War is merely the continuation of policy by other means.

Carl von Clausewitz


The Military Council is the political body of the Empire that deals directly with the war with the barbarians. Although the Council is a political body, its primary involvement is in the strategic and tactical decisions that concern the deployment of Imperial forces on campaign and on battlefields. Players who like a very directed, unified engagement with a clear external enemy to fight against are much more likely to find that in the Military Council than anywhere else in the game.

Because the Council are directly up against the barbarians who are controlled by us, we need to ensure that there is a clear, simple, system that allows players to make intelligent, rational decisions about how to commit their forces. To give a better understanding of how the Military Council works we have focussed on explaining how war works in Empire - the best way to understand the Military Council is to understand how they do their job.

...in the whole range of human activities, war most closely resembles a game of cards.

Carl von Clausewitz

The Sharpe Model

The setting for the Empire is one of a grand civilisation - of hundreds of thousands of people living in a great empire rising to the height of its powers. To make the scale of the Empire feel right, it needs to have armies - it's difficult to believe in a mighty empire if five hundred soldiers is the most it can put in the field. We wanted the armies to give the sense of coherent narrative to the military campaigns of the Empire to give players a simple, easy-to-understand context for the ongoing wars - our soldiers are fighting here, here and here.

That creates enormous challenges - we obviously can't phys-rep armies of thousands, much as we might like to. More-over we don't want to phys-rep an army of thousands... doing so would create vast arrays of possibilities that we can't control - and we don't want the outcome of the war to be determined by these NPCs - they exist only to provide the setting that makes sense of the player actions and decisions - we want the player actions to be the critical element that determines the outcome.

What we want for Empire was summed up by a friend as Sharpe from the novels by Bernard Cornwall - Wellington is on campaign with his army in Spain - his army of thousands spends months manoeuvring and fighting battles with the French - but the outcome is always critically affected by the actions of Sharpe and his small band of elite soldiers.

Boldness governed by superior intellect is the mark of a hero.

Carl von Clausewitz

The Underlying Goal

One of the most important of the core design goals for Empire was to have enjoyable battles take place at events where the outcome of the battles was critically important for the future of the Empire. We wanted the battles to be genuinely challenging so that success hangs in the balance based on the actions of the players. It is essential for the victories and the defeats to be significant in the game setting - so that the military triumphs of the Empire were fundamentally based on the actions of players at events not some computer model.

Although we expect that most of the time the Military Council will work together, we wanted to ensure that political conflict was possible even here. Political conflict can only arise spontaneously in LRP if characters are able to make real, meaningful choices - without that possibility player-led politics is impossible. For bodies like the Senate with its power to assign the Imperial budget that is relatively easy to achieve - but to achieve that in the military council it has to be possible to make decisions at each event about where and when it commits its forces.

Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.

Carl von Clausewitz

Keeping it Simple

In real war, logistics is incredibly important to the success of an army. Logistics is an incredibly challenging field - ensuring that soldiers, their equipment and their food is in the right place at the right time takes a great deal of skill and a great deal of hard work. We're sure that there is a brilliant LRP game in which players spend their days meticulously planning every element of a military campaign, right down to how big the tins of bully-beef should be and whether the key that opens them should go on the top or on the side. However, from experience running games with complex military logistics, we have realized that we have no idea how to make that game fun. So we're not running that game again under any circumstances.

That means the players make two kinds of military decision in Empire - where the armies go and where they attack, and where the heroes go and where they attack. All the logistical decisions about supplying and equipping the armies are beneath the abstraction layer for Empire. Detailed plans of how an army moves, how it attacks are fine for role-playing purposes, but they don't affect the game in any way. All of this is assumed to be handled by the civil service who automatically make the most advantageous possible decisions for the Empire.

Principles and rules are intended to provide a thinking man with a frame of reference.

Carl von Clausewitz

Toy Soldiers

Empire employs a conceptually complex model to deliver the simplest possible framework that meets all the design goals. The Empire has approximately twenty armies at its disposal with a maximum strength of 5000 soldiers each. These armies are sent on campaign by the general issuing a single order at each event, instructing them on where to go and whether to attack or defend for the next three months.

Between the events Profound Decisions will compare the deployment of the Empire's armies with the deployment of the barbarian forces and will calculate; this is the rough outcome that is taking place as the event happens and in the immediate weeks that follow. The is a purely mathematical calculation with no random element.

This projection is provided by the civil service to the generals at each event they attend, based on scouting reports, military analysis and predictions made using day and night magic. The generals are told what outcome is going to happen if they do not intervene in anyway.

