The Laws of Nature
Changes from the previous version are in red.
Copyright 2018 by Michael E. Brines
The Game Master (GM) dispenses natural disasters, adjudicates combat and runs any kingdoms 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 kingdom using 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 series of maps, 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 shows locations with icons above the name to illustrate terrain, and a colored symbol beneath 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. Resource locations you can establish cities in are marked with the type of resource in (parenthesis.)
Player standings rate civilizations each turn by glory so every monarch knows where they stand. 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.
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.)
Karma represents your standing with the gods. Gained from religious activities, it protects against calamities. The exact nature of the gods your kingdom serves (if any) is up to you. If a calamity strikes your civilization, the damage will usually 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 dikes 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 you give a status to a follower you must change his listing on the packet to reflect this. If he loses the status he returns to being an ordinary knight and the GM will change his listing on the packet.
Each weekly turn you receive a text packet from the Game Master showing the people, places, and things you control. Use these 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 special 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 packet for their next turn. 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 kingdom. The destination and route you choose is up to you.
Your turn packet has notes from the GM to you at the top, with your Glory, Karma, and treasury (wealth) next, followed by your resource stockpiles. Resources include anthracite, bitumen, food, copper, tin, bronze, wine, resin, dye, silk, papyrus, ocher, black lotus extract, sugar, spice, ivory, niter, wool, tea, coffee, cocoa, pelts, and other such things. Wealth is not a resource. Your treasury and resource stockpiles are wherever your capital is and can be captured. Beneath those totals is a list of locations and what’s there.
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. Add 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 wealth 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.
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 the map or affects other players’ packets—things you have no control of. With special orders you only know what you attempted to do. How things actually come out is determined by the GM. Once you’ve completed revising your packet, submit it back to the GM.
The packet you send the GM should include all the changes made as a result of your actions. Don’t list what you plan to do—write it up to show what you did. Attacks should be listed as special instructions, but you still list the forces involved as having successfully moved into those locations. If the attack fails the GM will move them back.
Ruling a vast empire is as easy as 1-2-3:
The first thing you do is move your existing followers around and gain new ones, assign them tasks—whatever it takes to accomplish your goals. 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 capital 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 your packet to show the new location, 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.
Don’t list what you plan to do—change your packet to show what you did. If you’re not sure about the results of an action, either discuss it with the GM beforehand or write it up as a special order. Be sure to mention attacks, exploration parties, and any construction, such as establishing farms, towns, castles and forts. Those all change the map.
Movement. Each follower can make five moves per turn starting from wherever they began the 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 into a sea area. 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.
If you move to a location you do control—it is NOT a special order. The GM doesn’t need to know nor have any desire to wade through dozens of routine movements you made during your turn.
A ship can allow a number of followers no greater than its capacity to move to into or through locations covered in water. Ships can only move to map locations, not off the edge of the map into unknown regions. Ships can’t move by themselves. They require at least one crewman to move, and must be left behind if the whole crew moves inland. Moving by ship doesn’t count against the five-move limit.
A city with riverboat capacity can transport followers up to its capacity from any point along the river to any point along the same 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.
Camels allow one follower per camel to move into desert/wasteland.
Attacks. Any movement into uncontrolled territory is an attack, even if the followers you move in can’t fight or have orders to retreat if confronted. If you move 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.
Ammunition. Some weapons require expenditure in battle of a particular resource as “ammunition” or the weapon has no combat value. You do not need to expend it when you order an attack—the GM will take it off your packet if necessary.
Breeding creatures. You can gain more creatures of a given type by grazing in a particular terrain type as their only actvity that turn. Sheep, cattle, and horses graze in grasslands, giant spiders in jungle, and camels in grasslands adjacent to desert wastelands. You can have up to 10,000 animals graze in each such location (although maybe you want a shepherd or two to keep an eye on them) gaining 1 additional animal per 10 grazing. Dogs don’t graze. You gain one new dog for every food you expend, up to the number of dogs you currently have.
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 as peasants and start farming, tell the GM to change the place to farmland. You can name new places you discover next to those you control. If you do, don’t just start using the names on your packet—tell the GM which old place is now called by what new name, otherwise you just confuse the poor guy, and nothing good happens when the GM gets confused. The GM will change the map to reflect the new names.
Construction requires wealth or timber. The amount expended 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. For specific projects get with the GM. Construction projects involve special orders because the map icon might change and you often score Glory or Karma for building things. Be sure to list what you’re building and what with. Go ahead and deduct what you spent from your stockpiles.
Eating animals—Yum! You may convert animals you control into food. Adjust your packet as necessary, subtracting the animals and adding them back to your food stockpile. Mammoths eaten count as 8 food and two ivory each.
Forage for food with Stone Age tribesmen in forest, swamp, hill, or grasslands locations (including synonyms such as woods, marsh, ridge, plains, and steppe.) You can assign dogs to help with this, as long as the number of dogs does not exceed the number of tribesmen.
