Verdan Arcanis: The How and Why of Nations

"The Dogs of War" - a Punch cartoon ...

Quit complaining! If we had stability, there wouldn't be much room for Adventuerers now, would there?

English: Map of south-eastern Europe in 1881 AD.

So there are a few errors... Things change so fast these days!

Verdan Arcanis: The How and Why of Nations

A quick rundown of places the characters might go, and what’s going on in Europe:

The Ottoman Empire isn’t even European in many ways. Coming from a much different cultural background, and with too much diversity for comfort, it has fared poorly in the modern world, and – like the Byzantines before it – is currently teetering on the brink of collapse – and for many of the same reasons: enemies made when the Empire was strong have not forgotten their anger, economic weakness, and numerous angry minorities. Britain has propped up the Empire in the past, but may have more on its mind if a new war starts. In fact, the Empire has reassessed its strategic options, and is coming to think that an alliance with France might be more suitable anyway.

Belgium is small, internally divided, and even less capable of defending itself than Holland. It is well-situated for local trade, making it fairly prosperous. Sadly, that same situation makes it a handy battleground for the surrounding powers – leading to a turbulent history. It’s recent separation from Holland was backed by France, who saw an independent Belgium as a useful buffer state. Any attack against it would surely raise the ire of at least two Great Powers. Thus, Belgium continues to get along, despite a weak and erratic government, cultural division, and economic ties pulling the two halves of the country in two directions. Belgian French-speaking lands host a good agricultural climate and have ties to France. They are, however, falling behind economically as air-based trade rises.

Britain has, historically, had relatively little need for a defense budget – and boasts an excellent agricultural basis. As a result of its ample sustenance and good transportation it has led the world in industrialization and in the development of airship design, although the basic concept was first developed in France. Most English military men believe that air power will dominate warfare, allowing fleets of soldiers access to any part of the targets’ land and supporting them with bombs.

Britain technically refers to the British Isles as whole, but the union is heavily dominated by the English. Wales has little independent influence, although Scottish lords and commoners have a considerable say in government. Ireland keeps to itself, and has a history of feuds with England – mostly culminating in the Cromwellian Raids of the mid-1600’s, when assassination missions against the priests of Manannan Mac Lir allowed a series of sea-based attacks. For good or ill however, the priesthood survived and reorganized swiftly, and the attack was – once again – reduced to a reliance on balloons and eventually collapsed. Still, given that the vast majority of Ireland’s trade and contact with the rest of the world passes through England, the relationship remains close. A limited political union was finally achieved through economics, politics, and bribery some seventy years past.

France is possibly the most powerful nation in the world, taken altogether. Running a close second behind England in industrialization and air power, it can counter those claims with a larger population, more diverse agricultural base, and a far better claim as the epicenter of European culture. French art decorates the world, and French is the diplomatic language at least as far away as Moscow.

France prefers somewhat more traditional weaponry, and keeps a large sea fleet, more convenient to dealing with Mediterranean waters. To match English airpower, they mount heavy automatic guns on their ships. In truth, no one’s entirely certain which would prove more effective in battle: the heavier French ships, or English air power.

English: Map of south-eastern Europe in 1861 AD.

All right, now this is DEFINITELY out of date.

Germany unified only a scant three decades ago, going from a fractious collection of petty states to a powerful federal state (albeit one hosting multiple royal families and numerous nobles).  Germany’s rapid unification and growth has turned every head in Europe, as well as alarming ever nearby state. These fears have tainted perceptions as well, causing a backlash among Germans, who increasingly see other Great Powers (especially England) as arrogant and hostile without cause. Germany has pushed hard to catch up in the race of foreign colonies, as well working to build an air fleet, keep its army at the forefront, and build industrial might.

Berlin is notable as the boomingest metropolis in Europe. From a respectable Prussian capital, it has become the biggest industrial city in the world, as well as its the most cramped. Industrial growth is slowing, but nobody is going to match Berlin in sheer economic heft for years to come. The city still hasn’t quite aught up in international prestige, partly beacuse of a lack of cultural baggage and history. Many Eastern European Jews, fleeing pogroms and war, are settling in Berlin.

