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Author Topic: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao  (Read 4592 times)

Grey

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Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« on: 26 May 2015, 06:14:06 »
Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
Who: Daoshen Liao
What: Duke of Capella
   Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation
When: 3071 – Alive as of 3145
Weapon of Choice: Yu Huang
         Other

Strong, dynamic, powerful individuals are always hard to follow, few are the offspring who can manage to match or surpass parents who excel, at best they can maintain the legacy. Those who do manage to carve their own place on history’s skull tend to be rather terrifying.

As Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation Daoshen represents a return to type. Self-centred, crazy, cunning, ruthless, authoritarian, he is every bit the deluded dictator his great grandfather and grandmother were.

Not that dictator is a rare title in this setting, but if you’re painting a villain it’s a useful title and more obvious than Chancellor or, say, First Prince, Archon or any of the rest.

And Daoshen is a villain in this setting. He has always been in direct opposition to the Republic of the Sphere, painted in heroic tones early on and still, for the time being, largely heroic, and now goes after the Federated Suns, another traditionally, nominally heroic (as far as the setting goes) faction.

It is also good drama for the villain to be so overwhelmingly successful right in the middle of things, The Empire Strikes Back proves that, even the Warrior Trilogy shows the weakening Capellan Confederation on the verge of a rebound.

This is very different from father and predecessor Sun-Tzu, who admittedly did have the benefit of being a Point of View protagonist for two novels, and a Point of View character in several others. This permits us an intimate perspective on Sun-Tzu denied to us on Daoshen, though considering his mental state that sort of perspective could be murky beyond the scope of a pulp science fiction novel. More on that later.

Another key difference from his father is that Daoshen was trained as a MechWarrior, and was pretty good at military matters from a hands on perspective. In fact he rather disliked being pulled back from the front but acquiesced because he was the heir and he was going to take power someday. Having not completely brought into his own sales pitch yet he saw the sense in it and withdrew as the war heated up and increasingly put his life at risk.

He had some close calls, but through fanatically loyal troops and his own skills Daoshen avoided death or capture.

His choice of ‘Mech deserves some credit. The Yu Huang, quite probably an increasingly rare design since it is no longer production, making it even more of a prestige design than it already is, and that’s saying something.

The Yu Huang came into being as a part of the Xin Sheng movement, and the great Capellan renaissance of TRO 3060, and is quite possibly one of the most fearsome Inner Sphere designs of the period.

Fast (for an Assault), jump capable, powerful, versatile, presuming he used the 9G configuration it would have allowed Daoshen to be very aggressive on the battlefield.

This is a tendency that follows through with Daoshen’s national strategy. Until the blackout all Daoshen does is send a representative annually to demand the return of Capellan worlds from the Republic of the Sphere. A petty, politically childish move that shielded his true movements and preparations to reclaim those worlds behind, well, his honest intention of reclaiming those worlds.

So when the blackout happened he drove forward and attacked the Republic and grabbed everything he could until the Fortress went up.

Then he turned his attention to the Capellan March, the Haseks being a perpetual thorn in the side of the Confederation with two particularly annoying recent generations, and an arrogant annoyance even to New Avalon.

Brutal and effective doesn’t begin to describe what happened. The last time the border changed this much was the Fourth Succession war and that was in the other direction.

As far as benchmarks set by his father go this is one Daoshen blew out of the water.

There are a number of very good in universe reasons for this.

As of 3145 Daoshen has a number of advantages over Sun-Tzu. For one thing he’s not fighting a two front war at any point, deluded he may be but he’s neither obsessed nor stupid. When going after the Republic there are only minor skirmishes with the Free Worlds League remnants and the Federated Suns as everyone probes each other during the uncertain early days. And when the Fortress goes up the reborn League has other things to worry about leaving the Suns an open target.

The other key thing is the Blackout, the McGuffin that defines the Dark Age. With communications so poor it is almost impossible to fight a defensive war, by the time word of an attack reaches a major headquarters or command centre it’s too late to send reinforcements, let alone muster them. The Federated Suns, having brought into Devlin Stone’s disarmament pipe dream to a greater extent than anyone else, doesn’t even have the forces. The Confederation does, this twist was tailor made for Daoshen’s ambitions.

Indeed the setting favours aggressor strategies. An assault force can always break off if it finds the forces on world to be too great, or go somewhere else, initiative is key.

For the game setting this is incredible fun. Anyone can attack anyone else for what seems like a good reason. Indeed the early days of the Dark Age that’s what all the little factions were all about.

This is why the Confederation, Draconis Combine and Clans (as well as the Lyrans until the manner in which they treated their allies bit them, well, everywhere) have been doing so well for so long.

