Parabolan War (Guide)
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Waging War in Parabola is a significant amount of content, and will take some time to fully explore. This guide is currently an anemic skeleton, mostly serving as bait to get other editors to write something.
A Storylet in your Parabolan Base-Camp will instruct you that War is available. You will need to level up your Parabolan Defences to continue. See Parabola (Guide) for how to achieve this. Once you have done this you will be directed to The Dolorous Pavilion and guided into a series of Tutorial storylets.
Assembling a Grand Parabolan Company is expensive, but only needs to be done once, not for each campaign. Your initial one will last as long as you want it to last. You may dissolve it and create a new one whenever you wish. You will need to upgrade Parabolan Armaments and Parabolan Infrastructure three times each, and make selections for which units to recruit for Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery.
Your choices for which units to recruit are recorded in qualities, but have almost no mechanical impact. They will change the text of some options on the campaign trail, but not the availability, difficulty, or results. The primary gameplay effect for your choice of units, armaments, and infrastructure is to set initial values for Parabolan Oneironaut and Parabolan Cultivator, which has a minor impact on starting Morale. Both of these qualities will also advance over time as you complete campaigns, so the initial values are not so significant. Creating a new Company will reset both qualities.
You begin with two choices of Advisor: The Viscountess of the Viric Jungle, and the Ophidian Gentleman. Your choice of Advisor will decide which Tutorial Campaign is available to you. They dispense advice, but have no other gameplay effects. You may freely change Advisors at any point, even while on campaign. Both Tutorial Campaigns will continue to be available permanently; your choice of initial Advisor determines which content you experience first, but you will not be locked out of anything.
Completing full-length campaigns will eventually unlock a third Advisor, unlocking an additional full-length campaign.
Your first campaign must be one of the two Tutorial Campaigns, depending on your current choice of Parabolan Counsel. These campaigns are shorter (three stages instead of five) and simpler (no London theater or General), but still offer proportional rewards to their length. These Campaigns will continue to be available later.
After completing your first Campaign, you will unlock the first two full-length campaigns, and the ability to grow Generals. You must complete full-length campaigns to mature your generals. After completing three campaigns, you will be approached by a third Advisor, who will give you access to another full-length campaign.
Mechanics At a Glance
War in Parabola is a series of Campaigns. The initial preparations are to raise a Company, pick a Campaign, and choose a General. The meat (read: action-sink) of the campaign is five stages (three for the Tutorial campaigns), each of which requires substantial progress to complete. Narrative content occurs after each stage, and at the conclusion of all stages are rewards for your Campaign and General. After your campaign, you must clear Ravages of Parabolan Warfare before embarking on another.
Your exact choices of Parabolan Company are recorded in gameplay qualities, and effect the text of several options. The gameplay effects, if any, are not fully known.
Your choice of which Campaign to wage will affect the narrative text in-between campaigns, the General, and the rewards and effect on Parabola. However, it will not have much effect on the mechanics of waging the campaign itself, except that the Tutorial campaigns have three stages instead of five.
Choosing a campaign does not initiate a campaign. It is possible to change your choice before you embark, if you wish to see different options for Generals or Advisor text.
There are several Generals, and they can be upgraded over the course of several campaigns. You may collect and upgrade all of the Generals at once, although only one may be leading your troops at any given point. They decrease the difficulties of some checks, and your choice of General can be altered mid-campaign among those available.
You gain access to the Generals by spending 3 Human Arms after completing a tutorial campaign. At first, Generals may only be used on Campaigns associated with their Power, and completing such a campaign you will have the opportunity to level up your General, raising Dangerous Gains provided it is already at least 12 and increasing the effect of the general. The first upgrade for each General unlocks a lab experiment that will allow the General to be used on any Campaign, as well as increasing their effect further.
Each stage of the war requires raising Advance! to 24. All Stages have options which raise this by one point per Action. Different Stages will also allow you to gain Campaign Morale while making progress, or let you spend items or Campaign Morale for faster progress. Some stages may optionally be fought in London instead of Parabola, which has broadly similar mechanics but different specific options. Failing stat challenges raises Ravages of Parabolan Warfare.
