Tang Chinese Steppe Falconer at Court

A Twilight of Empires

Lords of the Earth, Campaign 13

What's all this, then?

Consider this something of an FAQ on the game. If you are impatient to just get started, please click here.

Lords of the Earth

Lords of the Earth (LOTE) is a play by email (PBeM or PBM) game of history, empire, and intrigue. Players "run" a given nation, and each turn provide the Game Master (GM) with its marching orders, each turn covering 2 to 5 years of game time (4 years here) and anywhere from weeks to months of real time (this is a "gourmet" multiplayer online strategy game, not "fast food" but "slow food"). These include actions on the budgetary, military, and political fronts, as well as plans for religious, espionage, and other actions. Thomas Harlan was the first GM, and he has managed the wider LOTE scene since 1983.

Campaign 13 - A Twilight of Empires

This particular LOTE campaign began with turn 1 opening in 401 AD. All starting player positions are countries corresponding as much as possible to their historical conditions. The rules used are for the most part standard LOTE, though some additions and corrections have been made to increase the "period flavor" of this campaign, since the standard rules were originally tuned for a 1000 AD start.

For a decent idea of the campaign, please check out the maps and the initial player position writeups.

Why 401 AD? This is a period which saw the beginning of the end of the Western Roman Empire, the end of a massacre of Goths in Constantinople, the peak of the Gupta Empire in India and the Sasanian Empire in Persia, and a dark time for the concept of a unified Chinese Empire. It is a real world-wide turning point, an interesting time, where the starting positions of various nations bore very little relation to their status just two centuries later. This is one reason non-US players are especially welcome.

Culturally this is Late Antiquity in the West, the Age of the Indian Classics, the rise of Buddhism in East Asia, and a rise in barbarism everywhere.


Rules are the Lords of the Earth basic set, with a few addenda. Unlike most games, LOTE has no fixed duration, no explicit victory goal, and no immutable rules. Because each campaign is managed by a real human GM who uses computers and the Internet as game aid only, each player can tune his game position with time.

For example, the first LOTE campaign began in 1983, and is still in play, having covered over 700 years of alternate history. The rules today are a result of nearly two decades of player input and GM tinkering, which explains both the popularity of LOTE and the size of the rulebook.

Sequence of Play

First, you read the newsfax. This is a per-turn newsletter of what every nation has been up to for the past turn (4 years). You also review the maps.

Second, look over the national stats sheet mailed to you. This is the status report on your position, and includes income from various sources, results of investments, condition and location of armies, and so on. Then use a spreadsheet (this one is a filled-out sample) to determine resources available, plus essential and other expenses, e.g. paying your troops.

Third, plan and scheme. Contact other players to initiate trade, gain allies, or to cooperate in war - or just to chat. This will tell you how your plans fit with the plans of your neighbors, and generally inform the next step.

Fourth, write your orders. This means finishing the budget, such as raising armies, sending spies, and building bridges, and giving orders to your leaders. These will have armies (or not) perform various actions, e.g. march across the enemy frontier.

Fifth, send the completed spreadsheet off to your GM. He compiles these, has nations interact as needed, returns a new stats sheet, writes up a new newsfax, and recolors the map to let everyone know how their attempts at conquering the world came off.

If you have read this far, you will want to look at how to start playing!

Chris Cornuelle / lote13gm at xmission dot com / last modified Saturday, 06-Mar-2010 14:44:47 MST
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