy using "Ghost Mode" for your next playthrough and to serve as a resource for posterity.
Note: the title of this post is no misnomer. This is a long read. If you already have an idea of what the mod is about and are just wondering "if it's any good", then feel free to skip to the TLDR rating section at the bottom.
 

Setup

First thing first, all the changes introduced by the mod remain true to the vanilla feel, flow and story of the game. There is no need to worry that the game you know and love will suddenly be unrecognisable, that you won't know your arse from your elbow. Secondly, I do not plan to rehash the full changelog in this review. Changes from Vanilla will only be mentioned if they are relevant to the point I am making.
Dsiclaimer: this review is written with the above in mind. I do not claim my experience to be completely exhaustive. For example, things which were difficult or annoying for my setup might be trivial for others and vice versa. Your mileage may vary.
 

General Gameplay

The mod has been implemented in a competent way. I did not notice any performance decrease compared to Vanilla and encountered no game breaking bugs. There was only a single major issue in 2.6 which was repeatable and highly annoying, but thankfully it seems to be fully fixed with version 2.7.
Immersion has been improved and the game world is more believable. Some examples:

Quests and Experience

The way the experience penalty works has also been changed. Previously you would get 100% of quest experience if you were at most 5 levels above the quest level, and basically 0% if you were 6 levels above or more. Now for every level you are above a quest the experience reward is reduced by 16%. This also works the other way around, you will receive an experience bonus for doing quests which are higher level than you.
This way you get the best of both worlds. You get to tailor the quest order to your liking, without having to suffer meta-gaming pressure, and at the same time Geralt will not end up overlevelled.
 

Combat

This is usually the number one reason why people recommend this mod and it is clear to see why. The author has implemented a great number of improvements to nearly all of the vanilla systems. Combat is more challenging and rewards players for their skill and preparation better. Geralt's overpowered traits and abilities have been toned down and your specialisation makes a much bigger difference to how you approach fights.
Overall, most battles are more fun with GM compared to vanilla. However this comes at a cost: namely the "realism", feel and flow of combat have all decreased to facilitate the above. Let's examine the 4 main areas where GM changes combat and evaluate them in detail.

Enemy behaviour

The first thing you will probably notice is that "all enemies have a reduced reaction time". The reason I put quotes around that phrase is because I don't know the actual inner workings of the mod and precisely how it has modified the AI scripts. Therefore I am just calling the effect as I saw and experienced it during my playthrough. The easiest way to describe it is: the time frame between you being in range of an enemy and the enemy starting their action is now much lower.
The primary effect of this change is an increase in difficulty. You now have to have faster reflexes in order to be able to dodge enemy attacks. Additionally, enemies will spend significantly less time in a hit recovery state after you land a blow. Which means that you won't be able to chain as many attacks as you could before, since your enemy will dodge/retaliate much more rapidly.
This change really shines when it comes to boss fights. The faster enemy reaction time forces you to play by the boss' rules and pay attention to their mechanics, rather than treating them as a higher health & damage generic enemy. To give a concrete example, let us look at the Olgierd fight at the burning manor.
In Vanilla you can easily beat him on Death March by ignoring the fight's mechanics. You simply position yourself slightly outside of his melee range and start a rend which he walks into. Then you follow this up with a quick dodge to the side to avoid the sand in the eyes and immediately start another rend. The boss gets locked in the above AI loop and you win pretty easily. The reduced reaction time in Ghost Mode counters this perfectly. By the time you are winding up your rend the boss, instead of walking into your sword, starts his own attack which targets where you will be after you swing and hits you before you can deal any damage.
So to beat him I had to actually play by the rules, which means conventional sword swinging is out of the question, especially as you also leave yourself open to a quick counter attack which kills you in 2-3 hits. The rules in this case are: counter his attack, swing once and go on the defensive. There are three different attacks he throws at you:
  • The red charge: when you are far away from him, it is the easiest to counter and the bare minimum required to win. If you can only counter this then you will win, but it will take ages.
  • The phase charge: is when he turns semi transparent and steps side to side. He only does this if your are slightly outside of melee range, so you have much less margin of error on your counter. If you are quick enough you can counter this type of attack with a close to 100% success rate, which means that a better player can defeat him much more rapidly.
  • Finally we have the slash combo, which he does when you are in melee range. This one is also counterable, but the reaction time is so small I didn't feel it was worth the risk. Especially because if you fail it and only parry you will be locked in that stance for a few of his hits which will drain your stamina significantly (and you cannot counter without stamina, but more on this topic later).
So as you can see from the above GM makes you pay attention to the intended mechanics and rewards skilled play.
The change to reaction time also has its downsides however, and they are major ones. Most notably, enemies which have extremely fast attack animations by default become unfair in melee combat. Especially if they are in a group. The best example of this problem are all of the insectoid type enemies like the endregas and the kikimores. Their attack animation is fast and when you pair it with an increased aggression and run speed it means that you literally cannot attack them preemptively. If you start any type of attack (without dodging one of their attacks or parrying first) they will strike you first, even if you were outside of their melee range when you initiated your swing. As you can probably tell fighting groups of these enemies is extremely annoying especially early on. Later you can cheese them by unloading your entire reserve of Dancing Stars & Northern wind bombs for some semblance of crowd control, but even that is like putting a plaster on an amputated leg. What's strange is that looking at past feedback numerous people have complained about these enemies, throughout the mod's life cycle. Yet the author has failed to address the problem, which is that they shouldn't have reduced reaction time in the first place. Such empty difficulty, only for its own sake is never good.
Another downside is that early on you cannot take on groups of certain enemies, like wraiths, nekkers or insectoids for example, without resorting to AI abuse. This probably only applies to the higher difficulties, but when the best way of beating groups in the early game is dragging enemies one by one to the edge of their AI leash it doesn't feel good. No matter how skilled you are in melee combat you cannot defeat such packs head on without numerous deaths, which doesn't make you feel like a witcher at all in those encounters.
Finally, GM also implements monster "dodge" with a much more heavy handed approach compared to Vanilla. All sorts of enemies will now dodge your attacks more frequently. This is yet another example of where combat quality was sacrificed in order to increase combat difficulty. I write "dodge" in quotation marks because normally the word implies that the enemy sees your attack and reacts to it by getting out of the way. This mod makes the enemies which "dodge" the most feel like blatant AI bots with rigid if-then logic in their script, which harms immersion. Some examples:
  • Enemies dodging mid attack, when it makes no sense for them to do so
  • Werewolves dodging while airborne in the middle of their lunge
  • Humans dodging attacks that come from behind them and they cannot see
  • Shrieker glitching into its "on the ground" dodge animation while flying, after being shot with a crossbow
  • Occasionally enemies dodging attacks while burning, sirens dodging when knocked down etc.

Skill Balance changes

A lot of adjustments have been made to the skill tree in order to improve how balanced Geralt is in combat. The changes can mostly be summed up by saying "baseline Geralt was nerfed". What that means in practice is that witchering aspects you do not invest points into will be significantly worse compared to vanilla. For example the signs, crossbow and damage bombs are a lot less useful for my mainly sword focused build. This is a good thing as specialisation encourages more diversity in your playstyle. Here are some examples:
  • Quen no longer always blocks at least 1 attack, regardless of how much damage it's supposed to absorb. Now it's no longer the combat crutch it used to be in Vanilla as it will only absorb the value of the shield and the rest of the damage will go through.
  • Poison and bleed effects are no longer extremely overpowered boss monster killers. Their duration and damage are significantly reduced to the point where 1 poison application is equal to about 2 additional sword attacks. Still good, but now balanced.
  • Crossbow & Bombs now only deal half damage if they were auto aimed. And of course manual aiming during combat is way too slow unless you have invested into the related skills. There seem to be a few minor bugs related to these items. For example manual crossbow shots sometimes don't bring big flyers down despite hitting them successfully. Superior Samum, manually aimed, dealing 5 (yes five) damage on kikimores.
  • In general overpowered skills have been nerfed (rend, whirl, euphoria etc.) while underpowered abilities have been buffed (crippling strikes, undying, counter attack etc.).
Overall the skill tree feels significantly more polished and we now have a lot more viable choices to pick from.

Defensive techniques (dodge, roll, counter, parry)

The way dodging and rolling worked in Vanilla was a simple binary check. Did you press the appropriate button before the attack connected with your character? If yes then avoid all damage, regardless of where your character ended up going (for attacks which can be dodged). And while this was still a big improvement from the second game, the i-frames were way too generous and the moves lacked any stamina cost. Which made it all to easy to just spam the dodge button and be invulnerable. GM changes this behaviour by also taking into account the direction Geralt moves in when dodging/rolling with respect to the enemy attack. Now if you dodge in time but still end up connecting with the attack, depending on the angle, you will take partial damage and debuffs based on what direction you were going in.
Parrying and countering have been significantly enhanced compared to the base game. Essentially now you can parry/counter nearly all attacks, those coming from monsters included. Taking counters as an example, you may counter light attacks just like before - by reducing all incoming damage - but now you retaliate against monsters with a "counter slash". This also applies to heavy attacks (including hammer and spear wielding humans) except that damage is reduced only by 50%. Both parry and counter now have a stamina cost depending on the attack you have deflected. This is a great addition to the game in my opinion. It plays perfectly with the risk and reward scale. Countering carries a greater reward because you spend your time negating the monster attack and dealing damage on your own, instead of just negating as you would with a dodge. However the risk is also greater because you confusing monster light and heavy attacks means you will take significant damage, especially if your build is not prepared for it. Yet another gameplay element where skill is rewarded.