Fortifications like castles, towers, and city walls shelter foot soldiers, allowing them to withstand heavy assaults. A location’s fortification factor (FF) is the casualties it protects the troops defending it from, one for every wealth spent on construction. Casualties taken by the fort do not count toward the number of losses taken when determining retreat.
Found a city in a location containing resources by spending wealth to create townsmen, one wealth per townsman. Townsmen don’t move and only produce resources. You can provide horses to help them produce as long as the number of horses in a place doesn’t exceed the number of townsmen. Any kingdom with a city is considered “civilized.” Barbarian kingdoms have no cities.
Gain new followers by spending wealth or resources, depending on what type of follower you desire, typically one food plus whatever equipment they require. Stone Age tribesmen, townsmen and peasants cost 1 food each. Woodsmen cost 1 food and 1 wealth each (for an ax.) Swordsmen and spearmen 1 food and 1 bronze each (two bronze if you want to give them a shield) archers 2 bronze (for the arrowheads.) Other types of warriors are possible, as are other types of followers. You can name followers, creating specific characters (your monarch, heroes, and such) who may have special abilities. Get with the GM for what you want.
Hunting can be done by Stone Age tribesmen in any location not containing farms or cities including places you do not yet control. Write up a special order beginning “Hunt” and tell the GM what you’re looking for and the location. Make sure you list the hunters in that location on your packet. Hunting is useful for exploring unknown territory, capturing animals to domesticate, or gaining food and pelts. You can assign dogs to help with this, as long as the number of dogs does not exceed the number of tribesmen.
Invent new things. This is the Dawn of Time. Everything has yet to be discovered/invented. If you have an idea for a weapon or discovery, spend a little wealth, and write up something for the GM telling him what you’re doing. Maybe you’re plagued by disease. So you send a dozen wealth and put your foragers on the lookout for herbs with medicinal properties. This is a role-playing game—role play!
Name characters by spending 10 wealth each. Royal Family members generate 1 Glory each per turn. A king or prince can be armed and fight as a warrior (make a note of this) but then doesn’t count for Glory. To qualify for the Glory all you can do is “look pretty.” (Hey, somebody’s got to pose for the postage stamps, right?) Heroes fight better than generic warriors. They usually have military ranks (captains, generals, etc.) Bureaucrats & officials generate 1 Glory per turn. These might be judges, governors, mayors of cities, the Grand Vizier, etc.
Upgrade followers by providing new equipment. Turn a peasant into a swordsman by giving him a sword & shield. Some upgrades require nothing. Turn a Stone Age tribesman into a peasant just by settling him down in a place with farmland. Skirmishers, Peltasts or sailors are free upgrades. Armed with javelins, slingshots or other improvised weapons, they make cheap warriors.
Use the forum. If you have festivals, sacrifice to your god, erect a magnificent edifice, or do anything else noteworthy, go on the forum and crow about it. Feel free to write up announcements and “stories.”
After you’ve assigned all your followers to their tasks, calculate your resource production in each location separately. Just go down your packet, location by location, adding the resources produced in each place to your stockpiles.
Stone Age tribesmen produce one food for every ten foraging in each forest, swamp, hill, or plains location (including synonyms such as woods, marsh, ridge, and steppe) but never more than 100 food from any single location.
Hunters don’t produce anything at this point. You’ll have to wait until you get your turn results to see what they’ve brought back with them.
Towns produce one unit of their particular resource per ten total townsmen and horses there. Just take the number and divide by ten, dropping all fractions. The number of horses cannot exceed the number of townsmen.
Peasants and their horses in farmland count for food production in the same way, one food for every ten peasants and horses. The number of horses producing food on farms in a location cannot exceed the number of peasants there.
Woodsmen in a forest produce one timber for every ten workers.
Metalworking. You may exchange 1 tin and 9 copper for 10 bronze.
After calculating your resource production you can then sell those resources for wealth, trade them to other players or stockpile them for later use.
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 wealth is the square of the number of resources in the set. For example, a set of silk, wine, and papyrus (one each of three different resources) would be worth nine wealth (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 wealth per set, for a total of sixteen wealth. If another player had one tin, one resin, one wine, and one silk, the single set of four different resources would also be worth sixteen wealth. A set of one each of ten different resources would be worth a hundred wealth.
Make sure to update your stockpiles as you sell sets.
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 and he can’t use it until it’s listed there. 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?
Some resources have special uses beyond being turned into wealth. For example, ships are built with timber, not wealth.
At or before the turn deadline, complete your packet and send an e-mail to the GM at email@example.com. 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.
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. Develop your kingdom to its full potential.
From time to time these rules will change as the GM adds new content. Depending on what you discover/invent you may have special rules. These will be listed on the bottom of your packet underneath your Special Orders.
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