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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. There were no updates in 2021, due to the pandemic.

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 where appropriate.

Inspirational Locations

We have created a new page for inspirational locations that includes memorial (or inspirational tombs as they were called previously) as well as other sacred sites.

We have rewritten the rules on how you create a inspirational location to lay out the specific sequence of actions that players must follow to create one. To create an inspirational location, players must submit a Synod judgement, a statement of principle laying out their intention to use true liao to create either a memorial to a paragon or exemplar, or to create a sacred site. This judgement must be submitted in the relevant virtue assembly or in the general assembly.

If the judgement passes with a greater majority then it will most likely lead to a wind of fortune that offers a mandate to use a single dose of true liao to create a lasting consecration that will make an area become an inspirational location. If the Synod approves the mandate, then the named character can enact the mandate using a dose of true liao.

It is possible to use true liao in downtime without following these steps, but it won't have any wider effects on the setting - it won't create an inspirational location.

Reasoning

There has been a significant increase in the use of true liao to make consecrations in recent events and it was clear that the processes listed on the wiki were confusing and creating a lot of potential for disappointment. Previously it was possible to use true liao in downtime without any idea whether it would do anything or not. Our game is generally built on giving players informed decisions to make, in most circumstances we don't want participants just gambling on unknown outcomes. In particular we don't want a situation to develop where a character uses true liao and either it doesn't have any wider game effect or the effects are very negative, without them being aware that that is what will happen.

In theory it was previously possible to use true liao in downtime without any reference to the Synod at all. Our game is one of politics and social interactions on the field - we want the key decisions to be made by players when interacting with each other on the field. True liao is very powerful, it doesn't suit our game style that a character can create very powerful game effects without interacting with one of the major political bodies of the game to get approval for that.

The new processes also make it much easier for us to determine what will happen - they give us a basic framework to work to - and set expectations that we are more confident that we can deliver on. It does make it slower, it means players need to use a statement of principle first - and then study the resulting wind of fortune next event to decide if they want to proceed or not. That brings it into line with how similar elements of the Synod game work, where players first raise a statement and then a mandate.

Where true liao was handed in last event to be used in downtime, we have treated any statements raised as if they were raised in the relevant assembly. That means they either have (or are getting) a wind of fortune that describes the possible outcomes if the Empire chooses to proceed with the consecration.

IC Explanation

The Imperial prognosticators have provided the civil service with an updated guide on how they can deliver the best possible information on what will happen if the Empire choses to use true liao in this way. In theory nothing has changed (since it was never possible to know if true liao would have an effect or not previously) - but now the prognosticators have been able to be clear about exactly what will and will not produce a meaningful outcome.

Divination Ritual Updates

We've made changes to two divination rituals, Clear Counsel of the Everflowing River and Combing the Beach. Both of these rituals now require you to use a small effigy to send a message to the relevant eternal - a question for Sung with Clear Counsel and a statement for Roshanwe with Combing the Beach.

The key change is that the question or statement must now be submitted the night before the ritual is performed at the latest. Anyone can use operate portal to submit a message to the eternal on behalf of their coven, but doing so requires an appropriate effigy - a unique game item made between events. The effigy must be 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 Clear Counsel or Combing the beach can make the appropriate effigies in downtime provided they have 2 measures of ambergelt for Sung or 2 measures of tempest jade for Roshanwe in their account. Once made, they do not expire but each effigy can only be used once.

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

In each case you must prepare the effigy in downtime (anyone who possesses the relevant ritual can do this) for a cost of 2 ambergelt or 2 tempest jade respectively. You can make as many effigies as you want - you'll get them in your pack at the next event you attend.

If you have the ritual already - and want to make one or more of these effigies for this event but don't have access to the materials in your group just email [1] and we'll create the effigies for you and leave it as a debt on your account you can clear after the event.

Reasoning

These changes follow on from the changes we made to Swim Leviathans Depths in 2019 and we've made them for the same reason. We want the ritual itself to culminate in an opportunity to get the answer the ritualists are looking for - getting players to submit the questions well in advance allows us to do that. We feel the change worked well for Leviathan, and so we've extended the idea to other rituals.

IC Explanation

In each case, the explanation for the changes is the esoteric conjunction of the Key and the Lock that has been going on for some time.

Roleplaying in Downtime

We've updated the rules restrictions for using social media and IC roleplaying between events. We've updated some of the language used to make clearer that it applies to things like discord servers and we've changed the wording of the rules so that you can't send large bulk emails of IC messages to email lists if you're pushing an IC agenda or campaigning for a title. "You can send in-character communications by email, provided they represent a letter or the equivalent that you are sending to an individual - but don't mass-send a communication to an email list if it is promoting an in-character agenda or pushing a controversial point of view. Please keep this for when everyone is in-character at the event. "

This follows the ethos of the existing rules which are trying to encourage players to engage in politics at the event - but the new restrictions on email lists providers a fairer balance for the game for all players.

