The LOTE World According to Bruhn

Lords According to Bruhn

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The following is a quick introduction to Lords of the Earth as written by Warren Bruhn for the Empires in Arms email list on 24 Nov 1995

Here is a description of Lords of the Earth (LOTE):

Each player represents some abstract spirit or genius of a nation, not necessarily a specific dynasty or even a specific land area. Dynasties rise and fall, and governments types change. Some nations pick up and migrate to new parts of the world.

LOTE campaigns typically start about 1000 AD (+ or - 100 years). Games have started in 500 AD, 2000 BC, 1400 AD, and in outer space future.

Middle ages games generally begin with about 50 to 70 players playing among about 90 possible positions. The first 200 years or so sees a shakedown and elimination of some positions until about 50 remain actively played. This is not a full list of the players, because there are secret nations.

Players have one of 3 or 4 roles. The most prominant is that of an "open nation", really just your typical nation state. Open nations get money and manpower from levels of political control of regions, the goal being to get regions up to "friendly" status, representing full incorporation into the open nation.

Among the open nations, there is some variety in types. Barbarian nations emerge from the deep forests with cheep infantry and low tech. Hordes emerge from the steppes with vast numbers of dangerous cavalry and their "tribal points" (families and herds) in tow. Seafaring nations are usually based on islands, get longer sea trade ranges, and get cheaper ships. Pre-Columbian nations are neo-lithic civilizations inhabiting the New World, South Africa, and Australia. Civilized nations are standard Old World empires.

There are also religious primate authorities, which generally include a Pope (one game had 4 competing Popes !!) and a few other heads of major religions. These get income from religious status in regions and cities and can try to exact tithes from open nations. They usually have little or no land under political control.

Secret Empires or Secret Cults are countries like the Assasins of Alamut, who influenced the Crusades, or the modern day Mafia. Their mystique is something between that of a crime family and a fanatical cult. Lean it any way you like. They have status in regions and cities similar to that of religious primates, with secret cells, lodges, and temples providing their income. Of course, they can attempt to steal some more......

During the Renaisance, merchantile combines emerge, a type of player position like the historical East India companies of the European nations. Their lifeblood is trade. They have levels of non-political control similar to those of the religious and secret powers, but in addition, they make money off of seaborn trade. They get to establish very long range trade conduits across the seas, which are supposed to provide them with most of their income. They can contract to provide the shipping for groups of open nations. Merchantile combines will have very little or no land under open political control. Any wars will be fought with ships and mercenaries.

I expect that another nation type may emerge in the industrial age.

The LOTE worlds consists of maps of the whole land area of Earth divided into regions. Each region has a terrain type (cultivated, intensively cultivated, wilderness, jungle, island, steppe, desert, tundra, or mountain). Each region has a religion, which interacts differently with each of the other religions in the world. Each region has a "gold point value" which represents the basic wealth in "gold points", "national force pool" (people power used to build cities, public works, troops, etc.), and "agro" (influenced by terrain type and harvest variation). Each region has a "resistance value" which represents the difficulty of incorporating that region via conquest or diplomacy (but a high value will mean stronger loyalty to your nation later).

Other natural map features include navigable rivers, mountain ranges of two levels, and impassible taiga and desert areas (the Sahara is criscrossed by caravan routes between oasis). Coastal sea zones may be influenced by monsoons or strong currents. "Open ocean arrows" cross the deep blue.

Man made map features include cities (built by the players, but with a cap on size depending on the terrain), royal roads, great walls, fortresses, trade zones (important mines or religious sites which bring commerce together---not built by the players), big religious temples or pyramids or canals (called "megalithic constructions"), and port areas.

Players invest in their government, troops, ships, intelligence and assasin services, cities, public works, university, religious strength and capabilities, quality ratings of the various military unit types (includes infantry, cavalry, warships, seige, and artillery [in the Renaisance]), and Renaisance nations may invest in navigation capability.

