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 Post subject: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-03 12:09pm
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Thinking a little bit about why the Vorlons are such obsessive control freaks about other cultures, as well as some disparities in technology between them and the Shadows, it occurred to me that the events in Babylon 5: Thirdspace might explain a bit. The Vorlons make a fetish of interfering in the cultural and biological development of younger species, and seem loathe to accept any sort of independent innovation. They don't simply conquer other species or use them for any resources, but insist on instilling an attitude of Vorlon worship and unquestioning obedience. The whole "order versus chaos" theme seemed a bit shallow for such old and advanced civilizations, and probably overlooked some important background motivations for the clash of cultures among the First Ones.

Furthermore, the Vorlons technology also has some puzzles. Their ships appear to be more powerful than most Shadow vessels. However, they eschew the more efficient drive technologies of the Shadows, and don't seem to have any constructs comparable to the Shadow Death Cloud. Yet, the construction of the gateway featured in Thirdspace seems to indicate that they were once the more visionary and ambitious species. My thought is that after the Thirdspace incursion, the Vorlons experienced a massive culture shock, and became extremely cautious and conservative compared to their previous trajectory, and avoided uses of certain new technologies they began to suspect were risky. They may have then been more keen on controlling the development of all cultures in their vicinity in order to prevent rogue redevelopment of technologies such as the gateway that could potentially annihilate them and other species in the galaxy. Nevertheless, it seems that they never wanted to admit what happened to the Shadows, either for fear of losing face in the estimation of First Ones society, or possibly alerting the Shadows to something they might be tempted to exploit themselves. It seems that they were relatively successful at concealing the incident (and others implied to have occurred) from other civilizations, and only Lyta or possibly others that they have altered and planted among their former client societies have any knowledge of their mistakes, so they overplayed this cultural obsession with order to hide the real fears that drive their society.

Of course this is all just uninformed speculation, but I'm curious what others think about the scenario.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-03 12:47pm
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Actually you're close to the point as to why the Vorlons are such control freaks - it is related to the Third Space incident. Now, I warn you, my information comes from an rpg supplement called "Shadows and Light" from a B5 Rpg that I believe is still around. The supplement is essentially a Vorlon and Shadow supplement with a pretty detailed history and explanation of their motivations, tech, etc. I have no idea if JMS fully condones this, partly had a hand in writing it or what level it is in B5 canon but here it is and it makes for very entertaining reading.

In the book the Third Space incident is actually a very major part of galactic history with fully 3/4 of the galaxy falling into the hands of the Third Space aliens until the First Ones all rally together and eventually drive them back.

The Vorlons were almost all totally mind raped and controlled by the Third Space aliens and this loss of control scarred them so deeply that they came up with their question - "Who are you?" afterwards as a way to gain complete control of themselves. They believed if you fully knew who you were that you could not be mindcontrolled or have your inner most fears and thoughts used against you as they were during the invasion.

This then led to their desire to bring this rigid self control to the others. It is part of the reason the other First Ones hated or disliked the Vorlons so intensely (you can see a hint of this in the response to Ivanova by the Walkers of Sigma 957 when she mentions the Vorlons when asking for help) they saw the Vorlons and the Shadows as no better than one another. Let's not forget that the Vorlons were also directly responsible for the invasion in the first place and many First Ones died fighting that war.

Partly this need for control was born out of an honest desire to never let what happened to the galaxy when the Third Space Aliens invaded. A species not fully prepared and aware of its own limitations could repeat that incident again. Much like a parent who committed a horrible error in their past would over compensate with their own children to make sure they don't repeat the same mistake the Vorlons reacted that way to the younger races. Unfortunately despite the good intentions it changed into something darker over time, The Vorlons just knew better so shut up, listen, and do as you're told.

As to the tech I never got the impression the Vorlons had better technology overall. If you're referencing the battle in Interludes and Examinations the Vorlons caught the Shadow Fleet unaware and suprised them with larger numbers and bigger ships. The Vorlon dreadnought is probably superior in firepower and defense than your run of the mill Battlecrab. It is strongly hinted in the rpg that the Shadows were technologically superior to the Vorlons almost from the beginning when it came to warships and weapons. The first time the Shadows appeared on the galactic scene it took the combined might of all of the First Ones and Lorien's people to defeat them.