We've added an extensive OOC design section to the page to provide more clarity on our thinking.

Military Rituals

We've made changes to some existing rituals that have an impact on the military campaign. We have changed the effects produced by two rituals for enchanting campaign armies - Knights of Glory and Bound by Common Cause. We have also increased the magnitude of four rituals used for summoning magical fortifications - Frozen Citadel of Cathan Canae, Forge the Wooden Fastness, and Dripping Echoes of the Fen, and The Basalt Citadel - as a ritual that enchants fortifications with additional strength - Golden Ramparts.

We hope that these changes will ensure a good balance of options available to ritualists involved with the Empire's military campaigns going forwards, but we'll continue to monitor the situation carefully.

As always, if you had mastered one of the rituals that was changed you can email admin@profounddecisions.co.uk and we'll remove the mastery leaving you free to master a different ritual.

Reasoning: Knights of Glory

Knights of Glory was a much better ritual than any equivalent ritual in Imperial lore. The benefits it provided were significantly better than those provided by equivalent rituals. While some realms will always be better at creating certain magical effects, in this area of the game we want there to be a lot of viable options to chose between. To remedy this we have reduced the potency of Knights of Glory from 3000 additional strength to 2000 additional strength to bring it into line with other rituals. It has a higher magnitude than a ritual like Clarity of the Master Strategist because the additional strength gained inflicts more casualties.

We also added a few details - a roleplaying effect and a new option for players to target multiple generals in one ritual. We also made it explicit that it might have unpredictable effects on characters whose military units support the army - something we'd done via Winds of War in previous seasons. Finally, we've revealed the assurance bound into the ritual that will cause it to lose power entirely if it is broken.

We have previously been running a plot regarding the Empire's relationship with Eleonaris, the eternal whose patronage is responsible for Knights of Glory. Last event she said she was going to remove the ability to perform the ritual entirely, and replace it with a new ritual. We knew we needed to change the rituals power to play balance it, and we thought the easiest way to do that would be to replace it with a different ritual. Instead, we've reduced the effects of the ritual, and left it available to players to cast. We took this new direction because the realities of placing a new ritual in Imperial lore via the Conclave felt too punished, especially under the new rules about how a declaration works.

Reasoning: Bound By Common Cause

The ritual now provides additional strength solely for the purpose of taking or holding territory rather than a flat bonus as it did previously. This change makes the effects comparable with Clarity of the Master Strategist. We've made it possible to cast the ritual on multiple generals at once at reduced magnitude as we did with Knights of Glory. The permanent enchantment on the Wolves of War will provide the same benefits as the new version of the ritual.

Reasoning: Citadels

We've increased the magnitude of the three citadel-summoning rituals - Frozen Citadel of Cathan Canae, Forge the Wooden Fastness,and Dripping Echoes of the Fen, - from 80 to 100. These rituals produce very powerful effects that can have a dramatic impact on the military campaign - so they need to have a cost that reflects that impact. We have adjusted their magnitudes to reflect their powerful effect. We've also changed the magnitude of Golden Ramparts and Stone's Unyielding Defiance, rituals that provide additional strength to fortifications, bringing them into line with these changes.

In-character Explanation

In each case, the explanation for the changes is the esoteric conjunction of the Key and the Lock that has been going on for some time.

With Knights of Glory, we have assumed that the representatives of the Empire have continued to flatter and charm Eleonaris causing her to change her mind regarding her ritual. The ritual has changed because of the conjunction - but the eternal is now happy for the Empire to perform it. At least for the time being... The Lion of Summer will always be a volatile figure who is quick to anger. She won't hesitate to express her anger at the Empire in the future if she feels slighted.

Military Units and Fleets

We've changed the conquered territory limit so that it also applies to fleets and military units. Previously they were not affected by the conquered territory penalty - now they suffer the penalty just like any other resource.

Military units and fleets that are going to suffer the penalty can be protected by the Vale of Shadows ritual, like any other resource.

Reasoning

The existing rules provided these two resources with a small advantage that is simply not warranted from a play-balance point of view. Initially we'd erred on the side of simulation - imagining that because military units and fleets were mobile the penalty ought not to reply to them. As the game progressed this exception has become increasingly jarring. It has never been possible to move a fleet or military unit from one territory to the next - so it was a mistake to treat them differently for other purposes.

