Unwise Trade Deals, and Great Betrayals

From Quora:

By the late 1930’s, Nazi Germany was suffering from a shortage of supplies. It could only supply 25% of the oil it needed to run its military and industry. The Germans were also short on essential metals needed to construct tanks and other pieces of military items. In the event of war, the Germans would be blockaded by the British Navy, eliminating 80% of foreign imports that supplied these essential materials. In the event of war, Germany would not be able to economically survive without improved relations with the Soviet Union.

As the Nazis rose to power in Germany, relations between Germany and the Soviet Union plummeted dramatically. By the late 1930’s however, the top Nazis realized that Soviet aid was critical to the survival of the German war machine. In 1936 Herman Goring said that Germany desired business ties with the Soviet union at any cost, and told German industrialists that he would approach Hitler himself with the need for increased trade from the Soviet Union.

The need for supplies was so dire that part of the reason the Germans seized the Sudeten land of Czechoslovakia was also to ease its shortage of supplies. Despite the increase of German territories and resources, Hitler still had to order major defense cuts, cutting down Wehrmacht allocations by 30% of steel, 47% of aluminum, 25% of cement, 14% of rubber, and 20% of copper.

By July and August of 1939, an economic agreement between the Germans and the Soviets were nearing completion. The Germans even reassured the Soviets, asserting that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were natural partners against the Capitalist west. The Germans even told the Soviets in negotiations that, “there is one common element in the ideology of Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union: opposition to the capitalist democracies,” and that, “neither we nor Italy have anything in common with the capitalist west”. See this source for confirmation. (Nekrich, Aleksandr Moiseevich; Ulam, Adam Bruno; Freeze, Gregory L. (1997), Pariahs, Partners, Predators: German–Soviet Relations, 1922–1941, Columbia University Press)

As Germany scheduled the invasion of Poland, it became clear that the only source for many military supplies would be the Soviet Union, and that without Soviet neutrality, Germany would be surely defeated. On August 19th, the Soviets and Nazis signed a commercial agreement, in which the Germans would supply the Soviets with military and civilian machinery in return for Soviet raw materials. It was agreed that the Soviets were to deliver 180 million Reichsmarks in raw materials to Germany, and that the Germans were to deliver 120 million Reichsmarks of industrial goods to the Soviets. German Foreign Ministry official Karl Schnurre is noted to have said, “[a]part from the economic import of the treaty, its significance lies in the fact that the negotiations also served to renew political contacts with Russia and that the credit agreement was considered by both sides as the first decisive step in the reshaping of political relations.” See this source for confirmation, (Grenville, John Ashley Soames; Wasserstein, Bernard (2001), The Major International Treaties of the Twentieth Century: A History and Guide with Texts, Taylor & Francis)

The Soviet side was also pleased. Vylacheslav Molotov wrote in the newspaper Pravda that, “we have never managed to reach such a favorable economic agreement with Britain, France or any other country.”On August 24th, the Soviets and Nazis signed a non aggression pact, in which Eastern Europe was divided into German and Soviet spheres of influence.

In September 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union divided Poland between themselves, and cooperated in the establishment of borders, arrests of Poles, and even held a joint military parade. Soviet aid to the Germans was crucial for Hitler. The German military was strained after the invasion of Poland, and only had munition supplies that could last for 6 weeks. In the face of a British blockade, the only remaining state capable of supplying Germany with the oil, rubber, manganese, grains, fats and platinum it needed was the Soviet Union. After the Soviet pact and the invasion of Finland, Germany also became the main trading partner of the Soviet Union.

On September the 28th, the two countries signed the German-Soviet Boundary and Friendship Treaty, in which “to develop economic relations and trade between Germany and the Soviet Union by all possible means.” Oil, foodstuffs and cattle produced in Soviet occupied Poland were given to the Germans. In early October, German officials proposed a deal that would have increased Soviet raw material exports (oil, iron ore, rubber, tin, etc.) to Germany by over 400%, while the Soviets requested massive quantities of German weapons and technology, including the delivery of German naval cruisers Lützow, Seydlitz and Prinz Eugen. The Soviets also agreed to set up a German naval base in Basis Nord near Murmansk, on Soviet territory. From this location, the Germans, with the help of Soviet icebreakers, managed to cross into the Pacific and sink allied shipping. Germany agreed that the plans for the battleship Bismark could be included in the war materials to be provided to the Soviet Union.

