If you’re not familiar with The Aspiration, check out the supershort summary of this most epic of Neptune’s Pride diaries – The Aspiration Retold In Nine Pictures.

people being paranoid

-6BAA6CODE6- Virtue is Bond. HM will continue to speak for Me/Us. Today he exposes the only law that the galactic empires agreed on: In Paranoia We Trust.

For the public record, I confirm the real villain of our Neptune’s Pride game was Kent Sutherland.

As the game’s sponsor, he had a bright gold star beside his empire’s name, Starspackle, like he’d won a prize for being the nicest person in the galaxy. We all knew Kent was Starspackle and Starspackle was Kent. Although we applied a respectful level of distrust – this was Neptune’s Pride after all – we tended to be fairly accepting of his “facts” because Kent is a nice guy. Yes, not just facts but “facts”. If Kent said my cat was worshipping Satan, I’d have expected there to be some truth to the tale of the Satanic tail. Even though I didn’t have a cat.

So the grand Machiavellian strategy that Kent employed was “being Kent”. His rare advantage, then, was to be given a pass on player paranoia. This allowed him to employ the paranoia of noob players as his tools of war.

He told The Aspiration many things.

Starspackle was always suspicious when discussing the Veret of Ankaa, a blood-red empire in the corner of the map… and one of Starspackle’s neighbours. I could never convince myself to make a serious attempt to partner with Veret because Kent was a nice guy and Starspackle would not approve. He would not approve because Starspackle and Veret were happily trading at it like bunnies for most of the game.

Starspackle also revealed that the orange empire in the east, Abacus Master, was mad, bad and dangerous to know. The Aspiration was always squeamish about trading with Abacus Master and kept transactions to a minimum.

Starspackle expressed concern that the Crossheart empire (Sid Menon) was building a war engine devoted entirely to weapons. With The Aspiration’s paranoia stoked, I laid waste to Crossheart’s empire, expecting it to be only a matter of time before Sid launched his own fleets towards me.

Starspackle made one mistake. He demanded The Aspiration attack central empire Baron Copernicus (Miles Newton) because the Baron was being obstructive. That one didn’t work and I worried that Kent was being a manipulative bastard. But, you know, Kent is a nice guy. I put my concerns to one side and swallowed the rest of the tripe he fed me.

Kent, of course, was just defending himself in the only way he knew how. His opening position was vulnerable as five different empires sat on his border. Kent did his best to manipulate players out of a need to survive, not to destroy. This is how Kent won the game. It was with the pen and not the mighty sword.

But even without a guiding hand, paranoia can spark conflict.

On Day Twelve of the campaign, the screws were tightening. I was focused on clearing out the infestation known as Crossheart from the southern part of the map and was firing a series of fleets through the narrow umbilicus of stars between our two spaces.

Then I suddenly had to write the following message to Baron.

*0123596532* Virtue is Bond, Baron Copernicus.

The Aspiration notes that a fleet is inbound from Mimosa to Furud. As this fleet will not damage to our star infrastructure we assume this is an error of the Baron’s systems.

Further, there are additional fleet deployments which appear aggressive in nature to The Aspiration even though the Spiritual Domain has only spoken of peace and shared culture with the autocracy of Copernicus.

Please confirm these movements are in error.

Together we Aspire.

It is important to note that I was in a very special mental place. Some might have described it as “unhinged”. The Aspiration was in trouble. I was embroiled in two conflicts – a standoff with Veret to the north, open warfare with Crossheart to the south – and had no tolerance for fucking about. What was I to make of Baron poking a fleet at me?

Doomed Baron fleet approaches The Aspiration-held Furud

I can’t remember how long I waited for a response from Baron. I think it might have been a whole five minutes.

Furious at Baron’s unwelcome intervention, I made up my mind to destroy him. The Aspiration would visit waves of peaceable cultural exchanges upon his head until he was dead. Don’t fucking fuck with me, because you’ll get fucking fucked to death. Fuck.

I pitched a fleet at him and explained he wasn’t the only one experiencing sector-wide “piloting errors” that cause death. Oh my genocidal sarcasm knew no motherfucking bounds.

*0123596533* Virtue is Bond, Baron Copernicus.

The Aspiration is also experiencing similar piloting system errors. We have an explanation.

Over the last few days, we applied peaceful communical exchange to nullify and devour the infrastructure of the Crossheart empire. Their fleets screamed with ecstasy as we swallowed them with the weaponised love of the Virtuous Rapture. It is possible in their orgasmic cry, they released a hyperwave networking virus across the region.

