Apropos of Nothing: Honor Harrington and hopeless addictions

If you’ve noticed that my posting velocity has slowed over the past few weeks, you can quite simply just blame David Weber.

On the recommendation of +Jill McTavish, since I’d complained that I’d read through most of my fluff reading that I do to decompress after work, she passed on to me the first five volumes of the series on eBook.

The series is basically Horiatio Hornblower . . . innnn spaaaace! And when I say this, I say it as someone who devoured every single Hornblower book that was available on eBook format that I could get my hands on. I also have read the Temeraire series as well as most, but not all, of the Aubrey-Maturin novels (think Master and Commander).

So if you get the feeling that I really enjoy the heck out of Age of Sail stories, you’re not wrong. If you think that saying this is Hornblower in space is somehow derogatory statemetn, you are, in fact, mistaken.

In fact, I’m seriously considering taking my interest in Age of Sail action/adventure and doing more with it, from a GURPS point of view. I’ve had a couple chats with a few people in GURPS-world, and I’m sure I could do something I think people would like. Only question in my mind would be “Pyramid or e23,” but I’d write it first, and then figure out the best venue. But there are enough foundations already out there that nudging them together into something workable for the late 18th century (or swashbucklers and pirates and Napoleonic naval awesomeness in general) feels like it would be more evolution than innovation.

Sorry for those who read my first version of this post and thought I wanted to wade into the Honorverse with some sort of supplement. While I could probably do such a thing, +Fred Brackin captures some of the mechanical issues in the comments section.

But back to Honor Harrington. There are a lot of books. The Wiki lists the ones written by Weber as full novels as follows:

Honor Harrington series[edit]

  1. On Basilisk Station (April 1993) ISBN 0-671-57793-X
  2. The Honor of the Queen (June 1993) ISBN 0-671-57864-2
  3. The Short Victorious War (April 1994) ISBN 0-671-87596-5
  4. Field of Dishonor (October 1994) ISBN 0-671-57820-0
  5. Flag in Exile (September 1995) ISBN 0-671-31980-9
  6. Honor Among Enemies (February 1996) ISBN 0-671-87723-2
  7. In Enemy Hands (July 1997) ISBN 0-671-57770-0
  8. Echoes of Honor (October 1998) ISBN 0-671-57833-2
  9. Ashes of Victory (March 2000) ISBN 0-671-57854-5
  10. War of Honor (October 2002) ISBN 0-7434-3545-1
  11. At All Costs (November 2005) ISBN 1-4165-0911-9
  12. Mission of Honor (June 2010) ISBN 1-4391-3361-1
  13. A Rising Thunder (March 6, 2012) ISBN 1-4516-3806-6

I’ve barreled my way through the first nine books, and am currently starting War of Honor. I have lost far too many hours of sleep (I can only read at night) to this series. Weber has a nice way of blending deep interest in the characters themselves with plausible-enough military tactics, with a very nice depth of technology. It’s not quite so in-your-face as a technothriller like a Clancy novel, but there is very clearly a deep, wide background of basically self-consistent tech.

Parting Shot

The Honorverse would make a very good RPG setting. It could certainly be done, and with tweaks to +David Pulver‘s SpaceShips system, done very well, in GURPS. I’d seen with a brief search that there might have been a d20 and/or WEG d6 version (the d20 version would leave me flat; the WEG d6 would rock on toast).
But boy would it be fun to take the GURPS ruleset and tech base, nab something like the Honorverse Companion, House of Steel, and start laying down the tech base and character archetypes. I think it would probably be a decision whether to do this as a Action! title, or a strict realism type. The overall high point values of the main characters would make me tend towards Action, but these guys are real people, even if Honor herself would be spectacularly high point value.
But that’s why I’ve not been online as much as usual: when I’m not at work or being a dad, I’m curled up on the couch reading Weber.

13 thoughts on “Apropos of Nothing: Honor Harrington and hopeless addictions

  1. Weber is one of my favorites. You should check out the Safehold series. It's a ton of fun too. So is the Empire of Man series. Both are shorter than Honor too. All are some combo of Age of Sail and sci-FI and politics. He can be a bit formulaic at times, but since I like his formula, I have no issue with that!