IC Explanation

While military units and fleets are inherently mobile, the people in them have families who are not. If your military unit or fleet is based in a territory, it represents the fact that the individual soldiers or sailors who work for you have families and lives there. A fleet or military unit has a "home base" that exists in a territory, and if that territory is conquered the people who operate the resource will be less productive. This is why you can't simply move a military unit to another territory and why they are now also affected by the penalty for being in a conquered territory.

Conduct

Disability

We have added a new section to our conduct rules to make clear that you must not question another player's right to use aids and adaptations put in place for disabled participants. This is particularly important in light of the new rules we have put in place for vehicle access at the events. The provisions we have put in place are there for those that find they have need of them on a self-declared basis. If you are absolutely certain that someone is repeatedly using a facility or service they openly admit they don't have a need for, to the direct detriment of disabled participants, then you may report the matter to Profound Decisions to deal with. Challenging other participants or publicly complaining about their behaviour is not acceptable under any circumstances.

Smut

Recently we've had an upsurge of interest and promotion of sexual publications in Empire, with a range of stuff from the simply smutty to the more explicit. There has always been a fair bit of it about in Empire, and in general we don't have any issue with it at all. Indeed one of the reasons we ran a plotline involving such publications in Empire was because we wanted to make clear to players that the new conduct rules didn't mean that folks couldn't do that sort of things at events anymore.

However there are two things that anyone playing in this space does need to be sure they're being very careful about. The first issue is consent - a person's character belongs to them - it's an extension of their personality in some form. As such it is absolutely not acceptable to take that character and use it in your erotic fiction without their explicit consent to what you're creating, even if that character is no longer in play. Historical figures in the game are fine, folks are welcome to write any kind of fiction about figures from the setting who died long before the game began. But anyone who has been phys-repped as a living character is not yours to write about. This includes all our NPCs, our civil servants, magistrates, egregores etc, as well as characters played by PCs. Our conduct rules clearly state that any attempt to sexualise another participants character without their permission will be treated as sexual harassment.

The other thing you must be mindful of is the requirement to avoid sexualising the environment in a way that makes other players uncomfortable. Lots of players enjoy these publications - and lots of players don't want anything to do with that in their LRP. We have updated our conduct rules on sexual activity at events to make clear that anyone who wants to engage in that kind of roleplaying must ensure that it is handled discreetly and in a way that doesn't force other players to be involved with it against their wishes. In particular that means you can't promote it on our Facebook groups, since that's incompatible with the need to handle it discreetly in a way that doesn't cause discomfort for other players. I've asked the moderators to take down posts promoting material that is smutty or explicit in the future.

Spring Rituals

We've made some significant changes to three Spring rituals. We've clarified Blood of the Hydra, and made it clear that it only works on limbs ruined by Cleave and Impale effects. We've made a change to the roleplaying effects of Fan the Flame of New Life, to remove the idea that the enchantment makes targets "horny". We've removed the Midwife's Recourse ritual. In the latter case, if you were the target of an ongoing Midwife's Recourse enchantment, it's effects will end before the start of the next event.

As always, if you had mastered one of the rituals that was changed you can email admin@profounddecisions.co.uk and we'll remove the mastery leaving you free to master a different ritual.

In Character Explanation

In each case, the in-character explanation for these changes is the effect of the ongoing conjunction of the Key and the Lock. The esoteric tension between "things are hidden" and "things are revealed" has unexpected, permanent effects on certain rituals.

Reasoning: Blood of the Hydra

When it was initially created, the intention of Blood of the Hydra was that it be one of a suite of low-magnitude rituals that allow ritualists to create the effects of certain spells. This suite includes rituals such as Hands of Sacred Life that duplicates the heal spell, and the combination of Ascetic Star of Atun and Renewed Strength of the New Day which between them duplicate the effect of the purify spell. Over time, the scope of the ritual shifted to allow it to be used to repair any lingering damage to the body. We've restored the ritual to its original purpose.

Permanent life-changing injuries are not a theme of our game because we don't want our game mechanics to trivialise these injuries. We never want a situation where someone with an out-of-character disability is asked in-character why they don't use Blood of the Hydra (or any magic) to remove their disability. This is one of the reasons our existing Healing in Empire page talks about Spring magic speeding up natural healing processes rather than regenerating lost limbs or the like. Disabilities and long-lasting or permanent injuries exist in the setting but players who are not themselves disabled should be sensitive to the experiences of others and think carefully about playing a character who has any kind of long-term disability.

