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At the time my book series starts, the western half of the galaxy, regarded as a rural backwater with only one inhabited star system, is undergoing a complete transformation right under the nose of the Ishga Empire, the main power in the galaxy at the time. Here's some further details:

-The Ishga Empire, centered on the planet Ishga (an ecumenopolis in the northeast of the galaxy home to half the galaxy's population) was the first planet to industrialize and it uses its advanced technology and massive population to push around weaker, less advanced planets by colonizing them outright, extracting tribute and resources from them, or forcing them into "unequal treaties" (similar to Victorian Britain). However, its inbred monarchs are starting to become overconfident and complacent.

-The Ishgas pay basically no attention to the western half of the galaxy, as there is only one inhabited planet there (Navayu) and that planet has always been inhabited by "primitive" tribes that have never posed a threat to the rest of the galaxy.

-The vast majority of the galaxy's star systems and planets are uninhabited due to poor atmospheric conditions or simply being off the beaten path. All of the inhabited planets except Navayu are in the eastern half of the galaxy. Only the planets of Aztlan, Atlantea, Planet Squid, Aurea, Rinascita, Olympia, Ishga, Awal, Ryu, Navayu, and Vigam are inhabited, and at the moment all of them except Ishga are weak, technologically backwards, and often disunited entities that are acted upon by the Ishgas more than they are able act themselves.

-The Ishgas closely guard their technological secrets to prevent any other powers from usurping them. While the rest of the galaxy is capable of FTL travel in modified boats via complicated magic I have no time to get into right now, the Ishgas have figured out how to do so technologically rather than magically and better than everyone else. However, FTL travel is the only piece of Ishga technology the rest of the galaxy has a way to copy using magic, and everyone else is fighting with swords and spears (maybe derpy arquebuses if they're really lucky). As a result, the non-Ishga powers are good at international trade but not much else.

Navayu, at the westernmost edge of the galaxy, is so far off the beaten path and removed from everything else that even the lesser powers know very little about it and have little respect for its inhabitants. It has been historically been ruled by a smattering of warring tribes, but a man named Tate (a mutant whose mutation gives him extroardinary magical powers) has recently managed to unify the planet and wants to transform it and the western half of the galaxy into a cudgel to defeat the Ishgas with. In order to do this, he will need to:

-Steal and reverse-engineer enough Ishga technologies and copy enough of their policies to industrialize the planet and catch them up to the Ishgas technologically and societally

-Colonize the galaxy's uninhabited planets and fund his operation using a pyramid scheme called UNISYN I'll try to explain succinctly: Tate takes advantage of the portion of uninhabitable worlds with usable atmospheres but are off the beaten path to encourage people on Ishga and elsewhere to buy land on and move there. People who buy land here are encouraged to get their friends to buy land here, etc., etc., until these worlds are settled. Tate will also need to find a way to get these people to be loyal to him without directly annexing these UNISYN colonies.

-Multiply Navayu's population by at least 10 using a "child quota" policy (basically the opposite of China's one child policy).

-And most importantly, Tate must accomplish these objectives with the Ishga Government taking notice of exactly none of it.

How would Navayu catch up to the Ishgas in this scenario, or how would any minor power catch up to a superpower without said superpower noticing?

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    $\begingroup$ There's too many variables here, which leads to many options. This galaxy, how the travel across it may compare to traveling around the Earth? 1400s, 1600s, 1900s, 2000s? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Oct 15 '20 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ The answer to this kind of question is completely covered by the reader of the first two books in Asimov's "Foundation" series, depending on the timescales you choose. $\endgroup$ – chiggsy Oct 17 '20 at 0:03
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Bureaucracy.

On the border of the Empire, Analyst 5th Class Joe notices what Navayu is up to. Who could possibly miss it? But what's he supposed to do, requisition a naval strike force or two? He barely has enough authority to requisition paper towels when he spills coffee at his desk. Instead, all of his evidence, conclusions, and speculations get bound up in a report that goes to his boss, the senior analyst.

And then to her boss, the section leader.

And then his boss, the sub-sector chief.

And so on, and so on. At each stage this news is competing with the white noise of countless other reports, some factual, some important, some neither. The people further up the line get only a distorted view of what the people on the ground see - and as it goes, each report gets played up or down depending on the needs or biases of the person giving it, or to compensate for the bias they think someone else attached to it.

By the time the daily intelligence brief crosses the desk of the Galactic Emperor, it's a miracle it contains any real news at all, let alone a specific piece of intel from the hinterlands.

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Invite them.

Prepare tourist marketing campaigns galaxy wide to come and look at your planets epic ... waterfalls. Prepare some 5 star hotels and spaceports and other touristy things in a small section of your planet.

