Overview

Over winter of 2017/2018 we carried out a review of the rules from the third year of Empire. As a result of that review we implemented some changes to the published rules. This page summarizes and explains the changes so that players can identify and understand the changes easily.

We try to include a section after each rules update to explain the reasoning behind the change.

Historical Research

We have updated the rules for historical research. We have scrapped the five throne charge for the characters who hold the titles, however under the new rules, any historical research results will be added to the wiki the season after they are handed over to the character who holds the title that ordered them. If the result of the historical research is a verbal brief received in the field, then we will add a page to the wiki which contains the core ideas that were discovered as part of the research and would have been expected to be communicated verbally.

We have incorporated existing campaign details about the current researchers into the page on historical research to provide information on the two "faculties". With each piece of research, we will include a section at the end that describes what promising leads exist to find out more information if further research is directed. If there are no leads - if there is nothing more to find out - then that will be stated instead.

Reasoning

The key change is that we will publish all new historical research on the wiki. We started doing that some time ago, but then stopped amid concerns that doing it prevented any roleplaying around the control of information. That criticism is completely valid, but unfortunately there is a much more fundamental problem with historical research - namely that the players use it to direct us to provide additional information about parts of the setting. Unfortunately the public wiki is our key repository for this kind of campaign information. The wiki is the tool we use to try and ensure the highest possible level of campaign consistency. There is simply no credible way to keep our game consistent unless we put that information on the public wiki.

We have removed the five throne cost, because the number of historical research opportunities that the Empire has are very limited in number. In effect, the opportunities are rationed, so there was no need to charge for the opportunity as well. Doing so takes a small amount of money out of the system but creates a large barrier to accessing this avenue to plot for some players. Fiscal competition is an important part of our game, but there are already many levers of power that are only accessible to characters who can find the money to fund them - so this cost was not adding any additional game.

Crucially when we have charged the players five thrones it becomes substantially more difficult to give players a response that no information was found. Having charged such a large amount, we felt obliged to give something commensurate with that. While that is not normally an issue, in cases where the subject is obscure or non-existent, it was difficult to give a credible response to that effect. This gives us slightly more freedom in that regard - and we hope that the addition of new information offering further lines of research will help players pursue meaningful areas of research rather than having to guess.

IC Explanation

Following the decision of the Imperial Senate to keep historical research as it is, Leontes the Scribe of the Constitutional Court revised the practices of the department in keeping with its limited resources and original mandate.

Sorcery

The laws governing sorcerers have been updated to remove the restriction preventing them from carrying mana or from using mana for political reasons in the Conclave.

Reasoning

The key intention of a declaration of sorcery was to legally forbid the accused magicians from performing rituals. Over time the evolution of the game meant that additional elements were loaded onto this by us (when the Conclave was overhauled a few years ago) and by the players (using Senate motions to change the law). In hindsight it became obvious that the punitive elements of being declared a sorcerer were simply too strong - characters were legally not just forbidden from performing rituals, but also using mana crystals on the battlefield and much more importantly they were severely restricted from interacting with plot and with the politics of the Conclave. This was way more than the declaration was originally intended to support, a point that was brutally exposed when players began to unfavourably compare the judgement of excommunication with the declaration of sorcery.

Obviously a large number of characters are going to want citizens who are declared sorcerers to be unable to do anything. It is clearly in the interests of many characters to have a tool like sorcery or excommunication that prevents your political opponents from doing anything at all. But it's equally clear to us as game designers that that is very much contrary to the best interests of the overwhelming majority of players in the game. Characters get excommunicated or declared sorcerer because they are doing controversial things that cause conflict - they are taking actions that make the game more enjoyable for everyone to play. There have to be consequences for incurring the kind of opprobrium involved with a declaration of sorcery - but it is incredibly important to ensure that the consequences still give the player a chance to have fun playing their character as far as possible.

Sadly fixing the problem is not straightforward. Ideally we would strip the sorcery laws back to the original intent - a prohibition on performing rituals. But doing that would mean undoing some very specific changes to Imperial law that players made - specifically the one forbidding sorcerers from interacting with eternals and heralds. While it would improve the game if that prohibition wasn't there - changing it at this stage would deny the action taken by the Senate and in doing that would undermine the perceived value of all such actions taken by the players. In effect we would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

As a result we've tried as best as possible to confine the changes we've made to only affect the original rules that PD put in place. That isn't straightforward since there is some overlap - but we've done our best to give those who are playing sorcerers as much game as possible while preserving the majority of the changes to the laws made by the Imperial Senate.

