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Frequently Asked Questions

Perhaps it is because of the nature of the books that David writes, perhaps it is because David Weber's fans are unusually dedicated and inquisitive... but it seems that everyone has a question! Here are a few that David finds he gets asked most often.

If you have a question that you would like to see considered as a FAQ, please e-mail us at Responses will be posted if and when David can get to them. We'd love to hear from you! 

Series Question Posted
Safehold Why doesn't Merlin use SNARCs to sabotage the Church's war efforts? May 2014

Initially, Merlin didn’t use the remotes for targeted “untraceable assassinations or sabotage” because they either (1) wouldn’t have been traceless but would have been inexplicable or (2) fear of exactly the same sort of reprisals which were seen in the last book.

Remember that Merlin was flying completely under the radar and doing everything he could to stay under the radar for multiple reasons. One was to prevent the Church from seeing what was coming for as long as possible, another was to disperse the new ideas over as many legitimate, known innovators (like Howsmyn, Seamount, Sir Dustyn Olyvyr, etc.) in order to make them less suspect and more "explicable," and another — and perhaps the most important of all — was to stay away from anything which the Church could convincingly have portrayed as demonic. It wasn’t so much that he was afraid that the “demon” charge would have any effect on the people close to him, but in a civilization where the single religion’s validity is totally unquestioned, any charge of demonic influence or origins could be catastrophic. In the early days, it would have been catastrophic even within Charis; later, it would have been catastrophic in terms of undercutting the willingness of people like Nahrmahn, Gorjah, or Greyghor Stohnar to have anything to do with the "demonically assisted" Charisians. Because of that, he really couldn’t go around committing all sorts of untraceable assassinations without someone beginning to wonder just how they were magically happening. If you’ll recall, he actually considered the possibility of assassinating Hektor by using two or three (or several) of the SNARC parasites to basically set off a thermite charge in his inner ear. He rejected it for two reasons (1) because any trained healer/surgeon who examined Hektor would realize that something very peculiar had happened at a very convenient time for Cayleb Ahrmahk and the Empire of Charis, and (2) because he didn’t – and doesn’t — want to get into the habit of going around assassinating anyone who seems to him to be an obstacle to his plans.

By the time of the last book, the Church has gotten around to officially labeling Merlin a demon, anyway, which leaves them with the problem of where the true seijins which the Holy Writ promises will turn up to defeat genuine demons. In addition, however, by this time the Church’s credibility has been massively undermined. Or, rather, the credibility of the Group of Four and — especially — Zhaspahr Clyntahn has been hugely undermined, and not just in the Empire of Charis. Because of that, you’re seeing him using not simply his SNARCs but others of his technological goodies more offensively, as, for example, when he took out the semaphore towers to clear the way for the Great Canal Raid, or when Dialydd Mab took out the inquisitors on the canal barge in LAMA. On the other hand, we saw in MT&T Clyntahn carrying out precisely the sort of mass reprisal Merlin had feared when the powder barge exploded and neither Merlin nor any other saboteur had had a single thing to do with it.

Moreover, even though Clyntahn’s credibility has been undermined, at some point (hopefully) the Church is going to be defeated and people are going to begin looking at the “historical record” of what actually happened. Don’t forget that the big reveal about the truth where Langhorne and the creation of Safehold and the Church of God Awaiting is concerned has not happened and that it will not happen any sooner than they can possibly avoid. The reason, obviously, is for them to have the greatest possible opportunity to prepare the ground for revealing the truth. It would be a very, very bad thing if someone whose credibility hadn’t been destroyed started looking at two or three instances in which assassinations or sabotage had been so “traceless” as to leave no non-demonic explanation for them.

There are obviously some exceptions to that rule. For example, Merlin has already promised himself that if he ever gets a clean shot at Zhaspahr Clyntahn, he will take it. In the meantime, as Dialydd Mab and his friends and associates, he has a face, a persona who can carry out assassinations without anything more inexplicable than a “normal” seijin’s mystic capabilities. He is extremely unlikely to attempt to “tracelessly” sabotage foundries or manufactories, for a lot of reasons, including the fact that he wants the rest of Safehold, not just Charis, to be developing those capabilities and facilities. He’s perfectly prepared to do what he can to assist them in being. . . less than efficient, shall we say (which was what he hoped to accomplish with the original Mahndrayn breech-loading rifle design), but he is not going to attempt to eliminate any innovators, even on the Church’s side. Or perhaps even especially on the Church’s side, since he’s already pretty much undermined the anti-innovation mindset in the Empire of Charis.

In theory, there are quite a number of things that Merlin could do using his SNARCs or Owl’s remotes which would hasten a Charisian victory; there is, however, nothing he has to do at this point to ensure a Charisian victory. While the Church is fully capable of producing weapons and using them in ways which will lengthen the war and increase the casualty total, there’s not really any probability at this point that they are going to be able to turn the war’s momentum around. (Absent, of course, some sort of catastrophic explosion that completely wipes out the Delthak Works. Short of the kinetic bombardment system, I can't think of any way that might be contrived, however.)

There was a significant chance of the war's momentum being reversed when what became the Army of the Sylmahn was about to hammer its way through the Sylmahn Gap, in the east, and Glacierheart was about to fall in the west. That is one of the reasons why he was willing to use his technology — which, by the way, I would point out includes every single thing he's ever done with his PICA — in order to clear the way for the canal raid. Should a similar situation arise, he would probably be prepared to use technology at least that “openly” once more.

Readers sometimes forget that while Merlin loves his Charisian allies, regards them as the family Nimue Alban never had in the face of the Gbaba onslaught, his and Nimue’s primary mission is to break the Church of God Awaiting’s stranglehold on Safeholdian society and — even more importantly — on technological advancement. He bleeds inside for every single human being killed in the religious war raging across Safehold, but in the final analysis, Gray Harbor, Cayleb, Sharleyan, and Maikel Staynair are all absolutely correct when they say that Clyntahn would have launched a war against Charis whether or not Merlin had ever waked up on Safehold. Moreover, it’s going to take something as catastrophic as the Jihad to break that technological stasis and keep it broken, and in that regard, the longer the war lasts (in very cold-blooded terms) the better for Merlin’s true mission. I’m not saying that he has reasoned it out that way, but those considerations underlie every single decision he’s made. And, if you’ll recall, when he rescued the kids from the krakens in OAR, and when he rescued Sharleyan from assassination in BHD, he told himself the entire time he was doing it that he couldn’t risk doing it. In those instances, he allowed his heart to overrule his head, but he knows that’s exactly what he did. It was simply something he couldn’t not do, but the sort of things which are being suggested here — traceless assassinations, traceless acts of sabotage, etc. — are things he doesn’t have to do, things he isn’t driven by his heart over his head to do, and things which might actively impede his primary object.

I’m sure some readers will insist that he ought to do them anyway. My response is that he is already operating extremely effectively against the Church and the Proscriptions and that he isn’t going to do anything to muck that up.

