Fantasy Nations

The Laws of Nature


The Game Master controls natural disasters, adjudicates combat and runs any civilizations not currently being played. His goal is a good experience for all the players by making the game challenging. He does not play favorites. If you feel yourself being “picked on,” rest assured, so does everyone else.

Players don’t have an avatar. Controlling more than just a single character, you achieve greatness by building your civilization through your followers. You are only out of the game if you lose your last follower.

The map. Monarchs typically issue their commands from a map table in their castle or royal pavilion, not by wandering around the countryside. Therefore the game world is shown as a map, not a computerized and scripted 3D extravaganza as in online games. The map does not pretend to show the world as it is, just what is known of it by a player. As such, players only know places they have explored and the area immediately around them. The map uses icons to illustrate locations, with a colored symbol to demonstrate control. A location is indicated by a name, sometimes (especially if you’ve just discovered it and haven’t yet named it) just “plains” or “forest” or “desert.” You can rename them as desired by notifying the GM in your special instructions.

Civilization standings rate civilizations each turn by population, glory, and cultural milestones achieved so every player knows where they stand.

Cultural Milestones are inventions and discoveries a civilization makes along the road to their destiny that introduce new equipment, types of followers, or rules to the game. To achieve a milestone you invest an amount of gold and tell the GM what you’re trying for. When determining your success he takes in consideration the goal, the amount invested, and your circumstances. Be reasonable. While anything in the game may be possible, a Stone Age tribe expecting to develop atomic reactors isn’t likely. A more limited, reasonable goal is far more likely to succeed, at least in the next few thousand years. The achievement of a milestone provides new rules, new equipment, and new possibilities for further milestones. A milestone could be a new weapon, a new type of ship or structure, a new type of follower, or might broaden the capabilities of existing ones. Some examples are given at the end of these rules. Again, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

The game forum is a great place to learn of events in other parts of the game world and to communicate with all the other players. Be sure to join at Google Groups "Fantasy Nations" forum. Go to my membership” settings and choose for email delivery preference “notify me for every message.” Save your choice. If you don't select this, the default is no messages and you'll be in the dark. Please remain in character on the forum. (In this way other players are less likely to take your comments personally and become angry.)

Glory represents the level of accomplishment your civilization has achieved and the esteem you are held by your people. But glory is fleeting. Once it turns negative, it becomes unrest, producing rebellion and disorder.

Karma represents your standing with the gods. Gained from religious activities, it protects against calamities. The exact nature of the gods your civilization serves (if any) is up to you. If a calamity strikes your civilization, the damage will reduce karma instead of inflicting casualties. If your karma is reduced to zero, the protection of your god ceases and you’re affected by calamities normally until your karma rises above zero.

Calamities occur frequently and take the form of earthquakes, famine, floods, plague, and storms. Wise players may take measures to prevent or minimize some of these—raising levies along the riverbank to prevent flood damage, for example or saving food for times of shortage. In hard times the gods may look out for your people too—if you earn sufficient karma.

Status is a temporary condition for followers such as holy, blessed or cursed that doesn’t change them into a new type. A follower can gain or lose a status and still remain the same type of follower. You could have a knight who becomes blessed and is now a blessed knight. If he loses the status he returns to being an ordinary knight.

Playing the game

Each weekly turn you receive a map and turn packet from the Game Master (GM) that shows the people, places, and things you control. Use these to issue orders to accomplish your goals, then turn your revised packet back in to the Game Master by the weekly deadline. He then executes each player’s orders, adjudicating any battles that result, updates the map and player standings, announces the results in the game newsletter, and then sends each player a new, revised turn packet for their next turn.

Your packet comes as text but you can get it as a spreadsheet. Tell the GM if you prefer your packet as a spreadsheet, otherwise he’ll send you the text version. The spreadsheet will do a lot of the calculations for you and is a lot easier if you know how to use one. If you don’t, it’s not a big deal. Just use the text version and a calculator. If you don’t have a spreadsheet program on your computer, you can download Libre Office Calc for free and use that. Feel free to ask the GM questions anytime.

To play, take the current map and your turn packet listing where all your followers are located. Then—and this is the hard part—decide what you want to do. There are many paths you could follow, many possible destinations for your civilization. The destination and route you choose is up to you.

