Overview

Every year we carry out a review of some part of the game looking to see what we improve. In the past we've looked at the game rules, as well as the political structures of the Empire, but over winter of 2018/2019 we've been focusing on some important elements of the campaign setting itself. As a result of that review we're implementing some changes to the published setting. 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 update to explain the reasoning behind the change, as well as providing a in-character rationale for what has changed.

The Font

The free mana being provided to the Conclave font is being phased out. It will be reduced to 80 after event, then to 40 after the next event and then zero from then on. From event 4 onwards, the mana in the font that is distributed between the Conclave orders will be based purely on the mana collected at the previous event plus any bequests.

Reasoning

The original font was intended to give a boost to the Conclave in the first year of the Empire, to provide the mana needed to support Conclave activities. It was always our intention to let it dwindle away, but we simply never got round to sorting it. Then there were some significant overhauls to the way the Conclave worked in the first few years and we needed to let them take effect before we removed the bonus mana. By the time the Conclave had reached a point where it clearly did not need the additional free mana, our attention was elsewhere.

There is always the possibility for small improvements, but we don't anticipate any major updates to the Conclave in the future, so now is the right time to remove the free mana. Rather than simply cut it completely, we're phasing it out over the rest of the year to give players a chance to adjust accordingly.

IC Explanation

The source of the free mana has never been explained anywhere. There was a hint that it was based on mana seized from sorceroers, but that didn't actually make any sense - it wasn't concievable for more than a few mana crystals to be being seized that way.

As part of this update, we're stating that this free mana was being drawn from bequests provided by wealthy patrons of the Conclave. These bequests have now run dry, so there is no more additional mana to distribute to the Conclave orders.

Ossium and Varushka

We've just added Ossium to the list of territories new Varushkan characters can come from. For now however, the only appropriate character backgrounds for Varushkans in Ossium are "Imperial citizen from somewhere else starting a new life as a Varushkan in Ossium" or "freed human slave who has embraced Varushkan culture". An obvious example of the latter would be someone who was freed from the Crawling Depths by the armies and introduced to Varushkan ways by the soldiers of the Golden Axe or the miners of Moresvah.

We'll be creating an Ossium page with the information the Empire has about the new territory in the next week or so, and there may be further developments in the coming events that allow further character options.

It's also of course possible to in-character move to Ossium using the normal rules for changing territory.

Army Enchantments

We have updated the rules for army enchantments, so that ritual teams may target these rituals on an army using a nation's egregore as the ritual focus, if the general is not available.

Any egregore who is asked to be the subject of such a ritual is likely to have a lot of questions for the ritualists and the people who accompany them. Since they're not part of the Military Council's plan they're likely to want the entire plan explained before they will consent to be part of the ritual, to ensure that what is taking place genuinely reflects the will of the nation. Some egregores may even consult national bodies such as the Thane's Council or similar to ensure that they agree with the decision.

Note that there must actually be a general for the egregore to stand in. If nobody has been appointed as general for whatever reason, the army cannot be enchanted in this way.

Reasoning

Having the general have to be present for the enchantment of an army is an important element that makes those rituals different to many others, it reflects the importance of the situation and requires the ritualists and the general to cooperate.

As the campaign has developed, players have become capable of casting many more army enchantments and that has led to a situation where the majority of Imperial armies which are engaged with the enemy are benefitting from an enchantment. As a result generals were being revoked from their position, to allow a new general to be appointed purely so that they could serve as the focus of the ritual. That was never part of the intended game design and was deeply undesirable - revocation should be an important decision taken by the Synod to reflect important political developments in the game - using it as an admistrative hack to get round the limits of ritual targetting cheapens this important power, and creates a dull narrative outcome.

Over winter we looked at a number of ways to fix the problem. Although the problem appeared relatively simple on the face of it, the obvious solutions all contained significant problems of their own. As a result, we have taken a completely different route and decided to allow the egregore to act as an arcane connection to the army. Obviously there are no metaphysical problems with that approach - the egregore already has a magical link to the people of the nation.

Using an NPC also means that we should be able to ensure that the general remains the target for the ritual whenever they are present at the game. If the player who plays the general isn't present for OOC reasons - then the NPC can stand in for them - but if they are present at the game then the NPC can direct the ritualists to the general. This should completely remove the need for the players to shuffle their generals to cast spells if one of them isn't present for OOC reasons, but ensure that the general remains the focus of the ritual at all other times.