Safehold Given the sort of attention Merlin's appearance draws, what sort of ethnical distribution is there on Safehold? (Asked Sat Dec 07, 2013) December 2013

Not quite correct. The darkness of Nimue's/Merlin's eyes is pretty remarkable anywhere on Safehold; they got the huge degree of notice they did early in the books because that coloration is unheard of in native Charisians, however. By and large, the people of Safehold tend to a sort of warm beige coloration, rather like that of my beautiful Cambodian born twin daughters, but the northern portions of both Havens, in particular, have very extreme winters and lighter complexons and blue and gray eyes are much more common there. Blonds and true redheads like Paityr Wylsynn are quite rare even on the Mainland, however, and most people who are described in the books as "fair haired" are generally more of a very light brown or sandy --- or honey --- blond than your true golden or platinum blond. You'll come across an occasional character described as "golden haired," but you should also notice that they're very uncommon.

Chisholm's winters aren't quite up to Mainland standards for cold, but they're in the running and Chisholmians tend more towards the same sort of "northern" genotype. Emerald and Corisande, even more than Charis, tend to have equatorial climates, with darker coloration being the norm there, hence the comments about Irys' mother's exotic coloration and the comments on her own eye color. Harchong was initially heavily Asiatic (and especially Chinese) when it was first settled and continues to demonstrate that genotype pretty strongly. More "Nordic" coloration is sometimes (rarely) found in Northern Harchong, and the "ethnicity" of names and coloration should not be taken to imply that Harchong today is any particular era of historical China. I think of it more as a fusion of medieval Russian social norms mixed with a Mandarinate bureaucracy, in fact.

By and large, the populations originally settled by the Ark command crew were fairly homogenized. Harchong was something of an exception, but that was largely because the initial population had been drawn fairly proportionately from all area of Old Earth, there were a lot of Chinese, and China had specifically requested that even though their colonists were going to lose all memory of technology they retain as much as possible of their cultural heritage. Most of the other Old Earth ethnicities and groups were less concerned with that issue, however, and Harchong lost most of its Chinese "identity" anyway (aside from the heritage of Chinese names and naming conventions) when Langhorne and Bedard rewrote their memories so much more completely than anyone on Old Earth had intended.

There are quite a few echoes of Old Earth still rattling around the planet, but thanks in no small part of Langhorne's and Bedard's personal prejudices (and their own backgrounds, which they leaned on heavily when restructuring the memories of the Adams and Eves), a very "Western" blend of culture was imposed on the planetary population from the outset. Remember that they wanted everyone starting from the same cultural and belief template, and they used the one with which they were most familiar as its foundation. One might, I suppose, argue that this is the ultimate case of "Western Imperialism," although I didn't really intend to make any statements in that direction, I promise! :)

It's not the case that ethnicity in names has disappeared on Safehold, however. Whoever it was that suggested there were no Hispanic names in the mix seems to have missed a few (like Faidel Ahlverez, for example), but that's probably in part because of the altered spellings. There are, in fact, names from almost every cultural group, but they are (admittedly) biased towards "Western" names (outside Harchong, at any rate).

In general, you can think of the Safeholdian population as having "smoothed out" the extremes of genetic diversity on Old Earth (with the exception of Harchong) when the planet was first settled. For the most part, that smoothing out has continued over the centuries since, but the same environmental factors which selected for differences in things like skin pigmentation and eye coloration have been in play for the better part of a thousand years, as well. Hence the difference between "Northern" and "Out Island" appearances.

Safehold Why was Kau-yung surprised by the orbital bombardment system? (Asked Wed Dec 04, 2013) December 2013

The Commodore never saw the original OBS [orbital bombardment system] coming for a very good reason, which I didn't really intend to share with you at this point, but . . . .

By the time the OBS was deployed, all but one of the colony's ships had been disposed of (as per the original operations plan) by dropping them into the local sun once they were no longer needed. The ship which remained had been Langhorne's flagship all along and he'd been very careful about vetting and reassigning shipboard personnel while Kau-Yung and Shan-Wei were off prepping the planet. By the time he came to join them, he'd had several years to weed out any potential weak spots in the crew.

Now, these were big honking ships, and his flagship had been chosen (and hung onto until last) in part because it was one of the main fabrication vessels --- that is, it represented a very impressive industrial base. Officially, it was retained till last in case something unexpected came up on Safehold which would require industrial support to rectify. There were no "system defenses" as such any longer, since they were now committed to staying on Safehold no matter what might happen and the small number of relatively light warships Kau-Yung had retained had been destroyed (for the same reasons as the rest of the colony fleet), since they would have been totally inadequate to defend the planet anyway. The military forces which remained under Kau-Yung's command essentially consisted by that time of a handful of passive sensor platforms (which were looking out of the system and not inward) and the ex-Navy personnel who were now part of the command crew and served more as police than any sort of serious military force. Don't forget that the entire command crew (less those in the Alexandria Enclave) were in on Langhorne's basic plan, which came to . . . lots of people. Exactly how many "lots of people" is something I don't intend to tell you just now. There were enough of them to require policing, and Kau-Yung's people would also have been in charge of disaster relief or any other emergency that came along.

Langhorne and his inner circle were well aware of how loyal to Kau-Yung his own people were, and despite the deep estrangement between him and Shan-Wei (which most of the "archangels" accepted as genuine) Langhorne was less than confident that Kau-Yung would be in favor of turning her and all the rest of the Alexandrians into ground zero for a kinetic strike. For that matter, Langhorne was far from certain that all the rest of the command crew would think it was a good idea to commit the mass murder of colleagues they'd known and worked with for decades, even if they had reached a point of bone-deep philosophical disagreement.

As a result of that uncertainty on his part, the original OBS was a relatively simple (and cheap) system built for a single purpose --- to take out the entire Alexandria Enclave in a single strike --- and it was intended to do so so quickly that neither Kau-Yung and his loyalists among the ex-Navy personnel nor any other "archangels" who might have disagreed with the plan would be able to prevent it from happening. In other words, the idea was to burn out the source of "dangerous contamination" in a single stroke and present them with a fait accompli, after which they would have little choice but to accept Langhorne's plans --- and actions --- as a "done deal." To that end, the OBS was also built under high conditions of secrecy in one of the modules aboard the flagship commanded and staffed by people personally loyal to Langhorne. Its existence was concealed not just from Kau-Yung, but from everyone outside Langhorne's immediate close circle of utterly trusted subordinates, and it wasn't deployed from inside the module in which it had been built until literally no more than a very few hours from when it was used. As a result, there was no real "window" in which Kau-Yung might have seen what was coming and taken steps to prevent it.

Safehold What kind of mobility and logistics is available on Safehold compared to human history? (Asked Wed Oct 30, 2013) December 2013

Actually, this appears to be a[nother] point upon which people have missed quite a few small implications of text comments on the tech available to Safehold. Things like Pasqualization [pasteurization], canned foods, etc. The Safeholdian food preservation industry is much farther advanced than some people seem to be assuming, despite the fact that it is (traditionally) far more of a "muscle-powered" affair than would have been the case for an equivalent level of sophistication on Earth. In connection with this, I would also point out that by the time of the American Civil War dehydrated milk, dried vegetables, and quite a few other items/techniques needed to produce relatively low-bulk rations were available. Because low-bulk/low-weight substitutes for much of the human-consumed supplies are available, the imbalance between required rations and required fodder is even more pronounced than some people seem to be assuming. In other words, do not judge the weight, portability, and/or preservation requirements of an army's logistics train by the "Elizabethan" tech model some people still seem to apply as the default tech level for pre-Merlin Safehold.