In fact odds are that when the Fortress walls come down the Republic will also see great success, at least to begin with.

Of course this is almost incidental to Daoshen’s central characteristic, that most defining Liao trait: the crazy.

Great granddad was disconnected, grandmother was delusional, dad was a little paranoid, Daoshen is utterly, dangerously insane.

For one thing he seriously believes he is a living god. Starting from the Dark Age this is a simple thing to throw out there, a continuation of the Liao stereotype, no need to explain the how or why, and makes for a good threat during the early days when we jumped from 3067 to 3132

This did require some creative skirting of the edges when Wars of the Republic era was produced, the lunatic Chancellor of the future had to be reconciled with the heir/warlord of the early 32nd Century.

Overall the picture we have of the early Daoshen is patchy, we know he was very effective, aggressive and so forth, but the insanity that would follow is only hinted at building up, that he was formulating and perpetuating the living god myth to follow was a background occurrence to the events the book was focusing on.

In an odd way it makes sense though, and strengthens his connection to his father.

Sun-Tzu inadvertently built up a cult of personality around himself through Xin Sheng. It was never a goal but it happened and he exploited it for purposes of moral for the Capellan people. What Daoshen is doing is the logical continuation of that, going from cult of personality to full blown cult.

That he was apparently tutored in some of these matters by dear Aunt Kali certainly did not help, and is an easy way to write in the continued crazy.

Furthermore this may have been the result of Sun-Tzu’s teachings to his son. Part of the crazy is that Daoshen sees himself as an extension of the Capellan State, something most leaders of his position would like to believe and see as immortal. This means the form his insanity takes is at least understandable in context.

It is also very constructive and is another link to Sun-Tzu, because Daoshen has also largely subsumed himself in favour of the Capellan nation. Or vice versa, it’s hard to tell with crazy. Either way this grandiose view of himself gives Daoshen every reason to see that the Confederation exceeds or excels, making him even less likely than his father to surrender worlds or squander resources.

This means, and this is very important, that unlike Max or Romano Daoshen’s insanity does not prevent him from being very, very effective. And in this case it is more than just talented subordinates, such as those Sun-Tzu relied upon, helping him get the job done.

The successes of the Capellan Confederation are the sort of thing that only come from the top, because that is the setting. Hanse Davion, Theodore Kurita, Ulric Kerensky, Alaric Ward, all get credit for their victories, the bevy of Generals, Colonels and others who undoubtedly did the planning, work, and whatever else, are all but forgotten or ignored.

It’s the way of things in the fictional setting, there need to be individual heroes and villains, and given the settings basis as a game it needs to be a head of state or other sort of factional leader.

In this case, dictatorial cult leader Daoshen is the focus and all successes are his.

Then of course is the final, rather uncomfortable element of Daoshen’s insanity, or villainy, or, whatever: fathering Danai Centrella-Liao with his sister.

Incest is another one of those brushes that paints a character, this time as unsavoury rather than outright evil. In the context of Daoshen it is difficult to place, but it paints him nonetheless.

And not just him, apparently Ilsa deliberately allowed this so she could get her hooks into him and manipulate him. So as disgusting as it makes Daoshen seem, and it is a characterising factor, it is more of a factor for characterising Ilsa Centrella-Liao.

Given the Maskirovka’s capabilities and loyalties it’s hard to believe that Sun-Tzu did not know, but exactly what he or his wife thought of this turn of events is unknown.

It also places something of an elephant in the room. With neither Centrella-Liao presenting a direct heir only Danai can inherit the thrones. Daoshen may not have considered this, being a living god and the immortal embodiment of the Capellan state and all that, though Ilsa likely will have, and in any case presents an interesting, and possibly frightening future for the Capellans and Canopians both.

In the meantime Daoshen seems to be racing the Draconis Combine to New Avalon, and with the Fortress coming down in five years its unknown if a sudden new front on his flank will be a disaster, or an opportunity to reclaim those last few worlds that escaped him last time.

This ends our series on Capellan Chancellors, I’m open to requests, though if none are forthcoming and given the focus so far I will probably choose a Free Worlds or Draconis Combine character next from outside the ruling line, or possibly a minor Merc or Clanner.

Though if people were to request Kali Liao for an odd sort of completion of the series . . .

Frabby

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #1 on: 26 May 2015, 08:02:32 »
Much of what you write could perhaps also describe the young Maximilian Liao - he was cunning, ruthless and successful around the dawn of the 30th century, only he was stymied by the limited capabilities of the CapCon (militarily and, implicitly, in all other fields as well) during the dark days of lostech.
So, from a meta-plot perspective, I'm looking forward to see when and how Daoshen overreaches and falls.
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Wrangler

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #2 on: 26 May 2015, 12:45:59 »
That's a very good write up, Grey.

