Overview

Every year we carry out a review of some part of the game looking to see what we improve. Although that process has been slowed this year, we've still been working on some important updates. 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.

Urizen Culture

We have overhauled the look and feel guide for Urizen, changed the election system for the nation, and created new pages for every single Urizen archetype, presenting detailed information on the background and ideology for each one. As part of that we have updated almost every Urizen page to add new information and content.

A key part of the overhaul is to the look and feel page - where we have refined existing information to try and provide much more thorough guidance on the ideal costume. The new look and feel page provides much more guidance, including technical advice on colour schemes, fabrics and the link to help people create fantastic Urizen costumes for their character. It also provides explicit guidance on what garments and props are less appropriate and what are inappropriate using the terminology developed for the new main page on costume on the wiki. We've added explicit guidance asking players to avoid Asian and East Asian visuals as they are not part of the original brief for Urizen.

The purpose of the changes is to add greater emphasis to the original classical European cultural influences for Urizen and be more explicit that the nation isn't inspired by Asian culture. The costume for Urizen is inspired by familiar depictions of high elves - many of which are influenced by Asian garments and styles - but we've updated the look and feel page to make those influences clearer but be explicit that players should avoid adopting a costume that is unmistakbly Asian in look.

Consultation

Previously when we have updated part of the game, we have carried out limited consultation with a small number of players before publishing the new rules. On this occasion we have decided to adopt a different approach - rather than consult with a hand picked group - we want to present the new changes for consultation with everyone. As a result the new pages have all been stubbed indicating that they may be subject to some changes after our consultation period. You are welcome to email us and give us your views on them - we are always happy to discuss any part of Empire with anyone who plays our game at any time. However the feedback that will be most useful to us is anything that identifies clear conflicts with established material or which provides fresh insight to the game on the field.

In a couple of week's time we will review all the feedback we've received and make changes as appropriate. We will then then remove the stubs to indicate that these changes have been finalised.

Reasoning

Urizen represents a pinnacle of enlightenment in the Empire, a land where reason, excellence and study are universally admired. We used a number of Greek terms like arete to emphasise the underlying Classical inspiration, and combined that with imagery and ideas from games like Ars Magica and High Elves from several different fantasy settings. We tried to steer players away from Asian and East Asian influences by being explicit that Urizen was not a land of martial artists.

Over time it became clear that this guidance was too ambiguous. Many people - players and crew alike - assumed that Asian cultural inspirations were a good fit for Urizen and that a clearly Asian costume was ideal. I want to stress that there is no criticism from us of any players over this. The mistake here is very much ours, for not realizing ahead of time where players might take this and thus failing to be explicit that we wanted people to avoid that.

This update is about returning Urizen to its original inspiration. The new pages on archetypes aim to do that, partly by emphasizing some of the inspirational figures in Urizen's history - their equivalent of Socrates, Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle. Urizen contains some of the greatest minds and greatest magicians the Empire has ever known - and we wanted the background material we provided to reinforce that fact. The existing material for the Urizen archetypes was very superficial so we have created ten new pages, presenting each archetype in much greater depth and detail. The aim is to provide more background, more roleplaying hooks, and more in-character goals for people playing them.

As part of the update, we've completely overhauled the look and feel page to provide more detailed and thorough guidance on the ideal costume for Urizen. To keep the focus on the original inspirations for the nation we've been explicit that having a completely Asian and East Asian costume is less appropriate for Empire. We've also called out specific costume elements that are inappropriate in line with the more general update to the costume guide. The goal here is sharpen the focus of the Urizen look and feel guide, provide better technical advice to players looking to make or buy costume, and reduce the opportunities to inadvertently present harmful stereotypes.

Adjustment

If you feel your current archetype no longer suits your character, or that you would rather adopt a new archetype, then you can email us with the archetype you would like to have and we will update your character record.

Urizen Elections

As part of our general overehaul of the Urizen pages we've specifically changed the way that the nations appoints senators. You can find the details here but there are three core changes. Every Urizen citizen with the magician skill can now vote for a senator and each one has a single vote regardless of ritual lore; participation in the elections is no longer limited by home territory; and we've introduced the demos - a more structured form of debate that allows Urizeni to highlight the issues they think are most important.

Consultation

As with the wider changes to Urizen culture, the Urizen leadership page has been stubbed to allow for feedback from players who may have a deeper perspective on them.

Reasoning

This change to Urizen leadership is intended to address three major problems with the current approach. The first was that Urizen was the only nation in Empire where your character's experience points determined the amount of raw political power you were granted by the system. While this was flavoursome, it was too limiting for new players who were being disadvantaged in comparison with existing players. It was also at odds with the idea that magicians were important in Urizen when only ritual magicians were enfranchised - making non-ritual magicians no more influential than purely mundane characters. The new rules grant a single vote to everyone who is a magician - regardless of levels of skill - which we hope will allow for wider effective participation and better support the core ideas on which the nation is designed.

