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Fanfic / Saruman of Many Devices

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"I optimize the world-line of civilization, Saruman. Not the world-line of any particular being".

Saruman of Many Devices can be read here, by author Saphroneth

This story is a Crossover between The Lord of the Rings and The General Series, featuring Saruman as a technophilic hero.

A chipped Palantir stone has Saruman the White dial in to a master much different from Sauron, Central — an AI made to bootstrap fragments of human civilization up to the level at which it once was, one step at a time. Well, not only human. Armed with advanced scientific knowledge and the ability to see projected futures, he sets on the uneasy task of imposing peace and progress upon the rather stagnant and traditionalist nations of Middle Earth. With an army of Uruk-hai, of course.


On Hiatus. In-progress parts of Chapter 15 on Spacebattles.

Tropes contained in Saruman of Many Devices

  • Adaptational Heroism: In general, Isengard and its associates are portrayed in a more positive light.
    • Saruman never goes bad in this story, and is actively working to improve Middle-earth.
    • Lurtz, unlike how he was in the movie, is a firm ally to the Fellowship. The same goes for every other Uruk-hai, orc and others in service to Saruman.
  • Alternate Universe: Seems to be a fusion of the Peter Jackson movie (Lurtz is present), and the original books (female orcs are present; Uruk-Hai are bred from orcs and humans instead of orcs and goblins, Eowyn takes the pseudonym Dernhelm when riding with the Rohirrim, Arwen takes Glorfindel's role in bringing Frodo to Rivendell), and the Games Workshop Tabletop Wargame (a squad of rifle uruks is pursued by the Ringwraith Khamul the Easterling, Black Numenorian magicians are part of a probing attack on a fortified town, the Nazguls called The Shadowlord and The Undying are slain during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields), on top of its being a crossover with The General.
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  • Arms Dealer: Saruman sends arms and ammunition to the Elves when it's revealed that the Gundabad orcs are starting to make their own guns.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Eomer's poorly considered decision to try to attack the Dunlendings puts him in the very literal cross-hairs of an Isengard regiment. While he survives, he ends up losing an arm, which has given him the title "Eomer the One Armed."
  • Artificial Intelligence: Central is one. Fortunately, his sole motivation is to improve the lot of technologically backwards civilizations.
  • BFG: The Anduin field guns and Branduin mortars that the Army of the White Hand uses.
  • Backup Bluff: A villainous example, and a very clever one at that. After the Easterlings had been repelled at the Battle of the Ford, their leader went to Dorwinion and managed to convince its garrison that he had actually won by showing off his personal collection of treasures and even having several "captured" Dale banners spun up. His bluff was so good that the city surrendered without a fight.
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  • Badass Army: The Army of the White Hand is well trained, has excellent leadership, and is by far the most technologically advanced army in the world right now. Lurtz's company alone, the Longsights, is able to deal with forces many times its size. And they're only going to get better.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Uruk-hai snipers are very good at this. Legolas too, but he can do it with a bow and arrow.
  • Boring, but Practical: Central's way most of the time — there's little use to Wunderwaffen if you can't equip your army with them effectively. Very much justified, in this case. The Free People of Middle-Earth face a vastly-numerically superior foe that has a mix of magical wonder weapons (or wonder fortifications, in the case of the Black Gate and Barad-dur) and semi-rare superweapons (Olog-Hai/Battle Trolls, mumakil, the Nazgul and their Fell Beasts, skilled Black Numenorian mages, etc). The Alliance needs to hold off Sauron's forces/allies on every front, not just the one where Saruman could deploy his potential wonder weapon.
  • Competence Porn: All of Middle-Earth's armies and leadership are shown to be being rational and competent, including Gondor and Rohan, where in canon they were sabotaged by paranoia and and subterfuge, allowing readers to follow the full breadth of military organisation, rather than hurried plans and desperate last-minute saves.
    • Even the forces of Morder get this treatment, particularly the Easterlings. They consistently adapt their tactics to face the rifles of Isengard and were almost able to capture the city where Lurtz's company and a portion of the Fellowship were stationed. A truly audacious example of extreme competence was when one of the Easterling leaders managed to bluff Dorwinion into surrendering by making it look like he had actually won the battle against Dale and Isengard (when in fact his men had lost badly) and takes the city without a single loss.
