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Building a Better World Part 13: The Battle to End All Battles - Cephus' Corner

Building a Better World Part 13: The Battle to End All Battles

April 1st, 2014

Exploding Stars

It’s funny, when you plan these things far in advance, they tend to get lost in the inevitable flood of posts that come along thereafter.  I had meant to write this post months ago but you know how that goes.  So here goes Building a Better World Part 13.

War is an inevitability in any space epic and for a lot of people, the bigger the war, the better.  Getting virtually every major species involved in a single, long-running, all-out war gets a lot of people drooling and that’s exactly what I did here.  This isn’t the only big war I’ve had by any means but it isn’t known by any pithy names like The Great War or The Universal War, in fact, it is remembered primarily because of it’s last battle and that’s why it was called The War of the Aquarian Void.

It should go without saying but when you’re talking about wars in interstellar spaces, these things are going to go on for a long, long time.  This particular war began in 3084 AC and was largely economic in nature.  Starting in 3077 AC, the L’Doran Hegemony imposed economic sanctions and implemented diplomatic sanctions against the Terran Alliance, charging that the Alliance was trying to force flood the L’Doran economy with foreign products and thus upset their economy.  The Alliance therefore stopped all external goods from entering L’Doran space, blockading the Hegemony from necessary goods originating outside of it’s borders.  This leads to the assassination of Alliance President Alphonse McNarthy by L’Doran rebels seeking revenge against the Alliance, this act is denied by the Hegemony but secret Alliance sources suggest that this was an officially sanctioned act.  In 3082 AC, the Terran Alliance states that “theoretically, a state of war exists between our two empires”, but the first shots were not fired until two years later when the L’Doran 7th Fleet attached the Terran border colony of Eros, where civilian casualties were in the hundreds of thousands.  It isn’t long until the Hegemony again “accidentially” enters the territory of the Terran Federation, the “communist” branch of the human empire.  The Federation immediately announces a military coalition with the Alliance and as more and more systems are attacked, the battle lines are drawn relatively evenly and by 3091 AC, the war stagnates, with neither side taking any  significant territory from the other.  Battles erupt along the front lines but neither side can gain much traction.

Now as I’ve mentioned before, any instance of Forerunner technology, settlements or bases always become hotly contested, even in times of peace.  An Alliance exploration vessel, the Aquarius, was traversing an area of space that was claimed by both sides, but which had no settlements or militarily significant outposts in 3093 AC when it found the remnants of a Forerunner scientific installation and military testing ground.  At virtually the same time, an L’Doran fleet had tried to circle around the human lines in hopes of attacking from the rear and had made the same discovery. Almost immediately, the fighting erupted again as both sides tried to get to the potential Forerunner technology and by 3095 AC, it was the single most contested area in the entire war.  So much so that both sides decided independently that their only goal was to take the area or, failing that, destroy it so that the other side could not have it.

Both sides had constructed massive multi-mile-long cannons with the power to detonate stars, called, conveniently enough, Stellar Detonators and they were moved into the area.  In 3099 AC, both sides had massed the vast majority of their fleets within a couple of light years of each other and it wouldn’t take much to spur a wholesale catastrophic battle between the two.

Unknown to all of them though, this was indeed a Forerunner testing facility for an ultimate weapon.  The Forerunners had realized that when a supermassive star goes supernova, not all of the energy is directed outwards, there are actually passages in space-time, caused by massive gravitational effects, that link supermassive stars.  When one goes supernova, a certain amount of that energy is pushed through these subspace corridors into the next star along the line, which starts to unbalance the star and sets off a chain reaction for the next star to explode.  It’s not fast by any means but each supernova has a distinct impact on it’s neighboring stars.  These subspace corridors were called “nova faults” and the Forerunners were trying to amplify and quicken the effect for use in their war against their enemy.  While we have no idea if they ever got the idea off the ground, this entire area of space was inherently unstable. Too bad neither the Alliance/Federation or the Hegemony knew about it.

The fleets massed and the final battle was begun, but when they started firing their Stellar Detonators at each other, it triggered the network of artificial nova faults, igniting hundreds of stars, even stars which were not large enough to normally go nova, to blow up almost simultaneously in a massive chain reaction.  Both fleets were annihilated and a massive area was reduced to near nothingness, resulting in an empty area of space more than 100 light years long and 40 light years wide that exploded into a brilliant flash of light that would eventually be visible across the entire galaxy.  The battle was forever referred to as the Battle of the Aquarian Void. This was enough to cause both sides to take a huge step back and reconsider their positions and within a matter of weeks, they had signed a peace treaty and end to hostilities, even though the Hegemony was clearly losing toward the end of the war.  In 3104 AC, a formal agreement was signed at the Unity Conference forbidding large scale stellar war, signed not only by the Alliance, Federation and Hegemony, but by virtually all space-going empires.  In fact, this was the beginning of several notable mutual defense agreements between the empires, where one would agree to come to the aid and defense of another so long as the other empire reciprocated.