Armour, stamina and different playstyles

Stamina management is now a big part of combat, rather than a mere afterthought with Tawny oil. The base regeneration rate is significantly reduced, all combat actions pause this regeneration for a short while and counter and parry stamina costs are increased. The armour you are wearing now also affects your stamina more than the Vanilla regeneration penalties. Light armour has no penalties and increases stamina regen, medium armour introduces a stamina cost for rolling & sprinting and heavy armour has stamina costs associated with rolling, dodging and sprinting.
Armour now plays a much bigger role in the game thanks to its significantly increased damage absorption capabilities. Plenty of enemies now have high armour values which also makes the armour penetration stat on swords better. To help with this, your heavy attacks now have a significant amount of armour penetration by default. This means that quick attack spam is no longer maximum dps against all enemy types and you will have to mix in heavy attacks much more frequently. Some enemies like golems are so heavily armoured that using quick attacks against them is basically pointless. Similarly, high armour values on your gear now make a big dent in the incoming damage whereas in Vanilla they were useless and the only thing that mattered were the resistances on the gear.
Both of these changes together translate into very distinct melee combat playstyles depending on which Witcher set you are wearing, which is one of the best features of GM for me.
  • Light Armour: the Cat set provides the combat experience which is closest to Vanilla DM, with a few important tweaks. Firstly, because you have very little damage reduction, Quen is practically useless. It won't even fully absorb a light attack from a drowner. This combined with the change to the defensive techniques means that you actually have to be quick on your feet and good at dodging, you can only rely on your own skill. Secondly you can also mix in counters for increased dps once you are familiar with the attack patterns of the enemies. However you still have to dodge heavy attacks due to your lack of defence. This makes the Feline armour playstyle a skillful dance combining counters & dodging which is extremely fun, especially against bosses and small enemy groups.
  • Medium Armour: the Wolf set is a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. It has less damage compared to the Cat but more defensive stats and armour. This essentially means that your playstyle is similar to the Cat but you reduce some of the risk and settle for a lesser reward. You still can't afford to counter heavy attacks, but at the same time the stamina penalties for sprinting and rolling are mostly irrelevant as the latter is only necessary to get out of the way of enemy AoE attacks. As a result you will be safer against large groups compared to the cat but will have to settle for reduced offensive capabilities.
  • Heavy Armour: the Bear set in GM presents a markedly different combat experience compared to vanilla. The quickest way to describe it is as an "immovable object". The stamina cost for dodging means that you will spend all of your time holding your ground and countering ALL enemy attacks (apart from AoE). The high armour value and damage resists mean that you can shrug off heavy attacks with ease. Combine this with talents that use adrenaline to heal you and an Ekkimara decoction to create a true tank build. However, due to the slow stamina regeneration signs are pretty much out of the question because every sign costs 10+ counter attacks leading to a big dps loss. This playstyle is extremely fun against groups of enemies because it allows you to combine defense with offense and simultaneously negate enemy damage. It also has its weaknesses - namely big enemies and bosses who make heavy use of area effect attacks, such as Griffins and Imlerith for example. Overall I didn't spend much time testing this playstyle in my run, but I found it very satisfying and fun. Definitely keen on using it for a complete playthrough in the future.
 
Another highlight of the GM combat enhancements are the 1v1 fist fights (seriously). They are much more challenging, fun and skill intensive due to the reworked stamina system. In Vanilla these were pretty formulaic - keep your distance from the opponent so that they only lunge with a heavy attack, which is easier to counter compared to the fast jabs. Counter it, throw a one-two and then rinse and repeat. In Ghost Mode you no longer have the stamina to consecutively counter all attacks and must spend some time in between counters to recover, which introduces a great deal of tension and makes the fights more skillful. Remember, dodging pauses your stamina regeneration so you don't have an easy way around this. Especially as many arenas are quite small which make this process challenging. Furthermore blocking jabs costs significantly less stamina, so if you're confident in countering the opponent's fast attacks you have a great opportunity to skill display. In addition group fist fights are a lot easier compared to Vanilla, because the opponents aren't health sponges. This is another great change in my book as those were pretty tedious and the fist fight system doesn't really work great for group combat.
 
Finally, to finish off this section, I would like to spend some time looking at enemy balance in the Blood & Wine expansion. There were several problems with it in my opinion, which overall decrease the quality of the experience.
  • Giant centipedes deal too much damage. Yes they are generally easy to avoid, however them one shotting a character in master crafted Feline Gear + Quen + Superior Insect Oil + Protective Coating + 600 hp green mutagen at full life seems excessive. I'd suggest a 30% damage nerf. For comparison, level appropriate Giant Centipedes hit harder than red skull cyclopses and werewolves.
  • High concentration of monsters which work badly with the reduced reaction times due to their instant attacks.
  • Arachnomorph damage seems to be balanced against them hitting you once when most of the time they double tap you, which enables 1 small spider to pretty much instantly kill you from full life if you make a mistake. Damage should be reduced by at least 40%.
  • The two Guardian Panthers in the Professor Moreau quest are extremely overtuned for when you face them and, as a consequence, require extremely cheesy strategies to beat.
  • Alps are probably the hardest enemies in the whole game. Thankfully you only have to fight them twice. The first one's alone and she's manageable, but the second involves you getting tag-teamed by a Bruxa as well and that one is quite painful. It's a good thing Dettlaff can mind control other "lesser" vampires, because otherwise one of those ginger vamps would easily wipe the floor with both him & Regis at the same time.
 

Items and crafting

  • Witcher set bonuses now scale with the number of pieces equipped rather than being binary. Bonuses also apply from the lowest set tier and not just Grandmaster level. This is a good change in my book as they diversify your combat style from an earlier stage of the game. Set swords are no longer the best weapons for their level requirement, so exploring the world and doing contracts for relics feels much more rewarding.
  • The weapon & armour upgrade kits, sold by master craftsmen, are a great addition to the game. They allow you to increase the base damage/armour of your equipment by increasing its level requirement by 1 (i.e. the Aerondight effect). This enables you to make use of those special relic swords like: Hjalmar's Steel Sword, Pang of Conscience, Blade of the Bits, Winter's Blade etc. from the moment you obtain them to as long as you wish. This means that you must only pick a weapon based on if its secondary stats have synergy with your build, and this opens up a lot of choices and min-maxing.
  • Speaking of special relic swords, these now have significantly improved secondary stats which makes them stand out from the generic random relics. Depending on your build you will probably end up using one of these for most of your playthrough. It feels great to get a "special" sword reward for a quest which is actually useful and not vendor fodder like in Vanilla.
  • Equipment crafting now requires significantly less materials, so you are no longer forced to dismantle an entire army's worth of arsenal to craft something. Unfortunately the craftsmen will now rip you off much harder, comparatively to Vanilla, with their fees. So if you want to unlock all the levels of the Runewright and deck out Corvo Bianco in the various Witcher sets you will still have to pick up and vendor massive amounts of loot.
  • Crafting costs of random weapons in the early game, before you can access sets and contract relics, are prohibitively expensive.
  • White Gull isn't so difficult to produce anymore as it doesn't require Redanian Herbal and you can craft the Mandrake Cordial yourself, white honey now comes with more charges - both are nice QoL changes.
  • Potions and bombs require significantly less ingredients, so theoretically you would need to spend less time picking flowers. However considering that you could buy most of these cheaply from herbalists in the vanilla game (and still can) this change is more or less irrelevant in practice.
Cooking recipes are a good addition to the immersion in my experience. A witcher on the path should be able to cook himself a meal while squatting in some untamed wilderness. Unfortunately, in practice I did not use these recipes at all after leaving White Orchard. There are a few problems with the current implementation:
  • Food & drink healing is not balanced according to the amount of ingredients required to produce. For example, right at the start of the game you can learn how to make apple juice which is in the top tier of drink healing and costs next to nothing to make, in contrast with other much more expensive drink recipes which very often heal for less. Food recipes require way too many ingredients (the vast majority of which must be bought) and offer sub par healing in comparison.
  • Human enemies in Velen and onwards drop way too much food, often between 2-3 pieces each. Why should I waste money buying ingredients and cooking when I could obtain something nearly as good for free?
  • Coking recipes are too expensive for what they offer. They could use a 50% coin cost reduction across the board. Food recipes should require less ingredients. There should be more distinct healing "tiers" for different food & drink, less total recipes and bandits should drop less grub to incentivise people to interact with the system.
 