Greece managed to throw out the much-hated Turks after years of fighting and struggle, and has a militaristic attitude after so many years of foreign domination. They would love to continue the fight and sweep the Turks off the continent, but don’t believe they can field nearly enough firepower or men. Greece is a small state with a strong culture, but little money or industry. They would very much like to prod Austria-Hungary or Russia into clearing the Turks out for them, but are very much uncertain as to whether that would simply invite even more foreign domination. Of the two, the Greeks are leaning towards shaky Austria-Hungary, since Russia has enough on its plate already, and Austria-Hungary seems weak enough that Greece could evade its grip. Even better, Austria-Hungary is already trying to overcome rising nationalist tensions and doesn’t desire more minority territory.

Holland occupies perhaps the most uncomfortable ground in Europe, along with Belgium. Officially neutral, it often winds up becoming suddenly friends with the enemies of whichever great power looks most aggressively towards it. In the past, it’s been part of the domain of France, Burgundy, The Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and then finally independent. In the past it used its commercial prowess to build a coastal trading network – but was unable to construct a lasting financial empire and lacked the manpower for any expansion. It is quite well-off however, and remains a major crossroads (and battlefield) of northern Europe.

Ireland has almost no foreign relations, save with England – which most of it’s traditionalists keep a wary eye on. Ireland, unlike Britain or most of Europe, never felt the hand of Roman civilization, and created its own culture – almost the last refuge of Celtic civilization. That said, many Irish do speak English and make good use of international commerce and industry. They just have a long history of defending themselves from English attack and trust few nations.

Italy remains broken into small states, but has started the process of unification, and for once it seems it will finally be whole once more – for the first time since around 450 AD! Italian culture remains a huge draw, and the nation has a strong mix of agricultural and industrial zones, but even the most vigorous province can’t easily compete with large, united nations such as France. Now that Italians are again becoming one people, who knows what they might accomplish with their unmatched history and commercial prowess?

Poland deserves note, as it used to be a major power in Europe until it obliterated by Russia and Prussia in the 18th century. It is now the biggest part of the “Disputed Territories” between Germany and Russia. The long-suffering Poles have come to accept that without modern military technology and a lot of aid (which nobody seems eager to give) they’re not going to be able to regain their independence.

Portugal enjoys a quiet existence as one of the least militaristic states in Europe. The combination of a commercial state and an advantageous location make it of little interest to the rest of Europe. And even if it were, having Spain and France at their back makes them a poor target. Consequently, Portugal has a small army and does very little.

Russia is the vast hinterland of Europe and the gateway to Asia. Fittingly, it straddles the line between modern and ancient with both reformist Czars (such as Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great) and repressive leaders (such as Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great). Russia lacks much of the economic vitality of Europe, instead concentrating on keeping order amongst its restless people.

In the past, it was friendly to Prussia, and just a generation ago concluded the Three Emperors league with Germany and Austria. However, the nations have all grown too close for comfort. While Russia battles Germany in northern Europe, it competes in the south with Austria-Hungary for influence among the various Slavic peoples. Russia looks to Turkey for targets, to France for culture, and England for friends, believing that the English would prefer to see a weak Germany.

Spain, for almost 400 years, proved every bit as efficient in breaking stalemates and balancing great powers as England. Spain managed to stand up repeatedly to Algiera, Morocco, France, Germany, and Austria. Sadly, time has not been kind. Spain’s agriculture faces challenges in the form of a climate exposed to the Atlantic weather and rocky soil, while the North Sea-Mediterranean trade that once stopped in Spanish ports now often bypasses them from the air. Spain was further hurt by the Napoleonic wars, where it was completely crushed in bloody battles. It is now a dependency of France, and prefers to keep to itself. It has no army.

Of particular note is that the British control Gibraltar as a heavily fortified strategic position for their air fleet. The Spanish don’t particularly care (as long as England and France don’t fight in Spain, they’re not involved), but it, along with the odd French garrison, is a sore spot for the nation which once defeated the grand hosts of France, Austria, and the Holy Roman Empire.

Sweden/Norway has declined from its former place as one of the greatest military powers of Europe, but still represents a strong state with few internal tensions. While afflicted by poor soil and cold weather, it’s a modern commercial state ideally suited for trade in northern Europe, and boasts a small but elite military force. Due to strong and unpredictable winds, Sweden has only a small air fleet.

Switzerland keeps its strict neutrality,  making it perfect for banks, mercenaries, and any other group which prefers to keep to itself. Switzerland doesn’t have a large army, but it has more snipers than any other nation in Europe, plus a nasty reputation for utterly wrecking Great Powers. The use of Swiss mercenaries is still banned.

One Response

  1. […] Verdan Arcanis – The How and Why of Nations – The major and minor powers of Europe and the Near East […]

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