The biggest classical pre-motorization problem the QMG faces on Safehold is the need for fodder, which is especially a factor in areas like much of the SR where food supplies have been deliberately destroyed and so high a percentage of normal cropland simply wasn't planted following the Sword of Schueler. Even there, Safeholdian armies have a huge advantage in the form of the draft dragon because of its combination of size, basic physiognomy, and efficiency of digestion. Using grain(s) as the base fodder helps enormously in terms of transporting feed because it concentrates much more energy in a smaller bulk than grass or hay does, but you still have to have a certain percentage of roughage (best supplied by hay) to maintain health. I think the rule of thumb is that a horse, for example, needs 1-2% of bodyweight in roughage every day and somewhere around 3% of bodyweight total for food. For a 1,000-pound draft horse, that would be about 30 pounds total food, of which around 15 pounds should be roughage, and (if I recall correctly) a "standard" square bale of hay here in the States runs to about 50 pounds. So assuming no free-growing grass for grazing (or a forced march in which there's no time to turn them out to graze), you need about a third of a bale per draft horse per day. The other 15 pounds or so can be lowered by using very high energy grains for fodder, and high-quality hay (such as alfalfa, which is sort of the gold standard for hay) reduces the total amount of roughage required, as well. Of course, the mule (which is also known on Safehold) requires only about 1/3 as much grain as a horse of the same bodyweight, so a big 1,000-pound draft mule would require only about 10 pounds of grain and slightly less roughage, as well, meaning you could feed one of them for a day on about half the total weight/bulk of food your draft horse would require. (Dragons also require roughage, but not quite as high a percentage. The difference isn't great enough to have much effect on the bulk and/or weight of the required fodder.)

As a general rule, the US Army during the animal-traction period rated draft animals on the basis that (assuming a 10-hour draft period) 1 ox could pull about 1,500 pounds; 1 mule could pull about 750 pounds, and 1 horse could pull 250-300 pounds. For comparison, a typical Western working ox would weigh about 2,000 pounds, but the oxen the Army was using at this time averaged about 1,700 pounds, which meant that the ox’s sustained draft was roughly equal to its own weight. The typical heavy draft mule would weigh around 1000 pounds, so they it could pull about 75% of its weight, while a horse could pull only about 40 percent of its own weight. By the same token, horse or a mule could carry about 20% of its bodyweight while an ox could carry about 25% of its own body weight. These numbers were all calculated for off-road transportation; on-road they would be substantially higher. They were also calculated on an empirical basis, by observing demonstrated performance in the field, and should therefore be considered pretty reliable. As a check on them, there is a considerable amount of ongoing research into draft animals for use in Third World economies. The current research considers a “burst draft” number and a “sustained draft” number. Oxen have the highest values in each category, with a “burst” number of about 6 times their bodyweight (that is, a 2,000-pound ox would have a “burst draft” value of about 12,000 pounds) and a “sustained draft” of about 5,000 pounds using the modern measure, which (as nearly as I could determine) is a road value, not cross-country, which would fit fairly well with the empirical numbers from above. (That is, the numbers cross-country should be about 1/3 of what they would be on a decent road.) The reason that the numbers for oxen are higher than for horses has a lot to do with the physiology of the animals. Put most simply, an ox’s legs, body form, and musculature are “lower set” and better suited to pulling heavier loads for longer distances but at a substantially lower rate of speed.

A Safeholdian draft dragon has a lower “burst” capability (expressed as a percentage of its own bodyweight) than an ox, but a higher sustained capability because it has an additional set of legs. Oxen can carry (as opposed to pull) a higher percentage of their bodyweight than horses can (again, because of physiology), but dragons can carry an even higher percentage (30-35%) than most oxen can. On Safehold, this isn’t as critical as it might be here on Earth, because oxen are virtually never used, since the dragon is available and is a much more efficient proposition, so what we really need to be comparing them to in terms of performance is the horse or the mule. I’ve included the ox in the current discussion primarily as a “real-life” comparison for the aforesaid horses and mules, however.

A dragon has a “burst” capability of approximately 5.5 times its own bodyweight and a “sustained” capability of about 4.5 times its own bodyweight, and weighs approximately 15,000 pounds. I’ve used a value of 4 times that bodyweight in the books simply to be sure I was allowing a “fudge factor” for dragons which are smaller and/or larger than the average and allow for those which lose body mass while being worked intensively. This happens with all draft animals and is allowed for in the US Army estimates I used above. It is not allowed for in all of the more recent studies I’ve seen, although the majority of them which consider feed requirements do consider the problem at least obliquely, since the intensity of the animal’s labor also affects the efficiency of its digestion.

What this means is that to transport 60 tons of supplies 100 miles along a (good) road would require approximately 145.5 horses, 53.3 mules, or 2 dragons. The horses would require about 4,362 pounds of food per day; the mules would require about 2,180 pounds; the dragons would require only 1,200 pounds, or little more than half the amount the mules would need. (Although oxen don’t really come into this equation, because — as I said — they aren’t much used on Safehold, you’d need about 24 of them to move the same load, albeit at a much lower rate of speed, and they would consume about 1,900 pounds of food.) The horses (and mules) would require about 27 hours to travel 100 miles; the ox would require about 40 hours; the dragon would require approximately 20 hours. (Note: these figures are for continuous hours. All of the various critters involved would require periodic rest stops, not to mention the time required to consume the fodder discussed above.) The dragon’s advantage over the mule or (especially) horse in terms of pounds of fodder per mile traveled would come close to doubling across country, without a road net; its advantage would be no more than about 1.5 greater than for oxen.

Just as a matter of comparison, the famous M35 “deuce and a half” truck of the US Army can carry about 10,000 pounds of cargo and has a “highway” mileage of about 11 miles per gallon, so to transport 60 tons of cargo 100 miles would require 12 of them, each of which would burn roughly 9.1 gallons of gasoline, or a total of 109.2 gallons. A gallon of gasoline weighs about 6.2 pounds per gallon, so the gasoline required to transport our 60 tons for 100 miles would weigh 675.8 pounds, or about 56% of the “fuel cost” for the dragons. Of course, the volume that fuel would take up would be much lower and the entire trip would take a bit less than 2 hours or approximately 10 percent as long as the dragons would take. The advantage over horse or even mule-drawn transport is obviously much greater, and the US Army didn’t have access to Safeholdian dragons, unfortunately, which is probably why it violated the Proscriptions and came up with its infernal creation. :)

Nonetheless, I think it should be evident from the above that Safeholdian armies’ logistical capabilities come far closer to those of a mechanized era than even late 19th-century Earth-style animal traction could have. Of course, the extent to which that is true depends in no small part on how thoroughly and how well the capabilities of Safeholdian animal traction has been integrated into a given army’s transport system, and not all Safeholdian armies are equal in that respect by any stretch of the imagination.

Safehold Currency exchange rates circa 896. (Posted Tue Aug 13, 2013) December 2013

I see that people have been discussing currency and currency values, so I thought I’d give you the enclosed table. This reflects cumulative changes in currency exchange rates over a five-year period; it does not show you the peaks and valleys involved in those changes. Nor does it show you the purchasing power of the various currencies in terms of US dollars, which I have established for my own use as of 1800, 1850, 1900, 1950, and 2000.