From Feb 11th 1940 to Feb 11th 1941, the Soviets shipped 139,500 tons of cotton, 300,000 tons of scrap metal and pig iron, and 500,000 tons of iron ores. 100% of imported grain and barely products to germany cames from the Soviet Union. By June 1941, the Soviets contributed 50% of all of Germany’s oversea imports, at times exceeding 70%. Germany also supplied the Soviets with 31% of its own exports, and supplied 46% of Soviet industrial machinery.

As the Germans conquered Western Europe, they became even more dependent on Soviet imports. For a period of 5 months, the Soviets delivered 1,500 tons of oil to the Germans monthly.

Fears began to grow as the Germans consistently delayed the delivery of certain agreed products, such as machinery and naval ships. Despite these fears, Stalin sent Molotov to speak directly with Ribbentrop and Hitler, offering Soviet Axis membership, and even supporting the destruction of Britain. In this proposal, the world would be divided into spheres of influence between Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy and Japan. The Soviets also promised the delivery of 2.5 million tons of grain-1 million tons above what was previously agreed. Hitler never responded to Stalin’s proposal of marriage. He was already seriously considering an invasion of the Soviet Union.

Notice that bit about “consistently delayed the delivery of… machinery and naval ships.” Almost always, the warning signs of even the biggest betrayal can be seen, if you have eyes to see.

On April 13th, the Soviets signed a non aggression pact with Japan. During the signing of this pact, Stalin embraced the German ambassador and exclaimed “we must remain friends and you must do everything to that end!”. While Hitler was planning the invasion of Soviet union, many German generals protested, believing that such an action would have a negative impact on the German economic and military supply. As German troops built up on the Soviet border, Stalin made even more concessions, and even promised 5 million tons of grain for 1942.

The German success in the initial stage of Operation Barbarosa was in large part due to the raw materials imported from the Soviet Union. Soviet raw materials even convinced German generals to launch an invasion. In short, Stalin’s evil and cowardly collusion with Hitler not only resulted in the deaths of thousands of Poles, Balts, and others, but the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens at the hands of the Germans. It was Stalin that fed the Nazi war machine, and made it possible for Hitler to envelop Europe in flames. It was Stalin that enabled German war crimes and atrocities by his willful complicity. It was Stalin that used you, my dear Russian friends, as pawns. So yes, the Soviet Union was in collusion with Nazi Germany in the beginning of the war, and fed the very monster that would later attempt to devour it.

There should be a situation — for every high ranking PC trader, Imperial dynast, government leader (national or interstellar) — when you can actually smell a Great Betrayal coming… but the sex money’s just So GOOD, that it takes real guts to break out of the fantasy, and really focus on what’s going on right in front of your nose.

Especially when all of your advisors are saying that you’re crazy… deluded… paranoid… irrationally fearful.

(And – believe it or not – some of those advisors aren’t even being paid off by your *cough* dear ally *cough*. They really, truly believe that you’re nuts.

If it makes you feel any better, they will die right after your PC does, when the Big Surprise kicks in. There’s even a small possibility that they will survive the Surprise, and get the chance to tell the truth of what really happen, before their air/raft crashes due to a fluke programming error or they are found suicided due to grief over what happened.)

If the PCs aren’t the main target of the betrayal, then they have a better chance of surviving the Surprise. But they may well anger their patron, when trying to warn him and break him out of his fantasy world of easy sex/money/power/safety forever… and get little thanks for their warnings, if he survives the knife in the back.