The essay really does captures Daoshen persona in a nut shell.  Weather he knows it or not, he paving way to larger Capellan state, with Ilsa Centrella-Liao making in roads with Andurien's Duke.  Danai will be Chancellor of possibly 3 stellar states, if really happens.   Principles of Desolation really paints clear picture about him and his relationship with his sister.

Grey, do you think you can do Ilsa next?

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Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #3 on: 26 May 2015, 13:54:52 »
Given the nature of the setting Daoshen has probably already overreached, 3145 showing us the setup in the form of massive advances that would be difficult for any military to maintain. Hence the Republic attack will likely have a dramatic effect.

And Ilsa is an interesting idea, she certainly counts as Periphery, and the Andurien situation was on my mind as I was writing this.

So, one for Ilsa, looking strong.

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #4 on: 26 May 2015, 15:09:48 »
Daoshen Liao seems to influenced by a real world personality (side on caution of Rule 4 and avoid a name drop)

While it seemed like we are retreading old territory at first, Daoshen is a different from his grandfather. He seems allot more aggressive, leads from the front (a trait we often see reserved for the heroes of the BTU) and was not the craziest leader in the BTU. I often though Celeb Davion would be a next Mad Max and was disappointed the two never had a face to face (It would have been entertaining if anything else) 
   
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GreekFire

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #5 on: 26 May 2015, 16:39:18 »
I disagree with the assessment that Daoshen is insane. Yeah, sure, he buys into the whole god complex persona that was built up by the Capellan populace and aunt, but that - and the whole incest issue - is something that brings him much more in line with certain real historical leaders. And those people weren't always insane, some proved to be strong leaders who were simply raised to utterly believe in their divine right.

I am looking forward to seeing how the heir issue is resolved, and whether or not Ki-Linn Liao plays a part.

*One little note - the name is typically ordered "Liao-Centrella".
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SteelRaven

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #6 on: 26 May 2015, 17:19:52 »
I disagree with the assessment that Daoshen is insane.
There are different degrees of crazy, delusions of Grandeur (which we also see with Alric) is not the same as having a imaginary friend who you sometimes argue with (again, I really, really wanted to see Daoshens meet Celeb)

Daoshen seems to be victim of his upbringing more so than anything else; sheltered, very little interaction with his distant father who became deified and possible feed the same propaganda as those who worship him. It's the Last Emperor meets (wait, rule 4, never mind) Daoshen may prefer leading from the front lines to prove to himself on some subconscious level that he is indeed the child of destiny everyone believes him to be.   
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Maelwys

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #7 on: 26 May 2015, 19:44:54 »
I also question the characterization of insanity. I think its more of a persona built up. The Chancellor IS the State, and thus be more. We see it with the Kuritans and their ideal of the Coordinator not really being in command, but being the empty space. With the Capellans, its a more hand on kind of control, but even the Chancellor must fulfill the role that he is cast. And so Daoshen becomes that which the CapCon needs. And since its his duty, he does it to the utmost of his ability.

And lets face it. If your people believe that your father was a god, then in order to get the same loyalty and effort from them, then they had better believe that you inherited your father's divinity, or else there are going to be issues. Its quite a step down from godhood to man, and there could be issues when the Chancellor isn't divine.

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #8 on: 26 May 2015, 19:55:17 »
That's all well and good, but the text goes out of its way to say that he genuinely believes he is divine.  Not that it's a front he's bought into for the good of the people, or that it's the necessary consequence of following in Sun Tzu's footsteps, but that he actually thinks his father was a god and so is he.
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Stormlion1

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #9 on: 26 May 2015, 20:10:12 »
I kind of figured he put himself into a role and at first it was all an act. One kept up at all times lest it be given away in a moment of inattention. Soon it became habit and blew into full fledged immersion into the role. But not insane. I like to think he is really, really, really sane. He just became the role and cannot escape it. It will be interesting to see though what happens when he and Ilsa kick the bucket. And finally the real kicker. Why in the heck did Sun Tzu let Kali anywhere near his kids?!? Even he considered her to be unmanageable and nuts. Heck, I'm surprised he let Kali even have kids herself!
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Maelwys

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #10 on: 26 May 2015, 20:36:52 »
I dunno. Are those texts comprised of outside sources? If so, they could just be fooled. This whole "Its a persona for the good of the CapCon" is the impression I got from reading interactions with him from the novels. I could be wrong, and its been a while since I read them, so I can't really point at anything to defend the position.

