Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Letters from Ir - The Beginning

Inspired by Jon Petersons 'Playing at the World' and in particular the stories of Proto-Roleplaying/Wargaming in the U.K. in the 70's, and by reading (listening to really) Churchills 'Marlborough', for the last few months I have been trying to run a kind of letter-writing, RPG/Strategy game.

Basic idea is this - 

Every player gets a chunk of the map, invents a nation and a ruler, generates a power level (which they do not disclose to other players), and assigns points from that power level to armies, individuals etc.

Players write orders to their assigned agents by writing, in character, to me. They can send one envelope per month but include as many orders as they like.

They can also write as many letters to each other as they like (in character, as rulers).

They are not meant to chat online to each other or do political stuff (on the Discord at least, I can't really stop them if they do it secretly.

Each month, towards the end of the month, I work out the results of all the Rulers orders and write back to them, in character, describing what happened - and OH MY GOD ITS DENSE.

And I could do a whole post on the evolution of my questionable rules for this.

So things proceed, month by month, with the history of Ir and the interactions of the various nations.

Ir as of today

To make diagetic sense of the existence of these nations who essentially had little or no contact before October (Month of the Time-God 'Oct') 2019, but who still know enough about each other to write letters, I created a quasi sci-fi origin story which links them in somewhat to the Esh/Uud metaverse.

Here's the original background text;


The planet, or plane you are on used to be part of a trans-dimensional super-empire. This might be where all the different races and peoples of your biome came from.

About a thousand years ago [EDIT - is not 2two thousand an nineteen years], something went wrong and the giant intra-dimensional portal that connected your world, or realm, to this great commonwealth, was closed.

The Optimate, a kind of super-wizard meant to be in-charge of keeping your realm stable, or at least coherent, and safe from creepy interdimensional predatory elements, gave vague or unclear reasons for this. 

The Optimate evolved into a kind of world-ruler. They used their powers to keep all the nations, cultures and races stable, and somewhat separate. Individuals are allowed to move around, but only members of the upper classes. A kind of passport system was used, so the educated rulers have knowledge of each other but there were no mass movements of population. And the Optimate used their powers, and the remains of the Trans-Dimensional Government they headed, as a kind of 'nuclear option' which prevented anyone from amassing armies, invading each other, challenging their rule, or putting together magical or technological forces that might challenge them. The general opinion of thinkers was that, separated from their interdimensional culture and not knowing what else to do, the Optimate essentially tried to set the planetary/realm culture into 'survival mode' and to keep it stable and alive for as long as possible, and that meant tamping down on innovation of most kinds.

Over the millennia the forces of the Optimate have been gradually lessening, generation upon generation, so slowly that really only historians believed it was happening. They haven't been seen, and nothing has been heard of them for fifty years, and the previous messages indicated some kind of sickness. You don't even know if there is only one Optimate, or if its a generational thing or a cult, or what. You just know whenever anyone tries to put together military forces or magical forces above a certain (proportionate and deliberately-unclear) threshold, they get whacked by super-magic, and no-one has done it for 200 years.

Your rulers and cultures may well have very partial and very vague ideas about most of this. Its not like they necessarily know what a ‘dimension’ is, or even that the Optimate was a kind of Magic-User. For most of them its as if the world was ruled by a kind of very bureaucratic, distant, but very material demigod. Its been like this for a millennia and that’s long enough for history to become highly legendary.

The game starts as the radical traveller and poet Uxlorian Vesh has entered the Optimates silent city of Esh, broken into the City of Portal, evaded the decaying guards and discovered and confirmed that the Optimate is definitely either dead or gone. No-one is guarding Esh. No-one is policing the use of force. The only people enforcing the passport system are you, if you want to. 

There is no dominating centre to the geopolitical world, and no-one knows what to do next. A massive power vacuum has opened up, perfect for someone to fill it, or, if they are more morally responsible, to prevent anyone else from filling it, in order to maintain stability.

None of you can be certain how militarily or economically powerful each other are. It has literally never been tested in memory or record.

You know a bit about each others existence, travellers and ambassadors pass back and forth, there is some trade, but compared to, for instance, any point in the civilised history of earth, you really know shit all about your neighbours, or what might lie in the spaces between powers. You do have a general map of your world though."

The Oceans of Ir

The current nations (some are only recently 'awoken' are;

Xingando -mercantile alchemists ruled by Cerberus Or

Ulukaa - mixed nation of lizard people, tattooed humans and masked priests living in a super-jungle, ruled by All-Eyes the Pontiff Queen

Illmora - pretty reasonable growth/nature worshipping nation ruled by The Great Father-Mother

THE GREAT GLORIOUS GRONNATE - an extremely reasonable nation of arts and education ruled by THE GRON MAXIMAL

The Secret Dutchy - as yet unawoken.

Kanibalo - shark-toothed individuals in steel canoes. Ruled by Cefa Kuristo.

Slug Isle - Isle of rain-swept slug farmers, ruled by ysbryda Holyworm.

Highvern - freezing mountainous nation of jewel-mining Goblins, and others, ruled by High Queen Settra.

The Mourgelands - desert nation of pharonis Hobbit necromancers ruled by The Great Zarazant.

Twelve - currently isolationist nation of insect-people ruled by Holy Three Hand.


In addition to their monthly letters I give the players a chronicle of the events of the world as told by the 'Heralds of Ir' - with all the news at least a month old.

Here's the current chronicle;

The God Oct- Year 2019

 1st of Oct – Rumours begin to reach the Halls of the Rulers that the sot, Uxlorian Vesh, has penetrated the boundaries of the Optimate and found them Void.