There are deliberately no rules to allow one character to maim another character. It is fine for a player to choose to roleplay that they have received a specific injury when they suffer damage - but unless there is a traumatic wound or similar card involved our rules will treat that injury like any other loss of hits. You might roleplay severing your fingertip in a knife game, but our expectation is that the heal spell or attentions of a physick will allow that severed fingertip to be reattached or repaired just as it would any other loss of hit points.

We don't want a single low-magnitude ritual to replace the physick skill. Some of the traumatic wounds we created early on in Empire imposed a need for ritual magic to deal with powerful magic effects that were devastating the body. We retired these wounds some time ago - while they were fun they were at odds with the lower-fantasy feel we want for the game. Blood of the Hydra will remain a useful tool for some traumatic wounds where the requirement to mend a cleaved limb is explicitly mentioned - but it will not be the only tool that works.

Reasoning: Fan the Flame of New Life

The original version of this ritual had the roleplaying effect of making participants "vigorous and lusty." Over time it became clear that this had too much potential to put players in uncomfortable positions. There's no place for any kind of game effect that might impact a character's capacity to consent in Empire or to put any player under pressure to roleplay something they're not comfortable with. As a consequence we have completely removed the roleplaying effects of this ritual. We've also removed reference to the ritual not being "powerful" enough to allow conception between orcs and humans as it's not our intention that any magic will allow conception between different in-character species.

We've removed language around women and men. The ritual works on any two willing characters of the same IC species. Groveblossom exists in the setting to allow characters to transition if they chose, matters of sexual physiology up to and including the ability to conceive are a matter for the individual participant. As with other parts of the game that are serious and can affect participants in the real world we require that anyone using the ritual treat the matter sensitively.

We still wanted to keep the idea of a Spring ritual that allows people to address questions of infertility, and give players a way to bless a union so we have left the ritual's role as a component of marriage ceremonies in place.

Reasoning: Midwife's Recourse

The original purpose for this ritual was to address situations where players who were roleplaying being pregnant were pressurised into avoiding skirmishes or battles. In practice it was a mistake to address the issue with a ritual because many participants chose to roleplay that their character is pregnant because they are pregnant in real life. The ritual compounded the problems that happen when in-character and out-of-character are overlapping. We never want a situation where someone tells an out-of-character pregnant person they should get this ritual cast on them so they can go on battles, for example.

The ritual was also intended to show how the Empire world has excellent pre- and ante-natal care that is equivalent to that found in the modern United Kingdom, rather than the kind of medical technology that might be expected from a broadly medieval setting. Miscarriage and death in pregnancy are not themes of the game - they exist in the setting so that players who need to refer to them for real world reasons can do so. Players who have not themselves had a miscarriage should be sensitive to the experiences of others and think carefully about playing a character who has experienced any kind of difficulty with childbirth.

Because we don't want the medical issues related to childbirth to be a theme of the game, we have removed the ritual. In Empire a physick will treat any issues during childbirth using herbs and be successful most of the time. In character the expectation is that nobody tells pregnant characters what they should or should not do. We have updated the pages on technology and healing in Empire accordingly. Out of character our event safety rules make clear that any player who is advised by a medical professional to avoid strenuous physical activity - should not participate in fighting. This means that an OOC decision to participate in any part of Empire is a matter for the player based on the medical advice they have received and is not a matter for other participants to comment on.

Conclave Changes

As Empire has grown, it has become clearer that Conclave is starting to creak under the strain. Conclave sessions have become so long that they've become a standing joke among the player base. It has also become clear that some of the mechanisms aren't providing the kind of game experience we want to promote. With that in mind, we're making some changes to how the Imperial Conclave operates.

Conclave Agenda

  • Declarations are raised by Grandmasters, and by a handful of other titles
  • The agenda remains publicly available, and anyone can check and see what declarations have been raised and by whom

The first major change we're making is to the agenda itself. Each Grandmaster can raise a single declaration to the agenda each session for a total of two declarations each summit. They can raise these declarations themselves, or pass the declaration on to a member of their order to raise and present.

Certain existing titles have gained the ability to raise a single specific declaration each event (rather than each session). The existing titles, and the declaration they will be able to raise, are:

Finally, the Arbiter of the Rogue Declaration is a special Imperial title that is auctioned for crystal mana each Saturday, and works in a similar manner to an Imperial Wayleave. It allows the Imperial citizen who wins the auction to raise a declaration of their choice to the agenda for the Saturday evening Conclave session. The mana raised becomes part of the Font.

As before, declarations are submitted to the Conclave civil servant at the Hub, and are displayed publicly. Declarations are added to the agenda in the order they are received. The deadline for submitting declarations remains the same - an hour before the session is due to begin.