The old approach to territorial voting also limited the involvement of many players and made it easier for smaller groups to be frozen out. Large groups will always be powerful in Empire - lots of players coming together to cooperate is meant to be important and influential in the game. But we want to try and avoid winner-takes-all outcomes that make everyone else irrelevant. The new approach will also make it easier for players from conquered territories to be involved in the politics of the nation and hopefully make the political outcomes less certain and more hard fought.

Finally the change to the election process is an acknowledgement of the fact that the debate had no clear role in, or value to, the senatorial elections. Formal debates are hard to do well in live roleplaying and the reality is that any "ceremony" is always going to be dominated by politics. People vote for the candidate they want to support, not the candidate who jumps the highest to some arbitrary bar. We wanted to keep the emphasis on a debate - since reason and debate are so profoundly on brief for Urizen - but we wanted an opportunity to bring everyone into the process. The demos gives players who want to be involved more chance to have a say - and creates a unique approach to elections that reflects the fact that in Urizen, leaders are first among equals.

IC Explanation

The new political system has been introduced following a change discussed between the civil service and the Urizen egregores. Over winter the egregores have worked with the civil service to create a unique voting mechanism for the magicians of Urizen that better reflects the spirit of the nation

Adjustment

This change to elections might mean that you have ranks of ritual lore you no longer want; if that is the case then you can email us and to us know which ranks of ritual lore and accompanying rituals you want to drop. We'll remove the unwanted skills and refund the character points spent.

Costume

We have extensively rewritten the costume page on the wiki. We have moved the page so that it forms part of the new introduction to Empire section of the wiki and added significant guidance for players on what costume to aim for, what costume is acceptable, and what costume is not acceptable. The new page was developed in tandem with our new look and feel page for Urizen and presents a set of categories that we plan to roll out across the look and feel pages for all the nations as we overhaul them in the future.

We have introduced three categories for costume - costume that is part of the look and feel guide for your nation is described as ideal. This is the costume we encourage everyone to aim for when purchasing or making new kit for their character. The second category is less appropriate as in "less appropriate than the ideal". It is important to stress that costume that is less appropriate is acceptable for use at Empire. Although it isn't part of the ideal kit for a nation, all live roleplaying involves significant compromises so players are welcome to use anything that is less appropriate until they feel they are ready to replace it with something better. The final category is costume and kit defined as inappropriate. This is costume that should not be used or worn at events for any reason. This may be because the costume is too modern to fit with the historical period that inspires Empire, because the style doesn't fit with the aesthetics of the game, or because it could cause offense.

The most important change with the new rules is the requirement that players avoid using costume or props that are sacrosanct or sacred objects in the real world or costume that could by confused with deprecating stereotypes. Most live roleplaying games are inspired by cultures other than our own to a greater or lesser extent and Empire is no exception. We want to avoid using items that could cause distress for other people and reduce the opportunities to inadvertently present harmful stereotypes in play.

To complement this approach we've added new guidance to make explicit that mobility aids and child-support aids are always acceptable at our events. We have also deleted the old page on corsets. We have replaced the old prohibition with technical guidance on when players can use bodices, laced garments, and corsets at Empire.

Also as part of this update, we have changed the rules so that costume from the Golden Age of Piracy and later periods cannot be worn at Empire. Although we want to allow considerable latitude for a wide range of costumes, there needs to be a cut-off point, otherwise anything is ultimately acceptable. The new rules clarify what is and is not acceptable.

Reasoning

In updating the look and feel guide for Urizen we identified the need to create a page that laid out our general guidelines and principles for costume at Empire. Although we had specific advice for players on the costume guide for each nation, there was no general advice for all costume at Empire. The old costume page was positioned in the section of the wiki on conduct, and was heavily focussed on aspects of conduct linked to costume. It contained little information or general guidance on costume at Empire.

Much of what we have now made explicit on the costume page represents information that was understood by experienced players. We've built on design concepts that were publicly discussed during the launch of Empire but weren't mentioned on the wiki. Making this information explicit helps to make it more available to everyone and makes it easier to cite the wiki when offering advice and help to other people.

We have deleted the old page on corsets and replaced it with new guidance on when you can wear a bodice or similar at events. The old page failed to communicate clearly what we wanted and resulted in a widespread assumption that bodices were against the rules for Empire. In some cases this extended as far as assuming that any shaped garment was unacceptable. The new changes should allow participants much more freedom to create wonderful costumes for Empire without criticism.

We have added explicit guidance that makes clear that mobility aids and childcare aids do not need to be hidden. While some players choose to costume their accessibility aids to make them more in-character, no one should feel any pressure to do the same. This is guidance that many experienced players already knew to be the case, but which was stated nowhere on the wiki. As part of our ongoing efforts to try and improve accessibility at Empire, we wanted to make sure that these rules were front and centre on the page on costume.

The most important change is the new requirement to avoid objects that are sacred or sacrosanct in the real world, or that portray derogatory stereotypes of a real world culture. The new rules provide us with a consistent basis with which to update the look and feel guides for each nation when we get to them. Empire is influenced by the costume, culture and beliefs of people from across Europe and the Mahgreb, but we want to be honest about that influence while being as respectful as possible. These are complex issues that are challenging to deal with and we don't for one moment imagine that we have them perfect with the new page. But we have strived to create something which is better than we had before - and which we can continue to build on and improve as we develop Empire in the future.