As you go through your packet deciding what to do with your followers, revise it to indicate the changes created by your decisions, changing the locations of followers that move. Include any newly produced persons or things, removing any resources used up or given to other players. When finished, your new revised packet should reflect how everything ends up as a result of what you did this turn. Each location should be listed as its own paragraph, starting with the name of the place, then the people and things located there. Some actions require the expenditure of gold or particular resources. Adjust your stockpiles accordingly as you go. It’s usually best to adjust a copy of your packet, adding, subtracting, and moving stuff as you go. Save the original in case you change your mind and have to start over.

Anything you build can not be used the same turn you bring it into the game. Just add it to your turn packet for next turn. This includes ships, forts, structures, bridges, roads, and riverboats.

As you revise your packet, note any special orders for the GM at the bottom. Special orders all involve possible changes to other player’s packets or the map, anything that changes either the map or affects other players’ packets. With these orders you only know what you attempted to do. How they actually come out is determined by the GM. Once you’ve completed revising your packet, submit it back to the GM.

Your turn packet has notes from the GM to you at the top, with your Glory, Karma, and treasury (gold) next, followed by food and other resource stockpiles. Resources include bitumen, food, copper, tin, bronze, wine, resin, dye, silk, papyrus, ocher, black lotus extract, sugar, spice, ivory, pelts, and other such things. Gold is not a resource. Glory and Karma are intangible. The rest of the stuff is wherever your capital is. Beneath those totals is a list of locations and what’s there, one type of thing per line, so if you had sailors and a war galley someplace they’d be listed in that location but on separate lines. If using the spreadsheet, ensure that the quantity column is only used for followers, mammoths and horses. For other things put the quantity in the description, such as “six war galleys.”

Ruling a vast empire is as easy as 1-2-3:

1. Food

The first thing you want to do is calculate your food production. If you’re using the spreadsheet, just look for the totals. The sheet does all the work for you. If you have the text version, you need to add up all your peasants and horses in farm areas and multiply by 1.1 to get total food production. Add to that your food stockpile. Then total all your followers of all types and horses to get total population. Subtract total population from total food production to get net food. Add to that whatever food you had leftover from last turn. The spreadsheet version will do all that for you.

Starvation occurs if your net food is a negative number. Take the amount you lack and divide it in half, rounding down. Lose that many horses or followers. For example if net food = -7, three people starve. If you’re going to lose horses, revise your food production and eat them instead.

Population growth may occur if net food is above zero. You can either save this as next turn’s food stockpile or for every two food expended you can create one new population. Add the population to any location you have people in. You may count these new population for resource production this turn or use them for other purposes other than foraging and food production. Any excess food you don’t expend for additional population becomes your new food stockpile for next turn. Update your stockpile.

Supply lines. If a group of your followers can’t trace a line of controlled locations back to your capital all their food production and consumption must be calculated separately. An army that gets itself surrounded will have to forage for food. Troops that have to forage don’t fight as well.

Foraging for food can be done by groups of up to 1,000 followers who began the turn in sea, forest, swamp, hill, or plains locations. No more than 1,000 followers can forage in any single location. To determine the amount of food, when using the text packet multiply the total number of followers foraging by 1.1. For the spreadsheet, just plug in the number of foragers and it’ll do it for you. A mounted warrior counts as two for this purpose. You may also convert camels, dogs, and horses you control into food, if necessary. Adjust your packet as necessary, subtracting the animals and adding them back to your food stockpile. Yum!

2. Resources

After everybody’s fed, calculate your resource production. You can then sell those resources for gold, trade them to other players or stockpile them for later use.

Resource production. Townsmen and horses in cities each produce one unit per turn of whatever the type of resource that city produces. Horses in excess of the human population produce nothing. You’ll have to calculate this separately for each city. Add the newly produced resources to your stockpiles.

Selling resources to the market is done in sets. A “set” of resources is one or more resources, none of which can be the same type as any other resource in the same set. For example one wine and three silk makes three sets, one set with a wine and a silk, and two sets consisting of one silk each.

The market price of a set in gold is the square of the number of resources in the set. For example, a set of silk, wine, and cheese (one each of three different resources) would be nine gold (3x3.) You can sell as many sets as you have in a turn. For example a player with sixteen food in his stockpile could sell it all as sixteen separate “sets” of one resource each for one gold per set, for a total of sixteen gold. If the player had one tin, one resin, one wine, and one silk, the single set of four different resources would also be worth sixteen gold. A set of one each of ten different resources would be worth a hundred gold.

