Basic Rules Introduction

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Welcome to Lords of the Earth. You now have on your screen is an up-to-date rulebook covering the many facets of this historical game. The scope of the game itself is vast, covering a thousand-year period of human history, from AD 1000 to AD 2000. A single game of Lords of the Earth, played to completion, has been determined to take some twenty-five years. But, despite this daunting length, Lords of the Earth offers great play value, as the players’ actions directly affect the future. Indeed, it could be said that even as players fight for the present they are also fighting to rewrite the annals of history, which will affect the future of an alternate time line.

How The Game Is Played

The basic sequence of a Lords of the Earth campaign is fairly simple. Each player submits to the Game Master (GM) a set of orders for their nation. The GM then resolves the actions, which are then summarized in a newsletter (the Newsfax), highlighting the major activities of all the world’s nations. Finally, each player receives a copy of the Newsfax, and a status report, which details the status of their particular nation at the end of that turn. Using the information supplied in the Newsfax and the status report, the player prepares a new set of orders for the next turn to be submitted to the GM, thus completing the cycle of play.

Each Newsfax will note the deadline by which the next set of orders is due. If the GM receives orders after this deadline, the GM can process or not process the late orders at his discretion (usually not). This simple interaction is the core of the game system, but most of the enjoyment that players derive from play is from the interaction between one another. As a matter of fact, contact between the players is actually heartily encouraged, if not always necessary. Notes passed on by the GM, through direct mail, telephone, or email can make such contact.

A Note About Rule Implementation

This rulebook, and its companions, present the basic rules for a Lords of the Earth campaign. However, each player must be aware that their Game Master (in any campaign) may add, subtract or even interpret these rules differently from any other Game Master. This is their prerogative and right. Your Game Master will, however, inform you of any changes or interpretations that they make to the basic rules.

You should always consider your campaign’s Game Master’s word to be natural law.

Payment And Credit

Payment by mail should be sent by personal check, PayPal or money order rather than as cash. At any rate, don’t send it in coins or stamps! Those who wish to pay in advance for their turns may do so, thereby receiving credit for future turns. These credits are noted on the status report. This system is recommended as it saves the player the worry of having to scrape up every turn’s payment, and it saves the GM the worry of possibly not getting paid! Players should be aware that if they are playing a nation and they do not turn in orders for that nation on a particular turn, they WILL be charged for that turn.

The Progression of a Turn

At the beginning of each turn the players consult their status reports and see how much money and manpower (Gold Points and National Force Points respectively) their tax collectors have squeezed out of the populace during the previous turn. The player must then decide how to allocate these assets to various projects and plans during the turn. These can be committed to building new cities, expanding old ones, building or extending roads, raising armies, improving the lot of the people, funding universities and many other activities.

The player then decides what orders to issue to their spies, their priests and their military commanders. Spies may ferret out the secrets of their neighbors, protect the realm from enemy spies, or attempt to suborn their enemies and cause their downfall through devious plots. The priests may spread the word of their god to foreign lands or crush the heresies of their own realm. The armies and their commanders may defend the realm or carry the brand of war against their neighbors, gaining the realm more land, people and gold in taxes or loot. So, too, can Leaders be sent out to negotiate with the neighboring princes and petty lords to try and get them to ally themselves with the player’s nation, thus expanding their influence and power.

Once all of this is clearly laid out on the order form, the player sends these orders to the GM. The GM then collates, consolidates and resolves the actions. During this process, the Newsfax is written. Next, the GM updates the national statistics to reflect new construction, regions won and lost, and all investments. Finally, the status reports get any address and phone number changes and each player is sent a packet containing their status report, a copy of the Newsfax and any communications sent by other players.

Glossary of Terms

A large number of acronyms and terms are used in Lords of the Earth and in this rulebook. To make it easier for the new player to assimilate them, all of these terms are listed here, with short descriptions of their use and meaning.