In advance, we can only apologise for any fleets we inadvertently nullify.

Celebrate their ascension.

It was as suicidal as it was cathartic. Destroying Baron would be a pyrrhic victory, putting a break in my attempts to clear the map of Crossheart and earn me a brand new border in the galactic centre which was virtually impossible to defend. But I didn’t give a shit. I was probably doomed anyway.

The Aspiration retaliates against hostile move

Baron Copernicus, who lived on Australian time, eventually replied.

Mesarthim was deemed neutral ground, and my advances to Furud where out of my initial response to your movements. Thank you for clarifying your intentions, you must know that space can make a man mad with power and terror in equal measure.

As explained in the series The Aspiration this was a profound moment of facepalmness. Baron was trying to say, “My fleets are attacking you because I’m a paranoid asshole.” And my response had been, “Hey buddy, I’m a paranoid asshole too! How about that?”

I felt bad. Especially as I’d set up an attack on Baron that I couldn’t get out of.


The Codex parliament was most intrigued to hear of your tale.

Movements to Furud were aiming to complete the assault on weapons hoarder Crossheart and many of our peacefaring fleets were heading towards Pollux. A review of the minimap may have clairifed that Crossheart and The Aspiration have been exchanging fleets across Furud, Nash and Algedi on a regular basis.

We feel remiss in not discussing all our plans for the region with you, but the die is cast, so to speak.

The hyperwave virus has control of the fleets of the central sector, stalling our advance on Pollux to pursue pointless conflict in the center of the galactic spiral.

The Aspiration is dismayed that things have come to this, particularly as we stalled a request to execute your fleets at Kajam one week ago.

The Spiritual Domain believed your fleets were still required at the war front to the east.

Together we Aspire. Divided we ascend.

Yeah. Amen to that brother. I followed up to make it super-duper clear that super nothing was super happening.

+1224223123+ Virtue is Bond, Baron.

We do not desire war with your solid autocracy. The Aspiration is turning back our fleet Holding Hands after the inevitable scuffle at Sceptrum.

Please reclaim your peripheral star system as you wish.

Together we Aspire.

Baron was forgiving.

Nor do we intend a breach our peaceful balance. The Aspiration has been an altruistic and kind ally, and we have no wish to break this bond.

This whole incident was pointless, serving only to squander resources and waste time. The galaxy of Neptune’s Pride is doused in paranoia petrol – and all it takes is one bright spark to start a fire.

I took a close look at the map and forecast a win for The Aspiration at Sceptrum; Baron’s forces would be eliminated. But Baron had sent a fleet from Mesarthim back to Sceptrum already. I realised he was going to lose this return fleet. He hadn’t factored in the industry which means one of my ships could appear at Sceptrum even if I vacated the star. Shit.

Baron Copernicus & The Aspiration end up in a small scrap

I then begged Baron to stop his fleets. They hadn’t made the jump yet which meant there was thirty minutes to avert disaster.

The Aspiration Tells Baron To Turn Back

But Baron didn’t acknowledge the response. His fleet were destined to be toast. Bugger.

The Aspiration Mourns For Baron

However it turned out that I’d miscalculated. I lost the engagement at Sceptrum and none of Baron’s fleets suffered further harm.

Baron’s eventual response was brief, although The Aspiration had no bloody idea what he was talking about:

Baron Copernicus: "You are a marvellous role-player."

Previous Broadcast: Fourteen

Next Broadcast: Laura’s Story

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14 thoughts on “The Xmaspiration: In Paranoia We Trust

  1. Man, you have got to figure out the formula for shipbuilding. Number of ships per day = industry rating, so a system with 3 industry will make 3 ships in 24 hours, or 1 ship every 8 hours. That should save you some problems–or rather it would, but if you started playing NP again I think we’d be obligated to have an intervention.

    It occurs to me that Copernicus really couldn’t be anything but paranoid, since the poor guy started the game surrounded on all sides by seven people. I’d love to hear some tales of how he dealt with that; Miles, you out there?

    I’m a little surprised you picked Kent for Villain of the Match here; it always seemed he won the game by being slightly less evil than any of the other major players. While you were abusing your weaker neighbors and I was abusing everyone who couldn’t hit back, Kent just made alliances with a few people and “alliances” with the rest.

    And you really are a marvelous role-player. Perhaps we can compare notes sometime and see who is the more obsessive among us.