  • Cool Guns: Since gunpowder and weapons based off it are entirely new technologies within Middle Earth, this pretty much applies to every gun.
  • Cultured Warrior: Lurtz is fluent in several languages and apparently is well read too.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • The Battle of Minas Tirith goes a mite differently. Partly the result of Sauron clearly not taking the threat of firearms seriously, not having bothered to inform his commanders of the possibility nor change his battle plan much.
    • An expeditionary force Saruman sends to help Dale hold off Rhun's invasion also wins a number of victories like this. However, the Rhun forces actually adapt (to an extent) rather quickly, ensuring that any second battle with a Rhun army is, at most, a Curb Stomp Cushion.
    • Seriously averted in the Battle of Cair Andros. With a modest Gondorian garrison and only a hundred or so Isengard troops (plus its warg mounts and werewolf scouts), it struggles to hold out against an onslaught of Easterlings, Black Numenorians (including a few mages), and orcs, with the siege being broken in the nick of time by a surprise charge by the remaining muster of Rohirrim. Against a force with good morale, discipline, and an adaptive commander, even a fortress and 19th century firearms won't help you for very long.
    • The pacification of Umbar has thus far proven to be of a similar bent. Even a dedicated Umbaran ramming galley just doesn't have sufficient mass or structural integrity to withstand a direct head-on collision with an Isengard ironclad, and Umbar's more conventional fleets have been shredded by cannon fire. The only real holdout has proven to be the coastal forts, due to having artillery of their own (after a fashion, in the form of siege catapults).
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Uruk-hai, wargs, and werewolves associated with Isengard, which are traditionally Always Chaotic Evil races in the canon universe, are firmly on the side of Good thanks to Central's influence turning Saruman away from darkness.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Mithril-tipped bullets, made from melting down a dwarven ring of power in Saruman's possession (making the mithril also enchanted). Given how ridiculously few of these he has, he saves them for one task and one task only: a last resort for killing Nazgul. He ends up making use of them in chapter 10.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted in various scenes.
    • Ammo shortages, gunpowder shortages, food shortages, transportation issues and even a railway line being built are all issues that have to be dealt with, and Ternak, Saruman's main logistics officer, is in charge of all of them.
    • At one point Saruman actually solves a logistics problem that wasn't brought up in the original story - in order to make the great ride from Rohan to Minas Tirith, the Rohirrim would have needed on the order of 180 tons of fodder for their horses, with no way to carry that on the horses and little time for the horses to graze. In this story, Saruman had a just completed Isengard-Minas Tirith train line, which he loaded with all the Rohirrim's food, tents, cooking gear and fodder. So every day, the Rohirrim would ride with just their weapons and armor to an agreed upon camp site, and find their camp already set up for them, allowing them full rations and no wasted time pitching tents.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Gothmog's last words as his flank collapses in the face of the Rohirrim and Isengard cavalry is to bellow at them to come get him.
  • Fantastic Racism: The uruk-hai meet with suspicion or outright discrimination from most, at least until they prove themselves. Rather interestingly, the uruk-hai take it in stride—which helps them overcome this considerably.
  • A Father to His Men: Pretty much every commander in the Army of the White Hand. Lurtz especially finds it hard to watch his men die and be unable to do anything about it.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Gandalf is initially antagonistic to Saruman for his use of the Palantir and consorting with Uruks (which he considers to be nothing more than degraded elves who all serve evil), but Lurtz and his Longsights helping the Fellowship out in Moria earns the Uruk his respect, and after the Battle of Minas Tirith, he is fully convinced of the good intentions of the Army of the White Hand.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: Said word for word by Lurtz in Chapter 4, when his contingent engages the Balrog. Justified in that he was mostly just trying to keep morale up while his real plan came to fruition — although the bullets' impact was informative, too.
  • For Want of a Nail: All this comes from Saruman's Palantir being damaged.
  • Frontline General: Saruman becomes this in the later chapters. He and Central also discuss it.
    Central: It is a strange correlation that those generals who were most successful tended to expose themselves to more danger. To complain would be to hamper the very reason you are of such use.
    Saruman: It isn't strange at all. After all, soldiers aren't pieces on a board. And I for one find myself seeking to find ways to remind myself of that.
