In this dispatch I will try to summarize some important realism guidelines, based on many RMB discussions and regional expert opinions. It is not an executive order, but a recommendation and basis for further discussions and decisions. I wrote it like a guide to new nations in the region - but these suggestions and guidelines apply to veteran members as well.
TWI is an island region of small-to-medium size nations (think Iceland, the UK, Cuba, New Zealand, and the Philippines). While size is not the only factor that affects a nation's capabilities - it is a significant limiting factor which cannot be ignored. That is why our population and economy are limited, and why we can't have huge military forces.
For this reason we do not use NS game-play stats. They are flawed and unrealistic, and they significantly limit players' ability to design and develop their own nation.
In my opinion, the best way to determine your nation's capabilities and numbers as you integrate in TWI is this: Be humble. Understand that you're here to RP and interact with dozens of other players, some probably have similar interests to yours, and none of you are going to be the best at everything. Go through other nations' stats and ask yourself - Why would I, out of all players here, have the best stats? Why would I know better than anyone else? Why would I have an advantage that no other player has thought of? Don't assume you are smarter or better than the other players, and therefore that you're allowed to be the best at everything. Start small and gradually get to know your relative strengths and weaknesses. You might become the best at something - but it will take time and effort (more on that here).
Another thing to remember is that it takes (at least) two to RP. If you ignore the previous paragraph and decide that you have, say, a navy as huge as the United States' - no one in the region would RP with you. Earn respect and reputation as an RPer not by having the best stuff, but by being creative and interesting in your stories.
Keep your military balanced. Unless your defense budget is as large as the United States' (and it isn't), you won't be able to afford an army, a navy, and an air force that all have the best equipment and capabilities. Find your strengths and prioritize them. If you want a fearsome navy, scale down your army and air force. If your strength is in the number of tanks and infantry divisions, you can't also have a large navy and hundreds of fighter jets.
Don't forget logistics. On every combat soldier, jet pilot, and gunner, there are many drivers, supply personnel, mechanics, construction workers, and others. Ratio of combat to logistics personnel can vary quite a lot for different units and types of forces, but it is generally around 1-10 to 1-3. The same goes for equipment - it costs money and requires routine maintenance and supply, so take that into account.
Try not to use a lot of something you don't understand. If you're unfamiliar with naval warfare and the differences between types of vessels - it makes sense that you wouldn't inflate your navy too much. If you don't understand army tactics - don't make it your military's strong suit. You can always learn and develop your military later on.
Most nations don't need expeditionary capabilities. In the real world, very few nations have that. Most nations have forces meant for national defense and local wars only. So don't assume your military should have carriers of any kind and marine forces - first ask yourself if you really need those. They are very expensive and not easy to use.
Report and inform. Make a military factbook with all the relevant information (and more), including equipment, numbers, and organization. Don't go into wars or other military conflicts without publishing such a factbook first.
The following would make TWI players feel uncomfortable and question your reasons:
An army with over 200,000 troops or 500 tanks
An air force with over 200 combat aircraft or 100 attack helicopters
A navy with over 10 destroyers, 20 frigates, or 20 submarines
A large aircraft carrier or a battle-cruiser
An unbalanced military.
Nuclear weapons are very hard to make and not many nations in the real world have them. However, nations as poor and undeveloped as Pakistan and North Korea have them, so obviously technological and industrial capability is not the only relevant factor.
What are the relevant factors, then?
Access to know-how - If you produce the weapon yourself, you should be able to explain how you managed to get the knowledge and technology required to do so. Did you develop it yourself for many years? Did you steal it from another nation or purchased it? Did foreign experts help you or did it for you?
Reasonable motivation - Nations don't just develop nuclear weapons for fun. If you do it, you should be able to explain why. Did some scientists in your nation want to experiment on their own? Is there a real strategic threat to your nation? Did an enemy nation acquire nuclear weapons? Is this for power projection?
Basic infrastructure - We agreed that poor nations can have nuclear weapons, but some basic capabilities must be developed first, even if in small scale. Your nation should have at least a small scientific community with knowledge in mechanics, chemistry, and electricity, at least a few industrial complexes with both low-tech and high-tech equipment, and at least some access to special materials such as Uranium, high-strength metals, hard-to-produce chemicals, and such.