They are then presented with a set of opportunities to intervene, by leading the Imperial heroes from Anvil into a pitched battle - along with analysis of how victory or defeat on these battles will affect the campaign outcome. The better they do on their battle, the more objectives they achieve, the more positive the impact on the outcome of the military campaign that their armies are engaged in. In effect the random element of the clash of armies - the key element that determines the outcome in a meaningful way - is governed by which battles the players choose to fight and how well they do.

With uncertainty in one scale, courage and self-confidence should be thrown into the other to correct the balance.

Carl von Clausewitz



A campaign occurs over months and years involving armies of thousands across a territory. The Imperial generals have the opportunity to change the orders for their armies once every three months - so the orders they give are appropriate to that scale. A campaign consists of dozens of major and minor encounters between Imperial and barbarian forces.


A battles occurs over a few hours involving armies of hundreds of Imperial heroes against similar numbers of barbarian troops. The Imperial use the Sentinel Gate to travel to the front line where they engage in a single pitched battle at a location that is pivotal to the outcome of the military campaign.

Simple resolution, complex story

The philosophical approach used to determine the outcome of a campaign is designed to be extremely simple, to ensure that it is simple and easy to understand by players. We want players involved with the Military Council to be able to readily comprehend why an outcome has occurred. The rules also completely avoid almost any need for Profound Decisions to make judgements on the strategic value of orders given by the generals as such judgements are always exceptionally subjective.

For this reason, the orders given by the generals do not directly affect the mathematical outcomes calculated using the rules. Which side is winning, the size of their victory and the casualties incurred are all calculated directly from the strengths of the armies involved. The orders the generals submit determine the character of the victory. Which regions are captured and how the casualties are divided between the armies involved in the campaign is set by combining the simple mathematical outcome for the campaign in the territory with the complex free form orders submitted by the generals.

All action takes place, so to speak, in a kind of twilight, which like a fog or moonlight, often tends to make things seem grotesque and larger than they really are.

Carl von Clausewitz

There is no random element to the calculations of the outcome of the wars between the Imperial armies and the barbarian forces - but the outcome of a campaign will be significantly altered by the battles the players participate in at events. The success or failure of the players on the field of battle is the random element in the Imperial wars.

The goal is to produce a simple system with simple resolution mechanics that can be readily understood - but one which allows for complex stories and a rich narrative where triumph is ultimately dependent on the ability of the players at events.

A Civil Servant did it

In overhauling the Military Council, we've made two significant changes to the existing rules. The OOC reasons for these rules are discussed below, with explanations followed by the IC justification

Politics is the womb in which war develops.

Carl von Clausewitz

Changes to Orders

The previous order submission system gave players less options and gave us more flexibility in how we interpreted the results. The problem with this approach was that the flexibility proved undesirable - we don't want to guess what outcomes the players were trying for, we want to be given that information in clear and definitive terms by the players. The previous rules also allowed for trade offs between taking territory and inflicting casualties, but rigorous analysis showed this simply didn't work - it was always better to inflict more casualties.

The new system is more robust and critically it places more control of what happens to an army in the hands of the general issuing the orders - and less control in our hands.

The in-character explanation for this change is that the Civil service had improved their support for the generals, allowing them to submit more detailed and precise orders to their army.

Changes to Upkeep Costs

We have modified the upkeep costs for fortifications from the information that was provided last year to the Master of the Imperial Mint. We've done this because we identified that large castles were untenable under the old system, that the advantages in favour of multiple small fortifications were too great. The new figures create more options for political interaction - since there are a wider range of effective strategies that the players can employ.

The in-character explanation for this change is that the Imperial Senate ordered a complete Imperial audit of the treasury. The nature of conducting an audit is that mistakes are identified. In this case the total administrative costs that the Empire faced have not changed - but expenditure had been incorrectly associated with the upkeep of the various fortifications in the Empire. These mistakes have now been identified by the civil service and the correct figures will be presented to the Senate at the next event.

The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan.

Carl von Clausewitz

A Conjunction did it

Over winter 2015 we have completed the overhaul of the Military Council game which was begun at the start of the year. In this final update, we've made a few significant changes to the existing rules. The OOC reasons for these rules are discussed below, with explanations followed by the IC justification.

Changes to Keywords

The previous army keywords system included a large number of passive bonuses which could be accrued by an army based on the nature of the campaign they were involved in. As a result there was some emphasis on treating the issues facing the Military Council as a problem of optimization - of finding the most efficient allocation of armies to campaigns. This tended to undermine the roleplaying that would ideally drive such choices, with armies being sent where they could be most efficient rather than where the general might choose to send them.

We have replaced the sets of keywords with a single quality for each army. The new qualities are designed to provide the general who controls that army with more choices about what in-character orders they give. The aim is to keep the armies distinct and interesting but try to support the game for those generals who want to treat their orders - and what campaign they join - as a choice based on in-character political motivations and social obligations rather than a purely mathematical one based on Imperial strategy.

