Necromancy: The Gentle Art Of Farming The Dead

WARNING: Due to ongoing updates to the Planets Nu game format, this information may soon be outdated in most non-Classic games. FightOrFail is likely to become active soon, which will likely eliminate most of these practices — and of course the new queue is going to change most everything. As we learn more, the article will be modified and more information will be added; please feel free to keep me posted in the comments.

There have been several rather obscure and technical debates in the Nu forums with regard to the practice of “Farming the Dead” (or Necromancy, as I prefer to call it). Some applaud Emork’s use of the Merlin-based PBP factory; others cry out that it is an abuse of the system. Both he and the others that pioneered this method have been good enough to share the details, and I plan to reproduce it here as well.

But there are other ways in which the dead can be useful, and I’m not referring to their natural utility as coatracks and doorstops. And, since this knowledge is currently employed by some, there ought to be a guide for the rest of us — whether to improve our ability to fight against them or, instead, so that we too may become evil necromancers.

You see, there is always a degree of moral indignation to be found among the public; it’s usually expressed by those who haven’t managed to take advantage of this sort of thing themselves. Still, they may actually have a valid point (anything’s possible), so for the sake of convenience I’ve included a Good/Evil scale for easy reference.

One more point: People frequently resign for valid Real Life reasons; hospitalization or death is not improbable. I’ve lost in-game friends (and opponents) before and I will again; it’s an unpleasant but thus far inevitable part of life. Since my options here are to laugh, cry, or be indifferent, I’ll laugh as long as I can. Please understand that no inappropriate disrespect is intended; laughing at the Reaper, however, is in my opinion always proper.

Mostly-dead

“There’s a big difference between “mostly-dead” and “all-dead”. Mostly-dead is slightly alive. With all-dead, well… with all-dead there’s usually only one thing you can do. ”
“What’s that?”
“Go through his clothes and look for loose change.”
(from “The Princess Bride”, by S. Morgenstern, Goldman translation)

So here in Planets, there’s always a chance that your missing foe will return under another player as long as he’s not completely dead. If you’re wise, this will limit your use of his stuff; there’s nothing so embarrassing as having that loaded Virgo that you’ve been towing around to sweep mines suddenly turn on the tugboat and then go raiding. If you’re in any doubt, check the Data tab, Statistics, or Diplomacy. If the player is marked as “Open”, he’s only mostly-dead.

A mostly-dead player is still slightly alive, and there are a lot of things that you can do here that are highly profitable while being moderately risky. Among these possibilities is towing his fuelless ships to your starbases for capture (or not quite so far if you’re a Privateer or a Crystal). Bear in mind that any leftover builds still set up on bases will trigger when their turn comes around; more on this sort of thing later — but remember, if someone else takes over this player, even for a fraction of a turn, you may end up fighting ships that have been quiescent for some time.

On the Good/Evil scale, this is like sneaking into their apartment and finishing off the milk while they’re in the hospital. Heck, make a sandwich; it’s not like they’ll use the stuff before they get back, and there’s no sense letting good food go to waste.

Dead-Eye Dick

Everyone does this. It’s automatic; you don’t even have a choice. Taking advantage of this sort of thing, on the Good/Evil scale, is right up there with picking up loose change off the sidewalk. What I’m talking about here is Shared Intel.

So this dead guy is sharing intel with someone, and it just might be you. This status won’t change just because he’s resigned, quit, or in some other way fallen off the map. Chances are, if you’re playing with his stuff, you’re a reason he jumped; be proud, but be wary: Someone else is probably looking through his creepy dead eyes. Use due caution.

If it is you looking, though, don’t let on. Like I said, this isn’t all that evil; the other player is mostly doing it to himself — and, if he’d done his homework and read my article here, he would know better. So on the Good/Evil scale you’re just fine, mate; enjoy yourself.

101 Uses For A Dead Cat, or Passive Necromancy

In this case, we’re talking about using a ship or planet owned by the dead player that had been set to a particular mission or active friendly code.

There are several ways this can be done; the simplest are purely passive: towing around a Colonial carrier that had been set to Minesweep, an Evil Empire ship that had been set to Dark Sense, or something similar. Slightly more complex would be using a dead player’s ship (with primary enemy set) to capture a planet in the name of the dead empire. This would be useful in certain cornercase scenarios, such as using the planet to set the friendly code of a nearby minefield set in the dead player’s name.

Another thing to do (and this is far easier if you’re a Bird) is sneak in, match friendly codes, and beam stuff up. He’s got great factories and a decent tax rate; why not? This is especially profitable if you’re a Cyborg and he’s a Fed, but in that case it’s tough to match codes. (It can be done in time; if there is no mine field, lay one locally in his name and sweep with a dozen small ships, all with different codes. You can cycle through the most common in a couple of turns. This may not be worth your time… but then again, it might.) Fascists will do something similar on a homeworld; their maneuver is called “repeat pillage”.