Sauce for the Goose

In discussion with players about sorcery, it is clear that a common frustration for some players is that the system does not allow them to have more fine-grained control over who can do things. Players can interdict rituals or items, remove them from Imperial lore, they can declare emnity on eternals or war on foreigners. But generally the legal system of the Empire does not allow the players to create special exceptions. You cannot interdict a ritual - but then let some people use it. You can't carve out exemptions from the laws for specific groups, nor can archmages, grandmasters, cardinals, or senators be given special powers to exempt individuals from the law.

It is important to stress that this is very much by design. In Empire what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. A key part of this is about preserving a degree of OOC fairness to the game - to ensure that individual players don't end up finding themselves locked out of parts of the game while all around them others players are having fun. It's also about ensuring that important decisions are meaningful and important - it's vastly easier for the Empire to decide to stop a handful of players from doing something - it's a much more consequential decision for the players to decide that nobody should be allowed to do that thing.

For both these reasons, it's an essential part of the game design that by and large the laws apply to everyone equally.

IC Explanation

In the process of reviewing historical documents, members of the Constitutional Court discovered that the rules forbidding sorcerers from carrying mana and employing it in the Conclave were introduced during the rule of Emperor Nicovar in extremely dubious circumstances and were never subject to scrutiny. As a result, the Court have issued new guidance that these laws are not constitutional - so sorcerers will no longer be restricted in this way.

The new restrictions forbidding the possession of vis and ritual paraphernalia and prohibiting sorcerers from interacting with eternals are equally constitutionally dubious, but as they were passed in good faith by the Imperial Senate and then approved by the Constitutional Court they remain part of current Imperial law.

Brass Coast Voting

We have updated the rules by which the Brass Coast elect their senators. Previously there was a crudely mechanical division of the money between participants that was very vulnerable and relatively simple to exploit. The core mechanism that the highest bid wins remains the same - but we have simplified the approach to use an open auction and crucially the winning bid is now given into the care of the egregore who will use the money - under advisement from the hakima - for the good of the nation.

This change should allow plenty of avenues for corruption and intrigue, but focussed on the characters and money involved, rather than on the mathematical rules of how the distribution worked.

Reasoning

The core reason for the change is the one explained above - to move the balance of intrigue and play to the roleplaying between the characters involved in choosing a senator and away from the manipulation of the rules of the contest. The change will also help to support the role of the hakima as the nation's conscience in effect.

We have aded a wiki page that explains the Brass Coast plutocracy in more detail. It explains the in-character and out-of-character reasoning behind the current version of the Freeborn auctions in detail.

IC Explanation

The Imperial Constitution mandates that the election process must be in accordance with the traditions of the nation. Within the context of the game, this means that the egregore informs the civil service how the election will be carried out based on their consultation of the people of their nation. The Freeborn Synod recently passed a Statement of Principle challenging the current approach - and as a result of that challenge the egregores decided to consult widely with all the Freeborn people spread across the four territories. The in-character explanation for the change is that having carried out the consultation, the egregores now believe that this new method best reflects the traditions of the nation - so it will be adopted accordingly.

As ever with any in-character explanation, it is important to stress that this change has been made for reasons of out-of-character game design criteria - it is an out-of-character decision taken by the Empire game team to improve the game. We consulted extensively with the crew who play the egregores, discussing the way the system works at present and taking their thoughts on possible options, but this is not a decision made by the phys-reps who play the egregores. In-character the new approach best reflects what the people of the Brass Coast said they wanted - out-of-character it is a game design decision taken by Profound Decisions to improve the game.

Arcane Projections

We are changing the time-scale required to create an arcane projection. Rather than being something a character does over night, it will become something that takes several weeks of study and experimentation to complete. As such, players will only be able to submit arcane projections as part of their downtime. This will give us several weeks to process them rather than a handful of hours each event. Players will receive their successful arcane projections in their player packs at the start of the event, or a more detailed explanation of why their attempt to make an arcane projection has been unsuccessful.

This change will be implemented after the first event of 2018. The current system will operate up to and throughout the first event. But it will not be possible to submit a request for an arcane projection and receive a response at the same event. From the Spring Equinox (event 2) onwards, players will be able to submit arcane projections at the event - or in downtime - as they do now - but they will not receive the response until the start of the next event.