IC Explanation

On discovering that the recent revocation of Atte Arrow-Tongue as general of the Fist of the Mountain may have been partly caused by the need to enchant the Fist, the Wintermark egregores have let it be known that in extremis they could be called on to serve in that capacity. The egregores of other nations have confirmed that they could do likewise; but all have stressed that they expect to be called on only in a genuine emergency.

Tariffs

We have added a new power to the Senate - the ability to instruct the civil service to vary the tariffs charged on foreign trade entering and leaving the Empire. The Imperial system for controlling tariffs is deliberately simplified, to allow the Senate to quickly issue clear and direct instructions - and to avoid senators getting bogged down in determining the exact tax to be paid on Jarmish oranges at Siroc.

By giving the civil service simple clear guidance of what they want, the Senate can make definite changes to the trading status of foreign powers, albeit at a cost. Current Imperial taxes are set at the most efficient levels possible - that is the level that ensures the maximum possible taxation for the Imperial treasury. Thus any change to the duties, up or down, will reduce the tax income collected by the Senate each season.

Reasoning

Tariffs were never designed as an active part of the game that was meant to be directly manipulated by players for a number of reasons, but it was clear that we needed to create rules to give players credible control over foreign trade in response to the way the campaign had developed, meddling by foreign powers, and the desire of the players to stage a great summit.

To make the rules work for Empire, we had to ensure that they were simple to use. We can't afford a situation where players are adjusting the rates charged for a bag of Jarmish oranges at Sarvos because we can't make that fun for anyone - PCs or NPCs - and we can't build a framework that allows us to reflect the decisions the players make in an update to the world. We can only do that with very simple wholesale changes - so that it was the rules allow for. In that respect they're no different to other parts of the game - things like army orders are deliberately very simple to allow us to model and reflect them consistently and fairly.

The other thing that was needed was to avoid a simple optimal solution which simply improved trade and tax for everyone. The rules for tariffs are not meant to model real world economics - they're meant to give players a framework with which to make challenging and difficult decisions. Any rules option where a single solution is overwhelmingly favoured in all cases is flawed by design and we needed to avoid that. We also wanted to avoid the new rules simply creating more money in the game - we wanted them to be new ways for players to spend money.

So the new rules assume that previous players of Empire - in the time of Britta and before - have already set all the Empire's trading relationships to a point that is most favourable for the Empire - at least in terms of maximising the tax available for the Senate. So there are significant and important changes the players can make - but they all cost money - they don't generate money.

Normally we would provide players with clear figures that were involved in any decisions they made - costs for buildings, times, soldiers killed, etc. So we gave the players an option to instruct the civil service to go away and calculate exactly what the effects of any meaningful changes to tariffs would be. That was a fatal mistake on our part - because of course players elected to use that one-off ability to find out how to evacuate Morrow.

That left us in a difficult position. Normally any addition to the rules would lay out clearly what the consequences of taking any of the listed options was. But in this case the players had taken a decision not to request those figures - and we were duty bound to recognise and reflect that powerful in-game choice. Giving the players the option to request the actual figures - meant we were obliged not to give them the figures when they chose to do something different.

So the published rules represent a rare departure from the normal course for Empire. The four options that the Empire can take with respect to any foreign power are laid out clearly in the rules. There is some guidance there that will allow the players to have some sense of the relative importance of different nations - but the crucial information on the precise outcome of any given decision isn't there. There are two ways to get those figures - either by instructing the civil service to carry out an appraisal or by just changing them and seeing what happens!

IC Explanation

At the previous summit the civil service were asked by members of the Imperial Office to prepare a briefing on what options existed for the Senate to change the status of trading relations with other nations. The Senate did not instruct them to carry out an appraisal of the situation - so the work is necessarily incomplete - but the civil service have done everything they can with the resources available. They have reviewed earlier decisions of the Senate and collated that information for the Senate to make use of going forwards.