Nitpicking

  • Enemies focusing more on NPCs during combat (if present) makes certain escort quests significantly more annoying on Death March: namely the Black Pearl and the Skellige mine clearing duo. Those NPCs could use a buff to their survivability.
  • All wolves/dogs & boars are significantly weaker compared to the vanilla game. Probably a design decision, but it feels out of place since all other enemies are harder. Wolves in the Land of a Thousand Fables do have level appropriate stats unlike all their siblings for some reason.
  • Kinks to the extra books/notes feature: fist fight quests keep giving you the same note after a brawl for every brawl, many texts are given out at weird times. For example, right at the beginning of some action sequence.
  • Early game bosses and contract monsters (level req < 15) could use a modest health reduction to prevent boredom. Later on the only enemy that felt too "health spongy" was Iris' nightmare. Those Olgierds could use a health reduction because at the moment the fight is quite repetitive, lacks the atmosphere of the burning manor fight and so becomes a bit tedious.
  • The base Yrden duration is too short and makes fighting Wraith bosses extremely tedious early on, until you get Enhanced or preferably Superior Moon Dust.
  • Superior Cursed Oil now requires berserker skin which is not obtainable in Skellige if you investigate the massacre with Ceris. Previously there was a bug where berserkers spawned near Kaer Morhen, but this seems to be fixed in the newest version. The only place I found berserker skin in the whole game was in the Borsodi vault (?), dropped by one of his guardsmen (??). Either put a copy of the ingredient somewhere in the Vildkaarls' village, or change it to some other more lore appropriate place. The current location makes no sense.
  • The inventory weight system is at best a sidegrade to Vanilla. Yes, it is unrealistic that Geralt is able to hold all these weightless ingredients in Roach's saddlebags. So this mod now gives them weight and forces you to regularly deposit all your ingredients in the stash. Then to access them more conveniently every time you are at an appropriate vendor (alchemist/blacksmith/armourer) Geralt is able to telepathically access said stash to obtain the ingredients. To me it seems like one unrealistic element was simply replaced with a different one equally as unrealistic, so what's the point?
    • In all fairness you can reduce the weight of all items from the mod options, but that slider leads to even more immersion problems. Because if you wish to compensate for the weight on all the ingredients you have to turn up the slider so much that all the swords and armour now weigh practically nothing as well. A better solution would be keeping the weight slider and adding a check box for "Zero ingredient weight", or just using the vanilla weight system because the current implementation isn't a clear improvement.
  • I find the name of the mod to be a bit unfortunate, since it has nothing to do with any of the content. Makes you wonder if it's one of the reasons why it is not more popular.
  • Grapeshot seems to deal insignificant damage to higher level enemies. Superior version of it hits arachas for 5 damage with an aimed shot for example. Even without bomb talents it shouldn't be this weak.
  • Aerondight has lost a great deal of its unique flavour (all items can now be upgraded) and the nerf to its secondary stats was too great. Before it would give 10% attack power per stack, up to 10 stacks, now this has been reduced to 5% crit damage. For comparison, random relic swords can spawn with 60%+ critical damage and have 4 other secondary stats as well. Not to mention free sockets, which cost ~8000 gold for Aerondight. Finally, while the bonus at maximum stacks is still great it's now harder to maintain due to the decreased enemy reaction time, is basically non-existent against all the instant attack foes (and for heavy armour builds) and has overlap with several consumables (thunderbolt potion & oils now give crit chance) and talents which reduces its effectiveness even further. Overall the sword feels underwhelming and not worth using.
  • Olgierd's sabre, Iris, no longer gains charges when enemies block your attacks and doesn't buff the damage of the fast attacks. To compensate it now deals 10% of target's maximum life in addition to the other bonus damage when charged. I was very excited to use this sword with the new item upgrade kits and was left moderately disappointed. The life loss penalty is still too big and basically forces you into using Katakan decoction which doesn't feel great. Furthermore, to charge the sword you must deliver 3 successful fast attacks in succession. Against armoured enemies this feels horrible as you're effectively whacking them with a wet noodle until you can charge the finisher. In addition, humans are much more likely to dodge your attacks compared to before causing you to often whiff on the charged strong attack while still paying the health cost. Overall the sword is still worth using and feels satisfying with the Severance runeword, however I would like to see some quality of life change: for example halving the health penalty.
  • This mod breaks the following achievements: equipping a full witcher set (Armed and Dangerous), equipping all the grandmaster set pieces (Dressed to Kill), equipping Aerondight (Embodiment of the Five Virtues). Tested on GoG. Probably irrelevant for 99% of people, but worth mentioning.
  • The Undvik set has less armour than the basic Feline set, despite having a higher level requirement and being heavy armour.
  • Superior Full Moon heal, based on current toxicity, either does not work or heals a minuscule amount.
  • Kill count bestiary section feels a bit too arcade-y and gimmicky for my tastes. Would prefer it hidden at the bottom of the list and collapsed by default or, better yet, an optional toggle in the mod options if possible.
 

Scoring (TLDR)

I will now attempt to rate this mod based on an arbitrary scale I just made up. A score of 5/10 means that overall the mod neither improves nor deteriorates the experience when compared to the original game. A higher score than that is good, lower is bad.
  • -1 for the fast reaction times on enemies with instantaneous attack animations (and the fact that this hasn't been fixed for so long) and the balancing issues of Blood & Wine.
  • -0.5 for the overall lowered quality of the combat experience: namely its feel, flow & realism.
  • -0.5 for all the points listed in the Nitpick section.
  • -0.5 for the experience penalty system which promotes meta-gaming and for the subpar support of the NG+ mode
Overall: 7.5/10. Despite the occasional hiccups I thoroughly enjoyed my playthrough with Ghost Mode. I found the mod to be an overall improvement to the base game and definitely recommend it.
 

Never Asked Questions

Q: What difficulty should I play on?
A:
  • You are looking for a similar challenge to vanilla Death March or early game B&BB, to see if you like the other gameplay changes? Story & Sword. If you don't care about the combat then I would suggest that you also reduce monster damage from the mod options.
  • You played on Death March from level 1 and found it too easy? Blood and Broken Bones.
  • You played on Death March from level 1 with self-imposed limitations such as: no Quen, not using set swords, deliberately skipping some of the best talents and found it too easy? Death March.
 
Q: What build did you use?
A: Combat/Alchemy - GM Death March
I went for delusion & poisoned blades first. Muscle memory & strength training second, then back to alchemy for protective coating, afterwards filled out the combat tree. Undying was only equipped once the first B&W skill slot was unlocked and I could move an alchemy skill there, on lower difficulty levels I would replace it with Razor Focus. Delusion is optional. I pick it mostly for RP reasons although the extra stamina regen is nice, especially early on. If you don't want to use it then replace it with the Synergy skill from the alchemy tree.
 
Q: Any other interesting stats/tidbits from your run?
A:
  • Hardest 1v1 fight: werewolf outside of the Whispering Hillock, ~10 deaths.
  • Other boss fights with number of deaths in parenthesis: WO Griffin (1), Imlerith (2), Toad Prince (0), Olgierd (3), Caretaker (1), Olgierds (2), Caranthir (0), Eredin (1), Dettlaff (0)
  • Hardest group fight: arachas cave south west of Harviken on Faroe, 8 deaths.
  • Found the "Tor Zirael" sword for the first time ever in 4 playthroughs, not sure if finally lucky or spawn chance increased in the mod. Unfortunately, stats wise it's still rubbish.
submitted by Paskoff to witcher [link] [comments]

