This page is part of our introduction to Empire, explaining more about the game. It provides information about the Empire itself, the nations that form the Empire and the institutions that run it. It is intended for people who are new to live roleplaying as well as experienced live roleplayers who have never done Empire before to give you a broad-strokes look at the Empire world and some of the universal concepts that underpin the setting.
The Empire is formed from ten culturally distinct nations. Nine of the nations are human, the tenth, the Imperial Orcs is composed entirely of orcs. The ten nations are not politically independent, the Empire has a single set of laws that applies to each citizen. But each nation has its own cultural identity that is identifiable and reflected in their dress, customs and attitude.
Nationality is crucial to the organization and politics of the Empire. Every territory once conquered is allocated to one of the ten nations by the Imperial Senate. Each nation elects a single citizen to the Senate for every territory they control. Although generals work together in the Imperial Military Council to determine strategy, each nation raises and supplies its own armies. Much of the conflict that takes place within the Empire arises from competition between the ten nations.
Nations exist to provide the players with their primary source of identity - Highborn or Navarr. Players must camp with the other members of their nation and they can only cooperate with other members of the same nations to perform more powerful rituals or ceremonies.
The Empire is primarily controlled by the politics that takes place in the five great houses of power - the Senate, the Synod, the Military Council, the Conclave and the Bourse. Each house is distinct, their powers and purpose laid down in the Imperial Constiution. Much of the conflict that takes place within the Empire arises from the struggle for power between the five houses.
The Imperial Senate passes laws, spends the Imperial Treasury, commissions armies, fortifications and other structures. Senators also appoint important positions in the Empire, including ambassadors and most famously the Throne. The power of the Senate is checked by the Synod, which serves as the moral conscience of the Empire. Membership of the Synod is open to all priests with a congregation. It is guided in part by the Cardinals who make up the Assembly of the Nine.
The generals and their adjutants form the Military Council, attempting to work together to decide strategy and direct the Imperial armies. On the Friday night of the summit, the Council meets to choose which battles the Empire will fight that weekend. The counterpoint to the Military Council is the Conclave - an organization open to all magicians of the Empire. Led by the Grandmasters of the Orders, the Conclave appoints the Archmages and deals with matters of magic for the Empire.
Unlike the other four houses of power, the Bourse does not have meetings or wield political power directly. The influence of those able to claim a seat on the Bourse either by purchasing it at auction or being appointed by their fellow citizens comes from control of the four extremely valuable materials. Only through the Bourse can one acquire large amounts of the scarce mithril, weirwood, white granite, and ilium.
A single religion unites the Empire. Priests of the Way guide their fellow citizens along the Paths of Virtue and wield potent political power through the Imperial Synod. They must remain ever vigilant against heretics, blasphemers, and idolators who seek to undermine the faith and steal the Empire's destiny.
According to the Way, there are seven key virtues that guide human destiny, Ambition, Courage, Loyalty, Pride, Prosperity, Wisdom, Vigilance. Each virtue provides instruction on how to live a moral life - those who follow that instruction are believed to pass more quickly through the Labyrinthe to be born again after they die. Much of the conflict that takes place within the Empire arises from disagreements on how best to interpret and apply the virtues.
The Empire is surrounded by four powerful orc nations, the Joun, Grendel, Druj and Thule. These four tribes have traditionally been enemies of the Empire and though there have been periods of peace with one or more of the tribes, conflict is rarely far away.
Barbarians are people who are not part of the Empire, that the Empire is currently at war with. There are several distinct barbarian powers which represent hostile tribes, kingdoms, and nations. The barbarians are designed to look cool in massive numbers in battles, to provide immersive, exciting and dramatic combat encounters, and to allow a range of interactions outside of combat. Most of the barbarian powers that currently surround the Empire are orcs. Players are not able to play barbarian characters - by definition, they are not welcome on the playing field.
The Civil Service and magistrates
The Empire has an efficient and orderly civil service that helps administer the Empire. These are NPC roles played by crew. Their job is to facilitate the player leadership and keep the game immersive and challenging. They present details of the setting to the players in a purely IC manner, bringing onto the field aspects of the game that might otherwise have required referees, print outs or computers. The Civil Service lets the players enjoy the challenge of controlling an empire without getting bogged down in the bureaucratic details of administering an empire.