Appraisal

We have added a new power to the Senate - that of appraisal. This new options gives the Senate the ability to instruct the civil service to look into a known problem to see what opportunities exist. The result will be a wind of fortune released before the next event which summarizes what the Empire knows about the subject and what opportunities exist for the Empire to take action. In effect it allows the Senate players to request a wind of fortune be created for a specific problem or thing that they are interested in.

The Empire will be able to do this just once per summit, so they will need to use the power wisely!

Reasoning

Now that the core Empire system is relatively robust and working well, we are slowly trying out new additions to the game that are designed to improve the events and in particular in this case to make the campaign more player-driven. This new ability of the Senate echoes similar changes that we have made elsewhere in the game - like the Statements of Principle and the Mandates in the Synod.

The core goal is to give the collective player-base another tool to look into a specific problem. In this case the response will be a wind of fortune generated for the next event - it will include a summary of the known situation and at least one plot opportunity - a chance for the Empire to do something it could not normally do. You can't dictate the outcome - you can't write the plot using this power - but you can say where you want the plot focus to be - at least for one wind of fortune.

There is no cost to carry out an appraisal - but the Empire can only do one per season - so in effect the cost is that there is only a single opportunity each event to do this. We hope that there will be some competition between characters for access to this important resource.

At present the ability is limited to once per event - that's guaranteed to be the case throughout 2019, but we'll assess the situation at the end of the year and adjust the number of appraisals that the Senate can do up or down - depending on how well we have been able to support it and how much game it has generated.

IC Explanation

The civil service have a number of mandatory duties that they must complete before they turn to other tasks. Recent events mean that the Prognosticators Office has developed slightly more capacity than it needs to handle its existing responsibilities - so it has let the Senate know that they are available to carry out one appraisal per season as directed by Senate motion.

Swim Leviathan's Depth

We've overhauled the ritual Swim Leviathan's Depth, with a view to improving the dramatic impact performing the ritual has.

The key change is that the question must now be submitted the night before the ritual is performed at the latest. Anyone can use operate portal to submit a question to Leviathan on behalf of their coven, but doing so requires a dragonbone effigy of a whale - a unique game item made between events. The it used the night before the ritual is due to be performed (at the latest) to give the game team sufficient time to prepare the answer to the question.

Anyone who has mastered the Swim Leviathan's Depths ritual can make these effigies in downtime provided they have 2 measures of dragonbone in their account. Once made, they do not expire but each effigy can only be used once.

The second major change is that the ritual can now only be performed at a regio during a window of opportunity that starts at 1pm on Saturday and Sunday. However, when the ritual performance is complete, Leviathan will respond to the question immediately - provided it was submitted the night before at the latest.

Finally, we've allowed the ritual to be cast at higher magnitude to allow a coven to ask more than one question at a time - provided they have submitted them all to the eternal in advance with the appropriate number of whales.

Reasoning

Two things have lead up to these changes. Firstly, the previous version where the ritual was used to submit the question and then operate portal used to receive the answer was unsatisfying. The ritual was the dramatic focus of the players actions - so we wanted the interaction with the eternal to take place immediately after, rather than hours later when someone cast operate portal.

Secondly we were encountering repeated problems successfully communicating to players what time they should return to get the answer to their question. By setting a specific time at which the ritual can be cast we can ensure that the players know when they can get their answer and that there is an NPC scheduled to give it.

IC Explanation

Leviathan has made changes to the way he responds to the ritual and informed the Civil Service and the Archmage of Day. They apparently follow on from events that came to a climax during the Autumn Equinox - the eternal has not been more specific than that.

Conclave Sessions

We've made a couple of tweaks to Conclave sessions that we hope will make the meetings run a little smoother.

Speaking

The first change is that when you spend your mana to speak, you can use the resulting minutes yourself as normal or you can use some or all of it to talk to the person who raised the declaration or address under discussion. You can't just talk with random people - but you don't have to engage in the slightly farcical situation where you were recognised, spent a mana to ask a question, then needed the person in the middle of the room to be recognised and spend a mana to answer it. This is covered here.

Declarations of Candidacy

We've also made a change to the session order. Previously, Declarations of Candidacy were treated like any other declaration and scattered across the agenda. Starting at event one, all Declarations of Candidacy are resolved immediately after addresses, and before the rest of the declarations. They'll still be resolved in order as before.

