Planet of the Damned

The techno-steampunk community play-by-e-mail game

Copyright 2017 by Michael E. Brines

Version 1.03

Changes from the previous edition are indicated in red.

Much of the game takes place on the game forum. Be sure to join it @ 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.)

This is a new game, requiring extensive testing. As such players play for free in exchange for putting up with necessary rules changes from time to time. The GM encourages helpful discussion of the rules on the forum with the intent of perfecting them. Wantonly spewing unbridled negativity is neither helpful nor encouraged.


Sudden events such as fires, floods and storms may inflict damage or casualties. Obstacles, such as dangerous plants or animal life, can block control of a region until removed by labor, typically an amount equal to the region’s size. Some may be hazardous and fight back, requiring weapons to subdue. Diseases create an increase in the need for medical supplies and may result in fatalities. Treatments and cures can be sought as an endeavor using medical skill. Alien civilizations may be encountered and there is the ever-present threat of discovery by Enemy probes. Welcome to the Planet of the Damned!

Making Characters

Players may create characters by expending experience points (XP.) Players gain XP by participating in the game, one per each turn they submit their orders on time. They may also receive XP bonuses for role playing. XP may be used to increase the levels of existing characters or to create new ones. Ten XP can be expended to gain or increase a talent. To create a new character, lose a follower, come up with a name and then issue orders to expend XP to give them at least one talent. Be sure to specify the talent in your orders.

Characters can be anybody: bureaucrats, space marines, officers, ship’s crewmen, professionals, anyone evacuated from the world under attack who might find themselves castaway. Characters are leaders and possess exceptional abilities. Each has one or more talents. Talents act as modifiers to endeavors. Characters are heroes. As such they’re remarkably difficult to kill. They have resistance equal to ten times their total talents.

Charisma modifies attempts to lure followers away from other factions.

Construction gives a +1 modifier to construction endeavors like building forts or factories as long as at least one labor is also used.

Dueling is used to modify fights between characters.

Engineering modifies player attempts to develop plans for technological items.

Leadership can be used either to increase popularity or the morale of troops, giving a temporary boost to an army’s resistance.

Medical modifies endeavors involving treating diseases and injuries.

Scouting is treated as reconnaissance.

Stealth modifies underhanded and immoral endeavors. Only a scoundrel would have a talent like this.

Tactics adds +1 combat power to an army’s combat power.

The Map

The map is divided into regions. Each region consists of a single type of terrain and has a size indicating the number of resource sites in that region that may be developed. Blue lines indicate rivers and coastlines. Heavy black lines indicate borders. Unexplored regions are indicated by question marks. Resources cannot be “harvested” from a site until it is developed by building the appropriate infrastructure—mills, mines, farms, oil fields, plantations, etc. The type of resources available depends on the terrain.

Forests, with the tree symbol, can be developed by building a mill. Mills produce solid fuel. [S]

Fortifications (#) can be built to protect a site. They represent anything from simple trenches and fighting positions to elaborate redoubts and bunkers.

Jungle, indicated by \|/, can be developed into plantations producing “medical” supplies. [+]

Mountains, indicated by a peak ^, can be developed into mines that produce metal. [M] The crashed ship also acts as a source of metal.

Plains, indicated by the symbol ~, can be developed into farms that produce food. [F]

Settlements (*) can be established anywhere by building a factory. Factories turn resources into finished goods (G) and technological items.

Tar pits, indicated by a black oil drop, can be developed into oil fields that produce petroleum oil, a liquid fuel. [P]

Thorium deposits are shown by an atomic symbol. A processing plant can be developed that produces thorium rods for power reactors. [T]

Wastelands, indicated by a skull and crossed bones, have no resources.

Playing the Game

Playing the game is as easy as 1-2-3: (1) manage production (2) write up your orders, and (3) submit your orders to the GM.

Your turn results are sent to you every turn by the GM. A simple document listing your faction's possessions, at the top there are boxes indicating the total resources, consumer goods and wealth you have stockpiled. This may differ from what you had at the end of last turn due to game events beyond your control. If you think a mistake has been made, after you have read any notes from the GM, contact him for clarification or correction. Don't wait around. The time limit for corrections is until the next turn is posted. Equipment you have stockpiled, and a section with notes to you from the GM are recorded below resources. Beneath that is a series of asterisks separating the informational top half of the sheet from the lower half of the sheet. You put your orders for the turn under that line. Don't write above it.