Make sure to update your stockpiles as you sell sets.

3. Actions

Once you’ve finished with food and resources use your followers and gold to accomplish your goals. Actions include anything that doesn’t involve food and resource production such as moving followers around, giving stuff to other players, selling resources, building things, upgrading followers, etc.. Remember, any action you take that changes the map or another player’s packet must be noted in your special orders and goes through the GM. Everything else you just make the change to your own packet. For example, if a party of masons moves from your city to a new construction site, just change their location and they’re there. But if they move beyond your border to a location you do not control looking for a new site for a quarry, this is an “attack” and must be noted in your special orders. You still change their location to the new one, but you don’t know what they might find. They might get in a fight with a monster lurking in that uncontrolled area or be set upon by enemy warriors for trespassing.

Attacks. If you moved people into a place you do not control, write up a special order starting with the word attack and then the place, which must be adjacent to a place you do control. You don’t have to say what moved in because you’ll already have that listed in your packet by the name of the place you’re attacking. The attack order is just to notify the GM that a battle might take place there if enemy forces are present. If you win, or no battle takes place, the GM will change the map to show you now control that place. You will have already changed your packet to show the followers you moved there, although the GM might adjust those for battle losses. If your attack fails, the GM will subtract your losses and change where the survivors are located to the place they retreat to. So for example, your special order would say, “Attack Windswept Hill.” You’d list the attacking forces on your packet as being on Windswept Hill.

Changes to the map. If you change the map in any way notify the GM with a change order. For example, if a bunch of your Stone Age hunters settle down and start farming, tell the GM to change the place to farmland. Be sure to remove the hunters from your packet.

Construction requires gold. The amount depends on how large and elaborate you wish the structure to be. Structures may give you bonus’ to Glory, or Krama or have other special abilities. If you have questions, get with the GM.

Farms can be established by settling followers and horses in a location with farmland (typically plains or hills) as long as the followers outnumber the horses. Any followers you settle this way become peasants. Peasants can’t move or do anything except produce food or be upgraded into a different type of follower. You can’t have more than 10,000 peasants farming the same location.

Found a city by settling followers and horses in a location that has resources. The followers become townsmen. Townsmen don’t move and only produce resources. The number of horses cannot not exceed the number of people. A civilization with a city is considered “civilized.”

Movement. Each follower you control can make five moves per turn. Moving from a location to an adjacent place counts as one move, two if the location moved into is a forest, jungle, or swamp, or half a move if following a road. A follower must be accompanied by a camel to move into desert, or aboard a ship to move across the sea. Followers cannot move into mountains and glaciers. Rivers require an extra move to cross except at a bridge. Movement must stop when entering a place you do not control. Such a move is considered an attack since it will gain you control of the location if successful and should be listed as such in your special orders to draw it to the attention of the GM. Go ahead and write it up with your followers listed as being in that location, just ensure there’s a note to the GM about it in your special orders.

A ship can allow a number of followers no greater than its capacity to move to coastal locations. Unless your civilization has mastered astronomy, your ships can only move within sight of the coast, not into the open sea. Ships must be left behind if the crew moves inland.

A city with riverboat capacity can transport followers up to its capacity to any point along the river but they must stop when entering a location you do not control. The riverboat capacity may be split between different groups going to different locations as long as it is not exceeded. The followers may use their five moves before, and/or after using the riverboat move.

Trading is a good way to get resources you need but don't have. Contact other players and make deals. Giving things to other players requires a special order starting with give, then the player and finally the item(s) given. You cannot give places. Make sure anything you give away is no longer listed on your packet in whatever location it was before you gave it. The GM will add it to the other player’s packet. Such gifts cannot be conditional—you either give it or you don’t. If it’s part of a trade deal and the other player doesn’t come through with his end of the bargain—well, what goes around usually comes around, doesn’t it?

Upgrading population turns followers into warriors, musicians, healers, or other specialists, each with their own unique abilities. Upgrade population by providing special equipment or by spending gold, depending what sort of specialist you desire. Other types of followers may require achievement of a particular cultural milepost first. You need medicine before you can train healers, a religion to have priests, the occult to have magic-users, etc..Warriors usually just require a weapon, and perhaps a shield, armor, or horse. What sort of warrior you get depends on the equipment you provide. If you provide swords you get swordsmen, spears for spear men, etc. A spear and a horse make a lancer. Stone Age hunters, peltasts, sailors, and skirmishers provide their own improvised weapons such as bows with flint arrows, knives, clubs, javelins, slings, or the tools of their trade. (They fight poorly.) You can freely upgrade peasants and townsmen into them and vice-versa at no cost. If you have an idea for a particular type of follower you want, get with the GM.