  • Action Points (AP): the measure of both the capability of a Leader to perform actions and the cost of attempting those actions.
  • Actions: the codification of possible activities that your national Leaders (Kings, Princes, Lieutenants, etc.) can attempt in a turn.
  • Agro: a measure of edible foodstuffs produced or consumed by your nation in the course of a turn.
  • Base Port: the home harbor of the MSP assigned to a trade route. This need not be the Port of Origin used for tracing the trade route.
  • Bureaucratic Level (BL): a measure of the effectiveness and sophistication of your government. This rating also controls the number of Leaders that your nation can generate.
  • Cargo Points: a measure of the capacity of a ship to carry cargo and the cost against that capacity of things to be carried.
  • Civil War: the state of hostilities resulting from the split of a nation's Leadership into one or more factions. Often the result of a Dynastic Failure.
  • Control Radius: a measure of the maximum geographic distance that your government can administer from the capital. This is in terms of Action Points. It is based upon your Bureaucratic Level and the Administrative capability of your King.
  • Control Web: For Religious Primacies, Orders and Secret Empires (and Merchant Houses in the Modern Era) a Control Web consists of a chain of administrative control emanating from the organisation’s capital. If any site is isolated from the others, it will degrade, eventually to be rendered useless. Action Range is the critical stat in maintaining the Control Web.
  • Dynastic Failure (DF): the unfortunate series of events that can transpire when the ruler of a nation dies and without a clear successor to their position. Often the precursor to a Civil War.
  • Game Master (GM): the moderator of the campaign. This hapless fellow gets the thankless job of consolidating player orders, processing the turn, answering a lot of questions and getting results out. In a sense, the ‘god’ of the campaign world.
  • Gold Point Value (GPv): the worth of a region or city in terms of Gold Points.
  • Gold Points (GP): the basic monetary unit of the game, produced by taxation of controlled regions and cities and from trade with other nations.
  • Hands Off Trade (HOT): Some campaigns use a new “Hands-Off Trade” approach to make life for the GM and the players easier. Fundamentally, the HOT system attempts to automate the process of adding and removing MSP routes by following market demand.
  • Infrastructure (Infra): a measure of the capacity of your national government to rule provinces and cities. The higher it is, the more provinces and cities that can be governed effectively.
  • Industrial Capacities: a limit on the number of certain units and projects that can be built by a nation in any given turn. In the Middle Ages there is only one type of Industrial Capacity: Intrinsic, which is based on cities and trade centers and represents the number of Heavy-type combat units that can be built at that location and apply to all culture types.
  • Intel Ratings: the capability of your nation to undertake various covert activities like gathering information about your enemies and attempting to murder their commanders (also called Espionage Ratings).
  • Leaders: the various personages that serve as your representatives in the game world. You have at least a King that directly represents your will. There may also be various Princes, Lieutenants, Allies and Mercenary Commanders that work your will and carry out your orders.
  • Line of Communication: A series of contiguous controlled land regions reaching from the national Capital to an outlying province. If the LOC is traced by sea, then it must go through a controlled, un-blockaded Port City before it may enter/exit a Sea Zone.
  • Merchant Shipping Points (MSPs): Representation of the actual trade ships used to move goods. Created by each Nation and Merchant House to carry their trade.
  • Nation: the country that you rule. Described by a large number of descriptive elements like Religion and Social type, the Nation may comprise one or more provinces.
  • National Force Points (NFP): a representation of the manpower available to the nation for building armies, colonizing regions and raising cities.
  • Newsfax: a newsletter produced each turn by the GM that describes the public events that have occurred to each nation in the progress of the most recent turn.
  • Port of Origin: The port through which you are tracing a sea-based Trade Route. It must then be able to trace a series of contiguous, controlled, land regions to the Capital.
  • Quality Rating (QR): a measure, on a scale of 0 (worst) to the maximum per tech level, of the level of advancement of your military. QR’s exist for each kind of unit that you can build in your military.
  • Region: a geographic area used to control movement of armies and Leaders across the planet.
  • Status report (the Stat Sheet): description of the current state of your nation; its tax revenues, armies, regions and other attributes.
  • Years per Turn: the number of historical years that transpire in the course of a single game turn driven by the highest open position Tech Level in play. In a Medieval Era game there are five historical years per turn.

The Renaissance And Beyond

This rulebook covers the period of the Middle Ages (from AD 1000 to approximately AD 1500) in our history. If you and your GM manage to hold on, your nations will eventually improve in technology until such time as they reach the Renaissance Era. At this time the basic mechanics of the game change slightly, a new Modern Era rulebook is available to you and the number of years per turn drops from five years per turn to four years per turn. As the game progresses the number of years per turn continues to drop as technology improves until such time as each turn is one month of time - a point probably reached in the late 20th Century.

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Lords of the Earth 6th Edition
© 2016 Thomas Harlan
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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