  • Future Loser: Central shows a projection of the original LOTR timeline to Saruman (where he is very much the loser), in order to persuade him to go along with the plan. He also convinces Saruman to give up any notion of acquiring the One Ring for himself with a concise, excellently logical argument: the One Ring is an agent of entropy, ultimately leading all who wield it and seek it for their own gain to ruin—even Sauron himself. Saruman pretty much takes the point in stride, being unable to find any holes in the argument. Central also shows Saruman other projected simulations where even the more technologically superior army is defeated on account of better tactics, better logistics or better circumstances on the other side's.
  • Gender Is No Object: As far as the Army of the White Hand is concerned. Two of Saruman's first-generation Uruks are female, and although Skara is in charge of the medical contingent, Raza is the colonel of the Disaster's Blade infantry regiment. There are also several female officers and line troopers amongst the army as well.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: If the Romans were taller, greener and meaner. And radio was a gun, plus the assortment of industrial technology required for their manufacture and deployment.
  • Grand Theft Prototype: Inverted. Instead of the good guys acquiring a prototype from the bad guys, it's the other way around. Even though their own gun versions are vastly inferior to those produced by Isengard, it's still worrying that they could even do that in such a short amount of time.
  • Great Offscreen War: Averted. Unlike in the books, the battle for Dale is shown quite clearly.
  • Groin Attack: Some amusing advice one of the Uruk commanders give his troopers in training when confronted with trolls. Don't aim at the head, they won't notice that, shoot them between the legs instead.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Completely and utterly averted. The rifles and field artillery used by Saruman's forces give them a massive advantage against everyone else and as such are prized beyond most anything else. The orcs of Mordor even begin making their own, albeit far cruder and more primitive versions.
  • Heads-Up Display: Central's connection to Saruman means that he can project an assortment of things in front of his eyes, like a targeting reticle, or analysis grids that can measure a person's facial structure and determine his emotional state.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Saruman, who, instead of trying to claim the Ring for his own, is now aiding the West and the Fellowship of the Ring. Also Lurtz, who, in this alternate universe, is now the commander of an elite company of reconnaissance dragoons and lends invaluable help to Frodo and Co. from Rivendell on south.
  • Henchmen Race: While the uruk-hai are bred and trained primarily for battle, they are first and foremost Saruman's valued officers and soldiers. However, he also hires craftsmen and refugees from other races. Saruman's argument to Gandalf in the first chapter clearly indicates that he takes pride in the uruk-hai as a people, rather than as his henchmen (like in canon). He trains them to think creatively, take initiative, and be multifaceted. Lurtz, for example, is a linguist by hobby; Raza is a logistical expert, medic, and inventor.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Saruman's cavalry is composed not of horses, but wargs. The reason for the replacement is that wargs are both smarter and have better endurance than horses. Oh, and they can also rip apart enemy combatants with their jaws.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: When Arwen first meets Lurtz and the Longsights, what convinces her that they aren't hostile is that they haven't killed her yet, even though their weapons could've hit her from 900 yards away.
  • Immune to Bullets:
    • Usually averted. Even trolls, Mumakil and the Nazgul's fell beasts can be brought down by them, if shot enough times or in a vulnerable spot.
    • Played straight with the balrog in Moria. It barely seems to notice them and Lurtz and his men have to get resourceful.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Legolas, of course. As just one specific example, in chapter 8, he makes with his bow and arrow a 1300m shot — one Lurtz gapes at as impossible even for rifles. Arwen and her brother are turning out to be fairly good shots in their own right — and they have Isen rifles.
  • In Spite of a Nail: The Fellowship still gets broken up at Amon Hen by Lurtz, albeit for very different reasons.
  • Irony: Boromir becomes friends with Lurtz, the Uruk-Hai that killed him in the films.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: In chapter 12 Earl Dorwinion is offered the medieval equivalent for his treachery — a dagger is given to him and he is told to shave before his sentence is served. He has a "shaving accident".
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • King Brand knows that Earl Dorwinion wasn't treacherous when he surrendered his town to the Easterlings in the face of a bluff, just guilty of cowardice-in-the-face. By allowing him to "have a shaving accident" before his trial, his lands are not forfeit and his son can still inherit.