Individualized characters. You can upgrade followers into kings, queens, princes, princesses, nobles, ship captains, admirals, generals, knights, or whatever with individual names and special abilities at a cost of ten gold. Just pay the gold, deduct the follower and then add them back in with their new title. This can provide the excuse for royal weddings, births, promotions, etc. you can announce on the forum.

Submitting Your orders

At or before the turn deadline, complete your orders and send an e-mail to the GM at For the subject put “<the name of your civilization> <whichever game turn/year it is> orders.” You can cut and paste your orders into the body of the message or attach them as a text file and send.

If your orders change before the deadline, send a new e-mail message to the GM using subject “Revised <your civilization’s name here> orders” and send. The GM will carry out the orders from the most current "revised" packet.

Is This All There Is To The Game?

No. Just because the rules don’t specifically spell out exactly how you do something doesn’t mean you can’t. There’s no set program here, no boundaries. The only limitations are the imaginations of the players and GM. If you want to try something unique—get with the GM. Be clever. Be inventive.

From time to time these rules will change as the GM adds new content.

Milestones / Special Rules

These are just examples. With enough gold and imagination you can do pretty much anything. Get with the GM for the details.

Astronomy allows ships to navigate ocean locations out of sight of land.

Chariots. Upgrade a follower, two horses, and six gold into a chariot.

Domesticate animals by capturing at least two of the same type so you can breed them. Expend food up to the number of animals you have to gain additional ones of the same type equal to half the food expended. So, if you had eight horses, you could spend eight food and gain four new horses. Add the new horses to locations already containing horses, as long as you don’t exceed the human population.

Inquisitors ($10) have no particular location and are assumed to move about as needed to uncover spies, heretics and traitors. They’re listed on your packet along with Glory and Karma.

Inventing a musical instrument such as drums, harps, pipes, etc. allows upgrading of population to musicians at a cost of ten gold each. (Trumpeters cost ten bronze.) Musicians can entertain, motivate warriors, or be used for signaling in battle.

Literacy allows upgrading population to scholars, poets, playwrights, and philosophers, and the building of libraries and universities.

Mammoths can be domesticated and used for labor or upgraded with a rider and twenty-two gold into a war mammoth. Mammoths count as ten horses both for the amount of work done and the food required.

Medicine allows upgrading of population to healers at a cost of ten gold each. Healers reduce losses from battle and plague.

Metalworking allows a player to use bronze to make things out of metal. The player may also exchange 1 tin and 9 copper for 10 bronze when he collects resources. Shields, swords, spears, maces, axes, and bows all cost one bronze each. (Bows require bronze for the arrowheads.) A suit of scale armor or larger two-handed weapons cost two bronze each.

Occult secrets allow upgrading population to magic users at a cost of ten gold per level. Magic users come in various flavors: sorcerers, summoners, necromancers, etc. Sorcerers tap into the Source of elemental power. Summoners summon and bind creatures to their will. Many of those creatures come from other dimensions. Necromancers seek mastery over Death. Magic users need one gold in “spell components” per level to use their power each turn. You can reserve their power for possible combat and the GM will take the gold from your stockpile if needed, or pay up front and then cast spells as an action. Specific spells are separate milestones. Get with the GM for what you want to accomplish.

Religion. The details of deity and ritual are entirely up to you. Religion allows development of priests, missionaries, and fanatics. Earn Karma by building shrines and temples and by sacrificing animals and food. (And population, if you serve that sort of god.)

Seafaring allows building of ships. Ships are bought with timber, not gold. (Gold doesn’t float.) Cities along a river can increase their riverboat capacity at a cost of one timber each. Specific types of ships are individual milestones. Get with the GM.

Spies cannot control territory but don’t have to stop their move when they enter uncontrolled territory. You can “attack” with them to subvert an opponent’s civilization, perform sabotage or obtain information. ($10)

War dogs. Domesticate wolves to create dogs. Arm a Stone Age hunter or skirmisher with a dog to make a war dog handler.