The common thread here is that the dead player has to have set the appropriate property on the ship or planet before he died. On the “Good/Evil” scale, this is about as evil as stealing their wedding rings and gold teeth. You’ll go to jail if convicted, but most people with flexible morals shouldn’t have any other problems with it (after all, the dead are past the need for teeth) — and here in Nu, it’s not even against the law; there is no “Nu jail”.

The Worm Farm

It’s been said that the best place to go digging for worms is in a graveyard; this is almost entirely incorrect. The best place is a field where fertilizer was recently spread. The soil will be loose and the worms plentiful. Graves tend to contain hermetically sealed concrete vaults containing high formaldehide content biomass; this isn’t really going to attract much in the way of worms. The principle, however, remains the same.

In an area where a player has recently ceased to be, you’ll often find several surviving starbases. These are usually still set to produce ships — although, if they’re not, this may be one reason the player chose to quit. At any rate, you may find it a better thing to wait until the build queue has passed by these bases so you may reap the benefit of your deceased enemy’s construction by towing the new ships to a nearby starbase in order to force a surrender.

Be aware that the planet may be set to ATT or NUK, in which case your tow ship will be vulnerable. This may be a good time to send in a Super Star Destroyer, a cloaked tow truck, or to be Rebel or Fascist. Of course, if all else fails you could simply destroy the base, but if you can successfully ground-assault, why not do it? A planet with an intact starbase is worth a lot more than a planet without one, all things considered. (And don’t forget to check for ship parts here; unbuilt hulls won’t survive, but all the engines will.) This of course has the added advantage that you don’t have to tow that new construction after all.

If your enemy happens to be a cloaker, there’s a special possibility; he may have left cloaking ships scattered about for you to harvest. Now, if you’re playing as a Crystal, you’ll probably want to web them, drain them, and then steal them; for the rest of us, it’s a bit harder. You might want to set up an Annihilation with Gamma Bombs and X-Rays, but if they de-cloak and don’t attack, they’re either low on fuel or out altogether.

This is a job for a starbase. Tow them to one and set “Force a Surrender”. If you have a low-fuel cloaker that won’t surrender, I’d advise sending it one fuel every turn until it cloaks again. Once it does (presuming a mission of “Cloak”), it will then burn all remaining fuel, permitting you to then “Force a Surrender” with no problem.

The Good/Evil scale barely registers here. This is no worse than having your D&D character loot his kills or driving 59 in a 55 zone (presuming clement weather). Go get your loot; you’ve earned it!

Zombies! Animating The Dead, or Active Necromancy

Here’s where moral outrage is going to have to enter into your calculations; on the Good/Evil scale, this one’s up there with cannibalism or rendering the dead down for candles. (Actually, these are valid actions in some cultures; perhaps instead I should talk about identity theft or overcharging for a funeral. I mean, it’s a box, a hole, a rock, and a 20-minute ride in a limo — and they want ten grand for that?! Please!)

The most famous version of this, at present, is Merlin-farming. This involves giving a Merlin or other massive yet useless ship to a dead player, then killing it for the PBPs. It’s a time-honored and proven system whereby races with small or medium ships can achieve PBP near-parity with the largest carrier races in the game. In my opinion, the only morally questionable aspect here is that it also grants the player out-of-game Achievement Points — and that, frankly, even I find reprehensible if deliberately abused and merely unfortunate if not. But then, we all have our little quirks; that may be one of mine.

Most of the other active methods are rather less simple; generally, they rely on using the racial advantages of the deceased (and, therefore, are race-specific). One of the most effective is giving a carrier to the dead Rebels, feeding it minerals and supplies, then setting your starbase to Force Surrender with the friendly code “GSA” (Important note: Rebel fighter build happens after “GSA” and Force Surrender.) The same can be done with the other fighter races, but there you have to deliberately fly your (for example) unarmed Gemini into a Zombie X-Ray vessel to effect the transfer while using the “LFM” friendly code for fighter production. (Missions don’t persist through ship transfer, but Friendly Codes do.)

Other possibilities include (and are not limited to) the following: giving a ship to a dead Fed or Lizard and sending it into a situation where your opponent is set to Kill; and, giving a ship (likely a Small Deep Space Freighter) to a dead Rebel or Fascist and towing it over an enemy planet; the enemy will be unable to ground-attack the ship, which will notice enemy ship movements or builds there and will relay that information if Shared Intel is set.

Bear in mind that most of the possibilities here are limited to situations where either automatic or friendly code activated abilities can be exploited. Also, it’s important to remember that you can’t give a ship to any player who lacks starbases or ships, so it’s wise to take (and protect!) prisoner ships when you can.