We have switched to a single quality for each army in an attempt to emphasize that these are in-character qualities that an army embodies, rather than out-of-character terms. The Marcher army is notoriously hard-bitten, allowing them to carry out an effective strategy designed to make the enemy pay.

The in-character explanation for this change is that the Civil Service have reassessed the Imperial military situation following the recent Grand Conjunction. The realignment of the stars has had many subtle and enduring effects that are likely to endure for centuries to come if not forever.

...in war, the advantages and disadvantages of a single action could only be determined by the final balance.

Carl von Clausewitz

Army Quality

ArmyNationPrevious KeywordsQuality
Red Wind CorsairsBrass CoastCoastalForager
Fire of the SouthBrass CoastFastFast
Golden SunDawnResilientResilient
Hounds of GloryDawnGlorious, AggressiveGlorious
Eastern SkyDawnLogisticsResourceful
Gryphon's PrideDawn Conquering
Granite PillarHighguardDisciplinedDisciplined
Seventh WaveHighguardScoutingScouting
Valiant PegasusHighguardSiegeSiege
Winter SunImperial OrcsRuggedGuerilla
Summer StormImperial OrcsDisciplinedRuthless (Relentless)
Black ThornsNavarrFast, ForestFast
Quiet StepNavarrScoutingScouting
Wolves of WarLeagueMercenary, SiegeMercenary
TowerjacksLeague Siege
DrakesMarchesLogistics, ResilientResourceful
Strong ReedsMarchesMarshHard Bitten
Citadel GuardUrizenMagicMagic
Northern EagleVarushkaRuggedGuerilla
Golden AxeVarushkaResilientResilient
Irons HelmsVarushka Cruel
Fist of the MountainsWintermarkRuggedHard Bitten
Green ShieldWintermarkForest, GloriousHeroic (Glorious)

Historical Armies

Dance in the Blood (Navarr, cruel); Burning Falcon (Freeborn, glorious); Bloodcloaks (Wintermark, physick); Thundering Tide (Highguard, skirmish).

The Iron Helms, Gryphon's Pride, and Towerjacks were historical armies that have been raised again in recent years.

There are times when the utmost daring is the height of wisdom.

Carl von Clausewitz

Changes to Meetings

We have updated the system of Military Council meetings to make them more formal and more organized. The original design goal for Empire was to use either in-character mechanics or our civil service to keep political meetings short and on topic. Unfortunately we failed to carry those design goals through to completion with the original design of the Military Council. The Council had civil servants to support it - but had no mechanism to keep meetings ordered. That resulted in frustration for some players since meetings could run on for hours and it made it difficult for anyone to formally address the council.

The new design carries the Empire game design ethos through to the logical conclusion for the Military Council. While we appreciate almost no player likes having any kind of external authority imposed on them, we believe that keeping the muster and the Council sessions timely will ultimately provide a better game for everyone involved. We are still keen for political PvP to happen; our NPCs exist only to try to prevent meetings from dragging on.

...we must boldly advance into the shadows of uncertainty.

Carl von Clausewitz

The new changes are also designed to emphasize the link between a general and their nation. A general is responsible for sending thousands of citizens of their nation to war - many of whom will never return. The previous arrangement of the Military council stressed the need for Imperial strategy. We want that to remain an important consideration but be something that is keenly balanced with national concerns.

The official explanation for this change is that it is always done the old way in the first two years following a "Time of Emergency" and then automatically reverts to the standard method after that time.

The time of emergency was what happened in the first year following the death of Empress Britta and most of the Empire's finest who died with her. This was why every senator at the first event was having to be elected and so on - it was the rules following a time of emergency when basically everyone who was running the Empire is dead. The explanation is that the civil servants have one set of rules to use when running the Empire in the years that follow the declaration of emergency - and then they revert to the standard rules over time (the ones now on the wiki).

Changes to Military Units

The previous rules for military units stated that they could receive herbs, resources, or money - but that such outcomes were rare. We have now overhauled the military unit downtime system to present players with military units with a few more options and to make those options clearer. In doing that we have also improved the code that determines the rewards received by units raiding so we have updated the wiki pages to reflect that.

The change to rewards for supporting is done to make sense of the rewards received by military units supporting armies and fortifications - in light of the fact that it is possible to do so without ever engaging with the enemy - whilst also giving the Senate greater control over the rewards offered to those characters who wish to support the Empire in this way. We have implemented the changes in such a way as to try and minimize the effect on the existing Senate budget - by providing a one-off reduction in the Senate's existing costs to cover the costs for the new system.

Like the changes to the meetings, these changes reflect adjustments made by the civil service after the Time of Emergency.

But everything takes a different shape when we pass from abstractions to reality

Carl von Clausewitz

Further Reading

Core Brief

Additional Information