Epilogue and Lasting Effects
After concluding your campaign, you will have the qualities Parabolan Dominance reflecting whose side you fought for, Stage of the War reflecting your final choice, and Ravages of Parabolan Warfare as a Menace from failed checks.
Content in Parabola (and London) may be unlocked by the Dominance or Stage of the War qualities. Content unlocked by Dominance will remain until changed by the conclusion of another campaign. This content is mostly located in the Dome of Scales and the Viric Jungle. Content unlocked by Stage of the War will lock out as soon as you begin another campaign. These options are usually an Epilogue representing lasting effects of your choices.
Ravages must be cleared before embarking on another campaign, and has minor gameplay effects in the rest of Parabola.
On the Campaign Trail
There are five Campaign Stages, which are shared by all Campaigns (although the tutorial campaigns only use the first three).
- Traversing the Wastes of Want
- Through the Hanging Mountains
- London theater: The War from Home
- Along the Writhing River
- Along the Smoking Shore
- London theater: Shadows on the Mirrorpane
- Within the Castle of Forests
The second and fourth stages can optionally be fought from London instead of Parabola. You may shift the campaign to London at any point, and retain Advance! if you do. You may not shift combat back to Parabola until you have concluded that Stage.
During each Stage, the Advance! progress quality begins at 0, and must be brought to 24 to complete the Stage. You may also accumulate or spend Campaign Morale, which carries between Stages. Failures usually generate Ravages of Parabolan Warfare, which is a Menace. It does not affect your current campaign, but must be cleared before starting a new one, and has some effects elsewhere in Parabola.
Each stage has a unique set of actions available. Most actions fall into a number of common categories, although the variations are still considerable and there are exceptions. These categorizations are an attempt to map Parabola, with all of the attending caveats.
- Progress Safely
- These options are the slowest, but the least-risky and usually the least-costly. They are characterized by having easy skill checks (150 or lower), and generating Advance! even on failure.
- In the first two Stages (and the London theater of Stage 4), they have no cost above the action and produce 1 x Advance!. In later stages, they cost a 2.50 item and produce 2 x Advance!.
- Progress Quickly
- These actions can potentially produce faster progress, but are more risky and costly. They have higher skill checks of 250 (reducible with Generals), and cost items worth 3 or more, which are often lost even on failure. Success produces 3 x Advance!, while failure produces 2 x Ravages.
- Some actions in this group produce Ravages on success instead of costing items. Actions in the final Stage cost items worth 4 and produce 4 x Advance! on success.
- Airs Options
- As their name implies, these options depend on Airs of the Parabolan War and each of them is only available 30% of the time. These actions share several features: A base difficulty of 250 (reduced by Generals), successes giving 3 x Advance! and items worth 1.00, and failures giving 3 x Ravages.
- Skills Options
- These options are characterized by testing against Advanced Skills instead of the Primary Skills. They are somewhat expensive, but do **not** generate Ravages on failure. In general, the challenges have a difficulty of 6, generate 2 x Advance! on success, and cost items worth 1.50 on both success and failure.
- Morale Options
- There is less variability among these options. Options that generate Morale are usually a Dangerous challenge with difficulty of 175 which produce 1 x Advance! and 1 x Campaign Morale on success and 2 x Ravages on failure. Options that use morale exchange 3 x Campaign Morale for 6 x Advance! with a trivial challenge.
Action Type Comparisons
This is a high-level summary of the different action types. Actions that cost items will be compared based on their echo cost, for convenience and easier comparison. A grinding guide should go into more detail about sourcing those items, but this is merely meant to compare whether the faster or slower approach is generally preferable.
Ravages of Parabolan Warfare can cleared at a rate of 2 levels for 1 action and an item costing 2.50. For simplicity we shall approximate that 1 Ravages = 1 Action. When calculating the Advance! per action, Ravages will be counted as increasing the Action cost, i.e. they will increase the denominator.
Early Safe Progress options gain Advance! reliably at 1 x Advance! per action, with negligible chance of failure. Later options gain 2 Advance! at the cost of 1 action and 2.50 of items. Assuming the items can be obtained at 1 per action, this gives the same rate of 1 per action. Better sources might improve this, but not significantly--if items can be obtained at an unrealistic 5.00 EPA, that would improve to 1.5 Advance per action.