The Senate would be able to create new titles with the power of Declaration but no more than one title per type of declaration. Our intention is to limit the number of titles that can gain the Declaration power so that only one additional declaration of each "type" can be raised during an event (so using the examples above only the Bursar of the Conclave can have the power to raise a bonus Declaration of Endowment, and if the Senate wants a different title to have that power they will need to remove it from the Bursar).

Declarations

We've also overhauled the declarations, pinning down what they can do and wherever possible making them more impactful.

  • Alignment - this declaration combines the old Amity, Enmity, and Neutrality into a single declaration that sets the "status" of an eternal in relation to the Conclave. The effects of amity and enmity have not changed.
  • Candidacy - this has been significantly overhauled and is covered in its own section below
  • Concord - the declaration works the same as it did previously, but the potential impact is much greater, comparable to a statement of principle in the Imperial Synod
  • Dissemination - unchanged
  • Endorsement - this is a new declaration that allows the Conclave to declare an act of magic to be in the interests of the Empire
  • Endowment - the changes to the Font (the pool of mana the Conclave controls) adds significant new functionality to this declaration ensuring there is always a pool of mana for the Conclave to distribute if they wish to do so
  • Imperial lore - unchanged
  • Interdiction - We've expanded the guidance on how this declaration works, and what it explicitly does in each case. We've also combined it with the Declaration of License (which removes interdiction). We've removed the idea that an item or ritual might be interdicted in a way that means the magistrates seize something and keep it. If the Conclave deems something dangerous, it is destroyed.
  • Sorcery - as with Alignment, we've combined Sorcery and Reconciliation into a single declaration. We've also made it possible to use a single declaration to declare multiple people to be sorcerers, but on the understanding that the Conclave either condemns all or none of them.

Candidacy

We've made extensive changes to candidacy to make it more impactful, and of greater interest. Rather than the declaration being "this person should have this title", the emphasis changes to "there should be a new person in this title". When candidacy is declared, anyone can throw their hat into the ring to claim the title. Each of them can then spend mana to speak on their own behalf, but there is no cross-examination. Once every candidate has declared themselves and made their pitch, the Conclave moves straight to the vote.

Our intention is that Candidacy be more impactful in that it has the potential to engage everyone in the room.

Conclave Session

  • During a session each declaration is presented in turn
  • Orders have one minute to discuss the matter at hand among themselves, then the formal debate begins
  • Grandmasters recognise speakers in order of precedence from lowest to highest
  • Discussion continues until all grandmasters pass, or half the grandmasters have moved to vote

During a Conclave session, declarations are raised, discussed, and voted on by the Imperial Conclave in the order they were added to the agenda. The Civil Service read out the precise wording of the declaration. Then the person who raised it can spend mana to make a presentation - to speak before the Conclave on the matter at hand. The orders then have a minute to speak among themselves, and then the discussion begins.

During the discussion the civil servant calls on each grandmaster in order of precedence, starting with the largest order, to contribute to the discussion. They have three options at this point:

  • They can nominate someone to speak. This costs mana.
  • They can choose to "pass" - they don't nominate someone to speak but their order still participates in the discussion. If all the grandmasters pass, the discussion ends.
  • They can choose to "move to vote" - they don't nominate someone, and will not be called on again to discuss the current matter. Essentially they indicate that their order is done with the matter and want to get to the vote. Once half the grandmasters have "moved to vote" the current round of discussion plays out (so that every order has had equal opportunity to discuss) and then a vote is called.

Speaking During Conclave

  • Speaking during Conclave still costs mana but each additional minute costs more than the preceding minute

Speaking during Conclave requires mana. The first minute costs one mana, the second minute costs two mana, the third three mana and so on. This same cost is used whether the magician is making a presentation for a declaration, or speaking during the discussion.

The Font

  • Rather than immediately distributing the Font to the grandmasters, the crystal mana in the Font remains under the control of the Conclave and the Declaration of Endowment
  • We've added 211 mana to the starting Font for the first event of 2023

The Font consists of all the mana used during a Conclave session, plus that raised by auctioning the Rogue Declaration. Rather than being divided among the grandmasters at the start of the next event, the Font remains in the control of the Conclave, subject to Declaration of Endowment like any other resource the Conclave controls. It functions in a similar way to the way the Imperial Treasury works in the Senate, or the Virtue Fund in the Synod. A Declaration of Endowment allows the Conclave to give any amount of it to a specific named individual.

Any remaining crystal mana left in the Font at the end of the event is divided among the grandmasters as before, and received in their packs at the start of the next event. Anything left over is added to the mana raised during the event and becomes the new Font.

We've added 211 mana to the Font for the next event as a one-off payment to cover the transition effects of this rules change.