Both sides paused to rebuild their forces, and in fact both had even larger military and exploration forces thereafter than they did before the Battle of the Aquarian Void, although in the decades that followed, the Alliance, Federation and Hegemony agreed to work together in peaceful exploration, resulting in one of the greatest expansions in history, called the Ninth Expansion.

You gotta be careful what you shoot at.  This originally happened in a series of RPG campaigns.  The first, the players were low-level political functionaries dealing with the first stages of the war and how it impacted the government and the people.  The second, they were mid-level explorers who made the discovery of Forerunner technology and finally, they were fleet commanders on the line who pulled the trigger that ended the war.  It was a great series of games that took over a year to play out.

As I’ve said in the past, when I first started writing in this universe, my first instinct was to tell this story and I did it in three books, covering approximately the same story arcs as in the RPG, but it was a bit too ambitious and never did get published, even though I have written it out in full.  However, there’s a lot of information to be passed along, especially in the first book, where you have to learn about the Alliance, the Federation, the Hegemony, tons of aliens, lots of technology, lots of politics, all on top of the actual story and it was just too much.  I think that if I ever re-wrote it, this would be a much smaller story, told after several other novels that explained the bulk of the universe, such that I could focus on just the war and not on the exposition that had to go along with it.

So what do you think?  Is that a big enough battle?  Hundreds of thousands of ships all vaporized in an instant?  Let me know in the comments!



  • Niall Shapero says on: December 4, 2014 at 3:18 am


    The battle that the players are going to be interested in most is the one that they’re involved in. Of course, if ship-to-ship battles boil down to “either we get through unscathed or we’re turned into rapidly expanding clouds of highly ionized gas”, player interest may fade rather quickly … 🙂

    • Cephus says on: December 4, 2014 at 2:58 pm


      It really depends on how much the players are invested in the outcome. I had another campaign where the players were spies from one planet, slipped into another enemy planet, with the instructions to get into a position of power such that they could disrupt the C&C when their world finally came to attack. While they were pursuing their plans over the course of a couple of months real time, years game time, they started to really like the people and the culture of their new world, such that when the time came, even though their part in the battle was entirely strategic and they weren’t in any immediate danger, they really had a reason to fight to keep their new world safe and defeat their old. We actually played out the battle on an old Star Fleet Battles hex star map with custom cardboard chits and they commanded their “ships” to perform actions against the enemy, which I controlled. They had a blast doing it, even though they weren’t directly involved in the fight. They won too.

  • Niall Shapero says on: December 5, 2014 at 2:35 pm


    And that is the whole point of the games, after all – to provide enjoyment for everyone. An interesting turnabout you describe, there, as the players developed more sympathy for their “adopted” home than for their “true” home… Defections do happen sometimes…

    • Cephus says on: December 5, 2014 at 4:48 pm


      They had spent a couple of months preparing for the mission, living on their original world. I wanted to make both worlds positive, I didn’t want one side to be obviously mustache-twirling evil, both had their good points and their bad points, they just had serious ideological differences that brought them to war. I just set up the situation and let them go and it could have gone either way. They could have easily fulfilled their mission and allowed the invading army to take over. They had to struggle with the moral ramifications of their actions along the way. Giving your players free will and not railroading them is always a lot more fun than the alternative, at least to me.

  • Niall Shapero says on: December 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm


    Same here – the only “problem” being that beings with free will are … “free to do what they wish” (not always what you desired). It does keep things interesting, though 🙂

    • Cephus says on: December 7, 2014 at 3:41 pm


      I really don’t have a desire except to have a good time. That’s why I never plot heavily farther ahead than the current game session because I know that my players might go left when I was hoping they’d go right and they might just change the entire structure of the game. Part of the skill of being a good GM is the ability to be fluid and think on your feet and not force your players down the road you want them to go down, but to let them go where they want to and you can all experience the wonder together.

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Cephus' Corner

A Place to Share my Geeky Side With the World. Comics, movies, TV, collecting, you name it, I indulge in it.