Middle Earth Play by Mail is owned by Game Systems Inc. and run in English speaking Europe, North America and Australasia, by Middle Earth PBM games. (Middle Earth, Lord of the Rings and all characters and places therein are trademark properties of Tolkien Enterprises.)

There are variant scenarios, but there is no 2nd Edition, and, as far as I know, there are no plans to produce one. This page arose from a thread started by Lucas Cuccia some months ago on the MEPBM mailing list. In long discussions much was said about the changes to the game which people would like to see, if it were ever to be reworked. The rules which follow then, are a fantasy of the game I would like to see.

Most of the ideas below are mine, though others may have had them before. Some are those of other people adjusted a little by me. As the best of them have been stored in my head for some months, the attributions are lost. My apologies if you see your idea below, without your name on it. I have not attempted to include all the ideas that were thrown up. Some of them were directly in conflict with one another, and others I disagreed with. So what follows is a strictly personal choice from among a lot of apples in the barrel.

Some major additions have been added, August 2002, based on further suggestions discussed on the MEPBM list in early June 2002.  Have the attributions this time [in square brackets], but please note that the individual credited may not have been the only one who contributed to the development of the idea, and that I may well have tweaked it further.

As with any good discussion thread where participants are exploring an idea, particularly an idea for change, there are visitors who pop up, and attack the whole idea or its premise. We had a few, some speaking with passion, which should be seen not just as reactionary conservatism, but as a measure of how much the 1st edition is loved. But I think a 2nd edition could be done well enough not to lose the best of the first. Detractors fell in to two main camps, those who said " don't try to make it more realistic, it's a game" and those who said "your changes will make it more complicated." The words "realistic" and "more complicated" were both used as if they are intrinsically undesirable. Both objections can be absorbed and rebuffed with these two principles of the new design:

First Principle: "Good Fantasy worlds, and game systems should be internally consistent." That is not to say that they must be "realistic", or that we should improve them by making them "more realistic." Most High Fantasy worlds have magic, which would be unrealistic in our world of Newtonian and post-Newtonian laws. But there are usually rules and limits to that magic. In David Edding's Belgariad, you may not wish for things not to exist, without catastrophic results. In Ursula le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, you have particular powers over people, only if you know their secret name. Non magical systems, like pseudo-mediaeval cities, need to have logical law codes and governmental systems - that's why so many writers and designers use pseudo-mediaeval systems - guilds, feudal lords, militias, timber framed buildings, are all lifted straight from European history, and tweaked a bit. They are known to be internally consistent systems, and are therefore easily believable. Fantasy worlds work due to the reader or player's "suspension of disbelief", but that disbelief kicks in again if there are ideas in the story or game which seem to contradict each other. In MEPBM, the best example, is the movement rules, which undergo a major change in my second edition - as it stands, a hero can cross 400 miles of mountains as easily as 400 miles of level road, and waggon loads of iron can fly for thousands. Changes intended to improve internal consistency are flagged below when preceded by the flying waggon icon:

Second Principle: "Don't add complexity, unless there's a real advantage. Simplify where you can do so without disadvantage." It was interesting in the discussions that some of the folk who complained that we were "making it more complicated" were actually baulking more at the idea of change itself - there is complexity intrinsic to the experience of learning a new rules system. But, when I looked carefully at the ideas proposed, it proved that many of them actually simplify and rationalize the existing rules. Players of war games, are people who like games with rules, they are people who have gone beyond Chess and Trivial Pursuit (the ultimate low rules game), but that does not mean that we want vast tomes of complex rules. In particular, the games companies don't want systems which are going to frighten off new players. My second edition attempts to simplify where possible, in order to rationalize the game, as a pay off I bring in one or two rules which add complexity, in the expectation that the two will balance out. Changes which add complexity to game play, are preceded by the mage icon: Changes which will make it somewhat more difficult for a new player reading the rule book, are preceded with the fat book icon: Changes which simplify game play have an orc icon: (Looks a little like a Victory Points player, doesn't he?) Changes which simplify the rule book have a slim book icon:

In some cases I've referred to other ideas, which I have not used, but thought worthy of mention. They're flagged with the dwarven tank icon:

Game balance is of course an essential consideration, but with the best will in the world, nobody can design a game and predict all the problems which may arise in play. Extensive play testing would be essential, before such a second edition "went public". There are certain numerical values which could be adjusted during and after play testing, to improve balance, without necessitating more fundamental rule changes or rejections. These flexible values are flagged with the Roman Numeral icon:

The description of rule changes which follow, are in the approximate order of the first edition rule book. I skip rapidly through the earlier sections in order to put most detail where it will be most accessible - in the numbered order descriptions. Spells are an exception, being placed at the end.