Conclave Address

  • We have removed the Conclave Address as a concept
  • A new Conclave session is added on Saturday afternoon specifically for the Archmages to address Imperial magicians

The Conclave Address has been removed (with one specific exception covered below). We want the Conclave to be about characters coming together to make decisions, and addresses, by their nature lack a decision point. In the past we shied away from removing them for a number of reasons, foremost among them was the concern that it would just lead to Declarations of Concord being repurposed as addresses. With the limited number of declarations each session, and the added impact of the Declaration of Concord, this is no longer a concern.

One group of titles, however, had a special relationship with addresses - the Archmages. To recognise this we're introducing the Arcane Colloquium. This is an additional Conclave session specifically for the Archmages. Taking place early on Saturday afternoon, the Civil Service will support the Archmages in a meeting in the Hall of Worlds during which each one in turn has a fifteen minute slot to use as they wish - making announcements, hosting discussion, chairing a seminar, or giving space to other magicians to do the same.

Conclave Titles

  • We've made some changes to Conclave titles

Where possible we've made as few changes to existing Imperial titles as possible. We've removed the "free address" from those titles that had it, as mentioned above. Those titles who had the ability to make a "free declaration" now have the much more significant power to add a specific declaration to the agenda each summit. Unlike the grandmasters, this ability is very much a power of the title - only the title holder or their proxy can present the declaration during the Conclave session.

The title that has seen the greatest change to their powers is the Throne. They can still nominate speakers as a grandmaster does, but we've removed the Master of Magic power because this ability was simply too disruptive given the changes we've made to the Conclave. Instead given them several new powers;

  • When the Throne moves to vote it ends the discussion once the current round is complete regardless of what the grandmasters may have voted, This gives the Throne greater influence over the business of the Conclave and partly reflects the master of magic power.
  • They can raise a Declaration of Candidacy once each summit, partially reflecting the old master of magic power, but reinforcing the idea of the Throne having a say in who is best suited to serve the Empire.
  • We've given them the ability to address the Conclave - reflecting their power to speak in other houses and their existing ability to address the Empire.
  • We've given them the ability to influence the agenda - prioritising one declaration and moving another to the end of the agenda.

Reasoning

Each of the "houses of power" in Empire (Senate, Synod, Military Council, Bourse, Conclave) works differently. Each influences different areas of the game, and each uses unique mechanisms to do so. The Imperial Conclave ultimately makes decisions about magic, and allows any magician in the Empire to participate through open debate and open voting. We want to try and keep as much of this core identity intact as possible.

The main challenge we need to address is that the Conclave sessions are too long - regularly reaching three or four hours in length and often getting bogged down in discussions that many people in the room are not invested in. Our ideal conclave is no longer than ninety minutes, and has a tight focus on the most important issues to try to get as many people invested in the matters being discussed as possible.

Our initial approach was to reduce the number of people who could talk on each declaration. The fact that anyone can talk for as long as they want as long as they pay mana is a key factor in the length of Conclave sessions. After further discussion, however, we decided that reducing the ability of characters to argue and debate would be discarding one of the elements that makes Conclave unique - the mass participation. Instead of restricting players' ability to speak, we've opted to take the only other option that would reduce the length of the sessions - cutting down the number of Declarations. By doing that, we hope the sessions will be shorter, and if the declarations are limited in number, then they're more likely to be focussed on key issues that impact the game as a whole.

Of course more people will want to submit declarations than the system allows for - so players will have to fight over what declarations are submitted. We hope that grandmasters in particular will be kept very busy with people trying to persuade them to use one of their orders declarations to support whatever agenda that character is pushing. We expect there will be a lot of politics and roleplay around this, but it will take place outside of Conclave, rather than during Conclave.

We've also taken the decision to remove the Conclave addresses entirely from the Conclave sessions. Most addresses have always had a very specialised audience - the addresses by the archmages in particular are often focussed on eternals and their business. Where you have a part of the game that is of high interest to a small group of players but low interest to everyone else, the trick is to separate it off, so that only the players who care are there for it.

So that's what we've done - we've moved the archmage addresses to their own special session - the Arcane Colloquium. This is effectively six special sessions, one for each realm of magic, which the archmage can either use to address those assembled or cede the floor to others to let them speak. While we expect there may be less people present than came to Conclave, the audience for the new Colloquium will be there explicitly to hear what is being said and to take part in the discussions, so it should be much more engaged.

Overhauling the way Conclave works required us to look at the role of the orders and how the grandmasters operate. The changes we're making also require us to look at the archmages and many of the other titles, both those that have been in the game since the start, and those the players have created themselves. We've also taken this opportunity to look at the Font; how it's calculated and how it's used and what we can do to make it more integral to the functioning of the Conclave.