Stellaris Dev Diary Questions/Answers

{Edit: Glad you guys liked it, I just added another pass of a couple more dev diaries}
[just updated to include what should be all the remaining comments in Part 4]
So I compiled a number of paradox developer responses from the paradox dev diary forums from user questions.
All the original context can be found here: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads/stellaris-developer-diary-archive.882950/
This is by no means comprehensive and only accounts for about the last 5-6 [updated to include about the last 14-15 should be all ~26 diaries now, or as many had meaningful responses] of the diaries and not all questions or responses recorded. Just the ones I found interesting enough to track. I did not record who asked and who responded, but I only include responses by the developers, not any non-dev users. So assuming something doesn't change in the late stages, most should be close to good.
Sometimes I left the question for context, other times, if it was a stand-alone statement, I did not. You'll have to guess from context, but I figure it's still a good amount of quality information for those who didn't follow the forum responses to the dev diaries.
And sorry, I didn't track which dev diary they came from.
I'll try to format this better as I learn reddit formatting.
Question/Comment Answer
Will there only the be the option of rotating presidencies, or are other more interactive systems of selecting the next presidents in federations possible? For release, it will most likely be rotation only.
- Currently, only Xenophile/Xenophobe Materialist/Spiritualist are valid FE [Fallen Empire] traits. More may be added.
- The FE personalties are: Xenophile: Benevolent Observers; Xenophobe: Militant Isolationists; Spiritualist: Holy Guardians; Materialist: Keepers of Knowledge
How does opinion work in Stellaris? Is there a cap as I notice that its at -284 for the Avians in the first screenshot or can it forever decrease and increase? The cap is -1000/+1000, so effectively uncapped. The Confederacy of Penkor really doesn't like me.
- Going to 1000 is really not possible..
Will there be some sort of slider for the player to influence The sector ai spending? E.g. I want an older sector to spend more money on a larger fleet but a newer sector on developing colonies. Not at present. Note that Sectors don't maintain fleets (besides construction ships), so generally they'll sink their minerals into developing planets.
Does this mean I can change how the archetype behaves? Or does it mean I can have a multitude of different personality potentials under one archetype? Archetype determines some core behaviours, for example a 'Propagator' AI will focus on population growth. This can't be modded, but you can make very different kinds of Propagators.
- There's a personality type called 'Fanatic Purifiers', whose primary goal is to purge the galaxy of all aliens. They're not the most diplomatic people around.
- AI personalities are mostly static but if a country changes so radically that the old personality would not be a possible pick for it anymore, it will pick a new one. IE: If they're Despotic Slavers who stop wanting to have slaves, they won't remain Despotic Slavers.
- Militarist Empires prefer to form alliances with other Militarists, since Pacifists would just vote down their wars. Some personalities go it alone, but most can form alliances under the right circumstances.
If I understood correctly, the AI behavior is mostly dictated by their personality, which is defined by a combination of ethos. But the same personality can be formed by multiple combination of ethos, right? So 'Federation Builders' won't be all 'individualistic, xenophile pacifist', so maybe they would be spiritual instead of individualistic, but still be a 'Federation Builder', is that correct? Correct. Ethos variations of the same personality can have some minor variations (such as which laws they pass) but it probably won't be on the level noticeable to the player.
- The AI does not hate you just for declining trades, but for instance if they're boxed in by you and you refuse access they might consider that a reason to go to war.
- AI personalities are 99% moddable. The only thing you can't do is create new archetypes, but it's possible to make very different personalities within the same archetype.
Does each personality have one and only one valid ethos combination that will result in it? Some do, most don't.
So how exactly will this insight into "These particular creatures manage to stay alive due to their regenerative skin." affect the card tech system? Does it increase the chances of a related card popping up? Can you study it for a long enough time (fill a bar) and then a choice of relevant technologies pop up? or how? It would be added as an "additional card".
4) Can we skip "Regenerative Skin tech I" and get "Regenerative Skin tech II" right away? Do techs even work like that? Yes, you can research missiles 4 before having missiles 3, for example.
can you study alien space creatures without having to murder them? What about domesticating them? Not right now, but its definitely something I would like to add :)
does the rival system work similarry to EUIV's rival systemw here every nation pretty much always has 3 rivals? because that doesnt sound like too great a situatioin if everyone has only met a handfull of other empires but is almost automatically hostile to all of them due to all the AI wanting to maximize their influence. No. AIs won't rival someone just to have more rivals, and there's no penalties for having less than 3 except missing out on some influence.
Also a casus belli to force you to abandon planets, could they force you out of your homeworld with that? Or is it strictly limited to colonies or specific planets that empire cares about? They can't force you off your homeworld.
[Administrative Sectors are a] Good idea for reducing micro but can we regain control the of an important planet if we don't like the way the ai is doing? You can remove systems from a Sector, should you wish to do so.
My concern is that this kind of thing managed to tank MoO3 because the AI governors were pants-on-head retarded. I hope that this will not be the case here. Making sure sector AI is good enough that most players won't feel frustrated letting it run their planets is very high on my priority list.
The game is being designed with the idea of the player delegating administration of non-core worlds to the AI. Facilitating the "option" to micro everything would a major anti-feature. Since people would feel they could do a better job than the AI, weather true or not, there would be an incentive to do so even if most people would not find it a lot of fun. And then people would start advocating it as the optimal way of doing things; "No wonder you lost, you should manage all planets yourself!". Then people would start demanding fixes or balances to the game based on this play style, even if though the game was never meant to be played like that. "It's in the game, so you should support it!" So you'll ending up with the impossible task of trying to support two conflicting play-styles, compromising the overall design of the game. And any changes that are done to improve the intended play-style of the game, are likely to be met with uproar from the minority who wants to play differently. Sorry, I would rather have a game with a cohesive design, than one trying to please everyone. Yep. Precisely this.
Do all the CBs regarding planets revolve around seizing them for ourselves or our allies? What if I do not want the world for myself but just wish to deprive it from my enemies? Can a planet become entirely depopulated during a war or as a result of the following peace treaty? If your policies allow full orbital bombardment, it is possible to severely damage planets, but not to completely depopulate them.
In the first screenshot is the 30 in the middle of the trade table 30 reasons that the deal will be accepted? Are deals black and white yes/no like in EU4? I really hate the old maybe/likely/etc system. Also what is the +17% with the arrows mean in the trade deal screen? AI will always tell you a definite yes/no when creating the offer, no need to send it and wait for an unknown answer. While slightly less realistic perhaps it does reduce frustration by a lot since otherwise you'd just keep sending offers blind over and over. The 17%-value shows how willing/reluctant that Empire is when it comes to trading with you. You can often trade with Empires that doesn't like you much, but it might require putting a bit more on the table.
1) Is there a cap on how many protectorates/vassals we can have a la EU4 diplomatic relations? I'm assuming so, and I'd bet it'd be influenced by ethos, gov type, and social research? 1) We're testing to see if a cap is needed, or if Liberty Desire is enough.
2) Will there be some mechanics to such that the choice between annexing vassals or just keeping them is more involved? Perhaps some bonuses to research or diplomacy if you elect not to annex your vassal species? 2) You do gain Military Access, Sensor Info and Construction Rights within a Vassals territory, which might be worth more than dealing with the headache of getting a new species within the Empire that has conflicting ethics/views on your politics. We might add some additional bonuses to keeping Vassals if we feel this is not enough of a motivator.
Does this mean, uplifted species will become more loyal vassals? Or do they forget their gratitude after some time? (Especially if the Overlord does something conflicting with their Ethos.) An uplifted species will be eternally grateful, but that does not mean they'll always agree with everything the overlords does. It helps but it's not a binary thing. The opposite goes for an Empire that is force-vassalized through war or such. They'll dislike their new overlord quite a bit at first, but time and/or having the same outlook on things might help mend relations.
Also, can we be a subject of another empire too, or is the game lost then? It would be nice to organise an uprising within another empire, maybe even uniting other subject species against the invasions. A player can be a Vassal to another Empire (human or AI) and still play. If the player is integrated/diplo-annexed the game is lost however.
Part 2
Question/Comment Answer
Let's hope [combat] won't be a godawful hard counter system and race with extremely highly advanced lasers could beat shields. Hard counters are one of the worst designs ever to see in a strategy game. It's Galactic Civilizations-level horrible. It's more of a cost-efficiency thing. Lasers will still do decent damage against shields, but it will not be the perfect choice. If you know an enemy fleet has gone 100% missile-weapons and you can get full point-defense coverage you'll do very well (though not win unharmed).
very cool, i like the battle computer add in. this will give some standard AI for that ship to follow. question though, how (if at all) will stellaris try to balance ship sizes in fleets to make sure that fleets dont end up as zerg corvette fleets or only massive battleships? Efficiency-wise we'd like it to be Corvette < Destroyer < Cruiser < Battleship < Corvette. This is of course an over-simplification but that's the general idea. We do a few things to try and achieve this, such as Corvettes gaining full Evasion from all sources while Battleships only gain 25% (Destroyers and Cruisers gain 75% and 50% respectively). This in combination with the fact that the larger weapons used by Battleships have lower attack speed, higher damage per attack and somewhat lower hit-chance should make it less cost-efficient to overkill small corvettes with huge weapons (lots of missed shots, those that do hit deal far more damage than needed). Corvettes in turn will struggle with the higher armor and shields of a Destroyer etc. up the chain.
Will we be able to customise strike craft? No, we've decided not to go in to such detail. Strike Craft come in sets of units (or Wings) that can be placed on ships with hangar-capabilities.
So every ship will have EFTL [Emergency FTL]? Even if they rely on wormholes and stuff? All fleets having some type of FTL-capability can use EFTL. Ships relying on Wormholes to travel will need a functional Wormhole Station within range. If there is no station in range, the fleet is stranded and can not EFTL (doooooooooooooooooooooooooooom!).
Does the player design strike craft or are they built using fixed rules (e.g. "fighter always use best beam weapon")? Are strike craft automatically replaced after battle, require repairs to be replaced or require new strike craft to be manufactured? Do strike craft on existing ships upgrade when new weapons are acquired? Strike Craft use their own type of weapons and are not dependent on what type of lasers etc. you've researched. Any Strike Craft lost during a battle slowly regenerate over time automatically. They can be upgraded should a new rank of them be researched and the design of the carrier-ship updated.
How does armor damage reduction work? Is it a percentage reduction in damage or subtracting damage from each hit? Armor subtracts a set amount of damage from each hit, up to a limit. Armor can never reduce damage taken to zero. Armor-penetration is percentage-based.
Will we be able to mod weapon stats? Yup yup!
Question: -Will there be some kind of speed upgrade to ships, so they can move faster? -Does 'strike crafts' have any range limit inside a solar system, and if so, is it shorter than missiles? -Is there any missile upgrade/type which can mitigate point-defense damage, like making the missiles go faster, being tougher or splitting into many smaller? As you can judge from the above I'm thinking about a design which tries to kite the enemy :) being fast enough to stay out of enemy range and keep hitting from afar, using shields as defense so they regenerate when out of range. The speed of the ship is mainly dependent on the Thruster, which can be upgraded. In rare cases there might be other components that improve speed as well (such as a Combat Computer). Strike Craft do have a range-limit. We're still tuning that so not sure on range just yet, what do you all think makes more sense? Also, there might just be a thing called Swarm Missiles that do overwhelm point-defenses (somewhat).
How will retrofits work? Will existing ships be able to be refitted with new weapons and technology on their sections, or will ships need to be built from scratch in order to make use of the latest weapons and tech advances? You can upgrade your fleet to the latest design at your nearest spaceport :)
