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ISW4 development

PostPosted: Sun 31 Jan 2021 15:53
by whartung
I'm curious if anyone knows how the ISW4 supplement and book were developed.

Did it start as a story, that was projected in to game terms? Did it start as a campaign with a theme and then played out and fictionalized? A mix?

In the book, few of the battles are close. They're big, and expensive, but few, if any of them, were real nail biters as to the outcome. In the ISW4 supplement, some (many) of the scenarios are simply enormous. (Any one want to hazard how many hull spaces showed up to the final battle?)

I'm curious if the authors played any or many of these out, were they played out just to "count the cost" as in "we're going to win this fight, the question is the price".

The book and supplement were both quite detailed. Plus there was all of the new system development. I doubt story and game supplement were done in vacuum to the other. I have no doubt there may have been elements of creative license as well. But I'm curious at the interplay and process that the book/campaign was played out originally.

Re: ISW4 development

PostPosted: Mon 01 Feb 2021 04:12
by Cralis
whartung wrote:I'm curious if anyone knows how the ISW4 supplement and book were developed.

Did it start as a story, that was projected in to game terms? Did it start as a campaign with a theme and then played out and fictionalized? A mix?


The ISW4 supplement is based on the novels "In Death Ground" and "The Shiva Option" by David Weber and Steve White, in the Starfire novel series. The supplement was built to try and mirror the storyline and battles out of the books.

In the book, few of the battles are close.


The introduction in "The Stars at War" supplement (also written by David Weber) says "No admiral sets up a fair fight. They stack the deck shamelessly in their favor. The scenarios in this book reflects that." The victory conditions in the unfair battles are set with that in mind, and in several cases the victory condition for one side is (paraphrased) "If you can escape, you win."

They're big, and expensive, but few, if any of them, were real nail biters as to the outcome. In the ISW4 supplement, some (many) of the scenarios are simply enormous. (Any one want to hazard how many hull spaces showed up to the final battle?)

I'm curious if the authors played any or many of these out, were they played out just to "count the cost" as in "we're going to win this fight, the question is the price".

The book and supplement were both quite detailed. Plus there was all of the new system development. I doubt story and game supplement were done in vacuum to the other. I have no doubt there may have been elements of creative license as well. But I'm curious at the interplay and process that the book/campaign was played out originally.


We don't know whether David Weber and Steve White played out any part of it. We just know that they wrote the novels. David Weber did write the Classic Starfire rules. But the scenario supplement was built to try and match the book as closely as possible, given the lack of detail in the books on things like actual ship classes, numbers of ships, etc.

That supplement was released more than 20 years ago. All of the scenarios were playtested before release, and have been played many times over the years.

Unfortunately that's all I can tell you because I wasn't part of the SDS back then. Maybe someone else from back then will know more.

Re: ISW4 development

PostPosted: Thu 25 Feb 2021 21:01
by aramis
Whether or not they played them out, Mr. Webber's writing style is strongly influenced by his gaming history...
... and he's admitted that in at least one interview. (Can't remember where that was; it was 15 years ago or so.)

It's a tribute to both the game dev side and the author side that it feels like they could have played out the story.

Re: ISW4 development

PostPosted: Wed 12 May 2021 14:16
by Otterman
I was on the playtest group back in the 90s, and we did bitch about the size of things. I'll get the old papers and try to figure out when we got our first pack of materials.

One of the things we were able to change is the name of the KBS, the Kinetic Bombardment System. It was originally called a KISS, a Kinetic Interdiction Something System. We thought that was hackish, even for Mr. Weber.

Whether or not he was writing the novels contemporaneously with the playtest materials wasn't known to us. It certainly reduced enjoyment of the novels, considering I already knew the plot in excruciating detail.