As the discussion about empire management in Dominion has evolved in the past few days, one thing has become abundantly clear to me:
I don’t have time, energy or patience to wrangle rules for PCs vs. NPCs in the empire system.
Dominion wasn’t meant to pit players against NPC-controlled empires – although that has, on occasion, happened in the earlier days of the system. Actually, it has occurred twice, both with the same player.
And, as I’ll explain a little later, it never should’ve happened and it’s my fault that it did.
In the first instance, Narai’s Dominion from the Bright Cluster attacked the NPC world of Aukam. His fleet destroyed the Aukami warships, but the jungle consumed the city of Multvaros before the invaders could claim the capital. In the second, Narai chose to attack the NPC world of Hekayt Prime and crashed against the virtual rocks.
The first instance led to some grumbling among players (who were not even remotely involved) that I’d stolen Narai’s thunder by destroying Multvaros. This, despite the fact that the lore about the city has always been that the Aukami have used their psionic abilities to keep back the jungle – a jungle that has swallowed every other ancient city – all these years. So, when the Aukami fleet was thwarted, the Aukami in Multvaros let the jungle in.
The second instance occurred because no player empires stepped up to challenge Narai, so the Hekayti made noises about defending the Ancient Expanse and, after some behind-the-scene discussions with me, he decided to stage a direct assault on Hekayt Prime. His defeat by the Hekayti led to some grumbling (again, by people not even remotely involved) that the Hekayti were too overpowered, their war fleet too massive and I had made it impossible for him to win.
In both these instances, between ourselves, Narai and I thought it went pretty well and we had fun.
But the fact that an NPC empire had to step up to stop a PC empire is, ultimately, problematic.
Since Dominion began in 2010, I made it a rule that NPC empires wouldn’t attack PC empires without provocation – as noted in this old blog post. In fact, I even spelled out that PC empires shouldn’t attack the canonical NPC empires, either. Here’s the cogent paragraph:
Canonical worlds such as Hekayt Prime, B’hira, Kamsho, and Aukam are restricted from launching attacks on player-built empires. Any and all conflicts involving player-built empires should come from players. However, player-built empires are restricted from launching attacks against those worlds, for similar reasons.
So, I brought this headache on myself by letting Aukam and Hekayt Prime take those attacks. Going forward, no NPC empires attacking PC empires and no PC empires attacking NPC empires. The original rule will be the rule.
To avoid confusing entanglements, I am considering closing off major NPC-controlled worlds, such as Pyracan, B’hira, Hekayt Prime, Earth, Tomin Kora, etc. No landing pads. No shuttles. Only player-controlled worlds would be accessible, to eliminate concerns about diplomatic mishaps or crimes on an NPC world leading to consequences for a PC empire.
I’m not absolutely sold on the NPC world shutdown idea, so if you’ve got good arguments against it, let me know.