The main victory conditions, which are the elimination of one allegiance or the delivery of the One Ring to Barad-dur, remain unchanged. They are the essence of the successful first edition game, of the story line, and of the feature which has made MEPBM paramount among play-by-mail games - its strength as a team game.

The individual victory conditions and victory points are dropped entirely. Protracted arguments for this will bore here and have been well exercised elsewhere, but in brief: The individual victory conditions were randomly generated and thus made for very poor story-line; The victory points were a nonsense in a game where nations start with greatly unequal strengths; The victory points rewarded inactivity rather than contribution and heroic struggle; And finally, most experienced players have for a long time been disregarding them anyway. For individuals who need to measure their own success, a Player Rating system, external to each individual game, would be my choice. Players should count the number of times they've helped their team to win victory over darkness or light, and not how much gold they've stockpiled.

These remain unchanged, except with regard to combat/terrain details which follow. In the original list discussions there were many interjections from players wanting the Northmen to have a bigger fortification on their capital, or the Easterlings to be moved further East. But these are actually matters for new scenarios, not for a second edition of the fundamental rules. There are already three official scenarios of the first edition, namely Third Age circa 1650, Third Age circa 2950 and Fourth Age circa 1000. In the last few years, Middle Earth PBM Games have allowed us some excellent variations, in which many edits are made at start up. These include pre-aligned neutrals games of various configurations, games in which kidnapping and assassination are not allowed, a no neutrals variant by Mike Sankey in which the neutral properties are shared out, and a War of the Ring scenario by Richard Devereux. There is no reason to suggest that this 'trend for tweaking' individual games will cease in the first edition, and it would certainly be expected in my fantasy second edition.

Rather than the occasional "No new characters are available at this time," the second edition results sheets will count the characters, and advise the player of the following turn's limit. For example, on the turn 5 results sheet, one might read "You have 11 characters out of a possible 12. 15 characters are possible next turn."

The artefacts are one of the fun parts of the game, but their collection needs rationalizing. Originally, the artefact powers were all unknown to players, and only their numbers and names were in the rule book. Soon however, almost all the powers were identified, lists were assembled and published. Since the powers remain virtually unchanged from game to game, only the most hapless newcomer suffers the disadvantage of not knowing which are the essential trinkets that all must race for in the first few turns. When the 2950 scenario was released, a few were changed, but it did not take long for new lists to appear. The Fourth Age designers attempted to fix the problem by making the artefact powers randomized for each game - a gross overcompensation which had the effect of throwing the baby out with the bath water. No Fourth Age player wants to spend the game trying to work through 213 randomized artefacts, in order to find the five which might actually be worth having. In consequence you will often read players asserting that "Mages are useless in Fourth Age."

In the second edition, artefact powers, with the exception of the One Ring, will be randomized from game to game, to prevent lists. But new spells in the Artefact Lore list will enable mages to attempt to discover which artefacts have which powers, prior to locating them. See the new spells below for the detail. This change will give mages more to do in the early phase of the game, fits with the notion of wise men in libraries, and will add even more to the enjoyable early race for the must have boys' toys.

Encounters will be greatly improved in the second edition by using a continually expanding list. Player written encounters could be included, subject to approval by a Game Master or player panel, who would decide if they met the criteria of balance, internal consistency and entertainment value. Dragon encounters are a special case: Like artefact powers, the dragon encounters and the responses which would recruit them into armies, were originally unknown to players. Published lists soon removed the mystery. The Fourth Age scenario again did the baby and the bath water trick, removing dragons entirely (though this may be consistent with Fourth Age time line). A simple fix of randomizing the dragons which are recruitable and the responses which will recruit them, is proposed for the second edition. Within each individual game, these responses should remain fixed, so if Scorba can be recruited by Acting MEEK then he will manifest the same tendency later in the game. But it should cost some blood to explore his inclinations again in one's next game.

Dragon behaviour when recruited into armies, can be made more interesting, without any more complexity brought into the rules.  For example, Dragons in armies might be expected to consume rations, and two dragons in the same army might be given a high chance of quarrelling [Richard Devereux.]

230 Attack Enemy 250 Destroy Population Centre

235 Attack Nation 255 Capture Population Centre

240 Defend

The second edition introduces a fundamental change to the combat algorithm, which was very popular in the original list discussions and which is unashamedly borrowed from many old war gaming systems - Archers are the only troops which attack in the first round of battle. Damage is applied to enemy troops before the second round of combat commences. This change will make archers worth having, and give the player increased tactical options. No longer will the archer simply be a fighting unit with powerful attack and negligible defence, like a naturist with a chain saw. The player who intends to battle past smaller enemy armies might recruit plenty of archers, to minimize his own losses. Such a player who miscalculates and runs into larger armies will pay the cost for having his archers engaged hand to hand.