I should point out that the currency units used here are all marks. Prior to the jihad, Temple marks were (you should pardon the expression) the “gold standard” of Safehold. National units minted their own coins simply to put enough currency into circulation, and the exchange rate reflected both the amount of bullion in any given coin (there are different bullion contents for several of them, most notably for Sodar and Harchong, if only because there were no truly standardized planetwide units of measure and weight) as well as the users’ faith in the amount of bullion (the prohibitions of the Writ vis-a-vis debasement of the coinage notwithstanding). It should also be noted, however, that there have always been silver and copper (actually bronze) marks in circulation. Generally speaking, there are 20 silver marks (or “silvers”) in a gold mark and 5 copper marks in each silver mark (or 100 “coppers” in a gold mark). Paper notes have been in circulation for decades (or longer) on Safehold, as well, but the provisions of the Writ which forbid debasing the currency have always been interpreted to mean that while paper notes may be issued by a bank, a nation, an archbishopric, or Mother Church herself, the issuing institution cannot issue notes for more bullion than it has actually on hand. In other words, there is no elasticity in the “paper money” supply. At the same time, paper notes are considered less durable than coins (they can, after all, be burned) and easier to counterfeit (which, despite the Writ’s prohibition on debasing the currency is still done by some criminals), and merchants and bankers (who have had a much closer view than the general public of the realities behind Church and secular corruption) have less confidence that “unbacked” banknotes won’t be issued anyway. All of these are reasons that the majority of transactions have still been carried out in coin. The primary function of these banknotes has been for transactions between banking institutions and treasuries rather than in the marketplace.

In addition to actual banknotes, as defined above, however, institutions may also issue notes which are not backed by actual bullion on hand. These promissory notes are almost always issued on an interest-bearing basis. That is, those who accept the promissory notes in the sale of goods or services do so (in theory, at least) of their own free choice and at their own risk and return for a promised value when the note comes to term in excess of its face value at the time they accepted it. These are much more likely to be used in the marketplace than the banknotes defined above, but are also subject to a certain discount rate by sellers, whether this is openly acknowledged or not.

This is partly reflected in the exchange rates below, because the total amount of currency in circulation includes coins (in gold, silver, and copper), paper notes issued against bullion reserves, and interest bearing promissory notes. The relative values assigned to the currencies in the table below reflect the willingness of sellers to accept all three of the above. One reason for the Charisian mark’s climb in value as opposed to the Church of God Awaiting’s mark is that the Church’s creditors are beginning to cherish serious reservations about notes issued against bullion and promissory notes, whereas Charis is being regarded (whatever the Church might think about it) as a better investment. In short, this shift in value reflects the fact that the Safeholdian marketplace has come to the conclusion that the jihad is most likely to end in the defeat of Mother Church, at least in so far as the Temple’s ability to crush the Empire of Charis is concerned. No one has pointed this out to Clyntahn, needless to say, but were it not for the coercive power of the Church and the Inquisition, the value of the Church’s and Temple Lands’ marks (especially its banknotes and promissory notes) would have fallen considerably further against the Charisian mark.

Eventually, the Charisian, Chisholmian, Emeraldian, Tarotisian, and Corisandian marks will be folded into a single Imperial Mark, but Cayleb and Sharleyan have no desire to pursue any fiscal policies that might shake the faith of the merchants and bankers in the Empire’s constituent realms in the middle of a war.

Safeholdian Currency Equivalents
Nation......Charis 891....Charis 896

Temple Lands..0.94............0.87
CoG Awaiting..1.14............1.01

*This line reflects currency value post Sword of Schueler in 896.

Safehold With PICAs, AIs, human-machine interfacing, and the like, how could the humans lose to the Gbaba? They had achieved the singularity, and thus could easily produce their way to victory. (Asked Sat Jul 20, 2013) December 2013

You need to reflect upon the fact that the reference was specifically for “most people” and to “full service” PICAs, if you will. In other words, the ones that are faithful analogues of a human original except for the fact that they are immensely stronger, have better reflexes, perfect memory, etc., and were perceived as mobile extensions of their original.

The Terran Federation was lousy with specialized PICAs which were routinely used by people working in high threat environments, etc., and provision of last-generation PICA capability for those who were physically disabled was also routine. In terms of military hardware, the uploading of human awarenesses and human memories into virtual realities for R&D, for the control of warships, fortresses, and system defense nets was widespread, but not as widespread — in tactical applications – as the use of genuine AIs. (Under the Federation's legal codes, AIs were on a different plane from electronic humans in several ways, primarily because AIs were regarded as artificial constructs which could be and were designed to serve specific functions which often precluded the possibility or even the concept of self-preservation. You might recall Nimue/Merlin's reflections on why Owl had such limited self-awareness and personality in the first place.)

There were all sorts of other reasons for the greater reliance on human-managed AIs than on PICAs or completely electronic humans, including the sheer expense of last-generation PICAs and a few very unhappy experiences in the early days of their availability. There are also some factors involved that can’t really be discussed at this point because of their bearing on elements of the story line that will never be resolved on Safehold, but in general there was no prejudice against the combination of human and electronic consciousnesses. Virtual personalities were regarded as individuals in their own rights; the restriction on PICAs — the necessity for the PICA’s memories and experiences to be uploaded to (i.e., be combined with) the human original — was required because the PICA was not regarded as an individual but rather as a peripheral being operated by the human original. If there was no “human original,” then there was no responsibility for the PICA to be downloaded to it (obviously), and I never intended to imply that someone who for medical reasons (or whatever, not be construed as precluding philosophical reasons) elected to transfer completely into a PICA would be erased every 10 days if he/she failed to report some sort of central policing authority. Unless one chose to make the transition permanent, however, the legal code continued to regard the human original as the only actual personality (since the requirement to upload effectively “overwrote” the original with the combined experience PICA and original). If a virtual personality was “manumitted” by the human original – and there was a legal procedure for doing just that — it became a complete, self-realized individual in the eyes of the law, with all of these civil rights and legal obligations of any other individual citizen of the Federation. Unless it was manumitted, however, the human original remained legally responsible for any of its actions. Put another way, the human original and the PICA were regarded as a single entity by the law and, that being the case, the law required that the separate aspects of that single entity be periodically merged to ensure that remained a single entity.

Now, I personally cherish certain doubts about the attainability of the singularity and its advantages/promises. At the same time, I’m certainly prepared to acknowledge that my reservations may or may not be well taken. I’ve already discussed in past posts on this forum several reasons why the Federation didn’t simply manufacture a bazillion PICAs in order to man vast fleets warships which could be sent off overwhelm the Gbaba. One reason, frankly, was that manpower was never Federation’s military, and one reason it wasn’t was that Federation military hardware required very, very little in the way of flesh-and-blood human personnel because (a) the Federation had very, very capable AIs and (b) the Federation already made significant use of uploaded human beings. As far as other war-fighting technologies — nano weapons, von neumann machines, etc. — are concerned, I’ve never said they weren’t used; I simply said whatever was used was insufficient to stave off ultimate defeat.

You also have to bear in mind that you’re seeing the Federation through the lens of Safehold. For example, there’s been mention by Merlin on more than one occasion that the reason humans on Safehold can’t use the NEAT technology for education is that none of them have the neural receptors they would have had had they been citizens of the Federation. I don’t believe that Merlin ever said that education was the only reason that citizens of the Federation had those receptors. In fact, citizens of the Federation routinely interfaced directly with computers, AIs, etc. Safehold, on the other hand, was intended — deliberately — to possess no advanced technology, including virtual personalities, PICAs, neural receptors, etc., etc. This is the primary reason that the original colonists volunteered to have all memory of that technology erased during their voyage to Safehold, although none of them ever anticipated what Langhorne and Bédard substitute for their original memories.