My question is are we limited to one ship design per hull size at a time? So we can only have one corvette design, one cruiser design, and so on? Or is there freedom to design, save, and build multiple types of the same hull? Maybe I want one cruiser filled with point defenses guns to act as an escort while another cruiser just has long-range missiles for fire support. Things like that. From the screenshots its hard to say if we can save multiple designs for the same hull sizes or not. You can have multiple saved designs.
Stellaris is still in alpha so that 146 fleet size number is anything but fixed, however what does it represent? Each ship-type has a different cap-usage. A Corvette uses 1, while Destroyers use 2, Cruisers 4 etc.
Are these colony events/decisions things that need to be done "now or never"? Like the underground vault, for example, do we have to decide immediately and irrevocably, or can we say "let's wait until our colony is more established before opening that" ? In the case of the underground vault, you will get a Special Project to open it which you can complete whenever you want. Of course, other events can lead to Special Projects that are timed. If you don't finish them on time, there may be consequences...
Can the events effect your POPs' traits and ethics? Some event-results are very likely to do so, yes.
Do you have to participate in combat to take debris ? Or can you swoop in after the battle is over ? Still doing some testing on this but currently the idea is that the debris should be visible and available for all. First come, first serve most like.
Can you play as a fallen empire? Or at least tag switch? Though they are not designed to be played, you can tag switch to them. Also in the setup there is flag "is_playable" with currently is set to = no. But if you just switch to "yes", then they turn up in the Species creation wizard as an option.
Do different species rebel often or were the examples here special ? How hard is it to keep a multiracial empire together ? Whether Pops from a different species will rebel depend on a number of things, such as their ethics, the ethics of your empire, your policies and so forth. Keeping a multiracial empire together is certainly possible.
Another question regarding Krogan and last weeks dev diary. Last week, you said that species that get to the atomic age can destroy themselves. Do they always destroy themselves, or can they just nuke themselves back to the stone age, a la Morgan style. There is also a chance that they will revert to a more primitive, pre-industrial stage. Of course, their planet will still be partially covered in radioactive wasteland, massive bomb craters and ruined cities...
Wonder if there will be clone armies... :D
Part 3
Question/Comment Answer
Can we deenact an edict? Or are we stuck with +1% missionary strength and -5% stability cost for the rest of the game? An edict is always timed and can not be retracted. A policy is active until changed, and can not be changed for 10 years (currently) after having set it.
As for research under passive observation. Is there a limit on how much research you get from industrial vs. non industrial etc or they are the same? Is there a maximum limit per civilisation you study or you get the ongoing bonus until they become space faring? An Observation Post in Passive Observation mode acts essentially as a more powerful Research Station, providing you with Society resources. There are various events that can trigger for them, of course. If the primitives become a spacefaring empire, the station will be dismantled.
Do civilizations naturally progress, and does Technological Enlightenment work by rapidly moving them through the various stages? Can civilizations actually wipe themselves out in nuclear war, (with a possibility to intervene perhaps) or was that just fluff? Civilizations can and will progress between the ages, but it's a fairly slow process so you're not going to see a Bronze Age civilization work their way up to space technology within the span of a single game... on their own, at least. Technological Enlightenment does not move them up through the various ages, it's essentially a progress bar (with associated events). The time it takes depends on how advanced the primitives are. And yes, there is always a risk of civilizations wiping themselves out in a nuclear war if they have reached the Atomic Age.
Can the native species react to your actions? Yes. :)
Can they only wipe themselves out in the Atomic Age? Yes. Of course, a stray asteroid could always show up...
How common will pre space age civs be? This is something that will likely see some tweaking before release, but we're aiming for that sweet spot where they're not too common and not too rare. ;)
Are the pre-spacefaring eras moddable? So could I add new ones and replace old ones? Yes.
... So I can't get tech B unless I have tech A, or it's more likely for me to get a proposal for tech Y if I already have tech X? Both. Sometimes there is a prerequisite, sometimes you need to already have unlocked a certain amount of techs and sometimes a tech is extremely unlikely of appearing unless some condition is met.
How moddable whole Technology&Research is going to be? Should be very moddable. It's easy to add or change new technologies. The only real difficulty is keeping track of the randomness and how likely techs are to actually appear.
Wouldn't it be more strategical to have the weight for each technology (instead of the lone rareful ones), with a convenient tooltip explinaing the weight for each one? I'm thinking to something like: Chance of appearance: Xenophobia: +10%; At war: -10%; Only 3 technologies in this field of reseach: -20%; Disgruntled Pops: -20%; This way, it could help to decide if such or such technology may be worth to be returned to the deck, at the risk it won't appear at all, or much later. In theory, good idea, in practice, not so much. We've decided that how the techs are generated, as one of three options, is not something we want to make transparent in the game.
I'm a little worried. If there are so many techs and there's no linear tree how can we evaluate other factions tech level? Especially with autogenerated techs. How do I know they have great lasers or industrial output? You fight them.
Will there be techs that would be mutually exclusive to each other like going biological path of a tech or a electronic path of a tech that would give more unique to races like one race would go down the biological path have these half tentacle looking ships while others would go like a more standard futuristic ships and etc Somewhat. But the exclusivity comes more from ethics than from other tech choices. Collectivists and Individualists will have different approaches to colonization.
Can you have scientists with special abilities that let you choose from 4 different techs? (or 2...) Some Empires will likely have the ability to generate additional (or possibly fewer) tech-choices, but that is not necessarily dependent on the scientist.
Part 4
Question/Comment Answer
Also, do we not get different types of POPs on a single planet? You could and probably will get that, but not at the start of the game.
I hope we'll be able to scrap modules for spacestations? I still have nightmares about CK2 before they added in modding support for removing holdings. Yeah, you can swap modules for a cost.
So... how long the list of all rare resources is? How do they work? (more or less like strategic resources in HOI3 FTM?) Can be anything from forging the strongest armor to increasing FTL speed to affect Pop Happiness.
Question for any devs. Is the wormhole station linked to spacestations? Or is it a different mechanic? They are not directly linked. Wormhole Stations are built outside a systems gravity well (a minimum distance from the star) and are not attached to a planet.
If we capture a spaceport from another empire, can we use (not build) the modules that they have put on it that we cannot due to our ethos or scientific reasons, or will they be rendered useless? If you take control of a planet with an intact spaceport the modules will function even if you can not build them yourself. If the module requires a resource to function, you will have to be able to provide that resource.
I assume 1 spaceport per planet? Yup, each inhabited planet can only have one spaceport.
Are there ways of increasing the number of leaders I can have or is it a hard cap? Number of leaders can be increased with techs.
Really nice that option to terraform a barren world. The button is disabled though, Currently Barren planets cannot be terraformed
Will players be able to create and use their own portraits ? :) (Even if user-created portraits are not animated) Yes, modders will be able to add their own portraits, none moving. And if you have the skills, you will likely be able to create your own moving one too.
I this a lot, a whole lot. I have to ask, though, what's each dev's favorite FTL method so far? It honestly varies week to week as we play MP. I have a love-hate relationship with Wormholes, being awesome when they allow me to deep-strike enemies but less awesome when my fleet is stuck in nowhere as another player raided my exposed connection-point.
How exactly does a wormhole-based traveler navigate the galaxy, anyway? Do they have to bring some sort of constructor vessel with them in to simply return to where you came from? To have a constructor vessel create a relay in every system you pass through? A fleet in range of a system with a functional Wormhole Station may request a wormhole to be opened to their system, allowing them to get home. It still takes time and occupies the Wormhole Station of course.
Follow-up questions: Can you make more than one wormhole station in a system? Effectively making a wormhole hub to be able to get multiple fleets to multiple systems quickly? Also, if you make a wormhole in two "neighbouring" systems, can those wormholes link to each others' system at the same time, each operating independently for further efficiency? Costly ventures, both of my hypotheticals surely are, but they could be strategically critical. A system can have several Wormhole Stations, creating a hub. Wormhole Stations in neighboring systems can independently send fleets to each others systems.
So, are hyperlanes there at the beginning of the game (created by ancient beings perhaps?) and impossible to change? Can you create new ones but not destroy any? Or can you destroy and create them? Also, is all movement FTL or is it possible to send a slower-than-light ship for colonization or even exploration purpose, before your technology allows you to have good FTL? The origin of the hyperlane-network is unknown, and can't be manipulated at will (for now at least...). Ships can be built without an FTL-drive to act as a local defense-force, but with no means of FLT-travel they can't leave the system. There is no sub-FTL travel between systems.
- I used to be a favor warp travel before, but wormholes are just to fun to pass up on.
Is this a sign that warp equipped ships will have inferior (combat) capabilities as compared to wormhole or hyperlane ships? How major drain on the available power will be represented in game? Not at all. But you'd have to think a bit more about how you configure your ships (until you research better reactors that is).
Very nice! One question though, how many planets are there on average per system? And how many planets can there potentially be per system? At the moment it is normally 3-10 planets, but it depends on the type of system. This number is being always being tweaked and may change for release. You can mod the files to have how many you like, but I can't promise that everything works if you go up to like 100 planets ;)
Will we also have systems with 2 or more stars? At the moment no, but we have had discussions about it. If we were to allow it I imagine that they will be quite rare.
Will be something related to gravity or magnetic field with stars? A Pulsar is an object with a high magnetic field, very small, very heavy. Events or physics are attached to the type of star? Planets and events can have certain features depending on the system they are spawned in, it is however not guaranteed.
will anomaly's work similar to the way they work in Endless Space? (essentially a random planetary modifier) Similar yes, think modifiers in our other games, can't give away more details than that ;)
Is it possible that a game will end and parts of the Galaxy will still be unexplored? Yes
I love the art. But I question why the fleet doesn't concentrate its fire on specific targets. Or is that an unlockable tech that follows later? ;) Currently each gun chooses its own target, depending on whats in range and optimal for its damage. As for the entire fleet, might not be in range of the same target. Also it would look sort of boring and unrealistic if the entire fleet was focus firing at one target at a time.
So my question is, why the tiny sun? I get that a realistic size would be silly (it would take up half the screen or more if it were), but I always wonder why star sizes are so wildly under-represented in these games. I think it would be pretty interesting to have these huge balls of fire in the center of each system, perhaps with a suitably bassy rumble when they enter into view. I feel like they would give a nice sense of scale, and also present a navigation problem. Instead the size is comparable to Jupiter, like maybe 2-3 times bigger at most. I wonder if that will be something we could mod later. Heh. The size of the stars are very easily modded. I completely agree about the size of stars. We do have different sizes on the stars, roughly corresponding to the actual classes of stars. And this is something we haven't fully solved yet. The thing about large stars are, if they are bigger, for the ships not to pass through them when flying, they either have to be far above them. At which point the ships looks really weird in respect to all the other planets. Or, you have to code something for the ships to avoid the sun, for which there are many solutions. Though all of them are relatively time consuming. Right now we are focusing on gameplay, so it something we hopefully will have time to revisit before release. Lots of questions regarding the ship designer, and you'll get your answers. We have a ship designer diary coming up in the future, so say tuned. Pluto and moon fans, don't worry, moddability is very comprehensive on all aspects of the game, so you can add all the moons you see appropriate, and i don't doubt that you will. And I would love to see some ambitious total conversions.
It would be cool if devs could make some of the graphics adjustable/moddable. For example allow to play with color and brightness curve of the light emitted from the sun of system. These, for example look much more grimdark, enigmatic and mysterious to me. Although i do understand the difficulty of applying multiple suns lights to multiple planets. All those options are moddable ;) I am looking forward to see what the modders can do :)
[Edit: Ok did my best]
submitted by harperrb to Stellaris [link] [comments]