Archers gain an extra defensive bonus when defending a fortified population centre. This change reflects the fact that a commander would not send archers to fight outside the walls, in a battle in which such a population centre was involved.

The defend order, when given at a population centre, and if the enemy attacks, will result in a single battle in which the defensive value of the population centre, and that of the defending army, are added. This needs a major change to the algorithm. It reflects the fact that the commander of an outnumbered army would almost certainly take shelter within a settlement rather than marching out to fight a preliminary and suicidal battle in the field.

These changes would need extensive testing through battle simulations, and then play testing. Archer strength may need to be adjusted downwards if the first round attack resulted in them winning too often. A rule of thumb to guide testing would be that archers might kill one third of their own number of average enemy troops in the first round (assumes no other modifiers). So, if a Fire King army of 300 archers and 300 infantry meets an Arthedain army of 100 infantry, all the Dunedain die for no Fire King losses. If they had had 600 infantry, they take 100 losses before hand to hand fighting begins, a probable victory for the tall guys.

Combat is affected more strongly by racial strengths and weaknesses, and by terrain. In the discussions, some lusted after exotic troop types for each nation. The troop types all had complex special abilities. To me, this is a sign of too much playing of Age of Empires and an understandable annoyance at the meaningless decorative racial troop descriptions which appear on the first edition results sheets. I have rejected these ideas on the grounds of unnecessary complexity for too little gain.

The idea that dwarves fight will in hills and rough, and elves benefit similarly in woods, is already present in the first edition, in the terrain tables which players receive at start up. However, the variations are so small that players rarely give them any more consideration after turn 0. These tables, in second edition will be adjusted, so that for example, players of elven nations gain bonuses so substantial, that they will make real efforts to engage enemies in the woods. Players will need to consider troop type when recruiting, by planning where those troops will fight their final battle. Cavalry should gain no advantages over infantry in mountains.

There were fascinating discussions regarding archers and terrain, in mediaeval battles and in folklore. It emerged that there are two distinct and contrasting images of the archer in battle, namely:

In the second edition both types of archers exist, and are reflected in the tables. Humans use massed fire, elves use guerrilla snipers and so forth.

Example for reference: The first edition table for Sinda Elves.

Terrain/Climate Shore Plains Rough Forest Desert Swamp Mountains
Polar 92 90 87 100 87 85 85
Severe 95 92 90 102 90 87 87
Cold 97 95 92 105 92 90 90
Cool 100 97 95 107 95 92 92
Mild 102 100 97 110 97 95 95
Warm 102 100 97 110 97 95 95
Hot 97 95 92 105 92 90 90

These percentages are multiplied by the basic strength and constituition for all troops 16/16 for Heavy Cavalry, 10/10 for Heavy Infantry, 6/2 for Archers. There are further, small, modifiers for troop type by terrain, BUT those are the same for all nations - Goblin wolfriders and Dwarven Ponyriders have the same penalty for mountains as human knights. In second edition, terrain, climate and racial preference are taken into the tables, and there are different tables for each nation's troop types. The range of figures is much more substantial.

Example: The second edition table for Sinda Elves' Cavalry.

Terrain/Climate Shore Plains Rough Forest Desert Swamp Mountains
Polar 85 90 72 92 67 72 52
Severe 90 95 75 95 70 75 55
Cold 105 115 80 100 75 80 60
Cool 120 130 87 107 82 87 67
Mild 125 135 90 110 85 90 70
Warm 110 120 83 103 78 83 63
Hot 100 105 76 96 71 76 56

Thinking for this table: All cavalry gains a massive bonus from charging in the open field, here optimally 135%. For humans it would be 150%+. Elven cavalry have trained to move through forests without breaking formation, so do not suffer the penalties here of other nations. Due to a knowlege of vegetation type, elves make less mistakes than others when moving through swamps. Cavalry effectiveness is much reduced in rough. With the exception of cavalry native to such areas, deserts also cause strong penalties. All cavalry is reduced to no more than the effective strength of infantry when fighting in mountains.

Example: The second edition table for Sinda Elves' Infantry.

Terrain/Climate Shore Plains Rough Forest Desert Swamp Mountains
Polar 77 82 77 110 72 77 72
Severe 80 85 80 115 75 80 75
Cold 85 90 85 135 80 85 80
Cool 92 97 92 150 87 92 87
Mild 95 100 95 155 90 95 90
Warm 88 93 88 140 82 88 82
Hot 81 86 81 125 76 81 76

Thinking for this table: Elves are superlative fighters in woods. They fight reasonably in the rough, and comparatively well in swamps. They are unfamiliar with the terrain of the lifeless deserts.