1. Manage production

You want to start issuing orders by managing your production.

Undeveloped sites produce nothing. Mills produce piles of solid fuel. Farms produce piles of food. Metal mines produce stacks of metal. Oil fields produce barrels of oil. Plantations produce medical supplies. Thorium smelters produce Thorium rods.


Each of your followers wants food, goods, fuel and medical supplies (sometimes not necessarily for medicinal purposes, if you know what I mean.) Indicate how many of each you distribute. You lose one popularity per follower each turn, but gain popularity based on what you distribute to them. What people are most interested in can change from turn to turn. The amount of popularity you score per item depends on what they want that turn—indicated on the top of the social register. This fluctuates depending on supply and demand. If food is plentiful but they haven’t had any fuel in a while to cook with, they’re not going to be very impressed if you issue another stack of cold ration packs. If your popularity goes negative, your followers begin to desert you—or die off from cold, lack of food, and medical supplies.

In the orders section of your turn packet write “Pay labor” and then the amount and quantity of resources issued. For example, “Pay labor 27 food.” Then indicate what the labor are doing this turn. If you sell or give away equipment or resources, issue orders such as “give 7 metal to the Thule Society.” Each site requires one worker and produces 2 resources. You only have so many workers, so allocate them wisely.

Factories only produce if supplied with labor, fuel and metal, one each per factory. Every factory supplied with all three produces 4 production points (PP) of any non-ship items off the standard production list below or any technological items you possess plans for. (So three factories require 3 labor, plus 3 metal and 3 fuel to make 12 PP of stuff.) Production points (PP) cannot be saved or accumulated and have no value other than determining the items produced. Be sure to indicate what you used the PP for. Any PP not turned into items are lost. When producing consumer goods (G), for game flavor you can specify what it is you're making: barrels of booze, commemorative plates, spatulas, left-handed typewriters, clockwork corsets, canned fruitcake, dehydrated water, etc.

Standard Items

PP Cost









Consumer Good




Household items

Protective mask




Protects against poison gas

Rocket Launcher




Requires rockets to use










Artillery ammunition

Tethered Observation Balloon




+1 recon





Firepower is the value of the item in combat. Brackets indicate the value is zero unless there is a weapon. Resistance is the amount of damage required to destroy the item.

Shipyards are simply factories located on the coast. They are treated as factories for all purposes except their production points can also be used to produce ships. Air and rotorships are not considered “ships” for production and may be built in either factories or shipyards.

2. Write up your orders

You can attempt pretty much anything. Just tell the GM what you want to achieve and how you go about doing it. Success is determined by the GM and depends on the wealth and effort you put into it. You do get a bonus for role-playing. Some specific details for more common endeavors are given below but these rules can't possibly cover every potential task a player might decide to do. Remember this is a role playing game more in the style of Castle Falkenstein or classic D&D than, say GURPS or a board game. What you get out of this game is proportional to the imagination you put into it. Consult the GM if you have questions.

Everything other than communication is handled through your orders. Write up the orders specifying the details of your production and the actions you take and submit them to the GM. Strive for clarity because if the GM misunderstands, you may not like the result. Specific details concerning particular orders are given below. Remember, you can attempt much more than just what is listed here.

Endeavors require modifiers—something required by the nature of the task. This could be the expenditure of resources or the temporary use of talents, power, or equipment. Resources and wealth are expended if used to attempt an endeavor. Permanent modifiers are merely used for the turn. A single modifier can't be used to modify more than one endeavor the same turn. For example, if you only have a +1 talent you can't use it to attempt three different endeavors the same turn.

With most things the total modifiers employed trying to achieve something will be divided by ten and you'll get that many successes. If your modifiers total less than ten you have a 10% chance of success per modifier employed. For example, it takes ten labor to establish a factory. If you spent used 100 you’s get ten. If you tried to build a factory with just one labor you have a 10% chance. Anything you build doesn't produce the same turn you create it.

The Game Master may grant a bonus to any endeavor's chances based on the player's role-playing, but it better be good.