My issue with the depiction of First One tech is the battles themselves. There is no way the younger races, even with telepaths, should have been able to win battles against the Shadows. The tech gap is so large that the kill ratios depicted didn't make any sense. Delenn mentions at the end of Shadow Dancing that they managed something like a 3to1 kill ratio. Now, telepaths aside, when you look at tech gaps in weapons technology even a generational gap say 80's tech to now, the weapons systems we have now are demostrably far ahead of what we could field back in the 80's. You go back a little farther, say WWII to now and the gap is so large that much smaller numbers could inflict massive casualties on a larger force, hell a carrier battlegroup could engage in Over the horizon warfare without the WWII forces being able to accurately respond.

You go back several hundred years and a well entrenched infantry group would massacre entire Napleonic armies. Probably without coming under fire themselves. Go back a thousand years and Medieval Europe could be completely conquered by a small fighting force from now. Now in B5 you're talking a tech gap of 1 MILLION years. There is no way it could even come close to an even fight. The weapons the First Ones should be deploying should be as close to magic and uncomprehensible as possible - say blowing up fleets without even entering the system. It should not just seem like upgunned versions of the ships the younger races were fielding.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-03 01:00pm
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Exactly. The Vorlons were the idiot third-grader of the elder races, pushing buttons to see what they did. In Thirdspace, when the vorlon consciousness or whatever that's in Lyta talks about the thirdspace aliens, at the end she says it was a great mistake... 'one of many'.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-03 03:14pm
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Alerik the Fortunate wrote:
Furthermore, the Vorlons technology also has some puzzles. Their ships appear to be more powerful than most Shadow vessels. However, they eschew the more efficient drive technologies of the Shadows,

Looks can be deceiving. Skip to 5:50.

Vorlons possess and probably used commonly, an FTL form that's twice as fast as ordinary hyperspace, which Shadow ships use, in comparison we rarely see vorlon ships in hyperspace, and on a couple of occasions, they were stationary fleets hiding in it. Certainly shadow ships appear out of nowhere very prettily, but it provides little tactical advantage compared to ordinary hyperdrive (which can be opened up inside a target and destroy it) wheras the Vorlons possessed a vast strategic advantage in this, the ability to travel through the galaxy at twice the speed of Shadow ships, as opposed to the ability to... not have a jump point.

Remember, it's canon that the Vorlons wanted other races to think of them as less advanced than they actually were, encounter suits weren't there to really protect the creature, but to make it look like just another alien. They would not need to appear as angels all the time either, as we see with Kosh/Ulkesh, they could quite happily appear as ten foot glowing energy squids if they wanted.
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and don't seem to have any constructs comparable to the Shadow Death Cloud.
If you take the abovementioned RPG material as canon, they have entire hollowed out worlds and vast swarms of von neumann machines (The shadows could also do this, but did not have them ready to roll) secreted in their space, jupiter-sized ship hives and many other things that dwarf death-clouds, and indeed, anything the Shadows ever built.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-03 03:25pm
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Alerik the Fortunate wrote:
The whole "order versus chaos" theme seemed a bit shallow for such old and advanced civilizations, and probably overlooked some important background motivations for the clash of cultures among the First Ones.
Part of the point is that it is shallow. The other First Ones have no interest in the battle, except that the Shadows (and later the Vorlons) used it as an excuse for genocide, at which point they intervened, over and over. The Vorlons and the Shadows themselves mature when they are forced to recognize the pointlessness of their actions by the younger races, and joined the extragalactic community.
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My thought is that after the Thirdspace incursion, the Vorlons experienced a massive culture shock, and became extremely cautious and conservative compared to their previous trajectory, and avoided uses of certain new technologies they began to suspect were risky.
Unfounded supposition, really. We have no idea what technologies they're willing to use or not.
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They may have then been more keen on controlling the development of all cultures in their vicinity in order to prevent rogue redevelopment of technologies such as the gateway that could potentially annihilate them and other species in the galaxy.
There's no evidence that any Younger Race could even begin to comprehend how to make such a thing. That's certainly not likely compared to their simply having failed in their mission to protect and guide the Younger Races.
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Nevertheless, it seems that they never wanted to admit what happened to the Shadows, either for fear of losing face in the estimation of First Ones society, or possibly alerting the Shadows to something they might be tempted to exploit themselves.
The abovementioned RPG states that the Shadows were aware of the Thirdspace alien invasion, and with the other First Ones, aided the Vorlons in destroying the invaders, and smashing all gateways save those that were cast into hyperspace by the invaders' thralls. The Shadows have no interest in being enslaved, or all the younger races being enslaved, nor, as said in Into the Fire do they even want to actually kill the Vorlons.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-03 03:31pm
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Stravo wrote:
This then led to their desire to bring this rigid self control to the others. It is part of the reason the other First Ones hated or disliked the Vorlons so intensely (you can see a hint of this in the response to Ivanova by the Walkers of Sigma 957 when she mentions the Vorlons when asking for help) they saw the Vorlons and the Shadows as no better than one another. Let's not forget that the Vorlons were also directly responsible for the invasion in the first place and many First Ones died fighting that war.
That's strongly overstating it. The book makes it explicit that the other First Ones except the Shadows had no interest in punishing the Vorlons for causing the Thirdspace incident, and even prevented the Shadows doing so.

