"Grand strategy," said the Chief Warlord of Gobwin Knob, "is not the same as military strategy, where you set your objectives and then prioritize them. Grand strategy is at the highest level, where you decide who you are as a side, and what you want your side to become. We sometimes call it 'national strategy,' in my world."
"Here in Erfworld," Parson said, looking Stanley in the eye, "grand strategy is basically 'what the Ruler wants.' The Overlord decides the goal, and units like us have to figure out how to make it happen for him. Especially the Chief Warlord."
At this, he couldn't help but throw a glance up to Ansom in the top row. The guy was sitting alone, with a sour look on his face. He had been brooding and silent since his arrival in Spacerock. Exactly how pissed was he not to be Chief any more? Was that going to be a problem?
Parson gave him a respectful nod. "My job...is to figure out a military strategy to get the Tool what he wants. And to whatever degree, you all have to carry out my strategy."
He glanced around the bleachers at each of them as he said this. To his left, Ace was sitting close to Stanley in the front row. Behind them sat Sizemore and Ansom, away from the others and from one another, both of them looking sullen. To his right, Maggie sat primly in the front row beside an unsure, frowning Antium. Parson was glad to see that guy again. He'd have to sit down and have a talk with him sometime.
Wanda sat in the next row up, wearing yet another new outfit. This one looked like something from a funeral, even to the point of including a black lace veil. He couldn't even tell where she was looking, although her posture suggested she was paying attention to his speech. God, she was weird sometimes.
Finally, Jack sat back in the top row, his eyes darting all around. He didn't look like he was tuned in to the lecture, but this was Jack; he was probably paying attention on levels Parson couldn't imagine.
"So...what do you want, Lord Stanley?" he asked his boss directly. "Tell us what you want for the side."
Stanley straightened up on his bench. "I wanna take over the world," he said, giving a mean little grin. He leaned back and looked over his shoulder at some of the others. "Iddn'at what we're doing? That's what the Titans want for me. For us."
There were nods and murmurs of assent, even from Ansom and Jack. Wanda cocked her head a bit and nodded. Only Sizemore looked disinterested.
Parson smiled. "'To drive my enemies before me and laminate their women.' Right. So, leaving aside there may be a level above grand strategy called 'divine strategy,' we'll just call one of our grand objectives 'total military conquest.'"
He considered walking over and writing that on the chalkboard, but he had opted to stand away from the board, right in front of everyone. He didn't want to lose his momentum while he had them. And he was having fun; this was a lot like the speeches he used to give his gaming group before DMming a new campaign.
"And let me suggest another grand strategic objective to go with that. Besides wanting to win, you also want not to lose. Survival is an even higher priority for us than conquest, right?"
He paused long enough for Stanley to give a little conciliatory shrug/nod, but not long enough for the the Tool to start talking. "And...we've had some close calls. A few turns ago, you could have fallen in battle and that would have been a total loss for the side, since we have no heir."
Stanley suddenly stood up. "I'm not getting an heir, Hamster," he snapped. "If that's what this whole spiel is about—"
"Easy, easy," said Parson, holding up a hand. "I understand that. You've said so, and that's fine." It wasn't fine, but Parson knew an unwinnable battle when he saw one. The Tool thought that an heir would be a liability to his rule, and that the Titans would keep him from ever falling. "That's a grand strategic decision you've made, and it's yours to make, Tool."
Parson turned away a bit, to defuse the situation, and started to pace as he talked. "But the side is vulnerable. We can lose battles. Before you summoned me, we were down to one city. And I'm saying we need to make sure that kind of crap doesn't happen again. Wanda, you know this, right?"
She raised her veiled face to him as he addressed her.
"Agreed," she said, her voice thick with meaning. Behind the veil, she sounded like a fortune teller or something. "Fate will see us victorious. But whether the way is easy or hard depends on our choices."
Parson pointed to her and looked back at Stanley, who sat slowly back down on the bench. "Exactly. Just because the Titans are on our side doesn't mean we can't lose. We got into that situation where we had one city, surrounded by enemies," he said, "because our grand strategy was way too simple. 'Beat everybody and don't lose' is not sophisticated enough for a complex, multiplayer environment. Especially not with players in it like Charlie."