Partly we're doing this because Candidacy often risks breaking up the "rhythm" of the Conclave session, and plays out quite differently to other declarations. It also means that the assignment of titles takes place at a specific point - and people who are only there to vote on a title don't need to sit through things they aren't interested in or risk missing the vote.

This has meant a slight tweak to the Veil of Night - a Grandmaster can still submit a Declaration of Candidacy under the veil but they have to let the Civil Service know that is what is happening; it's recorded as a Declaration of Candidacy, and resolved alongside the other declarations of the same type.

Speaking More Than Once

We've removed the prohibition against being nominated to speak twice during the same discussion from Principle of Precedence.

IC Explanation

These changes have been implemented by the civil service following some discussion with the Grandmasters. It is hoped they will speed up Conclave sessions and make them more accessible.

Marriage in Dawn

Feedback from our player base identified a problem with the Dawnish brief, a valid interpretation of the wording as written supported a criticism of sexually active characters in a way that was at odds with our equality and diversity guidelines that rule out discrimination of that kind.

As a result we completed a review of the wiki to see what could be done to remove the inconsistency and resolve the problem. We have edited the page on marriage in Dawn and added a new page on love in Dawn to try and make clear that the central issue in Dawn is love, not sex. We've also updated the equality and diversity guidelines to make clear that slut-shaming is not acceptable in Dawn or anywhere else in Empire.

As part of that review, we have amended what the brief said about married couples who wished to end their marriage - creating a route for that to happen.

Reasoning

Courtship, romance, and tragedy are one of the five things about Dawn, they're an essential part of the brief that we know is engaging and appealing for a significant part of our player base. However like many parts of Empire, that game is designed to be one that players opt into, it's something that all Dawnish players can have fun with if they choose to. A censorious attitude to sexuality might be accurate for the historical period and some of the legends that are inspirations for Dawn, but it isn't fundamental to the brief, it isn't compatible with our conduct rules, and it is something that would catch everyone rather than being something you opt into, so it doesn't fit with the underlying design principles.

After reviewing the brief and discussing the issues with current Dawnish players, we felt that the best solution was to leave the emphasis on being chaste in Dawn - but make clear that this was an expectation of those who were pursuing love - not of everyone. The key goal of the update is to make clear that the central issue is love and fidelity to that love - not with sexual activity. We have added new emphasis to the idea of unique marital vows as a central part of marriage in Dawn, to give players room to make their romances as difficult as they wished, with the Dawnish expectation that people expect people to be faithful to the troth they pledge when they wed.

As part of that review, we also looked at the section that said there was no divorce in Dawn. That was originally written to underline the importance of marriage in Dawn, but in review we identified two problems with it. The first was around the real world resonances of being trapped in a marriage you literally cannot leave. While nobody has ever complained about that - we were uncomfortable with that aspect when we reviewed the brief. Crucially from a design point of view, we identified that it was possible for players to find that their characters were trapped with a relationship that they couldn't retire - and which could then prevent them roleplaying and developing their character in the future.

We've added the option to dissolve a marriage using a Test of Resolve. The in-character penalties for this are deliberately high - so that it keeps marriage as a big deal in Dawn and retains the potential for the emotional drama arising from a broken heart. But the Test of Resolve now gives a player an option they can use to develop their character's story if they find a marriage they are roleplaying is having a negative impact on their game.

IC Explanation

The recent Synod madate by the Dawnish Assembly recognizing that true love and true glory arise from the virtues have caused renewed interest in matters of the heart resulting in much discussion. As a result the mood of Dawnish people has settled on the norms now outlined on the page on marriage in Dawn and love in Dawn. These should be understood to be changes to the culture which have taken place in-character; we will be releasing a wind of fortune before the first event that is linked to the Synod judgement and which makes clear that that has been the cause of these changes (although obviously that is purely an IC explanation - these changes have been made for OOC reasons to bring our brief inline with our conduct rules).

Bourse Notes

Starting at Event One, we'll be retiring the old-style Bourse notes and replacing them with new, full colour, notes. Designed by Irina Goodwin, the notes are a significant improvement over the previous vellum scrip we have been using for the last six years.