Armour

We have fundamentally changed the definition of which armours count as heavy armour. From now on, any armour that is made of metal or is built to look like it is made of metal will count as heavy armour. The previous rule that the armour must be physically heavy to count as heavy has been scrapped. This means that polyurethane plate armour will count as heavy armour, along with other physically light armours such as light mail.

We have changed the rules for medium armour, so that any armour that counts as leather, or is built to look like it is made of leather will count as medium armour. If the armour covers your torse and one other location then it also provides one hero point, provided you are not wearing any metal armour other than a helm.

We have introduced a new 1 point skill called dreadnought, which provides one additional hit for a character while they are wearing steel armour that is 1mm thick or more and which is physically heavy.

We have relaxed the restrictions on what materials can be used to make armour, so that armour can now be made from foam.

Reasoning

When we created Empire, we were very conscious that heavy, bulky armour can restrict mobility and movement. We wanted to encourage the use of cool armour, because we felt it would make the game more immersive, and so we gave a significant game benefit to armour that was physically heavy. The aim was to incentivise people to wear it by offsetting the downsides the weight imposed.

It is clear to us now that that approach was fundamentally flawed. It took no account of the difficulties faced by people who can't physically wear heavy armour for a range of reasons. We were making rules to benefit people who could choose to wear heavy armour, without any thought to how that would affect access to the game for people who can't make that choice. The practical effect of the existing rules was to create additional barriers to participation for many players - that was a major error on our part.

Changing the rules has not been trivial, not least because a large number of our orc opponents on our battlefields use our own polyurethane breastplates - which will now be classed as heavy. We realise that that impacts characters using two-handed weapons and bows in particular, but we feel there is no way to fix the core problem at the heart of the existing armour rules without fundamentally shifting the game balance around the Impale call. We appreciate that affected players may have different views, but we believe that these calls will remain highly useful on battlefields. As a result, we're not currently planning any changes in those areas, but we will monitor the situation carefully as the new rules bed in, to see if that view is justified in practice.

We understand that changing the rules doesn’t mean barriers to participation will disappear. Empire will still turn on hard skills, allowing characters to showcase that they’re good at fighting or performing or public-speaking or trading. But access to battles and skirmishes should be based on the relative fighting ability of a character rather than being primarily influenced by your OOC physical levels of fitness. We will try to improve access for everyone by continuing to develop new opportunities for players to get involved with the game.

As part of the change to the armour classifications, we've introduced a new benefit to wearing medium armour - it now provides one hero point to anyone who wears it. That will be most useful to characters with heroic skills, but the rules have been clarified to make clear that any character with a hero point can use it to resist roleplaying effects on their character. The goal of this change is to encourage the use of medium armour and make it a very viable character choice - one that is comparable with wearing heavy armour. The hero point you gain reflects the boost in confidence and mobility your character gains when they put the armour on. We want to make it easier for players to wear the type of armour that fits with the kind of character they want to play.

A small benefit to wearing heavy armour remains, with the introduction of the new dreadnought skill. This is a skill you purchase when you generate your character or spend XP. It grants a character wearing steel mail or plate that is OOC heavy an extra global hit while they are wearing their armour. We've taken that step because we still want to provide some offset for the OOC challenges faced when wearing armour that weighs a lot. We know some players have invested time and money in heavy armour that looks fantastic and we want to support people to wear that armour if they want to. By making it a skill purchase, we believe it will provide a vastly fairer balance between those who can and can't wear physically heavy armour than the current rules allow.

We're aware that the new rules don’t prioritise realism, but that is not one of the design criteria for Empire. Empire isn't a simulation, it's a live roleplaying game, so the emphasis is on character and player choices and on creating a beautiful immersive world to roleplay in. We are also painfully aware that these rules are still flawed in some respects. For example, some suits of heavy plate are incredibly punishing to wear, while a good vest of mail can be much less encumbering. Some level of abstraction is essential to create a functioning game and that means major compromises have to be made about how we classify armour.

IC Explanation

These changes are primarily abstract in nature, but if players want to be able to discuss in-character why polyurethane plate counts as heavy now when it didn't then we suggest you put it down to recent improvements in mithril smithing that have made mithril armour almost as good as steel armour. The dreadnought skill represents the small advantage that a character can aquire by becoming strong enough to wear the thickest, heaviest armour.

Adjustment

Because of this rules change, we are allowing players to attatch a Medium Armour ribbon to a Heavy Armour physrep for the next four events. This is intended to ensure that no-one gets blindsided by their physrep now counting as something different.

Most people will be able to drop a skill they no longer want using the website and the existing skill retraining mechanics, but if you wish to immediately drop a skill that is directly impacted by this rules change and can't use that option then please email admin@profounddecisions.co.uk and they will remove the skill for you.

Further Reading