What I suppose I’m trying to say here is that you ought not to assume on the basis of the legal provisions attached to a specific use of a PICA that you understand all of the nuances of a Federation which you have seen only in historical perspective after that Federation had ceased to exist. Had I not deliberately allowed for the disablement of Merlin’s high-speed data port, you might have a rather different perspective on the interaction of human beings, cybernetics, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality as practiced by the Federation. This is not to say that I did not envision a Federation in which humanity had chosen — by and large – to preserve its humanity as distinct from the machine or from human-machine fusion. I did, however, envision one in which that humanity was far more intimately involved and . . . intertwined with its technological artifacts then you appear to have been assuming based on the single passage you cited.

Safehold Why didn't King Haarahld move to defeat the forces in their ports instead of Darcos Sound? (Asked Fri May 31, 2013) December 2013

In no particular order:

(1) Haarahld could not possibly move against any force launched against Charis by the Church until that force had first moved against Charis. You do remember the Church? The all-powerful, Mother of Men, servant of God, authorized by the Archangels, keeper of souls, and general all round font of wisdom and justice? That Church? Haarahld understood (even better than Merlin, who didn’t know anything about the brethren of Saint Zherneau at that point, realized he did) that no secular realm could even think about moving against any Church-supported, Church-mandated alliance except in self-evident self-defense. That meant he had to wait until (A) he had a plausible means of knowing that the attack was coming which could be publicly demonstrated and (B) until the forces and people committed to that attack were unequivocably identified. Therefore, he literally could not attack Emerald until he “discovered” Emerald’s intention to attack Charis, and he needed the Corisandian fleet elements in Emeraldian waters before he could do that. You may remember the lengths that he (or Cayleb, at least) went to to suggest that King Gorjah’s court had been the source of the information that sent the galleons off to meet Malikai and White Ford so far from home. However, it’s worth noting that even though Charis ostensibly had that advanced warning, Cayleb didn’t actually attack until well after the Corisandian galleys had rendezvoused with the Emeraldian galleys and provided Haarahld with the proof that he was fighting a defensive war rather than impiously raising his merely mortal hand against Mother Church in blasphemous, unprovoked defiance of God's will. (And I should point out that the Corisandian and Chisholmian contingents actually arrived at Eraystor as a joint force, little though they liked one another. They didn’t straggle in over a period of five-days or arrive separately which means that your "engage them individually at sea" strategy would have put him up against a larger force than you appear to be assuming.)

(2) His ability to find and engage the Corisandian and Chisholmian elements at sea would have been far from certain. Of course, he could have retained Merlin aboard his flagship as his own tame wizard, rather than sending him off with Cayleb, but he had what were in his opinion (and mine) enormously better reasons to send Cayleb and the galleons (and Merlin) off to Armageddon Reef. See below.

(3) His galley fleet was considerably weaker than its “paper” strength thanks to the diversions of men, matériel, and artillery to the galleons. His numerical advantage over the Corisandian/Chisholmian fleet (which was traveling in company) was not as large as you appear to be thinking, and he could pretty much have counted on its getting smaller with the losses he would almost inevitably take against the Eraystor fortifications (and the Emeraldian Navy) if he’d gone into Eraystor Bay after Nahrmahn’s ships. See below.

(4) There were really good and sound reasons for him not to attack Eraystor’s port fortifications with only his understrength galley fleet. They were called guns. Lots of guns. The fact that I didn’t take you on a tour of the batteries certainly shouldn’t suggest they weren’t there, unless you can think of another reason why he wasn’t sending in fire ships against the combined fleets? I promise you it wasn’t out of the goodness of his heart or because he’d forgotten to bring along the marshmallows. I could have done a chapter with his discussing why he couldn’t attack the fortifications in an “As you know, Bob” sort of format, but I personally took it as a given that the Eraystor naval facilities, at least, were reasonably well fortified and provided with artillery. No, it wasn't the "modern" artillery aboard the Charisian galleons, but then his galleys didn't have "modern" artillery, either. They would have been forced to engage old-style artillery using old-style tactics, aside from the single squadron armed with carronades, and that would have been a seriously losing proposition. And there were very good reasons why he didn't use the galleons against those fortifications. See below.

(5) Sending the galleon fleet off to intercept the Dohlaran and Tarotisian fleet elements off Armageddon Reef allowed him to use them under conditions which would maximize their advantages, minimize their disadvantages vis-à-vis galleys, and put the enemy galley fleet at a critical disadvantage. In shallower, more confined waters, where the galleys could make better use of their greater speed and mobility, the galleons’ combat advantages would have been considerably less. Now, it can certainly be argued — after the fact — that the galleons proved capable of decisive action at Darcos Sound, which is arguably “confined waters,” but it was one heck of a lot less confined than Eraystor Bay would have been. Moreover, for all of Haarahld’s faith in Merlin, and all the fact that he belonged to the inner circle, neither he nor any other Safeholdian had ever seen galleons in combat before. He was, therefore, not about to risk finding out that their artillery was not in fact superior to the Emeraldian artillery protecting the fleet anchorages or automatically assume that they would have been as successful against galleys in the sorts of waters galleys had been designed to fight in until that fact had been demonstrated in practice.

(6) Haarahld was, indeed, intelligent enough to recognize the advantages in defeating his enemy in detail. That is, in fact, exactly what he did. He chose to hit the combined Dohlaran-Tarotisian force at its most vulnerable and when it would be psychologically least prepared for combat. By doing so, he preserved the secret of the galleons’ broadside armaments until they had already been used to decisively blunt and defeat that arm of the Church’s offensive. Had he used them earlier and had even a single galley gotten away to Tarot and gained access to the semaphore system, the Dohlarans would certainly have been diverted to Tarot, which would have made that portion of the Church’s attack force much, much harder to get at.

(7) If the galleons proved as effective in combat as everyone on the Charisian side hoped they would, then he would be able to engage the combined galley fleet of the entire “northern force” in a single body and almost certainly crush it once Cayleb returned from Armageddon Reef. He intended from the beginning to amass a crushing superiority before he finally engaged them, although he didn’t realize until Merlin’s visit to his flagship that it would be possible to coordinate a genuine pincer attack against Black Water’s command. His original plan was to combine the galley and galleon fleets together into a single, irresistible hammer, and use that hammer to absolutely demolish the naval power of his foes in order to achieve what he did achieve in the end: a crushing Charisian sense of moral superiority and élan.

(8) Like Admiral Jellicoe, Haarahld could lose the war in an afternoon if he got unlucky against his opponents. As long as his fleet was in being and at sea, his enemies couldn’t land a significant invasion force in Charis. They had to destroy his fleet to accomplish their strategic goal; he merely had to keep his fleet intact to accomplish his strategic goal and avoid the invasion of Charis before Cayleb returned with the galleon fleet to reinforce them. In addition, of course, by keeping his fleet in being and keeping Black Water chasing him, he was able to play anvil to Cayleb’s hammer when the galleon fleet did return.