It is highly unlikely it has any particular bearing on the modern Walkers' reactions to the Vorlons, so much as the Vorlons continued infantile argument with the Shadows causing them to need to repeatedly intervene to protect the Younger Races from their supposed guardians, an ongoing issue that was actually interrupting their lives as they were at the time.

EDIT: It's worth remembering that the book is written from an in universe perspective, and even though the humans (and their AI) at this point have attained First One status, they do not have full records of every mistake made, the prominence of the Thirdspace incident is because it's come back a few times since, including the Interstellar Alliance's descendants around AD 100,000 having encountered a fully active invader hive they had to purge with military force at one point.

For all we (and they) know, the Walkers may well have plunged the galaxy into a longer and harder war that the Vorlons sorted out for them in some other past epoch. God knows, if some of the spinoffs are right, there's more than a few luking ancient evils around to worry about that could be attributed to other First Ones.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-03 03:35pm
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CaptainChewbacca wrote:
Exactly. The Vorlons were the idiot third-grader of the elder races, pushing buttons to see what they did. In Thirdspace, when the vorlon consciousness or whatever that's in Lyta talks about the thirdspace aliens, at the end she says it was a great mistake... 'one of many'.

And that makes them idiots?

How many mistakes has the United States of America made in its entire history? Span that out to two million years. And it has rarely been run by 'idiots.'

Now, sure, the Vorlons are supposed to be smarter, than humans, but they would not always have been so, and they would have been dealing with greater challenges and dangers than humans have.

The fact that the Vorlons were able to acknowledge their failings and provide at least some practical help (in the form of Lyta, though I would imagine there is something more lasting too) for the Younger Races, in the event that they came across items and legacies that the Vorlons were not able to take care of themselves, somehow makes them idiots?

I think they're doing pretty well, what with having thought ahead in sufficient detail to leave messages to help the Younger Races, whom they have washed their tentacles of at this point, clear up problems.

Look at the humans, in B5, how many mistakes do they make? In the far future, they too will be First Ones, and they will have their own big long list of historical mistakes to regret.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-03 05:13pm
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Stravo wrote:
You go back several hundred years and a well entrenched infantry group would massacre entire Napleonic armies. Probably without coming under fire themselves. Go back a thousand years and Medieval Europe could be completely conquered by a small fighting force from now. Now in B5 you're talking a tech gap of 1 MILLION years. There is no way it could even come close to an even fight. The weapons the First Ones should be deploying should be as close to magic and uncomprehensible as possible - say blowing up fleets without even entering the system. It should not just seem like upgunned versions of the ships the younger races were fielding.
A lot depends on the rate of advance- does technology improve as much from 2100 to 2150 as it did from 1900 to 1950? What about from 10100 to 10150?

If the Elder Races are hitting diminishing returns because of limits on the physically possible... well. I think it has interesting implications.

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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-05 04:07pm
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NecronLord wrote:
Stravo wrote:
This then led to their desire to bring this rigid self control to the others. It is part of the reason the other First Ones hated or disliked the Vorlons so intensely (you can see a hint of this in the response to Ivanova by the Walkers of Sigma 957 when she mentions the Vorlons when asking for help) they saw the Vorlons and the Shadows as no better than one another. Let's not forget that the Vorlons were also directly responsible for the invasion in the first place and many First Ones died fighting that war.
That's strongly overstating it. The book makes it explicit that the other First Ones except the Shadows had no interest in punishing the Vorlons for causing the Thirdspace incident, and even prevented the Shadows doing so.

It is highly unlikely it has any particular bearing on the modern Walkers' reactions to the Vorlons, so much as the Vorlons continued infantile argument with the Shadows causing them to need to repeatedly intervene to protect the Younger Races from their supposed guardians, an ongoing issue that was actually interrupting their lives as they were at the time.


If we're also going to take B5Wars as canon, then the Walker's reactions is explained there as one of their Repositories of Knowledge was destroyed by a collision from an Asteroid that mysteriously came from Vorlon space, and with the technology that the Walker's had at the time, for them not to be able to detect it they strongly suspected foul play. Probably because the Vorlons were mad that the Walker's refused to share their hyperspace technology before the Vorlons were able to invent their own.

