Every character must begin play as a member of one of the ten nations of the Empire. For most characters, nationality reflects the land of their birth, but it is possible for characters to change nation. Your nationality affects your eligibility for Imperial titles, for instance only a League citizen may become a senator for the League. Nationality is influenced by the magic of the egregores.
Moving nation is a part of the background of the game; the Navarr in particular often help characters move from one nation to another. However the ten nations of the Empire have remained culturally distinct for nearly four hundred years. With the exception of music, their cultures have not blurred and merged into one, despite the fact that they are politically unified (there is one single political and legal system that covers the entire Empire).
When the Empire was created, the Freeborn of the Brass Coast feared a loss of their cultural identity. They saw the advantages of humans uniting, but believed that their heritage would be lost as some "Imperial" nationality emerged. As their price for joining the Empire, they used powerful ritual magic to create eight Egregores, one for each nation. With the blessing of the First Empress, the egregores formed the basis for the Empire- acceptance by an egregore is the legal definition of citizenship. When Urizen and the Imperial Orcs joined the Empire, they worked with the Freeborn to create their own egregores.
Whenever an individual seeks to join a nation, they approach the egregore of that nation. For most citizens, this happens as a youth, after they pass their test of citizenship, but some change nation as an adult and it is not uncommon for foreigners to adopt Imperial nationality. To be accepted by the egregore, the applicant must pledge an oath to be loyal to the nation and to uphold their culture and customs and to put aside all other loyalties and traditions. If the oath is accepted then the egregore magically bonds the character to the nation, using a more powerful equivalent of the create bond spell.
The effects of this magical link are powerful but subtle - everyone who joins a nation feels a gentle but unrelenting desire to adopt the traditions, cultures and customs of the nation they have joined, and to abandon practices that conflict with them. In Wintermark, a child who adopts the Suaq tradition feels a compelling need to dress and act like a Suaq. An outcast Marcher who joins the Navarr (rather than merely travelling with them) soon sheds their Marcher clothing and begins to dress and act like a Navarr.
A character can be aware of the compulsion, but it feels natural, like the desire to breathe or to quench a thirst. The clothes, the customs, the traditions of their new nation feel comfortable and natural, while those of their previous life start to feel awkward and foolish. The compulsion is gentle, and happens over time but is irresistible - like the tide washing up a beach, it travels a little further each time.
For most Imperial citizens this process happens when they come of age and pass their Test of Citizenship. There is usually something of a celebration afterwards and then the new citizens are presented to the egregore to swear their oaths.
The Civil Service
The egregores inform the civil servants when a character swears an oath of loyalty to them, and they update the records of that individual's nationality. They use these records to determine who is eligible to vote in some senatorial elections as well as checking to confirm that an individual is eligible to hold an Imperial title.
If a territory is conquered by the Empire, then the Senate votes to allocate that territory to one of the ten Imperial nations. Usually a territory is assigned to a nation it borders, but this does not always happen. Once the vote is completed, the chosen nation's egregore travels around the conquered territory, offering inhabitants the choice to adopt their nationality.
Individuals are not forced to join the Empire, but the benefits of doing so are considerable. Citizens enjoy the full protection of the law, their taxation is limited by the constitution and they have the right of travel and trade anywhere in the Empire. As a result most of the inhabitants of a conquered territory will adopt the nationality of their new nation and within a few years, they are culturaly indistinguishable from those who were born and raised as part of that nation.
Everyone in the Empire speaks Imperial; this is phys-repped with English. Orc barbarians and foreigners in adjacent nations also speak this language.
Foreigners from other lands do not speak Imperial as their mother-tongue although many who choose to visit the Empire have learned it. The native tongue for these foreign nations will be specified when details for them are added to the wiki.
If you are able to speak a foreign language in real life, then you are welcome to use that language in game. It represents a language foreign to the Empire, which your character has acquired.
Nationality has a three main game effects, bands, battles and eligibility.
A character can only join a band (a coven, banner or sect) if they share the same nationality as the other members. If a character changes nationality then they are automatically removed from any existing bands that they are part of. This means that you can only take the battlefield or perform rituals with characters whose nationality you share.
Battles and skirmishes are logistically arranged by nation - the appointed generals for that nation choose which battle and skirmish their forces will be committed to. The magic that transports characters to a battleground draws on the power of the egregore, so it is not in-character possible for an individual to travel with a nation unless they are part of that nation.
A band that possesses a mercenary banner can use this banner to choose which battle or skirmish they attend, so they do not need to fight with their nation if they do not wish to. However it is important to note that only characters with a common nationality can form a band.
Eligibility for Imperial Titles
The civil service maintain records of a character's nationality. This is reflected by the nationality recorded for your character on our database. Your character's nationality determines what Imperial titles you are eligible for. It is possible to defraud the election process if you are clever, and that is a perfectly legitimate in-character tactic, but it is important to note that our civil servants will report your fraud to the authorities as soon as they become aware of it.
Some players are interested in playing a character with a bit of one nation and a bit of another. While this helps to make a character more unique, and avoids a player having to pick between two nations they like, it does so at the cost of the game itself. The nations of the Empire are broadly European in inspiration; they are already quite similar in terms of appearance and culture. The more players blur the lines by blending elements of different nations, the less distinct the nations become. The net result is that the game becomes less enjoyable for everyone as the nations become less recognisable. For that reason all players must pick a single nation for their character and create a member of that nation.
If your character has changed nation then it is fine to have a small flourish to your character to indicate that. If your League bravo who was originally from the Marches then you might retain a single pilgrim badge on your hat as a reminder of your first home. The key components of your costume should reflect your nation but one or two minor costume or characterisation elements might remain once you complete your transition to your new nation.
What isn't acceptable is to treat the two nations as a pick-and-mix that you can just merge the costume and characterisation of both. Characters do go through a brief transition from one nation to another, when they change their loyalties, but the magic of the egregore encourages the transition of the character into a member of their new nation, as quickly as the player can phys-rep it. So if you are playing a Dawnish character born in the Brass Coast, you might preserve a fondness for bright colours of flame, but your costume and characterisation is still primarily Dawnish.
If you end up changing nation in play, then your nation will be updated at the point where you swear your oath in the presence of the egregore of your new nation. Obviously your characterisation and costume will not change over-night, that isn't appropriate or practical. But as you look to upgrade and improve your costume from one event to the next, then you should create new costume elements that match your new nation. The net result is that your costume should shift over time until it reflects the nation you have embraced.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have a query about how nationality works at Empire, you can check the Frequently Asked Questions page. This page expands on a number of issues including mixed-nation groups and marriage between characters from different nations.