Stormlion1

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #11 on: 26 May 2015, 21:39:44 »
I dunno. Are those texts comprised of outside sources? If so, they could just be fooled. This whole "Its a persona for the good of the CapCon" is the impression I got from reading interactions with him from the novels. I could be wrong, and its been a while since I read them, so I can't really point at anything to defend the position.

Yeah, that impression is what the novels gave me as well.
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Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #12 on: 27 May 2015, 04:37:43 »
Insanity can be a dubious thing without first person perspective (Caleb Davion), hissy fits (Max and Romano), or blatantly obvious moves (Kali), but everything I've read seems to indicate that Daoshen is crazy. His own kind, not like any other member of his family, but it boils down to personally buying into the deification of himself and the Capellan state. It's stated as much in Wars of the Republic Era, albeit somewhat awkwardly.

Overall there are far worse kinds of insanity, it doesn't stop him from being effective, it doesn't lead him to make stupid mistakes or assumptions, and while it probably makes him malleable to anyone who can press the right buttons (which in this case is probably limited to sister Ilsa) manipulation isn't something that happens only to crazy characters.

Wrangler

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #13 on: 27 May 2015, 07:35:12 »
I'd like point out.  The Novels were done as if the reader was there, where you have source books being written as in-canon report by a person who's sources of information may differ.   Thus sourcebook profile of the characters, may not be full-on characters the readers of the novels not have experienced.   

Which one is right?  Both are.   Problem is the novels were arguably best way to really know a character is like are exceptionally rare.  Short-Story form may not cover things like that once we finally get to the "crossing the yukon" to the new Era.  Sourcebooks will be only source on these characters unless we the readers push and support the short fiction in covering them more. 
« Last Edit: 29 May 2015, 23:07:36 by Wrangler »
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gyedid

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #14 on: 28 May 2015, 01:09:45 »
Has it been established that Ilsa and Daoshen are blood relatives?  I recall having read in another thread that Ilsa was adopted; she is not the biological daughter of Sun-Tzu and Naomi Centrella.  Is that correct?

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Maelwys

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #15 on: 28 May 2015, 03:07:58 »
Ilsa is the biological daughter of Naomi and Sun Tzu. But she was born out of wedlock, and thus not part of the official line of succession. However, when Sun Tzu and Naomi got married, she was formally adopted to put her in the line of succession.

Then when Daoshen was born, she was removed from the line of Succession for the CapCon.

Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #16 on: 28 May 2015, 03:44:26 »
Which is a bit of fictional convenience since the heir to Canopian throne is the eldest female. But more of that in the Ilsa article. ;)

Maelwys

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #17 on: 28 May 2015, 04:48:44 »
Yeah, that can probably be debated in another article.

Kidd

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #18 on: 28 May 2015, 06:06:39 »
I loved his 3145 look, very borderline-insane-Xin-Sheng-god but the one in Wars of the Republic looks like a Ww2 Jap caricature... most disappointing.

Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #19 on: 28 May 2015, 06:37:01 »
Actually if you crop back the hair and moustache a little Daoshen in FM 3145 bears a disturbing similarity to my dad in his later years.

Admittedly even back when he could grow it that long my dad's hairstyle was more embarrassing. :P

I did consider discussing the art, or rather the differences, since it is a means of characterisation.

In Wars of the Republic he has to look every bit the arrogant, overconfident military leader, it fits in with who he will become, even if he does look like a caricature in the process. Something I blame on the smirk more than anything.

FM 3145 has him looking every bit the cult leader with what looks to me like a placid scowl of superiority and the hair covering one side of his face.

The other difference is that in the Wars he's shown from just below the shoulders up, giving an easy view of a military uniform, putting him in context of that sourcebook. Likewise in 3145 he's wearing some sort of Chinese styled clothing like dear old dad, but it's a much closer view, barely shoulders up, focusing on the face, another cult style trick. Though again this puts him in context of the book and situation.

Wrangler

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #20 on: 28 May 2015, 07:05:17 »
Daoshen's picture reminds me for some reason old Mongolian Warlord or a Klingon without the bony forehead.
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #21 on: 28 May 2015, 16:06:17 »
Ilsa is the biological daughter of Naomi and Sun Tzu. But she was born out of wedlock, and thus not part of the official line of succession. However, when Sun Tzu and Naomi got married, she was formally adopted to put her in the line of succession.

Then when Daoshen was born, she was removed from the line of Succession for the CapCon.