A better tactic may well be joining in the betrayal yourself… assuming you can stomach the moral self-defilement, and avoid the “traditional payment for traitors.” But if the one you betrayed (or a member of his family/inner circle) somehow makes an amazing comeback, you’d better disappear yourself, before you are disappeared.

A less corrupt decision is to simply leave your Corporate Employer/King/Family Archon, if he won’t listen – and act – on your warnings in time. If you did your best, it is within the bounds of honour to hand in your commission and save your own skin (and some of your own family and wealth.) There’s still going to be a bad taste left in your mouth, but it beats having your corpse kicked aside after some futile last stand.

But that’s my view.

Every servant — in-game and in real life — must make his own case before the Great Throne, and personally weight the price of loyalty, treason, and flight… life and death..

And it’s up to every leader to decide to suffer the avoidable pain of waking up, before its too late and must pay the full price for his delusions.

(Of course, the leader and all that is under his authority will pay the price for living in a dreamworld. Something for Imperial Nobles to keep in mind.)

Oh, and one more thing: your business partner may well value your destruction more than the profits you put in his pocket.

This is true, even for the most corporate-minded and pragmatic Vilani. The money may well be a nice fat delicious bribe, to get past your defenses and within arms length of your naked back.

Mammon is not only a false god: he is one of the best liars of all time.

“If your enemy starts putting money in your pocket, just take the cash!

Nobody really puts Revenge or God or Race or Power or Ideology above money.

Don’t be stupid!”

<insert: blazing, winsome, golden smile of Wealth>

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1) Another Update for Stellar Reaches #27 2) Patriarchal Perversions


First, I’ve done a bunch of minor fixes (spelling, snips and tucks) for the latest issue of Stellar Reaches: the new issue has been posted in the Downloads section, as well as at scribd and Lulu.

Second, I hope to put up some of the usual articles I found, while wandering about in the web. But just for a while, I think: the workload at the paying job is going to get boosted, which means that once again this blog will fall silent for a while.

Sudnadja in an earlier comment recommended that I try out the ePub format. I’m actually going to fight to get the time to try it out. If it works out, I’ll probably publish in both formats: if the ePub format is substantially smaller than PDF, I’ll put the ePub file on this blog, and the PDF file at scribd.

Finally: due to the workload, it isn’t looking good for getting out a new issue this year. Even the stream-of-thought blog posts have been stomped on hard by work demands! Still, there are some timeslots that are worth a shot to use. The thing is, I need to focus to do a decent job, which means hours of straight free time, and solid blocks of free time is like gold right now!

Patriarchal Perversions

For my fellow believers — and campaigns strongly oriented to Noble Household policies and governance — I have to point out an eye-opening article, Patriarchy and Sodomy.

I have typically depicted Vilani households as sexually egalitarian: not due to politics, but because the Vilani have enjoyed an electrical and digital-powered economy for thousands of years longer than the Solomani, which has empowered Vilani women for a long, long time. Throw in additional decades of fertility to have their culturally-required four children  which reach adulthood at ~18 years, coupled with the same 200+ year lifespan as their men have, and Vilani women have had a far stronger hold on public positions than Solomani women have had.

To have something new to fight over, I typically depict Solomani households as (comparatively speaking) more patriarchal than the Vilani: a reasonable call, in my opinion.

Few Imperial ruling families care much for supernatural religions, but a few do. House Popa, depicted in Stellar Reaches #27, is one of the minority of a minority: not just religiously inclined, but Christian (as opposed to the more popular Imperial religions such as of Vilani Ritualism or Stellar Divinity). However, they follow the typical conservative policy of the strong father, and men commanding women.

Fair enough, if you want a society strongly focused on discipline, honour, and the other masculine/military virtues (highly valued virtues in many Noble circles!) but there are consequences, including

  • a higher incidence of homosexuality as men are separated from women
  • a lower status for women and domestic activities, “useful only for breeding and keeping house”
  • a view of homosexual relationships as a ‘higher and better’ form of relationship, compared to male-female relationships

Traveller is in part inspired by the militaristic/imperialistic cultures of Rome and Greece, who certainly followed this flow of thought. (To a lesser extent, this was true of Victorian/Imperial England as well.)