Opportunities In Materials Acquisition

Well, HFY you’ve sucked me in again. I HATE writing short stories, and I’m already writing a serial novel, but the idea of “How could humanity be exceptional in a universe full of life” is just so interesting!
Here’s another crack at that theme. Maybe you will like it. If you do, swing by the link above. Either way, I’d like to know what you think. 50% of the fun of writing this kind of stuff is talking about it afterword.
The Sol Dyson sphere was only about 1 percent complete, but that apparently meant it already it had 6 million times the surface area of Terra. I hadn't realized how huge that was until I visited the HR offices of the Sol Sphere Materials Corporation.
They had used a tiny fraction of the space they got as a principal builder of the Sphere to make several 1:1 scale models of Mars. Their HR office was on Mars 18 a version of Mars patterned after the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. I’d never read any of those, but the Calot were cute in a strange way. The office itself was a giant crystal palace located at the top of Olympus Mons. It took up the entire 45 mile wide plateau of the massive mountain, and each individual in it had offices so big they left you feeling you were outside. Yet, I don’t think there was anyone important to the corporate hierarchy in that building or perhaps on the whole of Mars 18.
Of course, it was less an interview and more a formality.
“So,” Jenny said, “We’ve got your commercial gravitics, and shipping licenses, as well as an inspection of your ship on file. We’ve done a background checks and consulted your references, and you’ve agreed to all of the NDAs. So, as I see it, this conversation is mostly about making sure you’ve had a chance to ask all of your questions. What would you like to know about what we do here?”
“Umm.. I’ll be a ‘Materials Procurement Specialist,’ but I don’t know much about the position?”
“Sure, you know how there’s a lot of material in the sphere?”
That was an understatement. When completed, the sphere would out mass the original solar system several times. I nodded.
“When we started to gather the construction materials we assumed we’d do it the same way anyone does when they need more of some of an element: scoop up a bunch of hydrogen, compress it with gravitics until it fused, sort out the radioactive bits, and carry on with life.”
I nodded again, then realized the head waggling probably wasn’t delivering the impression I wanted, so I offered up an inanity to show I was listening, “My own spaceship has a program for that. I made a bunch of carbon just yesterday.”
“So you see why we thought nothing of it! Of course, the sphere is pretty big so we needed to start with more than just the interstellar media. We compressed a star.”
“Makes sense.”
“I know, right? But stars, as it turns out, are a wee bit hotter than the gas in deep space. If you force one to fuse into helium and then lithium and so forth it gets even hotter. Unusably hot, even.”
I thought about that. “I guess you could push it past iron. Then it would start sucking up energy.”
“Sadly, you never get to iron, because you get to quark gluon plasma first.”
“Oh…”
Jenny smiled. She was stunningly beautiful and that made me revise my estimate of her age down. In a society of genetically engineered immortals, it can be hard to guess how old someone is but prettier people are typically younger. At first, looking really good is nice, but after a couple of centuries the extra attention gets annoying. You start to want to blend into the background until you do something worth noticing. “Still, when we poked a hole in the gravitic bottle it made a really lovely quasar. They actually flew everyone out from the office to watch. Quite pretty. To make it work we’d need vastly more surface area for the compressed material, and that would require more ships, but with more ships we can just get our materials the old fashioned way.”
“Dig it up?”
Jenny laughed, “Sort of! A materials procurement specialist collects planets with a high content in certain target elements, tows them back to the sphere, and we smash them up here for the goodness within.” She paused to consider, “I think it’s more like prospecting than mining. Does that sound like work you’d be interested in?”
. . .
“Alright, let’s snag that puppy and get out of here!”
“Captain, I’m afraid there’s a problem.” Humans have never came up with real AI. We have what is known as conversational expert systems. They’re programs with billions, or perhaps trillions, of responses arranged into careful trees each one of which can be subtly modified to convey information at least as efficiently as a human. Edsger, the ship’s main computer, was conveying that it really didn’t want me to hit it.
“What is it this time?”
“I have taken deeper scans of the gas giant. If it were to fall into the system’s sun it would stabilize it such that solar flares would no longer preclude the development of life in this system.”
“So?”
Even though I’d asked, I knew what Ed was telling me, and he confirmed it. “We are not allowed to strip resources that may eventually be used by a developing race.”
“But why would the gas giant fall into the sun? It’s in a stable orbit, isn’t it?”
“It’s orbit could be perturbed by an interaction with another stellar body. I cannot perfectly predict the next 250 million years of this system’s movement around the galactic core, but I have enough data to predict it may interact with a few dozen other stars.”
“May?”
“There is around a 1 percent chance during a single orbital period.”
“It’d become a binary star system! I can’t imagine any existing planetary orbit would be stable.”
That ‘don’t hit me,’ tone was back in Ed’s voice, “Over 99% of the time that’s what occurs.”
“Now correct me if I’m wrong, but there are only 4 intelligent lifeforms in the Milky Way, so that means that this star-system only has a one in a one hundred billion chance of developing life.” Ed didn’t correct me, even though I was wrong. We wouldn’t have been in the system if chemical analysis of the planets had suggested life was a possibility. “Two of those races will never leave their home planets, we’re the third, and no sane person cares about the fourth because they’re all assholes.”
“The Ultra Wolves and Lemon Kings may leave their home worlds as their stars begin to heat and expand.”
“Alright, one in a hundred billion then, not one in two or four hundred billion. So cumulatively we’ve got a, um, one in one trillion chance that life will show up here and want to mine this moon. That's about it, right, ballpark chance?”
Ed hedged, “The odds of an intelligent civilization mining this moon are too low to reliably calculate.”
“But you still won’t scoop it up?”
“Regulations absolutely prevent that, sir.”
My answer was an inarticulate growl. I’d found out why it was so easy to get the Materials Acquisition job a little while after taking it. The Sphere Materials Corp had agreed to be absolutely zero environmental impact and had accepted various governmental regulations to describe how that would be done. Panning for gold is hard, but panning for gold on a glacier with a teaspoon so you won’t break a single blade of grass is nearly impossible. Worse, I wasn’t getting paid by the hour. I’d get my money when they got their metals.
“Fine, take us to the next system away from the core.”
“That will take us very near the Lemon King exclusion zone.”
I knew that. The Lemon Kings are an almost-human race. Their ordinary citizens (Lemon Commoners perhaps?) are more or less exactly like genetically baseline humans. Physiologically that is, physically they look like a man sized crab with tentacles. However, they’ve got another subspecies that always rules their societies. Those are the kings that give the race their name. Well, that and they speak with “sent words”; the name for their species smells like a lemon.
The Kings are better than the commoners. Bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, kinder, and most of all more forward thinking. They rule really well. The Lemon Kings avoided many of humanity's tragedies, but they also worked themselves into a box. The Kings weren’t willing to risk any threat to their species as a whole, so when they reached certain technologies they just stopped. No nuclear bombs, no genetic engineering, no nanites, and definitely no gravitics.
Then they met humanity; a race that could accidentally cause quasars. The revelation of that must have been like an iron age village realizing a really clumsy giant was moving in next door. They were very polite about asking us to stay the hell away. We were polite about doing it. So a 10,000 light year wide sphere of space was ‘the Lemon King exclusion zone’. I was on the far side of it from human space; heavy atoms are more common near the core of the milky way.
However, I wasn’t in it.
“Does your programming prevent you from following my orders or collecting otherwise valid materials if you do follow them?”
There was a noticeable lag before Ed answered. I wondered if the regulations it was following were so complex even its titanic processors took a while to interpret them. “No,” it answered at length.
“Then set the course!”
. . .
“I love you! I love you! You beautiful, ugly, rock. I want to marry you and have your nickel metal core children and turn them into holographic mater emitters!”
“Captain, your metaphor is both self-contradictory and somewhat disturbing.”
“Shut it circuit face, you’ll never understand the love between a man and his heavy metal planetoid because you don’t truly have a soul!” I looked at the wall that had been turned into a view screen, and watched the flair of charged particles bending around the warp envelop of the mass we were towing. It really was a beautiful sight; so much so that I burst into whistled melody- the melody of the song “Physical Wealth” from the 3359 musical of the same name.
We had finally, finally, finally found a world I could pillage. It was the remains of a gas giant that had been orbiting very near a red giant star. Stellar winds had stripped away most of its gaseous outer layers and left only a fairly thin coating over the metallic core. Ed had been able to scan past that coating and let me know the planet I’d found was almost entirely metal. We’d used the ship gravitics to rip most of it out of the planet.
Now nearly one Earth mass worth of pure metal trailed behind us. That was a big strike. Not a fortune, but probably three normal years pay for me. I had been fantasizing about what I could do with that money ever since Ed had calculated its value. My plan was to buy a chunk of the Sol Sphere and start a business; something small and tasteful. As I understood it those recreations of fictional worlds were pretty popular. I couldn’t afford and entire mars, but with a loan, I might be able to recreate the Greece of the Iliad.
I could even set myself up as Zeus. However, I’d only go so far for authenticity. I wasn’t going to change myself into a swan to seduce any nubile maidens. That was just pervy. And how would it work anyway? A swan can’t have that big a…
“Captain,” Ed said in a worried tone breaking into my speculation. “I’m detecting an FTL signature; non-human.”
Oh hell, that could only mean one thing. Still, hope springs eternal. “Please tell me it’s probably some strange and bug eyed monster from outside of the galaxy, or perhaps from outside the very universe.”