Example: The second edition table for Sinda Elves' Archers.

Terrain/Climate Shore Plains Rough Forest Desert Swamp Mountains
Polar 77 72 90 115 77 90 85
Severe 80 75 95 120 80 95 90
Cold 85 80 110 140 85 110 105
Cool 92 87 125 155 92 125 120
Mild 95 90 130 160 95 130 125
Warm 88 83 115 145 88 115 110
Hot 81 76 105 130 81 105 95

Thinking for this table: Remember also that archers now receive a free combat round. The elven archer is of the guerrilla/sniper type. He is lethal in the trees - you may find him up one. In rough, swamp and mountains, he makes movement obstacles into a positive advantage.

Similar tables for all nations would need to be constructed. The Noldo Elves would be very similar to the Sinda. Their climate preferences might be adjusted one row upwards since they live in more Northerly lattitudes, and they might be considered to have more advantage in shore territory, due to their familiarity with it. The Dark Servant's nations would need some more research and design input prior to defining more detailed strengths and weaknessess. How are the orcs of the Dark Lieutenants different to those of the Blind Sorcerer? And where do they come from exactly?

Note that all these combat changes add complexity to the workings of the game, and for the experienced player seeking to refine his military brilliance. But they make it no more difficult for the new player, who can recruit his troops and send them into battle intuitively, exactly as before.

232 Attack Navy 237 Attack Nation Navy

Two new, and much needed orders which correct a first edition flaw. These orders allow an navy commander to do battle with an enemy navy, without then automatically beaching his ships to fight a second battle with an enemy army ashore. Shore armies will no longer be able to protect their navies by standing on the beach and kicking sand.

260 Siege Population Centre

In the first edition, this order is hardly ever used. The reason is simply that it hardly ever works. Huge armies and highly ranked commanders are needed, and though data is scarce, it seems that the force needed to successfully besiege a pop is at least equivalent to that needed to capture it. No experienced player will besiege to achieve a possible small loyalty drop, when he can just as easily burn the place to the ground, and move on, before the assassins strike.

In the second edition, the 260 order, as well as being correctly renamed (Besiege is the verb intended, siege is a noun) will be much easier. Only a small army is needed to interrupt the main commerce of a population centre, by blocking its roads. However, a new prerequisite is added "Enemy armies are not present" - enemy armies necessitate defensive postures rather than road blocking and farmer harassment.

Additionally, characters in besieging armies receive a defensive bonus against the agent actions of enemy nations. This bonus reflects the enhanced protection which they receive from the posting of pickets, and a fixed (for two weeks) military encampment. It will also of course, encourage this aspect of warfare to be employed confidently and effectively by players. It should be approximately equivalent to dealing with an extra guarding agent ranked A50, when trying to assassinate the commander of a siege. See the improved guarding algorithm for agents below.

270 Destroy/Capture Ships

275 Scuttle Ships 280 Abandon Ships

Ships no longer have a maintenance cost. Unlike modern warships, with fuel, wages and repairs to consider, the ancient and mediaeval warship, is essentially built or bought, and then sent off to do its job. In Middle Earth Play by Mail, the ships often end up beached on enemy shores. The nation which built them should incur no ongoing costs. To balance this change, the initial cost of building ships should be doubled, and the starting fleets reduced. The 280 Abandon Ships order will be deleted - no longer will ships have transcontinental remote controlled self-destruct mechanisms. If left unattended on distant shores, they will be liable to destruction or capture under the 270 order.

310 Bid from Markets 320 Sell to Markets

315 Purchase from Markets 325 Nation Sell to Markets

These orders are simply renamed, the word Caravans being replaced. Goods are assumed to be moving in/out of state ownership to/from local sources, and these orders are thus distinguished more clearly from the 947 and 948 orders which deal with national and international logistics. Those orders are changed significantly, see further on.

340 Transfer Rations  

This order replaces the individual food transfer orders 340 345 and 347 of the first edition. [To compress them to a single order is an idea from Richard Devereux.] It has a "from" (AComm or Pop) and a "to" parameter (AComm or Pop)  and has an additional piece of required information: " # of gold units transferred." Soldiers no longer receive their pay by electronic transfer straight into their bank accounts. Instead, armies must carry gold with them in the baggage train. This will mean much more planning, saving and preparation is involved for a player recruiting an army and sending it off to war. However, in return national budgets will be easier to manage - nations will not be eliminated by bankruptcy simply because a huge distant army took less losses than were anticipated. Like ships, ancient and mediaeval armies take from the King's war chest at initiation rather than during the campaign.

Penalties for armies who cannot pay their soldiers are harsh. Loyalty drops rapidly (1-10 per turn) and desertion will begin. See armies without commanders further on, for new desertion system, and the new War Craft list of spells which enable mages to attempt to offset these problems..