    Enjoy! I'm eagerly awaiting both the next Honorverse and Safehold novels. Empire of Man (starts with March Upcountry, finishes with We Few) seems to be fairly dormant.

  2. I never got through the series. Personal reasons, mostly – Weber's politics intrude a little too much for me, and there are some writing conceits for which he has returned to the same well too many times.

    That bit of caveat out of the way, I would love to see this… adapted to GURPS. File the serial numbers off and give the setting clean of too many preconceived notions, and you'd be onto something.

    Look also to the Bourbaki Basin simulator game – it will prove useful in converting the ships, I suspect.

  3. On reading the books: I think it is best to read them in order of publication date– including the short story compilations and side series. It just seems to be designed that way and I got sick of reading stuff and thinking, "he sure seems to be writing this as if we already knew all about it.

  4. I read the first of these. It was pretty good, but Honor herself felt pretty much "cold and flawless" so I wasn't pulled into the series. She's a character I just couldn't get a handle on. I wanted to like it, and the story wasn't bad at all, but I couldn't find a character I felt like I'd want to get to know better.

    Still, I agree that based solely on the first book GURPS Spaceships would do the job.

  5. If you really want to do this you should probably start a thread on the main Gurps board. I'm hardly the only Spaceships expert. That said there are multiple issues with adapting Spaceships to the Honorverse. Stretching the table to sM+17 for the 8 million ton superdreadnaughts is the easy part. Hard parts would be things like handling the pods. You might have to build those as individual ships that were all launcher. I'd bet you'd also have to build scaling into x-ray alser warheads. ISTR that ones currently in Spaceships are rather small

    Then there'd have to be a rule about scaling acceleration (through limits to inertial compensation) by size and even by tech base. Vanilla would sjut have all ships pulling 500Gs.

    Re-scaling weapons damage generally might be necessary. To get the sheer number of launchers and graser mounts would require Tertiary Batteries and those might not penetrate forcescreens (sidewalls) and armor the way they should. Spaceships is geared more towards Traveller Capital ships with their Spinal Mounts than Age of Sail-like broadsides.

    I'm not even sure if the rapid fire rules would have everything come out in the wash for missile storms and point defense.

    I'm sure it's possible with enough work but it's not the simplest implementation.

  6. You can stop now. The series takes a turn at this point. She's too high in rank for interesting situations. The books all take on the aspect of the second part of a trilogy. Just a bridge to the next part. Stuff happens, sure, but it doesn't have any immediacy. I wonder if Weber has lost interest, but it's his most successful series so he feels he has to churn out more books.

  7. I don't know about that recommendation. I took a long break in the middle (around the prison camp thing) and came back alter and I've enjoyed the later books including the "Torch" and "Shadows" spin-offs. Perhaps just as much because it's not directly about Honor so much of the time.

    It's even interesting to me to see cruiser-level/squadroon combat instead of armadas of podnaughts.

  8. Personally I gave up on the series when the main war ended, and purely so that there would be more explodey spaceship action the author had people start acting wildly out of character (not to mention forgetting basic crypto procedures) to start the fighting again.

    Fine as far as it goes, and I can still enjoy the first couple of books, but not a setting I'd jump into with any enthusiasm unless I had the exact right GM.

  9. I'd be thrilled with an Age of Sail GURPS title. I've read the Patrick O'Brian books through twice, so it is clear I'd like to spend more time in that world. I actually think that abstracting Napoleonic naval warfare would be pretty straightforward, even though there are some quirks to GURPS and big wooden ships versus guns. I'd be as interested in the Social Engineering side of the British Navy, too- they were some great sections about jockeying for advancement in the Aubrey-Maturin novels.

    I keep hoping that some author will write something about biremes and triremes, too. It has been on the wish list forever, and it would be cool to drop those older ships into a Fantasy campaign that takes a hard line on guns and advanced navigation.

  10. There was a Gurps Age of Napoleon published late in 3e and it's still available in ,pdf. I'm not sure what the breakdown between land was and sea war was though. There was some Navy stuff because we went round and round about the flogging rules.

  11. An old thread, I know, but FWIW, it is by no means a universal opinion that Weber's Honorverse stuff has somehow gone "down hill." Weber still enjoys writing them, and from what I have heard the sales figures are as strong as ever.

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