Buying resources and negotiating with other characters, whether players or NPCs, should be done directly. Do not put this in your orders. Contact them directly using the address provided in the social register. NPCs can be contacted via the GM. Be sure to specify who you are and to whom you are speaking. For game-wide messages use the forum, but please remain in character. Just keep in mind that the outcomes of endeavors are uncertain and determined by the GM. Unless you're Baron Munchhausen and it's clearly a tall tale, don't post a long story of how you personally defeated the invading Burgundian army single-handedly unless the GM informed you of your success in that endeavor. But feel free to make political statements, invite people to dinner parties and discuss events from the newsletter.

To buy anything from players or NPCs contact them directly, make a deal, and then use a “give” order to send the money. They will use a give order to send you whatever you bought. Issue give orders by writing “Give”, followed by the faction name and the things given. The price of everything is up to mutual agreement and anything sent to you is available for your use the same turn. You can buy stuff from NPCs, if they agree to sell to you. If you’re expecting something from somebody list it in order orders as “Receive” whatever it is. This will help the GM match up who sent what to who. If they don’t send it some of your orders will not be carried out.

Labor cannot be bought or sold. Slavery has been abolished. But if you control labor you may lend it for another player’s use by using a “give” order. Lending labor only lasts for that turn, and then they come back under your control. The player to which you lend labor can put them to work doing whatever he likes, but you lose the popularity for them having to work for the other faction—so you probably ought to charge him something for the help.

Examples of endeavors:

Arson & Sabotage require stealth to damage a target factory, mine, etc. You can make a direct attack using an army.

Assassination & murder require stealth, or dueling. Your chance of success is the amount divided by the character’s resistance.

Building factories requires at least one labor and more likely ten. You can build a factory in any location you control. Shipyards must be located along the coast. You can't build a factory and produce with it the same turn. Any tools expended on the project provide a +1 modifier each.

Develop a property by constructing a mine, farm, plantation, oil field, etc. This requires at least one labor and can only be done in a site you control with right type of terrain for what you want to build. You can’t develop a metal mine atop an oil deposit. You can't develop something and produce with it the same turn. Any tools expended on the project provide a +1 modifier each.

Constructing forts requires at least one laborer. Typically every labor can build two forts. Alternately, a soldier not assigned a mission can do the job of a laborer. Construction talent can also be used as long as at least one labor is involved. Forts represent not only large concrete structures but also barbed wire entanglements, bunkers, emplacements, foxholes, mines, moats, pillboxes, trenches, watchtowers, etc.

Engineering plans for a new technology requires engineering.

Exploring requires either a recon mission or an expedition. Expeditions are treated like an attack order but the target is an unexplored region.

Fighting crime. Crime is a part of life any time a group of people lives together. Criminals steal resources and inflict damage if not controlled. There's a certain amount every turn. Laborers assigned as security guards reduce crime. Guards don’t have to have a weapon to fight crime. They can always just use a club. Characters with stealth assigned to fight crime reduce it by their talent level.

Mobilize security guards or soldiers by using one labor per guard or soldier. Labor used for these purposes still wants to be paid and costs you popularity. Soldiers & security each have firepower [1] (if equipped with a weapon) and resistance one.

Spying on aliens or other factions requires stealth. You can't get a copy of their turn results and you cannot know what they are going to do—even the GM doesn't know that until they turn in their orders, by which point it's too late for you to profit from knowing since your turn is due, too. Players do not have to specifically take actions to defend against spying. It's assumed they're trying to keep things to themselves as much as possible. Spying always has at least a 10% chance of failure that usually results in the target knowing who was spying on them.

Stealing equipment employs stealth to swipe resources or equipment. Your chances are stealth divided by double the PP cost of the equipment. Be sure to indicate where you're swiping the item from. You can't just order your “boys” to “get me some rifles.”

Stealing labor requires charisma to persuade workers to leave their current faction and join yours. You don’t get to use them until next turn.

Stealing Technology requires stealth to obtain the plans for a developed technology. Please be sure to specify in your orders what plans you seek and who you believe has them.

Stockpiling equipment. On your turn results all the “stuff” you own will be listed. This could be anything from airships and motorcars to piles of coal and stacks of iron. Weapons can't be used for battle unless they are assigned to an army. So if you own an armored car, it's probably just parked. If you want to use it for your revolution, you need to assign it to an army. See the army rules for details.