Give foreign film producers a tax incentive to film their films on your planet. The tax bill is halved again if your planet is described as a romantic honeymoon destination in the film.

Soon, the rich and powerful will start flocking to your tourist parks. While they're there distracted by the nature and stuff, your scientists study their tech. The valet garage is basically staffed with scientists going through all the incoming ships (initially in alarm-proof faraday cages until they learn how alarms work).

Over time, start merging hotel suites into bigger and more luxurious rooms, creating scarcity and luxury. More important people will come, bringing more top end tech for you to reverse engineer.

Then, once you have everything reverse engineered, just mark your hotels as fully booked while you build up your army.

When you're ready to attack, dump millions of vacant hotel rooms onto the market at once. Everyone in the galaxy whose important will snap up the vacant rooms and book some leave.

Once everyone important in the galaxy is in your hotel rooms enjoying their first holiday in years, blow up your hotels.

Your invasion should be pretty straightforward after that.

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To put it simple, they hardly can.

The main problem is the economie of scale. Your uber Empire has so much indirect power, like Manpower, Tech and Resources that it could easily crush any sort of force the other guys throw at them.

Meaning there is no way they can win a direct long term war. The only way i see them winning is by staging a First Strike so devastating the Empire more or less breaks appart. Kind of like how the CIA spread Democracy all over South America.

So how do you do that ? The most important two things would by timing and Communications. You want every single Attack to be happening at the same time and you want all Communications to be down at the same time too. The Attacks should NOT be aimed at the Population. You need them on your side. MEaning you want as few dead people as you can. This allowes you to name yourself the "good guys" because "Hey we didnt kill anyone". Thus the Attacks themself should more be of a Symbolic nature. Is there a big Government tower that is a symbol for suppresion ? Blow it up AFTER everyone is out of there because of a Staged fire alarm. I can not stress this enough but DONT KILL TO MANY PEOPLE. Dont kill anyone the populations might think is good. People like Teachers, Firefighters or hell maybe even parts of the Empire. Does the Inbred Family have a really popular Daughter ? Yeah dont kill her for a start.

When it comes to Communications, you want all of it. This means you will get involved in a lot of Battles that have to be over fast. In general, id say you should only focus on the most Important Planets and destroy the Majority of the other Communication Networks. You wont have the Manpower to take every single Relay over.So just focus on the big ones and destroy the rest.

So the plan would be: Blow everything Symbolic and Communication related up but keep the body count low. The as soons as your War starts, just tell everyone what you want to do. Tell them how YOUR government is better etc. In other words, bring more people on your side. And then prey. Infighting, the lack of Communication, Propaganda and the shock of such a large scale attack might just give you enough time to tip the balance of power.

Such a Plan involves a huge amount of Planning and it would take decades to set up.

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  • $\begingroup$ Errm, the CIA's adventures in South America are hardly a tale of plucky underdogs overcoming the odds. America dominated the hemisphere, both in hard and soft power, as well as economic, and fought a series of proxy wars with another superpower, the USSR. The, ah, "democracies" created were to counter socialism spread from the Soviets, and to this day America is the Hegemon, under no threat whatsoever from that continent. $\endgroup$ – chiggsy Oct 17 '20 at 0:14
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Only through terminal stupidity – in which case, why worry? Your description makes planet Navayu a significant part of known civilisation which means there is no other reason Ishga might not notice everything you suggest.

If you really see a galaxy with a “western” half or half a galaxy with only one inhabited system, why try for realism… the more so since your description means what’s undergoing a complete transformation is that one system?

It might help to clarify whether “home to half the galaxy's population” meant Planet Ishgar or the north-east section, or why any inhabitable planet would be “off the beaten path” in a civilisation with interstellar travel and 12 settled planets?

Which “other powers” might usurp your Ishgas? What “lesser powers” know little of Navayu? If there are only a dozen planets, how could Navayu not be significant?

Where did you get your exemption from Worldbuilding SE’s rule that magic systems must be explained, either for FTL or for Tate’s powers?

Magic or tech, how are you restricting a civilisation with FTL capability to swords, spears and arquebuses? Did you notice in general, bows beat arquebuses hands down? Frank Herbert did that well enough in Dune and what's your explanation?

How could Tate transform Navayu “and the western half of the galaxy” into anything, when the only thing in the western half of the galaxy is Navayu?

Sorry and your “pyramid scheme” isn't. It's more like a genuine plan for development.

Why might Tate need to find a way to get people’s loyalty without directly annexing the colonies? Isn't he the one who gave them whatever they have?

Roughly how many years do you think a "child quota" policy might take to multiply Navayu's population by ten?

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