Reasoning

The ritual system in Empire is designed to be a toolbox to allow characters to achieve various goals - be they economic, military, or political. As such each ritual is carefully play balanced against the wider framework to try and ensure that it has the appropriate realm and magnitude. Of course no process is perfect, and occasionally we alter rituals when it is clear that there a mistake has been made. But the reason we make these changes is because it is so important for the framework to be as robust as we can make it.

When we created the game we envisaged that players might create new ritual magic effects on the fly in response to plot developments. In practice this approach did not work - the underlying ethos of Empire just does not lend itself to creating a plot which is then solved by casting an appropriate ritual. Over the five years the game has been running the number of spontaneous rituals successfully used in response to ongoing plots has been small.

Instead, the majority of players who made frequent use of spontaneous rituals were looking to investigate the metaphysics of the Empire world, to better understand the limits of magic in the game. Unfortunately any arcane projection of this kind still has to be play-balanced against every other ritual in the system, a job that is particularly laborious the more conceptual and novel the ritual is. Although it was probably obvious in hindsight - we hadn't expected so many spontaneous magic rituals to be trying to achieve something completely new and we struggled to cope with the ensuring workload.

As a result of that challenge, three years ago we switched to the current system where players submit requests for arcane projections and then receive the response the next day in most cases. This approach worked, just, for the number of players that we had then - and so we have continued to operate that system ever since. It was still challenging, taking many hours to complete the requests each night, but for the most part we were able to meed the demand.

We were really pleased that the game grew in size rather dramatically last year - with the average number of players rising from over thirteen hundred at the start of the year to well over sixteen hundred by the end of the year. This growth is great for the game - new players are full of enthusiasm and it gives us more money to invest to improve Empire. The huge rise in player numbers was the reason we were able to buy the spectacular land sharks used in the final battle in 2017.

Sadly, the one downside of that growth is that every additional player means more magicians playing the game and more mana available - which means that the number of arcane projections submitted scales roughly with the number of players. For example, at the last event we have roughly one hundred arcane projections submitted over the course of the event. Even if it took only five minutes to look over each one that would be more than eight hours of every event spent doing nothing other than processing arcane projections - and it often takes significantly longer than five minutes to evaluate an arcane projection.

We realized that we were struggling to cope with the increased demand at the end of the year; we were making more errors, our response to failed requests were becoming less detailed and more requests were missing the next day deadline. It was clear that we were operating right at the limits of our capacity and any further increase in player numbers would jeopardize the whole arcane projection system.

We considered a couple of other options, but in each case we would have been forced to compromise one of the core design elements of the arcane projection - that any magician with ten mana could attempt one. Thus, we rejected options that meant limiting the number of arcane projections that could be submitted or the number of characters that could submit them. We appreciate that most players will always prefer to be able to create an arcane projection as quickly as possible, but ensuring that anyone with the skills and mana can submit an arcane projection meant that we have had to compromise over the speed of response.

IC Explanation

The delay in creating arcane projections is believed to be a consequence of a recent conjunction. Some magicians point to an ongoing series of disruptions in the skein of magic represented by multiple conjunctions and the recent chaos involving the Phoenix, a constellation that some say has a close association with the creation of arcane projections (and magical inspiration in general). Whatever the precise cause, the result is that arcane projections have become considerably more difficult to create - meaning magicians have to spend days or even weeks to create one where before it might have be possible in a single day.

Tonic of Surging Flame

We have changed the game effects of the Tonic of Surging Flame so that they are identical to the Unstoppable ability. The ability the potion provides now works exactly like unstoppable in all circumstances, including the interaction with any magic items or rituals you are bonded to and in terms of things that prevent its use - like paralysis or weakness.

The number of herbs required to make the potion has increased by one - it now requires: Two drams each of Imperial Roseweald and True Vervain, and one dram of Cerulean Mazzarine.

If you own an existing Tonic of Surging Flame - then please exchange it at GOD for the replacement potion - or if you prefer you may receive the four herbs used to create it instead. If you rip a potion card and it contains the old wording for the Tonic, you should simply follow the rules for the new version. We've changed the description of the potion slightly so that it is possible to tell the old, defunct Tonic of Surging Flame from the new version.

Reasoning

The effects of the tonic were increasingly out of step with the way other abilities in the game worked - particularly after the update to the unstoppable skill last winter. This rules change significantly simplifies the game making it easier for players and refs to know how to use the tonic - and how it interacts with other game effects.

IC Explanation

Like the changes to arcane projections, the change in recipe and effect for this tonic is believed to be a consequence of a recent conjunction.

