Empire is intended to be a game of political intrigue between players, so there are many moments where players have pieces of in-character information that they wish to keep secret - either from each other or from the barbarian enemies of the Empire. However the ideal for the wiki is that it serves as a useful resource for players that tells them as much as possible about the game. Clearly there are points when the public nature of the wiki comes in conflict with the player desire for secrecy. This page attempts to explain, as best as possible, how those conflicts are handled by us and the theory underpinning those decisions.
An Inclusive Game
The goal for Empire is a game where much of the political discourse takes place in the player's eye. Political games are very susceptible to "secret meeting syndrome" where the key political decisions are decided by a small group of players in a secret meeting that nobody else is aware of. To keep Empire as accessible as possible to players - and to new players in particular - the political process is deliberately highly public. For instance
- Senate viewing gallery with Senate motions public
- Synod and Conclave participation models
- Bourse auctions
- The Synod power of Witness
The last element in particular means that a player who wants to can ensure their right to be in attendance at virtually all the significant meetings in the game. All of these decisions are deliberately taken to make the game as accessible as possible for new players.
Setting the game up in this matter creates an artificial weakness for the Empire - they could easily be spied upon by their enemies who could learn what decisions were being taken. On the surface, the logical way to respond to this weakness would be to lock down meetings and exclude everyone who was not essential whenever a key decision was being taken. Generals would be well advised not to tell anyone what battles they were planning or what the strategy was. It is clear that this approach would help the Empire prevent espionage - but it would also make the game less enjoyable for everyone.
There is also a peculiar asymmetry - because Empire is a game of politics and war with events set at Anvil - it isn't possible for players to spy on the Druj, the Thule or their other enemies. There are rituals that can be performed and there may be quests to intercept scouts and the like - but you can't submit a downtime request to travel to the Druj heartlands and spy on their high-councils.
So espionage is not something players can do - the event structure simply does not permit it. And counter-espionage is not something we want the players to do - it makes the game less fun for everyone. Therefore our plot writers are under a strict moratorium that forbids any plot that uses spies in Anvil. There will be plenty of NPCs in Anvil who are up to nefarious purposes, they may be thieves, enemy agents, or saboteurs - but they aren't spying. Espionage simply isn't a theme of the game.
Imperial Orcs are particularly susceptible to having their game undermined by Profound Decisions. It would be trivially easy to create a Druj orc agent masquerading as an Imperial Orc. We've deliberately suggested that this is difficult in the setting material, but the reality of how LRP games play out is that it would be exceptionally easy to trick most participants.
Doing so would be utterly unfair to the Imperial Orcs - they have plenty of disadvantages as the game stands anyway - but their lack of political power is intended to be an enjoyable challenge they can overcome. Being locked out of political and military meetings and decisions - because no-one could tell if an individual orc was a Druj agent or an Imperial Orc is not something that adds to the fun of the game. Proving who you are, that you are a loyal Imperial cititizen, would be significantly more easy if the Empire existed on a day-to-day basis than is actually the case for a LRP game where your character exists for eight days a year and has never before met another character in the entire world if this is your first event...
For all these reasons we have utterly refused all player requests to play orc double-agents and our plot writers are clear that that is not plot that we are prepared to run. Imperial Orcs are highly tribal, they know their own - orcs who are at Anvil can be easily identified and their loyalty easily verified.
On the Wiki, In the Downtime
The material on the wiki is a resource for use by everyone who plays Empire. It is not a source of intelligence for the enemies of the Empire. Our writers will obviously use the campaign material to produce plot, but there is a clear understanding that the Druj or the Jotun have no in-character method to access any information that is present on the wiki. The same principle extends to the downtime system - no element of the downtime system that is visible to players is considered to be accessible in-character by the enemies of the Empire.
A good example of this is the recent Imperial Senate motion to create a spy network in Otkodov. The spy network works by allowing players with military units to assign them to the spy network - this is referenced in the Senate motion which is on the wiki - and the option to assign your military unit to the Otkodov spy network appears in the downtime options for every player.
The advantage of taking this approach is that it significantly simplifies the downtime administration for everyone. There is no need for anyone to coordinate lists of characters with secret access to secret downtime options - everyone can just log in and those who want to participate can just click the option and they are done.
Ultimately we accept that some people would prefer to roleplay that their character remains ignorant of the existence of the Otkodov spy network - in which case they should choose to in-character ignore the information provided by the wiki and the downtime system.