The 1st ed anomaly whereby an army on a large population centre is treated as "fed" if it has 1 unit of food, but "unfed" if it has 0 units of food, would be corrected in this system. [Corsairs 101]

351 Transfer Weapons Army to Army 370 Upgrade Troop Weapons

353 Transfer Armour Army to Army 375 Upgrade Troop Armour

These orders are scrapped in the second edition. They are hardly ever used in the first, and only serve to bewilder new players.

400 Recruit Cavalry 416 Recruit Archers

408 Recruit Infantry

These orders replace the troop recruitment orders. 404, 412 and 420 are scrapped, leaving just these three basic troop types. This corrects one of the weaknesses in the first edition, where a light infantryman is a fundamentally different creature to a heavy infantryman, despite the fact that the former might be clad in mithril plate armour, and the latter in his boxer shorts. The Men-at-Arms label was particularly annoying, and historically inaccurate, when what was meant was perhaps a peasant levy. In first edition, nobody recruits light infantry or light cavalry, and rarely men-at-arms. In the second edition, they go. A cavalryman is a soldier with a horse, and he is heavy or light only according to the weapons and armour you give him. An infantryman is a soldier who fights on foot, but who does not have the special training of an archer. Archers are retained, in the hope that new advantages for them (see combat rules above) will encourage them to be used. Some requested more, rather than less troop types. I prefer to lose the redundant types and allow the basic types to be used more intelligently.

427 Destroy Baggage Train

This order allows an army commander who is expecting to face a losing battle, to attempt to destroy what the enemy might otherwise take as booty.  Since soldiers might be expected to resent the destruction of these items, difficulty should be average.  Information required is number of war machines and number of rations.

444 Make Armour 448 Make Weapons

These orders are virtually never used in first edition, as troops can be automatically armoured when hired or recruited. In second edition, they are scrapped.

452 Make Ships

This order combines the old 452 Make Warships with the old 456 Make Transports. Required information is " # of Warships # of Transports."

460 Remove Harbour or Port

Combines old 460 Remove Harbour, with old 465 Remove Port, and works more like 480 Remove Fortifications - it may not be possible to reduce a port in one turn, in which case a part successful order will have reduced it to a harbour.

470 Destroy Population Centre Stores

Is now a miscellaneous order for any class of character, in the hope that it may see some more use, and consistent with the idea that any fleeing citizen can throw a torch into a barn.

520 Influence Population Centre Loyalty

This order combines old 520 Influence Your Population Centre with old 525 Influence Other Population Centre. In the first edition, if four Sinda emissaries arrive at a Quiet Avenger camp. and if the first of them is successful in persuading the people to repent of their evil ways, then the efforts of the other three are wasted. Instead, they get the nonsense message "was not influenced because the Population Centre is of the same nation". With the new order, their efforts would count as old InfYours, and consequently, a village swayed by the efforts of four firebrand preachers would be more loyal to their new ideals, than one swayed by a single cucumber sandwich. This is a good example of a rule change which would affect balance. Emissaries would succeed more often, and would advance more rapidly. Play testing might prove that a tweaking of the difficulty levels or rate of rank increase, was necessary to compensate.

530 Add Harbour/Port

Merges old 530 Improve Harbour to Port with old 535 Add Harbour. If no harbour is present this order builds one, otherwise it improves it to a port.

565 Reduce Population Centre

Now includes old 560 Abandon Camp. If given at a camp, this order will reduce it to ruins.

580 Spread Rumour

Instead of the 1st edition randomly generated (and meaningless) rumours.  The player now specifies the rumour to be released and circulated.  Parameters following the usual format e.g. "assassination" "Thergor" "Ringlin" or "theft" "Thergor" "Minas Brethil" are required.  This should lead to some creative play - the production of credible and effective disinformation should provide players with an interesting challenge, and emissaries with a more interesting "spare" order. [Richard Devereux]

605 Guard Location

610 Guard Character 670 Sabotage Harbour or Port

615 Assassinate Character 680 Sabotage Production Stores

620 Kidnap Character 685 Steal Artefact

665 Sabotage Bridge 690 Steal Gold

The first edition agent rules have long been a source of contention. Games sometimes seem to become overly dominated by killer agents, who bring all military activity to a standstill. Apparently, at one stage, this problem was brought to the attention of the game designers, and the program was adjusted to make agent actions more difficult. It was a small or large tweak, depending on who you talk to, and some claim that the tweaking has been dome more than once.