7th of Oct – It is said that the Verdant Fleet of Doth-Far the Clever, of Ilmora, is anchored at Metheltossos on the Insect Sea, and there trades valued metals with the peoples of Ulukaa.

9th of Oct – Sailors claim that a great fortress of Wax has been seen crossing the Shadows Reach between Twelve and the unknown lands which lie between the Green Reach and the Sea of Shadows.

11th of Oct – A single fisherman of Xingando tells a wild tale, that he was driven by storms across the Reach Inferior and into the Circle Sea, where he was captured and brought aboard a mighty armada, and there entertained by a most beautiful Admiral, Eralassua, as if he were himself of Noble Birth, before being sent upon his way.

The God Nov – Year 2019

2nd of Nov – Rumour states that war has broken out between Xingando and Illmora! The Illmorans flee in terror as Xingado invades!

3rd of Nov – The Illmorans make ready to resist the Imperious Invaders of Xingando with what force they may.

8th of Nov – A Great Host moves in Highvern. Tales speak of Wolves in the Desert lands.

9th of Nov – Sailors and fishermen claim to have witnessed Ships of the Dead in the Ocean of Alien Dreams to the South of Twelve.

10th Nov DISASTER IN ILLMORA –A Great Massacre! The Illmorans fall back in disarray, is Illmora doomed at the hands of Xingando? Surely Xingando is now the Great Power of the East.

13th Nov – It is said the Dead now rise also in the Circle Sea, ghosts are sighted within its waves.

15th Nov – The Battle of the Desert Wolves! In the far West of the Mourgelands the Wolf-Riders of Settera the Ice Queen have met the Undead Hordes of the High Zarazant. In a conflict which lasted till the stars burned cold the Wolves of Settera were driven back. Their General, the Savage Clasnat, swears revenge against the Zarazant and his general of the East, Kathegras Ekibe.

18th Nov – Disaster at the Pillars of Delusion! A Great Host of Setteras Armies did attempt crossing of the Pillars of Delusion to invade the Realm of the High Zarazant. They faced catastrophe! The skeletons of mighty sea-wyrms, the foul zombified corpses of Whales and the ghosts of sharks did battle with the Navy of Eralassa for a day and a night. Ultimately, so great was the phanstasmorgic terror that the forces of Highvern fell back to port. It is said that Tadaitzol, Hegeomon of Settera, and wielder of the Sword of Destiny, made of Motherfucking Diamonds, does rage against High-Admiral Eralassa for this failure.

20th – The savage army of Xingando, the so-called ‘Rough-Gut Boys’, advances upon the Illmoran capital, so far with neither response or opposition from the Great Father-Mother.

23rd – A Great Host of beings fleeing the Insectoid Nation of Twelve are pursued across the wildlands west of the Shadows Reach by the forces of “Holy Three-Hand” and were sure to be destroyed. Yet as they approached the border of the Great Glorious Gronnate, that border did open! The refugees claim this is a Sign and beg succour from the Great Gron Maximal.

28th – In the Northerly Isle between the Optimate and Xingando, a new power rises. She who names herself the “Optimatrix”, called by some “The Golden Witch” declares rulership of all Optimate lands and demands recognition from all other rulers of Ir, beginning with the impudent and imperialistic Cerberus Or.

The God Dec – Year 2019

6th Dec - The Hot/Cold War drags on!

The conflict between Highvern and the Mourgelands staggers on in its southern theatre.

The Mourgelanders are unable to push Clasnats Goblins out of their land, but it is said they have poisoned the desert and made the area impassible for living beings in large numbers.

All observers believe that neither Setra or the Zarazant are about to back down and many wonder what their plans may be.......

8th Dec – Setra Fails!

Ice Queen Setra leaves the Crystal City and attempts to use her Great magical Power to freeze the gulf between the Pillars of Delusion claiming that her armies will simply walk across.

She leaves only icy bergs and black water which proves a serious impediment to shipping.

The Mourgelanders send up fireworks of ultraviolet mockery in response.

9th - Ghosts in the Crystal City

Wild tales grow of ghouls and spirits in the Crystal City, and of a Strange Gackling Moon. Highverners believe this is the work of the Foul Zarazant.

Dec 10th - Build That Wall!

The Great Glorious Gronnate proudly announces the building of an extremely long and narrow school, in the shape of a wall, which exactly matches the shape of its Eastern border with the wildlands.

General Snavros insists that anyone can apply to study in the Wall-School, the only two rules, The first is that to get in, you have to climb over the school. The other rule is that anyone trespassing on school property will be ejected.

The hordes of Human Chattel fleeing the Wasp-People of Twelve moan in Great Terror as their former owners repossess them by force.

13th Dec - Clasnats Betrayal!

It becomes common knowledge across Ir that the Goblin General Clasnat. Leader of Setras Wolf-Riders and main commander in the Southern Hot/Cold War, is considering betrayal, either for money or because he fears Setra has sent him and his riders there to die, as they may be potential threats to her continued Rule.

It is said that Setra has taken Clasnats family hostage to ensure his loyalty


Crazed and confused stories speak of something Gigantic and Amorphous slithering beneath the waves of the Pass of Indecision between Northern and Southern Illmora.

Heralds are sent to investigate but their only report is that EVERYTHING IS FINE HERE ABSOLUTELY FINE


Will probably be a year (assuming I even manage to keep this going for a year) before I can post any of the letters back and forth between rulers and their agents, but I might be able to put up some of the 'opening letters' from the start of the game.


  1. I look forward to following this.

  2. Fantastic, I’d like to see the actual rules. Awesome maps.

  3. Inspiring! Would love to see rules and more of how you run it, including how you resolved the intelligence problem in your previous post. Strongly considering trying to run something like this.