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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-05 04:16pm
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One of the B5Wars rulebooks had a foreword from JMS, stating that the stuff from Agents of Gaming was canon. On the other hand, he had a falling-out with Mongoose publishing, so their stuff probably isn't canon, and I don't know what the status of the Babylon Project RPG from Chameleon Eclectic was.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-05 04:21pm
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andrewgpaul wrote:
One of the B5Wars rulebooks had a foreword from JMS, stating that the stuff from Agents of Gaming was canon. On the other hand, he had a falling-out with Mongoose publishing, so their stuff probably isn't canon, and I don't know what the status of the Babylon Project RPG from Chameleon Eclectic was.


I know, i own all of the supplements from both. I do like the material from B5Wars more when it comes to First Ones, but the Light & Dark Supplement from Mongoose can be used to expand a lot on what was in B5Wars Supplements. I'd rather take all information and merge it, and discard anything that can't be reconciled.

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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-06 01:19pm
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Another thing to consider is even if Shadow technology was superior at some point, they lost the last war. This would have left them with far fewer resources in the thousand years leading up to the events of the series. How much R&D capacity would they have had while hibernating/hiding out primarily on their own homeworld? Perhaps this gave the Vorlons a (rather lengthy) window in which to pull ahead. It was mentioned that the Shadows hid a lot of their ships when they lost, which were being collected again for the new war. Clearly thousand-year old ships were still effective against both the younger races and the Vorlon.

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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-07 08:44am
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Also the battleships the Shadows used, though still impressive by primitive space farer's standards, seemed to be expendable anyway if they were piloted by captured slaves, slaves such as Sheridan's wife. Who (or what) crews the Vorlon vessels? I shudder to think what kind of "real" warships the Vorlons and Shadows had stockpiled away if the RPG fluff is canon.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-07 10:01am
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JMS has said that it breaks down as follows:

Battleships: "Full Crew" of Vorlons.
Transports: 0-1 Vorlon
Fighters: Unmanned.

Of course, people like to imagine there's superbadass ships out there, but if that's the case, why would they say, let Sheridan nuke Z'Ha'Dum without rolling out a superbattleship and killing?



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-07 11:54am
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Because at the time, the Vorlons and Shadows were still practicing a detente, and weren't attacking each other directly.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-07 12:35pm
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CaptainChewbacca wrote:
Because at the time, the Vorlons and Shadows were still practicing a detente, and weren't attacking each other directly.

Given that it's their capital city, and we have word of god that that's so, why would they not have their most powerful warships protecting it anyway?



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-07 12:41pm
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How important was that "capital" city anyway? When the Shadows decide to leave the galaxy Za'Ha'Dum is evacuated in the very next episode and then blown up. The entire planet seems no more critical to Shadows than Kwajalein atoll is to US.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-07 01:01pm
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Kane Starkiller wrote:
How important was that "capital" city anyway? When the Shadows decide to leave the galaxy Za'Ha'Dum is evacuated in the very next episode and then blown up. The entire planet seems no more critical to Shadows than Kwajalein atoll is to US.


The same can be said of the Vorlons, and the other First Ones. Planets are clearly incidental at this point.

However, their leaders lived in that city.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-07 02:13pm
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How hierarchical is Shadow society, though? For all we know their "leaders" may not represent that important a group to them, especially to the degree that they embrace conflict with glee. Also notable is that the Vorlon homeworld defenses are so impregnable that the younger races are unable to overwhelm them even after a million years, while a single White Star gets through to their capital without even being shot at by a single automatic device (that I can recall). The Shadows are either so arrogant that they think fear alone will keep anyone from attempting to attack their assets, or they have some other philosophy, such as being prepared to mobilize at any time and not sinking many resources into fixed locations or their defense. Although that seems a bit silly since they hung around Z'ha'dum for so long, and anybody could find the place, even while the shadows were hibernating.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-10 03:24am
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Stravo wrote:
Actually you're close to the point as to why the Vorlons are such control freaks - it is related to the Third Space incident. Now, I warn you, my information comes from an rpg supplement called "Shadows and Light" from a B5 Rpg that I believe is still around. The supplement is essentially a Vorlon and Shadow supplement with a pretty detailed history and explanation of their motivations, tech, etc. I have no idea if JMS fully condones this, partly had a hand in writing it or what level it is in B5 canon but here it is and it makes for very entertaining reading.