And it is reasonable to assume that many Ruling Houses tolerate such behaviour, so long as 1) the population is not unnecessarily aggravated, a.k.a. ‘don’t disturb the horses’ and 2) marriages with women are required for the sake of dynastic alliances, and that children to carry on the line are generated.1


House Popa’s primary goal is not to build up military discipline: to face a life-threatening (if short-term) military situation; it is to have more children, and so insure their long-term survival!

And for that, you’ll have to ditch the patriarchy, raise up the status of your family women to be equal to (or even higher than!) the men, and focus on insuring that the wives have what they need to spend the time and give the commitment and energy to not only have more children, but to have well-adjusted, emotionally stable, creative, brave children of high character: both boys and girls.

Wives rightfully demand to be loved and valued and respected, especially in matters of  homelife. This must be provided in the masculine offering of time and money and actually listened to, as opposed to condescended to.2 House Popa will have to learn that the price for long-term victory of gaining a good future for their descendants (as opposed to short-term – but still important! – victory on the military battlefield), the husbands must learn to subordinate themselves to their wives in a way that matters.

As Christians, the Popas have some chance to actually achieve their goals, but a lot of painful adjustments will have to be made: not only to ditch their patriarchal family structure, but also to ditch the Imperial clan culture they follow. Not easy!

And they have to do this when

  1. absorbing a massive Solomani influx of new family members (see the “Exodus” adventure in Stellar Reaches #27) and eventually
  2. during a major interstellar civil war, where physical survival may well be on the line: a period where the masculine military virtues will be in high demand, authority will be centralized, obedience will often be demanded (as is absolutely required in military situations) and women and children become things to be protected, not people to be listened to.

If they can get past this second massive challenge – the first being getting the new family members from Solomani to Imperial space in the first place! – then they have to demilitarize as fast as possible after the major waves of both the Rebellion warfare and the Virus-led infrastructure failures are overcome, in order to get back to building the future.

You can’t use a military framework to rebuild an economy or a population or a technological base. But it’s going to be hard to make the shift back from war to peace, when the war lasted ~20 years (1116-1036, say, if you assume the successful beating back the psychotic robots.)

That’s a tall order, for any family or nation.

1 But see the counter-example of Archduke Norris and his “true daugher” (clone) Seldrian Aledon. All her genes belong to him, and there are no hook-ups or alliances with any other family (and so allowing greater freedom of action for House Aledon)… but there is a certain level of discontent with this development from the general population.

2 Remember all those Christian demands, “that to truly lead, you must serve?” That while the wife is only expected to respect and obey her husband, her husband is expected to love and sacrifice his life for her? That power and authority are two separate things: and that while the husband has authority, the wife also has her zone of authority in the home: and it may well be that she has more real power overall – i.e. better access to the money supply, even if the husband is the moral focus of familial authority?

This often happens, by the way: the CEO make the big decisions, but it’s his subordinates – including the secretary – that decided exactly how the money is spent, who has access to him, etc.

“Choose your wife wisely.”

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Survival Bias

The critical information is invisible.

The scars of a survivor.

From Wikipedia:

In the military

During World War II, the statistician Abraham Wald took survivorship bias into his calculations when considering how to minimize bomber losses to enemy fire. Researchers from the Center for Naval Analyses had conducted a study of the damage done to aircraft that had returned from missions, and had recommended that armor be added to the areas that showed the most damage. Wald noted that the study only considered the aircraft that had survived their missions—the bombers that had been shot down were not present for the damage assessment. The holes in the returning aircraft, then, represented areas where a bomber could take damage and still return home safely. Wald proposed that the Navy instead reinforce the areas where the returning aircraft were unscathed, since those were the areas that, if hit, would cause the plane to be lost.[10][11][not in citation given] His work is considered seminal in the then-fledgling discipline of operational research.