The problem though, is that the guarding orders are almost always ineffective. Assassin capable agents routinely cut through guards. Two or three assassins aiming for the same guarded target, often kill all the guards by cumulative wounds. The target is more likely to be saved by virtue of his own rank or the local militia than by his guards. If guarding was ever balanced within the game, it certainly became unbalanced after the tweak - players simply trained their assassins a little longer, and these more polished products were not stopped by the unchanged (?) guarding rules.

In the second edition, guards will be empowered once more. This will be best achieved by adding a bonus to the innate defence of a target, based upon the agent rank, rather than the current two step process, in which the enemy agent engages first against the guard, and then against the target. Figures would need extensive testing, but an initial setting might have: Thordoc a C40 is guarded by Twitch and A30. Half of Twitch's rank is added to Thordoc's, so he counts as a Commander 55 for the purpose of calculating the success of an assassination attempt upon him. With such a method, Twitch's alertness means something, however powerful the assassin might be, and multiple guards can combine their efforts to protect a key character.

However, cumulative guarding ought to be balanced by cumulative attack - a gang of assassins might reasonably attempt to support one another.  When several assassins attack the same target character, the effective rank of the first might be boosted by one half the rank of the second, one third the rank of the third, and so on.  [Clint Oldridge]

Under first edition, failed guards take a fixed health drop based on the rank of the assassin. In second edition there will be less predictable results: death, nothing, or a random health drop.

670 Breach Fortifications

Replaces the first edition Sabotage Fortifications.  The successful agent reduces the level of the fortifications by one level for one turn only.  This is more internally consistent than the notion that one person can routinely reduce an (often stone) fortification, by destruction.  It simulates a secret entry, made or discovered; the bribing of a guard; a diversionary act; or small act of physical sabotage, which would give an advantage to an attacking army on the following turn, but would otherwise be naturally corrected by the garrison, in the course of that following turn. ["Corsairs 101"]

710 Prentice Magery

In 1st edition rules, players are promised a rank increase for their mage of 1-5 points for the execution of this order.  In practice, it has been linked inversely to the mages rank, so that mid-level and high level mages get a meagre 1-2 points only.  This is perhaps a tweak resulting from early playtests.  To make mage development more interesting, the concept of great academic discoveries, or "Eureka moments" should be introduced.  This is achieved by adjusting the mage algorithm.  An initial figure (subject to playtesting) might be:  a mage has a 75% chance of improving his rank by 1 point, but a 25% chance of improving by 4 to 20 points.  (Average over 4 turns still 1 to 5 per turn).  This 25% chance however might be improved slightly depending on the size of the population centre - there are more libraries and arcane objects in a city - is the increased risk of enemy visiting assassins worth facing?  It might also be improved slightly as a Special Nation Ability for nations with a magical inclination - though instead of "Name mages at rank 40" rather than in addition to it.  Perhaps +5% for a SNA, +5% for a city, +2.5% for a MT, -2.5% for a village, -5% for a camp.

770 Hire Army

Requires a new piece of required information: " # of gold units transferred." See new army rules above. The standard 5000 gold cost no longer applies.

The Second Edition results sheet should give the relative size indication for one's own armies, as well as for enemy armies, that is: a small army, an army, a large army, a huge army.  This information is currently only available from allies turn sheets, and is important, because what constitutes "a large army" varies throughout the course of a game.  What a commander in the field with 1000 troops facing "a large army" needs to know, as a bare minimum is - is the army across the valley, roughly bigger, smaller, or the same as mine.

782 Rally Army 865 Move Character and Rally Army

These orders allow a commander to pick up an army which has been left without one. Armies which have lost their commanders no longer disband automatically. Instead, they stand still, cannot attack, have their morale reduced to 1, and suffer the effects of Army Desertion. When such an army is picked up and rallied by a new commander, its morale is reset, based upon his rank.

Initial startups are adjusted to give all starting armies a morale of at least 50, reflecting the initial enthusiasm of raw troops embarking on a "glorious" campaign. The chief affect of low morale should not be a mere minor adjustment to battle effectiveness as in first edition, but a desertion of troops, as men decide to return to their fields and hearths. The significance of a seasonal rural economy, and the hardships of climate, increase the rate of desertion.


  Desertion Modifiers*
Morale per turn Autumn Winter Hot Cold Severe Polar
40-49 1-2%            
30-39 1-4%            
20-29 1-6% x1.2 x1.2 x1.2 x1.2 x1.5 x2.0
10-19 1-12%            
2-9 1-25%            
1 1-50%            

* Some nations might have immunity to some of these modifiers, due to the high tolerance of their people for these conditions.

790 Leave Army

An army commander is now able to leave his army with this order. Command will pass to another commander in the army, or if there is none, the army will suffer the effects of being leaderless above.

