How was Japan able to invade and do so much damage to China when China is like 3 times the size of Japan? Wouldn’t they have a bigger military?
, a native Beijinger
Actually China is 30 times bigger than Japan today, but things were different in 1937.
At that time, China was carved up by the warlords. The central government (the blue star) was controlled by Chiang Kai-Shek, Chiank Kai-Shek needed warlords’ (the Chinese names such as 马步芳 阎锡山) support to mobilize resources, in return, he gave these warlords legitimacy by appointing those warlords governors or generals. This relationship was not like the relationship between states and the federal in the US, it was loose and often malfunctioning. Not only the strong militarism Japan beat them, but also the weak communism guerrilla beat them too. In 1937, China was a castle built by sand, or in Chinese 一盘散沙.
- A less destructive War of the Rebellion (1116-1130)
- No AI Virus (1130+)
…the destruction of the Third Imperium could have well ended up like China in 1937. There are a number of ways to get there from here: say, a less forceful, less determined, and less determined man than Lucan rose to the Iridium Throne.
Or assume that Emperor Strephon made even more catastrophic errors in character judgement, and appointed a second (or more!) disloyal High Noble in critical positions. And then have the traitors work together, to carve up the Imperium among themselves.
But in any case, you get a situation that, by 1201 Imperial, the area that used to be called Imperial Space is full of poor small pocket empires, ever feuding, ever at war, and giving the common man no rest.
“And then, there arose a man of power, intelligence, and vision from [______], chosen by [_______] to again bring unity and peace to all Imperials.”
“The empire long united must divide, long divided must unite; this is how it has always been.”
— Lou Guangzhong, Romance of the Three Kingdoms,
14th Century A.D.
The PCs can be part of the major cycle of wars and political controversies (and hidden economic maneuvers) to reunite the Imperium and regain her lost glory and might, against enemies both external and internal.
Or, if they think they could handle it, they can be the Great Man himself: a Bismark or an Alexander, an Augustus or a Lenin, a Mohammad or a Mao.
Possibly, they could even be Solomani citizens, leading the Confederation conquest — peaceful or violent — of the various petty Imperial States in the name of the Race and the Cause.
(But I wonder if they would be as wise as either the Terrans of the Second Imperium, or the Solomani Aristocracy of the early Third Imperium…)
Limits: The Sands of Time
It is certainly possible that the PCs can fail in their quest. Or, their political cause may be victorious… but only after their deaths, a generation later.
Regardless, just like all the conquerors before them, the PCs will find their days of triumph to come to an end.
For a while, they will reshape Imperial Space in their image: and this is of long-term importance. It actually matters if the Conqueror is a pragmatic political operator whose in it to gain unimaginable wealth, a military genius who follows the Spartan Way and a desire to master all the stars, an idealistic transhumanist with a silver tongue and intuitive scientific insights, or even a Droyne Leader with incredible psionic powers, even stretching across the parsecs, worshiped by the masses (and more than a few of the elite!) as an alien angel from the Divine Stars.
- “It is ever so with the things that Men begin; there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.”
— Gimil, “The Last Debate”, The Lord of the Rings
And then, reality sets in.
The most successful conquerors really do create a powerful State that long outlasts their lifetimes, a true successor to Cleon the Great, or Peter the Great, or Liu Bang (founder of the Han Dynasty).
For most, though, things fall apart soon after the Founder dies: or a generation or two after, at best.
Perhaps there is infighting among the Ruling Class (which the PCs can be a part of).
Perhaps the Leader somehow ‘forgot’ to select a successor (see: Mohammad).
Perhaps there is an uprising from below, or an unexpected invasion from beyond the borders.
Or perhaps the wealth and privileges of conquests leads to a decadent, delusional, and uncaring aristocracy… and a resentful yet harshly disciplined populace, waiting for someone to put their discipline to work in unexpected ways.
Time doesn’t stop with the fall of an empire.
Time doesn’t freeze when an empire is at its peak.
Fundamentally, despite their power and might, empires are of secondary importance.
Something else is primary.