Senate Session

We have updated the rules for the Senate session to make clear that civil servants are allowed to be present during the session and are allowed to speak. This has been working practice since the game began, but the published rules did not make this clear. We've amended the rules to ensure that civil servants are subject to the same need to wait for authorization by the Speaker as the PCs.

Reasoning

The civil service are NPCs whose job is to help run the game for the benefit of the PCs. They provide the players with rulings on what the law says, what a commission will cost, how long it will take to build and so on. In effect they are something akin to in-character referees - they are characters providing information on the rules and laws of the Empire world, but the information they are giving out is ultimately a ruling on how the game works.

Having them present in the Senate and able to speak to correct mistakes reduces the chances that the players present will act on bad information about the game world. In theory that possibility ought to be present - in reality people act on bad information all the time. In practice it always falls on Profound Decisions to correct that bad information at some point - and more often than not that is using information published on the wiki at the point where players are no longer in-character and roleplaying at an event. Finding out afterwards that the facts that you voted on were simply not true has a very negative impact on the game, as it undermines players confidence in the game and the information provided by us.

Previously we have been somewhat inconsistent in our approach - with some civil servants correcting mistakes by players - but others not. The updated page makes clear when the civil service will speak up (when they are certain that facts known to the civil service are presented incorrectly in the session) and when they will not (if they are not certain or the information is not known to the civil service). In practice this is most likely to be either Gerard La Salle (Graeme Jamieson) who is present in most sessions or Magistrate Abraham (Matt Pennington) who is often present for the last session.

Ceremonial Titles

The concept of ceremonial titles has been dropped. Henceforth all titles that have been created by the Senate using their ability to make a new Imperial titles will be a considered an Imperial title. They will be detailed on the wiki, the civil service will track who holds the title and the position will be subject to the normal limitations preventing an Imperial citizen from holding more than one Imperial title at the same time.

Reasoning

We've made this change because we've realized that we got this area of the game wrong. When the game was created, we imagined that the Senate would create new Imperial titles with various legal powers and abilities. We expected to respond to that; we didn't anticipate that the players would choose to create titles that had responsibilities but didn't have any legal powers. We made the wrong assumptions about why the players were making such titles and as a result we tried to create a new and artificial distinction between these titles that didn't have any legal powers that did.

It's increasingly clear that that was the wrong reaction. Whether or not a new title is important is a determination made by the players, it's not something PD has any business being involved in. The only relevant bar to a new Imperial title is whether the players care enough to devote the time and resources to create it. As time went on the arbitrary distinction was becoming increasingly problematic - so we have decided to bite the bullet and fix the problem properly.

IC Explanation

In the process of reviewing historical documents, members of the Constitutional Court discovered a number of previous legal judgements that made clear that all titles created by the Senate are governed by the rules for Imperial titles. The notion of a ceremonial title should only have been used in the context of cultural titles such as earl, thane or steward. Any Imperial citizen who is an earl or similar is not legally prohibited from also holding an Imperial title.

In light of this discovery, the court have issued new guidance to the civil service and asked them to update the appropriate records.

Appointments by the Senate

The current wiki says that a title serves for a year after appointment by the Senate. This was being inconsistently applied in practice, with some titles coming up for re-appointment at a set event - even if that meant it served for less than a year.

We have clarified the wiki to confirm that any time an Imperial position is appointed by a Senate motion, the citizen may serve for a year from the summit where they were appointed (unless the title has tenure and serves for life). If the title is revoked by the Imperial Synod then the position becomes vacant and is eligible for reappointment immediately. If the Senate chooses to reappoint the incumbent then this is still considered to be a new appointment - this means that they serve for a year from the point where the new motion passes, and are subject to revocation by the Synod.

An Imperial position appointed by Senate motion becomes eligible for reappointment at the equivalent summit one year later. We have modified this process so that the Senate may pass a motion of appointment at any time during that summit. The incumbent remains in position until they are replaced or the end of the event - whichever comes sooner. Because of this change it is no longer possible to raise a motion of appointment at a summit before the title falls due for reappointment.

Example, Earl Marguerite D'Alicer is appointed by Senate motion to the Imperial position of Minister of Historical Research at the Spring Equinox 378YE. They will serve for a year from this point, the title becomes eligible for reappointment at the Spring Equinox 379YE unless the Earl dies, steps down, or is revoked before that date. The Imperial Senate may pass a motion to reappoint the title at any point from the start of the Spring Equinox 379YE summit onwards. The Earl serves as Minister until the end of that summit or until replaced by the Senate during the summit.