I’m sure I could adduce additional reasons to dispute your assumption that Haarahld failed to be “as sneaky as his enemies knew him to be.” The problem is that if you don’t already grasp the reasons why he had to (a) stand on the defensive until he was clearly the attacked party, (b) avoid losses to the Eraystor defenses, (c) employ his galleons for the first time under conditions which would give them the maximum tactical advantages and maximize the shock effect of being hit so far from home by a totally new and completely unexpected naval force; and (d) attain the maximum devastation of any opposing navy’s morale when it contemplated fighting the Royal Charisian Navy, then I doubt I’m going to be able to explain it to you.

Safehold Why can't Charis have electricity? (Asked Sun May 12, 2013) December 2013

Okay, a few points, some of which I'm pretty sure I've addressed before.

(1) You could have a damned large industrial process on a planet, including use of electricity in many and manifold ways, without producing a big enough electromagnetic signature to be easily picked out against the background noise of any star.

(2) Any signature you were radiating could expand only at the speed of light, attenuating the entire way.

(3) Safehold is hundreds of light years beyond the Gbaba's sphere, and the overwhelming evidence at the time of the Gbaba's attack on humanity was that the Gbaba do not aggressively patrol beyond the borders of their own sphere. Rather, they react to incursions into their sphere with the equivalent of a "hot pursuit" response and the extermination of the interloper to be sure he'll never come back. This means that even if Safehold was radiating radio energy out the wahzoo, it would be centuries — quite a few of them, in fact — before any of their radiated energy could be detected by the Gbaba unless the Gbaba happened to be in the area looking for it.

Because of this, the original mission orders for Operation Ark called for a hiatus in which there would be no electromagnetic footprint from Safehold for a long enough period of time for them to be fairly confident that any actively searching Gbaba scout ships had swept through the area and gone home again. There was never any particular concern over what was going to happen after that hiatus was over, because at that time Safehold would be far enough away from any hostile detectors to be beyond threat until it had had plenty of time to rebuild and advance its technology to a "Gbaba-proof" level. (As a "historical" validation of their assumptions, the mission planners could look at the fact that Earth's radio emissions had had ample time to reach well beyond her most distant colony before the Gbaba responded. In other words, they had empirical evidence that the Gbaba hadn't detected them despite radio emissions until they entered the Gbaba's sphere.)

The basis for the Church's prohibition of anything touching on the rakurai is threefold.

First, one of the underlying assumptions of the Proscriptions is that true, large-scale technology is impossible to develop without electricity. Or, put another way, electricity is going to be developed by anybody on his way through to large-scale, advanced technology. Therefore, banning electricity effectively bans large-scale technology and serves as a warning flag that it's being developed.

Second, artificially generated and distributed electricity is something that would be readily detectable from orbit and not something likely to be confused with any natural phenomenon.

And, third, the notion of lightning as sacred and not, under any circumstances, to be profaned by mortal hands provides the permanent remembrance of not just Langhorne's existence but of the consequences of Langhorne's wrath.

Now, at the same time that Langhorne was setting up the prohibition of advanced technology, he was making provision for the "archangels" and "angels" to continue to use very advanced technology to validate their supernatural powers. Merlin's SNARCs are using shielded, stealthed communications arrays designed to hide from hostile tactical sensors — aimed against the Gbaba, at the time the SNARCs were built, but equally effective against any sensors the orbital array might mount — and walking in the footsteps of the technology Langhorne himself ruled was usable by the "archangels." Moreover, there is a quantum leap between the initial production of electricity and the highly advanced applications of it inherent in Merlin's toys. In effect, it would be relatively simple to build a protocol into the bombardment platform's sensors (assuming, of course, that the sensors are actually prepared to blast technology on the planetary surface in the first place) which differentiates between "technology so advanced it must be being used by the 'archangels'" and "technology so crude that it couldn't be being used by the 'archangels.'" If it's the latter, it needs to be smitten . . . quickly; if it's the former, leave it alone because it's being used on Langhorne's business.

In that respect, Merlin is hiding in the shadow of the original archangels. Although that, of course, assumes that all of his carefully stealthed technology is detectable in the first place. He has no intention of giving away any more detectable signature than he can avoid, of course, but from the perspective of the reader that "shadow" should always be borne in mind

As for Nimue's Cave, it's buried beneath 7.5 miles of solid rock and iron ore. During the period before her PICA woke up, the entire installation was, indeed, at absolutely minimal levels of power, and its primary power source when it came back online is a geothermal tap, so there's no betraying emission of burned hydrocarbons or neutrinos to give it away. Assuming that it was possible for Nimue to excavate a similar underground complex and install a major generating system there, and find the labor force to work in that complex without popping flags with its members about violations of the Proscriptions, then, yes, Charis could have electricity for applications which require it. Of course, digging something that size in anything less than several decades without using technology which in its self would probably trigger the arrays (assuming that they are triggerable). And, equally of course, they might find it a bit difficult to explain to the rest of their workforce where the products being produced using that electricity were coming from and how they were being produced.

The bottom line is that no one in Charis really knows whether or not generated and distributed electricity would trigger a bombardment. They suspect that it would, and in this instance they prefer to err on the side of safety, but they certainly don't know it. On the other hand, they do know that "profaning the rakurai" would represent a crossing of the Rubicon. It would be an open, explicit defiance of the Proscriptions which no one could argue away. That is something they cannot afford at this time or, indeed, at any time until after the proscriptions themselves have been successfully invalidated/overturned following the "reveal" of the truth about Langhorne and the archangels.

So while there are what you might call "technical issues" bound up in the uncertainty of how the bombardment platform would respond, there is also an overriding reason — found in the Proscriptions — why electricity is impossible. In the meantime, the electronic footprint of Merlin's stealthed recon skimmer, the SNARCs singular transmissions, the personal coms of the inner circle, etc., are extraordinarily difficult to detect in the first place and (apparently :lol: ) trapped in the filters that were established to allow the "archangels" to employ technology.

Don't know if all of that really makes it any clearer, but there it is. :)

Safehold King Harahld VII Design. (Posted Mon Apr 29, 2013) December 2013

It would be nice if no military, including that of the Charisian Empire, ever found itself buying something that turned out to be more than it needed. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out that way. For example, the Alaska-class cruisers, which were truly magnificent ships, but which spent around 5 months — total — in commission before they were pulled from service and, eventually, scrapped. Which is to say, that these ships may, indeed, the “excess to requirements” at the time they are ordered and built. (You may recall that I've allowed even the Royal Manticoran Navy to make a few . . . questionable purchases over the years. :)

Having said that, however, they may or may not be “overkill” for Charis’ needs, depending on exactly what it is they have in mind to do with them. And, since I’m not going to tell you about the plot for the next book at this point, I’m not going to discuss whether or not they end up being the aforesaid overkill. :P

There is, however, another underlying motive for building these ships, and that is to inescapably drive home the war-fighting superiority of Charisian technology. Driving home that superiority is seen by the inner circle not simply as a morale weapon designed to induce earlier surrenders, but also as a means to compel the defeated realms fighting for the Church to recognize that they literally cannot survive on the battlefield — whether afloat or ashore — without duplicating that technology. The world at large will be told that these ships were necessary — just as the new model artillery, cartridge-firing small arms, new steel mills, pneumatically-powered machine tools, etc., were necessary — in order to defend Charis against the Group of Four’s unprovoked attack. And, to be sure, Charis did require hugely enhanced combat abilities to survive. However, what the rest of the world at large won’t be told is that the inner circle desires to create an environment which brutalizes every other ruler or realm on Safehold in such a way as to compel them into jumping on the “the-innovation-genie-is-out-of-the-bottle” train right behind Charis.