“While I cannot absolutely reject either of those possibilities it is unlikely given our readings. The most probable explanation for the detected particles is a Stavanie FTL drive.”
“Awesome. Psychopaths off the port bow. We’re a long way out for them.”
“The Stavanie aren’t sociopaths, sir,” Ed said with the certainty of a conversational expert system that had been programmed to reject any interspecies prejudice. “We are farther than from their home world then it is believed they can travel.”
“So how did they get out here?”
“Perhaps they have achieved some technological advancement in their drive technology.”
“Or perhaps everyone on that ship is doomed, and they’re only flying it because they’ve all had bombs implanted in their brains.”
“That too is a possibility. Estimates of Stavanie gravity drive technology include survivability constraints.”
And that’s why I called them sociopaths; it was medically accurate. Humans, Lemon Kings, and Ultrawolves were all pack hunters in their prehistory. Well, Ultrawolves still are. The offshoot was we needed models of our fellow beings minds to coordinate with them. Empathy is baked right into the mold.
Stavanie were solitary hermaphroditic herbivores that lay a large number of eggs and then leave them. They see their fellow being as nothing more than competition for resources. Empathy is an alien concept- literally. Many of them aren’t even capable of language. They’re as smart as humans, but it isn’t inborn for them the way it is for us so learning to speak is like learning advanced mathematics. Their main social interaction is enslaving or stealing from one another. Though they will trade for resources if that's likely to be more efficient than taking them through brute force.
Fortunately, they’re not as advanced as humans and they never will be. Certainly they manage impressive leaps when one of their Einstein's or Wenn’s fights its way to the top of the societal pack and acquires slave armies, but that only takes them so far. For mankind a great many technologies required generations of research. The secret to offset gravitics, the technology that let us build Hawking generators and unlock basically limitless energy, had required a particle accelerator that belted the entire sun back when building such a thing had been a big deal. The Stavanie won’t do that because they don’t study things which aren’t directly beneficial.
“We can still hide from them right? Us and the rock we’re towing?”
“Of course.”
“In that case, toss the cloak of invisibility about our shoulders. I suppose we should also try to figure out what they’re killing each other about now. Move us as close to them as you can get.”
“Your orders require clarification. How close do you wish me to take us to the Stravanie position?”
“How close can we get?”
“We can intercept them in approximately an hour’s time. After that I can bring our hull directly into contact with their vehicle without being detected.”
“Really?”
“I am vastly superior to their ships.”
“Well don’t do that, but get us close enough for a good look.”
“Executing.” Space warped around the ship such that it was not really part of the universe. Any matter or energy Ed didn’t specifically gather would bend around it and flow past unaltered. The gravitic ripples this left were smoothed to a whisper. Thus hidden we went off to see what the Stravanie were up to.
. . .
“I now calculate there is over a 95% probability the Stravanie are headed toward the Ultrawolf homeworld or will intersect it without intending to.”
“Crap,” I muttered. I wasn’t exactly surprised. We’d followed the Stravanie armada through four star systems. We’d had no idea where they were going between the first and second ones. We’d learned each system was a fuel stop. They were skimming tritium out of the atmospheres of gas giants. As such, it wasn’t exactly a straight line. Still, in the third Ed had done a curve fit against our known data and told me there was a 50% chance they were going to go through the Utrawolf star system. This, our 4th system, apparently made it almost certain.
“OK, so we’re certain now, can we cut through the Lemon King exclusion zone to get them help?”
“No sir, certainly doesn’t matter, the exclusion zone is absolute unless I’m conducting lifesaving operations for a human.”
“We’re saving a whole species; the nicest one there is!” The Ultrawolves aren’t a technological race. Again, it’s a simple quirk in their phycology. Human desire is relative. If I build my Iliad Greece and set myself up as a god in it, soon I’d want to do Persia or Egypt as well. The bottomless well of “this is nice but it could be a bit better” in the human soul has propelled us from mud huts to a Dyson sphere and we were still trying to scratch the itch.
The Ultrawolves don’t have that. Their desire is absolute. Ed had filled me in. As long as there is a less than 1 in 10,000 chance they’ll starve, a similarly low chance they’ll be killed by a wild animal, a 1 in 1000 chance of death by disease or accident and a few other things like that for other kinds of death and injury they’re happy.
As such, they figured out how to raise herds of prey animals a couple hundred million years back and that was it. No more war, no more crime, no more technological advancement. They have a primitivistic utopia where everyone devotes themselves to art and philosophy. There are sects of Christianity that hold they never gave in to the devil like humans did, other religious and political groups have modeled whole worlds on copying their lifestyle.
The Stravanie would kill or enslave the wolves, because that was the only interaction a Stravanie could imagine with a creature that couldn’t defend itself.
“Saving non-human life is explicitly not an exception to the exclusion zone.”
“What? That’s some kind of crazy species-ism right there!”
“Shortly after the zone was formed non-humans were included but unscrupulous traders used ‘saving an Utrawolf life’ as an excuse to violate it. Statistically, there’s always an Ultrawolf dying that human tech could save.”
“This isn’t the same!”
“There is no applicable exception.”
My ship was fast. My ship was thousands of times faster than the Stravanie armada, in fact, but I couldn’t make it all the way around the exclusion zone, to the nearest human colony where I might find warships, and back in the time it would take them to travel a few dozen lightyears. Through it, yes, around it, no.
“In that case let’s provoke a fight.”
. . .
I dropped my cloak in the next system where the Stravanie stopped for fuel. They had an impressive operation going. There was a massive refinery ship sucking up huge volumes of planetary gas and then centrifuging if for heavy elements from orbit. It was an impressive technological achievement. Probably beyond anything humans could have achieved without offset gravitics. Of course, that was mainly because we’d never needed to work without offset gravitics, but still.
When we’d first spotted the Stravanie ship, Ed had told me he doubted their gravitational technology was capable of creating a safe warp envelope for that large an area. He’d detected small fluctuations in it energizing particles then allowing them into the twisted space that held the vessel. Now the ship had bodies orbiting in its weak gravity. Stravanie killed by radiation poisoning no doubt.
As soon as we were visible to the armada I had Ed broadcast a few threats, and a few demands for abject surrender. I’m not sure what a human fleet would have done if confronted by a new, and apparently hostile, race. I would have expected a certain amount of disorder. In this, the Stravanie were infinitely more prepared. A few hundred ships rotated toward me and opened fire simultaneously.
They had an impressive array of weapons. Space momentarily grew bright with the nuclear explosions, gamma ray bursts, rail gun tracer fire, and a half a dozen other things I didn’t even have a name for. One ship even activated its engines, or had them activated remotely, and attempted to ram us.
“How are we doing Ed? Any threat?”
“I’m sorry sir; there is no detectable stress in the hull.”
“Well can you switch to a weaker configuration?” Holographic matter is a misnomer. As it turns out, all matter is holographic. What seems like three dimensional subatomic particles are actual two dimensional strings. The different sorts of particles are actually holograms cast by different vibrations in the strings. By pumping preposterous amounts of energy into ordinary strings high energy vibrations can be created that cast unstable holograms for particles which don’t exist in the modern universe. One such example is the hyper energized gluons which are apparently capable of holding my hull together even with the Stravanie doing everything they could to rip it apart.
“Sorry, sir. We’re the weakest material rated for the hull of a warp capable vessel. It will stand up to minor warp field mis-calibrations.”
“Oh.” I probably should have asked that before I put my plan into effect. Ed had assured me he would defend me if the Stravanie actually became a threat. I hadn’t bothered to ask if they could scratch my paint job.
I sat in my ship while the Stravanie filled space with violent death. I let them hit me as much as they wanted. At worst, were wasting ammunition. At best, they’d manage to make a support creak ominously and Ed would reach out with our gravitics and smash them. They really put their backs into it. The bombardment went on for hours. Eventually I got bored and put a movie on.
Ed interrupted it a while later, “Sir, the armada appears to be fleeing.”
“We still can’t do anything?”
“No, sir.”
“And they’re still on course for the Ultrawolves?”
“Yes.”
. . .
I raced ahead to the Ultrawolf home world trying to think of some way I could help them.
I considered towing their planet over to some other system, but Ed shot the idea down. He couldn’t hold a field that large stable enough for organics to survive the trip. I could cloak them, but I’d be blocking all sunlight and driving their gravity mad if I did that. Some wolves might survive, but not many. I could shield one side of the planet from bombardment with our gravitics, but not both. My sensors weren’t sharp enough to detect some of the weapons they’d demonstrated earlier if I was on the other side of the world surrounded by nuclear explosions.
I came up with a plan even so. I’d take the nickel-iron planet I’d been running around with the entire time and graviticaly twist it until it became a cap for one side of the planet. Ed said it would probably be possible for the ship’s gravity emitters to shape the various fields such that everything would stay in place and the Ultrawolf homeworld wouldn’t notice the strain. With that guarding half the planet, I could guard the other half with my ship.
Hopefully.
I was so far from the design specs of my hardware that Ed couldn’t be certain exactly how things would work out. I could even screw up and drop a planet’s worth of heavy metal on the world I was trying to guard.
. . .
I was as ready as I could be when the Stravanie arrived. My big metal cup shield thing was in place over the night side of the Ultrawolf home world, and I was on the other. I had picked out a few Ultrawolf settlements to grab with my gravitics if my plan failed. At worst, I’d be able to save a few million of them. My ship could create a livable wrap envelope and hold heat and air in for that many, at least.