Players will be able to hand the old Bourse notes in at the end of event one, and again at the end of event two, but after that we'll no longer be accepting the old notes. If you're not at either of these events, you can also post your old Bourse notes to the usual address (Profound Decisions, PO Box 666, PR2 1ZW) and we'll put them into your inventory ready to be handed out at the next event.

If you've got any problems at all, e-mail matt@profounddecisions.co.uk.

IC Explanation

The Civil Service approached noted Freeborn artist Constanza i Kalamar i Guerra to create the new designs for the Bourse notes, then took them off to the Imperial Mint to put them into production. The change allows the Mint to take advantage of recent improvements in printing-press technology to produce more durable and valuable Bourse notes.

Dawn Elections and the Grand Tourneys

We have amended the senatorial elections rules for Dawn. The core change remains the same - that participation in the Dawnish elections will be done on the basis of nobility, rather than on the ability to fight in the tourney. However we have made important changes to some parts of the process.

The Election

Each character who is registered as a Dawnish noble on the system will receive a ribbon for a favour which lasts a year. Players creating a new Dawnish character can select their noble status at character at character creation, players with existing characters will need to check their entry on the website and email us if it needs correcting. If a player who becomes a noble in play they can e-mail us to let us know the change of status.

You can indicate your support by giving the favour to another character; in theory the person who has most impressed you with their glorious deeds. Unlike similar elections, you can make this gift of your special favour at any time, and it is perfectly acceptable for the person you bestow it on to use it themselves or give it to someone else. During a senatorial election, the character who presents the most favours wins the election and is declared senator. The egregores will take the favours from the winning candidate - to create a roll of honour celebrating the senator's election. All the other candidates will be able to keep their favours for use in a future election, for as long as they remain valid.

These special favours last for a year. Your old favour expires and you receive a new favour at the start of the event where the territory your resource is in is being elected. So if your military unit is based in Weirwater you will receive a new favour at the start of the Summer Solstice. The ribbon will be in your pack when you collect it - you just need to provide a suitable phys-rep.

The Grand Tourneys and the Knight-Protectors

Going forward, Dawn will host a grand tourney on the Saturday of each summit. The tourney takes the form of a grand melee, the winner being the last noble standing when all others are defeated or have yielded. There are four Knight-Protectors in all, one for each season - the winner at the first tourney of the year gains the Imperial title of Knight-Protector of Winter and so on. Each knight-protector is expected to help Dawn deal with the realm they represent - and in particular to be first to stand against any threat that might issue forth from the realm.

The winner will hold the title for a year. They can try to retain their title the following year, but they cannot compete for a different Knight-Protector title before then, even if they resign their title or are revoked. This new title of Knight-Protector is an Imperial title - if the winner already holds an Imperial title then the egregores will expect them to resign that position to take up the role of Knight-Protector, otherwise there will be no Knight-Protector for that season until a new tourney is held a year later.

To mark the prize, the Dawnish egregores have asked the weavers of Weirwater to recreate a set of glorious banners, one for each of the seasons. The banner will be presented to the winner after the tourney, either by the egregore or by the previous winner if they choose. The bearer is expected to protect the banner with their life - and to hang it prominently in their tent at Anvil and in their hall at home where all may see their glory. The banner will bear a special enchantment that grants the Knight-Protector the ability to enter the Hall of Worlds, or to pass through a regio to a chamber, the better to be able to negotiate with eternals and their agents.

Reasoning

The original reason to change the Dawnish elections announced at the end of 2018 were all about finding ways to make Dawnish elections accessible to more players and to remove barriers to participation based on physical mobility. We received a significant amount of feedback around these issues, it's clear that the planned change was not winning any popularity contests - however the strength of feeling did not reveal new arguments that would change our convinced that this was the right change to make.

However the feedback did highlight several flaws in the new system that we did agree with; that the mechanism by which nobles would vote was too bland and insufficiently Dawnish and the motivation to compete in the tourney was lacking. Our belief is that the new format laid out here better captures the spirit of Dawn and gives more incentive to win the tourney. It also provides the potential for a martial element in determining the outcome of the election if players choose to pursue that route, without undermining participation in the election by those who cannot fight.

IC Explanation

Over winter the egregores have worked with the civil service to create a unique voting mechanism for nobility of Dawn that better reflects the spirit of the nation.