In some ways, it’s a risky game, because if the coalition the Church put together for the jihad stays together as a long-term power bloc opposed to the Charisian Empire, and if that power bloc manages to equalize its industrial capabilities with those of Charis (and there is something of a ceiling imposed on Charis by the inability to use electricity), then Charis is in serious trouble in the event of any eventual Round 2. On the other hand, the inner circle has decided that courting that risk has to be a fundamental component of its overall strategy for ultimately dealing with the Church and the bombardment platforms against the backdrop of the millennial “return of the archangels” it now expects.

In reply to the question some other people have been asking about what happened to the other 2 10” guns of the original King Haarahld VII revision, I did, indeed, drop them from my SpringSharp-checked second design when I realized how many more 8” and 4” I could fit into the same displacement. Those lighter guns are the ships’ primary anti-ship armament anyway, so I decided I could live with single-mount 10” weapons, instead. I may still do exactly that, but since people asked, here’s what the KH VIIIs would look like if I went back to the twin-mount layout, instead. Notice that the ship gets a little larger in the process, and there were a couple of other tweaks I had to make to maintain structural strength. The worst aspect of adding the guns is that deep draft goes up to 46’, which is going to make problems in terms of channel depth and harbor depths. Part of that can be solved by increasing length and beam, but that drives tonnage even higher and starts creating some problems for the construction technique I’ve envisioned for building the ships. Cost rises by less than 2% overall by simply adding in the additional pair of 10”guns, so I’m going with the figure stated here.


King Harahld VII,
Imperial Charisian Navy armored cruiser
Laid down: 896 (Kings Harbor Dockyard)
Barbette ship

10,120 t light; 11,005 t standard; 12,819 t normal; 14,270 t full load

Length (overall): 465.17’
Length (waterline): 435’
Beam: 77’
Draft (normal): 23’6”
Draft (deep): 46’

4 x 10" 40 cal BL guns, M 896 (2x2) in centerline open barbette mounts.
(508-pound AP shell, 150 rounds per gun)
14 x 8" 40 cal BL guns, M 896 (14 x 1) in broadside casemate mounts.
(260-pound AP shell, 200 rounds per gun)
12 x 4" 45 cal BL guns, M 896 (12 x 1) in broadside open mounts with shields
(32.5-pound AP shell, 250 rounds per gun)

Main: 6” (max), 2” (min), length = 280’; height = 15’; inclined 10°
Ends: 2.5” (uniform), length equals 151’; height equals 15’

Uniform thickness = 1.5” in single armored deck.

Conning tower:
Uniform thickness = 6”

Gun armor:
10”/40: gunshield (face) = 6”; gunshield (side) = 6”; barbette = 6”
8”/40: casemate = 6”; shell hoist = 6”
4”/45: gunshield (face & side) = 2”; shell hoist = 6”

Coal-fired boilers, triple-expansion steam engines,
Direct drive, 2 shafts, 1,418 sdp (36,159 ihp) = 28.3 knots (24.6 Old Earth knots)
Range 12,000nm at 10.00 kts
Bunkerage at max displacement = 3,266 tons
Bunkerage at normal displacement = 1,814 tons

602 - 783

CM 1,850,000

Distribution of weights at normal displacement:
Armament: 917 tons, 7.2 %
Armor: 3,030 tons, 23.6 %
Belts: 1,338 tons, 10.4%; Guns: 928 tons, 7.2%; Deck: 693 tons, 5.4%; CT: 71 tons, 0.6%
Machinery: 2,411 tons, 18.8 %
Hull, fittings & equipment: 3,763 tons, 29.4 %
Fuel, ammunition & stores: 2,699 tons, 21.1 %

Overall survivability and seakeeping ability:
Survivability (Non-critical penetrating hits needed to sink ship = 35.5 x 10"
Stability (Unstable if below 1.00): 1.27
Metacentric height 5.2 ft
Roll period: 14.2 seconds
Steadiness as gun platform (Average = 50 %): 99 %
Seaboat quality (Average = 1.00): 1.23

Hull form characteristics:
Hull has raised forecastle, low quarterdeck, extended bulbous bow, & transom stern
Block coefficient (normal/deep): 0.570 / 0.324
Length to Beam Ratio: 5.65 : 1
'Natural speed' for length: 28.54 knots (24.8 Old Earth knots)
Power going to wave formation at top speed: 61 %
Trim (Max stability = 0, Max steadiness = 100): 80
Bow angle (Positive = bow angles forward): 40.00 degrees
Stern overhang: 5.00 ft / 1.52 m
Freeboard: maximum = 30’; minimum = 15’; average = 20’6”

Ship space, strength and comments:
Hull below water (magazines/engines, low = better): 85.8 %
Above water (accommodation/working, high = better): 157.0 %
Waterplane Area: 24,808 Square feet
Displacement factor (Displacement / loading): 121 %
Structure weight / hull surface area: 123 lbs/sq ft or 599 Kg/sq metre
Hull strength (Relative):
Cross-sectional: 0.91
Longitudinal: 2.67
Overall: 1.01
Adequate machinery, storage, compartmentation space
Excellent accommodation and workspace room
Ship has slow, easy roll, a good, steady gun platform
Good seaboat, rides out heavy weather easily

NOTE: with the twin 10” gun mounts restored, this design compares to HMS Triumph (1903) which mounted 4 x 10”; 14 x 7.5”; and 14 x 14-pounders (3”); with 3-7” belt armor, 1-3” deck armor, 11” conning tower armor, 8-10” turret armor, 2-10” barbettes, and 7” casemates; 12,175 tons (load displacement); 436’x 71’x 25’4”; 21.9 knots (19 Old Earth knots); 6,250 miles@11.5 knots (10 Old Earth knots). I hadn’t looked at Triumph when I started playing with the design, because I’d forgotten that she’d ever existed (although she served in the Royal British Navy, she was actually designed and built by Vickers for the Chilean Navy and only ended up in the RN because the Brits bought her from Chile to prevent her from being sold to Russia during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904). Once I'd turned KH VIII back into a pre-dreadnought battleship from an armored cruiser, however, I decided to see if I could find a historical pre-dreadnought she compared to, and I think I found one. :) Bear in mind that Triumph carried her main armament in turrets rather than gunshields.

Triumph is within 2% of KH VIII’s normal load displacement, carries the same main battery, the same number of secondary guns (7.5”-vs-8”), and 2 more tertiary guns (3”-vs-4”), but she’s 30% slower and has only 52% of the KH VIII’s endurance. Her design draft is about 2’ deeper than KH VIII’s, but I’m not sure what she’d look like at deep load draft, when she would displace about 800 tons more than the Charisian ship.

One point that needs to be borne in mind looking at these two designs, however, is that Triumph had to be designed on the theory that she would face guns equal to her own, whereas KH VIII is not. That allowed me to do a few things Triumph's designers couldn't. In addition, the real-world design had to worry about torpedos and mines, and KH VIII doesn't.

Taking everything into consideration, I’m actually pleased with how close to the historical ship my design works out. And I’d have to say that the outcome demonstrates that the SpringSharp software does do a pretty good job of modeling real life ship design.