This list is not exclusive. Other endeavors are possible. Get with the GM if what you want to do isn't listed here.

3. Submit Orders

Please provide the GM with ending totals for all your resources including wealth at the bottom of your orders. This saves him having to recalculate them for the start of next turn.

At or before the turn deadline, send an e-mail message to the GM at For the subject put “<the name of your faction> <whichever game turn 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 faction's name here> orders” and send the entire set of orders, not just the changes. The GM will delete the older set and carry out the orders from the most current "revised" packet.


Each soldier is assigned one of four possible missions per turn: assist, attack, defend or recon. Characters with appropriate skills, equipment, and vehicles can also be assigned to support these missions. Any equipment that requires fuel must expend it when issued an order. Note that for some types of equipment solid fuel and oil might be considered “ammunition” instead of fuel. Ammunition won't be expended unless a battle results. Even if you attack, it doesn't necessarily mean a battle. The enemy might run away or surrender. The GM will deduct any ammo required when needed, but list what you're willing to use in your orders.

Assist missions specify an ally you’re assisting by helping defend his territory, which must be contiguous to your own. List the soldiers and equipment involved including the fuel you expended and the ammunition available for their use.

Attack missions specify an enemy and a target that have to be contiguous with your territory or that of an ally. List the soldiers and equipment involved including the fuel you expended and the ammunition available for their use.

Defend missions protect against an enemy attack. List the soldiers and equipment involved including the fuel you expended and the ammunition available for their use. Forts only defend the location they are located.

Recon missions are a modified attack looking for information but not trying to capture territory. They usually use fast-moving equipment like aircraft and air cars to get in quick and have a look around before the enemy reacts and chases them away. If you have more recon assets than the enemy, you can find out what he's got on defense.

Equipment. All the soldiers assigned to the same mission are said to make up an “army.” Armies can be assigned equipment, up to one item per soldier. The only exceptions are power packs and protective masks. Power packs are very small and don’t count as “equipment.” Each soldier can have a mask, plus one other item of equipment. An army’s total firepower, combat power and resistance is the sum of its parts.

Vehicles are considered equipment and must be assigned to a pilot or driver to be used. Vehicles can have other equipment added to them, one piece of equipment per hardpoint. Each item of equipment added increases the number of crew required by one. Essentially an army needs one soldier per vehicle and piece of equipment other than power packs and protective masks. In lieu of equipment, a vehicle can have a cargo bay holding up to 10 passengers. Cargo bays do not require additional crew. Flying craft can replace passengers for bombs or barrels of oil (napalm) gaining +1 firepower for each. Players may build heavy vehicles, doubling their costs and stats. Even larger vehicles are also possible, just multiply the cost and stats.


Weapons that require ammunition have no firepower without it. Vehicles or personnel with firepower in brackets only count that if equipped with a weapon.

The attacker encounters the defending forces along their common border. Both sides' firepower is compared. The lower total is subtracted from the higher and the side with the lower total suffers casualty points equal to the difference. Each casualty point reduces the defender’s resistance by one. Forts, if available, are destroyed first. If the casualty points exceed the defender’s resistance and a fortified position is available in the rear, they will withdraw to that with the attacker following and capturing any territory along the way. If after reducing that fortified position, the remaining casualty points still exceed the defending army’s resistance they will continue to fall back until either the casualty points are satisfied or all resistance is crushed. This could result in complete defeat by a single overwhelming attack. The GM may modify the outcome based on role-playing considerations if a player comes up with an especially clever (or stupid) plan.

If at least one defending soldier survives, the defender holds the position.

Flying craft cannot capture territory by themselves but can attack a target anywhere, not just along the border.

Lines of Communication are required for control of any region. Every region you control must be contiguous to another region you control. If a region becomes isolated, you lose control. Sea and lake areas can be controlled by ships for this purpose. Only ships and aircraft can fight at sea.

Spoils of war. Attackers that eliminate all resistance in a location may seize the “enemy” property there. If desired, the property may be assigned to another player's control. Be sure to indicate this in your orders.


It’s up to the castaways to organize a “government,” if they want one. They can make up laws as they see fit. Enforcement of those laws is up to the community and whatever government they devise.