798 Pick up Ships

This order is retained, but will now be needed infrequently. In the first edition, a commander moving an army into a sea hex automatically picks up ships, but only the minimum number of transports needed. Surplus transports and all warships are left behind. In second edition, all ships will be automatically picked up, and this order is kept simply for unusual cases where a full pick up might not be required.

810 Move Character 820 Move Company

Characters are no longer able to fly twelve hexes regardless of topography. Movement will be restricted to that of a force marching, fed, cavalry troop. To make turn planning manageable, two aids to movement planning will be provided:

A character standing at Rivendell would have a movement map shaped roughly like a backwards "D". He could move far into the West or he could fight his way into the Misty Mountains, recalling the epic struggle of the Company in The Lord of the Rings up Caradhras, thus returning to the game, the aspect of heroic journey-quest. Required information is still a simple hex number, the program being allowed to calculate its legality.

Hexes given which fall outside the legal move, no longer result in total failure, instead, the program moves the character as far as possible in the desired direction. Novice or wild players can use this facility to make a long range move over two or three turns, simply by stating the desired end hex each turn. The program will move them, and they can take the consequences of whichever intermediate hexes they encounter.

830 Move Navy

Navies without food, no longer have their movement reduced from fourteen to a draconian seven hexes. Movement is reduced to twelve hexes, but the range of decline in morale is quadrupled from 1 - 5 to 1 - 20. This reflects the fact that navies cannot usually forage for food. Desertion applies to navies with low morale, when at sea it represents death and sickness from starvation and disease.

870 Move Character and Join Army or Company

As well as being subject to the new character movement rules above, this order is expanded to allow a character to join a company upon arrival at his destination.

905 Scout Army 930 Scout for Characters

910 Scout Area

These orders, which can be imagined to require considerable skill, now improve agent rank by 1 - 5 points if successful. This change will allow agents to advance more quickly and the overall difficulty of scouting orders may need to be adjusted after play testing. The important 930 Scout for Characters order will give better misleading messages when the attempt fails. Under first edition, experienced players know that only enemy characters reported with ranks are true reports. Second edition will generate false ranks with false names, and sometimes report the presence of characters who are actually elsewhere.

947 Nation Transport 948 Transport by Caravans

The functioning of these orders changes in line with the principle of internal consistency. Goods in transit, now move no faster than a mounted man. The movement of goods is controlled by the program. So, timber sent from one population centre to another might take two or more turns to arrive. The results sheet would report goods in transit as well as stores and production. This change means that players will now have to consider logistics more carefully:

This change will have an effect on the ability of nations to support one another. Exposed nations such as the Witch King and Dragon Lord will not always be able to receive a gold transfusion at one turn's notice. Note that the changes to army maintenance reduce the chance of bankruptcy, but play testing may prove that such nations still become too vulnerable. In this case the start ups will need to be adjusted to give them a more stable and independent financial base.

Some ideasmiths wanted this reworking to go further. Giving the caravans real routes via intermediate hexes does indeed give an opportunity for highway robbery. I have however rejected these ideas from my version of second edition, on the grounds of complexity cost, for value gained.

DEFENCE SPELLS - (Order #225)

Barrier Mastery 102 106 112 114

Resistance Mastery 104 108 110 116

OFFENCE SPELLS - (Order #225)

Fire Mastery 202 204 206 232 234 236 240

Word Mastery 208 210 212 220 222 224 242

Wind Mastery 214 216 218 226 228 230 238

The combat spells are under used in first edition. Experienced players, with a few notable exceptions, know not to place their mages in armies. The risks from enemy agents, and of death or capture in combat simply outweigh the advantages from this under powered battle magic. In second edition, the spells should apply to each round of a battle [Clint Oldridge].  This would mean that mages have more of an effect in battles which last all afternoon, than they do in ones which are little more than over runs.  In addition the parameters of these spells (points of damage or protection) need looking at in playtesting - they might be doubled or tripled in order to make the role of battle mages significant.

This change, taken along with the rebalanced effectiveness of guards and the War Craft list of spells, which give army mages something useful to do in non-combat turns, and the improved agent guarding, is intended to tempt mages back into battle.


War Craft 602 604 606 612 614 616

All have the requirements "Character must be with the army unless practicing; Army must be under command."

602 Encourage Easy Successful casting of this spell increases the morale of the army by 1 -5 points.

604 Rouse Average Successful casting of this spell increases the morale of the army by 1 -10 points.

606 Incite Hard Successful casting of this spell increases the morale of the army by 1 -20 points.

612 Enthusiasts Easy Successful casting of this spell means that some of the army will not draw its pay from the baggage train. Charmed soldiers agree to "wait" until the war is won. The amount saved is 25 gold for each point of mage rank.