Lifesaving Techniques

“Well. Guess I’d better replace it, then.”
– Shopkeeper, Dead Parrot sketch, Monty Python

So let’s say you’re across the cluster from a guy that’s just dropped. He’s got a few planets but his remaining ships are getting wiped one at a time, and (this is the important part) you don’t want your competitor to be able to use his stuff after he’s gone. What can you do?

Well, not much, I’m afraid.

You can still use that player’s intel if it’s set to Share with you; that’s not nothing, especially if we’re talking about an Evil Empire player. But when his ships and planets start vanishing, you lose your eyes.

The most effective method, of course, is to advertise in the Forum for a replacement player. You may get someone who’ll surrender to your competitor and then actively work on his behalf; that’s always a risk. On the other hand… well, all war is risk. If you don’t like risk, go play Microsoft Excel: The Game.

Sometimes, though, there will be a sudden dearth of bored or desperate players to take the position over. It may help to artificially preserve the “Open” status of your erstwhile opponent; if you’re close enough and don’t mind, loan him a ship (preferably fuelless, and make a note of the Friendly Code). If you’re a long ways away, drop minefields in his ID to boost his military score. Don’t forget, these are risky temporary measures, and at best all you’ll be able to accomplish is to keep someone from becoming “all dead”. It might be worthwhile, though.

On the Good/Evil scale, this is up there with picking pockets. Bear in mind that the pockets you’re picking are those of people with the mentality that “I killed him so his stuff is mine”, so the morality less questionable than it might be. On the other hand, it’s sure to irritate a player who just successfully conquered one of your rivals; that’s not always the wisest move.

Conclusion

The most important aspect here is that, no matter how evil these actions may seem to the untutored, they are not against the rules. When they are possible within the stated Host order, they are not abuses. And, (and this is the important bit,) when we all have the opportunity to know that they are possible and to be educated on how they can be accomplished, they are not unethical. It’s perfectly fair and proper. Heck, the dead guy’d probably be sad if his stuff went to waste.

What these tactics are and always will be is overtly threatening; they are also easily read from the Scoreboard.

An astute opponent skilled in diplomacy may use this as a rallying cry and attempt to raise an angry mob against the practitioner. It is important in this case to be prepared; if possible, be the man selling torches and pitchforks. If not, be prepared to profit from an incoming wave of angry ships piloted by indignant and narrow-minded players; some of the tricks shown above should help.

(Bear in mind that any crusade will primarily attract amoral opportunists. Be sure of your opponent before you try to take him out; he may be more clever than he at first appears. Amoral opportunists often are.)

One final note: This guide is not comprehensive. If you can come up with other uses for a dropped player, feel free to post them in the comments below. If your ideas are cool enough, I’ll steal them and incorporate them into the article.

TL;DR:

Mostly-Dead: Be careful; they might come back.

Dead Eye: Shared Intel still works when they’re dead. Take advantage / beware.

Passive Necromancy:
– Tow a Colonial carrier that had been set to minesweep.
– Tow an Evil Empire ship that had been set to Dark Sense.
– Tow a Rebel ship that had been set to Ground Assault.
– Tow a Lizard ship that had been set to HISSSSS!
– Tow a Fascist ship that had been set to Pillage.
– et cetera
– Tow a dead player’s combat ship in to capture a planet in order to control the friendly code of a nearby minefield or similar.
– Match friendly codes with a dead player’s planet, then steal stuff.

Worm Farm:
– Steal his ships.
– Steal his starbases.
– Steal ships his starbases are about to produce and only then steal the starbases.
– Steal his cloakers (this takes work).

Zombies!:
– Merlin-farming (Don’t forget this also works with spare freighters and underequipped warships.)
– Use dead fighter races to build fighters for you.
– Use a dead crystal to lay webmines for you.
– Use a dead robot to lay large minefields for you.
– Use a dead planet-immune player’s ships as spies.
– Use a dead Fed or Lizard for his combat prowess.

Lifesaving:
– Keep a dropped player alive past his sell-by date by giving him stuff.

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4 thoughts on “Necromancy: The Gentle Art Of Farming The Dead

  1. Gnerpkh,
    You wouldn’t mind adding a bullet point list encapsulating your post to specific tactics for us laymen? for example –
    1 – Blow up the merlins for pbp
    2 – Use rebel or colonial ship to build you free fighters
    etc?

  2. Thanks, Rydre.

    I don’t generally do TL;DR sections because I think reading is good for you; more to the point, I want to get people brainstorming in certain areas. On the other hand, the article won’t do much good if nobody wades through it, will it?

  3. As Birdmen set an ambush if you find a dropped HW.

    Set the HW to att, and wait at a nearby planet for your opponent. Tow him with your last drop of fuel. Refuel with a second ship after the battle.

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