We've also introduced a brand new type of declaration - Endorsement. The Conclave was always intended to be the body that regulates magic in the Empire, but without the right legal tools to do that, there was a tendency for everything to fall back on the Imperial Senate. The Imperial Senate should make laws, but the laws are enforced by our magistrates. Rituals and pacts with eternals that are controversial are often ending up for legal interpretation with our magistrates, which means our NPCs are deciding if the players should have done the thing or not. That's the very opposite of what we want - so we've created the new Declaration of Endorsement to put that control very firmly back in the hands of players where it should have been all along!

Finally we've adjusted the significance of the Declaration of Concord to make clear that the Empire's magicians are listening to what the Conclave has to say. We want to try and get some of the game the Synod generates with its use of Statements of Principle and Mandates. Previously there have been so many declarations that it was hard for us to focus on them individually. The Synod has a similar problem, but there we could use the requirement for a greater majority to help us focus on the most important ones. Now the number of Declarations of Concord is likely to be strictly limited, we hope to respond to the most controversial of those passed with winds of fortune or other plot developments. In that way we can further enhance the importance of the Conclave and what happens there.

IC Explanation

Any in-character explanation is always a fig-leaf at best. We're exercising our position as the event organisers to use our experience to try and improve the overall game design. We do that each year because we want to keep improving Empire so that it remains the best game we can possibly deliver for our players. We know any change is always painful and it always upsets people, but it is part of what keeps Empire fresh.

In a situation like this where we have fundamentally rewritten some parts of how the game design works, it is near impossible to create an in-character explanation for the changes that fits the theme of the setting. We could claim this change is supposed to happen after an Empress magically disappears or that a comet did it, but it would be patently preposterous. In the end the only IC explanation that is even vaguely credible is that the Civil Service have the authority to make administrative changes to the processes of the Empire to ensure its smooth running. That is closest to the actual reality - that these changes are being made by Profound Decisions to make the game better - and it will work every time we need to use it in the future to make changes to improve Empire. So that's what we're going with, even if it doesn't fully fit the theme of the setting that the Civil Service have that kind of power.

We do want to be clear that this is just an IC fig-leaf for anyone who absolutely needs a way to refer to changes in-character. This is a change that PD have made - it isn't a change the characters who run the Civil Service have come up with in-character. There is no point in trying to harangue them to make reverse course or make new changes because they are the justification for this change, not the architect of it.

Site Changes

Due to the growing popularity of Empire we are having to make some difficult choices about how we use the current site. These changes will affect the space allocated to tents for in-character camping as well as vehicle access to the site before and after the event. The changes are summarised below, along with the OOC reasoning for the update.

IC Camping

In 2023, camp planners will only be able to guarantee sleeping space on the IC field to people with accessibility or childcare needs.

  • Our camp planners will be asking everyone who is bringing an IC tent to the event whether it is required or optional.
  • "Required" tents include all tents for roleplaying in and any tents that need to be on the IC field for any accessibility reason (mobility, fatigue, childcare, etc).
  • "Optional" tents include any tents that could move to an OC field if required because they are just used for sleeping or storing equipment and aren’t needed for any accessibility reason.
  • You won’t be asked to justify or explain your choices - just mark your tent as optional or required with your camp planner.
  • If we run out of space, camp planners will move some or all of the sleeping tents labelled as optional to the new overflow fields we have hired.
  • The overflow fields are not in-character and don't form part of the Anvil game area, but they are adjacent to Anvil to keep walking distances to a minimum.
  • If we only need to move a few tents, we will ensure we aren't moving the same tents each time.

Vehicle Access

You can drive into the IC area to set-up if conditions allow, but you must set up quickly and then move your vehicle to the OOC camp as soon as you are done. On take-down you must take your tent down and have your kit ready to go before you bring your vehicle on, unless you need your vehicle for accessibility reasons during take-down.

  • If you drive into the IC area at the start of the weekend, you must remove your car from the site as soon as you’ve unpacked and set up your tent.
  • Unless you have specific accessibility requirements, you must pack up your camp at the end of the weekend before you bring your vehicle back into the IC area. Once everything is completely taken down and ready to be quickly packed away, you can bring your car onto site (assuming ground conditions are reasonable), collect your stuff and go.
  • After 7pm on Sunday, all participants are free to drive onto site without needing to take their tents down first. We will actively review this deadline between events and move it earlier in the day if we are confident that we can do so without the site becoming deadlocked.
  • All these rules apply to the IC camping areas only, there are no equivalent restrictions on vehicle movements in the OOC or crew camping areas.
  • We strongly recommend bringing a plastic sheet, tarpaulin or similar to protect your gear from any inclement weather - please remember that if the weather gets too bad, we won't be able to allow most vehicles on site at all!