  • Magic from Technology:
    • At one point, hidden uruks snipe at an enemy force holding a town. Due to the extended range and poor visibility, all the enemy perceives from the Uruk-hai units (aside from their theatrically gesturing commander) are bullet wounds, which leads them to believe the Uruk-hai have potent magic on their side.
    • When Central shows him visions from an alternate reality where science reigns supreme, even Saruman can barely comprehend the technology he sees.
  • The Magic Versus Technology War: Falls on both sides of the fence — magic is not completely invalidated, but a rifle volley beats a fireball nine times out of ten. It helps that most Tolkienian magic is subtle, on the level of enchanting weapons, preserving a location or amplifying voices, and does not generally see a lot of battlefield use.
    • Saruman utilizes his own magic in very subtle ways to have a significant effect on a large scale, most often in terms of battlefield recon and intelligence; breeding special crows that are intelligent and can (in effect) facilitate telepathic communication between himself and whomever the crow is physically touching or making a detailed, 3D map projection of a fortress to help his commanders come up with a battle plan.
    • Sauron, on the other hand, tends to use more overt magic for a more immediate, obvious effect — darkening the sky, cloaking a strike force from sight for a short time, creating wonder weapons like Grond, etc.
  • Medieval Stasis:
    • Central warns Saruman that this is the fate of Middle-Earth if it keeps going down its current path, and so assists him in breaking the stagnation.
    • Saruman presents the same argument to Gandalf when they first meet, stating that all of Middle-Earth's glories lie far in the past. The elves prefer to long for the days of their old splendor rather than trying to live for the future while everyone else is content to just do what they've been doing for centuries without even trying to innovate.
  • Must Make Amends:
    • When Saruman comes to Edoras to negotiate a peace between Rohan and the Dunlendings, Eomer is convinced that Saruman is only playing his uncle. This causes him to try and mount an assault against the Dunlendings and destroy them for good. Saruman, however, gets wind of this and quickly deploys his forces to stop Eomer. Needless to say, it ends very badly for the Rohirrim, resulting in their near-total destruction. Theoden is understandably displeased and tells his nephew quite plainly that he'd best show that his stunt was a one-time thing. Fortunately, Eomer seems to be taking this deeply to heart, and later demonstrates conduct worthy of a leader of Rohan by breaking the siege on Cair Andros just when Mordor was about to break into the city.
    • During the siege to retake Dorwinion, the men of the Earl (who had surrendered the city in the first place in the face of a Backup Bluff) willingly charge through the layer of boiling oil defenses to allow the army to penetrate the city.
  • Myopic Architecture: A variant; Myopic Transportation. Early in the story, the Nazgul are the immortal black riders that ride on all-too-mortal horses, so Lurtz knows exactly where to aim his company's bullets. Not only will it allow their quarry to outrun them, it means they have to walk back to Sauron to report. Even when Sauron upgrades to fell beasts, that tactic still applies.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In chapter 6 the author notes that the Fellowship still ended up getting broken by Lurtz at Amon Hen, albeit this time under friendlier circumstances.
    • In chapter 11 Denethor tells Faramir that "I will not burn my city and my people on a pyre of my own self-aggrandizement."
    • Eowyn still ends up revealing herself on the Battle of Pelennor Fields.
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: More by circumstance than conscious effort, when a Fell-beast and its Nazgul rider end up landing among the White Hand ranks, one gunner manages to depress his Anduin (artillery) field gun enough to fire it point-blank at the Nazgul.
    Kerkú (cavalry colonel): Well, I don't know if that's killed it, but it'll certainly hurt in the morning!
  • Odd Friendship: Frodo finds himself bonding with Long-paw, the werewolf scout assigned to protect him at the battle of Cair Andros.
  • Overnight Conquest: Happens on both sides. The Easterlings are able to capture Dorwinion, one of the most fortified cities in Dale, by running a colossal bluff. The city gets recaptured during the night by the allied forces of Isengard and the Dale, with the help of some people on the inside opening one of the gates for them.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Pretty much anyone in a position of authority here is this.
    • Played with in Denethor's case. On the one hand, he staunchly refuses to acknowledge Aragorn as the heir to the throne of Gondor, no matter his lineage. On the other, he knows that his refusal would lead to plenty of internal turmoil and possibly even a civil war, something that Gondor cannot afford. In the end, he decides to compromise and step down as Steward, handing the reins to Boromir. Both his sons are astonished.