614 Volunteers Average Successful casting of this spell means that some of the army will not draw its pay from the baggage train. Charmed soldiers agree to "wait" until the war is won. The amount saved is 50 gold for each point of mage rank.

616 Maniacs Hard Successful casting of this spell means that some of the army will not draw its pay from the baggage train. Charmed soldiers agree to "wait" until the war is won. The amount saved is 100 gold for each point of mage rank.

These spells are powerful, and their effects would need thorough play testing. They put mages into armies, and enable impoverished nations to run armies for longer, if they have enough luck to cast successfully, and enough nerve to run the agent gauntlet.

Siege Craft 620 622 624

620 Fiery Globes Easy Successful casting of this spell allows a mage with an army to cast missiles of equivalent effect to those of war machines.  The spell can be cast when the army commander has given the Besiege order, and will combine with other castings, and the use of war machines, to calculate any effect on fortifications.  The number of war machine effects emulated should be a random number between 1 and 1/10th (rounded down) of the base mage rank.

622 Ward Siege Average Successful casting of this spell allows a mage with an army which is besieging a population centre, to magically blockade any tunnels, postern gates, and secret ways by which aid might be brought.  The casting of this spell dramatically enhances the success chance and morale effect of a Besiege order given by the army.

624 Destroy Fortifications (Very) Hard Successful casting of this spell allows a mage with an army to reduce the fortifications of a population centre under siege, by one level.

Cloaking 630 632 634

This should probably be a Lost List series, initially available only to elven mages.  [The whole group is adapted from and idea by Richard Devereux and is based on The Mist of Galadriel which hid the ride of Eorl the Young to the fields of Calenhardhon]

630 Elven Cloak Easy Successful casting of this spell allows a mage to conceal a character for one turn, as if such a character were the possessor of a Cloak of Elvenkind.   The effect is similar to that of high stealth and will provide some protection for a character against identification by a populace, a scouting agent, or a scrying spell.  The mage must be in the same hex as the recipient when the spell is cast, but the effect will benefit the character even if they move apart.

632 Elven Cloaks Average Successful casting of this spell allows a mage to conceal a company for one turn, as if such a company were the possessors of  Cloaks of Elvenkind.   The effect is similar to that of high stealth and will provide some protection for the company against identification by a populace, a scouting agent, or a scrying spell.  The mage must be in the same hex when the spell is cast, but the effect will benefit the company even if it moves apart from the mage.  Characters leaving the company in the same turn lose the benefit, characters joining the company, gain it.

634 Elven Mist Hard Successful casting of this spell allows a mage to conceal an army for one turn by the conjuring of a magical mist which will benevolently cover it, unless it ends its turn at a population centre or in contact with an enemy army.  The army moves it's full allowance, but gains the benefits of "evasive" movement.  In addition, and scouting or scrying which would usually identify the army, will yield only the report of a magical mist present in the hex.  The mage must be in the same hex when the spell is cast, but the effect will benefit the army even if it moves apart from the mage.  Characters with the army, are protected within the mist, as if they were covered by the "Elven Cloaks" spell above.

LORE SPELLS - (Order #940)

Artefact Lore 412 (418 428) 438 448

412 Research Artefact Easy This spell now allows six artefacts to be researched. Success is now based upon mage rank, as well as on casting proficiency. A high level mage might expect to discover the details of all six artefacts specified. A lower level mage of only some.

418 Locate Artefact and 428 Locate Artefact True, remain unchanged.

438 Artefact Insight Average Required Information: "Artefact Type: GOOD, EVIL, NEUTRAL, COMMAND, AGENT, EMISSARY, MAGE, COMBAT, STEALTH or OTHER." Successful casting of this spell reveals to the character the numbers of up to six artefacts which have the stated characteristic. Success is based on the casting proficiency and mage rank.

448 Artefact Knowledge Hard Required Information: "Artefact Type, Artefact Value." Artefact types are: GOOD, EVIL, NEUTRAL, COMMAND, AGENT, EMISSARY, MAGE, COMBAT, STEALTH or OTHER. Artefact values depend on Artefact Type, and are given in the table below:


Artefact Type Artefact Value
GOOD EVIL NEUTRAL None, spell works as 438


A value between 1 and 40
COMBAT A value between 1 and 2250
OTHER A secondary power: DARK Summons,



Where the value is a number, a successful casting of this spell will reveal the numbers of up to three artefacts which have or exceed that value. For example AGENT 20 might yield the randomized equivalents to the familiar rings of Wind and Curufin. Where the value is a word representing a secondary power, a successful casting of this spell will reveal three artefacts which grant that power, though the alignment will remain unknown without other research.

That completes my fantasy second edition of Middle Earth Play by Mail. Well I can dream can't I? Many thanks to all who were involved in the original debate.

L. G. Tilley August 2001

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