I am glad you mentioned this. Cannon or not, dear lord is the fluff and rules in the book are really, really thoroughly plotted out. I kind of marveled at how much stuff was fleshed out about both the Vorlons and Shadows. Normally my "yeah right" filter would have kicked on but the book is so dense with well thought out explanations. That and it has some really well worked D20 style rules for both races.

I know I'm kind of gushing above, but I just really had a fun time reading it. The one they published for some of the races like the Pak Mara, also was well done IMNSHO.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-10 08:28pm
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NecronLord wrote:
CaptainChewbacca wrote:
Because at the time, the Vorlons and Shadows were still practicing a detente, and weren't attacking each other directly.

Given that it's their capital city, and we have word of god that that's so, why would they not have their most powerful warships protecting it anyway?


Technically, it was being protected by something far more powerful, The Eye of Z'ha'Dum. In the Technomage Trilogy it goes on to detail how Galen brought down the defenses of The Eye long enough for the Whitestar to crash into the City itself as he had been put into the Eye after he had replaced Wierden. It was during that time that he fully merged with his Mage implants and was able to do far more with The Tech than other Technomages.

Its pretty heavily implied that if that had not happened, the attack would have failed.

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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-10 08:36pm
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NecronLord wrote:
Kane Starkiller wrote:
How important was that "capital" city anyway? When the Shadows decide to leave the galaxy Za'Ha'Dum is evacuated in the very next episode and then blown up. The entire planet seems no more critical to Shadows than Kwajalein atoll is to US.


The same can be said of the Vorlons, and the other First Ones. Planets are clearly incidental at this point.

However, their leaders lived in that city.


If we're also taking the Darkness and Light Sourcebook into account, then yes, that was their capital city, but wasn't really a location that was important to the Shadow ability to wage war. Its stated in the books that the Shadows return to Z'ha'dum mostly to pay their respects to Lorien himself as they view him as a Father figure and pay their respects by continuing the mantle that they put upon themselves with the Vorlons, though with different philosophies.

During the war, supposedly there's about 100 million Shadows active on Z'ha'dum, while the remainder stay behind in the phase dimension where they usually hibernate.

This is a game to them, and for a race with the power and mentality of the Shadows, it makes sense for them to be holding back. If we're taking the Sourcebooks and Books into the equation and filling in the information, then they clearly were. It wasn't until the Vorlons actually decided that enough was enough and wanted to destroy the Shadows openly, that the Shadows brought out their big stuff. Hence the huge jump in use of weapons and ships in the weeks right before the battle of Corianna VI.

Think about it, in the years prior to this point, the Shadows were scrounging up ships from the last war. Building their places of power, using the other races to wear each other down. Then, after the Vorlons take off their gloves, boom, they can field a fleet of 10,000 ships within a month. Clearly, those ships had to come from somewhere.

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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-11 07:03pm
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I love Darkness and Light, but if one admits it as evidence, my stance (they do not have ships massively advanced beyond what's seen in the show) automatically wins, clunk-click. They outright state that the ships used in the war are warships as used by the elder races, and that some of the larger battlecrabs are even piloted by Shadow crews.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-11 07:10pm
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Thinktank wrote:
I know I'm kind of gushing above, but I just really had a fun time reading it. The one they published for some of the races like the Pak Mara, also was well done IMNSHO.


Got to agree, I love that book, and consider it basically personal canon. I really enjoyed the PsiCorps one too, I reccomend you pick it up if you've not. Some of their earlier ones, like the Minbari one, aren't as good, but that's only to be expected.



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 Post subject: Re: Vorlon Motivation PostPosted: 2011-10-12 09:54am
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NecronLord wrote:
Thinktank wrote:
I know I'm kind of gushing above, but I just really had a fun time reading it. The one they published for some of the races like the Pak Mara, also was well done IMNSHO.


Got to agree, I love that book, and consider it basically personal canon. I really enjoyed the PsiCorps one too, I reccomend you pick it up if you've not. Some of their earlier ones, like the Minbari one, aren't as good, but that's only to be expected.


The Minbari one is downright deadly dull. The only really good part was the revelation of just how much the Vorlons were mucking around with the Minbari and then the rebellion where the Minbari killed several Vorlons and the Vorlon response of nearly glassing the planet.

The Minbari themselves as a race have a hole in their minds, since the Vorlons erased that portion of their history from their minds. Otherwise dull and dry, kinda like the Minbari in general. The Psi Corps book is excellent. I love the running commentary from Byron throughout the narrative pointing out the lies and hypocrisies.

By far though Shadows and Light is the best of those source books I've read to this point.



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