      Denethor: Look at you all! Like watchmen who have suddenly discovered the man causing a disturbance is the son of a lord! Do not think me too set in my ways, men of the west!
  • Reveille: Happens a lot within the Army of the White Hand.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Given that Central can only advance Saruman's forces so far due to the limitations of their metalworking and chemistry, this is pretty much justified for close quarters.
  • The Short War: Averted. Saruman knows only too well that the upcoming war against Sauron will not be over quickly, even with all the technological innovations he'll be bringing to the field, a fact that Central confirms.
    Saruman: This isn't going to be a quick war, is it?
    Central: I did not promise a quick war, Saruman. I merely explain how to fight one that can be victorious.
  • Shout-Out: Lurtz's response to the advancing Balrog: "The bastard with wings, Five Rounds Rapid!"
  • Simple, yet Awesome: Central stresses that simplicity is something to strive for, particularly in regards to weapon technology. Making things more complex just leaves room for more problems to arise. That being said, in a time of swords and spears, even simple gunpowder weapons like rifles and cannons are nothing short of astounding.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Since Saruman has not gone down the path of evil like in canon, quite a few people have been spared from dying (so far).
    • First and foremost is Boromir. Saruman no longer desires the One Ring and so he never sends an army to try and capture the Hobbits, which means Boromir doesn't die in their defense. (Funnily enough, Saruman does still send an army, but to help the Fellowship, and as the author noted, it still gets broken up as they divide up to deal with oncoming threats.)
    • This also has the effect of keeping Lurtz alive too, as in the movie verse, he was the leader of the war party sent to retrieve the Ring. Since he's not an enemy here, Aragorn doesn't make him a "head" shorter.
    • Thanks to both his sons being alive and well, and since Gondor's future is not nearly as precarious as it was in canon thanks to Saruman, Denethor has not succumbed to despair and committed suicide.
    • Theodred and Theoden are also spared. Rohan is not under attack by Saruman in this universe, so the prince never gets ambushed and mortally wounded, while his father didn't get killed by the Witch King at Pelennor Fields.
    • Even Gandalf doesn't suffer his canon (albeit temporary) demise thanks to Lurtz and his men blowing up the bridge of Khazad-Dum once the balrog gets far enough across.
  • Stock Weapon Names: The guns made by Isengard are all named after rivers. The rifles are called Isens, revolvers Limlights, rapidguns Lunes, mortars Branduins and field guns Anduins. The muzzle-loading rifles that are later used by Gondor are called Ithils.
  • Super Prototype: Downplayed. Saruman's first ten Uruk-Hai are all colonels in the Army of the White Hand or leaders of various support divisions, but this is also due to them having more time to learn and innovate from Saruman than the uruks that come after.
  • Take a Third Option: Denethor refuses to bow down to a Dunedain Ranger, no matter what his ancestry. But he also doesn't want the potential civil war that openly refusing Aragorn's claim to the throne could trigger, especially when Sauron's forces are active. So he resigns the Stewardship of Gondor in favor of Boromir, who is willing to accept the return of the King.
  • Taught by Experience: Later chapters show the opposition forces becoming more savvy to Saruman's use of crows for reconnaissance, and have taken to shooting down the murders.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Thanks to Central's influence, Saruman does not become the power-hungry madman he was in the books and is perhaps the first person not allied with Mordor to give orcs and other creatures normally on the side of Sauron a chance to be something better.
  • Unobtanium: Mithril. Its hardness and other properties come in handy for Saruman. Its magical properties (or magical potential) make it the basis of effective (though phenomenally expensive/rare) weapons against Nazgul, too. That being said, with a Moria reclamation operation tentatively planned for the upcoming winter, mithril may be set to be somewhat less rare in the near future.
  • War Elephants: The Haradrim's Mumakil, which are elephants on steroids. It takes several shots from a battery of field guns to bring them down. Fortunately, they're pretty easy to hit and can't move fast for very long.
  • The War to End All Wars: The War of the Ring is shaping up to be this, especially with Saruman bringing his gunpowder weapons into it.
  • The Women Are Safe with Us: Uruk commanders warn their troops against "messing with the women", due to Sacred Hospitality. Easterlings, on the other hand...

Alternative Title(s): Saruman Of The Many Devices


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