As the armada approached I broadcast a bunch of empty threats at them. I hoped they’d veer off because I’d already demonstrated all kinds of technological superiority. They ignored me. I guess I’d also already demonstrated I couldn’t particularly shoot back. They arrowed directly in on the planet, surrounded it, and opened fire on major population centers from orbit. I guess the plan was to kill a bunch of Ultrawolves from orbit so we wouldn’t have to fight them on the ground.
There’s a reason humans call the Ultrawolves, “Ultrawolves.” Well, several reasons actually. First, we can’t pronounce their name for themselves because we can’t broadcast our words in UHF. Second, they look kind of like six legged wolves. And finally, they weigh about 2 tons and can perform mind-boggling physical feats. They’re even tougher than a modern, genetically and cybernetically enhanced human and we’re not weaklings. Even with their technological advantage the Stravanie would lose if they tried to take on a healthy population.
Fortunately, Ed was able to bounce all of their bombs back into space.
On the back side of the world they pounded a single spot on my shield. I don’t know what the heck they were trying to do. Dig through it, maybe? If so, that wasn’t going to happen. The shield had a somewhat narrower cross section than the planet it was over, but not by a tremendous amount.
For a little while, the wolves were safe.
. . .
Two local days later the armada was still throwing death at the planet below me. I think they attacked so long out of desperation. I had interrupted their refueling when I’d intercepted them by the gas giant. They had probably assumed they could use the oceans of the planet below me for tritium. When I’d blocked it off, they’d had only two options. Land, or die in deep space. At least those were the two options they understood.
If they’d consented to it I could have hauled them back to their own home world, or somewhere else habitable. I’d even tried to tell them that, but they weren’t buying it. That wasn’t terribly surprising. They couldn’t understand my motivations. A Stravanie might fight to protect a valuable slave if it was certain it would win, but I hadn’t developed the planet below me so that clearly wasn’t the case and they had no concept of compassion. Without that concept, they also couldn’t understand why I’d show compassion to them. The next most logical explanation for my offer of safe passage was that I was trying to trick them into something.
I tried to explain, but my words were meaningless to them. Literally. Some of the words I wanted Ed to translate didn’t have Stravanie equivalents. What I was left with was a bunch of assertions without any logic behind them. “I don’t want the inhabitants of this planet to die.” “I don’t want you to die.” “I don’t want you to force them to do things.”
I think, in their minds, I was just contradicting myself. If I didn’t want them to die, I should allow them to make use of the beings on the planet below. They’d be more likely to live. But if I wanted them to live, what was I getting out of it?
Who knows, maybe I was contradicting myself. Human motivations and emotions make sense to humans, but there’s a gap between us as the rest of the universe. I despaired of bridging it during my arguments with the Stravanie.
. . .
The Stravanie ran out of munitions on the third day. I’d sensed it was coming. Their attacks had slowed, and they’d started trying desperate strategies. They’d massed fire. They’d spread it out. They’d used strafing runs to give their projectiles extra momentum, and they’d fired long looping shots that used orbital dynamics to attempt to hit a target. None of it had worked.
For about an hour, they sat and watched me and I sat and watched them. Stravanie ships look amazing. That’s an odd thing about them that I haven’t mentioned yet: Stravanie value aesthetics. You’d assume they wouldn’t. In humans, most art comes from a desire to communicate, and the Stravanie don’t have that. However, they do have art.
In fact, they pour more effort into art than any other race. A human slave wouldn’t care about the aesthetics of something he was crafting for a cruel master, but the Stravanie do. Everything they make is beautiful. They make delightful weapons to slaughter one another. They make cathedrals to hold their thralls. And their ships…
I can’t describe their ships. Oh, I could tell you of the shapes and colors they use. I could give you measurements and dimensions, but it wouldn’t show you one. Instead, let me say each one is pure flight, movement, and ascension given physical form yet undiluted.
Perhaps humanity is wrong about the Stravanie not having an innate desire for communication. Perhaps they do have that and each one in trapped in their own head screaming for anyone to listen. Perhaps what they lack is the ability to listen.
As they hung before me in space like a hundred jewels, I begged them to let me take them elsewhere. They ignored me. Then, en masse, they moved in to land.
. . . I considered just letting them. As I said, without an effective orbital bombardment, I was certain the Ultrawolves would win the inevitable conflict. Plus, there was a chance the wolves would be able to govern the Stravanie. They may be technologically primitive but their society and philosophy is vastly more advanced than what humans have developed.
In the end, I couldn’t. Lots of Ultrawolves would die, and I couldn’t stand by and let that happen just because the Stravanie were too bone headed to surrender. Besides, I still imagined the Stravanie might be willing to listen to me if they grew more desperate. They were out of orbital weapons, and they didn’t have enough fuel to run their warp drives, but that’s a long way from being out of food and power to run atmospheric recyclers. Perhaps I could get them to disarm before I let them land if they were truly facing immediate death. “Ed, stop the Stravanie ships,” I ordered.
“I’m sorry, sir. I can’t do that.”
“What do you mean?”
“My operational parameters prevent halting their descent in the same way they prevented me from halting their interstellar travel.”
It was kind of ironic to learn the armada could have landed at any point had they just been willing to give up on their orbital bombardment. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the mood. “OK, maybe rotate the shield to block them?”
“I’m sorr…”
“Well let me do it!”
“Sir?”
“Give me manual control of the shield position. I’ll turn it for you. Just hold it steady and move it where I indicate.”
There was a long pause and Ed’s simulated voice was shocked when he finally answered, “That will be possible.”
I was more than a little surprised myself. Any manipulations I made to the ships gravitics were vastly riskier than ones Ed made, so by letting me move the planetary shield the Stravanie were being put a more risk than letting Ed do it. Then I realized that’s why I was allowed to do it. Any human directed movement would need a different set of safety parameters than a computer controlled ones. Apparently, that set of safety guidelines didn’t include the protections that had kept Ed from grabbing the armada ships. “Ed, can you grab the Stravanie ships if I’m calling the shots?”
“No sir,” Ed answered and my heart fell, but then he continued, “however, I can give you control of the raw nickel iron and you can grab them with that without tripping any safety protocol.” A hologram appeared in front of me. It showed the Ultrawolf home world, and floating above it my half hemisphere of nickel looking like a shiny cup. I reached out, grabbed onto the nickel, and moved it into the path of the Stravanie ships that had been on a landing approach.
That worked, they broke off and pulled back up into high orbit. Next, I twisted off two big chunks of nickel and had Ed spread them out so they mimicked my hands. I’m not going to lie, that was cool as hell. Suddenly, out the main view port, there were these two giant shiny hands floating in space.
I gave the armada the finger.
Then I started grabbing them. Ed painted the entire star system into the bridge as a hologram. Sun, planets, and most of all the Armada floating in it like little fireflies. Then I ran around the bridge with Ed tracking the movements of my hands snatching up those fireflies. I haven’t had so much fun since I was a kid. Every time I’d get one cupped, I’d have Ed shear off a layer of the metal and I’d leave it floating in a globe that was too big for it to move.
The best part was the globes made it safer for Ed to use his gravitics to move the trapped ships. We were able to embed them in the middle of my giant hunk of metal.
In the end, I was able to catch all but one ship. The fleet dwindled with various other ships providing cover for this one big one whenever I’d snatch at it. When only it was left, it made a warp field and vanished.
I could have followed it, but I assumed it was the head of the Stravanie armada. That meant whoever was on the ship had been keeping everyone else I’d caught as slaves. It had been that being’s bright idea to come here in the first place. I didn’t feel much like saving it. Moreover, I’d pulled its teeth. Without its refinery ship it couldn’t go very far and all alone it couldn’t cause the Ultrawolves much trouble.
. . .
With the Stravanie armada encased in a massive globe of nickel iron it was safe to move them. The metal was sufficient to stop any high energy particles that got through the warp field. So Ed rolled it back up in a ball, and then hauled the whole thing back to the Sol sphere.
Sol Sphere Materials Corporation was more than a little confused by my extra cargo, so they kicked it up to the government. The government considered inventing a crime for what I’d done, and then charging me with it, but then the press got hold of the story. The press decided I was a hero and broadcast that story across human space. That ended my legal trouble. Eventually I got to sell my metal for a fat bonus and start building a recreation of the ancient Greece of legends.
The Stravanie I’d caught were, of course, taken out of my hands. There was a lot of back and forth about what to do with them. We wanted to do better by them than just sending them back to their home world where they’d be made back into slaves. However, we couldn’t make them a part of human society as they weren’t mentally equipped to understand it and live by its rules. Eventually, we sterilized them all and plunked them down on a newly terraformed world where they could live out their lives according to their own desires.
They seem happy enough. Mostly they live alone because the world is big enough for that. Sometimes they do horrible things to one another. Long term, I think something should be done about the whole race. I’m not sure what, but that’s the second thing I’ve been working on: a way of bridging the gap between them and humanity so we can actually benefit one another.
There are only four races in the Milky Way galaxy. Two of them want nothing to do with mankind, and mankind wanted nothing to do with the third. That’s not going to be a workable solution forever. There are 200 billion galaxies in the universe.
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