The role of Knight-Protector is an ancient Imperial title, a Dawnish national position which had long since lapsed into obscurity in the past. While it is common for settlements across Dawn to host local tourneys, the tradition of a single Grand Tourney to appoint a Knight-Protector each season fell into disuse after the death of Emperor Hugh. The egregores have restored this tradition, to underscore the importance of victory in the tourney and to provide a mechanism for nobles to commit their support to the tourney winner should they choose.

Emergency Resupply

We have changed the rules for emergency resupply; we have increased the initial rate of resupply, so the first twenty wains spent are more efficient than previously - but had diminishing returns start sooner, so that the benefits tail off more quickly. The new table for resupply is given below:

Wains SpentBenefits
1-2025 points/wain
21-4020 points/wain
41-6015 points/wain
61-8010 points/wain
81-1005 points/wain

The values shown are cumulative for a single season - so if the Empire expends 50 wains resupply the Black Thorns in a single season then the army gains 1050 points of strength back, 20 wains at 25 points/wain = 500 points, 20 wains at 20 points/wain = 400 points and 10 wains at 150 points/wain = 150 points : total = 1050 points. The thresholds continue to reset each season as previously

Reasoning

The original figures for resupply were simply poorly designed - they seem to offer the prospects of diminishing returns, but in practice such an outcome simply never happened. The benefit of imposing diminishing returns is that it gives a more nuanced range of political and economic options in play - but those benefits are lost if the threshold for diminishing returns simply never happens. The original figures were done before we had had a chance to fully see how the military game would play out - and a lot of other parts of the game have improved since those rules were first published.

The new rules means that the Empire shouldn't be significantly worse off - indeed you can make a solid argument that the new rules are largely advantageous for the Empire since emergency resupply is significantly more efficient overall. However the fact that the returns fall off much more sharply than they did previously will hopefully present more moments in play where those limits impact the choices that players make.

IC Explanation

A recent minor conjunction has occurred which has brought the Chain into close confluence with the Stallion. The conjunction is not major - and the effects have been subtle and largely passed unnoticed. However they have had an indirect but important impact on the ability of the civil service to facilitate the emergency resupply of Imperial armies. After careful calibration and measurement of the influence, the seers in the civil service have been able to calculate new tables for resupply that take account of the changes.

Matrilineality in the Brass Coast

We have carried out a significant overhaul of the Brass Coast background elements to effectively remove the core element of matrilineality and also looked to try and replace that idea with something more enjoyable and engaging. As a result of that we've made some important changes to several Brass Coast wiki pages, and we've released some significant additional content - the Brass Coast history page for example is now much more thorough.

The key change is, effectively, to drop matrilineality from the brief. This means that the Freeborn no longer insist that every member of the nation must either be married to a Freeborn character or be able to trace a line from the person who gave birth to them back to one of the three founders. Any human character can join now the Brass Coast and be regarded as every bit as Freeborn as any other citizen of the nation.

It's in place we've chosen to emphasize the spiritual and cultural link with the three Founders of the Brass Coast. We've completely overhauled the scant information that has been released previously in game regarding the Founders and presented something that is explicitly designed to enrich the Freeborn brief and make playing a Brass Coast character more enjoyable.

The new pages we've added to the wiki are:

Several other pages will receive minor updates to help integrate the new material.

Reasoning

When you design a setting for a roleplaying game, many elements are included with an explicit design ethic for what they are trying to achieve. But inevitably, when trying to create an entire world, many elements get included simply because someone thought they were a good idea at the time. We included matrilineality in the brief simply because - on the face of it - it made the Coast a little more interesting and unusual - it helped to give it a point of difference between the Brass Coast and other nations.

As the game developed it became clear that the concept was really quite problematic. Although it was only ever intended to be an idea about tracing a bloodline through the physical parent who gave birth to you - it was impossible to untangle that from issues of gender itself. The logical consequence - that men could marry into the Freeborn without any problem but women couldn't because that would break the matrilineal line - was at odds with the gender blind goals of the setting. It wasn't remotely clear to anyone what happened if you didn't identify as male or female, something that only further highlighted the problematic nature of that element of the setting.