Reasoning

We've started planning our events in 2023, and an important part of that is the need to reflect on the amount of field space we have available. We’ve had a really successful 2022 - our numbers across the year climbed by nearly 35%.

This is brilliant news, but by the end of the year we were absolutely at the limit of what the site could cope with. Camping space was at a premium, and quite a few participants had to camp in the OOC areas even if they had a suitable IC tent. During takedown, there were huge delays getting everyone on site to pack their cars, because there simply wasn't room for so many vehicles to come on site when the ground was so crowded with tents.

We've now concluded our negotiations with the landowner to make enough additional space for our use next year, but there are some major challenges. In theory, we could simply assign another field to Anvil, making the IC area 50% bigger - but that is not without drawbacks. Players in Dawn and Wintermark already face long walks to reach the camps at the other side of the site or to reach facilities like GOD, the Hall of Worlds or the regio. The distances everyone has to walk all weekend get worse as the site expands. The physical site is a challenge already for any player who has mobility or fatigue issues; we don't want to make that situation worse if we have any alternative.

After a lot of consideration, we decided to try a different approach for 2023. Before now, some IC tents in the in-character area were being used purely for sleeping or storage. Some of these absolutely need to be there, either because they are being used by groups to roleplay in or because the occupants need to have their sleeping tent nearby for accessibility or childcare reasons. In some cases, however, the IC tent is just to have a tent nearby for convenience. While we understand everyone wants their personal tent on hand, continuing with that approach would mean that next year *everyone* would have to walk much further throughout the event.

In an effort to keep Anvil as accessible as we can manage, this is a new approach we’ll put in place for the first event. It may be that we don't grow much next year and we don't have to ask anyone to move their tent to the overflow area. Equally, we may grow and find that we need to bite the bullet and expand Anvil to cover another field. We will adapt to the circumstances as we find them.

We have problems currently with vehicles blocking camping spots on the in-character field. We can deal with this relatively easily if the owners are present or nearby and are putting up their tent, but it is very difficult to deal with if the owners have simply parked up and abandoned the car, especially if they haven't pre-recorded the vehicle registration number with us. Players must make sure they set up their camp as quickly as possible and then move their vehicle to the OOC camp so that other participants can use the space. You must not leave your vehicle overnight in the IC area under any circumstance.

There is not enough room for all participants to bring their vehicles into the IC area during take-down while all the tents are still up. There simply isn't enough space for the vehicles to pull up with so many tents everywhere. As a result the traffic backs up and completely locks up - this led to increasingly long queues for many participants in 2022, with some players having to queue in their vehicles for up to two hours waiting to get onto the site. If everyone takes their tent down first, this will create enough room to let people bring their vehicles on significantly reducing the queuing. If you need to have your vehicle present while you take your tent down for accessibility reasons, then that is fine, otherwise you must follow the new guidelines if you bring your car on before 7pm on Sunday.

At some point enough of the site will be clear that it is fine to let vehicles come on regardless of whether they packed down or not. We will review the 7pm deadline for bringing cars on before you've packed up after each event. If we're confident that we can move the deadline earlier without causing traffic jams and delays for everyone then we will update the time accordingly.

We know we will have to expand Anvil at some point, if Empire keeps growing. However, these two changes will help us delay that point as long as possible, and let us keep the physical size of Anvil to the smallest possible footprint which benefits everyone - especially the many players for whom the physical size of the IC site is a challenge already.

Crossbows

Participants under the age of 18 can no longer use crossbows at Empire

Reasoning

It has been brought to our attention that under the UK Crossbows act 1987, it is illegal for anyone under 18 to be in possession of a crossbow over 1.4Kg draw (3 pounds). As such, we have updated our rules.

Must Avoid Policy

Participants under a "must avoid" must now avoid each other's group camps completely, rather than just when the other party is there.

Reasoning

This has been a rule which has caused confusion, and which we felt there was no benefit to allowing participants who were avoiding each other into the other party's group camps in certain rare, specific situations.

Tents and Flammability

Tents are no longer considered to be flammable.

Reasoning

This is a rule that dates back to before the days of Empire, when camp attacks were a thing we needed rules for, and we felt it was time to remove it. The safety rules still apply, you should still not fight in an area where it will cause an accident, but we've no longer got a rule in place to allow you to force people out of the space, as we felt it was not needed.

Further Reading