Turns in the Middle Ages represent 5 years of (alternate) history. The tax rate is based on this five year period as 100% (reduced by famine or thin government). In 1400 AD the timeframe begins to collapse by one year per gameturn each century. The 4 year gameturn produces 80% tax rate. The 2 year gameturn of Lords I, now at 1690 AD, produces a 40% tax rate. And soon players in Lords I will have to grapple with a 20% tax rate in the 1700s.

The flip side to that is that maintenance costs are reduced by the same rate for everything except intel services. Almost everything a nation has must be maintained by expenditure of money. NFP can do it for megalithic constructs. Military quality rating do not require maintenance until much higher renaisance rating are reached.

Technology is critical to the game. Barbarians and hordes have tech level 3, civilized nations 4+. Guns and early artillery appear at tech 7. Renaisance and its great navigation capabilities appear at tech 8. And it doesn't stop there.

Tech advancement depends on University (bigger=better), nation size (smaller=better), international trade (more=better), contact with higher tech nations, and society and economic base types (can be changed with difficulty, more costly if the nation is bigger). Type of government can have some effect too.

Costs of gov't increase exponentially, so many players pull up short of conquering everything in sight and begin to concentrate on tech advancement once a reasonable and economical nation size has been acheived.

The game is entirely by mail. Some experiments have taken place with e-mail and local higher speed games. So far, there is not yet a fully e-mail game. Forms are available for players who wish to send in orders via e-mail.

Turns typically take about 3 to 4 weeks. Turn costs range from $3.00 to $5.00 per turn. Campaigns IX, X, and XI are all very regular at 3 weeks (all run by Thad Plate of Phoenix, AZ---a full time game master).

Players read a "newsfax" of world events and a "stat sheet" on their nation each turn. Players then do more or less inter-player diplaomacy by telephone, e-mail, or notes via the GM. Players then fill out an order form for there investments, builds, intel and religious operations, and their leader actions, and send them in by snail-mail, e-mail, or fax.

Middle Ages turns can be quite dramatic. With five years of available actions for ones leaders and military units, an enemy nation could be demolished in 1 to 3 turns. Their isn't much time to react to a disaster.

Leaders and intel ops are often set to react to invasions by one's neighbors.

Attacks are rare, however. The amount of territory a nation can economically hold isn't infinite. International trade provides the bulk of a developed nation's income. The range at which subordinate leaders can operate from the capital is limited by the possiblity of revolts, which can be inhanced by bribes from enemy powers. Wars take place in the early game, and then later between players who have developed grudges.

Lords I is the ultimate snake pit, with players fighting now to avenge slights which took place anytime since 1983 when the campiagn started !!!

There is no system to determine "victory", so each player gets their kicks however he or she chooses. There is a rating for most powerful military rank in each game, but that is stable most of the time, and may not have much relation to the success of a religious, secret, or merchantile nation, or of a player who is concentrating on technology.

Excitment happens when a nation undergoes a dynastic failure or civil war, breaking the big nation in pieces. Another form of excitment is a big horde of nomads on the rampage. Players sometimes drop out. If the new neighbor is a rival, a war may start. Grudges are usually resolved by preparing with slow military build ups and intel infiltrations and scouting until the vengeful player feels ready to strike the blow. Secret positions contribute to turmoil by attempting to take over open nations or blow them up.

Most of the time, players are fixated on developing their nations rather than fighting. Many of the players come from a role playing tradition rather than from "wargames" and get more into the role playing aspects.

The game is not totally rule bound. Players can get into a game and begin to fly by the seat of their pants. Human moderation expands the possibilities, although aspects of the turns are computer resolved.

The best way to get the flavor of the various campaigns and find out more is to check out the web page:

There are "newsfaxes" for the various campaigns, rules, descriptions of the gamedesigner, and info on contacting the GMs. There are always a few openings. Players' phone numbers and e-mail addresses are listed in the news for each game. You could e-mail a few players and ask them how they like it.

I get my kicks from being in multiple campaigns and clashing with or allying myself with people accross campaign lines. That makes up for the slow turnaround. I don't do enough fighting maybe I'll get back into EiA.

-- Warren

  © Warren Bruhn 1995