This process only implies to Imperial positions appointed by Senate motion. National positions, such as the Advisor on orc affairs or General, are always appointed at a specific event each year. This remains true even if the appointment is made by a Senate motion.

Reasoning

The current wording that an Imperial position appointed by the Senate serves for a year is important because of the significant cost to make such an appointment. The cost of using a Senate motion to appoint someone is expensive by design - but the cost is only balanced if the position is held for a year. The cost risks becoming untenable for shorter periods of time - which could occur if a position had to be quickly reappointed even though it had only an event or two to serve. Moreover we don't ever want to encourage players to prefer creating a brand new title (which could then be freely appointed for a year) rather than reappointing an existing title (which could conceivably serve for less).

The changes to the appointment process - to leave the incumbent in place until the end of the event but allow the Senate to appoint the title at any point during that event- is intended purely to make it easier for the players to handle the process of reappointment. We want the roleplaying and actions associated with an election to take place at a single event where the title is appointed, not be diluted by being spread over two events or more. And while there are elements of the game that are intended to have exacting time pressures - we don't want players scrambling to fill a title like Ambassador to Asavea as quickly as possible just so that there won't be a period where there isn't an ambassador in place.

Ambassadors

We have created a new page that lays out in a clear format the extent and nature of the legal powers of an officially appointed ambassador. We have deleted the old page which discussed the nebulous concept of authority. The new ambassador page formalizes their ability to submit a formal treaty to the senate for ratification, details the support they receive from the civil service and curtails the extent of their monopoly over interactions with foreigners and barbarians.

Reasoning

The page on authority was created in response to actions taken by the players to create ambassadors and trade envoys. It was a hasty attempt to formalize this part of the game and because of this it lacked the rigour given to other areas. Unfortunately in play it became clear that the wording we had used to define the authority of an ambassador was nebulous and consequently prone to inflation and misunderstanding.

As a result it was becoming clear that there was an increasingly widespread perception among all participants, that only the ambassador is allowed to talk to foreigners. This conclusion was a potential interpretation of what had been written but it made no sense at all. Neither in-character (logically it would mean Imperial fleets and merchants couldn't trade with anyone) nor from a game design point of view. As game organizers we're trying to increase the amount of plot we run, not create barriers that prevent us running plot or prevent players from interacting with plot. Our original intent was that the ambassador be the person with the power to say "I represent the Empire to these foreigners" - not "Only I am allowed to roleplay with these foreigners" which is where it is in danger of ending up.

As a result we've completely rewritten the page - presenting the information on ambassadors in the same format as all other Imperial titles and using clear wording that focuses on their responsibilities and their legal powers. The new page should be much clearer and less prone to misunderstanding and make plot that involves representatives of other nations easier for all players to access.

The in-character change in the in-character laws applies for all summits from Winter 381YE onwards - it has no impact on any legal decisions or rulings passed prior to this.

Mines and Forests

We have increased the production of each mine and forest resource from ten to twelve units of production each downtime. This change applies only to mine and forest production - all other sources of ingots or measures (such as from a military unit taking the paid work action) remain unchanged at ten units.

Reasoning

We've been concerned about mines and forests for some times. They consistently under perform compared to other resources, and are the only personal resource where the number of players owning one has gone down as the game has grown in size. By making this small boost, we hope to make them more competitive by ensuring they are the single best resource to take if what you want is large amounts of raw materials for making magic items.

IC Explanation

The last few years have seen a number of new techniques employed in the mines and forests of the Empire. The rebuilding of the Great Pits of Ennerlund and the renewed freedom of the University of Holberg to focus on matters other than fighting the Druj; the excavation of the Pride of Ikka's Tears; the presence of the koboldi servants of the eternal Adamant; the liberation of the miners of Moresvah and the Mournwold; even the insights of the ex-Jarmish mine-slaves graduating from the College of the Liberated have all helped to contribute to a Renaissance in mining techniques. At the same time, events such as the recent use of powerful Empire-wide Night magic; the creation of the Gloaming Sentinel; and the influence of certain eternals especially on the production of iridescent gloaming have revealed new techniques that have been employed to increase the production of the Empire's forests. Individual characters are free to roleplay the influence of any of these factors on their own mine or forest resource, or to create their own explanation as to their increased prosperity.

Further Reading