  2. Veret, I simply kept forgetting that industry would produce ships at the target while I my fleets were in transit. I just screwed up the Baron calculation at Sceptrum though. Please remember my mental state was “unhinged”.

    I’m sure Miles is out there, but I think he’s concerned if he makes a comment it might leave him vulnerable to attack. I still have a screenshot of the great DICKS comment.

    On Kent, it depends what you mean by evil. I didn’t understand the extent of Kent’s manipulation until the game was done. I think that counts as motherfucking supreme Level 57 evil. Especially as he won off the back of all that misdirection. On the other hand, this character assassination is a little tongue-in-cheek because Kent is such a nice guy.

  3. “The galaxy of Neptune’s Pride is doused in paranoia petrol – and all it takes is one bright spark to start a fire.”


    “Baron’s eventual response was brief, although The Aspiration had no bloody idea what he was talking about:”

    Just brilliant.

    And oooo! Laura’s Story next!!

  4. Both Kerry’s and Laura’s stories in this series are the write-ups I referred to in the conclusion of The Aspiration in this particular paragraph:

    I was goaded into writing my bits in the voice of The Aspiration which was no piece of pie. Kerry wrote a hilarious description of her devious “strategy” while Laura’s small contribution took most of us by surprise. We had no idea that Laura’s experience had been so negative and I actually followed up with an apology just in case there was bad blood. (There wasn’t.)

    Just so you know.

  5. Oh and also I was desperate to get the detail of this skirmish between Baron and myself out in public because the “We will sing for your ships as they ascend” image was used in the original preview The Aspiration Cometh – but never got explained in the actual AAR!

  6. I’d definitely say Kent’s strategy qualified as evil. I had no idea while the game was ongoing, but he did an incredible job of turning me into a villain in the minds of other players, thereby cutting me off from most of my potential trading partners and destroying any chance I had of surviving. Really smart stuff, but also evil.

    @Veret: Oddly enough, players in the center of the map are usually pretty safe until at least the mid-game of a Nep’s Pride match, presumably because none of the other players are willing to expend resources to claim indefensible territory when there are better options available. As a first-time player though, there’s no way Miles could’ve known he was fairly safe, so his paranoia was totally understandable, yeah.

  7. What a mess we made of ourselves in this game, huh?

    I mean, that’s obvious (even from HM’s perspective alone) but it bears repeating. And repeating. And repeating.

  8. @PrettiestBoy: You were definitely on the major receiving of Kent “nice guy” Sutherland’s evil. I think I was more of collateral damage. On the centre, I definitely clocked that Baron was safe for quite some time and I guess the only way to escape the “centre problem” is to team up with someone and conquer another empire. You probably couldn’t go it alone due to vulnerability to reprisal attack from other empires (either allied or opportunistic).

    @BeamSplashX: Can a game change the nature of a man?

  9. Regular Answer: Perhaps temporarily, perhaps greatly.
    Low INT Answer: gtfo u n00bs cannt stand gettin pwnd so u talk alot of big philosofy bs lololol

  10. Whee!

    Yeah, I was pretty evil. That’s how you win, though, eh? I started with a few unfair advantages and I exploited them. I remember sitting down on the first day and singling out Veret and The Prettiest Boy as my biggest threats. I could work with one, but the other one had to be neutralized ASAP. I chose to work with Veret because he is a prolific tactician; I knew that I could convince him of things based on logic. I could work out what he expected me to do based on what the smartest move for me would be. TPB was a more insidious threat. He actually IS a super nice guy, unlike me, and he was way less likely to rankle opponents than Veret.

    As for the Aspiration, I initially didn’t see them is a major contender due to your rather large time constraints. They did, of course, prove me wrong.

    I’m really glad that our NP game was ultimately such a muse, even if I failed in our initial writing efforts.

  11. Kent, it’s a shame you haven’t written up anything yourself about the game, considering you started out anxious because of your proximity to The Prettiest Boy and did not expect to win. Even the short comment you’ve posted above is revealing.

    I wouldn’t feel bad about not getting the joint diary finished as I’m not sure that was ever going to be achievable. In terms of editing alone, it would’ve been an epic task, but simply getting nine different hands to collaborate through four weeks of action… yow. And I wasn’t relishing writing the whole thing in The Aspiration’s voice, because that was going to be bloody hard work!

    But, yes, I think I’m the one who reaped the most reward from that game in terms of writing =)

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