The Civil Service will also perform tasks such as managing meetings in the Senate, holding trials for accused parties and presenting intelligence to help the generals choose which battle opportunities to pursue. The Civil Service makes it possible for us to recognize what players are doing, and to ensure that their actions and decisions are reflected in the game world. The NPC Civil Service carry out a wide range of logistical functions, without being in charge.
The Magistrates are a specific branch of the Civil Service whose role is to enforce the law. Laws are created by the players in the Senate, but enforced by our NPC magistrates. PCs can be directly involved in the legal process, gathering evidence and arresting suspects, but trials will be conducted and judged by our NPCs. This ensures that breaking the law is meaningful and credibly dangerous, as well as keeping the resulting trials short and interesting.
The world of Empire is known to touch six other planes of existence. These are home to magical entities called eternals, some of whom are interested in the human world. Players - especially the Archmages of the Conclave - can meet and negotiate with the eternals and their representatives. The eternals are not gods but possess magical powers that players may be able to draw upon to advance their own agendas. They have their own motivations and personalities, however, and characters who encounter them must always be careful about what they agree to.
The majority of the Empire's population are normal humans. Some, however, manifest one of the six distinct lineages that set them somewhat apart from their neighbours. Lineage represents a supernatural quality in a human character's make-up. This quality might be due to supernatural blood in their ancestry. or represent exposure to powerful magic. The strength of lineage varies between individuals. Each has a list of roleplaying and physical trappings that offer guidance on how to portray the lineage. The more of the trappings the player adopts for their character, the less like a human their character becomes.
Ultimately characters with lineage are still human, however, and lineage has no impact on a character’s skills or abilities. Some lineages are more accepted than others, and some nations are prejudiced against certain lineages.
Lineage fills the role that race often plays in fantasy games. Only human characters have Lineage - orc characters specifically do not.
Players are able to play Imperial Orcs. Imperial orcs are those orcs who were brought into the Empire decades ago. As such, they are politically assimilated and loyal to the Empire. Imperial orcs have their own unique culture; they are a nation of their own. The orcs have only recently gained a homeland of their own and are still deciding what exactly it means to be part of the Empire.
Other species exist in the world, but players may only create human or Imperial Orc characters.
Foreigners are people that are not part of the Empire, that the Empire is not currently at war with. The Empire trades with many of these foreign powers, and may host delegations from them. There are two basic classifications of foreigner - the local foreigners whose nations lie close to Imperial territory an the distant foreigners who equal the Empire in power but lie far beyond Imperial borders. Foreigners do not directly influence the future of the Empire, but they possess economic and diplomatic powers that can influence it from afar. The Senate appoints Ambassadors to many of these nations, and these players represent the Empire on the international stage. Each nation has its own political agendas, philosophies, and goals that guide their interaction with the players.
It is not possible to play a foreigner as a character, but it is acceptable to play a character who was born in a foreign nation and has since become part of one of the Imperial nations.
Heroes of the Empire
The game allows the heroes of Anvil to make use of the ancient arcane device known as the Sentinel Gate to access specific magical conjunctions that allow travel to far flung locations around the Empire. By using these conjunctions, players are able to respond to threats from the barbarians tribes, assist imperiled citizens, explore hidden locations, or meet with individuals who would not normally travel to Anvil.
Many of these conjunctions are tracked by the Civil Service. The information they provide is disseminated by the War Scouts to assist players in preparing for short engagements known as skirmishes. These encounters normally last 20 minutes and pit players against threats portrayed by our Skirmish team. They might involve rescuing injured soldiers, striking against orc encampments, or wielding strategic magic.
Twice per summit the Military Council can send much larger Imperial forces from the combined nations into battle against large formations of barbarian troops to achieve great victories or avoid crushing defeats, altering how campaign can unravel. These battles allow players to clash in heroic combat both as their characters and as barbarian orcs.
While the basic technology of the game is aimed at a magical-medieval tone, there are a few things that go beyond the historical equivalents in the setting. The technology page lays out some of the important elements of common technology in the Empire that distinguish the setting from historical Europe. Most of these additions are designed to provide in-character explanations for real world technology - to make the setting fit the game better.
It is important to note that Empire is not a game of technological exploration - technological advancement and invention are not themes of the game. This means that you cannot invent binoculars by putting two spyglasses together - this is against the spirit of the game and would fail if you tried it. Substances like gunpowder are not part of our setting and cannot be researched or discovered.