Safehold When is Merlin going to introduce the concept of Special Forces to Charis? (Asked Thu Nov 01, 2012) December 2013

I think people are vastly overrating what "special forces" could do for Safehold.

If you have a mission suitable to be carried out by "fast-moving cavalry," you don't need "special forces," you need cavalry. And from a reconnaissance perspective, you can't embed "special forces" in distant locations and have reliable transmission of information in anything remotely like real-time terms. You can send out patrols with messenger wyverns — except, of course, that the messenger wyverns will return to their "home" roost which may not be where you need the information — but you don't need some sort of super elite special forces for that; you simply need reasonably well-trained cavalry. Nor is there a crying need for forces trained to conduct "irregular warfare." This isn't the American frontier in 1776, and for the most part units like Roger’s Rangers aren't what you're going to need in a war fought across it. In a lot of ways, the terrain constraints are more like Europe in the late nineteenth century, and unless you want to inspire a full-fledged guerrilla warfare model behind the lines, using organized, openly operating military units to accomplish your goals is going to be much more economical in terms of training, manpower, and consequences to the civilian population.

The sort of information that "special forces" could provide to a commander in the field is exactly the sort of information that he ought to be able to gather with the scouting forces already assigned to him. That's one of the things the "scout-snipers" were organized to provide in the first place, hence the "scout" in their title. With the creation of the Imperial Charisian Army, the "scout-snipers" concept has evolved/been modified somewhat, although they remain recon specialists whose function is to very quietly slip behind, through, or around enemy lines in order to gather tactical information. The primary reconnaissance function, however, is now provided by mounted reconnaissance troops, and the "reach" of recon is — and will remain in a pre-radio world — very limited. The sorts of tactical data that SNARCs make available to a field commander are generally (not always, but generally) going to be the same sorts of tactical information those trained scouts and their mounted counterparts can provide. In those instances where more "mundane" means cannot duplicate the tactical information gathering capability, there's probably no way that someone could plausibly claim that the information had been gathered by those merely mortal scouts. In those instances, the commander who has access to the SNARCs — like Green Valley — simply has to "operate on a hunch" or rely on "instinct," exactly like Cayleb did when he and Merlin led the Navy around Crag Hook in the middle of a storm to attack Thirsk's ships. Or, for that matter, like Green Valley did in the Sylmahn Gap. There is no way that any plausible non-SNARC source of information could have openly provided to him the grasp of the enemy's deployments that he used to plan that attack . . . or time the orders that he gave during the actual engagement. At best, his initial understanding of the enemy's deployment's could have been based on "patrols moving along the lizard paths" in the cliffs above the gap floor, but there were no Charisian "special forces" in position — and couldn't have been — to provide it for him. And there is no way in the world that anyone could have plausibly provided him with an ongoing wyvern's-eye view of how the engagement was developing.

The 21st-century military is in love with the concept of "special forces," and they have pulled off some truly spectacular successes. They are not, however, the end-all and be-all of reconnaissance and scouting operations — or even sabotage operations — as some people appear to believe. Our present-day concept of special forces has a lot to do with the nature of the conflicts we face — low intensity warfare, antiterrorist operations, what we used to call "hearts and minds" operations, provision of training cadres, deniability, etc. — than with an inherent superiority of special forces warfare over conventional forces in an all out war for survival. The undeniable tendency for special forces organizations to siphon off noncoms and officers — and, of course, enlisted personnel — of superior quality always has a negative effect on the availability of those same officers, noncoms, and enlisted to the regular forces. In some circumstances, that siphoning effect is fully justified because the special forces give you capabilities the regular forces simply don't have. In the case of Safehold, however, where the "regulars" can do just about anything you need done, it's much harder to justify making that trade-off.

As far as making use of what we might call "strategic" information gathered by the SNARCs and passing it off as having been gathered by long-range, deep penetration special forces teams, why bother? You're already passing it off as information that was gathered by your spy network, so why introduce an unnecessary complication to your military forces to explain what you've already explained?

And, finally, from the perspective of infrastructure raids, Merlin, Cayleb, and Sharleyan are going to be far more comfortable with carrying them out using "conventional" cavalry forces whose path in and out to the attack infrastructure can be clearly traced and demonstrated (thus demonstrating that the attackers had to come from the outside) rather than special forces which infiltrate to their objective, attack, and then disappear again. The reason for this (as I've stated before) is that they have no desire to provoke Clyntahn into retaliatory raids against the local civilian population which "obviously" collaborated with the attackers or — almost equally culpable — didn't prevent the attack by spotting and reporting the attackers. It could be argued that from a suitably cold-blooded and calculating perspective provoking Clyntahn into additional atrocities can only undermine the authority of the Church of God Awaiting and the Inquisition, on the one hand, and provide recruits for an ever-intensifying guerrilla war in the Church's rear areas. The inner circle has considered that possibility . . . and rejected it.

From a moral perspective, they refuse to become Clyntahn, regarding anyone in the area of operations as expendable as long as it promotes and supports their tactical and operational objectives. They are fighting this war in no small part because of their belief in human dignity and freedom and the sanctity of human life. They refuse to compromise those objectives in any way they can possibly avoid, and they believe that adopting such morally abhorrent policies would ultimately undercut that overriding strategic goal. And from a pragmatic perspective, they don't need to provoke Clyntahn into committing additional atrocities to create all of the disgust, hatred, and passive and/or active resistance they could possibly desire because he's going to do it anyway. That much is already abundantly clear to them.

From a tactical perspective, they don't feel that they need the "assistance" of a lot of organized guerrilla groups, given the capabilities they already have, when those guerrillas' operations are only going to deepen and harden the fracture lines already splitting Safehold and leave a legacy not simply of mutual hatred but also a legacy of armed, embittered men prepared to resort to violence again. I would imagine that our own experiences in places like Sarajevo, the Middle East, and a dozen other spots around the globe could probably suggest at least part of their reason for their not wanting to create that sort of legacy unless there is an overwhelming tactical need for them to do so despite the downsides they are trying to avoid.

From a strategic perspective, they clearly don't need a "special forces" deep reconnaissance capability for military, industrial, and economic planning purposes. They've already established the existence of their spy networks, and even if you're going to operate on the assumption that creating a "special forces" organization would provide them with a more broad-based tool with which to legitimize SNARC-gathered information, it doesn't provide the interface to get that information into the hands of the commanders/planners who need it. Any information your "special forces" guys could gather and get to the rear through "mundane" channels would probably broaden an army commander's or an area commander's "reach," but it wouldn't help one bit with SNARC reconnaissance, because you'd still have to use someone or something – like Ahbraim Zhevons or Owl's letter-writing remotes — to insert the information into the chain at some point.

Please do note that I am most emphatically not saying that field commanders aren't going to need the very best intelligence they can get and that specially trained scouting and reconnaissance outfits aren't going to be a vital part of that intelligence gathering. Also note that I am most emphatically not ruling out behind-the-front attacks on infrastructure or other critical objectives. I'm simply saying that "special forces" in the 21st-century sense of the term are not going to be the best, most economical way to acquire those capabilities on Safehold. And that "special forces" in the Safeholdian sense of the term already exist within the Imperial Charisian Army. You may not have seen them in operation yet, but then, you've only seen the Imperial Charisian Army fight a single battle under extraordinarily constricted conditions of terrain where Safeholdian "special forces" would have been of extremely limited utility.