Actions that use Campaign Morale also have negligible chance of failure (except in London without an appropriate General). Options that Gain Morale universally spend 1 action to gain 1 x Advance! and 1 x Morale, while options that Spend Morale universally spend 1 action and 3 x Morale to gain 6 x Advance!. Three gain actions and one spend action will therefore generate 2.25 x Advance! per action, a significant improvement over Safe Progress.
Before the last stage, Fast Progress options gain 3 x Advance! on success and accrue 2 x Ravages on failure, while costing some items on both success and failure. The item cost can be incorporated as the number of actions taken to obtain the items needed. For an item cost of c actions and a success rate of s, the Advance! per action is given by the formula below. The numerator is simply the average Advance per attempt. The denominator is the sum of the 1 action for the attempt, plus c actions for the items consumed, plus a term for the actions required to clear Ravages afterwards.
The value of A in this formula is very sensitive to both c and s, but is unlikely to be favorable compared to the Morale options. Even with unrealistically optimistic values of c = 0.5 and s = 1.00 (which requires modified stats over 340), the maximum is 2.00 x Advance! per action, which is still less than Morale-based options. More realistically, an endgame-equipped player with 300 stats would have a success rate s = 72% against a base difficulty of 250, improved to s = 87% with a max-level general, giving 1.05 to 1.48 Advance per action.
Airs-Dependent Options behave similarly to Fast Progress options, except that they give items instead of costing items, with the gain happening on both success and failure. They also produce 3 x Ravages on failure instead of 2. The formula for Advance per Action is given below.
The cost of items is 1.00, making the action cost around c = 0.25. At this value, our hypothetical endgame-equipped character with a stat of 300 would gain 1.36 x Advance! per action taking actions with the base difficulty of 250, and 2.29 Advance! per action taking actions where a General has reduced the difficulty to 205, a very slight improvement over Morale options. These values are extremely sensitive to s and c: for example, improving the main stat from 300 to 305 raises the Advance per action up to 2.47. Boosting to 325 with a Mood can improve the Advance per Action above 3.00.
Options using Advanced Skills do not accrue Ravages on failure, but merely cost 1.50 of materials on success or failure. As before, these items can be accounted for by the number of actions to acquire them. Treating these as worth half of an action each, they have an expected result of . Even with a 100% chance of success (which is fairly accessible), this caps out at only 1.33 x Advance! per action, a poor return compared to Morale-based options.
In summary, Morale Options are usually superior to other forms of making progress. Situationally, Airs-Dependent options can be better, for exceptionally well-geared players and when using a matching General.
Morale is gained at the beginning of each campaign based on your level of Parabolan Commander, with a maximum of 9 Morale, plus 1 if your ethos is aligned with who you're campaigning for - i.e. if you have Parabolan Cultivator> Parabolan Oneironaut for Cats, Parabolan Oneironaut> Parabolan Cultivator for Fingerkings or the two qualities equal for the Chessboard. It is also gained, along with one Advance!, on certain options (e.g. Host a hunt, Hold a feast). It can be traded with various options at a rate of 3 morale (and one action on a relatively easy stat roll) for 6 Advance!. Effectively, this means that with the morale options, you are spending 4 actions for 9 Advance!, assuming no failures. These options also don't cost items. However, failing them will add 2 Ravages of Parabolan Warfare, which have to be removed by either spending actions and items, or waiting for Time, the Healer. Taking all of these factors into consideration, Morale options end up being one of the better methods of doing a campaign.
If your probability of succeeding at a morale option is p, then on average doing it will net you p Advance!, p Morale and 2(1-p) Ravages, requiring 1-p actions and materials worth 2(1-p) to clear. So accumulating 3 Morale and then spending it will on average take 3(2-p)+1 actions and 6((1/p)-1)((1/p)-1) of materials to gain 9 Advance!. For example, if your chance of success is 100%, you'll use 4 actions for 9 Advance!, whereas a 50% chance will take about 5.5 actions and 6 for 9 Advance!.
If you are in the middle of a campaign when you convene a Board Meeting of the Great Hellbound Railway, you may have an option to use your trains for war. This requires having built track to Balmoral, and potentially building a Spur Line depending on your choices there. This board action will automatically complete the Stage you are on (sets Advance! to 24) and gives 8 x Ravages of Parabolan Warfare.
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