More crucially, there simply wasn't any sign that it was any fun to actually play. The value of an element in any setting - especially in a roleplaying setting - is the potential for characterisation and enjoyable interactions that it brings to the game. It's easy to get hung up on the artistic merits of these points when trying to defend a creative work - but in a live roleplaying game the only merit something has is for the fun it creates in game. On that point, as time went on, we increasingly felt the idea had utterly failed.

This isn't surprising in hindsight - live roleplaying is often at its best when it's focused on the choices that you make as your character, not the choices you make about your character. Certainly our goal for Empire is to create a game that is focused on the decisions you make as your character. You can choose to create a Freeborn character or not - but because of matrilineality you couldn't choose to become a Freeborn character - not if you were portraying a female character. For most players the only real impact appeared to be as a bar to the decisions your character could make.

In taking it out, we wanted to have something to replace it with. We engaged in a number of conversations with Brass Coast players where it was clear that while the concept of your tribe was nice, it wasn't really having the positive impact anyone hoped for. The sad truth was that the concept that was presented as being the single most important part of your Freeborn identity - was largely irrelevant. The contrast with elements like your city in the League or your tradition in Wintermark could not have been more stark.

So we decided to rewrite the nature of the link between characters and the founders - to bring out social and cultural links between the characters and the three different Founders, and to gloss over any further mention of a biological link. To do that we needed to go back and write a detailed history of the Founders, along with a full character biopsy and a set of agendas for them. While we kept continuity where we could, our primary goal was to present something that would be fun to play with as a Freeborn character. We wanted players to identify with one of the Founders - and achieving that was more important than ensuring everything that had been said previously about the Founders was maintained.

IC Explanation

We looked at some options to let the players change the Brass Coast setting, by actions taken in game in response to plots that have been ongoing this year. That didn't happen - and in discussion with our team and with some Brass Coast players it seemed that although the obvious outcome of dropping matrilineality was desirable from the player's perspective, many of them were playing very conservative characters - and so they weren't interested in roleplaying their characters pursuing social change. In simple terms, the message was "Yes, please change this element - but can PD do it OOC please." We were happy to support that and set about making the appropriate changes - with the knowledge that we could simply create an IC justification later.

In this case, our justification is that the recent fighting around Atalaya has brought a trove of new historical documents to light. These documents reveal extensive details about the lives of the three Founders, who they were and what they were trying to accomplish by founding the Coast. Those documents have made clear that most of the people who founded the Coast were not related to the Founders - and that many new people joined the Brass Coast during that period. The overwhelming evidence now suggests that the majority of Freeborn citizens cannot trace a direct matrilineal line back to one of the Founders. Individual PCs are free to roleplay that their characters can still trace a line back - but the majority of Freeborn citizens have accepted that they cannot.

Ever pragmatic, in the face of those facts, the Freeborn nation has embraced a new definition of their identity - one in which they define themselves not by a blood line but by identifying the Founder whose ideology they feel closest to - and by attempting to emulate that ideology in their life. Obviously this is new material - it is not the case that "the Coast has always been this way" - so we don't expect existing characters to change if players don't want them to. However the ideas presented for the Founders clearly draw on core elements of the Freeborn brief - so everyone who is playing a Freeborn character by the brief is already emulating the Founders. We hope that people will find the new material sufficiently appealing that they will be able to pick a Founder that resonates with them and that that will give them more opportunities to roleplay at the events.

That process is now happening all across the Brass Coast over this downtime period. Freeborn citizens are eagerly reading about their Founders - and those that feel a personal connection are adopting that name as a way to try and emulate the ideology and the successes of that particular Founder. Some are doing it more than others, and as the new practice has been accepted and encouraged by the Freeborn egregores then over time it will become the new normal for the Coast. Characters won't suddenly forget that the Brass Coast had a long tradition of matrilineality - but the common Freeborn attitude is that that is simply a mistake people used to make - something superceded by the new ideas.

Any factual inconsistencies between the new material and previously information about Freeborn history or the lives of the Founders that was released in game should be read within the context of historical revisionism. Extensive new documents have been discovered - they incontrovertibly establish important facts and that provides a new understanding of who the Founders were and of the history behind the Founding of the Brass Coast. Everything on the wiki should be taken as the new canon, something that all normal characters would accept as superseding any previous understanding of the world.

Further Reading