I think somebody needs to set the record straight for a certain ex-line developer...but i could have just misinterpreted his comment on the subject.

cheers,

Gabe
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #22 on: 29 May 2015, 04:21:36 »
I kind of figured he put himself into a role and at first it was all an act. One kept up at all times lest it be given away in a moment of inattention. Soon it became habit and blew into full fledged immersion into the role. But not insane. I like to think he is really, really, really sane. He just became the role and cannot escape it. It will be interesting to see though what happens when he and Ilsa kick the bucket. And finally the real kicker. Why in the heck did Sun Tzu let Kali anywhere near his kids?!? Even he considered her to be unmanageable and nuts. Heck, I'm surprised he let Kali even have kids herself!

I do wonder about that. I mean, it is sort of like letting Harley Quinn teach your kids how to act. Though to be fair, Harley is probably a lot more grounded...

Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #23 on: 29 May 2015, 04:49:07 »
Kali having kids, or at least one kid, can be blamed on Cameron St. Jamis.

That sentence explains nothing, but there's a reason, at least.

As for how, why, and anything else related to Kali being allowed anywhere near Sun-Tzu's offspring I have nothing. I can't even speculate on it since it represents a major lapse in judgement from, well, everyone. Though I've sketched a rough outline of a Kali article and the best I have is that she wormed her influence in somehow, or perhaps there was able to parlay access based on her actions during the Jihad or the desperate need for some "Liao" influence right when there weren't a lot of other options.

All pretty thin, but doesn't answer whether Daoshen was born crazy, became crazy, or chose crazy, and really isn't relevant since we are in the middle of the end results.

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #24 on: 29 May 2015, 22:43:28 »
I figure Kali ended up under 'House Arrest' rather than in exile on some distant world. That didn't exactly work out to well when St. Jaimas could waltz in and knock Kali up when she was supposed to be in exile and seclusion in the first place! Then when Sunny boy wasn't looking she swooped in on old Daoshen for some life lessons.
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Wrangler

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #25 on: 29 May 2015, 23:09:11 »
I figure Kali ended up under 'House Arrest' rather than in exile on some distant world. That didn't exactly work out to well when St. Jaimas could waltz in and knock Kali up when she was supposed to be in exile and seclusion in the first place! Then when Sunny boy wasn't looking she swooped in on old Daoshen for some life lessons.
Kali was pretty mad at St. Jaimas, cut poor little Victor's hand off and mailed it to him to prove a point.
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roosterboy

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #26 on: 29 May 2015, 23:49:17 »
I figure Kali ended up under 'House Arrest' rather than in exile on some distant world. That didn't exactly work out to well when St. Jaimas could waltz in and knock Kali up when she was supposed to be in exile and seclusion in the first place! Then when Sunny boy wasn't looking she swooped in on old Daoshen for some life lessons.

Bingo.

MoneyLovinOgre4Hire

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #27 on: 30 May 2015, 14:27:55 »
Every time I think about the Liaos, I'm reminded of a certain line in Arsenic and Old Lace.
Warning: this post may contain sarcasm.

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Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #28 on: 31 May 2015, 03:16:19 »
I figure Kali ended up under 'House Arrest' rather than in exile on some distant world. That didn't exactly work out to well when St. Jaimas could waltz in and knock Kali up when she was supposed to be in exile and seclusion in the first place! Then when Sunny boy wasn't looking she swooped in on old Daoshen for some life lessons.

Not entirely coincidentally I'm flipping through Wars of the Republic era and coming into the Victoria War it does say that the build up for the aborted attack on the Republic Sun-Tzu was too distracted to parent and Daoshen was left in the care of attendants and Kali.

It doesn't directly explain anything but it does make Stormlion1's interpretation seem like the most accurate explanation since it sounds like she was allowed back into the Royal Court.

Sun-Tzu has been known to make miscalculations and this would have been a doozy.

Nav_Alpha

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Daoshen Liao
« Reply #29 on: 31 May 2015, 04:00:37 »
Not entirely coincidentally I'm flipping through Wars of the Republic era and coming into the Victoria War it does say that the build up for the aborted attack on the Republic Sun-Tzu was too distracted to parent and Daoshen was left in the care of attendants and Kali.

It doesn't directly explain anything but it does make Stormlion1's interpretation seem like the most accurate explanation since it sounds like she was allowed back into the Royal Court.

Sun-Tzu has been known to make miscalculations and this would have been a doozy.

Got to wonder about the dude's parenting skills if he leaves his kid in the care of Kali - a freaking nutbag mass murderer!

But Daoshen's level of madness has never hampered him from absolute greatness. You've got to wonder how mad he actually is. Maybe, buying into his massive ego (and thinking he's a god) actually helps him lead.
I mean, he's never going to have the moral quandaries that Victor had (and lost the Sarna March, half of his realm, his throne, etc)...


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