There has got to be a way for a Referee to slip this one into an adventure, and get the PCs to use their eyes and actually see what’s happening around them for once…

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Stellar Reaches #27: Updated, Download, Pictures

Some notes on the most recent issue of Stellar Reaches, Issue #27:

  1. The issue has been updated, with numerous minor corrections. A graphic was duplicated on page 42: this has been fixed. If you have the older issue and want to do a comparison between the new and the old, there are a good number of PDF comparison tools: Draftable lets you do it online for small files, or offline for huge files like this issue.
  2. The file on this site has been divided into 22 parts, for easier downloading. The entire issue is at ~260 MB, at 219 pages with lots of graphics (one ten-page section is 30.3 MB!).One of my readers told me that it’s just to large for him to download all at once: it should be easier to download in pieces. There are various programs to join the PDF files together: one online alternative is PDF Join.You can still download the file in one piece at www.scribd.com: just search for ‘Stellar Reaches’. You can also purchase the hardcopy magazine at www.lulu.com: note that, as it is in colour, the price is high at $41.95 USD.

    So why I insist on colour? Because I want to design for the future: and in the future, more people will be able to afford it.

    Atoms will not decline in price as sharply as electrons, but I believe that energy prices will fall sharply over the next few years, as noted by Tony Seba in his lecture “Clean Disruption – Energy & Transportation”, shown below:

The Importance of Graphics

One small campaign hook I want to draw your attention to is on page 44. The original blurb for the graphic was

It’s rare to spot more than one or two moons from Hipponax: but sometimes, when conditions are just right…

but this just didn’t fit the picture: the shown orbits and locations of the moons around the gas giant would be routinely seen. So I changed it to

The dozens of worlds of Clazomenae, of which Hipponax is just one.

Really, the image shows just a few worlds above a dozen: but it’s reasonable that – with so many seen – there will have to be even more that are not easily seen by the naked, untrained eye.

And then the obvious hit me: if Hipponax/Canopus is one of Clazomenae’s moons, and is habitable, why not more moons? Can’t you have many living worlds around one gas giant? And can’t more than one of them have a population over a billion? Perhaps all of them?

Sadly, Traveller (like all systems) is poor at modelling edge cases such as this. It is possible to have multiple high-pop worlds, but the only one in the UWP is the mainworld/most populous world.

Well, never mind: the PCs can discover it for themselves.

(Such situations would also mess up UWP surveys of the population and wealth of a sector: it wouldn’t take many single systems with multiple populous worlds to ruin the accuracy of a typical Traveller mainworld survey.)

So we see that a single picture can materially change the shape & scope of an entire roleplaying campaign, if the Referee wants to deepen his universe. A good picture can excite the imagination, or spark a shift in perspective.

I want my fanzine to get more good stories out there, more meat to chew on, more situations to play with. And good pictures are part of that.


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Alien Beacons

I would suggest that the Imperium runs a major

“Hello Universe, we’re here!

The Imperial Reference timestamp is XXXXXXX….

Be our friend and let us sell you stuff!

The Imperial Reference timestamp is XXXXXXX…..”

interstellar beacon at Reference/Core, and lesser timestamp beacons at every Imperial sector capital as well.

Also, there may well be several truly alien beacons out there, far beyond Charted Space, that the Imperial Scouts know of. Some of them are warning signs, some are Hello Universe greetings, and some are advertising.

Every so often, the IISS send out an expedition, to check them out. As any ever returned? If they do, what is coming back with them? Something for a Referee to plan out for his PCs…

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The Vilani Main – Updates

From the comments of the previous post, I have this:

Vilani Main = 1049 Systems

Core Sector – 2 Systems
Corridor Sector – 39 systems (Shurgi Main)
Dagudashaag Sector – 62 systems
Gushemege Sector – 309 systems
Ilelish Sector – 2 Systems
Lishun Sector – 136 systems
Reft Sector – 90 Systems
Verge Sector -8 systems
Vland Sector – 399 systems
Windhorn Sector – 4 systems

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O’Neill Cylinders

Keep an eye on the skies of your Traveller O’Neill cylinders.

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