Please don't claim to have nuclear weapons if you don't have any explanation for these basic factors. It is encouraged to have it written in a factbook (could be a dedicated one or as part of your military factbooks, for example).
Other Weapons of Mass Destruction (chemical, biological), especially low-grade, are much easier to produce and therefore have a lot less limiting factors. That said, it is always encouraged to explain why and how you would have such weapons, given their sensitivity.
"Space program" is actually a very general name for a wide range of possible capabilities - some relatively common and some not at all. For example, many nations around the world have satellites (see list here), but less then 10 have the capability to launch anything into orbit.
So instead of "space program", let's discuss a different thing: Launch Capability. Not every nation that can design and produce missiles is capable of producing launch vehicles and ICBMs. The same factors listed for nuclear weapons apply here - in order to have it, you'd need to be able to explain how you got the know-how, what your motivation is, and what basic infrastructure you have.
As for more advanced capabilities - space stations and shuttles - I personally think no single nation in the region should be able to have them. However, unlike nuclear weapons, space programs that include advanced capabilities could be developed by a group of several nations working together.
An important limitation we put on every economy in the region is the GDP per-capita cap. This and the population cap both make sure no nation has a total GDP of roughly 1 trillion USD or over. This translates to a limitation on government budget and military spending, which again - levels the playing field.
Therefore, it is safe to assume that the GDP range of TWI nations is roughly 100-900 billion USD, and the average is probably around 500 billion USD. If your choice of GDP per-capita and population put you below that line - that's perfectly fine. If they put you above that line - in my opinion, you should have an explanation for it in one of your factbooks. Think of it as having an above-average military - we would expect a reason for that too, after all.
The reasoning doesn't have to be so elaborate - your industries might be thriving, your culture might lean to hard work and efficiency, your policies on infrastructure and transportation might lead to higher production rates... there are many possibilities.
Note that up to now I only considered soft-cap stats (below 30 million in population and 30,000 on GDP per-capita). If we include the hard-cap range, things get a little more tricky:
The darker range should be considered a no-go area. If you find yourself in it - lower either your population or your GDP per-capita.
Other than that, the same suggestion I gave earlier apply here too - be humble. More specifically:
Not a single nation in the real world has all the resources and all types of industries - that is exactly why we have trade. It's okay to determine you have some resources (coal, gas, phosphate,...) and industries (mining, electronics, aviation,...), of course, but don't exaggerate. You can read more on designing an economy in this guide.
Keep things balanced. It is possible that a single nation would have all the most valuable resources (uranium, oil, metals,...) but it is very unlikely. You can have valuable resources, but leave something for the rest of us, eh? It's also unlikely that yours is a nation of geniuses, so you can't have your entire population in high-tech and advanced industries. Don't forget the old-fashioned industries like agriculture, manufacturing, textile, and mining.
Think outside the box. Most new nations I've seen immediately determine that they have oil, iron, uranium, or gold, and that their nation's top industries are arms, aviation, and high-tech. Guess what that means - the oil and arms markets are flooded. Sure, keep the classics, if you wish, but try to find your own niche or expertise. Even if you decide to have a defense industry - why not develop electronic warfare equipment instead of just rifles and tanks? If you want to go high-tech - why not specialize in bio-prosthesis instead of computers and communication?
The Western Isles is a strictly Modern Tech (MT) region, so obviously we don't allow anything that isn't already in use by real world nations.
However, in some cases we accept the use of advanced technologies that have been developed in the real world, even if they are not in wide use. The main determiner in such cases is - could this technology have been developed by the nation in question? For example, if it's some advanced stealth fighter, it would make sense that only nations in the region that lead the aviation market would be able to develop it. If it's a new type of missile, only nations that are known to have advanced capabilities in mechanics and material science would be able to have it.
World changing technologies, such as new energy sources and new types of materials, are not allowed for use. It is possible to try and develop these things, preferably together with other nations.